Grand Hyatt, Mumbai
After spending around 12 weeks in the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai between August 2008 and March 2009, here are my thoughts and rants on the food there:
(I often worked from early to late, and so just ate in the hotel)
Paratha, naan & roti: 120INR each. Overpriced, and all just 'so-so'. I had far better at other restaurants or in peoples homes
Battu ka murgh tikka: 720INR. Pieces of marinated, boneless chicken cooked in a tandoor. Sometimes served on a roti. Plenty of it. Was occasionally overcooked, but most of the time was just right. A firm favourite :)
Tandoori murgh: 770INR. Marinated chicken cooked in a tandoor
Tandoori paneer sashlik: 650INR. 4 or 5 (I guess depending on how generous they were feeling), large slabs of marinated paneer cooked in a tandoor. Sometimes with a combination of peppers, tomatoes and onions, sometimes just the paneer. I _love_ paneer, and this was a firm favourite :) (despite it being burned on occasion)
Kheemey ki seekh: 720INR. Minced mutton kebabs cooked in a tandoor. The mince was too finely ground for my liking, but more importantly they were extremely bland.
Dum subz biryani: 620INR. vegetabe biryani. Quite bland, rice overcooked. Sometimes tasted like it had been made with some kind of cheap 'curry powder'!
Dum gosht biryani: 770INR. lamb biryani. The rice was great, perfectly cooked, aromatic and full of flavour. Only a few fatty pieces of lamb were hidden within though!
Mutton vindaloo: 700INR. Perfectly cooked meat on the bone, with marrow oozing out. Delicious!
Aloo mattar samosa: 400INR. Potato and pea samosas. Thick, dry shell. Dissapointing, bland filling. Served with a bland tamarind chutney. Easily the worst samosas I ever had!
Hare pyaz ka bhajiya: 450INR. Selection of bland, greasy, vegetable bhajis. Easily the worst bhajis I ever had!
Before I start on the dals I will say that all were inconsistent; they wavered between thick, thin, bland and delicious. Most of the time they were however excellent - probably the best I had during my time in Mumbai.
Chholer dal: 420INR. Bengal geam dal with coconut
Dal makhani: 420INR. A rich dal of black lentils and kidney beans with tomatoes and butter
Tomato pappu dal: 420INR. A fresh tasting dal of yellow lentils, with tomatoes and lots of curry leaves
Dal dhaba: 420INR. Bengal gram and black lentils, with tomatoes and lots of curry leaves
CHINA HOUSE (Chinese.. duh...)
Sichuan chicken: 800INR Large plate of chillies and sichuan peppercorns. There were a few morsels of chicken in there too, but not many! This was my first experience of the fabled sichuan peppercorn... my god! An incredibly spicy, yet enjoyable dish - just needs some chicken!
Vegetable dumpling soup: 350INR Bland, uninspiring broth, but truly excellent dumpings. Just the right amount of chew to the skins. Tasty filling of tofu, mushrooms and tangy sichuan pickles
Fried crab claws: 590INR. Crab meat mixed with something unknown, breadcrumbed and deep fried. Couldn't taste crab at all. Completely tasteless, except for a fishy undertone (which I have never had with crab before. Maybe it was a bit off!)
Sweet and spicy pineapple prawns: 1,275INR. Plenty of large prawns in a delicous, thick, tangy sauce. Served in a hollowed out half pineapple. The prawns were overcooked, which ruined an otherwise excellent dish.
Kong Pao chicken: 695INR. More peanuts than anything else, but there was some chicken in there (not much). The sauce was rather bland. I couldn't recommend this dish.
Smoked pork with bamboo shoots: 650INR. Delicous strips of smoked pork, with leeks, garlic and chillies. Plenty meat. Delicious, but _extremely_ oily.
Braised aubergine and vegetable cakes: 480INR. Dumplings stuffed with aubergine and pickled chillies, in a tasty hot and sour sauce. Recommended.
Fried noodles with vegetables and pickled chillies: 420INR. Just OK. The chillies didn't taste very 'pickled' to me, and the noodles were sometimes a bit greasy.
A quick note about Celini's pizzas - fantastic! Excellent, thin, crispy bases, and high quality ingredients. I've seldom had better outside of Italy!
Pizza Capretta: 650INR. Tomtatoes, mozarella, goat's cheese, peppers and artichokes. As a big fan of goat's cheese, this was a firm favourite.
Pizza Parmigiana: 750INR. Mozarella, parma ham and parmesan. Loaded with excellent quality parma ham. Good value, considering it would cost around 750INR just for the parma ham in the UK!
Wild mushroom risotto: 650INR. A rather small portion. Well cooked, but completely overpowered by too much parmesan - I barely got a hint of mushroom
In summary, overpriced (but what do you expect in a 5-star hotel) and inconsistent (with the exception of the pizzas). When they were on form I had some really great food, especially the paneer and tandoori chicken - but inconsistency really lets it down.
It's a crime that you weren't able to venture beyond your vastly overpriced hotel fare. I'd sooner eat a street omelette sandwich for 20 rupees than spend 100 times that (or more) for a less than mediocre meal served by waiters who make less than 100 rupees a day.
I was told more than once while in India that it's nearly impossible to get a really good meal in a restaurant because the country's best chefs (meaning moms and grandmothers) are too busy cooking and looking after their own families at home.
Aside from a few decent restaurant meals, the best food I experienced during my 6 weeks in India was inside the apartment of a lovely hindu family in Delhi. It was the only time I saw traces of the fantastic produce I'd find in the markets. Most restaurants focused on pulses, meats, breads, rice dishes and a scant few vegetable items. In the home, however, some dishes had been made in advance and either reheated or served at room temperature, so the sheer number of items on the table was staggering. There were no fewer than 3 different pickles, two different rice dishes, eggplant, okra, potatoes, cauliflower, salads, dals, tomato soup, yogurt, etc. If only I had had such variety.
Also, interestingly, none of the home cooked dishes were floating in oil/ghee, for which I was eternally grateful.
One last thing to note is that it might not be wise to let a predominantly vegetarian populace prepare your meat selections. They're not going to be tasting to make sure the seasoning is correct and the food is neither under-nor overdone. We went veg while in India. We only had two meals that involved chicken and/or meat and they were among the weakest of the bunch.
I did manage to venture out of the hotel sometimes :)
A good point about vegetarians preparing meat dishes, and one that I had not considered!
Like you, the best food I had in Mumbai was prepared in a colleague's home, by his wife. They were from Jaipur in Rajasthan, and the food was simply the best Indian food I've ever had (all vegetarian). As with your experience, there were typically many dishes being served. Baigan Bartha was probably my favourite (a spicy aubergine/egg plant dish). Or maybe Aloo Methi (a potato dish made with lots of fresh methi leaves - I just can't get fresh methi leaves where I am in the UK, so this was a real treat for me).
Homemade pickles were also especially good. Lasun (garlic) was particularly good (never tried it before). Lemon pickle was also very good (it's easy to get lime pickle here, but never tried lemon pickle before). Indian pickles I can buy or get in restaurants in the UK are invsriably very oily, but none of the homemade pickles were. A real treat :)
Homemade bread was nothing short of stellar! Mooli paratha was probably my favourite.
The same colleague's wife also made my lunch every day during the week :) So I tasted plenty home-cooked food :)
I ate in quite a few cheap restaurants outside of the hotel too, but I can't remember the names of many. Food in all was good, but not excellent (but was a 10th of the price of the Hyatt!). Toni's Dabba on the road to Pune... Spices in Navi Mumbai... a more up-market one called Saffron in the city... one in Airoli, the name of which eludes me... a couple in Vikhroli, the names of which elude me... some others here and there... gah, damn my crappy memory! Next time I'll take notes as I go ;)