REVIEW w/ pics: Marvelous Mumbai Vegetarian Street Food at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se
When it comes to choosing a restaurant to bring my dining group to for a meal, there are a lot of restaurants listed in my to go list. At times, it may take several months, even a year before I cross a restaurant off that list; however, as soon as I finished reading an LA Times Review about Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se, I knew I had to go there. Who could resist a restaurant that specializes in Mumbai Street Food? Within minutes, an outing appeared on my group's dining calendar and it took only minutes for the event to fill up. Apparently, I wasn't the only one interested in Mumbai street food.
Before, I talk about our meal, I want to briefly talk about Owner, Sailesh Shah. A few days before this outing, I got an email from him offering to put tables and chairs together for our party as well as mentioning that if there's anything we needed from him, all we had to do was ask. When I did end up calling him with a couple of requests, he was more than happy to accommodate me and when we arrived, he was very welcoming. Another to mention is that when he talked about his food, there was such passion in his voice, that it was catching.
In fact, his whole family is passionate about food. Both Sailesh and his wife, Shruti, developed the recipes and do the majority of the cooking at the restaurant. Interestingly, there's one particular dish that only Sailesh will prepare because he has such exacting standards about how he wants it to turn out. For our lunch there, two of the 12 dishes we ordered were even prepared by his teenage daughter and 10 year old son. I already see a restaurant family dynasty in the making. You can read more about Sailesh and Shruti in the India Journal.
So let's get into the food now. Currently, the all-vegetarian menu at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se consists of nearly 100 items and encompasses everything from Punjabi classics to South Indian standbys to Indochinese fusion cuisine, but for the purposes of our visit and with two exceptions, we centered our meal around the Mumbai Street Food mentioned in that LA Times article. The beginning of our 12 course meal started with the Dahi Batata Puri which are wheat puffs filled with potatoes, sprouted mung beans and black chana. They were topped with green and red sauces, fried noodles, cilantro and sweet yogurt. A puri is meant to be eaten in one bite so as to capture all the flavors, and the crunch of the crispy shell all at one time. The Dahi Batata Puri was definitely a wonderful bite. I enjoyed the textures and both the sweet and the little bit of heat that came from the ingredients.
Next to arrive was the Sev Puri which was a mixed flour cracker with potatoes, onions, splash of lemon, fried noodles and cilantro. I really enjoyed the crunch that came from both the cracker and the fried noodles and the lemon added a nice hint of tartness that was refreshing.
Before our next dish arrived, we all received our order of the Priyush. The Priyush is a housemade lassi drink with saffron, cardamon, almonds and pistachio. It's a drink that's been a part of the Indian culture for 100 to 200 years and is made from scratch at the restaurant. In fact, it actually takes 3 days to make. This is a must have drink. Actually, as soon as Sailesh told us about the ingredients, I was already sold. I really enjoyed the use of the cardamon and two types of nuts. It's creamy and just thick enough to enjoy without a straw.
Following the Priyush came the Sabuduna Vida with an outer layer made of tapioca and crushed peanuts and a filling of potatoes and green chilis. This particular item had an interesting texture that I didn't necessarily dislike, but wasn't in love with either. I'm not even sure how to describe it, but it was a little dry, chewy and stretchy but also had a little crunch from the peanuts. I actually enjoyed the filling more the than outer part, especially after adding a little spoonful of cilantro sauce which added some lovely peppery notes.
If you're only going to order one thing there, you have to get the Dabeli, a potato slider with Dabeli masala spices, pomegranate seeds, peanuts, green grapes and a tamarind and garlic sauce. While I wasn't so into the texture of the Sabuduna, I was all about the textures and the flavor combinations of the Dabeli. You get tart, sweet, sour, nutty and a little pungency fom the garlic sauce. Then there's the juicy crunch of the grapes and the pomegranate seeds and the nutty crunch of the peanuts. This was was one of my favorite items of our meal.
Soon, the Kachori arrived, which is deep fried wheat batter stuffed with green peas, coconut and spices. Green peas and coconut aren't ingredients I'd think to mix together as a filling and in all honesty, the Kachori wasn't a favorite. On its own, it tasted a little dry. It only improved with the addition of the cilantro sauce and in fact, I only liked it with the cilantro sauce.
Following the Kachori was the Samosa Chat, which was a deep fried samosa stuffed with potatoes, green peas, lentils and onions in a red and green sauce topped with cilantro. I've definitely had my share of samosas, but this was the first time that I've had it doused with different sauces. I actually didn't miss having a crispy samosa to bite into because those sauces really added more nuances of flavor than a samosa could ever have on its own.
Moving right along, it was time for the Dal Vada which were made up of roasted, crushed lentil batter with onions, coriander and tamarind sauce. The Dal Vada had a texture similar to corn bread and sometimes like corn bread, was a little too dry on its own. Dipping it in the tamarind sauce added both moisture and nice hit of sourness.
The next dishes actually came from the Indochine section of the menu and were recommended by Sailesh so that we could sample the Indian-Chinese fusion food that they represented. First, there was the Chinese Fried Rice that was cooked using Indian spices. It was actually quite addicting and I could have easily eaten a big bowl of it just by itself. This dish should also be noted for the fact that it was prepared by Sailesh's young son.
Sailesh's teenaged daughter cooked the Mixed Veg Manudura which were vegetarian meat balls made with cabbage, green bell peppers, carrots and daikon in a Chinese brown sauce. A few of us found it a tad salty when eaten on its own while the rest of the group didn't; however, when eaten with the rice, it was just right.
I mentioned earlier that there was one particular dish that only Sailesh would prepare from the menu and it's the Pav Bhaji, a tomato based sauce made with mixed vegetables, garam masala, topped with cilantro and served with garlic bread. Along with the Dabeli, the Pav Bhaji is a must order. It's eaten simply with bread dipped into it, but I could easily see myself pouring this on pasta. I can't even begin to describe what it tastes like, but there's a complexity to the flavors that is clearly evident with every bite. All I know is that you can not leave Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se without having tried it.
Two more dishes to go and one of them is Puneri Missal. Ingredients included sprouted mung beans, black chana and cilantro with a sauce made from red onions, tomatoes and garlic Sauce with deep fried toppings. This would be the perfect dish for a cold night. It reminded me of a lentil or bean stew but very much prepared using Indian spices.
Last, but not least was the Masala Bhath which was a rice dish with garam masala spices, cauliflower and bell pepper. Sailesh had mentioned that the Masala Bhath was pretty spicy and initially, I didn't think so. However, as you ate into it, there was a little bit of a slow burn at the back of your throat. It wasn't incendiary hot, but the heat made its presence known.
The perfect drink to have at the end of the meal, according to Sailesh, was the Kashimiri Soda, a housemade drink made with club soda, cumin, black pepper, lemon and salt. Apparently, its sole purpose is to help with the digestion of one's food, especially if you've just eaten a meal that was heavily spiced. I decided to try it just because I was curious as to how it would taste and I loved it. It was actually a great palate cleanser and although I only took small bites of everything we ordered, 12 dishes is still a lot and I found that the drink actually had a settling effect on my system
Overall, our meal at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se was fantastic and made even better because of how welcoming Sailesh was to our group as well the passion his whole family put into the preparation/cooking of our food. Regardless of where you are coming from, Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se in the city of Artesia is definitely worth the drive and your taste buds will love you for it, too.
Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se
17705 Pioneer Blvd
Artesia, CA 90701
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My first and last visit!
Guided by pleasurepalate's extensive review, I had been wanting to go to MKGS for a while, specially now since I am coming off eating beef and too much meat. Also I had seen the place when we visited the neighbor - Ambala Dhaba - which is our favorite for goat and lamb dishes. Yesterday we went there - 5 adults and 2 teenagers, and what a horrible experience it turned out to be!
When we went in, there were two tables occupied - but given we needed 7 seats, we had no choice but to join 3 small tables which were closest to the exit door. The women in our group had gone next door to the Calcutta something shop to look it over, so my friend and I ordered a few dishes to start with. Sailesh instantly recognized that I must have ready Abby's review. I did not know pleasurepalate was Abby, so I just mentioned the web blog. He took our orders and when I asked him any appetizers that could come out quickly (the kids were hungry - otherwise we would have gone later than the 6:30pm hour) - he said "Nothing is quick, since we make everything fresh". OK.
I was seated close to the door, and noticed it was left open, and it was getting cold. So I got up and closed it. Since I was deep in conversation with my friend, I did not notice when it happened, but periodically I noticed I was getting cold, and the door was open. I thought patrons coming in and going out must have left it open, and I must have gotten up at least 3 times and closed it. Later when our whole table was there, at one point the owner came out and opened the door when he said the kitchen did not have any ventilation and it was kind of hot in there. So we said fine, and put our jackets/sweaters on. About 10 minutes must have passed when one of the women in our party got really cold and she got up to close the door. He came running out and literally screamed "You can't keep the door closed - and if you don't like it, you can leave the restaurant!!"
We were stunned at the rudeness! While I understood the situation - a very hot kitchen - he should have handled the situation with some measure of courtesy - explained once again that it was so hot in the kitchen that it was impossible to cook without the door open - offer an alternate seating, or whatever - but to lose his cool and shout like that? We were inclined to walk out and take our business elsewhere, but a good 20 minutes had passed since we ordered (and nothing had come out yet), and the lady he yelled at said she did not want to create a fuss, and requested that we finish the meal and go out! Had the decision been mine, I would have walked out right then. There is a similar small Indian restaurant in Arcadia that we like - Nirvana - a husband and wife operation. But we will never recommend Nirvana because of the rudeness of the husband. MKGS joins that in my mind.
I had gotten somewhat cold sitting in the draft, and asked (before this screaming incident) if he had a restroom. He said "no public restroom". How did he get to open the restaurant without a public restroom? I finally had to go to the one in Ambala Dhaba, where the manager recognized me as a repeat customer and was gracious enough to let me use it. Two strikes!
The food when it came turned out to be the most pedestrian fare that I have had in a long time. The pani puris - probably the worst I have had in a long time. A few sorry looking sprouts in the puris, no potato and garbanzo stuffing, the jal jeera was the worst tasting pani in a long time (even India Sweets and Spices makes it 10x better), the tamarind chutney was completely synthetic tasting. The dahi papdi had much less content than the pictures in pleasurepalate's pictorial review - and again any of the myriad of chat houses a little further south on Pioneer Blvd. makes much better versions of those. The Dabeli was OK, but the pav bhaji was a major disappointment. But the worse was the Puneri Misal - almost tasteless glop of wet something with sprouts! Yuck! The sabu vada was OK to my taste, but it needed a sauce other than the plain yogurt it came with.
The Kashmiri soda was absolutely nothing to write home about, but the Priyush was quite tasty. This coming Wednesday I was going to take one of my Caltech colleagues who loves Indian food - but now we will go to Jay Bharat or if the mood strikes, Ambala (where he has been) or Tangy Tomato (not all that great - but it will be novelty for him). But that will be our last trip to MKGS.
My personal experience - not to distract from anyone else's.
18701 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701
17631 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701
11454 South St, Cerritos, CA 90703
I actually didn't love Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se. There were certainly some wonderful things to recomend about the restaurant. The menu is extensive and diverse (possibly too extensive), the Dabeli is excellent, and the piyush is amongst the best I've ever had.
That said, I probably wouldn't go back. Shruti, though very, very, very sweet took me for an "average gora" and asked what I was doing there. She asked three times whether I knew you, Abby. She also asked whether I knew that Indian food could be a little spicy again and again.
When I ordered in my rusty broken hindi she, still very sweetly, responded as though there were hidden cameras somewhere.
The food was fine, not brilliant, with the noted exceptions above. If I want Mumbai street food I'll probably head over to Jay Bharat in future which has a much less diverse menu, but is a much better example of the style.
Interestingly, the Pav Bhaji, which you loved, was one of my least favorite items. I know it isn't fair, but I'm accustomed to the Maharashtrian tradition of dressing up prepackaged pav, and I found the home made garlic bread to be more of a distraction than an enhancement. I also, unfairly, prefer Sadha Pav Bhaji which has an extra hit of butter added at the end, and this example was pretty ascetic when it came to fat content.
Incidentally, for westsiders who don't want to make the drive down to Artesia... as discussed in previous threads... the dabeli at Samosa House is a different regional spin (spicier, less sweet), but is legitimately the best thing on the menu there.
But... all that being said... for the homemade touch Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se is pretty good. I just think I'll be taking my business to slicker operations further down Pioneer Blvd.
Moomin, the problem with MKGS is their inability to showcase their strengths. The diverse menu is a true reflection of the Mumbai street food scene, though it is incomplete, and in some cases inaccurate. For example, they don't serve any meat, which is not the case with the Bombay street food scene, e.g., the Muslim neighborhoods of Bombay are well-known for their delectable kababs, phirni, etc., especially during Ramazan. I would say it is inaccurate, because traditional (e.g., curries) North Indian food is not really "street food" in Bombay (it is in Delhi, but certainly not in Bombay).
That said, I think MKGS offers dishes that nobody else on Pioneer Blvd., does, e.g., Sabudana Vada or Sabudana Khicahdi (not sure about this), or Masale Bhaath, or Puneri Misal. Most of these items are not "street food" in the strictest sense as they are usually served in fast-food type restaurants. But, as I said in my review, they are hard to find elsewhere in India, leave aside North America. How do they compare to what you get in Bombay? I would say close enough, obviously places in the Maharashtrian neighborhoods that have survived for decades have mastered the art of making Piyush or Sabudana Vada, but MKGS does a very respectable job.
So the "drivability index" for MKGS comes with a caveat: go for things that you can't find elsewhere.
p.s. I haven't had respectable Pav Bhaji anywhere in Southern/Northern California. The Northies have no clue how to make it, the Gujjus haven't perfected it by any means, though it is almost their staple Sunday evening diet in their neighborhoods of Bombay. It's not that hard, but somehow...