This one is not about fine dining - its about fantastic dining, about places that offer fabulous food in an all value no frills package, dug out from the memories of singleton days.
Topping the list is Crystal - an irani style vegetarian only punjabi restaurant on Chowpatty, on the corner after Wilson College, if you are driving towards Nariman Point. A typical blink-and-you-miss joint, the easiest way to find the place is to simply look for the hordes of office goers and college kids waiting their turn outside the door at lunchtime. Its not uncommon to find investment bankers rub shoulders with college students on adjacent tables. This place is for food and food alone - if you are looking for ambience, even traces of it, this place is not for you. The interiors of the place are dimly lit and a makeshift mezzanine floor gives the restaurant a claustrophobic feel. The chairs are tacky plastic and you will find a bottle of Kissan ketchup and mixed fruit jam in a cupboard above the cashier's desk. The waiters here are courteous and will help you with choosing the dishes if you are a newcomer.
Their aam ras - available during the mango season - is to die for. So is the kheer, which should be had chilled. For the main course, choose from the spread of rotis - they are all fabulous, but if you are particular, go for the aloo paratha and butter roti. Black dal and aloo gobi make for excellent accompaniments. Topping the list is rajma, which is a work of art. A courteous request and the waiter will fetch you a nariyal pani from the vendor next door. A sumptuous meal for two for about Rs 200 - it can't get better than that!
Stadium RestaurantThis is another true irani type restaurant near Churchgate, across the road from Gaylord, in the WIAA building, next to the Vodafone outlet. High ceilinged with irani style wooden chairs and tables, the place also boasts of an internet browsing centre, located above the kitchen! A dour faced cashier oversees several waiters scurrying around, taking orders and serving dishes. The place has some of the best biriyanis available - I will vouch for the vegetarian biriyani and the egg biriyani and my non-veg friends from as far away as Bangalore make it a point to visit this place for the mutton biriyani. The curries are finger lickin' good too - have the egg curry or mutton curry with chapatis. The chapatis are large and five should be good for someone with a voracious appetite. Top off the meal with chai - brewed in true Irani style. Be sure to ask for the regular chai, which is served in cracked porcelain cups and not the special chai, which is served in fancy glass cups, but not as good. A meal for two costs about Rs 150. If you are in the mood, try their 'special dessert' - a serving of custard as well!
This for a change, is not an irani restaurant! It is a malayali restaurant, tucked in a bylane off DN Road, behind the Citibank building. A narrow staircase leads to the restaurant on the first floor, with an exclusive 'family' section with A/C as well! Once you squeeze in behind the tables, the waiters, most of them malayali of course, will toss the menu on the table. If you do not know what to order, you'd better head there for lunch and ask for the thali. The thali is veg, but the restaurant serves delectable mallu non-veg dishes too. The thali, our all time favourite, starts with the pineapple chutney, followed by kachumber, paruppu, vegetables in the south indian style, aviyal, poriyal, red rice (they serve white rice on request, but who'd miss a helping of red rice!), curries, sambhar, rasam, curd, chillies pickled in curd and fried, payasam etc., For a truly authentic mallu lunch experience, don't miss this. And a word of advice - skip breakfast if you want to do justice to the lunch!