Flavours of the Coast Festival @ Mahesh Lunch Home, Saki Naka, Mumbai
A meal where whatever could go wrong actually did
When I heard that Mahesh Lunch Home’s Saki Naka outlet was hosting a Seafood Fest – ‘Flavours of the Coast’, from the 16th to the 30th of November for the second consecutive year, I was intrigued; nay, excited actually. Having enjoyed myself thoroughly at the Crab and Wine Fest at the restaurant’s Juhu outlet, I had very high hopes of another dinner where I could savour mouth-watering seafood.
By the time I had finished with the ‘Flavours of the Coast’ experience, I was reminded of my mother who sagaciously warned me never to fall for fancy words and glitzy photos. Call me melodramatic, but I can only describe my experience and dashing of hopes, given the context, as if a gigantic sized swordfish had pierced my heart.
I guess the red herring for this meal (pun unintended) was the statement that the fest would introduce 34 new seafood delicacies from various Indian coastal regions. Well, with such a spread what could go wrong? Apparently, everything.
Firstly, let me try to get my mind around the logic as to why a restaurant which has a ‘Flavours of the Coast’ fest should completely ignore any vegetarian fare. Try as I might, I just could not get it why a restaurant which is smack in a commercial district of Mumbai that is teeming with vegetarians would do such a thing? Especially when these are the people who usually like to catch up with their colleagues post work over a meal? Ahh, well. At least the restaurant rustled up something for my vegetarian dinner mate. The Veg Crispy was truly crispy, albeit with a bitter taste, which the server could not explain.
Overlooking this gaffe, I excitedly waxed eloquent about Sol kadi – a tangy kokum drink with coconut milk. Alas, what we got was so spicy that it was apt to give one indigestion, not ebb it.
And that’s when everything steadily started going downhill. The Crab Pepper Andhra style (800) was spicy without anything distinctly Andhra about it. Similarly, the Prawns Mediterranean (525) had nothing remotely Mediterranean about it, tasting instead like a regular mint-marinated tandoori prawn! The Honey Lemon Prawn (525) had too much sweetness which drowned out the prawn’s flavour completely. The Prawns Orval (525) however saved the day. The fried prawns had the right seasoning of cumin and fennel, and tasted just right.
With a name like Lobster Beorsop (Rs 1200) maybe I was wrong to expect the itsy-bitsy lumps of lobster flesh to be cooked with fennel. But the fried pieces of lobster were just plain spicy, without much flavour. We were told that the Pomfret Upinichi was the chef’s take on the fish that is steamed in banana leaves; a typically Mangalorean preparation. Sadly the pomfret, cooked with ginger garlic, and then steamed did not make the cut.
The first thing that struck us about the Paabda Macher Jhol (1300) was that it wasn’t your typical Bengali preparation. It was not made with catfish, for starters. Secondly, it did not have the thin consistency of jhol, being much thicker instead. Finally, the fish gravy didn’t have the usual accompaniments of vegetables like eggplant, cauliflower, etc. The chef also appears to harbour the misconception that all foreigners (who apparently are frequent visitors) need cheese in their dishes. That probably explains why the Pomfrest St Germaine (1300) had cheesy mashed potatoes and fillets of pomfret that were choked with a cheesy sauce. Not kosher at all!
The appams, however, deserve special mention because they were super soft and yummy; probably the best part of the meal. We decided to close what had been a eminently forgettable dinner with some dessert. But alas, the diaster continued. The Caramel Custard hadn’t set properly! Thankfully the Malai Kulfi was fine. While I’m saying nice things, here are a couple more. The staff seem very happy to serve you; something that immediately puts one at ease. Also, the seafood served was very fresh.
If one has been to a food festival in one outlet of Mahesh Lunch Home and enjoyed the food served, it is but logical that one would expect the other outlet’s food festival to be just as good. Sadly, this is not always the case. I suggest staying with the Juhu outlet and avoiding others unless you know exactly what you’re doing.