restaurants


Park Bulvar in Sahil

Park Bulvar in Sahil

It’s the last day of the Novruz holiday, so after cleaning up my classroom and preparing for tomorrow, I headed off to Park Bulvar. It’s my mecca mall in this city. One of my simple pleasures is brisk walking along the tree-lined Bulvar and having lunch or dinner at the top floor’s food court. International choices abound from Japanese to Russian to Chinese to Sbarro, which is American-Italian.

But my fave food vendor is Sultan’s, which serves salads, kebabs, Azeri main courses and desserts. The food is healthy. The food is delicious. But the reason I keep coming back is because of the servers’ friendliness, smiles and flexibility. The man who I think is the supervisor can also communicate in basic English. The older I get and the more I travel, the more I appreciate excellent customer service because I tend to frequent places that I like, and it always makes me happy when I have a positive and friendly transaction. I will refrain from commenting on the opposite šŸ™‚ But let it suffice to say for now, that in Baku you get an equal amount of positive and negative customer service, of people who genuinely care about other people and love their job, so I tend to cling on and only visit places where I sense a happy vibe.

Salad bar at Sultan's

Salad bar at Sultan’s

Sultan’s salad bar offers plenty of healthy eats. They have the usual lettuce and cucumber, but they also have red beets, cucumber pickles, jalapenos, a variety of beans, red cabbage, and my mystery leaf, which I will tell you about later.

I usually order the chicken kebab and couscous, but today I asked if I could change my couscous into salad. The supervisor was very flexible. Most restaurants stick to the prescribed menu, but he gave me half a salad and the kebab for 5 manat – a very reasonable price for a meal in Baku.

Chicken kebab and half a salad from Sultan's at Park Bulvar

Chicken kebab and half a salad from Sultan’s at Park Bulvar

And just to back track a bit, yesterday, I found a green grocer and I bought this mystery leaf that I love! It’s a bit spicy and I love how it tickles my tongue! But I’ve never seen this leaf before.

76_petrushka

Today, I asked Sultan’s servers about it and they said it was “petrushka”. So I looked it up and apparently, “petrushka” is the word for parsley in Russian šŸ™‚ I can see how it’s similar to the parsley we have in the Philippines and the ones I’ve tried in the States. They look similar and they taste similar but they are different. Petrushka is definitely worth trying!

After eating lunch, I explored the new grocery store at the Park Bulvar’s basement. It’s called Bazar Store and it’s a popular chain in Baku. I wanted to see if they sold kefir and this is what I ended up buying–

74_salmon kefir and a glass

The kefir is deeeliiicious! This brand (I will not yet attempt to decode the Russian name :)) tastes exactly like lassi. It’s 95 quepic, but I don’t mind because it’s a good investment on my health. The salmon is 4.20 manat for 100 grams. I have yet to try it. And I know that you’re probably wondering why there’s a glass there. Believe or not, the usual grocery store I go to, doesn’t sell glasses in boxes so I’ve never bought from them because I tend to break glasses. When I first arrived, I bought six pieces and only one is left! I was able to find six chic small glasses – I wasn’t too fond of the the tall glass designs – for 2.15 manat. Considering that I didn’t buy them from Sederek mall, I would say it’s a steal.

I’m definitely coming back to the Bazar Store, even if it’s just for the kefir. But yes, I did see a reasonably price Russian caviar which I want to try during one of my cheat days.

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A type of chicken kebab with couscous.

A type of chicken kebab with couscous.

I’ve started to find some “comfort” places in Baku (which means it’s time for me to explore again :)). When I’m really hungry I love going to a restaurant called Sultan’s in Park Bulvar. They have a pretty good salad bar and I loooove their kebabs. They have various types of chicken and beef kebabs. Their couscous is pretty scrumptious too!

Unfortunately, the food in Baku is much more expensive than in Manila or Mumbai. The salad costs 4 manat. The kebabs are either 3 or 4 manat, depending on which one you order. The couscous is 3 manat.

Spontaneous dinner with K tonight in Le Pain de Quotodien. Oooohlala! I haven’t had a juicy steak in so long! I definitely want to go back to Le Pain to try out their strawberry cheesecake too.

I’ve been craving for travel, I’ve been craving for beef, I’ve been craving for a little taste of home. Busaba, one of the restaurants in my bucket list.

Busaba serves memorable pan-Asian cuisine while retaining a hip vibe…Burmese khao suey, Korean bipimbap and bulgogi, Tibetan momos and Thai lime chilly fish are favorites, my Time Out guide informed me.

Busaba is located in one of the side streets of Colaba, in a building with an old facade. It was Sunday lunch time when I entered and I was surprised to see that no one was there–a luxury in Mumbai! The staff were very friendly and accommodating (well, if the ratio is five servers to one customer they should be!) and the interior is modern, in contrast to the facade, and beautiful. They have some purple walls, with lamps and orchids placed strategically on window ledges.

I sat by a window that had a pretty view of, ironically, a garage.

The interior reminded me of some restaurants in Manila. I know I talk a lot about Manila, but I can’t help it. It’s where I’m from and I admit to missing the variety of international food choices that I had back home. Forgive me for diverting a bit here. In Manila, you can walk into a shopping complex that offers Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and American food. It’s something I’ve taken for granted. By now, I am used to the food choices in Mumbai and have picked my “comfort food” places which are mostly Indian food, specifically parathas, chicken shwarmas and chicken tandoori. Yum yum! But at this point in time, I’m glad that I’m forcing myself out of my comfort zone, and discovered Busaba, which brought brought back memories of another comfort zone–Manila! šŸ™‚

“Bulgogi and steamed rice,” I told the waiter as I slammed the menu shut. Of course I’m going to have bulgogi. I haven’t had bulgogi in more than a year. My mom used to cook it at home and it was a common food choice in many Manila fast food restaurants.

“Where are you from, Madame?” the head waiter asked me.

“I’m from the Philippines.” But I have an Indian passport and my Mom is very mixed, a mutt!, is the usual tagline I follow with, almost apologizing for the fact that I don’t seem to represent the country where I’m from.

“You don’t look like you’re from the Philippines,” he commented.

“Yes, I know.” I smiled back. I was relieved from having to further explain myself as my bulgogi arrived.

My yummy bulgogi!

The waiter served me the rice and poured some sauce over it. Then he served me the beef and red concoction in a small sauce bowl.

“Korean chili paste, Madame.”

I am usually averse to spice, but these days I want to try new things, so I spread some of the chili paste on the beef and sampled the recipe, which reminded me of home, the recipe which I haven’t eaten in so long!

I chewed and savored the juices of the beef, and the softness of the rice. At first, it reminded me of the pre-made marinated beef bulgogi that you buy in frozen packs. Oh my!, I laughed to myself. I just spent 600 bucks on a TV dinner!

But the chili paste added another dimension to the dish. It was spicy but not the type that makes you cry. Instead, it just prickled my tongue, and the memory of paste combined with the doused rice and beef, is now making me crave for it more and more.

The Korean chili paste was unbelievable!

The serving was big so I had it packed thinking I could finish it off the next day. But I had it for an early dinner, and I had it again for a late dinner. I couldn’t stop thinking about and eating the yummy bulgogi!

Busama is more expensive than most restaurants in Mumbai, and I’m suspecting that this is the reason why it was empty on a Sunday afternoon. For the bulgogi, rice, iced tea and tip, I spent 1000 rupees.

Was it worth it? Yes yes yes! Will I go back? Definitely, this time to try a Japanese or Thai dish.

If you’re interested in visiting Busaba the address is–
4 Mandlik Road, Colaba , Mumbai

Contact number: 22043769, 22043779, 22043772

Bade miya, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you? The song hummed in my head as I rushed from work to home to catch my Meru. 5:15, my Nokia phone informed me, as we crossed the Sea Link on my way to South Mumbai. I was on my way to the Regal theater for the Mumbai by Night Tour. But that was still at seven. Maybe, just maybe I could catch a bite at the iconic Bade Miya, a street side stall in Colaba, known for its kebabs. A South Mumbai institution.

“Do you know where Bade Miya is?” I asked the cabbie.

“Behind the Taj,” he replied as he pressed on the accelerator and the robotic woman voice in his cab chanted, “You are going over the speed limit. Slow down.”

Please please please, I hope we make it. We were now stuck in front of the Haji Ali Shrine, inching our way to the beautiful Breach Candy, with its neoclassic architecture. 5:45, my phone clock tells me. Yes, we’ll make it! We’ll scrape through this Mumbai traffic!

I squealed as the cabbie dropped me off and sucked in the charcoal-smoke air. Bade Miya, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you?

An English-speaking vendor tapped me on the shoulder. “What would you like to eat?”

My eyes ogled the full chicken breasts with bones on the skewers. “What’s that one? Which is your bestseller?” I asked in the same breath.

“Chicken tangdi kebab. One hundred thirty rupees.”

“I’m in!” Oh the charcoal smell, the smog, Mumbai I love you! And yes, of course I was starving. I usually eat at five pm.

Chicken seekh kebab

“Take out?”

“No, I’ll eat here.”

He led me to a corner where there were two British tourists, who looked Indian, but it was there first time in India. And sitting in front of me were a young UK couple who were also tourists. We ended up chatting about the local train and places to visit in Mumbai, when my order arrived.

“Waiter, do you have a fork?” He ignored my high maintenance request and handed me a spoon. I took the chicken breasts in my hands. Bite. Chew. Juice. Bade Miya. My my, how can I resist you? I don’t like spice, but all of sudden I fell in love with spice, as I chewed and my nose dripped. Spicy, tangy, juicy, charcoaly. Bade Miya’s tangdi is one of the best kebabs I’ve tasted!

The waiter also slapped this concoction on my table–

I don’t like eating raw onions because it gives me bad breath but I couldn’t resist trying this mix of onions, lemon, chutney and something else. And again, I think I fell in love with spice. This salad of sorts complimented the saltiness of the chicken, and it was spicy, tangy, oniony, savory. It was absolutely delish and worth the bad breath!

The only hitch to my meal was the chicken had blood on its bones so to avoid bacteria, I stayed away from the meat near those bones.

I looked at my phone watch. 6:30 Perhaps I still have time to find a clean bathroom and take photos in Colaba.

Bade Miya just how much I’ve missed you. Yes, I’ve been broken-hearted, blued since the day we parted, why why did I ever let you go? Bade Miya, now I really know, I could never let you go.

Matheran, first stop on my bucket list, hill station of horses and rust dust.

It was my birthday last Saturday. To celebrate the day, as well as my last five months in Mumbai, K, N, C and I drove up to Matheran. On our way, C our navigator and guide (and what a knowledgeable guide he was!), recommended that our fist pit stop be at Lucky’s Korner, an outdoor restaurant near Karjat.

The food and service were heavenly! Here are some of our mouthwatering orders–

Reshmi kebab. Soft, juicy, tangy. It was a perfect kebab!

The garlic naan went very well with the kebabs. They reminded me of yummy thin crust garlic pizzas!

My two signature drinks--lemon juice and chai with cardamom, ginger and milk. I'll definitely miss the Indian lemons and chai, which I somehow can't replicate, when I leave India.

The food was very reasonably priced, around 150 to 250 rupees per main course, and the restaurant was clean, a must for me.

The service unexpectedly rivaled fine dine restaurants! The waiters were very attentive. They changed our plates as needed, and they were enthusiastic. They genuinely seemed to enjoy serving their customers. Our head waiter, gave us excellent recommendations for dishes and was excited to show off Lucky’s renowned tandoor oven.

This is a tandoor oven. It's a hole dug into a counter and it's where many breads and chicken are baked. It's what gives chicken tandoori, kebabs and rotis a distinct smokey taste that is difficult to replicate in other ovens.

All in all, it was a very memorable meal. Not just because of the food and service, but also because of good company! Nothing beats traveling with easy going people who know their way around and are excited to share and explore!

C, our navigator and K, our first time long distance driver! Good job, K!

I’ll share more about the hikes in Matheran in future posts.

Do you have any travel stories that you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, if you would like to visit Lucky’s Korner, you can call them at–
9921841414
9881764964
9273127314

So now for the real list! (Heart beating fast in chest.) In my previous post, I mentioned that I bought this book in a Colaba bookstore–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a list of sights, tours and restaurants that I would like to experience. Once I’ve posted an entry about it, I’ll make the list item a link so I can share my experiences with you.Ā  Hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I do! šŸ™‚

Sights and Museums:
1. Matheran
2. Wine Tasting in Nashik
3. Vasai Fort
4. Mumbai Port Trust Garden
5. Kala Ghoda
6. National Gallery of Modern Art
7. Jehangir Art Gallery
8. Prince of Wales Museum
9. Crawford Market
10. Dhobi Ghat
11. Mohammed Ali Road
12. Chor Bazaar
13. Kamala Nehru Park
14. Chowpatty Beach
15. Juhu Beach
16. Mani Bhavan
17. Sanjay Gandhi National Park
18. Gorai Island

Tours
1. Reality Tour’s 1 Day Village Tour
2. Reality Tour’s Mumbai by Night Tour

Restaurants
1. Bade Miya
2. Samovar
3. Busaba
4. Cafe Churchill
5. Ling’s Pavilion
6. Woodside Inn
7. Moshe’s Cafe
8. Tea Centre
9. Britannia
10. Mahesh Lunch Home
11. Kebab Corner
12. Highway Gomantak
13. Mia Cucina

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