Mumbai landmark

I have a confession to make and also want to expose the evil called landmark. I am a bibliophile. And the newly opened Landmark is to me what a pub is to a recalcitrant tippler.

For those who do not know, landmark is a book shop that started out of Chennai and is now spreading across metros. The most recent one opened at Infiniti Mall at Andheri Lokhandwala. It is small by landmark standards but already beats any other large Mumbai book store in its collection. And these people say that the collection is just starting out!

Let me paint a picture of Mumbai Book shops. There is the venerable Strand in the fort. Great books become available here ahead of any other store and that too at great prices. Its the smallest book shop amongst all the shops I keep visiting but it inspires awe with its collection and its dedication to book lovers. The only comparison I can draw is with Midlands in Delhi. But then, which other man has won a Padma Vibhushan for selling books than Mr Shanbhag! They have the best Indian collection that I have seen on fine arts and on chess. But they really are famous for creating trends. A freakonomics/world is flat etc are released at Strand simultaneously with the rest of the world while the other shops wait for market reaction and then follow. Strand knows what its readers want and goes out and gets it ahead of others.

Crossword is the large chain that everyone knows of. There are many branches and affiliates but only two are any good: kemps corner where the original Mahalaxmi one moved and the Powai one. Some are actually examples of how not to run a book store: Juhu one. This is the place where most ppl go first and caters to the mainstream. But there has been a stagnation in the Sriram recommends category and the emphasis is on the predictable few authors/books. Crossword has nice decor and allows browsing but where are the books!! The only one I’d recommend to a serious reader is the Powai one.

Granth is a new comer and they made a good start with their Juhu shop. Nice collection in a small space. Really challenged its Juhu rival: crossword. Nice ambience and very helpful people. Didn’t have a loyalty program but quickly corrected it. The goregaon one is avoidable. The juhu one would have done very well over time but for the arrival of Landmark.

In this setting came landmark. Anyone who has been to the Chennai one would attest to it being amazing. I’ve been to the usual suspects in Delhi, Mumbai, bangalore and Chennai and have had the help of bibliophiles in each city. So, trust me when I say that the best book shop in India is Chennai landmark. Where a cross word has a shelf on a topic, the Chennai landmark has a few racks and no cheap tricks of multiple copies of the same book. The variety brings me the the only word that describes it: Amazing.

The Mumbai landmark follows the same principal. Huge collection.
Strand has now no chance is the science section. Its a section it used to lead with good competition from the Juhu Granth. Landmark even has a section on Maths though its not very well stocked right now.
Literature: I once looked by Jorge Loius Borges in Mumbai. Found 2 books in Powai crossword. Others had not heard of it. landmark has many of them and two complete anthologies of fiction and non-fiction. It will be ages before anyone catches up here.
History: Crossword has nothing here. Granth led but now landmark blows them away with the sheer collection
Business & management: Huge surprise. landmark is worse than all except perhaps the Juhu crossword! Need to bring it to the level of chennai one.
Indian languages: Crossword kemps corner has a section but no one else. Its a pity that indian literature is not offered in India! Landmark had made a start with Hindi, Gujrati and marathi volumes. But the selection is not as extensive as its own other sections and lags behind the Delhi stores in the Hindi collection.

The landmark however has a huge disadvantage: no place to sit and browse. One can tolerate the narrow aisles where you have to brush against others as you pass but no place to sit and browse is a big pain. there is a small divan but its too little for the amount of traffic and frankly I like some personal space when reading.

But on the whole, landmark is the name of a increasing hole in my pocket.

Oh Calcutta Express

I just posted about a 3.5/5 restaurant. Not the kind of stuff great weekends are made of. But this weekend was great because of a 5/5 place: Oh Calcutta Express!

Oh Calcutta Express is the smaller cousin of the Tardeo Oh Calcutta that has opened at Lokhandwala. I used to frequent the tardeo one about a year and half back. So when I heard about the Lokhandwala one, naturally I was keen to visit it. For one reason or the other, it never happened upto this weekend.

I was guided in menu selection by old friends Ritu and Pranob who hail from Calcutta. I am usually content to leave myself in the hands of Ritu who is expert at ordering. More on her expertise with Joey’s pizza in a later post.

Suffice it to say it was so good that I was back on Saturday evening for a second round. Surprisingly, I was welcomed with a very broad smile and comments of how good it was to see me again. I replied that it was only my second time. And I was told that they remember me from the Tardeo Oh Calcutta! I was left speechless. If a place remembers its patrons after a gap of one and half years, it speaks volumes about its service.

Oh calcutta express is smaller than its tardeo cousin and more cramped. I expected it to be noisy as a natural consequence but its not. Maybe because of the bhadralok who visit it! Service is polite and very quick.

One is served a aloo chanaa chaat as a complimentary appetiser. One can overdo it easily as its quite tasty and the folks at Oh Calcutta keep replenishing it! But then the order too arrives quickly and there is more to take the attention away.

On friday, we had some kebabs followed by Calcutta Biryani. All this was new to me as I’m used to ordering fish at Oh Calcutta. Pranob rightly commented that its a mistake to think that Bengali food is all about fish.

Its worthwhile to dwell a bit on the Biryani. There are around 80 kinds of Biryani in India according to some counts. There is a spectrum of spicier one (Hyderabadi biryani) to the lighter ones (Andhra Biryani!). The calcutta biryani redefined the lighter extreme for me. No masala but carefully selected spices. I also thought that I detected milks/khoa in it. Certainly a delicacy. I was intrigued by the presence of potato and the accompanying raita. These are there in the Hyderabadi biryani (probably the first biryani) for the change of taste from the very spicy to normal. But given how light the calcutta one is, I didn’t really the see the need for change of taste. Probably, its a level of subtlety that I could not appreciate.

One can’t really talk about bengali food without the sweet dishes. I had Misthi doi and it was just as expected. But the surprise was Rossogolla Payesh. I was too full on Friday to try more but on Saturday I had three helpings. Its one of the experiences which cannot be expressed fully in words. I know because I have tried doing so for last 10 mins before giving up!

Oh Calcutta express has the wow factor for almost every dish that I have tasted. Its a perfect 5 in my books. Now I have the only convince my team for a thali lunch (Rs 149 only!).

Hotel Mirador

Hotel Mirador is near Cigarette factory, Chakala.

The first things that one notices are: 24 Hr restaurant, happy hours upto 10 PM(!) and the buffet. There are a few dishes that are available 24 Hrs and not the entire menu. Makes you wonder if they just heat these and serve! The happy hours are certainly a gimmick; where else do you have a beer bottle for Rs 160! And the discount on beer is 40% which takes the effective prrice to Rs 96! The lunch buffet is Rs 225 while dinner is for Rs 375. The difference between the two is addition of one soup and one salad!!

Let’s look at the food. Food spread is very nice for the buffet. For lunch there is one veg soup and a no of salads out which only one is veg. One can start off with a choice of veg and non-veg kabab followed by 1 rice and daal and again a no of main course preparations. The buffet certainly wins hands down on the spread. The food is usually well cooked but lacks the wow factor. I have been to Mirador many times now and I’ve never had an occassion where any item has been beyond “good”. But then all items are good!

Moving on to ambience. This is really the weakest point. Its a small place and with only a few tables occupied it is very noisy. Add loud music to that and one wants to leave quickly. In the evenings, it is no different from a pub. So if you want dinner, avoid. if you want a pub, it lacks the atmosphere and is too pricey.

Service is usually good though they need to learn some intricacies. If there is a promotional offer of a free glass of wine with the first; the two glasses should not be served together.

On the whole, Mirador gets points on convenience and the buffet spread. It looses on its pricing and ambience. A 3.25.

intro

A question that bugged me when I considered blogging was what do I talk about? I’ve chosen to write about food because I love food, I love eating out but its largely because people already ask me about food places.

I love being in Mumbai primarily for one reason: good food. I’ll use this blog to share some of my culinary adventures; largely in Mumbai but elsewhere as well. Stay tuned!