When a place becomes a brand, it becomes almost irreplaceable. Memories get attached to it and you want to visit it over and over again, simply to savour a familiar experience. For most Mumbaikars, Mahesh Lunch Home is once such address. This quaint restaurant, established in 1977, serving authentic home style Mangalorean cuisine, went on to become a cult classic among foodies who could not have enough of its Prawns Gassi and Bassa Fish. It made its way to the shores of Dubai with a set up in Karama (where else?) a few years ago. However, popular though it was, it couldn’t quite match up to the success or the flavor of its original.
But now, nearly four years later, MLH has metamorphosed into its current avatar Kanteen Urban Kitchen. Same place, same people but a whole new look and a sparkling new menu. Now, this evolution can work both ways - it can either evoke curiosity among those who want to give it a chance or put off old loyalists who would rather stick to the tried and test. However, the brains behind the venture have smartly given it a new identity while retaining part of its old title to reassure the nostalgists. Hence, Kanteen Urban Kitchen By Mahesh Lunch Home.
So how does this new Kitchen fare as compared to the old Lunch Home? The happy news is that there is no need to compare. It’s a new concept, a very smartly designed menu, excellently priced and unique in taste. At the same time, there is another menu too, that has retained some of the old seafood favourites from Mahesh so that you don’t miss it entirely. Good move.
The Kanteen menu cannot be pigeonholed into any one category. It’s thoroughly Indian at heart and that too, street food Indian, but with a creative touch. So there some regular kebabs but you also find the Bunny Chow. There are a couple of chaats but also a begun bhaaja tempura (bhaaja is the famous Bengali delicacy). Our pre-dinner offerings included a Masala cola (nice!) and some bread sticks with chilli jam. I loved the jam – red chilli pepper, jalapenos and a bit of honey – made it a unique dip. It set us up nicely for the star arrival – Prawn Dhamaka. Call it in the Indian prawn dynamite! The tempura fried prawns served with Koliwada mayo, was spicy, especially the coating of the red chilli mayo. The desi-fied flavor of the popular Oriental dish was amusing to say the least!
Next came the Dosa tacos. Now, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to dosas, being strictly against its pollution using different fillings but this East meets Mexican dish was not bad. Perhaps it could have been called another name but purely as a dish, it was interesting. Tacos shaped, super crisp dosas had a light stuffing of chicken keema, and were sprinkled with Kori roti and gun powder for additional texture. The only thing that stuck out as odd was the liberal use of rocket leaves inside the taco. I guess coriander would have been better. But thumbs up to the concept.
A quick scan of the menu revealed interesting titles – anda wali daal (Egg and daal!), Bheja masala (remember those Bombay joints?), Kolkata rolls and the like. But we decided to try the specialty – Bunny Chow. The south African-Indian fast food gem that has found resurrection of late, consists of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry.
The delicious Bunny Chow
The chefs at Kanteen certainly worked their magic on this one. Just for Bunny Chow, I wouldn’t mind the trek to Karama. Misal, Pav Bhaji, Butter Chicken and Rogan Josh are the four flavours available and we suggest you straight opt for the rogan josh. The gravy is excellent, the meat is soft, sticking to the traditional rogan josh style but the best part (as with any chow) is when the bread gets soaked in the flavours of the curry. One morsel of chow and you are in comfort food heaven.
We tried one more – a Bowl dish. They call it the Super Bowl – a cheeky reference to the sporting championship. As the name suggests, it’s one bowl that carries all – a main and an accompaniment. So it could be a kerala style chicken with tapioca or a Thai curry with rice or Bengali prawn curry with rice. You order one, you don’t need anything else. But taste-wise, our Bengali prawn was average. Another item worth trying (we left that for the next time) was the tiffin – served in a Dabba. From Sindhi Curry to Dhansak, there was a dabba for each.
Interesting, innovative and made with a lot of heart, there is plenty to try at Kanteen Urban Kitchen. Karama’s new entry packs in a punch. Try it and your Mahesh Lunch Home Mumbai memories will be satisfied.