Rishi Majumder trails along an epicure’s delight that is Versova, to sample this neighbourhood’s eclectic range on offer
Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
The name Versova came from ‘Vesave’, meaning ‘rest’ in Marathi, because the fishing village was where Shivaji’s navy recuperated mid-battle. The staple diet then was fish. Today, post the ongoing population explosion in and around Mumbai city, this strip has sprung residential complexes, BPOs, software companies, studios and a restaurant multiplicity that would put French thinker Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who boasted, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” in a bit of a fix.
Versova isn’t Bandra or Juhu. But it’s housing of film and TV stars, sea-side location (though the beach is too rocky to set up an eatery in) and less congested, cleaner roadways flings it a notch above other suburban areas on the living in — and eating out — class-o-meter. So here’s biting into what Chinese, Thai, Continental, South Indian, Punjabi and Keral chow shops are serving clients from Andheri, Goregaon, Malad… Bandra, Juhu… and expats from around the world.
Pop Tate’s and Rolling Beans dole out manna for the suburban yuppie. Both restaurants use bright colours, TV screens, rock music and continental cuisine to attract a crowd that’s in Pop Tate’s’ manager’s words “young at heart”. While Pop Tate’s serves up beers and cocktails amidst cartoon wall hangings that look like Archie and Manga, Rolling Beans is a strictly coffee place. Though while using coffee as it’s main draw, the latter scores over the Barista and Café Coffee Day next door by virtue of serving pastas, grills, steaks and other continental main courses. Pop Tate’s’ food range goes much wider — including Mexican and Chinese appetizers, Noodles, Pizzas and Burgers as well. Its main draw however is its sizzlers. While Pop Tate’s, started as a hang out joint eight years ago, now commands up to a 20 minute wait during meal times; Rolling Beans started a year and a half back, has customers filing in and out around the clock.
Rice Boat, Mista Paaji and Legacy Of China stick almost religiously to their much touted genres. Rice Boat serves “gourmet cuisine from God’s own country” and employs waiters from Kerala, who know the food, and can explain it to customers. Popular items include Tandoori Crab, Paneer Olarthiyathu, Konju (prawn) Roast Curry, Mutta (mutton) Naadan Curry and Pachchakari Ishtu (vegetables in coconut curry). While Rice Boat re-located from Bandra for want of space, Mista Paaji was opened by the owners of Bandra’s Papa Pancho. Hence featuring the same “authentic Punjabi food” with various chaats, dals, curries, parathas and kababs. Frequent demands are tandoori chicken, Naram Dil Kofta Curry (tomato gravy), Dhaba Mutton and the lassis. Legacy Of China lets its specialisation spill over from Chinese to float Malaysian and Thai fare. Amidst giant red lanterns and mirrored walls, the best on offer are: Thai Garlic Prawns, Mapo Tofu, Roasted Chicken In Yellow Bean Sauce and Chicken Americhine.
Racial intermingling often throws up a mixed breed. And thence you have China Suburb 1, which serves you Fish Koliwada and Murgh Makhani, and Konkaan Ruchie which offers Manchow Soup and Chicken Dragon Rolls. There’s also Seasons, Landmark, Rice Bowl, Sea Shell, Seven Hills… and many others, who declare in their menu a mixed cuisine of Chinese, Thai, South Indian, Moghlai, and Malvani. These restaurants often occupy small areas, done up with half-baked décor schemes and price their items at anywhere between five to 25 per cent lower than the above mentioned. Their basic, yet diverse, spread doesn’t promise quality. But they survive on delivering to buildings close by and catering to middle class customers who don’t want to dig too deep for week-end meals. They are the poor man’s globalisation. And yes, the ones serving Maharashtrian coastal fare are bang on there —their ‘expert cooks’ are an arm’s throw away at the Koli village.
With its audition studios, Versova is becoming an entertainment industry paradox like Juhu, flaunting at its two ends the struggler and the star. Both of these species need refreshment. They sometimes seek it at the same place. So coffee places are packed by those ordering hazelnut cappuccinos and chocolate deserts… and those stalking one table for hours stirring a single espresso cup. Or take Blue Kitchen. A dhaba next to Rolling Beans and Rice Boat, it’s open kitchen serves reasonably priced Punjabi food — renowned for the quantity of its portions. A hit for office staff during lunch hours, it too subscribes to this paradox. One struggler here was heard saying to another during his meal: “Agar role mila, to saala Legacy Of China Mein Khayenge… the day I get my cheque!” Meanwhile, the owner tells us: “Sunny and Bobby Deol have eaten here. Because unlike other restaurants with so much sho sha, we provide good Punjabi food – which almost seems like it’s homemade.”
This article originally appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/k5tu