Chef Hussain Shahzad of the acclaimed Goan restaurant, O Pedro, tells us where he goes to eat when he’s craving an inexpensive and deliciously comforting meal. The soul of Indian food lies in those hole-in-the-wall spots that have existed for generations, hidden gems that only the locals know of, run by lone folks who have spent their whole lives perfecting the same recipe that was passed on to them.
Originally from Chennai, Chef Hussain takes us down memory lane sharing with us, the two spots that instantly take him back to boyhood, back to home.
Sri Kumaravel Mess
This ‘Military Hotel’ was established around World War II to serve military personnel. It is still very much a family business, with the founders’ grandsons carrying on the tradition. Today, only a few of these Chettinad messes still exist but Chef Hussain swears by this one. “This is how it works, you order a thali and a man will come by with a tray full of different curries, you can look, take a whiff, if they’re feeling generous that day, maybe they’ll give you a taste and then you pick what you want and they’ll just hand it over to you instantly, there’s no need to order”, he tells me salivating at the thought. The menu varies depending on the catch of the day, with Thursday specials like Chettinad Thalakkari Kuzhambu or Goat head curry which Chef Hussain highly recommends if you can get over the concept.
The Bread Omelette Stall opposite Alsa Mall
The humble bread omelette stall always attracts a crowd. “I remember going here almost everyday in my school days and in hindsight, took it for granted. What makes this so good, is that it’s a cross between a french toast and an omelette sandwich.”, Chef Hussain reminisces. A hot pan, bread thrown on a runny omelette till it all turns golden brown and crispy, served hot with green chutney, how can you go wrong?
Having lived in Mumbai for years now, it’s safe to say Chef Hussain knows some spots you haven’t been to yet.
Canara Lunch Home and Bar, Fort
“When I was working at the Trident, my cooks used to eat here and one day I tagged along, I’ve been going here for seven years and haven’t had a single disappointing meal.” Hussain tells us. A true watering hole, people stop by on their way to and from the CST train station. Go up the stairs and you’ll enter an AC room with a small seating area. Chef Hussain recommends the Lepi Fry, Malvani Prawn Pulao with green chutney and Burnt Red Chili Chicken. You won’t find a good Lepi or Leppo Fry anywhere else in Mumbai. Don’t forget to ask for the green chutney and grab some Chakni and Schezuan sauce with your beer.
Chinese & Grill, near Manara Masjid, Muhammad Ali Road
This is guaranteed to be satiate your Pre-Ramazan Nalli Nihari and Sheekh Kebab cravings because lamb is great all year round. Chef recommends ignoring the Chinese and diving straight into the meat.
It goes without saying that Goan food is Chef Hussain’s forte. (If you haven’t eaten at O Pedro yet, please go for all your Choris Pao cravings, dear Mumbaikers).
Anand Restaurant & Bar
The Chef spent a considerable amount of time roaming the Goa streets in search of good fish. When it comes to Goa, it can be easy to get lost in a cesspool of misleading recommendations and tourist spots so while Fish Rawa Fry is a common Goa dish, it can be hard to find one that stands out. Chef Hussain recommends this spot for a no fail fish fry and beer at the beach.
Valanka Goa Sausage
This recommendation may sound like we’re sending you off on a dark, sketch path but it’s really the search for Choriz Pao. Picture an obscure window, a line of hungry beachers and a single hand passing you the best choriz pao you can dream of biting into. Buttered bread, cured pork sausage and goan chutneys folded into a compact sandwich.
How far will you travel for good food? We know we will. If this story had you salivating, we recommend you try these spots for yourself and then report back to us and Chef Hussain at O Pedro.