Before I start with this review, I want to get a few things straight. As mentioned in my previous restaurant review too, I pay for my own meals. Now what exactly does that translate into?
A) I will largely talk about vegetarian food since (insert dramatic gasp here) I’m a vegetarian.
B) The boy orders one or two non-veg things so all you carnivores can honestly stop sulking.
C) All the nice, new, and expensiveish restaurants are usually frequented by me on Date Nights. But in the future, I plan to do a lot more food reviews so perhaps there will be reviews even when I’m with friends and family; in which case you will get to know about a lot more dishes (both veg and non-veg).
D) I don’t want anything to come between this blog and the fact that I like to keep things real. So for now, please let’s live with this current situation and bear with my not-so-extensive, largely vegetarian, severely alcoholic, honest restaurant reviews. #Dhanyavaad
Now let’s dig in!
So I have been wanting to go to Sodabottleopenerwala ever since it opened in Bombay. It had already created a buzz in other cities and I couldn’t wait to sample it myself. Besides, have I ever told you about my undying love for Parsis and all things Parsi? I went to Jai Hind College in Bombay, and it is *filled* with Parsis. They’ve left an indelible mark on my life; in a good way. Like sometimes I randomly sit and think about how the Parsi community is diminishing and it makes me sad. I sound like a freak, but I’m okay with that. Anyway, now you get just how much I’ve been wanting to try this place.
It was a Friday night and we went there without reservation – bold move on our part! We were told we’ll have to wait for about 40 minutes. Now because I think I’m way-too-cool, I honestly thought they were fibbing about the time, as most restaurants do. So I bindaas proceeded to sit outside the restaurant (they’ve set up chairs) in the waiting area. Props to them for making an area like that, because a lot of restaurants don’t even have one. We were mighty pleased with the first look of the place, the inside looked all bright, happy, and cheerful. In terms of the crowd, it seemed to be mixed. There were office goers, and families, and college students, and couples. People were dressed up and not so dressed up. I smiled to myself as it’s one of the things I love about Bombay – you can just be. Even though we were impressed at first glance, we thought we’ll go in, have a drink or two along with a quiet dinner and walk out. But boy, we were so wrong.
A good 45 minutes later (as we had been correctly warned) we were getting antsy. Just then, we were asked to proceed inside. I was so happy to do this, because the wait made me feel like I had totally earned it. We were seated on a table quite in the centre but this didn’t bother us because the vibe of the place just took over. The quirky decor in splendid colours, the typical Irani Cafe chequered table cloth, the eccentric menu cards, and friendly waiters made sure we were absorbed from the word go!
I’m normally a diehard Old Monker but the cocktail menu really tempted me. So I ordered a Vodka based Mango cocktail called, get this, Rustom Bantawala which is served in a Banta bottle (complete with the marble, too). The boy, not half as fickle as me, ordered his Old Monk in a size called Bawa Peg, which is basically 150ml of Old Monk (that’s 5 small pegs, for the price of 4). The Old Monk was served in a milk bottle. The theatrics of our drinks impressed us greatly. My drink too was yummy, and I gulped it like a girl who is street shopping on a hot summer day. The way you would with regular Banta. This was not a great idea, as the taste of Vodka hit me later and I’m not a Vodka person. I promptly switched to Old Monk after this, like a true Parsi would. We went through multiple Bawa pegs in the course of the night, but then there are some details you don’t need to know. 😛
I was concerned about the food here, as we all know the Parsis are not known for their vegetarian fare. But let me say, right at the outset that the food didn’t disappoint. Not only were there enough options for me to choose from, we liked everything we ordered. We started with a cheese masala pav (One plate has 2 pieces) and this was delicious. It had cheese that melted in our mouths and was the perfect thing to go along with our drinks. We also had Mushroom on Khaari which was divine. I love mushroom and I love Khaari so this was a winner all the way! After a while we went in for the cheesy fries, these were not bad either. But I’d skip these if I were you, because the description said they come with thecha (which I assumed to be the Maharashtran spicy dry chutney) but they weren’t spicy at all. To be totally fair though, we were also sort of full at this point and that could be another reason we didn’t love the fries.
Let me halt the food talk to tell you the main reason we loved this place. When we walked in, there was a DJ playing English retro songs. And we were loving his music! These songs reminded me of college. (I honestly talk like I went to college in the 60s – not true, FYI.) The bawa pegs were doing their thing and we were grooving to the music. From typical Freddy Mercury and George Michael kind of stuff, the DJ by this point had progressed to Peter Andre and literally everyone was singing along. But the DJ killed it when suddenly, he started playing Chaiyaan Chaiyaan. No one saw it coming, and the energy in the room just sky rocketed. He followed this up with 90’s gems like Humma Humma and eventually came to new age Bollywood like Galla Goodiyan. By this point, our date night had turned into a party for two. We were singing out loud, without a care in the world. Okay, can’t say without a care in the world because I looked around self consciously once and realized nobody was bothered. Everyone was mouthing lyrics, dancing in their seats (and later even out of their seats), and pretty damn drunk. It felt like home.
At some point the efficient waiters had come, cleaned our table and asked for our main course order. We skimmed the menu in a happy daze and ordered a Veg Dhansak for me and a Patra Ni Macchi for the boy. Both dishes were out of this world. We have had our share of authentic Parsi food made in the homes of our Parsi friends or at their weddings, but the food here was comparable. I’ve heard people differ on this, but that’s just what we felt.
A lot of people unfairly compare Sodabottleopenerwala to Brittania, Sassanian, Kyani, Koolar, etc and we’ve been to (and loved) all these places. But we must recognize that the concept of this place is to keep the Parsi culture, food and vibe alive and make it relevant to the more evolved restaurant goer. It also merges well in Bombay’s restaurant-scape because even though Irani cafes are part of the city’s culture there’s nothing quite like this. For the amount of food and alcohol we ordered, I expected our bill to be sky rocketing…it wasn’t. I’m most certainly going back here, but not without finding out first if the DJ is playing that night.
PS: Did I mention we were the last to leave? Yes, you might be wondering “Konna Baap Ni Diwali?!” Let’s just say we were very, very happy. 🙂