So I've just returned from a ten-day trip to Bombay and Goa. Normally, when I'm at home in New Jersey, I eat from cheaper Indian restaurants with street food, but on this trip I tried to keep me stomach at low-risk and go to nicer places (the exchange rate definitely helped, too). In Bombay, I followed many of the tips I read here on chowhound, so I'll add some more comments to what we've already got here... Unfortunately I didn't take any notes while I ate at any of these places, so my knowledge of dish names isn't so complete. What can you do.
So, first, Bombay:
- Jimmy Boy Cafe (11 Bank St., south of Horniman Circle, 022 2270 0880) -- this was the only Parsi meal I had in the city and in my life and it was great. The place looks like it's from the 70s, like many of these nice yet not recently redone restaurants in the city. To second the recommendation of another poster, the khara bhendi, or stewed okra in a tomato sauce, was so flavorful and different than other Indian okra dishes I've had. The okra was still firm on the outside and gooey on the inside. The lamb dish I had might have ever been better (its name started with a 'J' and was three words) -- it was a small pieces of lamb in a sweetish curry with small stewed apricots. Again, unlike anything I've had before. I loved this dish because it was so soft, both the lamb and the apricots. The lagan nu custard, an egg-based custard with cardamom was just alright -- too much cardamom for me. My meal cost me about 250 rupees.
- Chetana (34 K. Dubash Marg, near Jehangdir Art Gallery, 022 2284 4968) -- this place has been hyped up as one of the best vegetarian Gujarati thalis in the city. I really enjoyed it, but it didn't blow me away. The only stand outs were the rasam, the most complex broth that I've ever had, and the samosas. The lunch thali ran about 250 rupees.
- Khyber (opposite Jehangdir Art Gallery, near Chetana, 022 2267 3227) -- the most highly rated North Indian and Mughlai restaurant in Bombay (and most expensive, outside of the hotel restaurants). Trying to be hip in its overdone "oriental" decor, but it's at least comfortable. I had a huge dinner for one person here with great renditions of navratan korma (the vegetables weren't soggy like they almost always are), the house lamb specialty (don't remember the name, but the meat was really nice and tender), naan (had a strong sesame flavor), and some other things that don't come to mind. Amazing rasmalai for dessert, though I wish the gajar halwa had been in season. Expensive, about 1200 rupees for three main dishes, dessert, tea, etc.
- Trishna (7 Ropewalk Lane, a block from Khyber and Chetana, 022 2267 2176) -- everyone raves about this Mangalorean seafood place. The food I ate was excellent, from fresh crab in lemon and garlic (supposedly the restaurant's specialty) to a Hyderabadi fish tikka with a special curry... A dessert of the now-in-season Alfonso mangos from southern Maharasthra were some of the best I've had in my life (more on that in the next entry). Can't say anything negative about the food, again different from anything I'd had in the US before and everything prepared well (no piece of the seafood was tough, for example). Dinner for two was 1200 rupees.
- The Sea Lounge (first floor cafe/lounge in the Taj Mahal hotel) -- this place is really European, in typical luxury hotel style. It works, surprisingly, helped by the great view of the Gateway to India and the bay from its window tables. I spent a few hours here one afternoon drinking tea, reading, and, best of all, eating lots of mango. I can't remember ever liking fruit more. They had a nice looking tea-time buffet as well, pricey for sure.
- Bademiya (Tulloch St., behind the Taj Hotel in Colaba) -- super-famous street stall for its kebabs and roti wraps. It is just an outdoor stall, no place to sit inside (though it seemed like its vegetarian subsidiary had some seats on the inside). The scene is the best part, packed with tons of locals, at least on Sunday evening, some eating at the haphazard array of tables that have been put out wherever there's any vacant room on the street. Many people seem to be driving far, as not many people from this area drive SUVs, which were littered everywhere, filled with families eating away. I had two separate roti sandwiches, one with chicken in a curry sauce (forget the name) and another with a lamb kebab -- both were fresh, moist, and spicy. I ate both right there on the spot. An expensive dinner, 90 rupees.
- Kamat (Colaba Causeway on the east side) -- great south Indian lunch thali, though not as good as Chetana. A good cheap place if you're in the area. 65 rupees for lunch.
I also had drinks at Indigo one night (a ridiculous ex-pat scene, felt like another world relative to the rest of these places) and drinks at sunset at the newly opened Dome, an outdoor bar on the roof of the Intercontinental Hotel on Marine Drive (there is a small area inside the little dome). The view there was gorgeous (in all directions, not just toward the sea) and it wasn't crowded at all. Most comfortable atmosphere of any place I'd been.
Overall, I enjoyed what I ate in Bombay, though I wish I'd been with someone else so I could have ordered more at all of these places. I regret not being a bit more adventurous and trying places more off the beaten path -- this isn't to say what I ate wasn't amazing, but other than the meal at Jimmy Boy, I wasn't floored by new flavors and styles of cooking. It was great, but it was something I'd experienced before.
Now, in Goa, much more quickly: Here I was with someone else... I had great, yet expensive meals at the Indian restaurants at the Taj Exotica hotel in Benaulim and at the Leela Palace hotel a bit farther south.
At the Taj, I recommend the Hyderabadi lamb biryani, some of the Gujarati veg dishes, and, no contest, the fig kulfi and the andoori rabri (soft, moist cheese balls in various sauces). Those two desserts might have been the eating highlight of the whole trip.
At the Leela restaurant, again the desserts were the biggest highlight -- amazing kulfi and rasmalai. The service there was also the friendliest I experienced (and also managed not to be overbearing as the five separate waiters who watch over you tend to be at these expensive restaurants). Both restaurants ran about 2500 rupees for two people for dinner.
We ate lunch two days on the beach in Benaulim at Johncy's Beach Shack, which was very good when we ordered the right dishes. The fish tikka was stunning -- coated in a spicy, flavorful curry and very tender. The goan fish curry rice was also the best we had (better than at the Leela and Taj). We tried the bebinca, the famous Goan dessert, and it was terrible. I don't know if it's the dish in general, since this was the only place we tried it, but it might just have been the restaurant. Some other veggie dishes tasted like bland British food as well. It's a perfect place to spend some time in the hot PM heat, very lazy, with a sand floor and dogs sleeping under many of the tables. Lunch for two was around 250 rupees.
In Panjim, we ate lunch at Satkar, a south Indian veggie joint on 18 June Rd. near the central square. The best thali I had in India, much more interesting than the places in Bombay. Recommended...
In Margao, we ate dinner at Banjara (De Souza Chambers, 0832 272 2088), the nicest restaurant in town. Great North Indian food in the basement of an ugly building with decor to match in that trying-to-be-classy kind of way. The waiters were a little too pushy, but the food was good. Aloo papri chaat to start was not good (I've had better in Edison and Iselin in New Jersey and in Jackson Heights in Queens), but the different vegetable dishes we had were all excellent. Mediocre dessert. For two it cost about 700 rupees.
I hope that's useful for anyone who's heading out to these areas soon. If you've been to any of these places and have other opinions, please post -- I'd love to hear what other people thought about these places and other ones, especially in Bombay. I'm sure there are so many small amazing local joints that haven't been discussed yet on these boards, so if you're a local, speak up. I'm especially interested in finding out where to eat more specific cuisines in Bombay (local Marathi dishes or ones from other regions in the country)...