Every once in a while we go through a phase when we crave a certain food. Only that particular combination of ingredients, of textures and flavours can satisfy our hunger and when we get so caught up with that peculiar craving we stop thinking about other foods.
When I was in school, I went through a period when I wanted a potato-and-sliced-bread pizza every time I came home. It was the most unsophisticated dish you could imagine – boiled pieces of potato arranged on Kissan tomato ketchup spread on sliced bread and topped with grated Amul cheese. I’m not sure where my mother found this recipe but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it’s a page out of a Tarla Dalal playbook.
Last week, I was stuck with a craving for misal. It’s one of my favourites among Mahrashtrian snacks and my unfiltered eagerness to sample it had previously led me to possibly the worst misal in the city. It was a hole-in-the-wall counter opposite the foot over bridge exit at the southern end of Elphinstone Station. The place seems to have started out as a vada pav stall and expanded into serving puri bhaji, chole and other quick snacks.
The usal was nothing more than a vatana curry finished with ghati masala and instead of just onions it’s served with shredded Byculla bhaji (a mix of cabbage and carrots, the cheapest vegetables for restaurateurs to buy at Byculla’s wholesale market, commonly used for side salads and the pakodas in veg street Chinese). Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, at Rs 20 it was also probably the cheapest misal in the city and my fellow diners were courier boys, peons and automobile mechanics.
Nonetheless, I still felt a bit sullied. So I made my way to Marutirao Misalwale (MM) a new misal-centric restaurant that opened about three weeks ago behind Deepak Cinema on the road leading to Century Mills and Kamala Mills. On my initial visit, which was just after it opened, I was told it’s the first Mumbai outlet of the famous Nagar chain. Nagar seemed too broad a description and I persisted with enquiring. They meant Ahmed-nagar.
The MM misal is available in three strengths: mildly spicy, medium spicy and spicy. Having learnt that the medium is a lot spicier than I can handle, I tried the mild version but also very sensibly ordered a piyush. I could just about manage the spice and quickly fell into an easy rhythm of two spoons of misal followed by three of the piyush. And yes, the thinned down piyush is thick enough to eat with a spoon.
The MM misal is a little different from the typical Kolhapuri one. Along with farsan, it also contains pieces of smashed spinach bhajiyas and boondi. As with most places, they’ll happily top up the usal; but unlike other restaurants the staff is very friendly and genuinely interested in what you think of the food.
I’ll probably return to MM soon enough, but considering that it’s already started attracting the corporate crowd from nearby offices I suspect I’ll have to wait for a table the next time around.
Shop No 3, Khatijabhai Mansion
Near Deepak Talkies