Street food of India
Atmospherics: It is not every day that a member of the food writing fraternity becomes a restaurateur, so I would like to congratulate Osama Jalali on crossing over. The space is identical to the interiors of Shiv Sagar, but the one element that makes it look dramatically different is the walls with life-size cut-outs of three-wheelers and ‘installation art’ hanging from the ceiling. Do have a look when you’re there. The concept of Masala Trail is fun and much needed but it comes after Imly and Nukkadwala: street food from as far afield as Banaras and Andhra Pradesh. The only factor that will determine its success is how close the food is to the original. If Masala Trail can get it right, it can move through the country, into malls and even food carts.
Table talk: Whatever you order or whatever your preference, I insist that you have a sikhora of Banarasi Tamatar Chaat (Rs 155), made superbly in the old-fashioned, painstaking way to extract every last vestige of flavour from the tomatoes. It is far better than anything you would get today on the streets of Banaras. Other worthies include Kanpuria garbad chaat (Rs 190) that is the brainchild of a popular chaat stall in Kanpur, tower chaat (Rs 195) that is served in a tall glass with a long spoon; panki (Rs 190) that is common enough in Maharashtra but unique here and Bihari litti chokha (Rs 265) where the chokha is redolent with the fragrance of unheated mustard oil.
Plus and minus: This is Osama Jalali’s show of course, but I am a little surprised that there’s absolutely no chaat from Rajasthan! The eatery is brand new and will need a bit of settling down time, but every table within sight seemed to have a grouse with the service which is absolutely clueless. And the first jhal muri (Rs 135) I ordered was just puffed rice and not much else. When I sent it back (and after I was recognized) it was made superbly. The one disappointment was mattra tikka with aloo dum (Rs 145) that turned out to be a completely mushy mess with chunks of boiled potato. Lucknow’s Shukla Chaat in Hazratgunj would be a better standard for mattra tikkis.
Must try: Mumbai sev puri, Gujarati khichadi, banana poori (Mangalorean buns)
Food: 3.00; Service: 2.50; Décor: 3.00
Open from 10 am to 11 pm
Meal for two: Rs 800
Ph: 43593000; 8882300300
Vegetarian only; no alcohol; credit cards accepted