Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Golconda Bowl

The Golconda Bowl – is it a `super bowl’ of Hyderabadi food? Read on.

We had been reading very positive reviews of the Golconda Bowl. This is a newish [4 months as of September 2012] Hyderabadi restaurant that has opened on Hill Road, well, Ramdas Nayak Marg to be absolutely correct. The Golconda Bowl is the first outpost of a Delhi based group who have their main restaurant in the upmarket Hauz Khas village.

The spot occupied by the Golconda Bowl is barely 500 meters from our house and over the years we have seen restaurants opening with much fanfare and then burning and crashing with alarming alacrity and regularity, Puro and Oriental Palate are last two restaurants that have tried their luck there in the last year or so.

HRH, the Queen of Kutch had been most keen to visit the Golconda Bowl within weeks of it opening. In fact, we had made a booking a few weeks ago which we had to abruptly cancel as it started pouring, a rare occurrence in Mumbai this year. Following this, the Golconda Bowl had slipped into the inner recesses of my mind, but not the mind of HRH the Queen of Kutch! A friend, His Honour PK, casually mentioned that he had a good meal at the Golconda Bowl, so I suggested to HRH the Queen of Kutch that we should go. This got me a withering look, as I had the temerity to take recommendations from a commoner while her diktat had remained un-obeyed! A booking was swiftly made for 9 pm.

After a few intoxicants at Totos Garage we walked across to the Golconda Bowl, to be greeted with a smile and a restaurant that was largely empty. After we had settled down and ordered a beer to slake the thirst we had worked up walking from Pali Naka to Hill Road, the general manager Nitin Sondhi turned up. What a charming man, knowledgeable and with the correct amount of obsequiousness – and I mean this in the most positive way. Probably the best manager we have come across in any restaurant in India. This includes restaurants in any 5 star hotel as well. I believe that Mr. Sondhi has been deputed from Delhi to oversee the launch of the Golconda Bowl in Mumbai and will oversee both restaurants. He said he was going back to Delhi in a few days.

Before getting into the food, I must apologise for the photographs. This is Indian food, and it just does not photograph well. Unfortunately, in photographs, most Indian food looks all brown and red and actually quite horrible.

We started with a Golconda Bowl speciality, Patthar Ka Ghosh [Rs. 350 + service tax as on September 2012]. This is mutton [Goat] which is flattened with a mallet, marinated for a long time and then cooked on a heated stone. So it’s a sort of cross between a kebab cooked on coal and a kebab that is fried. I must say that this dish was stunning. The mutton was fork tender and as the cliché goes, melted in the mouth. This was a dish where the correct cut of mutton was properly sourced, properly treated and expertly cooked. Outstanding! You must have this if you visit the Golconda Bowl.

Patthar Ka Ghosh

Next up was Haleem [Rs. 395 + service tax as on September 2012]. You would have read a previous post on Haleem Khichda and Hareesa, where I had written about getting Haleem from Pista House in Hyderabad.  The Golconda Bowl had Haleem on the menu so we had to order it. Verdict? Very, very good. For those of you who have eaten the Pista House Haleem, this one is quite different. First there are no bits of bone in the haleem and all the spices are ground, not kept whole like in the Pista House version. The Golconda Bowl Haleem has far less meat and seemingly far less ghee. It is also more robustly spiced than the Pista House version. Frankly I preferred the Golconda Bowl Haleem to the Pista House one, it was just more flavourful and had a far better mouth-feel.


Garnish of Birista, Mint and Lime for the Haleem

As a bit of an explanation, generally speaking, a Salan is a curry which has vegetables or meat and vegetables, thus vegetables are an essential for a Salan. A Quorma or Korma is also a curry and is distinguished by being yogurt based.

Now it was time for the main courses. HRH the Queen of Kutch likes Karela or Bitter Melon or Bitter Gourd, so she ordered Karela Ka Salan [Rs. 240 + service tax as on September 2012]. I really like the famous Hyderabadi dish, Bhagare Baingan [Rs. 295 + service tax as on September 2012]. This is Aubergine or Eggplant or Brinjal in coconut gravy thickened with Peanut butter and soured with lashings of Tamarind. We ordered simple Tandoori Roti to accompany the two curries. The portion size in both curries was unusually large, however, you must remember that both Karela and Baingan are very cheap vegetables so no one is doing you any favours giving you large portions, this is not expensive food like Lobster. Having said so, I must contradict myself by saying that each portion did not contain large quantity of either Karela or Baingan, but in fact there was an unusually large portion of the gravy. Anyway, the Bhagare Baingan was really good. The curry was well balanced with the tang of the tamarind, sweetness of the peanuts and Jaggery. All in all, very tasty. Unfortunately, the Karela Ka Salan was an absolute disaster. A completely characterless red gravy with no discernible taste or flavour, the Karela itself had all the bitterness extracted and tasted of nothing. Imagine a French bean in red gravy, it was that bad.

Bhagare Baingan

Karela Ka Salan

Despite the disaster that was the Karela Ka Salan, the food at Golconda Bowl was exceptional. To go to a new restaurant and be wowed by 3 out of 4 dishes is rare. Mind you this is Indian food, flavours we are all familiar with. Also remember that the 3 exceptional dishes are not available in 99% of restaurants in Mumbai, the Patthar Ka Ghosh, the Haleem and Bhagare Baingan. The service at the restaurant was very good. As I have written, the manager was the best I have come across in India and the service staff was smiling, courteous and efficient. The prices are most reasonable. Booze is available too. What more does one want?

My suggestion, go to Golconda Bowl as soon as you can. The food is really good, the service above average, prices fairly reasonable. The good times cannot last. The excellent manager Nitin Sondhi is going back to Delhi. On a Friday evening, with fine weather for the 90 minutes that we were there the restaurant was never more than 40% full. This restaurant site has been a disaster for most restaurants. Something has to crack. I hope I am proved wrong and Golconda Bowl continues to remain the gem it is, but I am not betting on it. Go soon, you will not be sorry.