Your favourite food is WHAT? What do you mean, liver? Is that even a food? How gross. Are you strange?
I’m verbally smacked with variations of the above when I reveal that liver is at the top of my list of Things I Wish I Could Consume for Dinner Daily. It’s closely followed by pork. Which draws more yucks. I’m seriously tired of being yucked at.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
It’s not that I feel a meal can’t be complete without a red meat fix. I love vegetarian food and don’t eat red meat often, despite the spiel I’m trying to sell you about the list. My problem is, I think people don’t experiment with meat enough. Well-done is not a good steak, it’s a slab of grey meat, sushi is not only California rolls, and non-vegetarianism does not involve eating only chicken. Do your duty as a good NV and try everything. At least once.
Take, for example, this case study to illustrate the fussiness of modern-day meat eaters. My brother has stringent rules when we’re going through a menu: Fish that’s not fishy, chicken, beef and mutton that are rock-like in texture, no pork or organ meat, no raw meat (though sushi and carpaccio are Nos 5 and 9 on my TIWICCDD). Any bits of bacon with specks of fat get transferred on to my plate (which actually works out quite well for me). And, don’t get me started on the detailed specifications he has when it comes to eggs.
According to Domino’s Pizza figures, chicken toppings account for 85% of non-vegetarian pizzas they sell around the country. They have a mutton keema pizza that only accounts for 5%. Of course, it could be that mutton keema is just a bad topping for a pizza. But, it’s still something to think about.
There was a time when non-vegetarianism meant red meat and organ meat. Today, it equals chicken and sometimes seafood.
I would understand if you lived at Walkeshwar and had such a diet (in most Walkeshwar buildings, non-vegetarian apartment-seekers are informed that they will be mercilessly heckled if they buy the flat and let their meat-cooking smells mingle with the pure aroma of kadhi). And there are no non-veg restaurants in Walkeshwar anyway, so if you live there, I somewhat empathize (though I don’t see what’s stopping you from going to Sarvi at Nagpada and getting a few meaty seekh kebabs).
But all around Mumbai it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find old-style non-vegetarians. The type who didn’t annoy hosts of dinner parties with those please-avoid- these-ingredients kind of phone calls. The intrepid ones, who didn’t chicken out from trying anything on any menu, except the chicken. The ones who were thrilled to be confronted with a platter of nalli, bheja, paya or foie gras when they were invited for a meal. I am such a dinner guest. Or I would be, if I could find such a host.
Maybe I should try looking around Christmas time. “No matter what they eat all year round, everyone buys pork around Christmas”, says Luisa Rocha, proprietor of Farm Products, a meat store at Colaba that’s been around for more than 100 years (tried their Honey Glazed Ham? Chunky, with a sugary top layer, it’s super; Rs700 per kg). But even a superlative ham-er such as Rocha has noticed that the chicken sausages and salami are selling better than the pork. And she blames me. “People eat what they read in the paper,” she says. So, consider this piece as me paying my dues as a responsible NV
I’ve spoken to a few heavyweights I know in the meat-consuming industry. These are their recommendations for where to get good red meat dishes in Mumbai.
# The New Zealand Lamb Chops at Zodiac Grill at the Taj are out of the world. It’s the best I have eaten, but only once so far. The funny thing is that the beef steak there is rubbish.
I also love the burger at Indigo Deli, Colaba. I manage to eat that once a month and it’s fabulous. There isn’t a better burger place I know of in Mumbai. It’s pretty much no-nonsense beef with a mayonnaise dressing and bread — you can never go wrong with that. And for some reason, it doesn’t end up making me feel like I might die of a heart attack. Other notable mentions — steak at Trattoria, Taj President; gorgeous lamb rack at Vetro, The Oberoi, and beef sizzler at Cinnamon (which used to be Cafe Royal) at Colaba.
- Mangal Dalal, 24, exporter of agricultural commodities
# I visit this incredible Iranian place called Sikandari opposite Pydhonie police station. It’s a serious red meat place, no messing around with other stuff. They have dishes that you may not find anywhere else, such as liver in spinach. Try their keema, which has been cooking all day in a flat pan. If you want, they will fry you a couple of eggs in the oil that the keema is being cooked in. I also like the Gurda Bhaji. I eat all this with small naan breads and chunky bits of fried potatoes. Prepare to pay about Rs30 per person for a filling meal.
- Rafeeq Ellias, 57, photographer
# I go to Olympia in Colaba for their two variations of bheja. They make full bheja masala fry in a wonderful green gravy. There’s also a bheja burji in a yellow-green masala. I’ve been eating it for 25 years, but can’t figure out what they put in it. I pair it with fresh bakery bread—it’s terrific, all very unhealthy for you, of course.
- Kunal Vijaykar, 43, actor
#There’s this little eatery in Bandra called Mac Craig. They do great Goa sausage rolls, sorpotel and roast meat sandwiches, which are my favourite. Another thing I can’t get enough of is the Beef Biryani at Baghdadi restaurant in Colaba. It’s a huge quantity of succulent chunks of beef in flavourful rice and it’s really delicious. Half the quantity is more than enough for one person and if you order a full-sized portion, you won’t finish it.
- Ryan Abraham, 35, creative director, Triton Communications
# If you take the Vadgaon exit from the Mumbai-Pune highway, you’ll find Tony da Dhaba, which serves good rabbit and emu masala. I also like Posh at Lokhandwala for Kashmiri food, which is not easy to find in Mumbai. I love their rogan josh and kabarga (fried mutton chops).
- Samit Upadhyay, 27, senior manager, actuarial, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance
# Peshawari at ITC Maratha, Sahar, has fabulous lamb dishes. Their raan (whole leg of mutton) is superb, and so are the Burrah Kebabs. To buy raw meat, HyperCity, Malad, has the largest and best selection.
- Ashwin Vig, 27, commercial analyst with an international oil and gas major
I came across a pro-beef ad by American beef producers in an old Esquire. It shows a juicy, medium-rare steak and a serrated steak knife, with a tag line that reads, “There’s no such thing as a chicken knife.” Bang on! That will be my status message on Google Talk now onwards.