SODABOTTLEOPERNERWALA: KEEPING THE BAWA BHONU (Food) FLAG FLYING
For most of my life I have been identified by as a ‘bawi’ – my mother is a Parsi, and I have been told I have a few of the Parsi features (my nose) and traits (even after 10 years, my laptop will look like I bought it yesterday, my car has the ‘new car’ smell even after 5 years of driving around in the Dubai heat and so on). Growing up I was asked by friends if they could come home for dhansak and patra ni machi. As I grew older, I got asked whether I could make dhansak and patra ni machi just like how it was made at home – well the answer to this, my friends, learned very quickly was a loud thunderous NO. I don’t enjoy cooking! Never have, never will! (Bet you are thinking – Never say Never – well in this case I am saying it!)
But Parsi food is something I have grown up eating – at home, at my relative’s homes, at weddings, at navjotes (a ritual through which an individual is inducted into the Zoroastrian religion) and every occasion in between – and loved loved loved the food. So, when my brother told me that SodaBottleOpenerWala has opened its doors at Phoenix Mills I knew I had no more excuses not to visit the restaurant. It has an outpost in Bandra Kurla Complex – but for me (a proud SoBo-ite) – it always seemed 5Kms too far!!!
So, I did what I do best – called up one of my closes foodie friends (who just recently relocated to Bombay from Dubai) and told her where we would meet and catch up on my recent trip to Bombay. And being a true foodie that she is – she was all in. But at that point in time, there was no way I could have anticipated that I would on Day 1 of me arriving in Bombay be fed the best dhansak and Sali chicken there is – at home. Not complaining!!!
Enough of a back story, now let’s get back to the review.
I walked into SodaBottleOpenerWala and it was gaudy (in a nice way), bright, chaotic and charmingly cacophonous and I instantly loved every nook and cranny. Everywhere you looked there was something that made you smile – blackboards with dos and don’t, the famous Parsi humour could be found on the walls and in the menus. Oh! and the nostalgic music playing in the background forced you at times to surprise yourself when you realized you still remembered the words.
The menu, like the decor, is a mix of Irani cafe and Parsi home fare. It has the popular bhonu (food) staples such as dhansak, patra ni machhi, salli mutton, prawn patio; but also a few typical Mumbai grub options such as Raasta Sandwich and Vada Pao. But the Parsi’s are known to love their meat, so they also have a bacon vada pav on their menu 😊.
Luckily for me, my friend had the same idea of what we should eat – more of the small sharing plates than the mains. So with that out of the way we settled down to eat, drink and catch up.
I started off with Ganna Nu Ras (Sugarcane juice). I don’t get this easily in Dubai and its one of my favourite drinks. You can never ever go wrong with this naturally sweet refreshing drink.
I like my prawns, so decided to try the Kolmi Fry. Honestly, I did not know what to expect, but these fried balls were definitely not what I had envisaged. They were more like onion bahjiyas with a lot of sliced onions, mixed with chickpea flour and prawns rolled together and deep fried. But with the first bite of crunchy onion leading to a deliciously soft prawn at the center, it was simply delicious. It was served with raw onion (just in case you needed some more onion) and green chutney.
My friend had scoured the menu and dissected the Instagram posts on the restaurant before she met me, and she highly recommended we try the Steamed Chicken Kebab. When it arrived, the look deceived me – I thought it would be flavourful, but not spicy! But it did have a kick to it thankfully and I devoured three of them (I got the extra one), along with the green chutney and raw onions (yes, some more).
Still a bit hungry and not ready to say enough! We re-looked the menu and once again my friend’s homework paid off. We ordered the Mushroom on Khari which was steeped in cheese and sautéed mushrooms on top of a soft, flaky kahri which is made in-house. As a child I have had khari biscuits, as we liked to call them – but while my parents dipped it in their tea, I ate it as is. But to try it in this version was simply superb and once again the spices were just perfect, begging for another mouthful. (Note: No raw onions with this one 😉)
The Parsi’s are known for their desserts – Mawa cake, Lagan Nu Custer (Custard) and how can I ever forget the good ol’ Parsi Dairy Kulfi… but the chocoholic in me cried out to try Jeroo Aunty’s Toblerone Mousse. As a mousse it did not disappoint, but with the lack of the Toblerone flavour it promised to have – it faltered.
A true Parsi restaurant would usually be judged on how close to home their dishes tasted. And since I did not try the popular dishes, I will personally refrain from commenting on SodaBottleOpernerWala’s authenticity. I will however say this – every dish I had, I would have again in a heartbeat (except may be the dessert). I also know this – the next time I come, I am going to have to try different dishes – there are just so many to choose from. The service was fantastic and what I loved about it was that they have differently-able servers and a guide book to help you interact with them through sign language.
With the Irani and Parsi cafés shuttering down, it’s nice that we have a slightly modernized version of them where we can take the next generation to experience what once was… SodaBottleOpernerWala is a restaurant with great food, nostalgic music, prompt service, an exuberant décor and at the center of it all lies the soul of the true Parsi community.
Location: SodaBottleOpenerWala, F&B 4, 2nd Floor, North Skyzone, High Street Phoenix, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai Tel: +91 22 49742015/ +91 740 009 9267 Open from 8:30AM -11:30PM (Monday – Thursday) and from 8:30AM – 12:30AM (Friday – Sunday)
NOTE: I ate at SodaBottleOpenerWala on my OWN time and money! The views and opinions expressed on this blog are truly my OWN.