First off, I must apologize to my Mom, who said my reviews are getting longer and longer day by day. This is another one of those long reviews and me writing this here, now, doesn’t really help that cause any further.
SodaBottleOpenerWala (SBOW) has been the talk of the town for quite a while now. It was about time that us North Indians were treated to something different and unique, and the notion of having Parsi and Iranian food, which is still limited across the country, was welcomed wholeheartedly.
However SBOW eluded me till now primarily due to the menu catering mostly to Non-vegetarians which meant that it was hard for me to find company. So, the first chance I got to eat out with a non-vegetarian friend, I found myself at the restaurant.
The Monday lunch hour at CyberHub, Gurgaon, where SBOW is situated, was buzzing with either office-goers taking a stroll or families and groups getting together for holiday lunches, and then there was also the occasional business lunch taking place. A mere 20 minutes after we sat down to eat, the place was full, so much so that by the time we left there was a waiting in place. My experience at SBOW was what I’d say fifty-fifty. It stood out and I will visit it again, there’s no doubt about that, but certain things were amiss that took away from the whole eating experience.
First impressions do last and SBOW gets brownie points for keeping the decor just quirky enough so that it doesn’t come across as being “trying too hard”. Clean, comfortable seating and enough cultural inputs make the place easy to the eye and also gives something for the visitor to look at during those silent moments in-between conversations. Unfortunately, the service lacked the class I expected. The staff assigned to us seemed clueless and when we asked for a recommendation he could only come up with one suggestion. Furthermore, as the place started to fill, I could tell they wanted to turn our table around and asked twice if we’d like the plates cleared. I had to ask and stop them from taking my plate at one point. I hate this. I enjoy my conversations, especially if I am meeting a friend after 3 years. I like to sit and relax and eat and not feel that someone is looking at me in the hope that they’ll clear the place the moment I take the last bite. While the staff was courteous, a general lack of good service was a major let down.
Onwards with the food and drinks; The Raspberry Soda was bright, filled with real fruit bits and proved to be quite the refresher. The Irani Special Chai on the other hand was fairly standard and didn’t have a distinct enough taste one would expect. The Khade Chammach Ki Chai comes with the description “No charge if you can drink this “. Curiosity got the best of me and I ordered it without bothering to ask what it was. Why someone would serve anything that they don’t expect their paying customer to finish, I know not why. As it turned out, it’s a glass 3/4th full of sugar with 1/4 tea on top. What a waste of money and sugar if you ask me. I still would have been okay if the ratio were reversed or it was at least 50:50 sugar and tea, but the novelty and quirk quotient of this got a big thumb down from me and my friend who refused to even taste it.
Enough badgering for now as we move towards the good stuff. The Dhansak (Mutton), the one dish that I had heard of from before, the quintessential Parsi dish, was Out of This World! Simple and homemade flavours of the lentil that was smooth and perfectly seasoned with pieces of tender mutton served with caramelized rice and Kachumbar (mixed salad) was divine. It came in a typical Mumbai Dabba and the quantity was good enough for two people to share. With the Kachumber being fresh and colourful and the taste of the lentils still lingering in the corner of my foodie-mind, I’d visit the restaurant again for this dish alone. It should also be noted that I’m not a mutton fan so this really is a big deal.
The Goan Sausage Pav was bright red, tangy, and exciting. While the onion flavour ruled over all the other ingredients, it did add a zing to the entire dish, and the moderately spicy concoction was brilliant. Both the Dhansak and Goan Sausage Pav plates were wiped clean as a result of their excellent tastes.
Everything we ate till that very moment raised the bar quite high, so when the Tamota Papeta Par Eeda, which is basically baked eggs, was served, our expectation levels were sky bound. As all good things must come to an end, so did the flavor festival which we were enjoying till then. I’m not sure how this dish works. Once again it lacked any uniqueness and with a tomato base with potato and an egg seasoned poorly it just took away the joy the previous two dishes had infused in us. I seriously think the Tamota Papeta Par Eeda (it’s fun to say, and that’s about it) needs to be given some serious thought by the chef and should either drastically be changed or be removed from the menu altogether.
When it comes to re-visits, unless the management reads this and stops me, I’d very much like to return and try out more of the “authentic” options they have. A variety of typical Bomaby food is also available and there is a bakery that I need to try, but for now it’s the Parsi and Iranian dishes that truly interest me.
SodaBottleOpernerWala would easily have gotten a 4.5/5 star rating for me, instead of the 3.5 stars I gave it, had it not been for the average service, the Tomata thingy, and the Khade Chammach ki Chai. Hopefully I can discover some of their other specialties next time and increase the rating afterwards.
UPDATED on 08.03.2015:
So I’m just back from a hearty meal at SBOW. Even though we were a much larger and demanding group with 6 Adults and 4 children (2 Toddlers) I’m happy to say the service was really good and the staff helpful and forthcoming.
The food got a huge thumbs up this time as well, and each one of the dishes that I tried became a favourite for one reason or another;
The Dhansak and the Goan Sausage Pao continued to be the two reasons everyone needs to visit SBOW. On top of that the Bohra Style Keema Pav was brilliant with the right blend of spices and onion rings adding flavour to the meat.
The Egg Kejriwal was simple fried eggs on toast with mushrooms but delicious nevertheless. The newest find, for me though was the Mutton Berry Pulao. I initially avoided it thinking that it would be towards the sweeter side, but by the end of the meal it was I who had hogged down most of dish. The rice is cooked to perfection and the mutton pieces along with the nuts and berries and caramelised onions just gel so beautifully together that the entire dish HAS to be had; it’s as simple as that.
In the vegetarian department my wife has the Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlet and Vengna Nu Paio which she liked. The cutlet was a tad spicy but the sweet and sour chutney accompanying it was much admired.
The drinks were a disappointment this time round. Somehow the Masala Pepsi lacked the punch I expected from it maybe because the cola seemed flat and the Sekan Je Bin with an interesting combination of plum and mint was a bit bland and difficult to drink as plum pieces would eventually get stuck in the straw.
I did taste SBOW desserts during this visit unlike the last time and the Mawa Cake was not great at all. Even though it had a homemade feel to it, but wasn’t something I’d go ga-ga over. However, the other newest discovery was the Tobleronne Mousse which was Divine (did you notice the capital D?). Not at all heavy even though the rich chocolate flavour oozes with every bite and disappears into the mouth within seconds; you have got to save a tiny bit of space in your tummy for this.
Because I was able to sample a wider range of food and because the service was great and even if the drinks disappointed a little, I am moving up the rating, happily, from 3.5 to 4.5 out of 5.0