If you have grown up in Mumbai or even visited the city, one thing that you possibly wouldn’t have missed are the legendary Parsi and Irani cafes of the cityParsi and Irani cafes of the city. From the much talked-about Leopold Cafe to the relatively lesser-known Cafe Ideal, Kyani and Co. and Cafe Colony in the Dadar Parsi Colony, everyone has had their brush with Parsi food. However, such culinary experiences have remained mostly limited to the financial capital of India. Over the recent years, with all of its idiosyncrasies in place, Sodabottleopenerwaala has brought the dying legacy of the vibrant, cluttered and quirky Irani cafes of Bombay to the nation’s forefront. They have ensured that the little-known Parsi food of Bombay makes its deserved place in the hearts of the food loving people across our country. The restaurant chain is now in seven cities, and is spreading further.
Recently they’ve incorporated ‘Postcards From Persia’ – a new menu in collaboration with Anaida Parvaneh – the pop singing sensation of the ’90s, a chef, musician and artist. Born to a Persian mother, the cuisine comes naturally to her, and her passion for it reflects the moment you strike a conversation about Parsi delicacies. A vivacious personality, she hosted me at the newly launched Sodabottleopenerwaala outlet in Powai, Mumbai, on the restaurant’s first month anniversary. The moment I walked in, I spotted her occupying one of the tables in the far corner of the restaurant, just about to dig in to the mushroom Fesenjan. That’s when she noticed me and offered, “I am just beginning the tasting of this dish, chalo take a bite and tell me what you think of it.” Already taken by her warm nature, I proceeded to taste what was in front of us, and how was it, you ask? Well, slow down dikra, I’ll get to that soon.
Once I settled my tiny self into one of those high chairs (it is such a task!) I ordered my favourite drink from their menu – Sikan-je-bin – a drink inspired by the city of Shiraz in Iran. It is made with prunes and jaggery, and topped with lemonade and mint leaves. This is a simple, yet refreshing drink that takes you back to simpler times, aided by how the restaurant serves it to you in a glass bottle and a straw. Oh, the nostalgia!
Of late, Sodabottleopenerwaala has introduced a variety of dishes for vegetarians, one of them being gwarfali (butterbeans) cutlets. It is highly recommended for someone looking for a healthy yet tasty option. It is served with a tangy imli (tamarind) chutney. Eating the hot cutlets gave me the farm familiarity of homemade snacks on a rainy day. The mushroom khari is also worth a try with its unique twist on the classic mushroom on toast and works well for those who are fans of good old khari biscuits. Also, the newly launched Aadu tedu babycorns reminds one of masaledaar kurkure except better, since it’s baby corn inside. I loved the sour cream combination and the manager especially mentioned how well it would go with drinks!
Moving on, the berry pulao has always been a star attraction, and a generous helping of berries make it a great dish for those with a slightly sweet palate. Add to that the dhansak-pulao-kachumber , where the dhansak is dense and has great texture to the cereals. It really settles well with the accompanying pulao, and makes for a good mix in simple yet appetising flavours.
Now coming to the star dish of the day – Fesenjan. It is a Persian dish usually made with chicken stew, but Anaida has given it a twist for the vegetarians like me. She’s prepared this with slow cooked shiitake mushrooms. It is cooked in pomegranate molasses that also contains walnuts and served with a pulav. Take the first bite and it is nothing like you’d have ever tasted before – sweet and tangy gravy. Anaida adds, “this is very authentic and it’s an acquired taste.” Well, I loved it and would surely order it again it’s lightness and flavours.
The one thing that really struck me as a patron was the attention to detail that Anaida brings with her. She has dedicated herself completely to the restaurant kitchen for the month so that she can train each chef in the intricacy and authenticity of the flavours of the Persian cuisine. She also makes the effort of going and chatting up with customers and taking their feedback and recommending, as the dishes are new to the people. I think this is a great initiative as one is always hesitant to move out of their comfort zones, especially when it comes to food.
Also, I must mention that I love the floral crockery being used for the Persian cuisine as it really adds that touch of authenticity. Anaida informed me that the Persians love the roses. See, eye for details?
Stuffed after a hearty meal and pleased with the great conversation with her, I was just about to take my leave, when the manager insisted that I stay back for the ‘pheteli‘ coffee and a slice of mawa cake…and that was a proposition tough to decline.
The new menu adds further to the charm of a restaurant chain that I have personally loved for a while now. From the lip smacking new items on the chart, to the warmth of the entire experience, I left the restaurant with a bright smile on my face. This is, after all, Parsi indulgence that you simply cannot refuse.
Address: Ground Floor, Sentinel Building, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai
Opening hours: 11:30 AM to 12:50 AM
Cost: ₹1,300 for two people (approx.)
The images are copyrighted, do not reuse without permission