A foodie’s guide to Matunga: When South meets West

I remember the confused newbies to Mumbai in my office asking me “Why do Mumbaikars have so much Idli/Dosa??” and I’d just say “It’s yum so what’s the harm! We don’t need to have just wada pav or kanda poha only because we are in Bombay…err…Mumbai!!” But I do agree with them on one thing and that’s the sambar shouldn’t be sweet and that’s how most of the places serve around here. So whenever anyone would complain about that this is not south Indian food, the sambar is too sweet or this is too fusion, like Chinese dosa or Gini dosa, to be called South Indian food I’d say go to Matunga east and you surely won’t be disappointed.
So thanks to Mr. P and our friend we decided to do a lavishly long breakfast trying to cover a lot of places in Matunga east. We were up and ready at 7.30 am to set out for our journey to Matunga east from Andheri, ah well Kandivali technically cause our friend travelled from there. All excited with a list of places we wanted to cover that morning was how we started our Saturday. And mind you, I feel that nothing else other than food could get me out of bed so early on a Saturday!!

We started off our breakfast with Ram Ashraya which is always crowded, so much so that many a times you will end up sharing your table with other diners. It’s been showcased quite a few times in the papers for its variety of sheeras but my favorite is the ultimately soft, well seasoned upma served with lip smacking sambar (clearly not sweet :p). We decided to order nimbu pani, Upma and Sheera puri (it was the special of the day). The nimbu pani was a tad sweet for our taste but the upma and sheera puri didn’t disappoint. Upma was just ‘melt in the mouth’ and was perfect with the sambar and chutney it was accompanied by. By the look of the sheera puri we 3 were convinced that it looked really appetizing but 4 puris were a lot for the tiny portion of sheera it was served with, but we were happily proven wrong. The not too sweet sheera went perfectly with the light savoriness of the puris.

Well satisfied with the start of our breakfast we gladly headed towards Café Madras and with no surprise there was waiting (Oh ya! By the way I forgot to mention that you will have to wait for 10-15 minutes anywhere you’ll go for breakfast in Matunga). While waiting we checked out the tiny stall put up outside the restaurant- it sold banana chips, Café Madras Kaapi, organic honey from Under the Mango tree and a variety of pudis (a dry powdered chutney which is generally mixed with ghee/ oil when eaten). This stall was enough to entertain us while we waited to get a table. Once in, our very happy server looked at our list of places we wanted to go to and very innocently said “Sab jagah toh idli dosa hi mitla hai!”. We decided to settle with Madras missal, the famous Café Madras Kaapi and idlis with white butter and pudi. As far as the missal goes I will still prefer Kolhapuri missal because missal with sambar masala taste and no pav on the side does not tempt me that much. As far as the idli with white butter and pudi is concerned…it was DIVINE!! Next time you visit Café Madras do not forget to order the white butter along with the idlis. Next came the Kaapi which was good, refreshing and much-needed as we were up since 6.30 am; though Mr.P complained that it was a little sweet for him.

From Café Madras we headed to Café Mysore which, we had heard, is Mukesh Ambani’s favorite. It had quite a few celebrity names on its menu- there was a dish named after Rahul Dravid too! Our server here didn’t seem too interested to attend to us unlike the Café Madras guy. But anyways we ordered Khottu idli, our second serving of Kaapi and Ulundu dosa(uttapa like dosa made with urad dal atta). The Ulundu dosa was a disappointment as it didn’t taste like anything different from uttapas what we have had other places. It just tasted like plain uttapa. The Khottu idli came nicely wrapped in jackfruit leaves and I was really looked forward to tasting it but alas…I couldn’t get the difference between a regular idli and khottu idli. The jackfruit leaves had not rendered any taste or aroma to the idli. As a regular idli it’s good but that’s about it. Next up was the Kaapi but we had lost interest till then but that tiny little cup of coffee changed it! It was hot, refreshing, crisp and not too sweet (picture a smiley Mr.P).

After this our next pit stop was Anand Bhavan Restaurant where we picked set dosa and in a jiffy we were served 2 fluffy soft dosas, sambar (this was a little sweet…don’t worry not Shiv Sagar sweet!) and the best coconut chutney we had tasted since morning. The dosas disappeared in less than 10 minutes and we were out of this place in no time, happy though.

The next place we were really looking forward to – Idli House. So we headed across to Idli house and our friend was too fascinated that it had just 2 tables. Till now you must have guessed that this place serves only idlis so based on our servers suggestions we ordered Kanchipuram idli, Mix veg idli served with green garlic chutney and Masala idli. Till you get your order, which is not more than 5 minutes, you can entertain yourself with the rules at the back of the menu. Each table has coconut oil, sesame oil, 2 types of podis and some sort of veg mix (not too sure what that was but our friend was offended by its smell). Now talking about the idlis – Kanchipuram idli was yellow with coconut bits in it, tasted pretty decent with the coconut chutney, Masala idli didn’t look like an idli and the other two refused to eat more than a bit because its coconut flavor was a little too overpowering. The only idli we were comfortable with was the mix veg. idli. The green chutney it was served with was nice but on a whole there was nothing too unique about this idli. We were a bit disappointed with idli house but I think that was because we expected a little too much from this place. I will be back here and try the other things on the menu before making up my mind to like or despise this place.

The last two places we went to were Amba Bhavan Coffee House and Ayyappa’s. There was nothing too impressive about these places but heres what we ate in short. At Amba Bhavan we ordered rasam wada, even though the wada was soft the rasam didn’t taste like rasam. It seemed diluted and was a little sweet. We wanted to try their famous sevai but they serve it only on Tuesdays and Fridays…will surely try to go back to try the sevai.

Ayyappa’s was crowded and the only road side stall we went to that day. Sabudana wada and Dal wada were our choices but too our disappointment the sabudana wada was so so sweet that none of us could eat it, both the wadas were too cold and this couldn’t help the not so bad tasting dal wada.

All full and satisfied we headed back to the suburbs, mind you we did more eating after reaching there, with yummy memories of Ram Ashraya’s upma, sambar and sheera, Anand Bhavan’s set dosa and chutney, Café Madras’s idli podi with white butter and Café Mysore’s kaapi.


5 thoughts on “A foodie’s guide to Matunga: When South meets West

  1. I can so much relate to this post, having spent two years in Matunga. You have covered all the Fab South Indian eateries of Matunga. You should also try the A. Ramanayak’s next to the Matunga Station. It serves great South Indian Thali. Not to be missed for sure!

  2. You need to try the Coconut Sevai at Cafe Mysore which is served daily only in the mornings. In fact it is probably the forst item to be wiped of the black board menu everyday. It tastes superb with the piping hot sambar of cafe mysore.

    Also, you need to try the upma pudi, Pesserate Dosa, Ragi Dosa and the Rasam at Cafe Madras. The Upma Pudi is to die for.

    Further opposite the Matunga Station is another small time very old place called Sharda Bhawan. Do try their upma and also the Rawa Dosa. A word of caution, if the place is full they do not serve the Rawa Dosa as it takes time to roast. You cannot help resist noticing the wonderful shine the dosa has one it once its placed on your table, and surprisingly its not oily at all. Also their Banana Bonda served in the evening is something to look forward to. The upma has a unique taste with Ginger pieces added to it.

    Bon Appetit

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