Eating crab is a sensory and engaging experienced. It’s a bit
— what with the crab mallet, claw crackers and knives arrayed with some surgical precision — and a bit
with sticky fingers, big bibs and the treasure hunt frustration of working very hard for what isn’t very much food.
I was once cheated out of this experience in Mumbai — whose excellent coastal restaurants serve up great tandoori crab — by being steered towards a less messy deboned garlic crab. I will not make that mistake again. And I did not, at a recent lunch at the newish Swagath restaurant at Hotel Janpath, going there with the express purpose of having simply-cooked crab with nothing more than rice and
on the side.
The restaurant is not the most exciting of spaces but this is not necessarily a bad thing, letting the diner focus on the food and not the pretty frilly bits of restaurant tat. It does, cruelly, have a fish tank built into one of the entrance arches. Service is old school Indian restaurant — lots of attentive waiters with good knowledge about what is quite a vast menu of dishes ranging from Chinese to Mangalorean to Chettinad, Frontier and Malvani.
My dining companion was vegetarian for the day, so it was up to me to manfully make my way through a fairly big crab. It was nicely spiced and the meat juicy and plump. For her, we got the
Tandoori Aloo Dilnaaz
(Rs265), a fairly nice-ish preparation of
and dry fruit stuffed potatoes cooked on the charcoal grill, with the only problem being that it was served a bit cold. And the Malvani Banana (Rs249) — a lightly sauced dish of green banana. Again, I think she wanted something more fiery or with a little more character.
With some high hopes that such character would come courtesy a bottle of wine, we scoured the wine list and picked out one. Not available. Another. Not available. And so it went. After five instances of sombre regret from our waiter, we left it to them to get any they had.
The Dal Hydrabadi (Rs225), too, was, passable but a but too thick. But, back to the crab (Rs1800). It tastes just like the crab at one of Mumbai's better known coastal restaurants. Swagath owner Jayaram Banan, colleague Vir Sanghvi has pointed out in one of his Brunch columns, does not turn his nose up at replicating signature dishes from other restaurants. Which is a strategy that seems to work. Swagath in Defence Colony is the restaurant foreign guests get taken to, after they have traversed the five star high points in the city and it is punted by some travel guides as an authentic, safe space for palates unaccustomed to Indian cuisine. The Janpath Swagath is likely to do just as well.