WHAT: 38 Bangkok Street, Fort
WHERE: 3-6 Windsor Chambers, near Yazdani Bakery, Cawasji Patel Street, Fort
WHEN: 11.30 am to 11.30 pm
COST: About Rs 1,000 for a meal for two (No alcohol served)
CALL: 70456-33838 or 99208-38238
Bangkok Street is the new kid on a very old block. Its neighbours are Yazdani Bakery, Jimmy Boy, Punjabi Moti Halwai, the triumvirate of Ankur-Apoorva-Mahesh, and Sadya superstar Hotel Deluxe. This is the historic legal and banking district of Mumbai — and over the decades, its functional homestyle eating joints have become dining legends. It’s also a neighbourhood that’s recently rediscovered it can be cool — Starbucks showed up a few years ago, and there’s that clutch of hip places around Kala Ghoda.
The neighbourhood’s latest eatery aims to be a little bit of both — practical but cool, cheap and cheerful but contemporary. All this fence-sitting also means that 38 Bangkok Street (38BS) is sometimes neither here nor there. There are lovely large windows, the booths are comfy and roomy; but the LED lighting makes food look greyed and washed out. Despite the restaurant’s name, the all-vegetarian menu is not derived from a specific address. The soup section, for example, has representatives from Thailand, China, Tibet, Burma, Malaysia, and Japan. Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, follow right after in the grills, and this pan-Asian whirl continues through the rest of the pages.
For anyone who enjoys Indian-Chinese food, this is familiar stuff, but more ambitious. It’s tasty in an unsophisticated inauthentic way, and from the families packing in the tables, it seems to work. Cases in point: there is paneer in Malaysian sambal bajak chilli paste, and our stir-fried soba were more like street-side Hakka noodles than those made with nutty Japanese buckwheat. Both the crunchy java lotus stems with ginger, garlic, green onions, as well the mixed mushrooms with (not quite) mirin were over-seasoned, but satisfyingly textural. Better those than the indistinguishable lumps of beige that showed up in our assorted dumpling basket.
The pandan-leaf wrapped tofu was fragrant and light. (Arijit Sen/HT photo)
When servers explain sticky rice as ‘chipak, khichdi-type’, it’s best avoided, but that’s exactly what showed up as our nasi gudeg, an unsavoury mix of textures — mushy overcooked unripe jackfruit in a creamy coconut curry, over khichdi-type rice. It’s wiser then to have the massaman curry, which is ultra-rich, aromatic and tangy.
Our biggest concern at 38BS was the odd service. Servers kept sharply prodding at our menu with fingers and pens when we asked for recommendations. While they served the table, we had to lean back to keep their forearms from grazing our faces. It’s Fort, yes, but we’re not that familiar yet.
Skip the sangkaya coconut-pumpkin cake — it’s a doughy disappointment. For a much sweeter close to the meal, stick with the kluay kaek (spelled klau kaek here), and ask for ice cream with it. These banana fritters are near perfect — seriously crunchy on the outside, custardy and melting on the inside, and not sugary. It’s a crowd-pleaser done right, both familiar and fun.
(HT pays for all meals, and reviews anonymously)