Southern discomfort: Thangabali restaurant review by Antoine Lewis | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Southern discomfort: Thangabali restaurant review by Antoine Lewis

This new eatery in Mahim offers non-veg fare from all four southern states, but the offal is the only dish that hits the spot.

mumbai Updated: Jul 19, 2017 10:45 IST
Antoine Lewis
The decor cannot be faulted. Thangabali is a large, well-lit space with comfortable nooks and tables. The walls have charcoal sketches, cartoon figures and an intriguing map of trade routes. It’s when  the food arrives that the trouble begins.
The decor cannot be faulted. Thangabali is a large, well-lit space with comfortable nooks and tables. The walls have charcoal sketches, cartoon figures and an intriguing map of trade routes. It’s when the food arrives that the trouble begins.(Aalok Soni / HT Photo)
Thangabali
  • RATING: 1 / 5
  • WHERE: Manmohan Bhavan, T H Kataria Marg, Mahim
  • WHEN: Noon to 4 pm, 7 pm to midnight
  • COST: Rs 1,000 for two (no alcohol is served)
  • CALL: 2447-4499

It breaks your heart when a restaurant with so much potential ends up doing everything wrong.

Thangabali, named after a villain in the film Chennai Express, is an unusual restaurant; it serves food from the entire southern peninsula. While there are plenty of restaurants that offer non-vegetarian Mangalorean and Malayali food, Andhra and Tamil food is almost non-existent in the city. And apart from some Mangalorean restaurants, which can be quite fancy, the others are all budget places where you wouldn’t want to entertain.

This is a time when diners are becoming more interested in regional fare. Thangabali, only the second stand-alone Mumbai restaurant in the city serving non-vegetarian cuisines from all the four states (the other is Mahim’s Dakshin Culture Curry), could have filled that gap.

The mutton stew tasted like the meat and coconut gravy had been introduced to each other just before being served. (Aalok Soni / HT Photo)

The restaurant has everything going for it. It’s located on a road that’s easily accessible both from the city and suburbs. It’s a large, well-lit space with comfortable sofas, armchairs and broad glass-topped tables.

One wall has a charcoal sketch of a temple complex, another an illustration of cartoon figures on a Kerala snake boat, and a third wall has a map of trade routes connecting south India with south-east Asia. The service too is commendable; the staff are friendly and well-informed.

Everything goes downhill when the food and drink comes to the table.

The Tamil-style offal was fantastic. Tossed in a tangy, spicy masala, the kidneys were firm and spongy, the bitterness had been leached out of the liver and the brain was soft and creamy. (Aalok Soni / HT Photo)

The chilled sol kadi is sour, lacks a spicy punch and is unpalatably salty. The hot rasam has a satisfying peppery kick, but lacks nuance.

The fried fish starters are shamefully underwhelming; the nicest thing we can say about them is that the fish was very fresh.

The kane (lady fish) was crisp and the masala filling bracing, but under-salted; the flattened pieces of fried bombil are not crisp enough and you can’t taste the fish.

The flattened pieces of fried bombil were not crisp enough and we couldn’t taste the fish. (Aalok Soni / HT Photo)

Just as we were lowering our expectations, the Tamil-style offal arrived. No one puts offal on the menu, and the dish itself was fantastic. Tossed in a tangy, spicy masala, the kidneys were firm and spongy, the bitterness had been leached out of the liver and the brain was soft and creamy.

And that was as good as it got.

From the classic combos, we chose the mutton stew with appams, which were thick and fluffy, but the stew tasted like meat and coconut gravy had been introduced to each other just before being served.

The payasam was al right, but it’s a mystery how the place can get basics like neer dosa and filter coffee wrong. If the restaurant doesn’t get its act together, it’ll have the lifespan of a sacrificial goat. (Aalok Soni / HT Photo)

The masala for the chicken ghee roast tasted raw, and the only acceptable dish in front of us was a slightly sweet egg nadan curry.

It’s still a mystery how they could get something as simple and basic as neer dosa and filter coffee wrong. The former was thick and glutinous and the latter muddy and weak.

If the restaurant doesn’t get its act together really quickly it’s going to have the lifespan of a sacrificial goat.

(HT pays for all meals and reviews anonymously)