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Your weekend fix

Pali Bhavan, from the owners of Pali Village Café, has beautiful interiors and a menu that traverses several states. The price tag, though, might come as a shock. Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi writes.

mumbai Updated: Dec 15, 2012 01:50 IST
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi

Food

Desi delight

Pali Bhavan ****
Where: 1510/13, Adarsh Nagar, next to Costa Coffee, Pali Naka (in same lane as Toto's Garage pub), Bandra (W)
When: Noon to 3.30 pm, 7 pm to 1 am
Price: About Rs 4,000 for a meal for two with one drink each
Call: 2651-9400
Opened On: December 10

Pali Bhavan, from the owners of Pali Village Café, has beautiful interiors and a menu that traverses several states. The price tag, though, might come as a shock.

The complimentary amuse-bouche at Pali Bhavan - the second restaurant from the owners of Pali Village Café - provides clues to the imminent meal. A dish of tiny appalams and a bowl of kalonji-flecked sweet tomato chutney appear as soon as the table is seated. This is quickly followed by a pani puri for each diner, its spiced water served separately in little ceramic jugs. With that initial jump from south to north, the menu continues its sweep across India.

Meals here can be made up of vada pav and mishti doi, paya shorba and payasam. Which is not to say the menu is muddled. It's a slim book with rich offerings. Dishes dedicatedly follow menu descriptions, flavours are sprightly and distinct.

Riffs, when they occur, are refreshing. The kaffir lime rassam, for instance, is the intense tomato-lentil broth with a balanced hit of kaffir. PB's cutting glass serving is just enough.

Prawn thecha is really batter-fried prawns tossed in fried bits of the ingredients that go into the Maharashtrian chutney. (It's a touch oversalted, so share it and keep a glass of water or PB's delicious pomegranate-based chutney martini close).

The paan kulfi is not only infused with meetha paan but also wrapped in a betel leaf. This one you won't want to share.

Alleppey mushrooms (for the vegetarian at our table) had the plump fungi in a bowl of coconut-cream curry brightened with a flash of raw mango. We could've tipped it back by the cupful. Our murgh khatta pyaz was dotted with what looked like cherries but were in fact tiny red pearls of pickled onions. Folks who like a snip of tang accompanying meat in a rich onion curry, this is your dish.

It's not just the food that straddles states at PB. The walls are lined with framed vintage photographs, most from Kolkata. The double door at the entrance is from Tamil Nadu. The windows are from Rajasthan and Jharkhand. And on it goes. Multiple lampshades and chandeliers bathe the room in the soft yellow light also found at PVC.

The three-level space could well be a royal salon, albeit with distressed surfaces. This also makes Pali Bhavan the most gorgeous, and the most hipster of restaurants serving Indian food in Mumbai.

The biggest grouse at PB is the sticker shock. Two phulkas, though lovely and light, cost us Rs 90. The cutting glass of rassam set us back by Rs 185. But then, PB also does a better job of atmosphere, food and service than many of the Indian restaurants in our luxury hotels.

It's enough to make us visit once again, curious to see how they jazz up their kaddu and karela mains.

Low on joie de vivre

Glee Cafe
Where: 17, Aaram Nagar, just north of Kino's Cottage, opposite Beach Classique Building and Dariya Mahal, Versova, Andheri (West)
When: 11 am to midnight
Price: About Rs1,200 for a meal for two, without drinks (Wine is served)
Call: 2630-1114, 2630-1116
Opened On: November 24
Glee Café defines itself by its catchall tagline: Happiness on a plate. On a relatively uncluttered stretch of JP Road, this sunny all-day cafe tries to please people looking for a snack, a meal, comfort food, a healthy nibble, or something in between. To this end, perhaps, the affordably priced menu is a mash-up of cuisines - there are salads and chicken chowder, fajita wraps and Vietnamese vegetable wraps - with the notable exception of Indian food.

This nonspecific tone continues. The outside section has a handful of tables set on artificial turf; on the inside, colourful couches and cushions line an almost all-white room dotted with ash laminate furniture.

The dilution of Glee's construct affects both the service and the food. The staff is sweet, but clueless. A salmon carpaccio takes 25 minutes to arrive, a slice of smoked chicken quiche another 45. The salmon is presented on a bed of wilted iceberg and topped with withered orange segments. The quiche has a crust that is half undercooked.

Our green apple and celery salad tastes just like a Waldorf, plus there is more of that iceberg bed than the promised arugula.

Lunch improves slightly with a richly flavoured lamb bolognaise, even if the penne is beyond al dente. A pizza named 'The Sicilian Connection' has a topping of olives, jalapeños, sundried tomatoes and herbs. It doesn't look like much, but is as zingy as the menu promises.

Perhaps we caught Glee on a bad day. The server did keep saying that the kitchen was having problems. But there's also a chance that, in trying to be everything to everybody, Glee is just one of those places with as many misses as hits.

- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)

The activities

Walk out the door
Make use of these crisp, cool - and oh-so-rare - mornings to go camping, cycling, trekking, birding, river-rafting or, for the foodies, barbecuing under a starry sky. Here's a guide to what's on offer this weekend and the next...

Follow the tweet
Go on a birding trail through the moist, deciduous forest of the Karnala Bird Sanctuary in Raigad district, 90 minutes from Mumbai, organised by the Bombay Natural History Society. Winter is a good time to spot resident and migrant birds on this easy trail. Expect to see the Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Crested Hawk-Eagle and Gold-fronted Leafbird.
WHEN: Sunday (December 16), 6.30 am to 12.30 pm
WHERE: Bus pick-up points in Dadar, Chembur and Vashi
COST: Rs 700 for BNHS members; Rs 750 for non-members
CALL: 2282-1811 or email bnhs.programmes@gmail.com

Have a starry, starry night
There is no better time to look skyward in Mumbai than on a winter's night, when the clouds have cleared and the air is crisp. If star-gazing is your thing, head to Badlapur and join amateur astronomers group Khagol Mandal for a bilingual session in English and Marathi at its sky observation site in Vangani, two hours from Mumbai.

After a basic introduction to the major celestial objects, you'll have the telescope to yourself for a while, and a helpful amateur astronomer to point out planets, star clusters, double stars and nebulae.

WHEN:Saturday (December 15), 7 pm onwards
WHERE:Khagol Mandal Sky Observation Site, Chavan Farm House, Next to Vidya Vikas School, Tarangan Marg (Savara Road), Vangani (West)
How To Get There:Take a train to Vangani, the stop after Badlapur on the Central Railway. The farmhouse is a 10-minute walk from the station
COST: Rs 130 for non-members; Rs 100 for members and non-adult students
CALL: 90290-29076, 98696-10777 or email manager@khagolmandal.com

Go on night treks, sit around a camp fire

Lets Camp Out, a Navi-Mumbai-based outdoor activities company, organises two camps every weekend, at Kashid in Raigad district and at Rajmachi near Lonavla. At the Kashid site, you can go fishing or take a boat ride during the day and sit around a campfire and sample barbecued delights at night.

At Rajmachi, you spend the weekend 3,000 ft above sea level, in tents fitted out with airbeds. Rappelling, lake-crossing, paintball, river-rafting and motor-boating are on offer through the day, at additional cost. At night, you can choose between barbecues, campfires and a night trek.
WHEN: Saturdays and Sundays
WHERE: Kashid in Raigad and Rajmachi near Lonavla
COST: Rs 2,500 per adult, Rs 1,250 for a child under 12
Call 98198-13493 or email info@letscampout.com

Cycle for a cause
If you're an early riser, get to Bandra or Charni Road by 6.30 am and join a cycle rally for a city-based NGO on Sunday morning. Each participant must pay Rs 200, with all proceeds going to Make A Difference, which works with underprivileged children. The two groups of cyclists will meet at Cafe Zoe, Lower Parel, for a complimentary breakfast, freebies and a certificate of participation.
WHEN: Sunday (December 16), 6.30 am onwards
WHERE: Bandra to Lower Parel; Charni Road to Lower Parel
COST: Rs 200
Call 99204-29335

Plan ahead
Next weekend, outdoor adventure company Jumpstart is organising a two-day trek to Kalsubai near Igatpuri, the highest peak in Maharashtra. The three-hour trek will begin after a lunch in Bari village. On their return to the base camp at the foot of the hill, participants will dine around a campfire.

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday (December 22 and 23)
WHERE: Pick-up from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, at 11 am
COST: Rs 1,500 per head
CALL: 99202-63810
- Humaira Ansari

The performance

Divine drama
What: Journey into Divinity, Odissi dance recital about Swami Vivekananda
Wh0: Shubhada Varadkar and troupe
Where: Savarkar Smarak Kendra, Shivaji Park, Dadar (West)
When: Sunday (December 16), 7 Pm
Call: 2646-4363, 6181-8000
Entry Is Free

Music is the highest art and, to those who understand, is the highest worship," said Swami Vivekananda, revered as one of the greatest philosopher saints of modern times. Vivekananda was a trained musician, well versed in the dhrupad and dhamar genres. Ramakrishnabuwa Vaze (1872 to 1945), the veteran singer from Maharashtra who wandered all over India in the last decade of the 19th century in search of good music and compositions, met and learnt a few compositions from the Swami.

Yet the same Swami, as a guest of the Maharaj of Khetri, first declined to sit through the performance of a nautch girl because she was a "fallen" woman. But when overhearing him she responded by singing 'Prabhu More Avagun Chit Na Dharo', a devotional piece by Surdas, which implores the lord not to dwell on the devotee's faults but look at him in totality, the scales fell from the Swami's eyes.

The Bandra (West)-based Odissi danseuse Shubhada Varadkar, 40, trained by the great Kelucharan Mahapatra, depicts this incident in Journey into Divinity, her new production.

"There are many dramatic events in his life that I have sought to interpret in terms of the Odissi dance," she says. Shubhada has done dance ballets such as Kanupriya, based on Dharmaveer Bharati's epic poem, and Chitrangada, based on Tagore's work.

The production reflects two central themes in Vivekananda's philosophy, she says. "He saw divinity in every human being, however poor. He was also reluctant to endorse the idea of individual salvation through bhakti. He preached salvation through service to fellow human beings."

The Ramakrishna Mission and Vivekananda Youth Forum have helped put up the show.

- Amarendra Dhaneshwar

Listings | also check out

Free Screening of One Crazy Ride, this year's National Award-winning documentary on five biker friends and their journey through treacherous Himalayan terrain. Shot with no back-up vehicle or dedicated crew, the film promises stunning views and touching encounters with the locals. Vinod Panicker, biker and cast member, will be present at the screening.
Where: Fd Zone, Rr Theatre, 10th Floor, Films Division, 24, Peddar Road
When: Saturday (December 15), 4 pm
Call: 2351-0461, 2352-1421
Entry Is Free

Exhibition Of Paintings commenting on modernism, titled 'Studies on the Formation of Impatience', by Swiss artist Michael Kunz.
Where: Galerie Isa, 132, Great Western Building, First Floor, SBS Road, Opposite Lion Gate, Fort
When: December 14 to February 12, 11 am to 6 pm (Sundays closed)
Call: 6637-3432
Entry Is Free

Museum Of Memories, a one-day pop-up museum inside an empty, 60,000-sq-ft factory. On the agenda are live performances by musicians, theatre actors and graffiti artists. There will also be jugglers, gaming zones and audio-visual screenings.
Where: Museum of Memories, Gate Number 1, Godrej Industries, Eastern Express Highway, Vikhroli (East)
When: Sunday (December 15)
Entry IS fRee

Free Lecture By Seiichi Hishikawa, a Tokyo-born and New York-based photographer and filmmaker whose film, Xylophone, won three awards at the Cannes Lions festival in 2011. After the lecture, check out an exhibition of photographs by Adhik Shirodkar, an advocate and wildlife photographer best known for his shots of Kenya.
Where: Piramal Gallery, NCPA, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point
When: Sunday (December 16)
CALL: 22824567
Entry Is Free