It’s easy to do a Mumbai street food festival; to do it without using any Indian spices or flavourings is creatively and conceptually challenging. At Tilt All Day, which usually serves European fare Executive Chef Aniruddha Bandekar has boldly faced up to the challenge and, mostly, pulled it off successfully.
When I first saw the menu I was intrigued. On paper, it looked fantastic but years of experience have taught me that what sounds good on paper doesn’t always translate into being satisfying on the palate. In this case, only a little was lost in translation.
It’s a short menu with just fourteen items of which ten, including dessert, are vegetarian.
One of the dishes that I was extremely curious about and which turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening was the pulled pork sev puri. Though no Indian ingredients were harmed in the creation of this dish, visually, architecturally and by taste it was a perfect adaptation of a sev puri. There was sweetness from the pulled pork, a touch of tang in the tomato salsa, a bit of tart in the lebneh and the crunch of the puri. This perfect balance, a sense of familiarity infused with innovation is what a signature dish is made of.
It’s the same thought process that has shaped the pesto paani puri, a preparation that could very easily go wrong. Though it’s not as intensely tangy and a bit more herbaceous, it comes close enough to the sweet-sour chatpatta flavours of a street paani puri. Chef Bandekar very intelligently used celery salt to give it a nice salty, sour edge.
I also quite liked the baida roti flatbread which had a very Italian thin-crust pizza-like feel, the piquant chicken risotto in dum biryani-style and the soft, chocolate-hazelnut halwa made from polenta. The only fault in the halwa was that it was too elegant to be street food but I loved the idea, and unlike the chicken biryani, the dum mushroom biryani really didn’t go beyond being a decent mushroom risotto. Also, for an additional Indian touch, I might have gone with browned onions instead of caramelised on both.
Two of the dishes that I thought could be tweaked were the vada pao slider and the dabheli. The vada pao, a panko crumb covered potato cutlet with jalapeño mayo and tomato rémoulade lacks the crispiness of a besan batter, the spiciness of a chilli-coriander chutney. A tempura batter would probably have worked better with a jalapeo salsa rather than a mayo.
Substituting pav with a Panini was a good idea for the dabheli, but the buttered bread overpowered the mild mashed potato, bell peppers, onion, garlic, pomegranate and grenadine flavoured filling. I felt that the flavours in the filling need to be ramped up and the omission of peanuts robbed it of its characteristic crunch making it quite one-dimensional in terms of texture and flavour. Chef Bandekar promised to look into this and I’m sure he’ll come up with a suitable solution.
On the whole though I felt that this was one of the more exciting festivals I’d been to this year and at the end of the meal there was much food for thought.
The Mumbai Street Food Festival is on from October 15th till October 25th.
Tilt All Day: Trade View, Oasis Complex, Kamala Mills Compound, PB Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai
Tel: 022 24927400/24927200