Sunday, September 13, 2015

Saee's Mejwani Thali


First things first, the Mejwani Thali is available only till 15th Sep at FourPoints Vashi at their Asian Kitchen restaurant on the 2nd floor. That's just 3 nights more, to get a taste RUSH NOW!

Saee, my blogger buddy has evolved over the years into a Food writer and Consultant. She bears a passion of taking the Maharashtriya regional cuisine to the commercial kitchens of a restaraunt and executes it to perfection. That said I have already set the expectation high for you even before I talk about the Thalis I tried out.

 
The special decor sets the mood for the Mejwani

We walked into the restaurant and met Saee and Pooja of who's initiative this event is. What followed was total excitement after all my blogger buddy was slashing down one challenge after another. As they sat me and my father down, Saee took charge. She ordered the refreshing Kokum soda. A sip and I was cozy in my seat or rather harnessed for the roller coaster experience of tasting Saee's cooking again. She makes sure we friends get a taste of her gourmet jams and fun things coming out of her kitchen (read further) when whenever we meet. I had tasted her Ambil at an event we did together but I was set to taste a full Thali here and that too on two consecutive days. The first one a Konkanastha menu and the second a Deshastha menu so you can only imagine my excitement.

Kokanastha Thali : Clockwise: Puri, Mix veg bhajji, The cabbage moog dal Koshimbir is hidden under the puri, Green Coconut chutney, lime, salt, sukki batata bhaji, tomato saar, alu chi patal bhaaji, Vala cha birda, Gavhlyanchi kheer, curd. Tondli masale bhaat in the center. Poha mirgund and kurdai in the top left steel bowl. Refreshing Kokum soda in the copper tumbler. Closed by a simple Paan Vida and sweet raj awala.

I started this thali with the whole wheat puri and sukki batata bhaaji. Such a homey morsel. We Marathi cannot do without it in our celebratory meals. Perfect seasoning. The birda is made differently in different communities we Kolis use onion and coconut masala to thicken the Vaal curry. Saee pointed out that since this is the month of Shravan and as typical to the Konkanastha Brahmin (KoBra) cuisine she had skipped Onion and garlic in the curries. This made the Vaal curry slightly thinner than our Koli version. I was happy with the birda as this dish can become a crumbled mess easily, here it was perfect each bean held well in the curry. The Aluchi patal bhaaji she had kept it slightly less sweet than we are used to in a KoBra meal to make the appeal more universal. Having been smitten by her Tomato saar video imagine a move from the virtual to real life experience, one could only wish it to be instant and not like this long wait to taste it. The crowning glory was the Gavhlyanchi kheer, made with Orzo like pasta only thing it is traditional Maharashtriya. Italians take a step back you are not the only pasta Kings. The kheer was sublime to say the least and Saee shared an inside story of  how a Gadhwali cooks it with love reducing the milk and stirring the kheer lovingly to the desired consistency. I must say she trained the hotel staff well in such a short time. This Konkanastha meal closed with a simple Paan vida of fennel and coconut and sweet sundried raj awala on the side. The meal was memorable and the conversations sparkling in her company.

That's Saee and Me looking all goofy due to the excitement of she waiting for me to start the meal while it was served piping hot. See the glee on my face waiting to dig in. While Dad acts like he photo-bombed when I pulled him in the frame as he was silenced by every morsel he relished. We both did. Pooja thank you for the click.


Before I left I enquired with Saee about the next day's Deshastha menu and was already looking forward to another night of indulgence.

Deshastha Thali : Clockwise: Puri, Cabbage carrot moog dal koshimbir, green chilli pickle, Kairi chutney, mini sabudana vadas, a wedge of lime, salt, sukki batata bhaaji, bharli vangi, Masoor usal, Drumstick aamti.*Ratalyache kaap* and curd. You have a better view of the mirgund and kurdai bowls in this pic. There was saffron cardamom lemonade in the copper tumbler with this Thali. They table was set beautifully.

Since I am from the Konkan all of the dishes in the Konkanastha Thali were known to me however my Deshastha food exposure is from Shree Brahmachaitanya Maharaj's Gondavale Sansthan at Satara so I was curious to see Saee's take on it. Infact I was being unfair to her by putting her up against a benchmark like Gondavale's food I thought but She excelled with flying colors!
 
Lets look at the commons in the two thalis first. The puri and batata bhaaji which was meant to be. The masale bhaat in this thali was with peas.The koshimbir was a variant of the Konkanastha with Cabbage carrot moong dal. The chili pickle, the sabudana vadas did not impress me. The Kairi chutney was familiar yet tad different than what Saee had gifted me once but equally lipsmacking and wonderful for the 'ruchi palat tondi lavana' by that I mean it worked well to allow me to experience each distinct dish and flavor by acting like a taste changer. The Bharli Vangi tasted delightful in the coconut peanut masala more towards coconut than peanut. I have something to say about the vangi but at the end.The masoor usal was absolutely delightful every grain of pulse cooked perferctly and balanced with spices. The aamti hearty sweet and sour, the drumstick such fun to suck on and then place the fibres on a side plate. Saee has really been careful in sourcing all the produce and proof was the tender drumsticks and the perfectly green alu chi patal bhaaji in the Konkanastha Thali. The finishing act was the outstanding *Ratalyache kaap* much like a mesmerizing crescendo in a Sangeet Natak. (Well this is inspired by Suranga Date's ode to Saee's Mejwani ).


 My Favorites top left Ratalyache kaap, bottom left Masoor usal, top right bharli vangi and drumstick aamti

In both the thalis there was a bowl of curd which is very traditional of Brahmin cuisine to tone down the effect of spice and aid digestion as a final course in a set meal. Concluding the meal with the paan vida and sweet raj awala.

These two days of the Mejwani were memorable for many reasons, for the food and for the new challenges Saee takes up. Every single dish was distinct. Stock sauces were avoided. Everything was fresh and good quality ingredients used. I am satiated by the fact that there is a gutsy lady who has taken OUR cuisine to the restaurants and done so well. 

Before I close this post I must point out few things for continuous improvement and to delight the customer that any business seeks incase this Mejwani is repeated again or made a permanent feature by Four Points Vashi.

1. I missed the sada bhaat in the Mejwani. When you have patal bhaaji, saar, birda and aamti on the menu the craving is for some plain rice to be mixed with these. A person who knows their food misses it. A small mood (molded serving) of saada bhaat should be included.
2. The Masale bhaat was lacking flavour and technique on both days. One could tell that it was a commercial hand that was used to making pulaos had made it. The tondli tasted like they were boiled. Even the Matar masale bhaat lacked the happiness of eating a soft slight moist good masale bhaat that we Maharashtriya are used too.
3. There were two vangi in my serving, one was undercooked. Cooking Vangi is an art and it has to be done skillfully to avoid undercooking or mushiness.
4. My co-diners on the second day a group of 7 were refused a replenishment of the Kairi chutney. In a thali the little things can be easily topped by a restaurant without hurting the pricing of the thali. You would have had a delighted customer with just a spoonful of extra chutney or koshimbir.
Having said that the portions in the thali were generous for all other dishes. The pricing of the Thali at Rs. 375 plus taxes was affordable. Thank you for offering a refill of my glass of Saffron cardamon lemonade.

On the whole this was a brilliant experience and felt like I was at Saee's table at her home. 

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P.S : I missed the chef's table as I was traveling so lost the opportunity of catching up with all the Foodie Blogger friends. But then I had Saee to myself later when I visited, good thing! 

Here is what others are talking about the Mejwani Thali


A closing with mukhashudhi : Paan vida and sweet sundried awala

Note : We were invited by Saee, and Four Points for the first day and the second day we went back to show our support to the wonderful initiative and paid for our Thalis.

7 comments:

  1. thanks for the link and was good to read a Maharashtrian's perspective. i liked the masala bhaat more than I have when i tried it from a restaurant. one flaw i felt was the smell of fried fish from the open kitchen. can be a bi distracting if you are a non-vegetarian and can put you off if you are not

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    Replies
    1. Kalyan depends on who made the masale bhaat that day, you were lucky may be. About the smell, I see from the pics your table was specially set up as a Chef's table unfortunately parallel to the open kitchen. On regular days they don't put dining tables there. My table both times were at the far end so I was lucky with this.

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  2. Thanks so much for this review, Anjali! So nice to see acknowledgement of one's effort. Just to clarify a few things:

    -Plain rice and daal (varan bhaat) are part of a traditional feast; however, this thali was aimed not just at Maharashtrians but also other communities who would have probably been miffed to think that a part of the price they are paying is for plain rice and daal--something that is not even remotely a delicacy. Besides, since it was a set meal and not a pangat-style service, it is difficult to build it into the logistics.

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    Replies
    1. Saee I do understand that this is a limited thali but any thali across regions and communities has a portion of plain rice. Its coded in the Indian mind delicacy or not. The varan is not a necessity as there were other curries to mix with. Even a Ona sadya or Karnataka style banana leaf meal has a portion of white rice. The plain rice would have been lovely even to end the meal with a little bit of curd rice at the end but since there was curd on the thali that was good enough.

      I am not sure what logistics you are talking about here. Do you mean space on the thali?

      How about doing a pangat style thali? It will be another dimension of our culture to present in the restaurants even though its done in Gujju and Rajasthani places and the dinning halls of Pune but in Mumbai I have missed pangat style Maharashtriya thalis sorely.

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    2. I completely agree with Anjali. A traditional thali without plain rice and dal is really unthinkable and I am really sorry to read the reason given by Saee above to skip it. Varan bhaat may not be considered a delicacy but it has a primary and essential purpose in the meal. Are the salt, lime wedge, pickle, yogurt etc served because they are delicacies? Plain rice and dal could be offered complimentary for that price. It is inexpensive and extremely easy to prepare. So the reason given for logistics doesn't make any sense. Plain rice and dal are a part of several set meals in traditional indian cuisine, not just pangats. So not offering it under the pretext of 'log kya kahengey' is really silly. And if one happens to find people who will raise a question then it is a great opportunity to educate them, after all this is the purpose of this whole initiative.

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