Food Fight: Chicken Ghee Roast

Ghee roast at Bombay Vintage.

Ghee roast at Bombay Vintage.

Mumbai’s moderate winter is our excuse to indulge in warmth-inducing foods such as the chicken ghee roast, one of Mangalore’s many terrific culinary contributions to the world. The item, which reportedly originated in the Kundapur district in Karnataka (90 kms away from Mangalore), is widely served by Mumbai’s coastal restaurants. Preparations vary, but a typical recipe lists chicken marinated in curd and cooked in a masala enriched with fiery Byadgi and Kashmiri chillies, pepper, methi seeds, coriander seeds, garlic and ginger, copious amounts of ghee and curry leaves. Some ghee roasts are sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with coconut, lime and tamarind. We tried eight iterations of the speciality to find the most robust version available in a city restaurant.

Vatsa House, Noble Chambers, S.A. Brelvi Road, Fort. Tel: 022 2287 0335.
The coastal restaurant in Fort takes the ghee in the ghee roast rather too literally. The well-done chicken rests at the bottom of a florid red pool of clarified butter clogged with masala that tastes inexplicably like pao bhaji masala.
Price: Rs358 (excluding taxes)

Bombay Vintage WINNER
Indian Mercantile Mansion, Regal Circle, Madame Cama Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 6944  4123. 
The Colaba restaurant and bar has a pretty jumbled identity with a decor peppered with Bombay kitsch, a multi-cuisine menu and a soundtrack of jazz and French songs, but their stellar ghee roast is worth making a trip here. The semi-dry dish is optimally rich and heavily perfumed with curry leaves. The chicken is succulent and the gravy judiciously spiced. Consume the robust roast with appams or neer dosa.
Price: Rs425 (excluding taxes)

Doolally Taproom  WINNER
5/6, Geleki, ONGC Colony, Reclamation, Bandra (West). Tel: 82913 34248. Also at C18-21, Dalia Industrial Estate, off New Link Road, Andheri (West). Tel: 99671 02143. First Floor, Kwality House, Kemps Corner. Tel: 99693 60726. 
Regulars at this chain of brewpubs know that they make a mean ghee roast. The guilt-inducing off-menu entree is laden with ghee and the chicken is cooked until it’s tender and has absorbed the well-roasted masalas. We particularly enjoy the peppery punch of the chicken while guzzling chilled beer.
Price: Rs400 (including taxes)

Mahesh Lunch Home
See here for locations. 
The ghee roast at this coastal restaurant chain has a measured ghee to spices ratio. There’s commendably no visible ghee in the thick paste-like masala that is as pungent as it looks. In addition to the heat of finely ground red chillies, the dish is fragrant with garlic, tamarind and curry leaves that are used liberally. Its shortcoming is that the masala tastes somewhat undercooked.
Price: Rs390 (excluding taxes)

601, Almar Arcade, in the same building as Punjab National Bank, Orlem, Malad (West). Tel: 91674 29271. 
There’s a distinct sweetness to the coconut-enriched ghee roast at this rooftop Malad joint popular for its Goan and Mangalorean fare. Their ghee roast features chicken on the bone doused in a strong garam masala that oddly contrasts with the sweetness of the roast.
Price: Rs210 (including taxes)

The Bombay Canteen
Unit-1, Process House, Kamala Mills, near Radio Mirchi Office, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 4966 6666.
The Kundapur ghee roast has inspired a tasty chhota or small plate at The Bombay Canteen. The creamy coconut-infused roast is smeared over crisp, buttered toast. The creaminess is a result of chicken liver being blended into the dish. The ghee is not evident, the spicing subtle and the complex savoury flavour of the silken liver presides over the palate. Delicious though it is, liver can be a deterrent for unadventurous eaters.
Price: Rs360 (including taxes)
Rating: ★★★★1/2

The Pantry
Ground Floor, Yeshwant Chambers, Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2267 8901. 
The Kala Ghoda cafe has a unique spin on the dish. The Pantry’s consciously tempered ghee roast is white in colour and thankfully not drowning in ghee. They omit the red chillies, which lend the traditional roast its fiery red hue, and instead flavour the dish with green chillies and cilantro. The tender chicken is placed over a pile of baby potatoes, beetroot and crispy stalks of cilantro. The homestyle bowl is half a star short of winning only because it strays from the original recipe.
Price: Rs461 (including taxes)

Tiffinbox Etc
Naman Towers, Ground Floor, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East). Tel: 022 6137 8070. 
The BKC joint’s version is more of a starter than a main course. The dry preparation is loaded with ghee-soaked onions, a heap of coriander and batter-fried pieces of chicken. It works as a chilli chicken type bar snack but sure isn’t a ghee roast.
Price: Rs448 (including taxes)

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