Restaurant Review: Sodabottleopenerwala, Bandra Kurla Complex
We imagine that in Delhi and Bangalore, Sodabottleopenerwala provides customers with a relatively authentic Irani cafe experience. These cities have few such restaurants, which are almost exclusive to Mumbai, Hyderabad and parts of Gujarat, where the Parsi community settled in significant numbers. Somehow in Mumbai, where Irani cafes are a prominent part of the culinary landscape despite their dwindling numbers, Bandra Kurla Complex’s two-week-old Sodabottleopenerwala seems less convincing.
A playful homage to the cafes and to Parsiana, the restaurant is an exaggeration of an Irani. One gets the impression that the decorators plundered old Parsi homes and crammed all the raided antiques (post a rigorous polishing job) into Sodabottleopenerwala. The room is a jumble of cuckoo clocks, toy trains, black and white photos of dugli and gara clad-Parsis, vintage light switches, newspaper advertisements, bentwood chairs and chequered tablecloths.
We can bet that the temperamental lot of Irani owners would disapprove of the distracting levels of colour and noise here. In Parsi cafe-style, there’s a blackboard with a list of don’ts on it. However the kitty party ladies and nine-to-fivers surrounding us paid no heed to the ‘Don’t talk loudly’ instruction. Their chatter competed with the loud pop and rock music playing on the jukebox belting out Don McLean, Dire Straits and Boney M, acts that formed the soundtrack of many a Parsi childhood. The menu, like the decor, is a mix of Irani cafe and Parsi home fare. It features bhonu staples such as dhansak, patra ni machhi, salli mutton, prawn patio; cafe favourites including kheema pao, chicken farcha and berry pulao; and a smattering of typical Mumbai nosh such as Goan fish curry and vada pao plus innovations like bacon kheema macaroni and spicy mushroom on khari.
Darius Madon, the chef, is well-schooled in the Parsi community’s cooking. However his food is incomparable to that of Irani cafes, which have experience on their side. Our meal had as many misses as hits. The latter included the chicken baida roti (Rs285), which could have been more crisp but enclosed a satisfyingly spicy and juicy kheema filling, and the spicy mushroom khari (Rs195), which had a heap of cheese and sauteed mushrooms embedded in soft, flaky khari that they make in-house. The dish was tasty junk food that prompted memories of similarly cheese-laden after-school snacks. We’ve feasted on far better eggs Kejriwal – Theobroma’s is beyond reproach – than Madon’s version (Rs195) that had perfectly crusty bread and a layer of creamed mushrooms but not enough cheese or chilli to win us.
Our mains had more flavour. The Parsi mutton masala roast (Rs425) is Madon’s chief achievement. The mutton was wonderfully pliant and its juices had infused the pulpy, smoked tomato masala fit for mopping up with the buttered pao, which they bake themselves. It was our first time eating the equally memorable Parsi-style badami potato (Rs295), a rich and creamy preparation of boiled potato dunked in an almond and coconut milk gravy with a touch of green chilli. The chicken berry pulao (Rs495) was far too sweet, which was a shame as the meat was cooked to perfection. The patra ni machhi (Rs650) was a fresh and flaking pomfret larger than our palm, but it was enrobed in pungent chutney that was missing the tang imparted by vinegar.
Our server’s recommendations were mostly spot-on barring the desserts, listed under their bakery selection, which includes sweet and savoury biscuits. Having lost many teeth to the chocolate as kids, we can say with certainty that here the Toblerone mousse (Rs195), which had an unpleasant, grainy mouthfeel, was a bit of a con as it contained no trace of the popular brand. Request an apple pie (Rs195) solely for the old-school vanilla custard served as a dipping sauce with the underwhelming tart that had a stingy filling of cinnamon-speckled apples. There is a dearth of Parsi joints in suburbs north of Matunga, which is possibly why Sodabottleopenerwala has been running full since they opened in BKC. They do, however, make up for the wait for a table with competent and prompt service.
Get: Chicken baida roti (Rs285), Parsi mutton masala roast (Rs425), Parsi-style badami potato (Rs295).
Skip: Eggs Kejriwal (Rs195), chicken berry pulao (Rs495), Toblerone mousse (Rs195).
It is our policy to review restaurants at least a week after they have opened.
Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously.
SodaBottleOpenerWala, Ground Floor, The Capital Building, behind ICICI Bank, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East). Tel: 022 4003 5678. Open daily, from noon to 1am. Get directions here.