It’s probably evident by now, Mariam and I love our steak! It tickles our umami, marinates our palates in succulent juices and is the just the right thing to do after a good beer or bottle of red wine (btw for Indian wine accompaniments we usually go with Grover’s La Reserva Cabernet Shiraz, it’s the best Indian red wine in the under Rs.800 bracket). Some of our finest steak memories include steak tartare which Mariam sampled for the first time in a local café during her first visit to Paris and tantalized me with for 2 years, till I reached Balthazar at NYC and had my own version of minced raw beef with raw eggs (yep!!) garnished with chopped onions, capers and Worcestershire sauce. And even if I suffer from Alzheimer’s in my old age is unlikely I will forget the taste of the unbelievably juicy and fatty ribeye steak I had in a nameless little local bar outside Yellowstone National Park in Montana, US during my crosscountry roadtrip last year.
In Bombay however, our steak safari has had mixed results. While we have been wowed on many occasions, there have been some serious bloopers. Mostly we attribute it to the cow slaughter ban which means what we get is buffalo meat in the name of tenderloin, sirloin, filet mignon, ribeye and whatehaveyou. The point is that these cuts remain demarcations in name only because buffalo is a significantly tougher meat impervious to quick searing methods used for rare and medium-rare preparations. However enterprising Mumbai restaurateurs are sidestepping this obstacle by somehow miraculously treating their domestic buffalo meat to masquerade as beef with increasing levels of success.
|US Steak Cuts|
|UK Beef Cuts|
Top mention must go to Rahul Akerkar’s establishment be it Indigo or Indigo Deli. While the dishes are presented differently in each restaurant (different cuts, different accompaniments) what’s consistent is the almost butter-soft texture of the meat, oozing juice and red wine drizzle, perfectly delicious even without the old Indian habit of a rich pouring sauce. Whether it’s anchovy-infused mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, a sprinkling of thyme or herbed veggies these are steaks par excellence. The waiters usually also understand instructions of ‘medium-rare aka pink-no-blood” which can be quite rare (pun unintended!) in Bombay! The prices usually range between Rs. 500-700/- between the three establishments. Umami Quotient: Umami!
Another restaurateur whose steaks do justice to the palate is Riyaz Amlaani with his offerings at Tasting Room (one of our favourite haunts!) and Saltwater Café. Though the one at Tasting Room can be a tad chewy on occasion its often accompanied by their trademark wasabi mash or broccoli and blackened mushrooms. The one at Saltwater Cafe however is a slice of heaven on a plate, tender inside, and pepper-crusted on the outside and distinctly flavourful, accompanied by a layer of emmenthal on top and roasted root veggies on the side. These steaks are surprisingly affordable for their quality at under Rs. 500/-. Umami Quotient: Umami
Another impressive and relatively new entrant is Chez Vous at Churchgate, Bombay’s first standalone French restaurant in our lifetime (I am sure Vir Sanghvi can remember some from ye ol’ times!) which serves a mean chateaubriand which they claim is domestically reared organic cow. Puzzled questions around cow slaughter bans were met with a charming and slightly incomprehensible French accent so we dropped the topic, thanked our lucky stars and sank our knives into that mean hunk of flesh accompanied by a polenta cake and a mustardy aoli (though I could be mistaken since the beef was so tender I was considerably distracted!). Since they pride themselves on serving genuine domestic beef the price is slightly steep at Rs. 850/-. Umami Quotient: Sweet
For a reliable steak on regular weeknight dining options there is the evergreen Woodside Inn to turn to. As long as you vehemently specify “pink no blood” (don’t bother with the well-done, medium, rare terminology, it means completely different things in India!), the results are surprisingly tender accompanied by some no-nonsense rosemary mashed potatoes and grilled veggies. Ditto for the version at Pali Village Café. WI steaks are priced at approx Rs. 350/- while the PVC one is around Rs. 650/-.Umami Quotient: Salty
And as far as old-world continental options go, Mariam recently introduced me to a delightful well-kept secret in the heart of Churchgate called the Lido Room! Yes, it’s the restaurant at the Ritz Hotel with a distinctly clubby feel, all-French menu (even the language!), an el cheapo retro wood bar and a mean version of steak ambitiously called a chateaubriand (though the “pink no blood” instruction gets lost in translation en route the waiter to the kitchen!). But at less than Rs.400/- a pop accompanied by a rich black pepper n' mushroom sauce (served in one of those adorable retro gravy bowls!) and a delish butter spinach mash alongwith the potatoes and veggies, this is one soul meal. On an aside we also discovered that they serve liquor on all dry days! Woohoo! Guess where we’re headed when the next whathisname Jayanti rolls around!!!! Umami Quotient: Sour
That sums up our steakometer for now. Since restaurants are mushrooming in the city as we write we’re sure many will try their hand at a filet mignon, it’s suddenly become a chic regular on fine dining menus. But you will know from us who get it right and who serve molar nightmares!
PS: As you may have noticed, we generally exclude five-star options and/or imported beef from our considerations because at the price they cost, they better be good - no review should be required!