When the baton meets the ladle

Updated: Oct 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
A man on the keyboards lending a tangy twist to the stewing pot. Not at all surprising if one happens to be a composer, arranger, lyricist, music director, guitarist and singer as Leslie Peter Lewis (or Lezz Lewis as he is popularly known). I enrolled for a catering course as I felt the only way to get into a band would be to work for a hotel, says the music buff. With a short detour from the kitchen to the music room, Lewis has long since been waltzing into his listeners hearts, having put the ladle out in the cold.

The culinary prowess is rarely if ever put into use. But the foodie in Lewis sniffs the air at the slightest smell. If you are the kind who scours the inroads for a no-frills meal, let Lezz Lewis take you there. This time to his favourite eating places in Mumbai.

I am particular that the food is good, wholesome and of good quality. If it meets these parameters, which place serves the food is irrelevant, says the jovial, no-hang-ups guy.

Leslie Peter LewisMughlai sans royalty
Offhand but with no particular order of preference, the restaurant that comes to my mind is Noor Mohammed at Mohammed Ali Road. I had gone there with my family for a meal. After having a huge meal, the owner of the restaurant, Rashid Hakim walked to our table and asked me to check out the white chicken biryani. I refused as we had had a meal. He said that it was on the house and that I need only sample it. So I decided to check it out. Unlike biryanis made with masalas that colour the dish, this one is made of a white masala and the biryani, when it arrives on the table, is white with chicken in it. It is simply out of this world. Can you believe it... I polished off the entire plate, in spite of having had a meal! It was that good. It was very tangy. Must have had khus khus and cashewnut paste in it, I am sure. The chef in him cannot help but try and isolate the ingredients.

Street meat
The next stop is at Bohri Mohalla near J J Hospital. Street food can be amazing, if you know where to look, says Lewis. He should know for this is a path well worn by him. After 5 pm, go to this area and check out the khichda sold by this food wizard on the second junction after the Hospital. I have never had khichda so delicious anywhere in the world. The guy does brisk business between 4 and 9 pm in the evening, by when his food is sold out. I took my mother here once and she has been hung up on the khichda ever since! Have his khichda, eat the lovely bhuna ghosht by the vendor beside him and the potato chips fried in red masala by the guy next to him. All this to your stomach fill at Rs 50 with enough money left to buy a cold drink too!

Something fishy
For those who yearn for Gomantak fare, there is the Highway Gomantak at Bandra East. The fish fry, fish curry and rice is an ideal combination. The sookha mutton masala and vade like a puri, is mouthwatering.

The world is going ga ga over vegetarianism. Of course there is a veggie joint too that I frequent, says Lewis. He takes us to Thakurdwar. Go past Princess Street and eat at Thakkars Bhojanalay. It is good Gujarati cuisine without being sweet to taste. I especially like the bajra rotla and the undhiyos. There are lots of desserts but I always order the fruit custard. The place was recently done up but thankfully the food remains the same.

Cabbies for company
The trail ends at the most unlikely place. A taxidrivers dhaba at Matunga. It may sound infradig but you must eat here to know what is basic fare. The place, Sarovar Lunch, will have only three people at any given time eating here. There is a very watery dal, curds, pickle and wheat rotis made out of coarsely ground wheat that is rough to the touch. But the rotis and the dal are awesome. This is the meal an average Indian has in the country. And what am I, if not an average Indian!