Where do you dine when you’re out at the elbows?
When you’ve had an intense day at a workshop at Bandra, you don’t want to go back home without letting your hair down a bit. As mine’s a short crop which can’t be let down, I decided on kicking off my shoes instead.
But when you have had a long day engaging in intensive discussion, one as absorbing as an eight-hour TimeMaster which is about the ontological study of beings you’d prefer to head home straight to a hot shower and bolt down some warm soup.
Unless, of course, you have a friend who has other plans for excitement and cajoles you to stay back and join her for dinner at PJs restaurant, Bandra.
Well, I was short on cash which is rare but if your mission of the day is to merely attend a training program you can’t be blamed for being cashless. Having said that, if you choose a club as PJs, it’s actually a bonus to be low on budget. You not only get to eat but drink as well, and do so like a king or should I say, queen. While on the topic of budgets, who wouldn’t want to gorge at a super cheap restaurant whose fare isn’t second-rate. If you’re a typical Bandra resident, all the better to do justice to the predominantly Goan/ East-Indian fare at PJs restaurant Bandra.
Of course, I won’t suggest that you order off the menu blindly. I could offer you a few options, some of which went well with me and my group of friends, and if they don’t answer the little questions in your head ask the restaurant manager. The stocky manager is your best bet for the right answers for he is like a food encyclopedia. The tall one can be a tad sarcastic, so I hear, and you must avoid asking him dull questions whose answers are available on the menu.
It’s even better when the venue isn’t far from the training venue at Pali, right off Linking Road Bandra in a cul de sac near Karanataka Bank. If you’re looking for the restaurant board, you won’t find it. It’s better known as SALSA (Saint Anthony’s Institute Sports Academy) the history of which you could catch in the Bandra Buzz publication.
We arrived early, by 7ish in the evening or thereabouts; not by choice but because our workshop ended earlier. We lingered around the passage which doubles up for a Reception that lies between a swimming pool and a basketball court. When it was time to enter we paid up the entry charges of Rs 100/- per head and clambered up to the first floor where the restaurant is. We chose a four-seater table in the corner for my friend, her Venezuelan companion and her partner.
A Barometer for making a Choice, Go with your Gut
With the October heat, it was but natural to give the coolers a thought. We acted on our (thought)s and hesitated not in ordering for Deep Cranberry Cocktails with Vodka. That was a mistake; not because it was bad but because it was good – I mean it was as good as any regular berry juice from a tetra pack with no special likeness to a cocktail. I suspect it came sans vodka, but well there was no evidence of there being none as it came mixed before we were served.
In attempting cocktails that are seemingly different from the regular Mojitos and Long Islands – in our case it was the Cranberry Cocktail – I believe that some experiments could end up in disappointment. The reassuring part was that it wasn’t exorbitant, hence easy to dismiss our choice or the lack of it.
A piece of advice would be to not go in for “cocktails” as you couldn’t be sure of the volume of alcohol content. I’d recommend a neat drink or one where the mixers are served separately.
One of us went in for Lemon Caprioskas which in my opinion was the right summer choice and better than a Mojito which holds more ice over drink. Two of us preferred no embellishments, and so went in for gin and tonic water. A small shot of 30ml is a mere Rs 35 and if you had three small ones it would work out to a mere 100 bucks. You’d be downright tipsy on 200 bucks, isn’t that insane! That would be cheaper than a single pint of Bira beer at a regular restaurant. I hope you got my point.
When you aren’t on a three-course meal journey, it gets easier to be generous with snacky starters. One after the other we ordered for Chow Chu Fries, Roast Tongue Salt and Pepper, Paneer Tikka, Bacon-wrapped Prawns, and more. Allow me to elucidate on each of the items ordered, some good and some not so good.
The Menu Array
As beginnings are usually humble, we called for a Spinach Cheese Wrap. It isn’t as if it was humble in its preparation but if you talk in terms of vegetarian then spinach in my view falls into the humble bracket. It comforts the conscience in being the one vegetarian dish to give the menu a green balance.
Personally, I tend to lean towards a spicy palate which Chow Chu French Fries satiated. It wasn’t as if the potato fries were spicy but the fried green chillies served with them were. The chillies were a sizeable amount in the first place, a dark green variety at that, which got the tongue all fired up. So don’t attempt the chillies unless you have a stomach for it or sheer will power. I had both, plus the perk of chilled drinks ready to wash the red hot tongue with.
While on the subject of the tongue, let me get to the character of the Roast Tongue that we ordered for our Venezuelan friend to attempt. She gave in reluctantly and was disenchanted by the taste of the tongue on the tongue; won’t blame her as the rest of us also felt that it could have been done better. The Salt and Pepper Roast Tongue was tender and all, served in thin slices too – but salt and pepper, in my opinion, are condiments too light to enjoy this Goan delicacy in. Beef must be ‘beef’ed up in stronger marinade masala but looking at it from the brighter side, the dish did strike a balance between saccharine sweet berry cocktails, ultra spicy fries, oily prawn wraps and a saucy beef chilli.
From my experience of bacon-wrapped prawns at another popular gymkhana at Hill Road, I was somewhat reluctant to attempt a similar dish here, but well this was another club and so we took a chance in ordering the dish which proved its worth. The swaddled blobs disappeared into our mouths one by one, with the bacon giving the wrapped prawns a crunch before it sunk into its springy softness. The term bacon tends to be loosely used in clubs, it was actually ham but who cares.
Not having a Chinese dish is unthinkable to most diners, for whatever reasons. It brings a sense of content and fills in the gaps left over by dishes that aren’t Chinese. I’ve noticed that Chinese dishes are popular among the Indians. So, Beef Red Chilli Dry was served next. As with most Chinese preparations, it was dunked in soya and chilly sauces but it smacked alright.
Paneer Tikka came in the form of largish chunks of cottage cheese which somehow tasted bland to me despite the chargrilled effect. Well, paneer has never been among my favourites especially if they aren’t chopped into small cubes. It’s everyone’s favourite, quite surprising why it isn’t the case with me. From the others, I learnt that the paneer wasn’t entirely tasteless and with a range of other dishes to choose from, passing up one paneer item wasn’t a big deal.
I have a fondness for Pork Spare Ribs but what was in my mind’s eye didn’t match up with what was served. There was more fat to it than rib but if you ignored the greasy fat part it was fine overall.
Cheese Chilly Toast is usually a winner and this one was no exception. Its outer toasted crunch teamed with the gooey melted cheese is a delight to the senses and with bread enough to keep hunger pangs at bay.
In a Nutshell
In summary, three deep berry cocktails, four caprioskas, three gin and tonics with added VAT plus eight varieties of snacks with respective taxes worked out to under Rs 3K! Sharing on equal basis worked out to around Rs 750 each, which was a remarkable feat.
The cost suits the pockets of the modest diner segment, with no loss of self-esteem. Of course, PJs restaurant Bandra is a “go to” for more reasons than budget alone.
The place can get loud and crowded with locals, especially on weekends so the earlier you arrive the better. There’s a multimedia projector which plays YouTube songs, thankfully not deafeningly to allow for a semblance of a conversation. The mood is casual with men in striped tees and jeans; loud talkers each outdoing the other on the vocals. The ladies are a peppy lot too and not to be outdone by their louder counterparts adding more din with their chatter. Nobody cares about the sound of music especially if one’s stuffed with food and filled to the gills with the tonic. Not that it matters, as one can barely hear the music over the noise. It feels like a local joint where everyone meets up, and even if everyone meets up for no reason it’s sheer value for money.
I won’t lead you to believe that its ambience or food quality and presentation is along the lines of say, the Bar Stock Exchange or Out of the Blue, but then you’d have to make a choice between the two types of budgets offered by the two polar restaurant categories.