Crystal Mumbai: Where the homesick weep and foodies feast
No, it’s not a Bollywood film script. Our story is set in Crystal -- a small, nondescript hole in the wall restaurant with a grand view of Chowpatty beach and the Marine Drive bay. And it was this story, narrated by a friend who was part of the group when the drama unfolded, that inspired my first visit to Crystal many moons ago.
While time may have taken its toll on the décor (thankfully you don’t go to a restaurant to eat the décor, at least I don't), the food still brings out intense emotions.
Crystal serves earthy, robust, straight from the heart Punjabi food. The kind of food served at home, prepared with the same love and effort that mother would stir in.
The rajma (red kidney beans in a mild tomato based gravy) is perhaps the best I’ve eaten in all of Mumbai. The baingan bharta (roasted eggplant mashed with onions and spices) makes me break out into song. And the dal makhani (mixed lentils slow cooked with spices and served with a dollop of white butter) captures the very essence of Punjabi cuisine. As does the rest of the single page menu.
They used to have a hearty selection of stuffed parathas (pan fried Indian flat breads filled with cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes or grated white radish) but unfortunately staffing problems have temporarily driven them off the menu. But the owner, K K Khanna, promises they will be back soon.
You can’t leave Crystal without trying the Kheer. "It’s what we’re known for", says the portly owner. And he’s right. This lip-smacking Indian dessert is made the way it should be -- milk along with rice, sugar and nuts simmered for hours on end in a large vat, turning it into a thick and tasty cream with an agreeably sweet aftertaste.
Crystal is big on taste and big on flavor. And if you are a homesick North Indian immigrant to this city, you'll find it's big on emotion too, bettering anything Bollywood could inspire.19, Chowpatty Sea Face, Marine Drive, (Next to Wilson College); tel. +91 (0) 22 2369 1482. Lunch: 12.30pm–3.30 pm. Dinner: 7.15 pm–10.15 pm. Monday closed. Cash only.