Monday, July 27, 2015

Rediscovering Pune - restaurants, old and new!

This August will be 18 years since I left home, since I left Pune. Almost 2 decades later, after having traveled half the world - truth is that no place seems like home the way Pune does!! Although, over the years my city has changed so much, that sometimes I feel like a stranger here - looking for landmarks that no longer exist, marveling at new bridges and buildings that seem to have sprung up overnight, straining to hear words of Marathi in the now more frequent Hindi and English - when did my laid-back hometown evolve into this busy, fast paced metropolis? Where's the Pune I grew up in?!!

Adding to the disconnect, my parents moved from Deccan to Baner - it's been a while now, about 7-8 years - but after spending all of my childhood quite literally in the heart of the city, getting used to calling this new place home took a while. A change of home base doesn't necessarily mean change in hangout spots - and many of my favorite restaurants have stood the test of time - totally worth braving the traffic and crowds! Heading the list, of course, is Vaishali on Fergusson College road - our old house was a hop, skip and jump away from this landmark eatery - now, driving almost 25 minutes and then waiting forever for a table - has drastically reduced the frequency of my visits here!! Still, no place like Vaishali for the crispiest dosas and fragrant, finger-lickingly yummy sambhar!!

Another iconic spot - again near my old house - is Santosh bakery. No fancy pastries or cream cakes in gleaming window displays here - just fresh-baked bread, cream-rolls, and of course, the world famous puffs or in the local lingo, pattice!! Way back when, Sunday mornings were incomplete without these pattice - fresh-baked and hot, hot, hot from the wood-burning oven!! At that time, this family run business only made a limited number of pattice - and I highly suspect that the limited availability and uncertainty made these even more coveted - today, Santosh bakery ships its pattice to Dubai and Singapore, and other than the daily afternoon shutdown (another very typical Pune quirk - everything shuts down for siesta!), Santosh bakery pattice are available at all hours!!

From the old to the new - right across the street from Santosh Bakery - in place of an ages old residential building, stands the gleaming new Coronet Hotel and it's restaurant Shahji's Paratha House. As the name suggests, the star on the menu here is the parathas - and the hardest part is probably selecting a paratha from their vast menu!! Manasi and I finally agreed upon the Cheese Paratha and the Paneer Burji Paratha - all parathas come with a side of chole, dal makhani, potato curry, boondi raita, salad and a pat of butter - all this and the absolutely humongous paratha will be enough to satisfy the hungriest appetite!! The parathas rank way up there for taste - but it was the dal makhani that was easily the best I've had in a while!!

Speaking of parathas, Mast Kalandar on Baner Road is another favorite. This cafeteria style joint does not have an extensive menu, but the parathas, especially the alu and paneer, and the chole are consistently tasty - and so is the rajma-rice and the kadhi-rice!! Less than 100m away from Mast Kalandar is Kalyan Bhel - the place for chaat in Baner, possibly even in all of Pune!! The signature Bhel and the Pani-puri - will leave you wanting more, more and then some more - but their cut dosa certainly holds its own, and the melt-in-your-mouth Malai Kulfi is the perfect cool ending to the taste-bud tingling spicy chaats!!

In recent years, almost all restaurants will bring your order home to you for a very nominal delivery fee - an absolute god-send for non-drivers like me!! Pizza always is the first choice to order in - and in Pune, Dominoes or Smokin' Joes is preferred - I do enjoy the 'desi' pizzas - panner tikka is a particular favorite!! Actually, a lot of these other 'restaurants' are little more than food counters - while the food is good, the eat-in experience leaves a lot to be desired - making carry-out or delivery the far sensibler option. And with the Just-Dial service providing phone numbers for any and every place, ordering from home is almost too easy!!

Firmly in this category is the Dum-a-Dum Biryani House on the Pashan-Baner Link road - actually, they have branches all over Pune - and their home-delivery service is fast and efficient!! Their 'dum' biryanis come in clay pots - remember to ask for the 'matka' version - and the fragrant mixture of rice, spices and vegetables is as close to a perfect biryani as anyone can get! The kebabs here are worth a try too - claimed to be the softest kebabs in the world - and the delectable Chicken Reshmi kebab certainly lives up to this claim!! Keep in mind, carry-out or even better, have the food delivered piping hot to your doorstep!!

A new addition to the order-in go-to places is Rolls Mania, located in Aundh, opposite the Croma showroom - actually, I have never even been to this place - all my orders have been over the phone!! Again, quite an extensive menu - every imaginable type of roll is available here - my favorites are the Veg Kheema roll and the Paneer Mughlai roll!! At Rs. 70 - Rs.100 per roll, this is a really good deal - one is usually enough for lunch, get two just for the variety!! And if you order 4 or more, they throw in a complimentary brownie - very gooey and chocolately - yumm!!

For a change from these almost fast-food type places, is the Minus Eighteen Degrees restaurant, also on Baner Road. Quite spacious and airy, this is a good place for brunch, or even a leisurely coffee with friends. A good selection of pastas and sandwiches, and a gorgeous dessert spread - try not to drool all over the display!! The Pesto spaghetti was perfectly al-dente, and the Pesto, although a trifle too oily for my taste, was appropriately authentic - the Grilled Veg Panini was also quite decent!! Was really hard to pick up a dessert - finally picked the Tiramisu (no surprise there!) - but will definitely go back to try the Green Apple Pie and the Opera cake. Compared to the other places I talked about earlier, this is a bit pricey - lunch with drinks for 3 ran up to Rs.1500!!

This Baner-Aundh area is fast growing into a gourmand's delight - all types of cuisines, to fit all budget ranges can be found here! Just the tip of the iceberg really, this post!! Eating out with friends and family is such a big part of our vacations in India - and while I have my favorites, I'm always ready to try new places - never know what you'll discover!! So, bon appetit - until next time!!

1 comment:

  1. Nice compilation!

    Falaahar, situated opposite to Primrose Mall is also a very good option, especially for their Pahadi Grilled Sandwich and Jaamun shots!