August 15, 2006

Choupal [Restaurant review]

The worst thing about Choupal is its location. You must brave the chassis-slaughtering motocross ups and downs of Turbhe naka to get to it. I kid you not. Even the large lorries from the APMC—who are the cause of the lunar landscape—slow down to a crawl as they pass, and we saw a stalled BEST bus getting a wheel replaced as we exited.
Choupal is a couple of months old, and specialises in North West Frontier cuisine. It is not a large restaurant; 12 tables for four and one larger round-table are set around a large obviously fake tree (with blatantly unrealistic foliage and weaver-bird nests). Wood and copper feature prominently in the decor—once you tear your horrified eyes from the tree, that is. And there’s live music of an evening. Big negative in a place this small. We could barely hear each other talk.
Choupal serves liquor, so you can wash the dust of the journey down while you peruse the whacking great menu, which comes in a frame. My friend drank an Aab-E-Taskeen (Rs 30), which is a sort of jeera-based drink, and I, a beer. We had decided that if it was to be frontier food, then we would concentrate on the mutton. So we glossed over the vegetarian dishes and shuddered delicately over the Chinese section (wrong frontier, chaps). We paused at the Rann (Rs 399), but regretfully concluded that an entire leg of lamb that promised to feed 5 to 6 was too much even for our massive appetites. Instead, we ordered a couple of plates of kababs as starters: a Barra Kabab (Rs 135); and a token chicken dish, Murg Angara (Rs 145). Both were delicious, succulent and not too spicy. As we finished smacking our lips over these, our main course arrived. Gustaba (Rs 145), minced meatballs in a thick gravy with a hint of sweetness to it, and Nalli Rogan Josh (Rs 145), a house specialty, mutton on the bone with the marrow, accompanied by a couple of paranthas (Rs 20 each), some slices of tomato, cucumber and onion that go by the glorified name of Baagichey Ka Salad (Rs 49), and a Ghosht Dum Biriyani (Rs 155). The paranthas were a mistake—too oily, a dryer naan would have gone better with the meat and gravy—but the Gustaba was good, and the Nalli was excellent, with the tender meat falling easily from the bone, and the marrow yielding to a most genteel sucking. The biriyani was fragrant and well-cooked, with generous chunks of meat. Most of the dessert menu was unavailable, thanks to a chef being on leave, so I couldn’t try the intriguingly-named Benaami Kheer, and had to settle instead for a Gajar Halwa (rs 55), which wasn’t anything to write home about. My pal ordered a Gulab Jamun Kesari (Rs 55), which came to the table piping hot—and tasted bloody awful.
The Verdict. Ambience, passable, and the tree is a good for a few jokes, though they should really dispense with the music. Very attentive and helpful wait-staff. Good food, decent portions, but the desserts seem avoidable. There’s a 10% service charge on your bill (I’m biased against restaurants which do that), but it’s not too heavy on the pocket. We ran up a much larger bill, because we were experimenting (and, erm, we’re gluttons) but you should be able to get a meal for two moderate eaters for between five and seven hundred rupees. My pal plans to take his wife and daughters there soon, so, yes, it’s worth risking the Turbhe road to eat here.

Choupal, in Centre Point, Dc1, TTC Industrial Area, Turbhe, Navi Mumbai. 27683311/22.

Published in the Time Out Mumbai. XXth XXXX, 2006.

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