Monday, 26 March 2012

Review: Smoke House Deli, Mumbai

We had just an hour to tuck into lunch before rushing to catch the 2:30pm show of a recently released film. As I approached the maitre d' I was pretty skeptical about getting a table especially since I overheard him telling the person ahead of me that they couldn't get a table until 3:30pm! So I flashed my most charming smile, made a silly joke about the movie we had to catch and requested him to squeeze the three of us in. We were seated within two minutes. It may have been plain luck but I was beginning to feel pretty good about myself. Fantastic start, I say.

Smoke House Deli opened around four months ago at Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel but this was my first visit and the minute I stepped in, I was wondering why it had taken me so long to get here. The fresh white paint, the country-styled decor, the wooden swivel chairs and the fabulous hand drawn illustrations all over the walls just put me in a happy place. Perfect spot for a weekend lunch.

As we walked past the retail display, my friend drew my attention to these glorious glass jars with layers of chocolate praline, cream, cake, hazelnut, brownie, berry sauce and all things yum that you can think of. What a fabulous idea to package these to-go desserts in big fat homemade looking jars! I was sold on the idea of it even before I read what was in it so I decided that I'd come back after the movie for one of these. The take away price of Rs 750 definitely made a better deal than the dine in option at Rs 1250 for the same thing. Besides I wanted the glass jar just as bad as I wanted to eat the cake.

Now that we were in I was wishing we could have had a more leisurely lunch, but an hour wasn't all that bad so we decided to make the most of it and start with some appetisers. While we were deciding, the server came around to pour us some water, it was refreshingly flavoured with slices of orange and sprigs of mint floating around in a tall glass beaker. The bread for the table came in little sacks with dollops of flavoured butter on the side. This place is definitely getting a plus from me in terms of visual appeal.
We ordered the spiced chicken+panco strips and chorizo piccante along with some drinks to start with and for the main course we ordered peri peri rubbed smoked chicken, a hot dog and smoked lamb shanks, making it clear to the server that we had an hour to go through our entire meal. After a couple of minutes he came back to inform me that the lamb shanks would take at least 40 minutes to prepare so I decided to go with the house special tenderloin steak instead.

The appetisers arrived soon enough and we happily dug into some crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside strips of chicken served with a light and creamy dip. The chorizo was equally enjoyable but that maybe because we are big chorizo fans, the dish itself could have been a little more imaginative.

Half an hour into lunch and it was time for the mains. First came the peri peri followed soon after by the steak, both were beautifully plated with glistening sauces and succulent pieces of meat. We couldn't wait to dig in but decided to wait for the hot dog as well; minutes passed and then some more, still no sign of it. Now we are thinking, shouldn't the hot dog have been the easiest thing to put together?? Clearly they had forgotten! Anyway, we decided to start with what we had. My steak was perfect, the horseradish and rosemary emulsion worked really well with it as did the baby carrots, asparagus and crispy potatoes on the side. The chicken was also a winner - moist, smoky and full of flavour, accompanied with a refreshing salad of onion rings doused in lemon juice and mustard. All this while our friend sat twiddling his thumbs, waiting for the blessed hot dog! Nothing is more annoying than to be sitting on a table watching others eat while there is no sign of your dish. Finally after two reminders and many 'just two minutes' from the server, the hot dog arrived. The delay had been an obvious dampener but the sight of it oozing with mustard and mayo, served with an onion relish and crispy fries, managed to lift the spirits a bit. A bit messy and not something you could just pick and eat but satisfying nevertheless.

Overall Smoke House Deli proved to be a great experience apart from the service mix up, and a welcome addition to the 'often visited and now bored of' restaurants in the neighbourhood. I will definitely be going back to try out the rest of the menu. And yes, I did take home that jar of deliciousness. The guy at the retail counter had suggested I pop it into the microwave for about 45 seconds before serving but since it was straight out of the fridge I had to give it a good minute and a half. It tasted as good as it looked and was devoured within seconds by me and my friends!

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