Wednesday 20 April 2016

Peninsula, Sion, Mumbai

Almost a decade ago, when I was still in college and had recently moved to Mumbai, I used to crave for good north Indian style chats. Central Peninsula in Sion, which was a pure veg restaurant close to my house, serves the most lip smacking chaats, perfectly spicy and tangy, just the way I like it. I also took my mom to savor them from time to time. There were quite a few friends' gatherings I hosted here too back then on my meager pocket money, tucking into chaats & south Indian delicacies. After a while though, I moved away from the area and latched onto new eating joints, but I still remember those chaats and the very warm hospitality we college boys & girls received there :)

Went here for lunch with my sister, it brought back all those memories. Even back then,we knew that Peninsula chain of restaurants were probably the biggest name in Sion. After all, it was established in 1989, followed by the pure vegetarian Peninsula Next & Central Peninsula soon after! Peninsula serves exotic veg & non veg dishes and is spread over 2500 sq.ft. (ample seating there) and has a beautiful bar too :) I took my sister along as she is far more finicky with food than I am. Even growing up,I would happily eat whatever mom served me while my sister would make her go crazy when it came to food :D

So we went today for lunch and were warmly received by the staff. The ambiance can be summed up as elegant and vintage. Back in 90s,I remember going to family restaurants for special lunches or dinners. Remember those days when there was no Domino's,no McDonald's, people used to really plan for going out and get dressed up? Yes, this really reminds one of those days! There are comfortable and plush sofas, marble counters, staff in formal suits and melodious 70s & 80s classic music played in the background. Love the nostalgic trip down the lane :) Looking around the patrons too,it is clear that they have an established clientele that makes regular trips here which I think is fantastic. I later spotted the manager personally chatting up with other patrons which just shows how important interpersonal relationship is for them.

It just got better with the food served. There is Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Continental - a complete army of deliciousness to choose from. I just regret not having 2 extra stomachs so that I could taste all of them :P We started with Cream of Tomato soup which was appropriately sweet and bit tangy and full of delicious tomato wholesomeness. I am not much into soups or drinks but my sister is,and I am glad she called for this. We also got 2 beautiful and delicious drinks-Barman's special which was basically a thick milkshake+ice cream, every sip filled with strawberry and mango flavor. Yumm. And then there was Coffee Toffee which my sister savored. She loves milky chocolate and dark (but not bitter) coffee and this drink blended just these 2 in the best possible way. I could see Barman's special on a couple of other tables too. Drinks here are a must-have I say :)

Starters and Appetizers here are actually filling enough for light eaters. Portions are so very generous for everything! We had Spinach Paneer and Chilli Paneer along with Hash Corn Vegetables. Both Paneer dishes were fantastic with melt-in-the-mouth Paneer. Interesting thing is that my sister loves spicy stuff while I lean towards sweeter but here my sister actually loved the soft & minimally seasoned Spinach Paneer more while I loved the mildly fiery and saucy Chilli Paneer more :D Hash Corn Vegetables is an inventive dish which I suspect a lot of people with traditional tastebuds will not like. It has a sweeter gravy base with very delicate and thin potato patties on top. Imagine a bed of corn mixed with tomatoes, onions, a drizzle of cheese and some exotic veggies just sauteed in a tomato based gravy. It could be called an updated Mexican chat. I liked it a lot and so did my sister. It was something different, maybe not for a traditional meal but perfect for when one is in a mood to try something new. Maybe those who like their food spicy can ask for it to be made spicier :) I know my parents,who are very traditional when it comes to food, will like it too but my mom would surely ask for it to be made spicy & will also use a lot of chilli flakes or oregano on top :D

One absolutely lovable thing for me was how they presented beautiful salad art with each dish. I looked around and every table that had a starter had similarly beautifully crafted carrots/tomatoes/salad art. Adds to the elegance of the experience. 

Frankly, even for us hungry hippos, the 3 starters were more than enough but we did want to try more dishes so we called for Kabuli Naan and a Paneer gravy dish to go with it. Having seen some world movies, I know that in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, they do prepare tandoori breads with loads of dry fruits for special occasions. Kabuli Naan is an ode to that. Stuffed with cherries, shredded paneer and little bits of pineapple plus generously topped with butter, it is obviously sweet and what a delight to cherish. The spicy Paneer gravy went perfect with that, every bite establishing a song and dance between the sweet and the spicy :D I was completely stuffed to the brim otherwise this made me want to order for more dishes from the menu! I saw a table nearby order for veg biryani and 1 dish was enough to feed 3 people and it looked so yummy. I have to go back just to have that :D 

We finished our gastronomic delight adventure with Kulfi-Rabdi combination which is one of the best I have had in a long time. Ever had Rabdi made at home,in a clay pot? It has a very rustic flavor that is not available in the mass-manufactured branded Rabdi available in markets. That flavor is what I got here. Creamy and dense,it was the perfect end to a satisfying afternoon after which we were too full to move :D This is one place which brings old world charm and brilliant food together. Even my finicky sister finished everything on her plate :D Looking into the quality of dishes + efficient service, I would say the prices are justified for that and would recommend everyone make a plan to enjoy a special afternoon or evening with family here as there are vintage favorites as well as some unique dishes to be savored with loved ones.

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