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Barbeque: Care to man the grill?

Merril Diniz | February 01, 2006

The mention of barbeques brings back some great food memories.

image I can already visualise my Aunty Maria preparing the marinade and Uncle Lulu manning the grill. We kids -- five garrulous little girls with large appetites -- would then wait impatiently for the potatoes, burgers, kebabs and other treats, to roast over the red-hot coals for what seemed like eons.

Cut to my student days in Pune.

We would cruise down the Mumbai-Pune highway on Bullet motorbikes, stopping at wayside dhabbas for a meal. Sometimes it was a hard-knock trek up to Sinhagad Fort for the love of Bhakar (Roti made of gram flour and jawar) and Pitla (a spicy dish made with besan).

Sometimes we would take off to a remote spring or a lone hillock on the outskirts of the city, for a mean barbeque. The onus of preparing and manning the barbeque rested on our fellow students and friends from the Middle East, who managed it like an art, just as they prepared the hookah (it was yet to become a fad back then).

The rest of us would provide the entertainment. And relish the food.

Barbeque in Mumbai

Back to the present and, foodies, take note. A brand new eating place called Barbeque Nation opened two weeks ago in Mumbai. It's located in exactly the same spot as the erstwhile Onyx, a lounge-bar in Khar which opened a couple of years back and then shut shop.

My buddy Sulagna and I, ardent foodies (read gluttons) dropped in last week (Sulagna was part of my barbeque clique in Pune, so this barbeque experience was especially nostalgic).

As you enter BN, it gives the impression of being a lounge bar-restaurant kind of place where the management might be snooty, the menu might be pricey and the interiors will definitely be designed with a concept in mind.

Don't worry, though, we have the complete post-mortem for you.

Buffet only

The inside of BN is brightly lit. The brick walls lend an earthy touch, but overall the interiors lack any specific character. The seating is comfortably plush. BN can accommodate around 120 people at a time.

They don't serve food a la carte (which means you can't order from a menu). Barbeque Nation ONLY offers a buffet priced at Rs 400 plus tax, per head. With tax, it amounts to approximately Rs 450 a head.

Now, is that expensive or a throwaway price?

You get to be the judge of that, but here are some facts to help you decide.

First, what's the big deal about a buffet? You have standard fare like soups, rice, breads, gravy dishes, pastas, desserts. No great shakes.

The real attraction here, are the starters. You have a variety of 10 starters to choose from, comprising both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare; the best part is that they are unlimited.

We ordered refills of the Grilled Mediterranean Prawns, which are medium-sized and have a subtle flavour, with good reason -- you get to grill them yourself with a dressing of your choice while you are seated at your table.

There is a little barbeque pit embedded at the centre of every table. The skewers are placed on top of these and you can brush on a Rosemary, Oriental or Lemon Dressing on the meat or vegetables. You have a fork with just two tines, to help you slide off the chunks from the skewer onto your plate.

On the menu

The food is a mix of Pan-Asian, Oriental, Mediterranean and Continental cuisine, but mind you, there's no fusion cooking here.

We asked for second helpings of the Indonesian Grilled Vegetables, which came on a skewer. They had a strong peanut flavour and consisted of zucchinis, carrots, broccoli and mushrooms -- all my favourite vegetables (and fungus).

The Grilled Lamp Chops With Cinnamon Sauce and the Kakori Kebab (made of mutton) are very succulent. If you love a creamy dip, then treat yourself to the garlic mayo or sesame dips or the yoghurt mint sauces, kept on the table.

The Oriental Grilled Shrimp Cake resembles a little cutlet and has a nice texture, but is not too strong on flavour. The Murgh Angara is so-so.

We spotted Lebanese Mushroom with Hummus on the starters menu. The mention of Hummus is enough to make Sulagna beam form ear-to-ear. She loves good Lebanese food. However, what we got was a semi-gravy mushroom dish without any Hummus (a fluffy-looking, cream to beige coloured Lebanese dip, made of chickpeas), which simply melts in your mouth.

We noticed the chef animatedly chatting up some customers in the vicinity. Chef Prosenjit, who speaks with a lot of love about his food, clarified that the mushrooms were cooked in chickpeas, hence the name. His variation ie the Lebanese Mushroom with Hummus tastes divine, and I suspect an extra dollop of butter puts the oomph into this dish.

The food wasn't oily in the least. Was there a reason for this? Prosenjit told us only olive oil was used. Besides, barbequed fare is roasted, not fried or sautéed where the fatty quotient immediately goes up.

Main course and dessert

The main course was a mix of East and West. You have lots of salads, breads, gravies, pasta and a host of other dishes.

I thoroughly relished the Vegetarian Ratatouille, a gravy dish with lots of brinjal (not exactly my favourite vegetable) and a creamy texture and the penne pasta tossed in mushroom sauce.

The chocolate cake had lots of tuitty-fruitty in it and this seemed to adulterate the taste of the chocolate.

Sulagna (who is Bengali) gave her stamp of approval for the Abar Khabo Sandesh.

There is a show kitchen just behind the display of food.

Quick bytes

Barbeque Nation is not a stand alone restaurant. The management has plans to open a chain of outlets across the country -- 100 to be precise. So, there might be one coming to your city pretty soon.

The variety in the starters and the main course is rotated everyday, so if you have favourite that you must-absolutely have, call in to check if it is on the menu for day/ evening.

Vegetarians are at a bit of a disadvantage as you have only five starters to choose from, though there is quite a variety in the main course.

In the afternoons, you also have an executive buffet priced at Rs 200 a head, which includes soups, the main course and dessert, minus the starters. It's a good option for a friendly lunch with a colleague or even a client. But if you mean business, you may want to head to some place quieter.

Nevertheless, it's a great place for a night out with friends or family. Make some noise, have fun barbequing each other's food and eat to your heart's desire. When I told a couple of my friends with extra 'healthy' appetites about the concept, they were pretty excited. "When can we head to Barbeque Station?" one of them asked.

" The name is Barbeque Nation! How about this weekend?" I replied.

Address

Barbeque Nation
Ground floor, Om Palace
403, Dr Ambedkar Road Junction
Pali Hill, Khar West
Mumbai

Phone: (022) 55834343

Do you have a favourite restaurant or cuisine? Or have you sampled the latest haunt on the block? Be it Manali or Kanyakumari, Kashmir or Goa, Jaipur or Nagpur -- we would love to know more about the eating out options in your village, town or city. 

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recommend a restaurant. Rate the food (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), ambience, service, accessibility and whether you plan to head back.

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