When it comes to eating out and eating something that's close to my heart, I often look for cheap miya joints that can serve me good old dishes like Kheema pao at Goodluck or Nalli Nihari at Noor Mohammedi, Dilli Pulao in Bohari Mohalla or Kebabs at Nawab's. Apart from Goodluck, the rest of these belly satiating plates of food are not located in the shimmery streets of Bandra or on the high streets of Lower Parel. Nawab's is one place that is located in the most notorious area of eastern suburbs - Kurla. It's scenery is made up of car & bike scraps & spares shop, industrial steel shops and everything that does not fit in the pretty parts of Mumbai. It's dominated by lower middle class Sunni Muslims which in turn translates to restaurants with fast-moving mughlai cuisine that's available at every nook and corner. Vada pav is hard to find for kilometres to the east and the west of the main LBS Marg which extends right up-to Mulund. This Kurla section of the LBS Marg is the most underrated when it comes to Mumbai food culture. Take walk through this street and you will be surprised to see just shades of steel grey or rusted brown all around and it is the food that adds colors to this otherwise junkyard landscape. Just like the JJ area or Bhendi Bazaar, Kurla eateries too cater to the lower middle class who look at value for money meals (particularly Chicken & Beef, since Mutton is a novelty nowadays). Similarly, this is the street that I look up to when I want to go back to my un-gourmet days. Starting from 'Hotel Naaz' at the Vidyavihar end and extending up-to "Lucknowee Zaika" at the Kurla Station end, This section has almost 8-10 eateries which run packed on any given day of the week.
Naaz has been a favorite of the close-by vicinity people since many years and has now grown into a two outlet brand with a bigger and better one now opened in Sakinaka. The portions here are generous, decently flavoured and provide a reasonable quick-fix meal. Coming down that road and running into the heart of Kurla West is where the hustle and bustle begins. The chaos of people crossing streets like a casual walk in the park, lunatic wheelie popping bikers cutting lanes and haath-gadi loaded scrap dealers is what dominates this area. Then comes the belt where I find the three best eateries that Kurla has to offer.
1. Nawaab Kebab
This rustic, unfinished piece of a structure is my personal favourite for the cheapest meal around. A Paratha and Two Kebabs for around 70 bucks is a stellar dinner for the mason class. Sit on the worn out benches, no menu, no formalities, no fuss. Straight away someone will come drop a plate with two kebabs and a paratha, green chutney and a bunch of mint twigs. The place itself is not the cleanest and classiest, but then i never came for that. I came to dine like a pauper. Just like a thali service, the server keep taking rounds asking the customer if they want more kebabs or parathas. The kebabs are made from 'Bade ka gosht' - which used to translates to Beef and now Water Buffalo Meat. The Parathas are half tava and half deep fried affair, coming out crisp and bubbly in texture from outside and yet soft like a roti from inside.
They also have a takeaway counter right at the main street which is forever busy with orders. If you don't judge a book by it's cover, then this is your place for a dirt cheap dinner.
2. Delhi Zaika
This is a next door neighbor of Nawab Kebab. Two notch posh than the above and a dozen variety of dishes makes it a good option for a proper meal. Their Chicken Barra, Chicken Peshwari, Chicken Dahiwala, Changezi and Cream Tava Chicken is also referred as running items (most popular) among the crowd. Having tried most of their dishes - Barra, Dahiwala and Cream Tava Chicken is a definite yes in my books. Mind you, most of their starters are not boneless. I usually smooth 'bhai' talk them to get myself a good chunk of the thigh side cut than the neck or wings.
They do offer Nalli Nihari, but I believe that was during Ramzan if my memory serves me right. It was decent, but not comparable to Noor Mohammedi where the gravy by itself is the star let alone the meat to do it's talking.
3. JJ Jalebi
Cross over to the other side from Delhi Zaika and your will see a bright signboard of J.J Jalebi with a tiny writing which says "Main Branch at JJ Corner". Yes, it's the same sweethouse that people throng ever year on their Ramzan Food Trails for Firni, Halwa, Bondi, Balushahi and Malpuha. Here too they offer the same saccharine filled goodies and also prepare 'Mawa Jalebi' (6 pm to 9 pm only). Jalebis are brown, thick, intense, drenched in chasni and quite a close match to the Mawa Jalebi of 'Burhanpur Jalebi Centre' behind Minara Masjid. So if a heavy dose of Jalebi or Malpua with an additional spoonful or two of Rabdi post dinner is your way to end your meal, then JJ Jalebi should be on your list.
4. Khan's Kitchen
The self proclaimed 'Dal Gosht' king of Kurla-'Khan's Kitchen (located bang opposite to City Hospital on LBS Marg) is yet another attempt of serving wholesome meals at reasonable prices. KK offers a menu that's half tava snacks and half wholesome meals. With dishes like Naanchap, Baida Roti, Chicken Roll, Tava Bhuna, Chicken Delhi Fry and much much more, KK brings a slice of Minara Masjid to Kurla West, but what makes KK stand out is the quality of meat especially seen in their succulent Chicken Kebabs, that can give Hajji Tikka from Bohari Mohalla a run for their money. Less fat, more protein, perfectly marinated and even more perfectly cooked kebabs turn out to be such a moist juicy affair that it's hard to not call for another plate. Baida Roti is takes a twist here with shreds of chicken, onion and capsicum, all packed with a mild masala as opposed to the roaring red kheema usually spotted at almost every place that serves it. Being spoilt since childhood by ghar ka Dal-Cha, KK's Dal Gosht does come recommended to people who aren't familiar to this beauty of Dal cooked with shank meat and dudhi, served with bagara rice. They also do a Kofta Biryani and the trending Arabian Chinese Rice (especially popular in Byculla, JJ and Mazgaon side restaurants) which essentially means Fried Rice served with Tandoori Chicken.
Though I've listed and favorited just these four, Kurla offers over half a dozen Seekh Paratha options, a dozen Biryani Corners and more than two-dozen mughlai places with a facade of budget shawarma unit. I'm sure that this gastro underbelly of Mumbai has many more unexplored eateries and one doesn't need to wait for every ramzan to explore these places. They serve exactly the same dishes day in and day out, be it the month of ramzan or not.
"Bhai, ek chicken sanju baba, shami kebab plate, half nihari aur roti lana"