Fuck! That's delicious. Exactly how raw the reaction could get when me and my buddy-Karan Shetty from Novus Pictures(our camera rental/production house) took that first spoon of the Seafood Khao Suey at this South East Asian eatery in Koregaon Park. Though that's not the reaction that I would give on camera or would be remotely close when I have a camera shoved at me waiting for me to do a verbal diarrhrea.
Being Indian means naturally we don't resonate from the lungs or have emotions attached to our words, but more so a very meh tone while we mean and feel the same as a buoyant voice would sound. Yes, there will be changes or improvements to my presentation on camera and more of me talking than having my alter ego doing a voice-over while the video plays, but again, the voice-over serves some purpose and it narrates the story well than just me talking in front of the camera.
Let's start from the end. That Burmese Khao Suey was officially our last meal on the last day of our shoot at The Asian Box in Koregaon Park. The objective to shoot with restaurant owners taking us through their journey was exactly what i wanted this series to be. The start, however, was wobbly as hell with no plan of action in place until we reached our service apartment and were shitting bricks on day two of the shoot while enjoying an open terrace-view of this city. We had already shot Camp Area in general, some people walking in high-speed, the cool stuff that adds value to the playback. Also we had met Dr. Irani (excuse his 'this and that') who runs the ageing 'Husseny Bakery' on Taboot Street, still remember the massive bruns and crispy chicken puffs at the counter. We had not only covered Camp Area, but also drove around concentric circles in Budhwarpeth to locate the famous 'Gujjar Mastani'. Fortunately after much assistance from the robotic voice of Google Maps, we parked the car, picked up our gear and marched onto the street. Not any street, street filled with women dressed to occasion and intoxicated men on the other side letching at them with strong sexual desire. Someone immediately warned us not to shoot here and cause problem for ourselves. A brisk walk later, at the end of the street was this cold drink house that we were on the lookout for. Mediocre would be the right word for this place and the milky concoction they served, typically old school milkshake laden with scoops of cheap ice-cream and colored syrups.
Day three is when the actual work started to roll. Immediately after a fantastic and quick 'Missal Pao' breakfast at around the corner of Lane 5 in Koregaon Park, we completed the intro shot, got dressed up, drove to outskirts of Aundh area, discovered Vietnamese food in the most obscure location, got bowled over, ate two extra cups of their Caramel Flan and straight went to the other corner of the city-NIBM. Staying in KP helped in a big deal since largely everything was equidistant in all directions. So our 'Insider Jehan' recommended this Iranian quick fix eatery to us right at the start of the trip, Iranian Shawarma and Afghani Burger, that's it, I was already sold. Anything that has any sort of resemblance or origination from the Middle East, I personally dig that. At first glance, you wouldn't even relate this place to an eatery due to it's bare minimum plastic seating and no sign of food or ingredients or food pictures in the near visibility. Get past the plastic ruins and you will generally find 'Amir Reza Sadeghian' at the back of the counter. Amir has designed these unreal wraps and burger that looks like a tandoori roti wrap and for some budget purpose he replaces the chunks of fries for crunchy potato sticks in all of these sandwiches a.k.a wraps. You can blindly order the Arabian Shawarma and the very unique-Afghani Burger.
The next couple of days were again spent planning, eating, speaking to people, shooting and more eating. The whole idea of shortlisting a place and featuring on such a large platform is that, at least myself with a responsible taste bud and some knowledge of good and mediocre food should be tasting at least 5 places (of course pay for the meals) and then come down to that one place that has great food and comes with an equally kickass story. In the meanwhile we did encounter some fantastic joints like one particular-Beetroot Bistro. This tiny place has a big heart, hearty food and food that has zero percent pretentiousness and a hundred percent flavour. Due to the odd timings of the management, we never could sit down for a brief chat and shoot, though this one comes absolutely recommended to anyone finding the nearby European eateries a bit too heavy on pocket.
Chopsticks Malabar- the Keralite place that opens our third episode actually was shot on the second day itself just before we returned to Camp for our brief stint. It's quite well-known among the crowd, though I really felt the appearance of the food could be polished a bit. Their Malbari Parotha though, that's dreamy. The recommendation for this Keralite place came from Meeta Makhecha, the owner of 'The Flour Works in Kalyani Nagar. Meeta has quirky personality, a bit of a nasal voice (or maybe she was having bit of a cold) and the Edward Scissorhands like hand gestures. We had the best Fish in Caper Sauce, Grilled Chicken S/W and that sensual thick cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate. That cup of melted Chocolate is like an indulgent dream, where pouring Hershey's or spreading Nutella is just isn't enough. Must do that cup, come-what-may.
Now, there are some things we friends do as a ritual whenever we meet up in Pune, go drinking beer, sorry 'Craft Beer' at our den-Flambos Brewpub. We feel at home here, waiters smile and acknowledge, captain is always taking good care and the owners know us to a certain extent that we decided to get them in this series. If you drink and adore your craft beer, you should also know how it's made. Akshay gave us access to shoot the pipe dream like equipment and explained the entire process. In the end, it was safe to say that a lot of words from his explanation rang my bells of chemistry class at college. The shoot at Flambos was entirely unplanned. It just happened after we drove back to Pune from a quick one day trip to Wai at a friend's place. It was supposed to be an unwinding session, but instead we worked, felt good about ourselves and return to our terrace-view apartment, put on some UK Top40 music, backed-up the data and gazed at the starry sky.
It's safe to say that Pune has evolved and not changed. Change would be what Calangute-Baga is right now, loud wealthy tourists looking for a vegas-time. Pune has managed to stay that early to bed and early to rise kinda lad who knows it's good to progress with time while preserving it's traditions. Only if this city had a good way of public transportation, everyone in it's stratosphere would be able to take a ride deep into it's polished hub like Koregaon Park, fine dine a bit, shake their hips at a nearby club and enjoy their weekends like they would in Mumbai. Well, you can take a taxi or Uber from Wakad to KP, but it's definitely not a middle class act. I heard the Metro is arriving in a few years, that's when I am gonna be back.
Haha, just kidding! I just need an excuse to grab my jacket and helmet, jump on my little crotchrocket and zoom away.
Here's the link to the three episodes that were produced in collaboration with 'Novus Pictures'. If like our work, then do give them a shout at their Facebook page here.