Friday, May 20, 2011

Ladies Who Lunch: Dining at Trishna Mumbai

Growing up, I was exposed to many different ethnic cuisines.  I still remember when one of the first Mexican restaurants opened in New York and we all flocked there for the novelty of the unknown.  Even at school, they had an “International Day” where students brought in foods representing different countries.  In an obviously misguided effort, one student (non Indian) brought in an “Indian dish” consisting of curried ground beef.  Of course being fairly ignorant of Indian culture, it never occurred to me that it was NOT an authentic dish or to question the use of beef.  Other than that, somehow I never dined on Indian cuisine or even knew what it consisted of.

My very first experience with Indian food came at the home of a dear friend’s parents.  Natives of India, they introduced me to samosas, naan and other delicacies.  Everything was incredibly delicious, so you would have thought that I would have explored further at local restaurants.  But, I didn’t.  I don’t know why, but it just never occurred to me.

Many years later, I had Indian cuisine in a restaurant for the first time.  Unfortunately, it was not a very good restaurant.  Greasy, lacking in flavor other than chili and an unappealing presentation, this particular restaurant gave me a bad impression of Indian cuisine and I literally did not have it again for more than a decade.  The power of that one bad experience really unfairly turned me against even stepping inside an Indian restaurant.
If not for being goaded into trying it again by family, I probably would have continued to exclude Indian cuisine when dining.  The lure of a wide variety of vegetarian selections was the biggest reason for giving it another try.  So feeling in an adventurous mood, off we went to one of the best Indian restaurants in Bangkok.  I was hooked.  Two nights later, we went to another incredible Indian restaurant in Bangkok and I started to wonder how I had missed out on Indian cuisine for much of my life.

I began to try restaurants in the States and also experimented with recipes at home.  A jaunt to my local Indian market had me armed with all of the necessary spices that now have become a staple in my kitchen.  Then, I finally had the opportunity to travel to India and to experience the cuisine in its homeland.
While traveling through India, I was fortunate to dine at some amazing restaurants.  As noted in a previous entry, we had a delicious meal at The Copper Chimney in Jaipur and ate well pretty much everywhere we went.  However, it was on our visit to Mumbai that I had one of the best Indian meals I think I have ever had.  

A good friend who lives in Mumbai took us one evening to Trishna, a restaurant close to the synagogue in the old Fort district.  With an unassuming entrance, it would be very easy to miss this place completely.  The décor is not very special, a modern minimalist version of traditional Indian. But it isn’t the decor that brings one to Trishna, it’s the food.  Popular with Bollywood stars and Mumbai businessmen,  the place was packed with a chicly dressed crowd and bustling waiters hurriedly went from table to table.  Trusting my friend’s expertise, we let him order for us and waited in anticipation of what would arrive.

Trishna is famous for its incredible seafood and my dinner companions made the most of it.  Starting with the Medium Prawn in Chilly-Garlic sauce, they eagerly dove in and all conversation stopped as they ate there way through two servings.  For the main course they split an order of Crab in a Garlic-Pepper-Butter sauce and Pomfret Sholey Kabab.  Both companions commented on the freshness of the seafood and the absolutely perfect seasoning in all of the dishes, my American companion declaring that it was some of the best seafood he had ever eaten.

Since Trishna's specialty is seafood, I went into the vegetarian menu with no expectations.  Despite other reviews that I have read that describe the wait staff as snooty, the staff were actually very friendly and helpful with my party.  Wanting to try dishes I had not previously had, on the recommendation of our waiter I ordered the Dal Kolhapuri (lentils in a spiced tomato sauce with a hint of coconut),  Vegetable Kadai (mixed vegetables, capiscum and onion in a spiced tomato sauce) and Sarso Ka Sag (mustard leaves and spinach in a garlic sauce).  As I sampled each dish, I was bowled over by the perfect seasoning.  While most dishes that I ate in India had hints of the spices that lay within, the predominant spice one tasted was chili. Don’t get me wrong, they were still excellent, but Trishna kicked it up to an even higher level.  At Trishna, the spices were so perfectly balanced as to allow you to enjoy the complexity of all of the ingredients, giving each dish a richness I had as yet experienced in my Indian travels.  All of these wonderful foods were eaten with hearty helpings of the Indian breads, paratha and naan, ordered plain so as not to interfere with the spices of the main courses.

On my trip through India, I was very pleased with all of my meals to varying degrees.  Trishna, however, is the restaurant that will live with me as my best food memory of the country.  Having experienced such excellence, I know that I will return!  I will also use it a measuring stick for restaurants that I visit on my next visit, as I am sure that there are more such delights to be had in a country so well know for its cuisine.  


  1. OMGoodness Mdivani the dishes in the photos looks so authentic and delicious!! I want to book a ticket to Bombay now!! I need to save this or just will contact you when I go for recommendation. Such an amazing experience!!

  2. Shulie!

    Really is a phenomenal place! By all means, just contact me when you are going and I will steer you in the right direction :)