Amidst the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra lies the picturesque town of Malvan, and from this understated little place comes the wildly popular Malvani cuisine. This much-loved culinary technique is characterised by fiery flavours, a ton of seafood and an almost religious devotion to coconut. What makes it most interesting though are its democratic roots, as it’s thought to be a mélange of several different cooking styles with roots in fishing villages along the coastal belts of Maharashtra, Goa, and parts of northern Karnataka.
While there are some areas of the Konkan coast that confine themselves to vegetarian cuisine, for the most part Malvani food is typified by its exquisite seafood dishes (no, seriously, if you don’t like seafood, you are really not going to like what’s coming). Mumbai, being a coastal city, is awash with options to get to know and love the intricacies of Malvani food, and what better way to appreciate the bounty of our fishing villages than a culinary journey through the best of this cuisine’s dishes. So come forth, seafood lovers, and explore our guide to the most delicious offerings at the best Malvani restaurants across the city.
I. Jai Hind @ Bandra West
Of course Jai Hind, every Bandra resident whose been well acquainted with Malvani food ought to tell you that this lunch home is the absolute pit stop for all your Malvani related cravings. This restaurant features a blend of Mangalorean and Konkan food. A daintily clad space to dine in, well as for me – I most certainly believe that they sold their soul to the Malvani gods. Their finely ground spices hit all the right spots, we all know that the spice threshold when it comes to this cuisine, isn’t for the weak hearted. The famous fish Surmai thali is one of the dishes that hit home for those avid pescatarian lovers, who just can’t get enough of this piscine delight. As an ardent neer dosa lover, I’ll have you know that the very texture of this handkerchief rice dosa, is phenomenally made with ultimate cadence. Light and ever so fine that around three plates (which makes for 9 of these delicate babies) ought to still leave room for you to chase the spice down with soul kadi, a fusion of coconut juice and kokam. Another wonder for those who aren’t fish lovers is the chicken sukkah thali best devoured with neer dosa, well you’re welcome! As for the other options on the menu too, are worth being fawned over.
What you’re getting: The famous Surmai thali/chicken sukha relished with neer dosa.
Cost for two: Rs. 850
II. Acharekar’s Malvan Katta @ Dadar West
This tiny place is almost impossible to find, but it’s well worth the search. They specialise in authentic Malvani cuisine and that, of course, comes with the promise of outstanding seafood. Their fish thalis are worth a try, filled with all the standards including rice, rotis, curries of fish and 2/3 subzis. But the standalone dishes that shine through the delicious clutter are the Malvani oysters and Barlela Pomfret, both of which are full of traditional Konkan flavour. Embodying all the typical Malvani spices, these creations should definitely be in your order.
What you’re getting: The Malvani-style Oysters and Barlela Pomfret obviously. We didn’t spend the last sentence talking it up for no reason.
Cost for two: Rs. 500
III. Chaitanya @ Shivaji Park
If it’s wholesome, home-style cooking you crave, Chaitanya’s is the place to go. This easy-to-miss, ten-seater restaurant is popular with seafood lovers across the city, and for good reason. It’s the product of food-loving housewife Surekha Walke and her dream to serve her favourite Malvani dishes--a dream her patrons are really glad she had. . Seafood with it’s own uniquely curated menu, freshly delivering authenticity on a plate. Targeting and accumulating crowds through prominent pescatarian dishes like crabs richly doused and cooked in a butter garlic broth sautéed in aromatic herbs, to those god sent vip lollipops that garnered a lot of fame and attention by the public sphere; crunchy crumb fried and coated in a golden brown hue, in all it’s meaty goodness the Crab Lollipop. They also do a good job at delivering an extremely well done Tisraya (shell) masala, the lightly roasted texture of the coconut sure does leave an indelible mark on your palette. Mrs.Walke’s skills are best displayed in her Tisriya Masala which has an earthy yet fiery taste that gives her food a clear edge over more commercially-run establishments. Of course, it’s also home to some of the local favourites that we can’t do without, Surmai thali (King Fish) and Pomfret fry and the delectable prawn thali. Everything off of their menu is a true palatable experience. All this and they keep the fish curry and rice comin’.
What you’re getting: Chaitanya’s Crab Lollipop, Butter Garlic Crab and Tisriya (clam) Masala is the best in the city.
Cost for two: Rs. 500
IV. Gajalee @ Lower Parel and Vile Parle East
Gajalee means conversation in Malvani and Konkani and this restaurant certainly creates the perfect ambience for pleasant conversation. The food is authentically Malvani. Though it serves up tons of bastardized options for less experimental people like butter garlic crabs, it never fails to deliver on a lavish seafood experience every time you visit. The must-try items are their Bombay Duck fry, the Prawns Masala and the Tandoori Crab, each as wildly flavoursome and delectable as the next. They may be a little on the pricey side for their portions and fame, but those masalas more than make up for that.
What you’re getting: Bombay Duck fry, Prawns Masala, Tandoori Crab are all great choices.
Cost for two: Rs. 1,000
V. Hotel Malvan @ Thane West
A welcome break from the aquatic slideshow comes from Hotel Malvan--the one Malvani restaurant where seafood doesn’t completely steal the show. Though all the usual suspects feature on their menu too, and many even revel in the perfection of their prawn sukha the house-favourite Special Chicken Dry is definitely their standout dish, where tender pieces of chicken are cooked in a thick peppery gravy, best enjoyed with their equally fresh and flaky parathas.
What you’re getting: Special Chicken Dry is perfect for everyone who needs a breather from all that seafood.
Cost for two: Rs. 900
VI. Hotel Mastyagandha Restaurant @ Goregaon West
The minimalist appearance of Hotel Mastyagandha hardly does justice to the fantastic food it creates. Plates across the restaurant are filled with a range of Malvani gravies that die-hard foodies swear by, and the friendly atmosphere is as inviting as those gorgeous, peppery flavours. Any regular would tell you that the must-try items are the Fish Curry, the Pomfret Thali and the Bharla Bombil, all of which are generously portioned and undeniably delicious.
What you’re getting: Fish Curry, Pomfret Thali, Bharla Bombil because we say what we mean, and we mean what we say.
Cost for two: Rs. 600
VII. Hotel Satkar @ Matunga West
Another hidden gem, this quiet little place is a favourite for people wanting to have a few drinks with their meal. While their seafood in general is highly praised (no surprises there), it’s the Prawn dishes that are their main attraction. The affordable bar and laid back environment makes it the perfect place to sample an outstanding example of Malvani cuisine, all with a drink alongside.
What you’re getting: Their prawn Curry with rice will make you think twice before you say Goa’s the only place that does it right.
Cost for two: Rs. 400
VIII. JP’s Lunch Home @ Goregaon East
This non-vegetarian haven of flavours promises a hearty meal for a very reasonable price. The staff is very friendly and always willing to guide you to your perfect meal, and they also have a delivery service that is highly recommended. As a traditional Malvani restaurant, their specialty dishes are of course the seafood, most notably the Bombil fry and the Surmai Thali which are staple crowd pleasers. And don’t forget to try them with the traditional komdi vades.
What you’re getting: Bombil fry and Surmai Thali
Cost for two: Rs. 400
IX. Malwani Aswad @ Vile Parle East
Tucked away in a corner on a busy road, Malvani Aswad is the epitome of tradition. Their unpretentious menu and simple decor are in no way detrimental to their business, as is evidenced by the crowds waiting to be seated. Their sumptuous seafood is the real highlight (surprise, surprise) and you can’t go wrong with the authentic Fish Curry. If it’s a hearty meal you’re looking for with no frills or flounces, this is the place to go.
What you’re getting: Fish Curry will satiate you in a way only true love can.
Cost for two: Rs. 350 - 400
X. Malwani Kalwan @ Versova
This simple restaurant on the Versova sea face is a must-try for people looking to get high quality seafood without compromising on quantity. The way to get the best out of your experience at Malwani is to order the thali, which allow you to sample just about everything they have on offer and then some. Both the fish and mutton thalis are excellent, and their vegetarian options are pretty popular too. See what you’re in the mood for, or go with a few hungry friends--that way you can make sure you try it all.
What you’re getting: Seafood Thali, Surmai Grilled and their vegetarian options come together for a truly well-balanced Malvani feast.
Cost for two: Rs. 800
XI. Ratnagiri Malvani @ Goregaon East or Lower Parel
Another seafood paradise, Ratnagiri Malvani has a few outlets and all are very popular with Malvani food lovers across the city. Their fish preparations are fan favourites and the thalis are a great way to sample the best they have to offer. They have separate bar and family sections so it is a great destination for both quiet dinners and weekend celebrations.
What you’re getting: We said it once and we’ll say it again. Fish thalis.
Cost for two: Rs. 250
XII. Sadiccha @ Bandra East
This typically Mumbai-Malvani restaurant specialises in Coastal sea food but delivers quality food across the board too. Their Mutton sukha is a favourite for the meat lovers and their Pomfret and Surmai thalis are probably the best in their seafood range. Whatever your protein of choice, you’re sure to get a hearty meal to carry you through the day. It’s a small place and usually crowded in the evenings so it may be easier to order home delivery but either way, it will not disappoint.
What you’re getting: We’re going to go with the Mutton sukha here, just for a little variety.
Cost for two: Rs. 500
XIII. Sindhudurg @ Dadar West
Sindhudurg is a region on the Konkan Coast which is one of the places Malvani cuisine has its roots and this restaurant really embodies the essential flavours of the region. Some swear by the Gawthi Komdi Masala but the true hero is of course the Fish Curry! This is one of the oldest restaurants in the area serving Malvani food and while it still has a devoted clientele there are some that believe it to be a bit pricy for the quantities.
What you’re getting: The place might be old but their fish curry is as fresh as it gets.
Cost for two: Rs. 650
XIV. Shri Datta Boarding @ Parel
Shri Datta Boarding served its first meal in 1920 and hasn’t slowed down since. It’s located in an area that is known for its Malvani restaurants and Shri Datta is among the best. As for their ideal dishes, you’d better brace yourselves...the thalis are coming! Their Pomfret thali, which is served with traditional vades has had people hooked for years and regulars swear by the fragrant Sol Kadi that is the go-to drink to accompany any Malvani meal.
What you’re getting: Pomfret Thali, because you’re worth it.
Cost for two: Rs. 600
XV. The Flying Butler, Majiwada, Thane West
If you manage to exhaust the options in the city and somehow feel like you can stomach more seafood, we have the perfect answer to your problem. Although it may be a bit further than most of you intend to travel for food (unless you happen to live in the area) The Flying Butler just had to be included for its standout Bombil Malvani Thali. If you do decide to head over some other excellent options are the fresh Bombil fry, the fish gravy and their Sol Kadi.
What you’re getting: Bombil Malvani Thali is worth moving all kinds of mountains.
Cost for two: Rs. 750
XVI. MaSa Malvani Cuisine @ Malad East
This restaurant may somewhat be considered a newbie in the food biz, although it has taken matters into it’s own hands, in terms of taste. Delivering authentic Malvani and Maharashtrian delicacies. With some of the freshest catches, served and displayed fresh on your platter. They do not compromise when it comes to sizeable proportions, either! Keep ‘em comin’ till we pass out, ladies! The interiors of this eatery go on to unfurl, a very rustic appeal the walls are adorned with adorable little baskets resembling those of the fisherfolk. Enough talk, let’s get down to the nitty gritty! Offering you a variety to choose from, the prawns Koliwada a deep fried delicacy served crisp alongside some traditional green chutney; the Bombil fry is coated in a semolina and rice flour mix to add to the crunch factor. Both of these are enlisted onto the extremely famous starters list. Try their assortment of pescatarian thalis, from which they offer you in Surmai, Pomfret, Prawns. You get to choose your pick of Bhakri/rice/chapati. This is a must try to those who are avid pescatarians at heart.
What you’re getting: Prawns Koliwada, Bombil Fry, Surmai/Pomfret/Prawns Thali.
Cost for two: Rs 600
Special Mention: Konkan Katta @ Mahakali
While this isn’t a sit down restaurant, Konkan Katta is one of the best ways to sample home cooked Malvani food. Owner Pramod Gandhi and his wife, both natives of Chiplun, a district of Ratnagiri, offer take away and delivery options of around 120 different dishes, all freshly made with individual care rarely seen in larger restaurants. Their most popular dishes include kombdi vade (which is basically chicken curry with fried puri-like dumplings made of rice flour) varieties of bhakri, and sukya jovalyache kismur (dry fish chutney).
What you’re getting: Kombdi Vade, Fish Curry
Cost for two: Rs 500
Research: Nida Irfan Razack
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