If you thought SodaBottleOpenerwala was the best thing that happened to India’s standalone restaurant scene, you only have reason to rejoice. After doing some commendable social service by transporting the quintessential Bombay Irani café and its oh-so-delicious offerings to cities around India, SodaBottleOpenerwala has set the bar higher with its ‘Postcards from Persia’ series of pop-ups. Naturally, they had to get a pop sensation to kick it off. Enter Anaida, that mellifluous singer of yesteryear, who we now discover is an ethereal cook as well.
Anaida’s Persian pop-up menu, which is available at the restaurant till the end of April (at the Khan Market and Mall of India outlets), is as different from SodaBottleOpenerwala’s menu as chalk is from cheese. While the restaurant specialises in Bombay Parsi food, which is redolent with the spicy influences of India, the pop-up harks back to the authentic roots of Iranian cuisine. Spice levels drop dramatically, the food is noticeably healthier, and the dishes are nothing short of a revelation. The Eshfahan Beryani, for instance, has no rice at all. Instead, fire-roasted (which is what ‘beryani’ means) minced lamb is presented in the folds of a naan. Irani Haleem, a popular breakfast dish, has just slow-cooked lamb and wheat paste (no pulses). I can also recommend the Fesenjan, a beautifully-plated chicken stew poshed up with pomegranates and walnuts and the Khorak-e- Gosht, a slow-cooked lamb shank flavoured with black lime, a Persian condiment. Vegetarians need not despair though. Apart from several healthy salads and soups, there’s Khorest-e- Bamiye (ladies’ finger Iranian style), Anaida’s Kashk-o- Bademjan (eggplant roll) and the Baghali Polo (dill and fava bean rice). If you like your spice levels a little higher, just add on old SodaBottleOpenerwala favourites like Tareli Machhi. And don’t forget to wash it all down with the brand-new summer cocktails.
I’m not quite sure what Anaida’s lineage is but that only adds to her allure. One thing is certain though: this pop star of possibly Indo-Iranian-Greek heritage is even better in the studio kitchen than in the studio. All you have to do is drop everything you’re doing and claim a table at SodaBottleOpenerwala right now. Your custom will ensure that the pop-up will, well, keep popping up at other SodaBottleOpenerwalas around the country (the next one might be in Bengaluru, we were told).