A 33-year-old Maharashtrian eatery from Ahmednagar debuts in Mumbai to offer authentic eats with spice levels that don't blow your head off
Misal Puri. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
We stepped into Marutirao Misalwale to spot two foreigners gleefully mopping up the restaurant's signature misal with puris. That they were enjoying the traditional Maharashtrian snack, known for its fiery spice levels, without shedding a tear, perked us up. We settled in the no-frills 20-seater (with sharing tables) launched three months back in Lower Parel by Rahul Khamkar. He's the third-generation owner of Marutirao Misalwale, whose flagship outlet in Ahmednagar was started in 1983.
Staples and innovations
To keep up with the demanding Mumbaikar's palate, the owners have expanded the menu comprising traditional Maharashtrian eats to include cheese and paneer variants too. We began with Misal Puri (Rs 40). Laced with well-cooked matki (sprouted moth beans), chopped onion and sev, the reddish-brown, medium-spicy curry impressed us with its balance of flavours.
Dry Fruit Mastani
The hint of cinnamon was a refreshing change from the watered-down, red chilli-heavy versions we've tried at a few Maharashtrian haunts. We added a dash of lime and enjoyed the dish with piping hot and fluffy puris. "Misal should not be eaten dry," a staffer pointed out when he saw that the sprouts had soaked up the curry. He quickly returned with a container and poured a second helping of the curry over misal.
Next, we tried Cheese Tari Vada Pav (Rs 70), comprising batata vadas perched on a bed of misal gravy, topped with grated cheese, and accompanied by sponge-soft pav. While we liked the crispy coating, the par-boiled potato chunks marred the taste of the vadas.
Then, we called for Kothimbir Vadi (Rs 50) and Mix Bhaji (Rs 40). The vadi won us over with its fried-till-crisp texture and melt-in-the-mouth filling, unlike other versions with slabs of dry and tart coriander fritters. The Mix Bhaji plate comprised spinach, potato and onion fritters. While the spinach and potato offerings were crunchy, the onion variety was heavy on the batter, and lacked the slight pungency associated with Kaanda Bhaji. Among the drinks, we relished Dry Fruit Mastani (Rs 160), a creamy concoction of cashews, raisins and almonds blended with milk, and ended the meal with Shrikhand (Rs 40). It was a packaged variety while we expected a homemade one, but still as delicious, infused with the a hint of aamras.
TIME: 6 am to 11 pm (daily)
AT: Khatijabai Mansion, near Deepak Talkies, Lower Parel.
Kothimbir Vadi served with tomato ketchup
Big dreams for the brand
Born and brought up in Ahmednagar, Marutirao Shinde, who started his career working in hotel kitchens in his native city, launched Marutirao Misalwale as a street shack in 1983. Supported by his wife, Kamalbai, he began serving Misal Puri, a recipe that remains unchanged till date. Within a few years, they bought a space to launch it as a restaurant and later, set up a second outlet in Ahmednagar.
Keen to keep the business alive, Shinde (who passed away in 2001) handed over the reigns to his maternal grandson Rahul Khamkar (born to Shinde's only daughter, Mangal). "I have been working at the restaurant since I was a kid. I would walk up to four kilometres to fetch water and wash plates," recalls the 26-year-old Khamkar, who is also responsible for expanding the menu at the Mumbai outlet. "Our ingredients are sourced from Ahmednagar. Even the wheat that we use is ground there and brought here. Within two years, we are also planning to expand to other parts of the city, and the rest of Maharashtra. Our vision is to make the brand like McDonald's," he reveals.
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