Mumbai Food: Versova restaurant offers authentic Awadhi fare


Awadhi flavours from the Qureshi clan and diverse paan options make the ride to this Versova restaurant worth it

Nihari Gosht
Nihari Gosht. Pics/Sameer Markande

A wooden horse at the entrance of Basanti reminds us of Hema Malini’s beloved companion, Dhanno, from the runaway hit Sholay. However, Twinkle Keswani of Silver Beach Entertainment and Hospitality says the theme has “nothing to do with the film. The name reflects the restaurant’s inherent Indian roots.”

Bhindi Naintara
Bhindi Naintara

The interiors, designed by Minnie Bhatt, are a burst of bright colours and yet, strangely soothing. A minimalist look, restrained use of wall decorations, generous space between tables, and French windows create an illusion of space.

Awadhi delights
A few Punjabi staples aside, the menu has a distinct bent towards Awadhi cuisine. Chef de Cuisine Salim Qureshi of the famed Qureshi gharana brings family recipes and secret ingredients to Basanti. Head chef Rohan D’Souza says, “Chef Qureshi would carry a bag of ingredients that he would guard fiercely. We coaxed him to share his secrets.”

Sumit Kokate is the man responsible for Basanti's extensive paan menu
Sumit Kokate is the man responsible for Basanti’s extensive paan menu

The starter, Galawat ke Kebab, (Rs 365), is where chef Qureshi shows off his Lucknowi roots. The lamb is cooked to perfection such that the medallions melt in our mouth, while the spices tantalise our taste buds. The Nihari Gosht (Rs 390), from the Subz aur Salan section of the menu, consists of generous portions of lamb that fall right off the bone. The gravy of yoghurt, cooked with ginger, saffron and other spices, makes the dish pungent and calming, all at once. We savour a few vegetarian dishes, too – Bhindi Naintara (Rs 270) and Paneer Do Pyaza (Rs 290) are comfort picks. The Dal Ek Khaas (Rs 250), which is slow-cooked for hours, with dollops of butter added at intervals, is a hit at the table.

Paan’s labyrinth
Finally, it is time to savour the paan menu, which is peppered with curious names: Ice Paan, Fire Paan, Vanilla Paan, Pineapple Paan and Butterscotch Paan. The man behind the counter, Sumeet Kokate, previously worked at Tara Paan, a famous paan hangout in Nashik.

He proudly reveals that he was trained by ‘guru’ Tarasingh Shinde, who has supposedly created over 100 varieties of paan. Having learnt the ropes from the best, Kokate went on to experiment some more, while also borrowing from his guru. The result is a range of delicious betel-leaf treats. We start with the Blackcurrant Coffee (R85), where the leaf is dipped in a layer of melted chocolate. At first, we taste the sweet chocolate, but when we bite through the leaf, we experience a burst of flavours – fruity black currant and an after-taste of bitter coffee. The Fire Paan (R145) is all drama – cloves that hold the leaf together are set alight. You are to put the flaming paan right into your mouth to douse the flame. The fiery clove coats the palate, followed by kattha, gulkand, mukhwas, and other paan staples. The Ice Paan, on the other hand, is filled with crushed ice.

The Pineapple Paan (Rs 85) comes with a coating of the fruit and sugar paste. Inside, we taste sweetened coconut flakes, cardamom powder, gulkand, and mukhwas.

The establishment may have put out their disclaimers about Sholay, yet Amitabh Bachchan’s gimmicky hit tune, Khaike Paan Banaraswala, comes to mind as we exit Basanti.

Opens: Tonight (7 pm)
Time: 12 pm to 3.30 pm, 7 pm to 1 am (from August 24)
At: 7/11, Meera Apartments, Juhu Versova Link Road, Seven Bungalows, Andheri West.
Call: 7045637722

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