After serenading Mumbai for years with her Gujarati snacks and street food at Soam, Pinky Chandan Dixit is now back with Aamchee – a vegetarian café with a gently recalibrated roster of Mumbai crowd pleasers. Alluringly tucked away in a heritage building across Wilson College in Girgaum, Aamchee is a light drenched space with a double height ceiling and white washed walls. Antique telephones with twisted cords and rotary dials peep from corner tables while visual designer Mena Malgaonkar’s paintings dangle from the walls. Though Aamchee is spread over three charming dining rooms the best seats line the arched, stained glass windows with views over the ever buzzing Babulnath streets and the roaring Chowpatty ahead.
An ode to Mumbai
The Aamchee menu crafted by Anuradha Medhora of Charoli Foods LLP, is inspired by Mumbai and the diverse communities that call it home. Each course provides seven items inspired from the city's seven islands. “Pinky’s brief for the menu was so spot on that I had already created 20 dishes in my head on the way back from my meeting with her” says Medhora who did a deep dive into the people of Mumbai and the food techniques practised by them. So the menu transverses its way from the koli community to the Tamil Brahmins, the Anglo Indians and the Paris of the city making pit stops at Fort, Dongri, Matunga, khotachiwadi and Bandra along the way.
We start with the peppery, spicy Matunga Rasam and then dive straight into the Khatta Thela Salad – inspired from Medhora’s memories of picking up her cousins from school on her visits to Mumbai. “I had never seen anything like it before and was absolutely fascinated by it. You could get churan, bor, imlee and star apple on a thela right outside the school.”
Her interpretation of the thela treats as a salad cleverly startled with a sweet and spicy chutney awakens all the senses. And though the famous Mumbai ragada patice reimagined as a potato waffle cloaked in ragada and topped with a chatpata chutney adds a sprinkling of theatre, it’s the misal that steals the show. The Maharashtrian sprouts gravy is sent off with buttery, pinwheel croissant rolls that help tame the robustly spiced misal. It’s a dish worth returning for.
Nostalgia on a plate
A spirited eccentricity pervades most dishes at Aamchee. Take the ubiquitous green chutney sandwich which gets a new life as Parsi Chutney Bombs. Here the mildly sweet and spicy chutney gets a potato jacket before being deep fried into crispy, succulent balls. Vada pav as a cute slider heaving with a fried green chilli and the famous aloo paratha of Sion play strong supporting roles. There’s also a Gymkhana special with Mac n Cheese and Vegetable Au Gratin. The star of the meal for me was the comforting and soothing Waran Bhaat. Topped with a dollop of ghee, it’s a meal I love returning to after my travels and on days I need some TLC. Medhora adds a groovy touch with a bakar bhaji (Nagpur style pumpkin preparation), crispy okra and deep fried stuffed chili. Aamchee is awaiting its liquor license but the Sol Kadi, Pomegranate Paloma and Tender Coconut Mojito make worthy accompaniments for now.
Clean-eating brigade look away now. Aamchee has not one but two section of sweet endings – desserts and after desserts. Then there is also a deli counter winking with tarts, chocolate pastries, tiramisu, cheesecakes and others. But for the sake of my waistline I settled for one - OG Trifle Pudding – a decadent stacking of fresh fruits, custard, jelly, whipped cream and sponge cake. For a 90s kid this undeniably delicious dessert is childhood in a bowl. It was a treat my mother made on special occasions!
The vibe of Aamchee is cheerful – perfect for partners (go for coffee by the window), pals and parents. The service is polite and efficient and the prices reasonable. Were there snags? The Currimbhoy Potato Salad perhaps needed some more bite from the kasundi mayo while the Masala Dosa Spring Rolls felt too contrived. Plus a few of the tables are wedged in so tightly that a degree of non-negotiable intimacy and some involuntary eaves dropping can’t be avoided. But the fact that Aamchee celebrates Mumbai classics through a fresh lens is undeniably charming. The food is faithful to tradition but dazzles with its ambition and acuity. Those familiar with Marathi will know that Aamchee translates to ‘ours’. It’s fitting.
Address: Soni Building 46, Pandita Ramabai Road, Opp Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Girgaon, Chowpatty, Mumbai
Timings: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Sunday)
Meal for two: INR 1,500 (approx). No Alcohol served yet.