Quick Service Chinese Restaurants — Part 1
Mumbai is a fast city and people don’t always seem to have the time to just sit and enjoy a decent meal. This seems true more so now, as the average young crowd is working for almost 12-13 hours a day and they really don’t have any sort of time to enjoy a meal. Quick bites such as a Dosa from outside their office to a Vada Pao from outside the stations, usually are a big help, when it comes to beating those silly hunger pangs. Gone are the days when restaurateurs in Mumbai invest heavily in “Fine Dining” outlets, their attention is slowly shifting towards the “Quick Service Restaurants” a.k.a QSRs, which brings about a faster turnover and gives “Value for Money” a.k.a VFM to the customers. Seeing this change young entrepreneurs are now starting small yet fast food joints, unlike the big chains like Subway and McDonalds, they are entering the Chinese fast food business, because we all know – If there is something we all like, its good, cheap Chinese food!!! This is why we at Bombay Foodies decided to compile a list of QSR Chinese outlets, their hits and misses, time to visit and everything you need to know about them. We have concentrated our area from Bandra to Andheri in this edition. So here it goes.
1) Five Fat Monks:
Well lets begin with the Five Fat Monks. Bloggers are raving about it, Bandra and Ghatkopar-ites are raving about it and the fact that they already have two outlets in the city says a lot about this chain of QSRs. After a lot of planning between the Chef and the Foodie, we finally ended up at the Linking Road outlet one fine evening at about 8 pm.
What we saw, what we ate: This place is bang opposite National College, near a lot of other eateries and coffee shops. White walls, 3-D paintings, simple table and chair seating and the fact that 4 out of their 7 tables were occupied at 8 pm, shows that it’s doing well. A nice warm waiter came to our table, gave us paper handouts in which we had to tick mark what we needed to eat and while we were deciding what to have, he filled our glasses with water from a really funky looking bottle. We ticked the following: Pan Fried Dimsum (Rs 200), Smokey Yakitori Chicken (Rs 200) for our appetisers, for mains we called for the Holy Trinity with Prawns, Chicken and Lamb (Rs 295), Chao Bao Chicken (Rs 295) and their much talked about Make-it-your-way Wok. We selected Chicken Flat Noodles in a Black Pepper sauce with Pok choy, Shitake and Bell Peppers (Rs 295.) We also had a Coke Can (Rs 45) and Goey Chocolate Brownie (Rs 135) to finish our meal.
The Food: 6 pieces each of Dimsum and Yakitori made their way to our table first. Simple dishes, although we’ve had better Dimsum, as for some reason it was a little ‘eggy’ and doughy towards the end. The Yakitori had 2 pieces of chicken cubes per stick separated by spring onion greens (traditionally its supposed to be leeks) on a stick and a sweet Yakitori sauce. At this point, we will introduce the HERO of our meal, their Schezwan sauce; we used this as an accompaniment with all our dishes (though we aren’t supposed to) and I’m sure we must have finished a bottle or so!!! The Make-your- way Wok Noodles in Black Pepper sauce arrived first and it was a good, wholesome dish. Good portions, saucy, full of Chicken and Mushrooms with sliced Red Chilies (the Foodies’ favorite) as a garnish, this dish was decent and went down easily.
The Chao Bao rice had a good number of chicken chunks and a very few prawns pieces, was like a regular Egg Fried rice tossed in a little stock such that it wasn’t too dry. The Holy Trinity was another dish that has stewed noodles with beautifully roasted lamb, chicken and prawn,where the pieces were again, lesser than we would have liked. It was tossed in a light oyster sauce so a sauce based dish wasn’t needed as an accompaniment. Have to admit schezwan was things a lot better for us! For people who are familiar with the concept of a ‘Wok’, will like this place. But if you love your classic gravy and starch combination then the Wok might not be saucey enough for you ;). Coming to the dessert which was a layered brownie, we asked for a scoop of Ice Cream on the side as the brownie does not come with it. Dessert is not a very fancy affair here. Will go for it only when we’re really craving for something sweet and life has left us with no other option, whatsoever.
Damage and Final Verdict: This is a decent place to go and eat. If people are looking for a healthier version of Chinese food Five Fat Monks is the way to go. Try the sauces you prefer in the ‘Make-it-your-way Wok” section, they all looked and sounded really good. Oh! Did we forget to tell you the damages?? While we were blown away by the options, and their pricing, on paper, the restaurant seemed to have forgotten to add a tiny little detail about how “PRICES ARE EXCLUSIVE OF TAXES & SERVICE CHARGE 10% APPLICABLE.” Therefore when we got our bill we were a cool Rs 1900/- down!!! Without taxes it would have come up to 1400/- which for the amount of food we ate would have been perfect. Guys at Five Fat Monks, it would be great if this feedback was taken under consideration. Good job otherwise, we wish you all a very good luck for the future 🙂
Value For Money: 2.75
2) Go Panda! : As the description goes, Go panda is a “Funky Asian Gourmet” outlet serving some really Funky dishes. After all these years someone finally put an Oriental stuffing between two bread slices!! Quirky, Innovative and yes a little too funky. Go Panda! has opened up in a very populated location just before the famous Lokhandwala bridge, mainly a take-away place, but they do have a couple of tables in the outside section. So on a nice winter evening, the Bombay Foodies decided to go to the land of “Failed Actors” to try out Go Panda!
The Place and the Order: Like all places nowadays in Mumbai, if you aren’t situated in a Mall or commercial building, the space constraints are many so the restaurateurs have to make the most of what they have. And since this place is a QSR, they do not really require a massive space. The place as such did not have a lot of customers, but we could see orders pouring out of their kitchen, one after the other. And since we don’t care we sat and checked their menu out. Like their tag line says, the stuff on the menu did look “Funky” whether or not it was gourmet, you’ll just have to read on. The menu was divided into soups, apps (Panda Delights), Sandwiches, Pot meals (Served in pots!!), a few signature dishes and desserts and a couple of Combo Meals. From a vast menu these are the things we called for — Steamed Chicken Momos(Rs 195), Peanut Chicken and Cheese Grilled Sandwich(Rs 200), Dan Dan Noodles Chicken(Rs 220) and Malaysian Korma with Rice(Rs 275.)
The Food: To our surprise, the mains came to our table first! The Korma and the Noodles, both served in an earthen pot. The former was served with steamed rice in a small plastic take away container. Yes, we know what you are thinking, What the F*ck?!? Apart from the fact that it is quite silly to serve customers food in this fashion, we found it very difficult and messy, to eat. Anyway we continued eating. Now from what the Chef knows, Dan Dan Noodles, need to be a little on the pungent side of things. Here, it was made in what seemed like a Maggi ketchup based sauce with nice and crunchy vegetables. The noodles also weren’t nice and long, they seemed to have broken while being tossed in the wok we guess. Passable. The Korma was a really nice, warm and different tasting dish with fried Chicken balls, and a little more on the Indian side than Malaysian. Anything with a coconut base is much appreciated by us, so this dish was almost a winner. The quantity of rice was very less and the container it was served in (Plastic take away boxes) was appalling.
We were made to wait for a good 10 minutes for our appetizers to come so in that time we were discussing life and how stray dogs were allowed to come and sit in their open area (We did not mind it, but are sure a lot of other people would.) The appetizers arrived, and unfortunately we were full. So we finished off the dim-sums, again a little on the doughy side, good stuffing and a good dipping sauce. The Peanut and Chicken sandwich was the last thing that came to the table and we must thank God for that. It was two sandwiches, massive portions, filled with cheese and chopped chicken. The Chef could only eat one quarter of the sandwich and we must say was really good and tasted better the next day (if you don’t mind it getting soggy :P) !
Damages and Final Verdict: For all the above it was Rs. 930 all inclusive of taxes. We feel that Go Panda is reasonably priced, but has a lot more potential than it displays. We would recommend you to eat the sandwiches as it might get a little soggy by the time it gets home. Hope their standards only get better.
Value For money: 3.5
3) Zoodles: Zoodles is the third and final part of our QSRs part 1 in the burbs and boy did we save the best for last. A small establishment but it does have more seating than Go Panda! And the menu is much more vast than both the earlier joints. The Chef decided to try this place for lunch, with his school and college mates, over the weekend.
The Place: Zoodles is located a little ahead of Quesso, in Oshiwara and is on the opposite side of the road. It is divided vertically into the kitchen and restaurant area with a couple of tables and really funky artwork on the walls. The place had a mixed crowd with ladies, young guys and a lot of home deliveries zooming out behind us! An outlet belonging to the the Speciality Restaurants, Zoodles does a lot of things right when it comes to quick service Chinese food.
The Order and the Food: We were four of us and hungry as f*ck! So the girls told me to order away and this is what we called for — Soy Chili Prawns(Rs 209), Chicken with Lemongrass(Rs 195), Red Chili Potatoes(Rs 169), Crispy Garlic Chicken(Rs 195) and Prawn wafers(Rs 69) for starters. For the mains we called for Sichuan fury Chicken with Rice(Rs 199) and Samurai’s Teriyaki Prawn with Flat Noodles(Rs 219) and a couple of water bottles and Lemon Iced tea for drinks. I thought it would be less food as this is what the Foodie and I regularly order, but was very wrong.
Now according to me what Zoodles has done right is include proper main course items. Things like Indonesian Rice or Bangkok street Noodles or even a Chicken in Ginger Coriander sauce , that can be combined with their Zoodles Boxes (which included main course — a wok in a box sort of concept) which I think is great!!! People aren’t stuck with limited option and sauces or even garnishes!!
Coming to our food, portion sizes weren’t the largest but 4 starters with a portion of prawn wafers was good enough for 4 people. The soft and fresh prawns was the clear favourite amongst us, finished in no time. 8 pieces of prawns, deep fried and tossed in a soy chili sauce which coated them nicely. The Red Chili Potatoes were finger-sized cut potatoes, tossed in a Chili Garlic sauce. They were nice and crunchy!! Thai Chicken could have had a lot more Thai flavours and a little less diamond cut lemongrass pieces. The fried Garlic Chicken was chicken pieces batter fried with garlic and ginger which gave it a Pakoda-like look and feel, but I’m not complaining. The wafers were a bit of a let down, they weren’t drained nor were they fried properly. They seemed to be very kanjoos with the sweet chili sauce that my friends were asking for, but the hot garlic sauce that was in the squeezy bottles was fantastic!
By the time our mains arrived the girls were almost full, but they still went at it all forks-blazing. The Teriyaki Prawns with its fresh prawns and really sweet-salty sauce, and flat noodles was wiped clean! The prawn dishes here really seem to be hitting the spot. The Sichuan Fury Chicken was an interesting yet tried and tasted version of a Schezwan sauce and Fried rice. Since the girls abandoned me half way, I had to finish most of the mains (Again not complaining!!)
Damages and Final Verdict: We ended up paying 1700/- all inclusive which worked out to about 425/- per person. VFM and HOW!!!! Like I said earlier, Zoodles has got a lot of things right, the food is f*cking delicious and they have got all the classic dishes spot on. They could increase their portions a little, have a few desserts even if they are outsourced and their staff could be a little more attentive. All in all good place for Lokhandwala goers, this place checks a lot of boxes in our search for the most Perfect QSR when it comes to Oriental food!
Value for Money: 4