And, on the evening of the Parsi New Year, some aspects of the national dish of the Parsis.
The best restaurant dhansak you can get is at the Britania Restaurant at Ballard Estate, run by Mrs. Kohinoor and family. The rice is just right, browned with burnt sugar and ghee-fried onions, the dal of a steady consistency, blended in a fine mash of pumpkin and methi, the meat – goat, bones, with thick marrow and meat on the top. Plus: the Kachumber, generously spiked with Vinegar, and a wet green chutney.
Wayside Inn also serves dhansak on a select day. Unfortunately, most of the time it is chicken dhansak, which is not a real chansak. It has to be mutton. But when Wayside Inn has its own established standards of food, you cannot argue with them. Only its regular customers can argue, and they will not argue because they have set the standards. There is also the A1 at Grant Road, but when they renovated the restaurant, they renovated the dhansak also.
The best restaurant for dhansak, I regret to say, are closed. Café Health off Meadows Streets, where old waiters moved about in waist-coats and gave yellow brass finger-bowls at the end of the meal; and Patuck next door, now serving chiken tikka and dum aloo; and the RTI's Horseshoe on Colaba Causeway (though its Landmark on Hughes Road serves an authentic dhansak in generous quantities – if you haven't tried it, try it); and Victory Stall on Apollo Bunder, every Thursday the dhansak would come in blue tiffin boxes from Parsi home. And all of knowledgeable Bombay would be there do consume it, along with the a bottle of Arlem beet. When the Atomic Energy Commission reclaimed that small portion of the pier and closed the place, they killed the best restaurant in town. Shame.
So where do you get a good plate of dhansak now? For the best, you have to go one of the gentleman's clubs. The Ripon Club, opposite the Bombay University, is sometimes known as the dhansak club. On one luncheon afternoon in the week (is it a Wednesday or a Thursday?), if you are taken to the club, you will find yourself in the middle of a jolly Pickwick Papers illustration. Bachi Karkaria has described the scene appropriately, I can only visuale it in my mind.
The other clubs are the CCI and the Royal Bombay Yatch Club. The afternoons they serve dhansak, their respective dining-rooms are full.
But these facilities are for members. Where would an ordinary citizen go? On the occasion of the Parsi New Year, I would suggest that one of the rich celebrants should open a restaurant which would serve only dhansak and kabab, nothing else.