The New Yorker on Chowpatty is arguably Mumbai's only bona fide pizzeria, it is also a Mexican restaurant, and at any time of day or evening it is permanently full with young people (age group 14 to 18). Next door is the Cream Centre, also permanently full. As I pass along Chowpatty, which is on my daily evening route, I find long queues of customers, patiently waiting outside on the pavement (average waiting time, an hour weekdays, two hours weekends). With such patronage, the managements of both the restaurants must be happy persons. In this case, both the places are owned by the same management, so it must be doubly happy.
Cream Centre is North Indian vegetarian, channa bhatura, etc., I shall deal with it some other time. New Yorker is cool, cool Americano, a little Tex-Mex, foodwise it is the youngest and liveliest place in town, full of fun food. It is also vegetarian, but that does not seem to have cramped its style at all.
Among the cuisines of the world, I am least familiar with Mexican food. I must confess I do not know the difference between nachos and tacos, tortilla chips, burritos and enchiladas. Still, if anybody makes them well, it is the New Yorker, at prices that are ten per cent more than Sukh Sagar, half those of Under The Over, and one-tenth of Casa Mexicana. They have invested in what is called a conveyor oven (not your common baking oven), which, I understand, first knocks out the moisture from the food, then cooks it, then browns it. and all this it does at a strict temperature control, which is essential, particularly for baking pizzas. The pizzas are the essence of the New Yorker, they are 50 per cent of its sales. They are made totally in-house, including the bread, the crust, the guacamole, sour cream, the cheese used is mozzarella. You get a regular cheese pizza for Rs.65, half for Rs.38. and you can choose your own toppings, from one and two...upto eight, including onion, green chilly, tomato, garlic, capsicum, pineapple, mushroom. There's a corn pizza, a baked beans pizza, and a Mexican pizza (guacamole and sour cream). Incidentally, guacamole is made from avocados, and I am not showing off, I just learnt about it. Then there are the mama-papa pizzas, which are a combination, and you may also order your pizzas in four quarter combination, so that you don't get committed to just one topping. I am no pizza authority, but afficionados tell me they are good value in this place. The crusts are thin and crispy, like a papad, brushed with oil and herbs, the oil giving them a sheen.
You may also pick up half-baked pizzas, given to you in snazzy American Stars & Stripes bags, take home, put in a 220(C preheated oven, and cook till the crust turns golden brown. This should take about six to eight minutes.
But I would suggest you eat in the restaurant. The atmosphere goes with pizza eating, it is young, lively, pop art, yeh hi hai time pass, baby, ah ha! The place mats are game puzzles, there are pencils kept next to them (embossed with the New Yorker emblem, like swizzle sticks you may take them home), while waiting for your orders, you do the puzzles. And each month they are changed, so never mind if you did them last month. When the restaurant opened, four years ago, it began as a self service. That was for one full day, the next day they started service on the table. Sanjiv Chona, the young proprietor, who is as young as his customers (well, almost), tells me that there is no restaurant in the city where self-service has survived. Our diners like to be served. On the day he opened, a diner came, handed over a 100-rupee note, and said, he wished to be served, charge whatever they wanted for the service.
The service is handled by Richard Mathias, the manager, who is also a young man and very helpful. And the place is constantly promoting itself, banking into the future. You take home a parcel of Rs.600 and you get a brick of ice-cream complimentary; you make a bill of Rs.500 and you get a T-shirt; while you are waiting in the queue outside, you get your chance at a lucky dip; you order a hot chocolate ice-cream and you get a free hot fudge.
And the rest of the food. For starters, there are onion rings (Rs.35) and everybody around you seem to be ordering them. They use only two or three outer layers of the onions, and the batter is seasoned with spices, the rings come out hot and crisp. I am told they are more popular than french fries and that is something unheard of. All over the world french fries outsell everything else. The nachos, Rs.50, with refried beans, Rs.55, are done in a creamy sauce prepared out of three types of cheeses, from sharp to mild and ordinary. The tortilla chips come with traditional red and green sauces (Rs.35). The sandwiches and burgers, unfortunately only vegetable, are made with bread and rolls baked in the restaurant's ovens, and though exclusively vegetarian, there is reasonably wide range of fillings, from mushroom in white sauce to garlic and capsicum. More unusual are the baked hot potatoes, the potato first boiled, then grated, placed on flat plates, topped and baked. The trick seems to be to put the toppings only on the centre so that the middle remains soft while the sides get crisp.
I shall not go into the burritos and the enchiladas, go home and have your chapattis, but I would like to make a special mention of the hot fudge nut (Rs.60 for the regular, Rs.40 for small) and the lime ice ice-cream soda (Rs.38). It is the only place I know in town where you get genuine fudge, sticky and gummy and with some elasticity. It wraps itself nicely round the walnut. As for the lime ice, it comes in a tall 600 ml. glass, a happy combination of four syrups, lime dominating, plus vanilla ice-cream, plus soda. Whatever soda the glass can hold is poured into it, the rest of the bottle is given to you. As you drink, you pour in more soda, stir the icecream, the lime syrup, drink more. I cannot think of a cooler or more refreshing drink to beat the heat.