Bang opposite the Khar Railway Station (West) is the Ocean Bar And Restaurant. True to its name, it serves excellent seafood, not manglorean or Goan, more North Indian, with lots of green masalas, spinach, spring onions, tandoored, Hyderabadi style. It also has an extensive Chinese seafood section, done in various piquant sauces, what I would call Indian Chinese.
The motif of the place is the sea. You step into a comfortable room with frosted glasses, a high ceiling with dimmers, like an astral galaxy (under Capricorn Skies), sea nymphs and Lord Neptune scattered around the dining area, and an aquarium with plump piranhas and slim tiger sharks. Both these varieties, I am told, are harmless, but I would not plunge my hand in the tank. Outside, at the entrance to the restaurant, there are more dangerous crustasceans, crabs and lobsters sun-bathing in a glass tank. They are brought, live and wriggling, to the customer's table, before they are boiled or tandoored or whatever. The chefs, in the spotlessly clean kitchen behind, know their job, and there is a knowledgeable manager in the restaurant to guide you through the menu and take your orders, by the name of Dominique D'Mello.
You will require his assistance, because the restaurant has got a rather eccentric menu. Everything is Sea Nymphs, Sea Horse, Sea Shells, See Weeds, Sea Bread, Sea Reef, Sea Anemones (green salad, Russian salad, aloo, boondi, sabzi raita, etc.), Sea Frost (cold coffee with ice-cream). This in spite of the restaurant not being exclusively seafood, it serves some of the best bhuna gosht I have tasted in the suburbs, three varieties of kheemas (dhingri, methi and shahi), and several styles of chicken, including a Begum Bahar Murg that you have to eat.
But let me concentrate on the seafood, which is shopped early in the morning at Bhavcha Dhakka, Mazgaon. It is a wholesale market and the fisherwomen there sell their stocks by the basket. The crabs travel alive and are available in several styles, including plain tandoored, served with a touch of salt and pepper. I suggest what the manager refers to as the crab a la carte. I did not see it on the menu, so remember the name. It is done in a green masala, with vinegar, and a hot and sour gravy, and smooth cream spinach, the taste of the spinach enhancing as it gets married to the gravy. The garnish is capsicum and coriander leaves, and the crab is served with the claws and shell complete. So you have got to work a little if you want to eat it, though, helpfully the cook taps the claws and shell to make it easier for you to reach the meat and gravy. Use your hands, pick up a claw and suck, feel the hot gravy trickle out, then tear it open, get to the flesh. Remember, crab meat is the most tasty meat in the world, lobster's nothing near it. You have to dress it up, glaze it in cheese, to make it appetising. A full crab is served per order, and the price varies according to its size, ranging between Rs.250 and 300. Compared to the crab prices at some of the restaurants in the Fort, it is VFM, get yourself a season ticket, Churchgate to Khar.
I have also had a lobster balchow at the Ocean. I shall not vouch for its authenticity, but it tastes nice. The balchao is made with vinegar, though I do not think it is palm vinegar, and the meat of the lobster is scooped out and served on the platter, so that all you have to do is pick it up and eat it. The lobster claws are there, but they are kept on the side as display, and the entire dish is served on a bed of boiled and sauted vegetables. The price is Rs.275 plus.
You should also order the angel fish, the plumps kane, fried crisp and served with capsicum. And if yu don't care for capsicum, tell them in advance. Eat it by itself, or with drinks, there is a well-stocked bar on the mezzanine, with plenty of sitting room. Happy hour is 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. However, Mr. Jagdish Shetty, the proprietor, insists, the emphasis is on food, not the bar. It is a food-oriented place. Also, Tuesdays and Thursdays are candle light dinner evenings, the main lights are off, the dimmers on, candles at all tables, have your jhinga methi (Rs.120) by candlelight.
There are two assorted platters available, one is seafood, also known as Ocean Ka Dawat and Sea Treasure. Whatever seafood is available on the day, you will find on the platter, all properly grilled and tandoored, the delicate aroma of toasted meat in the air. There are different aromas for grilled lamb and grilled fish, the latter is more salty, a whiff of the sea air. There is an assorted meat platter also available, let me see: reshmi kabab, chicken tikka, chicken malai kabab, seekh kabab, tandoori kabab, kasturi kabab. Both the platters come garnished with what in the trade are known as tandoori salads, and the centre piece is a designer tomato with a little light burning in it. Make sure to take your children with you. They will love the lit tomatoes in the platters and the pair of baby sharks in the acquarium. Yes, each platter costs Rs.300 and four may dine from it, easy.
Among the meat dishes, I suggest the khassa murgh (Rs.135), tender and juicy chicken pieces, boneless, sauted with onions, green chillis, garlic and ginger, and cooked on a thick chicken stock. The Multani gosht (Rs.150), mutton pieces in green masala, cooked in curd and cream, and rolled into an omelette, garnished with dry fruits and grated cheese. It make a really rich omelette, not recommended for breakfast. And there is the gosht zandu, cooked in mutton stock and garnished with boiled eggs. Rs.135. Perhaps, I at this point, I should give details of the already mentioned shahi kheema. It is lamb kheema, with cream and butter, almond and cashew.
About the vegetarian menu, I shall only say, it is there. Then there is a special menu, a set meal, for kitty parties, and a free home delivery srvice between Santa Cruz and Bandra. It is a little tricky reaching the restaurant, because of the one ways, ask for Khar Railway Station and proceed towards it. When you hit the station, you hit Ocean. Once there, there is no problem. There is a valet parking service. Of course, I am assuming you are going there by car. If you are travelling by train, just step out and you are there, being welcomed by the crabs and lobsters.