For raan, the leg of a goat, you can't do better in this city than go to the Persian Darbar at Byculla, opposite Palace Cinema,under the flyover. They serve the full leg, broiled, fried, tandoored, plain, with masala with rice. Three persons can eat on one leg with ease, either tearing the meat off the bone, or holding the bone in hand and chomping on it in turn, in Henry VIII style. There are a few other restaurants which serves the raan, but Persian Darbar specialises in it.
What's so special about this raan? Let Mr. Rauf Ulpetwal, one of the partners of this place, explain. It's the goats, they are what are called the 'palva' goats, bought at the mandi bazaars. They are all young goats, kids, each weighing not more than 6 to 7 kilos. Their meat is white, not red, it is tender, melts in the mouth, the taste is good, it is good for health, it cooks fast. Only the goat is used, not the lamb. People do not like lamb meat in India. And only fresh meat is used at the Persian Darbar, never frozen.
There is a method of cooking the raan. First, only the hind legs are used, not the front. A full leg is used per order. It is cleaned and broiled in hot water with masala. It takes about half an hour, since the meat is tender. Then, as the orders come in, it is prepared. If it is for a raan fried, it is fried, for a raan tandoori, it is rolled in tandoori masala and tandoored, for a raan masala, it is cooked in masalas with a gravy. There is a raan chilli fried, which is done with Chinese sauces, soya, chilli, szechwan. And a raan done Kashmiri style, like a tabak mash, in pure butter and a soupy gravy, not spicy. I will give you the janata class prices: for a full fried raan the price is Rs. 254, masala raan Rs. 291, tandoori raan Rs. 268, raan with fried rice Rs. 336, etc.
The Persian Darbar has three dining areas, with the same menu but a slight difference in prices. There is the Hall, which is the downstairs area, quite neat and clean and waiters running around fetching your orders; the Balcony, where the prices are a few rupees more; and the Air-Conditioned Darbar Hall with a further increase in prices, but the difference is only a handful of rupees, and the food comes from the same kitchen. At the entrance to the restaurant is a sweetmeat stall, with barfis and halvas done in pure homemade ghee, and a fruit juice stall serving all the seasonal juices and more. The restaurant opened in 1976 and I have been visiting it off and on since then. All the waiters know me and serve me thick pineapple juice the minute I enter. They have a branch at Linking Road and a full-scale hotel on the outskirts of Panvel.
The raan, as I said, is its signature dish, and it sells about 100 legs every day. Other restaurants selling raan do about three or four in a day, so you get the picture. But it has some other outstanding dishes also. The chicken dishes for instance, the meat being always fresh. They do about 300 birds per day, all instant slaughter, cleaning and cooking. And there are Parsi dishes on the menu, marghi na farcha and sali boti, a separate barbecue menu, and a full Chinese menu, pages of it. I will not go into that, except mention that the fried rice has a lovely smokey aroma about it, and the meats inside are very crisp. I have not had that kind of mixed fried rice in many authentic Chinese restaurants. (Meaning, Chinese owned).
Let me pick a few dishes. Dabba Gosht: This is a Bohri speciality. It is cooked in a dabba, and, if you ask, served in a dabba. Boneless mutton, small pieces, some gurda, macaroni and green masala. Tomato is cut in slices and put on top. Then an egg beaten and spread on top, warm oil pored on it and the whole thing sealed and cooked in its own varied juices. You cut through the omelet to get to the meat. The combination of tastes is to be experienced. Rs. 32 at the Hall. Dal Gosht : A gentler version of the Parsi dhanshak, and uses dudhi instead of red pumpkin. At Persian Darbar it is particularly well done. They cook the meat first, with the dudhi getting a brown gravy. The dal, masoor, is cooked separately, thoroughly mashed, then the salan and dal, along with the meat and pieces of dudhi are cooked together, with bits of raw mangoes, or tamarind, or any other souring agent. In the season, with the raw mangoes, it is best. You eat it with jeera rice or baghar rice or plain rice. Plain,perhaps, is best. Rs. 43. Aab Gosht: An Arab favourite, and the restaurant gets its fair share of Arabs. Though it is good for others also, especially those with delicate stomachs, or reviving from illness. But in the Arab season, and they have a season when they visit, 15 to 20 kgs. of mutton goes into this dish. The meat is taken from the chest of the goat, and it is cooked with the bone, in water and butter, with potatoes and Kabuli channas. Just salt and a little pepper, no masalas. Served in a soup bowl, it is actually soup, with a chunk of tender meat on a bone, one potato and some of the grams. A neat, healthy dish, like a soup made at home on a winter evening. Rs. 110.
I could go on, there is a lot more food at this place. From 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. you could go on eating, from kheema, gurda, paya, bheja in the morning, through lunch and dinner, and late night biryanis made of kacha gosht and on dum. It is essentially a food place, eat hearty. Home delivery provided : 372 4525 and 371 4717. But the fun is sitting there in the hall and eating, and watching life go past in Byculla.