Mumbai's first theme restaurant is appropriately Mexican. It is called Sheriff, has cowboys and cowgirls in ten gallon stetsons as waiters, posters of the bad men of the Wild West (Joe Bright, Reed Parker, the James Brothers, Bruce Dandy, Bill Mertos), wanted dead or alive, reward $5,000, a swing door to enter the saloon, movie clips of old Westerns on seven TV monitors, iron bars of the local prison gates, which lead into the kitchen, the city's first telephone and gramophone, discovered in Chor Bazar, and a manly menu of tachos, nachos, tostadas, quesadilas, burritos and chimichangas. Do not go alone, take your children with you.
It is located on Linking Road, Bandra, as most interesting things are these days. Who would have thought that sleepy little suburb of Monteiros and D'Souzas would wake up and outdate the whole city! Crawford Market is downmarket, and Colaba Causeway is a slum waiting for Shabana Azmi to assist it. Sheriff is almost at the start of the Linking Road, where it turns off from Bandra, the second or third building on the left. Plenty of parking space, and a cowboy waiting at the gate to assist you.
Enter and you are in the magic world of 'High Noon' and 'Destry Rides Again', created by Proprietor Sanjay Pratap. Behind the main door are the swing doors of a saloon bar, and inside, the first thing that strikes you is the amount of fine wood that has been used, all solid teak and devdar. You sit on a fine wood bench at a fine wood table. On the table are bowls of red and green salsa, a bottle of Tabasco, salt and pepper, and roasted peanuts treated with jalapino powder and Mexican herbs, all hot stuff, go easy. For the decor, I give 100 out of 100, but this column is about food, not decor.
It is Mexican, corn, red beans and chillis. A lot of the ingredients are authentic and can be traced to the source in Mexico, the Montery Jack cheese, guacamole sauce, the red, green and yellow jalapinos, even the refried beans are not rajmas, they are beans. A lot of assistance in the choice and preparation of the food has come from two excellent sources, Sanjeev Kapoor, the country's most famous TV chef, and Salim Khetani, who ran the Taco Bell for a number of years.
I am not very familiar with Mexican food, nor am I particularly fond of it. I find it rather dry, somewhat cheesy and tomato sour. But I am aware there is a big market for it, all over the world and now in India also. The existing Mexicans in the city, at The President, at Oberoi, and the New Yorker at Chowpatty, are all doing extremely well, though each serves a totally different kind of food, to make things more confusing.
At The President, I understand, the food is pure Mexican, Oberoi is Tex-Mex, and the New Yorker is the Gujarati vegetarian's idea of a Mexican heaven, and let's not kick it, it is doing better than the other two combined. At Sheriff, I would put the food somewhere between the three. Both the meat eaters and the vegetarians are looked after and the tacos come with vegetables and chicken fillings. Similarly, the fajitas (sizzlers) are veggie, paneer and chicken. The helpings are very large and very generous, the food is plated, and the staff, though new, is young, bright and smart in a Bandraish way, so it can guide the novitiate in what to order and eat. The prices also are easy, Rs.90 for the tacos, 65 for the nachos, 50 for the soups, and around Rs.140 for the sizzlers, and the enchiladas.
There are four soups and I suggest the Mexican chilli bean. It is a peppery soup with a puree of beans for base. Plus, for garnish, a few beans are sauted and added to the semi-thick stock, you get the full falvour when occasionally one of these beans comes in the mouth and you bite it. There is also a lime flavoured clear soup, with either shredded chicken or vegetables. A tortilla is fried, crumpled and dunked into it.
Two rather large enchiladas are served per order, with fillings of shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, spinach, tell the waiter what you want. Also, tell the waiter what sauces you want with it, chilli Tex-Mex, salsa verde (green), salsa Mexicana (red and not half as hot as the green one), a cheese sauce, and one with spiced jalapenos, like the Chinese one in which chopped green chillis are put in vinegar. The enchiladas are Rs.145 per serving and, though the restaurant is just over a month old, I am told very popular. The sizzlers are more interesting. I had chicken. The chicken, boneless, had been marinated in lime, jalopin chillis and worcester sauce. It is served in the large sizzler dish with rice, flavoured with red and green peppers, country fries (french fries, but fried with the potato skin), broccoli, sautred onions, stuffed tomatoes, etc. In a separate wooden box came two tortillas, which are really our rotis, but made with corn (makkai), not wheat. You flatted the tortilla, apply the sauces on it, the two salsas, sour cream, then put the chicken pieces on it, some vegetables roll the tortilla, pick it with your hand and eat it. A little messy, but great fun. Like eating roti kabab. It cost Rs.145. There's a lot more but if you want my advice, introduce yourself to the Mexican cuisine by going for what are known on the menu as the cowboy meals. Platillos Tex-Mex. They are combinations of Mexican rice, tacos, tortillas, salads. It is all very clearly stated on the menu.
Sheriff does not have a liquor licence yet, and I hope it never gets it. Liquor would ruin the place for children. But it has some interesting mocktails and floats. I cannot go through the entire list, that will require a supplement, but there is Texas Three Rivers (papaya, water melon and lime cooler), Hot Shots (minted Angoustra and lemon barley), and Jungle cooler (passion fruit, pineapple, orange and coconut milk). And some good desserts, from tiramisu to a fruit top cheese cake. And while I am at it, I should also mention Bavaria, the non-alcoholic beer. It is made in Holland, comes in beer cans, looks, tastes, has the aroma and texture of beer, even has a collar like a beer's when poured in a glass, but it is not beer. And it is zero calories. Rs.75 per can. Cheers.