Some of the most lavish food in the country is at a Parsi wedding. Simultaneously you are served on large plantain leaves (since a normal plate would not hold so much food) fish, fowl and meat, eggs and pulaos, a pudding in the middle and a kulfi at the end, apricot stews and aleti paletis. The trouble is Parsis are a small community and half of them do not get married, so invitations to Parsi wedding dinners are few and far between. Now that problem is solved. At Jimmy Boy's, the new restaurant in Bank Street, off Horniman Circle, you may have a lagan nu bhonu every night (except Sundays). Just walk in and order.
It is not a complete lagan nu bhonu, but most of the main items are there, and it is even served in a plantain leaf, though the leaf is placed in a large plate. The items change daily, check the time-table I have included on this page.
I shall now mention a few dishes, and, to begin with, my all time favourite - khichri and saas ni machhi. The khichri is yellow rice, made yellow with turmeric. The saas is the white gravy that comes with the pomfret fillets, a little glutinous, at once sweet, sour and hot. It is a peculiar taste, like a kadhi, but more substantial and with a lot more body, and the aroma of the fish dominating, plus the cherry tomatoes. The pomfret at Jimmy Boy is absolutely fresh, not refrigerated, for the saas, it is boiled, so the meat is tender, the skin still on it. I normally unwrap the skin and eat it at the end. The whiteness and the glutinous os the gravy is because of the rice flour used in making it, along with raw eggs that are broken and stirred into it. The eggs form the base, it is liquified with the stock in which the pomfret was boiled. Jeera, kothmir and slit chillies are added, then the cherry tomatoes, so much sweeter than regular tomatoes. The pomfret is half cooked, then added to the saas for the last five to ten minutes of cooking. And, for the final Parsi touch, sugar and Kersasp Kolah's toddy vinegar from Navsari. Put the saas on the khichri, the white gravy on the yellow rice, and eat it, with occasional helpings of the fish.
If it is not the saas fish, then it is the other weddin pomfret, stuffed with green chutney, wrapped in plantain leaf, and steamed. What the Parsis call patra ni machhi. Ask them to give you the head, it has the maximum chutney inside, though a lot of people prefer the tail. It comes wrapped on the table. Carefully, with your fingers, you unwrap it, releasing the steam and filling the place with the aroma of the chutneyed fish. If anything, the pomfret here is even more tender than the one prepared for the saas.
The lagan nu bhonu is only in the night, 7 p.m. onwards. Though generally tables are available, and it is a big enough restaurant, with a mezzanine, it is best to book in advance. Telephone Nos. 270 0880 and 266 2503. The afternoons are a la carte, plus set combos, a variety of sandwiches, made with Bimbo Bread from the Bristo Bakery, some pastas, some pizzas, and a not to be forgotten kheema and brun.The Irani connection is natural because Jimmy Boy has been originally an Irani restaurant, Cafe India for 55 years, proprietor Boman A. Irani. Aspi (Aspan) J. Irani, who has taken charge of the place and has worked miracles with it, is the original Irani's nephew. And though the place has been completely rehauled, the Irani chairs and old worlddecor, along with a modern service counter where you can actually go and examine what you would like to have for lunch from the a la carte.
But let me return to the evening lagan nu bhonu, which is what I intend to concentrate on in this piece. I mention next the jardaloo sali boti, which, I believe, is on the bhonu practically every night. Jardaloo is apricot, or apricot is jardaloo, the dry one. It is used with meat to give it a sweet flavour, and I think this is an exclusive Parsi dish. Chef Damu Rohit, a native of Sanjan and a man who has spent many years working in Parsi kitchens, is responsible for the Parsi dishes at Jimmy Boy. He explained to me the process. The dry apricot is soaked in water for three to four hours, so it becomes plump and soft. The meat, which is small round pieces of boneless mutton (boti), is cooked in an onion and tomato gravy (some of the water in which the apricots were soaked is added to it) with appropriate masalas, plus sugar and toddy palm vinegar. The apricots are then added to it. The sali, potato strips (pommes alumettes), are served separately in a bowl. You pick them with your hand and put them on top of your jardaloo boti. Eat it all together, the meatiness of the meat, the sweetness of the apricot, and the saltiness of the fried potato strips. Also, experience the softness of the meat and apricots with the crispness of the chips. There will be a seed in the apricot. If you have got strong teeth, break the seed and eat the nut inside. The bhonu includes Parsi rotlis, wheat chapatis, soak them in the meaty gravy and eat.
At least one day in the week, there are large oval mutton cutlets, lacey with the egg batter in which they have been fried, and half drowned in a sharp tomato gravy.
So, there's fish and meat, and there's a rice dish every night. The khichri saas is already mentioned. Then there is dhan dar and fish patia. The rice is steamed, Basmati, best quality, each grain standing out, the dar (dal) is made from telwalla tur, boiled with haldi and salt, mashed, and seasoned with a vaghar of lassan and jeera in deshi ghee, with crisp fried onions on top. If any food is clean and pure, it is this rice and dal. But since meat or fish is required, a patia is served to place on top of the rice and dal, pomfret cooked in a thick gravy of onions chillis, jaggery and vinegar.
On other evenings, the restaurant serves curry rice and dhansak. These are not strictly wedding dishes, but they are included in the interest of variety. A certain amount of poetic licence has to be given. The dhansak is rich and thick with red pumpkin, brinjal, methi bhaji, phudina, the meat is with bone and is cooked with the dal. And for accompaniments, you get two kebabs, spicy, and an onion-tomato kachumber eith bits of raw mangoes.
Ther's wafer, a typical gajar mewa achar, and for dessert a choice of custard and kulfi. I suggest you take the custard, it is very rich. Vegetarians have an equally interesting lagan nu bhonu, though not quite. A non-vegetarian bhonu costs Rs. 250, a vegetarian Rs. 150, all found. And as they say at the Colaba Agiary, "Jamva chalo ji." Remember, tonight, it is closed, book for Monday.