It began by Carter Road’s seaside, a plan which only the loitering cat around the nearby Danda fish market really knew. Three Cheshire grins appeared slowly in a flat above the ocean, growing larger and larger, until they hung like crescent moons, lighting up the dinner table that we were at last Sunday.
The files on these smiles belong to physicist-turned-cheese-maker Aditya Raghavan, engineer-turned-brewer Abhishek Chinchalkar and Andamans diver-turned-chef Anandita Kamani, who started The Danda Food Project (name inspired by Danda fish market trips), a 12-seater “restaurant” run out of home, where menu themes change according to moods.
We were there to record a roe-manchak seafood-beer matchmaking dinner this past weekend.
Dinner began with three quick small plates, the first, their take on a shrimp cocktail where the standard sweet-and-sour sauce was replaced with a dollop of peppery Chettinad chutney. Hotter was Tirphal (Konkani Sichuan pepper)-inspired Tuna Crudo, although we must say the use of local bhetki would have made for a far fresher mouthful. The bass, prepared using the traditional Assamese bamboo and coal cooking method, was a smoked fish dish that could have done with a stronger mustard oil punch.
Before the next boat of food docked at our port, we spoke to the eleven other seafarers at our table, which included a baker from Pune, a couple of corporate types, and the lovely chef Thomas Zacharias from The Bombay Canteen.
If anyone had the Sunday night blues, they were dispelled by what came next: crunchy-juicy crab tempura - one half dipped in Medu Wada batter - and tangy rasam combined gloriously to produce an umami explosion. City diners who can’t stop raving about the crab & popcorn grits at Bastian, need to try Danda’s fish roe that pop on the tongue, juicy like the ripest berries, accompanied by a luxurious daab-chingri Bong sauce. These catfish eggs were as memorable as some of the best Tobiko or Ilish roe we’ve had in the last few years. City diners who can’t stop raving about the crab & popcorn grits at Bastian, need to try Danda’s fish roe that pop on the tongue, juicy like the ripest berries, accompanied by a luxurious daab-chingri Bong sauce.
City diners who can’t stop raving about the crab & popcorn grits at Bastian, need to try Danda’s fish roe that pop on the tongue, juicy like the ripest berries, accompanied by a luxurious daab-chingri Bong sauce.
Special mention for bombil-fry vada pav (if Pack-a-Pav were to consider a fish sandwich, this would be a great reference) and an abundant seafood platter festooned with juicy clams, fried sardines, delicately steamed snapper, pink shrimp, and the fairest of them all - shorshe and poshto (mustard and poppy seed)-flavoured broth sweetly rounded off by the addition of eggplants, drumsticks and raw mango. At the end, the bitter chocolate ganache with lemon custard did feel a little out of place in this fishy meal, but it was smart, sophisticated and satiating. Expect the dinner setting here to be homely, not fancy, and if your experience is like ours, be patient with a few plating delays.
Stout by now, let’s end with the Danda Project’s beer pairings, which didn’t always work – prime example is the strange tangy rasam and kelp stout match. But when drunk in isolation, these were great; our favourite was the uplifting Grodziskie, a rice-based Polish beer made using local Ambe Mohar chawal.
The Danda Food Project may not be the best meal you’ll eat in Mumbai right now, but it’s definitely one of the most ingenious ones. The next dinner is at the end of the month, so sign up before the three Cheshire grins disappear into the darkness.
Getting there: The Bandra address is only revealed to diners on the day before the event and once payment is confirmed. No phones, just updates on Instagram via @dandafoodproject. 8 courses of food plus 4 craft beers will cost you Rs 3,200 per person.
Accessibility: Once you have the address, it’s easy enough to locate, but car parking could be a problem. Also, the building has an elevator.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was conducted by Auroni Mookerjee, copywriter, and chef at Grandma Mookerjee’s Kitchen and The Curry Brothers.
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