I have stayed right above this little dining shop umpteem times, the building houses one of my favorite hotels in Mumbai. I have seen this shop as many times too, but it was always so crowded that I never dared set foot in it. Plus the lane is quite dark, so I have wanted to try it, the crowds already bore testimony to what it delights it might house, but the crowd and the darkness of the lane was a turn off. Until now.
I was returning to Mumbai from Ratnagiri. I was in the AC coach of the Mandovi express with my mom and my sister. It was a comfortable journey, but we were exhausted, I had an injured foot and I had slept through most of the journey. The train, luckily wasn’t too late, and we were pretty much in Mumbai at a decent hour, but we were hungry as hell. We checked into the hotel. And left immediately for dinner. I had planned to take mom and sister to Pancham Puriwala, I knew none of us would be in a mood to walk a lot, and if it would be raining, it would be hell, and I was sure we would already be super hungry by the time we reach Mumbai. The problem was I had an impression that Pancham might close off by 11, in which case, the only close by option left to us, decent enough to take my family into would be McDonald’s at CST. I didn’t want to do that if I could avoid it. After a long journey, a burger and coke doesn’t help as much as a proper meal would to satisfy those rats running in your tummy. And as luck would have it, Pancham was open. It is a very simple, average looking shop, simple and inexpensive interiors.
It was the end of the day, so not much was left available. We ordered a full thali and a puri bhaji. We had no idea what bhaji we would get because it was clear we would only get what was left, it was already past 11PM. The food quickly arrives. There are stuffed puris, and palak puris, both of which are signature dishes at Pancham, with a variety of curries in the thali – the quintessential potato curry, the spinach curry, the chhole. And a puri bhaji with spinach curry. We hog on it, and realize we would still be hungry, and we need to order quickly before they close the kitchen. So, we order one more puri bhaji, which this time comes with chhole, and the waiter mentions that this was the last dough for the palak puri that was left with them. And, the restaurant seemed to be far from closing, we still saw customers coming in long after we had started eating.
The food was delicious, or maybe we were just too hungry and tired, but I would like to believe the former. It was super delicious. amazing crisp yet soft fried puris, with that little stuffing of pulses and spices, the delicious palak puri which had a spinachy taste to the puri we all grew up eating. The curries were just as amazing and my personal favorite became the aloo curry.
Pancham puriwala, has an amazing spread of meals with offerings of a variety of curries with their plain and masala puris. And best of all, it is super economic. You can get a puri bhaji at about Rs. 70 and a full thali at max Rs. 100. These are hard to find prices even in places like Anand and Vadodara where I generally reside, leave alone a happening expensive metro like Mumbai. Combine it with the taste it gives, I completely understand the crowds that gather here everyday. I am pretty sure, nothing fills you up and makes you feel satisfied better than Pancham in this area.
I am definitely making it a mandatory part of all my Mumbai trips moving forward. Don’t go by ambience or expect fine dining, sometimes the real pleasures lie inbeing down to earth.
Here’s my report card –
Taste – 8
Value for money – 9.5
Service – 8
Ambience – 5