Check out By The Tree Cafe if you’re in the vicinity and are not fussy about staying true to regional cuisine. Husein Upletawala says you’ll be charmed.
By The Tree Cafe aspires to be the value-for-money friendly neighbourhood cafe for residents of Salunke Vihar Road and Wanowrie, where folks can walk-in in shorts and loafers after a lazy evening stroll or order food from after a harrowing day at work. Unlike most places that aspire to do the same thing, this one succeeds.
It’s a cosy little restaurant with a couple of tables laid-out outside and an air-conditioned section, which can seat about 20 people. A blank wall holds photo-frames of exotic locales and a glass shelf full of exotic foods like Olives, pasta and sauces for sale. The illuminated trumpet on the glass door also caught our eye as we entered.
The menu comprises of regular Indian fare like kebabs and curries with a smattering of Chinese dishes like Manchurian, Hakka noodles thrown in for good measure. They also serve a number of popular American and continental dishes like steaks, pastas and Risotto. A limited selection of salads and breakfast items like eggs with toast (Rs 55) and English and American set breakfasts (Rs 160) are available all day.
We’re always up for food that sounds quirky or different. We ordered the Chicken Sholay Kebab (Rs 135), which the menu promises is a combination of Indian and Oriental flavours. Fusion cuisine fans might just appreciate these succulent pieces of chicken marinated and grilled with Indian spices and Chinese sauces. We tried picking out the sauces based on the heavy mix of flavours, but came up with nothing. There were so many flavours, even asking the staff proved futile.
Give it a shot if you are sick of the regular Achaari, Kalimiri and Reshmi kebabs. While the tangy kebab appetiser left us hungry for more, the owner recommended we try the chicken steak with the Pepper-Mushroom sauce (Rs 165). The palm-sized chicken fillet with a slice of chicken ham, herbed rice and herb and butter tossed vegetables arrived promptly. Surprisingly they use a Chicken thigh fillet – an oft ignored piece of meat, instead of the usual chicken breast. This meant that the meat was tender and juicy instead of the dry over done mess that is usually served up. The crunchy tossed vegetables added a great textural difference, but we were left looking for the mushrooms in the mildly flavoured sauce. Though peppery, the sauce lacked a depth of flavour that would have elevated this decent dish to a great one.
If you’re hopping in to grab a quick bite, they also offer a few economically priced Indian – Dal makhani with Rice (Rs119) and Chinese Manchurian with Burnt garlic rice (Rs 149) combo meals.
We generally look forward to the sweet treat at the end of a hearty meal. Sadly, there wasn’t a dessert selection to pick from, though we were informed that they may just have chocolate brownies and chocolate mousse for afters very soon.
While this ‘cafe’ functions as a restaurant serving complete meals with limited beverage options, if you’re looking for anything fancier than Nescafe, we say head elsewhere.
Must try: Kebabs, Chicken steak.
Meal for two: Rs 500 inclusive of taxes.