Make sure to sample Maharashtrian cuisine here
When it comes to Maharashtrian cuisine, I have a weakness for the snacks. And if you happen to visit the Shivaji Park area, then Aaswad Upahar and Mithai Grih is a good choice for Maharashtrian food as its located right opposite Sena Bhavan. Personally, I have fond childhood memories at this restaurant. I visited this place after a period of 13 years and was pleased to see that it received a makeover in terms of being fully air-conditioned and owning a separate section where they sell sweets. But being fully air-conditioned is a mighty relief! Aaswad still draws many customers and has a waiting queue for entry to the place. The prices are reasonable with most snacks priced at under Rs 50 and the food is good.
Aaswad is renowned for their Missal, an iconic snack which people swear by. I find Missal way too spicy for my liking and so I stick to other standard fare. The Sabudana Wada was accompanied by Coconut chutney, though ideally I would prefer a Peanut chutney. The wadas, though deep fried to crispy goodness, wasnt great and were a bit rubbery in texture on the inside.
Another popular item, Kothimbir Wadi, was good, slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside (no crushed peanuts in this one). Mind you, this dish is spicy so make sure to order a glass of Piyush alongside. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of people polishing off the already spicy kothimbir wadis along with the pungent dry red chilli chutney as if it were powdered ketchup!
Their Thalipith is perhaps the best Ive ever had anywhere. Crisp, spicy, with a tiny hint of sweetness emerging from the bits of onions in them. If you see in the picture above, the thalipith is served with a spoon of white butter, which sadly, hardly any restaurants do. Also, with a little bowl of curd, mixed with green chilli pickle I guess.
The Piyush here isnt heavy and thick and is quite yellow in colour. Nevertheless, its a refreshing thirst quencher.
We also ordered Bharli Vangi i.e. stuffed brinjals along with Chapatis. The brinjals came in a coconut-based gravy flavoured with peanuts and was quite nice.
Lastly, for desserts, we were desperate to have Modaks here, which are also quite popular. These are of the steamed variety made from rice flour and stuffed with a sweet coconut-jaggery filling. Sadly, they were over and we ordered Kharvas. Two chunks of Kharvas flavoured with elaichi (cardamom) and jaiphal (nutmeg) powder. During my childhood days, they would add saffron strands too, making it a mouth-watering visual. The exorbitant prices of saffron these days is responsible for its disappearance from the Kharvas. Texture-wise, it was partially like paneer unlike the uber soft Chik that hawkers sell.
The food at Aaswad is not outstanding overall but is good. The prices are reasonable making it easy on the pocket. A meal for two will cost under Rs 200. However, what I find weird is the inclusion of other non-Maharashtrian fare like South Indian (no offense to South Indian cuisine, I love you dearly!), sandwiches, milkshakes, chaats, pizza, etc., making Maharashtrian dishes a minority on the menu. When you go there, Id recommend you stick to the real deal and ditch the rest.