How to run a restaurant the Gujarati way: Soam

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Channa hummus 

At times I wonder what goes on in Pinky Chandan Dixit’s mind.In a universe where Gujarati restaurants are synonymous with thali joints, she stepped into an alternate universe and opened an a la carte Gujarati restaurant. The model worked despite the fact that the price of individual dishes at her place would be close to that of thalis which offer a bouquet of dishes.  She didn’t stay constricted within the Gujarati framework despite her initial success and introduced dishes from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and the Parsi community in her menu. 

Cucumber chhas and sugarcane juice 

The queues outside her restaurant grew. This is not an easy achievement in Mumbai. That too for a restaurant which is vegetarian and serves no alcohol. 
Yet, Pinky gave space to home chefs to do pop ups around cuisines such as Kathiawadi, Pahari, Assamese etc  The home chefs were women, I don’t know if this was by design. 
One can understand taking the  occasional risk when things are going fine. 
Red rice cucumber dosa

What one doesn’t understand is the logic behind bringing in seasonal menus which are distinct when her regular menu has struck gold?
Amiri  Khaman

 Take the summer menu which I tried today for example. Most of which didn’t look like anything Soam serves. Some dishes worked for me. Some didn’t. I loved the freshness of the amiri khaman and of the cucumber chhas. The sheer wizardry of the desi mezze with the garlicky black channa hummus and the tantalising thecha tzatziki. The red rice cucumber dosa felt so soothing and nourishing. 
Thecha tzatziki 

Some didn’t work. The dahi pohe for example, which was a sight for sore eyes in the heat but which was let down by the undecided texture of the pohe which was neither here nor there. 
Dahi pohe


An identity crisis which got mirrored in the khaman with ras. A wannabe rasam vada at the most.
Khaman with ras


But it’s not about the scorecard. What I can’t fathom is why not stick to dishes such as aamras puri which are like blue jeans in summer? Classics. Why venture into unknown territory? Why mess with a winning formula, I asked Pinky once.
Aamras puri 


“It’s because the average age of our patrons is going up. How do we stay relevant to the new audience is what I ask myself and my consultants such as Saee Koranne Khandekar,” said Pinky.
Which brings me to where I started.
Try to get into Pinky’s head. There’s a lot to learn if you can do 
With chef Kunal Dhume from Melbourne 
PS: This is not an anonymous review.

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