‘It was built out of desperation,’ said Prasad Sadanand Nayak repeatedly while speaking about his 3-month-old restaurant, Maaslli, located at Mumbai’s Worli Naka.
In contrast, I found Maaslli to be one of the most exciting restaurants I’ve visited recently as it was one of the very few that offered Gaud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) cuisine. There was no sign of the ‘desperation’ that he spoke of. Just the celebration of great food.
And I found the juicy pomfret stuffed with chirpy kardi (tiny shrimp) inside, that I had at Maasli, to be the most memorable dish I have eaten so far this year.
|The inside of the stuffed pomfret. Clicked for
Prasad’s father, Sadanand Nayak, set up Liberty Restaurant 62 years back. A Udupi restaurant located, no surprise, in front of the grand old Liberty Cinema in South Mumbai.
Liberty had a smaller outpost called Liberty at Worli Naka. It did good business thanks to the Maharashtra State Charity Commission office building in front whose staff were regulars at the restaurant.
All this changed during the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown. Liberty had no customers with the office opposite it shutting down. The owners of Liberty did not want to sack their staff who had stuck with them through thick and thin. Salaries had to be paid with no revenues coming in.
|Prasad shows one of his favourites. Clams
Continuing with Liberty was not a viable option. Prasad and his brother, Rajesh Sadanand Nayak, did not want to give up the prime location. They thought of options. Chinese seemed to be the obvious option. Then they decided to go for seafood and the result was Maaslli, which has 8 tables, has been running full since.
What makes Maaslli stand out is that it is a rare, if not the only, restaurant in Mumbai to offer GSB food, apart from the more common Malvani food which Maaslli offers too. The restaurant was packed when I went in as Prasad’s guest with our common friend Vikas. We had a table reserved for us. The restaurant had a pleasant feel and was bright and fresh. Everyone inside looked happy. The aircon made the experience comfortable and there was no unpleasant smell despite it being a seafood dominant restaurant. The brass cutlery gave a more premium feel in contrast to the average Malvani lunch home. As did the pricing.
|With Prasad Sadanand Nayak
There was a long queue of people waiting to go in. Some of whom had to be turned back. I felt a bit guilty about occupying a table. Delivery app parcels were coming out of the kitchen. Prasad said that the kitchen is equipped to handle the demand. Prasad and Rajesh are hands-on entrepreneurs and any one of them is always in the kitchen overseeing what’s going on. They are keen to keen to keep their father’s legacy intact and the late Sadanand Nayak always put quality first says Prasad.
Prasad belongs to the GSB community himself and draws his roots to the Konkan belt in Mangalore. GSBs are spread across the Konkan belt on the west coast of India and they speak different versions of Konkani depending on where they are based. They trace their roots to Kashmir and are united by their love for seafood.
Apart from the stuffed pomfret, some other dishes I loved were the batata kaap, potato sliced and fried in a semolina seed coating. Prawn fry. Prawns fried in a similar semolina seeds (rava) coating and rendered beautifully juicy.
Another favourite of mine was the mutton ghee roast which looked red but was not fiery at all. Prasad said that the visual fearsome look was the ghee at work. The mutton was very tender and served boneless. His ghee roast was different from that of Shetty Lunch Home Kundapur’s chicken ghee roast said Prasad, and I agreed with this. The latter was far spicier.
|mutton ghee toast
Any hint of spiciness, if at all, was taken care of by the light and refreshing sol kadi (which had sugar).
Prasad is a bit of an alchemist. He added hing-flavoured liquid from a bottle to the dal and the tantalising triphala (fish curry gravy) which was tart and flavoursome but not hot, to show the before and after effects. He earlier did so with the dal.
Prasad worked in Leeds in real estate before returning to join the family business. We need more such examples of the younger generation taking their family’s restaurant legacy ahead in their own way. Ones which come to mind are the young gentlemen at Pancham Puriwala in Mumbai Aminia in Kolkata and Lahana Ghosh of Jugal’s in Kolkata.
If you know of any such examples, and the names of the gentlemen at Pancham and Aminia, then please let me know. Would love to share them.
I was hosted by Prasad at Maasli.
|There was a lot of food on the table but it was
so light and tasty that I finished most of it
with the help of my table mates