The more things change, the more they taste the same. Crytal, Chowpatty

‘We eat palak paneer when we are with our parents. Chhole bhature, masala papad, when we are with friends,’ said the young gentleman with a big grin. He had a plate of chhole bhature in front of him and was with fellow collegian (TYBA) friends. That sounded right. Who in their teens would order spinach when given a choice?

“Do you know what my friend & I used order here? Sukha alu, paneer bhurjee, kali dal, rajma and alu paratha. The thick, chilled kheer was a must. And our bill would never come to more than 30 Rs per head.”

The young man’s eyes popped out.

“That was in 1998 to 2000. Before you were born. I’d just moved in from Kolkata at the start of my career. 3 or 4 years older then than what you are now,” I reassured the kids.

I was shooting for #thalimumbai at @crystalrestaurants Chowpatty & suddenly decided to do a ‘@phil.rosenthal ‘ & interview those at the next table. This was spontaneous of course.

I later sent the waiter with four kheers to my new friends. They told me that they had already ordered one after listening to me & politely declined my offer of more.

I was alone & not with my friends this time. I ordered a thali. It doesn’t make sense to order individual dishes when dining alone. That’s why I am doing this series.

My friends have moved out of the city. The elderly owner who used to sit at the cash desk has passed away. The place is air conditioned now. The two swarthy moustachioed waiters in white have been replaced by thin, young waiters dressed in black, soft spoken & courteous.

The food tasted just as good. The rotis were hot & fresh. As Crystal clear as my memories. Such as of K & me often having dinner here before I dropped her home when we were dating. The heart of the place remains as big as ever. They gave us (my videographer & me) two plates to share the thali. No wonder Crystal remains the favourite of collegians, early jobbers, out of towners, those in the know; who appreciate good quality Punjabi vegetarian food. Or just food.

‘Uncle,’ said a young voice that broke my reverie. ‘Can you shift a bit so that we can move into the table beside you?”


Nostalgia comes at a cost’

PS: My thali came with a glass of chhas, a bowl of dahi, 3 rotis, rice, yellow dal, sukh alu (which I requested for in place of alu gobi), gobi sabzi (a tad sweet), papar. dahi & kheer.