Bollywood begins in Bandra.
The upscale Mumbai suburb is not only the centre of India's thriving Hindi cinema industry, it's also home to many of its biggest stars, including Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Shah Rukh Khan, and Aamir Khan.
Located just north of the Mithi River in Mumbai, it was once a fishing village that came under Portuguese control in the early 16th century. About 127 years later, Bandra was turned over to the English monarchy when King Charles married Catherine of Portugal.
Many Goans, whose traditional territory had been colonized by the Portuguese, live in Bandra. This suburb is also home to a substantial number of Parsis—descendants of Persian Zoroastrians who moved to India to flee Muslim rule in the eighth century CE. In addition, there are some Anglo-Indians, a community of people with mixed British and Indian ancestry.
The nearby suburb of Mahim is mostly Muslim. This makes Bandra a true Indian melting pot, where cultures are reflected in the different types of street food.
All of these influences also come together in the menu of a new restaurant in Surrey called Bandra Cafe (#110–7310 120th Street).
Located in the Strawberry Hill Shopping Centre (at the corner of 120th Street and 72 Avenue), it offers the same type of urban vibe that people might feel if they went out for a bite in Bandra.
Large black-and-white photos on the western wall reveal different aspects of the Mumbai suburb, whereas the northern wall is dominated a large, bright mural.
What truly makes Bandra Cafe memorable, however, is its menu of modernized street food.
On a recent trip, my dining companion and I tried the Kheema Bombs ($11.99), a popular Goan snack that could be considered the equivalent of a Canadian sausage roll. These treats are created by stuffing mashed potatoes with mutton kheema (ground meat). Then, this is rolled in crumbs and lightly fried.
These Kheema Bombs came with mint sauce and a western salad, which helped offset the relatively mild spices. At Bandra Cafe, there were no greasy after-effects.
We also tried the Parsi Salli Chicken ($16.99), which might be the only Parsi dish on any restaurant menu in the Lower Mainland. "Tried" is a euphemism because in reality, I gobbled down this tasty chicken masala dish.
It included potato straws, reflecting the British influence on colonial India. And there was a sweet and sour kick, perhaps due to the inclusion of some vinegar and sugar.
Parsi Salli Chicken is eaten in Bombay and at Bandra Cafe with pav, which is a bread commonly sold in Mumbai. The pav can be used to scoop up the sauce, which I did, and it tasted authentic and truly home-cooked.
For dessert, we ordered Kulfi Falooda ($6.99), which is typically served at Indian weddings. Here, Indian ice cream is enhanced with cold vermicelli and rose syrup. I highly recommend this for anyone hoping to counter spicy earlier dishes.
In Surrey, there are countless Punjabi-oriented restaurants.
But even though the Bandra Cafe is within walking distance of one of the largest Sikh gurdwaras in the country, this is certainly not Punjabi cuisine. You won't find saag paneer or butter chicken on the Bandra Cafe menu, but there are many western dishes, reflecting Mumbai's cosmopolitan dining culture.
Plus, there is a long list of chais and plenty of offerings for any vegetarians or vegans in your circle of friends. And the parking is free.