Cafe Mumbai seemed to me to be just another small, nondescript restaurant on W Broadway that I would probably never have the opportunity to visit, since there are so many other fantastic restaurants out there that offer food that’s guaranteed to be good. However, Emme and I decided to stop in one evening when we were pretty much just desperate to eat something. Emme likes Indian, so we just picked out the first place that met that criterion – and that place just happened to be Cafe Mumbai.
It didn’t really seem like much from the outside (although that may be partially because its exterior is overshadowed by the more decorative storefront (i.e. huge bright pink awning) of the big cupcake shop next door to it) and, to be honest, it didn’t seem like much from the inside, either. But the atmosphere was relaxed enough to satisfy Emme and I, so we sat down and perused the menus for a short while.
The ambiance here definitely isn’t bad – it just isn’t anything special, either. The lights were a bit dimmer to create that “easygoing” sort of atmosphere, the Indian music playing in the background was at an appropriate level, and the dining room seemed pretty clean. About five or six tables were occupied when Emme and I entered, though a couple more small groups of people came and went during the time that we dined, so at least it seems like the place has some sort of following. Despite this, the noise level was pretty constant, which was nice (and rare). Also, although we were both a bit chilly at first, the restaurant warmed up a bit while we were there so we didn’t have to eat with our coats on (I can’t stand that!).
As for the service: It was good. There isn’t much more to say about it. The waiter was accommodating and happy to explain dishes to the best of his ability, and seemed to know the menu really well. He was pleasant and friendly, although a little hard to flag down for top-ups on water during the meal. Overall, though, the service was pretty good.
Emme kicked off the meal with a Mango Lassi. She said it was good — tasty — although her personal preference is for the drink to have a stronger rosy flavour (more rosewater).
She also ordered some Garlic Naan to go on the side of her meal. I took a bite after she tried it out — because her immediate comment (well, following the “Mmm!”) was that “This is really good naan.” I have to agree — the naan was great. The garlicky flavour was strong without being overpowering, the texture of the actual naan was wonderful, and it was just… really tasty.
As her main dish, Emme ordered some Chicken Vindallo with the request that it be made very mild (I was surprised she chose it since the menu indicated that it’s normally supposed to be really hot). Both of us like a little kick in our dishes, but are sensitive to spice. Luckily, the waiter didn’t mind, and Emme said her curry had the perfect amount of kick and was still full of flavour. (I’m guessing almost all of the “fiery” spices had to be omitted…)
I love chickpeas (garbanzo beans) so I asked for a really mild Channa Masala. Well… I’m sure Emme’s dish was good, but I’m also sure that mine was better. She tasted it and actually noted that my dish actually had even more of a spicy kick than hers… but it was still fine to me. My lips were on fire while eating this, but not in an uncomfortable-burning way, haha. The sauce and chickpeas were just fantastic and full of flavour, and I loved the fresh coriander and ginger on top.
The whole dish came together really nicely, and I ate it along with some Steamed Rice and a Side Salad. I could’ve done without the added oily component in my rice, but the freshly chopped basil was a nice addition and it was still a great accompaniment to the Channa Masala. Also, because my main dish did have a bit more kick than I expected, the side salad was a great way to cool down between bites. The raita that came with it wasn’t that awesome or noteworthy — and neither was the Raita that Emme actually also ordered on the side of her main dish — but the veggies were plentiful and, like the coriander and ginger on the Channa Masala, very fresh.
At the end, we still had leftovers — which we were actually pleased about for once. The meal was fully satisfying and eaten in a relatively nice setting in peace. The prices weren’t too bad, and were actually pretty reasonable considering the amount of food you get for what you pay. My final verdict would be that, yes, I would come back again if I were craving Indian food… though I will definitely still try out other places to see if there is actually even better Indian food around. Nevertheless – thumbs up for Cafe Mumbai. (Though perhaps they may want to do something about their store front to make the place more appealing!)