Tag Archives: maharashtra

Restaurants that don’t know chutney from cheese

When you go to a restaurant that says it is Indian, or Chinese, or Thai, you expect the staff and management to have some knowledge of the cuisine they are selling, but I end up being disappointed by restaurants – in Brazil and in Europe – so often  that I thought I would post a rant.

I was actually kicked out of an Italian restaurant in Spain (Santander) last August. I had complained that the food was terrible and sent back my starter, only to then find that my wife had an inedible starter *and* main course – at least my main course was OK. When we talked to the manager about it, he took great offence when we asked if he – or any of his staff – were Italian. When we asked further about which type of Italian food they were even attempting to cook, the manager got angry and said he was cooking Italian food Spanish-style for the locals.

He then booted us out. We had not eaten much, but had managed to consume a free bottle of wine so it was not a bad deal.

Today I went to an Indian restaurant in São Paulo and it felt the same. I ordered the combo meal in the vegetarian section of the menu, expecting some kind of veggie curry, only to get lettuce leaves with chunks of Minas cheese.

This was more of a fast food Indian restaurant, than a high class place, but I have tried several higher budget places in São Paulo and none of them serve anything that is at all authentic. One place I went to claims how they pride themselves on their Maharashtran cuisine, when everything remotely Indian on the menu looks more like north Indian food – and they even had things like pasta on the menu too.

I know that British restaurants are not perfect either. The bog-standard small-town Indian full of Friday night drinkers is usually run by Bangladeshis with dishes that originated in Birmingham rather than Bombay. But visit London and it is possible to easily find very good and authentic Indian food – especially around Southall (Punjabi, Gujurati) or Harrow (Tamil).

I know restaurants often modify food to suit local palates, but why don’t they offer a blend of the authentic and the modified, rather than trying to pass off nonsense dishes as “authentically Indian.”

I actually feel cheated. I go to a “good” restaurant hoping to learn something from the chef and management, not to find that I know an immeasurable amount more about the food than them.

I sent an email to the restaurant I was just at, asking exactly which part of India serves cheese from Minas Gerais on top of lettuce… if they answer, I’ll post it as a comment here…

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