PACK-A-PAV IS FEISTY IN FLAVOUR WITHOUT THE FUSS
Pack-A-Pav is a compact restaurant in Pali Hill that serves vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs. The restaurant’s menu is evolved and straightforward and includes dishes like the Chili Con Mutton Pav, Mushroom Sriracha Pav, and Nutella Cheese Pav.
Pack-a-Pav, Nargis Dutt Road, Pali Hill, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 099202 30240
Back in school, while learning about the 50 most important proverbs in the English language, there was nothing I agreed with less than the one about good things coming in small packages. How could that possibly be true? Had the creator of this proverb never had a birthday party with cake and ice cream (no clowns obviously) and a table full of large presents wrapped in shiny paper? Did they never go shopping and come home with large carrier bags just as fancy as what was inside them? Did they never supersize his McDonald’s order? Ever?
One Sunday many years later I changed my mind, but the proverb writer was still wrong. The fact is, not merely “good” but great things come in small packages – like Pack-a-Pav.
Pack-A-Pav is a compact restaurant/powerhouse in Pali Hill that serves vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs that taste of home. This is no cool cousin of the humble vada pav – it has a lineage all its own. The restaurant’s menu is evolved and straightforward, much like its name. The entire menu fits on a single page, and there is no swaying you by clumping global cuisines together under contrived, not-so-clever headings.
The kebabs are snug in a lightly toasted, warm milky bun, crisp on the outside, generously laden with yogurt dip made of dreams; some are garnished with fried onions around the edges, a perfect complement to the melange of textures and flavours both familiar and exciting. The Herb Chicken Seekh comes with a red paste spread lightly on the buns, instantly elevating the flavours of a classic kebab done right. The Irani Chicken comes with coconut chutney, and the Chilli Con Mutton is all dressed up in a crisp, caramelized onion fringe. All the kebabs have the perfect char – an accomplishment in itself, considering that Pack-a-Pav is modelled after a food truck and must be super efficient with space.
Two diligent cooks watch over the grill ensuring that it is all flavour, no fuss. A third assembles my large order and hands me bags of colourful tubes full of chips. The tubes are tightly sealed to preserve freshness and also manage to thwart all attempts to eat them before I get home.
Pack-a-Pav is pack-a-paving the way for more single origin restaurants to occupy Mumbai’s very crowded food space. Like the city, Pack-a-Pav is feisty in flavour and seems to have too much crammed into one thing, but unlike the city, this more-ness feels good, even welcome for a change. As I finish the last of my Tandoori Chicken Pav, I wonder why no one thought of this earlier. The concept is simple and features the classic dunking of kebabs (a staple) into chutney (another staple), maybe with a slice of bread (also a staple) to go with it. We’ve been eating this since we were children, long before we discovered the perils of a hangover, among other things. Pack-a-Pav appeals to your palate using nostalgia and familiarity, and it handles the responsibility that comes with it with skill. It makes me think of sunnier days, free from any of the complexities that adulthood brings. Perhaps that is why it is slated as a winner in my book – it presents perfectly the joy in the simplicity of comfort food, and that’s quite a great thing to pack in a little pav.