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ISSUE OF MAY 2003  
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Gateway to Gastronomy

In a state where prohibition is enforced, eating out is the one thing on which there is no restriction, says Sheetal Wadhwa Munshaw

Being a North Indian married into a large Gujarati family, there is never any dearth of interesting tales about the ‘Amdavadi’ lifestyle. The all- time-favourite one being the eating culture in ‘Amdavad’. I was always told, "Food is the nucleus of all activities in this city and Amdavadis eat and serve to their heart’s content." And in this case the old adage holds true – ‘You have to see it to believe it’. It was about eight in the morning when we landed up at foi’s (aunt’s) place and there was a full spread of Gujarati specialties lined up for us. As a new member of the family and a first time visitor to Ahmedabad, it took me all of 30 minutes to get initiated to this epicurean culture.
In fact culture and cuisine are two highlights of the city of Ahmedabad, and not necessarily in that order. Food is so large a preoccupation that places in New Ahmedabad are actually known by the restaurants located in the area. Eating out is the most popular form of entertainment and has been en vogue since times immemorial.

In the past, when the city was confined to Old Ahmedabad, Manek Chowk was the prime area for eating out. At the time, I was told, there was no concept of restaurants and street fare was the order of the day. Then slowly the restaurant concept settled in. Among the more famous restaurants in Old Ahmedabad are Chandravilas at Manek Chowk on Fernandes bridge. Apart from ‘fafda’ and ‘jalebi’, the other speciality of this place is that you would find the largest street booksellers under this bridge.

For traditional Gujurati thali, your best bet would be Chetna at Relief Road, Ratanpole. When it comes to local specialties, Raipur Bhajia House at Raipur Darwaja is patronised for its ‘bhajias’ and ‘khamans’. At any given time you would need to stand in a long queue to eat here, so don’t go there if you’re in a hurry. An interesting fact about this city is that the entire Old City was known by the ‘darwajas’ (gates), in that you could literally call it a ‘city of gates’. Inside all these gates there was a fort-like wall and one needed to access the city through these ‘darwajas’. Among the well-known ‘darwajas’ are Lal Darwaja, Teen Darwaja, Raipur Darwaja, Delhi Darwaja etc.

Agashiye

Back on the culinary trail, Khau Gali in Law Garden in New Ahmedabad is a gourmet’s delight dishing out sumptuous street fare. The new city also sports a host of new restaurants and cuisines apart from traditional Gujarati, Kathiawadi, Saurasthra and Rajasthani food. For traditional fare a ‘not miss’ is Vishala at Vasna. Tradition is reflected in its ambience, decor and cuisine lending it an essentially rustic feel. Its village setting is enhanced by dim lighting, small stalls dotting the pathway showcasing cultural souvenirs including a utensil museum and a whole lot more. Among the must-trys apart from the thali of course, are the hukka, lassi, masala chai and melt-in-the-mouth paans. It truly is a Gujurati cultural experience. . Another flagship restaurant for Gujarati food is Agashiye at Lal Darwaja. However, as a localite pointed out, “It is more for the popular taste than really authentic fare”.

Little Italy

Gordhan Thal located at the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway is a legendary outlet in its own right. “Its humble beginning can be traced back to Gordhan maharaj (chef in Gujarati) hailing from Rajasthan who had become a household name in catering in traditional Ahmedabad. As eating out turned into a fashion statement, his heirs decided to ‘cash in’ on the brand’s goodwill and have established a popular restaurant called Gordhan Thal,” related Sanathan Pancholi, resident manager, Gujarat Tourism Board, Mumbai. The ambience and decor of this restaurant is essentially Rajwadi style detailing mirror work, mud work and other traditional Rajasthani interiors. As a matter of fact most ‘maharajs’ originated from Rajasthan and adapted swiftly to preparing authentic Gujarati cuisine. Although, being neighbouring states both cuisines are greatly influenced by each other without losing their individual character.

The other popular restaurant is Gopi Dining Hall on Ashram Road. Ashram Road is the main road dividing the city into old and new Ahmedabad. This dining hall’s claim to fame is clearly its cuisine. An intrinsic part of any traditional meal in Ahmedabad are ice-creams and kulfis. And unlike other cities, ‘Amdavadis’ also eat ice-creams in winter. A household name for ice-creams is Patel and for kulfis the indisputable market leader is Asharfi.

Vishala

While traditional cuisine remains the pride of the city, the younger generation is experimental and have fast adapted to other culinary delicacies. Chaats and fast food are big in Ahmedabad be it on the streets or in chaat houses and fast food joints. Honest on C.G Road is probably the biggest name in Ahmedabad city for fast food. The other popular restaurant is Havmor at Navrangpura. Speaking of diverse cuisines, Punjabi food is big in Ahmedabad. Popular Punjabi restaurants include Mirch Masala at Swastik Cross Road, Tomato’s at CG Road, 9 Spice at the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway, Chuttneez at Fun Republic and Copper Chimney on CG Road. Incidentally CG Road is the main commercial road in New Ahmedabad, it’s like the pulse of the city housing all the branded stores and the commercial complexes making it the prime business area of the city. Bawarchi off CG Road is famous for its ‘Balti Paneer’ and the prime attraction of Sanjha Chula on Gota Gandhinagar highway is ‘Makai ki Roti’ and ‘Sarson Ka Saag’. For South Indian cuisine check out Sankalp near Sarkhej Gandhinagar highway. This restaurant has featured in the ‘Guiness Book Of World Records’ as the only restaurant to have made a 25 feet long ‘Dosa’. International cuisine is also permeating the scene with Starz at Fun Republic serving some Thai and Chinese fare and Little Italy, as the name suggests, offers some delectable Italian cuisine.

On the scene also are some mega multiplexes showcasing entertainment, movie theatres and of course restaurants. Fun Republic on Satellite Road has a shopping complex and multi-cuisine restaurants – Chuttneez and Starz. City Gold, is famous for its Mc Donalds. The other very popular multiplex is R’World that is among the biggest multiplexes in Asia, boasting a bowling alley, go-karting , a cyber cafe, video games etc. R’World is also the only address in Gujarat that offers popcorn in 22 flavours.

To list the whole gamut of restaurants in Ahmedabad would require a dedicated ‘Good Food Guide’. What I have attempted to do though is take you through the most popular gourmet destinations. So the next time you’re in Ahmedabad, don’t be surprised if the first question that comes your way when visiting a friend or relative is ‘Su Khaso?’ (What will you eat?) even before ‘Kem cho?’ (How are you?). And if you’re there to explore business opportunities, I’m sure you’ve gathered that the best way to clinch a deal is across the dinner table!

Fact File

Accommodation

  • Taj Residency, Ummed
    International Airport Circle, Hansol
    Ahmedabad - 382475,
    tel: (79)2864444;email: residency.ahmedabad@tajhotels.com
  • The Grand Bhagwati
    Near Rajpath Club, Thaltej-Satellite Rd, Ahmedabad - 380054,
    tel: (79)26841000;
    Website: www.thegrandbhagwati.com
  • Cama Park Plaza
    Khanpur, Ahmedabad - 380001
    tel: (79) 5601234;
    email: cpp@sarovarparkplaza.com
  • Holiday Inn Ahmedabad
    Near Nehru Bridge,
    Ahmedabad - 380001,
    tel: (79) 5505505; email: reservation@holidayinnahmedabad.com

Shopping
Ahmedabad specialities include jewellery, handloom and handicrafts and artifacts. The main areas for shopping would be Gandhi Road and Relief Road in Old Ahmedabad and in the new city don’t miss C.G Road, Law Garden noted for its‘ethnic fashion street’ and Maninagar. For curios look for Tamanna, Bandhej, Gurjari and Avasar Creations.

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