Monday, May 12, 2008

Aneesa came to collect me in the morning. We were going to meet her sisters from the UK at the Lakme Beauty Salon, fairly close to her grandparents place in Churchgate. I love the taxis in Mumbai: they're at least plentiful, fairly reliable, and don't involve vicious bargaining or the potential to fall out like those Bangalore rickshaws.

We found the place and ambled in: Aneesa was going to get a pedicure. Unfortunately they couldn't get me in on such short notice, which was probably a pity since my toe nails are beginning to take on a slightly horror show appearance. I was perfectly content to sit and read trashy magazines, watching Mumbaities have skin treatments.

I met Aneesa's sister, who was quite lovely: we discused India and various nerdy biological topics. She's just attained a PHD in biological science, and she specializes in human gum diseases, which I think is pretty cool. I asked her a few burning questions I've had for a long time about the difference in dirtiness between dog and human drool - apparantly dog drool does have less nasty stuff in it but still smells worse.

Aneesa's other sister emerged, who is ALSO a PHD (talented family, this) and specializes in communicative disease. I was impressed to find she used to work in Atlanta at the Disease Control Center, a fascinating receptacle of ebola and smallpox and polio and other nasty things. She said she "only" works with chickenpox, but I think chickenpox is much more relavant to our daily existence then Ebola anyway. I believe I came to admire her shamelessly when she told me about her visit to the Ebola Room at the headquarters. (They told her not to touch anything. She replies: "Why the hell would I WANT to?")

We were beginning to starve and Aneesa's pedicure was taking a bit, so she implored us to go on and get something and she'd catch up. Aneesa and I are both seafood addicts and we had been dying to try a place called Trishna, which is famous in Mumbai for seafood - especially crabs. Eating crab is one of the primary reasons I live upon this planet, so I was definitely game. I departed Aneesa with her sisters and we went over to the restaurant, which was down a rather slim alley in the Fort area. Still, we found it, and the bell-hop attired door guy ushered us in.

Trishna is a compact but reasonably classy place, full of wealthy looking people lunching on extremely messy seafood dishes on curiously white tableclothes. The service staff is a bit snooty but in the pleasant way that reminds you you are Getting What You Paid For. We settled on a chili garlic crab, squid masala, and some vegetables: bam, done.

Service is eerily fast, and the food lived up to all expectations. The chili garlic crab was sublime: it reminded me of my dad's near perfect rendition and definitely felt like home cooking. (Not as good as dad's though.) The chili sauce was perfectly spiced and had the right amount of kick, and we merrily chewed our way through the poor creature with brutal efficiency.

The squid masala was fine but I'm generally a bit underwhelmed by standard edition masala dishes: some sort of seafood in a coconut milk esque gravy. The vegetable jalfreizi was absolutely delicious and I devoured as much of it as I possibly could.

The bill wasn't cheap by India standards but still a total steal by US standards: 500 rupees or about 13 bucks for a big old crab. Would definitely run you more back home.

Aneesa unfortunately was unable to make it - apparantly her toes were taking quite a long time to dry out - so we met her at the hair saloon, where she and her sisters were having some sort of esoteric and eleaborate thing done to their roots. I accompanied them and sat for a while in the fading morning heat, watching the boats come out of Mumbai's remaining fishing colonies.

They decided to head on back to freshen up, but we determined we'd go out or something that night. Unfortunately, Indian families can get a little bit titchy about UnAttached Girls going out on their own in the evening, so I was on my own. This worked out fine: I found an Iranian restaurant that did chicken and edible hummus, then hung out at Cafe Leopold for a bit until I got sick of dreadlocked, ill looking Germans making eyes at me. Then I headed back to my hotel.

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