Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trishna: Go Fish

When we want to give visitors a taste of Bombay, one of our top dinner options has always been Trishna. It's a pity the waiters there are crabbier than the menu. Last night, after a panel discussion at NCPA, I entered the restaurant slightly ahead of Jabeen and our friend Anindya.
Me: Table for three?
A steward pointed to one of four empty tables. As I headed there another called me back.
Steward: When will your friends arrive?
Me: In about ten minutes.
Steward: Please wait here till they come, sir.
Me: But I want a beer. Why can't I sit at the table and wait for them?
Steward: Sorry sir, all tables are reserved.
Me: But you just told me that one was free.
He says nothing.

I wanted to leave right then, but I knew Jabeen wouldn't be in a restaurant hunting mood after a tough day that had taken her from Dadar to Andheri to Mazgaon to Colaba . I hung around near the door, reading a framed article from the International Herald Tribune which heaped praise on Trishna's crustaceans, but was considerably less enthusiastic about the waiters.
Me (to steward): See, even this review says your service is surly.
Steward (nonchalantly): There has to be something bad in a place, everything can't be good.

Despite myself, I couldn't help laughing at this philosophy. We give you good seafood, why would you want anything more? My two companions arrived, and a table was promptly dereserved for us. The king crab we had was appropriately delicious, and the other dishes weren't bad either. But two further unpleasant incidents marred the evening.
First -- and this is something I've experienced in a number of restaurants -- Trishna's menu lists prices for 30ml pegs, but if you ask for a vodka or whiskey their default option is to provide a double. At the bottom of a broad glass one can't necessarily tell it's a 60ml shot. In fact, I'm certain the first serving we were provided was a small measure. The bill, however, told a more expensive tale.
Second, the place behaves like an Udipi restaurant once the food has been consumed. No lingering over your drink and conversation even if there's nobody waiting for a seat. The waiters start fussily removing plates and cleaning up, and ask repeatedly if there's anything else you need when it's quite apparent there isn't.

I'm not sure if those crabs -- hardly cheap at around 1000 rupees per specimen -- make up for the bad service, the cramped seating and the liquor trickery. I've gone the crab in butter-garlic sauce route often enough, and would rather spend an evening at a restaurant where the food may be less flavourful, but the overall experience leaves me satisfied.


shivani said...

One should stick to beer at Trishna, anything else is dodgy.

adrian mckinty said...


Next time I'm in Bombay you've got to take me to this place.

I have to say I quite like a surly waitress but a surly waiter is a bit of a bore.

Girish Shahane said...

Ah, Adrian, just as I'd sworn off the place. But it's a deal.

DS said...

Adrian, don't be put off by Girish. This place IS worth going to.It's just that we regulars have noticed that over the years it's gotten pricier and surlier but unlike most places where if this happened the quality of the food would suffer, it hasn't happened as yet here. As yet.
And Mick Jagger went back two nights in a row...

Shivani, I wouldn't go here just for beer. Not with the cramped seating,and hustling you out the minute you've paid.

Girish Shahane said...

DS, I think Shivani means stick to beer as far as drinks go. I agree with you about the food, it's as yummy as ever.

globalbabble said...

There are only two kinds of waiters in Mumbai - the overeager and the surly. I am not sure why "casual and friendly" is so hard to come by among waiters in Mumbai.
Though I must say that whenever I eat out with you, poor service just shoots up. Dunno, if it is because you make me notice it more, or you are just a 'bad service' magnet ;-)

Girish Shahane said...

Guess which option I'm going for?

satish said...

this post evokes huge nostalgia. been 7 years since i moved out of bby to bgl.. and ages since i visited one of my favourite places while i was there. in a way, glad to note that some things haven;t changed and the waiters are as surly as ever :)

Girish Shahane said...

Globalbabble, I dined at a restaurant called The Tasting room last evening which had efficient and pleasant wait staff. Obviously my bad service magnet wasn't functioning for some reason.
In my experience, whether they are waiters in restaurants or sales assistants in shops, people from the north-east are always friendly and helpful. Don't know why that is.

dev said...

Hey Girish,
In NY they don't give you a table until everyone in the group has arrived. I think Trishna is ahead of the curve ;-)

Girish Shahane said...

Dev, I know you're being ironic, but let me point out that the US needn't be the gold standard for everything. Americans generally aren't great in the service with a smile department. Their airlines are the worst in the world in that respect. What you describe is typically rude NYC behaviour which would get me upset no matter where I faced it.
Among the things I like about Indian restaurants is their willingness to provide regular drinking water at no cost. Europeans are absurdly reluctant to do that. When McDonald's and other chains came to India, they took the no-free-water approach, but they've been forced to compromise.
Labour being cheap in India, it is reasonable to expect that, if one meal costs us the equivalent of a month's salary of an average worker, the restaurant will offer friendly service, no?