Whenever Bombay would come up as a child, I had the opportunity to hear about the wonders of Chembur and its decidedly South Indian bylanes, filled with flower and fruit vendors and eateries at every third door. So Hotel Sunny and its contemporaries was a part of that little tale I’d heard long before I came to Bombay.
Understandably, it was only after I came here and found residence on the town side, that I realised the pains and pointlessness of travelling all the way to the suburbs for a good Malayali meal, when my more-than-good Malayali mom was whipping them up right at home.
So when I found myself crossing Chembur to go for an interview at Airoli, I figured dropping in at Sunny’s on my way back is the only legitimate chance I had of visiting the place, and so we (and a really confused Uber driver and his messed up GPS) found ourselves after some major searching in front of the little joint.
The restaurant is fairly small, about ten tables for 4 including the AC section. So we went in to the relatively empty AC section and eagerly waited for our menus while sipping on hot jeera water at the table.
Sunny’s real USP lies in the set meals that they have, which features one non vegetarian speciality along with rice of your choice, sambhar, buttermilk, a poriyal/thoran of the day, payasam, papadam and pickle. Its filling and it gives you a taste of a bunch of dishes without having to order them all.
However being a true blue Malayali, I wanted a sadhya. To the unaware, a sadhya is the malayali version of a banana leaf meal. Filled with dishes along one side and rice on the other, you’re given the choice to ask for small amounts of different items at each serving as you mix it in with the curries on offer. And that ability to choose and strategise how you’re going to divide your rice consumption among the different dishes is where the beauty of a sadhya lies for me.
I ordered what looked the most like a sadhya on their menu and mom also called for Kerala Parottas, Chicken curry and a Surmai Fry.
So imagine my disappointment when I received a plate full of food with no full sized banana leaf in sight. Oh well.
Kerala Rice Plate:
Slightly ambiguous and eventually disappointing expectations aside, the plate contained:
Brown rice, dal, sambhar, maloshyam (which is a lentil and coconut based curry with typically a gourd of some kind in it), bittergourd pachadi, beetroot thoran, payasam, lemon pickle and garlic chutney.
The Sambhar screamed Kerala from the very first spoonful, which is honestly the very base for judging South Indian restaurants for me. I finished the whole bowl with no complaint.
The Pachadi was also pretty spot on to me, the raw mustard and coconut ground with the yougurt for its mild yet slightly pungent base. Mom did add that frying the bittergourd before adding it in, as usually done would have reduced the bitterness on the palate a few notches.
The payasam was wheat based, which was relatively new and interesting, being so used to the rice and semolina varieties. All the other dishes were fairly run of the mill stuff- not bad but not outstanding either.
Nothing to fault here. The fish was cooked just right, not dry and tough due to over frying and it wasn’t lathered on with masala either, which is a plus. The bowl of fish gravy served with it was delicious, and made me regret not having ordered the curry as well, despite my already full plate.
REALLY BIG PAROTTAS- not that mom was complaining, at all. It was flaky and satisfying in all its oil laden glory, as any good Kerala parotta should be
Naadan Chicken Curry:
Again, really authentic stuff. However, the portions are fairly small, so be warned while ordering just the curries by themselves. They would ideally feed one, if I’m being honest.
I see the hype, really. I do. But I would personally chalk this up to a one time visit and relish for a bunch of reasons. One being the easy access to Keralite food, given my background in general and the second being that there are worthy adversaries to their fare which I have managed to dig out in South Mumbai in the 5 years it took me to get here. But that’s another review for another time 🙂
To sum it up, hot, filling, authentic and no nonsense fare at very decent prices. Its a definite try for anyone living or working in the area, and chances are it may just become a regular haunt too.