Saoji food is traditional food of Nagpur, Maharashtra. The cuisine, also called Saoji Waradi, is famous for its extra spicy taste. The special spices which are used in making the gravy of Saoji food include red chillies, black pepper, dry coriander, bay leaves, grey cardamom, cinnamon, cloves etc. Saoji Gravy is characterized by its spicy flavor and ample use of poppy seeds (Khus-Khus) and powdered coconut in its gravies.
On the recommendations of a dear friend and armed with digene gel, I am all set to try this famous cuisine at a very cozy restaurant called Nagpur Hotel in the heart of Pune city. There is the reassuring sign of a waiting queue outside. The restaurant is situated in a tiny, less than one hundred square ft space, so they have evolved an innovative seating where strangers in pairs sit facing the wall on a tiny tin table perched against the wall as they are served. I finally get a place to sit, and order a mutton rassa meal (Rs 160 for the rassa, and Rs 30 for the accompanying bread). Soon thereafter I am served a piping hot plate of amazingly flavourful mutton rassa, with a giant jowar bhakri (roti). With my mouth salivating I dig into it, to discover my OMG (oh my God) moment. Here is the best curry I have had in a long long time. As my palate does a tango, I can feel beads of sweat accumulating on my temples. This curry is certainly not for the faint hearted.
There is nothing called too much of a good thing, and I go ahead and order the only other thing available – the even more dangerous looking mutton fry (Rs 170), which is, as expected, even more fierier, and very tasty. In a rash moment, I order some rice (Rs 60) and some extra gravy (free). I take a big sip of the hot and spicy gravy, and I can hear my intestines burn….and I go ahead and mix the rest with the rice, and touch my foodie heaven. No amount of heartburns the next morning can take away the beautiful moment provided so lavishly by the Nagpur Hotel.
Of course, having paid the bill I rush to the next Sujata Mastani outlet to have the quintessentially mastani, or Pune’s interpretation of the ice cream shake. As the legend goes, Mastani is named after Peshwa Bajirao 1‘s lover and consort. Though a delicious thirst quencher, it fails to pacify the fire in the belly, and continues to remind me of the delicious adventure I just had.
So here is my advice – whenever next in Pune, be reckless. Go to Nagpur Hotel and indulge your palate. There is nothing that resembles love as well as the food here. It is intense ecstasy followed by pain. Enjoy it.
Photos courtesy: Chowdersingh
Rating out of 5
Food: 4.5 | Ambience: 3.0 | Service: 4.0 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for two: Rs. 400| Alcohol: No | Credit Card: No | Timings: 11:30 AM to 3 PM; 7 PM to 10 PM
Address: Karandikar Road, Sadashivpet, Pune| Telephone: No telephone