Any self-respecting Puneri foodie has been at least once to the family-run, humble establishment that is I’m Lion – Strictly Non Veg (or maybe they should, if they haven’t already) because the far corner of Bavdhan isn’t the only option for homely seafood and chicken now – they’ve recently set up shop smack dab on Baner road and a whole lot of us are pretty stoked about it!
To me, I’m Lion, Strictly Non-Veg has always been two things – the best place to get authentic Mangalorean food in Pune, and the one place where the homemade chocolate Mud Pies are even better than the seafood as if that were even possible. Only, it is.
My discovery of the Baner outlet was courtesy of a new menu sampling invite. And what a stroke of luck that was, too – only the previous day had I planned to come down here anyway with the wife! The interiors are snug like the Bavdhan outlet, but better done and can house roughly 30-40 guests give or take.
Our evening here obviously started with the Solkadhi (₹30) and Fried Bombil (₹250), because. Obviously.
The solkadhi was great – the right consistency, milky-coconutey and mildly tang. Some of us thought it could’ve used a little more kokum but I thought it was delicious as it was.
The bombay-duck was fresh, lightly coated in rava-batter and fried crisp. The meat was soft and delicious, with the fried garlic adding a lovely strong flavour to the versatile fishmeat. Tasted even better with lime. Tasted just like at home.
Next was server the Mutton Panchali (₹320)
Almost ‘achaari’, deep flavoured masalas soaked through and through the mutton that fell off the bone. The fried potato on top added a nice texture to each bite too. The meat could’ve used a little more softness but that’s just me being nitpicky. A great choice for starting a meal either way. This meal was supposed to be about feedback so I’m sure your mutton will be even better than what I had here!
No seafood meal is complete without either Surmai or Bangda/Mackerel (price as per catch), so –
This delicious looking addition to the menu was Konkani triphal kokum red chilly Surmai. There were banana fragrances, garlicky flavours, kokum’s tang, and triphal-spiciness all balancing each other out beautifully. Needless to say, the fish was unbelievably fresh. Just like home.
And next, we went further south down the Western coast to Goa –
This chicken cafreal (₹200) was nicely herby, zesty and slightly vinegar-ey acetic. A potent and punchy mix of spices and flavours, each piece of chicken was small enough to have marinated so well, the flavours seeped through and through. Great stuff. Notice the burnt onion – it’s unbelievable how little additions like that make such a huge different. Insist on the onion garnishing when you call for this!
The entrées started with this great looking Crab Masala (price depends on catch) –
Best had with paper thin and yet firm-enough Neer Dosa(₹20). The Crab itself was probably a poor choice (Mud crabs are better in curries, these variety of sea-crab are great for roasting because the meat retains most of it’s juicy sweetness after cooking). That said, the gravy was so good, I’ll probably return for that alone. I drank the last of it down just by itself. When I’d spent enough time relieving the crabmeat of its shell, that’s when the flavours started making sense – the sweet meat and the spicy curry blending together SO well! This one’s highly recommended once the mud crabs start coming in and it’s almost monsoon!
We don’t not have prawns at a seafood restaurant. That would be sacrilege.
This huge bowl full of coconut-ey, mild, slightly spicy and tangy flavours was the prawns curry (₹400) and again, a great companion for plain white rice. It’s just such a great combination. Again, reminiscent of summer vacations spent at my Grandmother’s place. My only gripe was with the number of prawns being disproportionate with the curry. Then again, all good things come in small quantities 🙂
And because we couldn’t get enough of the prawns, we called for prawns pulao(₹350).
The rice was done just right – mildly al dente (it’s a good thing in this case – the combination worked). Lightly flavoured rice and juicy, flavoursome, fresh jumbo prawns. Can’t go wrong there. The bowl was licked clean. I do mean literally.
The evening ended with the real reason most of us had complied with the tasting request, the mud pie.
Oodles of unsalted buttery biscuity goodness in the tart-base and thick, gooey chocolatey debauchery in the centre. This is definitely why I went there. It just is really good. Let me not insult it with adjectives.