I have always been a huge fan of Gajalee in Mumbai for sea food. I find their sea food better than Mahesh Lunch home or Trishna. (although Trishna's butter pepper garlic crab topples the scales completely)
My husband too loves the food at Gajalee. There was one branch very close to his office in Vile Parle and most office meetings invariably took place there. The days I couldn't send him lunch, he would order in from there. Its a wonder I haven't reviewed this place before, given how often we have eaten there.
Gajalee in Vile Parle is not extremely fancy but it does have an air conditioned room with cushioned seats for those used to those comforts (at a very slight premium) compared to the wooden mess like tables and benches on the rest of the premises.
Our standard order used to be a starter of solkadi (drink made of kokum - red berry- garlic and coconut milk which is an excellent appetiser, digestive and accompaniment to the food) and King fish fry (a large slice of king fish/eeson - batter fried and served with an amazing spicy green chutney which definitely has green mango in it for sourness)
The main course could be a fish or mutton thali (strangely we never tasted the chicken thali) with prawns achari (shrimp in a pickle flavored gravy, high on mustard seeds) on the side. The thali includes rice, a gravy/curry, a dry dish and some vegetable. Very filling and awesomely flavorful.
Amboli - a thick dosa - lentil pancake and ghawne - neer dosa/panpole - a thin flat pancake were normally ordered on the side to enjoy the curries further.
Given that we were both back in Mumbai for 2 days, it was imperative that we visit gajalee for some spicy seafood after Egypt. Since we were closest to Andheri at that time, we stopped at Patio near NMIMS college which also houses a Gajalee. This is a more upmarket version. Prices are higher and they have a lot of North Indian and Chinese cuisine on the menu. Don't let this fool you into thinking that the standard of sea food would be middling. It is not. In fact, it is quite excellent and this restaurant also serves boneless crab.
You have to forgive me for not taking pictures, the food was smelling so good and we were so hungry and craving spicy sea food, that thoughts of taking the camera out of the bag and clicking pictures never even entered my mind!
Back to the boneless crab. While Trishna @ Kala Ghoda does an awesome butter pepper garlic crab, it comes in a shell and that means the butter solidifies as it turns cold while you take time and effort to eat the crab. So while it starts out awesome, by the time you finish, it gets a bit icky.
Not so at Patio. The butter garlic crab comes boneless, so no time wasted and you can eat it with your amboli or ghawne (expalined above). The sweetness of crab meat mingles with the saltiness of the yellow butter, it is cooked in and the garlic adds piquancy to the whole flavor, that just explodes in your mouth.
The dish is a bit expensive at 1250/- but it is completely worth it.
This time they had an innovation called crab green chilli. Similar to the butter garlic crab but with some green chilli thrown in for spiciness. It wasn't over spicy and the chillies did not over power the mild sweet crab flavor, it was just exquisitely balanced. At 1250/- its a must try
Since we had the green chilli crab, we opted for the squid butter garlic (200) which was also outstanding. Not really deep fried or shallow fried but something in between. The texture of the squid was just right with the buttered garlic hugging on to each squid ring.
Of course, we ordered the Solkadi (25) and it felt so good to be drinking this again.
The prawns achari at the Parle location feels and tastes more authentic than the Patio version(250), but husband proclaimed it good (not outstanding but good) . Reasonably medium sized prawns.
The mutton masala (140) was middling. Neither terrible nor as good as the other dishes. While it may have stood out at another restaurant, here it just blended in without making its presence felt.
They did not have king fish, so we couldn't have that.
Ambolis and Ghawnes were 15/- each, soft and tasty. Mineral water was 15.
They do have deserts, but this is the caramel custard, ice cream variety which are a dampener after such a wonderful meal. So I prefer to leave with the flavor of crab or squid in my mouth. But if I remember right, the gajalee in Parle outsources some cheese cake and chocolate cake which were very good. I'm not 100% sure of this though.
The other dishes we have often enjoyed are the fried bombil (bombay duck - a fish not poultry) and the stuffed pomfret. The bombil is fresh not the dried variety.
The sea food at Gajalee is always fresh and tasty and this place is a definite must-visit for the pescatarian.