Amba Bhavan, Matunga, Mumbai

Matunga (East) is known for its Udipi restaurants. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Udipis, they are family-owned quick serve no-nonsense restaurants that serve South Indian dishes. They are found all over India and are great if you want to grab something quickly. They are easy on the pocket as well, as prices are extremely reasonable. Idli and Dosa are the most popular items served at Udipis, but the good ones serve a few of the rather lesser-known dishes as well. The Udipis in Matunga are old and have existed for decades. They have become so famous that people from all corners of Mumbai visit Matunga just to eat at one of these joints. Most of the Udipis are close to the railway station and provide easy access for everyone.

One Sunday morning, a group of us decided to pay a visit to perhaps the most famous of all Udipis in Matunga, Hotel Ramashray. This place is extremely well known, and their food is just brilliant. However, all the good things about Ramashray means that it is perennially crowded. Whether you go at 5 am or 5 pm, chances are that you will be made to wait for anywhere between 10 mins to 1 hour to get seated. We faced the same situation, as Sunday morning is one of the most crowded times to visit. We did not fancy waiting for 1 hr and hence started looking for other alternatives. It was by complete accident that we found another Udipi called Amba Bhavan, located just a few meters down the road from Hotel Ramashray.

crowded Hotel Ramashray

                                   (crowd outside Hotel Ramashray – wait time was almost 1 hour!)

Amba Bhavan was also crowded when we reached, but the crowds were not as insane as Ramashray. We found a seat within 5 mins. The restaurant had 2 floors with old wooden decor. Service was extremely quick, as it is in all the Udipis. The entire business model of Udipis hinges on turning tables really fast. Amba Bhavan was no exception either, and the waiter was at our table in no time to take our order. To save time and cut costs, there was no menu card. Rather, the wall on the ground floor had a large wooden plank nailed to it and on that plank were listed all the dishes that Amba Bhavan served. We started off with Podi-Idli and some filter coffee. The coffee is an absolute classic at any of the Matunga Udipis and is highly recommended. Normally, the coffee is served after the meal, but we asked for it to be brought along with the Idli. The Podi-Idli was pretty good. Podi is a fragrant delicious powder made of chickpeas, urad (a type of lentil), sesame seeds and dried chili all ground into a powdered mixture. The Podi is mixed with Ghee (sometimes coconut oil) and you spread it on top of your Idli.

Amba Bhavan Matunga

                                           (2 floors and wooden structures at Amba Bhavan)

Menu Amba Bhavan

                                                     (menu on the wall)

Podi Idli Amba Bhavan

                                                                                     (Podi Idli)

Filter Coffee Amba Bhavan

                                                                        (Filter Coffee – a classic)

Since we were waiting for another one of our friends to join us, we decided to go slow on the ordering, and stretch the time in the process. We kept ordering 1 or 2 items rather than ordering everything at once. The Udipi owner was not amused by this tactic of ours since he was only focused on turning tables quickly. Next up after the Idli, we ordered an Ulundu Dosa. Ulundu basically means whole black gram lentil. The Ulundu Dosa batter is made from this particular lentil, and it tastes a bit different from the normal Dosa. It was well worth the try.

Ulundu Dosa Amba Bhavan

                                                         (Ulundu Dosa)

Our friend arrived around the time we finished our Ulundu Dosa, and so we ordered our final round of dishes. We went for a Neer Dosa and some Sabudana Vada. Neer Dosa is made from a rice batter. But the batter is not fermented as it is in a normal Dosa. The batter for the Neer Dosa is watery, as the rice is soaked for only a couple of hours. Hence the name “Neer” which also means water in the local Udipi language. Sabudana, on the other hand, is tapioca, and Sabudana Vada is basically a fried tapioca ball which is super delicious. The Neer Dosa was quite fluffy and did not have any crispness which the regular Dosa would have. It was served with Sambar and Chutney, while the Sabudana Vada was served with a green Chutney and slightly sweetened curd (Dahi Chutney).

Neer Dosa Amba Bhavan

                                                                                         (Neer Dosa)

Sabudana Vada Amba Bhavan

                                                     (Sabudana Vada with Dahi Chutney)

After almost 75 mins, it was time for us to leave. We had an amazing time trying out all the different types of Dosas, Vadas and Idlis. The total bill for 4 people came to around 500 rupees – very economical. If you are in Mumbai and want to eat some proper authentic south Indian food, then head over to Matunga. Amba Bhavan will not disappoint you, and you will be in and out before the people waiting in line at Ramashray even get seated.

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Restaurant: Amba Bhavan

Price: Around ₹120 per person.

Location: Patel Mahal, Bhandarkar Marg, Kings Circle, Brahmanwada, Matunga, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400019

Timings: 7 am to 8 pm all days, except Thursday. Closed on Thursday.

Type: Food/Themed Restaurant

How to get there: Take the local train to Matunga (east) station or get a cab to Kings Circle, Sion.

Language: Mainly Hindi, but you will not have any problems with English either.

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