Thanks to its large multi-ethnic population and location on the Arabian Sea, Mumbai is blessed with an abundance of choice when it comes to seafood.
The list below reflects the best coastal Indian cuisine from Malvan to Bengal, and the Mumbai restaurants that do a fine job of keeping their food tasting authentic.
Some of these eating places are so small and so good they don’t have, or even need, a website.
Konkan Café: Best fine-dine option
Designed to recreate a seaside bungalow on the palm-fringed Malabar coast, the warm, muted colors are welcoming at this fine-dining seafood restaurant at the Vivanta by Taj hotel.
Likewise, the food is equally inviting.
It is the brainchild of chef Ananda Solomon, who spent months in people’s homes down south, gleaning secret skills from wizened old ladies whom he persuaded to share their recipes.
No wonder it’s all about seasonal freshness and flavor here, and even the cooking is done in earthenware vessels.
Linger over the seafood display before you make your choices from this coconut-rich cuisine.
The average tab per head without alcohol comes to Rs 1,250; not very pricey considering it’s in a five-star hotel.
Know your menu: Curdee (prawns) mango; Mangalorean fish curry; meen polichattu (fish in banana leaves); pomfret recheado and the seafood thali.
Vivanta by Taj — President, 90 Cuffe Parade; +91 0 (22) 66650808; www.vivantabytaj.com
Lunch: 12:30 p.m.–3 p.m., dinner: 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Trishna: Best tourist trap
Even though it’s a cramped inside and located in an obscure by-lane in the business district, Trishna is a big draw for the international traveler as well as the local Mumbaikar.
Even though a steady stream of tourists has slowly made the waiters jaded, what brings locals back are some of the plumpest crustaceans and fish on offer in the city.
Even though the cuisine is primarily Mangalorean, a few dishes can be traced back to Hyderabadi influence.
A good meal here should set you back by about Rs 1,800 per head, not counting alcohol.
Know your menu: Crab, either with butter garlic or as a gassi, a fiery red curry; prawns Koliwada, (the medium or small-sized prawns are tastier); butter garlic squid; ravas Hyderabadi; lobster kalimiri.
Sai Baba Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort; +91 (0)22 2270 3213
Lunch: Noon–3:30 p.m.; dinner: 6:15 p.m.–12.30 a.m.
Highway Gomantak: Best Goan
“It’s Goan food certified by the Goans,” says Ramesh Potnis, the owner of Highway Gomantak.
Infuriated at being passed over for promotion in the corporate world, Potnis quit and turned his focus to food.
Using age-old family recipes, he got his wife to rustle up 10 dishes that they served in their garden.
As Highway Gomantak’s reputation spread, he turned it from a backyard operation to a fully fledged restaurant.
The kitchen, still supervised by his wife and children, lures the office crowd from the nearby Bandra Kurla Complex during lunch hours. The evenings are more relaxed, with families and children taking in a leisurely meal.
A delicious repast for one will cost about Rs 300, and half that if you just have the set-meal thaali.
Know your menu: Prawns fry; tisriya (clams) masala; chanak fish fry; fried mussels; fish thali and the local Bombil fish fry.
44/2179 Pranav Co-op. Housing Society, Gandhi Nagar, Highway Service Road, Bandra (E); +91 (0)22 2640 9692; www.highwaygomantak.com
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., dinner: 7–10:30 p.m., Thursday closed.
Fresh Catch: Best home-style meal
A pelican with a full beak stands by the door. As far as welcoming metaphors go, nothing could be more appropriate. Because here, the catch is always fresh.
This wood-paneled, seven-table restaurant may be small, but it’s big on taste.
That’s because its owner, Francis Fernandes, handpicks every ingredient and spice from his hometown in Karwar and has it shipped to Mumbai. Even the coconuts.
The food is Karwari and delectably light — no greasy stuff here. The spices don’t smother the food, but enhance their flavors.
A sumptuous home-style meal here can be had for Rs 500 per head.
Know your menu: Konkan treasure prawns; rava fried kané (ladyfish); fish roe; rechad prawns; pomfret curry; crab meat butter garlic and tisriya (clams) sukke.
Lt. Kotnis Marg, near Fire Brigade, off L J Road, Mahim (W); +91 0(22) 2444 8942
Lunch: Noon–3:30 p.m., dinner: 7 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
Chaitanya: Best spicy Malvani
For the best home-style Malvani food in town, head to Chaitanya.
Relatively new on the seafood map, this tiny 10-seater in the heart of Mumbai is the labor of love of a simple housewife with a love for cooking.
Hot to scorching, yet rich and tender, Surekha Walke’s cooking style exploits the spices to bring an earthy, lemony flavor to her seafood.
And she’s not stingy on the use of coconuts or garam masala spices.
This is where Chaitanya scores over other commercially-run establishments that only focus on the fieriness of Malvani food.
A hearty meal won’t cost you more than Rs 250 per head here. The mini combo fish thali costs as little as Rs 90.
Know your menu: Bangda (mackerel) tikhale; tisriya (clams) masala; crab masala; surmai fish fry; pomfret curry; mori (shark) masala; crab lollipop.
Shop No. 4, Shivaji Park House, L J Road, Shivaji Park; +91 (0)22 2437 2242, +91 96199 09014
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner: 7 p.m.–11 p.m., Thursday closed.
Oh! Calcutta: Best Bengali
Oh! Calcutta is one of the few places that serves traditional Bengali food in Mumbai.
From a gourmet’s point of view, this is great news because here one gets to try Bengal’s favorite sweet water fish, which are not a common treat.
Taking authenticity to a new level, the chefs fly in most of their stock of fish — pabda (butter fish), hilsa (ilish), rohu (carp) and bekti — all the way from Kolkata.
It’s no wonder then that Bengalis make a beeline to Oh! Calcutta.
A satisfying meal full of mustard goodness will cost you about Rs 1,000 per head, without alcohol.
Know your menu: Bhapa Ilish (boneless Bengali fish delicacy, steamed in a banana leaf); smoked hilsa; fried-fish Kolkata style; prawn cutlets; chingri (prawn) malai curry; rui (rohu fish) maachher dom jhol (curry).
Hotel Rosewood, Tulsiwadi Lane, opposite Mahindra Heights, Tardeo; +91 (0)22 23539114;www.speciality.co.in
Lunch: 12:30–3:30 p.m., dinner: 7-11 p.m.
Gajalee: Best Tandoori crab
Even though there are several branches of Gajalee in Mumbai, you should make a trip to the mothership in Vile Parle.
Many a die-hard fan still trudges all the way from south Mumbai regularly, as if on pilgrimage to seafood heaven.
And why not? Gajalee has consistently served up mouthwatering Malvani food over the years.
Some of the dishes use tirphal, the cousin of the Sichuan pepper, to leave your tongue numb.
That’s when you should reach for the solkadi, which acts as the perfect mouth fire extinguisher.
Don’t miss the Tandoori crab either.
Budget Rs 1,200 per head if you are going the crab route. Otherwise, Rs 500 per head is sufficient.
Know your menu: Clams koshimbir; tandoori crab; fried bombil; crab masala; prawns masala; stuffed bombil; pomfret capri.
Kadamgiri Complex, Hanuman Road, Vile Parle (E), +91 (0)22 2616 6470; www.gajalee.com
Lunch: 11 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner: 7 p.m.-midnight.