"We're going where Mumbai's bachelors hang out," my guide announces. Visions of a noisy, ultratrendy nightclub pop into my head. Our car pulls into a winding lane lined with 100-year-old bungalows. I look around for packs of young men streaming out of a doorway with attractive women on their arms. Instead, all I see is an old house with a sign that reads ANANT ASHRAM.
I turn toward my guide, but before she can react, the owner stops us at the door. I assume it's because he knows her: A picture of her was in the morning daily, which named her one of the most influential women in the fashionable South Mumbai area. "No food left," he bellows. "Leave please, lunch over." "Can we just come in to see the place?" she pleads, and he finally lets us in.
We walk into a sparsely furnished room with small, marble-topped wooden tables and a kitchen where food is still cooked over wood-fueled stoves. The familiar scent of garlic-infused oil is all around us. My guide warns me, "Don't judge by the looks." The food at Anant Ashram is known to be passionately authentic, and the restaurant is a favorite among well-heeled localsmany of whom send their drivers to get takeout. "They make unerringly good fried fish and clam masala," my guide points out. "Homesick bachelors who don't cook eat here daily. Great fish and rude attitude."