There was a time when having a meal comprising of a ‘salad’ was a privilege reserved for the niche upper class, snobbish women starving themselves, concerned about fitting into their Yves Saint Laurent outfits, or basically people with a ‘chemical locha’ in their वरचा मजला.
Yeah, right! Who in their right minds would choose a pile of ghaas phoos over a hearty meal of roti- subzi- dal- rice?
And then came Salad Grills…
The brainchild of Dr. Suhas Shelke, (who holds a PhD in Molecular chemistry), it quite literally has been balancing the equation between ‘ghaas phoos’ and ‘taste’ since half a decade.
Located bang opposite the legendary Bipin snacks (or Sahyadri Hospital) on Karve road, it’s a small place that could easily skip your attention if you’re too busy trying to evade the gang of policemen who stand on the road just outside the outlet, stopping unwary bikers who’ve been flouting the recently upgraded traffic norms (which again, provides a great source of entertainment as you await your salads!) 😉
Parking is a huge concern, primarily because it’s located on the main road (half of which is blocked due to the ongoing metro work).
Pro tip: Take a rickshaw/ cab here, or park your car on Prabhat road, opposite Darshan and walk the rest of the way.
Salad Grills is a small outlet- there are just four small tables seating 2 each, so at a time, a maximum of eight diners can be seated inside. However, the bulk of their clients are served through delivery portals like Swiggy and Zomato, where they seem to be quite popular, as in the hour and a half that we spent there, we noticed at least 20 delivery executives who’d come to collect their orders.
Prof. KM Gokhale, the legendary Sadashiv Pethi chemistry teacher I learnt from, would often say, if you’re good in the chemistry lab, you’d undoubtedly be good in the kitchen! (Which answers all questions regarding Suhas’s recipes!)
The decor is vibrant and quirky- has bright greens, reds, yellows and blues- sets the mood right for the riot of colours on your plate. The menu comprises basic and premium salads in vegetarian and chicken options. They also have iced teas in some interesting flavours- with your quintessential lemon and litchi, there’s also pomegranate, apple, and believe it or not- guava and chilli! The latter is absolutely brilliant! Super refreshing, with the unmistakable flavour of ‘tikhat lawlela laal peru’. #mustTry
What I really appreciated about their iced teas was that they weren’t super- sweet, unlike the ‘machine wale’ or ‘powder wale’ iced teas. They were quite reasonably priced too, at Rs. 65/- a glass.
The team at Salad Grills makes their own dressings.. and that’s why each salad is unique.
A good salad comprises a good balance between veggies and greens, with dressing in the perfect proportion- which imparts its unique flavour, while, at the same time, doesn’t overpower that of the basic ingredients.
The cuts of the vegetables in each salad was different- few were julienned, few cubed or diced.
Another thing one often worries about while having salads is the freshness of the ingredients. (I can hear my Mom’s voice in my head, as she’d comment about my Subway obsession in my college days- कधी चिरून ठेवले असेल कुणास ठाऊक!) I didn’t visit the kitchen at Salad Grills, but by some basic tricks of deduction (inspection of the julienned apple slices from all sides- they weren’t browned by oxidation), came to a conclusion that they were freshly chopped! (Elementary, my dear Watson!)
Moreover, they do have a good turnover with regards to the delivery portals, so it is unlikely they would be able to store processed ingredients for too long!
Viren and Suhas discussed at length about the nuances of salad- making (the former having made them for five years at the PBC kitchen at JW). Suhas’s recipes have greatly evolved over the five years he’s been operational (from Kalyaninagar and now Deccan)- from the initial classic cookbook recipes, to something more suited to the Indian palate, and to take- aways and deliveries… For yes, it’s true, the food trend in Pune hasn’t still evolved to a point when a family plans to go out for a meal, and says ‘Chalo salad khaane jaate hain’! The recent dressings Suhas has introduced includes a creamy tandoor dressing and a dilli masala chatpata dressing- which we would be easily able to identify with!
Coming to the salads we tried-
Roasted mushroom pasta salad: Al dente fusilli and farfalle, in a bed of roast mushrooms, julienned bell peppers, apples, romane lettuce and raisins with a Balsamic black date vinaigrette dressing- this one was sweetish, but did the job for me! (Yeah, I can’t make a bhaaji without adding sugar in it!)
Italian chicken salad: Grilled chicken chunks with julienned bell peppers, apples and zucchini, sliced black olives on a bed of Romane lettuce in a creamy Italian dressing.
Asian noodle salad: Tossed noodles in a tangy Asian ginger vinaigrette, with grilled mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, red cabbage and micro- greens with a dash of pepper- I found this one very very different compared to the first one, and was a welcome change in taste!
German Chicken salad: This one had tomatoes, lettuce, apples, micro greens and jalapenos with grilled chicken in German yoghurt dressing.
The basic salads are priced between Rs. 130/- to 180/-, whereas the premium veg salads start at Rs. 175/-, to a maximum of Rs. 350/- for a premium chicken salad with some specialized ingredients.
The portion size is quite enough for a light meal for someone with a decent appetite.
They also serve garlic breads- plain, cheese, olive and mushroom. They’re quite decent, though not exceptional.
They have recently introduced salad cups- which is more of a light bite for ‘Shaam wali chhoti bhook’ (इति Ankita and Sameer) 😉
So these cups are layered with the dressing at the bottom, and the veggies one over the other on the top- enabling one to carry them around without spilling. When you wish to eat it, you just shake it, and have a freshly tossed salad ready!
Unique concept, and reasonably priced at Rs. 60- 90/-.
Plus, they’re on Friends of PEO!!! The deal includes between 20- 50% off on dine in, and 25% on takeaways!
Would surely recommend Salad Grills as a worth- trying place, and a salad as a worth- trying meal for the days when you wanna eat out, but don’t want to regret a pizza!