Started by Erani’s son Shahrookh Erani, ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ on Moledina Road, Camp, has been serving traditional sizzlers for an illustrious five decades.
‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ on Moledina Road in Pune. (Express Photo by Pavan Khengre)
In 1963, a Zoroastrian man named Firoz Erani pioneered the sizzler — a dish with a medley of ingredients cooked and served on a hot metal plate with a wooden holder — in Mumbai. A restaurateur, Erani dabbled with the novel idea of the sizzler in his restaurants till he opened ‘The Sizzler’, a garden restaurant in Excelsior Cinemas, Fort, and introduced India to the concept of sizzler. Now, with all its pomp and show, the sizzler finds itself on the menus of many restaurants across the country.
Written by Ruchika Goswamy | Indian Express Pune
Started by Erani’s son Shahrookh Erani, ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ on Moledina Road, Camp, has been serving traditional sizzlers for an illustrious five decades. The restaurant has witnessed it all through the times — from being frequented by the foreign clientele in the 1970s-80s and as the hip hangout place for students to the visit by NDA and AFMC cadets till the late 90s and becoming a weekend choice amid families.
Traditionally, the sizzler is meat or vegetables accompanied by carrots and beans cut into juliennes, a cabbage wedge, fries and white rice with a special sauce. (Express Photo)
Farida Vachha, general manager of ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ said, “Firoz Erani came up with the sizzler as an attempt to keep the food on the table piping hot till the last morsel. After the dish was well received in his existing restaurants in Mumbai, he opened ‘The Sizzler’ and another branch in the Isle of Man, UK. Both the restaurants ran till Erani passed away.”
Under his father’s disciplined tutelage, Shahrookh Erani learned to perfect the sizzler and in 1967, opened Touché on Breach Candy Road in Mumbai. Four years later, he moved to Pune and started ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ on September 1. The menu boasted eclectic sizzler options in poultry, seafood, pork and vegetables. The sizzlers’ hot metal plate still retains the shape and design conceptualised by Firoz Erani and a special dye is used to maintain it which is changed after it wears down, said Vachha.
Shahrookh Erani. (Express/Sourced)
“When The Place started, it garnered a lot of attention, especially among the foreigners residing in the city. The Osho Ashram had started around the same time and the followers frequented in search of continental flavours. The restaurant was also a popular hangout place for youngsters — both local and international. I remember groups of Palestinians, Iranians, Iraqis, and African Americans spending their time here. Even cadets from the NDA and AFMC hold fond memories of having spent their days here and often come back as officers to relive the bygone days,” said Vachha.
Firoz Erani. (Express/Sourced)
In 1986, the area was bought by Clover Builders and the once one-storeyed restaurant was revamped into the present-day two-storeyed structure. “Earlier, the restaurant was in an old bungalow-like structure but after the plot was bought, we relocated temporarily and the new structure came about in 1988. Two young interior designers worked with Shahrookh to have his vision come to a realisation,” she said.
The interior of the restaurant is predominantly wooden — wooden furniture and comfortable upholstery coupled with wooden panelling over the walls and ceiling add warmth and earthiness to the space. The cleverly installed soft lights and sober-coloured window panes complement the overall dining experience at any hour of the day. Equipped with staff and servers with an experience of two decades, ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ has maintained its stature as an authentic sizzler restaurant.
Equipped with staff and servers with an experience of two decades, ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ has maintained its stature as an authentic sizzler restaurant. (Express Photo)
Changing times, constant charm
As time changed, so did people’s eating habits and ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’s’ menu, said Vachha. “One of the things we observed over the years is the number of sizzlers ordered at a table. Earlier it used to be a sizzler per person but now a sizzler is shared among two or three people. People have become more conscious of their dietary habits.
“Another change the menu had was after the beef ban — steak sizzlers are one of our signature dishes and while we always used the meat of the water buffalo, several of our loyal patrons were not convinced. I think it was more psychological for them to feel this way,” expressed Vachha.
The Place Touché the Sizzler in the 90s (Express/sourced)
Traditionally, the sizzler is meat or vegetables accompanied by carrots and beans cut into juliennes, a cabbage wedge, fries and white rice with a special sauce. But Vachha told The Indian Express that the Indian palette required more flavours and gravy-based dishes. She also said that like any other restaurant, ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ too experimented with its menu to appease the patrons. She added that dishes that were once a part of the menu included the Sali Chicken, a Parsi gravy dish topped with potato straws, the Mango Chicken, Fried Chicken with Pineapple among others.
“Although the menu has changed over the years to stay with the times, we make a conscious attempt to hold onto the tradition and cultural history of a sizzler. We added oriental dishes such as Chicken Oriental or the Chicken Chilly and later the Chicken Balchao to stretch our palette range beyond continental as the latter is an acquired taste and it was a hit among the people,” Vachha said.
Farida A Vachha,general manager (GM) of The Place Touche the Sizzler (Express Photo)
She added, “Our shashlik dishes which once had meat or vegetables presented hot on skewers are now served in gravy. The rice has also elaborated into white, jeera and fried — depending on the kind of dish it is. We did not have noodles on our menu but as several patrons have experienced it elsewhere, we offer buttered noodles. As for dessert, I prepare Serradura, a Portuguese cream-based dessert and the Christmas pudding during the Holiday season.”
While ‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ had a firm footing in serving sizzlers in the city, the late 90s saw franchises based on the concept of the sizzler come into the market. “While it irked me in the beginning as there were instances of poaching our employees, but Shahrookh always maintained that as long as you serve good food and maintain good service the customer will always come back,” said Vachha.
‘The Place Touché the Sizzler’ still witnesses a queue during the weekends, some regulars, some first-time discoverers and some just travelling back in time to the fond days of the past. The restaurant, in a digital-riddled era, still does not take reservations and is not tied up with delivery platforms. Talking about its future, Vachha said, “The future a mystery but all we can say is that we strive to uphold the tradition that has been handed to us by Firoz Erani, while at the same time, adapt to the change as and when.”