Sunday, August 19, 2018

Foodie Jaunts - Autobahn

Autobahn –Tech Meets Taste On This Food Highway

The German highway system is called Autobahn. No, this post is not a review of the German highway system. It is a review of Autobahn, the restaurant located at Phoenix Market City in Pune, Maharashtra (India). In this food highway you will find technology and taste making for a perfect combination.
When I entered the restaurant, it did not remind me of a highway, but there was this sense of déjà vu. I felt as though I was at the airport waiting for my luggage. At the airport, however, expectantly looking at the luggage carousel hoping to finally see your luggage arrive safely can, sometimes be quite a frustrating exercise; but what if a similar conveyor belt at a restaurant tempted you with delectable looking starters the moment you took your seat? Confused? 

Starters on the move on conveyor belts
At Autobahn the moment you enter you see conveyor belts, that are neatly laid out alongside the dining tables, continuously carrying starters. You also see diners picking the so-called starters as and when they feel like doing so. I say ‘so-called starters’ because you don’t need to follow any particular order, you can pick a dish while you are having your main course and have it as a side dish.

Personal work often takes us to Pune. We heard about this new restaurant which had an interesting food serving concept. According to the restaurant’s General Manager, the owner wanted to do something novel. He borrowed this concept from the conveyor belt sushi found in sushi restaurants in Japan.
I will be honest, I was skeptical about this concept, in fact when we entered the restaurant and saw conveyor belts carrying starters, we wondered – is it just a gimmick to hook the customer?  Does the food taste good? We were pleasantly surprised to find that the food, at least the dishes that we tried were quite tasty. The cuisine here is pan-Indian. As the chef is a Bengali, the Bengali dishes like kosha mangsho (slow cooked mutton) and the maacher paturi (steamed fish) are quite good.

Personally for me the plus points were:
Subtle flavours, not overly spiced and best of all just the right amount of chillies.

Portions that are just right. At most restaurants the portions are quite large. Solitary diners or even couples have a problem. I have seen either the food being wasted or the diners just trying to make do with a single dish like a fried rice or pulao. Under such circumstances even though you feel like trying out some more dishes like a starter or something else, you skip it for fear of wasting the food.
What I like best here is that they have a half plate of rice on their menu. This is a boon; I was able to, therefore, try out some of the starters because I knew I could order just half a plate of rice for the main course.

The Concept
At Autobahn, waiters do not serve you the food, the food is brought to your table by conveyor belts and channels. The channels  are placed above the conveyor belts (see photo below). While the conveyor belts are for the starters, the channels are for the orders from the  à la carte menu.
Starters on the move on the conveyor belts
A tablet is placed on every table

For the à la carte menu the waiters hand you a tablet after registering your mobile number. Once your mobile number is entered into the tablet you can begin ordering by tapping your way through the tablet. In your subsequent visits, all you have to do is just enter your mobile number into the tablet.  For the à la carte dishes you are also given the option of adding special requests, for instance if you like your food less spicy or maybe you do not like a particular ingredient you can just type it into the space provided and your special request will be taken care of. After ordering you just relax and wait for the food to roll over to you. The food comes in a special tray that is placed on a computerized cart. It stops right at your table (see photo below); a recorded voice requests you to take your food. Once you have picked up your food you press a button and the tray just goes right back into the kitchen.

À la carte dishes automatically arrive at your table
So much for all the high-tech stuff, but as they say, ‘the proof of the pudding is in its eating’, well Autobahn definitely did not disappoint. So far we have visited the restaurant thrice and we liked the dishes we tried.

We tried paneer croquette, egg devil and dahi bhalla. I liked all three, but the dahi bhallas were so yummy that I cannot wait to visit Pune just to have them once more. One thing I realized was that while various kinds of starters constantly move in front of or beside you depending on the position of your table you cannot help but get tempted and reach out to try them out. 
Dahi Bhalla
Egg Devil

Actually that is exactly what happened to us, we were tempted by the egg devil, paneer croquette and the dahi bhallas, we could not help ourselves and just picked them up from the conveyor belt. Frankly, we would never have ordered these from the menu. We in fact saw one gentleman give in to temptation and pick up a plate of egg devil for the second time. So I guess this concept makes business sense too, after all customers can end up spending more.

Main Course
The à la carte menu has soups, different types of breads like naan and so on, biryani, plain steamed rice, beverages, desserts and of course several pan-Indian dishes.

Dahi Karara Kabab

Mutton Roganjosh

Saunfiyani Mutton Sheek Kabab
Besides the two Bengali dishes that I have mentioned above, we have also tried dahi karara kabab, mutton pepper fry, saunfiyani mutton sheek kabab and mutton rogan josh.  Both the mutton pepper fry and the sheek kabab were quite good, in fact I wouldn’t mind trying them again The dahi karara kabab with its filling of hung yoghurt was excellent. I particularly liked the onion salad they gave as an accompaniment. I would not recommend the mutton rogan josh, though it tasted quite good it had more bones than meat in it.

I strongly recommend the hot gulab jamuns, with dry fruit stuffing, these gulab jamuns urge you to just forget about all the calories you will be consuming.

Gulab Jamuns

Malpua Sandwich
In one of our visits we also ate the malpua sandwich. These are small malpuas and sandwiched between them is some rabri with garnishing of some nuts. How was it? Well I would say strictly okay, because I found them a bit hard, I prefer my melt in the mouth malpuas.

I am definitely looking forward to my next visit; I would love to try out the other starters and dishes particularly the vegetarian dishes.

To conclude what makes this place a pleasurable dining experience is the behavior of the staff. The General  Manager and rest of the staff engage with each and every customer. I have noticed the General  Manager going from table to table and taking care of the needs of every customer.

Below is a video of the restaurant:

Here is the url of the above video


  1. I have eaten at a conveyor belt-sushi restaurant in Delhi (the restaurant, Sakae Sushi, has since shut), but it was not so high-tech as this. You basically picked up a colour-coded plate of sushi from the belt, but if you wanted to order something other than sushi, you had to summon a waiter. This sounds much more tech-savvy and efficient! I like the idea of your dish actually coming and stopping at your table, and that you can regulate spice levels and so on. That is good use of technology!

    1. Yes Madhu, it is an interesting use of technology. Restaurants such as these I have noticed usually just come and go, more so when they are located in malls. I wonder whether this one will also shut down like the Delhi one or continue for a long time. At the moment it seems to be quite popular.

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