Part 1: Food
I have to start with food. Those who know me (and have seen me lately) would think that if a city wins the food battle, then it wins it all. While it is not that important, the food quality definitely needs to meet a minimum bar. It is only on a full stomach can we can debate the other criteria. Similar sentiment is shared by the Girl.
The problem with food however, is that it's extremely difficult to be objective about it in a blogpost*. Two basic problems have been haunting me 1) How does one agree on a set of criteria that can be debated? 2) How does one come up with a factual rank of the 2 cities on the criteria?
I came up with a framework of different parts of the meal on one axis (starter, main course, dessert...) and some sort of the top 5 cuisines in India (Indian veg, Indian Non-veg, Chinese, Italian...) on the other but felt immensely hungry instead and gave up trying. I did order a nice meal to make up for it.
On a full stomach now, the first part of the framework looks attractive. I will cover street food, non-vegetarian main course in restaurants (hereforth referred to as Non-Veg), vegetarian main course in restaurants (Veg) and dessert. I will look at three things within these: variety in cuisines, signature dishes in accessible restaurants, which the city is known for and signature dishes in niche expensive places where I have eaten when others have paid!
Street Food: Unfortunately, neither of the cities comes out tops in my street food ratings. While they don't have the fame of a Lahore or a Bangkok, they don't even have the variety and accessibility of Kolkata. Nor are they known for a signature dish like the Fanoos roll in Bangalore.
However, after having eaten at Bhendi Bazaar last Ramadan and after having being severely disappointed by Chandni Chowk/ Parathewali gali, I am moving towards giving higher marks to Bombay. Bombay also brings in variety - from the late night fruits and juices at Haji Ali to the ubiquitous Pav Bhaji and Bhelpuri everywhere to Dosas at Breach Candy. Obviously Nizamuddin and Nasir Iqbal does try it's best to compete for Delhi, but I will still give the victory to Bombay here. Mumbai 1, Delhi 0.
Non Veg: Delhiites would obviously point out that Bombay still has been unable to create the decent butter chicken. I agree that even when it comes to dishes like Tandoori chicken and a Sikandari Raan, Delhi does have a substantial lead. Restaurants like Karim's, Pindi, Moti Mahal have a legacy and deliver consistently whenever I need my comfort food. Radisson's Great Kebab Factory while being considerably new offers a value proposition (unlimited kababs at a fixed price) which Bombay still hasn't discovered. Nothing compared to Colonel's Kabab's non-veg platter can't be found in a Bombay restaurant. Then, there's Tibetan food - Momo's, Beef Chilly at Majnu Ka Tilla.
However, having said all of this, Bombay does have places which can whip up a decent tandoori/ Mughlai experience - Lucky's biryani, Pritam da Dhaba etc.. Then there are the Parsi restaurants - Britannia, Jimmy Boy, Mocambo. There is Goan sausages at New Martin's...
Plus, I think there are two words for Bombay which can't be said for Delhi - Sea food. Geography obviously plays a huge role here, but the fact remains that Delhi gets its pants whipped by Bombay here. There's nothing like Trishna, Mahesh or Ankur in Delhi. And since a butter pepper garlic prawn or a squid is the most impressive any food can ever be, I will give victory to Bombay.
I will give this battle to Bombay. Bombay 2, Delhi 0
As far as niche places are concerned, I must also mention one of the best Japanese restaurants that I have encountered - Wasabi at the Taj at Bombay. People had been hyping 360 degrees at Oberoi, Delhi. I still haven't done that place, but having eaten at various sushi places in Singapore, Dubai, Europe, I do believe that Wasabi offers an unbelievable sushi platter. It's very very expensive, but every rupee (paid by others) is worth it. I must also mention Bukhara at Maurya, Delhi which is overhyped but does run the hype close.
Vegetarian (aka borrowed opinion): I am not best suited to comment here (for I forget when was the last time I went out and ordered veg food), but I think Mumbai with it's Gujarati and Rajasthani fare does do a slightly better job than Delhi. However, when it comes to one of the vegetarian dishes I can go out to eat at - Chole Bhature, I think Delhi wins. Bengali Market and Kamla Nagar do not find an equivalent in Mumbai.
Good South Indian food can be found in both places, I guess, though I still haven't eaten as good a masala dosa as in Dasaprakash in Ambassador hotel in Delhi. That was some four-five years back though.
I must however mention here that nobody should mention Crystal-like places in Bombay. If I really wanted homely food, I would have stayed at home.
I will call this one a draw (more out of ignorance, than anything else).
Bombay 2.5, Delhi 0.5
Dessert: Okay, there are desserts. Sweets, cakes, pastries, tarts, souffles.... Both cities do a decent job here. Then there's Nirula's hot chocolate fudge. Mumbai 2.5, Delhi 1.5
Overall victory to Bombay.
Other stuff I have missed: The Girl just mentioned that Bombay has something that Delhi doesn't - accessible food on every street. Even late at night. I agree.
I also wonder whether there's a eatery every 200 yards in Mumbai or so. And whether that's a record in terms of density.
*The only thing that I do have on my favour is that I (hopefully) didn't start with any bias towards any of the city and I have managed to eat in all sorts of places. So, here goes.