A Superlative Menu

Salads are not all that you need to eat when following healthy dietary habits. I am all for eating healthy food, yet, food packed with nutrients and flavours. Yes, taste is key. Insipid and bland food does not meet approval with my palate.

Thus, the new Super Foods Menu introduced by TGI Fridays, the global casual dining leader,  caught my attention and immediately I set out to explore this at the Palladium, Lower Parel, Mumbai outpost.

The menu, for 3 months, though limited offers enough variety. I noticed, that the offerings had super foods like beans, broccoli, blueberries, salmon, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts and yogurt in abundance. Being natural ingredients, these are loaded with excellent nutritional benefits.

Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken, Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, Cranberry & blueberry couscous and Kale were some of the unique dishes. What was interesting was that, appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts, had all incorporated super foods in some form or the other, thus making the entire menu healthy.

The Fruits & Nuts Super Salad made with crisp lettuce, spinach, broccoli topped with walnuts, apples, dried apricots, cranberries, and blueberries, was a delightful medley of flavours that wowed my palate. No where was there any monotony at all.

Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken

Next, I tried the Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken. Bursting with simple and subtle flavours, this, lemon and olive oil-marinated grilled chicken breasts were drizzled with a spicy wasabi miso sauce. Served with toasted almond, cranberry and blueberry couscous and ginger garlic kale, this was a power-packed meal in terms of taste and nutrients. I only felt that the portion of the kale was a bit too much for the meal. One can only enjoy a certain amount of kale.

Pomegranate Honey Mustard Salmon cam next. A hearty portion, I thought to myself. Again, a lemon and olive oil basted grilled salmon filet topped pomegranate honey mustard vinaigrette. The tangy flavour were unmistakable, yet, teased my palate sufficiently.  The salmon was of exceptional quality and grilled to perfection. Unfortunately, the novelty factor of the toasted almond, cranberry & blueberry couscous and ginger garlic kale had worn off by now. Yet, I savoured the couscous.

Pomegranate Honey Mustard Salmon

Vegetarians need not despair. They can relish the Vegetarian Tex Mex Chili made with chipotle peppers, sun-ripened tomatoes, red onions and beans topped with yogurt, fresh pico de galloand jalapeno served up hot and spicy on a brown rice pilaf.

The quality of the ingredients, struck me as the best and the presentation was enough to make a person satiated already, feel hungry again. The food may seem a tad overpriced, but given the quality and portion sizes, one cannot complain.

Although we decided to skip dessert, as the meal had been too filling, the Fruit Crumble seemed inviting.  Jam-packed with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and juicy peaches, served piping hot and topped with an ice-cold scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt,  haunted me and I  have resolved to go back another day to indulge my sweet cravings.

Rating : 4.5/5

 

 

A little British, a lot Bengali

The majestic grandeur of The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar at St. Regis, Mumbai, replete with a colonial feel is unmistakable. The aura this place exudes, befits the kind of food that is served here.

Currently running a special British Raj menu available for lunch and dinner till 31st May, the offerings celebrate Anglo-Indian cuisine, albeit with Chef Gopal Krishna’s twists. From JW Marriott Kolkata, this chef’s menu naturally leans heavily on Bengali cuisine, so he is serving the Anglo Indian cuisine of Bengal.

Anglo Indian cuisine may have common roots, but differs subtly in each state in terms of spices and the usage of local ingredients, incorporated over a period of time. Being from Kolkata myself, I was of course not complaining.

The Anglo-Indian cuisine which evolved in the Dak bungalows, Army canteens (Mess), gentleman’s clubs and the Indian Railways kitchens has been faithfully included in this menu.

The Daaber Jol which was nothing but fresh coconut water, rejuvenated me, as we settled down. Later, with my meal, I relished the Gondhoraj lebu shorbot – a refreshing cooler made with lemon and sugar, for which I have a tremendous weakness.

A Yellow lentil soup with apple, curry powder and cream, was what I began my meal with. A creamy texture, yet one, which offered a bite. It was absolutely comforting and a great way to begin a meal. There was an option of the celebrated Mulligatawny Soup too.

Dhungari Murgh Tikka

Kumro phool bhaja aka Crisp Fried Pumpkin flower, Dimer Devil Crumb or fried potato filled eggs, Betkir Paturi Mustard, poppy and coconut flavoured steamed Bhekti fish, were some of the starters, characteristic of Bengali food, that I sampled.  The essence of the flavours was captured to perfection. The dimer devil boasted of the right amount of masalas in the crust, just as the way it should be.

Subz Dum Biryani

What blew me off completely was the simple, but fragrant Dak bungalow chicken curry, a mildly spiced chicken curry from Anglo Indian cuisine. It was the quintessential Anglo Indian curry, I have grown up eating in erstwhile Calcutta. It opened a floodgate of memories for me. The only thing missing was simple steamed rice. Rotis and parathas don’t do justice to this preparation.

Dimer Dalna – an Egg curry with potato and spices, was equally authentic and well-made. Balanced flavours all the way.

Vegetarians need not despair. Mochar ghonto or Banana flower cooked with potato and coconut, is delightful and mildly flavoured. The core ingredient was intact and nowhere overpowered by spices. There are several other dishes to choose from as well.

The menu also includes few of Sahib’s signature dishes like the Satwar piste ka shorba  orToasted pistachio and asparagus cream soup, starters  like Broccoli dak bangla  and kasundi mustard.

We rounded off our meal with Bengali desserts like the Ledikeni – a cottage cheese dumpling fried and soaked in sugar syrup, Mishti Doi or the Jaggery flavoured homemade yoghurt.

A meal I would not describe as strictly Anglo-Indian, but inspired by the cuisine nevertheless. What struck me as praiseworthy was Chef’s tribute to the flavours of Bengal in an authentic manner. And I was pleased as punch at having savoured one of my favourite cuisines- Bengali.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

Getting Cheesy

‘Say Cheese’. A common expression used by photographers when they want their subject/s to smile during a photo session. I am an exception. Cheese, makes me smile anyway, as I love it. Naturally then, the very thought of an entire promotion dedicated to cheese, at 1441 Pizzeria, Mumbai at Fort and Lokhandwala, Andheri West, titled’ Say Cheese Festival’ made me smile ear to ear. I was visibly excited.

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An entire new menu curated around cheese.  What more could a cheese lover like me ask for? Camembert and blue cheese pizza, buratta pizza, fromage blanc pizza, feta cheese pizza, smoky cheese pizza, were some of the exciting offerings on this menu.

I tried a piece each of some of the varieties at the Lokhandwala outlet and was blown away by the quality of the cheese. They had obviously used the best and that made all the difference to the taste of the pizza. The fresh ingredients and flavours were bursting and seeking attention. The techniques, precision and variety at 144 Pizzeria has always impressed me.

 

The Camembert and blue cheese pizza was delightful. The flavours in sharp contrast, yet complementary. The smoky pizza was, as expected, a treat for the palate with the smoky flavours, enveloping my taste buds. The crunch came in the form of veggies, olives, in many of the pizza.

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But the piece de resistance that evening was the coffee pizza. I have never eaten anything  quite like that before. Dessert pizza, with chocolates, fruits et al, in abundance, made by the best Italian chefs, but this coffee pizza was unique. The honey, spices, herbs, jalapenos, were high on flavours and then, the drizzle of strong coffee powder teased your taste buds, just the right amount. The contrast was evident and spectacular. I lauded the mastery of the person who created this concept and of course those, who were skilfully, executing it.

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The in-house Italian sauces, used in each pizza were lip-smacking and different. The usage of vegetables and other ingredients was apt, in the right proportion. Even the cheese did not overpower any of the pizza flavours. The crust, as always, was just perfect for me.

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The enthusiastic staff, their positive energy and desire to see a guest satisfied, is praiseworthy. I love the fact that they are well-informed and able to explain the pizza offerings on the menu exceedingly well to a guest.

I left, satiated and smiling. I was, inadvertently, saying cheese, as that was what was on my mind and in my stomach:)

On till, May 31, this ‘Say Cheese’ festival is not to be missed if you are a cheese lover or a pizza lover or both.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

La Terrazza : Homely food, simple and flavoursome

Simple fresh ingredients characterise Italian food and perhaps that is why it is one of my favourite global cuisines. The extensive use of garlic and olive oil further endears this cuisine to me. Rustic pastas, crisp pizzas, fresh salads, creamy and luscious desserts. Oh I can never have enough of Italian food.

Trattoria style Italian food, cooked in home-style is my weakness, so I entered La Terrazza at Hyatt Regency Pune, the swish and elegant restaurant replete with a warm vibe, with a bounce in my step. No, this was not my first, I have savoured a memorable meal here two years ago and the excitement was thus justified. Furthermore, I was told a lot has changed since then, so the excitement was two-fold.

Executive Chef Anirban Dasgupta and his team including Chef Surajit, welcomed us and we were seated comfortably in this cheerful restaurant. Cosy and elegant, yet casual.

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A dinner buffet is a new inclusion, I noted, since my last visit. A walk around and I noticed that the spread was lavish. Yes, lavish in terms of the variety, but otherwise, typical Italian food, cooked in homes in Italy- grandmother-esque cooking. Robust, rustic and simple. Pastas, pizza, anti pasti, soups, mains and desserts- there was a lot to choose from. Of course the soups and mains are served straight from the kitchen to the table.

The live counters were a delight as one could watch chefs in action and actually see what is being cooked and served.

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I relished the in-house focaccia as I waited for our food to arrive.

Our Buratta Caprese  – Fresh burratta cheese with assorted marinated cherry tomatoes, arrived. The creamy burratta simply melt-in-the-mouth and the salad was bursting with fresh flavours all the way. What was heartening to know that chef had actually sourced most of the ingredients locally, as he is a great believer of eat local, think global. I second that completely.

 

Roasted pumpkin cappuccino with truffle oil came next. Normally I am used to a somewhat heavy pumpkin soup but this one was light in texture but high on flavours. The garlic infused roasted pumpkin soup was aromatic and comforting. The truffle oil added another dimension to the flavours.

Vishwanath, serving us, was polite and extremely well-versed with the dishes he was offering and that was impressive. The Fungi trifolati, was a medley of textures and flavours. Mixed mushrooms sautéed with garlic, lemon juice and parsley with asparagus. I was delighted with the unusual textures amalgamated in one dish. But then, that is Chef Anirban’s passion and forte. He enjoys playing around with textures, giving a simple dish that ‘wow’ factor by imparting unique textures to an ingredient or two.

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Gnocchi a la Norma, I must confess no longer excites me as I have sampled it at almost every Italian restaurant. But a bite into the one served here and I was proven wrong. This was certainly out of the ordinary. The aubergine parmigiana fritti in the centre, completely revolutionised this otherwise simple dish. I was mesmerized by the texture this element added to the dish. Chef Anirban truly proved he is a master of his craft.

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Just when the gnocchi had cast its spell on my taste buds and I thought I had sampled the best, the piece de resistance for the evening came in the form of the Risotto Asparagus. The crusty texture that one bit into before the creamy risotto enveloped one’s mouth was enough to plunge any gourmand into a coma. And I was no exception.

Fresh ingredients, simple cooking methods. This was honest food to the core.  No unnecessary drama here.  The food was true to its region, yet, with a twist. With diverse and ever-changing culinary landscapes, these additions and skilful changes to each dish, given by chef, are what give the food at La Terrazza, that extra edge.

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For once, the mains had left me so spellbound that I almost forgot I was to relish desserts. Of course I was not going to skip Italian desserts. Tiramisu nostrano – La Terrazza signature twist, Mahabaleswar strawberry compote and Sicilian Cannoli Dulche de leche, Amarena cherry sauce were pretty as a picture and equally decadent in taste.

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The attention to detail and fresh flavours of the cuisine here, are bound to contribute further to its popularity among locals as well as those visiting Pune. Of course La Terrazza is already a preferred dining destination for many. Open for lunch and dinner throughout the week and only dinner on Sundays, this place offers value-for-money food and tremendous variety.

I was transported to an Italian countryside that night as I dined at La Terrazza. Inspired flavours, but homely Italian cuisine at its best. That was the thought I left with.

Rating: 4/5

Lucio: Celebrating the flavours of Goa

The Goan in me is perpetually craving authentic Goan food, even when I am in Goa or perhaps more so as chances of getting home style food there are stronger.

Lucio at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim South Goa proved to be the perfect choice. The Goan cuisine Master chef Peter Araujo was in command and the menu there, read like a dream for me.

Soups, Starters, Goan curries, Rice, Breads, Desserts- the menu offered them all. And yes, there were vegetarian options too.

The decor is chic and contemporary and the lay out  with wooden tables and chair, neat. The natural light filtering in, gives it a warm vibe.

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My spinach and potato soup was replete with subtle flavours. The texture was sufficiently creamy. The prawns rissois, were delectable- creamy prawns in a white sauce, generously filled in a karanji -shaped choux pastry case and deep fried. Of course the menu had abundant choices- crispy fried prawns, calamari, croquettes and more.

Cashew xacuti, red rice, mutton sukhem and Goan fish curry along with sannas and prawns kismur was what we opted for.

The fish curry was tangy and subtly spiced, just the way I like it. The freshly ground coconut paste, was adeptly blended into the curry, so as to give a hint of the flavour, without revealing the crunchy texture. It paired well with the red rice and made me nostalgic. This was truly home cooked food.

The cashew xacuti was unique. Spicy but not overpowered with masala. The coconut here too was well-meshed with the gravy. The kismur struck me as unusual- the melange of textures and flavours was perfect.

Chef Peter obviously displayed his skills and mastery even in the simple home-style meal he served us. In fact that to my mind is a tough task and he succeeded with flying colours.

What can I say about the mutton sukhem? the pieces of mutton were succulent and the masala wrapped over it, just perfect- no overdose of gram masala or chillies. Tantalizing the taste buds but not drowning the flavours in the spices.

Vegetarians need no fret- foogath, varan, rissois, mushroom xacuti are all available for one to gorge on.

The simplicity of the meal was what blew me off completely. The spices used were of the best quality, the cooking methods authentic and the resultant dishes, just the way Portuguese and Goan families would eat.

No meal in Goa is complete without the customary date and black jaggery pancakes- Alle Belle. This was exceptionally well-made and the filling simply melt-in-the-mouth.

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The staff is pleasant and willing to assist and the dishes, flawless. Along with Chef Peter, Chef Leon deserves a mention for his extraordinary communication skills apart from being a great and knowledgeable chef. Brajendra the Asst. F&B Manager was exceedingly hospitable and helpful

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I stepped out with a smile on my face after having relished a traditional Goan meal sans frills or modern twists.

Greco : Simply Greek in Goa

A cheerful vibe envelopes you as you enter the Greek cuisine restaurant Greco replete with pristine white and bright blue decor – quintessentially Greek. Although located at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim in South Goa, the separate entrance with the menu placed outside, gives you an option to enter this place, without having to go through the Hotel.

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The striking decor actually transports you to Greece and you could well be in a taverna with a relaxed setting. An arch way leads you to the outdoor seating which is of the inimitable courtyard style and offers a spectacular view. Of course, there is ample seating inside too. In fact the plush interiors, with a swish, well-stocked bar and the mood lighting creates an unparalleled atmosphere.

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A  simple but complete menu largely representative of Crete island in Greece,  is palced before you. However, there are other specialities from other parts of Greece too, giving a diner an insight into this cuisine. The menu has been cleverly crafted by Chef Stelios, a native of Greece. Sea food expectedly abounds in the offerings.

My Psarosopa is a medley of sea food flavours- subtle and comforting. The sea food stock has been cleverly used and is not overpowering. The Greek Mezze here is quite different from the various versions that are often passed off as the original mezze. The tzatziki is bang on in flavours and textures. The kalamata olive paste wows my palate as well, but it is the aubergine salad which unexpectedly stands out. With the warm pita bread dipped into these in turns, I relish every morsel I eat.

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The garides saganaki- a simple but flavourful prawns dish in tomatoes with a dash of ouzo (liqueur) perks up my taste buds. The prawns are fresh and of a superior quality. The tragani feta bursting with fresh flavours, encased in a crisp covering drizzled with honey, with a characteristic sweet and savoury flavour, was the piece de resistance for the evening. It clearly bore testimony to the chef’s mastery over his craft.

The gyros chicken is well-made too. Sea food and poultry apart, for hard-core carnivores, there is a fair amount to choose from. Vegetarians need not despair as there is ample variety too.

My dessert is special, yet, traditional. Galaktoboureko – a sweet and sour cream on a pastry crust immersed me in a food coma. A bite into the crispy phyllo and the creamy semoilna custard filled one’s mouth. Made to perfection, it was a dessert which left you satiated and yet, craving for more.

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I observed that nowhere in my entire meal, did the spices (although minimal) drown the flavours of the core ingredients and the chef had donejustice to all the ingredients by using simple cooking methods.

The use of extra virgin olive oil, ouzo and fresh authentic ingredients adds the right amount of punch and flavour to the dishes. The food is high on flavours and the quality of the ingredients, shines through. It is simple and uncomplicated fare.

If a cocktail is what you fancy, the bartender behind the glitzy bar will make you something to your taste. And of course the selection of wines will lure you as well.

The staff is well-informed about the menu and the service is quick and alert.

Greco truly surpassed my expectations and I felt that for the first time in India, I had a Greek meal which was an honest representation of this simple but flavoursome cuisine.

Rating: 4.5/5

Hop along for some Hoppers

Sri Lanka’s bowl shaped pancake- light, fluffy and delicious, is my new favourite. Quite similar to appams, hoppers are made with naturally fermented rice flour. They can be eaten sweet or savoury. A staple found primarily on every table in a Sri Lankan home.Of course, I first sampled it years ago when I went to Sri Lanka, and several time later at food festivals or five star hotels, but the novelty has not worn off. In fact, I am in love with these with renewed vigour. I prefer savoury ones any day.

Naturally then, I hopped over to Madeira and Mime, a new restaurant (opened 5 months ago) in Powai to sample some great hoppers. Known for their great food and drinks, I was sure I would get good ones here.And right I was!

The doughy centre and crisp edges with a filling in the centre, are enticing. And that’s exactly what was served to me here, one Hopper with chicken sukka and the other paneer makhani. There was a mutton version too, which I decided to skip.

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The highlight for me was the accompanying coconut pickle- spicy, well seasoned and with a great bite to it.

The hoppers were well-made, just the way they should be and the generous chicken sukka with an egg at the base made it even more delicious.The flavours of the chicken were lip-smacking and comforting. No spice was over powering and the pieces of chicken were succulent and well-meshed with the gravy. One could just roll it and bite into it effortlessly. The paneer makhani one which is obviously a twist in terms of the filling, was not so exciting, in comparison, but tasty nevertheless.

Made of rice flour and coconut milk, hopppers are light and pair well with just about anything. The slight sour flavour and a medley of textures is what sets these apart. Made in a special pan or appachatti, these are quite easy to make as well and quick too, but yes require a special skill.

Madeira and Mime is every bit your neighborhood bar offering unique drinks and delectable food along with great service by their always-smiling staff. I too left the palce smiling after having savoured palate-pleasing hoppers.