At home,with home-style Vegetarian food : Gokul9

Gokul is a name many of us in Mumbai are familiar with. A place in Colaba which has been around for decades and is known to be a hotspot for good quality and wholesome, Mangalorean food and drinks.

Dinesh Pujary and Vandana, the son and daughter of Mr. Jaya Pujary, the founder of Gokul, have started Gokul 9 a small, but cosy vegetarian eatery in the adjacent lane.

The place is colourful, has vibrant and aesthetically done interiors and spells comfort from word go. The menu is exhaustive and one is spoiled for choice.

While there is a large section of South Indian delicacies, there is comfort food galore- soups, burgers, pav bhaji, sandwiches, pizza, and even a thali. There is something for every palate and age group.

The South Indian food here is unarguably the piece de resistance. The aromatic hing in the piping hot sambhar wafts through the air even before you taste a spoonful. The flavours are spot on and the chutney is comforting as it is replete withe home style flavours. Palak dosa, cheese bhaji dosa, butter spring dosa, are worth a try as these are innovative albeit with a traditional touch. The masala dosa of course is the all time winner on the menu.

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The cheese khada pav bhaji is indulgence personified and not-to-be-missed. The Mumbai Special section with favourites like sabudana khichdi and misal pav will make you nostalgic.

Among starters, the mushroom manchurian and soya bean chilli dry, are unique. For those seeking  a quick bite, sandwiches, burgers, pizza options abound.

Office goers throng to satiate themselves with the value-for-money thali. Rotis, rice, Indian gravies, Chinese dishes, too find a place on this varied menu.

Round off your sumptuous meal with a refreshing and creamy kulfi.

No alcohol here of course but juices and milkshakes aplenty to choose from.

The food here is fresh, made with good quality ingredients and easy on the stomach and wallet. Nothing causes discomfort and uneasiness. The kitchen appears squeaky clean and hygienic.

The service staff is warm, polite and alert. One literally feels at home here. I left with a smile of satisfaction.

Rating : 4/5

 

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Dastarkhwan par excellence at Kangan

 

Indian food when dining out is usually my last choice, even though, I am passionate about the flavours of Indian food of every region. It is the greasy curries, oily biryanis, heavy kababs that scare me. Else, Indian food is food for my soul and I relish its flavours with pride. But home cooked food Indian food is what I hanker after.

A new menu tasting session with Chef Mohamed Danish, the new Chef de cuisine at Kangan, Westin Mumbai Garden City, sounded exciting and naturally the gourmand and writer in me wanted to explore it, so I set out, albeit with a bit of trepidation.

Chef Danish, I learnt, is a Lucknow born and bred Chef and naturally then, his culinary legacy is rich and varied. Of a pleasant demeanour, soft spoken and extremely confident of his food and skills, he demonstrated that in ample measure over a lunch experience that spanned three hours. No, it was not only about endless dishes, but conversations and stories around the food that made time simply fly and kept us engrossed.

Awadhi cuisine was what we were primarily being treated to, as those are the highlights of the new menu, which will of course contain other dishes too, to wow many a palate for dinner.

The culinary gems one can expect in an Awadhi meal are unmatched, especially delectable meat dishes including biryani, Nalli nihari, kakori kababs and more.

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Greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques, Awadhi food bears similarities to the cuisines of Persia, Kashmir and Hyderabad. The richness of Awadhi cuisine also lies in liberal use of ingredients like mutton, paneer and rich spices including mace, cardamom and saffron.

Slow cooking with the finest ingredients, magically bound together, is the cooking style that is popular and Chef Danish strictly adhered to that.

Some of the major spices that go into the legendary spice mixes in this cuisine are – black and green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cumin, nutmeg, mace and cloves. The rakabdars or gourmet cooks, had their spice mixes, which were a closely guarded secret. In the past, all these spices were added in proportions that were easy on the stomach.  Meat typically used to be marinated in curd and spices. This helped to soften the taste and texture, as well as remove any strong odours.

Innovation was constant in the kitchens, as Nawabs were very easily bored and thus demanded constant innovation from their cooks, who obliged. Chef Danish seems to have inherited this trait as he is inventive to the extent of experimenting without altering the classics.

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We started with the aromatic and creamy, Murg zafrani shorba, but sans any cream. Flavourful as it was slow-cooked, it boasted of spices and the caramelised onions imparted a unique flavour.

 

The Kangan tandoori chicken came next, with a lot of fanfare, being served to us fresh on our table. The aromas wafted through the air and made us hungrier, than we were. A bite into it and the smoky and well-balanced flavours, wowed my palate.

 

The refreshing lemon grass shikanji, I thought was an apt and interesting combination for this summer heat and refreshing, as nothing else.

The Kakori kabab was one of the best ever, as it was completely melt-in-the-mouth, well-spiced and yet, nothing overpowering.

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The dudhiya kabab made with grated paneer and dry spices, was for me, the piece de resistance. The melange of textures and flavours, so distinct, set it apart. I had never tasted anything like this before. Carnivores would gladly give up meat if this is served to them. The vegetarian variety on the new menu is abundant. The firdausi bharwaan aloo is equally a palate pleaser.

Each dish looked as good as it tasted, as Chef Danish displayed his mastery over his craft. The andaaz of balancing the spices in this cuisine is an art and intrinsic to the flavours and Chef Danish has got it right.

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For mains, we sampled the quintessential favourite – dal Kangan, murgh Begmati, nalli nihari, murg Jahaangiri raan, papad and sev ka paratha, multigrain roti and more. The fragrant gucchi pulao with stuffed morels was an unparalleled treat. For once, with a heavy heart, I skipped the biryani.

We rounded off our meal with the delectable shahi tukda, made with in-house saffron infused bread.

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In keeping with the Lucknawi tehzeeb and adab, none of the dishes had whole spices that one needed to remove. Apparently, that is how the Nawabs liked it – well-spiced food, prepared with a plethora of spices, but all removed after the cooking process before being served.

Having tried multiple dishes, albeit small tasting portions, I did not experience the discomfort and uneasiness I was anticipating. That itself was the acid test for me. Quite literally.

It was an enjoyable afternoon, where humne shauq farmaya, and we experienced lazeez food with lajawaab hospitality. Oops! I am beginning to sound Lucknawi is it? That is was this food and culture does to you, I guess.

If you remotely love Indian food, this new menu at Kangan, is a must try. Allow Chef Danish’s culinary treats to pamper your taste buds.

Rating : 4/5

 

A delightful maze of flavours a la Portugal

Dining in Goa is always a pleasure, as is visiting Goa. However, on my recent trip to my favourite State, I was in for an experience that took me by surprise. This hidden gem at Cidade de Goa, called the Alfama is a place I had never visited before and was mesmerized the moment I entered.

Designed around Lisbon’s bohemian old town, this charming place is romance and warmth personified. The lively ambience is infectious and transports you to another world altogether. The pristine white balconies, further enhance the charm.

The menu is essentially offers Portuguese Goan and Konkan food with a modern presentation and a degree of inventiveness.

I was fortunate to have a special menu curated for me by Executive Chef Sunit Sharma and his team.

The pineapple sansav and papad kismur started off our evening on a delicious note. A degustation experience was what we had embarked upon. The sansav teased my taste buds with its tangy and tart flavours while the papad kismur offered the right bite. The futi kadi proved to be the perfect way to stimulate my appetite and the fact that it contained no coconut milk made it even more lighter and refreshing.

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What is a Goan or Portuguese meal without a macaroni soup? The first sip brought back a host of memories. It was comforting all the way.

The surmai recheado got my vote instantly both for its flavours and innovation. What does one even say about rawa fried prawns? Succulent and lip-smacking these were fried to perfection and the rawa crust was well-spiced.

The lobster balchao on tarts I thought was a good spin on the usual prawns balchao. Foddi with a banana and potato variation, were crispy and a snack I could never have enough of.

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Each dish was distinct with authentic flavours oozing out of every bite. I devoured each one with pleasure, many of them making me take a trip down memory lane. Some of these were familiar and strongly reminiscent of what one is used to eating at home.

The chicken cafreal stuffed in the poee was delightful and paired well with the poee. The spice levels were just right and the flavours, balanced.

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The meal was a surreal experience and what added to the memorable evening was the live music by the Cotta  trio- father and his son and daughter, who were a melodious trio. They serenaded each guest on their tables with music of their choice.

The first Tuesday of every month is a Fado night. Alas! I wish I was in Goa on one such night to enjoy the music.

Enjoyment tonight, seemed a mild word to describe what I was experiencing.

The shrimp curry with Goan rice sadly paled in comparison to the the other offerings.

The dessert platter comprised bebinca, the tedious, layered dessert which is synonymous with Goa, alle belle the jaggery and coconut pancakes and Manganem or the payasam which is typically a Saraswat dessert. Each of these was well made and offered distinctive flavours and textures.

I marveled at the Chef’s ability to integrate local flavours and ingredients in a contemporary manner yet, giving us a true Goan/Portuguese experience.

Coupled with impeccable but unobtrusive service, this meal proved to be one that I will cherish for a long time.

Coastal treats galore; from Mangalore

Ferry Wharf in Bandra Reclamation is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. A bright and cheerful eatery with a warm vibe and colourful decor awaits you. 

The menu is replete with Mangalorean fare but it is the thalis priced affordably that caught my eye. 

Seafood is obviously their focus and the quality is numero uno- fresh and delicious. 

The fish, prawns and clam thalis are full fledged value for money meals. I opted for the prawns thali- my perpetual weakness. 
The thali comprised rotis, rice, vegetable of the day, prawns in a delectable gravy, tomato saar and fried prawns. The succulent prawns screamed freshness and were flavourful. The curry was home style and comforting. 

One can also settle for the clam thali with clams marinated in herbs and spices.  Fish lovers of course can treat themselves to the sumptuous fish thali.  Vegetarians fret not. You too can relish a vegetarian thali.

You cannot leave this place without trying the lip-smacking payasam made with chana dal and jaggery. 

The service is warm and unobtrusive. Lunch is served between 12 pm to 3.30pm. 

This value for money thali is a must try. 

Rating : 4/5

Tantalising flavours at Timpani

Timpani, the all day dining place at Radisson Blu Ahmedabad during my recent visit took me by surprise. Warm, vibrant and cheerful. This place was bustling at all hours.

A multi-cuisine dining place, the offerings across cuisines were varied and catered to every palate. The special emphasis on local food at all meals was something that impressed me.

Breakfast had an array of items to choose from- Pan Asian, Indian and global fare. The live counters with dosas and eggs with chefs serving these a la minute were a treat to watch.

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The local Gujarati counter with farsan, moong dal chilla, moong dal halwa, patra, etc was something most out station guests, including me made a beeline for.

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The food was of great quality and the ingredients, undoubtedly fresh. Noodles, cereal, fruits, idli, poha, sabudana vada, sausages, baked beans, there were a plethora of options. Timpani serves delicious buffets at each meal, as well as an abundance of à la carte choices on the restaurant’s menu.

The moong dal chilla with chutney got my vote instantly. The sabudana vada was similar to the one at home and the eggs of course were made to perfection. A range of fresh juices and tea, coffee was what one could choose from.

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The service was equally impeccable with the staff being alert and attentive.

The natural light filtering in and the bright ambience adds to the charm of this place.

Executive Chef Chetak Goyal and his team ensure everyone leaves Timpani with a smile of satisfaction. I sure did.

Cooking with this versatile Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt caught my fancy when I was living in London a decade ago and my love affair with it continues. Sadly, there was no proper equivalent to it in India till Epigamia came along recently. Rich, creamy, luscious and yet, low fat. The perfect protein and calcium fix, I need at my age.

 

I have been picking up and devouring various flavours of Epigamia, Banana Honey and Vanilla bean and strawberry being my favourites.

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Of course while many of us cook with dahi or curd at home especially in Indian food, as amrinades or in masalas for gravies, I was intrigued when invited to Bastian. Famed for its food, helmed by maverick Chef Kelvin Cheung, Chef was going to serve dishes created using Epigamia, Greek yogurt, I was informed. Wow! That sounded exciting.

And exciting it was. The strawberry smoothie served at the outset wowed my palate with the flavours- thick, creamy and the touch of balsamic, I think, did the trick. Was refreshing alright.

Roasted spare ribs with mango yogurt, sounded enticing. Chef Kelvin used the yogurt as a marinade and left this overnight to absorb the yogurt and tenderize the meat. The result, melt in the mouth fare, well-spiced and balanced.

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The truffle mushroom sweet potato pappardelle took me by surprise. It is one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. The creamy texture imparted by the natural yogurt was a delight for the taste buds. In the non-vegetarian version, caramalised yogurt was used for the lobster. The flavour profiles matched perfectly and the textures were stuff dreams are made of. The crunch, bite, creaminess was a roller-coaster ride for the palate, which it gladly embraced. No, I did not miss being a Carnivore today.

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Chef Kelvin Cheung’s mastery over his craft is undisputed and his clever and skillful use of Epigamia Greek yogurt was ample testimony.

The dessert, expectedly was a treat. The honey banana yogurt was used to make a creamy custard and served with banana bread and black pepper honey it surpassed my expectations. The natural sweetness of the yogurt accentuated the other flavours and made it a delectable dessert.

A delightful afternoon of discovery, this meal turned out to be. And with Rohan Mirchandani, one of the founders for company, the afternoon was certainly memorable.

The versatile ingredient that Greek yogurt is has set me thinking. Time to do embark upon my experiments in the kitchen with Epigamia. Not just going to wolf these down but shall put them to sue in cooking too.

 

 

 

Food meets films in vibrant ambience

Which one of us does not love and cherish the film Sholay? Most of us I think, do. Naturally then, when a restaurant is named after one of the famed characters of this iconic film, the intrigue factor heightens. Basanti and Co. in Seven Bungalows Andheri West thus beckoned me.

The colourful interiors, trendy decor and cheerful vibe, set the tome of our evening. The bric-a-brac and design elements thrown in appealed to me instantly. The seating area is spacious and the bar in one corner, eclectic.

The menu offered Awadhi and North Indian food with a special section of Chef Qureshi’s signature Biryanis. Yes, another chef from the famed Qureshi family.

The service staff seemed articulate and alert. Roy, serving us was well-spoken and well-informed about the menu too.

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Murg Badam shorba, is what we started with and the creamy soul was comforting. The hint of saffron and the crunch owing to the almonds seamless meshed with the creamy thick broth. There were chaats too on offer but we decided to skip those.

Murg Tikka Patiala was well marinated and grilled to perfection. The smoky flavours were apparent in each bite. The Dahi ke kabab however stole the thunder. Well-made, these were soft, tangy and wholesome.

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For mains, we ordered the makki ki roti and sarson ka saag with a lassoni addition. Did not work for me at all. The saag was far from the real thing. The Punjabi choley with mini lulchas, were robust and delightful. The Nalli Nihari was the star of the show. The pronounced flavours of mutton in a well-spiced gravy and soft well-cooked pieces of mutton and of course the nihari was an absolute treat. Chicken Tariwala too was a preparation which tingled our taste buds.

The assorted rotis were the perfect accompaniment- garlic naan, missi roti, makki ki roti and tandoori roti. The lamb kulcha sounded enticing too.

The dessert options were strangely limited. Jalebi rabdi and malai phirni was all they offered. Both were strictly mediocre as the textures were far from authentic. The phirni lacked the quintessential grainy texture and bite and was too pasty, whereas the rabdi was cloyingly sweet and again of a overly creamy texture. The crisp and well-fried jalebis got my instant vote though.

The thandai shot at the end of our meal was mild but served the purpose of an after-meal digestive.

This place offers an exhaustive variety -both food and the bar menu. Vegetarians need not fret as there are abundant options. The portions too are hearty and perfect for a family meal. The food is well-presented but sans any unnecessary frills.

We missed trying the biryani and in order to remedy that, I need to make a second trip to Basanti and Co.

Open for lunch and dinner, a meal for two without alcohol is approx Rs 1500.

Rating : 3.5/5