Monthly Archives: February 2016

Coastal Delights

The sheer variety at Barbeque Nation always baffles me. But yes, it gives me an opportunity to try those many more dishes, so I am not complaining.

Sea food is my weakness so I decided to experience the ongoing Best of Coast Festival, that is on till March 13.

The menu was an exercise in choices. There was sea food galore, but I was amazed to see the unique dishes crafted for vegetarians too.

Mr. Joju, COO, Barbeque Nation Hospitality Ltd., told me, “Best of the Coast” is Barbeque Nation’s way of paying tribute to and celebrating regional culinary traditions. Western Maharashtra has unique Konkani cuisine, a culmination of centuries of cooking traditions. While we are incorporating some traditional Marathi food into our menu, we also want to offer our patrons the best of regional and global seafood cuisines and have bought in Malayali, Sri Lankan and Thai dishes. We hope to give our guests an unforgettable culinary experience.”

Grilled-Pomfret-Fish

Well, I certainly began my gourmet odyssey with the best. A well-fried spicy and piquant grilled pomfret. Oh! It teased my taste buds mercilessly. Fresh and soft, the fish fillet simply melt in my mouth.

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The squid rings paled in comparison. However, the chili gherkin mayo served along side caught my fancy.

There were lots of chicken options and mutton too in the appetizers, but who wants anything else when the best of sea food is around?

The grilled prawns too were well-marinated and yes, fresh too, as was the basa.

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Sea Bass Ambul Thiyal – sour fish curry. Different fish cuts (Lemon Sole, Tilapia fish) in Maharashtrian Koliand Srilankan marinades could be sampled from the ‘live counters’, where the chefs adeptly fried the fish. I tried the Rawas and Tilapia. They were faultless.

Hawaiian Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato served with Garlic Bread, Aztec Poblano Paneer, Dry Patara and Raw Mango Papaya salad, were some of the interesting Vegetarian dishes on offer. Quite innovative I thought.

The main course offered kosha mangsho, biryani, Manglorean fish curry, Chicken Hydrabadi, shrimp rice and more for the carnivores. The Biryani was a treat, boasted of some subtle flavours. The Chicken preparation bowled me over completely. A unique masala, made the gravy stand out. The shrimp rice too was delicious but the Kosha Mangsho was anything, but authentic and had far too many bones, than there ought to have been. A tad disappointing.

 

Ada Pradhaman – Kerala style Payasam prepared with jaggery, rice ada and coconut milk was a decadent dessert which I enjoyed thoroughly. There were other options like kulfi, angoor gulab jamun and phirni, but I decided to skip those.

As always, the service was prompt and attentive and the place was buzzing. The soulful rendition of songs by the singer, enhanced the dining experience.

For sea food lovers, there can be no better place than Barbeque Nation to sample the best and freshest catch in myriad preparations and forms. And there’s something for every fish lover’s palate!

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House of Aroma : Lemon Leaf

This truly was a case of taking your neighbourhood eatery for granted. Lemon Leaf has been in Andheri West, Mumbai for a while now and I have never visited it. During the Chinese New Year, when an exciting menu was on offer, I decided to check this place out.

On a weekday evening too, this place was buzzing. Upon entering there was a positive and warm vibe to this restaurant, which I instantly fell in love with. Ameya’s professional and warm welcome, added to the feel-good factor. We were off to a great start.

The menu for the festival was limited but complete with something for everyone. My Golden Corn & Crabmeat Soup was a delight for the palate. Mildly spiced and yet, delectable. It boasted of distinct crabmeat flavours. Set my taste buds tingling alright.

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The BBQ chicken Baos were equally well-made. Steamed to perfection and a generous amount of BBQ chicken enveloped within. Quite filling actually.

The Chicken Siu Mai was aesthetic to look at and packed with flavours. Flavoursome and replete with a myriad textures, it provided the right bite. The accompanying sauces were equally adept at wowing the palate.

Chicken Siu Mai with Pickled ginger

The other options on the menu were 3 Mushroom Dumpling with mushroom broth, Pepper fried Chicken Piccata – with pickled vegetables and so on.

The service I noticed, despite the packed restaurant, was prompt and efficient. Kudos!

For main course, we were recommended the Hakka egg noodles and it paired exceedingly well with our shredded chicken, in a piquant and spicy sauce. The liberal amount of chicken in the sauce along with an oh-so! generous portion of noodles proved to be a meal that satiated us.

We rounded off our meal with a Hazelnut chocolate pot with toffee sauce and a dollop of Vanilla ice cream. I loved the panache with which it was served to us. The hard outer shell of the chocolate pot melted with the hot sauce and gave way to the creamy mousse within. A well-presented dessert and decadent to taste as well. Only the vanilla ice cream could have been creamier.

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No additives, no MSG, no artificial flavours. The food at Lemon Leaf indeed surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had finally discovered this restaurant. This visit was definitely just the beginning.

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

Your Late Night Saviour: Pot de Fusion

Mumbai used to be a city that never slept or at least, was pulsating all night, when I first came to live here 24 years ago. Sadly, a lot has changed since then. One was never worried about getting food at any hour in Mumbai. Restaurants were open or at least some hole in the wall eatery would serve a keema pav or omelette pav at any unearthly hour. Over the years those too have dwindled.

Thus, when I cam across PDF or Pot de Fusion, a food delivery kitchen which delivers food at your doorstep, albeit right now only in the Western Suburbs, from 7 pm to 4 am, I was ecstatic. It’s not only about party goers returning home late and craving some food but even people who work in shifts or even those returning from a journey perhaps.

I called for their food one night. Try karna to banta hai. So what if I was not returning late from anywhere 🙂

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My  Chicken Wings in BBQ Sauce, Chicken Peri Peri, Pasta Salad and Gooey Chocolate dessert arrived, neatly packed in containers in a blue cardboard box, duly branded. There was no spilling or mess. Every food item was in perfect condition. Full marks to the packaging.

Pot de Fusion - Chicken in BBQ Sauce

The chicken wings were interesting. The BBQ sauce actually. The chicken wings were swathed in the sauce and had luscious flavours. Chicken Peri Peri too was a delight for the taste buds. Fiery, but the spices were overpowering in this case. The somewhat bland Pasta salad came to my rescue and for once I was glad. The raw onions in the salad did not augur well for me though. And it was a bit too dry. Was quite basic and could have been boosted a bit in terms of presentation and flavours.

The chicken piece in the peri peri struck me as somewhat inadequate. Should have been a little more robust and generous, I thought.

The gooey chocolate, got my vote instantly. Fresh and moist, it melt in my mouth completely and was not cloyingly sweet, as sometimes chocolate desserts are.

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The ingredients used are of a good quality and undoubtedly fresh. The concept is of course a winner all the way if it continues to be executed to perfection. Who would not want a proper meal at one’s doorstep even late at night rather than rummage the fridge for something or make a Maggi? Mumbaikars are going to welcome this abundantly.

The menu too is exhaustive and offers plenty of options, both, Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian, global and Indian. Butter Chicken, Red Snapper Fish Meuniere,  Jammu De Rajma or Crab Masala. You can have it all at Pot de fusion.

It is indeed comforting to know that something like PDF now exists. For once, I am glad I live in the Western suburbs!

To order:

Phone – 9820285558/9820895559
Website – www.potdefusion.com
App – Pot de Fusion on Android

A Lucknawi Daawat At Maya

There is nothing like upholding traditions or parampara. And even more so in food, especially with regard to our very own Indian cuisine. The Rivaayat concept which Oberoi Hotels have started at Oberoi Gurgaon and now at Trident BKC Mumbai, are thus close to my heart.

Having experienced Punjabi Rivaayat at Maya, Trident Bandra Kurla Mumbai last month, I was very curious about the Lucknawi Rivaayat by Dr. Izzat Hussain. Being from the Royal family of Lucknow and a Unani practitioner who loves to cook, this one was bound to be interesting.

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Particular about the spices he uses, Dr, Hussain does not believe in adding spices to his food without relevance or justification. No yogurt for marination for him, as he does not want to destroy the good bacteria it offers by cooking curd. Cooking for him is an amalgamation of science and art.

Our Raj pakoris arrive. A bite into the crisply fried pakoris and soft cheese fills my mouth. The kali miri or black pepper is predominant and lends these a unique flavour. The Neza kebabs, are well presented on tiny sword-like skewers and Rasika serving us explains that Neza means sword. These are supposed to caravan food according to Dr. Hussain.

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Succulent pieces of chicken, well-spiced, but not overpowered by spices, these Neza kebabs are a delight for the palate.

The Izzat Fried chicken too gets my vote instantly. Fried to perfection, there is no trace of the chicken getting chewy. Just the way I like mine. Nothing in today’s lunch is fiery thankfully.

The Patta kebabs or minced lamb kebabs, wrapped in cabbage leaves are a version of the famous Gelouti kebabs of Lucknow. Pure, soft meat, envelopes my taste buds. The texture is unique as are the flavours.

Amidst interesting food related anecdotes we bite into the Zarakhush paneer kebabs. Flavoursome, but not extraordinary.

The much awaited thali arrives, it is indeed a treat for the eyes and makes me want to tuck into it immediately. A myriad options. And there is a new combination daily for lunch as Dr. Hussain has curated a menu with over 50 dishes to choose from.

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The thali is on offer for lunch daily at Maya and dinner is a la carte for the entire duration of the festival till February 26.

The mutton chukander or beetroot mutton catches my fancy. Soft well-done pieces of mutton in a thick reddish coloured gravy. No artificial colours or preservatives in his food. The colour comes naturally from the beetroot.

The nariyal arbi too is a treat for the taste buds, soft and well-cooked. Arbi or colocasia has never tasted so good. The shahi cholas did not impress me as much.

But the highlight of my meal was the chicken with garlic or the Murg thoumb. Subtle flavours, but well meshed with the chicken and paired exceedingly well with Izzat ki roti, a signature Indian multigrain bread created by Dr. Hussain.

What struck me as extraordinary was the fact that although we were eating non-vegetarian fare, the food was not a wee bit heavy or rich. Even by the end of the meal, there was no discomfort.

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What can I say about the biryanis- both zaffrani and tursh? The aromas wafted into the air as the lid of the serving dish was lifted. Well-marinated pieces of mutton and the rice grains, separate, yet, homogeneously blended in the ghee and masalas. The chicken one was also delightful, although biryani lovers normally prefer gosht only. The light yellow hues came from the saffron only as opposed to the yellow colour we are used to in Mumbai.

Phirni, was what we rounded off our meal with. The consistency was a tad diluted as compared to the ones I have had in Punjab and Bengal, but Dr. Hussain insisted that’s how it is meant to be in Lucknow.

Flavourful and surprisingly light food which delighted all the senses, excellent company of Executive Chef Bhasin, Dr. Hussain, Shimareet, Kalyan and exemplary service by Rasika, made it an afternoon well spent.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

Goa Unlimited

Goa is second home, quite literally, yet, for some strange reason, I have never been there to witness the Carnival. I was determined to set this right in 2016 and thus planned a trip to witness Goa in all its glory during the Carnival and The Grape Escapade, organised by the GTDC and Department of Tourism Goa in the first week of February.

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My excitement knew no bounds, as seated in the VIP gallery, I waited with baited breath for King Momo and his entourage to enter Panjim in the GTDC float.  And then he did. Magnificent, colourful and majestic. Yes, the opening float was all this and more. The crowds cheered lustily as he addressed them. Poulami Ghosh, the star of Nachom-ia-Kumpasar, sang in her melodious voice, recreating the magic of Lorna, the heartthrob of Goans.

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A steady stream of colourful and innovative floats from different villages of Goa, with music, dance and performances enthralled us all. What a spectacle it was and the atmosphere was electric, as the crowds danced in their seats and waved to the performers.

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Local farmers with vegetables, fisherfolk, preserving the environment, football, weddings, washermen aka dhobis, were some of the unusual themes of the floats.It reflected the team spirit of the Goans as it did their creativity. Most of the floats were a great piece of art and craftsmanship.

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Three hours flew by amidst merriment and gaiety. The Carnival struck me as exceedingly well-organised given the scale of the event. It surpassed my expectations.

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Traffic was well managed, spectators were well-behaved and of course the quality of the floats was outstanding.

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What is nice is that those who miss the Carnival in Panjim on the first day, can catch it in other cities like Mapusa, Madgaon and Vasco on subsequent days with local floats and entertainment.

This was just the beginning of fun and enjoyment for me, as I headed to the annual Grape Escapade, a food and lifestyle festival at the DB Bandodkar grounds in Campal, Panjim.

This fete of flavours aptly encapsulates the exuberance of Goan lifestyle by highlighting Goa’s multi-cultural influences and artistic passions, thus branding Goa as a “Lifestyle Destination”. After all Goa is truly that, isn’t it?

The weather was perfect and the mood eclectic. Live performances were happening on the large stage to enthrall guests and the stalls had on offer wines from Goa and across India, as well as local Goan food by restaurants, hotels and home makers alike.

The local wines were of great quality and spelt innovation. It is indeed a great platform for budding wine makers and entrepreneurs to showcase their wines. People were eagerly sipping the wines and discussing them amongst friends and family.

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Goan delicacies like cafreal, chorizo pao, xacuti, Sanas, pork vindaloo et al were being lapped up by the crowds as the evening progressed.

The spacious grounds allowed place for everyone to roam around freely, sit and watch performances or even attend the wine appreciation session. There was truly something for everyone.

The highlight of the 4 day event was the fashion show and the selection of The Grape Escapade Queen 2016 on the last day. The huge installation at the entrance by Grover Zampa was equally astounding.

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Goa is truly festive during this week of February and offers a charm that is unparalleled. I was extremely glad to have planned this trip and was grateful to GTDC for offering me such a culturally rich experience and glimpse of Goa. Viva Goa!

 

Mangalorean Flavours From Home

Mangalorean cuisine is something we Mumbaikars crave for, as it is not easily available. Once in a while one is lucky to frequent a friend or relative’s home and relish a traditional meal. Even then, there are variations in a Mangalorean Hindu and Catholic meal.

The long drive to Four Points by Sheraton, Vashi, Navi Mumbai from the Western suburbs seemed tedious and long, but after the dinner at Asian Kitchen, curated and prepared by the home chef duo, Vijaya Bangera and Rekha Salian, under the guidance of Executive Chef Mukul Jha, I was glad to have made the journey. The ten day Mangalorean food festival ends tonight.

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The ambience at the restaurant was eclectic and vibrant, yet traditional. The buffet spread was vast with non vegetarian and vegetarian choices galore.

Pumpkin stew, struck me as extremely innovative. And the taste and flavours were indeed unique. Tomato Rasam, Kori Sukha, Bangude Puli Munchi, Neer Dosa with Jinji chutney and the Mangalorean staple Ganjee rice, were some of the dishes on offer.

Speaking about this festival, Chef Mukul Jha, Executive Chef, said, “Mangalorean cuisine is known for its fresh and spicy flavors with rice and fish being staple preparations owing to its coastal origin. We wanted our guests to experience a traditional home cooked meal by our home chef duo who will prepare nothing but the best and leave you with a taste of authentic Mangalorean food.”

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Each dish was distinct from the other. The masalas for each, was prepared by the home chefs from scratch. No ready made masalas for these ladies. They prefer to labour and get it right. That is what set this meal apart and gave it the feel of a home-cooked meal, all the way.

The chicken curry was light and flavourful. Appeased my taste buds. Paired well with the Kori roti or Mangalorean rice wafers. The spices were subtle yet, evident in each spoonful. The mutton curry in the typical Kundapur coarsely ground spices, was fiery and lip-smacking. It was comparatively more robust, but not overpowered by spices again.

Their fish curry was quite different from the one, we Goans are used to. Delectable nevertheless. I relished it with red rice, the way I do at home.

Of course the food was spicy and replete with coconut. Dried chillies (badige), pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and tamarind, were the other ingredients which were predominant.

The vegetarian preparations like Genasu Podi (Sweet Potato Chips), Bisi Bele Bhat, were outstanding too and well-made.

The desserts were tradtional as well. Banana Halwa, Hannu Kesari Bhat, Sweet Appams and Godhi Payasam were the perfect finale to a grand meal.

The passion and enthusiasm of the home chefs was infectious and their humility was overwhelming. They obviously loved to cook and were beaming politely at the words of appreciation coming their way.

It was easily one of the most enjoyable meals I have had in a while. Even though the venue was a hotel, the flavours were quintessentially, home type. Add to that, prompt service, alert staff, warm hospitality and a traditional ambience. Naturally then, it was a memorable dining experience.

 

Fun, Fusion and Fashionably Simple

Goan food is something every gourmet dreams of. Chicken Cafreal is the quintessential favourite of every Goan when it comes to a non-seafood or meat dish. Although a rare occurrence. Perhaps one of the best known chicken dishes in Goan cuisine, apart from Xacuti. In fact, any food lover enjoys this dry, spicy and mouth-watering preparation as a side dish.

Naturally then, even though this is something fairly regular in our Goan household, I was curious and excited to try the Haute Chef version of the Chicken Cafreal.

Haute Chef is a unique “meal kit” concept, built around incredible cooking experiences. They send a box of pre-measured, labeled ingredients along with easy to follow step-by-step instructions, to put together a truly gourmet dish in your home kitchen. No hassles of planning, shopping, measuring. It couldn’t get any simpler, trust me.

 

Whew! I decided to give their Chicken Cafreal a shot. Of course I knew how to prepare it, but their recipe was interesting and I loved the way they suggested we serve it with veggies and the akhrot or walnut dip, instead of a basic salad we often eat with.

Curated by chefs trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the recipes are simple enough keeping novice cooks in mind.

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The ingredients struck me as fresh and of an outstanding quality. The recipe and instructions too, were easy to comprehend.

The green marinade, I must confess, was quite different from the one we make at home and are used to. We add lime juice or Goan vinegar in our green marinade masala. This one was more like a spicy coriander and mint chutney. But produced delicious results nevertheless.

Also, our first marinade is generally not just salt and lime, as mentioned in this recipe, but a garlic ginger paste too.

I followed the recipe, faithfully and yes, was rewarded with a flavoursome, spicy Chicken Cafreal, in 35 minutes. I relished it with the veg crudites and akhrot aioli. This one was fairly different from the cafreal I am used to. And that is what made it so unique. That little twist, I guess, was needed.

Chicken Cafreal with Veg Crudites and Akhrot Aioli Haute Chef 1

 

The Haute Chef boxes come well-packed with fresh ingredients, simple instructions and the meals are definitely a value for money. What’s more, you are elated as you have made it all by yourself.

Batti ka chop with pineapple chutney and gur imli chutney, Amritsari masala paneer with tajini raita, sarson ka saag ki tikki with makki salsa, are some of their other avant garde offerings which are enticing me. Fusion and fun stuff. I like it. Waiting to try some more for sure.

Rating : 3.5/5