A Perfect Lakeside Retreat

Getting away from Mumbai is something we all look forward to, given the stressful lives we lead. And I am no exception. Saj by the Lake, a new resort at Malshej Ghat, seemed like the perfect place. Just three hours away or a bit more, from Mumbai, this cute little resort is tucked away amidst sylvan surroundings by a vast expanse of lake.
Driving through the Sahyadris with a short tea break at Murbad, I was all set to relax at Saj by the Lake on the weekend.
A quaint little resort with a beautiful, well-maintained garden, an aquamarine swimming pool, play area and cosy rooms welcomed us.
With an unobstructed and breathtaking view of the lake from the balcony,  the spacious and well-furnished room beckoned me, after the drive.
Of course the gourmand in me was eagerly awaiting the lunch experience at Maati Baani, the Vegetarian restaurant. Local delicacies, is what that place offers in abundance and nothing could be more inviting than that. The simple but rustic decor offered elegance and was replete with local elements, including the tableware.
Restaurant - Day
Mini Besan chillas or pancakes with doodhi were like flattened fritters. Absolutely melt in the mouth and spicy too. Those definitely got our taste buds tingling. The paneer, mawa and spinach tikkis came next. Delightful again. The textures were so well enmeshed.
Dudhi Hara Masala
Methi Pithle and Baingan Bharta slow-cooked in earthen pits, was what we began our main course with. The bharta had the quintessential smoked flavour and was replete with onions and tomatoes, just the way I love it. The  Kala Vatana Ussal was fiery and added zest to my palate. The array of rice, nachni and jowar bhakris paired perfectly well with this. The creamy mushrooms in a piquant gravy were well made too. Equally palate pleasing was the spicy but rustic methi matar and the simple varan(dal) bhat (rice)
The food struck me as unique, both in methods of preparation, as well as flavours. The ingredients were fresh and the flavours, rustic. No oil or artificial colours could be seen as is commonly the case with restaurant food. One never felt uneasy after such a lavish meal.
The moong dal halwa was a good way to round off the meal, but the texture was a bit sticky. Perhaps owing to the addition of atta or whole wheat flour?
After a siesta, I was raring to go in the evening. Local sightseeing done, where we visited an ancient Shiva temple and the mouth of the lake, we sat by the serene blue pool and enjoyed the India Pakistan match on a big screen. Life couldn’t be better.
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The chef made some delicious kebabs in the khad or pit, right before our eyes. Creamy paneer with a spicy marinade, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes. There was a lot to choose from.  If that was not enough, we gorged on crisp pani puris, with the most tangy and spicy water. Moong dal pakodis were fried to perfection and a bit of indulgence was in order as it was a Saturday. A day of guiltless pleasure.
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The kothimbir wadis were quite different from the ones I am used to in Mumbai. These were crisp and light and not chewy at all. The Bharele Ande, fried on the outside with a spicy masala, was an absolute treat and paired well with our mocktails.
Kothimbir Pakoda
Dinner had to be skipped after this gourmet trail. But not before I sampled the decadent, spongy gulab jamuns and seviyan kheer.
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The body and mind never felt more rested, than after a night’s sleep in the tranquil and comfortable room.As the birds chirped around the lake and in the resort garden, I woke up rejuvenated next morning.
The breakfast again was unusual fare. Thalipeeth, a boiled egg preparation with fried onions at the base, Missal pav et al. Each item was well prepared and boasted of unique local flavours.
Satiated by the sights and delectable local flavours, I was ready to bid adieu to Saj by the Lake. Overwhelmed with the warm hospitality, comfortable rooms, lip-smacking food, pristine surroundings, I drove away with a promise to return.
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