Category Archives: Food experiences

Love in Tokyo

No, I am not in Tokyo, nor have I ever been there. But I was lucky enough to have a Tokyo-esque experience recently right here in Mumbai.

Crepes have always been French and of course stylish and snobbish. Meant to be eaten in the proper way.

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Tokyo Creperie the newest entrant on busy and bustling Carter Road, Bandra has redefined crepes and made them more accessible and yes, flavourful.

From sweet to savory, from the classic to adventurous, this place is perfect for a crepe indulgence. Started by two friends Saagar Panchal and Uzair Ansari, this Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) concept serves Harajuku-styled sweet and savory crepes, as a stuffed ‘on-the-go’ cone.

Chef Anees Khan has created original Japanese crepes by infusing them with a wide selection of Indian flavors, combinations and toppings and that is what makes them stand apart from others.

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I began with a Chicken Cafreal crepe as it sounded intriguing. Oh! delicious it was. The crepe was soft and yet, well-done on the outside and the spicy and falvourful cafreal chicken a la Goa was generously filled inside the cone with lettuce, veggies, mayo et al. It was a light but satiating meal.

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Next came my chipotle chicken crepe which surpassed my expectations. Well-roasted chicken chunks, combined with veggies and a delectable sauce. The good quality ingredients ooze out of every bite and the presentation, entices you immediately.

Butter Chicken, Chicken chicken peri peri popcorn, Fish Amritsari ,are some of the other options on the menu that struck me as interesting.

What do I even say about my sweet crepe with Mango crème brulee custard ? It was pure sin. Creamy, sweet and luscious flavours enveloped my taste buds upon the first bite and rendered me speechless. Quite literally.

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Apart from these, Oreo biscuits along with other classic cookies, chocolates and ice cream have been turned into fritters, which make for crunchy desserts. There are fruity sodas too to quench your thirst.

Saagar Panchal the co-founder was actually taking orders and explaining the concept painstakingly to consumers. “Crepes are traditionally a guilty pleasure or indulgent treat. We’re redefining the way people think about and enjoy crepes by using fresh, unique ingredients you can feel good about eating,” he said.

There is something for every palate here. The crepes are affordably priced and perfect for a grab and go tasty treat as these are non-messy.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating the flavours of Maharashtra

Regional flavours always excite me and although I live in Mumbai, authentic Maharashtrian food is hard to find in the city save a few places, else one needs to dine at a friend’s place. Naturally then, an invitation  from Executive Chef Suresh Thampy, to experience the varied and diverse flavours of Maharashtra at the food festival at Saptami, Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport, was hard to resist.

The air was redolent with a festive spirit and the buffet spread beautifully laid out with floral decorations et al on each table. There were enough vegetarian dishes to choose from ranging from the bhareli vangi to the ambat thikat suran and lasana che fodni cha bhaat to laal channe che usal but the piece de resistance were the non-vegetarian fare which would entice any carnivore. Saoji mutton curry, mutton kalimiri masala, shimpe kolambi masale bhaat, Malvani mutton rassa and more.

A live counter had a chef dishing out fresh seafood – surmai, rawas, mandeli a la minute. Soon a platter arrived on my table with these fried delicacies and of course the kanda bhajji. Piping hot and served with chutney, this perked up my taste buds. The kombdi cha saar, my soup for the evening was spicy and flavoursome.

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I could not help notice the detailing done at the buffet. Bhakarwadi, besan laddu, murmurche ladu, were on offer to give it the perfect homely touch.

The puran poli with toop and rai kadi patta chi amti arrived and the aroma was unmistakable. The well-stuffed, warm puran poli simply melt in my mouth and was deeply comforting and the balance of the flavours with the tangy and sour dal was outstanding.

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The vade with chicken rassa were an absolute treat. The gravy of the chicken curry replete with the quintessential Maharashtrian goda masala was tantalising for the taste buds.

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A bhakri with mutton curry came next and was home style all the way. The food here struck me as home made with no restaurant-like flavours. The masalas were authentic, freshly ground and the resultant curries and gravies were lip-smacking. From the mildly spiced to the fiery hot, there was something for every palate. The refreshing sol kadi helped me to wash down many a spicy dish.

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For dessert, there could be nothing better than savouring the king of fruits, hapus or alphonso, freshly cut and sliced and served with a dollop of ice cream.

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Having savoured some iconic dishes from across Maharashtra, there was an explosion of flavours in my palate, but all pleasing of course.

I could not help laud the efforts of Chef Sagar Satam who spearheaded this festival with an able team under the aegis of Chef Thampy. The touch of authenticity to these Maharashtrian flavours from home is what set this food apart.

On for dinner only till May 14, do not miss the opportunity to relish the flavours of Maharashtra at this Festival. And with cyclic menus on offer, trust me there is no question of monotony even if you land up here every other day.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

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

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

Christmas Roasts

With Christmas round the corner, we all have stuffed chicken or turkey on our minds. While Turkey is usually the centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinners, chicken, pork, lamb  roasts are popular for Christmas.

Roast lamb with apricot stuffing is matchless. Another good combination for lamb stuffing is bacon, garlic and rosemary or bacon and shallots. If you’re looking for an exotic Christmas Turkey, then ricotta cheese or orange and prunes stuffing maybe the answer.

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A good stuffing, believe me, can transform the taste of your roast, so spend time preparing it. Experiment with herbs, nuts and other ingredients. Some of us like cubed bread and garlic as the stuffing, while others prefer, bread mix with onion, thyme and parsley. Any type of bread will work as long as it has a firm texture and has been dried properly. Your roast can have luscious flavours owing to the unique fillings. Whatever be the filling, it is a laborious process, but worth it anyway.

My all time favourite is Roast Chicken with Apple-Sausage Stuffing, Pan-Reduced Sauce and Roasted Vegetables. And it is pretty simple and straightforward to prepare too. Mushrooms pair well with pork, so try adding those to your stuffing this year.

Make use fo fruits. These can rev up the taste of the dish to unimaginable heights. Apples, cranberries, dried apricots, dried plums, raisins are a good choice.

Bread, chestnut, sage, pork sausage, cranberries is a typical stuffing and the first choice of many.

If you don’t want to make the stuffing yourself, buying readymade ones (of course a prior order is mandatory) is also a possibility. In  Mumbai too, many take orders and supply great roasts on Christmas. And of course Mumbai hotels and restaurants have great roasts on offer for Christmas.

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce, Brussel Sprouts, Roast Leg of Pork with Parsnips, are available at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar. Chef Sanjana Patel at La Folie Lab is offering a traditional English Roast with Chicken supreme breast with Buttered beans, Roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Oh! this one is not to be missed.

Made at home or purchased, or savouring one at a restaurant, a roast is a must on Christmas. Yes, with a bowl of gravy, some roasted potatoes, carrots, broccoli and wine. Merry Christmas!

 

A recipe that I love to follow :

Pork, sage, onion and chestnuts stuffing

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 50 g stale bread
  • 200 g vacuum-packed chestnuts
  • 1 kg shoulder of pork, trimmed and diced
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, leaves picked
  • 3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 whole fresh nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange

Method-
Preheat your oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5. Blitz the onions in the food processor until finely chopped, then tip into a large bowl. Tear the stale bread into small chunks and whiz into breadcrumbs. Add these to the bowl, then crush and crumble your chestnuts in there too. Tip your diced pork into the food processor with the sage leaves, bacon, a level teaspoon of white pepper and a good pinch of salt. Finely grate in a quarter of the nutmeg, the zest of half a lemon and just 2 or 3 gratings of orange zest. Pulse until you’ve got some chunks and some mush, it won’t even take a minute, then tip into the mixing bowl.

Because the pork is raw, you’re committed to seasoning it well so add another pinch of salt and white pepper, then get your clean hands in there and scrunch it all up until well combined.

Take just under half of the stuffing out of the bowl to use for your turkey, then transfer the rest to a lovely earthenware-type dish that you can serve from. Use your hands to break it up and push it about, then flatten it all down. Pop it in the oven to cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour until bubbling and crispy. When done, you can pour away any excess fat before serving if you want to. It will be soft, juicy and succulent on the inside, then gnarly, crispy and chewy on the outside.