Category Archives: Restaurant reviews

The Unstoppable Pastry Queen

There are a lot of chefs I admire. In fact I respect most of them for being so passionate about their craft and the hard work they put in unflinchingly. But some I deeply respect.

One such young chef with whom I share a good rapport and have followed her work closely from inception is Executive Chef and Partner, La Folie, Sanjana Patel.

Chef Sanjana Patel- La Folie

A creator par excellence, I love her dedication, her focus towards her work and her ability to learn and enjoy what she does. I have always found her to be extremely gifted and a cut above the rest. Not one to hobnob at social do’s or immerse herself networking, she goes about her work with quiet dignity. And her creations bear ample testimony to that.

An alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu, London,  Sanjana has done an apprenticeship with Pierre Hermé. After which, she worked with the likes of Emmanuel Ryon (of the famous Café Pouchkine in Paris) and Jean-Charles Rochoux.

Sanjana Patel returned to Mumbai eager to give the city the best dessert experience ever, using high-quality ingredients and keeping the menu limited and specialised. She started La Folie Pâtisserie in 2014 and changed the way, we Mumbaikars looked at desserts.

Avant garde creations are her forte as are classics. Less is more is clearly her mantra. A Sakura from Japan and the dessert Jardin – a grapefruit & yogurt pavlova, are two offerings which particularly impressed me at the La Folie Lab in Kamala Mills. Both labour-intensive and detailed.

Liege Belgian waffle - Nutella chocolate ganache

After opening La Folie Lab’s latest outpost in Kamala Mills earlier this year, she has now set up La Folie Du Chocolat at Kala Ghoda, a place where it all began. Basically she has reinvented it and presented the patisserie in a new avatar. “This is what I enjoy doing the most, ” she gushes effusively. She gladly delves into the myriad nuances of chocolates as she patiently takes me through her offerings. From Le baba to vegan bonbons and chocolate bars, Sanjana has them all.

Her inventive new menu features an affogato drip bar, a selection of coffees by Koinonia and premium teas by TGL. This tiny and vibrant Parisian Cafe is the perfect place to sip a Cortado and read a book or catch up with friends for a sweet treat.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Sanjana takes customer feedback seriously and is always keen to keep abreast of latest global trends and incorporate new learnings in her work. She painstakingly plunges into R&D, forever yearning to create new things – sometimes healthy alternatives to her desserts at other times indulging in experiments.

But none of all that she has created and achieved, I feel would be possible, if it was not for the rock solid support given to her by her sheat anchor, husband Parthesh. The way he handles the business, their customers, the operations making it all look like a breeze is laudable.

The effervescent and restless Chef Sanjana is simply unstoppable. And that’s what I love about Sanjana, among her many other qualities.

 

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Tea Tales & Winter food

Winters are somehow all about indulgence. Given the weather when the temperature drops, one can getaway by giving in to one’s guilty pleasures. More calories are needed to generate body heat, we are told, so we all gladly embark upon that task. Sadly, Mumbai does not gift us real winters, yet, we unabashedly gorge on some winter delicacies.

Another thing which is synonymous for everyone with winters, is a hot brew-tea or coffee. I love my tea and  when a winter menu is about tea and food, naturally I am ecstatic.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House (TMTH) has curated a new Winter Menu, using the most exotic and fresh produce of the season.  TMTH has handpicked season’s popular ingredients and created an interplay of flavours to intrigue the diner’s taste buds.

Irresistible this sounded, so I set about to explore it one evening.

As I settled in, I discovered each item on the cleverly crafted menu, was aptly complemented by one of their signature tea blends.

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The falafel chaat arrived on the table and was paired with  a pink guava and kaffir lime tea. The tangy chaat with palate-teasing flavours, was delightful. After a sip of the light tea, the flavours came alive with a vengeance. I was off to a good start.

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Next was the salad with paneer and the tea to go along, was a delicate Oriental Jasmine and rose. A unique blend of the East and West- a romantic tea, which uplifts your mood instantly. It did just that. It perked my taste buds and I found myself enjoying the hearty and crunchy salad even more.

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Teas being paired with every course, I thought was an exciting thing to do in order to enhance the dining experience. And it really worked wonders.

Risotto infused with Sambar was served next but the watered down version did not entice me enough. The silver needle and berries tea paired with it though, took me by surprise. Fruity and flavourful, it was comforting all the way and yet, added zest to my palate with its intoxicating flavours. Who needs wine with teas like this around?

The Idly Crust with Pomfret was the piece de resistance. Fresh fluffy soft fish with a delectable crust was a treat for the taste buds.

What can I say about the matcha semifreddo. It bore ample testimony to Chef’s mastery over his craft. The matcha tea flavours, lend themselves seamlessly to this dessert and in fact enhanced the taste. Layers of Matcha cream and cake covered with grilled almond slivers and served with chocolate sauce. Truly decadent. Paired with the robust mocha tea this course was truly memorable. Assam chai with a rich coffee cream crown and finished with cracked roasted coffee beans. Whew! I had tasted nothing like this ever before.

There is Chai cheese cake tart too, for dessert lovers, which I have to head back to try.

This menu is truly innovative and offers something for every palate. A special treat for the Vegans is using the winter staple Ragi in a contemporary Vegetable Quiche. Vegetarians can relish the Multigrain Hari Matar Burger, while carnivores will enjoy the Baked Irani Lamb Kheema – Aubergine parceled shells baked with lamb kheema inspired by Dhansak flavor and glazed with Béchamel sauce, among others.

I left the place with a smile as the manner in which teas had been paired with food,  especially the fish course was a true revelation. And I had sampled the very best of teas and food. It does not get any better than this. Winters had set in for me this evening, and I was not complaining.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progressive, Yet Indian

A visit to Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, is always a coveted experience. The cutting edge techniques used to showcase progressive modern Indian cuisine is after all, make the food here unique and memorable. 

The prospect of sampling the all new sixteen course Tasting Menu, seemed both intimidating and exciting. 

Comfortably seated in this elegant restaurant, I was ready to embark upon my journey. Plated with molecular magic, the dishes looked appetizing and boasted of the characteristic flamboyance of this place.

I was ready to surrender myself to Chef Vaibhav’s culinary magic and expect the unexpected on my table. In keeping with Masala Library’s philosophy, Chef Saurabh Udinia has passionately and artfully designed the new menu, reflecting the vibrancy and diversity of traditional Indian fare with innovation and progressive presentation techniques.

My Amuse Bouche – mango egg, which looked like egg yolk in shells arrived. Of course they were not. Mango cream was what we were served and one could just gulp it down. I was off to a delicious start.

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The Deconstructed Samosa did not remotely resemble a samosa but was true in all its elements in terms of ingredients. The Charcoal Bhajjia, did not impress me. The lotus stem crisp with radish dip was exquisite to look at and in terms of flavours too. The lamb galouti was a pleasant surprise as it did not look anything like the usual one we normally savour. But the texture and flavour were perfect. The laccha paratha and Gujarati kadhi I thought were a bit too mismatched.

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The prawns with thayir sadam  or curd rice, were delightful and the contrast in the textures enhanced the experience manifold. The chicken tikka looked most ordinary when it arrived on the table but wowed me completely with its spices and marination. It simply melt in my mouth.

The desserts were an absolute treat, in keeping with the entire dining experience. The jalebi caviar with rabdi is something no one can tire of and I am no exception. Executed with precision and bursting with flavours, it is the stuff dreams are made of. 

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Each dish surpassed the previous one and I could not really decide which one my vote go to that evening. The food was carefully crafted, skillfully plated and cleverly executed. Many a time it could leave you guessing long after you had a bite of it. There were elements of drama but no unnecessary gimmicks. Everything only to enhance the dining experience and pulled off with panache. 

Impeccable service, articulate staff. And of course a superlative dining experience. Masala Library always spices up my meals.

Rating : 4.2/5

 

 

Satisfy your sweet cravings on this street

Who can resist desserts? And definitely not in the festive season. So when I discovered the first-ever personalised dessert kitchen in Mumbai, I was ecstatic. Yes, Dessert Street is a boon to all us with a sweet tooth.

Available only on pre-order, you can actually customise your desserts. That is exactly what I did. High-quality couverture chocolate, a zero-preservative offering, and unique mouth-watering flavours  are what Dhawal Shah’s Dessert Street is synonymous with. This Le Cordon Bleu alumnus surely knows how to tempt us.

Entremet, Tarts, Bonbons, Thins, Truffles, Cookies and modern tarts, were what I could choose from. And yes, as per my specifications and delivered to my doorstep. Too good to be true.

My order arrived. I was excited beyond words. Beautifully packaged and the contents intact. I was impressed.

The Dessert Street (12)

The Dessert Street (7)

The heart-shaped petit gateau, looked inviting. I sank my teeth into it almost instantly. It just melt in my mouth. Soft and decadent. The tear-drop shaped hazelnut petit gateau was even better. But the piece the resistance was the coffee tart. The rich and bold flavours of the robust coffee were evident in each bite and the tart was baked to perfection.

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The bon bons were what I attacked next. Each one was delightful. The quality, expertise of the patisserie chef shone through. In fact each one was a work of master craftsmanship.

The Dessert Street (5)

This place had passed the test for me and how. At last there was a place where one could get what one wants, as per one’s palate preference.

I got started, ordering my Diwali gift packs from Dessert Street, which now seemed like a simple task. After all these were just the perfect gift for any one in this season.

With an evolving menu, I am certain I will be surprised yet again in the Christmas season. It is literally luxury at your doorstep.

Rating : 3.5/5

Chronicles from Madras

Having grown up going to erstwhile Madras where my grandparents lived, I have developed great fondness for the local food. In fact I thoroughly enjoy the varied flavours of food across Southern India. While I am otherwise a carnivore, vegetarian delicacies in Southern food appeal immensely to my palate, perhaps more than non-vegetarian too.

Madras Diaries, naturally, conjured up images of lip-smacking South Indian fare and opened a floodgate of memories too. This new restaurant which opens tomorrow, Ocotber 11, 2017, is located in Bandra West Mumbai off Waterfield Road.

The colourful and vibrant decor, with the Southern leitmotif conspicuously running through in the design elements, catches your eye immediately as you enter. The seating is cosy and offers sufficient privacy.

Neeti Goel of Nom Nom and Farhan Azmi of Basilico  have endeavoured to revive lost recipes and Chef Murugan and his team execute this with authenticity and precision.

The menu, looked inviting from word go and I was keen to try a lot of the delicacies from the South. The hint of innovation in some dishes on the menu enhances its appeal.

Cheese Chilli Jalapeno Idli in Masala Fondue was what we started with. The bite-sized idlis were delicious and paired well with the spicy fondue.

Jalepano Idlis with Cheesy Dips

The big idli swathed in the fiery podi got my instant vote. The ragi dosa, which came next, bore testimony to their efforts to cook with forgotten grains. The accompanying sambar is easily the best I have had in a long time in Mumbai. The podis- made with lentils and spices, packed a punch and the pachadis, were delectable and enhanced the dining experience. Some pachadis were curd based, others made from vegetables tempered with spices and curry leaves. The freshness shone through and I ate each one with relish.

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The food here struck me as authentic, clean and made with fresh ingredients. The contemporary twist in some cases was exciting and acceptable. The aroma of home-made ghee was evident in each dish. The options in each section- be it idlis, vadas, dosas or utthapams was tremendous.

Among dosas, Pesarattu made with green moong dal and Dhavangere Benne made with rice and urad dal were my other favourites. The coconut chutney was quintessentially home style and bursting with freshness.

If you happen to visit Madras Diaries during lunch, you can enjoy the light vegetarian meal  which showcases five treasured specials from the Southern region along with sambhar, rasam, curd, rice and the option of choosing two accompaniments from Dosai, Malabari Parotta, Appam & Chappathi.

Apart from dosas, idlis and vadas, there are a plethora of other options too. Choose from the crispy, flaky, soft Malabari Parotta, or the Kambu Roti made with pearl millet or the Chilly Parotta with Salsa and Onion Raita to be relished with vegetable kurma and raita. Pillowy soft ‘Appams,’  too are on offer and one can savour these with a hot vegetable stew or ‘ulli theyal,’ a gravy with onions and coconut.

How can you leave a South Indian restaurant without eating payasam? I too did not. I relished the tender coconut payasam as well as the chiku halwa or sapota kesari which was an absolute surprise.

Authentic Filter Coffee

You may enjoy the rasam shots during your meal, as I did, but a filter coffee at the end of your meal is a must.

Madras Diaries ensures you don’t necessarily have to trek to Matunga for authentic South Indian food. The fare on offer here is homely, rustic and mouth-watering.

I stepped out with a little bit of Madras on my palate.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

Delicious and worth devouring

Who can resist the quintessential golden brown, Belgian delicacy- waffles. Made with leavened batter or dough, freshly made waffles with myriad toppings are any gourmands dream come true. And I am no exception. While I do enjoy the savoury waffles that have made their way into restaurant menus, I still prefer the original sweet ones, I must confess.

A popular breakfast item, I love to indulge myself every now and then when I am in the mood to pile on calories or be sure I can burn them off. Several places in Mumbai apart from five star hotels serve waffles but few, offer the real ones.

Coffee by Di Bella, is one such chain which offers delectable, good quality ones.

With new additions to their waffle menu, naturally, a visit was in order. So, this morning, on a Sunday, I decided to savour some waffles. After all waffles are the perfect weekend treat.

As always, the coffee, my favourite cappucino that I began with was creamy, strong and piping hot. The banana salted caramel crunch waffle was a treat for the eyes. It lived upto its promise as described on the menu. The caramel crusted banana slices offered the right crunch and flavour to the waffles served with fresh cream and a dollop of ice cream. The waffles were firm yet, soft, fluffy and each bite was an explosion of palate-pleasing flavours.

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Chocolate lovers or kids are going to love the varied offerings with chocolate- The ultimate chocolate explosion waffle, Nutella oreo crunch waffle and the dark chocolate sundae waffle. Of course others can opt for the Churro rush waffle.

The quality of ingredients used is of good quality and the portions generous. Priced at rs 350, this waffle may seem steep at a glance, but once you have relished it, you realize it is your money’s worth.

So the next time you are craving for your waffle fix, head straight to any of the Coffee by Di Bella outlets in Mumbai and indulge in the best selection. Trust me, you will never be disappointed.

Rating : 4/5

 

An ornament in Powai’s food scene: Tiara

This hotel has been around for a while and has always intrigued me but somehow I have never stepped into Tiara, the all day dining restaurant at Meluha -The Fern, Powai. A Sunday Brunch seemed the perfect day to remedy this.

The restaurant exudes a warm and cheerful vibe and the natural light filtering in, adds to the charm. Comfortably seated at a table overlooking the road, I glanced at the buffet spread and was mesmerized. Lamb, chicken, fish, pork – all of these were on offer in various forms. The salad counter was exhaustive and offered a plethora of choices- both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The live stations included a pasta counter, a pancake section and even eggs. It was fun to watch chefs rustle up dishes a la minute.

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The starters and soups arrived on our table. The celery and parmesan soup was soulful. The cheesy flavours were distinct and delighted my taste buds. The starters especially the mutton seekh and pine chicken were outstanding. The flavours were robust and the meats, well-spiced and cooked to perfection.

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The salads were fresh and the ingredients used of a superior quality. The crunch textures were refreshing for the palate.

I enjoyed the mains as well with the roast chicken being my favourite. Well-marinated, it was aromatic and flavourful all the way. The pork could have been a bit more moist. The curries were delectable as was the Murg biryani, one of the finest I have savoured in a long time.

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What can I say about the desserts? These were a feast for the eyes. Tiramisu, baked yogurt, gulab jamun cheese cake, chocolate cake, fruit tarts and more. The spread was an exercise in choices. I gave in to my guilty pleasures and tasted some of these. Each was better than the other.

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The food at Tiara surpassed my expectations and perhaps it had to do a lot with the new Executive Chef Prashant Tiakdia, who is an experienced hand. Together with his team he was surely wowing the palate of his diners.

The service is impeccable and the staff well-informed and articulate.

Rating : 3.5/5