Tag Archives: affordable

Fresh Flavours Galore

Salads are my weakness and Ministry of Salads sounded just like what I needed on this hot and humid Mumbai summer afternoon. So I trooped off to Bhulabhai Desai Road and lo behold, was pleasantly surprised to see this small, but cute and intimate café like eaterie. Salads galore, wraps, sandwiches, healthy juices. The display shelves were replete with the chicest of fresh ingredients and those looked so inviting. Behind the counters, the chefs were deftly tossing salads and preparing sandwiches. Looked like a lot of hard work.

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What’s more, just like make your own pizza or a wok these days, one could make one’s own salad. And there was a lot to choose from. Base, grains, exotic, comfort, pickles, muscle, being some of the several  interesting categories. Strictly vegetarian, the place has so much on offer, that even carnivores will not complain.

I settled for a watermelon and feta cheese salad. One of my all time favourites. Fresh and light,  but not extraordinary. The use of rock melon was clever and it complimented the water melon in more ways than one. The  Big Mix with green apple, rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, broccoli et al,  boasted of a distinct roasted flavour and appeased my palate. The walnuts offered the right element of crunch and the tart green apple was palate pleasing. The lemon mirin dressing further enhanced the flavour quotient.

The unique feature of each salad was their freshness and superior quality ingredients. That’s what made it stand apart.

An Egg Caesar salad with its melange of flavours was delightful and filling. Black Eye, Shabdkosh, Lentil Mental, were other options which caught my eye. Next time perhaps.
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Apart from Signature Salads, there are sandwiches and wraps too, if you are still hungry. The Pesto  Wich sandwich in a multigrain bread was equally a treat for my taste buds. Laden with mozarella, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, there was something familiar and comforting about it. Very home style.

The Leb Mex wrap, was a pleasant surprise. Made of a spinach dough, the wrap felt healthy from word go with hummus, zucchini, spinach and jalapenos. It could have been a little more substantial I thought. Felt a little inadequate, given the price.
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My Pomegranate, ginger and celery cleanser was freshness and wellness personified. Loved it from the first sip. Green apple, carrot, lemon and honey was equally a healthy potion. There are a plethora of options to suit each one’s taste preferences. So no question of boredom setting in.

Apart from the table menu for a dining in experience, there is a takeaway menu. The salads are exceedingly well packed and not mercilessly stuffed in a box. I was happy to witness that.
Lucky people in that area who can order in every other day.

A global concept of a place dedicated to salads this place will be a haven for the health conscious.

Rating : 3.5/5

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A Perfect Union of Food & Drinks

I am being candid when I say the name Reunion Bar & Kitchen seemed liked a strange combination to me and not very exciting too. But I was proven wrong.

The polite and unassuming owner, Mayur welcomed us and had us seated in the basement section. The place looked swanky, but a wee bit dimly lit for my liking.

The menu was exhaustive. Yes, drinks being the mainstay, naturally. The cocktails had interesting names and the concoctions, unique. Nevertheless, I headed to check out the food menu, which was why I was here.

I was taken aback. It was an exercise in choices. I had expected to see a few eats that compliment drinks and perhaps a few burgers, sandwiches et al. But I was in for a surprise.

The menu comprises appetizers like drunken chicken, Cornflakes Bhel, Aram ka vada pav, Crispy Macchhli as well as delectable fried food like Kalimirch Calamari, Bombil Fry, Tempura Fry, Kekda Pattice, etc. What’s more, they also offer lip smacking Indian options like Dal Khicdi, Chhole Khulcha, Rajma Chawal, Butter Chicken, etc. Whew! Stuff that Mumbaikars would instantly relate to.

Drunken chicken, their signature starter is what Mayur recommended. We had it in one shot, for that’s how it’s meant to be enjoyed. The alcohol was potent and yet, the chicken flavours were pronounced.  Perked up my taste buds immediately. Got my thumbs up instantly.

Even though we were engrossed talking, the whiff of the aromatic kekda pattice made us turn and look in that direction. The aroma was indeed overpowering and made us hungry. The cornflakes crust was crisp and well-fried and the crab filling, luscious. The perfect snack for a somewhat nippy afternoon and the fresh crabs made all the difference.

Not a great fan of vada pav, even though I am a Mumbaikar to the hilt, I relented and tasted the mini vada pav sliders. Yes, these were different. The yellow garlic butter  sauce was what lent it a unique flavour. Cleverly crafted, this one was.

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The spinach and mushroom bite-sized pita too had alluring flavours, but I felt that a better accompaniment would be a sour cream with herbs and spring onions, rather than the cheese sauce it came with.

I could not help saluting the chef for his innovative food and the quality as well. For a place like this, the menu and food quality had indeed bowled me over.

The butter chicken khichdi was well-spiced but not spicy and that appealed to me, but the conventional butter chicken creamy element was a tad less. But the keem pav which came next, compensated in ample measure. It was rustic, spicy and wow! Just the way a good keema should be. No gravy, no oil floating on the sides of the dish, yet, delicious. Full marks to the chef for getting this delicacy right in flavours and textures.

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The shahi tukda, one of my favourites, is what we rounded off our filling meal with. Well-made too. I loved the fact that the rabdi was light, in fact more like a badam milk and contained Baileys. And that’s what made the dessert unique. Of course, the bread was well-fried and generously dipped in the milk base. The Bailey’s could have been drizzled on top too.

For a food lover like me, the drinks here took a back seat as the food offered, is varied and unique.  Clearly a lot of thought and planning has gone into the menu.

With hearty food at affordable prices and exciting beers, cocktails, mocktails and more, this place will surely become a hub for reunion with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one’s worth a wok oops! Walk!

My happiness knew no bounds as I discovered that Wok Express was opening in my neighbourhood. Well, almost. In Lokhandwala Andheri West. Just a longish walk away from home.

To my utter surprise not only were my old favourites a part of the menu, but they have also introduced Sushi, I discovered. Something I have a terrible weakness for. I was ecstatic. And affordably priced? That was an added bonus.

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The veg cucumber cream cheese roll, was made to perfection. Melt in the mouth. Equally delicious was the Veg california roll, every sushi’s lovers comfort item. The packaging struck me as so hygienic and classy.

The orange chicken roll and teriyaki chicken roll swept me off my feet. Outstanding. The freshness of the high quality ingredients was evident. Flavoursome and an amalgamation of myriad textures. I could go on gorging on these.

Of course I could not resist my favourite Edmame & Truffle dumplings. These never let me down. The creamy and crunchy textures, left me craving for more.

And no visit to Wok Express is complete without the famous Bubble Tea. So, as always, we were sipping one.

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The chicken bun which I sampled for the first time, took me by surprise. With a generous tasty chicken filling, this steamed bun was light, yet, could fill you up easily. Totally, a value for money item. The chicken sticky rice and a vegetarian version too, are new inclusions in the menu. Clearly, there is a lot to choose from now at Wok Express outlets.

The location of this Wok Express is of course its USP apart from the great, reasonably priced food.  For once, I decided to skip the customised wok. Saved that for another day. Which means I am going back really soon !

Fun, Frolic, Flavours Galore: Monkey Bar

It was not even a weekend and I could hear the buzz inside Monkey Bar Bandra, from the road, as I stepped out of my vehicle.

New in Mumbai, after making its debut in Bengaluru in 2012, this gastro pub is already the talk of the town. Oops! Suburbs.

The place was teeming with youngsters and even a few older couples and friends. I was almost transported to a pub in Europe. The bar counter was packed as many people stood there, sipping their beers or cocktails.

I settled for an Aam Panna strongly recommended to me, as I was not having any alcohol. My partner opted for a Masala soda. My aam pana was a bit too salty and synthetic. Nothing to write home about.

Our Peppered calamari rings arrived along with the prawn pickle and pao. The calamari was fresh and well fried, with a dash of garlic, curry leaves, spices et al, which was good to whip up an appetite. The prawn pickle was delicious, but not exactly a balchao. The kadak pao or brun pao was too kadak for my liking and a tad too chewy. These perked up our taste buds nevertheless.

The menu was quirky and unusual. Loaded Nachos, Butterfly Chicken, Tikki of Joy and Goan Chorizo Pao. Also Char-grilled burgers, a delicious selection of small plates, soul-satisfying main courses to cater to every palate, cocktails in Nutella jars and copper tumblers, as well as delicious desserts.

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The pricing struck me as affordable and the dishes innovative with the right twist. Everyone seemed to be having a good time without a care in the world. A great place to unwind and relax.

I loved Chef’s value addition to the Indian dishes, as well as regional favourites like Laal Maas Phulkas, served with mirch achar, ker sangri sabji and coriander chutney or Aunty Pereira’s sorpotel pickle pot. Innovation at its best!

Even the mains were unique. We settled for a Butter chicken khichdi which was abundantly flavourful and comforting. Well presented too. But it was the Jackfruit biryani that was the star of the evening. Aromatic, with subtle flavours, it was appetizing to the core.  Good portions too. Well-prepared succulent pieces of jackfruit and the delicately flavoured biryani rice, were married perfectly. I am never going to miss a Mutton biryani again.

Butter Khichdi Chicken (1)  - Monkey Bar - Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra

Other fun dishes were Chandraji’s Mutton Curry Balti (a succulent mutton dish served with Gobindobhog rice), Peshavari Chicken Chaapli and Via Amritsar (a really cool take on the humble aloo vadi); hearty meals for meat lovers like the In ‘N Out (Monkey’s version of Scotch eggs),Duck Boti Roti (Peking-inspired duck confit and egg baida roti served with onions and mint chutney), Crab Rangoon  etc.

Chef Manu Chandra has really let his imagination run riot and yet, kept his food so authentic and of great quality. No element of monotony at all in the menu. Absolutely laudable.

Jackfruit Biryani -  Monkey Bar - pic 3 Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra

The Rasmalai Pannacotta was a bit of a dampner as the flavours were not upto the mark and did not appeal to us. The Chocolate popcorn proved to be our saviour. One can never go wrong there.

The exposed walls, cosy nooks and corners, mismatched, yet warm, lights and fixtures, all culminate in giving a fun, yet warm appeal to this place. It beckons you instantly, making you relax and enjoy. And we were no exception. We stepped out after a fun evening.

Rating : 4/5

Australia’s Favourite Pizza Now Yours?

Eagle Boys Pizza, one of Australia’s largest pizza chains is now in India. Has been for a while with two outlets in Pune and four in Mumbai. The newest entrant, their fifth, is the Oshiwara outlet in Andheri West, closer home. Hence, I pay a visit on a rainy evening.

While the parent company offers a variety of products including gourmet pizzas, gluten-free, low fat and healthy options, the Indian franchise too boasts of fresh ingredients, including a dough made several times in a day. The state-of-the-art oven in their kitchen which gets a pizza ready in minutes sans any smoke, is praiseworthy.

The passion and dedication of the Director, Rakesh Nanda is evident. Settled in Australia for years and now back in India, he has started this chain and appoints franchisees who are equally passionate about pizzas.

The outlet of course is ordinary, with basic seating. As most pizza joints, it thrives on take away and home delivery.

A glance at the menu reveals a fair amount of variety. From a Basic Pizza to a Classic, and a Super to a Gourmet, with multiple toppings, they have them all. And yes in non vegetarian and vegetarian versions too. They also do two pastas – Tomato and Chicken Penne, desserts and a few drinks. Non alcoholic of course.

Our Green Apple and Exotic flavoured mojitos arrive. Refreshing, but a tad too sweet. But then a pizza place is not exactly known for its mocktails. As long as it quenches our thirst.

The spicy garlic scroll is served. I bite into it and a burst of cheese fills my mouth. The menu never mentioned cheese in this one. I am taken aback. The staff informs me this too has cheese as opposed to the cheesy garlic scroll. The difference? Only some more garlic and spice, I am told. The menu needs to explicitly mention the cheese bit, I suggest.

The taste of the scroll is flawless. Spicy and creamy. The garlic could have been a bit more pronounced though. Delicious nevertheless. This is their innovation in terms of Sides instead of the usual garlic bread, Mr. Nanda informs me.

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We opt for a Chicken Supreme pizza from the Gourmet section and a Aussie favourite chicken in 7″ each. Sadly, the person taking our order does not ask us about our base preference ( thin n crispy or deep dish or cheesy blast or big cheese). We are served the Deep dish which has a really thick crust, not something am too fond of. However, a bite into the first one and I have no regrets. The crust is soft, not chewy like many other pizzas one often have. The freshness of the dough here plays a role for sure. One can taste the difference. The toppings are generous and fresh. Good quality stuff. The pizzas are affordably priced and come in 7, 10 and 13 inches.

My vote goes to the Chicken Supreme. It is an interesting mix of several flavours. The cheese element is right too, not overpowering and yet, enough to make one enjoy a pizza. After all what is a pizza without cheese? The one with pineapples too is tasty but Chicken Supreme, emerges a clear winner.

These two varieties, albeit in a small size, prove to be filling and we are unable to try a thin crust pizza. They have run out of dessert that day and so we are forced to skip that too. The triple chocolate pizza that they serve as dessert, surely sounds inviting. Reason enough for me to go back.

The staff needs to be a little more adept at communication and be able to explain the menu better. The Pizza definitely scores over some other chains. They have some exciting offers too on Mondays and Wednesdays. Worth checking out.

Rating: 3.5/5

Divine minus the wines too! Cafe D’Wine

The name of the cafe obviously suggested it had a lot to do with wines, so I did not step in with too many expectations from the food. But alas! I was wrong and how. The menu itself was an exercise in choices. Soups, salads, pizza, pastas, steaks and more. Whew! Of course the wine list was never ending too, but I was not in the mood for a wine so stuck to a simple, but refreshing basil and lemongrass cooler. In appearance like an aam panna, it had a light flavour which rejuvenated me immediately.

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New world cuisine is what this cozy cafe in Bandra offers. The décor is very European, simplisitic, yet stylish.The walls are laced with attractive Mediterranean tiles, inverted wine glasses hanging from the ceiling, slated wood furniture and a detailed Italian mural.  Bohemian chic! I got a good vibe as we settled down on our table.

The Butter chicken savoury custard floored me as it came with mini paratha pieces. A truly innovative presentation and twist, but the authenticity of the butter chicken was intact. Very robust, very Punjabi. Loved it.

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Just as I was waxing eloquent about this one, the Mediterranean sauteed fish blew my mind and yes, taste buds too. Pieces of rawas fish combined with 3 peppers and the lip-smacking teriyaki sauce was delightful. Spicy, it teased my palate beyond comparison. I was already mentally satiated.

The chicken stroganoff further nailed it. Served with home made purple fettucine pasta instead of the usual herb rice, this one was a clear winner. The presentation was so appealing. The taste of course further took the experience to another level. The creamy sauce of the stroganoff was generously filled with cheese, mushrooms and interestingly, spinach too. What a twist this was! I just could not let go off this medley of flavours and textures from my mouth or memory. It surpassed my expectations.

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There are great options for vegetarians too. Pumpkin ravioli, cheesy gnocchi et al. The menu is refreshingly different. Kudos to the chef. Everything on the menu sounds enticing. Signature items lof this cafe are “Smoked Chicken Salad”, “Red Bean Hummus”, “Butter Chicken Savory Custard” and “Ceylon Tuna Parcels with marinated Okra” . A must try in the menu is Norwegian Grilled Pink Salmon Steak, which is a new addition, I was told.

Sanjay Mirani, Managing Director at Café D’Wine previously associated with brands like Athena, Da Vinci and Ivy, has done a great job yet again. Affordably priced, this cafe serves great food and wines which do not burn a hole in your wallet.

Sadly, the desserts which they outsource, had not arrived n time, so was unable to sample that. But no loss really, considering I had enjoyed my meal thoroughly. This one was a divine experience, minus the wines too!

Food rating: 4/5