Tag Archives: ambience

Taste of India

I was ecstatic when I first heard that Neel,  one of my favourite restaurants from deGustibus hospitality was opening a new outlet at Powai in the same premises, alongside an Indigo Deli. My joy doubled. But there was more. This was not the same Neel as the one in Mahalaxmi Racecourse. It was going to be an All day dining place offering simple, authentic Indian food from across the country. Much as I enjoy the lip-smacking Awadhi delicacies served at Neel, Tote on the Turf, I was relieved. I could indulge in my guilty pleasures, more than just once in a while now.

Sadly, I missed the buzzing opening party, but stepped in on the Monday after, for a leisurely lunch to experience Neel, Indian Kitchen plus bar, in its new avatar.

Whew! the plush interiors and the wooden staircase that led me up, seemed straight out of a European setting. The first part was obviously Indigo Deli casual and elegant with an air of bonhomie and the second part was Neel the Indian Kitchen and Bar. The natural light filtering in and the understated but chic decor,  the dash of blue to give it an eclectic touch, gave me a good vibe immediately.I felt naturally comfortable.

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I was privileged to get a sneak preview as the restaurant has not yet opened to guests and patrons. It opens doors officially on September 14.

Warm hospitality as ever. Chatting with Anurag Katriar, CEO & Executive Director, deGustibus Hospitality, JD, the Corporate Executive Chef and of course the Man at the helm of Neel’s Kitchen, Chef Mukhtar Qureshi, it promised to be a great afternoon.

Anurag informed me that,  at Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar  they have hand-picked culinary gems from various parts of India and put them together on a single gastronomic platform. An all-day diner with an eclectic bar, Neel, celebrates true Indian food amidst a contemporary setting. “Good Food-Served well”, was after all their hospitality credo.

Dhanewal murgh ka shorba (a light aromatic chicken broth flavoured with coriander) was served. The mild flavours of the spicy shorba, replete with coriander, was comforting and the perfect way to tease my taste buds. I was ready to savour the rest of my meal.

My Tellichery pepper chicken Kerala style, arrived. The aroma of the pepper filled my nostrils, as I was being served. A type of pepper which is aromatic and spicy, but not too pungent and rough, it enveloped the succulent pieces of chicken well and along with curry leaves and southern spices, was a delightful way to begin.

The stuffed mushrooms too were delectable given the cheese and spinach filling, but what made it stand apart was the apricot or jardalu chutney served alongside. It actually revved up the flavour quotient unimaginably.

I could not believe Chef Mukhtar Qureshi’s mastery over Indian cuisine as a whole. I was actually spellbound. Here I was tasting dishes from Southern India, Konkan, Bihar and all over, and each one was a masterpiece.  I had always known him for his lip-smacking Awadhi food, but this man was obviously full of surprises.

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The Sukka squid was swathed in a delicious coconut masala and an interesting texture, took my taste buds by storm. But the piece de resistance in the starters was the Konkani Jhinga, without a doubt. It resembled the Cafreal masala from Goa, as I first looked at it. It was pan seared prawns coated in a similar  green masala but yet, different and distinct, as I discovered upon the first bite. It wowed my palate beyond words and the moistness in the prawns even though they were pan-seared, impressed me.

The Allepey Aloo was flawless, but paled in comparison today to the other dishes.

My  gastronomic journey continued with the Mutton bhuna roast  and a Malabari parotha. The soft, flaky parotha paired well with the fleshy, melt-in-the mouth, robust, mutton which was well-spiced but not overly rich or oily. In fact nothing in the meal was greasy or heavy. That to my mind was the real achievement of the chef. Else going through so much of food would have been a daunting task.

The new Neel also offers an extensive array of chaats, tikkis et al,  if you want a filling evening snack or a light lunch perhaps, but of course I had to save that experience for another day.

The grand finale to round off my memorable meal was the gulkand paan ice cream made in house. The flavours of paan and gulkand were strong and appeased my taste buds. The element of sweetness was just right and the texture was creamy and smooth.

The menu here, is an amalgamation of  food from across India representing all the regions, ranging from the popular street foods of Kolkata & Rajasthan, to pure Kashmiri & Konkani fare. Chef Qureshi has painstakingly revived age-old, often forgotten spice blends like lazzat e taam, Baristha masala and using ethnic ingredients such Khas ka jadh, dagad ka phool, pan ka jadh, kebab chini, mulhatti, chandan.

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No wonder the food at Neel, is not run-of-the-mill fare but carefully crafted, to appeal to all palates.

I had almost traversed all of India in one afternoon, thanks to my epicurean journey at Neel. I left satiated, smiling, but with a promise to return.

 

 

 

 

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When Bangkok Moves Closer Home and Heart

For us carnivores, the prospect of eating Vegetarian food and that too Pan Asian is daunting. But a visit to 38 Bangkok Street has made me think again.

An eatery which throws up a host of flavours, textures and aromas by way of variety in the all -Veg menu. The menu is exhaustive, well thought of and an exercise in choices.

38 Bangkok Street specializes in Pan Asian Cuisine – salads, curries, woks, noodles from the streets Thailand, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam to name a few. The best of all these cuisines, in nutshell, is on offer.

Our Laksa Penang soup arrives. The waft of the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves pervade pur nostrils even before we taste it. The first spoonful and we are reassured it is the real thing. High quality ingredients in a bowl of heavenly soup. A great start.

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Grilled tofu over a bed of Asian greens- our salad arrives next. It is light and flavourful and perks up our taste buds further. The greens are fresh and crunchy. I particularly enjoy the silken tofu which is grilled to perfection.

The fried Yasai tempura took me by surprise. Crispy, crunchy and flattering for my taste buds. Loved the vast array of exotic veggies that were used. Had to compel myself to stop, else I would have happily polished off all of them.

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The water chestnut dim sums were delectable. A nice moist covering and the filling too was crunchy owing to the water chestnut filling. Could have been a bit less spicy though. The accompanying sauces too were interesting.

The banana leaf wrapped cottage cheese was a tad disappointing. A bit too bland and the cottage cheese texture too was a bit rubbery.

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The options in the menu were ample. Unique Asian starters like the Crunchy Java Lotus Stem tossed with ginger garlic, Mock Duck Chilli Garlic, Cottage Cheese Sambai Bajak tossed  with  bell peppers and homemade Malaysian style fresh red chilli sauce etc.

The presentation of each dish served struck me as elegant and aesthetic. The chef obviously had an eye for detail.

Our main course comprised Tek Tek noodles, Nasi lemak and a spicy red curry, Sambal Bajak. The fragrant rice steeped in coconut milk and the Sambal curry got our unflinching vote. One of the best curries I have ever tasted. We did not miss non-veg at all for once. The noodles were nothing to write home about. Strictly ordinary.

The entire meal was overwhelming, in terms of the quality, variety and flavours. I had never enjoyed a Pan Asian meal which is vegetarian, to such an extent.

The service too is prompt and the place has a nice family ambience.

Our dessert was a pumpkin coconut cake with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The cake was soft and moist and absolutely melt in the mouth. Full marks there too.

The zesty flavours of the fare at 38 Bangkok Street had tickled our palates beyond a doubt. We will surely be coming back soon for some more.
Rating: 4/5

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

The Perfect Match: Longest Reserve Table Wine Dinner

It was a dinner with a difference. Jacob’s Creek, extended The Reserve Table experience with the ‘Longest Reserve Table’ in Mumbai at The Terrace Garden at ITC Grand Central. It was elegance personified. The ITC Grand Central Team did a fabulous job of the decor, service and of course food. The service too was impeccable, as expected with clockwork precision.

The ‘Longest Reserve Table’ in Mumbai witnessed more than 100 gourmands who had reserved a seat at the table to be a part of this unique experience.  I was privileged to be one of them. Adrian Pinto of Jacob’s Creek, played the perfect host, introducing the wines and ensuring all his guests were enjoying themselves. 

Jacob’s Creek Reserve wines were perfectly paired with a well -curated menu by ITC Grand Central’s Executive Chef Bhaskar Sankhari. The versatility of the wines was evident. My vote went to the Chardonnay. Have a special soft corner for that one. The Sparkling Rose too was refreshing. 

The ITC chefs were challenged to push boundaries and create flavours to complement select wines from the Jacob’s Creek Reserve range sourced from some of Australia’s most premium wine regions- the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills. And I can safely say the Chefs came out tops.

Kuldeep Bhartee, General Manager, ITC Grand Central Mumbai said, “This is indeed a unique way to showcase the exquisite menu crafted by our Executive Chef paired with fine wines.” I couldn’t agree more with him.

The experience commenced with ITC’s signature hors d’oeuvres with Jacob’s Creek’s signature sparkling wine, the Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee.

Indeed the food served, complemented the wines. The dum cooked chicken mince kebabs with sheermal or the vegetarian gucci badam ke shikampur were an apt match for the Jacob’s Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet. The robust spicy red fruit and cherry bouquet with the soft tanins and fruit flavours on the palate was an unparalleled treat.

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I loved the pudina paani and citrus granita in between as a palate cleanser. My favourite wine the Chardonnay arrived with the Gosht ke nihari and taftaan. A sublime treat for the palate.

The experience reached its Nadir with the Gosht Bohri Biryani and Kathal Ki Biryani impeccably paired with Jacobs Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz.

The dessert- saffron and almoroso flavoured baked rosogulla was a creamy treat. The delicate pink Sparkling Rose did justice to it.

ITC Hotels’ Indian spread is undisputedly the best in the country.  I can never tire of it and love the way Chef Sankhari and his team keep reinventing the menus.

An enjoyable evening of tantalising food flavours and the best of wines. Have not enjoyed a wine dinner so much in a long time. There couldn’t have been a better way to usher in Gudi Padwa!

A Little Bit of Gujarat On My Plate

The sweet-sour taste of Gujarati food is what draws me to it and always has. I love the way, the hint of sweetness, enhances the other latent flavours. With my fetish for this cuisine, I found myself heading to Sofitel Mumbai BKC for their Padharo Gujarat food festival complete with dance, folk music, puppet shows et al

Tuskers, the all vegetarian restaurant at the Hotel which boasts of a separate kitchen to ensure the purity of vegetarian food, played host to this food festival. Quite naturally, all the Gujarati food was strictly vegetarian and yet, lip-smacking.

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The well-arranged thali, was a treat for the eyes. Farsan in a Gujarati meal is always the highlight and the vatana ghugra and khaman dhokla served to us were no different. Delectable flavours of the starters paired with tangy chutneys was the perfect beginning to our meal. Prepared by 2 Home Chefs Neha Varma and Urmila Gohil, along with the Maharaj Jankidas Vaishnav, at Tuskers, the meal was bound to be a unique experience. And it was.

The aam panna was refreshing and energized us completely.

Neha Varma  one of the Home Chefs told me, “Working at Sofitel Mumbai BKC, was as comfortable as my own home kitchen and that helped me serve up the right balance in the cuisine. Gujarati cuisine has a sweet touch and the combination of flavours is designed to please every palate.”​  There could be no greater compliment for the Hotel, I thought.

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The Phangavela Mug-Mut No Salad was fresh and wholesome. Something that I enjoy wholeheartedly. For the mains we were served, an array of Gujarati delicacies. Ringna-Batata Sambharyo, Surti Kadhi, Undhyo, sev tamatar, dal, theplas, bajra rotla and of course khichdi. The delicate flavours of each dish were distinct and no where did the spices over power the taste buds. They gently teased the palate, leaving us craving for more. With so much of variety, of course no monotony would have set in and the brilliant Home chefs ensured, none did. Each dish was different and had its own identity. The food was home style, with less or negligible oil and the ingredients absolutely fresh.

The surti kadi and undhyo were two dishes which were outstanding, as far as I was concerned.

The desserts, after the sumptuous main course, sadly did not match up to our expectations.

The service was warm and hospitable, in keeping with the Gujarati household culture and Sofitel Mumbai BKC’s tradition.  A thoroughly enjoyable evening, well spent over a heart-warming meal.

On till February 28, make your way quickly and savour this authentic meal.

Rating: 3.5/5

An Even Better New Avtar: 5 The Restaurant

Global food abounds in Mumbai nowadays but if the offerings are good and varied one is never bored of it.

5 The Restaurant is a tried and tested player but a visit to it in its whole new avatar at Khar was long overdue.

The plush and elegant interiors were warm and cosy putting you at ease immediately. The location is an advantage too and offers a European setting.

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Attentive staff has always been it’s plus and thankfully nothing has changed on that front.

Our creamy spinach and bacon soup arrived. Piping hot it was comforting. The spinach flavour was subtle, yet tingled our palates sufficiently. The addition of  bacon enhanced the taste and flavour of the soup.
The beetroot and feta cheese salad with tangerine was interesting but the salad dressing could have been a little more generous and the beetroot was a tad overcooked.

The peppercorn chicken was a bit of a let down. The flavours and pieces of chicken were not enticing enough.

Just when I was beginning to think that the food would not surpass my expectations I was in for a surprise. The bacon stuffed chicken breast was truly delectable. It was well tenderized. The bacon filling led to a burst of flavours in the mouth. Full marks to the chef here.

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The polenta ratatouille was equally palate pleasing. The rugged texture of the polenta meshed with veggies made for a delightful combination. The cheesy sauce only added to the perfect finale.

Satiated with a sumptuous meal we would have been happy to skip the dessert but were cajoled into trying the chocolate flan. And it was the perfect recommendation. Gooey chocolate on a crusty and crunchy base proved to be pure sin and we indulged in it without guilt.

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A perfect meal complimented with good service. 5 The Restaurant is definitely a place worth dining in. Given the variety, quality of ingredients and portion size, it is value for money.
Rating : 3.5/5

A Home-cooked European Meal at Abode

It was European food at its best. Chef Conrad D’Souza of Pali Village Café fame, in conjunction with Chef Xavier Fernandes and Chef Mrinmoy curated a meal at Abode, that was truly memorable.

We instantly felt at home in the cosy ambience, with warm, efficient service. The assorted canapes platter, were not only a visual treat, but a delight for the palate too. If this was the beginning of our four course menu – we sure had embarked upon an exciting culinary journey. The sparkling wine from Chandon perfectly offset the fare.

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The cauliflower and potato soup with truffle oil, came next. Served in a cutting chai glass, it was very innovative I thought. And aromatic too. The flavours were subtle yet, pronounced. These two veggies never tasted better than in this form.

The wild mushroom salad with porcini was the highlight that evening. The contrasting textures teased our palates, as did the melee of flavours. It had the right amount of bite and crunch. We simply devoured it.

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For mains, I settled for a roasted walnut gnocchi with red spinach. The gnocchi swathed in pureed red spinach was creamy and succulent. And the sauce delightful. The seared Sri Lankan Tuna steak too was well done and had a nice savoury flavor which was tantalizing. The kale chips and chestnut complimented and added to the crunch factor.  It definitely enhanced the experience of the dish. For hard core meat lovers, there is Pistachio Crusted Lamb Shanks too.

The vanilla panna cotta with peppered strawberries and the espresso mouse with chocolate meringue, were expectedly sinful. The panna cotta was one of the best I have ever sampled. Full marks to the creamy texture and sweetness quotient. The mousse too had the right texture, not excess gelatine, as is sometimes the case. The crunchy meringue was the perfect partner for the decadent espresso mousse.

With his extensive food experience and technical know-how, Chef Conrad comes to Abode to create his magic with a menu which will be exclusively showcased in the format of a pop-up, available to customers for a limited period of time. The earthy, home style flavours of this meal set it apart from many others.

The week-long pop-up at Abode, an independent luxury boutique hotel in Colaba till December 17 is a not-to-be missed gastronomic experience.  Open only for dinner, it has a limited seating capacity, so food lovers need to be quick and book in advance. I am so fortunate to have partaken this meal. Can’t wait to sample Chef Conrad’s cooking yet again some place else.