Tag Archives: chef

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

This Bake House Cafe Makes Your Day

Mumbai is inundated with new restaurants, gastro pubs and cafes. Professionally, one ends up visiting many, but it is only a few which leave a lasting impression and beckon you again even for family meals. Bake House Cafe, Kalaghoda, in the recent past has been one such place that has caught my fancy.

British art running along the walls, extending to the leather upholstery, creates the quaint and easy-going atmosphere of a British café right in the heart of Kalaghoda. Apart from the spacious seating area downstairs, there is a beautiful wooden steps going upstairs where there is more seating. The area on top is more for leisurely dining and relaxing with friends or perhaps even working.

Mezze Platter

Expect classic as well as European comfort food, made with quality produce here. The food is simple, although new flavours and little detours by talented Chef Zeeshan Jamal liven up the reasonably-priced menu.

Offering breakfast, pizza, burgers, mains, desserts, salads and soups, this place is suitable for any time of the day. The organic black risotto rice, cheddar mushroom and asparagus omelette and creamy spinach and caramelised onion pizza deserve a special mention.

Almond Crusted King Fish at the Bake House Cafe

At pocket friendly prices, this place focuses on Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and everything in between. The menu consists of sections in details like Breakfast, Soups, Salads, Small bites, Main courses, Pastas, Pizza, Burgers, Sandwiches, Milkshakes, Juices and more. Whew! That sure, is a varied menu.

The Three Melon Feta Salad, was fresh and flavourful. The Butter lime garlic prawns were fresh and the garlic added a touch of zest while the lemon gave it the requisite tangy flavours.

The Gymkhana sandwich was well-made, full of familiar flavours and satiating too.

Other dishes worth trying by Carnivores are Almond Crusted King Fish, Grilled Indian Salmon and the Tenderloin Steak. There are ample options for vegetarians too. The pizza here is strongly reminiscent of the ones at Indigo, Colaba. The Chef has after all worked there.

The Breakfast menu is tempting as hell and one needs to step in exclusively to relish a breakfast here one day. I certainly plan to do that.

The food here is made with superior quality ingredients and the flavours shine through effortlessly. The presentation is good but the food, simple and unpretentious.

There is a vast array of desserts to choose from. The Banoffee pie and Croissant bread pudding caught my eye. The pudding was typically home style and left me speechless, while the Banoffee pie, albeit well-made, paled in comparison today.
I left this cafe, satiated and pleased, as the food here surpassed my expectations.
Rating: 4/5

Grand(eur) all the way

Visiting any place in Gujarat always excites me as the State is so rich in art and culture and the prospect of getting a glimpse of that, in itself is an attraction.

So when Vadodara, beckoned, as Surya Palace, the iconic hotel in the city of Vadodara was being rebranded to Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, it was reason enough to pay a visit.

Chukh chukh chakh chakh Bombay se Baroda tak. Rishi Kapoor’s famous song from the film ‘Rafoo Chakkar’ was playing in my head as I travelled by train to Vadodora, albeit from Surat.

Surya Palace is synonymous with Vadodara and boasts of warm hospitality, great food and impeccable service. But of course I needed to experience it for myself. Add to that the involvement of the world famous AccorHotels now, so the expectations were really high.

The warm welcome and smooth check in won my heart instantly. But it was the lobby with a display of a plethora of art works that caught my attention. I was mesmerized.

From the sculptures by Nagji Patel in the porch and the ceramic works of P. R. Daroz, Jyoti Bhatt, along with display of Padma Vibhushan Prof. K G. Subramanium’s paintings, it was like walking into a beautiful art gallery. That itself gave me an insight into the rich heritage of this hotel and its connect with the city of Vadodara.

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My well-appointed room with warm earthy colours, beautiful paintings and replete with amenities, appealed to me instantly. The attention to detail struck me as outstanding. Bharat Kumar Gupta, the Front Office Manager and his team were omnipresent, always ready to assist and help at any time of the day or night.

Deluxe King Room - Gand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels rightly said, “Grand Mercure is a cultural touchstone in each destination, capturing guests’ imagination and bringing local stories to life.” It certainly held true for Grand Mercure Surya Palace Vadodara.

Piyush Shah, Managing Director, Jindal Hotels Ltd with Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels at the launch of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

The food, which is always the pivot of my existence, in more ways than one, surpassed my expectations. I expected to eat only Vegetarian food in Gujarat and perhaps only local delicacies, but Executive Chef Sudhakar Angre’s prowess in Non-vegetarian food at each meal surprised me at Azure, the all-day dining restaurant.  The quality of ingredients, the presentation and cooking methods used were impressive. No where was there an instance of spices overpowering the flavours. The ingredients were the hero. The sheer variety offered at each meal was amazing. From chicken quesadillas to lamb rogan josh and from panki to undhiyo, there was everything on offer. The Mediterranean offerings were equally lip-smacking. The local food was of course a treat for our taste buds- khaman, fafda, jalebis, sev tameta nu shaak etc

Vanilla the delicatessen, was hard to resist each time we stood in the lobby as the display of freshly made desserts, cookies, cakes, was alluring.

Just when I thought, I had sampled it all, the traditional Gujarati thali served to us for dinner on our last night there, swept me off my feet. The spread in the thali was expectedly varied, but the authenticity of the dishes and the manner in which it was served, left me awe struck. The local breads of Gujarat served were outstanding as were the aamras, kadhi, dal, undhyo, bhindi. It was a feast fit for royalty.

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The cultural function organsied by the Hotel giving us a peek into Gujarat’s rich cultural heritage was a treat as was the visit to places of interest like the Laxmi Vilas Palace and Fateh Singh Museum.

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Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, General Manager, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace said, “Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace will provide a unique dimension for guests staying at the property. With a distinctive portfolio of accommodation, dining destinations and MICE facilities, we are set to define new standards of hospitality and look forward to cater to the city’s growing tourism and business activities.”

Well, if the launch and my personal experience was anything to go by, the 146 room, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace certainly was all set to achieve this and more.

Of Wines and Italian Home flavours

It has been my week of savouring Italian food. A strange co-incidence, but one, I am not complaining about. Anything for the love of Italian cuisine.

Olio, at Novotel Juhu, Mumbai, is a restaurant shrouded in a bit of a mystery. Not too many people know about this wonderful restaurant, with a chic ambience and an open kitchen. I have been fortunate to have visited this twice before in the last 5 years or so. Naturally then, a dinner at Olio, with an all-new menu under the aegis of Executive Chef Kailash Gundupalli, sounded like an interesting prospect.

The warmth and hospitality extended by the hotel team was overwhelming. The General Manager Manish Dayya, personally welcomed all guests.

The long table for our dinner was beautifully laid out. Flawless. Each course was to be  paired with Reveilo wines and the wine maker Andrea was present there himself.

The amuse bouche arrived. The baked brie with a crust, was just the perfect way to tantalize one’s taste buds. As one bit into the crust, soft, gooey brie enveloped the taste buds and rendered one speechless.

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Barely recovering from the onslaught of cheese on my palate, and the pickled watermelon and arugula salad took me by surprise. The water melon was handled with precision and the pickled flavours  were unique. The smattering of goat cheese, focaccia chips and the apple vinaigrette imparted the final touch to this salad replete with freshness and crunch. And yes, a hint of tangy flavours too.

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We were definitely off to a great start. The grillo and chardonnay paired with these opened our palate and with their citrusy and fruity flavours, were refreshing all the way.

The spinach and ricotta ravioli had a filling which was well-made, the outer covering of the dumpling, made with pasta dough seemed a tad tough and under cooked. The chewy texture robbed me of the outstanding experience I was expecting, considering the tomato basil sauce was light and flavoursome.

An eternal optimist, I looked forward to my risotto, a dish I have an immense weakness for. But alas! this too did not pass the test. It was a mushy mass of sticky rice. A spoonful and I knew it was half-cooked. Perhaps it was prepared in stages, which proved to be its undoing. The stock had got absorbed too soon and the arborio rice grains were not cooked to perfection. Of course the quality of the ingredients used boasted of freshness and shone all through. The black truffle essence too could have been a bit more.

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Perhaps I had made the wrong choices. There was Chicken d’ avolo – roast chicken preparation and a red snapper dish to choose from as well and I saw others relish those. Fortunately, the food  here is light, home-style and causes no discomfort with a cheese and cream overload, as is sometimes the case with what is passed off as Italian food.

Grilled salmon – sautéed Asparagus, garlic mash potato and lobster cream sauce

Just when I was beginning to let my despondent taste buds take over and feel sorry for themselves, the desserts- tiramisu and flour less chocolate cake, came along, artistically presented and literally “picked me up.” The flavors were bang on as were the textures. I was elated once again. A sip of the late harvest Chenin Blanc dessert wine and I was grateful to the hosts for a lovely evening.

Flour less chocolate cake – olio signature gluten free dessert with vanilla ice cream

The service through out the evening struck me as alert and efficient and the chefs passionate about their craft.

The new menu  certainly looks promising with appetizers ranging from Bruschetta, Olio De Caesare, Cozze Al Forno to Capsesante, while the mains feature avant-garde additions like Linguine Pescatora, open-face Lasagna, Angello Al Balsamico, all-time classic pizzas, and much more.

The simple home style cooking techniques, fresh sauces and condiments are going to make all the difference, along with the chef’s expertise and skills.

Add to that the fact that Olio exudes a kind of bonhomie and cheer and is not a staid, stiff-upper lip kind of dining place.

Saluti and Buon Appetito all:)

 

Greco : Simply Greek in Goa

A cheerful vibe envelopes you as you enter the Greek cuisine restaurant Greco replete with pristine white and bright blue decor – quintessentially Greek. Although located at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim in South Goa, the separate entrance with the menu placed outside, gives you an option to enter this place, without having to go through the Hotel.

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The striking decor actually transports you to Greece and you could well be in a taverna with a relaxed setting. An arch way leads you to the outdoor seating which is of the inimitable courtyard style and offers a spectacular view. Of course, there is ample seating inside too. In fact the plush interiors, with a swish, well-stocked bar and the mood lighting creates an unparalleled atmosphere.

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A  simple but complete menu largely representative of Crete island in Greece,  is palced before you. However, there are other specialities from other parts of Greece too, giving a diner an insight into this cuisine. The menu has been cleverly crafted by Chef Stelios, a native of Greece. Sea food expectedly abounds in the offerings.

My Psarosopa is a medley of sea food flavours- subtle and comforting. The sea food stock has been cleverly used and is not overpowering. The Greek Mezze here is quite different from the various versions that are often passed off as the original mezze. The tzatziki is bang on in flavours and textures. The kalamata olive paste wows my palate as well, but it is the aubergine salad which unexpectedly stands out. With the warm pita bread dipped into these in turns, I relish every morsel I eat.

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The garides saganaki- a simple but flavourful prawns dish in tomatoes with a dash of ouzo (liqueur) perks up my taste buds. The prawns are fresh and of a superior quality. The tragani feta bursting with fresh flavours, encased in a crisp covering drizzled with honey, with a characteristic sweet and savoury flavour, was the piece de resistance for the evening. It clearly bore testimony to the chef’s mastery over his craft.

The gyros chicken is well-made too. Sea food and poultry apart, for hard-core carnivores, there is a fair amount to choose from. Vegetarians need not despair as there is ample variety too.

My dessert is special, yet, traditional. Galaktoboureko – a sweet and sour cream on a pastry crust immersed me in a food coma. A bite into the crispy phyllo and the creamy semoilna custard filled one’s mouth. Made to perfection, it was a dessert which left you satiated and yet, craving for more.

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I observed that nowhere in my entire meal, did the spices (although minimal) drown the flavours of the core ingredients and the chef had donejustice to all the ingredients by using simple cooking methods.

The use of extra virgin olive oil, ouzo and fresh authentic ingredients adds the right amount of punch and flavour to the dishes. The food is high on flavours and the quality of the ingredients, shines through. It is simple and uncomplicated fare.

If a cocktail is what you fancy, the bartender behind the glitzy bar will make you something to your taste. And of course the selection of wines will lure you as well.

The staff is well-informed about the menu and the service is quick and alert.

Greco truly surpassed my expectations and I felt that for the first time in India, I had a Greek meal which was an honest representation of this simple but flavoursome cuisine.

Rating: 4.5/5