Tag Archives: chef

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

Italian, as I like it

Being a sea food lover, an entire menu of Italian food, revolving around crustaceans, sounded irresistible and intrigued me too. Chef Rajiv Das at Stax, Hyatt Regency, has curated a special menu for a limited period of time to wow the palate of sea food lovers and naturally, it beckoned me.

Typically, fresh scallops are laced with lemon butter garlic sauce, but Chef here chose to be different and that’s what made all the difference to the dish. He opted for an orange vinaigrette which was subtle and did not overpower the flavours of the scallop, but instead enhanced those. This pan seared scallop with french onion compote and orange vinaigrette dressing was the perfect testimony to chef’s mastery over his craft as he had flawlessly married the flavours.

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The soup boasted of mild but distinct flavours, as one could taste the crab, lobster, mussels and more in a comforting and tangy tomato broth. The slow cooing process used here was what imparted the true flavours to the soup.

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I have a weakness for risotto and thus opted for the saffron infused risotto with scampi over the Lobster linguine, which also sounded inviting. And I was glad I made this choice. The creamy risotto was bursting with flavours, but not a wee bit heavy and appeased my taste buds instantly.

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Grilled tiger prawns  as the main course, could be any sea food lovers dream come true, but since I wanted to indulge in my guilty pleasure- dessert, I skipped this course.

Oh! my favourite Tiramisu in Mumbai is at Stax, so how could I not do justice to it? I let the creamy, sinful dessert envelop my palate, as I relished each spoonful of this well-made Italian dessert.

The food had a home style rustic feel to it even though it was so well presented. The flavours were unmistakable and the textures mesmerizing. And yes, the portions, hearty.

I have never quite enjoyed an Italian meal so much as this one proved to be light and flavourful as opposed to the heavy ones I am often used to experiencing.

On for dinner only, at Stax till February, this one is a must-try for all crustacean lovers.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

A Patiala Peg of Royal Flavours

For us ordinary mortals, the food cooked and served from the Royal kitchens in India is always a subject of mystique and intrigue. One often wonders, what is it that they eat, how is it cooked, what are the secret ingredients that set their food apart and so on. After all royalty and food have always been an interesting but typical combination.

Fortunately, as a food writer and a passionate foodie, I have travelled and have been fortunate enough to sample food from some of the Royal Kitchens and yet, the unknown ones, continue to fascinate me.

Rajkumari Sarvesh Kaur from the Royal family of Patiala curating a food festival titled Royal Kitchens of Patiala sounded exciting enough. Add to that Chef Amninder Kaur, whose die-hard fan I am and thus sampling a meal at Masala Bay, Taj Lands End was the most obvious thing to do.

Chef Amninder Sandhu, Taj Lands End along with Rajkumari Sarvesh Kaur  had created a menu which could plunge any food lover into a coma. Executing the royal recipes  Chef Amninder had served Mutton Yakhni Shorba, Teekkha Kebab, Murg Kibiti, Shahi Paratha, Paani de Haath di Roti, Halwa Behzai and Shahi Phirni.

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The recipes were all from the Royal family which had generously been shared, which I thought was a wonderful thing to do.

The setting was perfect, the table befitting a royal meal. The only time in my life I have felt close to royalty, I must confess!

The Mutton Yakhni shorba arrived. The aroma was evident and the flavours subtle but distinct. I was off to a great start. The Teekha kabab lived upto its name, fiery it was and perked up my taste buds instantly.

Locally sourced ingredients and cooking methods are what are intrinsic to this cuisine and Chef Amninder had executed these to perfection. Most of the dishes were slow cooked, one could easily tell the difference, as the flavours were pronounced and the spices, subtle.

The main course was a melange of flavours with unique textures teasing our palates. Cocktails using traditional Indian spices were cleverly paired with each course. The chutneywali masoor dal struck me as unique, although I still prefer the basic one myself. My vote went instantly to the creamy gobi or cauliflower, swathed in cream but decadent, nevertheless.

The shahi paratha again was a treat. Bursting with a sinful filling, it paired well with the rich gravies and dry preparations alike.

The kofta roganjosh was delicious, with a soft and creamy texture and the right hint of spice.

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What can say about the mutton aloo bukhara? Yes with dried plums wrapped in masala and inextricably co-mingled with the mouth-watering mutton this dish was the piece de resistance for me. Cooked to perfection, the mutton simply melt in the mouth. Luscious flavours enveloped my palate and I was satiated. So much so that I skipped the halwa behzai, which I had all along been looking forward to.

The food boasted of unique flavours, with no spice overpowering the core ingredients. Yet, the food was rich and heavy, expectedly so. The cuisine is meat intensive and does not make use of too many vegetables.

Being a Punjabi myself, sampling this food from the royal kitchens of Patiala was a revelation, but one that I will always cherish.

 

Shaan-e-Awadh @Jeon

A seemingly complex cuisine like the Awadhi, when simplified, in terms of flavours, can only be an achievement, attributed to a great chef. Chef Chandan Singh at Jeon, Hotel Sea Princess Juhu Mumbai, has manged to do just that. Without a doubt, the Awadhi Food Festival which begins here tomorrow is bound to find favour with foodies of all age groups.

This aromatic rich cuisine, replete with dry fruits, nuts and spices is famed for certain dishes. Nalli Nihari, Biryani, Taftan, Dal Makhani are a must, in a menu offering this cuisine. And Chef Chandan Singh along with fellow chef Amit and Executive Chef Jersen Fernandes has put together a menu, which showcases the best of Awadh.

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The gajar and annanas ka shorba aka carrot and pineapple shorba that we started with, swept me off my feet. The amalgamation of two diversely flavoured ingredients, was done to perfection. One could actually taste the sweetish fresh pineapple as well as the carrot, both immersed in subtle spices.One of the best shorbas I have ever had. It actually left me craving for more. For once, the Murg dhaniya shorba, which was also delicious, seemed plain.

The galouti kebab, the hero of Lucknawi cuisine was as expected, melt-in-the-mouth. The aroma and flavours of spices were pronounced, but not overpowering. The chicken seekh struck me as extraordinary, in terms of the flavours and texture. The seekh was firm and soft, not mushy or chewy as it often tends to be at some restaurants. The meat, laced with herbs and spices, was an interesting bit of innovation.

In the mains, the fish tikki – rawas fillet in a tangy and well-spiced tomato based gravy, got my instant vote. The use of authentic Awadhi spices was a testimony of the chef’s mastery over his craft. No compromise here.

What can I say about the dal bukhara? For a minute, I thought I was at the ITC hotels. Chef Chandan Singh has clearly figured out the secret behind this coveted dish and has done full justice to it.

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The Nalli Nihari was mildly flavoured, but the spices and richness of mutton, teased the palate just a wee bit. The accompanying, sweetish taftan was the perfect pair. Everything else paled in comparison.

The murg biryani was again a treat and perked up my taste buds as I tasted the first spoonful. Well-marinated, the chicken pieces were moist and succulent and meshed seamlessly with the flavoured rice, cooked in dum style. The aroma filled my nostrils as the purdah was removed and the biryani served.

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The shahi tukra was every bit royal. A perfect finale to a great meal. The creamy and rich rabdi wrapped around the deep fried bread laced with nuts and dry fruits was delectable and decadent. The phirni in comparison was a tad bland and disappointing, although the texture was just right.

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The meal overall, was overwhelming and had actually surpassed my expectations. Being used to some Awadhi meals with dishes doused with kewra and rose water and rich and greasy meat dishes, this one was a welcome change. Simple, authentic flavours, true to its Nawabi origins. Yet, nothing in the meal made one feel heavy or caused discomfort.

I left Jeon with a happy smile, almost having made a trip to Awadh.

The Awadhi food festival is on from Nov 5 till November 15 and is a treat, food lovers should not miss.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

The Long & Short Of The New Menu

The Dome may be the most sought after place at InterContinental Marine Drive, but for me Long & Short, the casual dining and lounge is equally a star. The reason being the eclectic menu, fun cocktails, affordable menu and of course great service. It is a place where one can unwind, relish good food and prompt service.
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Executive Chef Arzooman Irani, being the creative genius and restless person that he is has introduced some new exciting dishes in the already exhaustive menu, thus revamping parts of it.
Wanting to keep it global, Chef Irani was keen on ensuring that comfort food was the focus. “Guests should be able to dine in a fun and relaxed atmosphere with the food being light and enjoyable. Of course, apart from comfort food, there is a section for those seeking healthy food too and that need not be boring. Low cal, low carbs or no carbs, gluten free and so on. There are plenty of options. And of course those wanting to indulge can do so as well,” Chef Arzooman elaborated.
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We started with the crisp lavash dome, almost customary here. Crunchy and laced with herbs, it set our taste-buds tingling. The platter with starters was a treat for the eyes, as it was for the palate. The springs rolls with varied fillings were crisp and luscious, the wasabi prawns fresh and delectable and the chicken boasted of distinct Pan Asian flavours. The presentation was appealing yet, devoid of unnecessary gimmicks.
The crisp pea shoot salad  from the healthy food section, was a delight. It was as fresh as it could get. With a subtle flavoured dressing, the medley of textures of the lettuce, seasonal fruits, micro greens and cherry tomatoes, came out trumps and it was a veritable feast for the taste buds. Healthy food can certainly be delicious.
Mushroom feta cheese waffle from the petit toasties section caught my eye and struck me as innovative. But then, Chef Arzooman is legendary for his innovative streak. Equally unique were the slider offerings, I thought. Butter milk fried chicken, sriracha mayo was certainly out-of-the-ordinary. I made a mental note of it for my next visit.
The brie & potato gnocchi surpassed everything that I have ever tasted before. The garlicky creamy sauce, wrapped over the potato gnocchi made me slip into a food coma. But what got my vote instantly was the zucchini spaghetti. No, not spaghetti with zucchini but spaghetti made out of zucchini strips and tossed in aglio olio. It was outstanding and  yet another testimony to the chef’s creativity.
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Comforting curries, Mumbai street food, pizza, salads, care has been taken to ensure that the menu caters to every palate. Vegetarian options abound too.
Surprisingly the dessert did not wow my palate as expected. The salted caramel oreo tart was not the hero of the evening as the chocolate drizzle overpowered all other flavours, relegating them to the background.
With alert staff, warm hospitality and first-rate food, the  experience at Long & Short was memorable and the new menu is clearly a winner.
Rating: 4.5/5