Tag Archives: chef

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

 

 

 

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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

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.

 

 

 

 

Flavours of Maharashtra, Home Style

An opportunity to visit Taj Wellington Mews and Luxury Residences in Colaba, Mumbai and that too, to savour the local cuisine of Maharashtra? This invitation was accepted by me in minutes. After all Taj Wellington Mews is one of Mumbai’s best kept secrets. How many of us ordinary mortals get to enter its haloed precincts? I, for one, had never been inside.

We were welcomed warmly at the entrance by the General Manager himself, Mr. Anmol Ahluwalia. I was touched beyond words.

Over kokum sherbet, we were made to feel comfortable, till the other guests arrived and after an extensive tour of the property, which left me speechless, we sat down to enjoy a traditional meal. Their eye for detailing and ensuring guest comfort, is legendary.

Maharashtrian cuisine boasts of a wide variety of delicacies, ranging from subtly flavoured to tongue-twisting spicy. I was looking forward to my meal. This promised to be an exciting journey.

On a beautifully decorated table replete with orange marigolds, we were served our lunch on a silver thali at Weli Deli, the restaurant. Made me feel like royalty, actually.

Kothimbir vadi a popular snack of this region, made from coriander leaves and chickpea flour or besan was what I tried first. A bite into it and a plethora of flavours, burst in my mouth. It literally melt in my mouth.

There was a lot of food on my thali or platter- puris, chicken kolhapuri, batata sukhi bhaji, masala bhat, amti and shrikhand. It could not get more traditional than this.

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Goda masala, essentially consisting of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies and mustard, which is a bit sweetish, is what is typically used in Maharashtrian vegetable preparations or a black or kala masala.

This batatachi sukhi bhaji was the quintessential dry potato preparation from Pune, with the right amount of spices, curry leaves and crushed peanuts. It paired exceedingly well with the deep fried, hot and crisp puris.

The Chicken Kolhapuri was surprisingly a milder version, of what I expected. Not fiery at all. But it was luscious nevertheless and the taambda rassa or red gravy was lip-smacking. One could feel the lavish use of spices, yet,  these were not overpowering.

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The Masale bhat  or spicy rice, was well-made, with delectable, but robust flavours. The use of spices was apt. The sweet and tangy amti, or dal was just the way I enjoy it. Absolutely home made.

Each dish struck me as authentic and home-style. Nothing was oily or greasy or too spicy and the fresh ingredients were enhancing the flavours.

We rounded off our meal with shrikand, sweetened yogurt with cardamom and saffron. The creamy texture coated my palate and I was enjoying, every spoonful of this.

Over animated conversations about food, we had a thoroughly enjoyable and leisurely afternoon, where we were treated to authentic Maharashtrian cuisine spread over the entire state. These were truly flavours from home. At Rs 1500 all inclusive, this was a steal.

The service was impeccable, the hospitality, warm, characteristic of the Taj Group of hotels. I stepped out, with a smile. Satiated of course and my heart filled with the warmth of Indian hospitality. I felt privileged, this afternoon.

What’s more one need not be staying here to experience a meal at Weli Deli. One can just call and book and step in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Trust me, this place is worth a visit.

 

A Perfect Lakeside Retreat

Getting away from Mumbai is something we all look forward to, given the stressful lives we lead. And I am no exception. Saj by the Lake, a new resort at Malshej Ghat, seemed like the perfect place. Just three hours away or a bit more, from Mumbai, this cute little resort is tucked away amidst sylvan surroundings by a vast expanse of lake.
Driving through the Sahyadris with a short tea break at Murbad, I was all set to relax at Saj by the Lake on the weekend.
A quaint little resort with a beautiful, well-maintained garden, an aquamarine swimming pool, play area and cosy rooms welcomed us.
With an unobstructed and breathtaking view of the lake from the balcony,  the spacious and well-furnished room beckoned me, after the drive.
Of course the gourmand in me was eagerly awaiting the lunch experience at Maati Baani, the Vegetarian restaurant. Local delicacies, is what that place offers in abundance and nothing could be more inviting than that. The simple but rustic decor offered elegance and was replete with local elements, including the tableware.
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Mini Besan chillas or pancakes with doodhi were like flattened fritters. Absolutely melt in the mouth and spicy too. Those definitely got our taste buds tingling. The paneer, mawa and spinach tikkis came next. Delightful again. The textures were so well enmeshed.
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Methi Pithle and Baingan Bharta slow-cooked in earthen pits, was what we began our main course with. The bharta had the quintessential smoked flavour and was replete with onions and tomatoes, just the way I love it. The  Kala Vatana Ussal was fiery and added zest to my palate. The array of rice, nachni and jowar bhakris paired perfectly well with this. The creamy mushrooms in a piquant gravy were well made too. Equally palate pleasing was the spicy but rustic methi matar and the simple varan(dal) bhat (rice)
The food struck me as unique, both in methods of preparation, as well as flavours. The ingredients were fresh and the flavours, rustic. No oil or artificial colours could be seen as is commonly the case with restaurant food. One never felt uneasy after such a lavish meal.
The moong dal halwa was a good way to round off the meal, but the texture was a bit sticky. Perhaps owing to the addition of atta or whole wheat flour?
After a siesta, I was raring to go in the evening. Local sightseeing done, where we visited an ancient Shiva temple and the mouth of the lake, we sat by the serene blue pool and enjoyed the India Pakistan match on a big screen. Life couldn’t be better.
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The chef made some delicious kebabs in the khad or pit, right before our eyes. Creamy paneer with a spicy marinade, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes. There was a lot to choose from.  If that was not enough, we gorged on crisp pani puris, with the most tangy and spicy water. Moong dal pakodis were fried to perfection and a bit of indulgence was in order as it was a Saturday. A day of guiltless pleasure.
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The kothimbir wadis were quite different from the ones I am used to in Mumbai. These were crisp and light and not chewy at all. The Bharele Ande, fried on the outside with a spicy masala, was an absolute treat and paired well with our mocktails.
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Dinner had to be skipped after this gourmet trail. But not before I sampled the decadent, spongy gulab jamuns and seviyan kheer.
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The body and mind never felt more rested, than after a night’s sleep in the tranquil and comfortable room.As the birds chirped around the lake and in the resort garden, I woke up rejuvenated next morning.
The breakfast again was unusual fare. Thalipeeth, a boiled egg preparation with fried onions at the base, Missal pav et al. Each item was well prepared and boasted of unique local flavours.
Satiated by the sights and delectable local flavours, I was ready to bid adieu to Saj by the Lake. Overwhelmed with the warm hospitality, comfortable rooms, lip-smacking food, pristine surroundings, I drove away with a promise to return.