Tag Archives: classics

Dastarkhwan par excellence at Kangan


Indian food when dining out is usually my last choice, even though, I am passionate about the flavours of Indian food of every region. It is the greasy curries, oily biryanis, heavy kababs that scare me. Else, Indian food is food for my soul and I relish its flavours with pride. But home cooked food Indian food is what I hanker after.

A new menu tasting session with Chef Mohamed Danish, the new Chef de cuisine at Kangan, Westin Mumbai Garden City, sounded exciting and naturally the gourmand and writer in me wanted to explore it, so I set out, albeit with a bit of trepidation.

Chef Danish, I learnt, is a Lucknow born and bred Chef and naturally then, his culinary legacy is rich and varied. Of a pleasant demeanour, soft spoken and extremely confident of his food and skills, he demonstrated that in ample measure over a lunch experience that spanned three hours. No, it was not only about endless dishes, but conversations and stories around the food that made time simply fly and kept us engrossed.

Awadhi cuisine was what we were primarily being treated to, as those are the highlights of the new menu, which will of course contain other dishes too, to wow many a palate for dinner.

The culinary gems one can expect in an Awadhi meal are unmatched, especially delectable meat dishes including biryani, Nalli nihari, kakori kababs and more.


Greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques, Awadhi food bears similarities to the cuisines of Persia, Kashmir and Hyderabad. The richness of Awadhi cuisine also lies in liberal use of ingredients like mutton, paneer and rich spices including mace, cardamom and saffron.

Slow cooking with the finest ingredients, magically bound together, is the cooking style that is popular and Chef Danish strictly adhered to that.

Some of the major spices that go into the legendary spice mixes in this cuisine are – black and green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cumin, nutmeg, mace and cloves. The rakabdars or gourmet cooks, had their spice mixes, which were a closely guarded secret. In the past, all these spices were added in proportions that were easy on the stomach.  Meat typically used to be marinated in curd and spices. This helped to soften the taste and texture, as well as remove any strong odours.

Innovation was constant in the kitchens, as Nawabs were very easily bored and thus demanded constant innovation from their cooks, who obliged. Chef Danish seems to have inherited this trait as he is inventive to the extent of experimenting without altering the classics.


We started with the aromatic and creamy, Murg zafrani shorba, but sans any cream. Flavourful as it was slow-cooked, it boasted of spices and the caramelised onions imparted a unique flavour.


The Kangan tandoori chicken came next, with a lot of fanfare, being served to us fresh on our table. The aromas wafted through the air and made us hungrier, than we were. A bite into it and the smoky and well-balanced flavours, wowed my palate.


The refreshing lemon grass shikanji, I thought was an apt and interesting combination for this summer heat and refreshing, as nothing else.

The Kakori kabab was one of the best ever, as it was completely melt-in-the-mouth, well-spiced and yet, nothing overpowering.


The dudhiya kabab made with grated paneer and dry spices, was for me, the piece de resistance. The melange of textures and flavours, so distinct, set it apart. I had never tasted anything like this before. Carnivores would gladly give up meat if this is served to them. The vegetarian variety on the new menu is abundant. The firdausi bharwaan aloo is equally a palate pleaser.

Each dish looked as good as it tasted, as Chef Danish displayed his mastery over his craft. The andaaz of balancing the spices in this cuisine is an art and intrinsic to the flavours and Chef Danish has got it right.


For mains, we sampled the quintessential favourite – dal Kangan, murgh Begmati, nalli nihari, murg Jahaangiri raan, papad and sev ka paratha, multigrain roti and more. The fragrant gucchi pulao with stuffed morels was an unparalleled treat. For once, with a heavy heart, I skipped the biryani.

We rounded off our meal with the delectable shahi tukda, made with in-house saffron infused bread.


In keeping with the Lucknawi tehzeeb and adab, none of the dishes had whole spices that one needed to remove. Apparently, that is how the Nawabs liked it – well-spiced food, prepared with a plethora of spices, but all removed after the cooking process before being served.

Having tried multiple dishes, albeit small tasting portions, I did not experience the discomfort and uneasiness I was anticipating. That itself was the acid test for me. Quite literally.

It was an enjoyable afternoon, where humne shauq farmaya, and we experienced lazeez food with lajawaab hospitality. Oops! I am beginning to sound Lucknawi is it? That is was this food and culture does to you, I guess.

If you remotely love Indian food, this new menu at Kangan, is a must try. Allow Chef Danish’s culinary treats to pamper your taste buds.

Rating : 4/5


Soups for my soul

When the temperatures drop all of us crave for a soup. I know in Mumbai that almost never happens. I mean, it never gets cold, yet, I look forward to my hot soups. It could be a creamy thick soup or simply clear with veggies and meat or even a tangy pepper rasam made with lentils. Pan Asian favourites or even our very own desi shorbas and yes, healthy versions too. I relish them all.

Taiwanese Aromatic Miso Milk Bowl Shizusans signature soup and a one bowl meal

A great fan of red pumpkin, I love to prepare a classic roasted pumpkin soup and do a good job too. A piquant tamatar ka shorba, can be a great option.  Recently I tasted a tangy Sindhi tamatar ki kadhi as a a soup at JLWA in Bandra. It rendered me speechless.

Soups offer endless versatility in terms of textures, ingredients and flavour. That’s what attracts me the most to soups. The cheddar and Beer soup at Theory in Mumbai by Chef Clyde remains an all time favourite.

Taste apart, warmth and immunity are key in this season to boost one’s immunity and thus, the right use of ingredients plays an important role. A careful selection of ingredients can up the health quotient of these comforting soups. Dark green leafy vegetables and seasonal vegetables, are a must addition and should be included wherever possible. Ginger and peppercorns as spices, with medicinal properties, too can do wonders.

Root vegetables, mushrooms and barley with an addition of meat stock makes for a robust and filling soup infused with health benefits.

A roasted sweet potato soup can be nutritious and tasty, as sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Roasting the sweet potatoes first intensifies their flavour.

Soups in winter help one soothe and relax in an inexplicable way when one is down with cold, cough and fever. The spice quotient should be perfect to give heat, as well as soothe to the throat. It’s about using the right spices like cinnamon sticks, cinnamon (dalchini) powder, nutmeg (jaiphal) powder, ginger, fresh turmeric, white pepper powder and pepper.

Carrot & Orange soup (1)

Who can resist a well-made Pan Asian soup with a myriad flavours? One can have it clear, or with noodles, meats and vegetables. Clear chicken soup with light, fluffy dumplings and a deeply savoury, salubrious broth could be the answer, if one is seeking a light but comforting Oriental soup. A Thai prawn broth with fish stock as the base and fragrant Thai spices is a good option as well, as is the Tom Kha with coconut milk to temper the spice element.

Shizusan has got to be one of my favourite places for versatile and flavourful soups. Chef Paul Kinny serves unique ones.

Paya shorba 2

Whoever said soups that satisfy you must be western classics or global concoctions only? Pepper Rasam owing to its spice content, is soothing and therefore is a perfect soup for winter. Various mildly-flavoured shorbas from traditional Indian cuisine,  made with vegetables, lentils and beans, are apt for winter. Paya shorba, a meat broth, generally lamb, where the meat is slow-cooked is a good choice as it is extremely healthy and keeps one warm.


Seasonal vegetables, meaty mushrooms, tender chicken or lentils. Add what you like to your fragrant soups this season, but make sure it is  hearty and provides you with the requisite nutrients. Bon appetit.

So Long Farewell…….

Bidding good byes is always tough. More so when it is something which is inextricably co-mingled with the ethos of your city.

The Zodiac Grill_The Taj Mahal Palace_03

As I stepped into Journalism in 1989, one heard of The Zodiac Grill opening at the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. An unparalleled fine dining experience, we were told. Of course as a newbie in Journalism, there was no chance that one could step into the haloed precincts of The Zodiac Grill. It was beyond our means then.

Several years later, I was lucky to be able to make my way into this restaurant with a high intrigue value, for a dinner with the man in my life, later my husband. It was a special occasion we were celebrating. I remember being awe struck and looked above, at the famous Zodiac dome gobsmacked, as we were seated. The food, i daresay was beyond my expectations. I knew I would cherish this meal all my life.

I was lucky once more, when I was invited to The Zodiac Grill. This time for a special media lunch one last time at this iconic restaurant. A special menu had been designed for us today with all the signature dishes. I looked at the coveted menu and felt special.


We were pampered from word go with the usual warm hospitality, characteristic of The Taj Hotels. What can I say about the lunch and service? Perfect, as expected.The Camembert Dariole had not changed a wee bit since I last had it, over a decade ago. Light, fluffy, melt in the mouth and sinful. Instead of the customary Chicken Zodiac Grill, which of course is to die for, I opted for the sea bass instead. An absolutely sublime experience.

The Zoadiac Grill_Camembert Dariole

Amidst conversations, anecdotes from Prakash, one of the old timers there and the drama around the sorbet (lights being dimmed), the afternoon flew. A thoroughly enjoyable one of course.

Taljinder Singh – Area Director Mumbai and General Manager, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai reminsced, “In 1989, India welcomed its first fine dining restaurant with the introduction of The Zodiac Grill. The Zodiac Grill has left a mark in the culinary world by exceeding all expectations. An end of an era, we are indeed honored to have been a part of the delightful epicurean legacy The Zodiac Grill leaves behind.”

Amit Chowdhury – Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, added, “The Zodiac Grill came into being to cater to the changing taste palate of our guests. After a lot of research on the preferences of the new age traveler, the decadent menu which kept changing every 3 months in the first two years was set in place by Chef Hemant Oberoi and General Manager Subir Bhowmick to reflect guest’s evolving palate. The Zodiac Grill is indeed a testament to the gourmet legacy bestowed by the food aficionados and for our guests who have showered us with love and admiration”.

I suddenly felt myself overcome with emotion as I tasted my Kahlua Mousse, another gem from this place. We were on our last course, the last time.  In November, after its 26th birthday, the curtains will finally go down on The Zodiac Grill.

The Zoadiac Grill_Kahlua Mousse

Legends live on and so will a place like The Zodiac Grill. In our memories, forever.Of course, some place else will come in place of The Zodiac Grill’s physical space, but nothing can replace it. The eternal optimist, I thought, the brighter side is that there will be a new restaurant at The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. We all wait with baited breath and look forward to that next March.

No Hollywood, Only Pizza Please!

Pizza is something I am always game for. For most if us, it is our comfort food.  And a special menu called ‘Hollywood on Your table’ at California Pizza Kitchen, the fine-dining restaurant, sounded even more exciting.

Hawaiian Chicken & Grilled Pineapple Pizza, Jamaican Jerk & Chicken Pizza, Deli Style Bistro Pizza are few of the new entrants in the much loved pizza menu. I was looking forward to these.

My Mango Mint Ecstasy arrived first. It was a tad too sweet and doused with ice. The Spicy Sonora Pizza, was not a very great start. The salsa did not compliment the paneer. The home roasted corn, and black bean salsa, failed to tingle my taste buds. The chicken version of the same pizza, did nothing much to salvage our taste buds. The next one, Jamaican Jerk chicken was a lot better. Distinct flavours, pleasing to the palate. The Vegetarian pizza with oodles of spinach,  was a pleasant surprise. Maybe because of the generous amounts of parmesan cheese, unlike in the other pizzas.


Hawaiian Chicken & Grilled Pineapple Pizza came next. No scope to go wrong here either. Perfect pair as always. The highlight of the evening was the one which unfortunately came last – Deli style bistro pizza replete with capicola Ham, Canadian bacon, sausages et al on a thin, crisp crust. Alas! If this had come earlier in our meal.

The new menu was a bit of a disappointment, or maybe I went expecting a lot more out of CPK, as I normally love their fare. Some pizzas were too bland and insipid, others had less cheese, or the sauce combination was not upto the mark.


20140305_213033 (1)

Too full, I decided to skip the pastas completely.  Those looked appetizing though. Spaghetti Carretierra and Mediterranean Roasted Mushroom Spaghettini, are the new entrants. Check them out.

California Delight 215, the desserts was the star of the evening. The white chocolate, strawberry and dark chocolate mousse with cranberries and almond prailine was delightful.

The specially created menu will be available at California Pizza Kitchen starting February 24 – March 16, 2014. Pernod Ricard and Absolut partner with California Pizza Kitchen to ensure that Hollywood is a part of your drinks too!Men In Black will no longer be just a movie and Long Beach a place you want to visit –these are divine new mixes that are on their cocktail offerings. So hurry up and partake the  Hollywood experience this week!