Tag Archives: delectable

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.

20180329_145755

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.

20180329_134732

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.

20180329_140508

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.

20180329_145809

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.

20180329_153036

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

 

Advertisements

Delicious and worth devouring

Who can resist the quintessential golden brown, Belgian delicacy- waffles. Made with leavened batter or dough, freshly made waffles with myriad toppings are any gourmands dream come true. And I am no exception. While I do enjoy the savoury waffles that have made their way into restaurant menus, I still prefer the original sweet ones, I must confess.

A popular breakfast item, I love to indulge myself every now and then when I am in the mood to pile on calories or be sure I can burn them off. Several places in Mumbai apart from five star hotels serve waffles but few, offer the real ones.

Coffee by Di Bella, is one such chain which offers delectable, good quality ones.

With new additions to their waffle menu, naturally, a visit was in order. So, this morning, on a Sunday, I decided to savour some waffles. After all waffles are the perfect weekend treat.

As always, the coffee, my favourite cappucino that I began with was creamy, strong and piping hot. The banana salted caramel crunch waffle was a treat for the eyes. It lived upto its promise as described on the menu. The caramel crusted banana slices offered the right crunch and flavour to the waffles served with fresh cream and a dollop of ice cream. The waffles were firm yet, soft, fluffy and each bite was an explosion of palate-pleasing flavours.

20171008_101631

Chocolate lovers or kids are going to love the varied offerings with chocolate- The ultimate chocolate explosion waffle, Nutella oreo crunch waffle and the dark chocolate sundae waffle. Of course others can opt for the Churro rush waffle.

The quality of ingredients used is of good quality and the portions generous. Priced at rs 350, this waffle may seem steep at a glance, but once you have relished it, you realize it is your money’s worth.

So the next time you are craving for your waffle fix, head straight to any of the Coffee by Di Bella outlets in Mumbai and indulge in the best selection. Trust me, you will never be disappointed.

Rating : 4/5

 

Bengali Food, that I miss

It’s that time of the year when I miss Kolkata,  more than ever. And this has been the story of my life for 24 years now, every year. Durga Pujas are almost here. The fun, gaiety, adda and Bengali food, is all a part of the ethos that contributes to this festival.Having grown up in Kolkata and am almost a Bong, so love Pujas and the food we relish during these 5 days.

Even otherwise, I have a soft spot for Bengali food. The aroma of food cooking in mustard oil. Ooh the flavour of paanch phoran(five spices) spluttering in this oil makes me nostalgic. Kosha Mangsho with luchi or even cholar dal, chorchori, sukhto, begun bhaja, alu dum, ghee bhat, maccher jhol and sada bhat, chitol muthia are my all time favourites. And the delectable chana sweets. What can I say about those? The list of my favs is endless.

It is the oil and the spices used in Bengali cuisine that lend a special flavour to the food which is so unique. Also the taste of the fresh water fish that one normally eats in Bengal is different. The salt water fish Hilsa or Ilish which is such a delicacy in Bengali, is unfortunately not my favourite. I prefer Rohu or Rui as the Bongs lovingly call it. Each household in Kolkata has a different way of preparing fish. A lot depends upon the texture, size, fat content and the bones in the fish. It could be fried, cooked in a simple spicy tomato or ginger based gravy (jhol), or mustard base with green chillies (shorshe batar jhaal), with posto, steamed inside of plantain leaves, cooked with doi (curd/yogurt). The steamed fish in plantain leaves is similar to Patranu Macchi of the Parsis. Even Goans make fish in this manner with green chutney inside the fillet. I can devour fish fry or maccher jhol with rice. Have a soft corner for Doi Mach too, if prepared well.

madu-pana-sandesh

Mumbai has always had a few Restaurants serving Bengali food, but somehow they are not upto the mark. 25 Parganas at Sahara Star was good, but alas! it exists no more. Bijoli Grill of Calcutta is  still decent, but Bhojohari Manna is a perfect example of hype, save a few dishes. Of course Oh! Calcutta has been around for a while and serves Bengali food, but not 100% authentic.  Some of the dishes are closer home though, in flavours. But obnoxiously priced. Hangla  has become a popular chain with outlets in several places, but only takeaways. Their food is good, specially the rolls. They are the closest to the ones I am used to from Stop Over in Ballygunge Phari Kolkata or Nizams.

Gosh, with all this talk about Bong food, have to prepare something tonight as my mouth is watering or  head to a Bengali friend’s place for dinner.

 

 

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.

neel-indian-kitchen-bar-1

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.

sukka-squid-2-r

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.

bihari-bhoona-gosht-3-r-1

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.

 

 

 

 

Amti, my comfort food

Who can resist a well-made amti with steamed rice? Not me for sure. That is actually my comfort food when overeating has happened or I have been eating out a lot. More so in the festive season.

Amti is generally, a soupy dal made, with tur dal, tamarind, spices, jaggery and coconut. A well -known lentil-based dish, amti is eaten all over Maharashtra and Goa. Even during Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali, amti is a must on the menu. In fact I have been relishing some delectable ones these last few days, as I was vegetarian.

It is the staple part of almost every meal and yet has variations, as different dals are used -Tur, masoor and black gram or even chickpeas and split green peas. One can just unleash one’s imagination and create new versions.

Some ladies prepare a sheng daanyachi amti, using groundnut paste and it is tempered with hing, green chillies.  It is absolutely delicious and has a unique flavour and aroma. It can be relished with bhakri or even with Masale bhaaat. Kala watana amti (black gram cooked in coconut, tamarind and jaggery) is also traditional. Goda masala or kala masala is the key to a well-made amti. That is what lends it that spicy flavour and a unique taste. And it is then balanced with the addition of sugar or jaggery. The proportion of this is key to get the flavour right. The sweet n spicy taste of amti is typical. Masoorchi amti made with sprouted whole brown masoor dal is another favourite.

What is interesting is that while dals are referred to as amti, some even call any curry an amti and thus, prawn amti is popular too, among the Non vegetarians. Oh! non-vegetarian amtis with sea food can be so delicious. But I must confess, I still prefer the vegetarian versions.

My twist on amtis has been a tomato amti that I prepare. My family loves it. Paired with rice and batatachi bhaji (potato preparation), it is a lip-smacking meal. It is a bit like the tamatar saar but with coconut, chillies, garlic et al.  I once savoured a mouth-watering Bhendichi amti. Amti made with bhindi(ladies finger). I  was pleasantly surprised that it wowed my palate considering, normally, I do not enjoy my bhindi or okra in a gravy. I prefer it dry.

The key ingredients in any amti are coconut, goda masala, jaggery and tamarind. The dals can be varied or even other ingredients can be used. The flavours and taste are distinct and any meal in the Konkan region is incomplete without an amti.

Some of the delicious amtis I have tasted are in hotels in Pune at Courtyard by Marriott Hinjewadi and of course at Taj Wellington Mews as part of a Maharashtrian Food Festival. Those flavours still linger in my mouth.

maharashtrian-food-festival-1

Do write in and share what’s your favourite amti. I am certainly making one for lunch today!

 

 

Of Teas and Treats

I felt like royalty on Friday evening last, as I sat at the Atrium Lounge at Taj Lands End Bandra, Mumbai sipping an aromatic  cup of Kenilworth Estates Midgrown and bit into a dainty chorizo sandwich and a creamy fruit tart.

Making Afternoon Tea a highly fashionable beverage, Portuguese Princess Catherine de Braganza brought the royal court’s favourite drink to Mumbai in myriad flavors and aromas. And Taj Lands End is celebrating that.

IMG_20160506_160609

Delving into the rich cultural traditions of the Western suburb of Bandra, replete with historical anecdotes, the Atrium Lounge at Taj Lands End recreates the family ritual of a rendezvous over a cup of tea.

Atrium Lounge_Hi Tea_07

Chef Namit guided us to the buffet spread of the Hi Tea. Dainty sandwiches, freshly baked scones, Bebinca, the quintessential Portuguese dessert, Lamb croquette, custard tarts,  Bolo-d-arro – Rice and coconut muffin, Queijo Fresco – cream cheese tartlets, Chicken Cafreal Buns, Bifanas and a lot more,  were aesthetically laid out on the table. Oh! what a treat for the eyes and palate this was.

Atrium Lounge_Hi Tea_04

I was glad that some Hotel in the city had taken the initiative to revive the fashionable afternoon tea. After all, from where I come, Kolkata, sipping tea in Bone china tea ware at 4 pm is indeed a way of life. To relax, enjoy your cuppa and chat, is a luxury, this fast-paced city of Mumbai is devoid of, but something we all need to indulge in, sometimes, if not daily.

Anirudhya Roy, Executive Chef, Taj Lands End said, “The most quintessential of customs observed by Bandraites have been acquired by the Portugal and European traditions. Inspired by the ceremonious means of enjoying a good time with family and friends, we have introduced a lavish menu of teas and delectable treats to make afternoons a memorable time of the day. ”

IMG_20160506_161943

An array of well brewed teas were on offer, apart from the delectable finger food and desserts, all faithfully representing Bandra and its rich heritage. The service was as always, impeccable and I loved the fact that interesting stories and bits of relatively unknown information was being shared, as we sat back and enjoyed our Hi Tea.

What elevated the tea experience further was Taj Lands End’s  association with Kulture Shop which showcased iconic pieces of art, at Atrium Lounge. Art and Afternoon Tea? I was actually transported to another era.

Affordably priced, given the variety and quality of food and teas on offer, this Bandra Hi Tea at Atrium Lounge is worth giving up your work for.

 

 

 

Nawaabon Ke Kebab

Mostly Grills, the rooftop barbecue restaurant at The Orchid, Mumbai, has always been one of my fav dining places in the city, thanks to the great food and spectacular view.

I was delighted to go there yet again, albeit after a long gap. And there was ample reason too, as they were hosting the biggest kebab trail.

Chef Shadaab from Lucknow, has curated an interesting menu, to tantalize the taste buds of diners with an array of eclectic kebabs,from the lands of erstwhile nawabs – Awadh (Lucknow), Nizams and other kingdoms, that are famous for their kebabs.

IMG_2009

The place had been transformed completely into a haven for diners, complete with ghazals, artifacts and decor representative of the Nawabi lifestyle. The era had been beautifully recreated.

The melt in the mouth galouti kebab, arrived first. My all time favorite kebab. It did not disappoint me. The texture was perfect and the flavours, authentic. The Kakori kebab, I thought, might pale in comparison, but Chef Shadaab, did not let me down here too. The mince boasted of  great textures and robust flavours, replete with spices, so characteristic of this kebab.

IMG_2000

The accompanying chutneys were unique too. I particularly found the banana and tamarind one to be palate-tickling.

I was blown away with the shinghara atta and corn tikki. Yes, water chestnut flour had been dexterously paired with corn to make a delectable tikki.

The highlight of the dinner was the live trolley where chef  was making kebabs and other barbecue items live in front of  us. Oh! What a spectacle that was. I could not help, but admire the manner in which the kebabs were being adroitly flambeed by chef.

kebab fest

The Mawa and dry fruit sheekh was a delight for the palate, where the sweetness of dry fruits was cleverly balanced with the meat. Chef Shadaab is truly a master of his craft.

The piece de resistance was the Tatari champ. Kid lamb chops marinated overnight with Andhra chili, cumin, cloves and pure ghee cooked in tandoor. An absolute treat for carnivores. Gourmets can also feast on Maheen Samak tikka (Bekti fish marinated with ginger garlic and aromatic herbs slow cooked live)

Chef Shadaab who hails from Alamganj, Lucknow  had a plethora of vegetarian offerings too, which according to him, the Royals feasted upon.

20160405_203012

In the vegetarian section, my vote went to the Meve mave ki khaas sheekh (Cottage cheese treated with condensed milk , saffron and nuts and char grilled live. Being a lover of potatoes, I relished the Tandoor Bharwan Lahori Aloo  too, where the potatoes were scooped and stuffed with spices, raisins and almonds.

The chef has procured the spices and other condiments from various places to ensure the authentic taste.

The food struck me as unique, with authenticity being  showcased in each dish. The ingredients used, were of good quality and completely fresh.

What do I say about the biryanis, niharis, salans and special Indian breads, which were on offer. Sheermal, Baqarkhani, Khamiri roti , laccha paratha, lasooni naan were delightfully paired with lip-smacking gravies and salans.

Each dish was authentic and well-prepared, using the slow cooking methods of that region and as per the demands of that cuisine. Some of the non vegetarian main course dishes are Shahi Nihari (Lamb shanks simmered on low heat cooked overnight served with Khamera naan), Degi Gosht (Baby lamb cooked with coconut, cumin and tamarind flavour gravy), Achari jhinga (Tiger prawns stir fried in Hyderabadi pickled spice, finished with tamarind pulp), Pudina machli ka salan (Pomfret cooked with onion, tomato, and mint gravy).

The food was flavourful, but yes, rich and heavy. But I guess once in a while, with spread like this, one can do with a bit of indulgence.

As in a royal repast, I finished my meal with Sewiyan ka Muzaffar (Vermicelli cooked win condensed milk topped with nuts).

There were other options too, but of course I skipped those. Sheer kurma, Khubani ka meetha, Shahi Tukda, Shahi Falooda. A paan counter too is part of the festival, for those who want to digest their food.

With Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh’s ghazals fading away in the background, I made my way out of Mostly Grills, after a memorable Kebab Trail and hospitality, fit for the nawabs.

On till April 17, 2016 only for dinner, don’t miss this if Kebabs are what appeases your taste buds.