Tag Archives: delectable

Rediscovering Cashew-The wonder fruit of Goa

I have loved cashews ever since I can remember. Roasted, plain or in marzipans. I love them in any form. Being married to a Goan, of course I am now well-versed with the importance of cashews in Goa and its popularity, but it was only recently that I rediscovered the fruit, apart from the nut, I am so familiar with.

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Park Hyatt Resort & Spa Goa’s Cashew Trail beckoned us to Goa. I am ever willing to go to Goa, just as most of us are. But in reality, it was the cashew related itinerary, which intrigued me.

As a food and beverage writer, I was keen to know more about feni and urak, the drinks made from cashew apple and of course cocktails made with these. I was equally curious to see how Chefs infuse the cashew into a variety of dishes across cuisines. And that’s exactly what the culinary wizards at Park Hyatt Goa did. I was mesmerized.

I was in for a surprise at Casa Sarita, the Goan restaurant at the Hotel. The special five-course menu was paired with urak, feni aged one year, an Oak Cask 2012 edition feni and a Port Oak Cask 2010 edition feni. These feni selections were specially presented by the Vaz family for Cashew Trail 2015.

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I loved the passion with which Mac Vaz painstakingly explained each feni as we got ready to sip it with each course. I have great regard for Chef Edridge  of Casa Sarita, who is a master of his craft. He loves his Goan cuisine and knows it really well. Well enough to, give it his own contemporary twist. And yet, the dishes are authentic. That’s what makes him a class apart.

Chef Edridge Vaz - Casa Sarita

We began with the Assiette of seafood peri peri and Cauliflower tondak served with first pressed coconut milk and salted cumin biscotti. Exquisite flavours enveloped my mouth, as, I savoured each morsel. The spices used were 100% Goan and the modern twist to it was laudable. Light and flavourful, I relished the cauliflower tondak. The cumin biscotti added the right amount of zest to the course, in terms of the crunch. Never knew Vegetarian Goan food could be so appeasing. The Cinnamon feni sorbet meant to be our palate cleanser, was so delicious that it well could have been my dessert. Smooth in texture, it almost had a creamy feel to it.

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The highlight of the evening was the Alle Belle Cold Cheese cake with Cashew Jam. It had me spellbound. A traditional sweet of Goa, Chef had presented and served it so interestingly. It looked so appetising that my heart broke to upset his presentation on the plate. The base of the dessert was crispy and crunchy, juxtaposed perfectly with the smooth and creamy cheese cake on top. The highlight undoubtedly was the cashew jam, which I tasted for the first time ever. Chef Edridge had yet again proved his mastery. This was an example of innovation at its best.

The gourmet dinner and exquisite fenis proved to be a heady experience.

If the dinner, was an extraordinary experience, so were our subsequent meals, where cashews were so skillfully integrated into various dishes. Pulaos, curries, lentils, soups, chutneys and dips. Yes, there was cashew in all of these and more. And yet, the palate never did tire of it, even though we relished this cuisine for three days, albeit in different forms. The Cashew Trail finale brunch replete with cashew based dishes is something I will always remember and cherish. Each dish stood apart from the other. The chefs’ creativity knew no bounds today.

What can I say about the cocktails created with feni and urak? any of these were a revelation for me as I discovered several spices and seasonal fruits which were cleverly used with feni and urak to create the innovative Buenisima, Orange Sunrise and Fenirinha among others.

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Apart from savouring myriad cashew creations in various forms, the picking of the cashew apple at the Cashew farm in Valpoi and watching the feni being distilled, is something which made this trip so memorable and the experience unparalleled.

And as I sit at home in Mumbai and bite into my cashew chikki and relish the cashew nut and mango chutney, so generously provided by the Hotel, as our lil’ giveaway, I get nostalgic about the 4th Cashew Trail at Park Hyatt Goa. I had embarked on a guilt-free, hedonistic journey, but I am not complaining. For this one, once is clearly, not enough.

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Macarons anyone? I am having some

If you want to know about some of the best Macaron places in Mumbai, watch this

Of Sofrito and Soulful food: Asado

When a new cuisine makes an entry into Mumbai, the mecca for foodies, the excitement is palpable. Naturally. There was a bounce in my step as I made my way to Asado, Mumbai’s newest and only Latin American fine dining restaurant for a preview. I felt lucky and privileged.

A 65-seater venue spread over 1500 square feet, including both indoor and outdoor dining, Asado’s chic and vibrant ambience bowled me over completely. The décor has been modelled to resemble the streets of Latin America and the cuisine is meant to be an authentic reflection of the region.  It is obviously completely in keeping with its name. After all ‘Asado’ is a term used for a range of barbeque techniques or the social event of having to attend a barbecue in Argentina.

The bright and cheerful service staff got us seated and ensured we were comfortable. Impressive beginning.

One look at the menu and we could see an array of modern European and Cantonese dishes. And of course there were authentic Latin American cocktails like Mate and Caipirinha and a mind boggling selection of over twenty different kinds of tequilas.

Trimaan Singh Chandock, Director of Concept Development informed us that the concept of the cuisine at Asado centres around the latest contemporary cooking techniques of ‘Sous Vide’ and ‘Lava Stone Grill’, which will be experienced for the first time in Mumbai.  Well, one has experienced that in Five star hotels before, but for a standalone, a first, yes.

The Quinoa salad, we began with was a treat. Generous portion and fresh, good quality ingredients further enhanced the experience. The creamy cauliflower soup with gorgonzola was of the right texture. The cheesy flavours were subtle and not overpowering and meshed well with the cauliflower. Full marks to the chef here. Teased our taste buds sufficiently.

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But what mesmerized my taste buds was the Baked parmesan polenta with chipotle fig relish. It was an absolute treat.  A world class dish, made to perfection.

Asado’s menu reads like a foodie’s delight. It has something for everyone -Lava Stone Grill, classic Grills, or Latin Sizzlers to name a few. Prawns, Cheese Jalapenos & Dates, Braised Filllet of Turbot Scallop and Garlic Herb Marinated Shrimp Skewer are some of the sure-shot highlights. The tipple lovers can enjoy international and domestic alcohol along with some exotic wines.

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The Katafi pastry prawns, which I absolutely relish, met with my expectations. The pastry was crisp and the prawn filling, soft and succulent, juxtaposing the two contrasting textures perfectly. The enchiladas were nothing to write home about.

Just when I thought I had savoured the best, the Edamame & truffle risotto took me by surprise.  One of the best I have ever tasted. Too much of good food in one evening.

The Tresleches was the grand finale. Sweet, but not cloyingly so, creamy and an apt option to round off the exotic meal at Asado.

While the portions, quality, taste and variety of the food is undoubtedly unquestionable, I am a wee bit sceptical about the price. Much as Mumbaikars are food lovers, connoisseurs and ready to pay for a good meal, they do seek value for money.

A meal at Asado is definitely going to burn a hole in their wallet. Result: It might become a once in a while dining experience on a special occasion. Maybe Trimaan needs to take stock of that?

A meal at Asado is definitely going to burn a hole in their wallet. Result: It might become a once in a while dining experience on a special occasion. Maybe Trimaan needs to take stock of that?

A Home-cooked European Meal at Abode

It was European food at its best. Chef Conrad D’Souza of Pali Village Café fame, in conjunction with Chef Xavier Fernandes and Chef Mrinmoy curated a meal at Abode, that was truly memorable.

We instantly felt at home in the cosy ambience, with warm, efficient service. The assorted canapes platter, were not only a visual treat, but a delight for the palate too. If this was the beginning of our four course menu – we sure had embarked upon an exciting culinary journey. The sparkling wine from Chandon perfectly offset the fare.

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The cauliflower and potato soup with truffle oil, came next. Served in a cutting chai glass, it was very innovative I thought. And aromatic too. The flavours were subtle yet, pronounced. These two veggies never tasted better than in this form.

The wild mushroom salad with porcini was the highlight that evening. The contrasting textures teased our palates, as did the melee of flavours. It had the right amount of bite and crunch. We simply devoured it.

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For mains, I settled for a roasted walnut gnocchi with red spinach. The gnocchi swathed in pureed red spinach was creamy and succulent. And the sauce delightful. The seared Sri Lankan Tuna steak too was well done and had a nice savoury flavor which was tantalizing. The kale chips and chestnut complimented and added to the crunch factor.  It definitely enhanced the experience of the dish. For hard core meat lovers, there is Pistachio Crusted Lamb Shanks too.

The vanilla panna cotta with peppered strawberries and the espresso mouse with chocolate meringue, were expectedly sinful. The panna cotta was one of the best I have ever sampled. Full marks to the creamy texture and sweetness quotient. The mousse too had the right texture, not excess gelatine, as is sometimes the case. The crunchy meringue was the perfect partner for the decadent espresso mousse.

With his extensive food experience and technical know-how, Chef Conrad comes to Abode to create his magic with a menu which will be exclusively showcased in the format of a pop-up, available to customers for a limited period of time. The earthy, home style flavours of this meal set it apart from many others.

The week-long pop-up at Abode, an independent luxury boutique hotel in Colaba till December 17 is a not-to-be missed gastronomic experience.  Open only for dinner, it has a limited seating capacity, so food lovers need to be quick and book in advance. I am so fortunate to have partaken this meal. Can’t wait to sample Chef Conrad’s cooking yet again some place else.

Delectable Global Flavours & More…….

Villa 69 at Juhu Circle, has always intrigued me, but somehow I have never stepped in. The new menu beckoned me and I finally experienced the place. Chef Dev Singh Negi has launched a new South East Asian & Mediterranean menu, incorporating seasonal flavours. That was reason enough for me to pay a visit.

The pristine white plush interiors of the Cafe appealed to me at first sight.  The place spread lavishly over several thousand sq ft. is a treat for the eyes. The fine dining area with a dance floor is chic and sophisticated. There is also an outdoor seating area. It is obviously a popular place with the younger crowd.

With a wide variety of options to choose from and indulge, Villa 69 promises to treat your taste buds with fascinating flavours. The new menu was fairly exhaustive with soups, starters, salads, pizza, pastas, main course and desserts. And plenty of vegetarian options. The drinks menu was an exercise in choices, but we decided to skip it altogether.

Our sea food laksa soup was eclectic. The coconut milk was subtle, compared to several places where it overpowers the flavours of the sea food and other spices. The hallmark of a good chef, I thought immediately. Generous amount of sea food laced the soup replete with spices et al. Heart- warming and flavourful. We had got on to a good start.

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Harissa fish with hummus came next. I am not a great fan of basa fish so thought I will not enjoy it, but was wrong. The chef had astutely pepped up the otherwise bland fish with spices and flavourings. The onion rings offered the right amount of crunch. It ignited our taste buds and we looked forward to our main course.

Chef Dev Singh Negi, I noticed, uses herbs like Tahina in several dishes. He has been inspired by global cuisines and has amalgamated several dishes in his new menu. Balinese dishes like Ayam Pelalah, a Balinese BBQ chicken, Aubergine Pate, Tahina Chicken Skewers, Cottage Cheese Piccata, were other items on the menu as starters. The presentation of all dishes was like poetry on plate. Chef Negi definitely has an eye for details.

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The Mushroom Pepper chicken in the main course was delectable and sumptuous. A value for money meal with a chicken breast, veggies on a bed of mashed potatoes and an interesting sauce. The Pan Fried noodles in a light soya sauce, that I sampled were equally a treat. Lots of chicken pieces and a fair amount of veggies too. The noodles were just meant for my taste buds. No MSG or artificial flavours. Perfect.

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We rounded off a wonderful meal with a jar dessert – a choco molten cake. Gooey and rich, it transported us to heaven. There was a red velvet one too which we skipped.

The service is attentive and prompt, the ambience relaxing with foot-tapping music and Chef Negi’s menu, the raison d’etre to visit Villa 69. I am so glad I did. It was definitely an unforgettable dining experience. No run- of- the- mill stuff here.

 

Savouring Street Food in Mumbai

Mumbai is a haven for foodies. I am not talking about restaurants only, but it’s eclectic street food. There is so much to choose from. Vada pav, behl puri, omelette pav, sandwiches, pav bhaji, keema- kaleji et al. There are several typical places for these delicacies although one gets these at every street corner.

Those apart, I recently sampled delectable street food at The Beatle Hotel in Powai. Chef Prashant Tikadia, is a culinary wizard and have known him for years. His ability to innovate and yet, serve authentic food never ceases to amaze me.

Baida curry, pav bhaji, masala tawa kobdi, vada pav, chaats, fish fry, usal, he had them all, but served them interestingly with a twist. The flavors were reminiscent of the ones you get on street side joints. I was instantly transported to different parts of Mumbai- Mohammed Ali road, Thane, Tardeo and so on. The spices were cleverly used and the texture, taste and flavours were recreated to perfection. The food was rustic and robust.

What’s more, the ambience in the restaurant was accurately created too. Each dish had a separate stall, so that one could pass by and savour what one wanted. Of course you could serve yourself, be comfortably seated and relish your food.

The attentive staff, their quick service, further made it a memorable dining experience. With oodles of calories added, I stepped out, satiated, albeit not without guilt.

Here is Chef Prashant Tikadia’s recipe. My favourite that night. Try it!

 

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Masala tawa kombdi

Chicken with bone -12 pieces

Marination

Ginger garlic paste – 050 gms

Green chilly paste – 020 gms

chopped coriander leaves- 010 gms

chopped mint leaves -005 gms

spring onion greens – 010 gms

onion- 01 no medium size

salt – to taste

lemon- 1 no

turmeric -002 gms

coriander powder-005 gms

cumin powder – 005 gms

for tawa masala

golden fried onions-  100 gms

curry leaves – few

green chillies chopped- 010 gms

coriander powder – 020 gms

cumin powder – oo5 gms

fresh coriander leaves chopped- 010 gms

chopped garlic-010 gms

chopped ginger -010 gms

sun dried coconut – 050 gms

oil- 100ml

method

@ wash  chicken and keep aside

@ peel and apply oil on whole onion and roast it at medium heat over charcoal or can be roasted in oven  till soft

@mix together all the ingridients for mariantation,add 3 to 4 table spoon water and blend it well till it become smooth,add lemon juice

@ marinate chicken with above masala for 20 to 25 minutes

@ for tawa masala heat oil add chopped garlic and fry till light golden in colour , add ginger and cook for a minute, add rest of the ingridients , add 200ml water and allow to simmer on low heat .

@ skewer marinated chicken and cook over charcoal or can be roast in oven

@ add cooked chicken to above masala and mix well .simmer over low heat and sprinkle sundried cococnut powder .adjust seasoning.

@ serve hot

Shaan-e Awadh : Neel, Andheri West

There can be nobody happier than me that deGustibus Hospitality’s restaurants are moving to Andheri West and around. First Indigo deli opened at the Inorbit Mall and now Neel at Veera Desai Road. The year has started on a gourmet note for sure!

The décor is minimalistic and simple and yet, spells class. The food at Neel is all about paying homage to the rich and evolved cuisine of old Muslim Nawabi families from Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Kashmir.

What appealed to me was the dash of modernity imparted to this otherwise traditional cuisine. A perfect amalgamation. Herbs and spices are carefully used to enhance the natural flavors of the food – not overpower them.  The cuisine takes a lighter, modern approach to classic flavor combinations, creating sophisticated dishes that emphasize purity, simplicity, and seasonal flavors. Chef Mukhtar is truly a culinary wizard.

Bhindi Kali Mirch

The menu, as always is varied, with something for every palate. The Murgh Pashtooni Shorba (a frontier style chicken broth), we started with, was the perfect beginning to our gastronomical journey that evening. The aromatic flavours were soothing. A soup could not get simpler and yet be so delicious.Gilawat ke kebab came next and tingled our taste buds. Melt in the mouth, this kebab is my all-time favourite, but sometimes chefs don’t do justice to it. At Neel, it was a winner. The herb marinated Murg tikka chaarbagh was a real delight and was an absolute palate-pleaser. Vegetarians vouched for the unique Nawabi Baingan Tikka(stuffed baby aubergine).

Gosht ki Dum Biryani (1)

The slow cooked Kashmiri Gosht Roganjosh and of course the Kacche Gosht Ki Dum Biryani were the raison d’etre of our visit and wowed our palate as always. The varied Indian breads – bakhumaas and khamiri roti, paired well with the roganjosh and Kabul ki  dal. The jhinga kairi panchforan was a pleasant surprise with its subtle spices and succulent prawns.

Only the desserts disappointed me. The angoori rabdi was a bit too watery while the saffron in the kesar rasmalai was extra, imparting a strange flavour to this otherwise delectable dessert.

The exhaustive menu apart, I am told, Neel will also serve fixed daily specials featuring a selection of exquisite, slow-cooked preparations like Dabba Gosht on Wednesday, Hyderabadi Haleem on Thursday and Nalli ki Nihaari and Kakori Kabab on the weekend. Got to go back real soon.