Tag Archives: desserts

Pleasing my Palate in Pune

My foodie trails take me to several places and recently I found myself at Double Tree by Hilton, Pune, a hotel located in Pimpri-Chinchwad away from the hustle-bustle and yet, with all basic necessities a stone’s throw away.

The gourmand in me beamed with pleasure as a large, warm, chocolate chip cookie was handed over to me at the time of check-in. That is a Hilton tradition. The warm cookie was comforting after my journey and simply melt-in-my-mouth.

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3 Spices, the vibrant all-day dining place at the lobby level impressed me. It exudes an air of bonhomie and comfort. The cheerful and warm staff settled us in and we looked around the buffet spread for lunch. There was no run-of-the-mill stuff here. Food from around the world – Indian, Pan Asian, Global- something for every palate.  And attractively displayed. The bar at the entrance is well-stocked and the bartenders adeptly mix cocktails of your choice.

There was a live chaat counter too. Just perfect for this weather to perk up my taste buds.

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The roasted chicken with rosemary jus, the mangshor jhol or quintessential Bengali mutton curry with birasta pulao, struck me as outstanding. The bhakris, chicken in khada masala and stuffed okra that chef specially made for us to give us a taste of the local flavours took my taste buds by storm. The flavours were distinct and no where did spices overpower the ingredients.

The Pan Asian fare was equally well-made sans any additives and preservatives.

The a la carte menu here is exhaustive and boasts of everything from curry laksa and classic caesar salad to penne pasta genovese and chicken tikka pizza. The 6 seeti ka mutton and Kerala Pomfrt curry from the regional specialities are a must-try.

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The desserts were equally unusual. The beetroot halwa, Um ali- the Egyptian bread pudding, caught my fancy and both of them surpassed my expectations. The creamy texture of both desserts wowed my palate.

The varied fare at this buffet with unusual delicacies, certainly sets it apart from many others.

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Although for dinner, 3 Spices had an Awadhi food promotion, which looked immensely tempting, I decided to skip it as Miyuki, the small and cosy Japanese restaurant behind 3 Spices, beckoned me. Chef Nirmal’s work at the Teppanyaki griddle, mesmerised me as he treated us to an exotic meal complete with salads, sushi, sashimi, fried rice with chicken teriyaki and of course dessert. The flavours were simple and subtle, in keeping with Japanese cuisine and the ingredients fresh. The Sashimi particularly stood out for me in the entire meal.

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The service staff at all the F& B outlets is impeccable. Well-trained, courteous and most importantly well-informed.

My breakfast next morning was an enjoyable experience again. The live counters with eggs and waffles were fun to watch as chefs adroitly dished out waffles and eggs for diners a la minute. The ‘Kadak chai’ tapri or stall served piping hot masala tea, in keeping with the culture of Pune.

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Cereals, Pan Asian dishes, fruits, South Indian fare, bakery items. There truly was a lot to choose from. The array of fresh juices- mixed, watermelon, orange, carrot and ginger in glass bottles impressed me beyond words.

Chef Joy who is at the helm and his team of talented chefs ensure that the F&B offerings are unique and monotony never sets in for a long staying guest. They constantly endeavour to create new dining experiences for guests.  The attentive and affable waiting staff executes this to perfection and together, they contribute to a memorable dining experience for the guest.

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Tarta, the tiny and attractive bakery and patisserie in the lobby is hard-to-miss. Fresh breads, pastries and cakes galore, are on display and irresistible.

I have stayed at many hotels in India and abroad, but the F&B offerings here at Double Tree by Hilton Pune, Chinchwad are something I will long cherish and remember.

 

 

 

 

 

A Haven for Chocolate Lovers

Desserts are decadent and chocolate ones even more. As The Chocolate Heaven opened its second outpost in Mumbai in Borivali West, I decided to check this one out as I have never visited the first one at Vile Parle West, near Mithibhai College.

A small but cosy place greeted me, with wooden tables and seating. The menu surprised me as I thought, being a dessert boutique it would only offer desserts, but I was wrong. Sandwiches, burgers, pizza, this place had them all. Of course the highlight here are the waffles, pancakes, shakes, coffees, hot chocolate and more.

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Our Mushroom burger arrived after a long wait. The roasted mushroom flavours were completely masked by the red chilli that the burger was doused in. As a result one could not taste any of the other ingredients.

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The pizza topped with penne more than made up for the burger. It was cheesy, well-baked and the penne added an interesting texture to it. The well-spiced pizza perked up my taste buds instantly and was supremely comforting.

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The caramel hot chocolate was delicious, but alas! Not as hot as it ought to have been. The texture too was diluted and it could have been creamier. There were several other options as well.

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The dark chocolate Belgian waffle was sinful but the chocolate could have been a bit more generous. The pancake was the piece de resistance for the evening. Well made, the toppings were generous and the flavours mouth-watering. It was unarguably, one of the best I have had in a while.

The offerings at The Chocolate Heaven struck me as ideal for college going kids rather than gourmands. The savoury stuff was definitely fast food and the desserts good, but again not extraordinary. More of a melange of good ingredients, carelessly assembled.

However, easy-on-the-wallet and with immense variety,  good quality ingredients, this place is definitely worth a try for foodies, especially when sweet indulgence is on your mind.

Rating: 3/5

 

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:)

 

Sunday Fiesta :Of Cartoons & Comics

It is not often that you get to relive your fun-filled childhood days. But I was lucky enough to do so last Sunday. The Cartoon Themed Sunday Brunch at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport, Andheri East, presented me with the perfect opportunity.

The festival has already begun, and is being celebrated every Sunday in the form of an extravagant Sunday brunch. It will feature a new superhero/cartoon series theme every two Sundays. Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Tom & Jerry, Scooby Doo; name your favorite DC Comics or Cartoon Network character and it could be featured at India’s first and only official DC Comics (DC) & Cartoon Network (CN) Brunch.

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There was merriment galore as the place was buzzing with excited kids, having fun with themed cupcakes, pastas, pizzas, and more as well as the entertainment from Flubber Martin, face painting, magic shows, music, contests et al. It was almost a fete.

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The child in me surfaced involuntarily, as I went and enjoyed myself at the various counters as I watched kids whiz past, enjoying themselves.

The chefs at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai have  toiled relentlessly and researched and created authentic menus in keeping with those characters,  that children love. And there is so much to choose from – Scooby’s snacks or his XXL sandwiches, Dexter’s scientific experiments, Harry Potter’s dinner at Hogwarts or Flintstone’s famous roast, Tom & Jerry’s cheese.

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Says Executive Chef Suresh Thampy, “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to character-shaped food. Hence, we studied every character, superhero and cartoon series to find their likes, dislikes, favorite foods and more. The food served on the festival’s brunch buffet will have this research as its major influence.”

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The food was a vast spread with pastas, burgers, pizza, mains, grills, desserts galore.  The chefs were also preparing dishes a la minute at the live counters which were equally a delight to watch.

The dessert counter with attractive Tom & Jerry themed desserts was enough to get any child hooked. I too unabashedly indulged. My guilty pleasures these.

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Whether or not you have kids, if you are a fan of these comics and the characters and enjoy good food and a lively atmosphere, head to the Mo Mo Cafe one of these Sundays.

I had the time of my life last Sunday.

Here’s the complete schedule:

July 03 & 10, 2016 – Batman

July 17 & 24, 2016 – Ben10

July 31 & August 7, 2016 – Tom & Jerry

August 14 & 21, 2016 – Harry Potter

August 28 & September 4, 2016 – Dexter

September 11 & 18, 2016 – Scooby Doo

September 25 & October 2, 2016 – Superman

October 9 & 16, 2016 – The Flintstones

Small Plates, High On Flavours

Sometimes dining at a restaurant can prove to be a strain on the wallet and that is why, a foodie like me, welcomes concepts like the Small Plates Week by Cellar Door Hospitality.

Powered by Insider, a 10-day culinary event on till June 26th, this features 15 of Mumbai’ s finest informal dining restaurants, offering small plates at a uniform price across the city. Kudos! This way diners can sample a wide variety of the restaurant’s culinary offerings.

I opted for Burma Burma, the popular Burmese food eatery at Fort, Mumbai. The menu for Small Plates Week features a minimum of 6 vegetarian and non-vegetarian savoury dishes each and 4 desserts and the one here too, was varied. What’s more, one could order each small plate on the menu and reorder servings of any particular small plate they enjoyed. No wastage, this way and I absolutely endorse that.

My Samusa Hincho, a soup with samosa arrived. Soulful and palate tickling this was with the tangy flavours and the delectable samosa. Nouvelle cuisine this sure was. I was off to a good start.

The three salads also struck me as unique, each with a nice, piquant flavour and distinct. The usage of Indian spices in the tempering made them even more interesting.

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The Pyaa jo kyaw, of Bengali origin was particularly interesting with the flavoursome grounded lentils, onions and coriander. The flavours were familiar and thus, comforting.

 

As we progressed with our meal, the dishes kept on surprising me with their quality and flavours.

The Naan Pe Bya got my vote instantly. The bread was fresh, hot and delicious and the perfect accompaniment to the chickpea puree with coconut milk, spices et al. It was satiating as well as palate pleasing. The spices were just right, not overpowering but teasing the taste buds a wee bit.

Small Plates Week gives the restaurant an opportunity to showcase their best dishes that represent the culinary philosophy of the establishment, while allowing diners to discover new restaurants through extensive menus.

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The Burmese steamed buns were well-made but paled in comparison to the other dishes. The Khow suey, which Burma Burma is known for did not disappoint me. Only the boiled egg, I thought was missing, as that’s how I enjoy mine.

A huge fan of desserts, that is invariably the best part of my meal. But Burma Burma could spruce up in that department. The Shway Aye was decent, but the sweet quotient needed to be more, if it is to be termed as a dessert. Oh No Thanya Paukse or the steamed buns filled with coconut and palm jaggery were a delight. The smokey avocado and honey ice cream although boasted of great flavours, was a tad disappointing owing to the ice crystals in it.The Tagy Pyi an was flat and insipid.

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Priced at INR 1,000 for lunch or dinner, per individual, exclusive of applicable taxes and service charges, the meals are a steal, given the variety and quality.

“A meal made up of small plates has some advantages – it allows diners to experience a variety of savory and sweet dishes and allows the restaurant to showcase dishes that give diners a feel of their culinary philosophy. If your ideal dinner conversation involves talking to your friends about your food, then shared plates are perfect. Small Plates Week allows diners to taste a variety of different dishes and then ask for more of the ones they liked,” elaborates Nachiket Shetye, Director and Co-founder of Cellar Door.

I could not agree more.
So make the most of it all you food lovers. On till Sunday, there is a lot to choose from.

 

 

 

 

Very English, Very Desi

Be desi, buy desi. We, Indians, may not really be following this diktat, especially when it comes to desserts, nowadays, as unfortunately, Indian sweets like ladoos, gulab jamuns., pedas et al don’t really find favour with the younger generation, who prefer pastries, cheesecakes etc. But Ranveer Brar, along with the Dakalia family of Gangour Sweets and snacks,  Juhu are going to change that.

With English Vinglish, India’s first desi patisserie, where desi or Indian sweets are served with Western influences, Indian sweets will be fashionable once again.

Using molecular gastronomy, Chef Ranveer Brar presents the best of regional desserts in unique western ways. Fresh mango yogurt parfait with crunchy balushai sticks and smoked cardamom honey lie cheek by jowl with Doodha tartlet, with whipped kesar pista dark chocolate ganache and reduced sweetened balsamic vinegar.

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There is something for every palate in this cute little store. And I was no exception. The Sweet Potato & Gulab Jamun Cheese Cake got my instant vote, even though it did sound like a strange combination at first. The textures meshed well perfectly and the flavours too complimented each other. No where, was the sweet potato an aberration. On the contrary it lent itself well to the dessert.

The Amrakhand cheese cake unfortunately did not entice my palate. I found it cloyingly sweet and my mouth was filled with the overtly creamy dessert.

Amrakhand cheese cake

 

Pineapple halwa and hazelnut creme tart, I thought was an interesting combination. The halwa was firmly ensconced in the tart and laced my palate with a myriad textures.

Other creations include the Double chocolate pudding with khada masala strawberry compote and whipped shrikhand; and the Kheer khadam truffles with five-spiced ganache and toasted caramelized kaddu ke beej.

The fare on offer is truly avant garde and unique, something, one typically expects of a chef of Ranveer Brar’s calibre. Add to that Gangour Sweets’ years of expertise. The result is bound to be wow.

Chef Ranveer says,  “The sweet tooth  of every Indian defines and dictates every relevant moment of our lives. This sweetness just changes form and style with time. What stays is the perennial combination of spices and sweet and the passion for mithai. It’s this perennial love that we try and bring you through English Vinglish – A refined stylised balance between traditional Indian sweets and the modern patisserie is what we strive to achieve here.”

And there are not desserts only, that one can dig into at English Vinglish. Breads, soft-centered chocolates and bars, Indo-traditional Baklawas and fillet-stuffed dates, savoury delights, are also on offer.

I loved the Makai – dhaniya and flaxseed bread, which I relished for breakfast next morning. It was moist and flavourful. Sweet Badam Brioche Loaf, Mini Foccacia, Curried Masala Baguette, are some of the other interesting ones.

English Vinglish proved to be a journey of rediscovering Indian desserts the western way. Definitely, one I was not really acquainted with, but happy to have embarked upon.

 

Warm Ramen & A Cool Bar

A bit late in the day to visit the much acclaimed  The Fatty Bao in Bandra West, Mumbai. But it’s never too late, as they say and 2015 is not yet over!

Innovative Asian fare is what I had set out to experience. Yes, there’s a cool bar too, but I was not exactly seeking cocktails on this balmy afternoon.

The place was buzzing and I could get the waft of aromas which made me even more hungry.

The steamed Bao, with diverse fillings was what I was looking forward to. Pan seared chicken with spicy mayonnaise and pickled cucumber filled generously in a Bao, presented itself as we ordered the Teriyaki Glazed Chicken.

The chicken was well done, yet, succulent and had a good bite to it. Enveloped in the teriyaki sauce, it added a zest and zing to the palate. The mayonnaise further lent an exciting texture to the filling. Loved every morsel of this. Filling and replete with fresh ingredients, this one was a winner all the way.

Char Siu Bao The Fatty Bao - Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra

Just as our palates were absorbing the taste of the Bao, our prawns in xo sauce arrived. Fresh, juicy prawns, swathed in this interesting sauce, but did not really stand out, to my mind, after the outstanding Bao.

The steamed Edamame with sea salt was crunchy as it was flavourful, albeit subtle. Simple yet, luscious flavours. One almost felt healthy biting into that.

Fatty Bao is indeed the perfect destination for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner. The service is quick, yet not overtly overbearing.

This place is bound to  appeal to anyone who appreciates well-crafted drinks like Fatty Sour and Mickey Ninja, as well as inventive Asian food served in a vibrant and chic atmosphere.

You know you are in safe hands, as the country’s most popular chefs – Manu Chandra and his trusted lieutenants Chef Prashanth Puttaswamy and Chef Karishman Dubash, are at the helm.

I loved the fact that The Fatty Bao’s menu is firmly steeped in fresh Asian flavours and yet is quirky and fun.

Exotic Mushroom Ramen  - The Fatty Bao - Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra-

 

Open Baos, Dim Sums, Soulful Chasu Ramen, melt in the mouth Pork Belly, Lamb Shanks braised in a Masssaman curry, are some of the must-try dishes on this exhaustive menu.

The Malaysian Kapitan Chicken curry paired well with our Chilli Basil Chicken noodles. The curry offered comforting flavours and was soulful. Just right for this weather. A medley of textures and flavours juxtaposed flawlessly.

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We rounded off our meal with The Passion Fruit Pannacotta. It was creamy and melt-in-the-mouth. The passion fruit flavour was predominant and the honey comb added the right amount of crunch and element of sweetness in the otherwise tart dessert. The pannacotta, was not too sweet and yet, fulfilled the craving for a dessert.

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The Fatty Bao, has won me over with its food and service. It is the contemporary twist to the Asian flavours that really sets this place apart.

 

 

Rating : 4/5