Tag Archives: dining

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:)

 

Fresh, flavourful with global appeal

Le Pain Quotidien is not a cafe I generally frequent in Mumbai. But alas! I want to remedy that now. I stepped in for lunch yesterday to sample their new menu to commemorate their 25th birthday worldwide and discovered what I have been missing for such a long time.

Known for its farm fresh ingredients, pure and organic, it is indeed a delight to dine here and more so now with the new menu which actually tells you where those fresh ingredients are sourced from. Yes, the names of the vendors are listed there. I really appreciate this transparency. Makes one feel so comfortable in the knowledge that you know where, what you are eating, is coming from. Kudos!

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Seasonal and local produce is what LPQ is promoting with a vengeance. And I love that concept of  Think local, Be Global.

The new menu has 50% new inclusions. There is a sumptuous breakfast and brunch, all day meals which include  drinks, soups, salads, tartines, main course and of course desserts.

A whole new section of set breakfasts- The Farmer, The Angler, The Desi and The Botanist, have been introduced with something for everyone’s palate, uniquely presented in an LPQ-way. I am definitely coming back to try this.

Long-standing favorites are still on the menu, including the famous Belgian Waffle, Eggs Benedict, the signature Smoked Chicken & Cheddar Tartine, The Cobb Salad, Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli or Chicken Stroganoff.

The new menu has a special focus on vegetarian and botanical (or vegan) offerings.  More than before, shall I say. But of course, there’s a lot for carnivores too.

We sipped our Green Juice with kale, green apple, celery, lemon & ginger and I have never enjoyed a fresh juice more. Tangy, tart, spicy, sweet, it was a medley of all this and more.  One could taste each ingredient. Rejuvenated me instantly.

Our Detox Salad with mixed sprouts, red cabbage, kale, carrot, red spinach and chia seeds came next.  A visual delight for sure. Normally, I would have perceived this to be boring and insipid. But I was proven wrong.  It was delicious  and the fresh ingredients, the crunch and the bite that it offered in abundance, got this one, my vote instantly. And yes, I  certainly got that boost and  my vitamins for the day.

The sharing platter- Botanical left me speechless. The oven roasted tomato tapenade was luscious and teased my palate no end. Paired well with the in-house rye bread.  The quinoa scramble was an absolute treat. The black olive tapenade and the exotic veggies were great too. It was difficult to hold oneself back and we nearly polished off the entire platter.

The Salmon and ricotta Tartines (open bread sandwiches) struck me as unique. The salmon was of the highest quality and completely melt in the mouth slices. The layer of cheese on it enhanced the flavour by adding the right amount of zest to it.

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The Omega 3 Avocado Mash Tartine  is a new addition and one you should not miss. Creamy and flavourful, there is a burst of flavours in one’s mouth.

 

In the main course, the Kasundi Mustard Basa with the red rice risotto swept me off my feet. The otherwise, insipid and flavourless Basa had been perked up beyond imagination with the mustard and the subtle spices. The well made risotto complimented it to perfection.

Basa

 

Each dish surpassed my expectations and Chef Amit had proven his culinary magic yet again.

Decadent desserts are on offer. Be it the new entries,  Baba au Rum or the Belgian Chocolate &Cacao Cake or the all time favorite Soft-Centred Chocolate Cake and Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream.

We were asked to try the Belgian chocolate & cacao cake and it was the perfect recommendation. Rich, gooey, melt in the mouth chocolate in a soft, well-baked cake. This was pure sin. The peach and almond pie was equally a delight in a crunchy crust base with a soft and creamy topping.

 

Alain Coumont, the Belgian chef and restaurateur, and founder of Le Pain Quotidien has lots to be proud of.

I had one of my best dining experiences at LPQ BKC, Mumbai in a  long time.

Rating: 4.5/5

More, More…..at MoMoCafe

I have visited and dined at several MoMo Cafes at Courtyard by Marriott Hotels across India, but somehow my recent experience at the one at Chakan Pune was exceptional.

The warmth in the cafe was not merely owing to the bright sunrays and light permeating from the glass windows. It was the staff and the service that made all the difference.

The breakfast buffet was a sumptuous spread. Eggs to order from a live counter, waffles, Asian delicacies, Lip-smacking South Indian fare and of course cold cuts, baked beans, an array of breads et al. Lunch too was a lavish affair as was dinner.

Seekh Kebab

The freshness of the ingredients was laudable as I relished each morsel we ate here.  The dishes were simple, mostly classic ones but cooked to perfection. No artificial flavours or preservatives at all. The diversity of the fare which is a blend of global food and regional delicacies, is the highlight.

The chefs clearly have an eye for detail, as the presentation of the dishes is outstanding.

The desserts were easily the wow factor. Chef Jitendra was truly creative. His melt in the mouth caramel custard was beyond my expectations. A simple dessert but speaks volumes for a good chef. The real test to my mind and he passed it with flying colours. He was innovative too. The star anise flavoured chocolate mousse was unique and flavourful. The spice had been cleverly and subtly used. The bite-size fresh fruit tarts were a treat for the eye and palate. Equally delicious were the Indian sweets prepared by a Maharaj. Authenticity of these sweets, was what struck me as inimitable. Jalebis, gajar halwa, mango phirnee. Each tasted better than the other.

Fruit tarts

The team of chefs under the leadership of Executive Chef Girish Kumar are truly exceptional. The flavours, textures, presentation and taste of the food is unparalleled.

Noticing my reluctance to eat a full-fledged dinner, Chef Anurag went out of his way to send me some light and fluffy chicken steamed momos. A sweet and thoughtful gesture, I will never forget.

So even if you are not staying at Courtyard by Marriott Chakan, Pune, make sure you stop by for a meal the next time you are heading to Pune. Trust me, you will end up staying here.

At MoMo Cafe yeh dil maange more!