Tag Archives: dips

Fresh, Fragrant & Flavoursome: Lebanese food at Pondichery Cafe

Tabouleh, fattoush, falafel, hummus and pita bread, are perhaps the first names that come to my mind when I think of Lebanese cuisine. But of course there is much more to this subtle, but flavourful cuisine. Lebanese food is one of the freshest and most delicious.

Lebanese food  is, without a doubt, the most popular of all Middle Eastern cuisines and history has played a significant role in this. Lebanon was under foreign powers for years on end and these have influenced the food to a large extent. The Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have since then become staples in the Lebanese diet, including olive oil, fresh bread, baklava (a sweet pastry dessert), laban (homemade yogurt), stuffed vegetables, and a variety of nuts. Again, it was the Ottomans who introduced and popularised lamb in this cuisine.

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Chef Maher from Sofitel Dubai was in Mumbai visiting Sofitel Mumbai BKC for a Lebanese Food Festival at Pondichery Cafe and being a huge fan of this cuisine, the invitation was hard to decline.

Originally from Syria but now settled in Dubai, Chef Maher has a strong hold over Lebanese cuisine. Add to that several years of experience as a chef. He is truly a master at his craft.

He demonstrated a beetroot Moutabel which seemed so easy to prepare and was even better to taste. Typically a spicy eggplant, garlic and basil dip, but Chef Maher gave it his own twist. This one in fact was lip-smacking and unique. The colour too was extremely appetizing.

The Lebanese dishes were a part of the otherwise exhaustive buffet. One could not resists the Mezze. So I relished the hummus, tabouleh, moutabel and pita.

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Potato volute flavour puree red with cabbage and brown lentil was the soup I tried. It was a tad too bland for me. From the hot mezzah, I sampled the sambosik, but was disappointed with it as it was too cold and chewy. Perhaps being on the buffet for long had resulted in it being so. So that was a bit of a kill joy too.

The variety was tremendous and surprisingly, there was a lot of vegetarian fare too. The Cold mezzah had Kosa mahshi -Baby marrow stuffed with rice, onion, tomato aqnd parsley, Feter ma al jazar -Mushroom and carrot in lemon olive oil, Bamieh bel ziat -Braised okra in tomato coriander sauce.

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The highlight in the main course for me was the Laban Umo- braised lamb in yogurt sauce topped with ghee and pine nuts. It was mouth-watering, prepared to perfection and comforting. Soul food, i would call that. The Batata bel synia- oven cooked potato with tomatoes, onions and olive oil, did not impress me too much. The Jambari mujbous was delectable. An absolute treat for the palate. Marinated shrimps and rice with herbs, dry lemon and cardamom made for a perfect combination. The aroma of this fragrant dish filled my nostrils. The Sabanekh ma hommus wel banadora -Spinach and chick peas cooked in tomato sauce too was light and flavorsome. A lot of chick peas in this cuisine, but I welcome that.

There was shwarma too, personally being tended to by Chef Maher, but I decided to skip that.

I could not wait to try the desserts. Namoura Semolina – Cake soaked in syrup, decorated with almonds, Qatayef – Walnuts stuffed in pan fried dough, Umali and Mouhlablia were on offer. Given my sweet tooth, I found some of the desserts less sweet specially the Mouhlablia and thus my vote went to the Umali. Closer to our home made bread pudding, it was rich, creamy and full of nuts. The texture was appealing as was the sweet quotient. The semolina cake too was extremely well made and the unique texture and mild flavours, appealed to my taste buds.

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Overall, it was an enjoyable meal, with authentic Lebanese dishes prepared adroitly by Chef Maher. The hospitality at Sofitel Mumbai BKC is always unquestionable. I left Pondichery cafe, smiling as always.

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This Taste of Lebanon Still Lingers…….

Falafel’s, the Lebanese Haus, I heard had undergone a menu change. Why I wondered, as I loved its offerings anyway. One of the few places in Mumbai serving authentic Lebanese fare, albeit with a bit of a contemporary twist. A new exciting outlet at Gowalia Tank in South Mumbai  was what was the reason. And yes, there were some menu changes too, but, with the regular favourites in tact. Now that was a huge relief.

Their commitment to healthy, quality fast food has made them a favourite of many and I am no exception. I decided to check it out. I made my way to the small, bu swank QSR outlet at Gowalia Tank.

The falafel section in the menu, had increased, with some exciting options. There were some new multi-grain wraps too.

I opted for the Greek falafel and my colleague for the Mexican one. Mine came in a whole wheat pita and his in a wrap.

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The falafels were crisp and the filling absolutely authentic. The soaked chickpeas were well grounded and seasoned with onions,spices like parsley, garlic, cumin and coriander et al. The fresh and juicy salad and sauces along with it were equally delightful. An exciting array of flavours flooded my mouth. An extremely filling meal it turned out to be.

The repertoire of hummus and dips that have been added are astonishing. I particularly loved the spicy tirokafetri.

The lemonade too was much more refreshing than before. It clearly has undergone a makeover.

Chocolate Nachos with vanilla ice cream is a new entrant. The dessert section now looks good. The nachos, made in-house are exquisite. Perfect texture and taste. Swathed in chocolate sauce, these were sinful. The ice cream however was a bit disappointing and took away the oomph factor from the dessert.

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A special mention must be made of the Oreo Date smoothie, which was more of a dessert for me rather than a thirst quencher. The balance of the two main ingredients was perfectly achieved. Not too sweet and yet, the taste of the dates was evident. Utterly refreshing. Kids are going to love this one. Full marks here to the chef.

The menu has a myriad options to tantalize various palates. Salads, wraps, hummus platters, combos, little bites. A plethora of options to choose from. There are Jain dishes too. For Lebanese cuisine to make this offering. is indeed unparalleled.

The overall experience at Falafel’s was a memorable one, both in terms of service and for the palate. I can’t wait to have one closer home in Oshiwara again.

Rating: 3.5/5

Champion of champions ! MUCB Burger Festival

I have never been a fan of Mc Donald’s chewy, insipid, burgers and was thus relieved when Burgs opened in Bandra. It was a pleasure eating the real burgers. I love burgers. And thus, my joy knew no bounds when Manchester United Café Bar was hosting an International Burger Champions League. I paid a visit to their Malad outlet.

The menu was exciting as there was a specialty burger from every part of the world. A treat for football fans, literally. Riveting Rooney from England was an interesting combination of beef slices, with sauerkraut, sautéed mushrooms. As if that was not enough, there were delectable potato wedges and salad to go with it. And the horseradish and mustard mayonnaise was equally exotic. My friend informed me that the burger patty was really juicy and succulent. A real palate pleaser.

There was the Donald burger from Lebanon, Yo freddy from America and even a Baichung Burger from India. Cute I thought. All these had a vegetarian version too apart from the Non vegetarian ones. And equally unusual, mind you.

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But the one that stole my heart was the Barry Burger from Jamaica. A coconut crumbled crabmeat patty topped with plantain chips and cheddar cheese. It was served with Cajun potato and salad and a chipotle mayonnaise. Words fail me, to describe the exquisite flavours. Only the burger patty was a wee bit wobbly and crumbled easily. Understandably so, given the ingredients. Of course, taste wise, it was a first-of-a- kind experience.

The Adisak burger from Thailand sounded tantalising too, with a grilled red Thai chicken breast et al, but I could manage no more.

The presentation of each burger enhanced its appeal tremendously. The chef had painstakingly created each one. Much appreciated.

Prompt and efficient service are the hallmarks of MUCB Malad and it is always a pleasure to dine there. The music, ambience add the right zing, apart from the one that teases your palate. You are in for a great time. I for sure, had a wonderful evening. The festival is thankfully on till February 17, so am going back for a Adisak Burger for sure. Got to taste that one. When are you heading there?