Tag Archives: flavourful

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:)

 

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Celebrating Simple Vegetarian Food Lavishly

The word ‘Haveli’ immediately conjures images of royalty and opulence. Naturally then, an invite to The Bombay Haveli, a new vegetarian restaurant in Charni Road, Mumbai added to my intrigue and excitement. Add to that was the fact that one was visiting ‘Bombay’ after a long time, instead of Mumbai.

Easily accessible, this vegetarian restaurant lives up to its name. The high ceilings, elegant but plush decor, exudes magnificence and warmth. The seating sections both down and upstairs are comfortable, although the area down appears more relaxed and less cramped. The polite and affable staff puts you at ease immediately.

I actually look forward to vegetarian meals even though am a carnivore no less, as to my mind, to wow a palate with vegetarian flavours is challenging, yet, perhaps more exciting for a chef.

The menu is eclectic – Gujarati, Rajasthani, North Indian and Parsi food and yes, some global dishes too with a twist. The food here caters to all age groups unabashedly. The sections of the menu too are creatively worded. The food is hearty and robust, true to the original flavours, yet with its own distinct character.

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The patra ni machchi with a paneer version struck me as an interesting addition. The chutney is authentic and the texture of the paneer closest to that of fish here.

The Rajwadi dhokli boasts of robust flavours and the right elements of spice. Truly a palate pleaser. The panchmel dal wada is equally a delight for the taste buds and offers a great bite. The options are plenty as the menu is an exercise in choices.

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For mains, the dal bati churma gets my instant vote as does the mag ni dal ni khichdi and kadhi. Absolutely comforting and replete with authentic flavours.  The rustic touch to the dal bati churma is what keeps its sanctity and makes it unique. The food is refreshingly simple and unpretentious. The portions are generous and value-for-money.

Those not fond of Gujarati food can happily tuck into palak paneer, chola bhatura, yellow dal et al and there is plenty of fun food for youngsters and kids as well.

The desserts too are varied and the gulkand rabdi with jalebis that I sampled is lip-smacking- the right amount of sweetness and the perfect creamy texture of the rabdi. The gulkand flavours too are subtle. The crisp and well-fried jalebis pair well with it.

A lot of thought has gone into the menu and an earnest effort made to keep the food light yet flavourful.

The Bombay Haveli truly celebrates vegetarian food in all its glory. Kudos to Marzy Parakh, Parth Dalal and Sarthak Oza, for giving Mumbai a part of Bombay yet again.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

Cold Soups This Summer

A hot soup maybe what we typically associate with a soup  or a broth, but there can be cold soups too. No better way, to beat the summer heat actually. And yes, it’s getting warm already. Yes, cold soups too can be healthy and delicious. There can be yoghurt based soups, soups which are merely a blend of ingredients and these can be pure refreshment, trust me.

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

Gazpacho, the refreshing combination of ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, olive oil, vinegar and garlic, is without a doubt my weakness. A quick lunch to cool and nourish field labourers in Spain, it is widely consumed today.

Cold soups can be creamy and rich, such as a Creamy Cucumber Soup, or chunky and chock-full of vegetables and even fruit, as in our delicious Watermelon Gazpacho. Take full advantage of summer produce, herbs and flavors and try some healthy cold soup recipes. And because these contains no dairy, these are extremely light and flavourful.

All the summer vegetables and fruits work wonders for cold soups. Carrots, Potatoes, Beetroot, Asparagus, Avocados, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Melons, Sweet potatoes, Strawberries, garden peas, Squash, pumpkins are few but not limited ingredients used for cold soups.

A useful tip a chef once gave me. The ingredients used while making these cold soups should either contrast or should complement the flavor.

I enjoy a potato and leek cold soup. No, am not talking about a Vichysoisse. That has cream in addition to the other ingredients. Even cucumber-based cold soups make a great meal and are quick to prepare. Beetroot soup is refreshing too, more so when the beetroot is roasted. The flavour is absolutely unique.

For cold soups, one must use good quality veggies, as the taste and flavour of the soup is marred. It is also important to season these soups well. So go ahead and cool yourself with some tasty soups.

 

 

Country Curries at Shamiana

Taste buds are tantalized often and palates are pleased at many meals, but it is not everyday that you sample food that touches your soul. Curries of the World at Shamiana, Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, was one such memorable experience.

While I have had the privilege of travelling a fair bit and experiencing several global cuisines, I have never tasted such an amazing array of delectable curries from across the world as created by Chef Amit Chowdhury and his team.

Shamiana had curated a special menu bringing together the innovative curries made using a complex combination of spices and herbs across the globe – Cape Town, Spain, Africa, Portuguese, Brazil The menu looked so inviting and the stories, behind each curry, interesting, that I read with rapt attention.

Our Pollo al curry, aka Spanish baked Chicken curry, Catalonia bread and Valencia style Mushroom and Beans arrived. I was floored with the presentation. Suddenly felt like royalty. The curry was light, with subtle flavours and extremely comforting. It soothed our palates. The beans and mushrooms accompaniment, added the right amount of crunch to the dish and perked our taste buds. Visually of course, it was poetry on plate, oops platter actually!

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We had just about soaked these flavours that our next, Guyanese crab curry was served. What can I say about this magnum opus of a dish? The Arabian Sea Crab curry, with Wild Rice and Hot peppers Relish was a treat for the eyes and undoubtedly for the palate. While our coastal crab curries in India are so heavily spiced (but delicious) this one was so fragrant and light. Delicately flavoured. The wild rice, was the highlight and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It had a bite to it which other varieties of rice don’t quite offer.

The Bunny Chow, our first vegetarian curry, was artistry by the chef. Durban Pumpkin, Baby Potatoes, Cottage cheese and Lima bean Curry served in Crusty bread, which had been scooped beautifully to become a serving dish. I was spellbound. I loved the way the vegetables were combined in a sweet-spicy thick curry and the crunchy bread paired well with it. Reminded me of a Goan curry and pao meal.

Japanese Mushroom & Tofu Curry

Our last curry for dinner was the Japanese Mushroom and Tofu Curry – Japanese curry with shitake, cremini and haricot served with short grain rice, crispy onion and pickled vegetables. The flavours in the curry were a bit too sharp and overpowering for my palate. The rice provided some relief, but I would not rate this as one of the best on offer. My vote definitely went to the Guyanese crab curry.

Sea food lovers may love the Trini Shrimp Curry – Caribbean shrimp and green pepper curry with apple Kuchela and Jamaican rice, served with fried plantains and salsa. For vegetarians,  there was the Ottogi Curry – aubergines water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, glass noodles, garlic sesame kimchi with simmered lotus in soy sauce.

I missed having the Khoresht e Gheimeh –  Persian lamb and split peas curry, tachin, mint yoghurt, sabzi khordan served with French fries. Chef informed me that this curry makes use of liberal amounts of saffron to give a unique and flavourful taste. Sounded exciting, but I was satiated beyond words and there was no scope to taste even a spoonful. But I had enjoyed every morsel of what I tasted, so had no regrets.

Palate pleasing flavours, outstanding presentation, impeccable service and an extremely creativie menu. With these thoughts, I left Shamiana.

For the Universal Palate: Cheval new Menu

Cheval Restaurant & Bar, has a regal air about it and transports you elsewhere- out of Mumbai. for sure. One gets a feel of being in Europe. Maybe because of the ambience and partly because of the expat crowd that throngs the bar as you enter. A happening place undoubtedly.

The restaurant section has an old world charm to it, but perhaps could do with a bit of brighter upholstery.

The new menu designed by Executive Chef – Brian Lopes, looked interesting. A good mix of global specialities. Bravia potatoes arrived first. Melt in the mouth and creamy. Just the way they are meant to be. Reminded me of Chef Sergi Arola. His signature dish it is. The chicken liver pate with cherry compote and date puree fell short of our expectations. The pate was overpowering and enveloped the palate.

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Roasted beetroot with a raspberry emulsion, walnuts and goat cheese, was our choice for salad. I have a weakness for this one. The salad was well made, the beetroot done to perfection and the goat cheese, creamy enough. However, the salad leaves could have been doused further with dressing. Were a tad too dry. The quality of the ingredients got our vote- fresh and the best.

Chef Brian dropped by to say hello to us and explained how he keeps reinventing his menu to allure his regular guests. Well, he had succeeded.

I was recommended to try the Multigrain crepe, laal maath and beetroot along with a smoked tomato fondue, while my partner settled for the delicate John Dory.  I was ecstatic as I bit into my crepe. Luscious flavours and a plethora of textures, juxtaposed. My vote went instantly to this one. The tomato fondue was the perfect compliment. One cannot go wrong with a John Dory and this one surpassed our expectations. The kaffir lime risotto so cleverly paired with this, did the trick. The aromatic, gentle flavours filled and appeased our senses. Delicious. The chef is indeed extraordinary.

Satiated, we let ourselves indulge in the desserts too. Espresso fudge served with vanilla bean ice cream and Basil panacotta strawberry coulis was what we ordered. The basil panacotta was unusual, but a wee bit less sweet for my taste buds, but made well nevertheless. The espresso fudge was decadent and sinful, as expected.

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The service was impeccable and the staff alert to guests’ needs. The food is unusual, subtle flavours and appeals to a global palate but the portions can be a bit more generous.

An enjoyable and relaxed dining experience this was.

Rating: 3.5/5

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.

Salt n spice and everything nice….Amritsari Tadka

Kebabs by Amritsari Tadka

There is nothing like Punjabi food- robust, flavoursome and hearty. And add some more tadka  (seasoning) to it and the zing gets even better. And that’s exactly what happened when we sampled a meal at the newly opened Amritsari Tadka, Linking Road, Khar Mumbai.

Being a Punjabi and a foodie myself, none of the dishes were alien to me. In fact being familiar with the original taste and flavours, I was even more excited to try these and rate them. The murg shorba that ere served first s aromatic. The soup was indeed  flavourful and comforting. The Chicken tikkas were spicy, well- marinated, succulent  and had the right texture. We were off to a good start for sure. The fish ajwaini was something I was looking forward to. That too met with my expectations. But I wish they had used some other fish than the oh! so popular Basa. I am not a fan of that bland fish at all. It needs to be boosted with strong flavours of other ingredients.

The keema chicken in the main course disappointed me hugely. I did not relish the idea of both these being combined in the first place and added to that was the excess salt. The dal makhni more than made up for the chicken though. Well cooked, the dal simply melt in our mouths. The Amritsari garlic naan and the pudina(mint) version were crispy and yummy too. Made for a delicious pairing with the piping dal.

Rabdi with kulfi was a good suggestion. The rabdi texture was a tad pasty. But nevertheless we enjoyed its’ creamy taste.

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Anil Singh Arora aka Pappi Singh of Only Parathas fame,  has succeeded in opening a fine dine non-vegetarian restaurant serving authentic Punjabi dishes. The menu consists of Amritsari Bheja Masala, Amritsari Gurda Kapuda, Tawa Chop Lahori, Murg Jalandar etc. After scouring the whole of Mumbai city, customers find their way back to Amritsari Tadka for its Murgh Chatni Anardana and Murgh Ludhianvi Kali Mirch which are the some of the special dishes offered only by Amritsari Tadka in Mumbai.

But for those of you, who do not relish Punjabi food or want other options, there are plenty. Chinese food, Continental dishes et al. And lots for vegetarians too. Added to that is the quick and efficient service by polite staff, cheerful family ambience and value-for-money good food.

I love my Punjabi food so am definitely heading back for the asli taste of Punjab!