Tag Archives: flavours

Grand(eur) all the way

Visiting any place in Gujarat always excites me as the State is so rich in art and culture and the prospect of getting a glimpse of that, in itself is an attraction.

So when Vadodara, beckoned, as Surya Palace, the iconic hotel in the city of Vadodara was being rebranded to Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, it was reason enough to pay a visit.

Chukh chukh chakh chakh Bombay se Baroda tak. Rishi Kapoor’s famous song from the film ‘Rafoo Chakkar’ was playing in my head as I travelled by train to Vadodora, albeit from Surat.

Surya Palace is synonymous with Vadodara and boasts of warm hospitality, great food and impeccable service. But of course I needed to experience it for myself. Add to that the involvement of the world famous AccorHotels now, so the expectations were really high.

The warm welcome and smooth check in won my heart instantly. But it was the lobby with a display of a plethora of art works that caught my attention. I was mesmerized.

From the sculptures by Nagji Patel in the porch and the ceramic works of P. R. Daroz, Jyoti Bhatt, along with display of Padma Vibhushan Prof. K G. Subramanium’s paintings, it was like walking into a beautiful art gallery. That itself gave me an insight into the rich heritage of this hotel and its connect with the city of Vadodara.

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My well-appointed room with warm earthy colours, beautiful paintings and replete with amenities, appealed to me instantly. The attention to detail struck me as outstanding. Bharat Kumar Gupta, the Front Office Manager and his team were omnipresent, always ready to assist and help at any time of the day or night.

Deluxe King Room - Gand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels rightly said, “Grand Mercure is a cultural touchstone in each destination, capturing guests’ imagination and bringing local stories to life.” It certainly held true for Grand Mercure Surya Palace Vadodara.

Piyush Shah, Managing Director, Jindal Hotels Ltd with Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels at the launch of Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace

The food, which is always the pivot of my existence, in more ways than one, surpassed my expectations. I expected to eat only Vegetarian food in Gujarat and perhaps only local delicacies, but Executive Chef Sudhakar Angre’s prowess in Non-vegetarian food at each meal surprised me at Azure, the all-day dining restaurant.  The quality of ingredients, the presentation and cooking methods used were impressive. No where was there an instance of spices overpowering the flavours. The ingredients were the hero. The sheer variety offered at each meal was amazing. From chicken quesadillas to lamb rogan josh and from panki to undhiyo, there was everything on offer. The Mediterranean offerings were equally lip-smacking. The local food was of course a treat for our taste buds- khaman, fafda, jalebis, sev tameta nu shaak etc

Vanilla the delicatessen, was hard to resist each time we stood in the lobby as the display of freshly made desserts, cookies, cakes, was alluring.

Just when I thought, I had sampled it all, the traditional Gujarati thali served to us for dinner on our last night there, swept me off my feet. The spread in the thali was expectedly varied, but the authenticity of the dishes and the manner in which it was served, left me awe struck. The local breads of Gujarat served were outstanding as were the aamras, kadhi, dal, undhyo, bhindi. It was a feast fit for royalty.

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The cultural function organsied by the Hotel giving us a peek into Gujarat’s rich cultural heritage was a treat as was the visit to places of interest like the Laxmi Vilas Palace and Fateh Singh Museum.

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Rajesh Gopalakrishnan, General Manager, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace said, “Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace will provide a unique dimension for guests staying at the property. With a distinctive portfolio of accommodation, dining destinations and MICE facilities, we are set to define new standards of hospitality and look forward to cater to the city’s growing tourism and business activities.”

Well, if the launch and my personal experience was anything to go by, the 146 room, Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace certainly was all set to achieve this and more.

Aabar Khabo : Once is not enough

My connection from Kolkata, actually erstwhile Calcutta, is from birth. Yes, I was born and brought up in the City of Joy which I still sorely miss. Naturally then, Bengali food is my comfort food and I thoroughly enjoy the cuisine and all its nuances.

To visit the MoMo Cafe at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai to try The Kolkata Konnection, Bengali food festival was a trip down memory lane for me.

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Curated by Executive Chef Avijit Deb Sharma and his team, including a chef from JW Marriott Kolkata, it was indeed a spread any gourmand would look forward to. The Bengali dishes were a part of the buffet spread, which of course offered other cuisines too, catering to wide palate. There was a separate counter with phuchka Kolkata’s version of pani puri) and jhal muri, the quintessential street food of Kolkata. And of course a separate section serving the lip-smacking Bengali starters, chicken cutlet, fish fry, vegetable chop et al.

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I bit into the fish fry and memories came flooding. I have grown up enjoying this delicacy in South Calcutta where I grew up at several places, but Mukherjee sweets in Ballygunge Place, being my all time favourite. This one was close. The fish fillet wrapped in spices, coated with breadcrumbs, was fried to perfection. Comforting and familiar flavours. The dhonepatta  bhaja or coriander fritter was spicy and fragrant. The chicken cutlet with chicken mince was delightful as was the vegetable chop with the characteristic beetroot, potatoes and groundnuts. I was off to a great start and was enjoying every morsel with kasundi or the mustard dip.

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The mains were a feast fit for the kings. The thaal or a huge thali with several katoris or vaatis was a treat for the eyes. Kosha mangsho or the onion based slow-cooked mutton preparation, cholar dal, alu posto, ilish or Hilsa fish, malai chingri or the creamy prawn curry, begun bhaja, kodaishutir kochuri or green peas puri and of course the pulao, fragrant with ghee and roasted nuts and raisins, was what my meal comprised. The lebu (lemon) chatni, tomato chutney and aamer (mango) chutney were also served along, as no Bengali meal is complete without these.

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The dishes were simple and cooked home-style. The flavours were authentic replete with the Bengali spices and ingredients (mustard oil, paanch phoran, gobindbhog rice, gondhoraj lebu) and the melange of textures, absolutely delightful.

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Not only was the meal delicious in terms of its taste and flavours, but equally a nostalgic one for me as I sat recounting endless occasions when I had sampled those dishes at home or with friends and family.

Rosogulla and aamer (mano) sandesh was what I finished my meal with.  Both got my vote. But of course there were other Bengali desserts on offer too.

I left MoMo Cafe happy and satiated, stuffing a Kolkata meetha paan in my mouth, with the smile not leaving my face.

On till June 24 for dinner, this Bengali food festival is a must try for those who relish Bengali food and others keen to experiment.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

Sensationally Sensory

“A good fragrance is really a powerful cocktail of memories and emotion.”  A wise man once said this and there is ample truth in his words.
Last night’s dinner at Romano’s JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar will remain firmly etched in my memory for ever. I can even close my eyes and recall all that I ate. Such are the memories. And this has a lot to do with the fragrances created painstakingly by Chef Roberto and his team after months of research and hard work.

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Aromas, as the promotion was rightly titled, was fragrant from word go. The ten herb and ingredients infused distilled edible fragrances like nutmeg, saffron, oregano, rosemary, coffee, orange, sage, thyme, vanilla, fennel were every diner’s playful kit for the evening. Bottled in delicate glass perfume bottles these were both enticing and inviting.

With the special dishes created by Chef Roberto using fresh ingredients of the best quality and keeping the flavours simple, not letting anything overpower those, one was to merely experiment with these fragrances. “Spray some on your fork as you taste a mouthful of the dish,” Chef Roberto explained with a smile. No, these were not paired with each dish, but one had the freedom to try these as per one’s preferences and tastes.

With the baby burrata and lychee I got adventurous  as I sprayed rosemary first and the burrata came alive with a myriad flavours. Of course nothing interfered with its distinct taste. Fennel, coffee, thyme. I was on an experimental spree, enjoying myself thoroughly. Even though no dish was particularly paired with the fragrances, the flavours complemented each other so well. I marveled at Chef’s thought process.

The snow beans and fennel carpaccio was simplicity personified. Once could taste each ingredient clearly and the freshness shone through.

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As my meal progressed, I realised how the flavours in each dish were kept subtle so as to experiment unbridled with the fragrances, which were meant to enhance the dining experience. And truly they were doing just that.

There were other exciting options for appetizers on the menu too. Parma ham with robiola cheese, heirloom tomato with buffalo mozzarella.

For mains, I was blown with the flavours and textures of the house-made tagliolini pasta with black garlic, chili and extra virgin olive oil. Simple and unpretentious. The black garlic actually added the zest to the dish. Flawless. And yes,  I was not missing my meats at all today.

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The Chilean sea bass with mild flavours but a distinct texture on a bed of eggplant was a delight for the taste buds. Here too I tried fragrances like rosemary, sage, and even nutmeg and they all passed in flying colours for my taste buds were tantalized sufficiently.

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What can I say about the deconstructed tiramisu? Apart from being a treat for the palate, it was perfectly executed. Avant garde in presentation but absolutely authentic and true to its classic ingredients. The chocolate mousse on meringue, surpassed my expectations as it was an amalgamation of flavours and textures which immediately satisfied your sweet cravings.

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Yet, again, as always, Chef Roberto had excelled. His offerings were unique, the execution, flawless.

I walked out of Romano’s with a smile as the whiff of those fragrances lingered on in my memory and always will.

On till June 4 for dinner, do try this if you want to embark upon a once in a lifetime food journey.

Rating: 4.5/5

A Superlative Menu

Salads are not all that you need to eat when following healthy dietary habits. I am all for eating healthy food, yet, food packed with nutrients and flavours. Yes, taste is key. Insipid and bland food does not meet approval with my palate.

Thus, the new Super Foods Menu introduced by TGI Fridays, the global casual dining leader,  caught my attention and immediately I set out to explore this at the Palladium, Lower Parel, Mumbai outpost.

The menu, for 3 months, though limited offers enough variety. I noticed, that the offerings had super foods like beans, broccoli, blueberries, salmon, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts and yogurt in abundance. Being natural ingredients, these are loaded with excellent nutritional benefits.

Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken, Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, Cranberry & blueberry couscous and Kale were some of the unique dishes. What was interesting was that, appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts, had all incorporated super foods in some form or the other, thus making the entire menu healthy.

The Fruits & Nuts Super Salad made with crisp lettuce, spinach, broccoli topped with walnuts, apples, dried apricots, cranberries, and blueberries, was a delightful medley of flavours that wowed my palate. No where was there any monotony at all.

Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken

Next, I tried the Wasabi Miso Glazed Chicken. Bursting with simple and subtle flavours, this, lemon and olive oil-marinated grilled chicken breasts were drizzled with a spicy wasabi miso sauce. Served with toasted almond, cranberry and blueberry couscous and ginger garlic kale, this was a power-packed meal in terms of taste and nutrients. I only felt that the portion of the kale was a bit too much for the meal. One can only enjoy a certain amount of kale.

Pomegranate Honey Mustard Salmon cam next. A hearty portion, I thought to myself. Again, a lemon and olive oil basted grilled salmon filet topped pomegranate honey mustard vinaigrette. The tangy flavour were unmistakable, yet, teased my palate sufficiently.  The salmon was of exceptional quality and grilled to perfection. Unfortunately, the novelty factor of the toasted almond, cranberry & blueberry couscous and ginger garlic kale had worn off by now. Yet, I savoured the couscous.

Pomegranate Honey Mustard Salmon

Vegetarians need not despair. They can relish the Vegetarian Tex Mex Chili made with chipotle peppers, sun-ripened tomatoes, red onions and beans topped with yogurt, fresh pico de galloand jalapeno served up hot and spicy on a brown rice pilaf.

The quality of the ingredients, struck me as the best and the presentation was enough to make a person satiated already, feel hungry again. The food may seem a tad overpriced, but given the quality and portion sizes, one cannot complain.

Although we decided to skip dessert, as the meal had been too filling, the Fruit Crumble seemed inviting.  Jam-packed with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and juicy peaches, served piping hot and topped with an ice-cold scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt,  haunted me and I  have resolved to go back another day to indulge my sweet cravings.

Rating : 4.5/5

 

 

Getting Cheesy

‘Say Cheese’. A common expression used by photographers when they want their subject/s to smile during a photo session. I am an exception. Cheese, makes me smile anyway, as I love it. Naturally then, the very thought of an entire promotion dedicated to cheese, at 1441 Pizzeria, Mumbai at Fort and Lokhandwala, Andheri West, titled’ Say Cheese Festival’ made me smile ear to ear. I was visibly excited.

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An entire new menu curated around cheese.  What more could a cheese lover like me ask for? Camembert and blue cheese pizza, buratta pizza, fromage blanc pizza, feta cheese pizza, smoky cheese pizza, were some of the exciting offerings on this menu.

I tried a piece each of some of the varieties at the Lokhandwala outlet and was blown away by the quality of the cheese. They had obviously used the best and that made all the difference to the taste of the pizza. The fresh ingredients and flavours were bursting and seeking attention. The techniques, precision and variety at 144 Pizzeria has always impressed me.

 

The Camembert and blue cheese pizza was delightful. The flavours in sharp contrast, yet complementary. The smoky pizza was, as expected, a treat for the palate with the smoky flavours, enveloping my taste buds. The crunch came in the form of veggies, olives, in many of the pizza.

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But the piece de resistance that evening was the coffee pizza. I have never eaten anything  quite like that before. Dessert pizza, with chocolates, fruits et al, in abundance, made by the best Italian chefs, but this coffee pizza was unique. The honey, spices, herbs, jalapenos, were high on flavours and then, the drizzle of strong coffee powder teased your taste buds, just the right amount. The contrast was evident and spectacular. I lauded the mastery of the person who created this concept and of course those, who were skilfully, executing it.

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The in-house Italian sauces, used in each pizza were lip-smacking and different. The usage of vegetables and other ingredients was apt, in the right proportion. Even the cheese did not overpower any of the pizza flavours. The crust, as always, was just perfect for me.

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The enthusiastic staff, their positive energy and desire to see a guest satisfied, is praiseworthy. I love the fact that they are well-informed and able to explain the pizza offerings on the menu exceedingly well to a guest.

I left, satiated and smiling. I was, inadvertently, saying cheese, as that was what was on my mind and in my stomach:)

On till, May 31, this ‘Say Cheese’ festival is not to be missed if you are a cheese lover or a pizza lover or both.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

Lucio: Celebrating the flavours of Goa

The Goan in me is perpetually craving authentic Goan food, even when I am in Goa or perhaps more so as chances of getting home style food there are stronger.

Lucio at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim South Goa proved to be the perfect choice. The Goan cuisine Master chef Peter Araujo was in command and the menu there, read like a dream for me.

Soups, Starters, Goan curries, Rice, Breads, Desserts- the menu offered them all. And yes, there were vegetarian options too.

The decor is chic and contemporary and the lay out  with wooden tables and chair, neat. The natural light filtering in, gives it a warm vibe.

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My spinach and potato soup was replete with subtle flavours. The texture was sufficiently creamy. The prawns rissois, were delectable- creamy prawns in a white sauce, generously filled in a karanji -shaped choux pastry case and deep fried. Of course the menu had abundant choices- crispy fried prawns, calamari, croquettes and more.

Cashew xacuti, red rice, mutton sukhem and Goan fish curry along with sannas and prawns kismur was what we opted for.

The fish curry was tangy and subtly spiced, just the way I like it. The freshly ground coconut paste, was adeptly blended into the curry, so as to give a hint of the flavour, without revealing the crunchy texture. It paired well with the red rice and made me nostalgic. This was truly home cooked food.

The cashew xacuti was unique. Spicy but not overpowered with masala. The coconut here too was well-meshed with the gravy. The kismur struck me as unusual- the melange of textures and flavours was perfect.

Chef Peter obviously displayed his skills and mastery even in the simple home-style meal he served us. In fact that to my mind is a tough task and he succeeded with flying colours.

What can I say about the mutton sukhem? the pieces of mutton were succulent and the masala wrapped over it, just perfect- no overdose of gram masala or chillies. Tantalizing the taste buds but not drowning the flavours in the spices.

Vegetarians need no fret- foogath, varan, rissois, mushroom xacuti are all available for one to gorge on.

The simplicity of the meal was what blew me off completely. The spices used were of the best quality, the cooking methods authentic and the resultant dishes, just the way Portuguese and Goan families would eat.

No meal in Goa is complete without the customary date and black jaggery pancakes- Alle Belle. This was exceptionally well-made and the filling simply melt-in-the-mouth.

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The staff is pleasant and willing to assist and the dishes, flawless. Along with Chef Peter, Chef Leon deserves a mention for his extraordinary communication skills apart from being a great and knowledgeable chef. Brajendra the Asst. F&B Manager was exceedingly hospitable and helpful

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I stepped out with a smile on my face after having relished a traditional Goan meal sans frills or modern twists.

Greco : Simply Greek in Goa

A cheerful vibe envelopes you as you enter the Greek cuisine restaurant Greco replete with pristine white and bright blue decor – quintessentially Greek. Although located at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim in South Goa, the separate entrance with the menu placed outside, gives you an option to enter this place, without having to go through the Hotel.

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The striking decor actually transports you to Greece and you could well be in a taverna with a relaxed setting. An arch way leads you to the outdoor seating which is of the inimitable courtyard style and offers a spectacular view. Of course, there is ample seating inside too. In fact the plush interiors, with a swish, well-stocked bar and the mood lighting creates an unparalleled atmosphere.

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A  simple but complete menu largely representative of Crete island in Greece,  is palced before you. However, there are other specialities from other parts of Greece too, giving a diner an insight into this cuisine. The menu has been cleverly crafted by Chef Stelios, a native of Greece. Sea food expectedly abounds in the offerings.

My Psarosopa is a medley of sea food flavours- subtle and comforting. The sea food stock has been cleverly used and is not overpowering. The Greek Mezze here is quite different from the various versions that are often passed off as the original mezze. The tzatziki is bang on in flavours and textures. The kalamata olive paste wows my palate as well, but it is the aubergine salad which unexpectedly stands out. With the warm pita bread dipped into these in turns, I relish every morsel I eat.

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The garides saganaki- a simple but flavourful prawns dish in tomatoes with a dash of ouzo (liqueur) perks up my taste buds. The prawns are fresh and of a superior quality. The tragani feta bursting with fresh flavours, encased in a crisp covering drizzled with honey, with a characteristic sweet and savoury flavour, was the piece de resistance for the evening. It clearly bore testimony to the chef’s mastery over his craft.

The gyros chicken is well-made too. Sea food and poultry apart, for hard-core carnivores, there is a fair amount to choose from. Vegetarians need not despair as there is ample variety too.

My dessert is special, yet, traditional. Galaktoboureko – a sweet and sour cream on a pastry crust immersed me in a food coma. A bite into the crispy phyllo and the creamy semoilna custard filled one’s mouth. Made to perfection, it was a dessert which left you satiated and yet, craving for more.

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I observed that nowhere in my entire meal, did the spices (although minimal) drown the flavours of the core ingredients and the chef had donejustice to all the ingredients by using simple cooking methods.

The use of extra virgin olive oil, ouzo and fresh authentic ingredients adds the right amount of punch and flavour to the dishes. The food is high on flavours and the quality of the ingredients, shines through. It is simple and uncomplicated fare.

If a cocktail is what you fancy, the bartender behind the glitzy bar will make you something to your taste. And of course the selection of wines will lure you as well.

The staff is well-informed about the menu and the service is quick and alert.

Greco truly surpassed my expectations and I felt that for the first time in India, I had a Greek meal which was an honest representation of this simple but flavoursome cuisine.

Rating: 4.5/5