Tag Archives: flavours

Chronicles from Madras

Having grown up going to erstwhile Madras where my grandparents lived, I have developed great fondness for the local food. In fact I thoroughly enjoy the varied flavours of food across Southern India. While I am otherwise a carnivore, vegetarian delicacies in Southern food appeal immensely to my palate, perhaps more than non-vegetarian too.

Madras Diaries, naturally, conjured up images of lip-smacking South Indian fare and opened a floodgate of memories too. This new restaurant which opens tomorrow, Ocotber 11, 2017, is located in Bandra West Mumbai off Waterfield Road.

The colourful and vibrant decor, with the Southern leitmotif conspicuously running through in the design elements, catches your eye immediately as you enter. The seating is cosy and offers sufficient privacy.

Neeti Goel of Nom Nom and Farhan Azmi of Basilico  have endeavoured to revive lost recipes and Chef Murugan and his team execute this with authenticity and precision.

The menu, looked inviting from word go and I was keen to try a lot of the delicacies from the South. The hint of innovation in some dishes on the menu enhances its appeal.

Cheese Chilli Jalapeno Idli in Masala Fondue was what we started with. The bite-sized idlis were delicious and paired well with the spicy fondue.

Jalepano Idlis with Cheesy Dips

The big idli swathed in the fiery podi got my instant vote. The ragi dosa, which came next, bore testimony to their efforts to cook with forgotten grains. The accompanying sambar is easily the best I have had in a long time in Mumbai. The podis- made with lentils and spices, packed a punch and the pachadis, were delectable and enhanced the dining experience. Some pachadis were curd based, others made from vegetables tempered with spices and curry leaves. The freshness shone through and I ate each one with relish.

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The food here struck me as authentic, clean and made with fresh ingredients. The contemporary twist in some cases was exciting and acceptable. The aroma of home-made ghee was evident in each dish. The options in each section- be it idlis, vadas, dosas or utthapams was tremendous.

Among dosas, Pesarattu made with green moong dal and Dhavangere Benne made with rice and urad dal were my other favourites. The coconut chutney was quintessentially home style and bursting with freshness.

If you happen to visit Madras Diaries during lunch, you can enjoy the light vegetarian meal  which showcases five treasured specials from the Southern region along with sambhar, rasam, curd, rice and the option of choosing two accompaniments from Dosai, Malabari Parotta, Appam & Chappathi.

Apart from dosas, idlis and vadas, there are a plethora of other options too. Choose from the crispy, flaky, soft Malabari Parotta, or the Kambu Roti made with pearl millet or the Chilly Parotta with Salsa and Onion Raita to be relished with vegetable kurma and raita. Pillowy soft ‘Appams,’  too are on offer and one can savour these with a hot vegetable stew or ‘ulli theyal,’ a gravy with onions and coconut.

How can you leave a South Indian restaurant without eating payasam? I too did not. I relished the tender coconut payasam as well as the chiku halwa or sapota kesari which was an absolute surprise.

Authentic Filter Coffee

You may enjoy the rasam shots during your meal, as I did, but a filter coffee at the end of your meal is a must.

Madras Diaries ensures you don’t necessarily have to trek to Matunga for authentic South Indian food. The fare on offer here is homely, rustic and mouth-watering.

I stepped out with a little bit of Madras on my palate.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

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Cosy Interiors and comforting flavours

It is not often that one hears of a new standalone restaurant in Thane except the ones that open in Shopping Malls. Naturally then, this one in Wagle Estate intrigued me. Add to that the name. Covert Cafe. Whew! my excitement got the better of me and I landed there one afternoon.

In a quiet lane, in an industrial building, the striking blue facade with Covert Cafe in bold white letters greeted me. This place gave me the feel of a pub located in the countryside in the US.

Once inside, I was impressed with the way the space had been utilised to the optimum. There was ample seating on the ground floor with space in between tables and some more upstairs on a mezzanine floor. The decor typically industrial, was avant garde but not too funky. The seating was extremely comfortable.

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This place definitely catered to all age groups but yes, the hipster crowd would love it given the DJ console on the top, which meant, good music in the evenings.

The menu spelt comfort from word go. The dishes were familiar yet, boated of unique twists. I was impressed to see that there were two separate menus for the day and the night.

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My tomato omelette arrived. Very besan cheela-eque but home-style and just the way I love it. The Melanzane parmigiana took me by surprise. It was well-made and absolutely classic all the way.

But what got my vote instantly was the mutton sizzler. A delectable home-made mutton curry with noodles and french fries, was any gourmand’s answer to a good meal. Well-spiced, offering an array of textures and a myriad flavours. This one was truly lip-smacking.

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The chicken biryani, aromatic and flavourful arrived in a small and cute pressure cooker. I liked the fact that none of the dishes here were gimmicky. The ingredients were the sole heroes.

The menu offers salads, pastas, soups. quick meals and even fun sides that one may want to indulge in. For those seeking a quick hassle-free lunch there is moong dal khichadi and chicken curry with chapatti too. The breakfast section on the menu caught my attention as the egg dishes, pancakes and hash brown seemed inviting.

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The evening menu has been designed with drinks in mind so the offerings are apt, yet filling.

The food here struck me as simple, with clean flavours, cooked home-style and the variety tremendous. It is the kind of place where one can sit and sip a latte and work during the day, dine with the family or party with friends.

I rounded off a great meal with an even greater dessert- grilled pineapple with ice cream. The pineapple was well-marinated with spices and grilled to perfection. It teased my taste buds endlessly and left me craving for more. No, for once I did not miss the customary chocolate dessert.

I was glad I had discovered this ‘covert’ cafe.

 

 

 

Celebrating the flavours of Bandra

When a cosy cafe opens in Bandra to celebrate the salient features of Bandra and its food, it certainly merits a visit. This latest entrant into Bandra beckons you immediately. The warmth is unmistakable.

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There are two seating areas- one a dining only and the other has sheesha too. The decor is interesting and the metal head is artistically done.

The menu is a clear tribute to all the food we love in Bandra.  Soups, salads, mains, desserts, this menu offers a wide selection of all with global offerings as well. The bar menu is equally exhaustive.

Trio Fungi Risotto

Sriracha prawns and chicken harissa skewers in the non-vegetarian appetizers prove to be a good choice. The portions are hearty and the food well-presented and unpretentious.  The harissa skewers are well-spiced and robust. The coriander relish sweet potato among the vegetarian options, bowls me over completely. The inherent sweet flavours of the sweet potato are cleverly used and juxtaposed with the spices and red pesto.

Chicken Harissa Skewer

Our zuppa de funghi, a creamy mushroom soup is well-made and appeases our taste buds immediately.

The flavours tease our palates and we look forward to our mains. The classic crepes sound inviting as does the spaghetti bhuna ghosht, but we settle for the Pollo ala Indiana instead. The herb scented pilaf rice with creamy cubed chicken is strongly reminiscent of a stroganoff and thus naturally comforting.

There are vegetarian options too although the menu leans in the favour of carnivores. Chef Roshan has crafted an interesting menu and plays around dexterously with flavours and textures. The clay oven section dishes are worth a try as well.

For desserts, we gorged on the chocolate lava cake, which simply melt-in-the-mouth.

Cafe Bandra has the potential to become a fun, hang out place for the younger crowd, given its location, ambience, array of cocktails and affordably priced food. Only, the service staff needs to be a tad better trained.

Rating : 3/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan Just Got Closer Home

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A decade or ago, I was not such a fan of Japanese food and although I was exposed to this cuisine during my years in London, I was always reluctant to try it. Gradually I overcame this skepticism and became adventurous. And voila! I discovered I took to Sushi instantly.   Ironically, it was time to move out of London. Back home in Mumbai, it was only a few five star hotels that served Sushi at that time and naturally it was quite expensive.

Fortunately for me, in 2009 came a place called Sushi and More, started by Maido India. A premier take away and home delivery joint in South Mumbai, authentic and affordable Japanese food has been their mantra. Whenever I’d be that side I would always pick up some of my favourite selection of sushi. However, living in the Western suburbs, I’d always lament the absence of such a place closer home.

Naturally then, I was overjoyed when I discovered that Sushi and More was now going to deliver in Juhu and Andheri too as it has a state-of-the-art-kitchen in Juhu as well now.

A neatly packed box with Veg sushi, wasabi, soy sauce and gari, chop sticks et al in different compartments of the box arrived and another with non-vegetarian options. Tuna nigiri, California roll, spicy salmon roll,crabmeat gunkan, classic cucumber roll, tomato and cheese nigiri, bell pepper nigiri. Oh! there was so much to choose from.

Each sushi was almost like poetry on plate. In Japan, it’s believed that the dining experience starts first with the eyes. Mine certainly was.

The crab meat gunkan  was buttery soft and simply melt in my mouth. My palate was enveloped with pleasing flavours. This one was a sure shot winner.

I somehow have a weakness for the  sushi maki roll and cannot help marvelling the finesse with which chefs create these. This one was no different. Meticulously packed and pressed and bursting with fresh ingredients.  Freshness is key to a good sushi and this one scored high on this front. The vinagared edge was there but without being overpowering.

The California roll is my all time favourite and I simply devoured the ones from Sushi and More. Each piece offered a crunch, some creamy textures and a myriad flavours.

The quality of the ingredients used, their authenticity and value-for-money are unquestionable. It is the best you can get in the city.

Their menu does not just stop at sushi. They have a plethora of choices, including Bento Boxes, Gyoza, Yakitori,Tempura, Soups and Salads, created for every kind of discerning palate, including offerings like Super Prawn Tempura Sushi roll for sea-food lovers.

What’s more, they have a large selection for vegetarians too.

 

Satiated after a filling meal of an array of sushi, I am already planning my next order from Sushi and More.

Rating : 4.5/5

Delivering from :

Juhu to Andheri Lokhandwala – +91-7045909448 or +91-9930937285
Prabhadevi to Worli – +91-8691980673 or +91-8691980873
Tardeo to Colaba – +91-7506100886 or +91-7506100887

They also deliver Via: Scootsy, Swiggy & Zomato

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Indulgently Indian

Thalis in Indian cuisine, are my weakness. The sheer variety and sight of small vatis or katoris with different dishes in a glistening thali attract me. The Grand Thali Feast at Soma, Grand Hyatt Mumbai which begins today and goes on until July 23, daily for dinner, naturally was something which beckoned me. I was fortunate to get a preview last night.

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Curated by Chef Vinod Singh Rana of Soma and his team, the thali looked delightful and appetizing as expected. In fact I even witnessed the thalis being set in the spotlessly clean and well-planned kitchen.

I opted for the Non-vegetarian option with laal maas, a typical Rajasthani preparation of mutton which is lip-smacking. Naturally, that was the first dish I tried and it turned out to be one of the best lal-maas preparations I have ever had. Often hyped, it disappoints owing to too much spice and a rich and heavy gravy. But this one was a palate-pleaser. The yogurt was just right, as were the other spices and the texture of the succulent mutton pieces, slow-cooked, were just the way I enjoy mine.

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The other dishes on my thali included Rajasthani bhindi, sev tamatar, batata-nu-shaak, kadhi, dal, khichdi, thepla, rotla, puri, rice and of course lot of farsan in the form of khandvi, dhokla, samosa, patra made of arbi leaves, et al. Each dish was distinct in its flavours and textures and obviously painstakingly prepared. The taste of each Rajasthani and Gujarati dish was authentic with no room for compromise.

Desserts were the highlight of my meal with malpua and rabdi and of course the quintessential, moong dal halwa, as I have an incurable sweet-tooth.

The quality of ingredients was expectedly the best and the flavours shone through with ease. A sumptuous meal, perhaps difficult to finish, but enjoyable nevertheless. I was satiated. The meetha paan served in a traditional manner was the perfect finale to this grand thali meal.

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One can also enjoy an array of delightful cocktails and mocktails themed to compliment the menu from their a la carte beverage menu.

Given the variety and the fact that it is unlimited, as well as being priced at an all inclusive price, at Rs 999 for veg and Rs 1111 for Non-veg, this thali is a steal and every gourmand fond of the diverse flavours of Rajasthan and Gujarat must head to Soma soon. Furthermore, the thali has 4 rotational menus, so even if you land up more than once in the ten days, you are likely to experience a new set of dishes.

Rating: 4/5

 

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.