Tag Archives: Indian

Food meets films in vibrant ambience

Which one of us does not love and cherish the film Sholay? Most of us I think, do. Naturally then, when a restaurant is named after one of the famed characters of this iconic film, the intrigue factor heightens. Basanti and Co. in Seven Bungalows Andheri West thus beckoned me.

The colourful interiors, trendy decor and cheerful vibe, set the tome of our evening. The bric-a-brac and design elements thrown in appealed to me instantly. The seating area is spacious and the bar in one corner, eclectic.

The menu offered Awadhi and North Indian food with a special section of Chef Qureshi’s signature Biryanis. Yes, another chef from the famed Qureshi family.

The service staff seemed articulate and alert. Roy, serving us was well-spoken and well-informed about the menu too.

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Murg Badam shorba, is what we started with and the creamy soul was comforting. The hint of saffron and the crunch owing to the almonds seamless meshed with the creamy thick broth. There were chaats too on offer but we decided to skip those.

Murg Tikka Patiala was well marinated and grilled to perfection. The smoky flavours were apparent in each bite. The Dahi ke kabab however stole the thunder. Well-made, these were soft, tangy and wholesome.

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For mains, we ordered the makki ki roti and sarson ka saag with a lassoni addition. Did not work for me at all. The saag was far from the real thing. The Punjabi choley with mini lulchas, were robust and delightful. The Nalli Nihari was the star of the show. The pronounced flavours of mutton in a well-spiced gravy and soft well-cooked pieces of mutton and of course the nihari was an absolute treat. Chicken Tariwala too was a preparation which tingled our taste buds.

The assorted rotis were the perfect accompaniment- garlic naan, missi roti, makki ki roti and tandoori roti. The lamb kulcha sounded enticing too.

The dessert options were strangely limited. Jalebi rabdi and malai phirni was all they offered. Both were strictly mediocre as the textures were far from authentic. The phirni lacked the quintessential grainy texture and bite and was too pasty, whereas the rabdi was cloyingly sweet and again of a overly creamy texture. The crisp and well-fried jalebis got my instant vote though.

The thandai shot at the end of our meal was mild but served the purpose of an after-meal digestive.

This place offers an exhaustive variety -both food and the bar menu. Vegetarians need not fret as there are abundant options. The portions too are hearty and perfect for a family meal. The food is well-presented but sans any unnecessary frills.

We missed trying the biryani and in order to remedy that, I need to make a second trip to Basanti and Co.

Open for lunch and dinner, a meal for two without alcohol is approx Rs 1500.

Rating : 3.5/5

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Fresh and Flavoursome

A huge fan of freshly cooked food, I like no short cuts and especially no packet, packaged and processed for me, as far as I can help it. Of course once in a while we all get lazy and give in but this is the exception in my home rather than the rule.

Thus, I was reluctant to try the range of products from Freshway Foods, a Vadodara based company, when a friend urged me too.

The packets arrived and looked attractive and the instructions easy to follow. In fact utterly simple.

Their unique freeze-dry technology, which is accepted worldwide as the best food preservation process, fascinated me. The colour, flavours and freshness of the food is preserved without affecting its nutritional value.

What’s more, their food is preservative free, which ensures it is as healthy as home-cooked food.

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The Palak Paneer, which I tried first, blew me off completely. The palak was delicious and the paneer soft. It was well-spiced, was bursting with fresh flavours and I could not believe it had been created in minutes out of a packet merely by adding boiling water.

The daal makhani was equally a surprise. A laborious dal, otherwise to prepare, this one was tasty all the way and ready in minutes.  The consistency was right and the flavours reminiscent of home food.

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From pulao kadhi to paneer bhurji and Veg Biryani to Moong Dal sheera, Freshway Foods offers them all. A complete vegetarian range, they have a lot of Gujarati delicacies apart from the universal favourites from all over India.

Freshway products pass through stringent quality standards and microbial tests at every stage of freeze-drying. Their strict hygiene and housekeeping regime ensures that every product is packaged with utmost hygiene and minimal wastage, keeping intact its nutritional values. That is perhaps what sets them apart.

Reasonably priced, the portions are decent too. This is the perfect solution for days when one is feeling lazy and does not want to cook and yet not order an expensive and oily takeaway. Bachelors, single working professionals and harried women can make use of their wide range.

One can order online and the packets get delivered to your doorstep.

I have actually heaved a sigh of relief now that there is a healthy food solution at hand, in terms of Freshway ready-to-eat meals. At last a brand that lives up to its promise of delivering fresh food.

 

Progressive, Yet Indian

A visit to Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, is always a coveted experience. The cutting edge techniques used to showcase progressive modern Indian cuisine is after all, make the food here unique and memorable. 

The prospect of sampling the all new sixteen course Tasting Menu, seemed both intimidating and exciting. 

Comfortably seated in this elegant restaurant, I was ready to embark upon my journey. Plated with molecular magic, the dishes looked appetizing and boasted of the characteristic flamboyance of this place.

I was ready to surrender myself to Chef Vaibhav’s culinary magic and expect the unexpected on my table. In keeping with Masala Library’s philosophy, Chef Saurabh Udinia has passionately and artfully designed the new menu, reflecting the vibrancy and diversity of traditional Indian fare with innovation and progressive presentation techniques.

My Amuse Bouche – mango egg, which looked like egg yolk in shells arrived. Of course they were not. Mango cream was what we were served and one could just gulp it down. I was off to a delicious start.

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The Deconstructed Samosa did not remotely resemble a samosa but was true in all its elements in terms of ingredients. The Charcoal Bhajjia, did not impress me. The lotus stem crisp with radish dip was exquisite to look at and in terms of flavours too. The lamb galouti was a pleasant surprise as it did not look anything like the usual one we normally savour. But the texture and flavour were perfect. The laccha paratha and Gujarati kadhi I thought were a bit too mismatched.

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The prawns with thayir sadam  or curd rice, were delightful and the contrast in the textures enhanced the experience manifold. The chicken tikka looked most ordinary when it arrived on the table but wowed me completely with its spices and marination. It simply melt in my mouth.

The desserts were an absolute treat, in keeping with the entire dining experience. The jalebi caviar with rabdi is something no one can tire of and I am no exception. Executed with precision and bursting with flavours, it is the stuff dreams are made of. 

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Each dish surpassed the previous one and I could not really decide which one my vote go to that evening. The food was carefully crafted, skillfully plated and cleverly executed. Many a time it could leave you guessing long after you had a bite of it. There were elements of drama but no unnecessary gimmicks. Everything only to enhance the dining experience and pulled off with panache. 

Impeccable service, articulate staff. And of course a superlative dining experience. Masala Library always spices up my meals.

Rating : 4.2/5

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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