Tag Archives: innovation

The Unstoppable Pastry Queen

There are a lot of chefs I admire. In fact I respect most of them for being so passionate about their craft and the hard work they put in unflinchingly. But some I deeply respect.

One such young chef with whom I share a good rapport and have followed her work closely from inception is Executive Chef and Partner, La Folie, Sanjana Patel.

Chef Sanjana Patel- La Folie

A creator par excellence, I love her dedication, her focus towards her work and her ability to learn and enjoy what she does. I have always found her to be extremely gifted and a cut above the rest. Not one to hobnob at social do’s or immerse herself networking, she goes about her work with quiet dignity. And her creations bear ample testimony to that.

An alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu, London,  Sanjana has done an apprenticeship with Pierre Hermé. After which, she worked with the likes of Emmanuel Ryon (of the famous Café Pouchkine in Paris) and Jean-Charles Rochoux.

Sanjana Patel returned to Mumbai eager to give the city the best dessert experience ever, using high-quality ingredients and keeping the menu limited and specialised. She started La Folie Pâtisserie in 2014 and changed the way, we Mumbaikars looked at desserts.

Avant garde creations are her forte as are classics. Less is more is clearly her mantra. A Sakura from Japan and the dessert Jardin – a grapefruit & yogurt pavlova, are two offerings which particularly impressed me at the La Folie Lab in Kamala Mills. Both labour-intensive and detailed.

Liege Belgian waffle - Nutella chocolate ganache

After opening La Folie Lab’s latest outpost in Kamala Mills earlier this year, she has now set up La Folie Du Chocolat at Kala Ghoda, a place where it all began. Basically she has reinvented it and presented the patisserie in a new avatar. “This is what I enjoy doing the most, ” she gushes effusively. She gladly delves into the myriad nuances of chocolates as she patiently takes me through her offerings. From Le baba to vegan bonbons and chocolate bars, Sanjana has them all.

Her inventive new menu features an affogato drip bar, a selection of coffees by Koinonia and premium teas by TGL. This tiny and vibrant Parisian Cafe is the perfect place to sip a Cortado and read a book or catch up with friends for a sweet treat.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Sanjana takes customer feedback seriously and is always keen to keep abreast of latest global trends and incorporate new learnings in her work. She painstakingly plunges into R&D, forever yearning to create new things – sometimes healthy alternatives to her desserts at other times indulging in experiments.

But none of all that she has created and achieved, I feel would be possible, if it was not for the rock solid support given to her by her sheat anchor, husband Parthesh. The way he handles the business, their customers, the operations making it all look like a breeze is laudable.

The effervescent and restless Chef Sanjana is simply unstoppable. And that’s what I love about Sanjana, among her many other qualities.

 

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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.

The ‘Theory’ of everything delicious

The novel dining experience this place always offers has been taken to the next level with the entry of Chef Clyde Comello, an immensely talented chef. Theory at Kamala Mills, Mumbai, now offers a newfound “theory” of  a hearty and varied lunch with global offerings.

I decided to check this out for myself. The menu, albeit limited to facilitate quick decision and thus speedy service struck me as interesting. Small plates, with chef’s own innovative twists caught my eye.

I began with the beer and cheddar soup. Not only was it aesthetically presented but the flavours tantalized my taste buds. Sans any cream the texture was creamy and the flavours in harmony. Comforting to the core, especially in the current weather.

Cheddar and Beer soup with a drizzle of chilli oil, served with crispy garlic toast

The carefully crafted menu included Nicoise salad (served with Herbed kulchas, housemade mustard dressing); Plum salad (mixed lettuce, raspberry vinaigrette); open sandwiches like the Charred corn & Avocado; Grilled peach & prosciutto (Whipped mascarpone & feta, pumpkin spread); Move over bagel & lox (Chive mascarpone, activated bamboo carbon bagel and a lot more. There are abundant options for vegetarians too.

Theory's chicken burger made with a deboned leg served with apple slaw and orange marmalade

As I took a bite of each dish that I sampled, the ingredients were unarguably the hero. These shone through and through. Nothing overpowered these. The cooking methods used were simple and uncomplicated.

The surf and turf is a carnivore’s delight. The amalgamation of flavours and textures in this paella-esque dish, bore a testimony to Chef’s prowess.

The burgers were robust and hearty and satiating all the way. The quality of ingredients used were superlative. Chickpea & walnut (Grain mustard aioli, multigrain bun, fig jam); Theory chicken burger (Chipotle aioli, apple slaw, orange chutney); Buff burger (Jalapeno spread, emmenthal cheese) are some unique offerings. Of course my vote instantly went to the Chickpea and walnut one which I thought was a great innovation.

The meals here are heart warming and the portions generous. No where does monotony set in as chef ensures enough variety in textures and flavours.

My barley and edamame risotto was one of the best I have ever had- far superior to some classic Italian ones too. I always laud innovation and this one was a perfect example of that and more.

A risotto of Barley and edamame with artichoke purée and jalapeño chutney

 

One can relish one’s food with fresh fruit ingredient cocktails,  without the usual synthetic sugary syrups, with a touch of spritzers that are refreshing. Non-alcoholic spritzers like Carrot-Ginger-Parsley, Orange-Bell peppers and even Green-Apple and Fennel are equally alluring.

I rounded off my meal with pot de creme which was a bowl full of gooey chocolate in smooth and creamy mousse-like texture.

This value-for-money lunch with extraordinary quality and an imaginative menu is bound to perk up the taste buds of diners. I certainly left the place, happy and well-fed with a deep satisfaction of having enjoyed my lunch.

Rating : 4/5

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Oh! Simply Unpretentious

New format restaurants and eateries always excite me and when it’s from deGustibus hospitality, (of Indigo and Indigo Deli fame) the expectations are even more. Casual, self-service, fun, were the words I had in mind as I entered this new eatery for a sneak preview one afternoon. But lo behold! D:oh in Kamla Mills, Lower Parel, was all this and more.

The cheerful ambience enveloped me immediately as did the different hues of blue and lime green along with the other quirky decor elements. Even though I may not be a 25-something, I almost felt I belonged here, merely because this place was so unpretentious and embodied my personality. The lack of pretense permeated in the menu too as the offerings on the menu, I noticed were comfort food, some of which I have grown up on, others vaguely familiar but sans any culinary snobbery, nonetheless.

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One can actually enter and help oneself to a tray and select one’s sandwiches, juices et al before you pour yourself a beer from the draught taps and then head to the counter to order some hot food and of course pay of it.

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My food arrived. It delivered its promise of being simple and straightforward and yes, global. I sampled an old-fashioned rustic chicken burger where the patty was fried but juicy and moist. Luscious flavours all the way. The  hotter wicked fries were medium spicy (one can have even spicier ones)  and they are called hottest or the hot ones, which are mild. Slathered with cheese sauce these were pure sin, but I was not complaining.

The desi feeling came and how, as I bit into the dal wada dahi chaat with oodles of dahi or curd, chutneys, spices but all in the right proportion, generally a rare occurrence. I was satiated and the flavours transported me to Delhi, known for its lip-smacking chaats.

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The crispy sririacha chicken tenders were equally comforting and one could unmindfully polish off a plate whole chatting with a friend.

Short Eats, Big Bowls, Breakfast, Burgers and Desserts. This no-fuss menu boasts of it all. It truly caters to a universal palate.The mocktails, smoothies, shakes and coffees selection is extensive and delightful.

The seating is comfortable and combines elements of fun (you can actually sit on a swing) with a variety of options. The crockery too in enamel is simple yet, elegant.

While there are no frills in the service and the food is seemingly uncomplicated, there is no compromise on the quality. As always, the best of ingredients of topmost quality.

Executive Chef JD Mukherjee and his team create a unique dining experience yet again and although it is a far departure from Indigo and Indigo Delis(intentionally of course) it is an unparalleled experience, which gourmands in Mumbai are going to lap up and enjoy.

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A quick breakfast, a hassle-free lunch, a leisurely rendezvous with friends or family, this place offers an atmosphere conducive to all of these.

Gen Y is going to love this place. Never mind if I am not one of them, I love it too!

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

Nirvana with Teavana

Coffee maybe the beverage you generally step into Starbucks, but things will change hereon. The introduction of Starbucks Teavana beverages, spells good news for tea lovers like me. A good well-made cuppa of this brew is something I have always relished and appreciated. Reluctant to experiment with my cuppa, I stepped into Starbucks with trepidation.

But these range of teas from Starbucks are offerings which are modern and yet, appeal to every tea lover’s palate. Me included. It truly is an unimaginable experience, that is why perhaps they call it ‘reimagined’.

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A range of 18 distinct tea offerings including an Indian signature tea, iced teas, brewed hot teas and tea lattes with bold, layered flavours, is what once can look forward to. Inspired by the rich Indian tea legacy, Starbucks Teavana collaborated with Tata Global Beverages Ltd. to create this signature innovation.

While I enjoyed all the offerings, it was the invigorating blend of full leaf Assam black tea with rich spice infusion of whole cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, star anise and ginger, rightly called the India Spice Majesty Blend, that bowled me over completely. It perked me up instantly and filled me with warmth on this somewhat wintry evening.

india-spice-majesty-blend

 

In addition to the signature innovation, customers can experience global Starbucks Teavana favorites including Youthberry white tea, Hibiscus Herbal Infusion, as well as the limited time handcrafted offerings from Starbucks – Matcha & Espresso Fusion, Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey and Iced Shaken Hibiscus with Pomegranate Pearls.

These floral and fruity infusions are light and delightful, rejuvenating you completely and can even appeal to those who are not otherwise too fond of tea.