Tag Archives: service

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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:)

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Chai, Teas & More……

A cuppa tea is welcome anytime for a tea lover like me. Can never resist a well-made one and when it is in a great ambience, even better. The newly opened Tea Trails at Vile Parle, close to the station, offered the perfect excuse to make trip there. India’s first chain of Tea Cafés which serves carefully curated range of the finest Teas & Eats  had after all launched their 11th outlet.

The inside area of the cafe is bright and cheerful, well-lit with high ceilings. It exudes a warmth which is so unpretentious. There is an outdoor seating area too, which is perfect at this time of the year.

The outlet  is characterized by its specialty teas, loose leaves, custom blends, mindful tea preparation and sourcing, equipment and tea-related paraphernalia, new approaches to the tea service, and new ways to experience tea.

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The menu is exhaustive as far as the tea and chai offerings are concerned. Indian teas, herbal teas, kulhad chai, floral and fragrant teas. Something for every tea lover’s palate. The specialty teas include Smokey Chinese Lapsang Souchong and the South African Red among several others.

The eats are exciting too and quirky. We tried the Eggs Kejriwal, with fried and fluffy eggs served wrapped on a pav. A filling snack and boasted of the quintessential Mumbai flavour but the chewy pavs diluted the effect. Should have been toasted or grilled.

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The samosa thauk I thought was unique and the gravy in which the samosas were immersed was tangy and delicious. The Teazza – pizza with tea herbs was delightful and a good example of innovation.

Vegetarian dishes is what this cafe offers . but there is a lot of variety. It also serves some egg dishes.

The teas are delectable and served by the well-informed staff. The fruity infusion I tried was comforting. Although I felt, the teas are a wee bit overpriced for that quantity.

The staff is warm and friendly and the service unobtrusive.

Overall,  the decor  in black and green, is inspired from their theme “a cup of life” and is replete with a modern, vibrant and friendly vibe. This is certainly the perfect place to relax and unwind over a cup of tea.

Rating : 3.5/5

 

 

 

 

The Long & Short Of The New Menu

The Dome may be the most sought after place at InterContinental Marine Drive, but for me Long & Short, the casual dining and lounge is equally a star. The reason being the eclectic menu, fun cocktails, affordable menu and of course great service. It is a place where one can unwind, relish good food and prompt service.
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Executive Chef Arzooman Irani, being the creative genius and restless person that he is has introduced some new exciting dishes in the already exhaustive menu, thus revamping parts of it.
Wanting to keep it global, Chef Irani was keen on ensuring that comfort food was the focus. “Guests should be able to dine in a fun and relaxed atmosphere with the food being light and enjoyable. Of course, apart from comfort food, there is a section for those seeking healthy food too and that need not be boring. Low cal, low carbs or no carbs, gluten free and so on. There are plenty of options. And of course those wanting to indulge can do so as well,” Chef Arzooman elaborated.
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We started with the crisp lavash dome, almost customary here. Crunchy and laced with herbs, it set our taste-buds tingling. The platter with starters was a treat for the eyes, as it was for the palate. The springs rolls with varied fillings were crisp and luscious, the wasabi prawns fresh and delectable and the chicken boasted of distinct Pan Asian flavours. The presentation was appealing yet, devoid of unnecessary gimmicks.
The crisp pea shoot salad  from the healthy food section, was a delight. It was as fresh as it could get. With a subtle flavoured dressing, the medley of textures of the lettuce, seasonal fruits, micro greens and cherry tomatoes, came out trumps and it was a veritable feast for the taste buds. Healthy food can certainly be delicious.
Mushroom feta cheese waffle from the petit toasties section caught my eye and struck me as innovative. But then, Chef Arzooman is legendary for his innovative streak. Equally unique were the slider offerings, I thought. Butter milk fried chicken, sriracha mayo was certainly out-of-the-ordinary. I made a mental note of it for my next visit.
The brie & potato gnocchi surpassed everything that I have ever tasted before. The garlicky creamy sauce, wrapped over the potato gnocchi made me slip into a food coma. But what got my vote instantly was the zucchini spaghetti. No, not spaghetti with zucchini but spaghetti made out of zucchini strips and tossed in aglio olio. It was outstanding and  yet another testimony to the chef’s creativity.
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Comforting curries, Mumbai street food, pizza, salads, care has been taken to ensure that the menu caters to every palate. Vegetarian options abound too.
Surprisingly the dessert did not wow my palate as expected. The salted caramel oreo tart was not the hero of the evening as the chocolate drizzle overpowered all other flavours, relegating them to the background.
With alert staff, warm hospitality and first-rate food, the  experience at Long & Short was memorable and the new menu is clearly a winner.
Rating: 4.5/5

House of Aroma : Lemon Leaf

This truly was a case of taking your neighbourhood eatery for granted. Lemon Leaf has been in Andheri West, Mumbai for a while now and I have never visited it. During the Chinese New Year, when an exciting menu was on offer, I decided to check this place out.

On a weekday evening too, this place was buzzing. Upon entering there was a positive and warm vibe to this restaurant, which I instantly fell in love with. Ameya’s professional and warm welcome, added to the feel-good factor. We were off to a great start.

The menu for the festival was limited but complete with something for everyone. My Golden Corn & Crabmeat Soup was a delight for the palate. Mildly spiced and yet, delectable. It boasted of distinct crabmeat flavours. Set my taste buds tingling alright.

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The BBQ chicken Baos were equally well-made. Steamed to perfection and a generous amount of BBQ chicken enveloped within. Quite filling actually.

The Chicken Siu Mai was aesthetic to look at and packed with flavours. Flavoursome and replete with a myriad textures, it provided the right bite. The accompanying sauces were equally adept at wowing the palate.

Chicken Siu Mai with Pickled ginger

The other options on the menu were 3 Mushroom Dumpling with mushroom broth, Pepper fried Chicken Piccata – with pickled vegetables and so on.

The service I noticed, despite the packed restaurant, was prompt and efficient. Kudos!

For main course, we were recommended the Hakka egg noodles and it paired exceedingly well with our shredded chicken, in a piquant and spicy sauce. The liberal amount of chicken in the sauce along with an oh-so! generous portion of noodles proved to be a meal that satiated us.

We rounded off our meal with a Hazelnut chocolate pot with toffee sauce and a dollop of Vanilla ice cream. I loved the panache with which it was served to us. The hard outer shell of the chocolate pot melted with the hot sauce and gave way to the creamy mousse within. A well-presented dessert and decadent to taste as well. Only the vanilla ice cream could have been creamier.

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No additives, no MSG, no artificial flavours. The food at Lemon Leaf indeed surpassed my expectations. I was glad I had finally discovered this restaurant. This visit was definitely just the beginning.

Rating : 3.5/5