Tag Archives: Taj

Flavours of Maharashtra, Home Style

An opportunity to visit Taj Wellington Mews and Luxury Residences in Colaba, Mumbai and that too, to savour the local cuisine of Maharashtra? This invitation was accepted by me in minutes. After all Taj Wellington Mews is one of Mumbai’s best kept secrets. How many of us ordinary mortals get to enter its haloed precincts? I, for one, had never been inside.

We were welcomed warmly at the entrance by the General Manager himself, Mr. Anmol Ahluwalia. I was touched beyond words.

Over kokum sherbet, we were made to feel comfortable, till the other guests arrived and after an extensive tour of the property, which left me speechless, we sat down to enjoy a traditional meal. Their eye for detailing and ensuring guest comfort, is legendary.

Maharashtrian cuisine boasts of a wide variety of delicacies, ranging from subtly flavoured to tongue-twisting spicy. I was looking forward to my meal. This promised to be an exciting journey.

On a beautifully decorated table replete with orange marigolds, we were served our lunch on a silver thali at Weli Deli, the restaurant. Made me feel like royalty, actually.

Kothimbir vadi a popular snack of this region, made from coriander leaves and chickpea flour or besan was what I tried first. A bite into it and a plethora of flavours, burst in my mouth. It literally melt in my mouth.

There was a lot of food on my thali or platter- puris, chicken kolhapuri, batata sukhi bhaji, masala bhat, amti and shrikhand. It could not get more traditional than this.

Maharashtrian Food Festival - 3

Goda masala, essentially consisting of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies and mustard, which is a bit sweetish, is what is typically used in Maharashtrian vegetable preparations or a black or kala masala.

This batatachi sukhi bhaji was the quintessential dry potato preparation from Pune, with the right amount of spices, curry leaves and crushed peanuts. It paired exceedingly well with the deep fried, hot and crisp puris.

The Chicken Kolhapuri was surprisingly a milder version, of what I expected. Not fiery at all. But it was luscious nevertheless and the taambda rassa or red gravy was lip-smacking. One could feel the lavish use of spices, yet,  these were not overpowering.

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The Masale bhat  or spicy rice, was well-made, with delectable, but robust flavours. The use of spices was apt. The sweet and tangy amti, or dal was just the way I enjoy it. Absolutely home made.

Each dish struck me as authentic and home-style. Nothing was oily or greasy or too spicy and the fresh ingredients were enhancing the flavours.

We rounded off our meal with shrikand, sweetened yogurt with cardamom and saffron. The creamy texture coated my palate and I was enjoying, every spoonful of this.

Over animated conversations about food, we had a thoroughly enjoyable and leisurely afternoon, where we were treated to authentic Maharashtrian cuisine spread over the entire state. These were truly flavours from home. At Rs 1500 all inclusive, this was a steal.

The service was impeccable, the hospitality, warm, characteristic of the Taj Group of hotels. I stepped out, with a smile. Satiated of course and my heart filled with the warmth of Indian hospitality. I felt privileged, this afternoon.

What’s more one need not be staying here to experience a meal at Weli Deli. One can just call and book and step in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Trust me, this place is worth a visit.

 

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So Long Farewell…….

Bidding good byes is always tough. More so when it is something which is inextricably co-mingled with the ethos of your city.

The Zodiac Grill_The Taj Mahal Palace_03

As I stepped into Journalism in 1989, one heard of The Zodiac Grill opening at the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. An unparalleled fine dining experience, we were told. Of course as a newbie in Journalism, there was no chance that one could step into the haloed precincts of The Zodiac Grill. It was beyond our means then.

Several years later, I was lucky to be able to make my way into this restaurant with a high intrigue value, for a dinner with the man in my life, later my husband. It was a special occasion we were celebrating. I remember being awe struck and looked above, at the famous Zodiac dome gobsmacked, as we were seated. The food, i daresay was beyond my expectations. I knew I would cherish this meal all my life.

I was lucky once more, when I was invited to The Zodiac Grill. This time for a special media lunch one last time at this iconic restaurant. A special menu had been designed for us today with all the signature dishes. I looked at the coveted menu and felt special.

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We were pampered from word go with the usual warm hospitality, characteristic of The Taj Hotels. What can I say about the lunch and service? Perfect, as expected.The Camembert Dariole had not changed a wee bit since I last had it, over a decade ago. Light, fluffy, melt in the mouth and sinful. Instead of the customary Chicken Zodiac Grill, which of course is to die for, I opted for the sea bass instead. An absolutely sublime experience.

The Zoadiac Grill_Camembert Dariole

Amidst conversations, anecdotes from Prakash, one of the old timers there and the drama around the sorbet (lights being dimmed), the afternoon flew. A thoroughly enjoyable one of course.

Taljinder Singh – Area Director Mumbai and General Manager, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai reminsced, “In 1989, India welcomed its first fine dining restaurant with the introduction of The Zodiac Grill. The Zodiac Grill has left a mark in the culinary world by exceeding all expectations. An end of an era, we are indeed honored to have been a part of the delightful epicurean legacy The Zodiac Grill leaves behind.”

Amit Chowdhury – Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, added, “The Zodiac Grill came into being to cater to the changing taste palate of our guests. After a lot of research on the preferences of the new age traveler, the decadent menu which kept changing every 3 months in the first two years was set in place by Chef Hemant Oberoi and General Manager Subir Bhowmick to reflect guest’s evolving palate. The Zodiac Grill is indeed a testament to the gourmet legacy bestowed by the food aficionados and for our guests who have showered us with love and admiration”.

I suddenly felt myself overcome with emotion as I tasted my Kahlua Mousse, another gem from this place. We were on our last course, the last time.  In November, after its 26th birthday, the curtains will finally go down on The Zodiac Grill.

The Zoadiac Grill_Kahlua Mousse

Legends live on and so will a place like The Zodiac Grill. In our memories, forever.Of course, some place else will come in place of The Zodiac Grill’s physical space, but nothing can replace it. The eternal optimist, I thought, the brighter side is that there will be a new restaurant at The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. We all wait with baited breath and look forward to that next March.

Country Curries at Shamiana

Taste buds are tantalized often and palates are pleased at many meals, but it is not everyday that you sample food that touches your soul. Curries of the World at Shamiana, Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, was one such memorable experience.

While I have had the privilege of travelling a fair bit and experiencing several global cuisines, I have never tasted such an amazing array of delectable curries from across the world as created by Chef Amit Chowdhury and his team.

Shamiana had curated a special menu bringing together the innovative curries made using a complex combination of spices and herbs across the globe – Cape Town, Spain, Africa, Portuguese, Brazil The menu looked so inviting and the stories, behind each curry, interesting, that I read with rapt attention.

Our Pollo al curry, aka Spanish baked Chicken curry, Catalonia bread and Valencia style Mushroom and Beans arrived. I was floored with the presentation. Suddenly felt like royalty. The curry was light, with subtle flavours and extremely comforting. It soothed our palates. The beans and mushrooms accompaniment, added the right amount of crunch to the dish and perked our taste buds. Visually of course, it was poetry on plate, oops platter actually!

Guyanese Crab Curry-Guyana_The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai

We had just about soaked these flavours that our next, Guyanese crab curry was served. What can I say about this magnum opus of a dish? The Arabian Sea Crab curry, with Wild Rice and Hot peppers Relish was a treat for the eyes and undoubtedly for the palate. While our coastal crab curries in India are so heavily spiced (but delicious) this one was so fragrant and light. Delicately flavoured. The wild rice, was the highlight and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It had a bite to it which other varieties of rice don’t quite offer.

The Bunny Chow, our first vegetarian curry, was artistry by the chef. Durban Pumpkin, Baby Potatoes, Cottage cheese and Lima bean Curry served in Crusty bread, which had been scooped beautifully to become a serving dish. I was spellbound. I loved the way the vegetables were combined in a sweet-spicy thick curry and the crunchy bread paired well with it. Reminded me of a Goan curry and pao meal.

Japanese Mushroom & Tofu Curry

Our last curry for dinner was the Japanese Mushroom and Tofu Curry – Japanese curry with shitake, cremini and haricot served with short grain rice, crispy onion and pickled vegetables. The flavours in the curry were a bit too sharp and overpowering for my palate. The rice provided some relief, but I would not rate this as one of the best on offer. My vote definitely went to the Guyanese crab curry.

Sea food lovers may love the Trini Shrimp Curry – Caribbean shrimp and green pepper curry with apple Kuchela and Jamaican rice, served with fried plantains and salsa. For vegetarians,  there was the Ottogi Curry – aubergines water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, glass noodles, garlic sesame kimchi with simmered lotus in soy sauce.

I missed having the Khoresht e Gheimeh –  Persian lamb and split peas curry, tachin, mint yoghurt, sabzi khordan served with French fries. Chef informed me that this curry makes use of liberal amounts of saffron to give a unique and flavourful taste. Sounded exciting, but I was satiated beyond words and there was no scope to taste even a spoonful. But I had enjoyed every morsel of what I tasted, so had no regrets.

Palate pleasing flavours, outstanding presentation, impeccable service and an extremely creativie menu. With these thoughts, I left Shamiana.