Tag Archives: thali

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.

Aabar Khabo : Once is not enough

My connection from Kolkata, actually erstwhile Calcutta, is from birth. Yes, I was born and brought up in the City of Joy which I still sorely miss. Naturally then, Bengali food is my comfort food and I thoroughly enjoy the cuisine and all its nuances.

To visit the MoMo Cafe at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai to try The Kolkata Konnection, Bengali food festival was a trip down memory lane for me.

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Curated by Executive Chef Avijit Deb Sharma and his team, including a chef from JW Marriott Kolkata, it was indeed a spread any gourmand would look forward to. The Bengali dishes were a part of the buffet spread, which of course offered other cuisines too, catering to wide palate. There was a separate counter with phuchka Kolkata’s version of pani puri) and jhal muri, the quintessential street food of Kolkata. And of course a separate section serving the lip-smacking Bengali starters, chicken cutlet, fish fry, vegetable chop et al.

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I bit into the fish fry and memories came flooding. I have grown up enjoying this delicacy in South Calcutta where I grew up at several places, but Mukherjee sweets in Ballygunge Place, being my all time favourite. This one was close. The fish fillet wrapped in spices, coated with breadcrumbs, was fried to perfection. Comforting and familiar flavours. The dhonepatta  bhaja or coriander fritter was spicy and fragrant. The chicken cutlet with chicken mince was delightful as was the vegetable chop with the characteristic beetroot, potatoes and groundnuts. I was off to a great start and was enjoying every morsel with kasundi or the mustard dip.

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The mains were a feast fit for the kings. The thaal or a huge thali with several katoris or vaatis was a treat for the eyes. Kosha mangsho or the onion based slow-cooked mutton preparation, cholar dal, alu posto, ilish or Hilsa fish, malai chingri or the creamy prawn curry, begun bhaja, kodaishutir kochuri or green peas puri and of course the pulao, fragrant with ghee and roasted nuts and raisins, was what my meal comprised. The lebu (lemon) chatni, tomato chutney and aamer (mango) chutney were also served along, as no Bengali meal is complete without these.

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The dishes were simple and cooked home-style. The flavours were authentic replete with the Bengali spices and ingredients (mustard oil, paanch phoran, gobindbhog rice, gondhoraj lebu) and the melange of textures, absolutely delightful.

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Not only was the meal delicious in terms of its taste and flavours, but equally a nostalgic one for me as I sat recounting endless occasions when I had sampled those dishes at home or with friends and family.

Rosogulla and aamer (mano) sandesh was what I finished my meal with.  Both got my vote. But of course there were other Bengali desserts on offer too.

I left MoMo Cafe happy and satiated, stuffing a Kolkata meetha paan in my mouth, with the smile not leaving my face.

On till June 24 for dinner, this Bengali food festival is a must try for those who relish Bengali food and others keen to experiment.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

Culinary Innovation At Its Best

Bubbles, vapours, air, unusual mixtures and textures, and more, is what I went expecting at lunch at Chemistry 101, the fun, gastro bar at Kamla Mills, Lower Parel; Mumbai. Of course I am all for the drama and excitement, molecular gastronomy brings along, provided it is done well. But alas! there was nothing dramatic or unwarranted here.

Cardiff based, Award winning Rosette AA Chef Stephen Gomes, obviously has got his food right. He may have played around with flavours and textures, but he knows them well and has  thus succeeded in creating a unique dining experience for his guests.

My lunch arrived. The menu was limited,  being a set menu, naturally. Yet, offered me sufficient options. Skipping lambs and prawns, we opted for butter chicken and shorshe bata mach. Being from Kolkata, this had to be tried. And again, for a Punjabi, Butter chicken cannot be missed. That is sacrilege.

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Vegetarians can opt for Veg Jaipuri with Cheese Foam or Kashmiri Dum Aloo with Ratanjot Foam or Paneer Makhani with Cream Foam or even Muttar methi malai with Cream Foam. Plenty of options. 

The chilled buttermilk ravioli, was gulped by us in a jiffy. I loved it. Size matters, yes, but this one albeit small, was potently refreshing and the perfect hors d’oeuvre.

The kiwi cooler was welcome, given the warm weather outside.

The kung fu paratha with egg, caviar rice, dal and butter chicken with sundried tomato foam were a part of my appetizing thali. Well-presented, these were a medley of colours, and yes, flavours and textures too, as I discovered in due course.

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The butter chicken, despite its avant garde presentation, was true to its flavours. The creaminess was unmistakable. A Punjabi can vouch for that. Equally flavoursome was the somewhat, mild, sosrshe bata mach, not as pungent as the original though.

The dal was well-spiced and tempered to perfection and had a home-style feel to it.  Just the way I love mine. The caviar rice was a treat for the eyes, colourful and attractive. Equally comforting to the palate with the dal.

The paratha, though sinful, was delicious and paired perfectly with the butter chicken.

What do I say about the khari biscuit ice cream with jalebi mousse? A spoonful, and I was sold out. A work of art and innovation. The astute manner in which the humble khari biscuit had been elevated and used in the ice cream, was praiseworthy. The not-so-sweet jalebi mousse was the exact contrast of the ice cream in flavour and textures. Together, they wowed my palate without a doubt.

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I had been procrastinating and finally paid a visit to this place. And I loved Chemistry 101.If a simple lunch was so good, the dinner with tapas et al will be even better am sure.

Affordably priced, this thali is a steal, given the quality of food, its presentation and portion sizes.

This place is worth making a beeline for lunch some day soon.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lucknawi Daawat At Maya

There is nothing like upholding traditions or parampara. And even more so in food, especially with regard to our very own Indian cuisine. The Rivaayat concept which Oberoi Hotels have started at Oberoi Gurgaon and now at Trident BKC Mumbai, are thus close to my heart.

Having experienced Punjabi Rivaayat at Maya, Trident Bandra Kurla Mumbai last month, I was very curious about the Lucknawi Rivaayat by Dr. Izzat Hussain. Being from the Royal family of Lucknow and a Unani practitioner who loves to cook, this one was bound to be interesting.

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Particular about the spices he uses, Dr, Hussain does not believe in adding spices to his food without relevance or justification. No yogurt for marination for him, as he does not want to destroy the good bacteria it offers by cooking curd. Cooking for him is an amalgamation of science and art.

Our Raj pakoris arrive. A bite into the crisply fried pakoris and soft cheese fills my mouth. The kali miri or black pepper is predominant and lends these a unique flavour. The Neza kebabs, are well presented on tiny sword-like skewers and Rasika serving us explains that Neza means sword. These are supposed to caravan food according to Dr. Hussain.

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Succulent pieces of chicken, well-spiced, but not overpowered by spices, these Neza kebabs are a delight for the palate.

The Izzat Fried chicken too gets my vote instantly. Fried to perfection, there is no trace of the chicken getting chewy. Just the way I like mine. Nothing in today’s lunch is fiery thankfully.

The Patta kebabs or minced lamb kebabs, wrapped in cabbage leaves are a version of the famous Gelouti kebabs of Lucknow. Pure, soft meat, envelopes my taste buds. The texture is unique as are the flavours.

Amidst interesting food related anecdotes we bite into the Zarakhush paneer kebabs. Flavoursome, but not extraordinary.

The much awaited thali arrives, it is indeed a treat for the eyes and makes me want to tuck into it immediately. A myriad options. And there is a new combination daily for lunch as Dr. Hussain has curated a menu with over 50 dishes to choose from.

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The thali is on offer for lunch daily at Maya and dinner is a la carte for the entire duration of the festival till February 26.

The mutton chukander or beetroot mutton catches my fancy. Soft well-done pieces of mutton in a thick reddish coloured gravy. No artificial colours or preservatives in his food. The colour comes naturally from the beetroot.

The nariyal arbi too is a treat for the taste buds, soft and well-cooked. Arbi or colocasia has never tasted so good. The shahi cholas did not impress me as much.

But the highlight of my meal was the chicken with garlic or the Murg thoumb. Subtle flavours, but well meshed with the chicken and paired exceedingly well with Izzat ki roti, a signature Indian multigrain bread created by Dr. Hussain.

What struck me as extraordinary was the fact that although we were eating non-vegetarian fare, the food was not a wee bit heavy or rich. Even by the end of the meal, there was no discomfort.

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What can I say about the biryanis- both zaffrani and tursh? The aromas wafted into the air as the lid of the serving dish was lifted. Well-marinated pieces of mutton and the rice grains, separate, yet, homogeneously blended in the ghee and masalas. The chicken one was also delightful, although biryani lovers normally prefer gosht only. The light yellow hues came from the saffron only as opposed to the yellow colour we are used to in Mumbai.

Phirni, was what we rounded off our meal with. The consistency was a tad diluted as compared to the ones I have had in Punjab and Bengal, but Dr. Hussain insisted that’s how it is meant to be in Lucknow.

Flavourful and surprisingly light food which delighted all the senses, excellent company of Executive Chef Bhasin, Dr. Hussain, Shimareet, Kalyan and exemplary service by Rasika, made it an afternoon well spent.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

A Royal Repast: Rajdhani’s Rasovara

Indian food is always a culinary treat and better still,  if it is Rajasthani and Gujarati. You can look forward to a variety of flavours and textures. Indeed, the thali at Rajdhani’s Rasovara at Palladium, Lower Parel was a gastronomic feast. Whoever said, vegetarian food is boring? Think again.

The farsan or snacks, which is such an integral part of a Gujarati meal, arrives first. The three coloured dhokla was delectable and simply melt in our mouth. The samosa was delicious but nothing extraordinary.
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The chaas (buttermilk) was refreshing. The thali with its endless katoris looked like a royal feast.

A plethora of options were there, by way of the rotis or flatbreads. Mooli paratha, thepla, phulka. These were the highlight of my meal. Piping hot, these teemed well with the paneer, kofta, gatta, meethi, teekhi dal. The masalas in some of the preparations is overpowering, masking the taste and flavour of the vegetable. The dals were lip smacking and each distinct from the other. The gujarati kadhi was par excellence. It was matchless with the moong dal khichdi. I also enjoyed the dal baati churma, which was authentic and well made. The ghee makes a lot of difference, trust me.

One may relish the food without knowing the culinary magician behind it. Maharaj Jodha Ram Choudhary, the son of a farmer, who was always interested in cooking but never got family support, is entirely self-taught. He has now been delighting foodies with his preparations for over 40 years. Ringna Batata Sambhariya, keri sangri and makai jajaria are some of his specialities. He is now adding value to the kitchen at Rasovara.

The desserts, something which I was eagerly awaiting were a damp squib. The jalebis, although hot were crisp but not  tasty. Perhaps the batter was not right. The sticky, insipid rabdi served along did not help. The moong dal halwa too was less sweet and a disappointment. Only the basundi was palatable.

The service is impeccable. And apart from the lavish thali, the service replete with getting your hands washed at your table, makes you feel regal and how! An enjoyable dining experience albeit a little steep.