Tag Archives: traditional

At home,with home-style Vegetarian food : Gokul9

Gokul is a name many of us in Mumbai are familiar with. A place in Colaba which has been around for decades and is known to be a hotspot for good quality and wholesome, Mangalorean food and drinks.

Dinesh Pujary and Vandana, the son and daughter of Mr. Jaya Pujary, the founder of Gokul, have started Gokul 9 a small, but cosy vegetarian eatery in the adjacent lane.

The place is colourful, has vibrant and aesthetically done interiors and spells comfort from word go. The menu is exhaustive and one is spoiled for choice.

While there is a large section of South Indian delicacies, there is comfort food galore- soups, burgers, pav bhaji, sandwiches, pizza, and even a thali. There is something for every palate and age group.

The South Indian food here is unarguably the piece de resistance. The aromatic hing in the piping hot sambhar wafts through the air even before you taste a spoonful. The flavours are spot on and the chutney is comforting as it is replete withe home style flavours. Palak dosa, cheese bhaji dosa, butter spring dosa, are worth a try as these are innovative albeit with a traditional touch. The masala dosa of course is the all time winner on the menu.

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The cheese khada pav bhaji is indulgence personified and not-to-be-missed. The Mumbai Special section with favourites like sabudana khichdi and misal pav will make you nostalgic.

Among starters, the mushroom manchurian and soya bean chilli dry, are unique. For those seeking  a quick bite, sandwiches, burgers, pizza options abound.

Office goers throng to satiate themselves with the value-for-money thali. Rotis, rice, Indian gravies, Chinese dishes, too find a place on this varied menu.

Round off your sumptuous meal with a refreshing and creamy kulfi.

No alcohol here of course but juices and milkshakes aplenty to choose from.

The food here is fresh, made with good quality ingredients and easy on the stomach and wallet. Nothing causes discomfort and uneasiness. The kitchen appears squeaky clean and hygienic.

The service staff is warm, polite and alert. One literally feels at home here. I left with a smile of satisfaction.

Rating : 4/5

 

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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.

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.

 

Monsoon Magic in Goa

Goa really never has to try hard to woo us. We are all in love with it, aren’t we?

Throughout the year, this destination, full of surprises, lures us, yet, monsoons are a time too, to head to Goa as well. Contrary to popular belief, the rains and the scenic beauty replete with the rivers joyfully overflowing with their rushing streams, the trees dancing to the tune of the winds and the fields a lush, verdant green carpet, is not all there is to look forward to. There are the traditional  festivals that acquaint you with tradition and also provide merriment galore.

 

These festivals are unique to Goa and each one has an interesting story behind it.It is truly worth discovering a Goa, that is beyond the ordinary, this Monsoons.

  • Sao Joao: Goa readies itself for the gala Sao Joao fest celebrated on June 24 in Siolim Goa. This monsoon feast has special significance in Christianity as it is dedicated to St John the Baptist, the firebrand prophet. The celebration of San Joao goes back nearly 150 years, when San Joao revelers from Chapora and Zhor villages of Anjuna, Badem in Assagao and Siolim would come up year after year in boats to the chapel of Sao Joao in Periera Vaddo, Siolim, to pay homage and take part in the traditional dali. The festivals takes place at the beginning of Monsoon season in Goa and people of all ages jumping into wells, streams and ponds.
  •  Ponsachem Fest : It is a Jackfruit festival called ‘Ponsachem Fest’ celebrated on the occasion of Sao Joao in Socorro village. Parish priest Fr Santana Carvalho says that the inspiration for the festival comes from Sao Joao itself. This is an occasion to savour Goa’s choicest jackfruits and the scrumptious items made from it. I am all for this festival as I love the versatile jackfruit and love to experiment with it in my kitchen

Sangodd

  •  Sangodd: The Feast of St. Peter, also known as Sangodd, is a monsoon-based celebration by Goa’s local fishing community. Their boats are tied together to form rafts, which serve as makeshift stages on June 29. On these stages are erected miniature models of chapels or churches.
  •  Chikalkalo : Come July and there is the Chikalkalo. People celebrate Chikalkalo, a traditional festival, at Marcel, Goa. It is an annual traditional celebration, in which people of Marcel village take part after the ‘Ashadi Ekadashi’.

Touxeachem Feast of Telaulim

  • Touxeachem Feast: The magnificent Church of St Anne also known as the Santana Church locally, is the scene of the very unusual feast every year on July 29. The Church located at Talaulim in Tiswadi taluka, is dedicated to St Anne. The couples come to the Church to seek the blessings of St Anne, who herself was blessed with a child after 40 years of barren life. They buy cucumbers from local vendors at the feast and offer them at the feet of St Ann and carry them home to eat. Touxeachem Fest (in Konkani) literally translates as the Cucumber Feast in English. Besides the huge number of devotees from all around Goa, a large number of newly married couples is in attendance.   

Patollio

  • Patolleanchem feast: It is a feast depicting a rich old Goan culture. This festival is organized on the feast of Our Lady of Assumption and Independence Day. Patollio ( a sweet made of jiggery and rice covered with a turmeric leaf) is prepared by the villagers  and is blessed by parish priest Fr Santana Carvalho  and is served to all and this is how the name Patolleanchem feast derives. I look forward to this feast to gorge on this delicacy which is painstakingly prepared by family members.
  • Bonderam is a local festival, celebrated on the third or fourth Saturday in the month of August, in the quaint island of Divar, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. In remembrance of old territorial battles that took place on the island, mock skirmishes are re-enacted by boys and girls wielding fotashes (toy flags made with bamboo) and using berries for missiles.

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I am certainly heading to Goa to witness some of these first hand and partake in the celebrations. Are you?

 

 

    

 

 

Coastal Delights

The sheer variety at Barbeque Nation always baffles me. But yes, it gives me an opportunity to try those many more dishes, so I am not complaining.

Sea food is my weakness so I decided to experience the ongoing Best of Coast Festival, that is on till March 13.

The menu was an exercise in choices. There was sea food galore, but I was amazed to see the unique dishes crafted for vegetarians too.

Mr. Joju, COO, Barbeque Nation Hospitality Ltd., told me, “Best of the Coast” is Barbeque Nation’s way of paying tribute to and celebrating regional culinary traditions. Western Maharashtra has unique Konkani cuisine, a culmination of centuries of cooking traditions. While we are incorporating some traditional Marathi food into our menu, we also want to offer our patrons the best of regional and global seafood cuisines and have bought in Malayali, Sri Lankan and Thai dishes. We hope to give our guests an unforgettable culinary experience.”

Grilled-Pomfret-Fish

Well, I certainly began my gourmet odyssey with the best. A well-fried spicy and piquant grilled pomfret. Oh! It teased my taste buds mercilessly. Fresh and soft, the fish fillet simply melt in my mouth.

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The squid rings paled in comparison. However, the chili gherkin mayo served along side caught my fancy.

There were lots of chicken options and mutton too in the appetizers, but who wants anything else when the best of sea food is around?

The grilled prawns too were well-marinated and yes, fresh too, as was the basa.

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Sea Bass Ambul Thiyal – sour fish curry. Different fish cuts (Lemon Sole, Tilapia fish) in Maharashtrian Koliand Srilankan marinades could be sampled from the ‘live counters’, where the chefs adeptly fried the fish. I tried the Rawas and Tilapia. They were faultless.

Hawaiian Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato served with Garlic Bread, Aztec Poblano Paneer, Dry Patara and Raw Mango Papaya salad, were some of the interesting Vegetarian dishes on offer. Quite innovative I thought.

The main course offered kosha mangsho, biryani, Manglorean fish curry, Chicken Hydrabadi, shrimp rice and more for the carnivores. The Biryani was a treat, boasted of some subtle flavours. The Chicken preparation bowled me over completely. A unique masala, made the gravy stand out. The shrimp rice too was delicious but the Kosha Mangsho was anything, but authentic and had far too many bones, than there ought to have been. A tad disappointing.

 

Ada Pradhaman – Kerala style Payasam prepared with jaggery, rice ada and coconut milk was a decadent dessert which I enjoyed thoroughly. There were other options like kulfi, angoor gulab jamun and phirni, but I decided to skip those.

As always, the service was prompt and attentive and the place was buzzing. The soulful rendition of songs by the singer, enhanced the dining experience.

For sea food lovers, there can be no better place than Barbeque Nation to sample the best and freshest catch in myriad preparations and forms. And there’s something for every fish lover’s palate!

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