Tag Archives: twist

Soups for my soul

When the temperatures drop all of us crave for a soup. I know in Mumbai that almost never happens. I mean, it never gets cold, yet, I look forward to my hot soups. It could be a creamy thick soup or simply clear with veggies and meat or even a tangy pepper rasam made with lentils. Pan Asian favourites or even our very own desi shorbas and yes, healthy versions too. I relish them all.

Taiwanese Aromatic Miso Milk Bowl Shizusans signature soup and a one bowl meal

A great fan of red pumpkin, I love to prepare a classic roasted pumpkin soup and do a good job too. A piquant tamatar ka shorba, can be a great option.  Recently I tasted a tangy Sindhi tamatar ki kadhi as a a soup at JLWA in Bandra. It rendered me speechless.

Soups offer endless versatility in terms of textures, ingredients and flavour. That’s what attracts me the most to soups. The cheddar and Beer soup at Theory in Mumbai by Chef Clyde remains an all time favourite.

Taste apart, warmth and immunity are key in this season to boost one’s immunity and thus, the right use of ingredients plays an important role. A careful selection of ingredients can up the health quotient of these comforting soups. Dark green leafy vegetables and seasonal vegetables, are a must addition and should be included wherever possible. Ginger and peppercorns as spices, with medicinal properties, too can do wonders.

Root vegetables, mushrooms and barley with an addition of meat stock makes for a robust and filling soup infused with health benefits.

A roasted sweet potato soup can be nutritious and tasty, as sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients. Roasting the sweet potatoes first intensifies their flavour.

Soups in winter help one soothe and relax in an inexplicable way when one is down with cold, cough and fever. The spice quotient should be perfect to give heat, as well as soothe to the throat. It’s about using the right spices like cinnamon sticks, cinnamon (dalchini) powder, nutmeg (jaiphal) powder, ginger, fresh turmeric, white pepper powder and pepper.

Carrot & Orange soup (1)

Who can resist a well-made Pan Asian soup with a myriad flavours? One can have it clear, or with noodles, meats and vegetables. Clear chicken soup with light, fluffy dumplings and a deeply savoury, salubrious broth could be the answer, if one is seeking a light but comforting Oriental soup. A Thai prawn broth with fish stock as the base and fragrant Thai spices is a good option as well, as is the Tom Kha with coconut milk to temper the spice element.

Shizusan has got to be one of my favourite places for versatile and flavourful soups. Chef Paul Kinny serves unique ones.

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Whoever said soups that satisfy you must be western classics or global concoctions only? Pepper Rasam owing to its spice content, is soothing and therefore is a perfect soup for winter. Various mildly-flavoured shorbas from traditional Indian cuisine,  made with vegetables, lentils and beans, are apt for winter. Paya shorba, a meat broth, generally lamb, where the meat is slow-cooked is a good choice as it is extremely healthy and keeps one warm.

 

Seasonal vegetables, meaty mushrooms, tender chicken or lentils. Add what you like to your fragrant soups this season, but make sure it is  hearty and provides you with the requisite nutrients. Bon appetit.

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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

 

Fun, Frolic, Flavours Galore: Monkey Bar

It was not even a weekend and I could hear the buzz inside Monkey Bar Bandra, from the road, as I stepped out of my vehicle.

New in Mumbai, after making its debut in Bengaluru in 2012, this gastro pub is already the talk of the town. Oops! Suburbs.

The place was teeming with youngsters and even a few older couples and friends. I was almost transported to a pub in Europe. The bar counter was packed as many people stood there, sipping their beers or cocktails.

I settled for an Aam Panna strongly recommended to me, as I was not having any alcohol. My partner opted for a Masala soda. My aam pana was a bit too salty and synthetic. Nothing to write home about.

Our Peppered calamari rings arrived along with the prawn pickle and pao. The calamari was fresh and well fried, with a dash of garlic, curry leaves, spices et al, which was good to whip up an appetite. The prawn pickle was delicious, but not exactly a balchao. The kadak pao or brun pao was too kadak for my liking and a tad too chewy. These perked up our taste buds nevertheless.

The menu was quirky and unusual. Loaded Nachos, Butterfly Chicken, Tikki of Joy and Goan Chorizo Pao. Also Char-grilled burgers, a delicious selection of small plates, soul-satisfying main courses to cater to every palate, cocktails in Nutella jars and copper tumblers, as well as delicious desserts.

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The pricing struck me as affordable and the dishes innovative with the right twist. Everyone seemed to be having a good time without a care in the world. A great place to unwind and relax.

I loved Chef’s value addition to the Indian dishes, as well as regional favourites like Laal Maas Phulkas, served with mirch achar, ker sangri sabji and coriander chutney or Aunty Pereira’s sorpotel pickle pot. Innovation at its best!

Even the mains were unique. We settled for a Butter chicken khichdi which was abundantly flavourful and comforting. Well presented too. But it was the Jackfruit biryani that was the star of the evening. Aromatic, with subtle flavours, it was appetizing to the core.  Good portions too. Well-prepared succulent pieces of jackfruit and the delicately flavoured biryani rice, were married perfectly. I am never going to miss a Mutton biryani again.

Butter Khichdi Chicken (1)  - Monkey Bar - Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra

Other fun dishes were Chandraji’s Mutton Curry Balti (a succulent mutton dish served with Gobindobhog rice), Peshavari Chicken Chaapli and Via Amritsar (a really cool take on the humble aloo vadi); hearty meals for meat lovers like the In ‘N Out (Monkey’s version of Scotch eggs),Duck Boti Roti (Peking-inspired duck confit and egg baida roti served with onions and mint chutney), Crab Rangoon  etc.

Chef Manu Chandra has really let his imagination run riot and yet, kept his food so authentic and of great quality. No element of monotony at all in the menu. Absolutely laudable.

Jackfruit Biryani -  Monkey Bar - pic 3 Photo Courtesy Kunal Chandra

The Rasmalai Pannacotta was a bit of a dampner as the flavours were not upto the mark and did not appeal to us. The Chocolate popcorn proved to be our saviour. One can never go wrong there.

The exposed walls, cosy nooks and corners, mismatched, yet warm, lights and fixtures, all culminate in giving a fun, yet warm appeal to this place. It beckons you instantly, making you relax and enjoy. And we were no exception. We stepped out after a fun evening.

Rating : 4/5

Be Desi, Buy Desi : Desi Deli

I am a great one for lauding the efforts of home chefs. No wonder Lolita Sarkar, who is a home chef turned entrepreneur, intrigues me and we decide to visit her newly opened, lil’ eatery in Bandra Reclamation, called Desi Deli.

Lolita herself, greets us warmly and patiently explains the concept behind Desi Deli. An Advertising film maker turned entrepreneur in the food space. Impressive. She has always enjoyed cooking for large numbers at home parties and strived to create something new in her dishes. With friends and family, relishing her hot dogs, Lolita began taking baby steps in this direction. A few pop ups across the city, gave her the much needed confidence and then, Desi Deli happened. A logical outcome of her passion and talent.

Wild Thing

The eatery is ordinary, just a few tables, but the menu, excites you immediately. Her interpretation of Desi Deli, delicious Indiagenous food, is appealing. The menu clearly reflects the creativity of an Advertising professional. The choice of words is unmistakable

We decide to skip the Classic desi hot dogs- Amar, Akbar and Anthony denoting, vegetarian, chicken and Pork versions. . Globe trotting desi sound more interesting.  Sonorian, Venetian, Mexican, and yes, even The Goan Desi are some of the options. These come in Vegetarian, Chicken and Pork. Grilled pineapples in a tangy lemon sauce, with peppers et al catches our fancy. Lolita agrees to making a chicken version, as we are not keen on Pork.

Lamb burg

The burger, she suggests. The Tangy Chic Burger. Seems exciting enough. Our burger arrives. The presentation is neat, not extraordinary. A bite into it, gives us a taste of a succulent, juicy chicken pieces and oodles of tangy flavours. Delicious. The freshness of the ingredients is evident. We enjoy it thoroughly.The accompanying fries, more like the Bengali aloo bhaja made of finely shredded potatoes is delectable.

The Hot Dog pales in comparison. The Killer red sauce (so reminiscent of a Goan masala) and lemony sauce do not marry well. The flavours and textures are clearly mismatched. Maybe we should have tried something else? We decide to move on.

While the quality and creative twist in both these is unquestionable, the size of the burger and hot dog, given the price, is unappealing. These are not filling enough and at Rs 275- 300, these are far from pocket-friendly.

We skip the wraps or Tamales and settle for a Ghugni Souk with Mutton, a dish which has its origins in Bengal. Can I resist that? of course not. It has a Moroccon twist to it with the cous cous. I like that. I expect ghugni with couscous, but it turns out to be the opposite. The plate is full of cous cous with a a small helping of mutton infused ghugni in the centre. But the taste makes up for my disappointment, if any. Flavoursome and comforting. The cous cous complements the ghugni. A perfect example of creativity an imagination. Filling too. The house deli fresh salad along with it is crunchy and tingles our palate. This dish gets my vote.

The Usquebaugh blend ice tea that I am sipping is too mildly flavoured and watered down. The hint of tea is not enough even to tease my taste buds. Lolita has warned me of the delicate flavours, but being from Bengal myself, I am acquainted with those. However, this one does not fit the bill.

Screwpine Aam, Begum in crepe, Modak redux, Trucker tycoon. Yes, these are the interesting names of the desserts in the menu. Being a chocolate fanatic, Trucker Tycoon is quite obviously our choice. Tawa toast oozing with chocolate and mascarpone cheese, the dessert promises. I am taken by surprise. Two tiny pieces of toast with the filling. That too not generous, given the price. Reminiscent of what mothers make at home for kids with Nutella.

Lolita personally oversees every order and chats with her guests. Her central kitchen in Khar seems well managed and her staff here too is efficient.

Conceptually, Mumbai needs a Desi Deli with robust and unique hot dogs and thus, while Lolita’s efforts and creativity deserve a pat on the back, the pricing and portion sizes definitely need to be re-looked at to make it viable for customers.

Rating: 3/5

Mast Mexifornia @ CPK

Californian Pizza Kitchen offering a menu with a Mexican twist? Sounded exciting enough to lure me to their Infiniti Mall, Malad outlet.

Appetizers, Pizza, Pastas, Some specialties and of course desserts formed the menu. And yes, fresh fruit Margaritas and beverages. Which I decided to skip completely, for a change. Wanted to save my appetite and do justice to the food.

Not a very exhaustive menu, but all encompassing the flavours of Mexico. Cilantro, peppers, squash, tomato, avocado, vanilla, cocoa, corn, all beautifully amalgamated in the dishes cleverly by Chef Pranav. The ‘Mexifornia’ menu did sound interesting and appetizing. CPK had ensured that gourmets indulge in zesty Mexican Cuisine with a twist of signature Californian panache. And I was ready to embark on my culinary expedition.

Sonora Pizza

The Sonora Pizza, a thin crust pizza with a smoky, roasted tomato salsa, roasted corn and black bean salsa garnished with creamy avocado, a snappy jalapeno sauce and a drizzle of cilantro had me in a dilemma, but yet, I settled for the Chicken Asada Pizza- a titillating serving of a robust traditional pizza with a sharp New Mexico chilli sauce with cheddar and fontina- a delicious semi-soft cheese-and shimmering, roasted peppers.And I had no reason to regret my choice. It was a celebration of Mexican flavours. Generous pieces of roasted chicken laced my pizza and the dash of spice and herbs, mercilessly tingled my palate.

Pastas although seemed unusual by way of the ingredients and flavours, I decided to stay away from.

But the piece de resistance of the evening was unarguably, the Chimichanga. This lip-smacking specialty,  a stellar dish of crispy fried wrap filled with California rice, cotija cheese cheese, a bed of shredded lettuce, sour cream and a zesty tomato salsa, rendered me speechless after the first bite. There was a burst of flavours in my mouth. A myriad textures were at play. Easily the best chimichanga I have ever tasted. Absolute value for money.

California Style Chimichanga_1

Given these two filling dishes, there was no scope of anything else but the Trio of chocolate mousse, of course. Flavoured with three layers of Mexican white, milk and dark chocolate and with a hint of coffee ,served in its very own chocolate cup, this dessert was unique. It was sinful and decadent as expected but I found the proportion of white chocolate a tad more than the other two and felt it could have been reduced. The presentation of the mousse in a cup made of chocolate complete with a spoon et al, bowled me over completely. The chef was truly a master of his craft.

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There was Mexican Caramel Banana Flan served on a bed of vanilla sponge with great lashings of Banana Cream and Caramel sauce. But alas! we had no place in our stomach for that.

On till June 21 at all CPK outlets, across India, I still have a chance of relishing my Chimichanga once more. And yes, many more dishes on the menu worth trying.

Good, attentive service, pleasant ambience and outstanding food, made the evening even more special.

Rating: 4/5

Divine minus the wines too! Cafe D’Wine

The name of the cafe obviously suggested it had a lot to do with wines, so I did not step in with too many expectations from the food. But alas! I was wrong and how. The menu itself was an exercise in choices. Soups, salads, pizza, pastas, steaks and more. Whew! Of course the wine list was never ending too, but I was not in the mood for a wine so stuck to a simple, but refreshing basil and lemongrass cooler. In appearance like an aam panna, it had a light flavour which rejuvenated me immediately.

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New world cuisine is what this cozy cafe in Bandra offers. The décor is very European, simplisitic, yet stylish.The walls are laced with attractive Mediterranean tiles, inverted wine glasses hanging from the ceiling, slated wood furniture and a detailed Italian mural.  Bohemian chic! I got a good vibe as we settled down on our table.

The Butter chicken savoury custard floored me as it came with mini paratha pieces. A truly innovative presentation and twist, but the authenticity of the butter chicken was intact. Very robust, very Punjabi. Loved it.

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Just as I was waxing eloquent about this one, the Mediterranean sauteed fish blew my mind and yes, taste buds too. Pieces of rawas fish combined with 3 peppers and the lip-smacking teriyaki sauce was delightful. Spicy, it teased my palate beyond comparison. I was already mentally satiated.

The chicken stroganoff further nailed it. Served with home made purple fettucine pasta instead of the usual herb rice, this one was a clear winner. The presentation was so appealing. The taste of course further took the experience to another level. The creamy sauce of the stroganoff was generously filled with cheese, mushrooms and interestingly, spinach too. What a twist this was! I just could not let go off this medley of flavours and textures from my mouth or memory. It surpassed my expectations.

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There are great options for vegetarians too. Pumpkin ravioli, cheesy gnocchi et al. The menu is refreshingly different. Kudos to the chef. Everything on the menu sounds enticing. Signature items lof this cafe are “Smoked Chicken Salad”, “Red Bean Hummus”, “Butter Chicken Savory Custard” and “Ceylon Tuna Parcels with marinated Okra” . A must try in the menu is Norwegian Grilled Pink Salmon Steak, which is a new addition, I was told.

Sanjay Mirani, Managing Director at Café D’Wine previously associated with brands like Athena, Da Vinci and Ivy, has done a great job yet again. Affordably priced, this cafe serves great food and wines which do not burn a hole in your wallet.

Sadly, the desserts which they outsource, had not arrived n time, so was unable to sample that. But no loss really, considering I had enjoyed my meal thoroughly. This one was a divine experience, minus the wines too!

Food rating: 4/5

Rediscovering Cashew-The wonder fruit of Goa

I have loved cashews ever since I can remember. Roasted, plain or in marzipans. I love them in any form. Being married to a Goan, of course I am now well-versed with the importance of cashews in Goa and its popularity, but it was only recently that I rediscovered the fruit, apart from the nut, I am so familiar with.

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Park Hyatt Resort & Spa Goa’s Cashew Trail beckoned us to Goa. I am ever willing to go to Goa, just as most of us are. But in reality, it was the cashew related itinerary, which intrigued me.

As a food and beverage writer, I was keen to know more about feni and urak, the drinks made from cashew apple and of course cocktails made with these. I was equally curious to see how Chefs infuse the cashew into a variety of dishes across cuisines. And that’s exactly what the culinary wizards at Park Hyatt Goa did. I was mesmerized.

I was in for a surprise at Casa Sarita, the Goan restaurant at the Hotel. The special five-course menu was paired with urak, feni aged one year, an Oak Cask 2012 edition feni and a Port Oak Cask 2010 edition feni. These feni selections were specially presented by the Vaz family for Cashew Trail 2015.

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I loved the passion with which Mac Vaz painstakingly explained each feni as we got ready to sip it with each course. I have great regard for Chef Edridge  of Casa Sarita, who is a master of his craft. He loves his Goan cuisine and knows it really well. Well enough to, give it his own contemporary twist. And yet, the dishes are authentic. That’s what makes him a class apart.

Chef Edridge Vaz - Casa Sarita

We began with the Assiette of seafood peri peri and Cauliflower tondak served with first pressed coconut milk and salted cumin biscotti. Exquisite flavours enveloped my mouth, as, I savoured each morsel. The spices used were 100% Goan and the modern twist to it was laudable. Light and flavourful, I relished the cauliflower tondak. The cumin biscotti added the right amount of zest to the course, in terms of the crunch. Never knew Vegetarian Goan food could be so appeasing. The Cinnamon feni sorbet meant to be our palate cleanser, was so delicious that it well could have been my dessert. Smooth in texture, it almost had a creamy feel to it.

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The highlight of the evening was the Alle Belle Cold Cheese cake with Cashew Jam. It had me spellbound. A traditional sweet of Goa, Chef had presented and served it so interestingly. It looked so appetising that my heart broke to upset his presentation on the plate. The base of the dessert was crispy and crunchy, juxtaposed perfectly with the smooth and creamy cheese cake on top. The highlight undoubtedly was the cashew jam, which I tasted for the first time ever. Chef Edridge had yet again proved his mastery. This was an example of innovation at its best.

The gourmet dinner and exquisite fenis proved to be a heady experience.

If the dinner, was an extraordinary experience, so were our subsequent meals, where cashews were so skillfully integrated into various dishes. Pulaos, curries, lentils, soups, chutneys and dips. Yes, there was cashew in all of these and more. And yet, the palate never did tire of it, even though we relished this cuisine for three days, albeit in different forms. The Cashew Trail finale brunch replete with cashew based dishes is something I will always remember and cherish. Each dish stood apart from the other. The chefs’ creativity knew no bounds today.

What can I say about the cocktails created with feni and urak? any of these were a revelation for me as I discovered several spices and seasonal fruits which were cleverly used with feni and urak to create the innovative Buenisima, Orange Sunrise and Fenirinha among others.

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Apart from savouring myriad cashew creations in various forms, the picking of the cashew apple at the Cashew farm in Valpoi and watching the feni being distilled, is something which made this trip so memorable and the experience unparalleled.

And as I sit at home in Mumbai and bite into my cashew chikki and relish the cashew nut and mango chutney, so generously provided by the Hotel, as our lil’ giveaway, I get nostalgic about the 4th Cashew Trail at Park Hyatt Goa. I had embarked on a guilt-free, hedonistic journey, but I am not complaining. For this one, once is clearly, not enough.