Tag Archives: varied

Cooking with this versatile Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt caught my fancy when I was living in London a decade ago and my love affair with it continues. Sadly, there was no proper equivalent to it in India till Epigamia came along recently. Rich, creamy, luscious and yet, low fat. The perfect protein and calcium fix, I need at my age.

 

I have been picking up and devouring various flavours of Epigamia, Banana Honey and Vanilla bean and strawberry being my favourites.

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Of course while many of us cook with dahi or curd at home especially in Indian food, as amrinades or in masalas for gravies, I was intrigued when invited to Bastian. Famed for its food, helmed by maverick Chef Kelvin Cheung, Chef was going to serve dishes created using Epigamia, Greek yogurt, I was informed. Wow! That sounded exciting.

And exciting it was. The strawberry smoothie served at the outset wowed my palate with the flavours- thick, creamy and the touch of balsamic, I think, did the trick. Was refreshing alright.

Roasted spare ribs with mango yogurt, sounded enticing. Chef Kelvin used the yogurt as a marinade and left this overnight to absorb the yogurt and tenderize the meat. The result, melt in the mouth fare, well-spiced and balanced.

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The truffle mushroom sweet potato pappardelle took me by surprise. It is one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. The creamy texture imparted by the natural yogurt was a delight for the taste buds. In the non-vegetarian version, caramalised yogurt was used for the lobster. The flavour profiles matched perfectly and the textures were stuff dreams are made of. The crunch, bite, creaminess was a roller-coaster ride for the palate, which it gladly embraced. No, I did not miss being a Carnivore today.

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Chef Kelvin Cheung’s mastery over his craft is undisputed and his clever and skillful use of Epigamia Greek yogurt was ample testimony.

The dessert, expectedly was a treat. The honey banana yogurt was used to make a creamy custard and served with banana bread and black pepper honey it surpassed my expectations. The natural sweetness of the yogurt accentuated the other flavours and made it a delectable dessert.

A delightful afternoon of discovery, this meal turned out to be. And with Rohan Mirchandani, one of the founders for company, the afternoon was certainly memorable.

The versatile ingredient that Greek yogurt is has set me thinking. Time to do embark upon my experiments in the kitchen with Epigamia. Not just going to wolf these down but shall put them to sue in cooking too.

 

 

 

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Zesty flavours of Assam : O’Tenga

Having been born and brought up in Kolkata, Assam is quite close to my heart. Literally too, a State not too far away. With several friends from there, I have often sampled a lot of their local dishes. But of course many of those were unknown to me.

Mumbai is not exactly a place where you expect to find Assamese food. Have on an odd occasion tried some dishes at a pop-up but found those hugely disappointing.

Naturally then, when I heard about O’Tenga a delivery outfit started by two young Assamese girls, Joyee Mahanta and Priyangi Borthakur, serving Assamese home style food, I was intrigued. Apart from a 24-hour advance pre-order, one can also order from Swiggy for both lunch and dinner. They also offer meals on a daily or monthly basis.

It was their passion for their cuisine and the lack of it in Mumbai that made them start O’Tenga. Working on recipes from their mothers and grandmothers, the duo perfected each dish through trial and error, as they gave up their full-time jobs and took the plunge.

The menu includes traditional food like khar (made by filtering water through the ashes of sun-dried banana peels), xaak bhaji (lightly seasoned green, leafy vegetables), dail (lentils), tenga (a tangy curry), pitika (mashed potatoes), besides fish, chicken and mutton dishes.

I start my meal with khar, owing to its alkaline nature. This dish gets your stomach ready for the rest of the meal. The last dish again must be with tenga as it is acidic in nature.

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My meal comprising massor muro or fish head khar, chicken with black sesame paste – til diya murgi mangxo, paaleng xaak bhaji, dal, lau bilahi tenga or bottle gourd tenga, pitika, mutton, rice, was a delightful journey of comforting flavours. Appeasing to the eyes as well.

Each dish was distinct and boasted of simple flavours. Tangy, fragrant, piquant, aromatic, dishes wowed my palate in turn as I tried each of these. The textures were equally varied. I loved the use of mustard oil which is achingly familiar for my taste buds. The ingredients were, as expected the hero in each dish.

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No overpowering spices in their food at all. No forced attempt to dress up the food or make it look fancy either. And that to my mind was what made the food outstanding. It was like eating food at a friend’s home.

What makes their food authentic are the recipes of course but the ingredients locally sourced from Assam make all the difference. From guti aloo to bhut jalokia and kajinemu, they try to procure these from Assam. Of course vegetables, are picked up locally from Mumbai and fresh seasonal ones are preferred by them.

Abundant pork dishes on the menu for pork lovers and of course plenty of mutton, chicken and fish too. The vegetarian options too are sufficient and in fact the offerings are unique.

I rounded off my meal with the customary payox or payesh but with the addition of camphor, which was new for my taste buds.

A thoroughly enjoyable meal, affordably priced and extremely varied.  I am certainly waiting to try the other dishes on their menu.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

Taste of India

I was ecstatic when I first heard that Neel,  one of my favourite restaurants from deGustibus hospitality was opening a new outlet at Powai in the same premises, alongside an Indigo Deli. My joy doubled. But there was more. This was not the same Neel as the one in Mahalaxmi Racecourse. It was going to be an All day dining place offering simple, authentic Indian food from across the country. Much as I enjoy the lip-smacking Awadhi delicacies served at Neel, Tote on the Turf, I was relieved. I could indulge in my guilty pleasures, more than just once in a while now.

Sadly, I missed the buzzing opening party, but stepped in on the Monday after, for a leisurely lunch to experience Neel, Indian Kitchen plus bar, in its new avatar.

Whew! the plush interiors and the wooden staircase that led me up, seemed straight out of a European setting. The first part was obviously Indigo Deli casual and elegant with an air of bonhomie and the second part was Neel the Indian Kitchen and Bar. The natural light filtering in and the understated but chic decor,  the dash of blue to give it an eclectic touch, gave me a good vibe immediately.I felt naturally comfortable.

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I was privileged to get a sneak preview as the restaurant has not yet opened to guests and patrons. It opens doors officially on September 14.

Warm hospitality as ever. Chatting with Anurag Katriar, CEO & Executive Director, deGustibus Hospitality, JD, the Corporate Executive Chef and of course the Man at the helm of Neel’s Kitchen, Chef Mukhtar Qureshi, it promised to be a great afternoon.

Anurag informed me that,  at Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar  they have hand-picked culinary gems from various parts of India and put them together on a single gastronomic platform. An all-day diner with an eclectic bar, Neel, celebrates true Indian food amidst a contemporary setting. “Good Food-Served well”, was after all their hospitality credo.

Dhanewal murgh ka shorba (a light aromatic chicken broth flavoured with coriander) was served. The mild flavours of the spicy shorba, replete with coriander, was comforting and the perfect way to tease my taste buds. I was ready to savour the rest of my meal.

My Tellichery pepper chicken Kerala style, arrived. The aroma of the pepper filled my nostrils, as I was being served. A type of pepper which is aromatic and spicy, but not too pungent and rough, it enveloped the succulent pieces of chicken well and along with curry leaves and southern spices, was a delightful way to begin.

The stuffed mushrooms too were delectable given the cheese and spinach filling, but what made it stand apart was the apricot or jardalu chutney served alongside. It actually revved up the flavour quotient unimaginably.

I could not believe Chef Mukhtar Qureshi’s mastery over Indian cuisine as a whole. I was actually spellbound. Here I was tasting dishes from Southern India, Konkan, Bihar and all over, and each one was a masterpiece.  I had always known him for his lip-smacking Awadhi food, but this man was obviously full of surprises.

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The Sukka squid was swathed in a delicious coconut masala and an interesting texture, took my taste buds by storm. But the piece de resistance in the starters was the Konkani Jhinga, without a doubt. It resembled the Cafreal masala from Goa, as I first looked at it. It was pan seared prawns coated in a similar  green masala but yet, different and distinct, as I discovered upon the first bite. It wowed my palate beyond words and the moistness in the prawns even though they were pan-seared, impressed me.

The Allepey Aloo was flawless, but paled in comparison today to the other dishes.

My  gastronomic journey continued with the Mutton bhuna roast  and a Malabari parotha. The soft, flaky parotha paired well with the fleshy, melt-in-the mouth, robust, mutton which was well-spiced but not overly rich or oily. In fact nothing in the meal was greasy or heavy. That to my mind was the real achievement of the chef. Else going through so much of food would have been a daunting task.

The new Neel also offers an extensive array of chaats, tikkis et al,  if you want a filling evening snack or a light lunch perhaps, but of course I had to save that experience for another day.

The grand finale to round off my memorable meal was the gulkand paan ice cream made in house. The flavours of paan and gulkand were strong and appeased my taste buds. The element of sweetness was just right and the texture was creamy and smooth.

The menu here, is an amalgamation of  food from across India representing all the regions, ranging from the popular street foods of Kolkata & Rajasthan, to pure Kashmiri & Konkani fare. Chef Qureshi has painstakingly revived age-old, often forgotten spice blends like lazzat e taam, Baristha masala and using ethnic ingredients such Khas ka jadh, dagad ka phool, pan ka jadh, kebab chini, mulhatti, chandan.

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No wonder the food at Neel, is not run-of-the-mill fare but carefully crafted, to appeal to all palates.

I had almost traversed all of India in one afternoon, thanks to my epicurean journey at Neel. I left satiated, smiling, but with a promise to return.