27 September 2014

Catch This Frisbee!

Working in a large hospital with a large team only means one thing- innumerable department lunches. Most of these are meals where we've ordered in, bonding and discussing work over good food. We randomly decided to try Frisbees- this take away and delivery joint in Andheri west. (No, it's not a sporting goods retail outlet like the name may suggest). The Frisbees menu has a listing of pastas, burgers, sides, desserts and of course, pizzas which are their USP.

There are a couple of aspects that need to be covered when running a delivery outlet. Firstly, getting the food on time! If you're going to make me wait donkeys hours to get the food to me, you can be rest assured I'm never ordering from you again. The food came at the time I was promised on the phone. No complaints there. 

Secondly, the way the food is packaged and delivered. I've lost track of the number of times I've had leaky containers and spillage of food when they've been delivered home. Some containers may look good, but they just don't travel well. The pasta, burger and desserts came in sturdy boxes that survived the bumpy drive on Andheri roads. My pizza unfortunately came stuck to the butter paper in the bottom of the box. Sigh! Such a disappointment considering how good the pizza was.

The aforementioned pizza was a Popeye's Olive Vegetarian Pizza (Rs. 290/- for a 10") and is one of their specials. The pizza came with spinach, olives, roasted bell peppers, roasted garlic, walnuts, savoury onion jam, Parmesan and mozzarella. I analyzed their menu and I appreciate the fact that they've tried to innovate and use different ingredients as toppings, which is commendable for a simple take away joint. On this menu, paneer tikka is replaced by a paneer pesto. The pizza was decent, and had a good quantity of toppings on top. The base was not too thin, nor too thick, and had the right amount of crunch to it. Would've been a star, had their been no paper stuck to the bottom.

Popeye's Olive Vegetarian Pizza

The Spaghetti Bolognaise Chicken (Rs. 250/-) was a decent quantity for the price. The spaghetti was well cooked, and I liked the meaty bolognaise sauce. It could have been a crackling dish had it not come drowned in a layer of oil. The excess oil had to be spooned out before we could eat our way through. I'm sincerely hoping this was a one time thing, and that is not how they cook their spaghetti.

Spaghetti Bolognaise Chicken
Next up was the generously portioned Mexican Beef Burger (Rs. 200/-). This had a beef steak, chipotle mayo, greens, onions and tomatoes housed in a burger bun. My major gripe with eating beef at most new places is that they don't cook it right. The beef was done well in this case. I would've loved to have some salsa or guacamole inside the burger, to make it more Mexican. The burger came with these spiced fries that were just divine. Overall, the burger was absolutely worth it. I want to order the crunchy chicken one next!

Mexican Beef Burger
The desserts surpassed my expectations, and were the best part of our meal. The Lemon Tart (Rs. 40/-) was decently sized. It had this sweet-sour lemon curd seated on a tart base that was not too hard and not too crumbly. This reminded me so much of the lemon tart I grew up eating at Candies in Bandra.

Lemon Tart
The Chocolate Mousse Tart (Rs. 60/-) had an absolutely rich and dense chocolate mousse and was not too cloyingly sweet. The Chocolate Gateau (Rs. 70/-) looked like a mousse to me, but had a soft and moist cake base in the bottom of all that chocolate. Overall, we enjoyed both the chocolate desserts.

Chocolate Mousse Tart
Chocolate Gateau
Overall, Frisbees delivers on both- good food and decent pricing. Would I order from them again? Yes, for their pizzas and the desserts that won me over. Folks in Andheri, you may want to catch this Frisbee!

Contact: Frisbees Pizza, 37, Andheri Shiv Shakti CHS, Municipal School Road, Near DN Nagar Metro Station, Indira Nagar, Andheri West, Mumbai.
Phone: 022 65324111, 022 65325111.
(Delivery or take-away only)

23 September 2014

Punjabi Khana-Shana and More

My search for the city's best buffets are still on. It's such a hard job eating through all the food, sifting through the dishes, and putting up what's best, right here for you. Just kidding! It really is so much fun. My search led me to a far, far destination in another galaxy. The place called Goregaon. (South Mumbai snobs, thank you for your attention. You may stop reading here).

I'd eaten a lunch buffet at The Grand Sarovar Premiere, Goregaon a while ago, and I had a memorable team lunch with the colleagues. 180 degrees is their multi-cuisine specialty restaurant that caters lunch and dinner buffets. We were there to try their dinner buffet, and the night we visited they had a 'Discover India Food Festival' running. Different cuisines from different states of the country, each on a different night. The nine day long fest was on till the 20th of this month.

On the night we visited, they were highlighting Punjabi food. I was a tad bit disappointed. I was hoping for Gujarati or Rajasthani fare since I don't get to eat that too often. (This is a subtle hint for my Gujarati and Marwari friends to invite me home for dinner. Thank you). The buffet had a soup and salad counter which was routine stuff, for their foreign patrons. In addition they had a live tandoor section for rotis and kababs, mains from Punjab and other states, and a huge dessert section. As always, here are my top five favourite things that I enjoyed at the Discover India buffet at 180 degrees, Grand Sarovar Premiere.

1. Dhaba Food on my Plate: Give me hearty, ghee-laden, Punjabi dhaba food over the deconstructed, experimental stuff anyday. When you mention, food from Punjab, there are certain quintessential dishes that you cannot avoid. The buffet had sarson-da-saag, chole kulche, chole samose, dahi bhalle and all those dishes that you'd stop roadside on the Punjab highway for. Special mention to the chole samose that were perfectly spiced and not too heavy on the tummy. I missed having lassi though. Didn't know if it was there on the menu and I overlooked it, or that they just didn't have it.

Dahi Bhalle
Pour Some Chole on Me
Some Samosa?

2. The Little Touches: The effort to showcase Punjab was visible in the small things. To having a Punjab stall with Punjabi speaking staff, to earthen copper vessels. And desi-ghee and 'gud' (jaggery) for you to liberally smear on your food.

3. Variety is the Spice: In addition to highlighting Punjabi food on the night we visited, they also had few dishes from other states as well. So there was spicy fish curry from Goa, a bland Punheri Aloo, Kadhi Pakodi from Gujarat, a rich Awadhi mutton korma, and more. This in addition to Punjab food staples of Rajma masala, palak makkai malai and a butter chicken, which was a unanimous favourite. 

(Clockwise): Kadhi Pakodi, Rajma Masala, Aloo Punheri, Gobhi Awadhi
Jinga Biryani
4. Kababilicious: The live kebab counter was interesting. We ordered for some kebabs to be brought to our table and ate our way through paneer tikkas, Sarson fish, and chicken tandoori. Average fare with typical flavours.

Tandoori Chicken
Sarson fish
5. Meetha Khaoge?: The best way for me to judge a buffet is by their dessert section. Some dessert sections have so much going on, and that's such a struggle after a heavy meal. Then again there are some with barely any options. The dessert section here had very few Punjabi desserts to boast of considering it was a Punjabi meal. I would've killed for a gajar ka halwa or a jalebi. But they had some delicious angoori rabdi and badam halwa that compensated. And then there were the sweets from other states: Gujarati ghugra, Rajasthani ghevar, soan papdi, and laddoos. The tiramisu and mousse looked out of place, comparatively.

Overall, a decent spread of dishes at a price point of Rs. 995 (plus taxes) for dinner. The buffet is deems a visit if you reside and work in that area, considering there may not be many buffet options around. The suburbs are definitely proving their worth as a food destination. The meal was worth the 180 degree turn.

Contact: 180 Degrees, Grand Sarovar Premiere, AK Plaza, SV Road, Goregaon West, Mumbai.
Phone: 022 30151362.

16 September 2014

New Zealand lamb arrives in Mumbai

Some ingredients take a long journey from farms to our plates. This journey may be as long as across the seven seas. And those ingredients make dining even more special. It's like taking a trip abroad just with your taste buds. We were the lucky few who got to sample New Zealand lamb from Silver Fern Farms when they introduced quality lamb range to the food service industry in collaboration with Empire Foods, who are the sole distributors of Silver Fern Farms lamb products in the country. 

About Silver Fern Farms: Silver Fern Farms is a leading New Zealand processor and marketer of lamb, mutton, beef, venison and associated products to more than 60 countries. They promise freshness, tenderness and great taste, all naturally. The lamb is premium, and naturally raised by expert farmers on open green pastures of one of the safest meat producing countries in the world. The perfect climate coupled with free-grazing cattle and high levels of food safety, make these products sought after worldwide. They have a 'plate to pasture process' that means the needs of consumers and customers drives them to produce products in the best possible manner.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Colaba introduced the lamb to diners over cocktails and an interactive session with the team at Silver Fern Farms and Empire Foods. We had a lovely chat with Stu Donald, Regional Head of Silver Fern Farms, who educated us on their products. He spoke about how the lamb they produce are all free-grazing which means they are fed on natural grass as opposed to synthetic grains. Because after all, 'you are what you eat'. He also said that the Indian meat eating market has great potential and will grow in the coming years.

The lamb I tasted that night was indeed succulent, juicy and fell right off the bone, just like how lamb ideally should be.

I decided to whip up some slow cooked lamb rack as a Sunday treat to myself and the folks. It was going to be a challenge since I didn't have an oven at home so I'd have to resort to the longer process of pan frying it and then steaming it in the cooker. The Silver Ferns Farms lamb rack is one of their best-selling iconic products.

Slow Cooked Lamb Rack in Red Wine and Garlic:

  •  Cook the lamb in a pan, turning frequently, until browned on all sides. I added very little olive oil in the pan since the lamb rack had the natural fat cover intact, so the lamb needs barely any oil to cook in. This maximises the distinctly sweet lamb flavours and helps retain natural juices during cooking.

  • To the pan I then added some chopped onions, carrots, and garlic. Also a bit of vinegar, and some Burgundy red wine. You could substitute it with any other red wine. And a bit of salt and pepper to season on top. 
  • The lamb was then transferred to a slow cooker, barring the veggies and cooked on low pressure for about 30 minutes.

I ended up with a lovely medium rare meat which was bursting with this garlic-pepper flavour. The veggies also imbibed a meaty taste in them. Simple, experimental recipe that went off well. Since the lamb itself was of such good quality, the final outcome was bound to be delicious. I'm still left with half a lamb rack and contemplating on what next to do with it. Do share your recipes with me!

13 September 2014

Mid-Week Lunching at Saptami, Holiday Inn

I'm a sucker for all-you-can-eat buffets. It's the best dining-out option for a family like mine, where our appetites are as big as our mouths. Very few buffets manage to give both; a large variety of dishes without compromising on the quality of food. As a part of Branded Bawi's hunt for the city's best buffets, I had previously reviewed the brunches at D'Bell, Lotus Cafe at J.W.Mariott, and Out of The Blue, Bandra. 

It was a weekday. I was in Andheri east. Hence, we decided to eat out in the area. My pick was the lunch buffet at Saptami, Holiday Inn. The hotel is literally ten steps away from the Sakinaka metro station. (On a different tangent, God bless the metro. It's made travelling in the suburbs so much easier, noh?). The restaurant was swamped with office goers from the neighborhood and kitty partying aunties. In fact, too packed for a weekday afternoon.

The buffet had a salad and cold cut counter, soups, live egg and pasta counters, mains comprising of Indian and continental fare, chaats, and desserts. I spotted an equal number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, too. Here are the top five things that I liked about Saptami's lunch buffet!

1. Comfort food: Again no fancy, gourmet food here. There's stuff we grew up eating; manchow soup, macaroni salad, chicken tikka, hakka noodles and rainbow hued pastries. I enjoyed the pasta counter. The pasta here is the desi soggy, creamy, cheesy pasta that we all enjoy. Another favorite of mine was the batter fried fish and calamari with a traditional tartar sauce.

Penne in White Sauce

Batter Fried Fish with Tartar Sauce

2. Papads and More: My papad intake is higher than that of an average Sindhi. I heart papads and I was thrilled to bits to see a variety of papad, large and small, here and also, some delicious fryums. 

Papad, Papad and More!

3. Sweet Tooth: The buffet has an equal number of Indian and Western desserts, and I enjoyed that. Ranging from Kiwi Phirni, to Bengali sweets, to Kala Jamun and then there were pancake rolls, Mud cakes, and candy coloured old-school pastries. The Indian desserts won me over, and I enjoyed that, because a lot of buffets don't emphasize on Indian mithais.

Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye?

4. Service: While I took a crazy, long time in the washroom, (applying a fresh coat of lipstick), the staff noticed that and offered my friend a plate of chaat to make the wait easier. Small gestures like that win me over. And I'm not one to eat chaat at big restaurants, but the chaat here was fab!

Let's Chaat!

5. Money Matters: The weekday buffet lunch is priced at Rs. 599/- all inclusive. It's definitely value for money, for the variety of food on offer. And a lot of people seem to agree with me, looking at how crowded the restaurant was that afternoon. The buffet is worth a try if you're in the area or working there and looking for a leisure lunch.

Contact: Holiday Inn, Sakinaka Junction, Andheri Kurla Road, Andheri East, Mumbai. Phone- 022 40851800, 022 61161800.

8 September 2014

Tastes of Europe at Prego, The Westin

It's restaurant week time! Only this time you're getting to visit Europe, taste European cuisine, savor fresh European produce, while sitting right here in Mumbai. The European Union (EU) collaborates with partner restaurants across the city to bring a three week long European food extravaganza, so that we can experience European culture through their food. And in my opinion, experiencing the local food is the only way to truly experience a new destination. Food makes us travel without budging an inch! And I experienced a culinary vacation of sorts. Read on for more. Buon Appetito!

About Tastes of Europe food festival: The Tastes of Europe food festival kick starts with a 'Restaurant Week' from the 6th to 12th of September, where you get to enjoy set meals at ten different partner restaurants across the city. The meals are designed with the focus on highlighting different European ingredients. The second week is a 'Retail Week', where you get to taste European produce across various specialty stores, and decide what you'd like to take home. Finally, it culminates with the Annapoorna World of Food India Exhibition 2014 from 24th to 26th September in Mumbai where you can attend food seminars, celeb chef classes and a lot more.

Restaurant Week celebrations are on at a host of partnering restaurants, right from Smoke House Deli, Bandra Kurla Complex, to Olive Bar and Kitchen, Khar, to Vetro at The Oberoi, Nariman Point. The restaurants offer set meals priced at Rs. 1500/- onwards with the focus on European fare. We decided to visit Prego at The Westin Garden City, Mumbai to try out the Italian menu that everyone's been buzzing about.

My first visit to The Westin, and boy was I impressed. This sprawling, 5 star, deluxe hotel is aptly located in the up-coming, bustling suburbs, close to the International airport and Goregaon Film City. And inspite of its location, The Westin does not compromise on sprawling green trees, peace, and tranquil. Situated on the ground floor, Prego is the in-house Italian restaurant at The Westin having been awarded  the “Noteworthy Newcomer” under the “Best Italian Restaurant category-North Mumbai" by the Times Food Guide- Mumbai Awards 2011.

We were lucky enough to get to meet Executive Chef Ajay Chopra, and he explained Prego's concept of 'Fun Dining' to us. Not fine dine....but fun dine, with the focus on enjoying your food as you eat. The entire menu for Restaurant Week is curated and revamped keeping in mind, European ingredients as the star. 

Prego has a fun, colourful indoor space which is fairly spacious, so you're not bumping elbows with the next table. The outdoor, al fresco seating would be perfect for a dinner date under the starry skies. I love the concept of an open kitchen, so you're entertained while you eat, and Prego has just that! We spent our entire meal, gazing at the chefs flipping our pizza and tossing our salad. It was lovely of Sous Chef of Prego- Shrikant Parashar to take us around the kitchen and show us the sections for pizza, pasta, cold meats and my favourite: the gelato corner. Prego is famous for their in-house Italian gelatos.

Prego's Open Kitchen

Indoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

Gelato Anyone?

Pasta flown in from Italy!
 The Taste of Europe menu at Prego is a four course elaborate spread with a number of options to pick from for Rs. 2500/- plus tax. The task of choosing from the menu was so daunting, we asked Chef Shrikant to surprise us with his favorites from the menu, and boy, were we pleasantly surprised!

Our first course was a light Insalata Rucola e Feta, or a rucola leaves salad with feta cheese and balsamic. I'm not a salad person (or a soup person) but this salad I really enjoyed. The rucola leaves were uniformly doused in balsamic and interspersed with feta. I loved the candied walnuts and pine nuts that added crunch and texture to the salad, and the ocassional orange providing a citrus burst. Such a summery, fresh salad!

Insalata Rucola e Feta

Next up was the Zuppa del Doge, or a Venetian-style tomato seafood broth served with country bread. It may have been one of the best soups I've ever tasted. Even before I dug in, I could smell the aroma of the seafood from a distance. The soup is a hearty tomato broth bursting with flavours from under the sea. We were made to eat the soup without a spoon, using the flat bread as a scoop to dish out the broth and the seafood. It was a different experience altogether, dipping the bread in the soup and fishing out either a prawn, or squid, or mussel or olives. Look ma, no spoon!

Zuppa del Doge
Next up was a Passion Fruit sorbet that acted as a palate cleanser. Loved the passion fruit flavor bursting through, but it got too sweet after three bites. A glass of wine in one hand, sorbet in the other, and the promise of good food coming up. Aah, this is the life!

Passion Fruit Sorbet
The Pizza Nello stile del Lazio was a thin crust pizza topped with bacon, pecorino cheese and liaison which in this case was an egg base. Firstly, I loved the thin base. It was neither too crispy like a papad nor too soggy like a roti. The pizza had all the ingredients of a traditional Carbonara pasta: egg, Pecorino cheese, black pepper and bacon. It was an interesting twist to a classic. I only wished for more bacon, being the meat lover that I am.

Pizza Nello stile del Lazio
The Fussilli Bolognese was your conventional bolognese sauce and al dente pasta. Points to them for cooking the pasta al dente, and not as an overcooked, soggy mush that the Indian palate is used to.

Fussilli Bolognese

The meal ended on a sweet note with a trio of Italian desserts. The classic Tiramisu was indeed a 'pick me up' (that is what it means in Italian). It was creamy, airy and I loved the bitter espresso syrup nestled in the bottom. The coffee Panna Cotta was comparatively average. The Giandouiotti or the hazelnut mousse with chocolate glaze was my favorite dessert, purely because I'm so partial to hazelnuts. I loved the hazelnut coated chocolate bits on top.

(From top to bottom) Tiramisu, Giandouiotti, Coffee Panna Cotta

Prego is Italian for 'you're welcome', and we left feeling welcome, indeed, with such good, hearty food and hospitality. Tastes of Europe is a lovely initiative, allowing us to sample European food, and I'm sure it will put Mumbai on the world cuisine map. The afternoon was like a mini trip to Italy. Grazie!

Find more details about the Tastes of Europe food festival on Facebook here, Twitter here, and on their official page here

3 September 2014

Cheap Thrills!

Somewhere inside High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel, home to expensive brands and gourmet restaurants lies a little food haven. A place where you can get a stomach filling meal for 150 bucks a head. (No its not Subway. Or McDonald's) A place where I ate some of the tastiest dhaba style gravies and greasy parathas. 

It was the monthly end-of-the-month Kadka for the Pet Pujaris. (Remember I had spoken about them here?) This time the place was an unassuming, unknown, unheard little joint inside the Phoenix compound. We were off to eat at the Sai Service Station staff canteen! I was a bit wary at first, but the promise of yummy, thela-type Chinese and Indian fare tempted me.

We walked up the staircase into a small, tiny room, packed with communal tables. The menu consists of a list of 30 odd items ranging from Chinese dishes such as Schezwan Fried Rice and Hakka Noodles to gravies such as Butter Chicken and Palak Paneer to rice dishes like Biryani. The best part was that the most expensive dish I remember seeing on the menu was 80 bucks, with an average price of a dish around 60-70 rupees.

The food was so much better than I'd expected. The gravies were just as good as something you'd get at a moderately priced restaurant or a dhabha on the road. The Chicken Hakka Noodles were reminiscent of a meal you'd get in a college canteen. All the vegetarian gravies I tried: Kadhai Paneer, Chana Masala, and Veg Kolhapuri were decent, with the Veg Kolhapuri being the unanimous pick of the lot. The Chicken Makhanwala had huge chunks of chicken doused in this tomato gravy which was not too sweet. Perfect! It tasted absolutely yum with the flaky parathas that we ordered alongside. The Egg Bhurji was the typical bhurji you'd get at a street side stall, albeit with an over dose of chillies. The Dal Tadka was average but came with a layer of floating ghee on top. Skip the bland Paneer Biryani with too many peas, and opt for the masala laden Egg Biryani instead.

Chicken Hakka Noodles

Kadhai Paneer and Parathas

Veg Kolhapuri and Parathas

Egg Bhurji

Chana Masala and Roti

Chicken Makhanwala with Parathas

Egg Biryani

Dal Tadka
Paneer Biryani
Be prepared to eat with the staff and mechanics of Sai Service. If you're too high and mighty for that, kindly move your butt over to Indigo or Smoke House Deli next door. Remember, staff gets first preference. (The diner is really for them, after all). It may not be the cleanest place, so if you're a hygiene enthusiast, kindly move your butt over to Indigo or Smoke House Deli next door.

All in all, decent food and total value-for-money. We ended up paying only 150 rupees per head for all the food that we ate. Sundar, Sasta, Tikau!