31 July 2015

Monkey See - Monkey Do - Monkey Bar

Move over, Sher Khan! The monkey is the king of this jungle. And by 'jungle' I mean, the resto bar scene in Mumbai. The monkey in question here is Bandra's newest gastro pub Monkey Bar - making both food lovers and party goers go bananas! After a successful stint in both Bangalore and Delhi, the much talked about Monkey Bar arrived to the queen of suburbs in May this year. Bandra is derived from the word 'Vandre', meaning monkey in Marathi because of the frequent sightings of monkeys during olden times, making it an apt and ironical location for the Monkey Bar!

I have had the opportunity of visiting Monkey Bar on three occasions - twice anonymously, and once on invite. Here is my take on why Monkey Bar has been able to achieve unprecedented success in all three cities, and why I think more such drink and dine spaces are required. 

Concept - Claiming to be the country's first gastro-pub, Monkey Bar pleases both the foodie and the alcoholic. Gone are the days when places either serve great food or great cocktails. I love that one doesn't have to make that choice any more. Places like Monkey Bar offer the best of both - the vibe and essence of a pub, backed with great food. The menu is non-conformist and quirky, bringing together all the signature dishes you would see at a bar with a desi twist. The drink menu is exhaustive with signature cocktails. There's a fun element throughout the bar, seen in the decor, music, and they even have a foosball table. So clearly, Monkey Bar provides the best of both worlds, having the potential to be your friendly neighborhood bar where 'everybody knows your name'.


Decor - Thankfully there is no jungle decor in the home of this monkey. Both the inside and the outside sections are warm, vibrant, and inviting with grafitti, pop art, and quirky light fixtures which seem to have become a mandate at most bars. My favourite is the 'Bandra- Bandar' signboard - both funny and ironical. The music is predominantly 90s and 80s pop - you're going to love it if you are from that era. I sang along to Ace of Base, M.J. and The Backstreet Boys while a group of teeny boppers around me looked lost. Ha ha, how the tables have turned!



Food - What I love about the food menu is the desi connect that a lot of newer restaurants seem to be doing. Comfort food with flavors that are close to home. Here you'll find a taco made out of a phulka stuffed with Rajasthani Lal Maas, or Baingan Pakodas for the herbivorous. There's a playfulness in the menu evident in items like Kheema Bao - a cheeky, modern Kheema Pao or Aam Aadmi Eggs - namesake of the party leader, Eggs Kejriwal. 

Small Plate Recommendations - Laal Maas Phulkas, Crab Rangoon, Kheema Bao, Goan Chorizo Pao, Pao Bhaji Cheesy Grits, Dal Pakwaan. 

(Clockwise): Laal Maas Phulkas, Crab Rangoon, Kheema Bao, Goan Chorizo Pao, Pao Bhaji Cheesy Grits, Dal Pakwaan. 
Laal Maas Phulkas with the Copper Monkey

30 July 2015

Unboxing Happiness - My Top Five Picks From HappinessBoxed.com

Gone are the days when scouting for gifts meant going to your nearest Archies or Hallmark outlet. Gone are the days when reasons for gifting were limited to birthdays or anniversaries. The occasions have multiplied, and so has the need for customized gifts. Who doesn't love receiving a gift that is personalized? Something that belongs only to you, and depicts the amount of thought that has gone behind the gift.

During a recent quest for a personalized gift for a loved one, I stumbled upon a new gifting site - Happiness Boxed #ClickOpenSmile. The webstore is the brainchild of Vidhi Pansari, who at the age of 21 decided to stray away from the conventional career route and start her own gifting venture. With a lot of gifting vendors and brands under the label, she plans to make Happiness Boxed, a one-stop-shop for personalized gifting needs. The store currently has a host of dessert options such as cookies with messages on them, whoopee cushions, edible soil, custom cupcakes, and more. The gifting section has some fun stuff like custom Taboo cards, household items, and dreamcatchers, that are so hard to find! They also do personalized hampers and gifts depending on the occasion, which I think is perfect for the lazy shopper!

Having rummaged through the entire site, I shortlisted some really fun and interesting products that I would definitely want to gift someone. Or receive as a gift. Either way, here are my top five picks from the Happiness Boxed site.

www.happinessboxed.com

1. Minion Cake Pops by The CPC - Find them here
Even dessert has not been spared by the ongoing minion obsession, and I am not complaining one bit. These absolutely adorable minion cake pops will make you think twice before biting their heads off.  
Get It For- Someone who is one in a minion!
Budget Bites - Rs. 600/- for a set of 10.


2. Alcohol Bottle Sheeshas by 10 am - Find them here
Combining the best of both vices, the alcohol bottle sheeshas make for the perfect house warming present. And I personally have been looking for that Jack Daniels bottle sheesha since ages. 
Get It For - Your cool bestie, who wants to have his hookah and drink it too! 
Budget Bites - Rs. 2000/- Price may vary depending on customization needs.





3. Cookie Shot Glasses by The Mad Batter - Find them here
Have you always wanted to down a shot and then chomp down the shot glass too? No? Only me then? These super cool cookie shot glasses are perfect to drink your milk in, if you are a teetotaler. Or else, get adventurous and do Baileys shots in them!
Get It For - Your fussy kid who refuses to drink his daily dose of milk.
Budget Bites - Rs. 260/- for a set of four

24 July 2015

TinyOwl HomeMade - Making Lunch Time Easier

Lunch time at the new job was posing to be a difficult task. On some days I'd get a dabba from home, and those days were good. On the days I was dabba-less, I was forced to eat thela Chinese, greasy burgers, chaat, buttery sandwiches, from the stalls around me. Working in the midst of Temptation Land aka Bandra Linking road was proving to be detrimental to health. 

I was looking for some good quality home cooked lunch on the days I would not get my dabba as I was tired of eating fast food. Tying up with a dabba service was not feasible as most of them required me to sign up for a month or atleast a week. And then those who did one-day dabbas required a 24 hours notice. So you see, none of the logistics seem to be working out for me, until I stumbled upon the TinyOwl HomeMade App, which is available both for Android and IOS users.

I conveniently ignored the original TinyOwl app which focuses on home delivery options from restaurants based on your location, because I thought who needed another home delivery app? But the Home Made version of this TinyOwl has made meal times so much easier. Tiny Owl Home Made brings ghar ka khana from home chefs, cooks, and moms to your doorstep. Currently operating in areas like Bandra, BKC, Andheri E, Ghatkopar, Powai, I got to chose between a number of different home style meals, which are rotated on a daily basis. 

I have ordered from Tiny Owl Home Made anonymously, on three occasions in the past two weeks - once for dinner, and twice for lunch. I stumbled across the service on social media, and I've been hooked since then. I really loved certain points while ordering from TinyOwl, and I thought I'd share them with you guys.

- The first thing that draws you to the app is the clean, clutter-free user interface which made placing the order really fast and convenient. Also the food pictures used are extremely droolworthy and well styled.

- All three meals I ordered on all three occasions were delicious, and is exactly something you would eat at your home, or your friend's home. Another positive aspect for me were the portion sizes, which were enough to satiate two individuals with moderate appetites. Or one person with a heavy appetite.

Egg Curry + Parathas
Paneer Bhurjee + Parathas
Veg Jalfrezi  + Pulao + Parathas

15 July 2015

Branded Bawi Reviews: Desi Deli, Bandra

On most menus in the city, you'll find The Hot Dog overshadowed by his older brothers - The Burger and The Sandwich. Very few restaurants or delis do a good hot dog, given that they do one. And gourmet hot dogs that go beyond and above a ketchup and relish topping are even more hard to find. Which is why Desi Deli - Bandra's newest all day diner- made me very happy. They not only do a variety of hot dogs, they do hot dogs with interesting ingredients that you'd rarely find sitting atop a hot dog. 

The Desi Deli is the latest entrant to join the Bandra bandwagon of matchbox sized eateries, that are owned and run by food enthusiasts who gave up their day jobs for a far more interesting career in food. But what Desi Deli lacks for in size, it makes up for in spunk. The menu is offbeat without trying too hard, the food hits the right notes in most places, and the owner Lolita Sarkar is the nicest, warmest host you'll have. Having recieved positive feedback for her hot dogs at local flea markets, and pop ups she decided to take the plunge with her own eatery. 

Here you'll find floral centerpieces, black and white chevron tiles, and a menu on a clipboard - little touches that I loved. On the menu you'll find burgers, tamales, mains, dessert, in addition to those hot dogs I was talking about. Go beyond their signature ones- vegetarian Amar, chicken Akbar, and a pork Anthony - towards the 'Globetrotting Desis'.




I enjoyed my Texan Desi (Rs.325/-) where a piquant pork sausage sat nestled in a fresh bun, topped with kheema, fried onions, and boiled egg. The hot dog had so many different layers, contrasting textures and flavours thanks to the different ingredients, it was a treat! I loved the addition of fried onion slivers or 'birista' giving it a desi twist. I really admire the fact that they have vegetarian options for each hot dog, because let's face it, the vegetarians tend to get left behind among this meat feast. With the Texan Desi being the priciest hot dog of the lot, this snack is definitely on the pricier side here. But I'd pay for innovation and top quality ingredients.

Texan Desi
The Lush Lamb Burg (Rs 325/-) was a delicious lamb patty served with cheddar, grilled apples, and a red mayo. The meat was strikingly well done and cooked perfectly, though I'd like a bit more spice in the burger. Jalapenos, maybe? Or a dipping sauce on the side? Bee on the other hand gobbled the burger up in 90 seconds flat, and had no complaints whatsoever. Those ingenious 'dublaa patlaa fries' served on the side reminded me of salli.

Lush Lamb Burger

11 July 2015

Presenting Asilo's Monsoon Sunday Brunch

Call me old but I prefer Sunday brunches to partying on a Saturday night. There's nothing like waking up late on a Sunday, well rested from the week's mayhem, and catching up with friends over a relaxed, leisurely brunch. There's no better feeling than eating breakfast foods for lunch, sipping on cocktails, without worrying about deadlines to get back home. No, this is not an essay about why I love Sunday brunches, though I could totally write one. This post is about why I loved the Sunday brunch at Asilo, and three reasons why you would too.

1. The View:
Situated on the 40th floor of the swanky Palladium Hotel, the gorgeous view is what sets apart Asilo from any other brunch destination in the city. During the first monsoon brunch, Asilo was completely transformed from the noir night look it sports, to a far more subtle, airy, cheery day look. Whites, fluid decor, flowers, and plenty of natural sunlight streaming through the large glass paneled windows will brighten up your Sunday afternoon. 
And that view! Imagine nursing your drink overlooking a panoramic view of South Mumbai with the pitter patter of rain outside. Or eating waffles and pancakes, with one eye on the ongoings at the race course, which you get a birds eye view of here. For the spectacular view, and ambiance I'd return to the Sunday Monsoon brunch at Asilo. And before I forget, there's a live saxophone player as well, playing the most delightfully enchanting music.

Waffles and a Whiskey Sour
Photo Courtesy @mumbaifoodlovers
Photo Courtesy @shivzi
(I clearly was enjoying myself too much, to take any pictures)

2 July 2015

Tales From an Iftaar Walk - Food. Festivities. Culture.

'Why are you going to put yourself through all that trouble and mess? Don't you know the stalls around Bohri Mohalla and Mohammed Ali road are open all year round too?', a friend exclaimed to me, as I told her I was planning to attend an Iftaar Walk hosted by the Pet Pujaris on a Sunday evening. Honestly, visiting the Bohri Mohalla area during Ramzan is about more than just food. It is an experience. The lights and sounds are captivating. You cannot help but get drawn into the festivities and camaraderie. It's such a beautiful amalgamation of people from different cultures, religions, and walks of life. Case in point, our little group of 29 'foodies' had a young man from Brazil, a US Embassy officer, a of Gujarati who ate more meat than I did, and a one year old infant who enthusiastically stayed awake through the entire chaos. 

And then there's the food. Smells of meat being grilled, malpuas being fried, and masalas being coated. Sights of colourful firnis and halwas on display, kebabs hanging off skewers, and ginormous tawas cooking up every meat imaginable. In addition to a lot of old favorites, I got to try out a bunch of new places and dishes which I would not have had the inclination to experiment with had it not been for the crowd I was with. Hats off to our guides for the night, brother duo - Taha and Qadir Varawala, and Breakfast Queen - Pratishtha Khan, who knew and recommended dishes with such ease you would think they were maneuvering around their own house. 

We started off at Sarvi in Byculla, renowned for having the city's best seekh kababs. Don't let the cat prowling around the kitchen, or the potatoes rolling around the floor, deter you from entering this haven. Because, haven it is! I attained nirvana when I opened that casserole, and found dozens of seekh kababs staring back at me. The beef (water buffalo, duh!) seekh kebabs are perfectly spiced, and the meat literally melts in your mouth. I was left wondering how the real deal would have tasted, pre-beef ban era. I preferred the beef ones to the chicken, even though a few thought otherwise. I ate a Tongue Masala for the first time, and quite enjoyed the taste. It was not as meat-y as I expected, and the masala gravy was finger licking. The creamy Bheja Masala was another favorite.


Beef Seekh Kababs

Paya (Goat Trotters)
Zabaan - Tongue Masala
Bheja - Brain Masala