17 April 2017

A Taste of Japan in Mumbai

I am a huge Japanese food aficionado. I crave sushi in the middle of a random day at work. I dream of beautiful bowls of ramen - each put together so intricately and painstakingly such that they resemble a piece of art. I swear I cried a little bit when I saw the Ivan Ramen episode of Chef's Table. And Wasabi bhujia is my current obsession in life. You'll get the drift. 

My interest towards Japanese food started after I begun reading Haruki Murakami novels where the author interweaves food so seamlessly into the narrative. My love affair with Japanese food started during my trip to Singapore last year where I ensured I tried the best South East Asian cuisine this foodie paradise has to offer. Lots of sushi, sashimi, ramen bowls, and rice bowls that the locals call Donburi or 'Don' were devoured. 

I'm always on the lookout for good (re: authentic) Japanese food in the city and there are very few places that serve the real deal. So when The Leela offered to host us for some Japanese food one evening, I cancelled all plans and made my way over to Andheri East. As a part of their recurrent Cherry Blossom Festival, the property is serving up a variety of Japanese delicacies all this month at Citrus - their global dining restaurant. Now while I couldn't make it for the Cherry Blossom flowering festival in Japan this year, the food festival at The Leela would have to suffice. 

7 April 2017

Brunch Diaries - Le Pain Quotidien

Brunch on Sunday > Clubbing on Saturday

If there is one mantra I strongly live by, it has got to be the one above. There is nothing like waking up late on a Sunday, fresh as a daisy without a heavy hungover head, and spending the rest of the day indulging in the best of food and drink. I dream of summery white dresses, mimosas and sangrias, a runny Eggs Benedict on a bed of ham, waffles that are crunchy from outside - airy within, and conversations that last the entire day. My long standing affair with Sunday brunches has been documented on this blog time and again. Last Sunday was no different - we visited Le Pain Quotidien at Bandra Kurla Complex for their Sunday brunch and sampled some of the new dishes on their specially curated summer menu.

The interiors of LPQ epitomise simplicity and class. Minimalist wooden furniture, interiors that are bright and beaming, with large glass panelled walls that allow plenty of sunlight to shine through during the day. Not to forget their large community tables, a concept which they pioneered in the city when LPQ started off years ago. 

On My Table - Spicy Mushroom Tartine, Mediterranean Platter
The 'farm to table' concept is resplendent in every dish that LPQ puts up. The ingredients are organic wherever possible, all produce is fresh and wholesome, and a meal here satiates you without the guilt. Le Pain Quotidien translates to 'Our Daily Bread' in French which is clearly reflected in their freshly baked in-house loaves and other bakery products.

4 April 2017

Travel the World with Tasty Treat's Firangi Bhujia

This is the era of fusion food where we're seeing western classics being incorporated with desi flavours. And we've also witnessed Indian dishes getting modified to imbibe tastes and techniques of the west. The more we travel, the more we're exposed to world cuisines and the more we enjoy this amalgamation of desi-videsi

Attempting to do just that is the brand Tasty Treats with their innovative Firangi Bhujia series of snacks. This comfort food which we've all grown up on, gets a makeover in four different avatars after travelling all over the world. The flavours include a Wasabi variant representing Japan, Schezwan representing China, Peri Peri representing Africa, and Barbeque representing America. 

Humble bhujia does a world tour
The Firangi Bhujia depicts the perfect example of global diversity; it's a dish that has traveled the world, infusing world flavours yet it remains true to the Indian roots. Comforting yet foreign at the same time. Priced at Rs. 45 this is a perfect snack for a number of occasions. 
  • With IPL just around the corner, pair it with a chilled fizzy drink on a summer day, sit back with your friends and watch the match. 
  • Serve it along with some masala chai for some tea time chit-chat with your gal pals. 
  • It's also versatile enough to be incorporated into simple dishes. Try a Peri Peri Bhujia Tamatar sabzi - a twist on the Kathiyawad Sev Tamatar sabzi. Or else whip up a quick raita with a bhujia flavour of your choice. They'll also go really well on top of canapes.

31 March 2017

My March Food Favourites

It felt like the month of March would never end. If an Ashutosh Gowariker movie was a month, it would be March. But all these never ending days, meant one thing. It meant a lot of food was eaten, some of which I blogged about previously. (Read about Pradeep Gomantak Bhojnalaya here. Also read about two new bar launches that happened last month here.) A few have made the cut and are featured on my March Food Favourites list. Read on!

 1. If you're looking for a South East Asian foodcation - Shizusan Shophouse and Bar, Lower Parel
When every third restaurant in the city doles out Pan Asian food, what do you do to stand out? You make your dishes the star, you let your food sing without any gimmicks - which is exactly what Shizusan Shophouse and Bar does. The entire three storeyed space is modelled on the concept of a South East Asian shophouse - a traditional business cum residential building. The decor has intricate Asian elements without being garish, and made me fall in love with the space the minute I walked in.
The menu is extensive, pictorial and elaborates on the history and ingredients behind each dish. The average food aficionado can spend an hour reading the menu, educating themselves, which is exactly what I did! Fill yourself up on their dimsums, baos, and sushi selection - each one better than the next. Their Lobster Moneybags steamed dimsums had the perfect outer casing without being too rubbery or disintegrating too easily, with a lobster filling that was seasoned just right. The baos are pillowy soft that make you want to take them back to bed with you, stuffed with meats like Peking Duck and Pork Belly that represent South East Asian cuisine perfectly. With four dimsums to a basket and two baos to a plate, you only wish there was more.
Everything on their menu right from the tapas to mains to their desserts highlight dishes that are native to SEA culinary heritage, painstakingly put together by Chef Paul Kinny. Here you'll find the Chilli Crab from Singapore, the Malay-Thai Massaman Curry, a Korean Gochujang Buri Bop, Adobo Braised Pork Belly from the Phillipines, a Bread Pudding made from the famous Singaporean Kaya Jam, the Hong Kong Egg Custard Tart...we could go on! They also do a Milo Milkshake, which I drank copious amounts of during my time in Singapore. Go on a little foodcation with Shizusan, and explore the cusine of South East Asia. Highly recommended!
Shizusan Shophouse and Bar, Skyzone, Ground Floor, Near Lifestyle Gate, High Street Phoenix Mall, Lower Parel, Mumbai

26 March 2017

Take a Trip to Drunky Town With These New Bars

With restaurants and bars sprouting all around the city like moss during monsoons how does one determine which bar is worth your time, money and most importantly worth those calories. Yours truly recommends trying out these two watering holes among all the new entrants the city has seen this month. Read on, and then drink on! *hic*

1. Swey, Worli
Perched on the top floor of the now defunct Atria mall in Worli lies Swey - a sprawling casual dining bar where you can nibble on appetizers under the open sky and drink cocktails with the sea breeze in your hair. What I loved about Swey the minute I walked in was the sheer magnitude of the space - large and spaced out unlike most bars in the city where you're bumping elbows with the drunk on the next table.
Their signature cocktails come strongly recommended. My pick of the night was the Kale and Hearty - a vodka, spinach, cucumber, kale and ginger mix - that definitely tastes better than it sounds. Why have your greens when you can drink them mixed with alcohol? Another favourite was the highly potent Tequila Surprise - a tequila, kiwi, jalapeno concoction. What I loved about the cocktails here was that they were generous with the alcohol quotient which is a rarity nowadays.

(Left to Right): Rechado Fish Tikka, Cajun Chicken Pizza, Bottle Masala Chicken

13 March 2017

Why We Need to Preserve Restaurants Like Pradeep Gomantak in Fort

There is an unwritten rule every time I dine at South Mumbai's Fort and Colaba areas: I ensure that I dine at a regional restaurant which serves up some local food, or a restaurant that has endured the test of time and is a golden oldie! Enough time, money and calories are spent dining at trendy restaurants and hipster bars, owing to their abundance in the suburbs - Lower Parel and beyond. Which is why my train rides to Churchgate are spent reading up on vintage eateries I haven't been to yet. 

While rambling around in the by-lanes of Fort, I followed my stomach and my heart in the direction of Ideal Corner for some Parsi 'bhonu'. Located right opposite Ideal Corner, is a tiny eatery that you'll miss if you blink, and that finishes as soon as you enter. Pradeep Gomantak Bhojnalaya is your no-frills, average Gomantak joint that serves up home style food tracing back to the Goan Hindus. The food here is simple, hearty fare with a menu that focuses on doling out fish thalis to hungry office goers during lunch hours. This place is a dream for the pescatarian, but also does chicken and mutton thalis if you don't enjoy fish. Vegetarians, stay away!

As I finished my decently average meal at Pradeep Gomantak, I could only think of why we needed more places like these in the city. And why we need to preserve the few that we have remaining.

10 March 2017

Su Casa es Mi Casa

Two frisky Rottweiler puppies came bounding up towards me, tails wagging, tongues flying and lay down at my feet. I knew this meal was going to be spectacular even before it began. We were dining at Su Casa - Bandra's newest European restaurant - one evening. The large al fresco seating with greenery all around makes for the perfect romantic setting, if you can ignore the random mosquito that is. The indoor dining room is just as classy and dimly lit which will explain the poor quality of food pictures you'll are about to endure.

Situated in the new, amoeba-like Bombay Art Society building the decor and menu does justice to the classy location. The food menu is predominantly European with a lot of the ingredients fresh and flown in. The menu focuses on clean eating, food that is rustic and holistic with the menu spanning small plates, mains and indulgent desserts. 

We started our meal off enveloped in greenery, nestled under the open sky with some small plates and cocktails for company. The Beef Tostada (Rs. 385/-) was a crisp tortilla base topped with perfectly done meat, coriander, sour cream, jalapenos and bell peppers. The crunch from the tortilla perfectly contrasted the softer elements seated on top, the sour cream providing a sense of relief from the heat of the jalapenos and peppers. Never thought a vegetarian appetizer would be my pick of the night, but the Patatas Bravas (Rs. 350/-) won because of how beautifully the potatoes were treated. The confit potatoes served with a garlic aioli proved that simplicity is might!

(Clockwise):  Beef Tostadas, Fish Tempura Bao, Patatas Bravas

27 February 2017

My February Food Favourites

It's that time of the month again. It's time for my February food favourites, where I list down the restaurants I ate at, and the dishes I tried that were memorable enough to make the cut this month. Now February may have only 28 days, but that did not deter me from eating my way across the city to bring you my February food favourites.

1. If you want to bring the boys to the yard - Keventers, Carter Road
The notifications on my phone went berserk after I Instagramed my Keventers milkshake bottle on their launch night at Carter Road. I was returning back from my evening walk and decided to undo the past hour's hard work with a thick shake from here. With barely any buzz or fanfare, Delhi's favourite family milkshake store launched their first Mumbai outlet. The menu spans fruit-based shakes, indulgent thick shakes and a few warm beverages. The shakes are all served in their trademark milk bottles, which you can take home, which excited me as much as the milkshake did. The Mumbai-inspired Keventers bottles have the Gateway of India, Bandra Worli Sea Sink, the Taj Mahal hotel and other landmark structures embossed on the exterior. 
The shakes are delicious, refreshing and homely. I tried the Strawberry Fields - a beautiful strawberry and chocolate fusion.  Not saccharine sweetness or extra thickness; very unlike the sort of shakes one finds at joints nowadays. Was the shake good? Yes! Was it worth all the excitement that people around me seemed to be exuding? Not sure. But then again I am not a Delhi kid, and I truly understand the value of childhood nostalgia. Keventers is a classic, and for all the right reasons.
Keventers, Shop 9, Building B, Gagangiri Premises Co-Operative Society Ltd., Carter Road, Bandra West

9 February 2017

To Malaysia and Back at Glasshouse, Hyatt Regency

As we settled down for dinner at Glasshouse, I couldn't help but admire the glass paneled walls on either sides of the large room -  from where the all day restaurant at the Hyatt Regency gets its name. I was here to sample some Malaysian fare as a part of their ongoing Malaysian food festival, and also to get an understanding of their cuisine better from Chef Taripin who is down in the city to showcase some of his culinary magic. I'll repeat myself here - food has the ability to make you travel to far off destinations without leaving your seat. And I was really looking forward to the culinary journey to Malaysia, I was about to embark upon that night.

Over a generous serving of fish crackers and prawn crackers, that Chef had flown in specially, we got around to talking. 'Malaysian cuisine has strong Indian and Chinese influences along with traditional Malay influences, of course. Owing to the multicultural population of Malaysia, food is constantly getting adapted and hybridized', Chef explained. These influences were highly evident throughout the meal with the dishes carrying flavour profiles that we Indians are used to.  

The Roti Canai is a typical Malay flat bread that had contrasting flaky and soft textures akin to a Malabari Parotha. We paired this with a Dalcha - their version of the Indian dal with South East Asian elements. The Murtabak we bit into was freakishly similar to the Mughlai Parathas of Kolkota, or the more local Baida Roti sans the egg. Makes you wonder who inspired whom in this case

Roti Canal with Dalcha

29 January 2017

My January Food Favourites

I've started the new year with a bang. I've incessantly stuffed my face with the most delicious food, explored some new haunts in the city, and rediscovered old favorites. Sometimes it becomes impossible to write individual blog posts on each of my dining experiences to due lack of time or lack of content, so I've decided to list down my favorites at the end of the month, every month. In completely random order, here are my January food favorites. 

1. Value for Money Meal Deal - The Sassy Spoon, Bandra

Now The Sassy Spoon may be known for their delicious food, but they're definitely not known to be pocket friendly. Their fabulous weekday lunch deals are about to change that notion. We had a lovely four course lunch there complete with soup/salad, appetizer, mains and dessert priced at Rs 745 ALL INCLUSIVE. (Yes, you read that right. This is not a hoax.) They did not skimp on the portion size as well, and by the end of the mains we were stuffed to the gills. Make sure you try the Coriander and Rava Crusted Bombil, the Confit Garlic Fettuccine, and the moist Carrot cake - all on the set menu! They also do a similar three course meal deal for Rs 545 and that may be worth considering if you're a light eater.

2. A Meal with a View - Boardwalk by Flamboyante, Mandwa Jetty, Alibaug

An hour long ferry ride from the Gateway of India brings you to the picturesque Mandwa Jetty. It is right here that Boardwalk by Flamboyante is housed - a stunning, sea facing restaurant that screams serenity and luxury, drizzled with a little bit of romance. The outside section is housed right on the pier, and you can look ahead at the Arabian Sea lashing while you guzzle down your third beer. The white and blue Greco-Roman inspired space is perfect for a sundowner, and the music amps up as the evening progresses. They serve some delicious grub as well - thin pizzas, smokey kebabs, and sizzling sizzlers. (Sorry. Not sorry.) Highly recommended for your next Sunday brunch, or a leisure lunch date.

21 January 2017

Consider Karnala Bird Sanctuary For Your Next One Day Picnic

The sprawling Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Nature Park in Panvel is home to over 222 species of birds. If you are a nature lover – this place is paradise! It’s a different feeling altogether watching the birds in their natural habitats calling out to each other, amidst a variety of trees and shrubs that we city dwellers rarely see. Karnala Bird Sanctuary makes for a pleasant retreat, and is a wonderful spot for a one day picnic close to the city.

Karnala Fort and Sanctuary is located off the Mumbai-Pune national highway, 12 kms from Panvel. Turn on Google Navigation and you shall have no problem if you are driving down. It's a 90-120 minute drive one way, depending on the traffic. Otherwise, take a bus or an auto from Panvel station, though this may add to your travel time.


11 January 2017

Bombay Bygone: Touring CST Station

I am one of those people for whom 'Bombay' will always remain 'Bombay' - an emotion more than a city. The marvelous structure now known as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, was introduced to me as Victoria Terminus back then. A structure I drove past on many occasions as a child, looking out of the window in awe and admiration at the giant structure. A sea of people gushing in and out of this intricate building is what my earliest memories of CST station hold - and nothing has changed over these years.

CST station is a historic structure constructed in 1888, and has been christened as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. But not a lot of people know that the 128 year old station houses a railway museum and also conducts heritage tours for those who'd like to get up close and personal with this beautiful structure. I enrolled for the CST Station Heritage Museum Tour one weekday afternoon, and I felt like a tourist in my own city.

Star Chamber