HEALTHY GOURMET SURPRISES

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A request! Please read what follows very carefully. Not only  will your gourmet tastebuds be satisfied but you will also glean amazing health tips that are not only useful but also usable.

I write from the heart-stoppingly beautiful heart shaped island country of Tasmania and am delighting in it’s healthy gourmet qualities. Ofcourse we all know about that it is Australia’s smallest state, has the most astonishing and diverse natural beauty, is a haven for wildlife, but I had no clue that Tasmania produced one of the highest quality of saffron in the world or that Sheeps milk cheese is infinitely more healthy than cows milk cheese. I taste my way through the picturesque landscape and here’s what I find…

SUPERSAFFRON

I always thought that saffron (the most expensive spice valued for it’s intense unique color, flavor and medicinal properties) was cultivated in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and ofcourse in Jammu & Kashmir. Imagine my surprise when I find it here too. That is, the crocus flower from whose  dried “stigma” saffron is produced grows here too. And behind it   are the most gentle but enterprising couple Terry  and Nick Noonan. They not only lay out a tray of yummies (scones, cheese) infused with their fine saffron but also explain how their “saffron tea” can heal macular degeneration, is rich in antioxidants  has antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive benefits too. Its a delight to see the saffron fields, to taste it…and to take home “saffron tea” for a friend with eye problems and the organic saffron for cooking up my “biryani” and “kheer”

KYA CHEESE HAI

Can cheese really be good for cholesterol watchers? Or be okay for those with lactose intolerance? “Yes! sheeps milk cheese is”, the young and brilliant Nicole Gilliver at Grandewe Cheese farms informs me.Sure!  Sheeps’ milk contains Vitamins A, B, D & E which are all essential to good health but did you know that Sheeps’ milk can contain up to three times more protein than cows’ or goats’ milk? Or that the calcium levels in sheeps’ milk are double that found in cows’ milk? But what blows my mind is that  those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy sheeps milk and it’s cheese because  there is  scientific evidence that proves the lactose in sheeps’ milk is far more tolerated than that from other milks. Since I do tend to be lactose intolerant I happily tuck into

Nicole Gilliver’s amazing variety of cheese. The well-informed Kim Dudson of Bespoke Tasmania takes me through even more of the healthy gourmet surprises here. I love the lightness and freshness of the Spring cheese. The richness of the vine wrapped one which she has created here. And the cheese is brilliantly paired with “pino paste” the sweet tangy paste from skins of pinto noir grapes. And we top off our fabulous cheese tasting with the amazing   Whey liquor and creamy rich

Sheeps milk icecream. All of this produced in Nicole’s family run. Grandewe 80 acre farm.

 

GINSENG REIGNS

Yet another surprise was walking into the Ginseng farm, especially since I thought that this was a root grown only in Asia. Well established as a, stimulant, and even useful in type II diabetes treatment, or cure for sexual dysfunction in men.Ive had Ginseng in energy drinksherbal teas and thrilled to find it in so many different forms here in Tassy. Grown here by the enterprising German couple Ziggy and Angelika Pyka of 41 degrees, along with their amazing bio-friendly salmon farm. I not only thrill in the walk but also enjoy the robust flavors of the salmon lunch.

 

PORT SMOKED

Okay! So Im well acquainted with the flavors, textures and health benefits of Smoked salmon, but imagine my surprise when I come across port barrel smoked salmon, rich in smokey, woody flavors? Doing this is the colorful Roger Scales  of Woodbridge who gets these barrels from France and it takes  6 days to complete the process. And the difference shows. In the Superb smoked Ocean trout too.

 

AN APPLE A DAY

Justifiably known as the “apple isle” Tasmania not only has over 800 variety of apples, but also it’s own apple museum and research centers. Im thrilled to visit these and also the 130 year old,  fourth generation Willy Smith and sons  organic aple farm and get a taste of their refreshing apple cider.  Bursting with goodness and health,, these crunchy apples delight .”An apple a day, surely  keeps the doctor away”

P.S. The final healthy fact that blows me away is that this heart shaped island has the worlds (Yes!) purest air and this is continouosly  scientifically monitored in Cape Grim.

THE DEVIL IN PARADISE

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FOR THE BOX.

I write from this heart shaped island, Tasmania and  photograph two of my favorites here…the furry devil (only found here) and apples ( Mindblowing variety and tastes in this “apple isle”, apple museum too). I’m in the stunningly beautiful ( sunny but  freezing Cradle Mountain)  here I pet this Tasmanian Devil, am crunching on apples, feasting on the local, fresh food in restaurants and getting more and more surprised and seduced by this amazing gourmet island. From  nibbling on the most amazingly delicious  sheep’s cheese (double the amount of calcium, suitable for the lactose intolerant) to tasting the intense and delightful Tasmanian saffron (yes! not only is it grown here but is also of the highest quality). It is constantly scientifically monitored… that Tasmania has the most pristine air in the world ( yes!). Any wonder that here down under, I’m feeling on top of the world?

Review: TIJUANA IGUANA GRILL AND LOUNGE

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Whoa! Mumbai’s restaurant jungle is getting more populated…Blue Frog, White Owl, Lazy dog, Barking deer and now Tijuana Iguana. Coincidentally, I’m writing this from Australia, home to the most amazing wildlife (which I love). At the dinner, before I left Mumbai my wild-life conservationist guest Sam Mistry explained the interesting background about Iguana, the lizard from Central America and Mexico. Not only is he a trustee of the Corbett foundation but even honeymooned with his Doctor wife Rati in Kenya. A brilliant and dedicated doctor she also makes time for regular visits to wildlife parks. Both love animals (Sam prefers them to humans) and yes! they were happy to be in Tijuana Iguana.

 

DÉCOR

As soon as you walk in, through the greenlight haze, the Iguana eyes stare from the large looming poster. Three smallish rooms (on different levels) make up this new Fort restaurant, set up by American businessman Jai Lalwani, who runs  hotels and similar ‘Ameri-Mex’ concept bars in the US. We stopped at the bar for a drink  and moved up the steps to the tiny space with sofas for dinner.

FOOD & DRINK

A deliciously tangy Margarita, followed with well-made chicken wings

Standard Tex Mex  fare heaped over with beans and cheese, be it Quessadillas or Enchiladas, Burritos. Plenty of Burgers ( try black and blue burger with blue cheese) sandwiches (Philly cheese steak). Many a choice for veggies too (including the wittily named “Patel pasta” “Peruvian paella”). Health club section ( grilled salmon and chicken too) The Simply Sinful Snickers Pie with icecream and an Oreo cookie crust, topped with caramel and fudge was a must try. Plenty of cocktails, (go for vodka melon cranberry based “The Good life” ) Shots at the well stocked bar.

MINUS POINTS

My biggest disappointment was the guacamole, as it lacked  texture and flavor. A lot of the dishes were just a heap of cheese and beans and lackluster. The Brownie bottom pie was thick and hard. It can get very noisy here.

MY POINT

This open all day, new Fort entrant promises to go from a restaurant into a Happy Hour zone, back to a diner and then into a nightclub, all in one evening. We have yet to watch their bartenders Salsa Meringue,  and throw Fire and Toss bottles, but sure enjoyed meeting them much more than we did the Ameri-Mex fare here which still needs to hit it’s stride.

 

Bombay Mutual Annexe, Rustom Sidhwa Marg,Gunbow Street, Opposite Residency Hotel Fort

22695756

Open 12 noon till 01:30am

RATING FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

 

 

Review: NUTCRACKER

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Multi-cuisine

I raise a toast with the unique “breakfast in a bottle” along with my guests (please see photo). We re in the week old café “Nutcracker” and we’re celebrating the legendary 86 year young Padmashree Dr RP Soonawala’s forthcoming prestigious Dhanvantari  award (conferred on the likes of Dr Christian Bernard) . Internationally and nationally recognised for his medical inventions and pioneering Family Planing work, the lovable doc has delivered the nation including Juhi Chawla and Jay Mehta’s daugher. The dapper gourmet Jay and RP share over a decade of friendship, passion for cars, food, chocolates and perfection. Though busy with his national and interntional businesses (including restauranting) Jay takes time off to dine at the worlds finest Michelin starred restaurants and the small homestyle ones (like he does today).  He is a pure vegetarian.  “Nutcracker” serves pure vegetarian food too.

 

 

DÉCOR

It’s seriously small. Sits cheek by jowl with Ayub’s Kababwalla in the Kala Ghoda area. Charming in a rustic unfinished way, (three yellow stools suspended on the wall, cardboard framed mirrors et al ) oldworld art deco tiled flooring.

FOOD

Homestyle vegetarian: all day breakfast (go for the Parsi eggs with salli, yum Parsi Akuri, the cracked wheat and barley upma) Burgers & sandwiches ( chunky black bean with garlic mayo has a satisfying bite, home made barbecue sauce on the cheese one delights, classic grilled cheese sandwich deliciously oozes cheese). Healthy options too (Must try the delicious breakfast in a bottle… The Asian Salad.  )

Ask for the square wedge of “Seven Layer Cookie,” (chocolate, biscuit crumbs, almond flakes et al) and the dense yet light Belgian chocolate cake.

MINUS

No booking policy has us waiting. It was packed and the bare room amplified noise levels. No wine or beer in this café. Some of the dishes gloopy (sliders with egg and pesto) lacklustre (buttermilk  pancakes). No  Eggs Florentine or egg Parfait available today. Oversweet French toast.

 

MY POINT

This open through the day, pure vegetarian (eggs included) cafe redefines family-run and homestyle (even the sauces are home made). It follows in the footsteps of “Kala Ghoda café” Pantry” “Teapot café” but is even more homespun. I have a big, fat, soft spot for family run restaurant and this one has the chartered accountant turned restaurateur Anahita Bafna cooking, her sister serving and her investment banker husband helping out too. Together they have delivered Nutcracker. Sure! it is a new born and still needs to find it’s feet. But we (who better than world renowned obs-gynae Dr RP Soonawala) welcome this bonny new baby!

 

The Nutcracker, opposite One Forbes Building, VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Ph 22842430, Rs 1600 meal for two.

RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

Review: YUUKA

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Japanese

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It’s here. Yet another world class Japanese restaurant, by a US based Japanese chef. No! Yuuka by Ting Yen (from Boston) is not a me-too of Wasabi by Morimoto (of Philadelphia). If anything it sets out to define it’s own identity. It has been making waves ever since it opened a few months ago. Making constant headline news as the nation’s most trusted and high profile “trouble shooter”, is  my golden hearted  guest,  Chairman of a prestigious bank, Deepak Parekh and his brilliant educationist wife Smita. This discerning, well-traveled gourmet couple has not only been making several trips to Japan, love the food, but Deepak has also been participating  in and nurturing the growing Indo-Japanese economic relations.    Forever, fund-raising for good-causes, this jetsetting discerning foodie couple has been on the top of my favorites list for years. Joining that list  are the close friends of the Parekh’s, Ranjan and Jayshree Sanghi of India’s fourth generation automobile pioneering family. Both globetrotting gourmets. He  an outstanding sportsperson who’s played football, hockey and squash at competitive levels and she a former state level badminton champion,  is not only a Kathak dancer  but also a creative cook. Their  dinners at home are legendary. They enjoy the experience here.

DÉCOR

A wooden staircase climb above the 37th floor of the Ruia’s Palladium hotel, this handsome, high ceilinged 50 seater restaurant has a contemporary sheen. Sushi bar, origami birds complete the pleasant unobtrusive décor.

FOOD

Drama and spectacle marks the food, as does a calculated balance of the expected and the unexpected dishes here. Plenty for vegetarians. Many a dish is like a sculpted work of art and architecture…like the Avocade tartare presented as a chilled cylinder, in a glass, break it and mix it with butter cream sauce and wasabi corn dashi and pure vegetarian bliss happens . The citrus ponzu marinated  strips of salmon slung  over a burning fire of coffee beans (with Jamaican rum) have a flavor and drama of their own. Its thirty different types of Maki that Ting specializes in, and the two I recommend are the lusciously rich tuna toro (Toro truffle osscietra caviar ) and the imaginatively named vegetarian Tiger tear (Avocado, habanero, cream cheese sriracha). More Veggie masterpieces  are the  Enoki mushroom soup, The Okonomiyaki (mushroom, zucchini pancake.) Ting has specially created dishes for the Indian palate  (naan bread taquitos, veggies enlivened with the tangy  Pico De Gallo.) Well made Black cod and  tempura too.

It’s the dramatic finale of breaking open the iced Coconut Sphere with it’s spun sugar veil pregnant with coffee mousse and yuzu sherbet that dazzles.

 

MINUS POINTS

The extremely dim lighting at night makes it impossible to appreciate the full drama of the dishes here. It’s lovely by day.  There are occasional failures of execution: the lackluster, overcooked chicken Katsu, the ho hum duck  with apple and prunes. Slow service (inspite of ordering ahead, the edamame is served at the end). Love the name

“Beijitarian” but the  vegetables on a crispy flat bread don’t add up to much at all. Ditto for  Ting’s Spicy Fried Rice. During my third meal, we found that the sashimi was not as fresh as at the earlier ones.

 MY POINT

Here comes Japanese food with a gastronomic swagger and richness with meticulously composed and gorgeously accessorized dishes. I fell in love with the experience gradually (ate here thrice, palate singing, wallet stinging Rs 8000 meal for two). Some dishes served on ice, some on  naked flames. Big flavors, art and architecture in the presentations ( few traditional, pristine dishes too, we could do with more). Chef Ting has created many for the Indian palate (veggies delight) without making it tip into Jindian (figure that one!). I’ve eaten Japanese food in all the gourmet capitals of the world and I’m delighted that Aamchi Mumbai is (slowly) getting there. Yuuka may mean “scented or superior flower” in Japanese but to me it stands for a whoop of joy like “Euryuuka”

P.S. Would love to know your views, please mail rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh

Yuuka, 37th floor, Palladium Hotel, Lower Parel,  Ph 61628422. Rs 8000 meal for two.

RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

NU ORLINS COOLINARY

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I am a convert. Like Brad Pitt who lives here in the French quarter of this lively, crescent shaped city on the River Mississippi.  It rocks to soul-stirring music, birthcity of jazz (even the airport is named Louis Armstrong). New York, London, San Francisco have great restaurants but New Orleans has a food culture. It’s own indigenous dishes…gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, muffuletta, etouffee, beignets, Bananas Foster and many more.  Ofcourse, it has great restaurants too and guiding me through them are high-profile, knowldgable New Orleanians. Ti Brennan ( generation-old Brennen family’s restaurants span the city), the city’s most eminent Cardiologist Siddharth Bhansali (also a gourmet cook and Indian art collector,)

Abhishek Bhansali, brand .

strategy consultant and co-owner of a restaurant chain, advise me on the greatest to the latest. As does  the lovely Gia Rabito from the museum of art. Our tried, tested and tasted favourites: The iconic Commander’s Palace (1880)  award winning Tory Mc Phael serves modern as well as traditional Creole masterpieces.  We eat Oysters ( chargilled ones) at Acme (1910) have powder sugar beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde (1862)  Po Boys at  the hole in the wall Mothers. Coffee Pot ( superb jambalaya and Callas rice cakes.) Superb cocktails  and Louissiana small plates at the Brennen’s stylish SoBou. Feast on jazz in Frenchman’s street and Bourbon street, dine at the historic Arnauds  (1918). Our finale dinner at the luxuriously appointed “Grill Room”of the gracious and elegant Windsor court begins at the cellar with John Mitchel pairing the champagnes and wines, chef Daniel Causgrove conjures masterpieces that dazzle. Need more info? please email rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh

Review: 25 PARGANAS

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Bengali

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Confession time. I love everything  Bengali (food, mishti, Kolkatta. music, literature and ofcourse the people).So, I dash down (with a Bengali family ofcourse) to this fortnight old fine dine Bengali restaurant . Siddharth Chatterjee, sales and marketing whizkid buys his own fish (loves Rohu and Ilish) from the

4 Bungalows fish market. Along with his lovely wife Namrata he cooks for their son Arjun, (state  tennis champion) whose top favorite is Bekti.Yes! they love this restaurant.

DECOR

Walk under the looming pillarless dome of the Sahara Star into this chic black and white floored restaurant. Open kitchen, shelves with books, rabindrasangeet et al ( in house magician too).

FOOD

Mustard sparkles this great cuisine: whole mustard seeds in hot oil pop and turn nuttily sweet: when ground into a paste, they develop a pungency that is nose-tinglingly memorable. And, for me it is this deft use of mustard in Bengali fish and veg dishes that makes it my favourite. As does the use of  the traditional regional mix“panch phoran”. Freshest of river and seafish here: unerringly fried Bekti, steamed to perfection Bhapa chingri, shorshe Ilish, boneless Bekti jhol…distil the exquisite flavors of Bengal. My favorite fragrant lemon  Gondhuraj enlivens the chicken. The melt in the mouth succulent mutton Kosha Mangsho is another favorite. Chef Prasanjit Ghosh ensures that even the accompaniments of the puffy, crisp Radhaballobi and Luchi and the  Gobindobhog Chaal are superb.  Nolen gur icecream seduces with it’s creamy, caramelly flavour and texture .

MINUS POINTS

Sadly the portions are small and the prices high. Though well presented in a coconut shell, the dhaab chingri is too sweet and lacklustre. Mediocre banana flower Mochar ghanto. Ditto for the rossogulla and payesh. No aloo poshto on the menu.

MY POINT

The brand new, open-for-dinner only stylish, fine dine Bengali restaurant of Sahara Star serves up authentic and delicious fare. If it increases it’s portions and decreases it’s prices (Rs 6000 meal for two) it will have us going back for more.

25 Parganas Sahara Star Hotel, Western Express Highway, Santacruz East
39807162
Timings: 7 pm-1am (dinner only)

 FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DECOR 3.5

Open for dinner only

Meal for 2: Rs 6000