I am a devout follower of Lord Buddha and was hugely intrigued by the irreverent name of Peddar Road’s brand new “Buddha Belly” eatery. What on earth could Buddha’s belly possibly deliver? Nirvana. I hoped.
Mish mash décor with sayings of Hippocrates. Brillat savarin and GB Shaw, photos of skyscrapers plastered all over walls. begin to give a clue of what is to follow.Seriously small, it even squeezes in a low ceilinged mezzanine floor. Malini Patel and Rupal Himani (who love trying out new eateries) were lunching here. While one’s daughter Malaika cooks brilliantly, the others Husband Divyesh cooks exotic dishes .
No two ways about it: affordable pricing. Average of Rs 125 for 4 pieces of dimsum and an array of steamed, fried, baked, panfried dimsum. ( okayish Khaosuey the only main course) Well made and flaky baked dimsum filled with chicken came up tops, Fried chicken ball with a sticky.sweet filling was good, the surprises ? flavorsome vegetarian parmesan spinach dimsum, the mixed veggie crystal one. Superb mustard sauce and lemon grass sauces. Passable coconut mousse and nutella mousse.
Parking is impossibl.No Chinese tea served here. But tasteless sticky rice, clumpy Suimai. Lackluster Black bean chicken dimsun wrapped in cabbage and that Edamame truffle dimsum is a soggy, sans truffle pouch. Tough chicken and chive Gyoza.
No takeway boxes available. No alcohol.
An open all day, well-priced dimsum joint is definitely a great concept and for that alone Buddha Belly deserves kudos. However, it falters in execution, sometimes delivering thick skinned wrappers, at other times lackluster fillings. I am hoping these are teething troubles and our Buddha will outgrow them.
Ketty House, Near Vama, ,Pedder Road Ph 65651545
Open all day. Meal for 2: Rs 800
RATING FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3
A TASTE OF THE DIVINE
Surprise of surprises. Here, in this spiritual retreat of a heaven- on- earth, I am being exposed not only to life-changing philosophies but also blowingly new perspectives on food.
Here I am in Isha Ashram. It sprawls below the majestic Velliangiri mountains, Coimbatore. The crisp, cool air of the 200 acre ashram is fragrant with flowering trees and plants. Champa and jasmine weave their heady magic. God paints his canvas with a riot of vivid colored flowers and fruits.
And in this paradise too, the fruit trees are heavy with smooth-cheeked papayas, fresh green lemons, glossy mangoes, plump custard apples and more. Each fruit bursting with goodness and flavor and color. Aptly enough, it is here that my perspectives on food get overhauled.
FOOD AND SELFLESS LOVE
Sure! Its through three decades of food writing, that I have learnt that there are some universal truths…gifted chefs skilled and experienced in the art and science of cooking produce great food. Tried and tested recipes are paramount. But I had no idea that selfless love can result in such tasty fare. Selfless love alone which drives total novices and amateurs. Here in this ashram Annadhanam ( An offering of food) is served to almost 2000 persons daily. It is totally free and is for the ashrams residents, volunteers & guests. Sattvic, positive pranic and 100% vegetarian food (a variety of salads, cereals, vegetables, fruits and porridge) is cooked here. Here’s the riveting part,
all the food here is cooked by volunteers.
Even more interestingly, these residents and volunteers in the center are from US, UK, Europe, Lebanon, of course Indian, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and many more countries. I trip out on the delicious flavors and textures of many a cuisine here and the salads surprise with their cheeky ingenuity of combinations and then they seduce. I eat them in the cool winter-sunshine, and request the two volunteers Sriram Kumar and Bharathi.V. (who have made the salads) to pose with them.Please see the photograph. They’re both full time volunteers at Isha Yoga Center and both have lovingly cubed and chopped and mixed and matched fruits and vegetables, nuts, coconut and more and produced an astonishing symphony of tastes and textures. They generously share their salad recipes with us…
TANGY, CRUNCHY SALAD
Cucumber – Pineapple Salad:
– 1 cup cubed cucumber
– 1/2 cup cubed pineapple
– 1/4 cup pomogranate
– Little finely chopped Corriander
– Salt and pepper to taste
SWEET BLISS SALAD
Carrot Chikki Salad:
– 1cup grated carrot
– 3/4 cup apple ( Julian cut)
– 2 table spoon Grated coconut ( add more if needed)
– Pomogranate for colour
– 2 table spoon of broken groundnut chikki
– 1 tablespoon honey
– cut pieces of cashew nut, Raisins
– 1 teaspoon roasted white sesame seeds
RED RICE SALAD
– 1/2 cup cut Orange pieces
– 1/2 cup cut Apple
– 1 cup torn Spinach
– 1/2 cup semi boiled red rice
– 1 cup cut cucumber
Dressing: make a paste of the below mentioned ingridients in a blender
– 1/4 cup orange juice
– 1/2 cup peeled apple
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon honey
– Salt and Pepper to taste.
MICHELIN-STARRED CHEF GORDON RAMSAY IN THIS ASHRAM
When the celebrated , revered and feared London based chef Gordon Ramsay’s team approached me to be his South India guide for his Channel 4 TV show “Great Escapes” I insisted he go to Isha ashram, Coimbatore and pick up not just spiritual principles but also great vegetarian cooking tips and recipes. Having done that, the committed carnivore that he is , Gordon came back to Mumbai totally impressed and converted.
He couldn’t believe how tasty the vegetarian fare was in the ashram and ofcourse he was bowled over by the erudite and enlightened, (fluent in English) Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.Here its not about vitamins, minerals or proteins. Here, food is categorized as positive pranic food ( increases vitality in the body), negative pranic food,(drains energy) and zero pranic food. While Negative pranic food comprises of Garlic,Onion,Asafoetida,Brinjal,Chili and
Coffee / tea.everything else is positive or zero pranic.
Interestingly, lime and all citrus fruits, as well as coconut are highly prized positive pranic foods.
Needless to add all the salad recipes given above are positively pranic. What is it that the hardened carnivore, globally acknowledged Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay got bowled over by? It’s the high-voltage combination of positive pranic energy and spectacular taste that is unbeatable. And addictive!
I’m so excited. New, spicy, foodie finds. Now, I know what Columbus mustve felt like. Except that he, the compulsive explorer did not have the benefit of Twitter. Like I do. Heres how I went on my voyage of discovery: I tweetrequested for recommendations of “cheap and cheerful eateries”. Fabulous response (wish I could thank each one here). Shortlisted a few in the Mahim-Dadar area. Invited three twitter buddies. @CulinaryMuse1 turned out to be the lovely Sunayan Shahani in pearls, foodblogger communicatns consultant and student. Knowledgable Parag Chaphekar marketing professional chucked up his succesful consultancy and is an aspiring restaurantowner. Rushing straight to the golf course (my mecca too) was foodie extraordinaire and ace golfer, Krishna Kilachand, he wanted to serve up the gourmet burger to Mumbai so set up “Burg”. We went on a whirlwind tasting tour of cheap and cheerful joints. We call it our #tweefoodeecrawl. Many more are planned. Be my guest…Twitter handle @rashmiudaysingh mail email@example.com.
Simple and simply superb, also cluttered, no frills and functional eatery from Kerala. Hot and uncomfy (inspite of the brown fans whirring overhead) we still walloped the lustily spiced Beef fry and beef biryani (beef is called sukha mutton on the menu) Equally delicious was the Mutton masala fry. While the veg stew and appams, soybean masala and the Kappa (tapioca) biryani were okayish the thin flavorsome fish curry rice was amazing. And Abraham the waiter (please see photo) charmed us. Idli dosa served at breakfast. Thalis too. After our restaurant round, I went back at 4pm to taste the banana fritters (these are served only at tea. Thanks @ebubblewrapped for this tip off) plump soft and crisp with golden batter. Steamed sweet panpoli too. Veggies stay away.
Shiv Sagar Society, Opp Paradise Cinema, Mahim (W) (2445 6330). Meal for two Rs 250
Daily 6-11pm. No alcohol. No credit cards.
RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 1
SAIBINI GOMANTAK (Gomantak)
Avoidable even though airconditioned, etched glass paintings et al in this small Gomantak eatery. We pecked at lackluster Mori Masala, tisrya and more picked out of a menu with chicken moghlai, paneer tikka and what not. Oh yes the wade were crisp and good.
Katrada Mansion, Gokhale Road, Dadar WestTel: 24328065, 24385429
Open lunch and dinner. Meal for two Rs 400, credit cards accepted.
RATING FOOD 2 SERVICE 3 DÉCOR 3
Packed and getting more packed. We stood in the snaking line outside the simple blue table and bench hallowed home of Maharashtrian food. Till a friendly bloke gave me a tip off, “ in hurry ? order parcel”. We did just that and in the car bit into the iconic piping hot sabudana vada crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Theres poha, thalipith, batata vada and more. Somewhat greasy but great.
Shiv Sena Bhavan, Next to Kithe Hall, Gokhale Road, Dadar West, Tel: 24304921
Open 7.30 am to 9.30 pm. No credit cards. Meal for two Rs 150
RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3 DÉCOR 2
Amazing home made jackfruit icecream, flavorsome peru sherbet, robustly spiced chicken shagoti, shimply masala, oyster masala, greasy but good bombils in this tiny two and a half table malwani eatery. Owner chef, Surekha Walke and daughter Saili bustle around and point out that their Dadar eatery (4, Shivaji Park House, L.J. Road) is moving to Prabhadevi. Am adding their new address. Please call and check.
Prabhadevi near sahkari bazaar of agar bazaar. Chinch bhat chawl 24372242.
11 to 3pm 7 to 11pm Av meal for 2 Rs 500
RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 2.5
On the same street is the tiny biryani and kakori joint whose takeaway has been my favorite. I first feasted on Ishtiyaque Qureshis (the son of the legendary Mohammed Imtiaz Qureshi of Dum Pukht and Bukhara fame), entire repertoire at Karishma Kapoor’s wedding lunch . Softest Kakori kabab. melt in the mouth galoti , Nihari Gosht and biryani are the stars here. Veg Sabz galawati kabab moist and dense with flavor recommended too.
L J Road, opp Paradise cinema, Mahim ph 65229211 open 11am to midnight.
Takeaway call 9320090269/
FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DECOR 2.5
P.S. Further down from Prakash is DATTATRYA (slow indifferent service in this Maharashtrian eatery serving a mish mash of South Indian, Punjabi, Chinese. Humdrum thali (Rs 75) val and kothimbir vadi good.
Nearer the Mahim church , is the bustling, messy and popular PARAMOUNT ( Id shared a table with taxi drivers earlier) Flavorsome mutton rashida and greasy Butter chicken and kheema are above average . Open from 6am to midnight.
It’s a record. Two “first time evers” took place while reviewing Palladium hotel’s much awaited “Mekong” which opened some months ago. I ate the first-meal on the first-day they opened (something I never do). But did so, because two globally acknowledged superstar chefs were in town. Id eaten in Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatias London restaurant and tripped out on his reinterpreted traditional Indian classics. Not only been blown by Bangkok based Gaggan Anand’s masterly use of molecular gastronomy in his progressive Indian cuisine but recently also cheered him for making it to the AsiasTop 50 restaurants in Singapore. It was at this lunch that Gaggan Anand met his hero Vineet Bhatia for the first time. Vineet jetsets between his restaurants in ten cities, writes books and does TV shows.
” Yaar, Vineet is a pioneer. He has inspired me” gushes Gaggan as the stud in his ear glints as he leans forward to hug the senior chef. The wine authority and witty Sanjay Menon joins us but prefers to be incognito. The afternoon sparkles with their joie de vivre. Unfortunately this joy does not extend to the food as well.
Could it be teething troubles? So I ate four more times (paid through my nose). Except for a minor tweaking, my review remains the same.
Feast on the spectacularly dramatic 37th floor view (let in by the magnificent glass windows) of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse and the sea. Happily, the theatricality here doesn’t go over the top. In this sprawling restaurant, large lamps, wine walls and Oriental artifacts seem as authentic as they are flashy. The lighting is subtle yet bright.
Like the name (Mekong, named after the river) the good-looking menu meanders through Vietnam, China and Thailand but it meanders too much and so confuses and makes decision
making difficult. At each meal, the starters score over the mains. Tangy, sweet salads (Pomelo, Raw Papaya), a variety of plump dim sum (great at one meal and not so at another) and deep-fried Vietnamese rolls. Traditional Thai soups, Tom Kha Gai and homestyle Tom Yum delight. Plenty of choice for veggies, robustly spiced Ma La-style Chicken, vegetables, prawns in XO Sauce are the plus points.
Mekong’s kitchen has ample skill. It just doesn’t have nearly enough discipline. In many entrees, the meat or fish is so modestly portioned, overcooked or just plain dull that no measure or mingling of seasonings save it. Mekong’s Steamed Fish is overcooked, the calibration of some dips, sauces and soups not quite right. Noodles with Seafood and Lamb in Yellow Bean are ordinary. As are the desserts. Vietnamese Pho Bo is conspicuous by its absence (though there is a Vietnamese noodle soup) Spring Rolls lack the refreshing crunch of vegetables. Music from the neighboring bar is loud and intrusive.
We go there expecting a lot. We go to celebrate the sweet heat of and perfumes and flavors of Thailand, Vietnam and China ’s cooking and come away with mixed feelings.
On my fourth (most recent meal,) there was marginal improvement in some of the dishes. Also some of the dish-prices had been tweaked downwards, others hiked upwards. A new dimsum chef was in place and new desserts were expected. Attentive service, well stocked bar.
Sure! Mekong is
located sky-high (literally) with prices to match, now if only the food would keep pace.
■ Palladium Hotel, 462, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Ph: 61628422
12.30pm to 3pm, 7.30pm to 11.30pm
Food-3.50 | Service-3.50 | Décor-4.00 | Meal for 2-`6000
EATOUT WITH ME
Im traveling all month, but waiting to be back in town and invite you to eat out with me all you amazingly well informed foodies who have been tweeting fabulous recommendations for #cheapandcheerful eateries. Wish I could thank each and everyone of you, but I cant (space constraint), so here are a few regular responders, the tummy tales @elsonsequeira @RassiBomb @joymanavath @ChandniT @kneadwithlove @DebySharma @pratishthakhan @AjitBalgi @ScrollsNink @doughmydear@akzey@ChantChameli. All of you, please do keep mailing your recommendations (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tweeting and instagramming them @rashmiudaysingh
GREAT FOOD NEWS
Our very own Indian restaurant, Amaya in London has made it to the Daily Mail’s Worlds Top 100 restaurant list. Congratulations Camellia and Namita Panjabi. and Ranjit Mathrani. You make India proud.
Surprises ahead! I confess, I am very surprised myself too. Here I am, a regular at the haute temples of gastronomy, a worshipper at the masterly great restaurants of the world. I preside over several global jurys for awarding great restaurants and having eaten my way through 34 food books would go to the ends of the world for sublime food that has the firm grasp of the art and science of cooking. And here I am actually admiring and going over the moon for food that is not even cooked, but is mostly raw (you read that right). And yet it seduces not only my tastebuds but also my eyes. And heres the bonus: it is bursting with energy and goodness and not only kickstarts my system into high energy but also calms my mind and makes me smile.
Welcome to paradise! Here sense-pampering is in erotic union with holistic health, here taste and flavor burst with nutrition and healing. It is from here that I’m mailing you this great news
Please take a look at the accompanying photograph that I just shot. Before I tell you more about it, all I can say is that if it had a video track you’d be able to hear the peacocks (they preen all over the 50 hectares of lush land) the chirping birds, the soft breeze. But what you can see is the ever-smiling chef Lucrecia Buking holding up the most delicious “Beet Canneloni“ and pecan dessert . The dapper Michael di Lonardo who helms The Farm in San Benito (its two hours away from Manila) smiles with Mishi ( his Lhasa Apso mix from Lonavala). Actually Michael being a brilliant chef himself (having worked with great chefs in Los Angeles and had the Hollywood stars eating out of his hands) also has plenty to do with the gourmet fare here. He is also driven by the conviction that “the farmer is the star’ and it’s the “quality of the soil and the organic produce that make great food”. Having worked three years in India (and loved it) Michael feels very strongly that “India should go against genetically modified food and Monsanto.”
And so here at this holistic healing and wellness mecca where mind, body and spirit get balanced, all the vegetables are organically grown within the Farm area. As are all the healing herbs. So much so that even the virgin coconut oil, the coconut water we drink is all from their own plantations. “From the farm to the table” is a delicious visible reality here. And creating amazing dishes is the chef and her team.
She was detected with third stage breast cancer three years ago and given six months to live. Today, Chef Lucrecia is not only fit and healthy but also weaving magic in the kitchen. She herself is living proof of the principles The Farm is rooted in, that all health stems from the gut and looking after and nurturing it with live foods will restore harmony and health.
Having learnt the fundamentals from the Living lights culinary arts school in San Francisco, she ensures that more than 85% of her food is raw (grains are soaked, seeds are sprouted, vegetables soaked in apple cider vinegar) and even the rest is very lightly cooked. “Raw food preserves the antioxidants and nutrients” she points out. no oil. No cooking, no sugar, no preservatives and yet bursting with taste and variety and color and flavor. Gastronomy redefined.
P.S. Theres plenty more to The Farm than this life giving cuisine, detoxing and recharging…I’m still here but already planning my next visit…saving up all my earnings (like I did for this time too)… it’s the best investment ever.
THE FARMS RECIPE
Try it. Its so simple, just chopping, slicing, soaking, mixing, processing and assembling. A visual and tasty and nutritional treat.
Red Beet Cannelloni
5 red Beet thinly sliced
For the “almond or pista cheese”
Tsp olive oil/ Cup almonds or pistachio nuts (soaked and peeled / Sea salt, Lemon, White pepper/ Tsp Nutritional Yeast (if unavailable then use miso paste / Tsp onion Powder
/ Tsp Tarragon leaves Chopped /½ Cup red Onion ( minced)/ ¼ Cup Chives (chopped)
For the “cashew sauce”
1 cup cashew nts/ 1 cup pine nuts/ 1 cup water/ 1 tsp hone/ ½ cup lemon juice/ 2 cloves garlic/ 1 tsp salt/ ½ tsp white pepper/ 2 tbsp fresh dill.
Put all these ingredients (except dill) in a blender until creamy. Add water if needed. You can use this sauce on any dish.
Slice and Marinate the red beet and set it aside. For the “cheese” put in a food Processer all the ingredients for the cheese. Keep “cheese” for a few hours before filling the beet slices with the “ almond cheese” and asparagus. Roll it up. Drizzle with cashew sauce. Enjoy
Presenting the latest edition of our “Whats hot Tasting session”. Please take a look at the accompanying photograph which I shot. You are looking at Chennai’s Foodie entrepreneurs, home-bakers many of who have recently entered the food scene. I flew down from Mumbai to Chennai for this “Whats hot Tasting session” and also for shooting the jury episodes of “Times Now’s Foodie” show. Sure! The TV shoot in a local and also high-end restaurant was interesting, but meeting this home-talent was even more engrossing.
All made in home kitchens…from baklava to masalas, from health bars to traditional Indian mithai. I will be writing about each one in detail later on, meanwhile, here’s a quick look…
MIND OVER BATTER
“Mind over batter” is the name of Aarti Rajkumar’s designer cake studio where her Belgian chocolate dream and Banofee pies are lovingly baked. Nahla Fathima, conducts H & H Gourmet classes and is known for the Red Velvet and chocolate hazelnut ecstasy she bakes. Gazeena Sulu’s “Sweet life from Sulu’s kitchen” makes “Patterned jaconde” and other desserts. Innovative and creative, Deepasri Kar ‘s cupcakes and mousses created with palm jaggery (the seasonal, winter gur) are a delight.
BAKLAVA, BADAM KE LOAZ TO HEALTH BARS
Looking for home-made Baklava? M Ayesha Ruhi is your answer. Azra Zafar specializes in traditional, home made mithai be it Ande ki Piyosi or Bread ka halwa and badam ke loaz. Balancing these with healthful, organic fare is Sadia Gibran, who specializes in Splendid health mixes, Oats and Prunes bar, low fat date and walnut cake and more.
Azeema Shahul makes
Wheat muffins, chocolate truffle balls and many a homemade dessert, cakes & chocolates, in a customized designed packing.
BANKERS TURNED FOOD ENTREPRENEURS
Interestingly, two ladies in our “Whats hot tasting session” were successful bankers who are now delighting the Foodie world. Anisa Arif (who Id actually met in her Stanchart days) is now creating a range of the most innovative and amazing masalas you can buy online, be it Sindhi Biryani masala or the Arabic barbecue mix and more. After ten years in the banking line Gulnaz Ali turned to baking. Orange and almond cake, hazelnut cake and more.
Joining me for our “Whats hot tasting session” is the brilliant Senior Executive Chef Ajit Bangera of the ITC Grand Chola which has been making waves since it opened mid 2012. We conduct our Tasting session in this sprawling palatial hotel that pays homage to the great dynasty of the Cholas who nurtured Tamil Nadu’s golden age.All ten of it’s iconic restaurants are being helmed by Chef Bangera. This includes their brand new Italian restaurant, their cute deli contemporary shop “Nutmeg”.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Here’s how we have been helping over the years. Over a fortnight ago, I got a call from Pashupati who said his wife Annapurani was looking for cooking classes in Chennai and that he had read about my “foodonline” several years ago. So I invited Annapurani to our “Whats hot tasting session” and introduced her around, so her queries were answered. Should you have any food or food service related questions, please do email
DO YOU WANT TO JOIN US?
Would you like to be featured here? Are you a home-entreprenuer? Please email (email@example.com, Anjalisharma966@gmail.com) call (09884065010) tweet, instagram, (@rashmiudaysingh) FB. Anjali Sharma will get in touch with you and invite you to our next “Whats hot tasting session”. Looking forward to hearing from you. Waitingly yours.
P.S. Watch this space (every other Friday) for more on each of the home-entrepreneurs featured above.
I’m rejoicing. Countless new restaurants are opening up and their baby steps are being dissected by even more countless food bloggers, twitterati, instagrammers and more. It’s a good sign that we are truly involved with our food. It was not like this when I started writing about food thirty years ago. Then food writing was considered unfashionable. Thankfully, things are getting better.
“Wont you take me to honky taoooownnnn” blares as I walk into the first floor of this small heritage building (built by a French architect), nudged right next to Sterling cinema. I walk past the ground floor café area into the charming, high-ceilinged, wooden-beamed, tiny, dimly-lit, olive green-walled bar with posters.
Townhouse Café doesn’t encourage you to take mincing bites of measured portions. It exhorts you to dig in to it’s comfort food. To crunch into it’s perfectly deep-fried dishes (great accompaniments to alcohol) be it the Golden Fried Panko Crusted Mushrooms or the bucket of deep fried squid and prawns. Plenty of pasta dishes, half the menu is vegetarian (do ask for the well-made Scallion Crepes and Aubergine Red Pepper Sandwich). While leaving, I bump into owner Anuja Jatkar and her foodie passion and that of her young team shines through, two particularly good fish dishes – the Fish and Chips Burger (crispy fish patty, velvetty tartar sauce within soft buns) and Perfectly Grilled Basa (lemony buttery sauce). Okayish brownie with ice-cream. Go to tipple, imported draughts and interesting cocktails (try fresh coconut water mojito). Check the happy hours.
Only one dessert on menu. Some dishes on menu are not available. No pork belly or pork belly sliders available. Scrambled truffled eggs are soggy and not enough truffle oil.
I was happily surprised by the charming European Townhouse ambiance and comfort fare here.
Plenty of deep-fried comfort fare, but there’s a balance between heartiness and delicacy and plenty for vegetarians. Charming ambiance, comfort food at comforting prices. If in the vicinity, its the perfect open all day, neighbourhood bar.
Meal for two: RS 1,800 approx
16, Murzban Road, near Strerling Cinema, Fort.
Timings 12 pm – 1:30 am
Call 022-2203 7356