Food

Review: Spesso Gourmet Kitchen

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Vegetarian global multi-cuisine

Whoa! This is the first time, (in my two decades of food writing) that Ive seen such a massive wave of  pure vegetarian eateries dedicated to serving only global multi-cuisines (no Indian cuisines at all). “Little Italy”  was one of the first, several years ago. Many opened intermittently (eg  Relish, Quattro) but the past few months alone have seen BurmaBurma, Picante, Spice club (to name a few) and Nariman Point’s very own Spesso (the Italian word for “often”)

I eat here twice, the second time is an improvement. The first meal is a disappointment but my guests dazzle. Well-traveled foodies all and here’s the surprise…each one has a vegetarian connect. Leon Bignell, the suave South Australian minister of Food keeps us riveted with his recounting of the large number of Indian vegetarian restaurants in Adelaide thanks to the growing population of Indian students there. Well-informed Queens counsel, Brian Hayes, charming Cathy Parker( Bignell’s aide), Travel maestro Carl Dantas and the dynamic Vinod Advani wine writer (who only cooks vegetarian food when abroad for friends) help me eat our way through the menu. We chat over our Swiss-Egyptian (you read that right) fondue pot. (please see photo)

 

DÉCOR

Walk into the  handsome, contemporary space and be pleasantly surprised. Open kitchen, wooden floor and a patisserie counter complete the décor.

 

FOOD

Many a inter-country marriage takes place here…Italy’s Pizza marries  Mexico (beans, salsa et al) Swiss fondue is in union with Egyptian dukka (and both dishes actually taste good) But lets start counting the cuisines served here…Mexican, Italian, Spanish, Lebanese Turkish…then Creole,  French, Malaysian, American, Japanese Moroccan, Indonesian and Greek (excuse me if Ive missed some).  Oh! Yes theres African, Egyptian, Swiss fondue, sizzlers and pizzas too. Presented innovatively and attractively, many a dish is tasty. Aldente penne.

Seven Layered Mexican Shots in shot glasses  are a tasty mish mash of cheese, salsa, guacamole and veggies.

Go for the Spesso Platter (deep fried  crispy roll,  volau vont boxes quessadila s african paneer peri peri) flavoursome Malaysian curry too..
Eggless desserts in generous portions are the high point here. Be it the Hazelnut chocolate pot, the intense chocolatey Lava cake  or even the “jain macarons”.

MINUS POINTS

Don’t go looking for fare made to authentic recipes and be prepared for some disappointments. Sweet soggy volcano nachos, stodgy Prawn tempura, lacklustre Lebanese mezze,  overfried  and hard Arancini

disappoint. Oversweet  Mandarin orange red velvet and  Choco o loco taco. No alcohol served here.

 

MY POINT

Non vegetarians stay away.My Jain brethren looking for international flavors? This is for you. No other restaurant in the whole wide world will cookup so many cuisines (though some are flops) made to your requirements and presented innovatively. Well-made Eggless desserts too.

Well priced (Rs 1200 meal for two, 3 course Power lunch 350)

The arguments over authenticity could go on forever as desi-flavors do the garba and bhangra with international recipes and the result? Mexican pizza, Egyptian fondue. Tasty chhe!

P.S. Looking Indian vegetarian food in Nariman Point? The next door “Status” has the same owners as “Spesso”

SPESSO

Ground floor, Regent Chambers, Jamnalal Bajaj Road, Nariman Point
Call: 40318750

TIMINGS 11 am till dinner

RATING

FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

Cost per meal for two; Rs 1200


 

YOUR REVIEWS OF SPESSO

I write from dazzling Dubai and am thrilled to receive your twitter and instagram feedback. Thanks @tanvivedak (very good food. Tall  virgin margarita, desserts good. Did not expect such variety from a pure veg restaurant. Good service, nice ambiance )

@cherryred_22 ( beautiful ambience and interiors. Amazing rissotto,anglio olio and good combinations of different types of cheese in cheese fondue. All very decently priced)

@snehakhatri looks fancy, food not comparable to similar restaurants @notjustanotherfoodie (The desserts are yum)

@riiaac@power_struggle @rachnavaswani  @power_struggle@romakripalani@saumightsay

@eteepodar@tarunhasan@theashishsingh

@ila_iiLooks good .@divj@gaurav_agrawall

@priti3566@deepakbhatia2014

Do keep sending me your reviews of all and any eateries you like or dislike rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com @rashmiudaysingh (twitter, instagram)

Review: The Bombay Bronx

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Bar  (Bombay street inspired finger food)

 

Yeh hai Bombay Bronx meri jaan. You’ll either love it or hate it. You’ll either  find it creative in it’s attention to thematic detailing or just an overload of thakke hue clichés. My guests and I love it.  Surprisingly even my buddies in their sixties  get hooked. I  revisit on a packed Friday night, and meet an exuberant young couple, who (like TBB) symbolize the spirit of Mumbai. Miss Malini and her Mr, Nowshad Rizwanullah.They are  a living example of Mumbai being the city which makes dreams come true (like it did for Big B). Having lived all over the world, Miss Malini moved to Mumbai 14 years ago, lived with six girls and a pigeon, worked as RJ, wrote scripts and then started blogging. Today, this digital princess’s new age multi media brand for the internet generation straddles many media and has a huge national and international following. They  make fashion, Bollywood, travel and food accessible. Miss Malini’s dapper husband Nowshad, also moved to Mumbai, after having a global upbringing ( Harvard and Yale graduate) and now heads up the business and is the food reviewer.

They love Bombay Bronx, “True taste of mumbai masala. Happy  and shiny”.

 

DÉCOR

Take a look at the photo and you’ll see the exuberant couple hanging on to a local train’s over-head handle. Before that we sat in an  auto rickshaw but ended up eating and drinking at the Irani café area, just next to the bar. Mumbai, in all it’s avatars, throbs in this 1800 sq ft area, Dabbawalas table, chor bazaar map on the ceiling, Eros cinema sign et al. A wall painting of a slouching Amitabh Bachchan blesses it all and sprinkles Mumbaiya magic dust as the Dj spins a mix of commercial and deep house music.

 

FOOD & DRINK

The colorful menu with it’s “vez’ and “non vez” sections, the “Kadak maal” booze menu offer many a Mumbaiya infused dish and drink.  Newspaper cones with complimentry  crunchy  chakna (boiled peanuts, channa and more) set the tone for the street food that it is to follow. The spongy Gujju dhokla gets a crisp, deepfried cover and become a yummy, must try “dhoklapakoda”. Flavorsome kheema with soft pao, the Kothambir wadi is yum and tenderfirm , succulent tandoori chicken wings too. Chicken farcha burgers , Spongy baby idlis dusted with molagapodi are worth trying as is the Iced Peru and Pani Puri caiproshka. Creative presentation, ( newspapers, mini carrom board et al).

MINUS POINTS

Some of the cleverly named dishes don’t live up to their name. Hard and overfried Krispee spinach, ditto for the Raju’s chicken lollipops, Oily baida roti, Bland pav bhaji sandwis. While the tangy signature cocktails  pair well with the spicy fare some of them are not spiked with enough  alcohol. Some of the regular alcohol is not available (eg Old Monk). Welll informed waiters (with “Boss” written on their shirts) miss out on getting our “pijja” order and when the place gets crowded it’s impossible to get “Boss s” attention.

MY POINT

It’s exuberant and fun, much needed in the otherwise boring Breach Candy area (except for Ghetto and now Py). Some of it’s finger food needs to be fine tuned, as do it’s signature cocktails. The brand new Bombay Bronx is well-priced,  lusty, ultramodern, clichéd, rustic, fun, exuberant  and a host of other adjectives that don’t normally squeeze together but find themselves in a tight, mostly happy clutch here. Tumko Jaane ko Maangta hai!

The Bombay Bronx Hubtown Skybay, Breach Candy (99677-01666). Daily 7pm-1am.

Nightout for 2: Rs 2000

RATING BUZZ 4.5  AMBIANCE 4


YOUR REVIEWS OF BOMBAY BRONX

I write from gorgeous Gulmurg and it’s great to receive your twitter and instagram feedback here: @cityslicker (food nice esp dhokla pakoda, cocktails disappoint, overall fun, buzzing vibe, will return) @jayvasantlal (total fun place, yummy food, well priced drinks, will return) @brandedbawi (love the décor, drinks with a Bambaiya twist, excellent concepts of dhokla pakoda and farcha burger) @prioskauke (peru shots to die for, also masala fish fingers. Must go back) @netfreaknash (super dhokla pakodas and Bombay duck) @swathirishi (love the twist of the paneer dhokla) @bloodynerd (I like the Boss concept, though a little light should be put on their concept foods) @antarazandc (why fry an already perfect treat of steamed dhokla and add calories?) @ankitanarsey (finger food good, stale munchies except for bhujia sev inconsistent cocktails, not enough stock of Kingfisher ultra. @darrypars (peru and vodka go well together) @dinubhai23 (have farcha burger, pani puri caiproshka, fried masala sing ) @yutidalal ( Yum peru shot, kachi kairi with vodka) @romakripalani @almondmelon @kalpitabhosale  thanks for your comments too.

Gulnaz Ali’s Recipe – Banana Walnut Cake

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SAILING INTO HEALTH

Gulnaz and SamariaWhat on earth is this photo of a sailing regatta  doing in my Food column? The answer is simple, the young sailing champion Samaria is the inspiration and the reason behind her mother Gulnaz, baking the most unique and  healthy cakes. Having tasted Gulnaz’s baking in Chennai at our “Whats hot tasting session” I realized that I had not taken the recipe for her healthy cake. So when I called Gulnaz from Mumbai, they were in the midst of a sailing regatta in Hyderabad which the talented young Samaria was taking part in. I also requested for an on location photo. Voila! Thanks to high speed internet, here it is.

FROM BANKING TO BAKING

The multi-talented Gulnaz Ali having worked for more than ten years in a successful bankers job quit to take care of her daughter and turned to her other passion, baking. “I did this to keep my daughter’s sweet tooth satisfied”. And then ofcourse, ensured that she not only used the finest and freshest of ingredients but also the healthiest. Gulnaz’s healthy cakes are in great demand, as are her regular cakes.  She has studied baking and taken special fondant classes too. Ask for her scrumptious banana walnut cake. Amongst her regular cakes, it’s the   orange and a Almond cake, hazelnut chocolate cake and strawberry pies…which are her signatures. The recipe for Gulnaz’s part wholewheat cake follows, as do her tips for healthy baking.

GULNAZ ALI, 2/157 Karikata Kuppam, Muthukadu, Near Mayajaal, Chennai. Ph 9840943500/ gulnaz13@gmail.com

 


 

Gulnaz’s tips for healthy baking

*Use homemade cream cheese/ mascarpone cheese instead of store bought. This way you can keep a check on the amount of sugar in the product.

* Replace sugar with jaggery.

* Replace maida with wholewheat flour. Start with replacing 1/4 quantity in the recipe and slowly increase the amount of wholewheat flour used.


 

GULNAZ’S RECIPE

healthy cakePart wholewheat banana walnut cake.

Maida – 1 cup
Whole wheat flour – 1 cup
Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Banana - 2, large
Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup
Jaggery – 1/2 cup
Granulated sugar – 4 tbsp
Buttermilk – 1/2 cup
Vegetable oil – 4 tbsp
Egg – 2
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Chocolate chips and walnuts/ almonds – 1/2 cup



Preheat oven to 180C. Grease one 8 inch pan. 

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the banana, unsalted butter, jaggery, sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until completely combined. Coat the chocolate chips with maida and mix into the batter. Pour the mixture into the greased pan and bake at 180C for 30 to 35 mins or till done when checked with a skewer.

 


 

YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE

Do you want to be featured in this column? Like Gulnaz Ali today. Then read on to find out more,The hunt is on, I am looking for baking and cooking talent. Do you bake or cook out of home and so so professionally? Do you know anyone who does so? Please do get in touch with me and we will invite you, along with some others for a “Whats hot tasting session”. After tasting your creations and chatting with you and photographing you, I will then write about you. Please do  email rashmiudaysingsingh2015@gmail.com with the subject CHENNAI FOODLINE. You can also tweet and instagram t @rashmiudaysingh.


FOODLINE

I write this from Gulmurg and I am delighted to hear from you on email, instagram and twitter. Thanks for keeping me plugged to the foodie network of Chennai. Love your foodie news and views…on foodstores, food services, dessert makers, caterers and more. Please do keep calling (9884065010 ) emailing (Rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com) tweeting, instagraming, FB (@rashmiudaysingh). Waitingly yours.

Matching Food and Fitness

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FOOD AND FITNESS

It’s the ultimate dream: to love food, enjoy it, and still remain fit and healthy. For most of us, that’s what it remains: a dream. It should be doubly difficult if you earn your daily bread through eating. There is however, a living paradox—author, columnist and food writer Rashmi Uday Singh, who manages to stay fit and svelte. She explains how Even the most intelligent and perceptive often remark to me: “You don’t look like a food critic.”

What these refined gentlemen and ladies mean is that I don’t hog mindlessly and that I don’t live up to their medieval, preconceived notion of a food critic. According to them, it’s blasphemy not to eat and drink to the exclusion of everything else. I’d only like to ask, are all wine-tasters alcoholics? And why on earth I do have to look like a stuffed samosa to live up to anyone’s idea of what a food critic should look like? Why do I have to be obese and suffering from the after-effects of too much eating and drinking, just to prove that I eat for a living? The truth of the matter is that I am passionate about food. It excites me! I cannot resist sinful desserts, ad I am a chocoholic, the darkest, most handsome love of mylife. I love restaurants and eat out all the time. However, being fit and being able to respond with all my senses to food, is equally important to me. And having scripted, directed, produced and anchored a weekly TV show, Health Today, I have been fortunate enough to find a way to devote myself to my two passions. The weekly show was telecast for one year and researched it for over two years. I had the opportunity to interview and spend time with brilliant experts in the medical field. I questioned them relentlessly, chewed on every single answer they gave and digested it. Nutritionists, heart specialists, ayurvedacharyas, oncologists, naturopaths, homeopaths …my cameras recorded every single nuance, be it the “Vatta Pacifying diet” of Deepak Chopra in Los Angeles or the “heart smart” diet of Dr. Naresh Trehan. Banglores Naturopathy Clinic supplied as many relevant answers as the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. Dr. Praful Desai of Tata Memorial explained how diet can actually prevent cancer, while nutritionists explained how food can lower stress levels. What emerged was something basic and fundamental. When some wise guy said “make your vacation”, he definitely had me in mind.

Here are some of my tried and tasted and tested tips:

It’s all about the appetite mechanism: Okay, so you know it all, but it still might help to read what follows. Because it is only when one understands appetite mechanism that one realises that bad eating habits don’t just mean calorific and junk food but also being out of harmony with the way you eat. Ever wondered why eating and emotions are linked? Our appetite is coordinated in an area called the hypothalamus and it is this area, which controls a lot of our emotions. The “feeding” centre is divided into “hunger” and “fullness” centers. The number of signals reaching these centers dictate whether you feel hungry or full. It’s important to feel pleasantly full after a meal, because you are less likely to binge in between. Basically, you need to get tuned in to the ‘satiety’ value of eating. These ‘satiety’ signals are sent back in different stages.

Chewing: Nobody ever told e why should I chew my food well and slowly. Sure, it helps in the production of saliva and digestion, but what it also does is send signals of satiety to the brain. So, the more you chew, the more time you take over eating, the greater the perception of satiety. This is because within the jaw are stretch receptors which respond when you chew.

Exciting the taste buds: Foods that turn you on are called ‘organoleptic’. And the great news is that organoleptic foods [foods which smell, look, taste and feel good in the mouth] are actually good for you. They register satisfaction quicker and they increase the production of saliva and digestive juices. If you have exciting flavours, varying temperatures and textures within a meal, your mouth has a far greater opportunity to send satiety signals.

Lifting the arm: It may sound really strange, but the more you lift you arm to eat, the greater will be the filling of fullness. That’s because you give your brain the time and the chance to register those signals.

Trust your stomach: Within the stomach wall are stretch –receptors which send signals of fullness to your brain when there is food in your stomach. When you eat sugary, refined or fatty food they pass through your stomach quickly and satiety signals are not sent back to the brain. So, you tend to eat a lot more than you actually need to. But, when you eat high-fibre food (fruits, veggies, whole grains) they stay in the stomach longer and send satiety signals to the brain. So, while I taste almost everything, it’s the high-fibre food that I concentrate on.

Food and mood: It might help to know that it’s not just alchohol which is a mood-altering substance. Our everyday food does affect our moods too. Within the brain, chemicals help transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. There are two such substances known as endorphins, which affect our moods—serotonin and norepinephrine. The body makes these particular endorphins from the food we eat and therefore, we can, to a certain extent raise the level of these substances in the brain by eating specific foods. The main source of these endorphins is sugary carbohydrate-rich food. This explains why many of us feel happier when we eat chocolates and sweets. However the problem with eating too much of these is that sugary foods are absorbed rapidly into the blood. And though this causes a serotonin rush, it is broken down rapidly and eventually leads to a drop in blood sugar and endorphin levels. So, such foods can leave you feeling even lower than before. On the other hand, natural sugars give you a steady high. Feeling low and depressed is also linked to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals and therefore, to improper eating. A huge database of research points in the direction of eating right and light. So, for the sake of your mood, it is best to stick to natural sugars and natural starches. Natural sugar are found in fruits and veggies (as opposed to refined sugars in honey, cakes etc.) and natural starches occur in wholegrains, brown rice, beans, fruits and veggies (as opposed to refined starches in white brad, pastas etc.). these natural foods keep you clear-eyed and energetic. The reason? They release energy at a slower steadier pace, do not slow down your metabolism and and so don’t end up channelising the blood supply away from your brain. In other words, they keep you feeling fresh and in a good mood. Naturally!

Helpful tips on eating the right way

Position of eating: slouching is bad idea. Sitting upright helps. It places your stomach in a position where gravity helps rather than hinders.

Relax while eating: Digestion requires the flow of blood to your stomach but when your are under stress or upset, the stress hormones in your blood make much of the blood stream go to your limbs, this hinders digestion.

Your environment is important: If you eat live and treat your meals as just a fuel-stop-over then you may actually be hindering you health. You must value meal times as enjoyable pastimes. I make it a point to picnic, to set up candlelight dinners, to have interesting company, to eat with one’s love and of course, to eat in restaurants. All these environments relax me amd make my digestive juices flow, thereby helping swiftly and effortlessly digest all that I have eaten.

Who wants to kiss and ashtray?: Smoking kills…the tastebuds. Moreover, cigarettes discolour your nails and lips and ages you skin. And anyway, who wants to kiss an ashtray?

Drinking plenty of water: I begin my day and end it with warm water. Deepak Chopra advises sipping hot water through the day if you want to lose weight and flush out toxins.

Moderation is the name of the game: Moderation may be a boring word, but it works. You can taste everything, relish it, enjoy it and do so as intensely and passionately for the rest of your life. It’s not about denial and fanaticism, it is about celebrating food and savouring it in all its delicious forms. It is about enjoying it!

There is plenty more to say, but even plenty more to learn as I eat my way through life. As I said before, I eat for a living and have a huge appetite for finding out more ways and means of eating my way to more health and fitness.

REVIEW: TIFFIN BOX ETC

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Indian multi-cuisine

Kya naam hai! Full marks. Can you think of a better name than “Tiffin box etc” for a casual eatery that swiftly serves many an Indian regional cuisine through the day and home delivers too? I have the perfect guests to help me check it out, not only  are they Sindhi, Maharashtrian and Gujrati but also well-traveled, discerning foodies.

Having just returned from Peru, they are planning their Belgrade and Iceland trip.

While Dr Raju Khubchandani has  pioneered pediatric rheumatology in India, writing is his passion and I am riveted by the iconic child-care book he is co-authoring with  Dr RK Anand. Shaila Khubchandani, a surgical pathologist of repute, actually finds interpreting Kidney biopsies relaxing as she does  looking after their home .We eat our way through the menu, our review follows…

 

DÉCOR

Doodh ka dabbas, bicycle tyres, kettles, caricatures  (you get the picture?) adorn the canteen-like space. Tables and benches, open kitchen, paper mats et al.

 

FOOD

They take the “etc” in their name very seriously and serve it all… from Awadh to Bengal to  South India  and even Birmingham, chaats, idli, upma etc etc. Surprisingly it’s the juicy, succulent kebabs (seekh and murg pudina tikka) that come up tops. Must trys…Robustly spiced Balti Birmingham curry,  flavorsome  Nalli Nihari and  Lamb Koshe Mangsho. Go for  the

Mustard infused rawas tikka (the most expensive dish at Rs350). However, the fish curry and the chicken makhanwala are just about okay, but the bhakri is superb.Wind up with the delightful Paan icecream and sugarfree gajjar halwa. VFM meal served in a tiffin box ( veg Rs 350, non veg Rs 420)  curry, dal, three chapatis, rice and a sweet. Lunch buffet (Rs 414 for 10 dishes) too.

 

 MINUS POINTS

Uncomfy seating. It can get very noisy.Patchy dishes lacking flavor.  Slushy Chettinad chicken, stodgy veg kabab.soggy chappatis  served in foil. But the biggest disappointments are the lackluster saibhaji  and the tasteless Sindhi curry. No alcohol.

 

MY POINT

This casual, quick service, open through the day, three month old Tiffin Box etc is somewhat light on the wallet ( Av meal for 2, Rs 1000) but can be heavy on the tummy with it’s many a curry and gravy. Its vast and ambitious menu tries to put all the complex cuisines of India into a Tiffin dabba and falters in doing so. While it does not warrant a special trip across town, Tiffin Box etc, a contemporary dhaba is perfect for a quick desi meal, snack etc for the office goers in the BKC vicinity.

Ground Floor, Naman Center, C 31, Next to Yauatcha, Block G- Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (E). Ph 61378080

Open 8 am to midnight

RATING FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

MEAL FOR 2: Rs 1000

 


 

YOUR REVIEWS OF TBE

Value your twitter and instagram feedback. Please keep it coming (@rashmiudaysingh) @cityslicker_me (quick service, good chicken kolhapuri , dry  Dhokla quick cheapandcheerful  Indian meal)

voraviyaI (great for lunch) tableforone_pv (didn’t like the flavours at all.)

notjustanotherfoodie (Love the food, the   parathas,  dal makhani) @kalpitabhosale @mansidedhia1 (clichéd décor).

@voraviya (TBEs buffet is good!

 


RAMADAN KAREEN

May Allah shower you with miracles this holy month of Ramadan and always. I am writing this right after a  delicious Iftar dinner, thanks to  Janhavi and Shan Mohammed giving me the lead about  the brand new “Royal Flavors” (Oshiwara   26320600). So I called in for home-delivery (advance notice needed)  for a few of their signature dishes. It was the pounded meat and wheat Mutton haleem (Rs 245) the fragrant kache gosht ki biryani (Rs 290)   and flavorsome Khubani ka meetha (Rs 110) which worked the magic for us.

Review: Picante

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PICANTE

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Vegetarian Italian, Mexican

Shudh vegetarian goes global and upmarket in Breach candy. It also crosses the Indian borders (or does it?) to serve Mexican and Italian cuisines. I lunch with  a gourmet veggie twosome:  a former state level badminton champion, the multi-talented, lovely Jayshree Sanghi of India’s fourth generation automobile pioneering family is not only a Kathak dancer  (trained under Padmashree Sunaina Hazarilal) but a creative cook whose dinners are legendary. Equally sporty  (US champ in racquetball and squash)  Navin Deo, having spent 40 years in a  high profile US government job is back in India and making Impactroses which have been in huge demand. Im bowled over by his long stemmed roses (see pic)with their personalized gold embossed messages on the petals. We eat our way through the entire menu: result?  the roses and the giant cookie dessert are the only highpoints of our lunch.

 

DÉCOR

Happy surprise. The second floored restaurants  pleasant  ambiance with pale purple sofas, yellow-cushioned chairs with  wooden geometrical frames, simple black-and-white caricatures, and graphics.

 

FOOD

Along with their ala carte  Mexican and Italian menu they offer daily (except weekend dinners) a “Sunday food festival” (Rs 999 for one) you can order all  28 dishes. But we are told very strictly that it cannot be shared. So we get 2 of these and plenty a la carte ones too. The Picante Pizza (even a wheat-watchers one,) al dente aglio olio  and lasagna  pass muster. It is the giant, freshly baked gooeycrisp cookie topped with warm chocolate sauce, and the moistwarm Molten Chocolate Cake that saves the day.

MINUS POINTS

Desi palate  tuned fare, with plenty of cheese and ketchup.Soggy nachos,  ketchupy Habanero Cottage Cheese, ditto for the quesadillas

Burrito lacks punch, overdressed salads, a strange Arabic pizza and so on. And on.  No alcohol.

MY POINT

Open through the day, pleasing ambiance, well-presented food, attentive service are the plus points.  Sure! a restaurant is in the business of making money and has to cater to all tastes   but except for a few dishes, the vegetarian Italian Mexican fare bends over backward to please the Indian palate  and tips over to become a mish mash of Gujjutalian and Mexidesi. Tasty no doubt!

Picante Ristorante, 401, Akruti Skypark, Mahalaxmi, Bhulabhai Desai road.Ph 23529393

meal for 2 Rs. 1500.

Open noon to midnight

RATING FOOD 2.5 DÉCOR 3.5 SERVICE 3.5

 


 

MUMBAI TO DUBAI

MY CUP OF TEA...DR RAJEN KILACHAND AND FAARAH MEHTA
MY CUP OF TEA…DR RAJEN KILACHAND AND FAARAH MEHTA

Khulja simsim. Your twitter and instagram messages  as well Dubai foodies guide me through Dubai.  It’s food scene dazzles with world class restaurants (love La Serre, Zuma, La Petit Maison).  I also eat at two brand  new, must-try  restaurants Yuan (Atlantis)  and Katsuya (Dubai mall) with Dubai-based foodie extraordinaire and global philanthropist  Dr Rajen Kilachand. He also takes me to high tea (Fortnum and Mason), along with his friend the legendary Rusi Karanjia’s granddaughter, the gorgeous Faarah Mehta. I trip out on Umai (The Oberoi) cutting edge sushi and cod, Soy (Dubai mall) VFM Chinese, many a local eatery, belly dancing  too. Two “first time evers” … the Awesome Oberoi’s breakfast “Lollipop waffles” (you read that right)  and the fabulous traditional “pre-iftar” dinner at Desert Palm while the spectacular sun sets over the lush green polo grounds behind us. P.S Happy to share info please email rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com twitter and instagram @rashmiudaysingh

THE DIVINE TASTE OF IFTAR

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It is a dream come true and it happens just before the start of the holy month of Ramadan. I am surrounded by the magic of the spectacular sunset of the Arabian desert (the time when the Ramadan fast is broken) and just then I am regaled with the divine taste of Iftar. Each and every traditional recipe is made with authentic ingredients. As the amazing flavors gallop across our taste buds we are reminded that the lush green polo fields stretching around us are where the shining flanks of pedigreed horses   speed past in a spurt of color and sound. I find it difficult to believe that I am in Dubai, the gleaming, glittering  city of high rises and malls. Here in Desert Palm sprawling over 150 acres, there is silence as Mother nature’s bounty overflows. The sun sets, gilding the handsome palm trees which embroider the desert sky. From the most amazing gourmet cooking classes to horse-riding classes, shishas, global cuisines, Desert Palm has it all. Right now, its pre-Iftar time and I taste and nibble on the most traditional main course of succulent, seven spiced  lamb Kahrouf Mahshi infused with cinnamon cardamom. I mop it up with the traditional four Khubs  with fragrant rice and the Superlative Hammour Harra fish too. We start with the traditional Mezze of creamy    Hummus, Moutabel, Tabouleh  and Fattoush. The crisp skinned  Lamb Kebbeh and  Spinach Fatayar  delights, followed by the hearty and nourishing Yellow Lentil soup.

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THE  SWEET BOND OF IFTAR

Please take a look at the accompanying  photograph and you’ll see how the Iftar dinner brings together all nationalities. Ofcourse, the family Sapti (baby Sapti included) are getting set for Ramadan, as is Ahzar. From South of England there is the  dynamic General manager James Reeves, from Italy, the gifted  Executive Chef David Prantera , India is represented by the talented Chef Anoop  and the lovely Karishma Chopra. And wow!

what an amazing feast  of  Ramadan sweets there is: love the Mafourkeh of toasted bread drizzled with milkfat kashta. Equally delightful is the baked filo pastry with pista and ghee, its called Znoud, which means “lady’s forearm”. Chef Ali Hasan guides me thru this yummy buffet and the baked Omali made of velvety milk and airy puff pastry infused with rose water and blossom water is addictive.  Cant get enough of the Kataif pancakes plump with creamy kashta and crunchy with nuts. After that sweet finale, I sit by the rolling Polo fields under the shimmering night sky and go hubble bubble on the tobacco-free peach flavored sheesha.

 


 

 

Here it is. Just in time for Iftar, Chef Panteras very special recipe…

MANSAF RECIPE

1 KG                       lamb leg with bone / or boneless

200 gms                  plain yogurt

200 gms                  red onion                         half sliced , half chopped

1                      eggs                                 egg white , beaten with a fork untill frothy

25 gms                    corn flour

50 gms                    clarified butter

50 gms                    pine nuts

50 gms                    slivered almonds

15 gms                    water

salt

freshly ground pepper

10 gms                    turmeric powder

10 gms                    all spice

10 gms                    cinnamon stick

400 gms                  basmati rice

10 gms                    cardomom seeds

10 gms                    bayleaf

50 gms                    ghee

3 gms                      dry

Lemon

3 gms                      cinnamon powder

½  ltr                       lamb stock

 

1.Place the yogurt in a thick heavy based pot , add beaten frothy egg , corn flour , salt to the pan .Blend gently with a wooden laddle .

2 . Place the pot over a medium heat , stir with a a wooden laddle , lower the heat as the yogurt can split .

3.Lower the heat and gently let it simmer .

4.Boil the lamb in a pot with Water ,  bayleaf , cinnamon stick , cardamom , turmeric powder, salt to season .

5.Skim the surface for froth  the while the lamb is boiling

6.Heat ghee in a frying pan and add pinenuts  , almonds .fry untill golden brown , remove and keep aside .

7.Add sliced red onion to the same pan with ghee and fry gently untill transparent . add turmeric powder , all spice powder , cinnamon stick and mix and saute well .

8.Add the boiled lamb with this spice mixture with the stock .

9. When the lamb is done , remove and shredd the meat with a fork from the bone .

10. Reduce the sauce more and add yogurt sauce , blend well with wooden laddle , let the mixture boil , add the the shredded lamb and reduce the sauce more .

9.After the lamb has been cooked , keep reducing until the sauce thickens .

10.Heat the clarified butter in a pot and saute cinnamon stick , bayleaf , dry lemon ,chopped onion, minced lamb, add soaked basmati rice and add lambstock and let the rice cook ,add cinnamon powder when the rice is boiling .

11.Once the rice is cooked , serve on a large round serving platter , then garnish with fried nuts .

12.Top the platter with the shredded lamb and mansaf sauce , fried nuts .

#WhatsHotTastingSession in Mumbai

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DESSERT MAKERS (WHO WORK OUT OF HOME)

I am very khush! Have discovered amazing home baking talent. Here are   some of the results of my latest #whatshottastingsession.

HERES HOW I DID IT

Anyone  who bakes professionally out of home can take part. For the past 20 years, I have been regularly  conducting these  sessions (in Mumbai and Chennai) in order to discover and encourage home talent and to include the talented ones  in The Times Food Guide.

I was flooded with Instagrams, tweets and mail requests. I invited 21 dessert makers (and 6 gourmet tasters)  to the centrally located, evergreen Gaylord with Noel  and Robert being ever helpful.

LOOK WHO’S BAKING

Passion powers these talented women, some have switched careers, others moonlight. From strategic global account manager, engineer, fashion stylist, product manager to CA, doctor, recruitment firm director and architect. Many  are professionally trained too. From popcorn cupcakes to gluten free treats…they do it all. Please excuse my sketchy writing…to get full details you’ll have to wait for the Times Food Guide 2015

  HEALTHY YUMMIES

Sugarfree , gluten free and healthy desserts from Charvi Bubna’s “cheat clean” (Try her brown rice flour and honey brownies. 9820934080)

Eggless expert Shailee  anklesaria’s  “Sugar fairy”  makes cakes et al, super oatmeal cookies (9820246367)

Egg and gelatin-free “Choco kisses”  from  Kairvi mehta and jayshri Mehta (9820029065)

Tara kapur’s  “bombay bizarre baker”   (9820006440) caters to all those with food allergies. Go for gluten free almond cake,

 

 

CHOCOHOLIX UNITE

“Charlene and the chocolate factory” (9833258908)

Charlene Vaz specializes in truffles and chocolates with an indian twist.

Yummy Japanese chocolates by

Varsha kalani’s “okashi” 9833505747

 

DESIGNER DESSERTS

Call “the dessert table” (9867385908) Delafruz tangri and Jalpa timbadia  for super customized desserts with matching crockery and cutlery. Must try Chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting.

Shillpa Bhambri is the only exception, she’s been featured since my first book (1997), her latest fusion cupcake  was a hot seller (Cakeline 9619559433

Hand painted cakes and more by Jahan bloch ‘s “chic confections” (9930704646).

Dimple sanghvi’s   “the mad batter” . candy castle cupcakes , glitterati cookie tower (961911760)

Egg and gelatin free desserts in jars by Innovative Nishita Kamdar ‘s “JAR designs” ( try paan velvet 9819365658)

Internationally trained Shikha Murarka’s  “MishMash” s (9819766027)  sugar and fondant work ( popcorn cupcakes, a handbag cake) were delicious.

 

SWEET SURPRISES

Mango yoghurt cheesecake, red velvet cookies were Shanaz Barodawalla’s signature  “sweet flavours” ( 9890453087)”Knead with love” s Richa Lulla’s (9833480814)

biscuit base brownie with cheesecake was a hit. Good old fashioned american cakes, spiked eggnog  were some of the signatures of  Roshni Vatnani s”the vanilla bean bakery ”  (9833325822)Go for Ruchika Vyas and Kirti Vyas “house of cookies” (9167366770) especially brown butter cookie filled with caramel .  Etee poddar’s “all my sins” (9820651129) unique signature was The black forest in a chocolate cup.Anurita malik ghoshal  (from LCB Paris) baked a yum chocolate chip loaf and the LCB lemon tart. 9820267003)

Umehani rangwala’s “lovecrumbs” caters to all your cake needs (8108429266)Try Witty meha Agarwal’s “the big apple baking co”’s orange cream. 9833015376″My butter half” by yeshi chaudhary ‘s red velvet was yum. 9769299795

 

GOURMET TASTERS

Thanks foodies extraordinaire for tasting, eating, tweeting… Urvika kanoi ( professional chef who helped coordinate this tasting session.) Vasudha kejriwal ( marketing manager) Dinesh bahrani ( Head chef at Boveda)

Kritika dayal  ( at a leading magazine firm)

Ronak Rajani (  social media marketer)

Rishab verma- (LCB trained pastry chef )

 


 

WITH SHUKRAAN FROM DUBAI

A million thanks for all your Eating-out advice  in Dubai (on instagram and twitter.) Will be conducting more #whatshottastingsessions as soon as I return. If interested please contact, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh  rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com

Review: The Spare Kitchen

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Global progressive Indian

THE SPARE KITCHENI’m in Juhu’s new Spare Kitchen and I’m rejoicing. Not only is it a worth-eating-in restaurant but I’m also lunching here with three foodies who I’d never met before (except over instagram @cherryred_22 and twitter).  Hailing from a well-traveled family, not only is the talented Anju Agarwal’s cooking superb and popular with Ruchi, (her vivacious daughter, studying medicine) and the bubbly Gauri (in 10th grade) but her blog is well-loved too. We eat our way through the multi cuisine menu, I enjoy every moment of my lunch with the bubbly threesome, hearing about their idli cupcakes to  their herb garden on the rooftop of their 8 floor bungalow.

DÉCOR

Drive into Juhu’s King hotel’s side entrance and walk into this large 5000 sq ft Spare Kitchen ( for sure it’s much more than a kitchen,) it has an outdoor area (woodfired pizza oven here) a lounge, an open bar and a Private dining too.

Brick walls, dark wood tables flat screen TV s complete the décor. At night, the haze  of dramatic blue light enlivens the restaurant.

FOOD

Comfort food with a twist.Please take a look at the photo, Ruchi is holding up the “Bruschetta two ways” which distils the freshness and flavor of tomatoes on toast and  gazpacho in a shot glass too. The gifted young partners chef Rakesh. Ricky and Gaurav ensure that many a dish tells a story through it’s ingredients and presentation. Happily,  taste and flavor keep pace with the story (except in some dishes). And though it is a mish mash of a menu with Indian starters and mains, plus  pastas, burgers, pizzas and European fare, it still works. Must trys?   Succulent kababs, be it the tenderfirm and unerringly spiced chicken seekh sesame, coriander crusted chicken tikka or the Dual Paneer tikka 2 ways ( sundried tomato and and basil pesto.I   Bombay’s better butter chicken (makhanwala lightly done  with  Italian tomatoes, sans cream) is flavorsome and  the beer batter fried fish and chips and pizzas  delicious too. But  the magic is created by the  Chemistry of mango dessert a charmed  wedding  of tangy  kachi kairi jelly with the spike of aam ras, mango cheesecake with chocolate fudge.An equally mega voltage chocoholics dream come true is the  Chocolate ecstasy (rendered in 5 textures and temperatures) from the simple chocolate tart, to cutting chai with an edible chocolate spoon .

MINUS POINTS

While the presentation of the Chowpatty TSK platter (Bhel vada pao, pao bhaji pani puri shot) is brilliant the flavors lag behind. Ditto for the concept of the “nizzas” naan-pizza  ends up falling flat. Lackluster  chowder (though authentically served in a bread bowl) is lackluster as does the

Malabari Lamb perched atop tiny uttapam discs.Superb desserts, but strawberry rasmalai cheesecake,? Skip it, and take a pass as well on the gelatinous greentea panacotta.

MY TRIED, TESTED AND TASTED VERDICT

The Spare Kitchen has (finally) managed to break  the jinx (  three predecessor restaurants  in this venue met an untimely end). Ever since it opened, nine months ago, it has been magnetizing regulars and Bollywood too with it’s choice of progressive Indian, pasta, pizza, burger kind of fare served through  the day (Rs 1500, Meal for 2)  Sure it has its share of flaws, but food’s the center of a meal,  so you’ll be served  a final balance of basic satisfaction and innovative presentation. Comfort food with a spin. A welcome one!

P.S Feedback (@krishpatel689…”awesome) @stuffednstarved @noturpapa whats yours?

THE SPARE KITCHEN  Kings International Hotel compound, ground floor, Juhu Tara road, opposite Juhu church, Ph  65893333,

Open noon to 1 am.

Rs 1500 for a meal for two

RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

 


WHATS HOT TASTING SESSIONS BEGIN

I am on the lookout for home bakers and caterers to include in your very own Times Food guide 2015. Overwhelmed with your  fabulous response. This years first  “Whats Hot Tasting session” was held yesterday. Should you be interested please email rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, tweet or instagram (@rashmiudaysingh). Waitingly yours

Review: Tea Trails

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Tea lounge

One of Mumbai’s latest trends? Swanky, new office buildings getting pregnant with restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, bars and  nightclubs. The latest to join this brigade is the 10 day old Tea Trails. Is it world class? Or is it a chai ki dukan? I get Tea-lover NYC based “sexiest chef on earth”Vikas Khanna’s opinion. From views on the growing popularity of tea in the US, smoked tea (which he cooked with for his Masterchef show) it’s health benefits to   adding thandai to tea…he gives us plenty of tea-gyan. To meet him my foodie blind dates (instagram and twitter buddies)  the lovely @nehads12 Neha Shah working with a high profile international bank dashes down from Nariman Point. The well-informed @Gayayadav  Gayatri Yadav, business development manager  drives in from Malad. Dynamic professional, Shilpa Chawla, my loveliest reader past 20 years and author, foodstylist  Chef Michael Swamy  (who works closely with Vikas) shares his take on the food as well. Through it all, inspite of his frenetic two day trip for his new book and hosting a movie premiere, the tall, lovable, down to earth Vikas, our Punjabi munda hugs every one, smiles, laughs incessantly and turns out to be everyones cup of tea.

DÉCOR

Walk into BKC’s gleaming, glass building and zoom up the hi-tech lift to the third floor. The Tea Lounge is plonked in a high-ceilinged open-lobby kind of space. Wooden partitions, a small food counter give it a makeshift look. Innovative lights, posters. WIFI in this small 40 seater space, bathed in natural light during the day.

TEA

A simple, easy to navigate menu of 45 – 50 variants of teas with various blends.From Flavored blacks, white, greens, Oolong to Tisanes, Bubble Tea and chai here. Our vote goes to the “Tea Explorer” ( Rs 250, 4 teas, white, Oolong, International, green and Tisane).Perfect for the beginner. I love the  sensuous Lapsang Souchong (Rs 150) which is infused with smokey flavors by being  smoke-dried over pinewood fires.

Though a bit too sweet, Apple and cinnamon infused  Turkish Red Apple (Rs 95) is good as is  the fruit-filled Mango Taiwanese Bubble Tea (Rs 110 or 130) even though it doesn’t have the tapioca balls. We sip and sample plenty of teas (including the kullad (Rs 70) and the coolers.

All served in glass pitchers with inbuilt infusers,  a timer sand watch,  brewing instructions et al.  Complimentary  cheese straws too.

FOOD

Flavorsome Thai curry, well-made Tea infused Burmese Tea Leaf Salad stand out in the lunch specials.  In the all day menu, it’s the crisp onion bhajias, the simple slice of the pound cake that are worth trying, the rest of the outsourced desserts and a few savories are average or below par.

MINUS POINTS

Inaccessible, third floor location in the Capital Building (but a plus point for those working here) Dry, lackluster sandwich, muffins lack chocolate, Flavorful but soggy Tea biscuits, gelatinous  blueberry cheesecake, lemon tart encased in a hard shell. The tall, cool lemon and mint iced tea disappoints as does the slow service. Shilpa never got her order of Japanese tea inspite of requesting for it through the evening. My favorite Japanese Genmaicha and Gyokuro teas are not on the menu.

MY TRIED, TESTED AND TASTED VERDICT

Sniff, swirl, sip and spit…Ive done many a tea tasting sessions around the world and been romancing tea forever. So when Tea centre opened in Churchgate decades ago I was over the moon. I came to Tea Trails with joy and expectation. Happy that the dynamic Kavita and Uday Mathur’s  passion for tea spills over and they have taken care to ensure accurate brewing (timer et al) and serve up a flavor of world teas as well as our chai. Not exactly a gourmet tea lounge (a few  rare teas could’ve been added)  Food needs to be finetuned as does the service, but these could be just teething troubles. Open through the day till 7pm, I welcome this Tea Lounge…  ideal for chai and gupshup for tea lovers in the vicinity or should I say vicinitea?

TEA TRAILS, The Capital, Bandra Kurla Complex.

Ph 40050115

Open 9am to 7pm

Average spend Rs 600 for 2.

RATING

FOOD 2.5 TEA 3.5 SERVICE 3 DÉCOR 3


 

MY HUNT HAS BEGUN

I’ve been tweeting and instagraming for Home dessert makers for the Times Food Guide 2015 . Wow! What a response. Thanks a million. Will be inviting you for my “Whats hot” Tasting sessions so if you want to be included please mail rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh,