blind date

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,

Review: MAINLAND CHINA ASIA KITCHEN

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Pan Oriental 

We are excited. It’s a brand new 6 week old restaurant. I swoop down with eight of my blind dates( foodie readers who Id never met except over twitter and instagram).This Pan Oriental casual eatery has been newly born to  the established  20 year old “Mainland China” family. Its more Oriental than Chinese. It’s more casual. More affordable. Is it worth going to? Nine of us troop down, eat, tweet and instagram for three and half hours. Our review follows…

DÉCOR We all love the mega-voltage energy of the colorful ambiance. Ride up the escalator in the gleaming Oberoi mall and walk into a vibrant, high-ceilinged hall. Buzzing open kitchen, Oriental grocery shop front décor, with a retail shelf hanging over the kitchen fitted with long ladder on rails, walls plastered with street scenes of countries of the Far East.

FOOD On the subtle-to-blunt spectrum, the food here falls almost smack in the middle. It serves up the popular dishes of Mainland China  and also  some Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Burmese ones. Robust flavors gallop across our taste buds, be it the Dynamite tofu (lives upto it’s name)  the crisp sambal fish made more lively with salsa and intensely flavored Black pepper chicken. Chatpatta Kimchi rice too. Flavorsome curries be it the Thai green or the Burmese Khao suey (complete with crunchy condiments) here. Amongst the more subtle and steamed dishes the plump chicken  suimai is worth trying, but it’s maestro Chef Rajesh Dubey’s the unerringly cooked Seabass sparkled with Tamari sauce and presented with panache that dazzles.Infact, creative presentation marks many a dish… eg balls of dynamite tofu served in a Martini glass. Desserts are above par, but it’s the feathery sponge that is drizzled with luscious sweet caramel  to wickedly flavorful effect

MINUS POINTS Gloopy sushi , undercooked prawns in the Thai  curry, lackluster  Mee Goreng lamb and  the Korean Bulgogi (we try the mock meat version) is not authentic but tasteless too. A thick sticky skin clasps the vegetarian dimsum. We try booking ahead, but because of their no reservations policy, end up waiting for our table. When full (like it is when we visit it) the restaurant can get very noisy.

MY POINT A brilliant concept, executed with gusto and delivered in a vibrant, high ceilinged ambiance,  bar  et al. The food is a mixture of appealing and ho-hum. But it almost always delivers high-impact flavors (well presented plates) at relatively low-impact prices, (Rs 1000, meal for 2).

Anjan Chatterjee’s  Mainland China’s Asia Kitchen is not about fine dining, but  Fun dining.

MAINLAND CHINA ASIA KITCHEN, Oberoi mall, Film city Road, Goregaon East. 28423141 9322249924 Open lunch and dinner RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVIE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5


1(1)MEET MY FOODIE BLIND DATES

Whoa!  Take a look at the photo and you ‘ll know what fun 9 strangers can have together simply because we are foodies. I invite them over twitter and instagram and they travel from far and wide. I love meeting each one…from the corporate lawyer and chef to belly dancer  by passion. Kavita Tejnani certified Yoga Instructor, finsancial insurance advisor, thoughtfully brings Sindhi sweets and a thank you note.Passionate belly dancer, Chitra Kannan  the Vice President of  a packaging company , Jyoti Narula Ranjan  @jnrispartof techie turned entreprenuer is now building @SynTalk.  @priyahgandhi  a  corporate lawyer between jobs and @theglobalfoodie Urvika Kanoi  a classically trained chef from LCB ( setting up her own restaurant soon) all share their views. The fit foodie @KamathGurudutt and the HR professional @elsonsequiera are the two gallant males amongst us.  Adding even more fun to the lunch is Perzen Patel  better known as @BawiBride, a  Marketing Manager by day and Parsi caterer/food blogger by evening. Needless to add all of us love to cook, eat, tweet, blog, instagram and yes we all enjoy Mainland China Asia Kitchen.

P.S Join in. Be my next foodie date email rashmiudaysingh.instafriends@gmail.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh