food

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

THE SAHIB ROOM & KIPLING BAR

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Indian

My salaam to the Sahib and (never forget) the  Memsahib. Interestingly, now that  current restaurant trends are all about sleek minimalism, molecular gastronomy and global fusion, Palladium Hotel’s four month old Sahib Room is a thrilling blast from the  past, a reminder of how much pleasure can be had just from being tucked into elegance and graciousness. And fittingly my dinner companion is the epitome of style and substance. The ever-gorgeous Dr Jamuna Pai, pioneering cosmetologist is renowned not just for the many firsts to her credit but also for her Bridal TV shows and the innumerable  Miss Universe, and Miss India’s she has been skincare expert to. With cutting edge skincare clinics in Mumbai ,Delhi and Pune she has almost become a household name now in India for skincare, but  she still makes time to cook Indian food brilliantly. Her fabulous recipes have been part of  my Penguin Celebrity cookbook too,.Both Doc and  the soft spoken Suchi Kalia give a thumbs up to the food here.

DECOR

It’s spacious, it’s plush, it offers privacy. We sit under shimmering Ossler chandeliers and Venetian crystals, (plenty of space between tables) and  finely curated prints (that date back to the 17th century) around us. We love the community bar table, the quirky magnifying reading glass, quill pen and gramophone in the adjoining Kipling bar (with many an innovative cocktail) and settle down to a leisurely and fun dinner.

FOOD

Multilayered, rich, spice perfumed flavours from Awadh, Hyderabad, Kashmir and more. Hailing from the Awadh region, 32 year old chef  Angad Rai not only brings his training in the Lucknavi kitchens  but also khada and khushboo masalas pipri, kachri, patherkephool, nag kesar, rose petals. He handpounds them and teases big effects from the superb softest Galouti and equally good  vegetarian waterchestnut and avocado Khaas Kebabs. We trip out on the homestyle Awadhi Purvanchal saag (spiked with bathua And ambada).Exquisite nalli nihari (cooked in Unani masala) must be mopped up with the light saffron flavoured taftan bread.   Succulent Lahori chaampain with whispers of saunf. Kashmiri hand pounded Sasranga  mutton  mellowed with curd, saffron and mogra is a must try. Khaas dal makhni rich with safed makhan too. End with the moist, subtle and flavoursome kache gosht ki Dum Biryani. Plenty for vegetarians (50 percent of the menu)

Try the Kalonjiwale Baigan, tangy Amchuri Bhindi  and Ande ki biryani.

MINUS POINTS

Small portions. We could do with more generosity. The seafood (be it the gongura prawns or the jaituni pomfret) though not below par lacks the masterfulness of the rest of the dishes. The light Broccoli Dak Bangla.with kasundi mustard  is dragged down with it’s Philadelphia cream cheese slathering. Rajbhog, angoodi rabdi are ho hum, the outsourced paan icecream is a little better, but what is fabulous (and we  ask for seconds) is the Khubani ka meetha (unfortunately, on my second dinner I was told it’s not on the menu anymore).My favourite sparkling water (neither Perrier nor Pelligrino) available in this 5 star hotel.

MY POINT

Kudos to The Sahib Room for not taking it’s name literally and serving up clichéd decor or Anglo-Indian food from the Raj. Instead Awadh, Hyderabad and Kashmi distil themselves graciously on our plates in elegant surroundings. I eat two long meals here (pay an average of Rs 5000 meal for 2).There is consistency in the food (except for a few, the desserts and the portions could be bigger), I am told that the chef uses the principles of Unani medicine in cooking to achieve the perfect balance between being rich yet non-greasy. There is plenty of ceremony associated with fine dining  yet there’s a relaxed air, that is in sync with most diners’ temperaments. I raise a toast in delight with their  paan martini  Mera Salaam hai!

 

The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar Palladium Hotel, Lower Parel/

Av meal for 2: Rs 5,000  Ph 61628000

Open for lunch and dinner

RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 4 DECOR 4


 

TIMES FOOD GUIDE 2015

Booking restaurant tables under fake names, landing up for surprise checks… am busy doing that twice a day. Exciting, exacting and fattening times are here. I am busy eating for The Times Food guide 2015. Would love to incorporate your recommendations, please do share your favourite restaurants and invite you to dine with me (rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail.com) FB @rashmiudaysingh instagram, twitter. Waitingly yours.

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)

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: 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

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: Burma Burma

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Vegetarian Burmese and Tea salon

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It’s largely pleasurable. It’s satisfying.  It gets our unanimous vote.  It does so not only because like our brand new Prime Minister “ vegetarian chhe” but because this 2 week old, brand new Burmese (hold your breath) pure vegetarian eatery deserves it. The arguments about authenticity (Burmese cuisine is predominantly non vegetarian) could go on forever. But what comes to the table delivers pleasant surprises.And bowls over the dyed-in-the-drool gorgeous vegetarian gourmet Mandira Bedi. She’s so magnetized by this vegetarian arrival, that she makes time from her TV shows, corporate events, charity work and designing stunning sarees to drive across town to dine here. The other committed and well-traveled vegetarian gourmet is the London based hot shot lawyer Sunil Sheth, who heads up the most unique international charity (Princess Anne, grand patron) for those with the double disability of being deaf-blind. He is here in India to expand charitable activities. And the ever-helpful Mandira gives him many a brilliant suggestion over a fun-dinner.

 

 

DÉCOR

Walk past the bar (No! alcohol, please note) into the earthy-wooden-toned room which has skilful patches of vibrant color. From (backlit) parasols hanging upside (on the ceiling),a  wall with  a “Prayer Wheel”, splotches of color of Burmese laquerware et al. Free wifi, and a TV screen too. Not super fancy, but thankfully not overcute thematic either.

FOOD

Never mind if they don’t use the Burmese cuisine’s predominant non vegetarian ingredients, fish oil et al. They coax  masterful flavors from   Chilli oil, onions, garlic coconut and Burmese spice mix Yessa. The must trys? Salads …crunchy with Achow nuts and tangy with chilli oil and lemon. Be it the zingy ginger salad, the chatpatta raw mango or the fermented tea leaf laphet salad.

Flavorsome thin peppery broth and the “samuza hincho” baby samosas dunked with carrot cabbage and capsicum, are delightful. The two young, dynamic Marwari owners,Ankit Gupta  and Chirag Chhajer ensure that every last detail is perfect.

In the mains, go for the  uniquely tasty  creamy coconutty rice with the contrast of peanut tomato chutney. The ever popular (originally breakfast dish) oh no (Burmese for coconut) Khao suey coconut curry with noodles and condiments (fried garlic, onions, nimbu etc) just about passes muster and could do with more punch. Mandira is particularly thrilled with the Red Velvet, and the large wedges of tasty desserts from Sanah Ahuja’s  Crumbilicious.

 

MINUS POINTS

The biggest let downs are the stuffed doughy, hard buns (Paukse). Okayish  Pyan Boo Palata  (paratha)  with a  corn coconutty mash. Hard tofu stir fried with tofu and lacklustre Burmese Falooda too. It can get noisy and there is no alcohol.

MY POINT

This mid-priced (Rs 1500 for 2) new Fort eatery distils the spirit of Burma in it’s earthy, wooden interiors. Though not authentic to this low impact cuisine’s non veg fundamentals, it still serves up deliciously surprising textural contrasts and flavors in it’s vegetarian spread.  It pays great attention to detail (imports sunflower seeds,  teas to chopsticks). The soups and salads (love them) score over the mains. It is a winner, but will this new Tea salon and vegetarian eatery (like our vegetarian Prime Minister) continue to deliver? I toast it with my favorite cup of “Monkey picked Oolong tea” and surely hope so.

 

INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER FEEDBACK

Thanks for  flooding me with feedback on this 2 week old Burma Burma. @chingypatel (“loved it”  “the tealeaf salad is an acquired taste in the beginning, but grows on you”) @panktiv (“loved the tealeaf salad…said its like Burmese bhel” (I agree) @meau01 (“Very inexpensive”)@mohidkadri (“yummy and so tasty salad”) @elisha_saigal (“food is good. Fresh ingredients and knowledge rich staff”  “but after serving the main course they go into a lull as though dreaming of scuba diving in Myanmar” ) @chingypatel (“BurmaBurma rocks”) @foodcookeat (“that sounds awesome”) @nsonal tells @hspicture (lets go there).

Look forward to even more feedback from you…as you can see its invaluable.

 

BURMA BURMA Kothari House
Off M. G. Road
Near Allana Centre Fort

Ph 40036600

Open lunch and dinner

Meal for 2 (Rs 1500 per head)

No alcohol

RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5

Restaurant Review: Makhan

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MAKHAN

Marwari, Gujarati, chaat

Dissapointing. That one word sums up the whole review of Makhan in Kalbadevi. I love diving into the cacophonic, colorful Kalbadevi area, but my excitement to check out this new pure vegetarian eatery from the Brijwasi mithai chain was short-lived. Sadly.

DÉCOR

Functional décor marks the smallish air conditioned space with it’s mithai counter running alongside. Stainless steel tables and  ochre walls complete the decor. A narrow staircase leads to the even smaller mexanine area (open for dinner only.)
FOOD

MakhanI ate alone… with determination and (you’ll agree) with optimism and hope.  Please take a look at the accompanying photograph…I   tasted my way through all those dishes (with the hope of coming across delicious ones, the eternal optimist that I am). But it is only the Delhi dahi bada papdi chaat (I hold close up) drizzled with tamarind chutney and squishy and crisp under the chilled dahi that delights. Crisp pappad chudi and  the robustly spiced Samosa chaat are just about above par.

They also serve Upvas food (which includes French fries) and  thalis. (Rs 130  to sp Rs 240).

 

MINUS POINTS

The Marwari and Gujarati fare (which I absolutely love) is either  undercooked, overcooked or just plain dull that no measure or mingling of seasonings could save it.

While the Kair sanger  is okayish the accompanying parathas  are greasy, the stuffed pyaz paratha  is doughy.  My most favorite Dal batti and it’s soggy churma disappoints. As does the watery Gattey ki sabzi with  oily thin ajwain paratha. Jodhpur’s famous Mirchi vada  is crisp  but  stone cold. Can the silky superb Gujarati kadhi actually be rendered so tasteless? Ditto for the Punjabi kadhi and the stodgy Gujarati Handvo. The bhaturas  are plump but kacha and the cholley tasteless. Ofcourse,  the Dhansak is not even a pale imitation of the Parsi original. I could go on listing the dishes I ate, but suffice it to say that  it’s all below par and all the accompanying rotis, bhakris, parathas are undercooked and overgreased.

Parking is impossible.

MY POINT

Im a Kalbadevi area addict. Shree Thacker Bhojnalaya tops my reasons for popping in to this throbbing, pulsating part of the city.

Im a fan of the exquisite gourmet vegetarian Gujarati and Marwari cuisines. So that’s why I determinedly ate my way alone through Makhan’s menu (paid Rs 2000, no credit cards accepted) .  Generously portioned dishes, modestly priced (meal for 2, Rs  300- 400), swift service but none of these reasons make up for the food which lacks luster. And which (heres that word again) disappoints.

 

Makhan 192/194 Kalbadevi Road, Opposite the Cotton Exchange, Kalbadevi (2240-2597). Open  noon- 11pm. Meal for two R300-R400

RATING FOOD 2 SERVICE 3.5  DÉCOR 3


 

 

CHEAPANDCHEERFUL

Been flooded. Overwhelmed. A zillion thanks for all your recommendation on twitter, email and instagram Awesome recommendations from South Indian Udipis to Bengali Roll places, and from Chaat corners to Dessert shops, we’ve got it all.

@HungryMumbai @WheelsOnOurFeet @rbhotica @DelishDirection @Rulerofmind @RassiBomb @ZeniaIrani thanks ever so much. Sorry cant thank each and every one of you, due to space constraint, but look forward to hearing from you on rashmiudaysingh2014@gmail.com, twitter and instagram @rashmiudaysingh and eating about with you too.


NEW, NEWER, NEWEST

Tried. Tested. Tasted. It doesn’t get any better than this. Find out the latest about the greatest, know all about the brand new restaurant openings from the chotta to the motta all delivered to you with  speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness. “It’s the best biryani in South Mumbai” posted @abhinitk (on my instagram account, I still have to find out his full name) I went instantly to check out this newest, cheapandcheerful eatery and takeaway which has just opened in South Mumbai. It’s called Kyamiyaa, its seriously small, is it worth dashing down to? Is it Value for money? …  to find out more you have to log onto Timescity.com. What you waiting for?   Go for it. Tcity.me/kyamiyaa.

I’M HOOKED

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Excuse me for speeding! I’m on a mission. I’m on the look out for one single dish which captures the essence of each of my favorite cities. Surely! It cant be Bhelpuri for Mumbai? Though it is a lot like the city itself, it’s tangy, crisp, sour, sweet, squishy…but it doesn’t distil the high-end, highrise glossy life or Bombay- to- Mumbai’s chequered history. And here in Kolkata my heartbeat is quickening with joy. Here, many centuries coexist seamlessly. Here, in this undecipherable amalgam of modernity and oldness, human warmth and apathy, rickshaws and limousines throbs the soul of the city which I love. Sure it is proudly Bengali, it is multi-cultural but it still hark backs to the Colonial Raj. And here amidst all this cacophony and glamour I hit the jackpot. I find that one dish which distils the Bengali heartbeat and the cosmopolitan nature.

TIMELESS LEGEND

L1120295Sure! Enough this dish has stood the test of time. Its recipe has been passed down generations of masterchefs. And  time stands still in the Historic  handsome Oberoi Grand with it’s stucco ornamentation, colonnaded verandahs and balconies. The glory and style of the Raj coexists seamlessly with modernization. Here I trip out on Chef Saurav Banerjee’s “smoked Hilsa” a masterful combination of the Ilish (Hilsa) fish which every Bengali loves done to a very Anglo-Indian style. Having studied in the prestigious catering college of West Bengal, opened many a restaurant around the country, Chef Banerjee has also traveled the world working in Singapore and London.. He brilliantly executes this dish.

This recipe probably existed way back in the early nineteenth century when the site of the hotel was the private residence of a Colonel Grand, which went on to be converted into a boarding house by Mrs. Annie Monk, bought over by  Arathoon Stephen an Armenian from Isfahan who redeveloped the site into an extravagant neoclassical style which looks like the hotel today.  The hotel soon became a popular spot amongst the English population of Calcutta. It was known, in particular, for its annual New Year party  with iced champagne and expensive gifts and for sure this smoked Hilsa dish. Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi took over and bought this property in 1939 and it stands handsomely and serenely in the cacophony of Chowringhee. A meal at the multi-cuisine all day dining restaurant,a authentic Thai restaurant, a dip in the limpid blue pool in the heart of the hotel are some of the must-dos. The dapper dynamic George Kuruvilla ensures that history and modernity do a memorable tango and this dish of Smoked Hilsa is the epitome of both.

THE GRAND SMOKED HILSA

The intensely flavored Ilish or Hilsa has been  the Bengali favorite (and mine) forever. Chef Banerji very thoughtfully provides substitutes for it (though we both agree that no fish can really match it in texture or flavor). Ditto for the Bengali mustard paste…kasundi. However you can always use any other ready mustard paste. Try it and be transported to the most historic and legendary of  Kolkata’s Grand landmark. One bite of it’s smoky-tender-firmness and the flavor of Kolkata with it’s centuries of colorful history will seduce you. A truly unique legendary dish from a Grand legend.

recipe-header

Ingredients
Smoked hilsa (if hilsa not available you may substitute with rawas or sole) fillet 250gm, Baby potato 4 to 6/ Baby carrot3 to 4/ Broccoli 2 small florets/ Baby corn2/ Chopped parsley A small bunch,
Salt 2gm/ Cracked pepper1gm/ Kasundi mustard sauce 2tbsp (can be substituted by any ready mustard paste).

For the sauce
Fish stock 2cups/ Kasundi 1tbsp/ Butter 2 tbsps, Cream Half a cup,

Method:
·Take out the hilsa fillet and put it in a pre-heated 180 degrees medium oven till its nicely hot.
·Par boil all the vegetables  and season with salt and pepper.
·Sprinkle chopped parsley on the vegetables and arrange it in a plate.
·Place the fillet carefully on the plate and pour the kasundi mustard sauce on it.
·Serve hot.
·For the sauce reduce the stock to 50%. Add the kasundi mustard.
·Take it off the fire and whisk in the cream and the butter.
METHOD FOR SMOKING

Ingredients
Hilsa fillet de skinned 350gm, 2) Anchovy 5 gm, (use tinned anchovy 1 small piece,) 3)Kasundi mustard 2tsp, 4)Refined oil 2tsp,
5) Lemon juice 1tsp, 6) Salt to taste.

Method:
· Remove the scales from the fish and cut out the fillets. In a large container take cloves on a burning ember of coal and pour ghee on it.Trap that smoke . Chef uses ·mango wood dust for smoking but he has given the coal alternative for home cooking. .
Marinate the fillet with  (anchovy, kasundi, oil, lemon juice and salt) the ingredients no. 2 – 6 and leave it for one hour.
·Cook the fillet in a pre heated oven.
·De bone the fillet by taking out strips vertically from the fillet.
·Remove the bones feeling them with the knife.
·Join back the strips and cling wrap the fillet carefully, ( should you want to, you can  store this smoked hilsa for 4 to 6 days too)

REJUVEN-ATE, CELEBR-ATE

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I raise a toast with the  delicious“Iron man” juice and ask a few questions: Can delicious also be nutritious? Tasty food be   healthy? Contradictory? Not possible? But worth finding out, don’t you agree? After all, food delivers the much-needed energy and the vitality to work and to enjoy life in all it’s manifold aspects. And so it’s been my life-long quest to find food that combines taste with health. And especially in restaurants. Having eaten my way through all my travels around the world and through all my 33 books, I have to admit that very, very few restaurants serve up food that combines these two aspects. Most coax flavors and enhance textures with dollops of fat, frying to a crisp, layers of cream and so on. India’s  restaurantscape continues to grow and expand with multiple cuisines and options. And each year, as I research The Times Food Guides I eat non-stop in restaurants here.

  CAFE WELI-DELI

Rejuven-ateYou can imagine my delight when in the heart of bustling South Mumbai, I find  a cafe, an oasis of calm which creates, innovates and serves up the most amazing spa menu. And this is a glassed off space ( outdoor verandah et al), surrounded by trees. This jewel of a  open-through-the-day café is part of the Taj’s Wellington Mews, their swanky serviced apartment property. Sure! You can imbibe the tranquility and coffee and snacks but even more exciting is the light and delightful menu of the Jiva spa complemented by a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Ofcourse, the comprehensive short menu with it’s sandwiches and pastas also offers a flavorsome Goan prawn curry and the ever popular Chicken kathi roll.  But it’s the healthful yet yummy Steamed Sea Bass, the  Mediterranean-spiced Chicken Breast  and the healthy Wholewheat Ravioli with Spinach and Mushroom and Stir-fried Spring Vegetables served with Tofu that Chef Shrutika Koli excels in. Here I not only trip out on their crisp salads, but also their  addictive roasted pumpkin soup spiked with cumin and the homestyle drumsticks.

From chef Shrutika Koli and the dynamic, health-buff Parveen Chander Kumar, who helms the serene spa and the property, I get a rejuvenating taste of health.  “The soup is full of antioxidants”  explains Parveen  and I chip in “and what a unique lingering whisper of cumin it has”.

P.S. The Iron Man is a refreshing apple, guava and pear juice. Weli Deli’s  Pineapple and Ginger with Mint and Celery is another favorite of mine too.

 

 


 

HEALTHY COOKING TIPS

Chef Shrutika shares some of her tips and recipes with us.

·       Always use only seasonal and fresh vegetables and  herbs,  instead of canned or dried ones.

·       While making  juices of fruits and  vegetables try and squeeze last minute without adding any sweeteners .

·       ·         ·        Try to best capture flavors retain the nutrients in food without adding excessive salt and fats

·       Cooking with minimal heat and a la minute tossing of food help to maintain  colour and texture of food .

·       Avoid excess use of all the white food stuffs eg. Sugar , salt , rice , milk, refine flour …..

 

CUMIN SCENTED ROASTED PUMPKIN BISQUE

Ingredients:

Amount   Measure  Ingredient                       Preparation Method

500          grams              pumpkin red

15            grams              cumin seeds                    roasted and powdered

15            milliliters        extra virgin olive oil

10            grams              sea salt                    to taste

10            grams              pepper corn                     crushed

20            grams              shallots                    chopped

20            grams              garlic                               chopped

20            grams              leeks                                chopped

 

Preparation:

Peel & cut pumpkin in to wedges. Marinate pumpkin with olive oil, salt, peper  & garlic.

Roast marinated pumpkin in the oven until well-done. Puree the roasted pumpkin to a fine paste.

Sauté garlic, shallots, leeks, cumin seeds & add pumpkin puree. Add vegetable stock, and seasoning.

Simmer the soup till smooth and creamy. Strain and return to fire.

Check for seasoning, color and consistency. Serve hot garnished with roasted cumin powder.

THE PERFECT PUMPKIN

  • Very low calorie (100 gms of pumpkin has 26 calories)No saturated fats or cholesterol.
  • Pumpkin has many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
  •  but rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins.
  •  Recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • High quantity of Vitamin A, a powerful natural anti-oxidant.
  • Plenty of  B-complex group of vitamins.
  • A rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.