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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Open 9am to 7pm
Average spend Rs 600 for 2.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh,
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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
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 email@example.com, twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh
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Vegetarian Burmese and Tea salon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Open lunch and dinner
Meal for 2 (Rs 1500 per head)
RATING FOOD 3.5 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3.5
Tea salon, patisserie, chocolaterie
I confess. I’m a dessertaholic and a chocoholic. So, I conduct three tasting sessions at this new French-inspired Patisserie, Chocolaterie and tea salon. I land up in La Folie, when I go to do a clothes trial (her boutique is next to La Folie) to the dynamic and multi-talented Shaina NC’s boutique. This to walk the ramp (with Vivek Jain) for the mammoth 7000 audience, celebrity studded fund raiser for Cancerpatients for which Shaina made time inspite of her hectic electioneering. I do a marathon hour long tasting with patissieur extraordinaire, Cordon Bleu trained Firoza Moos ( pay bill of Rs 5015). The third tasting feedback is on twitter and instagram.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Another confession…I don’t know the French language at all, inspite of spending years in Paris while writing my foodbook. So interpreting “La Folie’s” French words is tough, but Ive had the good fortune to interview and taste all Sanjana Patels French mentor’s (Alain Ducasse et al) creations. Less than two months ago, I not only ate Pierre Herme’s patisserie but also flew down to Delhi to anchor Pierre Herme’s interview for a national magazine’s conclave.
Wedged into Kala Ghoda La Folie is a small, stark space with tables and a dark wood bench running along one wall. It seats 8 to 10. Quite a contrast to the ornate French La Duree with it’s jewel box looks.
There’s a catwalk here too…behind the glassed off counter, gleaming superstar desserts preen and strut… pralines, truffles, macarons, entremets ( that French for textural layered desserts) theres a huge choice of teas and coffee too.
Hero #1 is the“100% Chocolat” dense and moist with a dark chocolate cake base, crispy praline, bitter chocolate mousse capped off with chocolate fondant. Heroine #1
Rouge Velour (big fat, bright red rose) moist, zesty lemony sponge cake with strawberry compote Supporting hero #1 Infinite Caramel seasalt cream with hazelnut praline and milk chocolate. Child star#1 Colorful candy cake layered with Mentos, Éclair Nutties and marshmallow.
Full marks to La Folie’s slim chocolate squares…single origin Venezuelan and Equador chocolate truffles. Macarons (lemon grass and basil, pop rock candy ) delight.
Timing: though they say they open at 11am, at both our tastings, they were not open till 12 noon. A lot of the menu is not available…Black Forrest, tarts, Viennoiserie, cookies, tea time cakes and hot chocolate. Some of the non-chocolatey patisserie, like the raspberry litchi Damask,mango lemon Pabana are too gelatinous for my liking. Some complain about the high price.
La Folie’s Sanjana’s French-grounded creations bridge the classically saucy decadence of the past and the progressive derring-do of a new generation.
She treads the right middle ground between hyper-imaginative artistry and molten chocolate pandering. Ofcourse it is expensive ( Rs 215 to 235 for a pastry, Rs 75 macaron) but worth it. Now, if only the whole menu was available, the opening timing fine tuned, some of the desserts less gelatinous. I fell in love with it gradually, not all at once. The experience had a sweetness all its own.
TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM FEEDBACK
Thanks for your poetic responses to La Folie, space constrains me from printing all “ To call La Folie “superb” is an understatement” (@nehads12) “game changer” (@priyamganeriwal) “Taking desserts to a whole new level” (@brandedbawi)“Every penny is worth being spent…world class ingredients ( @nehathacker07) “Better than Pierre Herme (@ urvashipunwani) I love (@priyashamdasaninichani)“definitely one of the best in the country” (@theglobalfoodie) Thanks @etiennedmarques @mewsaliday @foodiebevdi, Manan Modi for your feedback.
@stuli1989 way too expensive. too rich (@ virajsahah)
Disappointing mango tart (@brandedbawi)
. But those interested please see twitter, instagram @rashmiudaysingh for dessert pics and responses.
La Folie 16 Commerce House, Rope Walk Lane, Next to Trishna. Kala Ghoda, Fort Ph 6772 2181. Daily 11am-11pm.
RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 3.5 DECOR 3
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.
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.)
I 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).
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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.
Sure! 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.
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,
·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.
·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
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.
· 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)
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.
You 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
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
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.
This ain’t no restaurant, it’s a timeless experience. I step in and out of nostalgic centuries, seamlessly. By the serene river Ganga (in the village of Raichak, an hours drive from Kolkatta) stands “Sonar Tori” a mindblowing restaurant which I discovered two years ago (now I know what Columbus must’ve felt like) and then went back and shot as a judge for the Times Now Foodie TV show. Did I just call it a “restaurant”? It is much more. It is a tribute to the old and rich Indian tradition, it is an art centre, the Bengali idiom has been infused into the coastal architecture of the place in a contemporaryfashion.
Sonar Tori is a visual recreation of the of the rich and layered facets of the socio- cultural- literary – ritualistic elements of Bengal; There is conservation of nature and culture here. The nostalgia of yesteryears has been infused by the usage antique articles and utensils and whoa! The multi-layered and flavorsome Bengali fare delivers magic.
SPRAWLING BY THE RIVER
I was floating on air with joy here. The sheer melding of the beauty of nature with manmade buildings is a triumph of art and science. The existing grooves and water bodies have been conserved. Minimalist thatched roof buildings have been built without disturbing a single tree or water body. Around the 11, 000 sq ft restaurant there is a a scattered look with walkways connecting them. Walk in to the restaurant which sprawls languourously on many levels and like Alladins cave, fabulous rooms keep opening up one after another. The Rabindranath Tagore room (main dining area) the Shisha Bar, main bar, an open air dining area and a sit out by the riverside here. There is also a separate cozy Private dining area within the restaurant.
I cant peel my eyes off the amazing collection of old windows, doors, old photographs, nutcrackers, betel boxes, traditional accounting books, 4 poster beds and trunks. Rabindranath Tagore’s famous poems and sketches adorn the ceilings, as do vintage chandeliers, old-fashioned handheld fans and other bric-a-bracs adorn the interiors, all put together to create nostalgic grace.
“It has been a privilege to say the least, to have been privy to the myriad sensitivities and sensibilities of Bengali cuisine” says the brilliant Harsh Neotia, the driving force behind it “and to offer the assimilation of years of gorging on both the palate and tradition”. His gorgeous wife Madhu Neotia shares his passion for it and works hands on here as an advisor.
THE JOURNEY OF BENGALI CUISINE
How does the brilliant Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti manage to showcase the influence of the Mughals, Europeans and of course the indigenous agrarian ones in his Bengali menus?
He explains that the much relished Bengali fare like polao, kosha mangsho, korma, kofta have been derived from Mughlai cuisine. The Nawab of Awadh (then Oudh) who took refuge in Kolkata during the British Raj brought with him hundreds of cooks and masalchis (spice mixers) who brought in chat, chop & cutlet, pauruti or bread and more.
I find out more about Ghotis (the people of West Bengal who use poppy seeds liberally) and Bangal ( from East Bengal
who favor dal and fish). Ghotis prefer fish bred in ponds or estuaries, like magur and topshe while Bangals prefer fish from big rivers. But the hilsa or ilish is a universal favorite. And Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti, Mathemetics Honours, Bachelor of Architecture and a master in hotel management, combines years of working with Indian and international masterchefs to seamlessly deliver an amazing experience. He serves three varieties of cuisines, namely Zamindari, Grameen & Musalmanir. Each one is served in different metals of thalis and in it’s own pristine orders. Freshest of seafood catch, flavorsome of curries, plumpest of rotis, sweetest and most delicate of milk based desserts…it’s a never ending feast for the senses. I can fill a book about it, instead I request the chef for his recipes. Should you want more please email me (Rashmiudaysingh2014@gmail.com, twitter @rashiudaysingh )
SONAR TORI RECIPE
Channar narkol paturi
Fabulous recipe of chenna steamed in a banana leaf
120 gm Chenna – Bengal cottage cheese
50 gm Grated coconut
2 tea spoon Ginger Paste
1 tae spoon Garlic Paste
3 nos Green chili paste
2 tea spoon Mustard paste
1 pinch Black cumin seed
1 table spoon Khoyaa
1 no Green chili slit
To taste Salt
½ tea spoon Sugar
1 no Banana leaf
2 tea spoon Mustard oil
Blend with the end of the wrist chenna into smoothness, and then add the grated coconut, ginger paste, garlic paste, green chili paste, mustard paste, khoyaa. Mix the entire ingredient nicely.
Crackle the black cumin seed, sprinkle on top, wrap the mixture in banana leaf, add green chili slit on top and drops of mustard oil and seal the banana leaf. Serve preferably with bangla pulao
Steam it for 4-5 minutes
I raise a toast to the very British tradition of high tea (ofcourse I do it with a cup of the finest Earl Grey tea)!
BRITISH HIGH TEA
Over the years, I’ve been sipping and tasting my way through many a high-tea in London’s legendary hotels and each time I salute Duchess Anna of Bedford for having sent out the invite for “tea and a walk in the fields” over a hundred and fifty years ago. The lovely lady set in motion the most dainty of all culinary traditions.
I raise many a toast to the most legendary, the highly-awarded and the worlds best High teas (which Ive partaken of)…London’s grand historic hotels, The Ritz, The Dorchester, The Lanesbrough and even The Ritz in Madrid and Paris. An amazing tradition which evolved with time…of tea service, side plates, bread and butter plates, cake stands, and every conceivable accompaniment advancing across the drawing room. Tea gardens, tea dances , a whole code of etiquette followed. Now, Tea Council Inspectors check standards and coveted awards are given every year for the Top London Afternoon Tea and Top Tea Place.
Not just the domain of the society grand dames, this tradition is hugely popular with the younger fashionable set too.
CHINESE TEA CEREMONY
Quite different from the British High tea is the Chinese Tea ceremony. I have attended only one such ceremony where tea was made in small clay teapots. The pot rinsed with boiling water and then tea leaves added to the pot using chopsticks or a bamboo scoop. “The art of preparing and making tea is called Cha Dao” informs my Chinese host. I enjoy the way the cups are arranged in a circle and the server pours the tea in all of them in one go.
I notice that he fills the cups just over half way. I am told that the Chinese believe that the rest of the cup is filled with friendship and affection. What a delicious thought!
JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY
Known for their stylish and elegant Chanoyu, the Sencha ceremonies, these are worth partaking of.The Chanoyu ceremony takes place in a wooden or bamboo teahouse called a Chashitsu. Plenty of wonderful rules around being calm, washing hands enjoying the Teishu making the tea using powdered green tea called ‘matcha’ and sitting on the floor around a low table.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
Sure all the High teas and tea ceremonies Ive attended have been fabulous, but this one, here in Bangalore is easily the best. Please take a look at the photograph Ive shot. Time stands still, luxurious high tea from another era is flamboyantly served under the 150 year old Rain tree. Every detail in this 125 year old beauty of a landmark Taj Westend hotel is perfect. The Taj West End was started as a 10 bed genteel boarding house for upper class English Gentlemen by the Bronsons in 1887 and today remains at the top of the world class hotels. I take many trips back in time here in all their bespoke experiences they’re offering to celebrate history. From getting high on their Heritage Champagne Walk, admiring the oldest and first red colored Post Box operational till date, soaking in the Art Corridor to sitting under the magnificent Rain tree which is older than the hotel and has stood tall since 1848. Here with the charming colonial 1905 block as backdrop in the Mynt Lawns, I choose from a selection of delectable treats.
Along with this Art of High Tea an inspiration from the Colonial era (with a menu crafted for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians)The brilliant executive Chef Sandip Narang having honed his mastery all over the world and set up award winning restaurants in India also offers a well contemplated Anglo Indian Menu that draws inspiration from the British Raj, of western dishes infused with spices and other local ingredients. At the Westend’s High tea, take your pick… open sandwich of smoked salmon, cucumber and dill sandwich, crispy fish finger with tartare sauce, lemon tart, frosted cupcakes, coffee macaroons, strawberries in chocolate to name a few. Pair it with a wide ranging tea selection from Darjeeling to Monking Jasmine, Earl Grey and Egyptian Camomile.
I’ve been passionately in love with The Westend and been visiting it since many decades. It’s old world charm and colonial architecture blends with the high tech and amazing restaurants (including India’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Ginger) weave a memorable spell, The dynamic Somnath Mukherjee ensures that each and every detail is perfect. Over the years, staying in these cottages interspersed over 20 acres of lush greenery and spreading canopies of trees has always been magical for me. I’m fascinated to learn that it was under these trees that Nobel prize winner Ronald Ross discovered the cure for malaria. It was here that Sir Winston Churchill often dined as a Cigar – smoking war journalist; and later went on to become the Prime minister of Britain. It is here that under the ancient Rain tree that I sip (literally too) 125 years of legendary history. This is most certainly, my cup of tea.