food

Divinely Delicious Dive

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Island owner and pilot Peter Gash with Chef Mitch on Lady Elliot island.

It’s a deliciously life changing experience. Above and below the waters too. I’m in this tiny (one mile long,) remote Lady Elliot Island which shimmers in the turquoise blue waters of Australia’s Great Barrier reef. Peter Gash  the gallant owner of the island, flies me in his tiny plane and the  colourful, naked beauty of nature seduces. He has been dedicatedly reforesting  this island  and preserving the pristine marine life (I snorkel and dive for the first time)and running this amazing 41 room eco resort. In the midst of  this raw nature the brilliant Chef Mitch conjures a gourmet meal from Moreton Bay Bugs in a coconut Asian sauce to handmade Salted Caramel Macarons.

We feast on the beach and right there in the azure sunset flecked waters the sea turtles, whales, dolphins dance to a divine rhythm.

P.S. I love the India connection…this remote island is named after  the Lady Elliot ship built in Calcutta. Named after the governor of India’s wife it was the ship in which the island was  discovered. Jai hind!

Indian Food Tops Asia’s Food Oscars

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GAGGAN WITH DAUGHTER TARA , WIFE PUI AND PARTNER RAJESH KEWALRAMANI SACHIN POOJARY, DHARSHAN MUNIDASA (Centre) MANISH MEHROTRA (beard)

It’s the most delicious hat trick ever!  One that received a standing ovation at Asia’s most prestigious and coveted Oscars of food in Bangkok held a few days ago. For the third time in a row,  putting Indian food on top of Asia’s 50 best was our very own Kolkatta born,  innovative, exuberant and affectionate Gaggan Anand. At a glittering ceremony of  Asia’s 50 best restaurant awards (now in its fifth edition,)  Gaggan along with his partner Rajesh Kewalramani received the award. This is the most awaited awards night by the Foodie fraternity, not only do the who’s who and the crème de la crème jet down  but thousands more watch live streams from around the world.

“I’m humbled. This is for my country where I came from, India. For Tara my daughter and my family” said a visibly emotional Gaggan “The 67 people in my restaurant are the best team I’ve ever worked with.”  And after the awards “The unofficial after party that followed in Gaggan’s restaurant not only served up Bangkok’s best street food, tattoo, henna, DJ music, Polaroid photo stations et al. It was also Gaggan’s birthday and as a special surprise, his wife Pui brought along Tara, their daughter in a chefs uniform completing the celebration.

INDIA’S BEST RESTAURANT

New Delhi s “Indian Accent” s very creative,talented and soft-spoken Chef Manish Mehrotra not only walked away with the award for India’s best restaurant but also conducted a cooking masterclass and gave a talk on “spices” to  packed houses.  Their progressive Indian Accent has also opened in New York to rave reviews. From Mumbai the gifted Chef Sachin Poojary received the award for the exquisite Japanese Wasabi by Morimoto.

SRILANKA’S BEST RESTAURANT

Srilanka’s best restaurant “Ministry of Crab’s”  multi-talented  Dharshan Munidasa also received an award for his superlative  Japanese Nihon Bashi. He has single-handedly put Srilanka on the world gourmet map.

THE TOP TEN

  • Gaggan, Thailand • Restaurant Andre, Singapore• Amber, Hong Kong• 8-1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong • Nahm, Thailand• Narisawa, Japan • Nihonryori Ryugin, Japan• Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, China • Odette, Singapore• Burnt Ends, Singapore

P.S Asia’s 50 best winners followed voting by 318 independent experts led by six academy chairs across the region.As chairperson of the Indian subcontinent I’ve had the good fortune to attend  these amazing awards. Having tracked global gastronomy for three decades, I can only say that these are not just prestigious lists of award-winning restaurants which the foodies of the world follow but they have also changed the course of tourism Made restaurants into landmarks to visit and made their countries proud and created  “Gourmet tourism” .

SWEET SUCCESS

A meal at Gaggan is  truly is THE Gaggan experience.  Gaggan ensures that Imagination and science, creativity and art copulate to produce masterpieces of flavour and texture and yet retain their authentic Indian flavors. Therein lies the Gaggan magic. Be it the Bombay Bhel, idli sambhar, smoked eggplant cookies and more. Gaggan’s  multi-national young dedicated brilliant team of 67 delivers a mind-blowing experience in the two leveled bungalow (we dined in the new “den” which has recently been added on). It was a delight to meet the brilliant  Chef Garima Arora  and the team. Also the  French trained patisseur Solanki Roy from Kolkatta whose desserts are memorable. I can still savor the flavour of  the Indian ghewar and Japanese strawberry…a lyrical jugalbandi!

THE DREAM TEAM

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ASIAS 50 BEST DREAMTEAM: Charles Reed (centre) flanked by Helene Pietrini (white) William Drew Laura Price and Francesco. Left Rikki Muddie, Tim Brooke Webb, Emer Schlosser, Tiago Restani

Asia’s 50 best,  The worlds 50 best, Latin America’s 50 best restaurant awards have changed the course of global gastronomy. Driving these awards and making them into high-octane international influential forces ( in gastronomy And tourism)  is the London-based   dynamic dream team. Helming and driving the awards Charles Reed, Helene Pietrini, Tim Brooke Webb, William Drew work the memorable magic.  As do Tiago Restani, Francesco, Laura Price, Rikki Muddie and Emer Schlosser and together they ensure clockwork precision.  Worlds 50 best, Latin Americas 50 best and Asia’s 50 best are not just  influential list-makers but also taste makers. Riveting talks and cooking sessions are also held around  each award ceremony. And through the year foodies around the world follow each and every deliciously informative step the Academy takes.

Review: Indian Bistro

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A couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon such a highly enjoyable, moderately priced restaurant.  We drove to India Bistro in Chembur and I’m happy to report that the experience was enjoyable on almost every count.

Read my detailed review on http://www.whatshot.in/mumbai/critics-review-india-bistro-is-for-the-modern-indian/C2681

Surprise on the beach

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Zuma on the beach: Chef Wingtam, Fred. varnier, Onur secilmis Patrick Smekens

Foodies, here’s news for you. Zuma, the award-winning world renowned and my favourite contemporary Japanese Izakaya restaurant rocks in over ten cities, but what a happy surprise to find Arjun Waney’s highoctane restaurant on the beach in Phuket. Zuma is making waves (literally, too) in the superluxurious Anantara Layan. And last week in Phuket, I got to know about it, thanks to the dynamic Fred Varnier and got a taste of Chef Wingtam’s rendering of Zuma signature dishes. Miso black cod, spicy beef tenderloin with sesame to the yellowtail with ponzu.The fresh sea breeze added even more punch to Zuma’s zest. Cheers!

A Taste of History & Health & Zen

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CHEF IRYO AND MAAYA ARAKAWA AT THE 12TH CENTURY POND GARDEN, KYOTO

I’m rejoicing. I’m surrounded by the exquisite 12th century pond garden, (ikeniwa, or Shakusuien garden) and getting a taste of maestro Tsuyoshi Iryo’s melt in the mouth home made tofu. And this in Kyoto, one of Japan’s best-preserved historic cities. Not only was it Japan’s capital for over a thousand years but most of what we consider the essence of Japan…from the art of the tea ceremony to Ikebana flower arranging…originated here. I attend an hour long Zen meditation in a Buddhist temple, chanting at another at the crack of dawn and Go on the Hozugawa River Boat Ride.

I  thrill to the fact that today, Kyoto is home to cutting-edge biotech, education and is  a forward-looking centre for art and design. Combining both the traditional and the modern is the magnificent Four Seasons hotel at the heart of which is this 12th century pond garden. A glass bridge takes me to our quaint tea house, Shakusui-tei. The essence of Japan alive in the interiors, with thewashi-paper lamps,fusuma screens and urushi lacquerware. This is meshed in with modern and hi-tech conveniences,  In the hi-cool Brasserie, modern cooking techniques and local Kyoto ingredients come together in seasonal and vibrant dishes.

It is here that maestro Tsuyoshi-san who has honed his skills internationally, conjures memorable dishes.  Tsuyoshi’s contemporary, chic and elegant cooking style fits perfectly with  the”hip and cool” modern Brasserie concept. The ever helpful and super efficient Maaya Arakawa guides me through the intricacies of Japanese culture (including wearing a kimono) history and cuisine.  My smattering of Japanese language lesson comes in handy to say “Japan I love you”

TERRIFIC TOFU

Vegetarians  and Vegan’s delight! Delicious and healthful are two words that usually do not combine together. Tofu is one of the few exceptions. Tsuyoshi san shares his recipe and some of the health benefits of… tofu

Tofu, or bean curd ( made by curdling fresh soya milk) which originated in China 2000 years ago, is an excellent source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and minerals.

Soya protein (from which tofu is derived) is believed to help lower levels of bad cholesterol . Interestingly, Tofu contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones – whichy help menopausal women reduce their symptoms.  However, it is important to remember that Tofu and all soya products contain large amounts of oxalate. So all those who  have a history of oxalate containing kidney stones should avoid over consuming soya products.

Chef Iryo’s Home-made tofu ginger sauce

Ingredients    

200cc Soy Milk

1g Brine

300cc dashi (seaweed)

2tsp Soy

1tsp Mirin

Pinch Salt

ginger (grated)

2g potato starch

spring leek (chopped)

edible flower

Method

①Mix soy milk and brine together and steam for 10 minutes in a steam proof bowl.

②Soak Kombu (kelp) in water over night.

③Combine the kelp dashi (step ②), soy sauce, mirin, salt and grated ginger into a pot and bring to a boil.

④Place the above mixture over a medium heat. Once it begins to simmer, gradually add the potato starch slurry, thickening the sauce. Stir well until glazed.

⑤Pour the sauce over the tofu and place the spring leek and flowers on top for garnish.

UNIQUELY KYOTO  

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Azusa Hosoya and Eiko Nakayama with Kyoto salt, tea and yuzu

I’m thrilling to a therapeutic  massage of my senses. Not only am I tasting, fragrancing …Kyoto ‘s famed salt and tea from Thamba and  Yuzu the famous Japanese fruit but also having a massage with them. Azusa Hosoya and Eiko Nakayama   skillfully explain and then soothe my senses in the serene and beautiful Four Seasons Spa.

The Japanese Yuzu ( a good source of antioxidants that can help replenish dead skin cells) is a unique blend of lime, lemon and grapefruit. It’s health benefits  are mainly from the vitamin C that can be found in it, which is a powerful antioxidant.It makes the skin smooth and silky and even fragrant.I love Yuzu’s tart flavor with overtones of mandarin orange, though it is rarely eaten as a fruit,  but in Japanese cuisine its aromatic zest (outer rind) is used to garnish some dishes, and its juice is commonly used as a seasoning.

Sure, it has a long tradition and is believed to ward off winter colds and flu. But right now what is delighting me is that it is rich in multivitamins and minerals,  and it is helping me to glow, reboot and rejuvenate.

Review: Kitchen Garden by Suzette

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I’m celebrating. With gratitude. Here’s one more superb Bandra restaurant (after Sequel) which serves up healthy, tastyfare. Gluten free, Vegan and Non vegetarian options.

Read my detailed review on http://www.whatshot.in/mumbai

Double Veggie Wow

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Harsh Shodhan with Sonal Pakvasa and Jayshree Thacker (in yellow)

Our hunt for home bakers and caterers continues. And everytime I think that our Times Food guide has them all, I get pleasantly surprised. Like the new age, stylishly modern vegetarian gourmet catering by Harsh Shodhan, which I taste in the hostess with the mostest, Sonal Pakvasa’s elegant dinner in the garden. Pesto khandvi, hummus on edible spoons, mini handvo with chilli jam delight, and enjoying these is the uncrowned queen, Mumbai’s doyenne of vegetarian catering and food,   vivacious Jayshree Thacker. Her iconic restaurant and catering has magnetized Mumbaikars for decades. Double veggiewow indeed!

Review: The Clearing House

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It sure is the coolest haute restaurant to open in the past few months. And that’s not just because it’s uberstylish and housed in Asia’s largest ice factory ( a part of it is still operational). It’s because it delivers  personalized warmth and hospitality along with global flavors.

Read my detailed review on http://www.whatshot.in/mumbai

95 Year young and Counting

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Gautam and Magan Purohit at Shree Thaker Bhojnalaya. Boman Kohinoor, Viren D’esa and Lopa Chinai at Café Britannia

I dine at the world’s best restaurants,  as part of International Restaurant award academy juries but let me put on record that for the past three decades, I’ve been a a full time fan of the two 95 year young men, founders  of my all time  favorite Inexpensive, family run Mumbai eateries…

“Shree Thaker Bhojnalaya” (Kalbadevi) and “Café Britannia” (Ballard Estate).  It was indeed my lucky day, thanks to the vivacious and ever helpful Lopa Chinai who looped in Viren Desa who conducted an information packed walking tour of  Ballard Estate. The 95 year young Boman Kohinoor of Café Britannia buzzed around tables showing his recent photo with Kate and William and their unique berry pulao continues to be the star.

I once again tripped out  on the vegetarian Gujarati, Rajasthani thali at Gautam and Maganbhai Purohit’s “Shree Thaker Bhojnalaya”. I got high on my forever favorite ghee and then on the timeless elegance of the restored Royal Opera House, all thanks to the curator Asad Laljee. All in a delicious day’s work to kickstart 2017 to a high, happy note.