I write from magical Moscow. The spirit of Russia is distilling itself in the photograph I shot. I’m not referring to just to the vodka and the epitome of epicurean pleasure, caviar (which the chef is holding), but also to the spectacularly beautiful Red square (flanked by the Kremlin and the cathedrals) which is visible. I shot it from the glamorous rooftop lounge of Moscow’s most luxurious landmark done up in the classical gilded luxurious glamor of nineteenth century Russia. The magnificent Red square has been witness to centuries of Russian history and culture and art. It continues to throb with the vibrance of modern Moscow. And here in this uber hotspot rooftop lounge, the knowledgable and brilliant French executive chef Yoann Barnard explains the centuries of connection between French and Russian cuisines. Did you know that during the reign of the Russian Tsars, the nobility spoke mainly French? French food was the norm and many French chefs worked in the Tsars kitchens and those of the nobility too. This French-Russian style continues to be popular even today. I taste this fare in “Café Pushkin”in “Matryshcka” in the innovative and highly awarded “White Rabbit” and the many spectacular restaurants of the Ritz Carlton too. Here I do caviar tasting and learn to distinguish the fine from the rest. I continue to explore vegetarian food in Russia…but that is a very long story.
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!
Caution: do not get misled by the name. This brand new American Joint ain’t got no steaks or burgers et al. It is in fact, (hold your breath) pure vegetarian and focuses on Jain food.
Read my detailed review on timescity.com
Vegetarian bakery, patisserie and cafe
Are you a vegetarian who does not eat eggs ? Read on and you will be happy you did. Over the years Mumbai has spawned many a shudh vegetarian Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Mexican, Italian, multi-cuisine restaurant. This is the very first dedicated Patisserie-Bakery-café serving not just vegetarian but “eggless-vegetarian” fare. “it’s a brilliant idea. India has the largest population of vegetarian Hindus in the world” opines my guest and blind date, London’s Michelin-starred Benaras restaurant ‘s Atul Kochhar (see box) To check out the patisserie I invite two gorgeous French ladies, Stephanie d Aboville who curates unparalleled access to Paris and beyond. Francette Harrison, a French “Jain” (she does not eat onions and garlic). She has moved here ever since her husband has been heading the Four Seasons and knows Mumbai amazingly well. We also meet two regulars Hiloni and Surabhi who swear by this café.
The large glassed in TRP stands right opposite the Phoenix High street. It is well light, airy, has an open kitchen and many a counter stacked with pastries, breads and cakes.
This includes eggless and gelatin free desserts, breads, croissants, burgers, sandwiches a few multi-cuisine light meals too. Amongst the savories, the soft paneer bursting with peppery notes is everyone’s favorite. Our Jain Francette loves the 3 jain sliders. The masala corn served in a cone is chatpatta good. The opinion starts getting sharply divided when it comes to the sweet stuff. The chocolate bar is everyones favorite.
The rest are not our favorites, But here again, the “eggless-vegetarians” like Hiloni Punatar point out that the
Madagascar mousse Chocolate mousse bar
and Raspberry princess are the best eggless desserts you can get in the city.
While some of the savory dishes like the Patti samosa are too spicy or too stodgy, the vada pao is okayish, the khao suey lacklustre. Many of the desserts are too stodgy, not light enough, the macarons chewy.
Kudos to the Guptas for catering to the niche vegetarian consumer (theyve set up pure vegetarian Mexican, molecular gastronomy restaurants too). In TRP, there are over 65 varieties of eggless and gelatin -free pastries and desserts. Here are some reactions on my instagram and twitter page… @anupa30Eggless macaroons is just absurd ! This is echoed by
@divyabarmecha and @chefkunal . say @chef_sandeep @tulsi78 “it is heaven for me as I always wanted to try macarons cos of eggs couldn’t try”. So while some of these desserts are yum, many more do not match up to the ones made with egg, but they do fill in a huge need out there. “Eggless vegetarians” this way please!
The Rolling Pin
Janta Industrial Estate, opposite High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel.
Open 9.30 am to 11.30 pm
RATING FOOD 3 DÉCOR 3.5 SERVICE 3.5
Meal for 2: Rs 800
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)
Walk into the handsome, contemporary space and be pleasantly surprised. Open kitchen, wooden floor and a patisserie counter complete the décor.
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”.
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.
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”
Ground floor, Regent Chambers, Jamnalal Bajaj Road, Nariman Point
TIMINGS 11 am till dinner
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)
Do keep sending me your reviews of all and any eateries you like or dislike firstname.lastname@example.org @rashmiudaysingh (twitter, instagram)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 email@example.com twitter and 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