Here in the cacophonic and frenetic Big Apple, it’s our very own Indian mango which is being celebrated. And that too at the NYC premiere of Dame Judi Dench’s superb film where she brilliantly plays the role of Queen Victoria (also a great gourmet). Post screening, superstar chef Vikas Khanna created the most amazing mango dessert topped with edible gold. His tribute to the king of fruits for the queen of acting. I tasted, photographed and couldn’t stop smiling.
Please take a look at the photograph shot under the beautiful ceiling mural of the Rotunda. For over eighty years, it has been New York’s iconic meeting place. And aptly enough, I’m breakfasting with icons of the culinary world. And India is the focus. America’s most brilliant award winning Food TV producer Geoffrey Drummond (renowned for his shows with Julia Child and Eric Ripert) is working on the ultimate food show on nourishment and India is magnetising him. Putting India firmly on America’s gourmet map, Vikas Khanna, the award-winning Michelin-starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and judge of MasterChef India sparkles the morning. Interestingly though Escoffier, the King of French chefs (and codifier of French cuisine), did all the initial menus at this magnificent stately Pierre. It was here that America’s first Indian fine dine restaurant was located. Today, the brilliant young Keralite chef Ashfer Biju is making history again. He is reimagining classics with a fresh modern seasonal perspective and has NYC eating out of his hands. The joint-degree holder from the finest in America and France, the dynamic Francois Olivier Luiggi who helms this exquisite icon not only ensures that it retains its historic grandeur (hand-painted murals et al) but also rocks ahead youthfully. Jai Ho!
I write from Paradise. Why else would New York be called the Big Apple? My high points? The exquisite high-tea at “Two E” with the “worlds sexiest chef”, Vikas Khanna and the dynamic Rajesh Bhardwaj, their “Junoon” has got a Michelin star, fifth consecutive year. And just last week they cooked for Prime Minister Modi. They catch up with the brilliant Chef Ashfer Biju and Michel Mignano not only serve up English-Indian- American flavors in their “cucumber, chutney and cream cheese sandwiches” but also many a gem of sweet wizardry which the dapper French Francois Luiggi (chief of the iconic Pierre) approves of.
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,
NEW YORK FOOD GUIDE
Pardon the blasphemy: I write from the original Biblical Paradise. I am convinced that it was this very Big apple that Eve tempted Adam with. So here’s a teeny taste of New York’s vast, tentacled food scene’s eternally evolving everythingness. My son Dhruv and his friend Tracy help me check it all out…from the low and high, faddish and fun, diabolically tasty, heartbreakingly expensive to the cheapest… happily vegetarians have plenty to eat everywhere.
NYC CULT FOOD AND STREET FARE
Go on. Take to the streets and you’ll be spoilt for choice, from calzones, falafel t to combined papaya juice/hot dog stands corndogs, grilled chestnuts and more. Go for the steaming, paper thin heaps of pastrami overflowing from a sandwich ( Katz Deli ) Manhattan is pizza lovers haven. Lombardis (Spring street) is still my choice though you can pick up a slice most anywhere. A BITE OF HISTORY NYC is where the Delicatessan (Deli) was created by the East European jews as also the Reuben sandwich, Steak Diane,Vichyssoise and the Waldorf salad . Cronuts being the latest. Crunch on the apple and walnut rich Waldorf salad at the Waldorf Astoria like we do or step back in time in the old-word charm of Café Carlye (76th and Madison) where music legends have played, we were lucky to hear Woody Allen on the clarinet as we dined on the classic Lobster bisque and Branzino. Cant keep eating fancy ? Do what I did went into the iconic Plaza hotel’s brand new Todd English Foodhall (1 W 59th street) for affordable fare.
If you have deep pockets (or like us save up and not shop) then a five hour Italian meal at celebrity chef Mario Batallis 24000 sq ft elegant Del posto (85, 10th Ave) is a must. I ate at Perse (Columbus Circle) last trip and found it too frilly and predictable,
FINE DINE DEMOCRATISED
Its also called the “Momofuku effect” And it all started with my favorite fabulous Michelin starred Changs Momofuku Ssam bar (East village)superlative food. We dine with Viveka Purandare at Will Guidara’s fabulous NoMad’s (1170 Broadway) lacquered roast chicken with truffles and foie gras to the mindblowing simplicity of red radishes enrobed in a thin shell of butter. On my last trip we had dined at their “Eleven Madison Park”(10 Columbus circle) …astounding though more formal. OUR CASUAL FLAVORITES Innovative yet comforting Mediteranean fare at Atrio (Conrad hotel, Battery park) chef Antonio Cardoso excels here. Innovative, inspired supercharged dimsum at Red Farm ( Second Ave East Village) buzzing Parisian bistro. Balthazar (Spring st) are must visits
Michelin starred Junoon (means passion in hindi) (27 W, 24th St) lives up to it’s name and serves up an authentic, yet elegantly modern take on Indian cuisine. And four of us speakers (Hemant Oberoi, Zorawar Kalra Rajesh Bhardwaj and me ) from the Columbia Business school food panel dine in this handsome, high ceilinged packed and noisy restaurant where the hot sexy chef Vikas Khanna creates magic. With us are Revti Gupta, Divya Surana and Kersi Shroff the brilliant masterminds of Columbias Inspiring India.
Whoa we feasted on the glittering 360 degree view of NYC from the swanky Top of The Standard (848 Washington street)– formerly Boom Boom Room –luxurious 70s-inspired glam, with starburst chandeliers, gold plated chairs et al. Equally popular is that oasis of luxe urban cool, Dream hotel ( Midtown West) owned by Vikram Chatwal) exclusive puny Electric Room nightclub And PH-D, their rooftop nightclub.
DOLLOPS OF GLAMOR
Asia is on steroids at this sprawling new Tao Downtown (92 9th Ave) loud music, seabass satay, dimsum, sake flight tasting and Patrick Duxbury insists we trip out the most decadent dessert platter. We do happily. Beauty& Essex… Walk through a jewellery pawn shop into this gem of a restaurant with sharing mutli ethnic plates. Purvi Thacker and I trip out on Lobster tacos to eggplant pizzettas Love the vibe and Italian fare at Robert di Nero’s Greenwich hotel.The fluffy pancakes at Three Guys Restaurant (Madison Avenue) and the Greek manager proudly informs that the worlds most beautiful actress Deepika Padukone has eaten here.
ROOHI JAIKISHEN RECOMMENDS It was a virtual miracle: it was on Instagram that I got recommendations from Roohi Jaikishen, the discerning gourmet New York addict and followed them too. Amongst them were, Jean Georges Vongerischten at 1920s Paris meets New York, Mark hotel (super steamed shrimp salad.) Tao, Beauty and Essex, Top of the Standard, Dream hotel Schiller and Arlington recommended by Roohi.
NYC CHEAPAND CHEERFUL I sniffed out some great finds on my eatabouts all thanks to instagram and twitter (@rashmiudaysingh) I got some amazing recommendations from NYCfoodtastic, Rikin Kadakia and many more. * Artichoke pizza on Mcdougal, * Xian famous food’s famous lamb burger ( St. Marks street) all for $3 *Malai Marke for Indian food beats chote nawab or bricklane * Ippudo For ramen noodles and burgers * los taco no.1 (chelsea market,) salts of 100 flavors to finger licking lobsters too. * Woorijip Authentic Korean food, for buffets with 40+ options