Zayna – Uber Dining, Airoli

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We were invited to Zayna, for an uber dining experience early this month. It’s located opposite the Airoli Railway station and in the heart of the Reliable Cyber City, in Liberty Towers.

Now, you don’t usually think about food when you talk about Airoli. Apart from being a commercial hub and one of the busiest places after Vashi, it is evolving and now beginning to embrace the fact that people love good food. 🙂

We’ve been to Navratna, Sagar and Coral Lounge in Vashi; All legendary restaurants in their own way. Navratna and Sagar being pioneers, are synonymous with good food and prompt service. Keeping in mind that Navratna, Sagar and Coral Lounge are all run by the same owner, we were really looking forward to dining at Zayna. And it did not disappoint.

Now it’s not just Zayna the restaurant to look out for in AIroli, but they have also opened a fine dine version of Navratna and; a watering hole, and a place that could be your next go-to hangout place after work called the Bar Works Eatery & Bar. Three new ventures; all lined up in a row. So when in the area, you’re spoilt for choice.

To talk about our wonderful evening and Zayna, let’s start with the décor. As you step in, you feel like a million bucks as this place exudes sophistication and style. We loved how spacious the restaurant looked. The choice of cutlery and crockery were good. Loved how they tilted and rested the stemless wineglass looking water tumblers on the table. They looked great.

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The tasting menu looked impressive. We had a selection of drinks to choose from, we ordered the Cranberry & Basil Punch and Virgin Melon Sour, both good and refreshing.

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The soups were served next. We tried the Murgh Badami Shorba, a lovely chicken broth made from almond paste flavoured with green spices. Finished with a swirl of cream. This shorba was not just a usual bland shorba that you find at most restaurants these days. This was flavourful, the green chillies and pepper rendered an amazing kick to it, making it irresistible to stop sipping on. The right combination of heat and spice was just what we enjoyed.

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Then came the Nibblers. We were served Buddha’s Delight, cute lil steamed parcels stuffed with chicken, served in a hot garlic sauce and Bok Choy. It was delicious and cooked well. We loved it. We were also served the Chicken and Coriander dimsum, which were also good. But the Tandoori appetizers completely stole the show. All the dishes from the clay oven – Tandoor -e- Khasiyat were scrumptious.

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We started off with the Paneer Peshawari Tikka, which got us spellbound with it’s mild saffron based marinade; it was stuffed with a lovely cashew chili stuffing, and grilled to perfection. It was soft and well marinated, the flavours of the saffron sort of permeated through the plump paneer pieces. The paneer was followed by another superb creation called “Kabab e Khaas”, succulent chicken pieces stuffed with minced meat and cheese, marinated in a special tangy marinade and grilled in charcoal. Each portion of this speciality was served in handis with hot charcoal still smoking the delicious kabab on skewers. We were really amazed with how beautifully this kebab was cooked. It’s usually difficult to get the minced chicken stuffing fully cooked while ensuring the outer layer is moist and charred at the right places at the same time. This completely stole our hearts. It was truly khaas. The Tandoori Jhinga Basil Masala was OK, it was fresh but in comparison to the kabab e khaas this failed to impress us.

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We were served the mains soon after. Paneer Khurchan; Cottage Cheese Fingers cooked with three peppers in a rich tomato gravy. We preffered it to the Bhatti Ka Murgh Masala which was shredded barbequed chicken in the same kinda gravy. It was very similar in taste, but we found the Paneer dish to have better balance of flavours. We had these dishes with an assortment of tandoori rotis, naans and parathas, We also enjoyed some Missi Rotis.

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In the Asian menu we loved the Thai Herb Rice which reminded us of the Thai Rice that’s served at Wok Hei. It was served with shredded lamb in a gravy with red and green peppers. The Thai Chin Noodles, glass noodles stir fried with vegetables, were fresh and something we’ve not had in a long time. It was tasty and the flavours of the vegetables were not lost. The glass noodles were cooked perfectly.

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We were happy with the portions and how the food was served. The waiters were not as attentive as expected but we will choose to ignore it as it was their launch night and the good food made up for it. For dessert we had the Crispy Honey Noodles with Vanilla Icecream, one of the best we’ve had. Drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with cherry, it looked spectacular. The Kulfi Falooda Rabri was kind of a let down as it was a bit too messy. It was rich and had all the oomph expected in a decent Kulfi Falooda Rabri combo but we would prefer all the components to stand out and together make a symphony of fragrance, flavours and textures in the mouth.

No doubt would definitely like to go back to try other dishes, their menu looked very interesting. We also heard that they have lunch buffets and set menus which are ideal for team lunches and get togethers. Quality of the food and the presentation style makes them stand out compared to other restaurants and kind of dishes served casts its own spell that would make people come back for more.

 

 

 

The Bao Haus Co.

We have seen a lot of restaurants that have sprung up in the last couple of years that have made eating out a whole new experience. And now, “eating in” seems to be the new fad that has hit the city; with home delivery becoming a convenient option for many foodies. We’re not talking about the run-of-the-mill food that many takeaway joints are offering nowadays. The Bao Haus Co. just got added to our list of some of our favourite eat-in food that this city has to offer.

So here’s a little background information about the place, and how this came into being. We had an interesting discussion with Chef Siddharth Somaiya to understand where it all started. Interestingly, before he got into The Culinary Institute of America, he signed up for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration due to his parents insisting that he should. As destiny would have it, he couldn’t give up his passion for food, and he chose to pursue what he knew was his true calling. After interning at three-starred Michelin restaurants in Manhattan, (He recalls this as the time he learned some of his most important life lessons, and working at these restaurants taught him a lot about disciple, ingredients and organizational skills.) he came back Mumbai and the inception of the The Bao Haus Co. began.

The Bao Haus Co. as the name suggests, was partly inspired by the BaoHaus at 14th St. New York. Chef Siddharth knew that he wanted to showcase baos in ways that are completely new and that appeal to the growing appetite of foodies in Mumbai. It was natural for him to be innovative, and with his culinary experience, bring in internationally inspired, hand crafted Vietnamese steamed buns with a twist. The focus is to be versatile, fresh and deliver baos that play with your taste buds every time you bite into one. With ingredients that are unique, mostly made in-house and some imported, to be certain that the quality he wants is achieved.

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We started off with Hickory Smoked Wings with Garlic Yoghurt; man it was uber crispy and crunchy. There have been many restaurants in the city trying to get the good ol “Buffalo Wings” right, and have failed miserably. These are, by far, the best we’ve ever had. There’s a fraction of a second after you bite into a wing the first time, that makes your eyes pop and go wide, and then it’s easy to decide. It’s science. An instant connection. Your brain automatically decides, and you’re already going in for the next bite . Chef Siddharth realized that the ones he had served us were a bit too salty, but Garlic Yoghurt compensated for it. We had no complaints. This is a must have for every party. You’ll have people showing up for your parties just for these Hickory Smoked Wings. Haha! Moving on…

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We then had the Belgian Pork Belly Burger with Caramelised Onions and Sriracha Cheddar. It may look small, and you will not find the usual slices of tomato, lettuce and onion, and it won’t be smothered with mayo or have a dilapidated slice of cheese. This is a simple pork belly burger, made in a way burgers are supposed to be made. The imported Belgian pork belly, is carefully ground just right to retain its optimum flavour, seasoned lightly, and we guess it’s broiled with cheddar that’s mixed with sriracha to form a lovely gooey blanket that envelopes the burger, which is then sandwiched in a Brioche Bun that’s made in-house. You really have to taste it to believe it. It’s the bomb! Their in-house Sriracha sauce is to die for. We saw the jar in which the next batch of chillies were being fermented. For a die-hard Sriracha fan like me, that was heavenly.

And now, it was Bao time! 🙂

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We tried the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Baos first. This soft and supple bao has thin slices of chicken that are deep fried and tossed in Honey Sriracha Glaze and it is topped with a sesame slaw. The sesame slaw was so fresh, we could tell the finely julienned veggies were hand mixed just before they were topped on the crispy chicken pieces in the steamed bao. The combination of textures, temperatures and flavours is what makes The Bao Haus Co. unique. We really loved the magic that was happening in our mouths with every single bite.

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The next Bao had its own melange of flavours that made us weak in our knees. We love Asian food, and Thai food is our favourite. The Coconut Shrimp Bao just hit the sweet spot! It was Thailand in a bao. The coconutty deep fried shrimp that had a lovely tamarind glaze oozed of Thai flavours. We could taste the shrimp paste in the tamarind glaze. It was sprinkled with a magic dust, Kaffir Lime Salt. We wonder how much time was taken to perfect this bao coz Thai flavours are strong and to see how these ingredients were added in perfect proportions to create that balance, just blew our mind. We even had the Kaffir Lime and Ginger Soda, it was different, not very sweet, just right.

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It was time to have the Bao that we couldn’t hear enough of. The Chocolate Bao. To paraphrase our Friend, Joey Tribbiani, “Brûléed Bananas, GOOD, Marshmallows, GOOOD, Walnut Crumble, GOOOOD!” This bao was just what we needed to end our meal. We were happy to know that the marshmallows were made in-house, would’ve loved it even more if they were torched.

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Here’s another thing! With Halloween being round the corner, Chef Siddharth Somaiya has created a special dish which can be relished by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Inspired by fall vegetables, and the colors synonymous with Halloween, Chef Siddharth Somaiya presents the “Carrot Bao with Quinoa Patty, Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad with Beet Chips” It’s an ode to eating healthy, with a Halloween spin! The carrot gives the bao, the bright orange color; we can only imagine the lovely flavour combo of quinoa, arugula and Goat’s cheese with beet! Something worth trying!

We like the fact that the bread, sauces and accompaniments are made in-house. It just reflects how much the Chef respects the final product. Ingredients are available frozen now-a-days, and it may seem easy to start a delivery joint, but after trying The Bao Haus Co., we can tell the benchmark it wants to set. We saw his commitment with how he ran his kitchen while we were there. Attention to minute details and monitoring everything with precision, spoke volumes of where he wants his brand to be. Everyone who loves food to the point of obsession, and those who put textures and flavours at utmost importance in their dining experience, has got to try this! We wish Chef Siddharth all the best with this venture and we would definitely be back to try more.

P.S They’re limited to deliveries in South Mumbai for now.

Quench – All Day Pub

We were invited to Quench at Juhu about a week ago. Home to quite a few eateries and cafes, Juhu offers a wide range of really cool places to hang out. Located literally in the heart of Juhu is Quench, an all day pub.

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We got to Quench at around 8pm and were shown to our table. The interiors were very industrial, with elements of rock n roll themed graphics. The pub was lit with chandeliers that were made with beer bottles.  The walls had beenhand walls, and red and black were the dominating colours used. As we entered we fell in love with the ceiling as it had lyrics of our favourite song, we were all smiles, and knew we were in for a good time.

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Our waiter for the evening was Sumit, who was really attentive for the entire duration of our meal. He handed the special menu that was designed for us. We went through the menu and ordered a couple of appetizers and drinks.

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We had the Crispy Chicken Schezwan (Rs 239), Crushed Pepper Paneer (Rs 209) and Prawns Paprika (Rs 289). Loved all the dishes. The Crispy Chicken was batter fried chicken tossed in a spicy Schezwan sauce; perfect to munch on with ice-cold drinks.

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The Crushed Pepper Paneer was super-soft and delicious, one of my favourite dishes of the evening. It was yummy and I couldn’t get myself to stop eating it. The Prawns Paprika was the star of the evening, with specs of paprika flakes in thick creamy white sauce. It was seasoned well and the prawns were cooked to perfection, absolutely delicious. It would have been perfect, had it been served with some garlic bread. Would’ve loved to dip it in the luscious, creamy sauce. For vegetarians, the prawns are replaced with paneer and we believe it would taste just right.

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Duran, the bar tender, stirred up some amazing concoctions for us in the meantime. We were served The Snake Bite (Rs 449) and Mojito (Rs 349). We felt the Mojito could’ve had crushed ice as it barely had any ice cubes in it; but we topped it up with ice, and it was all good. The Snake Bite was a bit too strong for our liking.

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Then we had Butter Garlic Prawns (Rs 289) and Thai Basil Fish (Rs 239). It was one of the best butter garlic prawns we have ever had, it was laced with a thick garlicy butter sauce, and garnished with deep fried garlic. The prawns were juicy and really cooked well. We loved the portion sizes of all the appetizers. The Thai Basil Fish was Basa fish, batter fried and tossed in spicy Thai sauce. All five appetizers that we had were absolute must haves. We asked Duran for the Beach Island Iced Tea and asked him to make it a little sweeter than usual, he did a great job in balancing the taste of the drink with the sweetness and it turned out to be the best drink that evening.

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It was time for the main course. Quench has a wide variety of sizzlers to suit every palate, be in continental or Chinese. We ordered a Chilly Dilly Chicken, a Chinese sizzler (Rs 369) and Prawns Newburg (Rs 419). We were kind of disappointed to see that the prawns served with Pimento rice had the same Paprika sauce. We were kind of overwhelming to have the same thing again with a side of rice. However the sizzler on the other hand was good. The slices of meat that was served were proportionate, with a thick spicy chinese sauce topped on a bed of pan fried noodles. We enjoyed it.

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For dessert we had the Chocolate Mousse with Cointreau (Rs 229). It failed to impress us as there was no trace of Cointreau in it. Though it was topped with chocolate sauce, it tasted pretty ordinary.

What impressed us was the prompt service, great ambience, good music and of course food that was commendable. We highly recommend this place to anyone who wants to relax, enjoy and have a good time with friends. The only thing off-putting was the washroom. It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for weeks. Both the restrooms were smelly and we both came back to our table without using it. That aside, otherwise we had a great time. We love all things 90’s and the music made our evening perfect. We loved the décor and would definitely want go back to try out few other mouth-watering dishes that are on the menu.

QUENCH

Kurries & Burries – Café Mex-Asian

When we heard about Kurries & Burries, we were reluctant to eat there to be frank as I love Mexican food and Joash loves Chinese but we both don’t fancy veg versions of those two cuisines. But it all changed that one Sunday.

Tucked in one of the by lanes opposite Chowpatty, Kurries & Burries boasts of being the first of it’s kind to serve Asian and Mexican food under one roof. It didn’t take us long to find the restaurant. We were welcomed by Nilika Todi; and soon Mitul Todi, her husband joined us to give us some insight about the joint venture with his brother Kushal. Their concept was clear; vegetarian food with a twist. From the inception of their brand, to the idea behind their logo, he explained every aspect with enthusiasm. They had their business module in place, and knew what they wanted to serve their customers. He was frank about how this wasn’t a restaurant that served authentic Asian and Mexican cuisine, but rather one that focused on serving tasty and delicious ChinDian and TexMex vegetarian food.

Soon it was time for us to try what they had to offer. Mitul was incharge of recommending their best sellers; so to kick off the tasting session he served us the Mango Mocktail (Rs. 120) and Tender Berry (Rs. 110)

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We were blown away instantly. The mango mocktail was served with toasted cashewnut pieces and tasted divine. I’m not a mango fan, but fell in love with it instantly. The mocktail was made of mangoes, pineapple and milk. It was not overtly rich,but was creamy and mangoey. Tasted a lot like Mazaa. There were a lot of crushed cashewnuts used as a garnish, so we ended up getting cashewnuts with every sip.

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The second drink, the Tender Berry, was unique. After a few sips you would feel like you’re sipping on a milkshake made out of strawberry Fruitella. We don’t know how they add their twist in getting the taste right but we loved it and definitely recommend you try it.

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Crackling Spinach with Paneer (Rs. 160). Though they claim that they are the only ones who serve this dish, Joash and I were reminded of Fat Kong’s at Santacruz West. We have had this combo there, but Kurries & Burries took us by surprise. The cubes of paneer that were evenly coated with the sauce were so moist and soft, and the deep fried spinach leaves were generously served and topped with toasted sesame seeds. The paneer they used were the malai paneer, and it was one of the most delicious paneer dishes we’ve sampled in a while. The spinach was not as crispy as promised, but the combination of the spicy sauce and cubes of paneer made it lipsmackingly good. The sesame seeds added to the texture of the dish.

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We had the Mexican Mex-wich next. It was a Tortilla pocket, deep fried and stuffed with beans, paneer and nachos. It was doused with cheesy cheese sauce and served with sour cream and tomato salsa. Absolutely delicious. This was our favorite as we both loved the crunchy tortilla that was loaded with cheese.

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The next dish was simply impressive. Mitul brought to a table a portion fir for 3-4 people, he served us the Burmese Khau Suey (Rs 220). The dish looked so beautiful with freshly steamed vegetables chopped in small pieces served with noodles and a side of coconut curry. It came with an array of condiments comprising deep fried onion and garlic, peanuts, spring onion, lemon wedges and chilli flakes. It was the first time that I saw Joash smiling at the sight of steamed vegetables. We couldn’t wait to dig in. The vegetables were cooked beautifully, it still had that needed crunch, and the coconut curry was tasty. The condiments enhanced the flavours of the dish. We were very pleased with the portion served too.

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We also tried the Nachos with Cheese Sauce (Rs. 120) and Beans & Cheese Taco (Rs. 50). Both were strictly OK.  We had heard about the Big Daddy Burrito Challenge that Kurries & Burries have and were excited to try the miniature version of it. Wow! Don’t be deceived by the word “Miniature” in the Miniature Big Daddy Burrito (Rs. 220) as this burrito is BIG! We were so stuffed we ended up having just one bite. It had beans, rice, Kung Pao potatoes and was a mishmash of flavours that we had already tasted at Kurries & Burries. We also tried the Burnt Chilli Wok (Rs. 190) which was really spicy. For those who love the extra heat, this will not disappoint you!

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It was time for dessert! We chose the Grilled Chocolate Sandwich (Rs. 120). The sandwich was filled with thick gooey fudgy chocolate and generously garnished with chocolate shavings. It was a nice way to end our meal. We really enjoyed dining at Kurries & Burries. It is reasonably priced, and is value for money. The portions are very good and it’s apt for all those who want to snack on the go. Kurries & Burries may not be authentic with their dishes, but they serve delicious food packed with flavours that will leave you wanting more.

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