August Moon Festival, China Inc – Taj Santacruz Mumbai

 

Having celebrated Joash’s birthday a week ago, dining at China Inc at Taj Santacruz was a perfect way to end what was already an awesome week. We were so happy to be back, this time, to kickstart the mid-autumn festivities. Interestingly, the August Moon Festival is the second most celebrated festival in China after the Chinese New Year. Taj Santacruz Mumbai have once again come up with a promotion that celebrates just that.

The menu for this festival is specially designed to showcase the seasonal ingredients with a few favourites that everyone absolutely loves at China Inc.

We started off with an amuse bouche, which gave us a preview of how the rest of our meal was going to pan out. Here’s what we had and we highly recommend you to try these too.

Vegetable and Cheese Dumpling

Spinach and Crab Crystal Dumpling

Crispy Pumpkin Roll

Who doesn’t love a box of steaming hot dimsum? This menu has a clever mix of dim sum, with steamed dumplings, deep fried rolls and pan fried options. It would be difficult to pick out a favourite as they were all equally outstanding. At China Inc, we definitely saw more refinement in the way dumplings were made than before and boy they were sumptuous! The Crispy Pumpkin Roll and the Spinach and Crab Crystal dumplings are an absolute must have!

Crispy Supreme with Lemon Sauce

Lotus Root stuffed with Glutinous Rice

Silken Tofu with Tangy Peanut Sesame Dressing

Mountain Chilli Chicken

Mushroom in Black Pepper Sauce

Turnip Cakes

Winter Melon and Morel Broth

Peking Chicken Soup

Crispy Prawns with Oats and Curry Leaves

For appetizers, the Crispy Crumb Supreme served with Lemon Sauce had us weak at the knees; and the Lotus Root stuffed with Glutinous Rice left us wanting more. Both these dishes definitely stood out from all of the appetizers we tried. If you fancy soups, the light Winter Melon and Morel Broth is a clear winner. We just couldn’t stop ourselves from smiling when our favourite Prawns with Oats and Curry Leaves was served, some temptations are just hard to resist! If you haven’t tried this dish at China Inc, then we just gave you another reason to visit this beautiful restaurant.

Sautéed Crab with Snow White Bean Threads

Stir Fried Udon Noodles in Burnt Chilli, Black Bean and Vegetables

Wok Tossed Sticky Rice, Marbled Egg served in Lotus Leaf

Seasonal Vegetables in Lemon Chilli Sauce

The mains were simple yet so brilliantly put together. What we love about China Inc is how they treat each ingredient and showcase it’s honest flavours without being heavy on spices or sauces. The Wok-tossed Sticky Rice with marbled Eggs served in Lotus leaf is perfumed with a hint of truffle and simply elevates eating each spoonful a pure delight. The Sticky Rice went really well with the Chilli Hoisin Chicken and the seasonal vegetables in Lemon Chilli Sauce. Another favourite of ours for the evening was the Sautéed Crab Meat with Snow White Mung Bean Threads. Sublime!

We paired our meal with a bottle of ‘Nik Weis St Urbana-Hof’ Riesling.

King Longans

Mooncake

Sago Pudding

What’s an August Moon Festival without Mooncakes?! We enjoyed Moon Cake, which was a part of the dessert trio. It was simply scrumptious; crumbly on the outside, and dense with red bean goodness on the inside. (We’ve got a soft spot for moon cakes 😀 ) The red bean filling makes it perfect for those who enjoy their dessert with just a hint of sweetness. The King Longans were nice and the delicate flavours of the Coconut Sago Pudding was just the perfect way to end our meal.

This special menu is a perfect blend of the flavours of authentic Chinese cuisine during the harvest season. Chef Vikram Milhoutra’s team have yet again done an amazing job in executing these dishes. Every dish not only looked picture perfect but tasted absolutely delicious; Rarely do we have a meal where we’ve been impressed with every single dish that we’ve eaten. QWe highly recommend you to try the August Moon Festival at China Inc, Taj Santacruz. It lasts till the 9th of October, 2017.

Golden Dragon, Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai and Ming Yang, Taj Lands End Mumbai are also celebrating this festival with a special menu.

By The Mekong, St. Regis Mumbai

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Firstly, we’d like to start with congratulating Chef Shi Xilin and his team at By The Mekong for winning the Times Food & Wine award for the Best Thai Fine Dine Restaurant.

In the first week of February, we were at By The Mekong to try the special menu that was curated by Chef Shi Xilin– Chef de cuisine; showcasing the choicest recipes from his family that celebrated Chicken in the best way possible. It was fun chatting with Chef Xilin about his experience with The Taj hotels and how his cuisine combines traditional and regional flavours served to suit the Indian palate. He’s had an amazing culinary journey over twenty years yet has the most humble demeanour. He also absolutely enjoys talking about his passion for food.
We also tried a bunch of dishes from the main menu and a few personal favourites that Chef Xilin recommended. Here are a few snippets of our meal.

We were the first to try out the new menu at By The Mekong. Simply put, it is outstanding and our taste buds were left tantalized. What a transformation!

The new menu has been revamped and the new format is a welcome change. Earlier the menu was divided into three parts – Chinese | Thai | Vietnamese, but now it’s all combined and it reflects the best of the three cuisines. It is designed to keep things simple, yet give guests a unique culinary experience of authentic flavours presented in a fresh, modern and contemporary way. We were pleasantly surprised and had no idea how much we’d end up enjoying our meal. 🙂

Chef Himanshu Taneja, the newly appointed Culinary Director was there to ensure we had a great time. Spearheaded by Chef Xilin, the team really surprised us with the food that was served. There was a stark contrast in the look; the appeal and the combination of flavours, and we were really impressed.

We started off with dumplings. We had the Chilean Sea Bass dumpling with Polenta, Prawn with Ossetra Caviar and Spic Sichuan Chicken with Green Onion Oil. The Chilean Seabass dumpling was delicious. We expected it to be a lil fatty and wondered how it would taste in the dumping as the fat could be a little overwhelming. But it was perfectly made and was not at all fatty.  The dumpling wrapper was topped with Polenta, which gave it a nice textural mouthfeel.

We also really enjoyed the Prawn dumpling topped with Ossetra Caviar and the Spicy Sichuan Chicken dumpling, also topped with Ossetra Caviar. The Ossetra Caviar, made it extra special. One thing is for certain, caviar paired with a dumpling, absolutely works. 🙂 We loved the bright red color of the chicken dumplings. What would really visually elevate the experience of eating these two dumplings is if the server garnished the dumpling with the caviar using a mother of pearl spoon at the table instead them arriving at the table already topped with caviar.

The next dish was one of our favourites. Roasted Prawn with Thai Chilli Paste. A dish with amazing textures and was a perfect combination of spicy, sour and sweet. The prawns were cooked to the T. Usually Tiger prawns can end up rubbery and tough if overcooked but this was oh so tender and juicy, and we loved the crunch of the raw onion slices. Chef Himanshu shared with us the long list of ingredients that went in to making this dish. While some may be put off by the lemongrass and red chilli slices and may want to take it off the prawn; TRUST US you really want to savour every single ingredient in the prawn shell. This dish was executed really well. Kudos to the Chef!

The Barbecued Black Pepper and Kaffir Lamb Chops were brilliant. Served with roasted Asparagus, Shimeji Mushroom and Snow Peas, the lamb had a beautiful char and glaze. It was the first time we had it flavoured with kaffir lime leaves. Loved how both the dishes were served on a mini grill. I love my red meats medium rare, and these were well done, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. 🙂

Next, we tried the Banana Leaf wrapped Himalayan Trout, Chef’s Special Sauce. Perfectly cooked with an amazing smoky flavour, we loved how fresh and spicy it was and it absolutely got our taste buds tingling. Glad to see that it was deboned as dishes that are served with bones; makes it messy to enjoy. We had it with Udon Noodles with Vegetables and it went really well.

By The Mekong has really upped their game with their dessert! Chef Yogendra served us two desserts, Chocolate Textures and Ms. Berry. Not revealing what the dessert would look like or how it’d taste; we were in for quite a surprise. Both desserts looked stunning.

The Chocolate Texture, as the name suggests, had a mélange of textures that celebrated Chocolate on a plate. This dessert had a perfect quenelle of chocolate ice-cream, a cold molten chocolate surprise, chocolate cigars, pieces of chocolate cake, chocolate and Feulletine kissed with more chocolate. It was any chocolate lover’s dream come true.

Ms. Berry was one of the prettiest desserts we’ve ever seen. Vibrant colors and berries made it look picture perfect. It had blue berries, black berries, red currants and meringue kisses strategically placed on both sides of the blueberry mousse. It was refreshing and the tart berries helped cut through the sweetness of the dessert. Both desserts were plated excellently. Kudos to Chef Yogendra.

We’re fans of the new menu. Not just from a cuisine point of view, but we also like how there’s a certain freshness about the dishes being featured. Without pulling away from authentic flavours, Chef Xilin and his team have managed to make it modern and contemporary. It’s a welcome change and we’re sure By The Mekong will attract foodies looking for a change from the classic Asian fare of gravies and stir fries which can get boring at times. The plating is fabulous and we love everything about it. We wish Chef Xilin and his team all the very best with this new menu!

Grand Hyatt Mumbai

2015 was a fun year!

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We were awarded the IFBA award for Best Restaurant Review Blog, we got married (woohoo), and finally kicked off something we’ve been waiting for for a long time… We added in a ‘Travel’ section to our blog. 🙂

We started off with Goa in January, and we’ve got Calcutta, Chennai, Pune and Kerala on our calendar this year.

We got married on the 26th of December 2015 in a very private ceremony with just 12 people on the guest-list. So we were really happy that Grand Hyatt, Mumbai decided to host us for three days just a day after our wedding. We’ve had some of our most memorable dining experiences at their restaurants, so this just made it extra special.

We were won over with all the attention and warm greetings we got from the Hyatt associates upon our arrival. From day one we were made to feel like we were the only occupants in the entire hotel. But it was not just us, the staff there made sure that all the guests were treated warmly in a genuine way.

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Let us take you through the property! First, the ascending stairway to the lobby gives you a glimpse of how ‘grand’ it is going to get. Modern architecture fused with contemporary art makes for some really cool décor; all while fulfilling that expected 5-star flair. I have always wished to be around the team that handles the interiors; would love to watch them list, buy and place the beautiful pieces that adorn a 5 star hotel. Grand Hyatt, Mumbai has an impressive collection that of over 100 pieces of art. The hotel’s public area, sections of the lobbies and restaurants sort of transform into unique art galleries with specially commissioned installations curated by various artists.

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Our room. We were put up at a Grand Executive Suite. As you enter, you find yourself in a very cozy living room with a work desk and a window that gives you a good view of the city. The bath area looked really neat with the bathtub and shower, robes, toiletries, and everything required to ensure that you feel pampered at any given time of the day. Ah the Himalayan Bath Salts just works wonders if you just want to soak in and relax.

To our surprise, Grand Hyatt had a lovely bottle of Champagne placed in a bucket of ice, with two slender flutes and a platter of yummy chocolate cupcakes at our arrival. There was also a box of assorted chocolates that made us smile. We had three lovely days ahead of us and we couldn’t wait for it to begin.

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First stop! Lunch at Fifty Five East. Fifty Five East (FFE) remains one of our favourite restaurants in the city for brunches and buffets. With Indian, Thai, Lebanese and Japanese cuisine, you are spoilt for choice when you’re dining at FFE. The Big Brunch Sundays are the best thing to happen to any food lover. With a 50% discount on the rates, one can really enjoy their Sunday with a large group of friends or colleagues. They’ve also got a 20% off on online reservations all through the week. This time we had a light lunch though, had some amazing Sushi and Japanese food. Their Miso soup is to die for.

After lunch and a quick nap, we headed out for a tour of the hotel. We were mesmerized by the expanse of the property and how simple, yet artistic and modern the architecture was. The pieces of art in this hotel will have art lovers thoroughly engrossed; it is so beautifully showcased without disturbing the theme of the hotel. We were impressed to find out that the Grand Hyatt Plaza shopping center is spread over 100,000sq.ft. Be it haute couture, fine watches, exquisite jewellery and accessories, international fashion brands and lifestyle products, the Grand Hyatt Plaza opens doors to a whole new world of shopping. And hey, there’s an ATM too!

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We passed by the Gourmet Store and reminded each other to stop by later for their Signature Cold Coffee. We were told that it was something we had to try during our stay. We came back. Wow! We really recommend the Signature Cold Coffee. Their salads and sandwiches are hearty, healthy and delicious. The deli is stocked with an amazing selection of cheeses and cold meats; and even buy flowers. The choices seem endless. I reminisced of the time I used to rush to the Gourmet Store after work to pick up chocolate truffles for Joash. It made us smile. 🙂

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The next day started off with breakfast at Fifty Five East. Our first big breakfast as a newly married couple. It was GRAND! They really know how to bring their A game when it comes to serving kick ass breakfast. I think almost everyone who knows us knows how picky we are about breakfast, and we do take it pretty seriously; but one look at the beautiful roasted Ham and we know we are going to be defeated by that alone. J Here’s a picture of what went down that day, there were eggs, sausages, mushrooms, hash browns, cheese, ham, bacon, fresh fruits, juices, freshly baked croissants; the works. We were so full that we skipped lunch and ate dinner at around 11pm. #FoodComa

Our day was spent exploring the hotel. Climbing the 127 stairs that lead to the executive accommodation was one of the feats we accomplished. Here are a few pictures of the beautiful suites that you can check in to  and the lovely view of the Grand Hyatt Hotel–

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It was time for dinner, and Grand Hyatt’s Celini was on our mind. Celini opens for dinner at 7:30pm. Funny story, we had been trying to get our hands on the Paan Ice Cream that’s available at Grand’s Hyatt’s Indian restaurant, Soma, for a really long time. We inquired at Soma, but their kitchen would close at 11:55pm. So, we wouldn’t have been done with dinner at Celini by then, so we told them, maybe another time.

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We ordered our meal and completely lost track of the time; it was about 12:30am by the time we had finished dinner. As we were leaving Celini, our waiter asked us… “I heard you wanted to have the Paan Ice-cream at Soma. Their kitchen’s closed for the day now, but would you like us to send you the Paan Ice-cream to your room?” We were impressed. The restaurant manager at Soma had probably spoken to the manager at Celini about the Ice-cream. That’s excellent customer service. So we made our way back to our room, only to find a big bowl of Paan Ice Cream garnished with gooey Gulkhand at our door soon after we got back. We loved it. It was perfect for our late night movie marathon.

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At Celini we were left completely in awe of the décor. With paintings of moon dominating the interior, the cozy yet contemporary look makes for an ideal place for a romantic candlelit dinner. Known for it’s traditional Italian food with a modern twist, Celini tops as one of the best Italian restaurants in the city for us. The restaurant after operational hours transforms into an all night café. Here’s a gist of the meal we had.

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Besides Celini and Soma, the China House restaurant and lounge has won over many hearts with their spectacular food, great ambience and music. Chef Hermann Grossbichler does an excellent job overseeing all the kitchens at Grand Hyatt and ensures that the quality and the variety of dishes available are better every season.

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We also had a really good meal at the Lobby Lounge. They have premium selection of Eau de Vie and Indian single estate teas. We tried the Herbal Infusion Egyptian Camomile Tea with Herbs and it was unbelievably relaxing. We also had the Spanish Garlic Prawns and the Baked Cannelloni stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta cheese; and it tasted nothing like we’ve ever had before. Very impressive.

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A staycation is not complete without spending quality time at the spa. The Club Oasis Fitness centre & spa ensures that one is pampered and rejuvenated with their extensive range of relaxing treatments. The fitness centre is functional 24/7 and has the best equipment in the industry. The spa area includes beautiful spa suites, private showers, changing areas, steam and sauna rooms and whirlpool baths. They have various packages and some are exclusively for couples. We enjoyed 60 mins of pure bliss followed by some soothing ginger tea. We were transported to a place of complete tranquility.

Looking back at the time we spent at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai; I can only think of the lovely memories we made during our stay there. It’s a beautiful combination of excellent service, great food and warm people that would always bring us back. What truly touches your heart are the lil things, the attention to details, in everything they do that sets them a class apart. We love the spirit at Grand Hyatt and are happy to have experienced that first hand. Here’s to many more Grand memories at Grand Hyatt.

Mezzo Mezzo, JW Marriott, Juhu

Mezzo Mezzo now strives to leap to new gastronomical heights with a new menu with flavours from Piedmont, Sicily and Tuscany.​ Introduced by specialty Chef Matteo Arvonio​ who was born and brought up in Ital​y. ​Using his 23 years of experience​, ​Chef Arvonio plans to enthral guests ​at Mezzo Mezzo with some truly superb Italian fare​.​ Th​e​ menu was launched on the 29th of September and we were ​among ​the first few to taste it.

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The elaborate table setting ​had us wondering what was in store for us. It ​table ​looked stunning. Shortly​ after ​we were ​seated we were ​introduced to Chef Matteo who took us through his journey of food. He shared with us his passion and his experience that he ​has ​gathered from ​​all over Italy, and how he was excited to showcase it all to the guests dining at Mezzo Mezzo. He was well aware of how the tastebuds of Indians have evolved from ​just ​pastas and pizzas to more authentic Italian dishes. People nowadays are willing to experiment with flavours and ingredients in its simplest form. Chef Matteo explained how Italian food is all about using 3​ or ​4 ingredients and making the main ingredient the hero of the dish.

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Soon our glasses were filled with wine and boards of Crostinis made rounds, filling the room with a whiff of extra virgin olive oil, tomato, mushroom and cheese! Our hearts melted with the ​mushroom crostini that was topped with Parmesan. ​One of our favourite​s​ was the one topped with Zucchini and ​g​oat’s ​cheese. There was another ​crostini that reminded us of the classic Caprese​; it​ had ​tomato, ​basil and ​cheese. The best part was that the ​crostinis were crisp making it irresistible for ​us to stop at one, these bite sized goodies left us wanting for more. There were toasted ​bread served with Garlic Chili oil which was yummy as well.

​Meanwhile, Duetto di Pesce, the ​two entrée​s​ of a mammoth proportion​s​ awaited us. The first was ​Crispy Sea Scallop, Anchovy, Garlic Bagna Càuda – inspired by Piedmont​. The second was​ Almond Crusted Black Tiger Prawn, Asparagus, Ricotta Macco – inspired by Sicily.

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We love seafood and this was an absolute treat, both visually and taste-wise. The Sea Scallop was batter fried and the outer layer was beautifully crispy and crunchy. The scallops were cooked well. I ​usually prefer ​scallops ​when ​seared, but I did enjoy having this dish. The Bagna Càuda is a well known Piedmontese dip, usually served and kept hot made of Garlic, Anchovies, Olive oil and Butter. It was delish!

The Black Tiger Prawn stood beautiful as it was crusted with Almond slices on a bed of Asparagus and Ricotta Macco. Macco simply means puréed​,​ and it was absolutely creamy and delicious. It was like fuochi d’artificio (read fireworks)
in our mouths with how the seafood flavour was amped up in this dish. It just made our evening.

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​One vegetarian option on the menu is the Duetto Vegetariano. The Poached Green Asparagus in Pecorino Sauce, Pecorino and Polenta Chips which was inspired by Sicily. The second part of the dish was a tribute to the Southern Italian favourite, an oven baked Zucchini, Eggplant Parmigiana in Parmesan Sauce.

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The next course was my favourite pasta, the Ravioli. Agnolotti di Radicchio e Caprino Fresno, Peperoni Arrostiti ed Erbette – Home made Radicchio and fresh Goat’s Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Pepper Coulis and served with aromatic fried herbs. It’s got whiffs of Veneto and Piedmont.

Chef Matteo shared how cooking good food is all about balancing out flavours and he revealed just that with this dish. The bitter Radicchio mixed with salty Goat’s Cheese in perfectly cooked Ravioli served with the mellow and almost sweet roasted pepper coulis was a brilliant combination of flavours. The fried herbs lifted the dish to another level, making it a treat to all senses. We enjoyed this dish and in no time our plates were wiped clean! 🙂

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We were then served Merluzzo Nero al Cartoccio Con Pappa al Pomodoro – Black Cod al Cartoccio, Tuscan Stewed Tomato, Swiss Chard. The Pomodoro sauce was so rich and creamy. It was mildly spiced and seasoned yet it was so flavourful. ​Personally, ​I didn’t enjoy the texture of the Black Cod but it was cooked perfectly, the Swiss Chard did add texture to the dish. I did try ​a bit of ​the Pumpkin Risotto, it was topped with Enoki mushroom and pumpkin seeds. It was a bit too sweet for my liking. ​I couldn’t taste the pumpkin flavour distinctively.

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We were still talking about how we were blown away by the menu and we were served the fourth course, Costolette D’Agnello in Crosta di Pistacchi. New Zealand Lamb Chops in Pistachio Crust, Celeriac, Shallot and Sangiovese. It looked spectacular! The lamb chops were cooked beautifully and the pistachio rendered a lovely texture making every bite scrumptious. The shallot and Sangiovese sauce went really well with the meat and when its teamed with a smooth mash, you know it’s a complete dish! The Celeriac crisp that was garnished also added to the crunch. We both loved the presentation and how each plate looked exactly the same. It was really good dish, a definite must have.

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Soon it was time for dessert and Chef Matteo wanted to pay tribute to Gorgonzola with one of his favourite ingredients, Gorgonzola Cheese. We were served Omaggio al Gorgonzola – Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Mousse, Caramelised Figs with a Black Pepper Caramel. It was like the classic Mille Fuille. The figs were delicious and the dessert was not too sweet as he didn’t add any sweetener to the Gorgonzola and Mascarpone mousse. ​The pungent Gorgonzola flavour ​dominated the whole dessert​ a tad too much​. The black pepper flavour seemed missing from the caramel​ though​. However the figs redeemed the dish. He also served us a Chocolate dessert called Bonet with Raspberry coulis and fresh cream. It added the much needed sugar rush and sweetness to a perfect evening.

Chef Matteo has an elaborate menu that reflects his cooking experience in Italy. The flavours of every dish is uniquely distinct and boasts of the region it originates from. If you love Italian food, you have ​got ​to head to Mezzo Mezzo to explore true flavours of Italy!

Peshwa Pavilion, ITC Maratha Sheraton

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Over the last few months, we have been introduced to a lot of flavours of Indian cuisine. It has changed our mindset about limiting our expectations of Indian food and has widened our perspective about the culture and the traditional methods of cooking in India.

There are a several undiscovered and unknown cuisines in India. Even within states, there are regions,
all of whom have their own style of cooking. In an endeavour to promote these treasure troves, under the aegis of ‘Kitchens of India’, ITC Maratha presents ‘Unique Tastes’ of Maharashtra  from  the  18th to 27th September, 2015 during lunch and  dinner buffet at the Peshwa Pavilion, ITC Maratha.

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Peshwa Pavilion during the day, looks absolutely stunning. The palm trees, the plush white décor, the high ceiling and natural light makes everything bright and beautiful. The manager escorted us to the table and took us through the menu.

Peshwa Pavilion showcases food influenced by cuisines of Vidharba, Konkan and Kolhapur.  The interior of Maharashtra- the Vidarbha area has its own distinctive cuisine known as the Varadi cuisine. This fare has good balance of spices with generous use of powdered coconut and chickpea flour. Chicken and Mutton are popular in this region. Famous for Malvani cuisine in the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa; seafood dominates the fare. Commonly used ingredients are kokam (amsul), tamarind and raw mango (kairi). Coconut is used liberally in almost all the dishes in various forms. The spicy cuisine comes from the land of  Sahayadris. Kolhapur is known for its pungent and spicy food. The city is famous for “Kolhapuri Lavangi Mirchi”. This cuisine is mainly non-vegetarian.

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We were served Sabudana Vadas and Chicken Kothimbir Vadas as starters. The Sabudana Vadas were crisp and were well made. The Chicken Kothimbir Vadas were a surprise, these were chunks of chicken marinated in coriander paste and fried to seal in the juices. It was really tasty.

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The first thing we noticed at the buffet were pots of Maharashtrian sukka masalas.  The Mutton Kolhapuri and Malvani Mashachya Kalvan was something that we really wanted to try. The Manager got us a Thali comprising of all the Maharashtrian dishes available on the buffet served with Bhakris and Kombdi Vadas so that we could taste everything at one go. It looked really good, and we really loved the simple yet rustic flavour of each dish.

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The Mutton Kolhapuri was quite spicy and went really well with Kombdi Vadas. It was Joash’s first time trying Bhakris but he stuck to the Kolambi Masale Bhaat and enjoyed it with pickle and papad.  The simplicity of the Dhudi Chanechi bhaaji brought back memories of my roadtrip towards Alibaug where we ate at a small dhaba serving Maharashtrian food.

The spread on the buffet was multi cuisine but the Maharashtrian food added an earthy charm that really brought forth a change to what guests would expect at a buffet. This food was light, not very oily. Healthy but tasty at the same time. We’ve heard so many people talk about how monotonous food at a buffet feels like and how they really look forward to a change in the menu.

Knowing ITC’s initiative to introduce local cuisines in their five star kitchens, we feel they have hit the spot in making things interesting and delicious.

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For dessert we had Dhudhi Halwa and Boondi Sev along with Verrines and fresh fruits. There were chocolate cups, chocolate mousse and various Indian sweet meats. The Gulab Jamun in Rabdi called Zauk-e-Shahi was rich and decadent. Give it a try.

We had a wonderful time at the buffet and loved the service as well. We’d recommend this meal to anyone who loves Indian cuisine. Try this Maharashtra Food Festival or if you have missed it, you can be surely try the next food festival on the Kitchens of India series. You won’t be disappointed.

K & K, ITC Grand Central

K & K is one of ITC Hotel’s crown jewels that serves authentic and delectable Indian cuisine. With ancient culinary secrets and recipes that were part of royal kitchens, K & K boasts of tantalizing guests with the some of the finest and richest Indian culinary experience. The beauty of K & K is in the use of various techniques of cooking; clay and iron tandoors, angethis, tawas, sealed deghs and copper handis. This award winning restaurant celebrated 10 glorious years and we were invited to be a part of a truly exceptional gastronomic experience. We were met eight legendary chefs from ITC Hotels all over India. They created 40 kebabs for this occasion and we were among the few chosen to try them.

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The table was set and the champagne was popped. The Jashn-e-Kebab began.

It started with Chef Haji Mohd Farooqui’s Gulnaar Kali (Rs 1600) and Guftaguu (Rs 1300). Sigh what a start! Chef Farooqui’s humble demeanor and his experience reflected in both these dishes. Gulnaar Kali was succulent lamb morsels steeped in brine and cooked overnight with a heady concoction of Royal cumin, yellow chillies, whole garam masala, malt vinegar cooked in a lagan. Chef Farooqui informed us that the choicest cut of lamb was used for this kebab. The Guftaguu stole the show by being the most desirable kebab of the evening. It was fresh cabbage, yes that’s right, cabbage mince, flavoured with cardamom and saffron, and shallow fried in ghee. It had the texture of a Galaouti kebab but we were shocked to see cabbage cooked in this form, and it didn’t even taste like a veg kebab. The melt in your mouth texture won us over.

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Next, were two kebabs by Chef Sundar from ITC Grand Chola. He presented two unusual kebabs using flavours of Kerala – Kovalam Vathu Ulartyathu (Rs 1650) – Kerala style pot cooked tender duck, spiked with roasted spice blend from Kovalam. We had never tasted duck cooked with such robust flavours with hints of coconut oil and curry leaves. The duck was beautifully cooked and the fat was well rendered. It is disappointing to see that duck, in the Indian market, is usually well received only if madewith South East Asian or European style of cooking. With this menu, K & K also promises to bring the patrons and kebab lovers back to their roots, to the traditional Indian flavours, by using meats and vegetables that have never been tasted in a kebab form. Chef Sundar’s next kebab was Vazhapoo Pertati (Rs 1300) – Banana blossom mixed with spiced potatoes, shaped as patties and pan grilled. This kebab brought back memories of my time spent in Kerala, where my grandmother used to make banana blossom as a sabzi on wood fired stove. Chef Sundar was not only able to pack the flavours of Kerala in both his dishes, but was also able to bring out the flavours of the main ingredients.

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Chef Surat Singh from ITC Mughal’s kebabs were Sarsonka Machi (Rs 1550) and Kache Keleke Kebab (Rs 1150). The pocketed diamond cut of the Indian salmon was marinated with mustard, stuffed with pickled chilies and wrapped with wafer thin aubergine slices, chargrilled from the embers of an “Angethi”. The fish was grilled so well, I couldn’t believe it had a skewer run through it. Hats off to the Chef for the precision in the cooking time. When we served the fish, it was not wrapped in aubergine slices, we would’ve loved to taste that combo, but nonetheless the fish kebab was delicious. The Kache Keleke Kebab, was raw banana seekh kebab made in tandoor with hints of mace and green cardamom. It was a bit too spicy for our palate, and it felt like the binding agent, which was in excess, diluted the banana flavour.

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The next kebabs were by Chef Srinevasu from ITC Windsor. Bijapur Mutton Roast (Rs 1600) and Tofai-e-Zameen (Rs 1150). The Bijapur Mutton Roast is a signature preparation originating from the Bijapur district in Karnataka, succulent lamb pieces, bhunaoed with curd, almond, coconut and flavoured with aromatic spices like star anise and “Kalpassi”. Kalpassi is the native name for Black Stone Flower, locally called Pathar Ka Phool or Dagad Phool. These lamb pieces had so much flavour that it was impossible to stop at eating just one. Tofai-e-Zameen was again a shami style kebab, grilled on the tawa, made with the humble yet versatile yam stuffed with royal cumin, pomegranate and cheese. We were in kebab heaven. It was unbelievable that veg kebabs got more votes than the non-veg ones, and that each kebab was better than the previous one.

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We thought that it couldn’t get better, but Chef Gunjan Goela changed our mindset about vegetables. Chef Gunjan has been with ITC for past 20 years and her wisdom for choosing the vegetables she did, was astounding. She said “Food is our medicine, and ayurveda identifies six tastes of food – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent and it is important to include these tastes in each meal”. Her kebabs were some of the best veg kebabs we’ve had. The first one was called Vrantikam (Rs 1150) was batterfried eggplant stuffed with onion and hungcurd. It surely made all those who detest eggplant, fall in love with it. It is one dish that I will most certainly have to try making.  The Shabarkand (Rs 1150), charcoal grilled sweet potato barrels stuffed with thin potato sallis and pomegranate, served with sweet and tangy chutney. It tasted almost like a chaat. Both these kebabs were mindblowing.

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Next up was Chef Akshraj Jodha, who brought us flavours of Rajasthan with his kebabs. Achari Maans ka Shola (Rs 1650) and Sangriki Shami (Rs 1300). The Achari Maans ka Shola were lamb escalopes infused with green coriander paste, garam masala, figs and rum, and then grilled on Angethi. It was well prepared and tasted really good but the Sangriki Shami drew our attention. This delicate shami was made with traditional Rajasthani “Kher Sangri”. It completely knocked our socks off with how beautifully Chef Jodha translated “Kher Sangri” with this kebab. It was brilliant.

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Tasting the next kebabs was like a dream come true. More than the kebabs, it was this particular Chef who we were waiting to meet. Chef J P Singh, of the one and only Bukhara at ITC Maurya. One of India’s most celebrated chefs, Chef Singh has fed a host of Heads of State on multiple occasions. Bukhara as a restaurant, has won many accolades for its traditional clay oven and tandoor,and the delicious menu of succulent tandoor-cooked kebabs, vegetables and breads. It was indeed a pleasure to taste kebabs made by this culinary genius. He mentioned that the menu at Bukhara, has not changed for the last 38 years.

Now about his kebabs, he presented the best batter fried scampi that we had ever tasted, Jhinga Firdaus Shahi (Rs 2350). Fresh water scampi, marinated with ‘Firdaus-e-Mauj’ spice mix and batter fried, finished with Kebab masala. Crispy and Crunchy, every seafood lovers delight, this brought a big smile to Joash’s face. The veg kebab was Guchhi Paneer ke Kebab (Rs 1300), stuffed morels with cottage cheese, slow cooked in tandoor, finished with a dollop of butter and delicate spice powder. Personally, I love morel mushroom prepared in a kebab form and the aromatic spices and saffron made it scrumptiously delicious. The cottage cheese was soft and the morels were well cooked, soaking up all the lovely marinade.

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Then Chef Zaki Kazmi from ITC Gardenia, came with his set of kebabs; Pathar ka Gosht (Rs 1700) – Traditional Hyderabadi preparation of escaloped lamb marinated with yoghurt and spices, grilled on stone. The escaloped lamb were marinated so well and the yoghurt and the spices tenderized it to give it a melt in your mouth texture. He also shared the history of how this dish came into being. The second kebab was yet another wonderful seekh kebab, the Gulezar Dhungari Kebab (Rs 1150) – skewered mince of smoky garden vegetables and dry fruits scented with cardamom, cooked in tandoor. It was difficult to crown the best veg kebab of the evening as all of them shone better than the non-veg ones. This kebab was really delicious.

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We were stuffed but couldn’t leave K & K without having the yummy biryani made by Chef Farooqui. He enlightened us about the way biryanis are made in Lucknow. He said there are about 18 varieties of biryani and he was really excited to feed us the Dumpukht Biryani. He very sweetly said that when biryanis are made in Lucknow, they are made in a manner where you wouldn’t feel the need to pick out a single spec from your mouth while eating it. It was fragrant, fluffly, light and sinfully indulgent. The meat fell off the bone, it was just cooked so well. The best we have had in recent times. Even the vegetarians seemed to have enjoyed the Lucknowi Pulav, the vegetarian version.

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Now it was time for dessert, and we had no idea we would be spellbound with what was served to us. Pastry Chef Avani Mudbidri, got us what was Gulab Jamun with Rose Panna cotta on Pistachio and Almond Crumble garnished with Dark Chocolate, Sesame Crisp and Rose Syrup. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our meal. The not so sweet Rose Panna Cotta, with rich and soft Gulab Jamun, was a match made in heaven. The dry fruit crumble added the needed texture to the dessert, so did the sesame crisp. The dark chocolate balanced out the flavours with earthy notes and the rose syrup lifted up the whole dessert adding a perfect sweet ambrosial hit. It was epic.

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We had best taste of traditional Indian cuisine, and we will cherish the wholeexperience for a long time. We were accompanied by Chef Bhaskar Sankhari, Executive Chef of ITC Grand Central, who kept giving us insight on how these dishes were created. A lot of hard work, immense talent,and years of experience were portrayed in all the dishes that were served. Dining at K & K is an experience one shouldn’t miss. This festival features 40 kebabs that were specially created for this occasion and one will not find these at any of the ITC restaurants in India. Chef Sankhari also discussed how K & K has continuously enhanced the diner experience by educating the diners about Indian food. We highly recommend yousome of the kebabs at this festival. It’s on till the 13th of this month. Don’t miss it for the world!

Gaylord Bakeshop

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Gaylord has been one of the most iconic restaurants in Mumbai. Established in 1956, Gaylord is known to be the first restaurant in India to introduce the concept of an open bakery. We have always hung out at Gaylord for their bakes and desserts. Their walnut pie and cheese straws are our personal favourite and we always make it a point to have these when we are in Churchgate. A few days ago we got an invite to spend an afternoon for high tea with Chef Lionel Villaron from France, and we were glad to be a part of it.

French dessert, in recent years, has taken Mumbai by storm. Everyone loves a well made macaron, and are getting more savvy with the intricacies of French desserts. With choux pastry and mille fueille now being popular, it was only fit for Gaylord to add a few signature treats to their iconic boulangerie.

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Chef Lionel Villaron is known for his modern French pastries and has been the Executive Pastry Chef and Research & Development Manager at L’Opera in Delhi. His professionalism, expertise, refinement and impressive savoir – faire have been much appreciated both by the L’Opera team and by Delhiites. With 25 years of experience in pastry industry and having worked in France, London and Egypt, Chef Villaron had an interesting selection of desserts for us to try.

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A few of the desserts we had were, Chocolate Crunchy Mousse, Cronuts, Raspberry & Blueberry Bavarois, Chocolate Choux, Coffee Choux, Baba Mojito, Vanilla Rosemary Mille Fueille and Chocolate Mille Fueille. We were also served sandwiches and coffee.

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The star of the event was Baba Mojito, a creative twist to the classic Baba au Rhum. It is yeast cake, a batter richer than Brioche is baked and soaked in liquor, usually rum and topped with whipped cream. This one was soaked in Mojito syrup so it had a lovely twang of lemon and mint. It was soft and juicy, almost reminiscent of rasgulla and instantly it was love at first bite.

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The Chocolate Crunchy Mousse was amazing too. Silky smooth moussefilled with honey and crunchy nuts and nougat, made it a sinful treat. The secret to the richness of this beautiful creation are Elle & Vire cream and Barry Callebaut chocolate which made it extraordinary. However the mousse was not able to hold up at room temperature and fell flat quickly.

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We also loved the Raspberry and Blueberry Bavaois (pronounced as Bavarua). It is also called Bavarian Cream or Crème bavaroise, similar to Crème Patisserie or Pastry Cream but thickened with gelatin or agar agar. It was a classic Charlotte dessert with Boudoirs/Biscuits à la cuillère popularly known as Lady Fingers or Savoiardi cookies tied and held together with a pretty red ribbon. It had layers of Rasberry and Blueberry Bavarian Cream, distinctly flavoured to give you the best of both worlds.image17

The next one was an unusual combo, Vanilla and Rosemary Mille Fueille. We were not big fans of this pastry dessert but Chef Villaron incorporated the flavors of Rosemary and Vanilla very well. It was garnished with sprigs of rosemary and had the classic icing sugar dusting. The Chocolate Mille Fueille however was delicious, it had chocolate sheets instead of layer of puff pastry that were made with Trinitario cocoa beans filled with chocolate cream. The cronut was good too.

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Chef Villaron introduced two versions of Choux Pastry, Chocolate and Coffee. Choux Pastry being close to my heart, I was really happy to see them. The joy of seeing choux baked is something that always brings a big smile to my face and enjoying these little french delights just made my day.

We were on a sugar high. It was a wonderful afternoon spent at Gaylord and would like to give a shout out to Chef Villaron for creating this French extravaganza for us. And this goes out to everyone who loves dessert; Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup! which means “Eat well, laugh often, love abundantly.” And most importantly head to Gaylord Bakeshop, you wouldn’t wanna miss this.

The Bayview, Marine Plaza

On the 18th of August, the Bayview  at Marine Plaza will include dishes that are inspired by Parsi cuisine in their dinner buffet. This will be an addition to their existing dinner buffet only for that day. We were invited for a special bloggers table that showcased some of the dishes.

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We got there at about 7:30 pm, menu scrolls were neatly arranged on the table for us. We were joined by the chef, who then took us through each item on the menu.

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Our meal started of with us being served Potato Fish Cakes. They were moist and well cooked, but lacked any sort of seafood or fish flavor. This had a lot to do with the fact that the chef had used Basa, which isn’t known for a distinctly fishy flavor. The egg in the fish cake coating was the dominant flavour instead.

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Next we were served Patras. These were deep fried Taro leaf rolls kissed with sesame seeds; they were sweet, sour and spicy. Patras are very similar to the popular Maharashtrian snack Alu Vadi.

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The Laganshala Soup was kinda boring, it is originally made like a stew but the Chef wanted to change things up. Being a vegetarian stew with chunks of vegetables, the ingredients were blended and served as a soup. It was bland and unimpressive.

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The Farchas, deep fried Chicken were the most liked dish at the table. It was coated with corn flakes and fried crisp to perfection. It needed a dipping sauce though. I found it a bit too oily but it tasted yummy.

For mains we had Brown Rice with Prawn Patio and Papdi Mutter nu Shag. The prawn patio was a tomato based curry, served with fluffy brown rice. The rice was regular white rice but had a brown color because of the golden fried onions. The Papdi Mutter nu Shag was a flavourful vegetable dish, and I ended up enjoying it more than the prawn curry. For the remainder of our meal, we moved onto the regular Marine Plaza dinner buffet. All in all it was a good insight to what the chef had in store for the 18th of August. He doesn’t promise to serve authentic Parsi food, but a selection of dishes that are inspired by Parsi cuisine.

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For dessert we had a rendition of Laganu Custard. We loved the custard that was laced with caramel sauce. This version was dense and was topped with dry fruit.

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We found the service a bit too slow and the waiters were not attentive. We waited for nearly 20 mins to be served the Prawn Patio curry after the rice was served and the food was not portioned well. But we’re sure it will all be sorted on the 18th as they have been having this Parsi dinner buffet on Parsi New Year for years. The chef informed us that he will be including more Parsi dishes for those dining that evening. So head to Marine Plaza on the 18th of August, and have a fun time relishing some tasty Parsi fare.

O:h Cha

It was only a couple of months ago that one of our friends spoke to us about O:h Cha. He was all praises about the food and their service. He was completely in awe of Chef Pipat Niyosmin. Well, we had never been to this restaurant, so when Chef Rakesh Talwar spoke to us about taking over the O:h Cha kitchen as a partner and Head Chef, we were really excited.

Chef Talwar needs no introduction, and we see this restaurant as another feather among the many pretty feathers that have been added to his hat. Writing about him and his work makes us gleam with pride. Knowing him, we were very sure that he would add his own special touch to the menu at O:h Cha and we went there expecting just that.

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We were all smiles when we entered O:h Cha. The high ceilings, the cane lamps made the space look really elegant, while the mirrored wall created a sense of space. The grass patches will remind you of lush green fields, and the grey color adds a soothing balance. We could only imagine how stunning this restaurant would look during the day. (Being a Thai restaurant, you can always expect lovely colors on your plate; and since the roof had sky light, natural light would simply enhance how appetizing food looks.) It also looked like a great place to host a lunch/dinner party.

OK, let’s talk about the food! The first thing that was brought to the table was this jar of fried wantons that were sweet and salty. It was fun, we couldn’t stop munching on these. We love all things crispy and crunchy.:)

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Chef Talwar had planned the course for us. There were a few additions and a few signature twists to the existing menu. Soon, the servers started bringing in one dish after another, in perfect order.  We started with Edamame beans seasoned with sea salt. A perfect healthy snack to have with drinks. It was a new experience to actually peel the skin off with our hands to have the creamy beans.

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We loved the next dish, it was Crispy Chicken tossed in spicy red sauce with deep fried basil leaves. Loved that it had the right amount of heat.

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Then we were served one of Joash’s favourite dishes, Prawn Tempura – Kung Tempura. Served piping hot and crispy on a bamboo mat with a really yummy Sake Soy sauce that had red chilli in it.

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Dumplings. We were all smiles when the bamboo baskets filled with steaming hot dumplings made its way to our table. We started off with Peking dumplings, these were chicken and prawn dumplings poached in delicious Peking sauce. It was garnished with just the right amount of coriander that added freshness to the dish, and it was very aromatic. The sauce was lip-smacking good too.

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Then we had the Prawn Shumai. Bursting with fresh and clean flavor of the prawn with a lovely undertone of Sake. These were plump, steamed to perfection and delicious. We’d go back for a whole meal of just these. 🙂

 

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The Chicken Roll that we had next were cooked so beautifully, these were wrapped in Chinese cabbage and steamed with Sichuan pepper sauce. We loved it.

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Next, we had Grilled Chicken and Prawn Shanghai Dumpling which were pan seared. They were slightly crispy and absolutely scrumptious. The filling was really good.

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The Grilled Pork was served on a sizzling platter, cooked really well and the flavor of the marinade was mild yet tasty.

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We were so stuffed that we were wondering if we’d be able to have more food. But then we heard Chef say “Som Tam. You’ve got to try the Som Tam.” 😀

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It was really sweet of him to remember how much we love that salad, so he quickly asked the waiter to bring us some. It was delicious, a truly authentic tasting dish that was done just right. After our meal, we had a chance to visit the kitchen, and saw the big mortar and pestle that it was made in. We were happy.

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For mains, we had Green Thai curry and Steamed Jasmine Rice. We love the combo. It was nice to see how it had a lot of vegetables with the aromatics, especially bamboo shoots, green baby aubergines and it also had a generous portion of chicken pieces. Perfect.

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We even had Pad Kra Prow Kai – Stir Fried Holy Basil with Minced Chicken. At this point of time, all I was thinking was about a fried egg with runny yolk. It would’ve been like an icing on the cake, nonetheless the flavours of this dish was spot on. We are Thai food lovers and it had been a perfect meal so far.

We were so full and we couldn’t even think about dessert and we thought we’ll probably go back just for that, but Chef Talwar insisted that we end our meal on a sweet note. He informed us that he is still working on the dessert menu and plans to introduce new items soon.

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We had the Gooey Chocolate Cake and the Tub Tim Krob (Water chestnut dumpling in fresh coconut syrup). We didn’t really like the chocolate cake but the Tub Tim Krob was pleasantly nice. It had pieces of jackfruit and water chestnuts. It was coconutty, very mellow and not overly sweet.

What we loved about the place was the ambience and courteous staff. The food is really nice and we believe in Chef Talwar will fill in any missing gaps. We also caught glimpses of him talking to the staff while they were attending to our table and giving them feedback and pointers. This is exactly what we love about Chef Talwar. He drives his team towards his vision of serving people, giving them a great experience with good food. We wish him all the best with this venture and know that it will be transformed into something way better than it already was.

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