Charcoal Biryani

A chef with 25 years of experience from the Lucknowi Gharana once said, “Making biryani is an art, it should be made in such a way that the guest won’t have anything to pick out of their mouth while eating it.” Hearing that made us think, it’s so important to get a recipe right. Biryani as a dish has surely evolved with time, passing through regions and various kitchens of moguls. Every state in India has its own style and there are many versions of biryanis that are served.

From huge deckchees to handis, and now in plastic or foil containers, Biryani has travelled and had its own tale to tell. With the QSR market booming, and with expectations of it almost doubling in 2017, we have so many who have hopped on to the bandwagon.

One such app based Biryani delivery service called Charcoal Biryani came our way. The menu is not complicated, the app is easy to use, and orders can be placed instantly. They boast about being nutritious and hygienic, and their packaging was impressive. A lot can be judged how the food is handled when it’s a delivery establishment. We were pretty chuffed to see each orderpacked neatly and were impressed how the food remained hot.


We ordered the Paneer Makhani Biryani, the Butter Chicken Biryani, the Chicken Tikka Biryani and the Lamb Biryani. Each box had the biryani container, a side of yogurt and disposable cutlery with paper napkins. The biryani container was vacuum sealed.


We tasted the Lamb Biryani first. It was delicious. We loved how the lamb pieces were cooked so beautifully, it was well marinated and the flavours were spot on. Every biryani pack had a generous layer of barista, which lent a really good aroma when the packs were opened. The proportion of the masala to rice was more than the rice which made us really happy.


The Butter Chicken Biryani was kind of disappointing as it had no real flavour of the butter chicken. It was just plain steamed rice with the a butter chicken gravy. It failed to impress as it felt like an ordinary mix of rice and thick gravy. There were hardly any pieces of chicken in it too. Three tiny ones to be precise. There was nothing unique or appealing about this dish. Even the Chicken Tikka Biryani failed due to lack of chicken pieces. It looked very similar to the Lamb Biryani but was not as half as good in terms of flavour.

Surprisingly the Paneer Makhani Biryani was the second best of the lot. It was delicious; the rice had a lovely aroma to it with the mix of veggies. It would be something we would love to order more of as you don’t find good veg biryanis out there. There still needed to be more paneer in the biryani though.

Charcoal Biryani has its highs and lows. Two of the four biryanis we tried were really good. The portions are OK compared to the other biryani takeaway joints. When a person orders a portion of biryani, he/she looks for 4 things; 1. Long grain rice that’s fluffy and flavourful. 2. Enough veggies or chicken/lamb pieces and potatoes. 3. Spicy and aromatic masala 4. Good portion size. We loved how Charcoal Biryani added brunoise diced potatoes to their biryani to ensure that you get flavourful potato pieces with every bite. They need to be uniform with their portion of meat in every parcel as they was hardly any meat in the Chicken Tikka Biryani. It was kinda disappointing coz we liked that biryani. It would also help if the portion of rice was more than what was packed. We would definitely be trying it again considering it’s a new venture and there will be things that they may change to improve their brand. Also, we believe that being consistent is the key to success for any brand so we’re hoping to have a better experience next time.

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.


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…


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! 🙂


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.


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.


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.


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.

Tao 9

With fast-food joints and take-away restaurants booming all over the world, Bombay has witnessed its fair share in the food scene recently. Using mobile-based apps, websites and mobile phones to improve food service has sort of become a new trend. A friend told us about Tao9, an Asian food delivery outlet located in Lower Parel, and told us that they wanted us to try out their menu.

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Tao 9 is a delivery-only restaurant of that serves Chinese, Thai, Burmese and Indonesian food. They serve soups, dumplings, noodles, appetizers, rice and curries. They’ve also got the “Indie Favourites” which are all time favourites in Bombay, and low-calorie wok-boxes that are specially designed for weight watchers. Packed under 250kcal per portion, including controlled portions of rice with veggies or chicken. They’re aiming to satisfy your craving for Asian food by taking away the fear of putting on too much weight with a meal. We had the opportunity to try about a dozen or so dishes and here’s what we thought.

For dumplings, we had Chicken Coriander (Rs 149) and Shrimp Har Gao (Rs 199)

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Both dumplings were made well, the wrapping was almost see through which reflected proper skill by the chef. We enjoyed the shrimp har gao more than the chicken coriander, as the chicken dumpling lacked seasoning. The packaging is good and it had kept the food warm.

For appetizers, we had Tai Chin Chicken (Rs 169) and Black Pepper Fish (Rs 189)

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It was flavourful, cooked to perfection, and laced with that perfect peppery kick. The portions were good too. The Tai Chin Chicken was chunks of chicken tossed in a spicy thick dry red sauce. I loved it, Joash however, prefers his food less spicy. It went well with the fried rice too. For mains, we had the Burnt Garlic Fried Rice (Rs 169) and Chicken Fried Rice (Rs 159) with Sambal Chicken (Rs 169) and Basa Kaffir Lime Leaf Curry (Rs 259). The fried rice was strictly OK, though loaded with egg and chicken. The burnt garlic flavor was not strong enough, even though it did have tiny pieces of deep-fried garlic in it. The Sambal Chicken was delicious, and the Basa Kaffir Lime Leaf Curry was very flavourful. The fish was cooked perfectly.

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We also tried Prawn Green Thai Curry with Steamed Rice (Rs 259) which is a classic combo. The Thai curry had a lot of veggies in it with plump prawns and it went really well with the steamed rice. We loved how the steamed rice was cooked, absolutely fluffy and beautiful.

To summarize, we really liked the size of each individual portion and Tao 9 truly has a wide variety of options to choose from. They even have the option to create your own wok box. Delivery is quick and efficient, and the packaging is practical. We did find it a little difficult to open each box as the lids were sealed too tightly. We definitely recommend this place to everyone who wants to binge on Asian food without worrying about the calories. You can also place an order through their website – Give it a try!