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.

China INC, Taj Santacruz

Our first visit to Taj, Santacruz left us awestruck with its modern yet palatial decor with splashes of vibrant colors. Each restaurant here is uniquely designed keeping in mind the overall architecture of the hotel. Interestingly, the whole hotel celebrates light with chandeliers that are found in various shapes, sizes and colors throughout the building. We were thoroughly impressed with the double ceiling and the massive hand blown glass chandeliers at the lobby; it’s the first thing you notice the moment you walk into the hotel, and it made us go “whoa!”

We immediately reached for our phones to snap a few pictures. 🙂

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When you enter China INC, you are sure to be mesmerized with the Dragon that is suspended from the ceiling. Made out of hand blown glass bulbs, this piece is already finding it’s way to every selfie that is clicked at China INC. The restaurant surely has great lighting and the warm tones of yellow sets a nice mood. We were seated in the private dining area that had round tables. We were warmly welcomed by Executive Chef, Vikas Milhoutra and Executive Sous, Chef Nitin Minocha. We also met the General Manager Mr Pankaj Sampat. After a brief introduction we were shown to our table.

The theme our dinner at China INC. was to celebrate the flavours of Sichuan, known to be one of the four great traditions of Chinese cuisine. The prominent traits of Sichuan cuisine are best described as Spicy, Hot, Fresh and Fragrant. And our dinner reflected just that.

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We started off with a tall glass of IL Grigio Spumante that paired superbly with the dimsum and appetizers that were served. China INC has some signature cocktails that really complement the flavours of Sichuan cuisine. We tried a Rum based cocktail that had whole Sichuan pepper corns it; the hint of pepper made it irresistibly delicious. Even the wines that were served were paired keeping in mind the Indian palate and how it reacted with the cuisine. We had the Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso (red wine), Tenuta San Guido – Scaia (white wine) that the Sommelier recommended for our meal. It was impressive seeing an Asian restaurant pair wines so brilliantly to enhance an eating experience; even their signature in-house cocktails are flavoured with Asian spices and ingredients and complement the cuisine well.

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We were then served some delectable and lipsmacking dimsum and appetizers that created a riot of flavours and textures in our mouths. We absolutely loved how the food served had authentic Sichuan flavours yet were contemporary and modern. The menu at China INC sings of Cantonese & Sichuan flavours with dishes primarily from the Xiao Bao region of Shanghai. We loved the Chilli Butter Garlic Prawns and almost all of the of dimsum that we tried. We were impressed!

Two dishes that were definite stand-outs were the Edamame and Truffle dumpling and the Chilean Sea Bass dumpling. We also had Spiced Chicken dumplings and fluffy Spicy Coriander and Vegetable Baos. Good stuff. We then had a Chef’s special preparation called Crispy Fried Prawns with Oats and Curry Leaves; created to add in a new dimension of flavour, we felt it kinda missed the mark as an item on the ‘China INC.’ menu simply because the inclusion of curry leaves in an Asian dish felt quite out of place. But we absolutely loved it as a dish; the prawns were cooked perfectly and the oats made it super crunchy.

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Another crunchy appetizer to die for was the Calamari that was served with Roasted Garlic. Absolutely yum. The beautifully cooked Shimeji Mushrooms with Green Beans and dried Red Chillies would melt any mushroom lover’s heart instantly. We love subtle flavours that hero the main ingredients in a dish and this did just that. Even Chef Nitin Minocha mentioned how the food industry is progressing towards enhancing flavours in such a way that the vegetable or the protein used is showcased to its truest form. Every dish reflected that. The stories of his culinary journey and his insight about the ingredients, techniques and the cuisine spoke volumes of his rich experience at Taj.

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The next dish was Spicy Lemon & Coriander Soup; delicious, light and flavourful. The fragrance of lemon and coriander was refreshing and the balance of flavours was to the t. The oh so subtle hint of spice was comforting, and we really enjoyed the bold textures of the black and white fungus, pearls of edamame beans and goji berries with each spoonful. Perfect for a rainy day. We did notice that the Mantou Bun that was supposed to come with the soup was missing though.

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The mains arrived with a bang! Make some noise for the Chilean Sea Bass. It was perfect. The fish, served on a bed of fragrant red sauce, was steamed to perfection. Another favourite was the Stir Fried Sliced Lamb made in Yunnan style with Red Chillies and Chinese Celery. What a brilliant dish! The lamb just melts in your mouth, and your palate is coated with heat from the Chillies and you then taste the chinese celery which has very distinct flavour. Even the vegetarian dishes shone brilliantly, be it Seasonal Vegetable with Black Pepper Sauce or the Stewed Bean Curd “Ma Po” style with vegetable in Chili Bean Sauce. Packed with flavours and textures, these surely are definite must haves. You cannot leave China INC without tasting the Kai Lan, a chinese vegetable similar to Broccoli, also know as Broccolini. It has thin long stalks. The dish that was served to us was Kai Lan stired fried with chillies and garlic. It was treated so beautifully and carefully retaining all it’s natural flavour so that one enjoys the vegetable without it’s flavours being dominated with heavy sauces or spices. It was simple yet absolutely delicious. We were served Clay pot cooked rice with Assorted Mushrooms and Five Spice. So happy to taste our favourite Morels with a hint of Chinese 5 spice with the smokey rice. The Udon Noodles made in-house was strictly OK.

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For dessert we had Batter Fried Milk Cake with Chilled Rambutan and Condensed Milk. The milk cake was deep fried to a lovely golden brown color, was super hot and did manage to shock our tongues with the heat, but as soon as you tuck into the juicy and fleshy Rambutan that is chilled, you understand what the chef is trying to achieve. It has contrast of textures and temperatures; combine all three and you would taste a beautiful balance and intensity of sweetness. It was a clean neat dessert.

China INC truly celebrates the Land of the Dragon. Being fans of Asian food, this tasting was surely a treat to our senses. The courses definitely had a rhythm to it, balancing flavours and textures that hit the perfect note with every dish that was served. There were a few misses but can be completely ignored as the other dishes were simply mind blowing. The importance of treating each ingredient with respect and executing it in a way that showcases their true flavour is something that the chefs have achieved at China INC. We had a wonderful time and will definitely be back for more.

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.

Koi Asian Dining & Bar

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In the last few years the food scene in Goa has changed exponentially. We are so happy about it. Though there are ones who love the suzegaad culture and are happy with authentic Goan food, people now don’t hesitate to experiment with the plethora of cuisines that are readily available in every nook and corner.

We love Goan food, but to expect great South-East Asian and Japanese cuisine in a fine dine set up was exciting. Tucked away in a secluded spot off the Aguada-Siolim road is Koi, a stunning fine dining restaurant that gave us a glimpse of the kind of exclusive dining experiences that are taking Goa by storm. A menu that opens a spectrum of flavours rooted along the ancient silk route, Koi is definitely a restaurant to dine at when you want to be transported to a zen place away from buzzing Goa.

The decor is beautifully designed to match the vibrant food and the theme of the restaurant, as the name suggests is Koi, the chinese fish. As per Chinese tradition, it’s supposed to bring prosperity and good luck.

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The menu at Koi is well curated; it had dishes that are carefully selected to give guests an exclusive variety of flavours along the asian silk route. Shefali Gandhi, the co-owner of the restaurant, had a lovely evening planned for us. The dishes they handpicked were not only impressive, but were different from one another in both flavor and texture. They had me with the Sushi; the variety in flavours blew our minds. What got us interested was the manner in which the menu was designed so that it’s convenient for the guests to order instead of the usual Soup, Appetiser, Main Course and Dessert. At Koi, they had Soups & Bowls, Small Plates; so that one can order a variety of food, Wok & Stir Fry, Large Plates and Curry Bar; for ones who love a side of rice, the Seafood Market; perfect for all seafood lovers, and Rice & Noodles.

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We started off with Tuna Sashimi, Rainbow Sushi and Mushroom Trio Dumplings. The Tuna was fresh and was served on a bed of julienned vegetables with wasabi, pickled ginger and light soy. The dumplings were pretty nice, the wrap was not as refined as expected, but what won our hearts was the Rainbow Sushi. The combo of Tuna, Red Snapper, Salmon, Shrimp and Avocado served with spicy mayo and wasabi was simply irresistible. The platter was wiped clean in no time!

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The next dish was pretty unusual. When Aziz Lalani, the co-owner, strongly recommended the Smoked Chilli Chicken, we had already painted a picture of what the dish would look like. Our jaws dropped when this speciality was served to us. Crispy crunchy chunks of chicken served on smokey roasted red chillies were truly a treat to our eyes and boy it got us salivating. We expected the chicken chunks to be super spicy but it had a lovely aroma of the smoked chillies as though it had absorbed all the smokey goodness of the roasted chillies while being tossed in it. We absolutely loved this creation. Two thumbs up.

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We also loved the assortment of condiments that were placed at every table, each unique in flavour and color, vibrant, and adding to the dining experience. We were then served Koi Khowsuey, their interpretation of the Burmese Khowsuey. They brought huge a tray with bowls of the flavourful coconut broth with condiments. It had rice noodles, fried garlic and onion slices, peanuts, crunchy noodles, coriander, chillies, spring onions and chilli flakes among other crisps. It was wholesome, rich and delicious.

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The Crispy Duck Rolls are something you’d wanna gorge on when you’re craving Peking Duck. It reminded us of the deep fried Duck Rolls we’ve had at Hakkasan; infact, we like this better. We also had some spicy and juicy Pork Ribs that were cooked to perfection.

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The dishes on our tasting menu seemed never ending. Next up was something that was off the menu; only the regulars at Koi know that this dish is served at the restaurant. Asian Style Seared Duck Foie Gras. What a delight! Shefali knew our palates were craving for a fusion like this and she saved the best for last before the mains arrived. It’s a must have if you enjoy a good quality Duck Foie Gras.

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For mains, we chose a mix of Malaysian and Thai flavours. Our favourite Prawn Thai Green Curry with Steamed Rice and the spicy Redang Daging (yay for the beef). It was perfect. We were very impressed with our meal at Koi. We absolutely had no complaints.

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We were expecting our dessert when suddenly Shefali came to our table with a live crepe station! It was time for something sweet. To our surprise we were informed that she would be making it for us, right in front of our eyes. She said she was serving us Boozy Crepe Suzette with in-house coconut ice-cream. It was a lovely personal touch added to the evening. So apt for a romantic dinner where the couple is served dessert made exclusively for them; and the whole theatre that a flambé adds to the equation is something that most certainly impresses. We couldn’t wait to dig in and when we did, we enjoyed every bit of it.

Spending time with the owners of Koi gave us a clear idea on how they want to transform the culinary experience in Goa in their own unique way. The seating area outside looks beautiful in the evening. They’ve also got a theatre style Teppanyaki station that looked absolutely stunning. We could only imagine a full table with the Chef tossing food around. The ambience and decor are vibrant and comfy. The bar looked inviting, ready for people who want to have a great time. We highly recommend Koi to all those who take food very seriously and to those who are looking for some amazing food near in the Calangute area.

Sparkling Sunday Brunch, O:h Cha

If you’re ever craving Thai on a Sunday afternoon, head to O:h Cha for a fun, sit down Sparkling Sunday Brunch (Rs. 2000 all inclusive + a glass of Casablanca sparkling wine).  Last Sunday we had the opportunity to hold a small bloggers table here and it was one of the most fun lunches we’ve had. When you are surrounded with people who share the same passion for food, and are served food made by Chef Rakesh Talwar, you know it’s gonna be awesome.

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I remember how while we were at O:h Cha for dinner a few months ago, we wondered what the place would look like with natural light coming it through the skylights. Well, the moment we got to the restaurant we were surprised with how different the space looked in the day. Trust me when I say, it looked spectacular. The grassy green walls were so soothing to the eyes with the gray in the décor; the sunlight sort of lit the whole place up. And natural light just made everything at the table look refreshingly appetizing.

We all were warmly welcomed with a glass of Casablanca Sparkling wine, India’s first Prosecco styled spumante (fully sparkling wine).  It’s made by Good Drop Wine Cellars at Vinchur Wine Park in Nasik. Casablanca has a very fruity note, with floral undertones, acidic with smooth and lingering finish. It was great to try the wine that won the Best Indian Sparkling of 2015 at the Indian Wine Consumer’s Choice Award.

Now for the brunch! O:h Cha has patrons who absolutely love the Krob Kream – the sweet & salty wantons, and we are one of them. It’s such a fun munch; it’s hard to stop once you start munching on these crispy wanton bits. The best part about a sit down brunch is that one doesn’t need get up from their seat; the waiters just keep filling your plate with yummy food.

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We started off with the Turnip Cakes. It might sound really cliché to say this but, it was love at first bite. Crispy Crunchy Turnip Cakes were served with fried spicy garlic and spring onion. Chef Rakesh Talwar had mentioned that it’s one his favourite dishes and now we know why. It was perfect.

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Then we had the Chicken Satay. To be honest, these were thinner than we expected it to be. Though it had a really good marinade and was cooked perfectly, we wanted the chicken pieces to be a bit thicker. It had a really good street food twang to it with the sweet and spicy peanut dipping sauce.

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We were then served the dumplings. Veg Chive Dumpling, Prawn Chive Dumpling, Veg Gyoza and Chicken Gyoza.

We loved both the chive dumplings. The veg one was filled with mixed veggies and water chestnuts. The one thing we loved about the veg dumplings is the crunch water chestnut adds to it.

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The Prawn chive dumpling was plump and oozing with prawny flavour. They were fresh and delectable.

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Chef Rakesh Talwar’s speciality, the Gyoza was a treat in itself. These dumplings, slightly pan fried played a trick on our palates with its thin, kinda crispy exterior, yet absolutely soft and scrumptious juicy filling. Nice!

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The Stir Fried Tofu with Sriracha was packed with a fiery punch. Get me anything with Sriracha and I am a fan. This was exceptional though. The tofu cubes were super soft and the sauce was lipsmackingly delicious. Everyone at the table loved it.

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We then had something French with an asian twist, Asian Mushroom Vol au vent. Vol au vent literally means “windblown”. To give you an idea of the lightness of the puff pastry. Sadly, it wasn’t light. The base of the puff pastry was not flaky and light. It was too dense to enjoy. Even the Sweet Corn Patty was decent, but we felt that it was more of batter than corn. The Stir Fried Chicken Black Pepper failed to impress us as it would’ve been good if it was dry.

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We were completely blown away by the Holy Basil Chicken Bruschetta. It looked like the normal Bruschetta, but when you bit into it, you were hit with the basil flavour that’s reminiscent of south east Asia. It tasted yummy and we couldn’t stop ourselves from having more. It is definitely a must try. We also loved the Lemon Grass Chicken, which was crispy deep fried chicken with lemon grass flavours; went really well with the dipping sauce.

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The sparkling wine was going well with everything we tried and we also tried a mocktail that knocked our socks off. The Orange and Kaffir Lime Caprioska. It was really refreshing and was kinda like a palate cleanser. Bold Kaffir lime flavours with a citrusy punch.

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Moving on to the main course. We had Som Tam, French Bean Chilli Bean, Four Friends, Thai Green Curry, Pad Kra Prow Kai, Steamed Dory Lemon Chilli Garlic, Steamed Jasmine Rice and Pad Thai Noodles.

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We enjoyed the Som Tam salad, one of the best we’ve had in the city. The French Bean Chilli Bean was OK, but we really liked how tender the French beans were. The Four Friends was dominated by white fungus, loved the crunch but the flavours of the gravy was weak. The Thai Green Curry was a lil disappointing as its consistency was too thin, we agree that the Chef wanted to use all natural coconut milk and not use thickening agents that restaurants all over use, but using coconut cream to make it a lil richer would’ve ensured that the consistency of the gravy would have turned out just right. The flavours however were bang on. We loved the crunchiness of the baby eggplant and the abundance of other veggies in it. The Pad Kra Prow was a bit salty but when had with the fragrant Jasmine Rice it was all good. The Steamed Dory Lemon Chilli Garlic was light but pungent coz of the chilli, the fish was steamed well and the lemon chilli garlic aroma seeped right through. The Pad Thai Noodles were delicious; we enjoyed it more than the Steamed Jasmine Rice.

Now for some dessert influenced by Thai flavours. This is what we love about Chef Rakesh Talwar, you can be prepared to be amazed by his creativity and innovation. The Tum Tim Krobe, a must try, was served in shot glasses. It’s a lovely blend of coconut, jackfruit and water chestnut that leaves you wanting more. The highlight of the evening was the Mango Sticky Rice Ice cream, an inhouse concoction invented by Chef Rakesh Talwar. It has a strong mango flavour with the texture of sticky rice that’s really smooth. It coats your tongue and the cold temperature hits the bliss point, heightening all the happy zones of your brain. We loved it. The Lemon Grass Crème Brulee was OK. We liked the hint of lemon grass that it had. It would have been nicer if the layer of sugar was a bit more caramelized. Call us fussy, but we love to crack the layer of caramelized sugar while having Crème Brulee. It’s like the classic ‘breaking a bottle of champagne over the hull of a ship’ ritual. 🙂

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We don’t want to say that it was all smooth sailing, considering this was the first Sunday Brunch held at O:h Cha. This review would really help when they are hosting a big group. The service was not up to the mark. A few of them didn’t even get to taste a few dishes from the menu. It was funny how we were a table of four and every time we called for dumplings, we were served 3. We had to wait for another batch every single time. It could be the pressure of hosting a blogger’s table, we are not sure; as we’ve never had a bad experience with their service before. We did love the pace at which all these dishes were served. The ambience is perfect for a lovely Sunday afternoon. There is a saxophonist who played really well and had a good set-list. He got everyone grooving to the tunes; it made the experience even better. The menu is designed in a way that you get some of the best dishes served at O:h Cha. We hope that the menu keeps changing so that guests can enjoy all the other dishes that O:h Cha has to offer. You can be rest assured with the quality of food that comes from Chef Rakesh Talwar’s kitchen as there would be no short cuts as far as authenticity and flavours are concerned. So give it a shot! 🙂 If you’re ever craving Thai on a Sunday afternoon, head to O:h Cha for a fun, sit down Sparkling Sunday Brunch.

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 – www.tao9delivery.com Give it a try!

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.

OCHA