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.

Yuuka, The St Regis Mumbai

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Dining at Yuuka with a meal prepared by none other than Chef Ting Yen was a dream come true. We had heard so about him and his son Kevin’s feat at St. Regis Mumbai’s Japanese restaurant and were delighted to be invited to review their new menu.

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We started our meal with one of Yuuka’s signature dishes – Salmon on Fire! Strips of raw salmon are placed on a lemongrass stalk that is suspended on a bed of coffee beans. The salmon is encrusted with bits of deep fried onion pieces and petals of edible flowers. Once brought to the table, the server sets fire to the coffee beans, lightly scorching the meat rendering a smoky char that adds immense flavour. It was served with a dipping sauce, but the salmon itself was so delicious; you don’t really need the sauce to enjoy the dish. Our meal was off to a great start.

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For drinks we had the Yuuka’s signature cocktails – Ginger Manhattan (Jim Beam, Martini Rosso, Ginger Falemum and Sour Mix) which was a very asian version of the classic cocktail and Ting’s Sushi Companion (Cucumber infused Sake, Mint, Cucumber Lime), a refreshing cocktail that really added to the dining experience. Later we also tried the Samurai – Yamazaki (12YO) Whisky Orange Juice and Togarashi powder. The whisky is Suntory’s (Japan’s first commercial distillery) flagship single malt whisky, multi-layered with fruit and Mizunara aromas, combined with Orange and Togarashi it gave a lovely fruity punch with some heat. All three are a must try!

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The next appetizer was the Avocado Tartare; a dish with a million textures (or at least that’s what it felt like). It is served cold in a frozen martini glass. The avocado tartare is placed on Perilla leaves or Shiso and served on ice. A layer of ice separates that from the Corn Dashi. The server breaks the ice to mix both leaving us with a chilled glass of creamy deliciousness. We loved the way the dish looked and the having it cold made it really enjoyable.

Chef Ting Yen is known for his restaurant Oishii in Boston. Being born in Japan, and raised in Korea and Taiwan, Chef Yen uses the experience and passion he has for Japanese food to craft a truly impressive menu at Yuuka. Using influences from his childhood and elements from family recipes, he carefully crafts each dish with refinement and a myriad of flavours and presents it in a modern way. His son Kevin who is equally passionate, adds to the symphony.

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The next dish was presented to us by the duo. Chef Yen brought to our table a hot infusion siphon. The first time we’d seen one brought out onto a restaurant floor. It’s an amazing tool to make hot broths or cocktails, even tea and coffee at the table. Chef Yen called it the ‘5 min Mushroom Dashi’. Made with Kombu, dried Bonito flakes and a variety of mushrooms, the dashi is most certainly a flavour bomb of umami. We were served chunks of prawns, oyster and shiitake mushroom with scallions, and medallions of semolina cakes that were seared for a light caramelized exterior. The semolina cakes were sweet and give a contrast to the rich umami flavour in the dish. Elegant and delicious.

We also tried the Chilean Sea Bass that was packed with deep soy flavour which was followed by a train of Maki Rolls.

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Our favourites of the evening, The Truffle Maki and the Lamb Over Fire Maki. It’s hard to resist truffles when paired with creamy avocado, cucumber and a generous shaving of black truffle; each morsel becomes a moment to cherish. If you love the truffles, this maki roll is a dish you can’t afford to miss.

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The Lamb Maki Over Fire. Each bite is nothing short of a mouthwatering amalgamation of flavours. The flames from the coffee beans and lemongrass lightly scorch the edges of the roll, rendering it smoky, with hints of the fragrant burnt lemongrass and coffee. A Ponzu reduction is drizzled over it while it’s still roasting, to add in a new dimension of flavour. Each roll is topped with a tiny slice of chilli and finely sliced scallions. The thinly sliced lamb that wraps around the Maki just seems to melt away as soon as it’s in your mouth. Stuffed with lamb and soy, this roll is a definite must-try from the list of dishes that have been added to the menu at Yuuka.

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We also tried a few of Chef’s specials like the Chef Ting’s Fried Rice and Stir Fried Udon Noodles with Dutch Porkbelly with Red Miso. We really enjoyed the fried rice as it had a spicy kick to it. Chef informed us that the noodles were not on the menu and were from the hidden menu at Oishii. Only a few patrons at Oishii knew it exists, as he doesn’t like to make it for everyone. It’s made just like how his father used to make it and the Chef took immense pride in sharing the special memory with us. You could tell that the noodles were handmade. They had a really chewy texture to them, I loved the light sauce and vegetables that it was tossed in. The pork belly was tender and was cooked to perfection.

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For dessert we had the Wine Poached Pear with Berries. It turned out to be a perfect way to end our meal. Sublime, not-too-sweet and quite literally a nice ‘fade to black’ as far as our evening went.

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Yuuka as a restaurant that celebrates modern Japanese food and Chef Ting Yen combines it with Nikkei cuisine with a few Peruvian ingredients. Chef Ting and his son, Kevin, only visit the restaurant at St. Regis, Mumbai twice a year. Kudos to the team of chefs trained by Chef Ting, who keep the torch burning strong and fierce when he is not around. We had the opportunity to meet the father-son duo in November and we had an amazing time dining there.

Daawat-e-Saffron, JW Marriott Mumbai

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By popular demand Saffron, the Indian specialty restaurant at J W Marriott, which is operational only for dinner; has now opened its doors for patrons so that they can enjoy a lavish Thali experience.

Master Chef Shahnawaz Qureshi, the Sous Chef at Saffron, has curated an impressive Avadhi menu that will be served in the format of a Thali every Saturday. Being the fourth generation of the famous Qureshi family, his knowledge about spices and preparations is extensive. He brings in his experience and a lot of secret recipes from his family. Some of his recipes have been handed over by his ancestors for over 200 years.

We had the opportunity to savour the taste of the royal kitchens of the Awadhi Nawabs through his cooking. The Thali includes traditional dishes like the Galouti Kebab, Malai Jheenga, Nihari Gosht, Murg Baradari, Hare Mutter ki Tikki, Sarson ka Saag, Guchhi Mutter and Shahi Tukda, paired along with Indian cocktails. They’ve also got live Tabla and Sitar players playing Indian classical music.

The Thali. We have had authentic South Indian food at Saffron before but this was our first Thali experience here. We were excited and looking forward to it. Priced at Rs 1800++ for Non-Veg and Rs 1500++ for Veg, these thalis come with Appetizers, Main-Course, Assorted Indian Bread Basket and Dessert.

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For starters we had the Galouti Kebab, Lehsuni Jheenga, Seekh Kebab and a Chicken Kebab. Each one, better than the other. We found ourselves tucking in second helpings of the Galouti Kebabs as they were absolutely delicious. Melt-in-your-mouth and perfectly cooked just as it should be. It was served on a piece of buttered roti. The kebabs were moist, well marinated and perfectly charred. The meat was tender and cooked well. Every creation sort of projected the finesse of a seasoned chef. We also tried the Mutter Tikkas and a veg Galouti Kebab that was made of mushrooms. Nice. 🙂 We also loved sipping on Satvik, a refreshing drink made of freshly squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and Rooh-afza and Mint Sour made of fresh mint, lime juice and club soda.

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Then the Thali was served. Loved the silver thaal with bowls that made the whole experience more feel more royal. We were served the Gosht Ki Nihari, Murg Baradari, Dal-e-Khaas, Paneer Methi Makhan and Gosht Biryani. A bowl of Dahi bhalla was also added to our Thalis. What we love about Awadhi cuisine is how earnestly a recipe is followed. Known for its slow cooking process and the variety of spices, Awadhi cuisine has a place in every true food lover’s heart. We loved every bite of every dish we tasted. The Gosht Ki Nihari was creamy with the meat falling off the bone. The Dal-e-Khaas was thick and rich, just the way we like it. It was superb. The biryani was flavourful and each grain of rice was fluffy and aromatic. We were in food heaven. In a tete-a-tete with Chef Qureshi we came to know the history behind each dish and how each recipe has evolved. He took pride in letting us that all the spices and important ingredients are transported from Lucknow to ensure the authenticity in the taste of every dish. He said that every dish has its own set of spices that are ground together. The ratios/proportions are a family kept secret that is passed down to every generation. Can you believe, the garam masala he uses has a total of 46 spices? Wow! We were just amazed with how much he knew about spices. It was great to understand his way of cooking and where he comes from. His expertise and extensive knowledge of each ingredient showcased the passion with which his family is known for.

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It was time for dessert. We were awestruck with what was plated for us. A rich decadent piece of Shahi Tukda and pillowy soft Rasmalai laced with Rabdi, garnished with pistachios and strands of saffron. It was pure indulgence. You have to taste it to believe it. It was the best versions of these two desserts that we had ever tasted. We loved the spun sugar that added sophistication to the platter.

We enjoyed the Thali at Saffron and absolutely loved learning about Awadhi cuisine from Chef Shahnawaz Qureshi. It’d be a sin not to relish these delicacies, we will definitely be back for more.

Mustard, Penha de Franca, Goa

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Our meal at Mustard not only made us fall in love with Bengali food but also gave us insight to the concept that is unique and very much needed in a melting pot such as Goa. Mustard specializes in Bengali and French cuisine. Although Goa has it’s fair share of French restaurants, combining it with a regional cuisine is a brilliant idea. Mustard introduces some really authentic flavours and the rich culture that is not fully explored in Goa.

It was a pleasure meeting Poonam Singh, the co-owner of Mustard, during our meal. She shared with us her vision and how the restaurant came into being. Mustard has always been associated with Bengali as well as French cuisine and that common factor binds both worlds. And this has been beautifully translated in their menu. With two separate kitchens functioning seamlessly, the variety of flavours and dishes that are churned out speak volumes of the contribution made by the chefs who handle each kitchen.

We also had the opportunity to meet Chef Pritha Sen, who is a renowned chef, and the mastermind behind the elaborate Bengali menu. Her experience as a food historian is vast and she’s got a deep rooted knowledge of Bengali cuisine. She sort of took us back in time narrating the history of Bengali cuisine and how different eras and circumstances have influenced it. And the food revealed her passion to serve this interesting cuisine in an innovative and creative way touching the hems of pure fine dine experience effortlessly.

Chef Gregory Bazire runs the French kitchen. He brings his expertise channeling innovation and simplicity to let you experience fresh and classic European cuisine at it’s best. We tried a few French dishes that were truly exceptional. It be unfair to pick our favourite between both the menus.

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We loved the décor; it is perfect for a romantic date. They share their space with Freedom Tree (The home décor store), hence a lot of installations and pieces are from them. It adds to the warmth and cozyness. The colors are light aquamarine and white with hints of pink. They have an outdoor garden space that looks like a picture taken out of a fairytale. Very dreamy! They also have a community table which is ideal for those who are not shy of making new friends. Interestingly, the micro-greens that are used as garnish, are grown in the same garden. They’ve also got live music every Wednesday; we love their choice of artists. Vamsee Krishna played the day we dined there and he did an amazing job with his primarily acoustic set.

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The Food. We started off with Tentul Joler Sherbet, an in-house mock-tail shot made out of tamarind, flavoured with honey and mint. It’s best for a hot sunny day and helps digestion. Do not miss trying the Mustard Specials, their in-house concoctions.
Pritha ensured we had the best of both the menus so we started off with Smoked Fish. We loved how every dish has a story behind it, she explained how it came into being, and how it is made. The fish is marinated in mustard powder and mustard oil, and smoked in a traditional way with puffed rice, jaggery and husk. We were in awe of how simple ingredients used in a certain way could do so much to a dish. Served on banana leaf, the fish looked absolutely stunning. It was cooked to perfection. Smokey, tender and delicious! Loved how the presentation is minimal yet striking. This was just a start to an amazing evening at Mustard.

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We were then served the Prawn Cutlet. A crumb fried, butterflied and lightly marinated prawn, served with Kashundi or fermented mustard sauce. It is mentioned in the menu that this dish was made in the Bengali households during the British Raj and the fermented mustard sauce was used as a substitute for Tartare Sauce. We loved how the prawn cutlet was crunchy and fresh. The mustard sauce added the perfect zing; it was perfect.

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Then we had the Dimer Chop; a new entrant in the Jalkhabhar section of the menu. This famous Bengali street food, also called Dimer Devil, is made with hard boiled egg halves covered with potato mixture and crumb fried; again, served with mustard sauce. We liked the fact that the eggs were not over cooked; the yolk didn’t have a grey lining, so thumbs up for that. It tasted yum. Next, we had the Shammi Kebab. Made with ground mutton and flavoured with fragrant spices, this kebab just melted in our mouths. Served with mint chutney and onion rings, it was beautifully made and tasted really great. It was interesting to learn how Bengali cuisine has evolved with its influences from the British Raj, the Europeans and the Nawabs.

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After the appetizers from the Bengali menu, we sampled a few from the French menu. We started off with some warm crusty multigrain bread served with butter and two delicious mustards that were made in-house. It was brilliant and well made; the pungent characteristic in the mustard was well balanced and it didn’t have an unpleasant hit. The grainy mustard was sweet and we enjoyed it with a couple of slices of bread and a little butter.

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We tried BBQ Prawns on Fritters; grilled prawns beautifully flavoured with Thyme and Rosemary, served on a sweet corn fritters finished with a spicy, sweet and sour pineapple chutney garnished with toasted sesame seeds. The flavours were well balanced, loved how light the corn fritters were, and they added body to the whole dish, giving you a feel of a proper BBQ night with every bite. Next was Chicken Scaloppini, thin slices of chicken marinated in Dijon mustard pan-fried and served with long zucchini strips, finished with a mustard pesto dressing. It was nice. 🙂

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Our main course was an authentic Bengali Thaal served with a modern twist. The square white plate with just a strip of banana leaf and all the dishes served one after the other did more than just add vibrance to the table. The platter looked beautiful and every dish was made with such unquestionable finesse that only a true perfectionist could get what the chef accomplished that night. We were awestruck. Pritha passionately described the courses and how and in which order an item on the platter is meant to be eaten. The order of how the food is served is very important in Bengali cuisine and each dish is to be eaten separately with a little rice. The first item is the rice, which traditionally is served with ghee and salt. Then comes Shukto, which is a semi dry preparation. We were served Red Shards with peanuts. Then comes the lentil preparation, we were served a thick Cholar Dal garnished with desiccated coconut, it was so fragrant and soulful. Followed by Doi Begun and Aloo Jhinga Poshto, the most loved and relished part of every Bengali meal before the meats. We were served light fluffy Lucchis and Karaisutir Kochuri or Peas Puris that went extremely well with all the dishes that were served. Bengalis relish proteins like fish, chicken and lamb after this. We were served Chingri Maachher Malaikari, a golden yellow curry with King Prawns simmered in coconut milk and fragrant spices. We also had Kosha Mangsho, Bengal’s best known mutton curry and the star of any Bengali feast. Kosha Mangsho means “cooked in its own juices”, and it was cooked in mustard oil with onions, cardamom, cinnamon and clove. It was magical. We had an awesome time savouring these delectable flavours of Bengal.

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Dessert was Bhapa Doi and Crème Brûlée. It was the first time that we tried Bhapa Doi, we love Mishti Doi, but this steamed version stole our hearts with it’s luscious texture. The Crème Brûlée was good too, we were left stuffed and smiling as it had been a wonderful experience all along. We truly enjoyed our time at Mustard and recommend this place to all those who want great food, lovely ambience and excellent service. Would like to mention that the staff are trained immaculately to ensure that every guest is attended to, loved how they were positioned perfectly to ensure that every guest is at their line of sight to ensure prompt service. Mustard have great music on Wednesdays, so don’t miss it. We loved this place and recommend every food lover to visit Mustard when they are in Goa.

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.

The Spare Kitchen, Juhu

Things change when you’re eating at a restaurant that’s run by someone you know personally. Being brutally honest sometimes back fires but when you know that the foundation of your relationship is based on true passion of good food, you know that a tasting session would just be nothing short of a fun affair.

It’s a thrill to come back to where it all started! My first review was about The Spare Kitchen. It was then when I had got super excited to have food served on a black slate (one of the first restaurants to start quirky serving techniques.) I guess it was Chef RakeshTalwar’s food that got me writing, coz I had to express the joy of dining here somehow. Well, years later I had to come back with Joash to add TSK to our blog.

It was a Friday night and when we got there, it was packed with guests. We thought a private party was on but that wasn’t the case. You know a restaurant is good when it’s hard to get a table. We had no complains and soon got seated. We knew that Chef RakeshTalwar would have something up his sleeve for this tasting session. It was kinda a surprise to know that Chef Talwar was taking a back seat and would allow his protégé to take care of us. We were introduced to Chef Rajesh D’silva, who had been trained by Chef Talwar to take on the reins in his absence and we gotta tell you, he’s pretty good at what he does.

We started with our first course – Soup.

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With TSK, you can always expect your food to be served with a twist. We were served soup in big mugs on a tray that had a fork attached to it. Chef said that he got it custom-made specifically for the restaurant. Each fork had an element that added texture that went really well with the soup. We had the Dhingri Cappuccino with Masala Pav, Smoked PepperRasam with Coconut Icecream and Dosa Crisps and Coconut Chili Lime with Chili Cheese Toast. It is rightly said that you eat with your eyes first. So when we had these yummy soups in front of us and we could hardly wait to get started. Our favourite was the Coconut Chili Lime Soup. It was nothing short of an ode to Thailand. We loved the subtle flavours that played with our palate, and the crunchy cheese toast just made it scrumptious. We have decided that we shall only have Mushrooms in Cappuccino form; the Dhingri Cappuccino at TSK was awesome. It was creamy and had thick foam on top; absolutely delicious. The Smoked Pepper Rasam lacked the levels of smokiness we expected but it sure had a peppery punch. The savoury coconut icecream and the dosa crisps completed the platter and added that south Indian touch in a progressive manner.

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TSK is about serving great Indian cuisine in a progressive and artistic way and the next dish just proves how creatively a dish can be served. We had the Tempura Fish “65” Margarita. It was chunks of fish deep fried in light crispy and crunchy tempura batter, tossed in the robust classic “65” sauce with curry leaves and the works; served in a tall Margarita glass. This is a great starter for a fun evening and would go great with drinks. We were in love with the Malta Twisted Orange Mojito and that kept repeating. Interestingly I just happened to mention that I was off sugar and didn’t want to have a sweet drink; they got me one made sugar-free! I was happy.

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With a couple more starters, we saw the classic black slate being used for plating and it looked stunning. We had the Tandoori Stuffed Mushrooms and Kolhapuri Thecha Chicken Tikka. We were taken aback with how yummy the Kolhapuri Thecha Chicken Tikka was. It was spicy and had that Kolhapuri heat in every bite. Loved how Thecha can be used in making Chicken taste awesome! I’m definitely gonna try this at home. The Tandoori Mushrooms were good too, they were stuffed with cheese and were cooked well but the Thecha won between the two. We also tried the Sea Food Platter – Kalonji Jhinga, Prawn Sambal Oelek and Tandoori Machhi. Every bit of it was awesome. Chef Talwar’s love for South East Asian cuisine can be seen in the Prawn Sambal Oelek. We loved it.

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Soon it was time for the mains. The server got us a board with tiny buckets of condiments, papad cones and whole onions with a knife and spoons. 😀 It was cute. We loved the bright colors that promptly reflected Chef Talwar’s personality and so did the condiments. We loved the mustard pickle from the lot, and I was obviously inquisitive about it as we had never tasted anything like that before. There were tiny pieces of vegetables like cauliflower and celery coated in pungent yet insanely tasty mustard paste. Chef Talwar informed us that the mustard paste is sourced all the way from Kolkata; from a family that specializes in mustard pastes. It was an insight to the lengths Chef Talwar would go to create something really delicious with normal ingredients handpicked to create a perfect condiment.

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I remember being the only one to guess this dish when Chef Talwar posted a pic of it on Facebook a couple of years ago. We had Fish Cooked en Papillote. En Papillote is French for “in parchment”. This dish sits proud in the “Global Pre Plated” section of the menu. The marinated fish is cooked in parchment paper with very lil or no oil and served with a salad and a silky olive caper sauce. We loved it. The fish was fresh and so was the salad, loved how this dish looked, the sauce was served in a small jar. We also had the traditional Rajasthani delicacy, Laal Maas made with red chili paste. It was delicious. We were served a basket of assorted breads but we opted for Jowar and Bajrabhakris. It’s not mentioned on the menu but if Chef Talwar has his personal stash of fresh dough made of these grains, he would gladly serve it to you. You gotta ask for it in advance and wait a while for it to get to your table. We also had Coorgi Chicken, which was chicken served in a green-ish sauce. Love the variety on the menu as you have the option to try dishes from all across India and the world. They have a mouthwatering Dal Ghosh which cannot be missed and The Mumbai “Better” Butter Chicken has fans all over the world who order tubs through people who are travelling.

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The desserts at TSK are nothing short of one of a kind plated wonders. Each has its own unique flavour and style that captures hearts instantly. We were in for a treat as the chef got us three desserts to try. The first one was the Thandai Panna Cotta with Benarasi Paan Macarons garnished with Fennel Glass, a combination that only Chef Talwar could come up with. It was the wobbliest Panna Cotta I have ever seen in Mumbai, the Rose Jelly on top with the fennel crusted glass was a perfect blend of flavours and textures. We thought that was the best at TSK till we tasted the Sea Salt & Caramel Kulfi with Spicy Rosogulla. The kulfi was smooth and the classic flavour combo made it even better. What we loved about this dessert is the spicy rosogulla. Spiced with green chilies, these rosogullas cut through the sweetness of the dessert. It was perfect. The best part about the third dessert was that it’s freshly baked as per the order. The Gooey Chocolate Brownie that is served with Vanilla Icecream and Chocolate Sauce clears every parameter of the conventional dessert for having  the perfect gooeyness, temperature and the glistening chocolate over the almost melted vanilla icecream. To add to it, there’s a shot glass filled with rich hot chocolate. Ah heaven,and every chocolate lover’s dream! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

We really liked how we didn’t really miss Chef Talwar’s cooking as Chef D’silva worked exactly like him. It only goes to show how well he has shadowed Chef Talwar and how effectively Chef Talwar has trained him. TSK has an impressive menu and a variety that’s not available everywhere and most importantly one can customize their order according to their preference. What reflects in the service is Chef Talwar’s passion to serve good food to people, and as the TSK tagline goes, “You’ll not eat at home again”. A lil birdie told us that we can soon expect the second outlet of The Spare Kitchen in the Southern part of Bombay soon. We thank Chef Rakesh Talwar and his team for great food and awesome service. We actually feel super pampered when we are around Chef Talwar. Our best wishes will always be with him.

Soma, Grand Hyatt

It’s really good to know that restaurants in the city are embracing the fact that diners have become more aware of what they eat. Gone are the days when people would just dine to have a 5 star experience. Nowadays they expect healthy food and have dietary preferences.

We were invited to Soma at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai few weeks ago and what we had wasn’t just great food but a look at how restaurants are going back to their roots, and serving wholesome, delicious, rich yet healthy Indian cuisine. Soma is known for its authentic specialties from North India and the North-West. The tandoor show-kitchen is the restaurant’s central feature giving diners a glimpse of how each delectable tandoori dish is prepared.

We were welcomed by Chef Vinod Rana and his team. At Grand Hyatt, you can be rest assured about the variety and the quality of food. Chef Rana promised to serve authentic Indian cuisine and signature specialties that were backed with thoughtful consideration and research. Soma boasts of serving traditional Indian food with flavours and recipes that are lost and forgotten. With their new menu, they’re looking at including more regions and cuisines from all over India. It is incredible how India has a vast variety of cuisines that are not only unique, but also different in its own way. Soma serves delightful set menus, customized thalis and has an exquisite a la carte menu – each offering personifying the legacy of Indian food, and the passion and expertise of Chef Rana.

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The new menu that was served to us was carefully selected to ensure that we experience traditional Indian cooking at its best. With Chef Rana’s experience and recipes that have been perfected over the years we were in for truly an extraordinary feast.

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Soma set the mood with their first dish, Achari Tandoori Jhinga – pickle marinated tiger prawns, cooked in tandoor. One could tell with the charred bits that the tandoor had done a wonderful job of cooking the prawns beautifully. It was spicy, tangy and got us salivating for more.

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The next dish came with theatre, something that always enhances the dining experience and often adds oomph to the dish served. The Raan e Sikandari, a tandoor roasted leg of lamb marinated with traditional home-made spices. It was carved live at the table after being flambéed with rum. It was just too much to process at one time. Do we cheer with excitement at the look of the roasted leg of lamb that smelled heavenly or should we stay awestruck as it gets engulfed with a flame and is fragrantwith rum. It had everything a true meat lover could ask for. The chef didn’t even have to carve the meat as it just fell off the bone. The boozy meat that had hints of Indian spices became one of our favourites of the evening.

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We then had the Rava Fried Fish, Murgh Hariyali Seekh, Tandoori Khumb and Mutter Hari Mirch Ki Tikki. The fried fish had a generous coating of semolina that covered the fish well, it was crisp but wasn’t seasoned well. The seekh was moist, flavourful and delicious and so was the tandoori mushroom but the Mutter Hari Mirch Ki Tikki stole the show; it was just perfect. Chef Rana shared that the secret of that dish was use of fresh peas; he said one would not get the same texture and scrumptiousness with frozen peas.

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For mains Chef took us on a coastal trail with Malwani Chicken and Prawn Curries, the quintessential Fish Ambotik, and a very robust Sukha Mutton. The dark brown coconut mixture coated on succulent pieces of mutton just won our hearts. To compliment the dish, there were these amazingly flaky parathas that were kissed with poppy seeds, looked like peony clusters. With all the food that we had that evening, the vegetarian dishes that shone and left us with a warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts were, Dum Aloo Bhojpuri, Baingan Bharta, Ghar Ki Bhindi and Dal Varan. The non vegetarian mains were really great but the simplicity of these vegetarian dishes truly won our hearts. With these dishes, chef Rana wanted to showcase how Indian cooking in its simplest form, works so well; even when it’s served at a fine dining restaurant. It’s not about just using high-end ingredients, but about using few to create something that’s healthy, comforting and wholesome.

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The chicken biryani was fairly decent but the vegetarian Sabz Pulav was really good. We were eagerly waiting for the desserts to arrive. We were served dessert platters. It was a medley of indian desserts, picked to ensure that our evening ended on a sweet note. We were served a lovely Paan Kulfi with Gulkhand topping. It was yum. The in-house Malai Kulfi with sevai and sabja was creamy, the warm Gulab Jamun made our heads go weee with sugar rush, and the not so sweet but fragrant Kesari Ras Malai ensured that things didn’t go out of control. It was a perfect balance of hot and cold with difference levels of sweetness and variety of flavours. Our pick was the Paan ice-cream with Gulkhand which is definitely a must have. It was a perfect end to an awesome evening.

We enjoyed ourselves to the fullest when we are at Grand Hyatt, and now we can proudly say that we have had one of the best Indian meals of 2015, here at Soma. You can be rest assured to have an superb experience. The food here will not only touch your heart but also make you come back for more.

Oktoberfest at JW Cafe, JW Sahar

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It’s Oktoberfest season, and every restaurant and hotel have geared up to do their best at celebrating it in a grand way. We’ve been to a few of them in the city, but were thoroughly impressed by the spread put together by JW Café at JW Marriott,Sahar. Their Oktoberfest is on till the 4th of October, and if you want to satiate your taste buds with some great German food, JW Café is the place to be. With 12 kinds of sausages, Sauerkraut, soft Pretzels, Spätzle and an impressive selection of international beer, you are sure to have an amazing time.

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We have been to JW Café and have tried their breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets and were really happy to try the German fare which is now a part of their dinner buffet till the 4th. JW Café is known to have one of the biggest buffet spreads in the city; they are also the first restaurant in Mumbai to serve Alaskan Crabs at a buffet. The selection of cheese at their cheese counter has been very popular among food lovers, and so has their sushi and waffles.

Saeid Heidari, the GM of JW Marriott, Sahar is a German, and he had a big role to play in the execution and selection of the kind of dishes that were featured at JW Café’s Oktoberfest. Everything looked festive and truly reflected a spirit of celebration. The décor looked great, with blue and white checkered table cloth covering each table. There were pretzel stands at each table that had big pretzels on it. We couldn’t wait to begin.

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We made our way to the Oktoberfest section of the buffet and boy, it was amazing to see buckets of sausages laid on ice with an cook at a live charcoal grill. All we had to do was pick what we wanted, and they’d send us our selection of sausages to our table. Some of the pork sausages were Bockwurst, Weiss Wester, Noremberg, Krauker, Bratwurst, Curlywurst, Cocktail and Cheese sausages. And in chicken they had the Noremberg, Skinless Chilly, Cheese & Bacon and plain skinless chicken sausages. We quickly selected our favourites and they were put to grill while we glanced through the rest of the section.

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We have had Spätzle and German Pretzelsbefore, but trying out other German dishes were a great experience. There were Potato Pancakes called Kartoffelpfannkuchen, Käsespätzle – a variety of Spätzle mixed with grated cheese, onion and cherry tomatoes, Sauerkraut and Blaukraut (red cabbage), Mushroom Ragout, Chicken Frikadel, Lamb Goulasch and a whole lotta condiments. It was fantastic.They also had a selection of breads and soft pretzel rolls that were kissed with salt crystals.

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We loved every single one of the sausages we tried. They were juicy and grilled to perfection. Loved the charred bits. We had the Käsespätzle with the Lamb Goulasch and Mushroom Ragout and it was a delightful. The Spätzle was light and fluffy, very lightly seasoned and the Lamb Goulasch went really great with it. The meat was cooked really well and we loved the stewey nature of the dish. The Mushroom Ragout aka Pilze in Sahnesauce was absolutely sensational. The umami blended with cream with a slight kick from the pepper made it lipsmacking. We wished there were Knödels – bread dumplings to have it with. 🙂 We enjoyed dunking the soft Pretzel Rolls in it though.

The Blaukraut also known as Rotkohl, is very similar to Sauerkraut and it’s made with red cabbage. We loved having it with the sausages. Kortoffelp or Kortoffelpuffer which are potato pancakes made for a really good snack to go with our drinks.  We truly enjoyed gorging on German food and couldn’t believe that we completely ignored the other food sections at the buffet. It was that good.

The Thai counter looked great with authentic Thai delicacies made by Chef Rungtiwa and so did the Indian section. We love the Grill section that serves grilled meat with fresh rotis that are made in hot tandoors. The Sushi counter, the Salads and the Cheese counter are not to be missed. They also have a Mediterranean cuisine counter that serves pita pockets with lamb kebobs and a variety of dips like hummus, babaganoush and a few others. There is an Indian chaat counter and live pasta station.

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One of the crowning glories of JW Café’s buffet is their seafood and cold cut station that spoils every guest for choice, it has Alaskan Crablegs, Shrimps, Clams and Mussels served on ice. Sadly the crab legs were not served that night. They also have fine Prosciutto and ham carved at the same station along with smoked salmon that are served with capers and pickled onions. It is a must try.

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The dessert counter has a lot of desserts both French and Indian. Ice creams are served separately with Jelly Beans, Gummy Bears, Marshmallows and fresh fruits. We didn’t know what to have for dessert but the Black Forest looked exceptional with shards of chocolate dusted with gold. We tried the Black Forest Cake and the chocolate mousse, and we went nuts with Jelly Beans and Marshmallows. 🙂 We had a great time. We really like the service here as well; the staff are polite and prompt ensuring excellent customer service.

If want to celebrate Oktoberfest in its truest form this year, then check out JW Café and feast on a superb spread of German delicacies to your heart’s content. It doesn’t get any better than this.

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.

Moroccan Food Festival, Fifty Five East, Grand Hyatt

We were at Fifty Five East for the Moroccan Food Festival with Chef Kenza Fatahir from Grand Hyatt, Qatar. She has been with Hyatt since 2006. She is here at Fifty Five East, Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, showcasing the delectable flavours of Morocco. We spoke about different kinds of Tagines, how they are made, and the spices that are used that make it unique and delicious. We feel that it was the simplicity of flavours and the use of right amount of spices that made it an evening to remember. With its unique flavours, there’s nowhere else in this city that you’d be able to sample Moroccan fare that’s anywhere nearly as good.

Here are a few excerpts of our tête-à-tête –

CPL: How different is Moroccan food from other Mediterranean food?

Chef Kenza: “Moroccan food is a balance of salt and sugar, usually non-veg. We don’t have many vegetarian dishes in Morocco. Vegetables are cooked along with meat and they are made to taste very delicious. Moroccan cuisine has a lot of spices, there is a spice blend made of 19 spices called Marosia. A lot saffron, pure ghee and olive oil are used in Moroccan cuisine. Apart from that, there’s ginger, garlic, coriander, parsley, cinnamon and almond that are among other must-haves in every Moroccan kitchen. Tagine is used for most of the dishes prepared and I am glad people in Mumbai are enjoying it.”

CPL: Please tell us more about Tagines.

Chef Kenza: “Traditionally Tagines are used for slow cooked food. Traditionally, I would have to start cooking it at 9am to have a meal at 12pm-1pm, but we won’t be able to do that at a hotel set up, so we use Tagines only to serve. Tagines can be made with Chicken, Lamb, Pigeon and Seafood. Use of the right spices and technique bring out true flavours of the dish.”

CPL: Could you tell us what kinds of Tagines have you made especially for this food festival?

Chef Kenza: “We have made Cous Cous Seffa, Kabab Maghdour, Lamb Tagine and Prawns Tagine. I created vegetarian Tagines especially for our vegetarian guests. We have Capsicum Tagine, Green Peas Tagine, Eggplant Tagine with Cheese. Adding cheese to the dish makes it a little Italian but the guests love it and we want everyone to enjoy their meal.”

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We missed the Cous Cous as Chef Kenza said she had made Cous Cous Seffa the previous day and wanted variety in the dishes on the buffet, so that there was a new set of dishes for each day. Interestingly, she said that cous cous is eaten with your fingers. If there was one Tagine dish that stood out from the rest; it was the Lamb Tagine. Succulent lamb shanks cooked in a saffrony onion gravy topped with French fries. Chef Kenza told us that saffron was one of the main ingredients used in the dish. She said she brought her personal stash of saffron for that dish as one wouldn’t get that kind of quality here. Also, the ghee that is used in Morocco is very different from the ghee that is available in India. Its bright yellow in color and tastes like blue cheese. The lamb shanks were slow cooked and fell right off the bone and we loved dunking the fries in the luscious gravy. It was really good.

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Chef Kenza spoke about how fish Tagines were made. She said, “Sardines stuffed with garlic, coriander and parsley makes are very delicious Tagine. It is only in a fish Tagine that Paprika is used; otherwise Paprika is never used in Moroccan cuisine.”

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The vegetarian Tagine dishes were served with Orzo pasta. We wished there were meat balls to go with the pasta but the chicken and lamb skewers made up for it. The lamb skewer was brilliant. It was subtle with flavours and grilled to perfection. We could actually savour the flavour of the meat. Chef Kenza mentioned that in Morocco lamb or chicken kebabs are served in a Tagine with gravy and topped with eggs. We had the Kabab Maghdour, a definite must have as it was kabab on steroids. It was rich and absolutely delicious.

CPL: Please tell us any other Moroccan dishes that you have added to the buffet menu

Chef Kenza: “I have added Moroccan salads, olives and spring rolls.”

CPL: And We really like the ‘Spring Rolls’… even though Moroccan Cuisine doesn’t have ‘Spring Rolls’

Chef Kenza: “Actually it’s called Briouat in Morocco but since spring rolls is familiar as a dish, I have called them that so that it’s easier for people to understand what to expect. Briouat are triangular or cylinder-shaped savory or sweet pastry covered with warqa (paper thin Morocco dough)”

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We loved the Briouats on the buffet menu. There were two – one shaped like a samosa and the other like a money bag. The triangle Briouat was filled with minced lamb. Delicate, yet flavourful. The money bag shaped Briouat had a cream cheese filling. Very creamy and rich. We loved it.

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CPL: Are salads an integral part of Moroccan cuisine?

Chef Kenza: “In Morocco, salads are eaten with meals, either cold or warm. I have made Chakchuka, an onion+capsicum+tomato+sugar preparation; but I had to add chillies too as guests like it a bit spicy. You will see pickled vegetables on display which are eaten with our meals, especially lemons. They are pickled in salt, garlic, bayleaf and kept for 1 year and then eaten. The Salad platter that I have added in the buffet is a classic example of what is served in every household. Everyone eats in one big plate and uses their hands for eating. The Salad Platter has cooked potatoes, beetroot and carrots tossed in spices; it also has cucumber, corn and a side of rice. It has olives also that are used as a garnish.”

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CPL: We haven’t seen any dish that has rice in it besides the salad, isn’t rice a part of Moroccan cuisine like our cuisine.

Chef Kenza: “No, rice is only used as a side dish. It’s not used as a main dish like how Indians eat rice. If you noticed, the rice served with the salad has cream cheese and parsley. In Morocco, people add orange or lemon juice, tuna or boiled eggs, coriander and parsley to rice and serve it as a side dish. It’s very delicious. If you saw the olives at the salad counter, they are tossed in spices. It’s called Zitun Mu Shermal and there are about 50 kinds of olive preparations like that.”

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We also had the hearty Harira Soup, which tasted very similar to a Minestrone Soup. It’s made with tomatoes and beans, it had chickpeas and vermicelli. Tasted really yummy. We had it with the Moroccan flat bread called Khobz.

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There is one Moroccan delicacy that is prepared on special occasions and it was one of the best dishes that evening. It was an unusual combo of sweet and savoury. Pastilla is a kind of stuffed pastry. Warqa- the thin Moroccan pastry sheet is stuffed with minced meat and almonds and garnished with powdered sugar and toasted almond. It was flaky and crispy on the outside and juicy and flavourful on the inside. Just loved it.

CPL: What other dishes can guests expect during this food festival?

Chef Kenza: “We will have lamb or chicken carvings in a few days. The Chicken M’Hammar, which is whole chicken cooked and served with some gravy, calamata olives, walnuts, prune and vermicelli. We are also looking at cooking a whole rack of lamb.”

We can only imagine how uniquely flavoured these dishes would be.

We missed Moroccan dessert. Chef Kenza said it was difficult to replicate the taste with Indian products hence she didn’t want to take a chance. She did explain how important dessert is, in Moroccan cuisine. In Morocco, guests are welcomed with a glass of milk that has rose water and dates which are stuffed with walnuts and almond. Dessert, which is also called Halwa, is often served with mint tea and served before the meal. Traditionally there are small cake like cookies that are stuffed with walnut, almond and pine-nut. These cookies are very rich and can be quite expensive to make. Kaab el Ghazal and Fekkas are few of her favourite cookies.

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We had an amazing time chatting with Chef Kenza and tasting some truly wonderful Moroccan dishes. It is really worth trying. We ended our meal with waffles that were drizzled with maple syrup and topped with whipped cream. We even tried a few French desserts form the Fifty Five East dessert counter. Chocolate Mousse, a delicious Red Velvet pastry, a yummy Fig Tart and a piece of cake drizzled with dark chocolate. Good Stuff.

The Moroccan Food Festival held at Grand Hyatt, Mumbai is on till the 23rd of September, 2015. It is a part of the multi cuisine buffet at Fifty Five East, priced at Rs. 1900/- plus taxes on weekdays for lunch and Rs 2150/- plus taxes for dinner.

If you like Mediterranean food, make it a point to go to this Moroccan Food Festival. With its unique flavours, there’s nowhere else in this city that you’d be able to sample Moroccan fare that’s anywhere nearly as good.