Zayna – Uber Dining, Airoli

FullSizeRender

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

image

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

image

image

image

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

image

image

image

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

image

image

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

image

image

image

image

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

image

image

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

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

 

 

 

Grand Hyatt Mumbai

2015 was a fun year!

IMG_0563

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.

IMG_5303

IMG_5300

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.

IMG_0827

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

IMG_0706

IMG_0567.PNG

IMG_0556.PNG

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.

IMG_0764

photo 1

photo 2

IMG_0768

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!

IMG_0746

IMG_0749

IMG_0748

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. 🙂

IMG_0598

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–

IMG_0944

IMG_0941

IMG_0928

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_0786

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.

IMG_5297

photo 5

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.

IMG_5294

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.

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

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.

photo 2

IMG_0883

IMG_0880

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.

IMG_0867

IMG_0778

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.

IMG_1131

IMG_1133

IMG_1139

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.

IMG_1140

IMG_1144

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.

IMG_1151

IMG_1152

IMG_1167

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.

IMG_1154

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.

IMG_1158

IMG_1162

IMG_1161

IMG_1160

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.

IMG_1170

IMG_1177

 

 

 

IMG_1172

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.

IMG_0630

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.

IMG_0639

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.

IMG_0645

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.

IMG_0654

IMG_0637

IMG_0636

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.

IMG_0666

IMG_0673

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.

IMG_0690

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.

Charcoal Biryani

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

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

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

IMG_0316

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

IMG_0334

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

IMG_0340

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

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

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

Oktoberfest at JW Cafe, JW Sahar

IMG_9463

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.

IMG_9485

IMG_9492

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.

IMG_9450

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.

IMG_9462

IMG_9451

IMG_9452

IMG_9459

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.

IMG_9551

IMG_9509

IMG_9511

IMG_9515

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.

IMG_9486

 

IMG_9477

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.

IMG_9568

IMG_9572

IMG_9570

 

IMG_9578(2)

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

IMG_9347

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.

IMG_9435

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.

IMG_9340

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.

photo (10)

IMG_9368

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.

IMG_9374

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.

IMG_9391
IMG_9382

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.