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.

K & K, ITC Grand Central

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amaya Indian Grill & Kitchen

If you are looking to satiate your hunger for kebabs, then Amaya is a must visit. And if you do visit Amaya, DO NOT leave without having the “Hare Mirch aur Dhania ki Tikki”. It was so good that we ended our meals with that dish. We were glad to be a part of the Chef’s Table curated by Chef Kinny, who runs 212 cafe, Sichuan House and Amaya.

Amaya with its Gharana style of cooking looks to charm guests with a variety of kebabs, biryanis and curries. We had the opportunity of trying their signature offering with their absolute must haves, specially selected for us by Chef Kinny.

It was kinda unfortunate that Phoenix Market City, where this restaurant is located, had a power failure the day we were dining, but the food made up for it. We tried 8 kinds of Kebabs and 9 mains that evening. Here are our favourites –

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The first being, the Hare Mirch aur Dhania ki Tikki (Rs 300). This won everyone’s heart at the table. These tikkis were made of cottage cheese, coriander and green chillies, deep fried and served with mint chutney. It had a crispy exterior and the onion in the filling added to the crunch. The simplicity of this dish and the chef’s creativity using simple ingredients made it really appealing. It left all of us wanting for more.

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The next kebab we loved were the Lehsooni Jheenga (Rs 550), freshwater prawns grilled with fresh roasted garlic. The magical combination of charcoal and garlic makes one weak in the knees and this kebab did just that. The prawns were beautifully cooked and this is one kebab you shouldn’t miss.

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The other kebab that won everyone over was the Peshawari Kumbh (Rs 300). These were button mushrooms stuffed with spiced cheese, cooked in clay pot. The Peshawari marinade and the stuffing made the mushrooms irresistible, they were perfectly cooked and were one of our favourite kebabs of the evening.

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We also had the Noorani Seekh (Rs 275) and the Lamb Gilafi Seekh Kebab (Rs 350). The Tulsiani Paneer Tikka (Rs 315) was cottage cheese marinated in an unusual combination of basil and green chillies, cooked on skewers with tomatoes and onion. The basil certainly added freshness to the dish. The Hara Bhara Kebab (Rs 275) was OK and the chicken kebabs – Punjabi Lasooni Kebab (Rs 325) and the Pahadi Murgh Tikka (Rs 325) were good too.

For mains we absolutely loved the Subz Miloni (Rs 275), a wonderful mix vegetable dish that had fenugreek and spinach. The vegetables were finely chopped and cooked in a spinach gravy with fenugreek went superbly well with butter naan.

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The Mutton Rogan Josh (Rs 400), the classic lamb curry, was excellent. The Paneer Ke Dulme (Rs 325) was also good as it had a subtle hint of fenugreek. The Dal Makhani (Rs 250) was rich and we had a couple of bowls full. The Kache Murgh ki Bhuni Biryani (Rs 325) was OK, we expected it to be fluffy and light.

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The dessert was a sweet surprise; we were served Kolkatta Meetha Paan ice cream (Rs 145) which completely overshadowed the Gulab Jamun (Rs 150). We have had Paan shots but tasting the same flavours in form of an ice cream was really interesting. We were kinda disappointed that we were served plain gulab jamun with rabdi as we expected the baked version to be different considering the way it was described on the menu. After we were done with our dessert, we all requested Chef Kinny to serve us a round of our favourite Hare Mirch aur Dhania ki Tikki to end our meal. It was a seriously impressive vegetarian kebab. 🙂

The power cut did hamper the flow of service. It was all good in the beginning but kinda went haywire when the mains were served. We reckon the staff were not prepared to serve a large table and many were left without tasting a few dishes. Amaya has a very calm and soothing ambience, which goes well with the kind of food they serve. The service staff however, need to be trained to be more attentive. We loved the dishes that were served and will definitely consider going back to Amaya to for another meal.

Punjab Grill

I remember writing a bad review about Punjab Grill last year and how I was not at all pleased with their food and service. Well, tonight’s dinner changed all that.

Punjab Grill’s latest outlet at Andheri West, hosted an exclusive “Connoisseur’s Experience” for the FBAI and Joash & I were really happy to be a part of it. I am so glad we didn’t miss this!

I knew I was going to examine each and every aspect of the restaurant, because I was constantly reminded of the bad experience I had had the last time I went there, but I decided to go with an open mind. For me an experience at a restaurant is complete only with excellent customer service and I’d like to give full marks to this outlet for that. Punjab Grill did just that, and of course, overwhelmed our taste-buds with delicious food.

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It was nice to be welcomed with ‘gajras’. The room filled with the sweet smell of jasmine and everyone soon forgot their traffic jam woes. All of us had a copy of menu at the table, a scroll which had a pretty bow on it, just went to show the care that was taken in order to make the evening a memorable one.

We were very impressed by the “Summer Special Menu” and couldn’t wait for the food trail to begin. For the welcome drink we were served Jamun Iced Tea, I generally don’t like tea and this was a bit too strong for me. I would’ve loved a milder version of this, though it was commendable that the drink was all natural without any additives or artificial flavours. It looked like almost everyone else at the table enjoyed it.

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I really appreciate it when restaurants make an effort to innovate and recreate simple dishes by adding their own blend of ingredients, trying different flavours to bring in their own twist to an Indian dish. Today’s dishes were all about that twist. We were served Pickled Olive Bhel, a fusion that I had never heard of before. Served in a cutting chai glass tumbler, with a small wooden spoon. It was a good attempt at bringing in variety but I think the olives were just too sour for the bhel and it was completely OK.

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Next, the star of the evening, ‘Tandoori Guchchi, Mixed Lettuce Salad with Burani Raita Dressing. I never thought Morels could be made this way, they were cooked perfectly. I have heard of Kashmiri Guchchi pilafs that are quite famous; and I will definitely try to make this at home.

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And then the entrees just kept on coming. The Norwegian Salmon Tikka in Saffron Aoili was something that we were looking forward to. I absolutely love the use of saffron in aoilis, and salmon has always been a weakness. A lot of restaurants fail to cook Salmon the way it’s supposed to be cooked and end up serving fish that’s overcooked or dry most of the time. It doesn’t normally take long to cook, so I was really interested to know how it turned out. When the waiter got us the Salmon Tikkas, Joash and I looked at each other as it smelled so good and the saffron made it smell irresistible. It was delicious! It was fabulously cooked, still pink in the centre, moist, and the saffron aioli just lifted it up giving it an extravagant oomph. It was great to see Norwegian Salmon in such a majestic form. Loved it.

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Then, we were bowled over by another crowd pleaser, the Chaamp Taajdar. Lamb chops that were marinated for 24 hours and slow cooked to perfection. Melt-in-your-mouth kinda meat that fell right off the bone. Mind-blowing! I was very impressed with how the flavours were spot on. Everyone at the table loved it.

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The Tawa Grilled Prawns in Achari Nimboo Marinade looked beautiful but we couldn’t enjoy it as it was just too salty. We also had the Tandoori Button Mushrooms which were OK.

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Palate cleanser. Sweet and sour mango sorbet topped with grapefruit. Was really nice!

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And now, the main course. Everything on the menu just looked so interesting.

We had the Rahrya Meat first, lamb chunks in thick gravy with Garlic Naan and Lachchedaar Paratha. It was a little disappointing as the meat wasn’t cooked properly. The course was redeemed by the Paneer Malai Pede, the best paneer preparation I have ever had in my life. Chef Pradeep told us that they came up with this dish as they wanted to present paneer in an unconventional way. It was soft chenna balls, served with delicious malai gravy. I never thought I’d say this as a non vegetarian, but the veg main courses won my heart that evening.

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Next we had the Butter Chicken which was OK, well frankly I couldn’t keep my hands off the Paneer Pedes 🙂
I even tried the Tawa Asparagus and the Palak Makkai which were delicious too. It was my first time trying Asparagus cooked that way; it was different and worked well with rest of the dishes that were served.

Punjab Grill really need to improve their rotis and naans. They were extremely dry and crisp, and actually took away from us being able to enjoy the main course gravies to their full extent.

I didn’t really enjoy the Panjaratni Dal, it was just like normal dal tadka. We were also served the Bahurangi Biryani, which completely lacked the depth of flavours. It was a very weak dish for me. We ended our lovely meal with a flute of Thandaai. I was so happy Joash could taste this as it’s been his favourite off-late.

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We had no idea what was in store for us after the extravagant meal. None of us were thinking about dessert.

Chef Pradeep had a surprise for all of us. We were soon served the Summer Dessert Platter! It looked like a giant bento box slash sushi dessert platter with various elements served on crushed ice. It was different. There was fresh rabdi with pistachios, mango slices, lychees with caramel sauce, sugarcane granita, aamras, aamras infused with saffron and pistachios, jamun granita, fresh jamuns, rasmalai, checkered medley of melons and the most unique thing ever served, Jalebi Churros, which is Jalebi batter fried like churros, without the sugar syrup, so one can dip it in the yummy rabdi or aamras. It was a nice option for a group of 2-3 people to have a variety for dessert. The churros were a great idea I really enjoyed it.

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What I loved about this dinner, apart from the great food, was the impeccable service. Full marks for that. I would definitely like to be back to try them out on a busy day. I was really impressed by how everyone at service was at their best, right from the receptionist to the busboy. It was great meeting Mr Deepak Bhatia – AVP Operations & Planning and other Managers, they gave all of us some really good insight about the brand and their journey of food. It was also great meeting the man responsible for the Connoisseur’s Experience, Chef Pradeep Khullar. He had a really good team supporting him, and it all reflected in everything that was served.

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It was an event done well, and he managed to keep a roomful of bloggers very happy and content! Oh and by the way, how could we leave Punjab Grill without a round of the famous Paan Shots. With that we raised a toast to a brilliant and successful innings at Andheri West. I strongly recommend you try this outlet for a great experience. I’m so glad I was here; it has definitely changed my perspective of Punjab Grill.