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.

Sunday Italian Brunch, Stax, Hyatt Regency

Italian cuisine is in the process of sweeping Mumbai off its feet after the tsunami of South East Asian fare that hit us not so long ago. We have been quite fortunate to try the best there is in the city to be able to understand the nuances of the cuisine and the essence of what each chef has to offer with regards to showcasing Italy on a plate. Sure​,​ there have been expat chefs flown down to give Mumbai an experience as authentic as eating out of an Italian kitchen, but seldom ​have ​we had​​ Indian chefs dish out stuff that’s ‘numero uno’. And we are proud to say that we came across one who ​not only thouroughly impressed​ with his food​,​ but won our hearts through his simplicity and passion.

Stax, the contemporary Italian restaurant at Hyatt Regency​,​ and their Chef Rajiv Das​ ​have now started ​a ​Sunday​ ​Italian Brunch​.​ ​W​e were invited to have a relaxing time. It was a fun Sunday afternoon indeed​,​ and this is how we spent it.

The Sunday Italian Brunch is priced at Rs 1600 all inclusive with refreshing mocktails and juices and Rs 2500 all inclusive with premium drinks! The Sunday Italian Brunch is designed in a brilliant way where the antipasti and desserts are displayed at the counter and the mains are served at your table. The elaborate antipasti buffet includes soups, scrumptious salads, in house flavoured butter, charcuterie with classic Italian cheese like bel paese, parmesan, bocconcini, fontina, pecorino, reblochon along with a wide selection of homemade pasta, pizzas, grills, and roasts. They even have lovely artisan bread, a wide range of Italian desserts and gelato.

image

We were served a citrusy welcome drink as the theme was ‘Citrus’ for that week. It was really refreshing.​ ​We fell in love with the decor the moment we stepped in, they had the one thing that we’ve always wanted in our dream house – glowing rocks! 🙂 That got us grinning​;​ but seriously the wine glasses with the variety of Italian wines and the spread looked absolutely stunning. The theme of the hotel is glass​.​ ​Huge windows ​meant ​​that the whole restaurant ​was ​gleam​ing​ with natural light. ​T​he ​swimming ​pool is open to guests who come for the buffet​,​ so after a relaxing brunch, you can enjoy a refreshing swim or ​you could even ​​jump in the pool to ​work up ​an appetite before enjoying the lovely spread. Unfortunately we were not prepared to go swimming, and that also gives us another reason to ​go back for ​another Sunday brunch.

image

image

image

image

image

We instantly fell for the artisan bread and the yummy flavoured butter​s​ that ​are​ made in-house. They had four kinds of flavours – Lemon & Paprika​​,​ ​Mixed ​Her​b​​​, Walnut​,​ and Saffron. We both loved the Walnut and Saffron butter, they went so well with the freshly baked bread. ​We’re​ huge fan​s​ of artisan bread, charcuterie, cheese and butter. The assorted cheese were displayed with crackers, prunes and apricot. There was a aged Grana Padano wheel which added to the decor, you could just pick up chunks of it to have with the cold cuts. It was amazing.

image

image

image

image

image

image

I went for the salads, they looked really beautiful. It was really nice to see so many options! They were dressed well and each salad was unique. I personally enjoyed the Poached Chicken and Wild Arugula salad, the Glazed Ham and Plum salad with grained mustard and Shredded Braised Lamb with Pomegranate and Mint salad. They also had the Char Grilled Calamari salad with Cucumber and Dill Vinaigrette, it looked stunning. The DIY Salad Bar looked fun with tall bottles of different dressings with fresh vegetables and lettuce ready to be tossed​ and t​he pickled olives sort of screaming out to be picked up! The Rocket Pesto, the Parmesan Sour Cream and the Gorgonzola and Spinach Dip would go so ​well with the crudités. The aroma of the insalata station was incredible​.​

There were two soups as well which looke​d delicious​​ but we skipped it and decided to go ahead with the main​ course​.

image

For mains​,​ we ​started off with Pan seared Red Snapper with ​a ​Cauliflower Mash and Olive Caper Sauce. The freshness of the fish with how delicately it was cooked, made it a really delicious dish. We loved the creamy cauliflower mash and the olive caper sauce​ too​. It was light and sort of put the spotlight on the fish without being over powering and it was healthy too. Italian cuisine is all about using few ingredients and making the most of the true flavours and Chef Das and his team did a great job.

image

The next dish we had was the Oven Roasted Chicken with Mashed Potato and Red Wine Jus. It simply looked like art on a plate. It was plated so beautifully with grilled veggies and asparagus adorning the plate and the beautifully roasted chicken smothered in red wine jus​t​ made us salivate. I couldn’t resist and picked up ​a drumstick with my fingers and enjoyed every bit of it. I strongly feel that cutlery shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your meal and the chicken was finger licking good.

image

We loved how every dish was different, very simple ingredients​,​ but put together and made really well. The idea of serving the mains at the table ensures tha​t guests​​​ experience Italian food the way it should be had, i​.​e ​piping ​hot. ​W​e were so glad to taste the next dish that we still can’t stop talking about it. Duck Rigatoni with Parmesan. We’ve had a lot of pastas and we won’t say that Rigatoni is one of our favourite but the way this dish was made, changed everything for us. The sauce was so flavourful and the duck meat was cooked to perfection. The pasta was evenly coated and was served with a generous shaving of Parmesan. It’s an absolute must have​,​ and ​is ​now one of our favourite dishes there.

image

Next we had the creamy Salmon and Arugula Risotto. Being risotto ​buffs, we can get really fussy about this Italian favourite. But we were all smiles as the risotto was cooked perfectly. Each grain had a bite to it and the arugula flavour with the beautiful pink salmon just warmed our hearts. The basil oil added a lovely flavour to the dish.

image

image

We then had the Herb marinated Lamb Steak with Garlic Mashed Potato and Pepper Jus. It was ​OK as a dish, would’ve loved it if it was done medium or medium rare. It was too tough for our liking. The marinade was flavourful and the pepper jus had a lovely kick to it​ though​. We were also served the Grilled Bratwurst with Caramelised Onion and Rosemary Jus. There is something special about Italian sausages that make us weak in ​the knees. Being big fans of bangers and mash, this Italian version swept us off our feet. The sausage was bursting with flavours and it had bits of rosemary and other herbs in it. Truly sensational.

image

What we loved about this brunch is how everything ​wa​s done so beautifully. It’s a good experience for guests to learn about ​the finer nuances of ​Italian cuisine. Be it pairing Italian wines with the courses or the way things are served, Stax is truly going that extra mile to give everyone an extravagant Italian experience. We saw that with how the lasagne was served. Lasagne as a dish is very rustic, and at Italian homes it’s baked in a big tray and shared with the whole family. Keeping ​with​ traditional, Stax serves lasagne is ​t​he same fashion. It was really sweet to see a server go around the tables with a big tray of lasagne and serve guests, the way it would’ve been served at a get together in Italy. For us it completes the whole experience. We too were served a portion of the creamy Ricotta and Spinach Lasagna. It was lovely golden brown on top and smooth n creamy to eat. It was the best we’ve had in a long long time. Not to forget they have some really good pizzas, vegetarian pastas and mains that change every week.

image

image

We were so stuffed with the meal that we didn’t really feel like having dessert. But when you see verrines of Pannacotta, Tiramisu and baked​ ​Yoghurt, you can hardly say no. I picked up a platter with our favourites to just have a teaspoon ​of ​each. We loved the wine poached pear,​ and​ the sinful Tiramisu which was garnished with a lady finger. O​K​ to be honest I had two of th​ese. We loved that they had the sweet semolina cake with pistachio and a big dish filled with delightful Panforte. We ​also ​enjoyed the Jamun Gelato too and the Cannoli was just a perfect way to end our Italian brunch. It was truly a treat!

We had the pleasure of ​chatting with Chef Rajiv Das,
It was interesting to know that an Indian Chef had put together this brunch that was nothing short of an Italian extravaganza. His passion and love for food reflected in everything we had ​​today. We enjoyed it a lot ​and wouldn’t hesistate to c​all this Sunday Italian Brunch, one of the best brunches in the city.

If you have truly enjoyed reading about our experience at Stax, ​and would like to sample some of this remarkable Italian fare… ​Use ​voucher code STCPL15 to avail a 15% discount​ ​on (food and soft beverages) for the Sunday Italian Brunch at STAX.

Rocktober Fest, Hard Rock Cafe, Worli

With Oktoberfests creating a buzz in the city, Hard Rock Cafe is rocking it out with their own version called Rocktober Fest! Hard Rock Cafe needs no introduction. Known as a rock-n-roller’s sanctum sanctorum, it is known to be the the place for any music lover. With insane acoustics and valuable pieces of musical history, this place ensures that every guest has a great time. From enthusiastic servers to bottle juggling bartenders, from crazy Birthday/Anniversary rituals to huge portions of food! Hard Rock Cafe has it all.

image

We were invited to try the RocktoberFest menu there last Saturday! We were shown to our table by our waiter for the day. We glanced through the RocktoberFest menu and placed our order.

We started off with the Jamaican Hotty Submarine (Rs 365), a Mexi Cali Burger (Rs 385) and Carnival Fiesta Fries (Rs 385).

image

The Jamaican Hotty Submarine was Char Grilled Smoked Chicken Frank stuffed SubRoll, topped with Jamaican spiced stir fried veggies and tangy Cajun BBQ Mayo, served with Chilli Fries! It looked fabulous. We were salivating the moment it reached our table. At Hard Rock Cafe, you know you’d be happy and overwhelmed with portion sizes. It was huuuuge! (Donald Trump voice)

image

We made the mistake of ordering the Carnival Fiesta Fries. It was fries enough for four people. It was Cajun spice dusted, crispy tangy chilli garlic crusted fries, topped with BBQ spice rubbed hand pulled chicken and chopped smoked chicken franks served with a tangy salsa and cheddar cheese sauce! Phew! Yup! That! We were served fries with the submarine and the next burger we ordered later. It was just a whole lotta fries. 🙂 But we enjoyed it.

image

image

We also tried the Mexi Cali Burger, which was an absolutely juicy tangy smoked chicken patty, charred to perfection with a honey citrusy mayo topped with a smoky relish served with spicy chilli fries. We loved how tasty this burger was. Well, Hard Rock Cafe is known for their epic burgers, so this was just another feather in their cap. It’s a must try.

image

image

We couldn’t stop ourselves from ordering a side of onion rings. Believe us a “side” of onion rings at Hard Rock Cafe doesn’t look like your normal side of onion rings. It’s like a normal portion served at any restaurant and our server Leingam said the normal portion is almost triple of what was served to us! We also tried Mac n Cheese Poppers which is our favourite snack at Hard Rock Cafe. The best part about the cheesy mac n cheese bites are that they are served with a warm cheese sauce.

image

We then tried the Mediterranean Pasta with Grilled Prawns, it was a complete pasta dish as it’s packed with veggies like french beans, artichoke hearts, roasted mushrooms, capers and garnished with smoked red peppers, black olives and romano parsley. The fettuccine is tossed with these veggies in a light garlic sauce, topped with grilled prawns and served with toasted garlic bread.

image

While we were having this dish we saw all the staff at HRC get on the divisional walls of the booths for their famous groove! We have seen it a hundred times and everytime feels like the first time. It is so much fun to see every single employee at HRC dance to YMCA! They have so much fun themselves, and often the guests join in too. But this time they didn’t stop at just that. As it was Saturday they got together near the bar area and asked all the guests to join in and they broke into a fun routine! It was a blast. Everyone was on their feet trying to keep up with them. Hats off to the staff at HRC, even on a busy day they just don’t seem too busy to have a good time.

image

As it was time for dessert, Leingam recommended the Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownie. Yup the goodness of three desserts packed into one. The portion was a nice big slice, no doubt about it, but it was one of the best Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownie that we’ve ever had! It was soft and absolutely decadent and drenched with raspberry sauce, the brownie part was gooey and we just couldn’t stop ourselves after the first bite. It is a part of the RocktoberFest menu and if you love the cheesecake-brownie combo then you really shouldn’t miss this.

There are crazy cocktails and mocktails that have been created for the RocktoberFest so if you want have a great time and relish great food with great music and excellent service, Hard Rock Cafe is the place to be, where the party never ends!

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.

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.”

IMG_9050

IMG_9047

IMG_9056

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.

IMG_9084

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.”

IMG_9053

IMG_9078

IMG_9118

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)”

IMG_9079

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.

IMG_9067

IMG_9065

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.”

IMG_9068

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.”

IMG_9073

IMG_9046

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.

IMG_9045

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.

IMG_9109

IMG_9110

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.

Let’s Chef

Let’s Chef is a Meal Kit delivery service.

STEP 1: You Select a Recipe.

STEP 2: They send you the ingredients in the form of a ‘kit’.

STEP 3: You cook & enjoy!

Let’s Chef makes cooking gourmet food fun and easy. I recently had an opportunity to try out one of their recipe kits, and boy did I have fun. I chose the Chicken Stroganoff meal kit.

photo 1

I was happy to see the kit when it arrived. Every ingredient was packaged well, with labels, so even a beginner or someone with very little cooking experience would find it easy to identify each ingredient.

The first thing I did was open each pack/bottle to check if it was fresh, and they were, as promised. Included in each kit, is the recipe of the dish that you have selected with the method explained in short steps. So all you need to do is simply follow the recipe.

The recipe kit had chicken, mushrooms, onion and capsicum with a few other ingredients for the dish. I cut the vegetables and the chicken based on the instructions and got my mise en place ready.

photo 2

Having a mise en place ready is the first thing I do before I start cooking any dish. That was one of the things I liked about this concept, because with the Let’s Chef Recipe Kit, when you want to cook a quick meal, you don’t have to worry about measurements.

Before I started, I thought I’d read the recipe sheet to get a fair idea of their method of how this dish was made. I was shocked to find a page missing. I quickly got in touch with them and they responded promptly with a soft copy via email.

photo (9)

After that it was smooth sailing,and I just had to empty the ingredients out of the container as per the instructions. I also made hand rolled Fettuccine to go with the Stroganoff.

photo 3 (2)

The cooking process was fun, and I totally enjoyed making this dish. It tasted great too. You should definitely try Let’s Chef as it’s perfect for beginners who want to try something new, but don’t know how to start. It also is great for those who want to woo a loved one with a fancy meal on a special occasion. I bet this would be an awesome surprise, as Let’s Chef has a variety of Chef-designed recipes that leave you with a restaurant quality meal and an experience that you can cherish forever.

cpl

Log on to www.letschef.in for more details.

Indigo Deli

Whenever I find myself craving steak, I immediately end up thinking of just one restaurant – Indigo Deli. One of the few restaurants who truly understand the words “medium rare”. They also happen to serve some of the best sandwiches in the city. I was excited to be invited to try out the preview of the new Indigo menu.

It was called the “The Community Table at the Deli”. The concept is interesting, an unlimited 5 course lunch menu for a group of 6-12 people at Rs 899 + taxes, per person from Monday to Friday. The menu comprises of a non alcoholic pitcher, a soup from the Day Specials Menu, a choice of two salads, a pizza, two mains and any two desserts from the menu.

photo 2 (2)

photo 1 (2)

photo (8)

The ambience at the Deli has always been warm and cozy, and I was happy to see the way the “Community Table” was set when I got there. With fresh flowers and candles as centre pieces, it looked absolutely lovely. The warm bread basket that is served with butter always wins my heart with how well it’s made, the bread is always fresh, warm soft crumb with a beautiful golden brown crust.

photo 2 (5)

photo 3 (4)

photo 4 (4)

I was excited to try the Virgin Sangria, but was let down as it was nothing but iced tea with chopped apple pieces. The Green Apple and Cinnamon Iced Tea was also not up to my liking as the cinnamon flavor completely overpowered the drink. For me the Orange and Sweet Lime Mojito was clearly the winner as it was simple, citrusy and true to its name. The Watermelon and Basil Mojito was also a hit at the table. I didn’t want to experiment and stuck to the same drink throughout the evening.

photo 3

We were then served the Creamy Potato Soup with Garlic Chive Pistou with a side of bacon for the non-vegetarians. Pistou is actually a condiment, and in this case it was made of garlic chive and should’ve been served on the creamy potato soup instead of being mixed in it. I am not going to question the technique involved in making this soup, but for me, it was just a plain creamy potato soup with chives in it. The bacon definitely helped. My final thoughts on the soup; meh.

photo 5

photo 1 (7)

photo 2 (7)

Then came the salads. We chose the Panzanella, Caesar and Grilled Vegetable Salad. The Grilled Vegetable Salad was delicious and stood out compared to the other two as the honey mustard dressing went really well with the grilled vegetables.

I was still waiting though, for something from the new menu, to blow me away in true Indigo fashion. But it was a mediocre ride as far as the food was concerned so far. And then the pizzas arrived.

photo 1

photo 2 (8)

photo 4 (5)

photo 3 (6)

I have never really liked thin crust pizzas, but now, I am a fan. The “Wafer-thin pizzas” were simply superb, airy and light. We tried Sundried Tomato, Olives and Capers/Creamy Mushroom and Spinach in Veg and Spanish Chorizo/BBQ Chicken and Cheddar. The Spanish Chorizo and the Mushroom and Spinach pizza were my favorite. You can never go wrong with meat at Indigo and quality of the chorizo stood out exceptionally, the combination of mushroom and creamed Spinach (my first) on a pizza was brilliant.

photo 3 (5)

photo 1 (4)

photo 5 (5)

photo 2 (4)

photo 1 (6)

photo 2 (6)

photo 3 (3)

From the mains, I loved the Risotto of Braised Fennel, Cherry Tomato and Saffron with Anise Butter and the Onion seed crusted Norwegian Salmon with Fenugreek Pilaf, Buttered Beans and Chili Oil.

The Braised Fennel, Cherry Tomato and Saffron Risotto was served with dollops of anise butter, it was rich creamy and cooked al dente. Just perfect. The Onion seed crusted Norwegian Salmon with Fenugreek Pilaf was interesting and delicious but there was no uniformity in thickness of the fillets. Taking into consideration that when uneven pieces of fish are cooked together, some pieces are bound to be overcooked. Fortunately, the one I picked was moist and slightly pink in the centre, just the way I like it. The Sea Salt Grilled Chicken that was garnished with fresh Rosemary served with Red Wine Jus, Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables was also a hit at the table. Pasta lovers also enjoyed the Fusilli that was made in Pesto cream and the Farfalle with a three-mushroom ragout.

photo 3 (2)

photo 1 (3)

photo 2 (1)

photo 5 (2)

photo 1 (1)

We were overwhelmed with the variety and the portions of each dish that was served, yet we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the dessert. We were served the Chocolate Ganache Cake, Cream Cheese Brownie, Hazelnut Mousse Cake and Baked Blueberry Cheesecake. In ice-creams, we were served the Belgium Chocolate, Blueberry and Mint, Rum and Raisin and Strawberry Cheesecake.

I loved the Hazelnut Mousse Cake the most as it was airy and light, topped with hazelnut praline and served on caramel. The Cream Cheese Brownie was a bit hard for my liking. The Baked Blueberry Cheesecake was not impressive and the Chocolate Ganache Cake was cold, I would’ve enjoyed it more if it was served at room temperature. I absolutely loved the Belgium Chocolate ice-cream, it was rich and a little bitter. Everyone loved the Strawberry Cheesecake ice-cream.

I had a lot of fun catching up with everyone over dinner. I would also like to thank the staff for their excellent service especially Wilander for taking really good care of us.

This menu is currently available at their Ghatkopar, Malad and Bandra outlets. It’s definitely a good option for those special team lunches and kitty parties or even just a bunch of friends looking to hang out over good food.