Koi Asian Dining & Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bao Haus Co.

We have seen a lot of restaurants that have sprung up in the last couple of years that have made eating out a whole new experience. And now, “eating in” seems to be the new fad that has hit the city; with home delivery becoming a convenient option for many foodies. We’re not talking about the run-of-the-mill food that many takeaway joints are offering nowadays. The Bao Haus Co. just got added to our list of some of our favourite eat-in food that this city has to offer.

So here’s a little background information about the place, and how this came into being. We had an interesting discussion with Chef Siddharth Somaiya to understand where it all started. Interestingly, before he got into The Culinary Institute of America, he signed up for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration due to his parents insisting that he should. As destiny would have it, he couldn’t give up his passion for food, and he chose to pursue what he knew was his true calling. After interning at three-starred Michelin restaurants in Manhattan, (He recalls this as the time he learned some of his most important life lessons, and working at these restaurants taught him a lot about disciple, ingredients and organizational skills.) he came back Mumbai and the inception of the The Bao Haus Co. began.

The Bao Haus Co. as the name suggests, was partly inspired by the BaoHaus at 14th St. New York. Chef Siddharth knew that he wanted to showcase baos in ways that are completely new and that appeal to the growing appetite of foodies in Mumbai. It was natural for him to be innovative, and with his culinary experience, bring in internationally inspired, hand crafted Vietnamese steamed buns with a twist. The focus is to be versatile, fresh and deliver baos that play with your taste buds every time you bite into one. With ingredients that are unique, mostly made in-house and some imported, to be certain that the quality he wants is achieved.

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We started off with Hickory Smoked Wings with Garlic Yoghurt; man it was uber crispy and crunchy. There have been many restaurants in the city trying to get the good ol “Buffalo Wings” right, and have failed miserably. These are, by far, the best we’ve ever had. There’s a fraction of a second after you bite into a wing the first time, that makes your eyes pop and go wide, and then it’s easy to decide. It’s science. An instant connection. Your brain automatically decides, and you’re already going in for the next bite . Chef Siddharth realized that the ones he had served us were a bit too salty, but Garlic Yoghurt compensated for it. We had no complaints. This is a must have for every party. You’ll have people showing up for your parties just for these Hickory Smoked Wings. Haha! Moving on…

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We then had the Belgian Pork Belly Burger with Caramelised Onions and Sriracha Cheddar. It may look small, and you will not find the usual slices of tomato, lettuce and onion, and it won’t be smothered with mayo or have a dilapidated slice of cheese. This is a simple pork belly burger, made in a way burgers are supposed to be made. The imported Belgian pork belly, is carefully ground just right to retain its optimum flavour, seasoned lightly, and we guess it’s broiled with cheddar that’s mixed with sriracha to form a lovely gooey blanket that envelopes the burger, which is then sandwiched in a Brioche Bun that’s made in-house. You really have to taste it to believe it. It’s the bomb! Their in-house Sriracha sauce is to die for. We saw the jar in which the next batch of chillies were being fermented. For a die-hard Sriracha fan like me, that was heavenly.

And now, it was Bao time! 🙂

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We tried the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Baos first. This soft and supple bao has thin slices of chicken that are deep fried and tossed in Honey Sriracha Glaze and it is topped with a sesame slaw. The sesame slaw was so fresh, we could tell the finely julienned veggies were hand mixed just before they were topped on the crispy chicken pieces in the steamed bao. The combination of textures, temperatures and flavours is what makes The Bao Haus Co. unique. We really loved the magic that was happening in our mouths with every single bite.

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The next Bao had its own melange of flavours that made us weak in our knees. We love Asian food, and Thai food is our favourite. The Coconut Shrimp Bao just hit the sweet spot! It was Thailand in a bao. The coconutty deep fried shrimp that had a lovely tamarind glaze oozed of Thai flavours. We could taste the shrimp paste in the tamarind glaze. It was sprinkled with a magic dust, Kaffir Lime Salt. We wonder how much time was taken to perfect this bao coz Thai flavours are strong and to see how these ingredients were added in perfect proportions to create that balance, just blew our mind. We even had the Kaffir Lime and Ginger Soda, it was different, not very sweet, just right.

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It was time to have the Bao that we couldn’t hear enough of. The Chocolate Bao. To paraphrase our Friend, Joey Tribbiani, “Brûléed Bananas, GOOD, Marshmallows, GOOOD, Walnut Crumble, GOOOOD!” This bao was just what we needed to end our meal. We were happy to know that the marshmallows were made in-house, would’ve loved it even more if they were torched.

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Here’s another thing! With Halloween being round the corner, Chef Siddharth Somaiya has created a special dish which can be relished by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Inspired by fall vegetables, and the colors synonymous with Halloween, Chef Siddharth Somaiya presents the “Carrot Bao with Quinoa Patty, Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad with Beet Chips” It’s an ode to eating healthy, with a Halloween spin! The carrot gives the bao, the bright orange color; we can only imagine the lovely flavour combo of quinoa, arugula and Goat’s cheese with beet! Something worth trying!

We like the fact that the bread, sauces and accompaniments are made in-house. It just reflects how much the Chef respects the final product. Ingredients are available frozen now-a-days, and it may seem easy to start a delivery joint, but after trying The Bao Haus Co., we can tell the benchmark it wants to set. We saw his commitment with how he ran his kitchen while we were there. Attention to minute details and monitoring everything with precision, spoke volumes of where he wants his brand to be. Everyone who loves food to the point of obsession, and those who put textures and flavours at utmost importance in their dining experience, has got to try this! We wish Chef Siddharth all the best with this venture and we would definitely be back to try more.

P.S They’re limited to deliveries in South Mumbai for now.

Fifty Five East, Grand Hyatt

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Right off the bat, we’d like to say, the Sunday Brunch at Fifty Five East is one of the best brunches in the city. Everything at Fifty Five East exudes brilliance and promises complete satisfaction.

We were there for the Longest Brunch on the 15th of August. Fifty Five East celebrated Independence day by hosting the longest brunch Mumbai has ever witnessed. They usually have just a Sunday brunch, called the Big Brunch which is priced at Rs 2855 (plus taxes) but as it was Independence Day on Saturday, they made it extra special. Starting as early as 11am, it went on till 11pm.

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The entrance to the restaurant was decorated with balloons and it was fun to see the staff dressed in traditional Indian attire, the theme ofcourse being tricolor. They had something fun and interesting for everyone who came to the restaurant. Huge red color dice ready to be pushed down the stairs. The fun part was, whatever number shows up, (multiplied by 10) magically became the discount you were entitled to on your total bill. There were table flags with percentages mentioned, you had to pick your number up and head to your table. As we walked down the stairs, we saw welcome drinks, swirl lollipops, bowls of gummy bears, jelly beans and mints, all sort of giving everyone a glimpse of the fun time that was in store for them.

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We were escorted to our table and every table was adorned with the Indian national flag. It was a beautiful sight with the tables well set; and then you look around and see the wide variety of food available to kick start your weekend. There were more than 150 items on the buffet (the ones that had a name card on), not counting the live chaat, the waffle/crepe station.

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If we had to talk about the cuisine, the buffet had everything from Indian to Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mediterranean and South East Asian. It had a lovely collection of cold cuts with cheese and an amazing selection of salads and veg/non-veg appetizers. It would be hard to miss the bar that stirred up every soul in the restaurant with their crazy concoctions. It looked spectacular with bottles of Jacob’s Creek wines and huge martini glasses with fun colored drinks, while the Chandon chilled on a section covered with ice. What was also interesting was there was their selection of beer, there was a huge Kingfisher barrel and three beers from Gateway Brewing Co that were available on tap – White Zen, SummerSault and Doppelganger.

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Now let’s talk about the food. While Joash enjoyed the stir fries and prawn crackers, I couldn’t keep myself away from the cheese and fresh cold cuts. We enjoyed the appetizers, our favourite was the lightly seared Salmon crusted with sesame seeds in soy sauce. We also loved the Parma Ham with grilled Peach and Arugula.

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I always love having Sushi at Fifty Five East; it is always fresh and delicious. We even tried the Prawn Sioyaki and the Miso soup with Garlic Fried Rice and we just couldn’t stop ourselves from having more.

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The Kheema Pav was a must have, kheema that almost melted in your mouth, with hot buttered pav, served on a banana leaf platter just won us over. It was rich and flavourful, lightly spiced and delicious. The kebabs looked beautifully cooked and the most of the curries were yum!

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We also tried the freshly made pizza. Our pick was the Parma Ham and Arugula and it was sooo good. Loved how the chef topped made sure there was a generous amount of Parma Ham. It was truly a treat.

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There were handmade pastas too; it was a lovely sight to see them hung on a wooden rack. The Fontina Cheese Ravioli which looked more like a tortellini was cooked perfectly with gooey cheesy lemon rosemary sauce enveloping it. They also had layered mixed vegetable lasagna. The Baked Fish with Tomato Salsa stood proud welcoming each guest with its lovely aroma. The guests could enjoy fresh pasta with sauces of their choice with a side of Boulanger Potatoes or Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant with Parsley Garlic Confit.

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There are so many dishes we haven’t mentioned in this post purely because there is no way we could have covered and review each item on the menu in one visit. We were stuffed beyond measure, and we hadn’t even been to the dessert counter yet.

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The mouth watering French pastries, cakes and tarts sort of made it simply irresistible. The tall chocolate fountain had virtually every kid at the restaurant gather around it with marshmallows and brownie pieces, waiting to dunk it in. Even we had a go! Once! Twice! Thrice! It was just so yummy. I never thought we’d say this but the waffles at Fifty Five East are now our favourite in Mumbai. I didn’t want to dress it up much, so went simple and got em with butter, maple syrup and whipped cream. Every bite was heavenly. The whipped cream was light and fluffy, not too sweet, letting the maple do its thing with the soft and warm waffles. They were a bit crispy on the edges, just the way we like it. We promised ourselves to start our brunch with this, the next time around and we could only imagine how the crepes tasted based purely on how perfect they looked. There were also quite a few traditional Indian sweets for those who wanted an extra dose of sweetmeat laden with dry fruit and ghee.

A few other desserts we tried were the cheesecake, the bailey’s chocolate tart with crunch, the brownie and the fresh melon tart, which was particularly very beautiful. Sigh! The options seemed endless.

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The ambience has always been great with really good hospitality; the staff were attentive and entertaining. Yes you read it right, they were entertaining too. In the middle of the brunch, when everyone was busy serving themselves, the entire staff broke into a dance where they all gather together and danced to Gangnam Style! It was fun to see even the chefs join in. They did this a couple of times and we saw even the guests enjoying and dancing with them. It was indeed a celebration, a celebration of freedom and some great food. We see Fifty Five East as one of the finest restaurants in Mumbai with food quality that is top notch and great service. Even the kids had their own play area with balloons and toys with staff who were specially assigned to baby sit them while the parents enjoy their meal.  We loved the buffet, and it’s an experience that you would most certainly enjoy. We really enjoyed our time at the longest brunch, though food defeated us, and we left at about 7pm, we saw everyone having fun right up until the time we left.