By The Mekong, St. Regis Mumbai

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Firstly, we’d like to start with congratulating Chef Shi Xilin and his team at By The Mekong for winning the Times Food & Wine award for the Best Thai Fine Dine Restaurant.

In the first week of February, we were at By The Mekong to try the special menu that was curated by Chef Shi Xilin– Chef de cuisine; showcasing the choicest recipes from his family that celebrated Chicken in the best way possible. It was fun chatting with Chef Xilin about his experience with The Taj hotels and how his cuisine combines traditional and regional flavours served to suit the Indian palate. He’s had an amazing culinary journey over twenty years yet has the most humble demeanour. He also absolutely enjoys talking about his passion for food.
We also tried a bunch of dishes from the main menu and a few personal favourites that Chef Xilin recommended. Here are a few snippets of our meal.

We were the first to try out the new menu at By The Mekong. Simply put, it is outstanding and our taste buds were left tantalized. What a transformation!

The new menu has been revamped and the new format is a welcome change. Earlier the menu was divided into three parts – Chinese | Thai | Vietnamese, but now it’s all combined and it reflects the best of the three cuisines. It is designed to keep things simple, yet give guests a unique culinary experience of authentic flavours presented in a fresh, modern and contemporary way. We were pleasantly surprised and had no idea how much we’d end up enjoying our meal. 🙂

Chef Himanshu Taneja, the newly appointed Culinary Director was there to ensure we had a great time. Spearheaded by Chef Xilin, the team really surprised us with the food that was served. There was a stark contrast in the look; the appeal and the combination of flavours, and we were really impressed.

We started off with dumplings. We had the Chilean Sea Bass dumpling with Polenta, Prawn with Ossetra Caviar and Spic Sichuan Chicken with Green Onion Oil. The Chilean Seabass dumpling was delicious. We expected it to be a lil fatty and wondered how it would taste in the dumping as the fat could be a little overwhelming. But it was perfectly made and was not at all fatty.  The dumpling wrapper was topped with Polenta, which gave it a nice textural mouthfeel.

We also really enjoyed the Prawn dumpling topped with Ossetra Caviar and the Spicy Sichuan Chicken dumpling, also topped with Ossetra Caviar. The Ossetra Caviar, made it extra special. One thing is for certain, caviar paired with a dumpling, absolutely works. 🙂 We loved the bright red color of the chicken dumplings. What would really visually elevate the experience of eating these two dumplings is if the server garnished the dumpling with the caviar using a mother of pearl spoon at the table instead them arriving at the table already topped with caviar.

The next dish was one of our favourites. Roasted Prawn with Thai Chilli Paste. A dish with amazing textures and was a perfect combination of spicy, sour and sweet. The prawns were cooked to the T. Usually Tiger prawns can end up rubbery and tough if overcooked but this was oh so tender and juicy, and we loved the crunch of the raw onion slices. Chef Himanshu shared with us the long list of ingredients that went in to making this dish. While some may be put off by the lemongrass and red chilli slices and may want to take it off the prawn; TRUST US you really want to savour every single ingredient in the prawn shell. This dish was executed really well. Kudos to the Chef!

The Barbecued Black Pepper and Kaffir Lamb Chops were brilliant. Served with roasted Asparagus, Shimeji Mushroom and Snow Peas, the lamb had a beautiful char and glaze. It was the first time we had it flavoured with kaffir lime leaves. Loved how both the dishes were served on a mini grill. I love my red meats medium rare, and these were well done, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. 🙂

Next, we tried the Banana Leaf wrapped Himalayan Trout, Chef’s Special Sauce. Perfectly cooked with an amazing smoky flavour, we loved how fresh and spicy it was and it absolutely got our taste buds tingling. Glad to see that it was deboned as dishes that are served with bones; makes it messy to enjoy. We had it with Udon Noodles with Vegetables and it went really well.

By The Mekong has really upped their game with their dessert! Chef Yogendra served us two desserts, Chocolate Textures and Ms. Berry. Not revealing what the dessert would look like or how it’d taste; we were in for quite a surprise. Both desserts looked stunning.

The Chocolate Texture, as the name suggests, had a mélange of textures that celebrated Chocolate on a plate. This dessert had a perfect quenelle of chocolate ice-cream, a cold molten chocolate surprise, chocolate cigars, pieces of chocolate cake, chocolate and Feulletine kissed with more chocolate. It was any chocolate lover’s dream come true.

Ms. Berry was one of the prettiest desserts we’ve ever seen. Vibrant colors and berries made it look picture perfect. It had blue berries, black berries, red currants and meringue kisses strategically placed on both sides of the blueberry mousse. It was refreshing and the tart berries helped cut through the sweetness of the dessert. Both desserts were plated excellently. Kudos to Chef Yogendra.

We’re fans of the new menu. Not just from a cuisine point of view, but we also like how there’s a certain freshness about the dishes being featured. Without pulling away from authentic flavours, Chef Xilin and his team have managed to make it modern and contemporary. It’s a welcome change and we’re sure By The Mekong will attract foodies looking for a change from the classic Asian fare of gravies and stir fries which can get boring at times. The plating is fabulous and we love everything about it. We wish Chef Xilin and his team all the very best with this new menu!

Thai Food Festival, JW Marriott Sahar

It was way back in 2006 that I remember falling in love with Thai cuisine. It was relatively new to the city, at a time when Thai food meant having Thai Green or Red Curry Rice, Pad Thai Noodles, Som Tam or Thai Pot Rice (which wasn’t really authentic but boy it tasted good). I’ve always enjoyed watching Ian Wright, Bobby Chinn and Janet Hsieh have a blast travelling around the world, and I have learnt so much through their food expeditions. Merrilees Parker hosted an episode of Planet Food that piqued my interest of Thai food. I still remember her walking through the streets of Bangkok, tasting various street food, hopping on to a boat at the Floating Market on the Chao Phya river to try piping hot flat rice noodles. I promised myself that day that I would definitely travel to Thailand to try all those dishes, particularly a crispy pancake like dessert that had a coconut filling. Little did I know that I’d get closer to the amazing food experience that I had hoped and wished for when we went to the Thai Food Festival hosted by JW Marriott Sahar Mumbai.

We’ve been to JW Café a bunch of times, but being fans of Thai food, this time was extra special. 🙂 Chef Rungtiwa Sorlae, with Executive Chef Vishal Atreya, and a few food enthusiasts were just back from a short trip to Thailand. It was to showcase food that was close to Chef Rungtiwa’s heart. They sampled various dishes and even had an elaborate meal at her home.

Once they got back, Chef Rungtiwa had to bring back true flavours of Thailand with her, to showcase the hidden gems of the Thai Cuisine. In collaboration with the Royal Thai Consulate General – Mumbai, birthed a flavourpacked extravaganza that started on the 14th of October, and went on till the 29th of November.

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The invite that was sent to us was really special. It had Khanom Dok Jok, a traditional Thai dessert shaped like a Lotus, and an invite for the event with a booklet that gave us an insight to Chef Rungtiwa’s life and passion for Thailand and Thai cuisine. It also had snapshots of the trip and had two recipes that are close to chef’s heart; Kang Phed Sab-Pa-Rod Goong (Pineapple Curry Prawns) and Phad Thaw Ngxk Tao Hu (Home-Style Stir Fried Bean Sprouts with Tofu.)

We knew that this was going to be memorable experience.

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When we walked into JW Café, our eyes went straight to the Thai Snake Boat that was filled with flowers. There were around 5-6 counters that high various types of Thai food.

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The first one was a live counter by the Royal Thai Consulate General – Mumbai. We had the pleasure of meeting Consul – General Mr. Ekapol Poolpipat who was there with his team and chefs showcasing two dishes – Sticky Rice with Egg Custard and Steamed Rice with Toasted Coconut in Banana Leaves. The counter looked so colorful. We had no idea that Thailand had such a vast variety of rice. In this counter there was a plate with three variations of sticky rice. One was cooked with only coconut milk, the second one was made with Pandanus leaves that rendered a hint of green color to the rice and the third one caught everyone’s eye as it was blue. 🙂 The chefs and Mr. Poolpipat explained that a flower called Butterfly Pea is used to add the bright blue color. It doesn’t flavour, just adds vibrancy to any dish that it’s used in. We tried both the dishes and also saw how it’s made. The Egg Custard isn’t the usual custard that you’d expect, but it has a light green tinge and it’s thin in shape. It was served on top of the sticky rice with toasted Coconut that was also made in-house. We loved the savoury version too. There was one that had sticky rice served with Egg Floss and another that was mixed with a dried shrimp mixture that tasted delicious. The texture that the Egg floss gave to the dish was something made it all the more enjoyable. 🙂

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The next counter was one of our favourites – Som Tam Salad. There was a chef who would make you a fresh portion of the now world famous Thai Raw Papaya Salad at your request. The counter looked really pretty with herbs and vegetables and a huge wooden mortar and pestle. There were sauces and bird eye chilies laid out so that the spice levels and the taste could be adjusted to the guests liking.

Both these counters were used when Chef Rungtiwa held a workshop to show how the dishes were made. She pointed out that Thai cuisine is a complex interplay of 4 to 5 fundamental taste senses; sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy. Creating a balance of all these tastes is very important in making Thai food. While making Som Tam she added chilies for the spiciness, tamarind for sourness, salt for saltiness (fish sauce can also be used) and a lil bit of palm sugar for sweetness in the dish. She then mixed and pounded all the ingredients in the wooden mortar and pestle. It was fun to learn about a dish that I like so much, and see how it’s originally made.

The Royal Thai Consulate General – Mumbai had standees showcasing the different kinds of rice that are available in Thailand. Thai cuisine is not just about Jasmine rice and Sticky rice. Chef Rungtiwa mentioned that some of these varieties of rice are only available in certain shops in the city, one just has to look for it, and know what to buy. Following is some info on a few rice varieties that were featured by The Royal Thai Consulate General that evening.

Khao Wong Rice of Kalasin – It is registered as a geographical indication or Gi Rice. This glutinous rice is planted only during the wet season in the paddy fields with silicon and calcium rich soil in Kalasin province in Northeast Thailand. The husk is brown; the grain is sticky and soft. It is fragrant when cooked, remains soft for a long time and does not stick to the finders.

Cooking method – Rice : Water = 1:1.5 – 2 (with the electric rice cooker)

Pa-yah Leum Gaeng Rice – This glutinous rice is planted in Nam Nao district, Phetchabun province, Northern region as well as in some other provinces in the Northeastern region of Thailand such as Loei and Chaiyaphum. Special characteristics include soft texture and strong aroma when cooked. It also contains high protein content (8.16g)

Cooking method – Rice : Water = 1:1.5 – 2 (with the electric rice cooker)

Hom Mali Rice (Thai Jasmine Rice) – This aromatic rice grows mostly in the Northeastern region of Thailand and is reputed around the globe for it’s premium quality rice grains, health benefits and it’s distinctive jasmine aroma that is released during the cooking process. When cooked it is soft and fluffy with a taste that enhances traditional spices of orient cuisine. It is also a good source of protein, carbohydrates, niacin, thiamine, iron, selenium, vitamin B1 and D. It is also our favourite kind of rice. 🙂

Cooking method – Rice : Water = 1:1 – 1.5 (with the electric rice cooker)

Khao Leumpua – This dark purple glutinous upland rice belongs to the Mong hilltribe. The origin prior to the time of seed purification was the mountainous area 450 meter above sea level. The variety is normally grown in the wet season under upland condition. The variety is normally grown in the wet season under upland condition. Khao Leumpua contains high concentration of antioxidants substances such as anthocyanin and gamma oryzanol. Moreover, it contains high amount of nutrients and unsaturated fatty acids sucha as Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9, Vitamin B, Vitamin B2, iron, calcium and manganese.

Cooking method – Rice : Water = 1:1 (with the electric rice cooker)

Sangyod Rice – This variety of rice is originally grown only in Phatthalung province, in the Southern region of Thailand. Sangyod rice has beautiful natural dark red and violet colors. The grains are soft and aromatic when cooked. Sangyod Rice provides more nutrition benefits than other types of rice. It contains more fibre, Vitamin E, protein, iron and phosphorous. It also contains antioxidants such as oryzanol and gamma aminbutyric acid.

Cooking method – Rice : Water = 1:1.5 – 2 (with the electric rice cooker)

We would really love to travel to Thailand just to see how these rice are cultivated and also try the dishes that are made/paired with them.

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The next station had Satay. Though originally from Indonesia, Satay is very popular in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and other neighbouring countries. This station had a variety of satays that were grilled as per each guests preference. They had Chicken, Fish, Prawns, Tofu and Pineapple. The raw ingredients were already marinated on skewers and were ready to be grilled. They came with a bunch of dipping sauces. Our favourite remains the sweet and spicy Thai Chilli sauce. The satays were perfectly cooked and the Pineapple one was refreshing. We loved it. 🙂

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If you followed Mark Wiens from Migrationology or EatingThaiFood.com you’ll know that there are way more dishes eaten as main course in Thailand than the usual Green, Red or Yellow Thai curry. Chef Rungtiwa accomplished just that by introducing a variety of main dishes during this festival.

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Phad Phak Rume or Ruam, a vegetarian stir fried Thai dish had kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, baby corn and carrots. Mixed with spicy red chillies, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, this dish was flavourful and went really well with steamed jasmine rice. They even had a duck version of this dish that was really popular during the festival.

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We also really liked the Tofu Phad Prik Thai Dum that had cubes of Tofu that had been deep fried and tossed with garlic, shallots and green onions. What we loved about the Tofu was that it acted like a sponge and soaked up all the flavours of a sauce and ended up becoming these juicy pillows of Thai goodness. Delicious!

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There was a southern Thai chicken dish that had loads of spices and had bunches of Phrik Thai or Thai Green Peppercorn. These render a lovely mild peppery hint and can be eaten whole without having to worry about setting your mouth on fire. Being from the South of India (Kerala), I have enjoyed green pepper pickle and have had tasted it in curries that my grandmother used to make from the peppercorn that were plucked from our spice garden in Kerala. Brought back a lot of fond memories and we truly relished it with rice.

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Thai people know how to cook seafood and what Chef Rungtiwa and her team did with the next dish was absolutely brilliant. This stir-fried dish had prawns and mussels cooked with garlic, Thai red chillies and Kaffir Lime leaves, another dish that left us going for seconds. 🙂 Even though stir-fried, none of the dishes are oily. They are cooked and stir fried in their own juices making it super delicious and healthy. It’s safe to say that this was one of the favourites of almost everyone at the restaurant as we saw a lot people lining up for this dish! Prawns. Mussels, that yummy curry, what’s not to like!?! 🙂

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They also had pots of Green and Red Thai curry along with bowls of ingredients that could be added according individual preference. It was a live station where the chef would cook you the curry of your choice with your favourite ingredients.

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And now, the dessert counter! My eyes lit up seeing the Royal Thai style crispy pancake dessert Khanom Bueang. It was same dessert that Merriliees Parker had during her trip to Thailand. It was like a dream come true moment for me. 😀 Loved how beautifully and carefully the chef at the dessert station made each pancake. At first, a dollop of meringue is rhythmically spread on the pancake that is being cooked to a perfectly crispy texture. Then a filling is added, followed by toasted sesame seeds. There were three fillings – golden egg thread, salted coconut and sweet coconut.  It is then folded into the signature shape that looked like a dimpled taco. Loved it! Even the Roti Tord that we tried was interesting. It was roti that looked very much like the Indian Laccha Paratha or the Malabari Parotta that was deep-fried till it was golden brown in color. It was served with Pandanus cream and condensed milk. We also loved the coconut ice cream that was served in a young coconut shell with ribbons of tender coconut flesh, with rice vermicelli, jackfruit and water chestnut.

This meal brought us closer to Thailand with an experience that was so close to Chef Rungtiwa’s heart. Her passion for Thai cuisine is reflected in every dish that was meticulously served at JW Café. Even the chef at the Khanom Bueang counter was made to slow down her pace while making the pancakes and Chef Rungtiwa insisted she followed a specific rhythm to make sure they tasted exactly like the ones made back home. She brought with her, family recipes and made every guest at the restaurant experience the true flavours of Thailand. The I really think the Royal Thai Consulate General team did a brilliant job showcasing their culture and ingredients, and that is sure to entice everyone who dined at the Thai Food Festival to put Thailand high up on their list of places to visit. 🙂 JW Café and Chef Rungtiwa lured us with a droplet from the ocean of flavours that Thailand has to offer, and we can’t wait to head there for more.

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.

Tuk Tuk Bistro, Andheri

Sawadeeka! Our love for Tuk Tuk Bistro continues. Since April this year, Tuk Tuk has managed to capture so many hearts with their delicious Thai cuisine. We’ve ordered from Tuk Tuk about a dozen times when we are with friends in Andheri and it has never disappointed. It was our pleasure to dine again at this cute lil restaurant to sample their new menu.

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As you all know we love South East Asian cuisine, especially Thai food, so coming back to Tuk Tuk after all these months was exciting. We were looking forward to our meal even if there were just a couple of new additions to their menu.

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We started off with the Mango Banana Float. It was thick and yummy. We loved the combo. For starters we tried the Paw Pia Pod – Veg Thai Fresh Spring Rolls (Rs 275) which was a Thai version of the famous Vietnamese delicacy. It was scrumptious. It had chopped vegetables with shitaake mushroom and glass noodles tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. It was served with the classic sweet chilli sauce which made it taste really good.  We also tried a deep fried version of the spring roll which was also a Thai version of the classic spring roll called Paw PiaTodGai – Chicken Thai Spring Roll (Rs 295). The deep fried version definitely made it taste better than the fresh one. But the simplicity of the fresh spring rolls, and the fact that it is a healthier option will appeal to many Thai food lovers.

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We couldn’t stop at just that and had to satiate our craving with their yummy Thai Green curry with Jasmine Rice. We absolutely enjoyed our meal. The Thai Curry is one of our favourites at Tuk Tuk.

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For dessert, the Banana Fritters with Coconut Icecream just gave us another reason to head back to TukTuk at any point of time. It was superb. We chose to ignore the absence of coconut icecream but loved how the simple vanilla icecream was dusted with coconut powder. The banana fritters were crunchy and were tossed in honey and had specs of sesame seeds on them. It was also drizzled with chocolate sauce which completed the dish. We would go back just for this.

Tuk Tuk, the Thai Bistro is a cute lil restaurant aiming to showcase flavours of Thailand through their food and has its share of must haves. It is a great takeaway restaurant as well.

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.

Oktoberfest at JW Cafe, JW Sahar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sparkling Sunday Brunch, O:h Cha

If you’re ever craving Thai on a Sunday afternoon, head to O:h Cha for a fun, sit down Sparkling Sunday Brunch (Rs. 2000 all inclusive + a glass of Casablanca sparkling wine).  Last Sunday we had the opportunity to hold a small bloggers table here and it was one of the most fun lunches we’ve had. When you are surrounded with people who share the same passion for food, and are served food made by Chef Rakesh Talwar, you know it’s gonna be awesome.

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I remember how while we were at O:h Cha for dinner a few months ago, we wondered what the place would look like with natural light coming it through the skylights. Well, the moment we got to the restaurant we were surprised with how different the space looked in the day. Trust me when I say, it looked spectacular. The grassy green walls were so soothing to the eyes with the gray in the décor; the sunlight sort of lit the whole place up. And natural light just made everything at the table look refreshingly appetizing.

We all were warmly welcomed with a glass of Casablanca Sparkling wine, India’s first Prosecco styled spumante (fully sparkling wine).  It’s made by Good Drop Wine Cellars at Vinchur Wine Park in Nasik. Casablanca has a very fruity note, with floral undertones, acidic with smooth and lingering finish. It was great to try the wine that won the Best Indian Sparkling of 2015 at the Indian Wine Consumer’s Choice Award.

Now for the brunch! O:h Cha has patrons who absolutely love the Krob Kream – the sweet & salty wantons, and we are one of them. It’s such a fun munch; it’s hard to stop once you start munching on these crispy wanton bits. The best part about a sit down brunch is that one doesn’t need get up from their seat; the waiters just keep filling your plate with yummy food.

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We started off with the Turnip Cakes. It might sound really cliché to say this but, it was love at first bite. Crispy Crunchy Turnip Cakes were served with fried spicy garlic and spring onion. Chef Rakesh Talwar had mentioned that it’s one his favourite dishes and now we know why. It was perfect.

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Then we had the Chicken Satay. To be honest, these were thinner than we expected it to be. Though it had a really good marinade and was cooked perfectly, we wanted the chicken pieces to be a bit thicker. It had a really good street food twang to it with the sweet and spicy peanut dipping sauce.

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We were then served the dumplings. Veg Chive Dumpling, Prawn Chive Dumpling, Veg Gyoza and Chicken Gyoza.

We loved both the chive dumplings. The veg one was filled with mixed veggies and water chestnuts. The one thing we loved about the veg dumplings is the crunch water chestnut adds to it.

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The Prawn chive dumpling was plump and oozing with prawny flavour. They were fresh and delectable.

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Chef Rakesh Talwar’s speciality, the Gyoza was a treat in itself. These dumplings, slightly pan fried played a trick on our palates with its thin, kinda crispy exterior, yet absolutely soft and scrumptious juicy filling. Nice!

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The Stir Fried Tofu with Sriracha was packed with a fiery punch. Get me anything with Sriracha and I am a fan. This was exceptional though. The tofu cubes were super soft and the sauce was lipsmackingly delicious. Everyone at the table loved it.

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We then had something French with an asian twist, Asian Mushroom Vol au vent. Vol au vent literally means “windblown”. To give you an idea of the lightness of the puff pastry. Sadly, it wasn’t light. The base of the puff pastry was not flaky and light. It was too dense to enjoy. Even the Sweet Corn Patty was decent, but we felt that it was more of batter than corn. The Stir Fried Chicken Black Pepper failed to impress us as it would’ve been good if it was dry.

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We were completely blown away by the Holy Basil Chicken Bruschetta. It looked like the normal Bruschetta, but when you bit into it, you were hit with the basil flavour that’s reminiscent of south east Asia. It tasted yummy and we couldn’t stop ourselves from having more. It is definitely a must try. We also loved the Lemon Grass Chicken, which was crispy deep fried chicken with lemon grass flavours; went really well with the dipping sauce.

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The sparkling wine was going well with everything we tried and we also tried a mocktail that knocked our socks off. The Orange and Kaffir Lime Caprioska. It was really refreshing and was kinda like a palate cleanser. Bold Kaffir lime flavours with a citrusy punch.

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Moving on to the main course. We had Som Tam, French Bean Chilli Bean, Four Friends, Thai Green Curry, Pad Kra Prow Kai, Steamed Dory Lemon Chilli Garlic, Steamed Jasmine Rice and Pad Thai Noodles.

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We enjoyed the Som Tam salad, one of the best we’ve had in the city. The French Bean Chilli Bean was OK, but we really liked how tender the French beans were. The Four Friends was dominated by white fungus, loved the crunch but the flavours of the gravy was weak. The Thai Green Curry was a lil disappointing as its consistency was too thin, we agree that the Chef wanted to use all natural coconut milk and not use thickening agents that restaurants all over use, but using coconut cream to make it a lil richer would’ve ensured that the consistency of the gravy would have turned out just right. The flavours however were bang on. We loved the crunchiness of the baby eggplant and the abundance of other veggies in it. The Pad Kra Prow was a bit salty but when had with the fragrant Jasmine Rice it was all good. The Steamed Dory Lemon Chilli Garlic was light but pungent coz of the chilli, the fish was steamed well and the lemon chilli garlic aroma seeped right through. The Pad Thai Noodles were delicious; we enjoyed it more than the Steamed Jasmine Rice.

Now for some dessert influenced by Thai flavours. This is what we love about Chef Rakesh Talwar, you can be prepared to be amazed by his creativity and innovation. The Tum Tim Krobe, a must try, was served in shot glasses. It’s a lovely blend of coconut, jackfruit and water chestnut that leaves you wanting more. The highlight of the evening was the Mango Sticky Rice Ice cream, an inhouse concoction invented by Chef Rakesh Talwar. It has a strong mango flavour with the texture of sticky rice that’s really smooth. It coats your tongue and the cold temperature hits the bliss point, heightening all the happy zones of your brain. We loved it. The Lemon Grass Crème Brulee was OK. We liked the hint of lemon grass that it had. It would have been nicer if the layer of sugar was a bit more caramelized. Call us fussy, but we love to crack the layer of caramelized sugar while having Crème Brulee. It’s like the classic ‘breaking a bottle of champagne over the hull of a ship’ ritual. 🙂

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We don’t want to say that it was all smooth sailing, considering this was the first Sunday Brunch held at O:h Cha. This review would really help when they are hosting a big group. The service was not up to the mark. A few of them didn’t even get to taste a few dishes from the menu. It was funny how we were a table of four and every time we called for dumplings, we were served 3. We had to wait for another batch every single time. It could be the pressure of hosting a blogger’s table, we are not sure; as we’ve never had a bad experience with their service before. We did love the pace at which all these dishes were served. The ambience is perfect for a lovely Sunday afternoon. There is a saxophonist who played really well and had a good set-list. He got everyone grooving to the tunes; it made the experience even better. The menu is designed in a way that you get some of the best dishes served at O:h Cha. We hope that the menu keeps changing so that guests can enjoy all the other dishes that O:h Cha has to offer. You can be rest assured with the quality of food that comes from Chef Rakesh Talwar’s kitchen as there would be no short cuts as far as authenticity and flavours are concerned. So give it a shot! 🙂 If you’re ever craving Thai on a Sunday afternoon, head to O:h Cha for a fun, sit down Sparkling Sunday Brunch.