Yeah Achhaa hai!

This place is so unassuming that I never plan to go but end up here somehow. I’ve been there thrice so far.

Once in Bangalore at 1MG Road, and twice in the DLF mall down the road from where I live now. At all the three times, my experience has been unanimously yummy. Every time I come back from there, I would have had at least one thing that would have delighted me, even more than the last time. The first time, it was just their translucent looking delicately pouched dumplings that I was awestruck looking at. I could not stop asking for more, since it comes only in triplets. I must have tried most of the vegetarian section over a couple of hours of conversation. It usually consisted of either combinations or carefully chosen and chopped – lotus roots, water chestnuts, asparagus, shitakes and all other exotic fungi. I remember it well because we couldn’t proceed to the main course afterwards. Like finger snacks, we’d had just the dim sums alone for lunch. I was pleased with their un-intrusive service and spacious ambience with free seating, reminded me of a lot like Wagamama, except a lot more plush. Perfect setting for a corporate luncheon on a group discussion.  After all, it had just opened in town. With a Michelin star reputation to back it up (that’s actually quite misleading), it can still be a stretch to try it with your own hard-earned money. No?

The second time, it was a quick dash for lunch, for the lack of better options in a mall. And I was surprised to discover their set menu. Lucrative within a budget, it had a soup or a salad, dim sum, main course and ice cream or a sorbet to finish – on offer. Now that’s quite extensive but all priced staggeringly reasonable. I choose not to disclose the price, cause I want all of you to go give them a try. Having said that, I was yet only interested in the dim-sums but pushed myself to try one of their main courses this time. Settling on the Oriental greens-stir fried, quite content with the service, food, and the time of the day where the place doesn’t get as noisy as it was about to get on my next visit. Barring few aunties for the kitty in a corner, it was quite. Lunch time is suitable for idle dating, an intimate and lazy conversation or a business chat. But i spotted more of the former. Young couples probably bunking their college or work to get some respite and spice up their noon. To add to that, I am in Delhi, where they would rather impress the girls by showcasing their car keys on a fine dining table than offering much on plate. Blinks

The third time, it was a conscious decision just to try the Jasmine tea cake for dessert that had bowled me over the last time.  No.. wait, we actually went there after being sent back from the newly opened Indigo Deli which refused to admit us on their Inaugural launch night. I mean who does that? Sending back guests on the very first day they open? Isn’t guest the god anymore? I will save all that for when i visit them, once they invite me.

So this time, it was more like a family affair. And reaching around 8 30pm, we didn’t expect it to be that packed. It seemed like a gala party here instead. Old people with their grand kids, along with the in-laws, young couples with their toddlers, everyone was feeling at home. So yeah, dear dating diners, do not choose this as your date especially on a weekend. You’ll know better if you follow my blog.

Coming back to my dinner, this time I was actually hoping for something to go wrong, as it’s really rare to have consistently happy experiences to top the previous ones. I kept ordering more kimchi to irritate the  staff, also cause it was so refreshingly crunchy! While we waited for our dim sums getting entertained by the antics of a toddler in the next table, I realised what a self-sufficient this place is. Following a rhythm to take and suggest orders, the staff was quite disciplined and following their SOP’s to the tee. It does feel robotic if you ask me. The same sentence being repeated over and over  – ‘Ma’am this is our signature dish and very much appreciated by all’ made me smirk a little. However, following the recommendations turned out to be a good idea. Seldom do the service staff know their menu this well, unless of course if there is a Standard Operating Procedure in place. I hope these guys become natural over the time.

Nevertheless, I went ahead with the recommendations and boy was I pleased! This time I had the raspberry mousse, with a red-velvety exterior that was air -sprayed. If you ask me it looks quite mystical and sometimes phoney. But this one, not only did it just look gorgeous but taste absolutely delish. Took me right back to the memories of cozy winters in London when someone used to make it fresh for me. Those were creamy light pink igloos perched on a chocolate biscuit, topped with frozen raspberry jelly. It was my quickest route to heaven.

Talking about Michelin starred restaurants foraying into India these days, I think it’s a bit of a baggage for them. Since not many people care much about its ratings here. Also, that these restaurants have the said rating only in their home country outlets and are just franchised in India, it can set wrong expectations to start with. Although as we upgrade ourselves to be the food connoisseurs that we can be, may be it isn’t that bad an idea.

That was just my two cents on ratings and reviews. Now am just glad to find a short cut to heaven, right down the road. Rarely does a restaurant please me thrice. This was a clean hat-trick! Of course I write here only about such exceptions. So you know about only the best. Yahooooo.. ciao!

Oh I must mention – the desserts pleased my cousin so much that it now frames her cover picture on Facebook. That must mean something. Right?

Blind.Talk.Food

This was something to look forward to since the time I’d heard about it. The Blind tasting at Olive on a Sunday eve, organised by Food Talk India who decided to have a second round after the first one made quite a wave. Inspired by the restaurant chain ‘Dans le noir’ that initially started in London & Paris, offering an experience of senses by guiding you to a meal in the pitch dark. While there you’re escorted by the visually impaired who guide you through out until you come out of the door a little bewildered. Here it was fun, right from the word go.

I reached the venue sharp at 7 30pm in the fear of missing out any of the course. I think only couple of more people had the same fear since there weren’t many people yet. Drinks at Dirty Martini that got us mingling, and some pizzas later, it felt like the party was about to start. Everyone was thrilled to see what this is gonna turn out like. For me it was a combined version of their earlier events : Blind-tasting with strangers. So we proceeded to the Greenhouse on the Ridge, for the adventure to begin.

Soon after we were seated at our allocated tables, a little briefing on the etiquettes followed. We were supposed to put our blindfolds on as the bell rang. Anticipation showed up on everyone’s face trying those on and just working on their dexterity. People with glasses, lenses, or long nose, everyone had a bit of struggle story to tell. This was going to be exciting. But before we could start with it, we had the amuse served to us. Crisp pumpkin crackers with feta cheese, semi dried tomato, black olives, and sorrel on top. The only thing that we could see before we could devour it. This was supposed to set the tone of the upcoming courses. Intriguing!

Holding a cutlery in each hand (with a blindfold on), I was ready to indulge my senses. Something crisp and sweet, something cheesy and something saucy, but altogether it was just pure heavenly. The crunch of the candied walnuts were like the sweet lord from heavens. I was hooked and yearning for more.. when someone shouted, ‘the plate is clean ma’am. you can stop’. The bell rang, we took off our blind folds, and the chef came around to show us what we had. As delightful visually as it tasted.

The bell rang again and I started reaching for my cutlery to wipe it, just out of habit before putting it in my plate. I realised there was just a spoon and no fork. So I was sure it wasn’t going to be another salad. The smells of the soup was over powering. I decided to stop guessing and dig right in to take a mouthful. So creamy and yummy.. people at the table started chiming in with their reaction. I was quietly mouthing more. ‘Oh there’s something crispy in it too’ I thought. ‘I think there’s mushroom.. yeah yeah.. this is definitely mushroom. I love it’, said my neighbour. I agreed with her. ‘I love mushroom too’. ‘ I continued finishing my mouss-y course until I couldn’t pick any in my spoon. After all it had mushroom- my favourite! We were in for a shock when the chef came over. There was no mushroom in it.

Time for main course. We were discussing our preferences and allergies on the table. Blindfolded, of course! I’d have really liked some fish and was hoping for the surprise. The first bite turned out sharp and salty. I nudged for more and realised it was gnocchi. Filling and satiated, I kept quiet and listened more to what others had to say. The neighbours were going ballistic! ‘Popcorn.. I had a popcorn’, said one. ‘in a main course?’ enquired the other. They couldn’t believe it. Another one cooed in- ‘I am having something spaghetti like, but its made of some thing else’. I was intrigued. My dish wasn’t so complex. Anyway, we waited for the chef to show us all that we had. It was eye-opening, and not just literally.

We were almost full but had that little space for dessert. I was disappointed when I tasted custard. I ploughed for more, but all I got was some cake with custard. Now am not a big fan of either, so I left it. But the others’ feedback were great. They all were loving it while going on guessing and describing the textures. I’d stopped and was waiting for the chef to show up. We were in for another surprise. The dessert looked delicious. It had Panna-cotta which I usually like. So we had a go at it for the second time. This time without the blindfolds. Gauri who had lip-smacked the whole bowl the first time, didn’t like it as much anymore. While I who couldn’t finish it earlier, wiped the bowl clean!

What did just happen? Isn’t taste everything when we decide to eat something we enjoy? Or there’s more to it?

Do we get tricked by the visuals?

Well well.. I guess you’d like to know the answers for yourself.

Thanks to this event, I figured how I roll.

Taste of Mumbai

I was quite wary and hesitant to go for this..Taste of Mumbai. After all how could it even match up to my experience with ‘Taste of London‘, the popular format that was recently introduced in India, few weeks ago.

Well I am glad to be proven wrong.

An early morning dash to the airport, and then chauffeur driven drive to South Bombay to stay in the very group of hotels that I served ten years ago, was nothing short of an epiphany of how time has just flown by!

Overlooking the Arabian Sea from the 23rd floor, the sun drowning into the sea and the full moon before the onset of the dawn, the room gives you more than enough of the antics of nature and the hi-fi crowding skyline the city is waiting to flaunt.

I had missed out on the day 1 but I was optimistic about the rest two days as it would be a weekend. Little after the sun set, having enjoyed the spectacular view, and after struggling on what to wear, I trotted high into the Bombay Ballard Estate. Scanning the crowd, the posh and the pretty, I began my crawl through the stalls.

Starting with chocolate, cheese, silicone crockery, herbs, and then a showcase of speciality cuisine by the niche outlets by five star hotels, demonstrated by their celebrated chefs… I got hooked onto Smokehouse Deli. Light and crisp mix of Salad and sauces made for an appetizing hors d’oeuvre. Followed by Caulifolower Espuma by Caperberry. This one still makes me salivate!

Moving on to some more appliance demos, a little Zumba gig to involve the crowd, and a few Mint Juleps later, started the celebrity showcase-ing their signature dish making. It was fun, with the tidbit-trivia being talked about while they go on with preparing trial dishes for the audience. Kinda intimidating to get the first hand reactions on their cherished recipes.

In the meanwhile, the crowd was warming up to celebrity sightings, tasting what their TV-appeared chefs from different parts of the world had to offer, participating in live barbecue and pizzeria demonstrations, and enjoying quite a breezy evening for Bombay standards. What added more flavors, was the so many in-house family business sprawling up – owning the stalls, doing the demos had its own charm in the middle of all the established 5 star brands.

Day 2 paled in front of Day 1, guess I missed the Zumba and was still recovering from the Oyster shots and what too much of Zinc does in one’s system. But the Strawberry Risotto grew on me despite that. Well who’d ever say  NO to strawberries?

By the way, strawberry is technically a fruit and not a berry!