Art you see!

..and then you don’t, but you feel it out and about.

From the outside, there isn’t anything special about the place. The usual Audi’s honking away on the lanes of M block GK market, once known as the place to be- popular, posh and ‘happening’ has now become a quieter version of display of the big names in the restaurant business. Artusi, derives its name from the famous writer of The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining. Obviously I was keen to explore this place.

Indistinct and almost vacant, besides one table, on a saturday night didn’t pique me but I was surprised. We took seats nonetheless. White linen-ed decor with black and white sketches adorning the walls, it was simple and cozy with tea lights on table. We waited for the menu and then the waiter to take the order. Akin to questioning them on the ingredients that would help me decide on what to order, I was a little miffed when he went to check back before he answered me. Even though it was all to my advantage.

I have always loved Italian. Be it Food, Fashion or Men. Although i haven’t tried the latter much but the dream lives on. Fantasising anymore about this might disappoint me unlike the food here. So coming back to the safer topic, I ordered an antipasti and a salad before deciding on a main course. While we waited, few breads appeared with a lip smacking sun-dried tomato dip. I love such restaurants that take care of things like these: replacing butter with healthier options even if compromising a bit on their costing. I mean a little CSR in your daily routine can go a long way.

Soon my order appeared with all kinds of my favourite fungus and some bread but most of the plate had this insanely big full round piece of melted Brie or was it Camembert! Seriously I couldn’t be bothered. But if you are you can find more here. It’s apparently not much different. I have never been served like this before. Well I have never been to Italy before. This is how they eat there, now I know. A meal that starts with cheese can never go wrong. That could be a general rule of thumb for vegetarians and cheese lovers like moi. You may feel stuffy so remember to share or take-it-away so the deliciousness continues for a day or two. I was loving the fresh rocket leaves with fig and grapes salad along with the cheese and mushroom. There’s no way these combinations can go wrong. Its the safest yet most delicious way to get yourself started. Tangy-ness of grapes, gooey-ness of cheese and the crunch of bread along with leaves is like having everything good in one go.  Since i was happy with the waiters’ recommendation I let him decide the main course for me too.

Pasta Pockets was something new for me. I had an idea but lets say I had not had it off the menu yet. I settled for the hat shaped ones filled with cream cheese. Delightful but the portion size was overwhelming. I wanted to keep some space for the desserts. Again with a sweet jaw like mine it’s always the most difficult part of the dinner, because I just can not settle for one easily. With a lot of hubbub I let the waiter recommend again. I explained him I wanted something like mille-feuille.. lot of layers of pastries with cream in between. I mean Tira misu can not be the answer to all the french desserts in the world. There’s a certain complexity and sophistication that Italians seem to miss. Not for nothing, simplicity has its charm after all. Zuppa Inglese with its layers of chocolate and custard was a bit too much of mush for me to handle. The Panna Cotta arrived with its golden glory of caramelised figs and roasted almonds. It was just what I needed to go up the graph and finish the meal on a much much higher note. That little thing didn’t even survive six bites. Still the price is totally worth it. I ‘ll  probably go there again just for the dessert and blow my pocket a sweet hole.

Sighing with pleasure, I rolled up my sleeves, tied my hair and picked up my doggy pack to head to the door, where the Manager waited to hand me a red rose bud. Now only if he was Italian enough just like the food inside. The Sigh continued..

Yappy -by I

I never thought I’d ever warm up to Sushi. Or anything remotely Japanese ever! My earliest memory of having it is of the corner Sushi bar down the road to the DLR station off South Quays, when I’d just accompanied a colleague on a lunch break. Then I swallowed it all thinking how bland it was. But then I remember I couldn’t own up how uninitiated I felt even with my eyes welling up for the strong taste of Wasabi and soy. Well.. that was me then. I thought Sushi is not for the faint hearted.

Fast forward to the present. Even though it can be an acquired taste. With this raging introduction of the vegetarian Sushi in the recent times, it doesn’t have to be that daunting anymore. Once ventured into its hard not to be addicted, and leaves you craving for more. My rendezvous with it has only gone from good to great. The first time I really fell in love with Sushi was at Teppan Sushi bar in Bangalore. I have to say that was what made me raring to go and look further to see what Japanese cuisine has in store for a vegetarian like moi! Another sushi-bar worth a mention here is the Kylin closer home. OK. Now that am all warmed up, lets proceed to the main topic of this blog.

A visit to Guppy by Ai was much-anticipated since my arrival here in Delhi. Good things take time. So one fine evening, I drove down all the way and found it after few rounds of Khanna market, only to realise that it was so easy to miss the first time. Located as a part of an old style mall, it has that old world charm with no such pretensions. Until you enter from the lane side, and it takes only few seconds to be transformed before you begin to feel like you are in Japan. With frangipani tree in the courtyard, a bright color scheme as a backdrop, it gets better when you finally enter the dining.  Animé murals with the hint of a play school, you automatically get into the fun mode. And then there’s origami paper for you to try while you wait for the food! Now enough about the surroundings, I’ve got to get on the food. But I swear I was so taken aback by the place that it deserves all this mention. The kid in me was jumping to come out and play.

So while I was busy folding the paper to make a heart, my amuse-bouche appeared. It looked so pretty, I gulped it down without a thought, with some soup along with it. And bam! Everything else had to stop right there. The food had all my attention. I requested another portion, for I needed to spend some more time with it, devouring. I was almost coming to my seventh senses. Ha.. guess that!

Obviously from there we decided to settle for the tasting menu. How cruel to decide not to have something off this fantastic menu? At least I am not capable of such crime. So we let the Chef reel us in by doling out what later made me (dare i say) a very happy woman.

To start with I’ve had vegetarian Maki before but a vegetarian Nigiri, Sashimi, and Temaki was a first! For once I thought absolute justice has been done to me. Usually the non-vegetarians always have more options to try, that I envy. Here there was variety and how. Absolutely loved the bell pepper and thin omlet sushi. That rolling definitely calls for some dexterity and talent. Did I mention about the fresh wasabi? It’s like a green stem that’s grated on shark skin.. how exquisite is that!

Then came the varied starters, which turned out a nice experiment with tofu, miso and some more brand new set of flavours bustling in my mouth. It was fairly building up my appetite towards main course. Now I like to play safe by being a vegetarian. But I thank the stars that day which made me try the Cod! Is it the god of fish or what? It definitely had a royal entry seething on a stone and tasted absolutely heavenly. Who’d believe it’s coming from me, a vegetarian? Well I have decided now to turn a pesceterian. I can’t afford to miss out on such oh-so-yummy delicacies anymore.

God.. the Black Cod blew my mind. I was on the seventh heaven after this. I did not want to get rid of it’s taste so soon. Nope not even for desserts. The charred- smoky flavour was something that had me enthralled. I was bordering delirium. I had to calm down.

So came the dessert platter with its tidbits, that is probably there just so people do calm down and come back to reality. You can’t have a high after another high. It could be maddening you know! No one endorses such danger.

Anyway I just couldn’t get over the scene around me. It subtly engulfed me to believe like I was lazing in a cafe in Nakano Ward, perhaps. It was easy to drift off and mull over Murakami. The restaurant had cast such a spell. A shot of Limoncillo, got me back to India.

A-Z

I keep thinking what I’ve been doing with this food blog. I want this one to be like no other. Not just praising or ripping apart any restaurant or some chef.

It’s going to be more analytical in terms of where we as a community have reached in exploring the cuisine culture. Since, I keep comparing all the experiences with my past and benchmark anything I like with the best I’ve had. I’ve decided to make a souvenir of all those memories and post this:

A– Avocados, ground with garlic and olive oil or in soup or salad. Just for this fruit, I can go live in Mexico for a year.

B– Basil & Broccoli, fresh in a pizza or pasted in a soup, whichever form, the fresher the better. I wanna try the Basil pizza in Italy soon. By the way I am happy to announce that I now have it growing in my very own terrace.

C– Chickpeas- anytime, in any form. Caviar- the Beluga; tiny, homogenous, bursting in mouth one after another. Oh Churros starts from C too. The best is street side. Outside Tate Modern, during Spanish festivals. And Chocolate of course only if its Belgian or French. Swiss will do too, but they add too much milk!

D– Dumplings, delicate ones, with all kinds of mushrooms, the best ones I had was at Tamarai in Covent Garden, London- which is closed now. Yauatcha is a close match or perhaps even better.

E– Eggs, except when its raw, I can almost devour it any other form. Even better with some Endive, chopped onions n lime squeeze with rock salt n pepper sprinkles. Go Give it a try over boiled eggs.

F– Fenugreek to temper anything. Fajitas, made fresh and warm only.

G– Garlic in Guacamole. I know I mentioned Avocado before, but I had to repeat it. Thats how much I like this!

H– Honey, Im home! ’nuff said.

I– Ai.. ai… ai. Thats ‘love’ in japanese. Guppy by Ai my friends is all i can think of, may be coz right now am having the leftovers from my meal there last night.

J– Jams, homemade from either chillies, pepper or off beat vegetables, served with savoury pancakes,, Oh yeah.. you’ve gotta try these once!

K– Kafir Lime-leaf is an all time favourite. Kale is another one. And so is Khichdi, be it gujurati, punjabi, bihari or bengali style. All it needs is a dollop of butter and some tangy chutney n papad to go with it. Monsoons special meal- to be had hot and steaming.

L– Love, and lots of it. Nothing says it like LaDuree Macaroons!

M– Maple Walnut from Movenpick icecream. Its been over a decade i’d first tried it and still remains my favourite!

N– Nuts, even more if it’s peeled and candied a la caramel-ito.

O– Orange Juice- Oh so juicy with the bits. freshly squeezed, with no sugar or ice, best found in Goan breakfast places during winters.

P– Parathé, stuffed with gobhi/aloo/mooli/cheese/paneer/onion. Either all or exclusive, street side even better. Best from the streets of Ludhiana,Punjab.

Q– Quinoa or a Quiche- fruitty-nutty freshly baked out of oven on a rainy day in the midst of mountains.. yes!

R– Raspberries- frozen! Romanesco, in caesar salad. Ratatouille in Morocco is  still a dream.

S– Soyabeans with Spinach. Yes.. it can be quite a delish main course, obviously home-made.

T– Truffles of all kinds! Truffles’ Oil, Trifles, and Tangy Tamarind sprinkles of chutney can make any Tostadas tempting!

U– Upma, for the lack of a better ingredient/dish that I could think of. Made in some south-indian home.

V– Vanilla, the most expensive herb is a mind-blowing essence even when it’s in natural form in a pod.

W– W has a Wealth of Words that are my favourite. To start with Water of course; followed by Walnut, Watercress, and Watermelon.

X– Xinomavro Grapes that’s used to make red wine, which in turn along with some Sherry and Port Wine, makes my favourite drink: the Mülled Vino

Y– Yoghurt in any flavours after a meal is a good digestive for me.

Z– Zatar, perhaps with some Zucchini pancakes, or salad or within a croissant. Yum!

Voila! There you go. Am sure there’s at least one thing that you haven’t tried yet. I’d love to know what your favourite ingredients are. Do leave in comments if I ‘ve missed any star ingredient or dish that comes to your mind while you read this.

Now even BBC didn’t flaunt such a list of awesome ingredients. Please feel free to thank me in ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘follows’. ❤

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.