Sunday, April 26, 2020


Step on an acme of culinary creativity and immerse in the breath-taking views

Set in the opulent gardens of the Palace Downtown, Thiptara, translates into ‘magic at the water’ and absolutely live ups to its name with its impeccable location with implausible views of the Dubai Fountain which looks more mystic when it dances at night and the Burj Khalifa. Though the restaurant has full glass windows which gives an experience of being in the middle of the water; try and book your table in the alfresco section so you can watch the fountain show that happens every half an hour. The cuisine here is refined with the Chef assimilating the throng of fragrant spices to a tangy, sweet, spicy and savoury whole. The ‘Yam Som O’ a piquant salad made with Pomello and ‘Phed Sam Road’, duck Bbq are simply delightful. Traditional desserts make for a sweet ending to a possibly ‘chili hot’ meal. Recommendations go for the Asian fruity sorbet and mango sticky rice.
Perched on the 70th floor of Swissotel - The Stamford, a spectacular skyline facing the Marina Bay district, the views would leave you enthralled and you would someway spend some time gawking across with a fall in love feeling. On the seasonal menu, Chef Kirk Westaway is reinventing British cuisine reflective of his heritage and is no 32 on the Asia’s 50 Best list. The freshly baked sourdough bread that comes with fresh Devonshire butter, sliced right beside the table is a mainstay. Jaan excites with its modest elegance, be it the dining air or the conceptualisation of its menu. The dishes are unswerving in terms of standards, striding of the courses are well-timed and the service is professional. Request for a window table for the best dining experience.
The first thing that greets you are the gorgeous interiors. A wide, open plan dining room aesthetically adorned with arresting wooden assemblies and contemporary light fixtures. It is an image of modern, uncluttered elegant to compliment the alluring 8-course meal which awaits. Brainchild of ridiculously brilliant chef Andre Chiang, here sunny conversations fill the bistro, speckled with sporadic expletives at the vision of yet another grandiosely fashioned dish.
Located at the Overseas Passenger terminal area amid Circular Quay area and The Rocks, Quay juts out like a sanctuary watching the beautiful harbour with full views of the Opera House and the bridge. Chef Peter Gilmore and his team efforts and prospers at binding local produce and blending flairs and practises from different parts of the world.
The magnificent backdrop of the Harbour Bridge on one side and the Sydney Opera house on another enhances the sophisticated appeal of this place.
Located close to the notable Spanish Arch, housed in the 18th Century Custom House on the east bank of the River Corrib; point where chic meets west Galway, where land-living meets sea, where a conjunction of paths meets a union of waterways, this restaurant represents all that is wonderful about Irish food. The much praised restaurant takes full benefit of the abundance of indigenous produce. Comfort dishes like avocado toast with poached egg and the essential Irish lunch: a baked ham and Gubbeen cheese toasted sandwich with tomato relish are the order of the day.
My story first published in ET Travel

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Paro and Thimpu are two gems, located just an hour drive from each other – perfect for a long weekend for food and nature lovers. 

A less than two hour flight whisks us from the airport in Delhi to Paro,  and what’s on the other side of the window makes it the most gorgeous ever, peaks of Mt Everest & Kanchenjunga seem to get ever closer as our plane glides over the majestic Himalayas. The scenic beauty doesn’t end here; we are treated to unbelievable views of a few mountains at the airport and then the river on the five minute ride to Le Meridien Paro, where we are putting up for the next two days before heading to Thimphu.
Thoughts of Bhutan might not immediately conjure its cuisine. Instead, you probably think of the hike up Tigers Nest and Dochula Pass, but even though the simple ‘Ema Datshi’ aka Cheese and Chillies is the National dish, Bhutan cooks up some exciting food.  I was introduced to Ema Datshi on one of my trips to Kolkata and became quite fond of it. So the moment we settle in, it’s a no-brainer that I had to go look for the authentic version. I find many variations here like the classic with fresh green chilli and cheese and one with dried red chilli, my favourite is the one perked up with ‘zoidey’ which is a fistful of cheese, crushed garlic and garnished with coriander leaves.
But first a cup of ‘Suja Chai’ which is basically light pink in colour from the processed tea leaves and soda bicarbonate used as a facilitator for the taste and colour. Salt and butter is added and then churned in a plunger, the basic rule being to serve it hot without letting it boil, else the butter would separate, surprisingly far from putting off, I am a convert; I also learn this tea not only boosts energy but the butter helps prevent chapped lips. Suja is my favourite drink through my trip and I love, that it is always ready and kept in a thermos at all times.
In the car, there is an awed hush, this passionately lush landscape, has stunned us all. Windows are my new best friends; they keep the nippy weather out and the view picture -perfect. At the market, we decide to first stop by at the bustling ‘Momo Corner’, I have one bite of the beef ones and the juice squirts; it’s moist, full of flavour and decadent. The cabbage and cheese one is equally delicious and six plates of all varieties disappear in no time. 
The market is delightful and the town area in Paro is a great place to haggle over keepsakes. Akanksha my daughter buys a Kira (traditional dress), and I go for a prayer wheel. Meanwhile Bakshish my husband finds his ‘Cordyceps’, popularly called Caterpillar Fungus or white Gold, the most rare and expensive mushrooms in the world. Of course he buys some and we also try some Cordycep tea in of the local shops.
I notice my driver and many other locals chewing on Betel, he says it keeps them warm. This appears quite like the ‘Saada paan’ with lime paste and other additives and is christened ‘Doma’, though strictly speaking only the nut is called Doma. I try one which induces a sort of ecstasy and I guess this sensation of happiness contributes to the popularity and yes it sort of gives me a feeling of heat in the body too, but I know if I have some more, I may get too happy, so I stop at just tasting one.
Early Next morning we are off to explore all the must dos in Paro starting off at the famed Tigers Nest, post which we stop enroute for some ‘wai wai’ and ‘Thukpa’…Aah life’s simple pleasures! There is a splash of colour to my left where roofs of houses have ‘red hot chillies’ drying on them thanks to the Sun; on my right is the temple where flags add more colour. My driver tells me that the biggest chillies are blanched and then sun dried too for a yellowish creamy colour which widens the possibility of a different taste and texture. We also try ‘Singchang’, which is basically the liquid that seeps out of the mass of fermenting grains…quite like the earliest form of alcohol!

As the sun lowers ‘Sonam Trophel’ comes alive with foreign tourists clutching dog eared copies of Bhutan guidebooks; this quaint restaurant has a basic set up and meals that are local and delicious. We are ravenous after all that walking and go for momos to start with, these are big, juicy and the best I have ever had, followed by ‘Phaksha Paa’, a classic stew of slow simmered boneless pork with radish, ginger, local spinach and red chillies of course, Ema Datshi which is made with yak milk cheese, is many scoops better than the one I have tried before and goes amazingly well with the red rice.
Chef Sunil Jajoria of Le Meridien Thimpu suggests Babesa Village and food on offer here is intended to be shared and therefore, is very much beneficial with family style service so we ask the chef and our guide Tashi to join in. In a delightful traditional setting the restaurant opens out onto a sort of a three storeyed house, a definite Renaissance influence in the doors, and a nonchalant veranda, keeping its touch of relaxed simplicity giving free lead to decadent reverie. We begin with munching on ‘Zow’, basically rice fried after it being soaked in water, its crunchy and addictive. On the menu there are of course many varieties of Datshi (cheese as we all know by now), we order ‘Kewa Datshi’, and this one has potatoes in it along with chillies, cheese and onions and is yummy, ‘Sikam Paa’ aka air dried pork, ‘Nakey paa’ which are boiled fiddlehead ferns, ‘Mengay’, the first harvest rice mixed with egg, butter, perilla seeds and garlic, ‘Gondu fried’, a tasty crispy fried egg and some local greens. Bhutanese food is heavily cheese-oriented but a meal is never complete without some vegetables and dried ‘thingnay’ a kind of pepper on the side. 
Jajoria fixes us a local breakfast of ‘Datshi buckwheat pancakes’ with Fresh Banana and Honeycomb Butter, which are as delicious as they sound, beautifully light and fluffy, and the yak cheese really works well in the hot pancake. He also serves us a warm ‘bathup’ a cheesy soup with some vegetables, butter and noodles thrown in and ‘Suja tea’ to wash it down.
We are ready now to visit the famous Dochula pass where we catch spectacular panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range that form a grandiose backdrop to the calmness of the 108 chortens gracing the range.
We stop for Suja and ‘chips sprinkled with chilli powder’ from a street side tea stall. Lunch is ‘momos’ and ‘thukpa’ enroute Tashichodzong, a monastery and fortress. I bite into the dried ‘Yak cheese’ which my guide gives me to try and I must say it has to be one of the best cheeses I have ever tasted; it melts in my mouth, not too soft, a mild flavour milky, almost-perfect. I make a mental note to buy it on my way out of the country along with some ‘Peach wine’ from the region.
Incredible, Stunning, awe-inspiring, every word is too less, too scant for this landscape; I need new words to describe what is around me; the beauty of Bhutan, its cuisine and culture has completely thrilled me.

My story first published in HT BRUNCH

Monday, April 13, 2020


Taiwan is a foodie’s paradise….do not miss these if you are travelling!
P.S Please notice everyone wears masks and handles food even otherwise in Taiwan.

Founded in 1972, the original location of this Michelin starred dumping house is at xinyi store, Taipei 101. While they have a complete menu, the most widespread dish, and claim to fame is the Xiao long Bao aka the Taiwanese soup dumplings. Inspite of making tons of dumplings, they are hand-made, and one can really palate the difference. To savour the dumplings, one needs to dip it in a bowl of 1 part soy sauce to 3 parts vinegar sauce. Then spoon it and jab a hole in the cover to release the rich golden broth in the spoon. And lastly eat and enjoy. Interestingly each dumpling grips closely 21 grams of filling and is prepared with exactly 18 folds. 
Chef Jeffery Lin has determined that seventy five-day old ducks weighing over 3.2 kilograms are best for a roast duck cuisine. This special variety of ducks were imported from China and reared in Cherry Valley, England, hence named after the Cherry Valley. Chefs deftly slice the ducks within 15 minutes of serving in a theatrical manner at the table, to ensure the duck is juicy and the skin is crisp. The duck cuisine is served in 5 ways as the Chef utilizes the whole duck for appetising cuisine. The hearty stew duck combination is full of rich flavours
Celebrity Taiwanese chef André Chiang gave Taiwan a big gift in 2014. He created RAW helmed by inborn chefs with an emphasis on indigenous produce. Here Parisian gastronomic panache is pigeon-holed by close by sourced, seasonal ingredients prepared using cooking techniques but presented in a bistro-like fashion. The gorgeous eight-course menu is an exploration of Taiwan’s exceptional topography and micro-seasons.

This is one of the leading night markets in Taiwan with respect to food, and also one of the most prevalent points of Taipei’s nightlife among tourists. You would come across several grill stalls along the maze of alleyways. Go for the chicken wing, chicken drumsticks and much more. 

Recommendations go all out for the Sausage Wraps Duo which syndicates two dissimilar types of sausage in a roll. Look out for the U-shaped arena with live prawns and many flocking around to exhibit their prawning skills! One gets seven small rods and a container at the beginning of the session. By means of a modest wooden stick with a bit of thread and a tiny hook hanging off it, one has to challenge one’s catching skills! The prawns are delicious and hard work pays!
At the Xing-Yuan Tea Garden, a holiday farm in Zhong Shan Village in the Dong Shan district, the owner Liu offers several Do It Yourself activities. One of them being making of the tea-flavoured ice cream. It is fun to measure out ingredients mainly milk, cream sugar and the green tea paste.  
Tighten the steel box and secure it in an ice box and then dance to the tunes of peppy music while continuously shaking the ice-cream container. 20 minutes of shaking and dancing, voila! Your ice cream is ready for consumption.

My story first published in ET Travel

Friday, April 10, 2020


Desserts area the fairy tales of the kitchen, a happily ever after.... 
Top 5 popular sweets eaten in various parts of the world 
Pakhlava has some distinctions in diverse regions grounded on the materials and baking methods. Sheki is one of the most ancient cities in Azerbaijan and extremely popular for its sweets. This sweet is shaped like a diamond (symbolizing fire) pastry made of rice flour, tastes sweet and spicy and is moistened with butter and generously soaked in syrup. A layer is rolled out from the pastry with thickness of minimum 2 mm, put into baking tray, oiled and extravagantly filled with a filling of nuts. This procedure is continued, until about 10 layers are achieved, some even make 14. The nuts that beautify the top of each piece represent the star that illuminates up the commencement of a new life.
With outstanding quality of raw material procured from numerous parts of the world, chocolates here are distinct owing to their thoroughness and exquisiteness. Just a few minutes by train, outside of Gruyere, is Broc; Maison Cailler, the only milk chocolate factory of Cailler-Nestle in the world which seems like a fantasy wonderland. The voyage over the factory depicts the record of the finding of the cocoa beans and finally, discovery of Cailler chocolate. The crusade paints a picture of cocoa beans which has been categorised inversely in diverse eras. You can see how the good quality of milk from the La Gruyere region is used in the chocolate. Each chocolate is prepared with devotion and exactitude to pass the difficult test of perfection. Did I mention that the tour, with plenty of chocolate tasting, is free?
There’s nothing quite like the ecstasy of biting into a sweet savoury Kouigamann as a breakfast treat or a late night snack with a cup of coffee. It is a sort of cake, made with copious amount of butter, so much so that the dough is puffed up by its cooking that it looks more like a pastry. In fact it’s similar to a croissant – though additional buttery and sugary one. It is known to originate from the Brittany region of France but Kouign Amann Day became an official day in 2015, submitted by San Francisco bakery b. patisserie. The best ones to have are at the Bloom Chocolate Salon inside Dandelion factory on 16th Street.
Dubai loves its dates and these the soft and sticky ones have the power to make any dessert slightly more comforting. For a sweet date treat with Morrocan flair, try the one at Shangri-La’s coffee shop, sticky date pudding – a warm sponge with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Bateel Cafe is equally famed for its dates and the pudding. And a place you definitely cannot miss eating this gooey middle eastern delight is at Ayamna at Atlantis The Palm, hands down No 1 in Dubai.
This humble sweet savoury combination of coconut flavoured sweet sticky rice with ripe yellow mangoes is the most popular in Thailand. This is best eaten warm and is frequently completed with a trickle of sweet coconut cream and topped with a smidgeon of roasted sesame seeds or mung beans. This can be found from various street food stalls to most old-style Thai restaurants and even as part of the high end magnificent Sunday brunches offered by some of Bangkok’s top hotels. Saffron at the Banyan Tree being one of the favourites.

My story first published in ET Travel

Thursday, March 12, 2020


Take the delectable feast to the waters
If you are a food and culture aficionado this river boat cruise appreciating Thailand’s creative legacy and the eternal magnificence of the Chao Phraya River is for you. The Saffron cruiser is contemporary and lustrous in the flair of a yacht rather than the typical transformed rice barges. The al fresco Moon Deck where one is welcomed with a cocktail echoes the Banyan Tree Hotel’s iconic Moon Bar at Vertigo, its signature circular bar lit in blue taking midpoint. Guests can opt to enjoy their meal here or in the lower deck dining area which is air conditioned, softly lit with wrap-around glass both overhead and to the side to get panoramic views of the river’s sights counting the Temple of Dawn and The Grand Palace. Traditional Thai dishes that are skilfully prepared and ingeniously presented. Additionally there is live entertainment and cultural performance.  All in all, the experience celebrates Thailand’s rich cultural heritage like none other in total panache.
With The Newport’s littoral setting and gorgeous views that have been drawing locals since the 1880’s, Bert’s is evocative of the grand hotel dining of the 1930’s bringing a touch of glamour to the beaches while still retaining that local Aussie charm. As you expeditiously take off from Rose Bay Seaplane Base, you can’t help being in awe at the striking views over Sydney Harbour. The seaplane pilot travels up across Sydney’s gorgeous Northern beaches before alighting at Pittwater where a water taxi awaits to transfer guests to Newport where Bert’s is located. Enjoy a glass of champagne before gorging on decadent food focusing on fresh seasonal Australian produce. And of course you head back the same way you came.
The appeal of beachside dining and the embrace of calm Indian Ocean breeze encounter up at this romantic overwater restaurant in the Maldives. Set an on overwater marquee at the Mӧvenpick Resort Kuredhivaru posing spectacular views of the ocean and the beach, Bodumas is the go-to place to get lost in the pulsing thumping of waves, while the sun falls behind the horizon – perfect for a dreamy and cherished dinner over outstanding service. Seafood seasoned with global influences, contribute to the great experience.
Located on the water in a notable landmark building overlooking San Francisco Bay at the end of Pier 47 since 1965, Scoma offers diners quixotic views while serving excellent fresh in season seafood with an Italian accent. The ambiance is welcoming and old school, thanks to it being in a working 46-foot fishing boat. Pacific seafood served here is caught on small boats, and brought to the pier by local fishermen; Scoma has a detached building for treating fresh fish. The velvety clam chowder, speckled with bacon, could be a meal in itself. But the most famous dish is the petit combination Louis, a smaller version of their classic with both shrimp and the Dungeness crab. Remember to ask for a bib!
Positioned on a small lake just freestanding the centre of Copenhagen, Noma’s new location was previously an ammunition room facility for the Danish military. Planned by celebrated architect Bjarke Ingels, the spot's 11 buildings stretch over 60 metres from end to end, and are intended to look like an Old Danish village. After being greeted by Ali Sonko and his smile, you walk down a striking flower wizened boulevard before finally entering the restaurant. Michelin star Chef Rene Redzepi is only too mindful of the latent of his land and with inordinate proficiency amalgams them into a symphonic perfection into menus that vary according to the season.
My friend Mohit at Noma, Pic Courtesy Giuseppe

First published in ET Panache Travel 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


When Go Air announced its winter schedule for Malé, Maldives, timed ahead of the upcoming holiday and wedding season in India and with fares as low as INR 9,999 all-inclusive, anyone would be enticed…so why blame me ?

Flight G8 33 took off from Delhi at 10.35 am on a Wednesday afternoon,
Bang on time and I make myself comfortable in my aisle seat, only to realize later that a window seat would have got me some better views on landing, I was flying to Maldives after all..!
Sneha Rajput on the left
I make friends with one of the flight attendants Sneha Rajput who I notice is doing her job rather passionately…it is evident that she totally enjoyed making passengers on board feel at home including little kids. She ensures I would get to enjoy the landing views and actually went out of the way to ask a passenger to exchange seats with me towards the landing, who luckily for me obliges…perhaps it is Sneha’s smile that worked its magic and also because he is newly married and much too engrossed in conversation with his beautiful wife. Go Air is a no frills flight but is comfortable and enjoyable and flight attendants like Sneha Rajput set it apart and I arrive in Malé at 02.15 pm and of course appreciating the views as I land the heavens literally open!
A bit of rest at the lounge and a sea plane ride north of Male International Airport later, I reach an untouched sanctuary and tropical retreat that is huddled in the unobstructed Noonu Atoll. As always, there is a welcome team which is very efficient. I am handed a refreshing glass of some citric mock tail and taken to a golf cart which takes me to my room. 
My over water villa has a private plunge pool…. I am in heaven already! It’s a good idea to have your experience tailor made. I have clubbed my visit with a photo shoot….a magazine is doing a story and needs a pleasantly plump lady to model and write about her experience… I am glad they have selected me.
As I set my feet upon the powder-white beaches and explore the resort, I discover, there’s so much to do here from Unwinding at the Sun Spa by Esthederm, refocusing your energy with yoga to exploring colourful marine life or simply Savouring wonderful cuisine at the three restaurants and marvelling at stunning vistas of the Indian Ocean. Parents can rejoice for they also have a Little Birds Club for the kiddos to enjoy. I spend my days trying not to burn myself on the beach, writing my pending articles, catching up on my reading, drinking lots of coconut water and eating well, retiring for a movie. Life on the island is easy. In the resort bubble, I didn’t have to stress about getting around, meals, or what to do. The staff is super friendly, they knew how to make a good drink, and there is always food around.
Meals in the package are buffet style at Onu Marché unless you pay extra for the romantic seafood restaurant Bodumas on stilts or enjoy an interesting selection of grills from the a la carte menu at latitude 5.5 like I did.  For a selection of decadent delights, I try not missing the Mövenpick Chocolate Hour – offered complimentary, every day. All In all, Mövenpick Kuredhivaru is a place for dreamers… The 5-star boutique resort amazes with outstanding villas, enclosed by lush nature, turquoise coves and infinite horizons. Only 72 overwater pool villas and 30 beach suites can be found on the entire island, which guarantees solitude and silence. The villas are large and comfortable, and is like enjoying having a big house with all luxury amenities to yourself. Being able to watch the stars from your private pool is simply priceless.  

The airline added 2 new aircraft to its growing fleet within a single day. An Airbus A320neo was brought in from Hamburg in Germany and another A320neo aircraft arrived from Toulouse in France. This makes it a rare twin delivery in the history of Indian aviation and has helped GoAir double its fleet in less than 2 years.
*  GoAir is part of the 283 year old $ 5.5 billion Wadia group
* GoAir flies to 8 international destinations, including Phuket, Malé, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bangkok, Kuwait and Singapore.
*  GoAir has set a record by being the only airline in India to achieve On-Time-Performance leadership for 13 months in a row.
* GoAir took the delivery of 54th aircraft on the eve of its 14th Anniversary.
*  GoAir has placed a firm order of 164 aircraft and it will add one aircraft every month on an average in the foreseeable future.
*  GoAir has flown 77 million passengers since its inception in 2005; aims to touch the 100 million passenger mark in the next two years.
Flight tickets can be booked through the official Go Air website, or through the Go Air mobile app. 
Mövenpick Resort Kuredhivaru Maldives

Where? Kuredhivaru Island, Maldives, 20026-  Noonu Atoll, Maldives 

first published in Hospitality,Food & Wine Magazine by Rupali Dean