Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Deccan Gourmet trail At the JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

If you are still eating chicken 65, please stop. It has been so many moons since its début on Deccan Delhi menus…. this prevalent is now a cliché!
At the JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity, Shri Bala and Executive Chef Sandeep Pande’s kitchen team are busy making a fragrant Kozi Ularthiyatu as part of the hotel’s Deccan Gourmet trail, on at K3 till the 7th of July.

Dissimilar to how most restaurant kitchens make this popular, heavily spiced, dish, in Shri Bala’s version, only Black pepper, curry leaves, garam masala and salt are added to the chicken. Her recipe is honest to goodness and slow fire!'I just serve what we cook at home,' Shri Bala says, conversing why her food tastes so different from most South Indian food festivals’. ‘I can cook for 500 people’ says Shri Bala excitedly, serving me out the Bisebela Bhaath.

At Matamaal
A chartered accountant and a lawyer by profession, Bala was discovered by Chef Ashish Bhasin (now Executive Chef at the Leela Ambience, Gurgaon) when she posted a challenging message on his Facebook wall which led to him actually take her trade test which she passed with flying colours and from then here has been no looking back for this Chennai based passionate home chef. We caught up with Shri Bala and Ashish Bhasin over a meal at Matamaal the next day but that is 'Another storAnother day' ( those who follow Pande on Instagram will know this line well)!

Shri Bala has also worked with Sandeep Pande before, when he was spear heading the kitchens of Weligama bay Marriott Resort and Spa in Srilanka.
Coming back to the Deccan Gourmet trail at K3; The cyclic menu includes unusual dishes, counting a velvety poppy seed kheer cooked with sugar and coconut milk, fried semolina fritters and minced mutton deep fried with select Chettinad spices, in addition to well-loved staples like fish cooked with red chilli and coconut paste, Mangalore style chicken curry and a fragrant Moplah biryani. The assortment surely enlarges diners’ gastronomic horizons. Since savours are either acquainted or easy on the palate.  

The Deccan Gourmet trail is on till July 7, 2019. For reservations, contact: +91 11 45212121

Sunday, February 3, 2019


Bahrain, the thirty three-island archipelago burrowed among Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Arabian Gulf, smoothly manages the contemporary and the medieval.
Make your way through the renowned cheerful and gorgeous Manama Souk in quest of Haji’s Cafe. This is a go to place for incredible, no frills authentic Bahraini Breakfast…. a festivity of Bahraini home cooking and culture. The Bahraini breakfast is a strong meal encompassing star dishes such as shakshuka, mihyawa, Balaleet and the staple karak tea, quite similar to our masala chai. Balaleet is distinctively Bahraini with sweetened cardamom-infused vermicelli noodles capped with a savoury omelette. With its uncommon pairing of salty with sweet, I have doubts about trying this one. Far from turning off I am a convert.
Absolutely worthy of a visit whether the Formula 1 event is on or not! Take a circuit of the remarkable track where legends from Lewis Hamilton to Jenson Button have raced and even imitate the greats by making use of the go-kart track on site. For an exhilarating off the road thrill I go for the Land Rover Experience A first of its kind, it offers 3.5 kilometres of unpredictable manmade terrains such as sand, rock, hill and water landscapes. I am a fan!
What makes The Tree of Life or Shajarat-al-Hayat unique is the secret of its survival.  Situated 10 km from Askar and about 3.5 km west from Jaww, this 32-feet tall Prosopis cineraria has been making an apparently incredible living out of dry sand for roughly 400 years. There is no ostensible source of water and other flora for miles around.
Bahrain’s largest; the mosque at first glance is humble with a fawn brick and stone facade, characteristic of Bahraini monuments. The geometrical patterns, engraved windows, spires and surah’s etched in Kufic lettering are unremarkably understated. But as I enter, I am in awe! The lavishness could be of an extravagant five star hotel lobby. The Scotland made carpet in the prayer halls, Italian marble flooring; a 3 and a half tonne Swarovski crystal chandelier from Austria suspending in the main hall; French made 952 hand blown glass lamps inside the mosque and the dome … one of the prevalent fibreglass domes in the world. My favourite part is hearing about Islam, only to realize it preaches just like any other…to be God fearing and a good human being.
The nine main halls across six sections capture over five thousand years of Bahrain’s history. What enthral me are the life size dioramas of Bahrain’s daily life, particularly on giving birth, death, wedding customs, clothing, architecture and more. I equally enjoy a cup of coffee at the Darseen café overlooking the ocean at the end of my tour.
One of the most intense bequests of the past is Bahrain’s craggy forts and Bahrain Fort well merits being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Civilisation has valued the dune for epochs and the fort’s museum digs deep into the assets that have been dug up, and linger to be dug up, all around the site. Sunset is one of the best times to take a picture of the fort.
Bahrain’s modern art scene is thriving, but so is the local artistic temperament. The Al Jasra Handicraft Centre is where local artisans congregate to make everything ranging the gamut from baskets to traditional musical instruments in trades that have been practised in the country for years.
A roughly forty minute’s boat ride from the Marina would get you to Jarada Island for an amazing Robinson Crusoe experience. The confines of civilization do not exist and the deserted island can be yours until early evening. Unload your picnic basket, go for the BBQ, be a beach bum but remember to leave in time before the island disappears….which it does every evening owing to the high tide.
Head to Emmawash for a traditional meal and enjoy scribbling on the walls. Yes this restaurant not only serves middle eastern fare and recommendation’s go all out for the beef kebab and khuboos bread, but the best part is scribbling on the walls …no fret they white wash them every year!
You may be walking through the many souks of Bahrain or through the splendid malls across the country. Manama is a buyer’s delight. Start at the Bab Al-Bahrain Souk, moving on to a thread of elegant yet unforgettable shops that line the streets behind the souk. The City Centre happens to be the largest mall in the country, packed with over 300 select brands outlets and 60 dining destinations and is also home to Carrefour. Drop by to the Dragon city for china made products arranged so orderly.
First Published in The Free Press Journal

Thursday, March 29, 2018


The ride from Franz Josef to Wanaka is most scenic and finally when I reach the town of Wanaka nestled lakeside, encircled by colossal mountain ranges and nature reserves, I fall in love with perhaps one of the most beautiful locales in New Zealand…. 

I drive into Wanaka right in time for lunch and my first stop is Bistro Gentil where in a magical setting surrounding a pretty courtyard, Chef Mario Rodrigues garners the regional produce and sublimates them through his imaginative and refined cuisine, bursting with flavours and respectful of the product. 

He conceives dishes with intelligence and intuition, subtlety and creative spirit and I get to savour the essential delights of the table. House made chicken liver pate is served with the most artistic flair without compromising on the taste, a most original dish beyond creative but still ‘organic’ as opposed to science experiments  is a highlight for me. On offer are also Maude wines, from the nearby vineyard to reduce the environmental footprint of transporting this!

Wanaka is one of the most scenic places I have encountered. The majestic craggy mountains and the beautiful lake form a magnificent backdrop to this beautiful town. Wanaka has so much to offer that it is almost surreal I love their outdoors and the fabulous food, but no holiday to Wanaka is complete without a picture of the world famous Wanaka willow tree! Wanaka is also the preliminary point to discover nearby Mt. Aspiring and the National Park. I am staying at the Edgewater Resort and pulling away myself from the scenic beauty of the lake from my balcony is bit difficult, but a walking tour with my Maori guide Joe takes me closer to the lake and the tree and the local culture.  
With Joe, I get to experience an up close and personal Hongi and Haka at the Wanaka Tree which ended with a unique Maori bone carving necklace as a souvenir of my experience.
I love lavender in its original state as it brings a sense of peace and calm and looking at beautiful lavender fields is something I truly enjoy. For an entrance fee of just about a 100 INR, I get to wander over the 10 acres lavender field and gardens. 
I see the fruit trees, alpacas and sheep. Of course, a lavender farm is inevitable to retail its products. Out here, there is a wide variety of products to choose from, including oils, lotions and the works. My favourite part is enjoying a scoop of lavender chocolate ice cream in their quaint little café. I am in love with the natural ambience, peaceful and oh so charming.
At 3030 metres high, Mount Aspiring is often called the ‘Matterhorn of the South’ I take a Southern Alps air flight over Lake Wanaka and Wanaka Township​ and am simply mesmerized by the views; Highlights include, Treble Cone ski field​, Matukituki Valley, Bonar and Voltar glaciers, Mount Aspiring​& the Southern Alps. I am back in town by the early evening to grab dinner and to get my fill of yet another sunset over the lake before heading for a movie at Ruby Cinema & Bar and calling it a day!
Best Place to Stay: Stay in one of Edgewater's studios, suites or apartment accommodations on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
Best Places to Dine: Bistro Gentil for a farm to table experience, Big Fig for slow food served fast & Francesca’s for super awesome Italian.
My story first published in Statesman

Monday, February 19, 2018


A great start to the weekend came in the form of a masterclass & a fun cook off at Coffee Tree, Cinepolis’s signature coffee shop
Friday the 16th of February was indeed a special day!  A few of us were lucky to meet and cook along with Tanmoy Saverdekar, one of the most popular chefs in Bengaluru and for sure signifies a vital reference point for aspiring chefs. He comes with a 20 year experience in the food space and is best known for his aptitude to innovate and his novel creativity, with great attention to the presentation of dishes. He’s the owner of The Winking Macaron a premier boulangere and is also a consultant chef to many aspiring restaurateurs!
I would say thanks to Cinepolis India for giving us this wonderful insight into what goes into the making of the Coffee Tree experience!
A well balanced ‘finger, fork and spoon’ menu is available for order at the well-stocked coffee shop, attached to the cinema or one can choose to order in at the seat as well, with dishes ranging from Penne Arrabiata, Grilled chicken double decker sandwich, chicken momos to brownies to a range of exciting beverages like the Strawberry frappe and Mint Mojito. The USP of the Coffee Tree lounge is that even the non-cinema goers can drop in for a sip and bite here!
In this impressive culinary master class, Chef Tanmoy astoundingly stood out as an artist with the plate as a canvas and food as a medium. His objective over this exclusive master class was to showcase some of his favourite combos from the ‘Coffee Tree’ menu. We also learnt that inspite of the many restrictions of fire safety and equipment used in a Cinema Kitchen, Cinepolis ensures freshness and taste in all items on the menu. The excited chatter of the audience built up as Chef Tanmoy talks about the 3 combos he’s going to demonstrate! 
The star of the show at the masterclass was the Chilli Cheese toast …which tastes divine with Oreo Milk shake. The Chicken Burger with cold coffee, Veg pasta with Masala lemonade was equally stellar.
Whether you are an ambitious chef or an open the packet and heat kind of a cook, there is something exhilarating about participating head-to-head in a fast and furious cook-off to determine who will create the most crowd pleasing dish in under 20 minutes! Ayesha Tabassum from Indian Express Indulge, Ravi & Akshay from EazyDiner & Deepa a food blogger competed fiercely! These winners from the Instagram competition announced in the beginning of the masterclass got luck to cook a double decker sandwich and a Mint Mojito using their creativity!
With grillers on, very quick hands chopping vegetables, the participants powered on as Chef Tanmoy engaged with each one and enlightened the audience on the his favourite foods, motivation for becoming a chef. Chef Tanmoy gave interesting tips like rubbing Mint on the palms before muddling it for extra flavour, using just the correct amount of filling for the perfect bite etc! The Culinary Cook Off also exhibited that Coffee Tree is a dining destination where fresh and choicest ingredients are vital to creating the menu!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Rhododendron & Begonia Sorbet
I bump into him at Tian a few years ago, where Chef Vikramjit Roy introduces me to him saying, ‘This guy is a genius’ and we all sit down at the alfresco area post dinner (I was staying at the Maurya so was in no hurry to rush back). He talks about the chefs he looks up to; about his growing up at a farm in Jammu where his weekends would go in spending his time in the fields. He was born in Kashmir and originally wanted to become a Commercial Pilot. He was young, and gained experience in several places including a stint at Alinea, French laundry and Le Bernardin followed by a tour of some of Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Sadhu thinks his hitting the stride may be rooted in the fact that ‘It wasn’t until my tenure under Rene Redzepi at Noma that I learnt how to cook from the region and harnessing the soil’.
A lot of Prateek’s memories are sensory. He would visit his Aunts farm every Sunday. Naturally curious and always driven, he could be found in the Farm kitchen by his 10th birthday and over the coming years spent most of his free time there, learning the basics with his Mom and Aunt.
Prateek’s step into Masque came, he says, as a result of disillusionment with cooking after he returned to his homeland as he found it hard to source ingredients in India that were as good as those in New York, and he also felt that the dishes he was putting together were simply copies of those from the restaurants he worked at his stint as the Sous Chef of Le Cirque in Bangalore.
Smoked Potatoes, Butternut Squash
A tour of India taught him about its possibilities. Sadhu learnt India being a diverse country has different terrain and topography. Soon it became an ambition, this expedition for new ingredients and flavours. When a local forager in Ladakh made him experience Sea buckthorn, Sadhu saw the runway before him. ‘For me India defines local produce, be in chocolate from Pondicherry or sea buckthorn from Ladakh. It can be any ingredient grown in that particular season. Seasonality is what we are serious about here at Masque’.
Buckwheat, Salted Caramel 
I have dined at Masque thrice and each time has been a great experience. I still remember the tomato course on their first tasting menu wherein they focus on delivering the taste of a naturally grown tomato, (which comes from their flagship farm from pune) onto the plate with few complimenting flavours.
Prateek is restless, a good sign, he does various collaboration meals at Masque in Mumbai and also travels across the world where he showcases his food. The last one in Mumbai was with Garima Arora of Gaa (I have written about it in a previous post). And this time round, Masque travels to the capital….yes in Saadi Dilli; showcasing his skill for reaching just yonder the possible: here’s this Indian guy showing us things we may have never seen before – things from India.

WHERE? Masque will host a pop up at The Lodhi in Delhi on 1 Dec, 2 Dec, where the people of Delhi can sample what really is the buzz about Masque. Where seasonal produce and regional harvests will decide the menu and not cuisines and their sub-genres. Where fine-dining is not a lifestyle, but a way of life.
Heirloom Tomato
1st December - Dinner, INR 8500+taxes
2nd Lunch & Dinner, INR 8500+taxes. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Forgotten Petal sour...must try cocktail from the many creative ones on the list
One of the most breathy and a brand new concept projects from the Massive team, this Kamla Mills freestyle bar has a freestyle take on their menu. It’s cozy and casual where you can find great cocktails and elevated fare that will generally put standard issue pub grub to shame. The menu is filled with lots of not quite so standard fare. The wall behind the long Island bar features an alluring spectacle of spirits and a wide-ranging selection of wines.
From the pondering section of the menu, the Herb crusted Scotch Eggs, with a crispy crunchy coating, a runny egg yolk and punchy flavours of Harissa, set the tone for the rest of the meal; food that is comfortable, imaginative and hearty! For starters we sample the Home Made Churros. Infused with delicate togarashi flavour, they jaunt the flawless tension between soft and springy. My favourite part of this dish is the house-made goat cheese mousse served aside these savoury churros; a hint of honey adds imperialistic flamboyance to the typically pedestrian sauce.
I instantly determine that this is where Kode earns its magnificent freestyle label. I also had the smoked chorizo Pide and Kode makes, without question, the best Pide I have ever had in the city, which is saying a lot since Pides are one of my favourite things. I personally really enjoy the fresh touch of parsley and coriander sprinkled on top.
If lobster, oscietra caviar, black truffles tickle your fancy, then the wood fired oven pizza featuring this should satisfy your cravings, the hand rolled pizza has a great flavour and the black truffles has a pleasantly subtle gamey taste to it.
Recommendations go all out for the 18 Hours Cooked Lamb Shanks, fork tender and scrumptious with add-on polenta, jus, and blue cheese truffles which give the dish panache. The Tres Leches lives up to its name. Served with a milk crisp, it has definite notes of sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. The portion was ample and it cascaded into a melting river of yumminess, adding a lovely creamy consistency when I put it in my mouth.
I love the laid back vibe of the place and the familiarity of it all and I certainly recommend checking it out. Service is just as pleasant as the tasteful interior. Friendly without being obtrusive, our server did not hesitate to suggest his favourite dishes off the menu. If you haven’t experienced freestyle resto bar before then Kode will certainly surprise you…pleasantly. Both the bar menu and the food menu promise that all manner of appetites will be satisfied. One word of warning though, it’s quite popular, so get there early, it fills up fast.
This Bloody Mary  is to die for
WHERE? Ground Floor - 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills - Entrance No 2, Lower Parel, Mumbai.
FOR RESERVATIONS: 077188 82924