Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Most restaurants offer culinary treasures and fine delicacies from Japan, suddenly seems to be the city’s staple, cooked in both contemporary and traditional styles…thanks to these wonderful Knives!!

Renowned for its elegant presentation, Japanese cuisine elevates the enjoyment level on the table and raises the appreciation from those who eat it. The Japanese are known for making some of the world's best knives and not just the Samurai sword. Their cuisine relies heavily on intricate knife skills from cuts of sashimi, to the artistic fruit and vegetable carving. A willing hand, a creative mind to work the knife is all it takes to get that whimsical charm to your food. Interestingly not all Japanese knives are the same however the central core of any good Japanese knife is hard steel that is both tough and easily able to be sharpened to a keen edge. These knives are supposed to glide right through food as one is slicing it. On a traditional vein these knives are of two kinds based on the forging methods. ‘Honyaki’ are made from true forged high carbon steel. ‘Kasumi’ are made through forging high carbon steel and soft iron together.

As a matter of fact, most sushi chefs love single bevel knives (Yanagi Ba) owing to have to sharpen their knives daily. With a single bevel knife, they can easily achieve the same razor-sharp edge day after day. “It was originally believed that a blade angled only on one side cuts better and makes cleaner cuts, though requiring more skill in its use than a blade with a double-bevelled edge. Usually, the right hand side of the blade is angled, as most people use the knife with their right hand, with ratios ranging from 70–30 for the average chef’s knife, to 90–10 for professional sushi chef knives; left-handed models are rare and must be specially ordered and custom made”, shares Keisuke Uno, Japanese Master Chef at The Claridges, Surajkund. “We use Santoku style knives here. As a chef, I feel, they are an edge better than the regular AP French knives. This blade design allows a more acute angle on the cutting edge that makes the knife ideal for precision cutting and thin slicing. The Deba knives (cleavers) are also often used in our kitchen and its angular look makes it easier to use”, adds Chef Nimish Bhatia, The Lalit New Delhi. Proud owner of a Japanese hand- made high carbon steel knife Chef Sabyasachi Gorai says, “Some Chefs prefer Kyocera ceramic knives as they are made of an advanced, high-tech ceramic called zirconia, which is second in hardness only to diamond. The best part about these ceramic knives is that they don’t bend, corrode or require constant re-sharpening, and are easy to maintain, apart from being extremely light and good looking”. Chef Bakshish Dean, corporate chef liteBite food shares “I love my Sakai Takayuki, 17 layers Damascus knife which my wife gifted me on my birthday, this gorgeous black topped knife is hand made and the steel is incredibly rich in Carbon and Tungsten. This blade can take and hold a scary sharp edge even through heavy use. Yet it is easy to re sharpen and has a good rust resistance for a high carbon knife”.

A good knife should be foraged from high-quality, high carbon, no stain steel and never be made of stainless steel, should be nicely balanced with a good heft to it and always be stored in the cover it came with, or on a wall mounted magnetic strip.
Chef’s knife- With a 6 to 12 inch blade and 1-1/2 inches deep to the widest point. This All-purpose knife is great for chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing.
Paring knife- Owing to its size i.e. 3-4 inches long and about ¾ inches deep it feels like a part of your hand and is brilliant for peeling , coring, trimming etc.
Serrated Bread knife- 9 inch is long enough and makes perfect for cutting soft produce apart from just crusty breads and cakes.

Published in HT City.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013



If upscale chic shopping is your style there are a number of exclusive shops available in Madrid, and if you would rather go organic shopping the flea markets and a number of quaint antique shops are worth a dekho! Those on a shopping vacation will be absolutely amazed with the abundance of bargains the city offers! That said, as one of the fashion hubs of the world, it is no surprise that Madrid is obviously known for its excellent shopping!

The buzzing Gran Via which runs from the Calle de Alcala to the Plaza De Espana is a Mecca for the local and tourists alike. It’s the Spanish Capital’s answer to Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and Broadway all rolled in to one! A great idea is to start from Puerta Del Sol Plaza which is one of the main centers of Madrid, with its streets splintering out to other famous landmarks and is full of shops and cafes. Spend time walking the busy alleys and streets that sprout from the plaza. Through this amazing street you will also come across the city’s most acclaimed commercial center, El Corte Ingles which is heavily equipped with a variety of clothing lines, shoes, cosmetics and even electronic gadgets. For a quirky surprise do drop by at the H & M store. After all, it’s not every day that mannequins pose in the glare of footlights and you find the changing rooms in the galleries of a former theatre. Also check out Zara a celebrated Galician store famous for turning round catwalk designs at lightning speed and selling them at amazing deals. The flow of new designs is dazzling, so if you like something, just grab it as it is not likely to be repeated. Move on to Calle Mayor and follow the signs to Plaza Mayor a beautiful square completely surrounded by old Spanish architecture. In the past, it was the center of festivities, bullfights, royal coronations and executions. Now, it is still a place for festivities, and the perfect place to watch street performers and tourists over a café con leche. All in all, Gran Via is  where you can buy the best pair of designer coats, see the latest theater productions, take part in a gay parade, or just delight in the sweet urban clamor. In other words, this area oozes the essence of modern Madrid, serves as a favorite meeting point, and a splendid example of a place where you’d like to spend your day and evening!

Located between the La Latina and Tirso de Molina, El Rastro is the largest outdoor market in Europe, though opens from 8am to 3pm on a Sunday. In the 17th and 18th century it used to be a huge meat market which is how it got its name. El Rastro means blood stain and refer to the blood stains of the animals sold there…don’t worry none of that happens now. The flea market houses a maximum of three thousand five hundred stalls and is recommended to arrive early in order to take advantage of the many deals and stalls. The main street is full of clothing, souvenirs, jewellery, music, etc but it is in the side lanes where you would discover good bargains on handicrafts and antiques. It is easily accessible by train and bus and agreeably that even if the intention is to just window shop, it is unlikely for anyone to leave the place empty handed. The one phrase that you need to learn and will constantly use is Cuanto Cuesta? (How much is it?)

Most shops on Calle Serrano run parallel to Paseo de Castellana, as well as Calle Goya and are famed for where Madrid’s rich and famous buy their frivolities. From simple boutiques to the most incredibly classy stores, Calle Serrano has it all. Combining glamour with style and elegance, the place practically dignifies an entire world of high fashion. If you have the money and you don’t mind spending, this area is for you. From Gucci to the spectacular Armani collection, this street features the extreme definition of haute couture. Spanish designer labels include David Delfín, Amaya Arzuaga, Pedro Del Hierro and Adolfo Dominguez. With its hideously expensive yet totally gorgeous leather clothes and accessories, Loewe, Spain’s answer to leather is one store sure to attract.

This street is located in the Chueca neighborhood. The narrow street has lots of designer shoe shops at great prices. Interestingly Spain was one of the first shoe manufacturers, and this street proves it. In addition, La Calle Fuencarral, which is nearby, will offer you the coolest and most trendy shops in Madrid including Custo and El Mercado de Fuencarral.

So have fun shopping, a word of advice though, is to be alert at metros and touristy places though Madrid is a generally safe city with low crime rate, however tourists can be easy targets to pick pocketing.

  • Posh Madrid girls are known as pijas!
  • Rebajas means sales
  • Shopping in stilettos is de rigueur alias fashion.

Best Way to Reach- Fly Jet Airways for the shortest connection time Via Milan or Brussels. A round trip economy class ticket would cost around 44,000.
Visa & Currency- Indians require a Schengen Visa to enter Madrid. Currency used is the Euro. 1 Euro equals 65 INR.
Best way to move around in Madrid- Take a bus or a metro to reach these shopping areas. It costs only 1 Euro (65 INR) to travel to any point.
Best Place to Stay close to all the shopping areas- Located on the imposing Paseo de La Castellana, Madrid’s main boulevard is Hotel Hesperia, Paseo de la Castellana 57, 28046 Madrid – Spain. Tel.: +34 91 210 88 00. Fax: +34 91 210 88 99
Best Way to Move around in Spain- Eurail is the fastest and most cost effective way to discover the Spanish country.

El Corte Ingles -The most famous chain store in Spain, and easy to be find all over Madrid.
Preto & Branko- A unique store at the Plaza Mayor offering Clothes, shoes, gifts watches, jewellery etc only in black and white.
Sfera - Sells casual and formal clothing and accessories for both men and women. The shop in Gran via is a great option.
Bershka- It is a part of the Spanish group called Inditex, and also includes Zara. It is for the young and hip generation and is all over Madrid.
Caligae- The brands on offer include Farrutx and The Saddler.

Published in Jet Lite

Saturday, January 19, 2013


This culture rich and affordable luxury destination has long been a favourite with the Europeans, Americans and Australians and now with direct Philippine Airlines flights from Delhi the number of Indian tourists is on the rise. My stay in The Philippines merged into a blur of long, relaxing and fun filled days. I immediately adjusted to the Island lifestyle and exotic pleasures- getting a massage done by the beachside, shopping away or trying my luck at the casino after a meal at a fine ding restaurant. During my weeks stay each of the three must visit places provided a different experience and I not only made wonderful friends from across the world that I will keep for life, but memories that will also last a life time.

I didn’t get to do much sightseeing, but I did get to do some shopping, one of my favourite past-times, with the biggest mall in South East Asia and more… I was sold! The mall of Asia is located by the bay, has a nice boulevard for a stroll, lined with restaurants, entertainments from performing bands, and also carts selling hot snacks and cold drinks. The Green Hills Shopping Centre is a huge complex, houses numerous name brand stores, a supermarket, local vendors and best of all a market which sells every name brand knock off under the sun! Great quality products which you couldn’t even tell were knock-offs at all! Dinner at “Crisostomo” was a mouth-watering taste sensation of arguably the finest Filipino food I could find in the Philippines in Resorts world before we hit the nightlife. Truly, if you want to party then make sure you have a night or two in Manila. I would highly recommend RepubliQ, a Vegas style club and a damn fine one at that and this is where Manila’s finest go for a night out on the town. The club is quite large with a handful of bars craft fully situated all over so no matter where you are there’s a bar conveniently nearby. As for the drinks, I suppose they are a little bit more costly than some places but then again, you are at a club full of beautiful decor, stunning ambience, and of course beautiful people.

Best Way to Reach- Fly Philippine Airlines from Delhi to Manila
Best Place to stay: An inviting beacon set in the world-class casino entertainment complex of Resorts World Manila, Marriott Hotel Manila is the place to work and play.
For Reservations: No. 10 Newport Boulevard, Newport City Complex, Pasay City · Phone: 63-2-9889999. Web:

A popular tourist destinations and one of the oldest cities of the Philippines, this lively and colourful metropolis is regarded as the number one dynamic metro area in this South-East Asian nation and has a lot of historical and cultural landmarks. I found it to be steeped in history and would say that it boasts a tantalizing mix of cosmopolitan and historical appearance; a great and lively hub with a charismatic atmosphere and plenty to see and to do. Enroute to the hotel from the airport we stopped by at a monument on Macatan Island where the tribal chief Lapu Lapu killed Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The monument and surrounding park incorporated history and spectacular gardens, ringed by souvenir vendors.  Next on the list was the “Magellan's Cross” a symbol of Cebu and the image of the pavilion that houses the cross can be found in the city’s seal. I also dropped by at The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House (oldest residential house) , just a few steps away from the Parian Monument which is also known as Heritage of Cebu Monument and a few meters away from Colon street. Originally owned by a Chinese merchant named Don Juan Yap and his wife, Dona Maria Florido, today it belongs to Dona Maria’s great great grandson, Val Sandiego. Val himself is known at present times as an art collector, renowned choreographer and heritage icon which were evident when I took the house tour. However if you are not a history buff, no worries, Cebu is also a booming, hectic city and a place with many stories and faces. The city has captivating resorts and beaches; it is a haven for convenient and luxurious shopping malls, retail shops, restaurants, café’s too!

Best Way to Reach- Fly Philippine Airlines from Manila to Cebu.
Best Place to stay: Radisson Blu is ideally located on Serging Osmena Boulevard and the corner of Juan Luna Avenue in Cebu City.
For Reservations: North Reclamation Area, Juan Luna Avenue Extension. Phone: 032 402 9900. Web:

A typical Filipino beach day is vastly different from what I am used to! Shops don’t open until 10 am and its people are laid back, unperturbed by the outside frantic western world and more interested in lying on the beach and convincing you to buy souvenirs. I could see tourist attractions in every corner and I did it all …from banana boat to parasailing, beauty treatments, zipping, quad biking and glass water boats and canoes- the list goes on forever. On my last day before heading for an afternoon snorkel, I booked myself for a Filipino spa at the resort. The reef ran the full length of the Island and was only twenty feet from the beach edge. The water was remarkably clear and the underwater fauna and flora before my mask was a kaleidoscope of stunning colours. I swam over hardly touched healthy young corals, discovered many fishes lurking in the shadows and also had an encounter with a curious young turtle. That evening after my four hand harmony massage which was an amazing combination of different strokes, I dressed in a local Sarong and walked along the beach to an Asian speciality restaurant for my dinner.

This island escape was by far the best holidays I have had which I also owe to it being so affordably luxurious. I highly recommend a visit to this tropical paradise.

Best Way to Reach- From Manila you can take a flight to either Caticlan or go through Kalibo city. Next will be a minivan ride to the ferry terminal to finally head up to your resort.
Best Place To stay: Boracay Regency Beach Resort for its amazing location and Excellent Spa. A luxurious Superior room with Breakfast will cost you INR 6,500.
For Reservations: Web-

 published in M 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


102 Lakeshore Ave, Ward’s Island, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Reservations: 416-203-2152
Cuisine: Global
Cost: Canadian dollars 100(approx.) for two with alcohol.
Reservations Recommended
Wheel chair access: No

The location is charming in itself, sitting comfortably on an Island, with the only access by a ferry. It gorgeously stands among greenery in a nineteenth century rectory converted into a chic café and patio. Thankfully I had a reservation, as it is difficult to find a place in the patio under the pine trees overlooking the Lake more so on a warm sunny afternoon. It is like being as near as you can get to a tropical paradise, balmy breezes at the patio make for a perfect setting. With an endless expanse of blue sky within reach, the restaurant takes its external tropical landscaping and warm interiors to the next level. The design seems to be inspired by the collision of rustic simplicity and glamour. Needless to add for people around being here seemed reason enough; soaking in the grandeur of an elegant era while enjoying a selection of viands below reproach.
Really intoxicating food! The menu touches on several cuisines including Turkish, Italian, Greek, Spanish and even Japanese. Moroccan chickpeas are delightful and paella though not quite a complex as that in Valencia is nonetheless very good eating with lots of seafood, meat and vegetables in grainy rice. Other specialities include the Ontario Chipotle Bison Burger and pulled pork Panini. Good cheeseboard and tantalising desserts ranging from luscious fruits to tiramisu and New York style cheesecake. Most unpretentious, Rectory café has for long been a favourite for those who want good, wholesome food. The restaurant attracts a discerning crowd from all walks of life.

Published in India Today Travel Plus

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


There is much to see and do in Kenya. It is accessible to all—be it the free and adventurous, the leisure travellers, the silver-haired groups or the families. This culture rich and affordable destination has long been a favourite with the Europeans, Americans and Australians and now with Direct Air Arabia Airlines flights from Delhi and Mumbai ( a round trip fare to Kenya is between INR 20,000 to 25,000 only )the number of Indian tourists is on the rise. During my weeks stay each of the three must visit places provided a different experience and I not only made wonderful friends from across the world that I will keep for life, but memories that will also last a life time.

We did four game drives in total and having very little vegetation made it easier to spot animals. The star attraction here is the elephants. Everywhere we looked they could be seen, either solitary loners or massive herds scattered across the landscape. In addition to elephants, we saw hippos, buffalo, giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, zebras, hyenas, and an amazing variety of bird life. On one of our game drives, we stopped by the huge swamp, anxiously scanning the breath of it, looking for all types of animals. This swamp is always full of fresh water and plant life due to the melting of the snow from the mountain. We had the opportunity to view elephants, Cape buffalos, and hippos, all chomping away, sometimes almost completely submerged as they filled their bellies with the lush green growth. On our last evening we enjoyed sun downer drinks atop Observation Hill with views of Mt Kilimanjaro….Bliss!
Best Way to Reach- Take a chartered flight from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.
Best place to Stay- OlTukai lodge, an Eco-rated lodge with a unique collection of African art.
Reservations-Tel: 254-0456-22275 /Fax: 254-0456-22280

Just off the northern Kenyan coast, 40 miles from Somalia, is a little stretch of car-free paradise, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only two cars exist on the island, one for the hospital and the other for the police station, hence the herd of donkeys and narrow motor boats. Am not sure though that Lamu is not touristy - the number of smart hotels and restaurants on the sea front prove that it is but it’s managed to keep its charm and hasn’t yet lost its soul. Narrow winding alleys, exquisitely carved wooden doors lining coral pathways and the bustling Arabs, each sparkling in the fierce village lighting. The town is mesmerizing with scents of humanity harvesting, preparing and cooking spicy Swahili dishes. Mix the aromas with various loads of donkey dung, raw prawns and red snapper, into the perfume and voila—a rustic seaport ripe with tradition.
Best Way to Reach - From the mainland you have to jump in a ferry or a speedboat to get to the island itself.
Best place to Stay- With awe-inspiring seafront views over the Ras Kitau bay and Shela village, one can relax at “The Majlis” in the lap of Lamu Island’s unaffected charm.
Reservations- Deepa or Claire, Warwick Centre, Gigiri, Nairobi. Tel: +254 (0) 712 3300/1/2. Mobile: +254 (0) 773 777 066. Fax: +254 (0) 20 712 3303.

The next part of our travels took us across the border and north to the small town of Watamu on the Kenyan coast. Set in an idyllic location, the town has an upbeat but relaxed feel to it. It has got one main street and the beach and that’s about it. However, tourism thrives here there thanks to the Italians, who dominate the local area; especially the next main town which is much larger called Malindi. Watamu maintains the small town feel but has some of the luxuries like red wine and traditional wood fired pizza! And while the vendors and waiters assume that everyone is Italian, it is very much a soft sell and they are happy enough to take no for an answer, which is always good. While in Watamu we even got out for a dive on the local marine park and it was like diving in a tropical aquarium, with lots of tropical fish and pretty corals. It also helped diving in 28 degree water with huge visibility.
Best Way to Reach- It is an hour’s drive away from Malindi airport.
Best Place To stay- “Garoda” is a unique resort overlooking the stunning beach of Watamu Marine Park, 2o miles south of Malindi.
Reservations - Tel: + 254 (0) 20 2437871/Mobile: 0721242711 (Safaricom)

published in The Man

Monday, January 14, 2013


What can be a better way to experience Japan than a dedicated culinary tour to savour its tapestry of tastes, colours and smells? My food trail leads you into Japan’s popular streets to relish the Land of the Rising Sun’s delicacies and good news is that eating out in the country is not expensive at all!!!

Sample this, a combination of noodles, cabbage, Japanese mayonnaise, meat and seafood of your choice, cheese, udon or soba noodles and eggs all grilled into a pizza size pancake of perfection - then topped with the decadence known as Okonomiyaki sauce! While the noodles are warming on the grill, the chef creates a thin circle of batter, which looks very similar to our humble ‘Dosa’ and then places the ingredients you chose on top of it. He scrambles an egg and places it on a circle as well on the griddle. The noodles and the egg are then placed on top of the ‘Dosa’. With their spatulas, the chefs dramatically and carefully flip over the okonomiyaki to cook it through and the result is a tight, perfectly-shaped, consistent circle….decadent to the core!
INTERESTING FACT- Also known as Hiroshima’s ‘soul food’ okonomiyaki seems to have evolved from a pre-war children’s snack called issen-youshoku, which consisted of a folded crepe topped with onions and Worchester sauce.

While shopping in Osaka’s market I had this craving to eat some snack. Ramen was easily available but it would stuff me up I knew. Then I noticed these Takoyaki (octopus treats) stalls all over the place and seemed to be Osaka’s quintessential street food which has been popular in Osaka and the surrounding Kansai area since the early 1930’s. Basically round octopus fritters – crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and anchored by the firm bite of octopus. It took a couple years for them to settle on what exactly to put inside the gooey dough, with using beef and egg before they eventually hit upon the idea of octopus. Toppings can vary from seaweed; bonito fish flakes, Okonomi-yaki sauce and mayonnaise! It takes great agility and a steady hand to twist the dumplings with chopsticks while they cook on a special pan. I ordered half-dozen, which costed me about INR300 for that quantity and yes…it did satiate my palate.
INTERESTING FACT- There is a museum dedicated to Takoyaki in Osaka, located in the Universal Studios City Walk shops and restaurants centre on the 4th floor.

Kyoto’s streets spew historical elements and culture. There are a lot of souvenir shops, some of them with the cutest goods. It’s like going back in time. People always say if you like Japanese culture then Kyoto is a place you must visit and a visit to Kyoto is incomplete without a tofu meal. Fresh tofu in Japan is far better than it is anywhere else, and Kyoto is deemed the place in the country to eat quality tofu. This is perhaps attributed to the skill, refined court and temple-influenced culture and the quality of the local water. Whatever the reason, to most Japanese people Kyoto means tofu! One can experience soy’s platonic ideal, at any one of a handful of Kyoto’s excellent tofu restaurants. Serving fresh tofu in a variety of forms—creamy as pudding, light and airy, dense and chewy—The yudofu set meal, which changes slightly with the seasons, includes a pot of tofu boiled at your table, fried tofu on a stick, vegetable tempura, yam soup, and pickled vegetables. I would highly recommend it all.
INTERESTING FACT-Authentic, handcrafted tofu relies on high-quality soy beans, good water in which to soak and boil them, and of course the expertise of the tofu maker.

Located at Motomachi Chukagai station, it was a forty-minute ride by express train from central Tokyo. What separates Yokohama from other Japanese cities is Chinatown, the largest Chinese neighbourhood not only in Japan but the world too, and attracts over 18 million visitors per year, and is also the biggest tourist draw in town. For a foodie like me the best reason to stop in Chinatown is the food. Popular favourites include steamed pork buns, sweet chestnut, ramen noodles and a wide array of other Chinese dishes. As I strolled along I discovered authentic Chinese ingredients, like fried shallots, fiery-hot chili paste, and dried scallops and the steamed pork bun stalls were at almost every corner and looked fat and succulent. At the small by lanes, one can spot lively shops promising delicious dishes with the aroma of garlic and oyster sauce wafting out. I went in for an all-you-can-eat dim sum spread which was delicious. The only Japanese elements here were the spinach dumplings. They used sticky mochi as the skin but it tasted awesome.
INTERESTING FACT -The district has over 160 restaurants serving every regional style of Chinese food imaginable, a fact that led Fodor’s to label it “the best place for lunch in Yokohama”.

For a local night out in Tokyo an Izakaya, a traditional type of Japanese bar something on the lines of a tapas bar makes a great choice. Literally translates into ‘a place where there is Sake’.  I found many Izakaya in Tokyo ranging from a stand up bar with room for around 15 people, to a huge brightly lit place seating a 100 people. Some specialize in a particular type of food such as yakitori or tofu while others have a varied menu for one to choose from. Metro stations make an excellent hunting ground for these fast food lively, tasty and pocket-friendly Izakaya. My friend and I ordered some beer, along with some gyoza, fried small fish, Edamame, sushi and barbecued pork belly. This is a perfect place to go with a big group so one can try lots of different things.
INTERESTING FACT- The history of izakaya started when sake shops opened their shops for drinking to customers. Today it serves foods to accompany the drinks.
published in fnl

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lohri – The Bonfire festival

Northern January is immensely cold, there’s fog and everything seems rather at a standstill but one thing brilliant about nature is that the fields look promising and is a good enough reason to celebrate as it is also the resting period before the cutting of crops. It is also customary to celebrate this festival with pomp and joy for newly weds; houses blessed with a newborn baby or infact any happy event in the family. For agriculturists it is also the beginning of a new financial year. It sure is enticing to find an apparent wave of activity going on amongst People for Lohri celebrations- the long-awaited bonfire festival, which is celebrated on the 13th of January every year. Interestingly at the same time “Pongal” is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, “Bihu” in Assam, “Bhogi” in Andhra Pradesh “Sankranti” in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and “Utraan” in Gujrat.

 “ De Mai Lodi, Jeeve teri Jodi”, “ Sundar munderiya ho. tera kaun vichara ho. Dulha bhatti waal aho…”etc can be heard in the morning on Lohri day as it’s a ritual for children to demand “Lohri” from elders in the form of money, sweets, peanuts, Gajak, Sesame seed Rewadi, popcorn, jaggery etc. Interestingly “ Dulha Bhatti Waala” was the Punjabi Robin Hood and that is the reason children sing his praises as a custom on Lohri as he was also known to have saved the life of a girl and giving her in marriage as his own sister”. The main event in the evening is making of a huge bonfire, which is symbolic of the homage to the Sun God for bringing in warmth around which people sing and dance and throw puffed rice, Lohri related sweets etc in the fire that sanctifies one’s endeavor for a good life on the one hand and destroys evil spirits on the other.

The celebrations generate a lot of bonhomie as family and friends sit around the bonfire, singing, dancing and praying for prosperity, while making offerings of peanuts, jaggery, popcorn, beaten rice and Sesame seed gajak to the rising flames.

Friday, January 11, 2013




Landing at Tokyo’s Narita airport, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I breezed through customs and how I found my luggage already waiting for me. This was my first but certainly not the last taste of Japanese efficiency.

My first two days were spent in Yokohama and obviously the first stop had to be the famed Sankeien Gardens which was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, spectacular and stunning with an enormous koi pond, a few old structures scattered here and there, and an awe-inspiring bamboo grove. I followed a trail that lead up to a large hill with a lot of steps and ended up at a gorgeous three story pagoda, but it is well worth it, as is the observatory overlooking the sea at the highest point in the garden. I can just imagine how incredible it must be later in the spring or during the summer. I also wondered how crowded it might get during those times.

The Chinese started settling in Yokohama in the mid 1800’s when Japan opened its doors to international trade. Since then Yokohama’s Chinatown has blossomed into Japan’s largest Chinese community. The area houses a major street with dozens of cross streets and alleys, and is home to many restaurants, serving Cantonese cuisine and there are many street side snacks too. The Japanese consider it impolite to walk and eat at the same time, fortunately that rule does not extend to Yokohama’s Chinatown. So I grabbed a portion of ‘sheng jian bao’, which seemed to be a hot seller and I had to literally stand in a queue for about 15 minutes to get it. This juicy, dumpling whose underside is browned on a griddle is absolutely delightful and one has to be careful while biting into the crust as it causes an eruption of liquid which may fall on your clothes and not on the tray. Strolling along I checked out the other colourful and exotic shops overflowing with Chinese goods, books, souvenirs and even Chinese medicines.

I recollect many instances when cup noodles saved me from instant hunger when I was in the hostel and ran out of money or after working till late when there weren’t any options left to eat out! A museum dedicated to Cup Noodles? I simply had to go! I entered a hall called Instant Noodles History Cube that exhibited all the cup noodles sold in the world market from the very beginning up to present. For those who do not know the first cup noodles was invented by Momofuku Ando in 1958.  Up on the second to top floor was a street like display with little window shops with all kinds of noodle vendors. The creator must have surely travelled the world trying different kinds of noodles for such amazing ideas! The exhibits were interesting as well as educative. Finally I went to the Cup Noodles factory to make my own instant cup noodles. I took a cup from the vending machine and sanitized my hands. I designed my cup and personalized it with colourful markers. After choosing the flavour and seasonings, I sealed the noodles. It was really good fun! The room next door, which is a little more expensive one, can actually make ramen noodles from scratch!

The sheer size is overwhelming. As I looked at the subway map, I thought I would spend hours getting lost around the city. I walked around Shinjuku station, the biggest metro station in the world, only to realise Tokyo is big. When I finally exited the subway I stood awe -struck. The view of Shinjuku at night is one of the most captivating and stunning urban experiences in the world. Tokyo is absolutely high on the fashion quotient, as I witnessed passer-by’s dressed in the latest fashion crossing the busiest crossroad in the world. There were sky-high glass buildings all around and Neon lights as far as my eye could see. All in all, Shinjuku makes even New York and London look rural. Tokyo is futuristic!

Truly cultural emissaries from the land of the rising sun continue to capture the global imagination which I understood once as I was at the Kabukiza theatre in Ginza. With the English language headphone translation it was easy and fun to watch the show. The heavily made up faces of its actors and the musical instruments, including the shamisen, accompanied the performance. I loved the atmosphere created by sounds and images. The stage revolved and was set with trapdoors from which actors appeared on and left the stage. The story was quite like a Hindi film and I just didn’t how the three long hours passed away! Highly recommend this for those visiting Tokyo!

Tokyo’s fast food Izakaya’s are buzzy, yummy and pocket friendly! Basically they are bars that serve food and follow a formula of an open counter where the chefs’ work, a selection of sake, cocktails, wine, beer etc. and menus that include sharing dishes of Sushi, yakitori, Edamame, spring rolls, tempuras and other small eats! I visited one with a Japanese friend of mine and she took me to the best kind of neighbourhood place, and trust me if this neighbourhood wasn’t a long flight away, I’d probably be there every evening!
My very dear friend Ayako...we went together to cooking school in paris

People here are exceedingly friendly and the hospitality is better than any other place I have ever seen (considering I travel one International destination every month) yet people are not tipped and do not expect either! So after drinking a lot of green tea, eating Sushi galore and shopping at all the possible malls and Uni Qlo for jackets (I left my last day just for that), my trip came to an end which I would say had been rather amazing and one I would definitely repeat again! At times it was challenging due to the cultural differences. But that is exactly why I travel, I love the differences of the cultures and the similarities that bring us closer together as human beings. My first trip to Japan had been rather fruitful!

published in TLF

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


The Lowdown –One can choose from a selection of a pre-set menu from the International or North- Indian section. The uniqueness comes with the fact that all the menu items are served to your table in a pre-decided sequential chronological order. The open kitchen includes interactive grill stations, and is a focal point of the restaurant.

Ambience- Inspired by the elements, this restaurant is a landscape which has been carefully coaxed into a Fine dining. To add to the table experience one can dine by a sparkling pool of water at the private dining tables or by the Hotel’s edge in the fine dine area under the shimmering and calming sky. 

Lip-smacking- ‘Peri Peri chicken’, ‘fresh catch of the day grilled to perfection’, ‘chimichurri Tenderloin steak’, ‘Mushroom Risotto’,  ‘Lakhnavi Murg Biryani’, ‘Paneer Naintara’, ‘Lasooni kheer’, ‘Litchi Baked yoghurt’.
Don't even go there – if you are looking for some interesting South-Indian grills, which could be such a crowd puller.
'Man’ Speak – Dining here is special-the impeccable service, the sense of culinary comfort in knowing you won’t get surprises-just first rate food with no nouveau frills.
How to get there –Vivanta by Taj – Surya, Coimbatore, 105, Race Course Road
Coimbatore- 641018. Nestled in the heart of the city on Race Course road, a landmark which everyone in the city is aware of.
Tel-91 422 668 1000
Timings- Open only for dinner 7:30 Pm to 11pm.
Cost – A meal for two would cost around 3,000 INR without Alcohol.

published in The Man

Monday, January 7, 2013


The name Kolkata invokes the image of a city which is rich in culture and tradition. Of the many things I saw while growing up, I had a special fondness for my mother’s beautiful ‘Victoria’ curio. Its intricate design and soothing colors fascinated me and every time I touched it, I was asked to be careful and one day the inevitable happened, the curio broke and I got a spanking of a lifetime. Recently when I visited Kolkata after a long gap, I decided to first check out the beautiful Victoria memorial again and ride on the ‘Victoria’ and lots more.

I made my first stop here at the “Victoria Memorial Hall” (1921) and I thought it was a strange blend of Taj Mahal at Agra and St.Paul’s cathedral in London. I enjoyed strolling in the manicured gardens and browsing though the museum –which included a treasure trove of paintings, armor, swords, guns and other memorabilia of the time. Truly it stands majestically in its symmetrical construction of white marble. It’s open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed on Mondays and gazetted holidays.
Also Visit: The nearby ‘Birla Planetarium’ –the first of its kind and also the largest in South East Asia. The landmark is a building with a shallow dome and a digital clock. 

Drove over the Vidyasagar Setu Bridge on the river Hooghly; it was good fun more so because it was raining  so we drove back and forth admiring this technological marvel. The Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) is visible from this one and it is also a miracle of engineering skill, a huge cantilever bridge supported by two piers 270 ft height from the road level. On the way crossed the National Library, built in Italian renaissance style; interestingly the Belvedere was official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The national Library is now housed here and is open from 8 am to 8pm. Also stopped by at the Zoological gardens, the Alipore Zoo opened to the public in 1876 by Edward VII, has one of the finest collections of birds, animals and reptiles. The Aquarium in front of the zoo contains sea-fish of rare varieties. Open from 8 am to 5pm on all days except Thursdays.

Between touristing had to stop by at Flury’s as like any other person settled in other cities and on other continents come back for a taste of Flurys whenever they are passing through. Such is the level of nostalgia and attachment that this old – world tea room, the only one of its kind in the city, invokes. In fact Flury’s is a name synonymous since time immemorial with popular Swiss confectionery and mouthwatering goodies is a prime example of the same. Situated at 18, Park Street was founded in the year 1927 by Mr and Mrs. J Flury. Within no time, it gained immense popularity to become the favorite tea – room of the prosperous Britisher and the affluent Indian alike. This was largely due to its exotic cakes, creamy pastries, rich puddings and perhaps the best Swiss chocolates outside the European continent, and in no small measure to the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere that it provided. With the passage of time, it became a part of the culture of Kolkata and no morning walker’s daily routine was complete without a visit to this legendary eatery.  As it stands today, is an institution in the city and evokes strong emotions among generations. Memories mingle with meals as members of the Flurys ‘family’ keep dropping in for decades. A place where one can slowly sip a cup of tea or eat the famous rum balls or meringues with cream and watch the world go by. Flurys offers an old world atmosphere and a glimpse of the Kolkata of another era.

GETTING THERE-All major airlines fly to Kolkata daily.
BEST TIME TO GO- the Bengali New Year, though all the year round is fine.
WHERE TO STAY- Kolkata has many hotels for all budgets. I would pick out Hotel Hindustan International and The Park as they are in the heart of the city.
SHOPPING- Do visit ‘New market’ a 140 year old bazaar that is soaked in the old world charm of colonial Kolkata. You’d find here curios, ethnic silver and accessory shops, yards of colorful fabric etc. For the fashionistas ’85 Lansdowne’ is the place. It houses works of over 24 of India’s best designers including Bengali babu ‘Sabyasachi Mukherjee’ of the ‘Rani’ fame.
FOOD FACTS- The people of Kolkata are known for their love for good cuisine and as a result a large number of eating-places in the city have also become a part of the rich heritage of the city. For street food it is definitely “Russell Street”, Pappu’s puchkas, 
Shatrughan’s Bhelpuri and Sadhu’s chana top the list. It’s hard to miss “Flury’s” while You walk past the buzzing park street. For “Bengali Mithai” try K.C Das or “Girish Chandra Dey” and “Nakur Chandra Nandy”. The locals swear by their ‘Sandesh’ (made from cottage cheese). For Chinese food ‘Tangra’ is a must visit, ‘Beijing’ is highly recommended. For an authentic Bengali meal go to “Kewpies” or “6 Ballygunge Place”. Do not leave without having “Aloor Dum”, “Loochie” and “Bhekti”.

Published in Ht city