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