Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food Review: Café Zoe, Todi Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel

The all-day diner at Lower Parel, Café Zoe, which was shut for renovation, reopened recently.  Along with my colleagues Chetna and Niyaz, I hopped in for lunch and had a gluttonous time there.

When the three month old diner shut down there were speculations and rumours about license and BMC issues. But the fact is that that we needed to overcome some teething problems and thought it’s best to shut down for a week or two”, says Tarini Mohindar, co-founder and Managing Director of Black Sheep Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

There are no visible changes in the décor except that the bar is a lot bigger and the mezzanine floor which was used as an office space earlier is open for dinner. The small reading area and comfortable couches made us instantly crib about our office cubicles. A board at the entrance also says free Wi Fi and free natural light. Now isn’t this what all the freelancers of this city want? To work peacefully without being bothered by the waiters. So the next time a coffee shop asks you to leave once you’re done with your cuppa, you know where to go. We were also told the evening are even better once the mood are lights switched on. Besides we think ‘a drink after work’ is the best way to start your Fridays.

Moving on to the food, the menu has been upgraded to suit the vegetarian palate with the addition of salads, sandwiches, and a choice of vegetarian pastas and risottos. We started our lunch session with green apple rock martini, guava spice, and melon mule. The martini was a little too sweet when it arrived but the bartender did a quick fix to bring it to my taste. Melon mule was refreshing with its ginger ale and an overpowering mint flavour but guava spice was an instant hit. The strong chilli flavour woke us up from our sleepy state. We couldn’t stop wondering how well this mocktail would taste with some Bacardi/Vodka thrown in.

For the main course we ordered 3 Way Cannelloni from the legume section, Grilled Tenderloin Steak, and Prawn Capellini. We quite loved the cannelloni which came stuffed with artichoke, mushrooms, and tomato. The tomato based sauce reminded me of something that I make at home, well almost. Our steak was, unfortunately, tough and chewy; probably we should’ve ordered it medium and not well done. The prawn was a bit dry but had a very Mangalorean taste to it which we quite liked. The food was good if not great but we wish they would’ve given more attention to the presentation.

Done with our main course we had our eyes on the desserts section next. Grinning from ear to ear we ordered a crème brulee, panacotta, and hazelnut chocolate mousse cake. Crème brulee was almost perfect except for the caramel that was a little too sticky. Panacotta had very thin consistency and we didn’t touch it beyond a spoon especially after the mousse cake arrived. Can a combination of hazelnut and chocolate ever go wrong? Think Ferrero Rocher before you answer that.

Happy with the interiors more than the food, we left reluctantly. Now, if only we had our laptops with us we would’ve sat there for endless hours with a round of cappuccinos and sandwiches in the evening.

Kharcha: 1500 + taxes (without alcohol)

On the burp scale: 3.5/5

VFM: 3.5/5

Food Review: Café By The Beach, Girgaon Chowpatty

Since the time Café By The Beach has opened I have been hearing how beautiful the décor is but the food just doesn’t match up. So when they planned to launch a new menu I was keen on checking it out. As expected, my friend and I were mesmerised by the tasteful setup and dim lighting. There are deck chairs for couples seeking privacy and more of the ocean for company. Lounge music adds to the perfect ambience. In short, it’s a place where no girl would say no if the guy decides to pop the question.

Moving on to the menu which was dominated by sandwiches, salads and wraps, now has an interesting list of starters, pastas, and main course. Since the café doesn’t have a license to cook (pun intended), food comes from their kitchen located at a close distance.

Our evening started with mocktails (too bad that they don’t serve alcohol because the setting is perfect for a glass of wine), I tried a green apple margarita which thankfully wasn’t too sweet. Along came our first starter, nachos - crispy tortillas served with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. The quantity was good enough for four people. But if you prefer quality over quantity I would say you refrain from ordering it. Next came peppered chicken crostini - thin toasted bread topped with chicken, horseradish cream, and pomegranate. The topping tasted more like the filling inside a chicken mayo sandwich but I am not complaining since the taste was familiar and likeable. We tried the bruschetta next which was a complete disappointment. It had a topping of ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes cut into half. I wish they would’ve been more creative with them or at-least crushed the tomatoes and added some basil to it.

Not so satisfied with the starters we moved on to the pastas and tried chicken ravioli with roasted artichoke and beetroot gnocchi with dill cream sauce. The ravioli was the hands-down winner because of the roasted artichoke and tangy tomato based sauce. Can’t say the same about the gnocchi though, it was too sticky and wasn’t blended in the sauce properly. Having had better gnocchi for lunch on the same day (thanks to our Asst. Editor, Tanya) I preferred sticking to the ravioli. From the main course section we tasted stuffed chicken with chocolate jus, mustard crusted fish and boxty pancakes with caramelised tomato compote. The stuffed chicken had a very distinct sauce with subtle flavor of chocolate. The Boxty pancakes were more like aloo parantha without any dough. They were too heavy and unappetising. The fish (basa) was good with light mustard flavor and was served with mashed potatoes. I wish that the dishes tasted as well as they were presented.

Surprisingly, the dessert menu is very sparse. We ordered a mango sundae but one look and we knew we’d have to set out on a mango hunt to make this dessert worthwhile. After quite the search all we got was a layer of four thinly sliced mango pieces at the base of a very tall glass, topped with a very tall serving of cream which was garnished with another layer of four thinly sliced mango pieces. Think they should rename it to Cream Sundae! I’d suggest that they get more creative with desserts while the mango season is still here.

So while we totally recommend the place for its romantic quotient its best that you order some coolers and just lounge around.

Kharcha: Rs. 1500 for two

On the burp scale: 2/5

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Food Review: Francesco's Pizzeria, Kemp's Corner

What did Mikhail do when his Italian client could not take any more of those factory produced pizzas? He opened his own small pizzeria and named it after his client Francesco. I along with a colleague tried a few slices to know whether it’s another run-of-the-mill joint or something more.

Tucked behind A Chocolate Affair in Kemps Corner, Francesco’s Pizzeria focuses more on takeaways and home deliveries. There’s also a small seating area for the hungrier souls who want to eat their pizzas straight from the oven. Brick wall on one side and a poster from Italy on the other, this place makes for a cute little hangout. Mikhail, whose original business is importing and distributing wines from Italy, made a number of people try the pizzas he was planning on serving. So, the menu we chose from and the one you will too is based on honest feedback from like-minded gluttons.

The menu lists a range of pizzas and we started off with the vegetarian section. Paneer peri peri came first and I absolutely loved it. The crust was neither too thick nor wafer thin and was topped with a tomato based sauce, very soft paneer, and a mayonnaise dressing made in-house from their very own secret recipe. I couldn’t keep my hands off it and burrp’s new intern Shraddha, who was excited to be on her first food review, even saved a piece for the last bite. The eggplant parmigiana that came next didn’t go down too well. I would’ve liked it if the eggplant slices were crispy, something like a Bengali baingan bhaja.

We ordered a garden pizza next which came strongly recommended by Mikhail and was topped with rocket leaves and cherry tomato sans any cheese. Not a big fan of rocket leaves and put off by their weird smell, we didn’t enjoy it as much but if you are diet conscious this one is just for you (‘no cheese’ being the magic words). As far as we are concerned, we’ll happily kick our diet plans in a corner for a slice of cheesy pizza.

Aware of my love for fish Mikhail enthusiastically ordered a Bianca. Due to the five types of cheese and salmon, Bianca tasted too salty and I could only eat a bite off it. Shraddha, a chickenatarian (yes, she recently invented this word) preferred a Chicken Genovese from the non-veg menu. The chicken was blended in pesto and was extremely tender. The pizza was topped with potato wafers which went a little soggy but we didn’t mind them at all.

Already stuffed with some ten odd slices of pizza we decided to order a Margherita since we strongly believe that a perfect Margherita is a pizzeria’s true test. And, going by what we were served, this place is already a winner.

Since we had to catch a tasting at Haagen Dazs we tried to skip the dessert section but no amount of pleading deterred Mikhail from ordering a tiramisu cupcake and chocolate bomb. The sight of tempting cupcakes made us melt too but to our disappointment they didn’t taste as good as they looked. As we dug deeper we found it too moist and undercooked. The chocolate bomb or cinnamon role was average but we would’ve preferred it with a more generous filling of chocolate.

While you might not like all the pizzas, there’s one for every palate. If Indian toppings of tikkas and tandoors make you go “arrggh” then, Francesco’s Pizzeria is a must try.

Kharcha: Around Rs. 600 + taxes for two

On the burp scale: 3.5/5

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Food Review: Melange, Andheri (W) (New Link Road, next to CitiMall)

Good breakfast is the key to a good day. A strong believer of this theory, I, went to the newly opened Melange to review their breakfast and had a very happy day indeed.

The space next to Citimall in Andheri (W) earlier dominated by diners like Salt ‘n’ Pepper and Ginger Marie has now been taken over by dessert and breakfast places like Bru World Café and The Chocolate Room. With Melange opening here, this area is surely going to attract people who love their breakfasts king size.

Like most of the adjacent eateries, Melange too has an outdoor and air conditioned seating. Despite the heat we decided to sit in the open air section and couldn't stop wondering how lovely this place would be in the monsoons.

There are separate menus for breakfast, tapas and mains and beverages. The beverage one is extensive and has a whole range of shakes, coolers, smoothies, and hot coffees. We quickly ordered a lemon n mint mojito and an oreo shake before focusing on the breakfast menu.  The mojito was refreshing with a mild chilli aftertaste, exactly what we needed on a hot day like this, while the Oreo shake was not cold enough and was a little too sweet.

Moving on from drinks we ordered a Melange special breakfast which includes eggs, toasts, avocado, and baked tomatoes. On our request, we were served a wild omelette instead of scrambled, poached or fried eggs. A generous portion of omelette topped with spinach and mushrooms came with four thick slices of bread, baked in house, an avocado and two plump tomatoes. All we missed on this plate was bacon but being an eggetarian place you shouldn't expect it or maybe they change their mind…maybe.

Next on our list was the breakfast burger with hash browns and onion marmalade.  The burger was stuffed with cucumber, tomatoes and a couple of hash browns, topped with onion and tomato sauce and was heavy enough to make me skip my lunch. The bread to our surprise was toasted which reminded me of the burgers I used to eat in my school days. If you’ve grown up in a small town and aren't used to the mass produced burger, you’ll know what I am talking about. The rocket, served on the side, was tossed in a sweet and tangy dressing and added a distinct freshness to the dish.

After downing a fat omelette and a big burger, as we were planning to call for the cheque we spotted green apple crème brulee in the menu and couldn’t help but order it. The dessert came with almond biscotti, fresh cream, and green apple chutney and alone is worth a trip to Andheri. That’s not all they have, there are cheesecakes, chocolate mousse, and pancakes too, waiting to be eaten.

Stuffed with a hearty breakfast we decided to move out but not before asking for the owner who we hear is a very sweet guy. Sadly he wasn't in. Never mind, we are definitely going back for a chat with him…and yes, for those pancakes too.

Kharcha: Rs. 600 + taxes for two

On the burp scale: 4/5

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Food Review: Saibini Gomantak, Dadar (W) (Near Shiv Sena Bhavan)

I love fish and if its made Gomantak style I wouldn't ask for anything else. No seriously, my colleagues have noticed that I don't bother conversing while I am being fed a good fish curry and bhakri. So when the bhukkads at work planned on going to Saibini, a small gomantak joint in Dadar West (thanks to Tanya for the suggestion) I happily ignored my boring dabba.

This place is right next to Sena Bhavan and is not very well known (unless you are a regular in that area). The no frills restaurant has a very small entrance. Once you cross the non AC section there's a small AC room with four tables. We quickly settled ourselves and ordered as if we were playing rapid fire.

Within 10 minutes of ordering, our food started coming in; hot and crispy prawns rawa fry, mori masala, teesrya in green masala, bhakri, and rice. The prawns were very fresh and had a crisp coating of rawa. The dish made me wonder how well it'll go with a mug of chilled beer. Mori or shark masala was made in thick gravy and was extremely spicy. Eat it with rice if you must. The fact that it has just one bone in the centre made it easier to eat.

Teesrya or clams was made in a thick green masala which we didn't enjoy too much. The red masala one that we tried the next day was much better and enhanced teesrya's flavour. They serve a thin curry with roti/bhakri which is excellent. We also used it as a dip with our fried prawns. 

To sum up the meal we ordered sol kadi which was a little on the spicier side and wasn't as tangy.

After hogging for almost 45 minutes we dragged ourselves back to work but not before we stopped at Aswad for their melt in mouth pedas.

Kharcha: Around 400/- for two

On the burp scale: 4/5
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