Saturday, July 28, 2012

Food Review: Cafe 24, Della Adventure, Lonavala

Around two weeks (or probably more) ago I got an invitation to review five eateries at Della Adventure in Lonavala. Five eateries in a day? I was baffled but a trip to Lonavala in the rains was an offer good enough to let me forget all the questions. The bonus was that I was to travel with my blogger friends Reema, Amrita, Adarsh, Krytie and Anisha.

Della Adventure is located at a picture perfect location, surrounded by lush green hills. The almost perfect weather got even better as it started raining as soon as we reached. After the initial meet and greet we were taken around to see the activities and other facilities Della Adventure offers.

The adventure park is supposedly India's largest and is a hit among Corporates. They offer a number of activities including zorbing, flying fox, dirt biking etc. The few activities that got raised eyebrows from us were dog walking and cow milking which means you pay to walk the fancy breeds like St. Bernards and Great Danes and milk a Jersey cow. The caged animals did not look too happy or excited about these activities.

Since our adventure at Della was focused on food we checked out all the restaurants/cafes namely PNF; the bar and pub with very interesting looking saddle shaped bar stools, Carbon Cafe; the fast food and desserts joint, Creme Della; vegetarian restaurant with a very beautiful, hill-facing, open-air section, An unnamed bakery; supplies desserts to all the restaurants and cafes and Cafe 24; an all day diner on the pool side. On our host's insistence we peeped into the washrooms (yes both Women's and Men's) to check out the quirky installations. They were funny but could be a little embarassing if you are with kids (or mom-dad).

Coming back to my earlier question, "How do we review five restaurants in a day?", it was decided that we'll settle in Cafe 24 which has a compiled menu of all the eateries. We took our seats and and the orders started pouring in. Right from Indian to Chinese and Mediterannean to Continental food was ordered. I started with a Lemon Coriander Vegetable Soup which was a perfect comfort food on the cold day. It had a perfect amount of sourness to it and the topping of the oil added a little thickness to the otherwise watery broth. Along came a bread basket which had a very soft and fresh bread unlike the hard and stale ones you get in most of the restaurants. Next came starters with three prawn dishes; Prawns and olive sticks, Lasooni Jhinga; juicy prawns with a beautiful and slightly burnt garlic flavour and Golden Fried Prawns; I did not miss pakoras on a rainy day while eating them, very crispy and absolutely hot.

Image courtsey @AmritaRana

Our starters fest didn't end just here, we ordered Stir Fried Water Chestnuts, Diced Cottage Cheese Chilli Pepper and Aubergine Halloumi Parcels from the vegetarian section. The crunchy chestnuts were cooked in a spicy sauce and were wiped off the plate in no time. I don't remember much about the cottage cheese except for the fact that they were quite soft. I am usually not to fond of the continental preparations of Aubergine but the Halloumi parcels changed my mind. They were crisp and were placed on a bed of tasty tomato salsa.

We ordered a couple of salads too but none impressed me much. The Caesar Salad had an overdose of dressing which took away the crunch from the lettuce. The Waldorf; blend of apple, pineapple, celery, walnuts tossed in mayo, Horiatiki Greek salad and Beetroot salad were quite average too. The biggest disappointment was Hummus and Babaghanoush. Both the dips had a little off and bitter taste and we couldn't go beyond the first helping.

After almost stuffing ourselves with the starters we ordered for main course. The first dish that arrived was a bit of a disappointment. It tasted great but was more of a starter than a main course. I do not remember the name of the dish except that it was a lamb preparation. I tried a bit of Pan Fried Basa which was cooked brilliantly; crispy and soft at the same time. I decided to try a Salmon and ordered a Grilled Norwegian Salmon which was served with fried and grilled veggies on the side. The fish was a tad under-cooked and a little too salty for my taste. I also tried a little Paneer Makhani; made in true desi style with lots of butter and Onion Kulcha which was more like an onion naan.

We were all looking forward to the desserts since the time we visited the bakery. But they were a big let down. We called for a Bitter Chocolate Praline Mousee; it was neither bitter nor a mousse. It tasted more like an ordinary pastry. Chocolate Walnut Brownie also proved to be a wrong choice with a strong flavour of egg in it. The only saving grace was the Orange Souffle which despite being wrongly named (again) was good. 

From all the food we tried starters won hands down and I would recommend that you order more of them and give the main course a miss. Della Adventure is a must visit if you are into adventure sports but it's not worth traveling so far just for its food.

On the burp scale: 2/5

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Food Review: Mewar Food Festival @ Renaissance, Powai

It isn't often that one has the chance to dine like royalty. The experience only gets better when the dishes are straight out of their personal kitchens.

When Chef Surjan Singh Jolly at Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre and Hotel decided to host a Mewar Food Festival, he went straight to the Maharana of Udaipur, Shriji Arvind Singhji Mewar. The Maharana taught Chef Jolly the nuances of the cuisine and also gave him a few of the family’s secret recipes. Nawab Saheb, the restaurant where this festival is being held, organised a sit down dinner for the media, food bloggers and writers where Shriji introduced everyone to the rich culinary culture of Mewar.

To keep the authenticity intact, the food has been cooked in the clay pots, which are said to enhance the flavours. We sat down for the meal on long dining table arranged to suit the occasion. On one end of the table sat the Maharana himself. Large thalis with a number of bowls were placed in front of each person and food was served as per our vegetarian and non vegetarian preferences.

While we were overwhelmed by the sheer variety of food on the plate, we did enjoy making our way through it. The Bhapla bhindi - steamed okra stuffed with shallots, ginger and green mango chutney was fresh and retained all of its flavour and crunch. The Maas ka sula - lamb marinated with cloves, smoked garlic and red chillies and cooked over charcoal, deserves special mention though, for its subtle smoked flavour and meat that quite literally fell off the bone.

The main course had a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes one of them being the famous Laal Maas; pot roasted lamb cooked in bright red Jodhpuri chillies called Mathaniya. The dish wasn’t as spicy as it looked since the chillies add more of their fiery colour than heat. Saweta degchi Maas which looked like a dal was actually lamb slow cooked in sweet corn porridge, cloves, cinnamon, mint, coriander, green chillies and buttermilk. This dish is a definite winner with the soft batis.

The vegetarian dishes included Panchkuta also known as Ker Sangri; local beans, berries, seeds and fruits tempered and pickled with spices, Ghatti Urad Kalbelia, which is a traditional recipe of the banjaras made with crushed urad lentil cooked with spices in a clay pot. One dish that was unanimously loved by all (non-vegetarians) was Kaleji ka raita. It had chopped pieces of smoked goat liver mixed with thick curd, cumin powder and salt. As simple as it may sound, the raita tasted nothing like we’ve tasted before. The whole thali was like a celebration of flavours. As we ate, Chef Jolly walked around providing information and trivia about the dishes and cooking methods used.

If the main course took us on a spice ride the desserts definitely put us on a sugar high. We were served six sweet dishes. Our favourites out of thesewere Chena pakodi kheer; soft, sugary balls in condensed milk, Panna; chopped fruits flavoured with rose essence, green cardamom and finally Mawa kachori stuffed with khoya, pistachio, almond, saffron, cardamom and soaked in honey. Also on the dessert line up was Paniya Churio better known as Churma prepared with crushed bati, jaggery and ghee, Kesariya bhat – sweetened rice cooked with saffron, Khajoor halwa; dates crushed and cooked.

All the food was cooked in ghee, yet our already bursting waistlines couldn’t muster up a whisper of complaint. After all you don’t dine like royalty every day.

What: The Mewar Food Festival
Where: Nawab Saheb, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre and Hotel, Powai
When: Until July 31, 7-11.45pm.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Food Review: Waterstones Bar & Grill, Sahar, Andheri (E)

Luxury comes with a heavy price tag, one that is well-deserved by Waterstones Bar & Grill.

The Bar & Grill which we were told is ‘relatively’ new is located inside Waterstones Hotel between The Leela and the International Airport in Sahar. The hotel has six floors, five of which have different themes like glacier, rainforest, fire, mountain and marine; named so because they follow the colours of the respective themes i.e shades of red and orange on fire floor, greens on rainforest floor etc. Waterstone Bar & Grill is located on the fifth floor i.e. marine floor which is coloured in various colours of the ocean.

The interiors have a serene look and despite being dimly lit the restaurant looks bright. It’s surrounded by glass walls on three sides and gets good Sunlight during the day. The feature that interested me the most were the creepers hanging upside down which made the restaurant look like the Herbology class from Harry Potter and I almost felt like pulling out a screeching mandrake. My imagination came to a halt when the manager announced that the plants aren’t real but despite that they gave a sense of greenery which was soothing to eyes. The restaurant was quiet, mostly because there weren’t many people, probably because it was a weekday.

All the greenery in and around the restaurant translated in my order too as I called for a green revolution; a vodka based fruit and mint flavoured drink perfect for hot weather. The restaurant has an open kitchen which has become quite a trend now. We got ourselves a corner table and started browsing through the menu which includes a mix of Mediterranean and European dishes. With a little help from our server we ordered grilled Arabian sea prawns (Rs 600), Spanish traditional chicken aioli skewers (Rs 360) and caprese (Rs 400) for starters. Before our starters arrived we were served freshly baked bread with a pesto which is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve had. It was light and didn’t have an overpowering flavour of basil. Coming to the starters the prawns were macerated in chilli, basil and garlic and were served with orange reduction which gave them a sweet and spicy flavour. The dish was plated so well that the seafood hater who accompanied me for the dinner couldn’t resist eating it and actually loved it; now that’s some compliment. The chicken skewers were well cooked but had too much mayonnaise on them which overpowered the flavour of herbs. Our caprese had fresh and crunchy lettuce with plum tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and pine nuts and was wiped off the plate.

Green Revolution
Grilled Prawns
Spanish chicken skewers
As we ate we realized that there’s an al fresco section which we hadn’t noticed yet and decided to take a look while our main course got ready. The outdoor section had Astroturf grass (artificial grass) and a waterfall which coupled with the cold breeze created a pleasant ambiance. There’s a small bar too where you can sit and enjoy your drink. Eating however might be a little difficult since the tables are pretty low. 

While we strolled outside our main course was served; grilled catch of the day (Rs 650); the server had me at fish and then he said basa and I knew what I was going to order. My co-diner on the other hand decided to give his new found love for seafood a break and stuck to grilled pepper tian (Rs 450) and grilled tenderloin steak (600). The presentation was beautiful and portions big enough. The catch of the day or basa came with wilted spinach, butter sauce and herbed potatoes. The fish had a crispy outer layer and was paired well with the light butter sauce. The tian was stuffed with tomato ratatouille and caramelized onions and tasted quite a lot like an Indian sabzi. The dish was conveniently ignored by me since I had a lovely basa in front of me and it’ll take a truly amazing dish to make me leave my fish. The steak was medium cooked and was soft but could’ve done better with a more flavourful sauce since the bĂ©arnaise sauce served with it was a little bland.

Grilled tenderloin steak
Grilled tian
Grilled basa
For desserts we ordered a crunchy and rich baklava (Rs 320) and hot and gooey chocolate lava cake (Rs 320). To all those who want to know a place that serves great baklava, the answer is Waterstones Bar & Grill. The lava cake had a strong Madras coffee flavour which gave it a bitter taste but the dark chocolate lover in me wasn’t complaining at all. 

Chocolate lava cake
We loved the food and the prompt service and would recommend the place especially when you are looking out for a quiet and private meal.

Kharcha: Rs 2500 + taxes (without alcohol)

On the burp scale: 3.5/5

Monday, July 2, 2012

Food Review: Suzette, Pali Hill, Bandra (W)

I am not a morning person really but mention breakfast and you could see me jumping like an excited dog (I am not a dog person either). So when my colleague made plans to go for a breakfast on a working Saturday I was the first one to raise my hand. We planned to meet at Suzette's latest branch in Bandra. All the way from Goregaon to Bandra, omlette...omlette kept looping in my head.

Well, I reached the French - European eatery on Pali Hill bang opposite Gold's Gym; yes, yes...u can see a lot of stud types coming out of the gym and heading straight for breakfast. We sat in the outdoor section since the AC one was full. I really wouldn't recomment that cause the flies cause a lot of trouble.

The menu majorly comprises of crepes and eggs of your choice. We started with two omlettes; two eggs each, one with chorizo and mozarella and another one with  ham and ementhal. Despite all the cheese the omlettes were quite light and kind of melted in mouth. I'd highly recommend the chorizo omlette. To make the meal super healthy we called for a carrot apple juice (if u don't like carrot this will change your mind) and a pomengranate pineapple lime juice; a good blend of sweet and tangy flavour. We also ordered a melted Belgian chocolate and banana smoothie; it had only a hint of sugar and was a little bitter so try it only if you like dark chocolate..

Two eggs omlette with chorizo and mozarella

Two eggs omlette with ham and ementhal

Carrot apple juice

Pomengranate, pineapple, lime
Next round was dedicated to crepes so we ordered a sugar lime crepe, a crepe of the day; cream spinach with ementhal and a nutella crepe; no breakfast is complete without chocolate... I repeat no breakfast is complete without chocolate. The sugar lime crepe was light with sweet and sour syrup filled inside. Spinach crepe was a little to creamy for my taste but the nutella crepe was the highlight with melted chocolate oozing out of it. While we oohed and aahed with every bite our champion eater Frank ordered for a grilled chicken and ementhal  crepe which I didn't eat but going by his expressions I am sure it was worth a try.

Sugar lemon crepe

Cream spinach crepe

Nutella crepe
Service is a bit slow but the staff is friendly. The food is great and not spicy at all, just how I like my breakfast to be. But the prices are steep and you'll end up with a lighter wallet (unless you pay by card). So go only if you like your breakfast king size and are ready to spend like one too.

Kharcha: Around 2000 for three

On the burp scale: 3.5/5

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