Monday, December 13, 2010

Vong Wong Sunday Brunch - Closing the book !

Rest : Vong Wong
Meal : Sunday Brunch
Loc : Express Towers, Nariman Point

Vong Wong started out with a lot of promise but never quite lived up to any. Serving Chinese & Thai, they have been patchy most of the time and have never quite done well on any count.

The Sunday brunch we tried out on my brothers recommendation (825 or 1200 with booze) on retrospect, should have chosen with booze option so i could just drink my way through the meal.

The spread was not very expansive and included very unoriental things like Labneh, Hummus & Baba Ganoush (none of which were any good)

Anyway, onwards and downwards.

Started off with the Tom Yum which was weird. It seemed halfway through preparation someone had decided to go from Tom Kha and then switched to Tom Yum. too much coconut.

The Som Tam was okay but the middle eastern dips were pretty disgusting.

The Dim sum, there were three or 4 kinds were also all pretty sub par. Nothing tasty at all, bland and sweetish.

The Caesar salad was not mad, saving grace of the salad section.

The mashed potato was excellent, i dont know how they managed it but it was top notch.

too sweet.

The main courses were horrible. The mushrooms were weird, the pasta (WTF) was actually okay, the other veggie i didnt have the courage to try. The Thai Curry and rice were actually above average.

Tiramisu was pretty good, there were no thai or chinese desserts.

The place was full but i think Vong Wong have lost the plot, i think its a waste of such fine, expansive space and they really ought to have a good look at what it is they are trying to be because they certainly arent doing well as a restaurant.

Food : 4/10
Service : 6/10
Damage : for four without drinks 4000

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Veda - Hot New Review

Rest : Veda
Meal : Dinner
Loc : Level 2, Palladium Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel.

Whats up folks? Been absent for a while, was busy with the highly complicated post production for my film ( it is set to release n 7th Jan under the Springboard Films banner (PVR Pictures) More on that later.

Have a few reviews lined up in the meantime, the first one being Veda, Rohit Bal's new restaurant in Bombay. My experience with Rohit Bal has been a jacket i bought many years ago and to be honest, it was a good jacket although the price was way too high, i always chalked it down to a moment of weakness.

When i heard he was setting up a restaurant in Bombay, i was pretty skeptical. The fact that it is in a mall, was a major reason why i delayed going there. Although i promised myself that when i do walk in it would be with an open mind though i had fairly low expectations.

I reckoned, what would L'Enfant terrible Rohit Bal know about food. In my opinion it was just a commercialization of his brand.

Prepare to be amazed right from when you walk in. The place has decor like no other, its Indian but not out of the box Indian as you would expect from a Delhi restaurant nor is it out of the box fine dine like the Noodle Bar and its ilk. This one is quite something. Red Chandeliers, blue ceilings, leather high chairs, velvety couches. The bar is something to behold, a bas relief of leaves painted in gold.

Its definitely a very different take on designing with Indian motifs. More a plush lounge feel than a simple restaurant. In fact, if the Mughals were to design their harem today, they would probably hire Rohit Bal to design it. The seating is comfortable and spaced far enough apart for privacy.

As i mentioned before, the bar is just stunning to look at, the staff behind the counter seem fairly capable too. They got the wife a strawberry cocktail, cant remember what it was it strong. Great for a date :)

The orange caiprioshka mocktail i had (was driving) was not bad at all, load of ice though.

The starters, we got the salad of aloo which was essentially the aloo chat, this one was the highlight, possibly the best aloo chat i have ever had, at home, at a restaurant, in Bombay or Delhi.. just brilliant. The wife, a Delhi belle, agreed too. There were two kinds of paneer in the paneer duo, both not bad at all.

A surprise was their sauces, 7 of them made with some really interesting ingredients. I wont tell you which but some of them will blow you away. See if you can guess which is which whilst you are there.

they serve potato chips served with some fried lotus stems as well, makes a good companion with drinks but wouldn't call it an appetizer.

Another paneer was done Chinese style, a toss up between manchurian and schezwan, probably kung pao as it was sweetish. Not bad but did not fit with the Indian motif. There was also a kebab which was dry (they are always dry) and a tandoori cauliflower which was excellent. Having a pineapple in there was interesting and worked somewhat.

Another one of the sauces, the have created but don't serve in the line up is the tomato with garlic. Very enjoyable with papad and the appetizers.

Another must have is their spinach chaat, instead of a papdi this comes on spinach. They brought 2 portions by mistake and i sent one back before tasting it. Stupidest thing i did all day probably and immediately regretted it.

The main courses after this much food were a Aloo kofta thing, which was filled with mashed potato and cheese. Not bad but a trifle heavy. The paneer was like a kadai paneer but without the gravy, spicy. I don't usually have entrees made with spinach and therefore avoided it. Which brings us to the dal. Boy, it was really out there, superb is the word, rightly listed as a must have.

The Biryani was not bad, the raita was served around it, which was very different from the usual.

The phirnee, the wife loved it, having never had it before (somehow) she ate the whole thing. I got in a spoonful and it was good.

The Kulfi was by far the best dessert hands down. Not too sweet but with a dash of rose syrup, excellent. I need to get more Kulfi for dessert but Indian food does not lend itself to reaching a point where dessert can be ordered.

Overall, the place is excessive but still attractive in its decor and ambiance, very upscale but the pricing is just right, not too expensive but not cheap either.

My main gripe would be that if it were better located, it could easily be a spot to have a drink after work or a cozy dinner. Secondly, the menu though good is actually limited, i.e. they could easily come up with another page or two overall. They have done well so far, no harm in trying out a thing or two in addition.

The main staff is friendly and competent, the underlings need a little more training.

The food is imaginative with modern touches yet maintains plenty of old favourites and does them well.

Food 9/10
Service 8/10
Damage (around 5000 but a meal for two without drinks should be about 2200)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Posts on Indian cuisine & identity


Two tremendously readable articles by the very beautiful and immensely readable Ulara Nakagawa can be found at One & Two

Ulara writes for The Diplomat magazine and has an interesting take on cuisine and cultural and national identity.

Both pieces feature quotes from me and i think you guys would enjoy them as well.

Things continue to be intensely crazy and one of these days i will update you all on why as well do a few more reviews...


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Danone Yogurt

I am a big fan of yoghurt and eat lots of it. Within a day i end up consuming 4 cups of yoghurt + another glass or two of buttermilk. Milk itself however i cant stand, the smell or the taste. I dont think i have tasted plain milk since 1988 ( just to put that in perspective i was born in 1979)

Most of my yoghurt is made at home, like ghee and flour, my family can be quite old fashioned when it comes to our cooking. So i am quite glad that the wife picked up the ghee making skills from my grandma and mother.

Anyway, she also brought home some yoghurt from Danone, while the plain stuff is not bad and would do in a bind i really liked the strawberry flavoured bit. Surprisingly unlike other brands where they put some fruit bits on the bottom and you have to mix it up, this one comes pinked out from the start.

Specifically enjoyable as i am a bit fussy about the shape and texture of the yoghurt i eat. The curd should be hard and mashing it up with fruit makes it goeey which i have never liked. The wife says they are available everywhere now and arent very expensive either, i had some vanilla flavoured bits too, since vanilla is not a flavour i like, we sent some across to our neighbours who have kids.

All gone, last i heard.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Villa 39

Rest : Villa 39
Meal : Lunch
Loc : Colaba

Villa 39 has been open for quite a while and i have heard all kinds of things about it, from the good to the horrid. I havent been able to check it out for a while until the opportunity presented itself this past week.

The place is decked out in all white, which has been done to death but still presents a pleasant environment to be in. Split on two levels, the restaurant was previously known as Flags and before that China Gate. The location has turned out to be quite a jinx for restaurants thus far.

We walked in around 2pm and were the only ones there, which quite honestly threw me for a curve ball. Not sure what to make of it, we sat down and looked at the menus. They have a prixe fixe lunch menu which is not bad - 3 courses for 950 + taxes.

We chose to go for the regular menu and ordered two soups, the minestrone which was excellent, the best in the city thus far, the pomodoro which was oversalted and then exchanged for the minestrone.

The appetizers were mushrooms in something i cant recall, not bad but nothing spectacular. The caprese was good, no doubt because of the fresh mozzarella.

The main courses were a penne in a cherry tomato sauce and a risotto of oyester and other mushrooms. Both dishes were good.

All in all, the space looks nice but needs more people in it, an empty restaurant does not bode well.

The food was not bad but nothing stood out except for the soup. For the money they charge i expect great flavours and imaginative dishes. While the flavours are okay, the dishes lack in imagination and i can do better at an Indigo Deli, Cafe Basilico or Trattoria for same or less.

Food : 7/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : 3500 for 3, no drinks.

PS. Sorry for the lack of pics, didnt have my camera and was too busy chatting to take pics this time anyway. Also its been an insane few weeks and therefore few updates, the coming days look the same but will try and write when i can.Cheers

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tote on the Turf - Menu Relaunch

Tote on the Turf has been a popular venue ever since its launch last year. I have been there on a few occasions and have always enjoyed its modern design and laid back ambiance.

One of the things i always found wanting at TnT was its lack of risk taking with regards to the menu. The food was good, the menu itself quite expansive yet it lacked a degree of imagination which one would expect from an Akerkar restaurant.

So when i received an invite for the relaunc of TnT's menu, i was quite excited to check it out. My visits to TnT can be found here, here and here

The bar talent at TnT is pretty accompalished, never had trouble with my cocktails there. The Mojito was refreshing.

The wife ordered some pink, pomengranate monstrosity which i sipped while she was in the powder room. Very nice..

Now, to the good stuff. The salad, fruits, olives, greens in a sweet drizzle with feta cheese. The greens were bitter and offset by the dressing. The fresh, feta gave it just another dimension. One of the best salads i have had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

A relatively safer choice by the wife, the tomato soup was not bad but lacked bite or a memorable aftertaste.

The Gnocchi was one of the first courses we chose, it came with onion rings and an onion sauce. It worked quite well as a whole, you had to mix up the sauce with the gnocchi, i enjoyed this dish. Not very complex in terms of taste but still pretty good.

Baked camembert with garlic toast, rosemary potato and some greens. Wow, a great concept, executed well. My chief gripe with this if you can call it that was that the set of cheese was just too large. The dish worked very well no doubt but another addition to the montage would have impressive.

Aah, the creamy, mushroomy fettuicini, what can i say about this except bravo. A few kinds of mushrooms in a mushroom sauce, seems like overkill but it was not. Worked very well, a heavy dish with just the right portion size.

A hunk of paneer in a leek sauce with a chilli salsa. Again, a better sum of its parts this one. The salsa was incredible and totally elevated this dish to another level. Smart move to limit it to a smear, going overboard would have been excessive.

The tiramisu, was okay, no great shakes. Their ice cream was melting and therefore i got an Orange sorbet. this is not on the menu but if you like a sweet tang to your sorbet, ask for this. It will rock your taste buds.

I would also highly recommend skipping dessert and getting their cheese platter, it is the cheese platter against which all others are measured.

Overall, my thoughts, the menu this time is def more interesting than the old one. There were some old staples, namely the pizzas (which are fantastic here) and some new dishes. The focus on the grill continues which is a good sign. I am hoping one of these days they experiment with the middle eastern side of the Mediterranean.

Possibly one of the largest dining spaces outside a 5 star and packed to the gills, they get full marks for attentive and friendly service all around (i wish i could say the same for Indigo Deli, a place i frequent more than any other)

The prices too have gone up a notch, so be prepared to pay for the good stuff.

Food : 8/10
Service : 8/10
Damage : Was there via invitation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Best Restaurant in Bombay ?

Someone asked me this question recently and i have been thinking about it for a while. What indeed is the best restaurant in Bombay? Is it Wasabi, a signature restaurant from a well known chef or Is it Indigo, a place that brought imaginative, Euro-Indian fine dine to Bombay or Dum Pukth, a place which exemplifies the Dum cooking?

So you ready for the answer? Drum Roll Please.....

Thai Pavilion (previous visits here)

Well, this is mostly subjective and my personal opinion but i have had 6 meals at TP in 2010 and not a single one of them was below spectacular. Each meal was not only consistent but the variety of dishes we tried, not one of them was dissapointing. I could simply point my finger at anything and end up with a perfectly satisfactory dish.

Its a great place to celebrate with a large group, have an intimate evening or do a business lunch. All of which i have been able to do over the last year. In fact, i am planning an evening out at TP right now with 2 very pretty women.

In the Thai space, there really isnt much comeptition for TP, Spices at JW Mariott and Pan Asian at the ITC to a certain extent do some Thai dishes but none of them do it exceptionally. The only other Thai restaurant i know of is Tamnak Thai which is acceptable but not in the same ballpark (hell they arent even in the same game) same goes for Lemon grass and ThaiBan.

I foundKoh at the Intercontinental to be a massive dissapointment, modernity is nothing without flavour and in my opinion will not last the distance.

At Thai Pavilion the menu is fairly traditional, Thai eaters, will immediately be able to pick out the favouraites and i would highly recommend the Tom Kha which is exceptional, the Som Tam papaya Salad is freshness in a bowl and the Red Curry is a flavour explosion and the Pad Thai are the best ive had anywhere. I usually let the guys reommend the veggies, a new one each time.

While i like the old Thai Pavilion a lot and was resistant to go to the new Super Potato designed space thinking they will have ruined it. However, i was poorer for not having given them the benefit of the doubt.

The new space is brilliantly designed, modern, sleek yet a fairly calming environment, selecting the right table can you make you feel like you are having a private dining experience. The service is friendly, prompt, everyone is willing to make recommendations and back them up. Only once was the food exceptionally delayed but were offered a large platter of desserts in consolation. Besides, it was so good that i didnt really mind.

Another thing i really like about TP & The President in general is that compared to some of the other 5 star eateries, their prices are just right (meals for 2 between 1800-3000 without booze) and the food far far superior (Trattoria has been part of my growing up, KonKan Cafe is vastly under rated)

I would put this down to Chef Ananda Solomon exec chef at the Taj President and rated by some folks i know as the most hard working man around.

Thai Pavilion The Taj President
Cuffe Parade
Tel: 66650808
I would reommend a reservation (8.30 or 10.30) have been there on week days and found it packed.

Full Disclosure : No one from the Taj President, Taj Group or any PR agency has asked me or offered me anything to write this post. Its genuinely how i feel.

Eating Singapore

Back from my little workation in Singapore & a brief stopover in KL. Singapore, is a city i have great affection for, it nearly rivals the joy i have for the other two great cities i have been to (London & New York) although Singapore gives you the greatest gift of all, efficient use of time.When i think of a city of the future, i dont think of flying cars but i think of a place where i can pack loads of work and activity in a day and be home without wasting time in traffic and ridiculous long commutes.

Anyway, this is about food. Singapore has a very interesting local scene, plenty of fine dine, variety of cuisine and budgets from hawker to five star. One can sample from across Asia, (Vietnam, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand) and also give some of the more modern takes on these cuisines a shot.

There is a strong Indian presence, especially South Indian and you would be surprised by how competetive some of the restaurants are vis a vis back home.

I would say Go Singapore and enjoy a modern city with loads of entertainment and good food.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

California Pizza Kitchen

Rest : California Pizza Kitchen
Meal : Between lunch & dinner
Loc : Bandra Kurla.

We were entering Bandra Kurla for a meeting when we saw the CPK sign and decided while driving to check it out if they were going to be serving at the awkward dining hour of 5.30 pm. They were and we walked into a pretty cool looking space, well laid out, well it, spacious, stand alone restaurants in Bombay have really been coming into their own with loads of character and style.

CPK is an American chain that specialises in California style pizzas. To quickly define it California style has developed over the last 15 years or so and the focus is on using fresh and disparate ingredients brought together to create off the league combinations. I remember having guacomole on my pizza when i was in LA nearly a decade ago (not as bad as it sounds)

Although with a Pizza in the name, they serve some mexican inspired dishes as well as some pasta alternatives. the largest selection is however their pizza.

the lemonade was not half bad.

the platter we got was supposed to have tortilla, pita, salsa, a pesto sauce and guacamole. However the guacamole was not available (wtf) Now to be honest, this was a little ridiculous. the salsa was average, the pesto was just bland. we brought it to their notice but were told thats how it is (how is that possible? the chef is so dumb he made it bland?)

keeping the spirit of California in mind we got the greek which really sucked. if it were real fresh it may have worked on some level however it was just plain old boring, no real taste to it, despite the feta it did not work. the wife insisted on it, i would have prefered the goat cheese with peppers. however friends of mine who were there 2 hours after me and did try other things found it to be just as bad.

since they are doing a relatively modern take on a very popular dish which has indigenous versions, i think they will have to try real hard to get the idea across. This will mean fresh ingredients and consistent dishes.

this was reasonably good. but not out of this world.

The service was okay, a little scared and it was a little frustrating to see a table with 6-7 chefs sitting on it and no one to talk to us about it. I hope things improve because people will travel to its weird location once, its just way out in the boonies to be tried again after a bad meal.

Food : 4/10
Service : 4/10
Damage : 1500

As an aside, have been to two modernesque restaurants and have been clearly dissapointed. Not a traditionalist by any means but i have found the execution to be seriously wanting. Am hoping to get to Zia sometime in the next few weeks, should be the ultimate test.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Koh by Ian Kittachai

Rest: Koh by Ian Kittachai
Meal : Dinner
Loc : Intercontinental @ Marine Drive

Koh the signature restaurant of well known Thai purveyor Ian Kittichai opened its doors recently. I was there with reservations under restaurant week, which has been a great initiative to bring gourmet cuisine to the masses and i hope they have loads of success in the near future.

The space is set up to look unlike most Asian places which have an accent on ethnicity, Koh is very modern in its outlook yet it has a theme of the traditional running through its middle. A lot like the cuisine. The layout is a design success.

Unfortuantely, Koh was quite a dissapointment. To call it a challenger to Thai Pavilion would be extremely erroneous since it does not do what we consider traditional Thai cuisine. There is no tom yum and the focus on pad thai is also diminished. The menu is mostly the Chef''s interpretation of Thai cuisine.. i.e modern. I am all for modern cuisine but Koh falls flat. Bold

The organic Chang Mai was just bland, it did have a pleasant, cleansing effect on the palate but had no real flavour.

The corn cakes served with a side of peanut sauce, again, nothing to write home about. the taste was fairly simple with no real head or tail, the peanut sauce too didnt help.

the jasmine tea infused bean curd, freshly smoked it didnt evoke any strong flavours either. the jasmine tea flavour was very light but there was nothing else, beyond it.

while i enjoyed the bento boxesque presentation of the main course it was again, quite a dissapointment. The asparagus with chilly was interesting but everyone on the table ended up biting into the chilly which burnt our tongues.

The green curry had way too much eggplant in it and the jasmine rice was undercooked all around.

The broccoli and shitake though were above average. Since they learned that the rice was undercooked they brought out some pad thai which wasnt too great either.

The dessert platter was not too bad, the ladies seemed to love the flourless brownie while i enjoyed the choc ice cream and the orange cheesecake.

Overall, id say the restaurant needs to work out its tastes and its quality on some aspects. Undercooked rice is not acceptable. Not a single dish was memorable and i dont think modern equals bland or uninspired.

To me personally, Thai food is about heavy flavours and heat, this meal was all gas and no taste, i think ill stick to Thai Pavilion for now.

F00d : 4/10
Service : 6/10
Damage 4500 for 4 without drinks

Friday, September 03, 2010

Restaurant Week Mumbai !

Restaurant week, the glorious celebration of food that has been happening in major cities the worldover has finally made it to our shores.

From 6th September-12th September the denizens of Bombay will have access to a three course gourmet meal at 1000 per head at some of the finest restaurants in the city (Indigo, Tote, Stella, San Qi,Ko, Botticino, India Jones)

While, i love food and i love to eat out, it also gives me great joy that two people i have gotten to know over some time now Azeem Zainulbhai & Mangal Dalal are both behind this celebration of fine cuisine.

So head on to to register and make reservations. Although the website has only been open for less than 2 days, they already have a 1000 bookings.

Enjoy !

All images from Restaurwantweek India

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