Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mai Tai for pre movie cocktails

Rest : MaiTai
Loc : Phoenix Mills,
Meal : Pre Movie Dinner & Drinks

The last time i went out for a movie, i spent a few mins sipping on Mai Tai's and enjoyed it immensely. So this time around too a bunch of us got together and chugged a few cocktails and had a burger or two before our screening of Gravity.

The Mai Tai is their signature cocktail and they do a bunch of variations on them as well. The Maui MT is decent and i especially enjoyed the Mango Mai Tai's (455) liberally laced with rum

The Senor Pico salad promises a lot but was quite weak, all one can taste is mayo, which is the key dressing but still, falls flat. 

terrific Falafal burger, not the most middle eastern of things but tasted awesome. marriage of bun and patty is essential and here its all harmony. loved it. fact, we ordered another one since this went so quick. 

i like the place and being situated right outside PVR means one can make an evening of it and not have to run or walk around too much. the food is good (what i have had so far, cept the salad) and the drinks are strong. Service is quick and friendly. be careful though, MaiTai's go down quick. 

Food : 7/10
Service : 8/10

Damage: 4000 for 4 with drinks 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pan Asian with Johnny Walker for the China vs Japan Debate at

The fine folk at the ITC were kind enough to invite me to The China-Japan Debate on a plate. It was a lot more fun and less literal than it sounds. Essentially, the ITC Grand Maratha and Diageo put together a dinner to debate how Chinese, Japanese cuisine pair with various Johnny Walker Whiskies.

 Heading the table was Raveen Misra brand ambassador for JW Gold Reserve and folks from Diageo and fellow food writers/bloggers. The menu had dishes paired with whisky pairings and one had to choose from either the Chinese or the Japanese. For the most part, i got both :) 

We started with an outlandishly oriental version of a Rob Roy, this one called Mao's Tipple was i believe whisky, vermouth and bitters, oolong tea leaves with flakes of sichuan pepper . once the tongue got burning, the taste of the drink completely changed. very cool. 

I chose the Chinese appetizer which was a silken bean curd with black pepper and chilli. Terrific, no complaints with this one. a must have. 

The Japanese appetizer was a tempura of asparagus and eggplants, which i found to be very average, especially compared to the near perfect Chinese appetizer. 

This was paired with Johnny Walker Gold Reserve, served with crushed ice which gets it to the right temperature without diluting the drink. I thought both dishes went well with the paired whisky, Japanese actually worked better.

The Veg Wonton in Hot & Sour stock was nice, the dumpling was fresh and good to taste, i was however quite distressed with the presence of nori in the soup which gave it a particular after taste i dislike. I tasted the Japanese soup which was a cold cream of lettuce with a dash of sherry which was pretty good.

The Chinese main was a crackling rice with veggies in sweet & sour sauce. Again a decent selection, the rice and the veggies worked well, although more sweet than sour. 

The Japanese main was grilled Tofu served with eggplant and it was very well executed. The flavours were lighter than the Chinese dish but i thought it worked well.

both the main's were paired with the Johnny Walker Platinum Label and this one was my fav of the evening. Went down very well and was quite smooth to taste. A dash of cold water helped salve the super strong vapors. 

I have never been a fan of Asian desserts, the winter cherry tart was okayish, the wasabi ice cream was perfect but i dont like Wasabi ice cream at all. The Chinese dessert too was okay, with fried ice cream and fresh fruits. Neither dessert better than the other however. 

This was paired with the JW XR21 which while prestigious didn't quite have the finish of the Platinum or ease of the Gold Reserve. 

All in all , it was a great evening, i thought the food was evenly matched but the Chinese had the edge, a slight one at at that. We Indians aren't big drinkers with our meals, its always a pre-meal activity for most of us, although wine is catching on. 

I usually avoid drinking whisky unless i am in a colder climate but this was lots of fun and fairly daring to pair Whisky that too with Asian cuisine. I was glad to learn that none of the Whiskeys clashed with the dishes being served and for the most part it all worked well. Although I believe it will be sometime before we start imbibing whiskey dish by dish. 

Kudos to Johnny Walker for ensuring and actually questioning the diners on how they were getting home and offering to have people dropped or driven home. 

It was a great evening with a bunch of friends and many thanks to Urvika Pandey at the ITC for having me over and being a great albeit teetotal host. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Rest : Le Pain Du Quotidien 
Meal : Late Snack
Loc : Colaba,

A hankering to nibble on cheese struck post dinner and we decided to first head to The Table for a quick cocktail followed by a bite at LPQ. Ordinarily i am not a fan of the place as they have been quite inconsistent, however, i couldn't think of another place to get a cheese platter (Vetro does one but only Italian cheeses) 

okayish bread on the table, i always wonder why their bread is not the most stunning in the city if they bake their own. Also, serving Amul Butter (which i like) is a cop out. Make a little effort, create some of your own butter, god knows its not hard. 

the minestrone bowl was a monster, the soup was allright, not bad at all, hearty tomato base, a little more starchiness would have helped.  

the cheese platter, the reason why we were there. Parmesan, Bleu, Edam, Emmental with a little compote and Ricotta in the bowl. Some olives and a few pieces of toasty bread. The bleu was great, the ricotta was fresh too but out of place for an evening platter. 

The olives didnt taste like the last time. The parmesan certainly did not come off a wheel, the edam was okay and the emmental was old.

Overall, the food was okayish, the service good. The place is expensive, vis a vis what they offer. My suggestion is to have fresh cheese as much as possible and not have a set cheese board, which is a) boring and b) bound to be not so fresh as cheese is kept in stock. 

Food : 7/10
Service : 8/10
Damage 1150 without drinks. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Mekong is the new Pan Asian restaurant atop the Palladium Hotel, in Lower Parel   The place is spectacular, very Asian in design, part zen, part junky, the impossibly good views of Bombay certainly make it feel like Hong Kong. While its stunning in dim light for dinner, it will be equally interesting during the day for sure. Since it was my birthday weekend and the sister in law surprised with a visit, i thought id take her some place with a view. I was saving mekong for a family wedding dinner later but we decided to go ahead and give it a go. 

The menu is  Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It would be good to get some Malaysian in there, no one really does Malay cuisine.  They interestingly also have a selection of cold appetizers, usually find cold apps in Mezze & Japanese cooking. 

The coconut milk with mushrooms didn't come together flavour wise, no finish, disappointing 

they insisted on replacing the soup and got me this pumpkin soup which i couldnt find on the menu, this one was terrific. i am not a pumpkin fan but i enjoyed this immensely, creamy, reminded me of a terrific pumpkin bisque i had ages ago at a new york wedding. 

this was the mixed fungus dim sum we got, just terrific, was blown away by it one of the best ive had ever. Also went terrifically well with their vinegar which i have officially fallen in love with.  

The Enoke mushrooms was the cold appetizer, while i enjoyed this personally, it was not a hit for the table. However i think its an interesting idea and works well.

 The Crispy wok fried noodles were perfectly good, came with a huge helping of veggies as well.

The tossed veggies in chilli bean paste, these were good, i am a Kung Pao fan though, was too engrossed in the conversation to pay attention to the menu. i like these though, no problem. 

The dessert was a mango sorbet the kind that can make your knees go a little weak. the mango pudding was okay i preferred attacking the sorbet 

Overall, i love the ambiance of the place, the restaurant is connected to Li Bai the bar, which i did not get a chance to check out however it too has a great view im assuming. They have another two restaurants, a bar and a nightclub coming all on that top floor. The place could be heaving with people in a few months.

The food is good, i wish they tried a few more interesting things like cold appetizers, maybe give Malay cuisine a look simply coz no one else does it. Id like to go back for a working lunch with dim sum and soup and the view one of these days.

Prices are what you would expect from a five star but certainly cheaper than say an ITC.

Food : 8/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : 4000 for two without drinks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wine Weekend at Fratelli

The Fratelli vineyard sits 350 kms from Bombay, a distance that can be covered in 5 hours if departing early enough. My friend Harpreet Singh Chadha, popularly and rather appropriately nicknamed Happy, is a frequent visitor and set us up for this past weekend.

Spending time at a vineyard can be immensely fun, having done it a few times, in different countries, i am great proponent and fortunately India offers decent experiences.

Having left at 5am, we were at the doors at 10.50 am, the drive had not prepared us for the pair of modernist buildings that house the lodgings and the press & bottling plant. The buildings i was later told were inspired by the Ferrari factory, easily the most impressive structure in Akluj which is a small town. 

They have four massive rooms, which are minmally furnished but comfortable. They even have ipod docks in case you feel like popping yours in to listen to some tunes. 

The view from our rooms was green, not something a Bombay boy is used to i suppose. The windows open right onto a gentle hill and one can walk in and out from here and completely avoid the stairs.

met with chai and cookies fifteen minutes after we got to the room. Strong chai, enough said.

then on to a stroll,  the  vineyards surrounding the press & lodging are relatively small 

but large enough to go riding your bicycle or for general traipsing around. 

they also have a bunch of ATV's around as well as a bunch of bicycles which can be taken around the property. 

Lunch was around 2pm, called in from a nearby restaurant, they menu is mostly North Indian and Indo-Chinese. Spicy as hell. Post siesta, around 5.30pm we began the tour of the production facility which is 10 feet from the lodging space.

 Fratelli is a partnership of seven (3 pairs of brothers, ergo the name ) and star vintner from Tuscany, Piero Masi. 

They have a range of 9-10 wines and the grapes reach the facility within two hours of being picked, which they reckon is a first in Asia. All the equipment is imported from Italy.

I admire their belief and their willingness to invest, $3-5million at a time when the world was amidst a slow down and other wineries too were struggling with demons of their own. 

these barrells contain Sette (seven, get it..) which is their signature creation, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, this stays oaked for a year and i am told is not available for sale outside the winery. Prior to this folks had to pick up lots of 100 bottles for 100,000. 

The tasting room is in keeping with the modern, minimalist style and a good place to spend the evening. 

We tasted most of their product line, the Sangiovese, a grape Piero has been working with for decades is certainly the star product (especially as the Sette is unavailable for tasting) they also do a Sangiovese Blanco which is essentially a white wine from a red grape. They also do a bubbly which is actually not too bad.

The wine tour included a step into the room where the bubbly is kept and bottled. Interesting stuff. Dinner was originally planned outdoors with more wine, some music but rain played truant and we ended up back in the lounge area.

The second day began with a quick breakfast of Upma, toast and eggs done every which way. Post this we headed to the main vineyard which is located about 8kms away on a country road. Enjoyed thie short ride immensely. The driver likes to off road and would take the fun way rather than the paved way at times.

A little gazebo sits atop a hill central to the property, as far as the eyes can see its all Fratelli vineyards, you really get a sense of the scale of the enterprise. They sent another car with the food, the lunch set up and of course more wine. 

Lunch was again, north indian and chinese washed down with all the wines we tasted the night before. 

a great way to spend the afternoon, truly. 

Overall, the weekend was far better than i anticipated. The space is modern, well equipped and comfortable. They have wifi access, a pool table, table tennis, foos ball, carrom, ATV's, cycles etc. Plenty to keep people busy over the weekend. The best thing to do would be to rent all four rooms, that would make for a terrific weekend.

The wine aspect of the weekend is taken very seriously and plays out across three stages. First they show you the wine press and the bottling and storage which they take great pride in (justifiably so) This is followed by a fun wine tasting with cheese, peanuts (do buy some of these) and chips.

The third is the tour and lunch at the actual vineyard. A comprehensive weekend, far superior to the visit at Sula which is less about wine more about just spending time at the property.

Its important to understand that its not a hotel, they can probably source things if required but its far from shops and its best to carry one's supply of toiletries. They have all kinds of juices, chips, soft drinks, snacks on hand and one can get it on demand.

The food is brought in from a restaurant, so one can order whatever is required from the menu. Avoid gravies and go for simple things, like dal-rice, dry veggies as it takes 15-20 mins for the food to arrive.

The staff can also cook a pretty decent pasta. I hope they start cooking on the premises soon, that will help the meal quality soar. I also felt a lack of maharashtrian cuisine, this far upstate, it feels a little wrong to not get some of it. I am sure once they seriously look at hospitality these aspects will be addressed.

Other than this little niggle, there was no real problem. Hope to be back there soon.

Special thanks to Thingal, Ajit, Amol, Ravi who were super helpful and efficient & Mr.Babulal who manages the property very ably.

Details :
Rooms : 4
Tarriff : 7-9k per couple for 2 days and one night. Full board.
Located in Akluj, 2 Hours from Pune.
Taking the Pune - Solapur Highway is recommended but this means facing Pune traffic.
Be aware, anything less than a full weekend means 6 hours of driving each way.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Vetro - A truly mega afternoon.

I have always had a bit of a love hate relationship with Vetro, didn't like the first time i was there, the second time they had truffles all over the menu which was good. Then there was one afternoon i spent watching a Michelin star chef do his thing. Granted i am a lot warmer towards them then i was when this dance began. 

The menu has been revamped but continues in the same vein with the greatest hits of Italian cuisine. I also admire any restaurant that puts a proper cheese course on its menu. 

Before the meal began we ended up in Enotecca which is their wine library, ive been in there a few times now and its never been anything less than good solid fun. We spent 90 mins here, which was quite unexpected. But restaurant manager Mayan & Manohar who was introduced to us as their wine guru spoke with a lot of passion and kept pouring. I especially enjoyed the sweet white Danzante and also the Barolo was quite promising. 

The ciabatta was munched on while we waited for the food. The dipping sauce was a little spicy but enjoyable, there was another cauliflower dipping sauce which was pretty interesting too. 

the Danzante, a good enjoyable summer wine. 

The pickled veggies were interesting, not necessarily something i would order. The Caprese of course is a stable and a good mark to judge a restaurant by. The simplest of dishes it lives and dies by the freshness of its ingredients. This one was spot on. 

The parmesan and black truffle ravioli pictured here is one of the most amazing things i have tasted. All flavour, must go back just for this. The risotto was okay, a tad light on flavour but mercifully not bland. The aglio oglio was done to perfection. 

the Barolo, i think. although the colors seem off. 

The Parmigiana is a baked eggplant with mozzarella and tomato sauce and another one of those truly diabolical dishes. All kinds of wonderful flavours. The Onion on the other hand was the weaker dish of the too. 

Terrific desserts here, the first one was quite unusual, a chocolate cake with olive oil rather than butter and cream. takes over eighteen hours to make and in the middle is the zest of blood oranges.Heady stuff, tasted like a really fresh Jaffa Cake. The tiramisu was pretty good as was the Mango panacotta. the blueberry ice cream again, was made in house and was terrific. 

All in all not only was it a super lunch, i believe there are a few dishes on the menu which promise even greater delights. The service was also top notch, Mayan & Manohar know their stuf, Chef Prashant was at Ziya next door but has a solid grip on Italian as well.

Compared to my meal at Maritime, the food here is miles ahead. 
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