Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Satiate your taste buds with Amritsari cuisine at Vivanta by Taj-Dwarka

~Discover quintessential flavours from the state of five rivers-Punjab~

Indian culinary tradition boasts of exquisite and authentic recipes that are bound to satiate every palate. Punjabi food is earthy, simple and soul satisfying. Taj as a brand has constantly worked towards bringing culinary intelligence to the forefront. Seizing the real essence of our diverse cuisine, this October Vivanta By Taj-Dwarka brings to you the much awaited Amritsari food festival, a fantastic medley of finger-licking delights to indulge in.

The dishes are specially curated by their renowned and expert Chef Amarjot who has travelled all the way from Taj Swarna, Amritsar to showcase his signature dishes. The delectable menu consists of Murg Makhanwala, Bhunna Gosht, Harikewali MachhiMasaledar KhumbanPunjabi Kadhi PakodiAmritsari DalKulchey CholeyKesari Phirni.  To tantalize your taste buds, the team of chefs will also offer scrumptious delicacies like Nalli Kharore Shorba, Kadhai Sabzi, Bhunna Ghosht, Amritsari Machhi and more. With so much in store, this food festival is a must visit for all you Food Connoisseurs. 
Date: 3rd October 2017 - 20th October 2017
Time: Dinner, 07:00 to 11:30 pm
Venue: Indus Express, Vivanta by Taj, Dwarka
      Price: A La carte menu
(price for two- 2500 plus taxes approx.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Moonstruck in Gachibowli

Over the Moon Brew Company is a splendid new place to chill out in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. The original Over the Moon in Jubilee Hills has been known over the years as one of the coolest places, popular with youngsters. It was the perfect place to unwind and party especially through Junoon, a party club that belts out groovy global music, powered with a massive OHM sound system, the place hosts nights featuring various international DJs/Artistes. 

Now this is another edition of Over The Moon but with a whole different style. One can say it is the same soul with a new avatar. Gachibowli has been wanting for a fine bar & brew place. With an ever growing corporate crowd that needs the perfect and sophisticated place to unwind after office hours, grab a drink and shake a leg. This is one place which will make you forget even if you have a bad day at office!

Spread over two floors, the ground floor is done up in vibrant exposed brick work, wood and wrought iron. There is a very nice open patio where there is Al Fresco seating and an impressive bar and a cute little food truck that functions only in the evenings with a special snacky menu. Inside there is a huge island bar and comfortable seating options with a stage cum DJ console at one end. 

On the first floor, the d├ęcor is all white with colourful touches in yellow and blue, where a lunch buffet is laid out on weekdays. The huge beer tanks of the microbrewery on one side add the right touch. This floor has a colourful Mediterranean feel. There is a huge pink piano on one side which is actually another DJ console!


Settling downstairs, we finally embark upon a culinary adventure. The menu looks exciting. For drinks we try the beer samplers-there is the light Ale, a dark caramelized Stout and Wheat Beer. But then I finally settle for a Cosmopolitan which is very well blended.

Peri Peri Prawns with Wasabi Mayo

For starters we tried the Peri Peri Prawns with Wasabi Mayo and Madras Curry Powder Flavoured Fish both of which are excellent. I personally loved the prawns served very aesthetically in shot glasses. For vegetarian starter we tried Crispy Fried Water Chestnut and Lotus Stem which is crunchy and perfectly cooked. The Burmese Packets are also pretty neat with a stuffing of soft corn and cheese.

Burmese Packets

For main course we try a complete contrast of dishes. The menu itself is very vast and varied and there is something for everybody, which is what works in Hyderabad. They have a very good Lunch Platter deal of Rs 300 AI with which you get a mug of beer free! 

Butter Chicken with Tandoori Roti

So we order Bengali Macher Jhol with Steamed Rice, Butter Chicken with Tandoori Roti, Phad Thai Noodles with Chicken and Chili Basil Fried Rice. The Butter Chicken certainly made one nostalgic about Delhi, so good and authentic was the taste. This is the first place in Hyderabad I saw where the tandoori roti was made of atta or whole wheat flour, just the way I love it and not maida or refined flour. The Macher Jhol was average. The Phad Thai noodles were delicious as was the Chili Basil Fried Rice. All in all, this is a fantastic deal for corporates looking to have a team lunch or ladies who want to organize a kitty party.

We were too full to have dessert although there are good choices such as Baileys Shahi Tukda and Salted Caramel Tart. We just tasted the Double ka Meetha from the buffet and it was excellent.

Over the Moon is very clubby at evening with live music and DJs and a section that becomes the dance floor. Great place for lounging with friends in the evening with a nice selection of drinks. It is a place that lives up to its name. Do visit soon for that ‘over the moon’ feeling!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Olive Welcomes Autumn with Warm Creative Food Canvas

"Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower."

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year, when nature undergoes a subtle transition as the hot and sultry summer eases out gradually, bringing in a pleasant nip in the air, as you want to snuggle in something warm and rejoice this beautiful life once more. Olive Bistro, Hyderabad, that has become a benchmark of pure, natural flavours in a city foodscape steeped in over the top masalas and curries, is sure to savour this beautiful time and essay it in its menu. Beautiful restaurants are canvases of self expression and creativity. They create and dazzle and surprise and are never run of the mill. They run away from the mill, again and again, season by season.

So in a city where most restaurants 'play safe' and offer a strange hotch potch of 'multi-cuisine' fare with no character of its own, Olive stands proudly doing what it does best. And yet they have slowly cajoled and manoeuvred and steered the city's palate to new tastes and culinary adventures. A case in point being when they started four years ago, they would sell two glasses of Sangria per day. And let me tell you they have the best Sangria in town. Today they sell almost eight litres of Sangria per day! The new autumn menu, culled out by Chef Rishim Sachdeva is a warm embrace of a soft and fluffy, fine Pashmina on a nippy evening by the lake. It is sophisticated but heartwarming, timeless and indigenous, light and soothing.

"The menu is all about local, seasonal produce done in a fun way," says Chef Rishim, adding "that involves lot of umami flavour that we achieve through fermentation and preserving. The cooking is technique heavy but in a fun way."

So in a preview, we were floored with a smorgasbord of dishes with grace and grit and gravitas. They appeal instantly with the grace of vibrant colours and stunning yet simple plating. Then they exhibit a grit representing the planned way in which the best is extracted from a mundane, every day ingredient such as cauliflower or beetroot or peas, and paring it with a meaty element, making them exciting and highly palatable. Finally when you taste it, there is the gravitas or wholesomeness and character to completely satisfy your senses.

BBQ Cauliflower and Leek Flatbread

For vegetarian appetisers you have Funky Hummus and Smoked Falafel and clearly the unforgettable BBQ Cauliflower and Leek Flatbread. Being a Punjabi who loves her Gobhi ka Paratha, I felt this is a deconstructed Gobhi ka Paratha, but served with so much elan and finesse that it will be the favourite vegetarian dish of many. 

Red Velvet Chicken with Quinoa Tabbouleh

Kefir Lime Fishcakes with Saffron Aioli and Pickled Fennel

Pork Ribs with Carrot, Keffir and Saute Green Beans
For non veg there is an even more impressive range- Red Velvet Fried Chicken-Quinoa Tabbouleh which is such a winner of a dish using beetroot in such an innovative way that even a kid would love it, Pork Ribs with Carrot, Keffir and Saute Green Beans is balanced and sublime with perfectly cooked pork, tender, home smoked and slow braised! The Kefir Lime Fishcakes with Saffron Aioli and Pickled Fennel have a fresh lemony, zesty feel that goes well with fennel. Each dish comes with a nice salad on the side and some interesting grains, making it very balanced and nutritious too.

Slow Braised Lamb

One must compliment the gorgeous plates and platters they serve the dishes in. Specially procured and custom-made, the beautifully crafted plates in hues of turquoise, grey, aqua and  blue set the mood for sure. In the main course, I sampled the Slow Braised Lamb-inspired by Chef Rishim's travel to Morocco- which is slowly braised for 72 hours, served with seasonal peas and potato mash, beetroot puree and crunchy vegetables.

Salted Caramel Tart

For dessert, there is the heavenly Salted Caramel Tart, both sinful and scintillating. The Tiramisu for two is a fantastic dessert, thankfully not served in a glass (done to death in other places) but a pastry form with Kahlua sponge and creamy mascarpone cheese and homemade lady fingers.


I have never been disappointed by any dish at Olive till date and the experience continues. The beautiful ambience is the perfect icing on the cake. Yet, just setting up an idyllic ambience and not backing it up with constant innovation does not work. At Olive, more than anything else, you experience the fruits of labour of a team ticking with fresh ideas, robust energy and the will to excite and influence and educate the tastes of a city which is soon adapting to a cosmopolitan, global ethos.

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." Indeed.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tantalising Tales of Tangra at Zega

All the borders in the world are man made. Everything is connected. We are all hooked together like the colours of a rainbow.

And Thank God for that. Otherwise life would be so one-dimensional and boring. Perhaps the best outcome of migration of people is the way cuisines and cultures evolve. Tangra Chinese in one such phenomenon that happened when a large number of Chinese people came and settled down in Tangra area of Kolkata to work in the local tanneries. They brought with them a different cuisine, ingredients, cooking techniques and sensibilities. Many of them opened Mom and Pop restaurants to sustain themselves financially and also as an effort to hold onto their roots. Soon they also started adapting to the tastes of their new land and improvising their recipes to suit local tastes. 

Chef Ho Chi Ming, Chef de Cuisine at Zega, Sheraton Hyderabad hails from one such family that moved to Kolkata in 1950s. Although he is a trained Chef with a degree, he learnt this style of Chinese cooking from his family, having never been to China himself. “Two of the distinct ingredients that were added to our cuisine in India were the tomato ketchup and white vinegar,” says Ming, as he proudly showcases the short and crisp menu he has compiled for the ongoing ‘Tales of Tangra’ food festival at Zega.

The response to the festival has been so phenomenal that it has been extended till 24th Sept 2017. Although there is a Tangra section even on their regular menu, but in this festival, the Chef has recreated some of his own childhood and family favourites such as Mei Foon or fine rice vermicelli cooked with vegetables or meat of your choice and Chilli Chicken, which he says is something he tries to taste in every Tangra restaurant when he visits home, as every restaurant has its own version.

The starters include classics such as Prawn Gold Coin, Okra and Aubergine Pepper Salt and Crispy Corn Grains Ginger Coriander Sauce which were all very well prepared dishes.

For soup you can have Crab and Asparagus Soup which is a really mild and heartwarming soup that can chase the blues away. For the main course you can try the Diced Chicken Devil Sauce, a spicy, fiery preparation or Prawn Ball Hot Garlic Sauce which has small prawn dumplings oozing with flavours, seasoned with spring onion and garlic in a fiery sauce. 

The Mei Foon or rice vermicelli is a great substitute to noodles and rice and so delicious that it doesn’t need any other accompaniment. Vegetarians can try the Buddha Delight which has a medley of babycorn, shiitake, wood ear, carrot, asparagus and water chestnut. The food is piquant and full of taste which is more suited to Indian palate, yet retaining its Chinese identity.

Along with this delightful menu, the regular menu is also being served. The best part is that the festival offers an A La Carte menu so you can pick and choose what you want and are not burdened to go for a buffet or a set menu which I feel can be overbearing at times, especially if you are experimenting with a newish cuisine.

Chef Ho Chi Ming has that magic in his hands. He gives you that heat of spice and whole red chillies in one dish and balances it with a soothing blandness in another. He focuses on Schezwan and Cantonese styles with his Tangra touch. He achieves balance and boldness, tantalizing your palate with something new and then reassuring with something you have grown up eating. While he plans to visit the land of his forefathers, China some day, he is at the moment happy popularizing his unique cuisine amongst Hyderabadis, while he enjoys a nice Biryani too! Do visit Zega at Sheraton, Gachibowli to add this refreshing cuisine to your foodie repertoire.