Saturday, April 18, 2015

Italian Food Festival at Asian Kitchen, at Four Points, Vashi

I went out for another Navi Mumbai Foodies meal, this time to the Asian Kitchen at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel at Vashi. Located right next to the well known Inorbit mall this business hotel is one of the premium properties in Navi Mumbai. The Asian Kitchen is one of four restaurants in the hotel and has a primarily Asian a la carte menu. This restaurant is headed by Chef Mukul Jha and hosts special food festivals that celebrate a variety of cuisines, both Indian and European, quite frequently. Currently they're having an Italian Food Festival that's on till the 23rd of April.

I browsed through the menu and was pleased to see a good mix of seafood, poultry, lamb and pork, plus a decent selection of vegetarian options too. Though not quite a 50-50 distribution of veg and non veg options, it was still a reasonably balanced menu. From soups and salads, through antipasti, mains, pastas, pizzas and risottos, ending with desserts, the menu was varied and interesting.

We started with the soups. Anticipating that the portions would be large we requested that we be served tasting portions of the four soups that were on the menu.

This is the Seafood Soup with Plum Tomatoes. If you like seafood, especially shellfish, then don't miss out on this one!

The Chicken and Shitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic Oil didn't quite do it for me but I loved the Oven Roasted Fennel and Asparagus Soup with Creme Fraiche.

I tried two salads.The Prawn, Endive and Asparagus with an Orange and Mint Reduction was fresh and flavourful. What I really appreciated was the perfectly cooked prawn. Most restaurants tend to murder prawns by over cooking them and I have developed a wariness about eating prawns outside. It was a joy munching on the succulent prawn with the fresh and crisp curly endive leaves and that zesty simple dressing.

The second salad was something really unusual. In fact, when it arrived at the table most of us thought it was hummus and wondered what it was doing in an Italian Food Festival! However it turned out to be one of the best things I've ever eaten though I don't know if it fits in with most people's concept of a salad :)

Called Pollo al Tonno, this was a simple combination of roasted chicken slices topped with a creamy tuna mayo. I'd never have imagined that the two would go so well together but they did. And how! 

The vegetarians tried the Insalata Caprese, a classic salad that's as Italian as it can get. I've always seen this one with slices of tomatoes, cheese and basil. At the Asian Kitchen it looked like this -

and the vegetarians at the table approved. That's a ball of bocconcini in the middle, instead of the usual mozarella. 

Chef Mukul came over to the table and we had a long chat with him in the course of which we also decided to just let him send us what he felt we would like best. It took the choosing what to eat part of dinner out of our hands and I really feel the chef is best equipped to suggest the best stuff on his menu. And that worked out really well.

From the anti pasti Chef sent us the Lemon Gazed Sea Bass topped with a Salmon Rosette and splashed with Dill Cream. To say the least, it was delicious. Simple clean flavours, fresh produce, and well executed, I would have happily eaten a full portion of this.

The show stopper of the evening was what came next. The Goat Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade Tart. I could go back and eat just three of these and die happy! 

I had noticed pork among the main course offerings so it will be no surprise to anyone that I opted for it. The Pork Fillet wrapped in Parma Ham served with a Sweet Potato Roesti sounded delicious and I waited eagerly for it.

This turned out to be quite disappointing, unfortunately. The roesti was lovely but the pork was seriously overcooked and dry. Being a diehard porkaholic I felt the disappointment keenly, but everything else was so good I forgave this one blip in an otherwise perfect evening.

This is the Olive and Rosemary crusted Chicken served with a Garlic Spinach Risotto and Pickled Beetroot and Red Pimento Cream. While the meat eaters at the table quite enjoyed the dish what stood out for most of us was the pickled beetroots. Tangy and flavourful, and absolutely yum!

If you like pesto this Ravioli in Pesto Cream Sauce will make your evening. The ravioli has a spinach stuffing. We also asked for some Almond White Wine Sauce as an extra, just to try out. It was superb.

The menu has pastas, pizzas and risottos with sauces, toppings and flavouring options listed. You can choose a pasta and combine it with a sauce of your preference. Or if you feel like munching on a pizza just choose what you want on it and they'll make it for you. You can also build your risotto to your preference. 

This risotto in a beetroot red wine sauce was spectacular. 

We also tried out the Pan Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with Crisp Potato and an Olive, Tomato and Grape Salsa. I'm not a fan of fruits so I passed on the salsa but I enjoyed that tuna thoroughly. The crisp discs of potato were great and I wished there was more of those. 

Finally it was time for dessert and I asked for something that Chef Mukul had mentioned from his regular a la carte menu at the Asian Kitchen - a concoction of chocolate and habanero chillies. I was intrigued and wanted to try out this much touted pairing of chocolate with a spicy chilli. The others at the table were happy to try out the desserts from the Italian menu and soon there was a steady stream of sweet goodies arriving at the table.

Tiramisu, panna cottas, gelato, everything you'd expect on a menu celebrating Italian food was there! And they were lovely. The panna cotta came in three fruit flavours - kiwi, berry, and coconut, and it was the simplest, yet prettiest dessert I'd seen in a long time. The pale pastel shades were such a welcome change from the usual lurid loud colours of most commercial desserts that are often overloaded with artificial colours. 

This is the chocolate and habanero chilli dessert. I was too stuffed to remember to ask what this was called. A thick set disc of chocolate with what I felt was a faint hint of chilli far in the background. It was really nice though I would have liked the chilli to be a little more evident. However, the others at the table found it to be perfect. Quite a winner! There's a little dollop of berry sauce at the top which I discovered half way through - that sauce takes this dessert to a new level entirely and I felt a drizzle of this sauce on the plate so there's more of it would be far better than the chocolate sauce that was there, because there's already plenty of rich luscious chocolate in the middle. 

If you like good honest food that's presented and executed well then this Italian Food Festival is a must visit. I liked the fact that Chef Mukul hasn't experimented or fooled around or given a mandatory twist to everything in sight - he's stuck to letting good ingredients tell their story without interfering and that was what won me over this evening. 

The Italian Food Festival is on till Thursday, 23rd April. 

Disclaimer - This was a hosted dinner for the Navi Mumbai Foodies by the Asian Kitchen at the Four Points by Sheraton, at Vashi. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

An Evening at Coral Lounge, Vashi - Review

Though I've been living in Navi Mumbai for many years now, I haven't really checked out the bar and lounge scene here. So when the opportunity arose to check out the Coral Lounge at Vashi with the Navi Mumbai Foodies, I went.

Located above Navaratna, one of the oldest and best known restaurants in Vashi, in Sector 17, this is a lovely little lounge that's perfect for after work drinks or a fun weekend evening out with friends. The music is really loud so I would't choose this place for a romantic evening out unless the two of you are looking for an evening of music, drinks and good food without the conversation - which, to be honest, can be great fun.

Coral Lounge is on the first floor, and the way up is on the side of the building. Finding it was a bit of a hunt for me because there are no boards or signage to guide people. But that was a minor hurdle and I found my way up eventually.

The place is small but there's enough comfortable seating with low tables and sofas, and regular restaurant style higher tables and seats too. I must mention, they also have a clean loo.

The bar menu is quite extensive with a selection of wines from Sula, and most of the popular spirits, both imported and local. They also have a decent selection of classic cocktails, shooters, and a line up of their own concoctions too. If you're not into alcohol you can have regular soft drinks or try out their mocktails.

Once everyone had arrived and we'd settled in we ordered our drinks and snacks. We asked for small tasting portions of the snacks so we could try out a lot more before we were totally stuffed! I started my evening with a classic Mojito. It's among my favourite cocktails and I wanted to see how well Coral Lounge made it. I have to say it was pretty good!

What really caught my attention as the evening wore on was the food. We'd ordered a mix mix of vegetarian and non vegetarian fare and while the non vegetarian stuff was quite good, the vegetarian snacks were really the winner for me. What impressed me the most was the fact that the options were not stuck at paneer tikka and hara bhara kebabs like at most places. The chef was happy to play with ingredients and ideas and with good results.

We had Veg Kurkuris - Crisp pastry cigars stuffed with cheese and vegetables served in shot glasses with a sweet chilli sauce at the bottom. These were finger licking good and I actually liked the contrast of the sweet chilli sauce with the savoury cigar. I could have had a dozen of these quite happily.

The other Vegetarian starter I liked was from their tandoor section - Paneer Makhmali Bharwaan Roll. Thin sheets of paneer rolled up around a mixed vegetable stuffing, these were delectable.

We also tried their Rock Corn Tempura which I thought was strictly okay. Corn kernels in a red batter is not what I'd call tempura, but apart from the technicality of the nomenclature, I found the dish itself pretty mundane. Not bad, but just nothing great either.

The non vegetarian starters were all quite good. We started with Squid Koliwada, followed by Awadhi Seekh Kebabs, and Chicken Dimsum.

The squid was superb and this spicy Koliwada version packed a punch. The squid had been sliced thinly and we had succulent perfectly fried squid rings and not chewy rubbery rings that are a struggle to eat (especially because you cannot spit out gobs of chewed up food when you're out in public!).

I'm not a fan of seekh kebabs but Coral Lounge does quite a good version and I was glad we'd ordered the Awadhi Seekh Kebabs. The Chicken dimsum was nice but not spectacular.

I didn't want to have any more alcohol do I tried out the Sundowner from the mocktail menu. A blend of orange, lime, peach and cranberry with sugar, it turned out to be a bit too sickeningly thick and sweet. I guess something fizzy in the mix would have lightened it up and if they leave out the added sugar it wouldn't hurt.

It was Bollywood Night on Wednesday so we had a mix of the latest Bollywood hits playing at (what I consider) a deafening volume. It's a relatively small space so maybe that's why I found the music oppressively loud. I must mention that the place was quite full and the other guests were having a good time. In fact, we noted that it was quite full considering that it was the middle of the week. They also have Karaoke so if you want to sing they have quite a selection to choose from.

The good news for old fogies like me is that it's Retro Night on Sundays and I might just drag the hubby over one Sunday for a deafening date night!

Coral Lounge has a discount offer for my readers that's valid for the next few weeks. Quote the code when you visit and get a 15% discount on your bill! The code is RDX15.

Disclaimer - The evening was hosted by Coral Lounge for Navi Mumbai Foodies.

Coral Lounge
First Floor, Nirman Vyapar Kendra
Above Hotel Navaratna,
Sector 17, Vashi

Friday, April 10, 2015

Prawns in Butter, with Garlic and Fresh Parsley

I was planning my menu for a girly lunch at home. Summer is here in full force and I wanted to make something relatively light on spices but full of flavour. I also wanted to cook a lot as this lunch was a special one. One of my closest buddies is moving away to another city and this was a sort of farewell do too.

The thing is, I'm not good with planning menus. I start with a sort of clear idea of what I want to try but I get easily distracted and it is quite rare that I actually cook what I planned to. My menu had a salad, a starter that would involve prawns, a roast chicken, and dessert. I also thought I'd make bread.

Typically, I got distracted while looking at recipes and cooking videos, discussing ideas with online friends, working, and dealing with mundane daily things and I suddenly realised it was the eve of the proposed lunch and I hadn't even done the shopping. It was already quite late in the evening, in fact, it was night.

Funnily, just around the time I realised this a friend posted his planned menu for a meal he was cooking the next day - the menu, the shopping, the techniques involved in the cooking, all neatly written down, and that too in perfectly legible handwriting... I stared in shock. As the admiration flowed in from other members in the group I had a few moments of absolute horror and then a feeling of complete inadequacy. How did I ever get this disorganised?!

Ha ha, after the initial shock I acknowledged that I am disorganised and have always been so. Who am I kidding here? I don't like rules, I don't like rigidity, and revolting is a knee jerk response - even to a menu. I know. I need to grow up. But anyhoo, lunch was a super hit and of all the things I cooked today what won my heart is this simple prawn starter.

Prawns Poached in Butter, with Garlic and Fresh Parsley

20 large prawns, shelled and deveined.
15 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
30 gms butter
a hefty slosh of olive oil
1 tsp parsley, chopped fine

Marinate the cleaned and washed prawns in a little salt. Let it sit for around 10 minutes.

In a wok or small pan heat the butter and olive oil. Once the butter has completely melted add the garlic. Keep the heat at medium so the garlic sort of boils in the fats.

Add the prawns after a minute or so. Stir well to mix. Lower the heat and then cover the prawns and let them cook in their steam for around 3 minutes.

Stir again and ramp up the heat. Crack fresh pepper over the prawns and let all the moisture evaporate.

Sprinkle the chopped parsley and mix it in. Remove to a bowl and serve immediately. Don't forget to add the butter and scrapings from the pan.

This is a very simple recipe and there lies the rub. Prawns are easy to over cook and thereby destroy. Keep an eye on the prawns as you cook them. You might need to adjust cooking time depending on their size. Don't leave them unattended, even when they are cooking under cover. Peek in once and check.

We had the prawns along with a simple focaccia topped with sun dried tomatoes and rosemary. Mopping up the juices and the butter with chunks of garlic...ah, that was just divine!

Marathon Bloggers

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Summer Holiday

It's that time of the year when the hubby takes off for a month or two to excavate. He's an archaeologist and gets to go off and 'play in the mud' as we like to call it. I used to be an archaeologist too but now I have moved on to other things. One in the family is enough, thank you!

As he gears up to leave there's a small part part of me that's feeling low because he will be gone for a long time, and big part of me that cannot wait to be alone! My summer holidays are about to begin :)

Many of my friends show concern at how I will live alone for all that time - come stay over for a few days, won't you get lonely, how will you manage... their concern is nice but quite misplaced.

I look forward to these days on my own with much eagerness. There's stuff I plan to cook, create, write, enjoy, and at the same time, I plan to do nothing. Just be. I like my own company. This is when I get to think about no one but me. I get to be as selfish as I please and it's all I, me, and myself.

There will be days when I will speak to no one, go nowhere, do nothing apart from lie in bed and read. And there will be days when I paint like crazy or write a lot, cook, bake, sing. Or I might just feel very lonely and miss K keenly.

I love it. This is my yearly retreat. I get to know myself again, I deal with stuff - some consciously and some unconsciously, there are epiphanies, and there are absolute blanks.

It is the most refreshing time of the year and I am looking forward to it.

Eventually K will be back I will be counting the hours till he's back home. And it will be fabulous to be together again - both refreshed, both rejuvenated, and both somehow loving each other a little more.

Marathon Bloggers 

Friday, April 3, 2015

British Brewing Company, Inorbit, Vashi - A Review

My mom expressed a desire to go 'malling' yesterday so the hubby and I went with her to Inorbit, Vashi. First we hit Crossword on the top floor and then I left them to browse and went off to drool at the new stuff at the HomeStop outlet at the other end of the building. On the way there I passed the British Brewing Company which has opened in the mall quite recently, maybe a couple of months or less, I'm not sure. I decided we would have our lunch here - it was a good opportunity to check it out and with two people in tow we'd be able to try out a variety of things too. So eventually, after picking up a stash of books (and a silicon baking sheet from HomeStop) we ambled over to the BBC.

The welcome blast of the ac cheered me up instantly! The place is large and spacious and the seating options include regular square tables with dining chairs, and long padded banquettes along long tables where you can really spread out and relax. We chose the banquettes. I saw young and cheerful staff around and liked the vibe of the place immediately.

As we settled in, one of the servers came up to us and placed a touchpad menu card on our table. I browsed through the menu and quite liked what I saw - a nice mix of finger food, mains, soups, burgers, salads, and desserts, along with a very generous selection of  drinks covering alcoholic and non alcoholic fare. The selection of beers was quite impressive and included a few craft beers too, apart from local and imported bestsellers.

We were quite hungry so I chose fries, a kheema pav, and their chicken wings with barbecue sauce from the touchpad. Funnily, you can't place your order from the device - you have to call one of the wait staff who will confirm your order and communicate it to the kitchen. What a waste of that fancy device!

K asked to taste the craft beers and he was promptly served tasting portions. He chose the Lost Monday, a light ale. Mom had the same. I had a fresh lime soda and I have to say it was among the best I've had in a long time. Yes, I know, it's not the fanciest thing in the world, in fact, it's one of the simplest. But I think the simpler things are the hardest to get right and the BBC did. A perfect balance of sweet and salt complemented the sourness of the lime. For me, it just hit the spot.

Service is quick and friendly, and the food arrived quite soon.

First came the fries. While I would have liked them to have served home made thick cut chips, they served the usual frozen commercial ones. But these were not over fried or tasteless. They were so good we asked for more! The fries are served with a piquant thousand island mayo which I liked very much.

I loved the chicken wings too. Lightly batter fried and then smothered in a smokey barbecue sauce, these were finger licking good. I'd go back here, settle in with a good book and easily spend a couple of hours enjoying my book and munching on wings and swilling that super lemon soda :)

The kheema pav was also good. I prefer the kheema to have a little gravy and was a little wary when this dry version appeared on the table. On tasting it I realised this was actually quite delicious too. Between my mom and I we demolished it quite happily. The portion was quite large and we were too stuffed to order any more food.

The hubby ordered the lamb burger with well grilled onions instead of the usual sliced onions and tomatoes. From the little moans coming from him as he ate it, I concluded he liked it ;)

The burger was quite huge and the best thing about it was that the bread was fresh. I think half the pleasure of a good burger lies in the bread and fortunately BBC seems to have got that bit right. The burger is served with shredded cabbage, which the hubby ignored, and a handful of fries with that same piquant sauce. A complete winner.

We angelically decided to share a dessert among the three of us. We called for their rich chocolate cake. Mom dug in her spoon first and immediately announced she wanted it all to herself! We then ordered one more and everyone was happy.

I really liked the British Brewing Company. The food was good, the portions generous, service was prompt without being intrusive, and the prices were pretty decent too. We spent around 2,500 Rupees on 3 beers, 2 fries, a portion each of chicken wings and kheema pav, 2 rich chocolate cakes, and of course, one perfectly made glass of 'limbu pani'. Not bad at all, I think.

The hubby and I are sure to make this another favourite place to hang out at. We're really pleased to have a new place to look forward to right here in Navi Mumbai.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pork with Agal (Kokum extract)

It's that time of the year again when K is gearing up to go away on excavation. This time he's going to be gone for a month and the two of us are getting ready mentally too, for his long sojourn away from home and home cooked food. Well, the food at the excavation camp is home cooked too but it's vastly different from what we cook at home and is largely vegetarian. In the run up to his departure I like to cook things that he likes and I ask him what he'd like to eat today, nearly every day. 

He was at home yesterday and as we caught up with errands and chores I asked him what I should cook. He chose pork. As long as it had potatoes in it I was free to cook it any way I liked. That worked for me and once we'd finished marketing and other stuff I set about prepping the pork. 

We'd bought a kilo of pork shoulder with a few nice chunks of fat and very few bones. After a quick light rinse I drained the meat and picked out spices for the marinade. I didn't want to make a heavy spicy dish as the days are really hot now and we were in the mood for a light dinner. As I looked around picking out the spices I spied the bottle of agal. On a whim I decided to go with agal instead of the usual vinegar.  

Pork with Agal

1 kg pork with a little fat, cubed
3 onions, sliced
3 potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 tablespoons garlic paste
2 - 3 tablespoons agal
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp jeera powder
1 tsp dhania powder
2 tej patta or cassia leaves
3 inch stick of cassia bark
1 star anise

Wash the meat lightly and drain off excess water. Marinate with all the dry spices, salt, garlic paste and agal. Mix thoroughly and leave covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

In a heavy bottomed vessel (I used my cast iron Dutch oven) heat some oil. Fry the potatoes till they turn pale golden. Remove from the oil and reserve on a plate. In the same oil throw in the whole garam masala and then after half a minute, add the sliced onions. Fry gently till the onions start to turn a pale gold. Don't let them brown. 

Now add the marinated pork and turn up the heat. Braise the meat well for a good five minutes stirring frequently but not all the time. Reduce the flame, cover the pot and let it braise a little more - around 15 minutes. Stir it every 5 minutes or so. Add any remaining marinade. Add enough water to just barely cover the meat chunks. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. 

Add the potatoes and cover the pot again. Let it cook for an hour or more till the pork is soft. Stir gently once in a while just to mix things up. Be careful not to break or mash up the potatoes. There will be a thick gravy, but not a lot of it.  

The agal gives the pork a lovely sweet sour flavour that is distinct. The onions disintegrate to form a lovely smooth gravy and the fat from the pork helps take the dish to a higher level. We don't eat the chunks of fat anymore but I never cook pork without some fat in the pot. 

Serve hot with pav, sliced bread, or parathas. Or have it with hot rice. 

Agal is a pulpy extract made from the kokum fruit and is popular in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. It's used as a souring agent just like tamarind pulp is used in the southern states. 

Marathon Bloggers

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pot Pourrie, Vashi - Revamped and Reborn!

We've been living in Navi Mumbai for nearly 8 years now and I remember how thrilled we were when the Inorbit Mall first opened its doors and Pot Pourrie soon became one of our favourite restaurants here. Starved for good food, Pot Pourrie was at the top of our list of favourite restaurants here. A vast eclectic menu that covered many cuisines across Europe and the Far East, a very VFM lunch buffet, a well stocked bar, friendly service, fun ambience, PP as we started calling the place had it all. We came here so often we soon became friends with Chef Raunak, an enthusiastic and creative young guy who really hit it off with K.

A few months ago we heard that PP was going in for a makeover - the menu and the restaurant itself were going to get a new look and there were going to be some big changes in how they operated. The daily lunch buffet was going to be axed and they had many new things lined up for the menu. PP reopened but somehow we just didn't manage to go visit till finally I went with the Navi Mumbai Foodies (an enthusiastic bunch of young bloggers with whom I go around checking out the food scene in Navi Mumbai). You can read the Navi Mumbai Foodies reviews and posts here.

We happened to visit on a Wednesday evening, and I was eager to see the new avatar of Pot Pourrie. The place looked fantastic and I loved how they had integrated a whole lot of older elements into the new look. I was thrilled to see a buffet laid out along one side of the restaurant! It turned out that they had started doing a Wednesday night buffet just to see how things go. Well, after looking at the spread and how beautifully and innovatively it was presented, I was convinced this was going to be a hit.

Here are some photos of the the buffet - the sheer variety amazed me, and once we tried out the food I was happy that PP still maintained its high standards as before.

The buffet was superb and at Rs 650 plus taxes, I think it's very well priced.

I wanted to eat out of their A la Carte menu so I went back after a couple of days with K. We dropped in for lunch and tried out quite a few things, all of them new. For starters we had the Bacon Wrapped Potato Wedges - Rs 360. I can't resist the call of bacon so it didn't surprise K when I chose this starter. The bacon was perfectly cooked but the potato wedge wasn't seasoned at all, so once you got past the bacon it was a mass of tasteless potato. I was disappointed. I guess seasoning is tricky because bacon is inherently salty but all the chef needs to do is taste one and the seasoning can be adjusted.

We opted for the Caesar's Salad - Rs 320 and it was lovely! Crisp lettuce, lots of croutons, a light mayo, some zucchini (which I didn't expect), and lots of cheese and chicken too. We demolished it in minutes.

For mains K had their Beef Steak Medallions - Rs 575, and I chose the Greek Style Citrus Roast Chicken - Rs 500. K likes his steaks medium rare and ordered them accordingly. With chicken I just hope it's not overcooked, especially if they're using breast meat.

While the medallions looked fantastic, K found them overcooked to medium, and they weren't pink on the inside like they were supposed to be. He did tell our server so when the young man came to check if all was good. The server apologised profusely and insisted on getting K a new serving but since K'd already eaten half he said it was unnecessary. However, a new serving of perfectly cooked medallions arrived in a few minutes and this time all was perfect.

I really liked the chicken. Perfectly cooked with loads of assorted vegetables, I enjoyed my main course thoroughly. Though I was a little concerned that the sauce would be sweet because of the oranges, it wasn't. I would order this dish quite happily again.

Servings at Pot Pourrie are quite large so if you're a small eater share your main course with your friend. We were too stuffed to eat dessert!

The food is good, the service is attentive (and they are quick to correct things if you're not quite happy with what you're served), the place is large and well lit, equipped with big screen TVs for game nights. The bar is well stocked at the bar man is talented. Make the most of Happy Hours every evening from 4pm to 8pm.

Disclaimer - This review is written on the basis of an evening hosted by the restaurant for #Navimumbaifoodies, and on a subsequent lunch paid for by the author.

Navi Mumbai Foodies

Marathon Bloggers 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On Meeting Jiggs Kalra and What He Means to Me

Yesterday I was privileged enough to meet one of the grand old men of the food business in India - Mr. J Inder Singh Kalra, known to most as Jiggs Kalra. The venue was the very swish Masala Library in the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, and the guests included the who's who of the Indian food world - chefs, restaurateurs, food columnists, editors, and bloggers. The evening was in honour of Mr. Kalra completing 40 glorious years in the business.

Why was I there? I wanted to honour the man too. It's his recipes published in a weekend newspaper magazine that started me off on my journey of food discovery. His style of writing is etched in my mind and will always be.

I must have been around 10 years old; my parents subscribed to the Telegraph newspaper and on weekends there was a magazine supplement. Mr. Kalra had a recipe column in it and that was my first encounter with food writing of any sort. In most homes in those days, mothers just cooked what they'd learned from their own mothers, aunts and grandmothers, and later, from the in laws. Not many people had cookbooks - my mom certainly didn't. The recipe column was, therefore, a huge novelty for me. I didn't know food writing existed and hadn't realised that there is a system in cooking. At that age I hadn't given it a thought. Cooking was something moms did and that was that.

I looked forward to the weekend supplement and to Mr. Kalra's column. It was magical. There were wonderful pictures and the recipes seemed unreal to me. The measurements were so exact they seemed impossible. 3 gram saffron, he said. Or 12 ml garlic juice, strained. I'd never seem my mom measure anything when she cooked, neither did Ahmed aunty from downstairs, or Shobha's mom upstairs who made the world's best dosas. Nor had I ever seen them strain garlic juice or anything like that. Didn't they just chop the garlic or bash it on the grinding stone? The recipes must be fiction, like other stories, I concluded. I was fascinated.

Years later I realised that recipes were real and they fascinated me even more. I had started cooking by then. I didn't encounter Mr. Kalra's writing again for many years till I chanced upon his classic book Prashad in my mother in law's library. I remember smiling at my own innocence all those years back.

The invitation to celebrate 40 years of Jiggs Kalra took me back to that magazine column and the magic I found in his recipes. I received my own copy of Prashad yesterday - a slice of that same magic, from the magician himself.

Marathon Bloggers

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rockville Deli, Vashi - A Review

Navi Mumbai has been sprouting quite a few new restaurants, coffee shops, and eateries in the recent months and Rockville Deli at Vashi is one among them.

Located right next to the huge Kalyan Jewellers showroom near Vashi station this is perfectly located if you want to grab a bite on your way home from work, or relax over coffee and some very interesting eats in the evening. There's loads of outdoor seating and a smaller indoor air conditioned section which will definitely be in great demand once summer hits followed by the monsoons.

That was my first impression of the place before I had a look at the menu. As it turns out they have a really varied menu stretching from breakfast options through to a variety of mains, snacks, mini -meals, sandwiches and burgers, generous crock pots (a new concept in Navi Mumbai for sure), pizza, and even tava biryani. They also have a decent selection of hot and cold beverages, sundaes and desserts. Though there are many categories, each category has a few options under it, making the seemingly vast menu actually quite simple. There's plenty of choice for vegetarians and the cuisines stretch from Italian to Indian, with a lot of other Continental flavours thrown in. 

We were a group of seven and we decided to order a variety of dishes covering as many categories as we could, instead of ordering individually. This allowed us to sample a nice variety of preparations giving us a good idea of what's good and what's not so great at Rockville Deli. 

We started with mocktails and shakes and then proceeded to try out the food. The selection was pretty standard with Oreo Shake, Mint Mojito, Mocha Shake and Ice Tea which we opted for. The drinks were well made and what I really liked was that they were not too sweet. Serving drinks in jam jars seems to be the hip thing to do these days and Rockville Deli wasn't bucking that trend. So there we were with our jam jars and stripey straws, enjoying our drinks! 

Mint Mojito

Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich

Mushroom, Chicken Sausage and Egg Crockpot

Stuffed Egg White Omlette

Moroccan Burger

Jalapeno Potato Cheese Frittata

Waffles with Whipped Cream and Maple Flavoured Syrup

Mocha Magic Sundae

Hawaiian Tropicana Sundae

Rockville Deli is certainly a nice place to hang out at - the location is convenient, the ambience is beautiful, the menu is extensive and the prices are quite reasonable. The fact that this place has an all day breakfast is another huge plus point because Navi Mumbai lacks these sort of things, though they are coming up now. 

There are a few things they need to pay attention to, like training their serving staff better and making sure they're well versed with what the items on the menu are. Service is friendly enough but needs a little polish, that's all! I didn't dislike any of the food or drinks that I tried but I didn't find anything spectacular or memorable either. Food presentation is a little lacklustre but if you're like me, you're more concerned with the taste and quality rather than plating. However, good presentation is not a bad thing at all and always works to an advantage.  

Would I go back to Rockville Deli? I most certainly would. 

Disclaimer - The evening was hosted by Rockville Deli for NaviMumbaiFoodies