Sunday, November 23, 2014

Yum Yum Cha, Select City Walk

Joining the Pan-Asian brigade of Diva Kitsch, Yum Yum Tree and others is a colourful cafe called Yum Yum Cha in a busy mall in Saket. To begin with, Yum Yum Cha takes Sushi and Sashimi from fine dining restaurants to a more casual, relaxed setting. The food is stunning and how they dole out such gratifying fare from a tiny space at Select City Walk mall, Saket is a wonder. Well, not really. What else would you expect when you get to know Yum Yum Cha is a product of the famous sibling The Yum Yum Tree? 


The 40 cover dining space is an open cafe done tastefully with colourful Japanese Origami dumplings, tea pots, geisha, slippers denoting casual dining, tea-pots and more. These symbols are also embroidered on napkins and on aprons of the ushers and would keep you visually engaged while you wait for your order (which won't take very long).


While the Spicy Asparagus dumplings (4 pieces for Rs 245) with a filling of asparagus in satay sauce and Bok Choy dumplings (4 pieces for Rs 245) with vegetables and garlic, chilli are good, the star of the show is the Crispy Vegetable Cheung fun (Rs 385 for 6 pieces).





Asparagus tempura and Spicy avocado Sushi come at Rs 485 for 8 pieces. Club that with a nice drink and you have an afternoon meal. We tried the Black Magic and the Thai orange and Kaffir Lime fun bottles from the listed beverages. The drinks, however, were a little underwhelming. Some tweaking and intensifying of flavours would reap yummy benefits. The Crispy Corn cake (Rs 285) was topped with chillies and burnt garlic. Bang on flavour, pretty presentation, tweaked for the Indian palate (read spicy and full of garlicky goodness) this was a show stopper and comes highly recommended.

The sizzling basil & chilly sticky rice were served up beautifully in a hot stone pot in which it was assembled and cooked. The server stirs it up right on the table for an interactive touch and some fun on the table while you drool into a coma by aroma. The Paper Hot Pot based on Japanese Nabe will have the people on your neighbouring table stealing glances. We ordered the Ramen soup with noodles and it was pretty acceptable.

Your buck would really stop at the dessert. Do not order anything other than the world famous 
Icecream. For the uninitiated, Mochi is made from a  glutinous Japanese rice which is pounded into a desired shape and coloured suitably. The ice-cream comes filled in the Mochi. We tried the classic Matcha Green Tea which is a Skeeter favourite. The coconut and Jaggery Mochi is a sensational delight for those who like things a little sweet.

The service was good and a tad fast. It was heartening to see owner Prathna Tuli enthusiastically manage tables rather than leaving the task on the shoulders of their able staff.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Olive, Mehrauli: Winter Menu 2014, a sneak peak

Skeeter woke up and felt she needed to pinch herself to believe that she actually had the kind of food she did one night ago. It was Olive time again. Olive is one of the most pleasing places to eat at. Whether you pick a daytime visit, a cool evening or an unrelenting winter night; you are bound to want to stay there a little more. Couple the ambience with great food and here's what follows: Skeeter arrived to this beautiful box of savoury cornetto planted on arborio rice like a bejwelled mini garden. Chef Sujan Sarkar never fails to amuse (bouche)!


What stuns Skeeter most is how the chef plays around with beetroot to yield (oops plate) spectacle after spectacle. He presents the same ingredients in a different avtaar whenever he wants! Last time Skeets had a Salt baked beetroot with goat's cheese, wild rocket leaves, orange and apricot puree. This time she had a Beetroot Carpaccio sandwich (piped cream cheese sandwiched in two slim roundels of beetroot) seated around artichokes, scattered pine nuts, orange segments and drizzled with a mint dressing. Who'd  think beetroot can be had in so many deelish variations?




The Melting Camembert was another stunner. The presentation was as classic and appealing as the dish itself. Gooey, melting Camembert cheese surrounded by a mix of mushrooms fried in garlic and perfumed with thyme with a side of a perfectly done puffed wheat toast served on a cast iron pan standing on a wooden platter. How very 60's?! You'd want to dig right in like Skeeter did and stop only when you wipe the pan clean :)



Plating food in an arty way is sure a treat to the eyes and the senses. But when you see a remarkably well-plated dish it is equally heartbreaking to demolish it. So it happened with Skeeter when she saw the Pan seared Gnocchi, with minty Zucchini and green beans, with pea puree, crunchy toasted almonds in a blue cheese emulsion. The Gnocchi came swimming in the blue cheese and pea puree and was topped with watercress that made the whole thing look like a heavenly herb garden where fairies come to play. Have a look! 


There was a sublime wild mushroom risotto too!

All through her meal, Skeeter was sipping on this wonderful drink called Hot Velvet, perfect to nurse a cold or just get mildly high on a nippy evening. It was stirred up with Grey Goose, spice syrup and earl grey tea; served warm, and came glistening in a transparent, long glass mug, with a stick of cinnamon, a star anise, an orange rind for company. 


The dessert made a befitting end to a great meal. Mini creme caramels, drizzled with caramel popcorn consomme, a chia seed and hazel nut crunch topping. A must try on your list, when you go visiting Olive.

P.S: Skeeter was invited for the winter menu sampling





Friday, October 17, 2014

Pizza Express Delhi vs Pizza Express London

It's raining Pizzas in Delhi and how! Last month Skeets visited Indigo Delhi, then came Tonino and Pizza Express. The buck stops at Pizza Express for Skeets as they make another foray to the Pizza market in Delhi. 
It is one hell of a task for Skeets to write about Pizzas as she is extremely biased towards orginal/classic Margherita pizzas. There's no looking beyond for her. But she shall try. Skeeter's first tryst with Pizza Express was in London and that was an overwhelming experience. So, she was looking at a repeat experience at Pizza Express, Delhi, very reluctantly. 


Live kitchen and some take away boxes

The signature dough balls (Rs 165) were mopped up with garlic butter and this, Skeets must warn is an addictive combo at Pizza Express. One can opt for the dough balls with a trio of dips and a larger portion. Skeets then proceeded for the Bruschetta Con Funghi (Rs 385) which was a mini meal in itself. The golden bread was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and came topped with baked button mushrooms, bechamel sauce, red onion, chopped parsley and a drizzle of balsamic. Pizza Express has loads of salads on offer but Skeets skipped them to do justice to Pizzas and dessert.

(Left: Dough balls and garlic butter. Right:Bruschetta Con Funghi )

The Pizza tossing spectacle at Pizza Express, Delhi

(Left:Proofing of the dough at Pizza Express, India. Right: Pizza base with tomato sauce from Parma )

The Giardiniera Pizza (classic base) is topped with mushrooms, mozzarella, leeks, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and olives on a tomato and pesto base drizzled with fragrant garlic oil and comes at Rs 510. The Pizza Express classic base has its own fan following but if one wants they can upgrade it to the thinner, crispier Romana base for Rs 100. Extra toppings for any pizza come at Rs 45 a pop; choose from char grilled veggies, eggs, sweet peppadew among others. There are some non-veg toppings available too but that was not Skeets' area of interest. Skeets moved on to the Padana pizza (RS 595) on a Romana base. It came topped with Goat's cheese, mozzarella, spinach, caramelised onions and a drizzle of garlic oil. This sublime Pizza was Skeeter's personal favourite and she recommends you must try the Padana at Pizza Express. Oh and do drizzle some extra garlic oil for enhanced flavour.

 Padana pizza on Romana base
On to desserts, Skeets is happy to report that the Pizza Express Cheesecake did not fail her. The baked vanilla cheesecake (Rs 295) is served with your pick of cream, gelato or mascarpone cheese and fruit coulis on the side. It did justice to the chain and lived up to Skeeter's expectations. There are a few other desserts and Dolcetti on the menu, but Pizza Express is all about classics for Skeeter.

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with mascarpone and fruit coulis
London vs Delhi

The few branches of Pizza Express in London that Skeeter likes are the Bromley and Bloomsbury ones. The ambience of Pizza Express, Delhi is pleasant and inviting with comfortable seating. The decor of every Pizza Express branch represents something from the area in which they open shop. This one has painted plates on the wall to represent ceramic pottery of the area. There is a splendid rooftop seating coming up soon too and the liquor license is awaited.
The wait staff are very well trained. Full marks for that! The menu in London is a little more elaborate with a few extras in each section. Am sure the Pizza Express, India people will up their game with time and add more from the London favourites.
The Pizza standards are up to the mark as there is a taste tester who is flown from London for quality maintenance. The tomatoes comes from a region near Parma in Italy, a tradition being maintained by the chain since 1965.
There was a drizzle of cream that dressed the Cheesecake at the London branches. Skeets prays the Pizza Express at Delhi incorporate that and make Skeety happy.

A meal at Pizza Express would be approximately Rs 2000 for two people. A must try Pizzeria, this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Behind the scenes of Golden Temple langar kitchen (A photo essay): Amritsar unfolded Part two

Having heard stories about the massive kitchen at the Golden temple which feeds lakhs of devotees every single day, a visit was much pending just to witness the sheer scale of their operations and outstanding dedication of the sevadaars. Community service is epitomised by the Sikhs.

Skeets showcases the kitchen of the Gurudwara through her lens in this post. 


Golden temple
The Golden Temple at day break

gurudwara langar, golden temple
Have never seen so many utensils together at a place!

ginger, seva, golden temple
Where men sit down and chop ginger

onion, chopping, golden, temple
It was simply amazing to see how it all started from a few onions and then sacks of onions were undone to be peeled.

The automated Roti/Chapati making machine at the Golden Temple. Everything from the dough kneading to the rolling of chapattis and the final puffing/sekna is automated.

cauldrons, golden temple, food preparation at golden temples
Preparing food for the day
langar, golden temple
These giant cauldrons at the Golden temple have curries for the day being prepared. Two of them were just dedicated for making the yummiest morning tea ever. 
Read Part One of Amritsar unfolded.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Of Kadah prashad, Attari border and culinary tourism: Amritsar unfolded, Part-One

If there's one thing Skeety desperately needed to visit Amritsar for, it was the Kadah Prashad at Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple). Even if that meant waking up at an unearthly hour, 4 am and dashing to the temple for a plateful. Check. Skeets couldn't begin in the post in any other manner.
Back to the beginning. Skeety unboarded at the Amristar Railway Station and a quick lunch break later, found herself on a Punjab Tourism bus to Attari border (formerly wrongly called Wagah. Wagah is actually a village on the other side of the border). The lower of flags ceremony or the Beating Retreat needs no introduction but the experience does. Witnessing this grand ceremony (lasting approx an hour) can be your most patriotic and humbling moment ever. And this would be also the closest an Indian could get to Pakistan.

Wagah
Indo-Pak border

Lowering of flags ceremony at India-Pak border
The Beating Retreat
Also nearby, is the tranquil and serenic Pul Kanjri (pic below), which is a destination being promoted by Punjab Tourism which has some great legendary tales attached to it.


Food trail map of Amritsar

Later in the evening Punjab Tourism launched its food trail map of Amritsar spotting famous eateries of Amritsar in order to promote the culinary tourism in state. The map was launched by Razit Bhandari, Senior Marketing Manager, PHTPB and Michelin Star Chef Vikas Khanna who has voluntarily given his inputs for the Punjab Tourism food trail map (more on that in another blogpost). 

Sarhad restaurant
Launch of Amritsar food trail map at Sarhad restaurant

Sarhad, the restaurant

The launch evening unfolded, at a strategically named and placed restaurant: Sarhad, which was a five-minute drive from the Attari border. This fabulous brick-finish restaurant Sarhad reminiscent of the pre-partition Punjab was founded by Aman Jaspal to host people witnessing the Retreat ceremony for a break. The food here is a tribute to both Lahori and Amritsari cuisine. There were some hits and misses but Skeeter strongly recommends Miyanji ki Dal, thick, creamy, yellow dal and oh-so-flavourful! The railway cutlets are worth sampling too. Ordinary fare, but spiced and cooked to perfection.

Palki procession at Harmandir Sahib

The visit to Harmandir Sahib at 4 am to see the Guru Granth Sahib ki Palki was the second most humbling experience from the trip. To see thousands of Sikh devotees and tourists, up and about to witness the Palki procession is heart warming. The Sikh holy scripture is carried on a Palki in a procession along the bridge to the Akal Takht.


Kadah prashad and langar seva at the Golden Temple

After paying obeisance at the Gurudwara Harmandir, it was time for Skeets to indulge in some culinary treats. It has been a dream to have the kadah prashad at the Golden Temple. Skeety bought a plateful and after getting half of it mixed with the prashad for the rest of the devotees, Skeets was given her own share which she devoured greedily. Wheat, sugar, clarified butter and a lot of muscle work go into the making of this ambrosiac delight. 

Skeeter queued up next for the tea/chai at the langar hall. You have to sit on a mat with other devotees and hold your steel bowl with both hands till a sevadaar comes and offers you some chai. Skeeter greedily drank her piping hot bowlful and belive her you, it is the best kind of Indian milky sweet tea she's ever had. Perhaps it was because of the 6 am hunger pangs or the fact that it was made and served with utmost humility inside a sacred structure. It was worth every effort of waking up at 4am! Yum!

P.S.: Skeeter was invited to be a part of the Amritsar food trail by Chef Vikas Khanna for the launch of his book: Amritsar: Flavours of Golden City .

The Kadah prashad at Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Kadah prashad at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Langar hall of Golden Temple, Amritsar
Langar hall of Golden Temple, Amritsar 

Chai at Harmandir Sahib
Chai being served at Harmandir Sahib

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Durga Puja festivities and food with Xiaomi MI3

The Durga Puja season is on. Skeeter did a recce of the Puja Pandals in Delhi to sample the best food Bengalis have on offer. The main food festival, the Anand Mela is over at most places. Anand Mela is a community concept where ladies from Bengali households stir up a storm in their kitchens and present it on the Pandal premises for people to buy, eat and appreciate.
Here are some dishes Skeets sampled at the CR Park pujas. You can still go and sample some of these till October 4 outside the pandals.
Skeeter also clicked the pictures with her new baby the Xiaomi MI3 which she managed to buy at the last sale that was held on Flipkart. At its price (Rs 13,999), the Xiaomi MI3, with a 13 megapixel camera is a such a gorgeous buy...Go drool!



Below is Patishapta, best described as a rolled crepe with a yummy coconut filling, a Bengali trademark.


Some gorgeous floral and eco-friendly decorations below with clay lamps.


Below is the begun bhaja or an eggplant fritter coated in a chickpea batter and deep fried. Makes Skeeter fall in love with the eggplant all over again. Yum!


The Golgappa of north India transforms into a gorgeous Puchka in West Bengal. A hole is poked into it and it is served with a spicy potato and chana filling along with a spicy tamarind water. You need to have it within seconds of it being served to you.


Below is another Bengali staple. An anytime snack in Kolkata. Puffed rice/murmure are mixed up with fried nuts, lentils, green chillies, potatoes and a dash of mustard oil for a very filling snack.



The Bengali invention, the rosogulla is made from mild solids and dunked in a sweet scented water for an awesome texture and mouthfeel. You need to have a rosogulla at a go. Just like Bengalis do!


Vegetables chops or cutlet cousins make for a good snack too!


Last but not the least, no Indian meal is complete without Paan or a betel nut leaf filled with betel nuts, some katha, glukand and other assortments. There can be a mini riot right here if I write about a subject am not well-versed with. The Bengalis are touchy about the right betel nut leaf, just the write amount of filling and much more. For now, enjoy this picture below taken by Skeety with the Xiaomi MI3.Go have a round of the pandals and thank Skeeter later.





Saturday, September 27, 2014

La Compagnia - A dinner with strangers

It's a strange feeling to go for a dinner without knowing anyone on the table and coming back with a few friends in your kitty. Skeeter experienced the same at La Compagnia: A dinner with strangers.


The concept

A dinner at a pre-determined venue with a specially curated menu will be held each month in various cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and more... There are no +1s allowed. You have to be a solo diner. You'd be joined by other such diners and would gradually get to know each other over perfectly timed courses that give you ample time to befriend and network with others on the table. The table could have people who are new to the city, people who are looking for work-related opportunities, or just a cool bunch to dine out with and explore a new cuisine, perhaps.

Dinner with strangers is a concept popular in the West, which people sometimes organise at their homes. Yes, they open their homes to complete strangers and sometimes even throw in a new cuisine for everyone to sample. The possibilities are endless. It maybe a potluck, or a cookoff, it only gets as fancy as your mind.



The venue for the debut La Compgania table in Delhi was Guppy by Ai at Lodhi Road. We arrived to a neatly laid table with fresh flowers, sparkling cutlery and our respective name tags. As all diners arrived we took our seats and began the introductions. The table was a good mix of entrepreneurs, start-up funders, start-up owners, journalists and writers. We all happened to share the table with Marryam Reshii, a respected food writer/critic, one Skeeter personally adores. Conversations, food, and alcohol did rounds, not necessarily in any order. Sometimes, the experience precedes the food and this was one such event. For the uninitiated, Guppy is Skeeter's comfort food place, where she'd hop in for some Rock Corn Tempura or a Udon noodles and mushroom bowl. They do some great cocktails too!  

The meal included Amuse Bouche, appetizers, cocktails, main course and a dessert platter. 
Damages:  Rs 1850 per head.
P.S.: This was one of the better organised events that Skeets has been to in a long, long time!