Friday, August 21, 2015

Lavaash by Saby - a preview

2015 is Skeeter's year to discover new food, chart culinary territories and eat the best grub on offer. In her quest for new food, she ended up sampling Armenian food with a Bengali twist presented by Chef Sabyasachi Gorai at a preview dinner at his restaurant Lavaash by Saby (Ambawatta Complex, Mehrauli).

Armenian-Bengali proximity

A chance discovery of an old grave picture led Chef Saby to reconnect with his childhood spent in Asansol (in West Bengal) that bore touches of Armeninan culture and food. Asansol was an Armenian colony some 200 years back. Chef Saby tells that the Asansol hood was named after Armenian families: Apkar Gardens, Agabeg bridge, Evelyn Lodge. More importantly, the Armenians gave to India, the tolmas, the tonir (tandoor, which is still widely used in India), the Lavash (an unleavened bread), paneer, curd among others. Chef Saby calls his offering the A-cuisine. Lavaash by Saby bears Armenian motifs across its interiors. Viplov Singh and Svabhu Kohli have given shape to the initial moodboard of the place made by Chef Megha Kohli and Chef Saby. Skeeter visited the restaurant at night, but is sure it looks dreamy and romantic during the day. With a beautifully done terrace dining space, Lavaash by Saby is bound to be a hotspot this winter.



Armenian grub

The food on offer is new, but not alien. You get the basic (yet most delicious) Claypot bread with a generous dollop of butter and scatter of chironji seeds. It is Saby's version of Matnakash, an Armenian bread. It is called so, as the bakers fingermarks are imprinted on the bread before putting it in the oven. Along with this bread, you sample the most divine Pumpkin Manti (Armenian ravioli) cooked and served in a clay vessel and scattered with pine nuts. The outer wrapping has a soft, crusty rumali kind of texture and the filling of sweet pumpkin with walnuts, yoghurt sauce and cheese melts in the mouth. The use of nuts characterizes Armenian food which they use for texture as well as nutrition. Skeeter cannot wait to try the Mushroom Manti on her next visit.


Pumpkin Manti


Claypot bread


Baked Mochar Puff 

The baked Mochar Puff filled with a fragrant banana blossom and potato mash and served with a tomato relish is your everyday Bengali household grub revamped and how! This simple twist will leave the Bengali bhadralok craving for more.


Rice Tolma

The Rice Tolma (as opposed to the mideastern Dolma) are grape leaves stuffed with rice, peas, saffron, coriander, mint and melted butter.


Panir and spinach kofte 

Dumplings and stews also feature in Armenian cuisine. The Panir and spinach kofte at Lavaash by Saby are the most delicious version of cottage cheese Skeeter has sampled by a Bengali person. Soft, fluffy balls of cottage cheese with a well-seasoned spinach lining inside are a work of culinary art. Studded with nuts and served in a way that it remains hot, this dish is best eaten with another Bengali staple: fragrant gobindobhog rice with butter and gondhoraj lebu (a local lemon). Together, these two make a sublime combination.


Chef Megha Kohli

Chef Megha Kohli is ever smiling and suitably educates guests about Armenian food. Chef Saby's sister, Sarbani, has helped him give the right Bengali touches to the food.


Ponchiki

The Ponchiki or square doughnuts filled with nutella are addictive. I recommend you sample them with some good coffee or the pomegranate tea that Lavaash by Saby has on offer.



An old fashioned chocolate mousse is just the right way to end your meal. Skeeter couldn't keep her hands off this one. Sinful and indulgent!

The restaurant opens its doors to public next week. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Navroze celebrations and community food at SodaBottleOpenerWala

Community food can be sampled at its best in the homes of people. The next best option is to have them at restaurants serving such food. Luckily enough, Delhi is the city of settlers, who have, among other things, brought along their food and culture. Enterprising as they are, these communities who have settled in Delhi share their food commercially. So we have the Parsi Anjuman, Rustom’s and the ever famous SodaBottleOpenerWala serving some Parsi fare, which would be otherwise inaccessible to us. 

While Reeta Skeeter spoke about the Soda Bottle Opener Wala Vada Pao here, she had earlier promised to share more details about this quirky Irani café. The nostalgia evoking SBOW always has Skeeter occupied on every visit. Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s would recall the wired telephones that hung from walls, the Ravalgons and Poppins, the bakery cookies, the old multi-purpose tin boxes, the toy train track which was the best gift you could get on a birthday; they have it all up and decorated in a rather fun way.


But it is the grub that will have you hooked. Skeeter would need yet another post to write about the regular menu offerings but for now one must sample the Navroze Thali that is on the menu till August 27, 2015. They have the vegetarian (Rs 700) and the non-vegetarian (Rs 800) versions. Skeety, of course tried the vegetarian one and here’s what she thought: The Vengna Nu Achaar, a tantalising eggplant pickle is something out of the box and so is the Ravviyyan, where minty chutney is sandwiched between two eggplant roundels. Eggplant is versatile and when you hop across regional menus you get such gems. The Doodhi Murabbo is a sweet bottle gourd relish with the flavours of aniseed and the crunch of the chironji standing out. Skeeter could not have enough of it and if SBOW starts bottling this one, it will disappear from shelves. That good, yeah! The Saria is the Parsi poppadum made from sago or sabudana and deep fried to add some texture to your meal. The Papeta Nu Kavab are made up of a mix of tangy/spicy vegetables and potatoes, mashed, coated and deep fried. They are more like smaller versions of cutlets or pattice but the filling is what distinguishes them. The Paneer Akuri is the vegetarian version of Akuri, a rather simple preparation that had Skeeter hooked. To add touches from Bharuch, some dried fruits are added. The Kora no Patio is a pumpkin sabzi that did nothing for Skeeter’s tastebuds but she had her fork digging into a saffron-laced, delectable Vegetable Pulao accompanied with Masala ni Daar, a classic Parsi preparation of lentils and vegetables. The Kachumbar (diced salad) and Rotli (Roti) featured on the thali too. Skeeter washed it down with Rustam Bantawala, a cocktail using raw mango as the base. It went well with the thali. Thanks to the recommendation of chef Anahita Dhondy, I was saved the trouble of choosing what to drink. 



End your meal with the Ravo (semolina milk pudding) and Falooda. The rose syrup laden falooda comes seated in a cutting glass and being true to the community food, SBOW hasn’t cut down on the sweetness to suit your taste. Skeeter loved it the way it was.  
The portion is generous, so it is advisable to fast for a few hours before you dig into this one.




Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dimsum Fest at Pan Asian, Sheraton New Delhi

As Reeta Skeeter goes through the capital's dimsum selection, she does a happy dance. There's dimsum all around and Skeeter is hungry! Mr. Choy at Khan Market has been my go-to dimsum place for a while now and I wrote about it here. And when a dimsum fest came calling, it is natural that I was gluttonously inclined. The fest is on at Pan Asian restaurant at Sheraton Hotel, Saket. These are the categories one can choose from: Premium steamed, Teppanyaki, Gluten free, Organic, Steamed, Healthy Fitness, Pan grilled gyoza, Baked, Steamed, Poached, Soupy, Fried and Bao.



The Truffle edamame (Rs 425) from the premium category was the first one Skeeter tried and it was a delicately flavoured and well-made dimsum that hit the spot. Skeeter likes her Edamame beans straight from pod to mouth but this dimsum was definitely a good pick. One could dip it in either of the five condiments: Yuzu ponzu, black bean, spicy roasted chili sauce, onion and crispy chili lime or the chilli oil. But should you want to enjoy this dimsum and othes in their own right, you wouldn't need to touch the condiments tray. A refreshing cucumber and kaffir lime cooler went well with this food. Skeeter could have it by the bucket. An Asian Bloody Mary should be your pick if you want to spike things a bit. Skeeter tried both and cannot recommend one over the other. 
Moving back to the grub, the Teppanyaki pick was Asparagus and Shiitake mushroom (Rs 425), steamed then flash fried on an iron griddle. Another gem from Chef Vaibhav Bhargava,  Executive Sous chef at Sheraton Hotel, this one exuded the meaty flavour and texture of shiitake that was blended with asparagus, and they made an appetising match. There is a surprise on the menu for the gluten intolerant. They can pick Rice paper stuffed with Chinese preserved vegetables (Rs 365). 


Truffle edamame

Fried dimsum with carrot and beans
The fried dimsum with carrot and beans (Rs 325) was almost like a spring roll and is more for those who who want, well, something deep fried. I'd give it a skip the next time and head straight for the Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao (Rs 325). At the same price as the former, this one's better VFM. The Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao is a delicately kaffir-scented, teasingly spiced and multi textured dimsum that will transport you to Bangkok in one bite.
Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao


Hot and sour soupy dimsum
The Hot and sour soupy dimsum (Rs 325) made for some more delightful bites. They come neatly seated in soup spoons and though one should know what to expect, if you bite into half this dimsum, you'd be making a messy splash of it. Be warned! Having said that, Skeeter loves Hot n Sour soup and Pan Asian played this one well. They did a good job at controlling the temperature of the soup from kitchen to table. When Skeeter popped this one in her mouth, it didn't scath her tongue and was warm enough to make her crave for a bowl of soup right then! 

Seven treasure mushroom dumpling
Skeeter would've ended this post on a sweeter note but she's saved the best for the last. Skip dessert and end your meal with the seven treasure mushroom dumpling. This one comes seated in a deep dish and since Skeeter is a fungi fanatic, she was in for a treat. These amazingly textured dumplings come in a thin yellow wrapper stuffed with shredded Enoki, Shiitake, Black fungus, white fungus, Shimeji, button and string mushrooms. Besides, the presentation is beautiful as they come plated with some crispy mushrooms on top, a double treat! You dig your teeth into the soft, steamed dumpling and then you bite on some crispy mushroom. If you've made it to the end of this post, you have to order this one to believe what I just wrote. Chao! 
The festival is on from 10th to 31st August.
For address & regular menu click here


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A healthy meal with Raw Leaf

While Skeeter struggles to break this health posts series link, one after the other, what is certain is that 'healthy' is here to stay. No matter how much Skeeter yearns for her share of junk edibles, there are constant, everyday efforts to eat and stay healthy. These efforts maybe of miniscule proportions, but they are there. 
Health food deliveries are on a roll. I'd rather call them clean food deliveries. Raw Leaf is one of the many such deliveries in/around Delhi. What makes them preferable is that Skeeter has picked their mixed green bags (read Romaine, Rocket, Iceberg Lettuce and so on) from supermarket shelves in the past. These bags, though tad expensive, are crisp and fresh, and never wilted. They are also ready-to-use i.e. the leaves are separated and pre-washed for your convenience. Raw Leaf have their own farm (using best practices) to source these. However, they have not gone organic, yet. 

The salads

And now Raw Leaf has launched a salad & juice delivery service, which seems like the logical next step. They sent some over to sample. Here's what Skeeter thought about them. The first one was the Quinoa salad with grapefruit, avocado and arugula. It came with a Vinaigrette dressing. Though Skeeter loves Arugula, this one needs a little tweaking with less of Arugula leaves to make it wee bit less bitter. Otherwise, a very fresh and pep-me-up salad, this.
The other, an Assorted grilled vegetables salad, came with a sublime dressing made up of simple ingredients: Honey, Olive oil, lemon juice. Assorted peppers, potatoes, and even eggplants made their way into this bowl and a generous grating of cheese was used to finish it. Now, this could be my go-to meal twice a week. Grilled to perfection and tasted fab as well! 



The juices

Fuel up, a bright orange, neaty bottled one, was made up with Pear, apple, pineapple and turmeric, is quite a refreshing one. Though I could not taste the pear, the apple outshone with the tanginess of pineapple showing up at times and a mellow turmeric somewhere towards the end. Overall, I loved how it tasted. The Purify juice, a deep maroon one, was made up with Beets, carrots, tomatoes, coriander, mint, ginger, amla and lemon. Skeeter loves her beets and can vouch for Purify as the most deelish of all cold pressed juices in town. The juices are available at Rs 140 per bottle.


For the pricing of salads, ready-to-use greens and all else, visit: www.rawleaf.in

Monday, June 22, 2015

Guppy by ai, Summer Menu

This hasn't been intentional but the last few posts have been around eating healthy and snacking healthy. This one's no different. Top chefs are waking up to vegetables around them and are cooking up a storm with the most exotic produce. This is #trending in the world of gastronomy. Suddenly vegetarianism is cool and Skeeter can proudly say she was always cool! 
Guppy by ai has been revisited one too often: when Skeeter doesn't want to cook, when she wants to eat out but eat light and healthy or simply put, when she simply wants to eat at Guppy by ai. Guppy by ai also has this amazing team led by chef Vikram Khatri and supported by chef Saurabh, that reinvents its menu time and again, presenting food that stuns the senses. Their use of vegetables, both local and exotic, mesemerises. Take the Sakura wood smoked pumpkin soup (Rs 250), which is hearty with a slight smoked flavour and comes topped with healthy, crispy pumpkin seeds that make all the difference. You get all benefit that this humble vegetable has to offer at a go: the fruit to the seed. I tried the Water chestnut and Tofu Motoyaki (Rs 400) with a little reluctance. What I got was the Japanese silken tofu and water chestnut baked in a rich sauce. I could nibble on it all day long. Umami in a bowl. 


The Seaweed and Mesclun salad (Rs 450) was up next. Young mustard, seaweed and fresh baby greens are served in tangy plum vinaigrette. Apart from the spectacular presentation and the sublime taste, the ingredients were a showstopper. Move on Nori, I got Tosaka on my plate. Yes! The wobbly tosaka seaweed (green and pink) tossed with other greens and a tangy plum vinaigrette made the summer outside so much bearable!
Salad was followed by some deep fried indulgence as Tempura was taken to another level with whole ladyfingers, nori and even coconut peeping out from the crunchy batter!


Oh and what is a visit to Guppy if you don't try their red rice Sushi?


But what really had my heart was the Hiyashi Tanuki Cha Soba (Rs 750), the Chilled green tea soba served with scallions, chilled soy flavoured broth and bonito. The green tea infused soba noodles are served on a bamboo sheet resting on ice in an earthen pot. Some places also serve it on Zaru, which is a bamboo tray that looks like a traditional sieve. The scallions, chilled soy flavoured broth and bonito are served alongside. You take the noodles in an empty bowl provided to you, add the rest of the accompaniments to taste, hold the bowl up and enjoy! If you like simple flavours Hiyashi Tanuki Cha Soba comes highly recommended. If not, you could try the very flavourful Tofu and exotic vegetable curry rice (Rs 900).


The Matcha pudding ended my meal. I've had Matcha icecreams and Matcha is undoubtedly my favourite Japanese green tea, the other being Sencha. This pudding is made from Matcha tea powder and served with house made toffee sauce (Rs 350). Lots of Matcha powder is dusted over the pudding to make you go mmmmm... Trust Guppy by ai to come up with something as delicate as this. No other flavour overpowered the star ingredient, Matcha. Yet I could taste and relish all other elements this excellent pudding was made of.
(This review was on invitation. The views herein are mine.)



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kale chips by Green Snack Co


When health knocks at your doorstep, you jump at it! I've been nibbling on these Kale chips by Green Snack Co, off and on, at home, at work and have even packed some in my bag for those long road trips I undertake. 
Kale is a superfood of the West making inroads to India. It is a powerhouse of beta carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C, and is rich in calcium too. By far Skeeter's most favourite Kale dish has been a Phad Pak Kiew or Stir fried Kale with morning glory, pokchoy, soya bean sauce, garlic & pepper, that I enjoyed at Neung Roi. Besides its nutrition quotient, the curly-leaved vegetable that grows green and purple leaves has ornamental value for the gardens too. 

Green Snack Co have taken the best selling flavours from the world of crisps and are offering three most loved and well received flavours: Cheese & Onion, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Thai Sweet Chilli.


Sea Salt & Vinegar is Skeeter's personal favourite flavour of the three. The goodness of apple cider vinegar is combined with sea salt and a hint of cayenne pepper. The apple cider lends a slightly sour/fruity tang to the Kale chips that is accentuated by sea salt and further enhanced by the subtle kick from cayenne pepper that leaves one longing for more.

Cheese & Onion comes second for Skeeter, and they'd surely be well received by most. They are flavoured with parmesan, along with a novel addition: cashews, garlic and onion. This well-balanced flavour is presented well by Green Snack Co and cannot go wrong ever.

Thai Sweet Chilli is a zingy, pick-me-up flavour and is coated with with bell peppers and Thai chillies for a punch. Add to that cashews and pineapple for sweetness and you have a very fine product. 

Nutrition
Kale chips by Green Snack Co are made using the dehydration technique. They have the additional benefits of having no added sugar, preservatives or additives. You can read more about the health benefits here.. 

Price and packaging
All bags come for Rs 200, which is somewhat steep but well worth the money. The pack is simple and resealable, so you can begin munching from where you left. You can buy Kale chips online here or pick them up from your nearest store.

(The product was provided by Green Snack Co.)

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Anna Perenna Pizza

Healthy 'eating out' may sound oxymoronish, but as they say there is no harm trying. Hence, I wander. Skeeter ended up at Anna Perenna Pizza, a gourmet, handmade pizza place, trying to do things differently. Anna Perenna is the Roman Goddess of long life & renewal, health & plenty. This delivery/takeaway service does top notch pizzas, making dough from the scratch and yes they are wholewheat (some, even multigrain) with no processed cheese whatsoever! While the last line may be hard to digest, the pizzas are rather easy on the stomach.


The Mint cooler lemonade served in a glass jar with the right amount of sweet and tang will quench your thirst and make you forget the sweltering heat outside for a while. The olive-studded bread and hummous were a great starter. The hummous was creamy and full of flavour and the olive-studded bread was wholewheat. What else could one ask for? I know it's gonna be on my dinner table again and again, and more!


From the pizza selection, Skeeter tried the 'Roast zucchini, tomato and basil pizza', that has a light and crisp base. The base sauce is made in-house and was finger-licking good. The pizza was overall perfect and I did not realise the absence of cheese. I would've loved a crispier base and if the zucchini was char-grilled it would make for a better sight on the plate, but then that's just being greedy and asking for more. This pizza makes for a perfect treat for weight watchers, as is.

The 'Jalapeno, pineapple and rocket pizza was rather inspirational and it'd be my go-to pizza in the days to come. If there is poetry on a plate, this is it, this is it, this is it! A crisp base, smeared with tomato sauce, topped with generous helpings of pineapple slices and rocket leaves. You get your pizza fix, you eat your dose of the favourite fruit and you munch some salad, all at a go. Oh did I mention, they have a low cheese and no-cheese option as well. Just ask them and they oblige. They claim to procure as many organic ingredients as possible. Plus ten for that. Vegan pizzas, anyone? Almost everything on the menu can be made vegan if it already isn't. They even cater to the needs of those suffering from celiac or gluten allergies.
The Pizza cannot get hotter than this!


Meal for two: Rs 750
For more information, check the Anna Perenna Pizza website