Friday, 14 March 2014

Dining like Royalty at the Aminabadi Food Festival.

    First things first, a bit of good news for my dear readers. I finally realized that it was high time to include reviews for the non vegetarian food at all the events I attended, because I couldn't bear to deprive you of all the deliciousness that goes unnoticed by me. So behold, our new family member and co - blogger (specifically for your carnivorous desires) my BFF, sister from another mother - Vipasha. She will be handling all the non vegetarian reviewing for this blog henceforth! :D
    I was super excited for the Aminabadi food festival, which is being held at JW Marriott Mumbai's Indian cuisine restaurant Saffron, from the 16th of March to the 23rd of March; Because, not only do I love Indian food, but having the opportunity to eat food that was prepared by the 4th generation of the famous Qureshi clan, was something I simply couldn't let pass.
    To start off, I would want you to take in the ambiance and feel of the place. It was very tastefully done up, with perfect lighting and helped us get into the mood to enjoy our dinner well. P.s. They actually used beautiful 'baalis' as napkin holders. :O I'm going to steal this idea for one of my dinner parties for sure! 

White Lilies are my most favorite flowers ever. 
The street of Aminabad is best known for its delicious kebabs. Saffron gave us a mouthwatering course of kebabs. The first serve and the dish of the day was the Galouti Kebab. Marinated, minced lamb, with the right amount of spices, it melts in your mouth at the first bite. They served it on top of tiny pieces of tawa paratha which reminded me of the dish pigs in a blanket, though it doesn’t quite look like that. We could spice it up with either green chutney or yogurt or slightly fried onions in coriander seeds
Shaan-e-Awadh or Shammi Kebab was similar to Galouti except that it was made in chicken instead of lamb. There were two tikkas, one Akbari Murg Tikka, which was chicken, marinated in yogurt and smoked cheese and the other one was Shaan-e-Tandoor. It was a similarly prepared dish with Salmon. Soft, tasty and not too fishy either.

The Akbari Murgh Tikka

The salmon
The Galouti

The vegetarian fare that was served included Mushroom Galouti - the same kebab made out of mushrooms instead of meat mince. Delicious, though its texture felt a little weird because it was surrealistically smooth. Followed by the Bharwan Shahi Paneer Tikka - which was a class apart. Thick pieces of paneer stuffed with kasoori methi to be had with mint chutney. 

The Mushroom Galouti
The Paneer Tikka

Then came the most awaited dish of the evening, the NalliNihari. It’s a classical Lucknowi lamb shank preparation and was finely cooked but with a lot of oil. I actually got the shank piece and it was absolutely yummy. The oil seemed to add to the taste and the falling - off bone tenderness.

The Nalli Nihari

Then there was the Kate Masale Ka Murg which was chicken in onion gravy with other spices. I am a chicken lover, but the Awadhi cuisine is famous for its lamb preparations, and I would suggest that you order the lamb dishes because they are far more superior to the chicken ones. In my opinion, you will get the authentic feel of Awadhi food better, if you stick to the red meat dishes. 

The Kate Masale ka Murg
On the vegetarian side, we had Lagan ka Paneer which was cottage cheese cooked in a rich think gravy of browned onions and cashew. The paneer was absolutely fresh, soft and well marinated. The spices weren't over powering. All the curries and main course dishes were served with Ulte Tawe ki Roti, Tawa parathas and other different kinds of Indian bread.

The Paneer and Ulte Tawe Ki Roti

However, the star of the main was the Dal E Khaas - which are black lentils simmered for 24 hours, finished with cream, butter and fenugreek. This was pure heaven in a bowl. Rich, creamy and indulgent, with spices and flavors running in multitudes of undertones. This is a must have if you ever visit Saffron. One piece of warning - it is very heavy, so be sure to order something light to accompany. One bowl of this dal, and you shall be transported into a state of tummy - filling bliss.

The Dal E Khaas

 Now for what I think should be called one of India's national foods. The Dum biriyani which is supposed to be an invention of the bawarchis of the Royal family, was fit for a king. Made in Basmati rice, it had the perfect flavours of saffron, garam masala and ginger-garlic along with fresh, well-seasoned mutton pieces. The vegetarian version was aromatic, bright, with each grain of basmati infused with the Kewra essence. This was the Awadhi Biryani; not to be confused with the Hydrabadi one -which has mint, curd etc. Personally speaking, I usually feel that mint is only meant to add some spunk to refreshing drinks, and shouldn't be used in food. The Awadhi Biryani was my favorite dish when it came to the mains. 
Chef Qureshi told us all about the culture of Awadh and its food. How it has been a part of his childhood and upbringing and how the spices were the stars of Awadhi cooking.

The Lamb Biryani

The Vegetable Biryani
Chef Qureshi joined us at the table for a little chat.

Finally it was time for dessert and I couldn't wait to try the two specialties- 
Jamun - E - Nazaakat which is the Gulab Jamun generously doused with thick luscious Rabri 
and the Mewe Ki Kheer which is the quintessential Indian rice pudding flavored with cardamom, saffron, dry fruits. Both were cooked in pure ghee, which any foodie can tell you, catapults its aroma to another level all together.  The mistake I made was to taste the Gulab Jamun before the Kheer, as it is a subtler than the former. So my taste buds were incapacitated when we came to the latter. So I decided to talk about the gulab jamun and let Vipasha stick to the kheer for a better review. 
The kheer was heavenly, made in fragrant, well cooked rice and had the ideal amount of sugar and milk, all nicely presented with strings of saffron on the top. It's consistency was thick and not sludgy with the appropriate amount of dry fruits and cardamom flavor.
 The gulab Jamun, in my opinion, is the king of desserts. My only complaint was that It was too small a portion for someone with a sweet tooth as big as mine :D It was soft, perfectly browned and sweetened with just a dollop of Rabri. One word- Flawless.

Anyone who loves classic Indian food - hearty, filling, warm and rich, absolutely must pay Saffron a visit before the festival ends. You might just bump into me there. I'm pretty sure I'll be going there for the Biryani and Gulab Jamun once again :D 

Lastly, please do drop me a comment below telling me whether you like the new change of including non vegetarian review. Whether you would like to see some other change. Or just drop in to say Hi!

Until next time then,
Cheers! :)

Monday, 10 March 2014

California Pizza Kitchen's Hollywood Menu

      They say, there's no comfort food like pizza; And whoever said that, please take a bow. You couldn't have been more right. California Pizza Kitchen has been serving us lip smacking food for a long time now and have decided to add a little zing through their new Hollywood Menu!

 By now you must know, that I have a thing for pineapple based drinks. So of course, my first choice was the Pineapple twister (pictured above). It was deliciously refreshing. Had chunks of pineapple, and just sweet enough with hits of mint in between. Paradise in a glass. Strongly recommend this one. This was followed by the Rustica Pizza- which is an Italian Classic with grilled Zucchini, sauteed Mushrooms, Green Olives and Capers. Mushrooms and Capers coupled with the crisp crust are the perfect party grub.


 Even though it was a chicken option, the chef was kind enough to whip out a Paneer version of the Spicy Sonora Pizza for me which had a housemade roasted Corn and Blackbean salsa with a Cilantro and Lime Cream sauce with the traditional crust. This is a more filling and hearty pizza that you'd love to eat on a cozy movie night!!

Spicy Sonora

The next main course was the Mediterranean Roasted Mushroom Spaghettini. It was light, aromatic with Garlicky undertones, juicy roasted Mushrooms, spicy Serrano Chillies, Mediterranean herbs and a generous dousing of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The Spaghetti was al dente, though I could have done with a little less olive oil. The mushrooms shone through the dish. 

The second mocktail was the mango mint ecstasy  Again, chunks of Mango married to a mint and lemon punch, but a little too sweet for my liking. Refreshing nevertheless.

 Coming to the in house speciality, the Spinach and Paneer Malfati with Milan sauce was a pleasant surprise. Those were tender Spinach and Paneer Gnocchi dumplings in a caramelized onion sauce with Garlic and Goat cheese. These melt - in - the - mouth wonders were served with a side if stir fried veggies. The salty Goats cheese and creamy onion sauce complimented each other perfectly. The spinach added the much needed texture to break the monotony.

Spinach & Paneer Malfati

The dinner ended with its glorious California Delight. A trio of White Chocolate, Strawberry and Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cranberries and Almond Praline. Smooth, Silky and absolute. The cranberries added the optimum level acidity. Almond praline wasn't very evident, but nevertheless, contributed to a new dimension to the dessert. The caramelized tuille was a nice touch. Summing up, it was an immaculate finish to the meal.

 The Hollywood Menu at California Pizza Kitchen is available throughout the month of March. A perfect pick for a couple of friends getting together in the evening, or even for a nice family dinner.

Until Next time,

Friday, 7 March 2014

Trader Vic's Mai Tai Lounge's Sensational Sliders Menu

          Trader Vic's Mai Tai lounge is a refreshing oasis of tropicalness in the humdrum restaurants/ diners we usually go to. In two locations, in Mumbai  (Phoenix market - Kurla and Phoenix mills - Lower Parel), Mai Tai has launched its new "Sensational Sliders" Menu from the 24th of February to the 23rd of March. This Tiki - inspired rendition of flavors in tasty bite - sized sliders is their new introduction. A few varieties of sliders were already a part of their usual menu. According to the manager, the sliders are pretty popular because they are quick eats and can be had on the go. 

           The Veggie Selection included-

  • Beetroot & Brown Slider - a beetroot and brown rice patty, gherkins & chili garlic aioli which was mild tasting, but wasn't distinctly beetroot-y. A twist in the form of toast circles being used instead of bread buns to encase the patty. The toast circles were a little too oily for my liking. The chili garlic aioli was the star of the dish.
  • The Falafel Pita Slider- It has a chickpea & spinach patty, yogurt aioli & grilled pita. Instead of the bun, pita triangles are the encasing used. This one here, was a burst of flavors. Slightly on the spicier side. And the substitution of chickpea instead of the garbanzo beans made the patty really smooth and dense, and the spinach gave the much needed texture.
  • The Cottage Cheese and & Olive Tapenade Slider - Cottage Cheese Steak, Jerk Marinade & Olive Tapenade. This one was my favourite by far. The cottage cheese was soft, and absolutely fresh. Ajay Samtani - who is the assistant Kitchen manager revealed that the secret to the super succulent patty was the fact that it was stewed in tomato juice. The olive tapenade was the perfect accompaniment. 

    Chef Ajay obliged us with a nice picture
 The Mushroom Alfredo Slider - Fresh mushroom sauce, white sauce, cheddar cheese with Maui Waui dressing. This was perfect for the cheese lover in me! Even though the slider looked much like a vada pav, but tasted every bit like it should! Creamy, cheesy with the perfect addition of mushrooms. And the Maui Waui dressing added a solid punch to the mild flavors of the patty.Yum! yum! 

The Non - veggie Menu included -

  • Italian Herb & Chicken Slider
  • Jalapeno & Olive Chicken Slider
  • Thai Fish Cake Slider
  • Chili & Lime Fish Slider
  • Black Bean & Prawn Slider
  • Cubanitos Slider
My meat loving co - diners have recommended the Cubanitos Slider very strongly! :D Coming to the mocktails, my choice was Puerto Principe - a creamy pineapple & coconut delight, and may I say, that I wasn't disappointed at all! There was delightful Caribbean music playing in the background and the crockery and cutlery they use adds to the feel - Take a look - 

A special mention to the staff at Mai Tai (Pheonix Market City - Kurla). The service was brilliant. Extremely helpful and courteous staff. 10/ 10 for the service. 
Go check their super sliders menu. You wont be disappointed. 

Until next time,

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Doing the Flamenco

Courtesy- Google.

The Chili's Bar & Grill, which was started in 1975 in Texas by Larry Lavine is now a chain of casual dining restaurants which serves Mexican and South-Western American food. Chili's opened their first restaurant in Mumbai in Powai in 2009. This year in a bid to expand their horizons, Chili's have introduced a new festive menu on which patrons are being offered a 15% discount. Never having had anything remotely Mexican - save the cinema's nachos and salsa :P , I decide to go enlighten my taste buds.

The first thing that struck me was that the ambiance of the place. It was relaxed, casual yet very tastefully done up. A brilliant place to unwind and hang out with your people on the weekend. With a well stocked bar and booths as well as table for seating options, Chili's makes a nice pick for a weekend bite.

Their new menu has a brilliant selection of the all time favorites like tostadas, burritos, quesadillas, the ever so famous baby back ribs!! I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had an equal, if not more number vegetarian options for every non vegetarian item on the menu. We left it to the the guys at the restaurant to choose our meal for us, and honestly, we weren't disappointed! :)

We started off with a glass of pinacolada and a dipper plate. My fellow bloggers got some fried calamari and buffalo wings. My dipper plate consisted of the Texas cheese poppers (my absolute favorite) which were mozarella and cheddar balls, with jalepenos and deep fried *yum yum*, some southern rolls which had a black bean, corn and tomato relish filling. Followed by the Paneer Tandoori Quesadillas, which was delish! The paneer was very fresh and the crumb, was to die for - crisp, not too thick and not too oily.

But I'll have to say that I was a bit disappointed with my pinacolada. It was made according to the brand recipe and simply did not suit my taste. It was too sweet and watered down for my liking. Then the people at Chili's were nice enough to get me a fizzy minty lemonade for me, which was perfect! :) The dips that accompanied the platter were fresh. My favorite was the avacado ranch dip. 

From left to right clockwise - the southwestern rolls, the paneer quesadillas, the buffalo wings, and the cheese poppers (the fried calamari can be seen in the corner.)

For the mains, I had Paneer and cheese quesadillas which were served with a side of beans and coriander rice and sour cream and tomato relish. The quesadillas were thin, crisp and the cheese was in just the right quantity. I am in absolute love with the sour cream. Very rarely do you find such good quality sour cream in the Indian restaurants.

My new blogger/ photographer buddy Sanket ordered this fresh Atlantic Salmon with orange habanero glaze. By the looks of it, he loved the food! :D The next in line was make - your - own Fajitas. My fajita came in three parts. The tortillas, a condiment platter which had guacamole, sharp cheddar, sour cream, tomato and lettuce relish and a bowl of fresh salsa. The main component of the fajita which was the pan fried paneer, spice roasted mushrooms, onions and capsicum layered with cheese were brought our on a sizzler plate, ready to assemble. 

My almost assembled Fajita.

The fizzy, minty lemonade.

And like no meal is complete without a chocolate kick. The restaurant manager suggested their popular choco lava cake. It was a big dark chocolate bundt shaped fondant centered cake, topped generously with vanilla ice cream and self setting chocolate sauce with a drizzle of caramel :D If this doesn't make you want to rush to Chili's right now, then I don't know what will! *Mental note to self - Carry sombrero next time you go to the restaurant :D Ole! * 

It was dense and had the right amount of sweet. The vanilla ice cream was of a very good quality. And when I plunged my spoon into the dessert, it oozed out rich chocolate sauce. PERFECT. 10/10
Over all, I was very impressed. Even if you want to go for their usual menu, their pricing (which is a bit on the higher side) was justified. 
If you, like me are just venturing into Mexican food, or are already in love with it; you will certainly not regret visiting Chili's.
My suggestions if you are planning to go for the food fest - The presidente margarita (their world famous speciality), the texas cheese poppers, the paneer queadillas, and of course the chocolate lava cake!

A super special mention to Amrita and Sanket- Amrita, you made my evening fun. Very rarely have I met someone who I have connected with so quickly. I hope I see you soon! And Sanket - I'm going to be calling you for photography tips in the near future! :D You guys were great company!

Extra -

Here is a sneak peak of what goes into the making of a food blog :D