Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mumbai Meri Jaan

"Zara hatke zara bachke yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan"

That makes perfect sense when you're on a vacation in Mumbai because every nook and corner of this soulful city is full of temptation. Calories filled temptation. And as they say, you can resist anything but temptation. In less than two days, I saw my vacation turning into a foocation and I'm not complaining.

Disclaimer : it's impossible to do justice in one foocation in this city of dreams. I'm certain I have missed out on some legendary places here, so no raised eyebrows, send me the list instead :-) And I have a separate list for the lip smacking street food, pretty caf├ęs and dessert getaways. I'll save that for later. Yes yes, I feasted on the roadside vadapav and cutting chai, and I did not miss the Theobroma brownies either. For now, just a few favorite places -

Cafe Leopold -
SOBO aka South Bombay is a paradise for lone travelers. You could get lost in those beautiful roads with architectural excellence screaming at you from all sides. On one such solitary reaper evening, I pampered the hopeless romantic in me with a long, never ending walk in SOBO and ended up in Leopold in Colaba causeway. This is a tourist hub and hence always bustling with traveler crowd. Known for the legendary chilly beef and beer combo, but now you may find yourself behind the bars for this heinous crime. Fret not, the chilly chicken is a close competition of course! And if you are still unhappy, come back to Bangalore and I will see you here.  Old world charm isn't the only thing on the cards, be sure to check the 26/11 bullet marks on your way up. And for the avid readers, this is where Shantaram met Karla. Yes, you could sit back, take a sip and visualize the bygone era like how I would. Amazing place to spend an evening alone - my happy place in Mumbai to which I have sworn a customary visit in every Mumbai trip.

Chilly CHICKEN (caps on purpose). 


Cafe Mondegar -
Two birds in one stone from your next legacy stop in SOBO. One, an exemplary dining experience and two, a lesson or two or rather a reality check of your patience. You could either head for their much talked about breakfast or be prepared to stand in the longest queue ever for dinner. I chose the latter out of my ignorance but instant redemption after getting a seat. Mario Miranda cartoons on the wall, cramped seating, polite staff, quick service despite the perpetual rush - that's what you get there. Thanks to the hunger building up over two hours of waiting, I totally missed out on seeing the jukebox there, which apparently still works fine. A must go if you have a thing for artsy places.


Mario Miranda cartoons give the place a refreshingly delightful feel.

Mario Miranda again. He has earned himself a Padma Vibhushan.



Fish and Chips. And Mushroom. All the more delicious after two hours of wait.

A White sauce pasta cannot go wrong, can it?

Pollo Alla Fungi - pan fried chicken on mushroom sauce with french fries


Britannia & Co.

One of the iconic Parsi places in Mumbai that has got lovers and haters alike. I checked it off my bucket list hoping to be part of the former and I sure did. Love at first sight 'cause the place had me at the old rustic charm itself. Teleports you back to the pre-independence era. Saw boards with messages like "cards not accepted", "don't argue with the management" etc. I found the uncle crude and sweet at the same time. They had a drowsy, sleepy kitty walking around and lying down as though she attained nirvana and after my round of binge here, I could very well relate to the cat. Yes, there are many other Irani places with brun maska and chai that people would vouch for than this "over hyped over priced" place, but sorry guys, the crowd rushing in here and myself got out with mini nirvana and hence shall keep the haters out of sight. I am not exaggerating but if you know what it's like to get high on food, this happened to both of us and we sat down under the shades of a tree, all content with life.  

There is the old world charm smiling right at you. The aura can be felt right from where I took this pic.
A foreigner came forward and offered to take a pic when I was struggling for a selfie. Ek front cam selfie ka keemat tu kya jano firang babu?

Repeat : pre- independence establishment. Pride.

Berry Pulao (mutton & chicken) with Saali Boti. I went with neutral expectation was totally blown away by the
berry pulao. Caramelised onions and the berries go very well with the masala of the meat. The meat was tender and boneless. The joy of good food and actually ticking it off your long pending bucket list - priceless. For everything else, there's mastarcard. Oh wait, they do not accept cards.

No matter how stuffed you feel, you MUST order one of these caramel pudding.
Even the haters of the place vouch for this. 



Gajalee

I had the 1000 watt smile on when my aunt drove me to Gajalee. One of the inexplicable joys of visiting a coastal area is the fresh fish that you get to lay your hands on and Gajalee didn't disappoint me one bit. After all, they won the Times Food award for the best coastal spread. Simple decor and very amiable staff. Not to mention the Maharashtrian coastal food which was almost perfect. I found the name so majestic that I wanted to rechristen myself to Gajalee while I was there. 


Crab, Fish, Lobster..and my friend who came along was really upset that the crab heard our conversation that went like
"how do you want this cooked? green curry or red curry? with shell or without shell?". She thought it was pretty mean,
Thoughtful, but we learned a thing or two about food chain so let's ignore.

Delectable Fish Thali. As fresh as it can get. Loved the tangy flavour of the curry and the freshness of the fish.
We need a beach and all the edible things in there. I want to bring back the beach, cutting chai walahs and auto drivers from there to Bangalore. 


And there comes the crab in green curry. Not on the spicier side. 

Seer fish. Fresh and heavenly.

The melt in the mouth bombil fry. 
Solkadi. Felt it was a little too oily. 

Malai Kulfi. I had that ALL by myself. I haven't had good kulfi in a long long time and this was an absolute bliss.


Indigo delicassen

If you are an epicure, this is the place to be in. This also happens to be a go to place of a glutton friend of mine in Mumbai. She vouches for their consistency in keeping you happy with the fine food and I wouldn't doubt that either. 
Icing on the cake would be the celeb spotting. I had my share, but trust me, you wouldn't be too bothered once the edible celebs land up on your table. And us gluttons have our priorities set straight, don't we! Ambiance, food, service - all check. And yes, a dent in the wallet - check! But after the foodgasm that you get here, you wouldn't complain of the lighter wallet.


Chorizo, olive and cheddar - can a Pizza get better? Quite light and would let you binge more!

Tiger prawns in lemon base. Served on a bed of rice. I find myself always at a loss to explain how good prawns can get,
and this time its no different. The third tiger prawn had us both throw the chivalry out of the window and give suggestive looks to each other. 

Banana and caramel pie with a chocolate base. Banana and caramel is a match made in heaven.
I'm only sad they put chocolate base to it as kabab mein haddi. The banana tasted a little too ripe for my liking,
but a good dessert otherwise. 


That was a bit of from my gastronomic tripping in Mumbai. See you soon with more of these, until then keep eating! :-)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Sanjeevanam - A play with Mother Nature


Happy hour tequila shots. We all downed it at once amidst giggles and squeals. My shot glass had some left and my friend gave me yet another 'you disappoint me again' looks. Teetotaler problems. And then Manu tells me about this Kerala Ayurveda shots in a restaurant in Chennai which apparently has a branch in Namma Bengaluru. Need I say more? The very next day I was seated happily in Sanjeevanam, Koramangala for their lunch feast named 'Rajakeeyam'.

Disclaimer : this is a pure vegetarian, Kerala Ayurvedic cuisine restaurant. 
Disclaimer again for the ignorant : no, this is not a "benana chips" place.


Classical music in the backdrop and Kancheevaram saree clad crazy cute grandmoms and toothless grandpas were what was in store for me as I entered. Very pleasant and homely feel to the place. Nothing fancy about the  ambiance. There's a big (mango?) tree in the middle and tables around it. More like a mini party in Kerala or Tamil Nadu household. I was seated opposite to this two rectangular windows that gave a good peek into the plush greenery outside - transported back to one of those houses in remote Kerala.

Shotglasses - yay! yippie!
From L to R, Dates juice, Cashew nut juice, Pumpkin beetroot soup,

Haritha buttermilk, Kanji vellam. To be consumed in the same order.
I totally wanted a repeat of this but that's not how it works in places like these.
Talk about "moderate quantities", hence I shut up like 'a cleverly disguised
responsible adult'.



Mister Tree standing mighty -plus one for this.
No, we shouldn't cut trees. That's what Sunderlal Bahuguna taught us.
If you don't know who that is, google Chipko Movement.
Amused me as a kid. 


Rajakeeyam is a Sattvik food buffet that has various health benefits. This is an absolute delight for vegetarians and a mighty good detox meal for the carnivorous souls like me. Now I don't mean to exaggerate much but my tummy almost had a shock of a lifetime when this stuff was sent inside and checked with heart if everything's ok. Heart had to knock on brain twice to be sure if we have an emergency. You see that's the kind of pandemonium that happens inside the body of a glutton, with organs that are so used to rich food. Well, we are talking about food that does not use artificial flavours or additives, is not deep fried and what's more it's sugar free. They steam the food and stir fry and use honey and jaggery instead of sugar. So don't blame your system for overreacting!

You are welcomed with a nenthrakkaaya (banana) garnished with streaks of grated coconut which helps control acidity. The servers tell you the names as they serve. Soon after this came an array of colorful shot glasses that got us both all excited. Such underrated pleasures of teetotaler life I tell you! Post this, two course starters - uncooked vegetables and semi cooked vegetables. This is followed by the main course and desserts. At the end of the meal you are served paan stuffed with minced vegetables and a spoon of honey. And you feel like you have done yourself a huge favour with this detox meal. No, we aren't singing and dancing in the forest while praising Mother Nature but more or less feels the same. Now, please don't head there on one of your meat craving days.






This was a welcome change to my mind and body alike and would totally recommend all gluttons to try this out. Quite an offbeat experience. And if you have that one vegetarian friend who adjusts too much by eating salads, French fries in your meat dominated eat outs, do them this one favour. And for the mention, this is run by the Medimix family and also have a counter where you can buy their products.



First course : Uncooked vegetables - Red aval puttu, Salad, Pith Raitha and pickle.
Red aval puttu was the star of the show.


Second Course : Olan, Pachadi, Kichadi and Banana flower.
I was a little late for the banana flower and had to manage
with cabbage.


Main course had red rice and roti with sambhar, daal, avial and sabjis.
I assumed the avial must be bland but they surprised me.
Though not like the oil doused Sadya avial, this one had a distinct taste that was quite appealing.


And we end it with payasam and buttermilk.
But hey wait, the good old habit of repeating what we liked the most.
Because there should never be an "I could have eaten that" moment.
Hence, red aval puttu repeat.
Payasam was yummy. Jaggery, I love you!


Ok, so it wasn't really the end. Paan stuffed with minced veggies and a spoon of honey.




More in store. Ela ada does sound promising. But hey I'm a carnivore born to scavenging forefathers.
Get the point?


Cost for two : 800 for two people 

Location : Koramangala 2nd block, Opposite Kendriya Sadan 
Mood of the place : Pleasant

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Coringa'fied!

The first time I was in Coringa, I wanted to punch Niki. So Niki is my "officially vegetarian" Telugu friend for whom I used to dutifully sneak in non veg parcels for years. She had a thing for Kerala breakfasts and we used to frequent all such places. In the three years that I did this secret service for her, all I have learned about Andhra cuisine is Gongura pappu and Guntur chicken! With such sense of betrayal, I realised Niki has been such a ditcher all along and Coringa changed my perception about Andhra food overnight. If their pappu and spicy chilly chicken were not awesome enough, here's more that would leave you begging for more.

Coringa is this lovely little roof top place on the airport road that serves authentic Andhra food and also delectable seafood. One thing I terribly miss after moving to Bangalore is the beaches and all the edible living things in them. And to satiate the latter, I rushed to Coringa. Authentic? Yes. Seafood? Check. Food? Delicious. Anything else? Who cares.

What welcomes when you go in there is this roof top with bamboo stick chairs that gives the place an instant lazy, laidback vibe. And of course a shot glass of Rasam. I'm definitely the wrong person to comment on Rasam, despite coming from a family with a strong liking towards it. Not a fan. Not one bit. But the good, well mannered girl that I am(!!) I had the rasam they offered and quite liked it. If a rasam hater like me has to like it, it must be something. I leave that for you to taste and decide.


I think I tried pretty much most of the much talked about dishes in Coringa, thanks to two Andhraiite friends (NOT Niki) and another glutton friend who may pretty much end up paying rent there haha (listening, Soham ji?). And I shall pass on the wisdom from my taste buds with some pictures. If you are a vegetarian, don't get intimidated by the lobster and crab talks. They have delicious spread of veg food, all chutneys included.




Rasam. I have taken anticipatory bail before. Hence please try and enjoy yourselves.

Aritikaya Slices - Raw banana marinated and fried crisp. This is my most favorite veg starter there,
Tastes the best with their chutneys - onion and tomato. But this is an unfair world, Arbi fry has stolen the limelight already.

Bangaladumpa Cashew fry. I had trouble saying and typing that from the tongue twister menu.
Potato and cashew. Quite ok. 

Royyalu Pakodi - Shrimp popcorn. Most places give a bland one and this was slightly flavorful.

Mister Crab, as delicious as he can get. Those who are scared of getting allergic, they will remove the shell and give it this way. Be happy, everything has a solution! :)

Karivepaku chicken - the curry leaves chicken. Instant hit with all of us.
Those who love that lingering flavour of curry leaves, this one's a treat to your taste buds.

Arbi fry. This is the hot favorite of vegetarians there. I really don't see why Miss. Arbi steals all the limelight.
For me, the undisputed champion is Aritikaya fries (perhaps the banana connection from Kerala!)

Stuffed Karela. Another one that disappeared like hot cakes. I found it a little too bitter for my liking.
But my friends assure me this is a must try!

Grilled Seer fish. Fresh and grilled. It didn't quite appeal to my finicky taste buds.
But I take full responsibility for it as my palate is used to the masalas by Grandma and hence very high expectations and equally finicky.



Lamb Chops - The humble friend who came with me turned an animal seeing this.
No doubt that we had scavenging ancestors.

Crab again. Had this with rice and pappu. Yumm.

Grilled Prawns - the love of my life. Sorry for the bad quality pics - the seafood deprived soul in me was quite satisfied with a dose of this.

Brinjal curry. I almost skipped this seeing all the non veg delicacies adorning our table. This is easily one of the best brinjal curries I have ever had. Perfect blend of spices and crunchy nuts. Melt in the mouth brinjal. 
And then the King himself. Lobster ghee roast. My meal in Coringa couldn't get any better after this.

Chicken ghee roast - I presume this is the Andhra version of the Mangy ghee roast.
This is one of my personal favorites in chicken - how Indian masalas, ghee and curd can do magic to a chicken :)
We made a repeat order of this.

Kandi podi rice and Gongura Pappu. Andhra style gunpowder mixed in rice with a generous dollop of ghee, No one can stop at one spoon of this. Pure bliss.

Biryani - the national food of India. Since no one else declared yet, I just did. Dare to disagree? (sharpening my knife as you decide). Chicken biriyani and Crab biriyani. Good blend of spices (who am I kidding? We are talking about Andhra food here!) and tender meat. 

Cheers to good times and many more food meets! BFC offer availed :)
  
Happy Plate -1. 

Happy Plate - 2

Gummadikaya Halwa - Ash gourd Halwa. Let me tell you one thing straight, this mister is much more awesome than Mister Pootarekulu. Go try both and decide. And if your insulin levels go haywire, don't blame me!

Poota Rekulu - Layered sheets of rice, sugar and grated coconut. The server wasn't too sure what was inside and I was worried if the sheets were edible. I had to call back the guy to make sure I can eat the papers. Last thing I want is a tag that I have eaten the wrapper too! This is a delight, but sorry, I vote for Gummadikaya Halwa.


So that's Coringa's gastronomic indulgence for you. Disclaimer : This will be a reality check for those who boast of their spice tolerance. You will be humbled but rest assured, your tummy will be mighty pleased. Next time Niki is here, she's up for some surprise! That is, of course some sumptuous Andhra food, other than the punch that is in store for her. :) 


Cost for two : 1000 for two people (but don't stop at that haha)Location : Airport road. Yelahanka. Above the Coffee day. Mood of the place : Lazy, laidback