Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cuisine from the land of Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine

I had heard so much about Samarkand, on Infantry Road, that I was beginning to fear the expectation would outstrip the reality. But I am glad to say that was not the case. Hidden towards the back of a huge building, Samarkan’s location could be a classic case of blink-and-miss, if not for wide-eyed vigilance. At first glance, the restaurant seemed to be a poky place, and my spirits started to dip. But I quickly realised the initial feeling was probably because the subdued lighting inside was in complete contrast to the bright daylight outside. The restaurant is quite spacious, and done up in a quaint Northwest frontier sytle with faux torches and ambience.

The menu, (pix above) in the form of tabloid newspaper sheets, has interesting tid-bits of information about the name, the region and the cuisine. I was a little amused with the long, coloured breadsticks served at the table as soon as we were seated, but the food was lip-smackingly delicious. We tried tandoori salad, an Afghani fish starter, lamb biriyani, Dal Afghani, rotis and saffron rice. And I must say, every dish was lovely. I loved both the rice dishes – the biriyani was full of the gentle aromas of the spices and the tender lamb; the saffron rice was so delicately flavoured that it could be eaten without any accompaniment. The rotis were soft and fluffy and the dal, flavourful. I quite enjoyed the experience – do check it out.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A new convert to Sushi

I have never been a fan of Sushi. Well, that’s until The Sushi Book turned up in my post over the weekend. Published by ThingsAsian and written by Celeste Heiter, with some delicious photography by Marc Schultz, the book disabused me of some of the misconceptions I have harboured about Japanese food. I now know that Sushi does not mean raw fish and there’s really no need for chopsticks (my biggest challenge !!) to eat Sushi; that there’s Sushi with cooked meat and even vegetarian Sushi ! (Oh yes, you are permitted to roll your eyes at my ignorance).

I loved the book, and not just for the mouthwatering pictures (a couple are reproduced here). It is lucid, informative and almost makes you head to the nearest Japanese restaurant. I am guessing that’s the intention of the book, and does achieve its goal. Any cuisine is so much a statement about the culture it originates from, and the book provides really good insights into various aspects of Japanese tradition and culture. Next on my agenda is checking out all that’s in the book. There’s Dahlia and Harima in Bangalore – await my feedback from one them in a short while!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fries for all seasons

Goa is like one big party – I know that’s as clich├ęd as they come. But it surely is, especially as it begins to get dark. And it doesn’t really end till the wee hours. I had heard a lot about Tito’s, but could not go this time as well. However, I was introduced to another lovely place, called Britto’s, which is also in Baga. More a trendy restaurant, than a partying place, it is extremely popular. With candlelit tables stretching almost to the water’s edge and lovely music in the background, Britto’s is the place for a romantic dinner for twosome or for a boisterous group to chill after a hectic day. What’s more, the service is quite quick, which is more than what I can say of most other places in Goa !! The food is yummy – superb steaks, continental, Chinese and Indian food. I especially liked the fries, which were more like the American homemade variety rather than Mac – chunky, golden, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Verrrrrrry nice !!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kid in a candy store !!

‘Like a kid in a candy store’ had never done anything to my imagination. Partly because, I did not have much of a sweet tooth. But that was until I went to a candy store on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. And then I understood why the phrase, and why even sane, normal human beings can go ga-ga. It’s not as if I hadn’t been to one before. A cute one on Champs de Elysees in Paris and one in Berlin had opened my eyes to this fascinating world, but it was just that – fascination. The one in SF however, catapulted me altogether to a different level. The store itself was designed artistically, a rather retro-look, with barrels of overflowing goodies. But it was sheer mind-numbing variety, of candies and chocolates of every size, shape and colour that boggled the mind. I came away with so many even though I had no idea what I would do with them, but I just could not help myself. Like a kid in a candy store, alright !!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Soul food at Quilon, the Queen's neighbour

To me, London is always a fascinating place. And the only place I never tire of going back to. It is also the place where one never gets homesick. One of the things that keep homesickness at bay is the lovely Quilon restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Queen’s residence, the Buckingham Palace. A Taj property, Quilon is elegant and unostentatious. But it is the food that scores. It specialises in Indian coastal food, but with a Continental twist where presentation is concerned. The mini dosa comes on a narrow place with a conical little dosa in the middle flanked by chutney and curry; the seafood combo appetiser is delicately flavoured and brings back memories of cool, coastal evenings; and the humble kesari bhath is transformed by its elegant setting. Fish and chicken combos, with parathas or appams, mildly flavoured lemon and tamarind rice – all constitute the main course. An enduring favourite is the mango curry, eaten with plain rice.

Quilon is not pretentious about its recipes and will gladly give printouts to anybody who’s interested. Chef Sriram Aylur (pic below), a Taj veteran, has done a fantastic job and the results are there for all to see. Quilon is packed most days and patrons include many Bond protagonists, tennis star Roger Federer, British celebrities, visiting Indian VIPs and the like.

Chocolate ahoy! World's tallest chocolate fountain

There’s decadence and then there’s mind numbing decadence. And there’s only one place for the latter – Las Vegas. And yet, there’s nothing gross about it. Paradox, did you say ? Well, that’s Las Vegas. Take the magnificently designed and built Hotel Bellagio. Apart from the beautiful umbrella chandelier at the entrance, the glittering mirror-work horse in the lobby, the Oriental-styled garden in the middle and water curtained Sensi restaurant, Bellagio is home to the world’s largest chocolate fountain. That’s right, a chocolate fountain. Forget the teeny-weeny ones you might have seen in candy stores. This one, designed by the Bellagio’s executive pastry chef Jean-Phillippe Maury, is a whopping 27 feet tall and is made up of gooey liquid chocolate ranging in colour from the luscious white to the richest dark and a few shades in between. Sadly, it is all encased in glass, so no chocoholic can have a swipe at it. To stand in front of it and watch the thick liquid making its way from top to bottom is a mesmerising experience and provides the same high as downing the sinful stuff !!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sizzlers galore

Tangerine on 100 ft road, Indiranagar, has always been a favourite place. It is a dedicated sizzler place and lays out a spread that is decidedly the best. I went there recently, and the place only reinforced my bias towards it. The staff is most courteous, but it would be nothing without the lipsmacking food that Tangerine dishes out. Though it serves starters, soups, salads and even north Indian food, the sizzlers are what you should have here.

Mixed seafood grill

Skewered vegetables

What always gives me the kicks are the dips which have unique ingredients like red wine and spiked cocktail. Batter-fried prawns are heavenly and potato skins give potatoes a whole new meaning. As for the sizzlers, they are pure bliss. Check out the skewered vegetables, mixed seafood grill, Cajun chicken and many many more. To round off a great meal (if you can handle it, that is) try the chocolate mousse, which is sinfully rich, smooth and deeply satisfying. Yummy!!

A gastronomic welcome to foodies !

People say they can remember what they wanted to do or become ever since they can remember. I don't know about that, but this much I can say with confidence - I was a foodie ever since I can remember. And tried out new recipes ever since I was given permission to use the kitchen. Oh, and not to forget, my enormous appetite for collecting cook and food books !! It was always a given that friends asked for suggestions on where to eat or for recipes, especially quick fixes. But being a journalist and writer, writing on food was something I did not want to get into, since I did lots of writing anyway. But now, my passion for writing on food is as strong as the food itself. So here I am, sharing notes on places I eat, new cuisines I try, unusual dishes and eateries and even the occasional recipe. I am making no tall claims, have no illusions or pretensions - just a fun thing that I want to share. I hope you enjoy reading what I write as much as I enjoy eating and cooking.