Tuesday 30 December 2014

Chilis - Powai, Mumbai

These were uncharted waters. Dodging an ice berg and a possibly a Kraken, me ship made it to Powai. I took out the map and me compass. I felt, I was a bit lost. I could not spot land anywhere. After a tiring journey which is best described in my other bulky journal, I made it to my destination. A land full of fancy restaurants and grog holes. I stepped in front of me destination and raised my hands in joy. Hurrah! Land Ahoy at Chili's.

It had been a long trip from the Northern suburbs. There I stood staring at Chili's logo. It looked like some kind of a UCO. An Unidentified Chili Object to be precise. Chili's is yet another American chain of restaurants to enter India. It specializes in American food and most notably the Tex-Mex cuisine. But its level of food classifies as Gourmet grade or fine dine. No you have not tasted true Mexican food at Taco Bell's. If you want the real deal and good food, Chili's is a far superior and genuine option.

When I sat down inside Chili's, I only thought of one thing, "The food better be darn good. It has to make up for the long trip." And it was.

Captain : A fine restaurant this be. Its crew be so well mannered.

Crewmate : Captain your eyes are glittering with admiration.

Captain : Shut yer trap lad. I am a man of the sea. My eyes don't shine like an anime character.

Crewmate : (Laughs)

The service was excellent. I had read a few complaints regarding Chili's service but I found no issues on my trip whatsoever. The staff is pleasant and well trained. They handled my table and the ones around me quite well. It is probable that it maybe a bit slower during rush hours but that is excusable.

The restaurant has a grand ambiance. It has a large dining area and a really classy cocktail bar. The bar seems to blend in well with the surroundings. But once you step into or near it, it transports you to an other realm. It feels like you are in a pub and not a restaurant. I really liked the large Margarita sign. Pretty sure it has been clicked a hundred thousand times before but I shall click one for keepsakes anyway. Good memories.

Before my meal began, I had an opportunity to meet with Chef Abhijeet Gomare who is the culinary contact for Chili's South and west India. He is a bit of a celebrity in the culinary world with articles related to him appearing in mainstream media. He told me about Chili's plans and vision for the future. It was a great experience talking to him. When he is not busy coming up with new menus, he is probably busy collecting flyer miles traveling back and forth between Chili's restaurants across many cities.

People from the Western suburbs and Sobo area do not travel to Powai that often. It is often considered too far away but it is quite developed and to some extent even more than Sobo area itself. Chili's was a good reward for my quest to Powai which surprisingly is easy to reach from western suburbs.

Service check, Ambiance check, Time to move on to the (Drum rolls) Food !

Before my appetizers were served, I chose to start with a drink. Anything made at that awesome cocktail bar has to be awesome. I started with Chili's El Presidente Margarita which was a recommended drink. The glass, the appearance and way the drink was served out of a blue mixing tumbler. It made an excellent presentation. The drink was a mix of lime, Brandy and the good ol Tequila. It was tangy, sweet and fizzy. The mixer knew what he was doing. I think it could be my regular for my future Chili trips.
"You ain't had Mexican till you have Tequila pardner."

I chose the Triple Dipper option on the menu as it allowed me to experience most of the non vegetarian appetizers. The Chicken crisper was hands down the MVF (Most valuable Food) among the three. In the picture they are located towards the upper right corner. These are Chicken tenderloins wrapped in flour. Finger licking good and went great with the ranch sauce and honey mustard dips. Although, its best suited to be eaten with Honey mustard.

The item in the Top left corner is Buffalo Wings. It is the big daddy of all chicken wings. Much better than the sham you have at KFCs. It is bony but tasty with the sauces wrapping the deep fried chicken adding a bit of tang to it.

The last item at the south end is the Boneless Chicken wings. Same as the Buffalo wings but no bones and more meat. Good for those of us who don't like to deal with messy bones in their food. These felt juicier than the Buffalo wings. If I had to choose between Buffalo wings and the boneless ones then the latter gets my favor.

They were served with carrot sticks which were part of the combination.

And let me assure you, these were served in large king size portions. It was difficult for me to even finish these alone. Totally worth the money.

Captain : Its so tasty but I cannot finish this.

Crewmate : I often wonder Cappy, Why don't we get the rest of the crew to join us in restaurant trips?

Captain: Ever heard three's a crowd? Imagine that with ten lad.

My main course started with Sweet Mustard seed baby back ribs. I have never had pork ribs before. And this was certainly a large and an overwhelming dish. Served with a Good ol' corn on the cob and french fries. The corn was sweet and juicy. Not something we are used to here in India where Bhuna Bhuta is crispy and salty. The fries were rich and definitely leagues better than what one has at a certain clown themed American burger chain.

The ribs can be a bit of an effort to eat. But its worth it. Juicy Tender meat on ribs coated with Chili's own Barbeque sauce. The sauce is made with mustard seeds, honey and Worcestershire sauce. It is one of the best BBQ variants I have ever had. I am instantly won over by anything with BBQ sauce, so I really loved the ribs. Despite not being a person who likes bones, I found myself enjoying this. The meat was tender and the taste had sunk in quite well. There was not even a single bite that felt dissatisfying.

This item was found on their special event menu which is an ever changing list of items they test with their customers. The best items make it to the main menu while the rest are given a Spartan farewell. I am told that this item is most likely to make it to their main menu but just in case if its not, now would be a good time to have a portion of this because "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara"

This is a volcano that I would love to see go off. Chili's Molten Lava Cake is one of their most popular desserts. Despite me being on team Cheesecake, I still opted for this on the restaurant's General manager's recommendation. And a great recommendation it was. Soft Chocolate cake filled with rich gooey chocolate lava. Topped with a dollop of Vanilla ice cream and covered with rich chocolate sauce. And the Caramel artwork for presentation.

This item was visibly enticing. Looked like a fine work of sculpted art. The chocolate sauce trickling down the cake ridges was a clever way of enhancing its presentation. Such shame to destroy it and a bigger shame not to eat it ha. The best way to eat it is to have all layers in each bite. That is the way that it is intended to be eaten. If you attack the layers one by one, you will ruin the experience. It is hard but having a bite with the cake, choco lava, ice cream and sauce form the complete alchemy in your mouth and taste great. Definitely Recommended.

Captain : This lad be a true treasure of the culinary sea.

Crewmate : I understand Captain, now please share some with me.

With the dessert gone, it was time wrap things up. The meal was memorable. The people were memorable and I would definitely remember that cocktail bar.

Chilli's can be a little expensive. But it is completely worth it. Their portion sizes are King size and they definitely fill you up. It is one Mumbai's better restaurants and a nice stop for food lovers everywhere. Also, makes it to my list of top five for 2014.

I found this as a nice keep sake. To show future whipper snappers a memento of my First Chili's trip.

Here is a picture of Chilli's first menu when it opened shop in the 70s.

Score 9/10

"We will probably be back here someday lads. But for now, it's back to sea faring for us."

Map Co-Ordinates
13, Ventura Building, Hiranandani Business Park,
Central Avenue Road,
Powai, Mumbai

-I was invited by Chilli's to sample their food. Special Thanks go to Anisha Dalal from El sol who arranged the meet.-

Chili's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday 27 December 2014

The Little Door - Andheri West, Mumbai

A dark night she be. Lit by the stars in the sky and the bright lights of food islands in the distance, the course is set. I be invited to a convention of fellow foodaneers. Yes there be such a word as foodaneers. Excited and intrigued to visit fellow Captains, I move at full speed towards my destination, The little door. What lies behind it, no one knows. 

"Let's make a deal. Would you like to go with Door number one ?
But Monty there is just a single little blue door there.
So let us open it then."

The Little Door is a restaurant lounge which is quite popular in the Lokhandwala food district. Away from the congested Linking road, away from the pollution and in between hotels and residential lanes is The Little Door. This door hides a small world full of cheer and arcane. It was a year's end event hosted by Zomato and quite a few fellows had been invited. Upon meeting a few familiar faces and a lot of unfamiliar ones, I socialized for a bit before I settled for a bite. We were greeted by our hosts, the pleasant faced Zomato team.

The restaurant is split into two zones. The interior area which is a small but a typical lounge with live music and DJ. The exterior is a slightly larger area that would have been classified as Al Fresco if didn't have an organic roof overhead. The lounge was full of college kids and the like. It was noisy and full of cigarette smoke but nevertheless had a special feel to it.

It is not a typical place where one goes for a meal. Its a place where one goes for a celebration. Whether its your promotion or your neighbor's second cousin's friend's promotion - feel like celebrating? Come to TLD.
It may feel a bit off to those looking for good food in a peaceful environment; but hey if you want to down a few pegs and chill then come right here.When you win, you party. When you lose, you party harder.

The ambiance is not perfect but does fare satisfactorily. The crowd could be a bit noisy so it may not make the best place for a romantic date. The area however is clean and there are no annoying insects bothering the patrons. It also feels much more classy than most watering holes in Mumbai.

Our sojourn was flagged of with drinks and entrée from a special menu prepared for us.

I started with a Peach Beer. It was all right. Tasted a bit mediocre but didn't give me a good reason to complain about. I was told post event that Blushy Pink Sangria would have been a good choice but I was not briefed on the same by the serving staff when I asked for suggestions.

Captain : No rum on the menu, Blasphemy !

Crewmate : Shall we remain sober today, Captain?

Captain : BLASPHEMY !

Called Tlata or three in Morrocan, more specifically TLD tlata-this was an interesting starter. Comprising of Pita and thin Lavash, it was an ideal thing to pass away time while talking with other epicures. The Pita was tasty but had a hint of Indian adaptations to it. It went well with the hummus bread. The Lavash was crispy, savory and went rather well with the orange sun dried tomato dip.

Next up were Greek Nachos. A fusion between Greek themes and classical Spanish Nachos. The Nachos tasted great with the feta cheese addition. Despite tasting great, the flavor had an undeniable infusion of Indian spices and flavors to it. My palate loved it but my mind suggested that it wasn't quite continental. However, it served as a great starter.

Next up were the Three Amigos. From left to right - Pita slider, Baby Brava and Vol au Vent. The Pita sliders were undeniably the best of the trio. Had a wholesome Lebanese flavor and left a good after taste.  The Baby Brava was all right, felt a little low on flavor. The Vol au vent is a doughy puffy pastry filled with a dip. The dip did feel nice but somehow the doughy flavor of the pastry felt a wee bit overpowering over the rest of the item.

The Pollo Verde was undeniably one of the highlights of the day. Visibly and aromatically enticing, it satiated my gustatory senses to the max. The Chicken chunks were wrapped in a mesmerizing chilli wine sauce with onions, peppers, a hint of garlic and feta added to the mix. Each bite was a delight and if I have to give a golden plate to one item in the night, Pollo Verde gets it easy, That's Right. (Had to make that rhyming)

Captain : I am having this alone. All mine. You can have the rest of the grub lad.

Crewmate: HEY !!!

Named Strixxi Mimli, it sure confused me. What in the world does that even mean? Apparently it means stuffed strips in Maltese (Thanks Google Translate). These were chicken strips with a cheesy gooey filling and Mediterranean herbs. However, these resembled croquettes despite the naming. They were tasty and quite addicting. Chicken and cheese are always a good combination. The dip served was Onion garlic mayonnaise which seemed to complement the strips well.

Crewmate : Strixxi what ?

Captain : (Takes out reading glasses and takes out world dictionary) I can't find it in here lad.

Crewmate : Why are you still using that little handbook Captain ? Don't you have a smartphone?

At this point, I was beginning to wonder whether we would have a main course at all or not. But thankfully Shrimp Brochette marked an end to the Entrees. A house specialty wrapped with tasty cheese and bacon, it was one of the best Shrimp preparations that I have ever had so far. Chewy, cheesy and tasty. I would have actually had more of this, had the main course not been there. Takes a close second after the Pollo verde. The chef also left a bit of an artistic touch to its visual appeal.

My choice of main course was Pollo Con Salsa Al Pepe (Chicken with Salsa in English). Thin portions of chicken breast rolled with mushroom. Then grilled and served with pepper sauce. Complemented with a creamy potato mashing. I have had a similar preparation to this before in an Italian restaurant. The taste here seemed to lack bang in comparison. It felt quite mild. The portion sizes also were not filling and the dish somewhat felt like an extended part of the entrée course rather than the main course.

The Rum drum is a house specialty and the invention of the restaurant. It is visibly enticing, full of rich chocolate and good quality Rum. Billed as an eight textured chocolate cake. It definitely has several layers of cake, chocolate, mousse and rum filling. The mousse was very well layered and looked like a fine work of art from the outside. It was one of the favorite creations of Head Chef Nikhil Kedar. He spoke about it with such pride that I knew that it would be special. The upper hard shell was a little tough to break and it presented a risk of demolishing the entire dessert. However, I managed to get past that hurdle and enjoy my dessert. Loved the soft mousse mantle, the cake core with the rum surprise hidden within. A great end to a good evening.

Captain : Spoon !

Crewmate : Here you go Captain!

Captain : Knife !

Crewmate : Here.

Captain : Napkin

Crewmates : (Wiping the Captain's sweat) Are you all right Captain ?

Captain : Yes, I managed to cut this thing without blowing it up.

To conclude, I'd say that it was a great experience. A little noisy, cramped and smokey but works well if you are in the mood for a celebration. It is reminiscent of premium watering holes and good pubs across the city. In comparison with similar premium pubs, TLD has lower prices. It is the kind of place where you could have a drink or two with your buddies every day. Does need to improve on the food and perhaps un-cramp the space.

Score 7/10

"Lift the Anchors and unfurl the sails! Let's cruise under the stars, singing the ocean's song."

Map Co-Ordinates
The Little Door
B 31, Ground Floor, Shree Sidhivinayak Plaza,
New Link Road,
Andheri West, Mumbai

-I was invited to a Zomato (#ZomatoFoodieMeetup) event where I met fellow food writers and restaurant critics.-

The Little Door Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday 20 December 2014

Kareem's - Andheri West, Mumbai

Sailing through congested sea lanes is always a tiring task. Me ship's radar picked up a new but relatively obscure place in Andheri West. After a long voyage, I docked near a large island of restaurants. Facing old giants such as Quessos and Shreeji's was Kareem's. It is not a giant restaurant or a famous grog hole but it has a nice Tavernesque appearance with food fit for a Captain.

Kareem's seems to be a pretty popular name for Indian-Mughlai cuisine franchises. Let me clarify to the reader that this chain is Mumbai based only and the one in Delhi or the US are different. Being part of a franchise model chain, each Kareem's outlet has a different management and its own unique features. One thing that I notice about different Kareem's are their different color menus. This is quite fun. Adds a bit of a "gotta visit em all" thing to it. Yes I totally did not copy that from elsewhere.

This outlet is in a by lane with a not so impressive facade - Credits go to the BMC for digging up the roads and obstructing the restaurant. However, the restaurant itself is well maintained and clean. It has a small bistro like appearance but in my romantic sense of adventure - I thought that it resembled a small tavern. The kind of place where you love hanging out at your office lunch breaks. Or the kind of place you would love to go with your group of friends to.

The owners must be commended for taking the bull by the horns. Facing popular eateries like Quesso's, Shreejis and surrounded by many popular restaurants including several Mughlai type restaurants. It is akin to a skinny gladiator facing a hungry Lion. Excuse the bad pun. Yet, Kareem's seem to be doing good business. I went there during late afternoon. It was way way past lunch time, yet there were many customers going in and out. In a way, I felt relieved that I did not go there during lunch time since I wont have a place to sit.

Another noteworthy thing is the fact that the owner personally supervises the restaurant. She ensures each guest is seated comfortably and that their orders are taken and delivered. I always have respect for an eatery where the owner personally ensures that the wheels turn smoothly.

All righty enough chitchat, lets get to the most important thing - the food.

Captain : I would like the Kaali Mirch Kebab.

Crew mate : I would like the Peeli Mirch Kebab.

Captain : That is a dilemma of choices matey.

Crew mate : No, it isn't Cap. Let's split it two ways.

Savor the picture, this is one of my best grabs with my old camera. Seeing it alone makes me hungry. The upper three kebabs are the Pili Mirch Kebabs which are the house specialty. The lower half is the triplet of Kaali Mirch Kebabs.

I have had Kebabs in many places including street side stalls and fine dining restaurants. And the Kebabs here are definitely among the best that I have ever had. The Pili mirch Kebab lives up to its repute and was perfectly cooked. No burnt portions, great textured, tender and succulent. Full of rich flavor. These Kebabs had a base flavor of Chicken Tikka and were complemented by the spice of Pili Mirch( Yellow peppers). Pilli Mirch kebab is a rare thing among many other Kebab places. You do not find it in most Mughlai restaurants. To be able to get it so easily at Kareem's is quite convenient. This was without a shred of doubt the best item I had at Kareem's. It is a must try for all those who love their kebabs.

Kaali Mirch Kebabs are mild kebabs in terms of spice. They have a distinct flavor of Murg Malai Tikka with a hint of black pepper. If you are not fond of spices then Kaali Mirch Kebabs make a perfect choice. The lip smacking flavor of Creamed chicken is bound to leave you asking for more.

If you love your food extra spicy, the Hari Mirch Kebab is the way to go.

Captain : I am the Captain matey, Let me have the Kebabs .

Crewmate : Dont be greedy Cap, A good crew leader always shares his food.

Captain : Ha, where in the seven seas did you hear that from lad?

Despite its appearance, Kareem's is much more than a Kebab house. It offers most of the typical expectations of the North Indian - Mughlai fare. The mutton Biryani is quite decent. Moderately greasy and full of flavor. It isn't the best Mutton Biryani that I have had but it is the kind of thing that I can order everyday to satiate my Biryani craving. The boneless mutton pieces are a winner for those of us who don't like to eat bones with food. The flavor had sunk in pretty well and the temperature is just right. You wont burn your mouth with the first bite. The aroma is lovely too. Not too spicy and not too mild, just right.

For those who are interested in a more Naan-curry fare, Kareem's offers a good variety of chicken and mutton dishes.  Karachi Chicken is another one of the house specialties. An item that varies from restaurant to restaurant. While the taste of Kareem's Karachi chicken was acceptable. I felt that the flavor of tomato was too overpowering. It kind of suppressed the flavor of other things. I guess a little less tomato would be better.

The Good Ol' Butter chicken. How could I write about a Mughlai place without trying its Butter chicken? A crowd favorite for decades and one of my all time favorite foods, I keep hunting for places that serve good Butter Chicken. Kareem's Butter chicken had rather thin gravy and was a wee bit sweet. But it did not compromise on the flavor. The flavor was rich enough for me to completely finish the gravy as well. The chicken pieces were soft, well marinated and the flavor of the chicken dominated the dish. Not the best Butter Chicken out there but good enough for me. And I am very particular about the Butter Chicken in Mughlai restaurants, the slightest taste issue could make me snap.
Again an item that I could order everyday to eat at home. Goes best with Naan.

Crewmate : Captain, didn't we also have Butter Chicken on our table? Coz I don't see it.

Captain: (Burrp) Butter chicken ? I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about lad.

Crewmate : You ate it all alone didn't you ?

And what meal is ever complete without a dessert ?  I was suggested to try the Gajar Halwa. It was surprisingly light, less oily and full of flavor. Just like the Gajar Halwa made at home.It definitely beat the Halwa sold at many sweet makers and Halwais. It was extremely tasty, full of dry fruits and had a wonderful sweet aroma. It was finely cooked and had no anomalies like odd lumps. It was fresh and definitely a great way to end my Kareem's meal.

Like most Indian restaurants, Kareem's also sells vegetarian food and Chinese food. But I believe in trying the things the place is best known for. Kareem's has a great Chicken and Mutton fare. Worth a try, if you live in the Andheri Lokhandwala area or nearby. They deliver up to seven Bungalows neighborhood too so they cover a pretty large part of the Andheri west area.

The service at present is good since the owner herself monitors the serving process. Feedback is taken well, dishes are recommended and described properly.

The ambiance despite the initial appearances works for me. Its tavern-dhaba like appearance seems to appeal to me. Sometimes, the best experiences are not found in a super fine dine but in a small tavern along the road. But I would like to add a caveat to those who are particular about ambiance. It is a small restaurant and will not come of as very impressive to those who are used to big restaurants. However, the food is made in a clean kitchen , doesn't have an excess of grease and tastes great.

The pricing is on par with most North Indian restaurants in Mumbai. However, it is much cheaper than luxury dining places like Zaffaran. The kebab quality is on par with those served at Zaffaran but at a cheaper cost. Good quality food at mediocre prices. Something that works well for everyone.

To conclude, I shall ask myself a question. Would I go again to Kareem's? The answer - Yep of course.

Score 8/10

"Its time to take the ship out lads. There are places to be and restaurants to try."

Map Co-ordinates
Shop 4, Ground Floor, Godavari Buillding,
Oshiwara Linkroad,
Andheri West, Mumbai

-I was invited to try grub at Kareem's-

Kareem's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Saturday 22 November 2014

Quiznos - Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai

It was a day like any other. The vast infinity of the sea, the normalcy of life and average fast food. Suddenly, one of my crew mates ran into my cabin yelling, "Submarine...Captain,  Submarine." I got up and asked. "Where?" I was worried that me ship will collide with a submarine but then the frantic lad clarified that he meant submarine sandwiches at a place called Quiznos. After giving him a week long duty of sweeping the decks, I set course for Quiznos.

Located on a well known land of food called "Bandra Linking Road", I wondered what mysteries await me at Quiznos.

Quiznos is the new champion of the ring when it comes to American Submarine sandwiches or in short Subs. I had written off Subway months ago since I was tired of cold, soggy and unloved subs offered by them. But I had not written away subs. Quiznos was the perfect answer to my cravings for Sub. Toasted, warm and made with real ingredients. Quiznos has delivered a knockout blow to the competition in terms of quality. If you want a good Sub, it has got to be at Quiznos.

Located opposite National college on linking road, Quiznos is relatively easy to reach. It just took me a ten minute walk from the Bandra station to reach here. If you are located in Bandra or Southern Mumbai then there is always a direct bus route that connects you to a hundred meter vicinity of Quiznos. It could be a little hard to spot for first timers. But it is near the traffic signal and you would see it if you walk towards the signal.

At first glance, Quiznos appears as a typical mini cafe type restaurant but in spirit it is entirely different. Once you step inside, it feels like a different world compared to the chaotic college street-traffic junction outside. You leave the chaos at the doorstep and step through a portal that transports you to a place of relative tranquility. Indeed, that is what I felt as I entered Quiznos. And this is during the day. At night the place goes gold, literally. The indoor lighting work is nothing short of brilliant.

I soon met one of Quiznos' Chiefs - Bhavna Khatri. Along with her husband Bhavesh Khatri and his cousin Kunal Khatri, they make up a very young trio of entrepreneurs. Their feat is commendable as they have introduced Quiznos to Mumbai.

After going through the menu and discussing the subs with Bhavna, I decided to try something which I have never had as a sandwich before.A Tuna Melt Sub accompanied with Chicken Breast Salad.

Crew Mate : Cap, it looks like a regular Sub to me. Whats new ?

Captain : Appearances aren't everything lad. Lets have a taste.

Crew Mate: So how is it Cap?... Captain ?... You could stop eating for a second and tell me.

Captain : The love of the seas. The Tuna aye. So good, must eat first. Must ignore me silly pesky crew.

At a cursory glance it resembles any other sub but the experience begins when you touch it, savor its aroma and then eat it. I was skeptical at the start but as soon as I took my first bite, I knew that it was top notch. Tuna is a fish which can taste very differently in the way its prepared. Tuna in Japanese food or pizza or a Sub can taste different. The Quiznos Tuna Melt Sub was a flavorsome preparation. Unlike Subway, the sandwich was not soggy and did not disintegrate when I lifted it up. It remained in one piece and I could comfortably take bites without dropping the stuffing out of it. There was no over dose of vegetables and sauces. The flavor of the "sweet n savory" Tuna meat remained intact. Along-with mayonnaise dressing and melt in your mouth cheese, this sub was exemplary.

One oft wonders how the world would be if things evolved differently. What if ships were made using a different principle? What if Gravity was a lot more complex than we understand it as? What if Subs were toasted instead of being dumped cold on a roll of paper?

Subway Subs are not warmed. They are assembled at a record speed using ingredients which are the opposite of pristine. Impressive for the assembler. Not so much for the consumer. Quiznos uses better ingredients, meats and is even a bit healthier than its competition. Everything is baked, nothing is fried. And then they add the secret ingredient. Chemical X ? No silly, they toast it *wink*. Food is made with lots of love and a little chemistry. And temperature is a pretty big aspect of that chemistry. Toasting a sub gives it a distinct flavor which definitely befriends your taste buds. And you get such Subs only at Quiznos.

Captain : I dont like Greens, A man of sea cannot eat Salad !

Crewmate : But you must try  Green salad and chicken.

Captain : Don't you Dr. Seuss me.

Despite not being a big fan of Salads, I was still tempted to try the Chicken Breast Salad. The delicate balance of the vegetables and the chicken could be tasted in every bite. The olive was the dominant ingredient in sense of flavor from the vegetarian team. And for the other team, the chicken blended perfectly with the ranch dressing.

The vegetables appeared to have a good texture and quality. This was a much welcomed contrast to the lackluster greens used in salads at other fast food chains. It was visibly enticing and tasted equally great. And as a bonus, it was quite healthy as well. If you are on a diet but your taste buds keep you awake at night then the Quiznos Salad is definitely a viable option to your cravings.

Captain : I like Green Salad and chicken in a Cafe, I like Green Salad and chicken on a ship. Thank you Sam.

Crew Mate : My name is not Sam, Captain.

They offer gourmet cookies as desserts. They offer pizzas too. Since I did not try the Pizzas yet, I can't comment much about them. I would just say that if they follow the same standard like they do for their subs, then these are positively good pizzas.

The pricing is slightly higher than Subway. But given their greater standard of food , the difference is not even worth mentioning. Quiznos doesn't show less than believable TV ads or have excessive brand promotions. But they win at taste and that's all that matters for an eatery.

Quiznos is still a fledgling in Mumbai and it has a long distance to go. They certainly have the food for it. I would like to see Quiznos outlets in the suburbs. If there was a Quiznos outlet near my home, it would definitely be one of my regular hangouts. I would certainly choose it over McDonalds, Subways and Cafe days.

Concluding, I would say that the food was definitely worth my long epicurean trek to Quiznos. I would recommend it.

Score 9/10

"Time to move ya lazy lads. The oceans are waiting. Until next time!"

-The Writer was invited to try Quiznos-

Sunday 2 November 2014

Ebony Fine Dine, Kandivali East, Mumbai

After sailing for days without any land in sight, I finally spotted an island in the distance. However, it did not look very impressive to me. There was something about it that put me off. A few Captains had praised it, so this Captain decided to trust their word. Without any other place in sight, there wasn't much choice anyway. I set course for Ebony unsure of what my decision will bring.

The restaurant wore a vacant look for lunch time especially when nearby eateries were closed due to elections. After casting my vote, I searched for a place to satiate my taste buds. Most options were closed and not scheduled to open till the evening. A few big restaurants were open and Ebony seemed like a good choice. It had many rave reviews to support its selection. However, tastes differ from person to person based on experiences. If I have to say it in short, I'd say Ebony is a very average restaurant. It lacks everything that one would expect in a true fine dine.

Crew mate : Captain, it be nice that there are only a few patrons in this place. We get all the service to ourselves.
Captain : I won't celebrate just yet lad. These patrons are no sailors. And then there are far too few of them.

The service is average. The server had absolutely no answers for the simplest of questions. What is the house specialty? What do you recommend ? Can you suggest boneless Chicken dishes ? The answers he did have were ambiguous standard answers often given by diplomats when they lack a proper answer. The serving time was average - neither slow not fast. I really can't think of some thing good to praise about the service.

We placed the order and I took time to take in the ambiance. Ebony stands today at a place where a good fine dine called "Tandoori table" once existed. Tandoori Table died and Ebony rose in its place. However, the ambiance doesn't quite live up to the class that "Tandoori table" had. While I do agree that Ebony's silvery grey ambiance looks much better at night, it should have still stood up even during the day. It looked very ordinary. They should have put some curtains on the windows and controlled the flow of light. At night the curtains could be off but at day time the curtains should have been there and drawn. The sunlight was intense and the restaurant lost the sheen that it was supposed to offer. It felt more like an airport lobby.

Finally our food arrived. We had ordered for a peach ice tea, Chicken Haara Pyaaz (Chicken with spring onion greens), Rajma Masala (Red Kidney beans with spices)  and Naan-Rotis.

Crewmate : Captain, this is no tea. Do you think the mixer made a mistake?

Captain : Let it be lad. Its a trifle.

The peach ice tea had absolutely no tea in it. It was plain sweetened peach juice. I immediately caught this but decided to let the matter pass. I needed a sweet drink at that point of time so I didn't care much.

Its a shame that no one here asks how the food is and whether the patrons enjoyed the food or not. There seem to be no Captains as well. The Chicken Haara pyaaza was nothing like the real thing. There were huge chunks of chicken which appeared to be undercooked. The taste of the gravy had not quite sunk onto the chicken which had no taste as I chewed it. It felt rubbery. There was far too much hot spice in the gravy as well. We had specifically asked about its spice levels and we were told that it would be moderate. The Spring onion greens were far too less than expected. Tokenism to live up to its namesake. There was no mustard as well. Its appearance also suggested the presence of artificial food coloring. It was almost red. Artificial food coloring is usually abhorred in fine dines.

Captain : Water ! I need water.

Crewmate : Captain, your mouth is red.

Captain : Colors and chillies ! I swear , it be the real name of tis' dish.

Next up was Rajma Masala which was perhaps the only saving grace of my Ebony experience. Though it too appeared to be full of food coloring, its taste was appropriate. It was lightly spiced, savory, salty and aromatic. Despite being a carnivore, I found myself enjoying the Rajma Masala more since the chicken dish had gone off script. It however was by no means stellar. It tasted exactly the same as it does in smaller restaurants. The dish was very oily. One should better hide their calorie counter when eating this.

For Breads to accompany the food, we had ordered Butter Naan, Butter Roti and Missi Roti. The flat breads were fine but nothing I would rave about. They seemed to match the general food standard that I experienced over here.

The tab came to INR 615 which would have been appropriate if the food was good. Usually, all North Indian-Mughlai places in the area offer the same pricing. It's around the same as "The Avenue" on the other side of the highway. However, the food over here was a lot more disappointing. When I entered, I expected more of a Zaffaran or Delhi Darbar standard. What I left with was pure disappointment.

Clearly, a lot needs to be done before this place can brand itself as a true fine dine. The food needs a lot of work.The guy making the drinks should probably try Ice tea somewhere to know what it is supposed to taste like. The ambiance needs more creativity and the staff needs more training regarding the menu. Presence of Captains would also be a good step. The place has so much potential but yet its not been put to good use.

Score : 6/10

"We should leave this place as soon as we can lads. Full speed ahead. Until next time."

-I walked in and paid for my own meal-

Ebony Fine-Dine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday 20 October 2014

Indigo Delicatessen, Malad West, Mumbai

The ship had docked at a popular place called In-Orbit Mall. Me crew was looking for a nice place to eat grub at. Suddenly, one of the mateys spotted a winner. The restaurant towered above the rest like a lighthouse guiding the ships at sea. I smiled as we marched towards it rubbing my hands in glee.

Indian people are often accustomed to stereotypes of food. When we hear of Pizza, the first thing to hit the mind is the factory grade pizza served at Pizza hut or Dominoes. Do note, the so called big chains serve Indians with crass pizzas which would not even make it to the plates of an American customer. The pasta is usually tossed and wrapped in Arrabbiata sauce. It's surprisingly easy to make this at home. Is the gourmet standard gone?

Well thankfully there is nothing to worry, as gourmet restaurants have been opening up in dozens all around Indian metros. One can thank the Masterchef culture, the new hospitality buzz and Indians touring abroad for the changes.

Indigo Delicatessen is among Mumbai's top notch restaurants. It has six branches across Mumbai at the time of writing this post. I chose the Malad West outlet for conveyance reasons. It is the easiest to reach from my place. There is a belief amongst suburbanites that the suburbs are often treated badly as compared to main Mumbai. This belief is true to a large extent. The suburban McDonalds, KFCs and Pizza huts serve food so horrendous that it deserves to be in a trash can and not inside a person's stomach.
Indigo is different. It's quality remains the same, regardless of the location. At least to me.

The food, service and ambiance of the Malad branch is no less than its swanky uppity siblings in downtown Mumbai.The restaurant size is small but its bigger than a cafe. The crowd in here is quiet and sophisticated as opposed to the noisy shopping crowd outside. There is a sense of serenity and the restaurant provides a much needed sanctuary from the unwanted chaos of the mall.

The lighting is ideal. The ceiling which is typical of all Indigo restaurants, provides an interesting color to the ambiance.

Crew mate: Captain the lighting feels coppery.

Captain : That is true lad. But it be a fine place to dine. That I do agree.

There are two types of seats in here. The typical chair-tables and the Sofa chair-tables. I preferred the latter because hey, I am here to relax. Regular chairs are um...boring. The sofa chairs are limited though. During peak hours, it may be difficult to get one. For my trips here so far, I have dropped in at non peak hours thus finding a comfy sofa seat each time.

The service is quite good. Although, one may occasionally find that the server is a little less informed about the food on the menu. Thank God for smartphones and Google which provide instant pictures and descriptions of the said items. All said and done the servers are polite, polished and professional. The three P's that matter. From time to time, a Captain will ask you about the food's quality. If you are not impressed then you are free to unleash your storm on him.

There was a time when this restaurant had received a lot of negative feedback and it sincerely worked on improving itself. A restaurant which follows the policy of asking the customer about the food and providing feedback cards usually comes off as a place which is constantly improving.

Such places are always more welcome than the "Don't give a damn" places like McDonalds or KFCs.

Crewmate : Captain, I be lost. Such a big menu. It is as big as the sea.

Captain : You have always been the thick one. Show me the menu and I will tell what we can order.
(2 minutes later)

Captain : Shiver me timbers! This is indeed confusing.

The food offered is quite diverse. It is easy to get lost. So many things to eat but you can only order a few things per trip. Italian seems to be the dominant cuisine although the menu does offer a fair amount of continental grub. Let me write about the food that I have eaten in my trips so far.

BBQ Pizza on a wafer thin base. Was the thinnest pizza base that I have ever came across. Thin bases are usually healthy and feel less heavy as compared to the traditional pizzas. This was a true gourmet pizza and tasted exemplary. Despite the thin base, the generous amount of toppings were layered with precision. The pizza had several layers of taste which combined together to form a composite flavor best described as, "Yo, This is totally out of this world." Left me licking my fingers. The cheese used was tasty, slightly sweet and of pristine quality. The chicken was succulent, of the right size(neither too minced nor lumpy) and had a captivating aroma. One would start feeling hungry with the aroma itself. No need for appetizers. Pizzas like these make us realize that Pizza hut and Dominoes have been serving us with cardboard and trash toppings for all these years. If you have a pizza craving, Indigo makes a good choice.

The only problem with the pizza selection is that it is probably one of the less diverse options. There are only three pizza options for carnivores.

Crispy Chicken Burger with Cucumber Slaw. Indigo's Gourmet burgers are several hundred times better than the abominable stuff served in McDonalds. This is a whopper loaded with juicy chicken pieces. Yes, there is more to it than that Patty in the picture.While the slaw wasn't that great, the burger was quite exceptional. Its size would humble the so called Big Mac. The potato wedges appeared well cooked but yet weren't oily. I suspect that they were baked. The herb coating added to their flavor. The burger and its sauces were extremely satisfying. Crispy, juicy - a lot going on over here.

Chicken Lasagne. Lasagna is one of my favorite Italian foods. It is also one of the least known Italian foods in India. Very few know that its actually a kind of pasta. However, its presentation and preparation does make it taste distinctively different from generic pasta. Indigo's lasagne may be a bit dull on the presentation but the taste is another story. The large number of lasagna sheets and the minced chicken can leave you asking for more. The subtle presence of herbs which tend to play hide and seek with your tongue is well appreciated. The sauces are tangy and savory both at the same time. I am not entirely sure but I felt that it had both Mozzarella and Ricotta.

Potato Fries. Light, almost non oily potato fries. The fries had a beautiful texture and complemented the food very nicely. They tasted fresh and had flavor unlike the hay we are served at most fry outlets. I'd say that these were some of the best fries served in Mumbai.

Fusilli with Green Pesto Sauce. I would embarrassingly admit that this was my first encounter with pesto sauce. Being accustomed to eating pasta la arrabiata style every time when I have a pasta craving, this was certainly a new experience for me. Despite being a vegetarian item, I must admit that it impressed me - a carnivore quite well. The pesto sauce going by Indigo's yardstick must have been of good quality. It sure tasted nice. The soft Fusilli had blended well with the pesto sauce. Yeah, it was truly something. The herbs and the pesto tasted heavenly. My imagination was sent on a high, probably due to the basil in pesto. I was sitting on a bed of clouds with a bowl of green pasta. It was without a shred of doubt, the best pasta I have ever had. A bit of Basil, a bit of bitter pine nuts and a lot of savory herbs. If you have never had pesto before then Indigo is an ideal choice for you.

Captain: Pasta! Green! What in the world is this? 

Crewmate: om num nom ohhh.

Captain: What's wrong with you? Let me have a taste.

Captain : ’o sole, ’o sole mio, sta nfronte a te...

Indigo has a wide range of desserts and thus in my view its a winner. A restaurant that serves a large number of quality desserts is the best. Mousses, Cheesecakes, Crème Brulee, mud cakes brownies...I could go on and on. If the names alone don't impress, one could always walk to the dessert display case and have a look themselves.

For a cheesecake lover like myself, I almost swooned with what they had on offering. The Vanilla cheesecake with cranberry sauce was a traditional baked cheesecake with a little bit of Cranberry sauce. While the cheesecake base was addicting, I am afraid that I will have to favor the cherry flavored cheesecake below. It was one of the best cheesecake variants that I have ever had. The cheesecake was truly cherry flavored and not simply topped with cherry sauce. The tangy taste of the cherries coupled with the rich flavor of the cheesecake was an otherworldly divine sensation. This item alone has enough power to lure me again to Indigo.

Sadly, the Cherry flavored cheesecake is not available everyday. Indigo has a policy of rotating cheesecakes every day. So, its only available every once in a while.

Concluding, I will say that Indigo was a memorable experience for me. The pricing was a bit of a dampener but the food completely lives up to it. It is easy to get a huge tab over here, mind you.

Nice food, peaceful ambiance and excellent service.

Score : 9 / 10

"All Hands on Deck! Time to move out lads. Until next time."

-I walked in and paid for my own meal-

Click to add a blog post for Indigo Delicatessen on Zomato 

Sunday 28 September 2014

Vedge, Andheri Lokhandwala, Mumbai

While sailing through some rather adventurous seas, I received a message on my radio. It provided me a map of a food paradise called Andheri Lokhandwala and with it was an invitation to an isle of pure vegetarian food. Intrigued, I turned the helm and set my course for Andheri Lohandwala.

Let me be very clear, I am a carnivore. I eat Fish, Turkey, Mutton and Chicken. I don't usually do grassy stuff. When I got an invitation to a buffet tasting session in a pure vegetarian restaurant called Vedge, I was in two worlds about attending it. It is located quite far away thus requires a lot on conveyance and time simply to reach here.

The city of Mumbai still lacks direct public transport connections between the east and west sides. I either have to take a taxi or switch three buses to make it here. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and reviewers, I decided to make the trek. Since the bus route would have taken ninety minutes, I decided to use an Auto Rickshaw which is the suburban version of Mumbai's taxis.

The name Vedge also intrigued me as it was obviously a clever portmanteau of vegetarian and edge. Passing through a road lined up with some of Mumbai's finest restaurants (temptations temptations), I arrived at Fun republic in Andheri West. Fun republic is a Multiplex but also houses a few restaurants.

Facing giants such as McDonalds and Irish Pub, Vedge was the brand new place in Fun republic. 

The Captain and his landin' party walked down the gangplank and stared at the new isle. Surrounded by other flashy isles, the Captain said out aloud. "Aye lads, the grub better be good here."

A witty crew mate then quipped. "But my Captain, Free food is almost always good."

The Captain smiled. "That be true lad, but we shall see !"

I met the event organizers Chandni and Purvi, who were working hard to make the evening a success. Since it wasn't dinner time yet, the place was still empty and allowed me to savor in the ambiance.

For me, the feel of the place is always an important factor. A good decor always lightens up the mood and sends your imagination on a high. The ambiance of this place was a bit of a collage - Part modern, part street dhaba and part colonial (1900s). I would say the part colonial and the part dhaba style worked for me.

The lighting in the section where our group sat was lovely. It generated a feeling of a roadside Dhaba located on a lesser used road. It was a shame that I could not capture the scene properly. I would have needed a very high resolution camera to capture the visuals in the way I saw it. My crappy phone camera had to do for now.

We were greeted by the young owner of the establishment who was only 22. Well, he certainly is on the right path. If he does well, he could have a chain of places in the next five years. He had hired a professional team of chefs who look well groomed. These weren't your run of the mill chefs found in Udupi restaurants all over Mumbai.

Before the buffet started we could order a drink as a part of the preview. I requested a Kiwi Margarita. After we were done marveling at each others drinks, I looked at my drink to find a way to drink it. I think that it was a bit too icebergy for me at the start. I had to wait for the slush mountain to become a glacier. Not a big issue but certainly could certainly be improved. It should have been be a glacier when served.

Finally it was time to dine.

The platter was a nice mix of Italian, Indian and Chinese. Maybe a hint of Mexican as well. The platter changes everyday but I will write on what I experienced.

"My ravenous appetite calls out to me lads. Lets dine, for tomorrow be a long day at the sea."

After taking my plate, I went back to my table which had the friendlier of the two groups of the invitees - A group of experienced food bloggers, our hosts, Twitteratis and me. We had a lively conversation on the hits and misses of the food. The food was decent. Not too special I'd say but definitely a good start for a new restaurant. The international cuisine had been adjusted for Indian palates so it tasted all too familiar.

However, I liked the chef's creativity when he created a stiffer vegetable only version of the Chinese dumpling and called it Money bags.( On the left side) 

Crew mate: Captain, can we use these money bags to buy us some stock and grog.

Captain: Don't be thick lad. The only thing this money bag can buy is a full stomach.

Crew mate: That be the best kind of money bags.

Captain: Indeed lad.

The tomato soup was a tad bit thin. I just took a small portion for tasting and was not particularly interested in having more. They forgot to serve toasted bread pieces which are usually a must with tomato soup.

The highlight of the platter was definitely the basil noodles. It tasted a bit tangy as if it had a hint of cilantro somewhere. It was definitely a new experience for me. And entirely a new creation on part of the chef. And this is something I would like to praise. When you create, you are always better than the times you imitate. I took seconds for this item.


There was a small selection of salads as well. I suppose the stand out was the pasta salad which was sweet due to mayonnaise. The other salads did not look very appealing.

There was also Sev-Chaat in the salad area. No idea what it was doing there(Salads are healthy, Chaat is not) but it seemed be a popular choice for everyone at the table.  Poppadums and bread were available as well. Although, there was no item on the platter that the bread really had a combination with hence I skipped it.

The dessert platter was a wee bit of a disappointment. It was just Vanilla ice cream, Anguri(or grape sized) Gulab Jamun and Fruit salad. The ice cream was at the right temperature but it tasted very ordinary. I wrapped it with streams of chocolate sauce which was probably Hershey's syrup. The Gulab Jamuns were tasty but again nothing out of the ordinary. I often judge buffets by the desserts they serve. And well it was very limited in this case. 

However, for a budget buffet for INR 299, it is an acceptable platter size.

We were treated to this lovely fruit flavored drink after the meal. Made out of musk melon and mint (pudhina), it was one good gulp.

Crew mate: But Captain, Why is the rum...

Captain: Zip it lad. Not like we have rum all the time. Enjoy your drink or you will be sweeping decks for a year.

As we approached Sayonnara time, the chef team presented us with a special that they had whipped up just for us. Made with cinnamon, spices and pieces of apple - it was a sumptuous gesture. It was presented well and made us feel all special. On our way out we were presented with Paan shots(betel leaf) as a mouth freshener. It contained mukhwas, mint, rose water and other ingredients as well.

It was a good experience. The restaurant was neither the best nor perfect but it was a great experience. The ambiance definitely fits a fine dine. The management had energy and is willing to go up the steep slope of progress. In an area where you can find a dozen fine restaurants for every popular cuisine on the planet, this place has bravely opened up as a pure vegetarian place.

The food is far more decent than your average vegetarian fare found all across Mumbai. For INR 299, the buffet was certainly good. I would recommend this place for the strictly vegetarian types.

Score : 7 / 10

"All hands on deck lads! Time to sail back to the high seas. Until next time."

-I was invited to a preview buffet for bloggers and Zomato reviewers.-

 Click to add a blog post for Vedge on Zomato