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