Friday 23 October 2015

Peninsula - Sion, Mumbai

Me ship had been hit with problems after running into a storm. We were running low on both rations and fuel. The sails were damaged and the crew's morale was down. Thankfully, the keel was intact. Something needed to be done and it had to be fast. Me eyes spotted a small peninsula in the distance. And there were a bunch of restaurants there. 

This was a stroke of serendipity. Poseidon's grace was surely upon us. Once the lads get some grub, their morale would surely rise. 

"Dock the ship lads, its time we get some grub."

A Peninsula is a piece of land connected to the mainland yet surrounded by a single large water body on three sides. Southern India is a peninsula and so is this place in some way. If one were to consider the main roads as the sea then the restaurants on the corner junctions would surely be on a peninsula. But that's just my over imaginative mind talking. There is a probably a less cheesy story behind the restaurant's naming.

Peninsula is the first establishment among a reputed chain of restaurants and hotels that stretch from India to Dubai. Before the owners grew and the brand became a titan, this is where it all started.

Peninsula has been operating for twenty five years and its safe to say that the owners are quite experienced in the food business. With humble beginnings, this place has grown to become a multi-cuisine restaurant that offers Indian, Chinese and Mexican. Within Indian it offers North , South and West Indian grub. That's a lot of choice.

The ambiance resembles a quaint Victorian cafe from a forgotten era. The marble, the lighting and the artwork do not make it appear fancy or loud but still add an air of elegance and maturity to it. The dining area is not very large but certainly appears comfortable.

I was quite exhausted since the trip to Sion had been a long one for me. The late summer heat had also been quite a pest.

The Mint with Rock salt mocktail re-hydrated me and restored my spirits. This green colored drink was visibly enticing and its flavor was quite intriguing. The rock salt added a sweet-n-salty flavor to the drink while mint supplied its natural cooling sensation. The drink reminded me of the "Masala" soft drinks that I used to have back in my college days. The nostalgia was a warm sensation.

Kebab Platter looked quite amazing. It was a mix of six different kebabs. Each of the six was an amazing kebab. I do not think that I can complain about any kebab in this platter. It was simple perfection.

Reshmi Kebabs were smooth, savory and melt in your mouth type. 

Malai Kebabs were snacky and my favorite kind of white kebabs.

The classical Chicken Tikka had a potent amount of spice infused in it and the flavor was the genuine North Indian classic.

Pahadi kebabs were green colored chicken delicacies infused with coriander and mountain spices.

Madari Kebabs were my favorite in the platter and this was also my first time with these. These kebabs were marinated in rum giving them a unique flavor. I never knew that spices and Rum could be used in such unison. The flavor was quite addictive.

Lahori Kebabs were spicy North Indian morsels packed with flavor and had a heavenly aroma. These were clearly the better spicy kebabs. The spices here created different sensations on different taste buds. It was quite a mystifying sensation.

Captain : This be a treasure chest of Kebabs lad. 

Crewmate : Should we bury it on an island and mark it on a map?

Captain : Are you dense lad? The earth doesn't devour Kebabs, we do.

Garlic Naan was served as an accompaniment to the main but I felt that the flavor clashed and the main was best enjoyed with a plain Tandoori Roti or a Chapati.

Chicken Maratha had an appearance and aroma much similar to Sabud Masur Lentils. That is probably due to the coriander and spice mix. The dish also has a bit of Malwani feel to it. The chicken is moderately spicy and the flavor is quite strong. Those with a low spice tolerance could request the staff to mellow down the spice.

I however like spicy grub, so I quite enjoyed the dish. Each cube of chicken had flavor deep down to the very core. The thick curry was both aromatic and pleasing. The wafting aroma seduced my olfactory senses and it made me instantly hungry. (All this after eating several kebabs) This is the kind of food that pleases the heart and soul.

The www suggests that Chicken Maratha differs from place to place. But Peninsulas variant was definitely one of the better ones.

Captain : Green Colored Chicken, now that's something one doesn't see everyday.

Crewmate : Does it feel like a lentil soup?

Captain : Let me taste. Oh yes positively Lentil soup.

Crewmate : Are you being honest Captain? You seem to be eating it rather fast for a Dal.

Banana Split - I initially felt that there would be no space for dessert as I was quite full. However as soon as I laid me eyes upon this trophy of a dessert, I knew I had to devour it to the very last piece of banana in it. The pacman inside me was going bonkers or shall I say bananas.

Peninsula's Banana Split had an amazing presentation. It was nothing short of the fancy platings found in most casual diners today. And they had not compromised on the quantity with theatrics either. 

A scoop each of Butterscotch, Strawberry and Vanilla in a banana valley was as close as you can get to the American classic. The addition of Maraschino Cherries, roasted cashews and sliced almonds made this a banana republic that I can like. For a guy who was feeling full, I strangely finished this dessert completely.

Captain : Lets scale the ice cream mountains lad.

Crewmate : Uh huh.

Captain : Lets plant our flags on the peaks of Mt. Butterscotch, Vanilla and Strawberry.

Crewmate : You know...

Captain : But wait, what do I see? Bridges of cherry.

Crewmate : Its been a while since you got high on Desserts.

The service at Peninsula is decent. I won't say that its as extravagantly amazing as the service in some of the newer restaurants but it works well for a casual family diner. The servers appear seasoned and professional.

The pricing could be a little higher compared to most multi cuisine casual diners but the food is quite good and feels worth the money. The place does brisk business so patrons are fine with pricing structure.

While it may appear like an ordinary restaurant from the outside, its the experience inside that counts. The food is good and Peninsula positively serves some of the best kebabs in Mumbai. Made my trek to Sion worth the effort.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

"What can be better than to rejuvenate our spirits with Kebab and Chicken eh mateys? Now lets fix up our ol' ship and load up the rations. Shall we?"

Map Co-Ordinates
117, Peace Heaven,
Opposite Cinemax, Sion Circle,
Sion, Mumbai

-I was invited by the Restaurants PR on behalf of the establishment to sample the grub-

Peninsula Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday 16 October 2015

Hoppipola - Khar, Mumbai

I opened me map and saw the marked spot again. It read "Hoppipola". It made no sense to me but the fact that the word Tavern was marked along with it was enough to pique me interest. We were sailing by the coast on familiar seas and making a list of places. This coast was full of restaurants that tis' Captain would like to have future grub at.

We were at the right co ordinates when suddenly me lookout made a loud sound...of his snoring, the daft lad had fallen sleep. Aghast, I took out me looking glass and studied the coast. As they say, never send a lad to do a man's job. I found our destination inside one of the lanes on the coast. I smiled and said, "Lower the Dinghy mates. Grog ahoy."

We all loved jumping into rainy puddles as children but as we grew older, we became refined and matured forgetting the little pleasures of yesteryears. Hoppipola apparently means "jumping in the puddle" in Icelandic and perhaps strives to emulate that very experience that we have forgotten. Though not by literally jumping into puddles. Its brought to you by the same people behind Mainland China and Oh Calcutta, so it does bring with it an air of experience.

My visit was part of an event which introduced me to Hoppipola's new cocktail menu. So it was going to be a very boozy afternoon. Being more of a grubber and less of a grogger is always a tricky situation for me but I am still glad that I attended this event.

The ambiance felt very much like a marriage of an airport lounge and a cafe with a little bit of fine dine thrown in. While the lighting was dim and the place was completely indoor, the large vents made the place appear like an Al-fresco. It was a strange and an intriguing illusion. So that gave the place an appearance of both an indoor dining and Al - Fresco.

I soon met other food bloggers and Hoppipola's Chief Drinking Officer Sandeep who is a veteran mixologist with seven years of experience under his belt. That is much more than the period most Mainstream Karate schools take to give a pupil a black belt.

Whiskey Sour - We were given a warm up before we tried the new cocktail menu. And what better warm up than a classic cocktail like Whiskey sour. Potent, sour, tangy and sweet at the same time- This got my mood up. The egg white in it gave it a smooth texture making this literally the cheesecake of cocktail drinks.

Margeritha pizza, Chicken Skewers, Bread(Pita and Ragi bread) with hummus and Smoking Carlos were served along with the drinks as bar nibbles. Decent stuff and the skewers tasted really nice with the whiskey and vodka base cocktails.

Captain : Whiskey and Grub. I am already lovin' this place lad.

Crewmate : I agree Captain but why are you keeping all the grub near yourself?

Captain : Uhh...for safety lad. ;D

Birdcage lived up to its name literally. Served in an artsy cage with dry ice surrounding the mixture to keep it cool and protruding straws, this had one hell of a presentation. The base was white rum with additions of orange liqueur, pineapple, Kiwi, hazelnuts and pomegranate. It was a not a very strong drink and had a lot of sweet and sour to it. I felt that the flavor of the Cointreau dominated the drink. Think of it as an all grown up version of orange juices.

Auckland Ice Freeze was my favorite drink of the event. This was made with White Rum, Tequila, Vodka and hints of Triple sec. The kiwi was the power ingredient in this one and the cocktail tasted much like a Kiwi flavored liqueur. It had an addicting and mystifying flavor unlike anything I have ever drank before. I am told that the base recipe is based off Long island Ice tea but I don't really see the resemblance. Despite not having the best presentation, this was an amazing drink. If I were to go to Hoppipola again then this would, without a doubt be my drink of choice.

Captain : This brew has all me favorite things in it.

Crewmate : Mine too.

Captain : I loved the Rum and Vodka.

Crewmate : I love Vodka, Tequila and Triple Sec. 

Captain : Wait you didn't mention Rum? WHAT KIND OF SAILOR DOES NOT LIKE RUM?

IQ(Intelligence Quotient) - Imagine all those bulbs that appear as a metaphor for ideas, now imagine if they contained a drink that one could sip on. Ah that's a novel idea. I was thinking of a drink that would be made of my favorite vodka and maybe some sweet stuff and ding - I got this over my head. Before it dropped and made a mess all over me, I promptly grabbed it and took a sip. Vodka has the odd ability to let any flavor dominate the drink but yet maintain its potency. This was a sweet cocktail(In both smell and taste) with additions of cranberry, passion fruit and watermelon. Having it in a bulb shaped glass was fun too.

The Hoppi Bath Tub was visibly pleasing and quite a novelty. Made of White Rum, Beer, basil and burnt orange - this had a base flavor of rum with aftertastes of beer. The orange additions subtly added a bubbly citric twist to the concoction. I am not a big fan of anything with beer in it but the mixer really blended the other ingredients well into the cocktail, and I found myself taking more than just a few sips. Now having a life size bathtub with this concoction would be quite an affair, but thats a story for another day.

The Ballerina was primarily a margarita, added with raspberry syrup and some balsamic vinegar. The glass was rimmed with a green powder which happened to be Kaffir Lime. A twist to the traditional salt rimming, this was quite fascinating. The drink was both sweet and savory. It was served with Bruschetta which was said to pair with it. Though I felt that it served as a nice nibble, it didn't exactly pair with the drink which was potent enough on its own. This ballerina can do a solo, she doesn't need an annoying partner ha.

Da Vincitini had an interesting presentation. You know somethings up when your drink is served up in a palette. Made of Vodka Expresso and Baileys, this one can be enjoyed with dark, white or caramel chocolate. While the drink smelled sweet and the presentation was amazing, I was not quite fond of the flavor.

I felt that there were too many voices talking at the same time in terms of flavor and they seemed to cancel each other out. But that could be due to the fact the drink served to me was mixed with the wrong chocolate. For example, I would have gone with White chocolate and skipped dark and caramel.

Desi Martini was made of premium Swedish Vodka(Absolut brand which claims to be distilled an infinite number of times), pomegranate, coriander, chilli and a spice mix. The drink wasn't very strong but had an interesting flavor. The after taste positively resembled Bhelpuri. I'd say the desi was successfully fused with the martini. Not just Desiness but this infuses the street food spirit of Mumbai into the martini as well. This makes a good drink to try for cocktail lovers and curious fellas like me.

Pornstar Martini - Other than the risque name, I see nothing scandalous about it. Probably not enough to warrant a ban by the trigger happy big brother. Its an interesting drink made of Swedish Vodka, Vanilla, Passion fruit and Sparking Wine. The flavor of Vanilla and passion fruit dominate this vodka based drink. Sweet, aromatic and slightly tangy is the best way to describe this.

Captain : Hmm strange. This drink doesn't remind me of Jenna, Maria or even Sunny.

Crewmate : I don't think the drink is supposed to do that. 

Captain : Nonsense. The only reason I drank this was because I thought it would show me previously unseen images of those fine lasses.

Crewmate : And Davey Jones mops the deck for us, amirite?

This wrapped the cocktail tasting session up and got me a little high...on happiness, just like jumping in puddles.

The pricing seems apt for the experience and quality. Though you'd probably like to be careful which poison to go for.

The service is amazing going by the visual delights served to me during the event. It is an art to make an artistic cocktail and another to serve it, without disturbing the work.

I am not the drinking type of bloke but Hoppipola does present a compelling scenario. Sandeep has come up with some interesting concoctions and these are definitely worth a try. The restaurant also offers a diverse collection of wines and other pure drinks if you are not up for a cocktail.

The Captain's Score : 7/10

"Enough Rum and Vodka to keep us going for the week lads. Yer sailor engines should be up for some high adventure now."

Map Co-Ordinates
757, Ramee Guestline Hotel,
MD Ali Quereshi Chowk,  
Khar, Mumbai.

-I was invited by Food Bloggers Association of India to sample the new cocktails as part of a bloggers event.-

Hoppipola Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday 9 October 2015

Barbeque Nation - Worli,Mumbai

We were sailing to a distant land. It wasn't much off the course but it was me first time in these parts of the sea. The ship's ol' sodium lamps provided a romantic ambiance on the night deck which made me reminisce about good times past. The warm autumn winds suddenly picked up pace. The crew looked upbeat as an adventurous tune began to play in the background. Aye, I never regretted recruiting the musician in me crew. 

We spotted land as the men camped the starboard side rails. We approached our destination which was a small nation in itself, Barbeque Nation.

A land of Barbeque and Tandoori. A place of Kebabs and Kulfis. A tale of an evening much mesmerizing.
Life had been quite busy for me as a Food writer since my first trip to BBQ Nation last year. I could not get the time to try their other outlets until today. Barbeque Nation at Atria is a much larger restaurant when compared to my Marol Experience. Its perhaps the only island (or a nation if you will) of fun in the otherwise stark Atria mall.

The restaurant appeared to be in a festive get up. The air was cheery and the mood felt like a great celebration. Mohammad Ali Road area in Mumbai is famous for its Ramadan treats. But this period only comes once a year. What happens if you miss it? How do you get some of that awesomeness later in the year?

BBQ Nation attempts to recreate the magic of Mohammad Ali road with its own festival by the same name. While it obviously does not clone the same atmosphere and variety, it does give one a more than worthy consolation prize for missing out the original thing sans the crowd and pollution. Sit in the comfort of the restaurant's fine dining premises. Savor in the aromas, the festive ambiances and the enjoy seeing the staff who are dressed for the occasion. If you are fortunate, they may even put a song and dance performance into the night.

I was part of a motley bunch of bloggers and food journalists which had been invited to a special event to sample the Mohammad Ali Road fest menu. I loved my table as it was full of friendly and affable fellas who I had a nice dinner chat with.

The fun part about the event was a good selection of vegetarian dishes which tantalized the vegetarian folks on the table. One usually does not expect a Barbecue Diner to gratify the fine dining wishes of the green folks but BBQ Nation went through arduous trials to come up with an all green menu. As someone who pilfered kebabs from both platters, I positively affirm that Barbecue Nation put on a great show.

The evening started with house invented virgin cocktails.

Hawa Kela was a mixture of Banana and Coconut. The flavor would feel very much like a banana smoothie initially but as the sip went down the throat, it had a sweet coconut undertone. This secondary flavor compared to the "Nice" Coconut biscuits I had a child or Bounty Chocolates.

Masaledar Tarbooz despite its naming and appearance, this had a dominant flavor of a fragrant lime. The spicy watermelon came as an after taste when the lime vanished.

Paya Shorba was a clear Lamb flavored soup. As with all genuine Shorbas, this had no meat in it. While this works as part of the theme, I am personally not a big fan of clear shorbas. Even the flavor of lamb was subtle with most of the flavor coming from the salt.

As with all BBQ Nation outlets, their appetizers were stellar. 

Greens on the Right, Reds on the left. As per BBQ Nation's tradition, we were served our skewers on a live charcoal grill. I love this bit about BBQ Nation since it gives me a yard BBQ or picnic BBQ feel.

Chutney Jhinga was a shrimp skewer with a batter consisting of rich chutney. It was one of the best seafood kebabs I have ever had. The batter was full of flavor and the shrimps were crunchy.

Mutton Seekh Kebabs were made of minced Mutton and tasted great. Though these could have been larger than the bite sized delights that these were.

Chicken Tikka was a juicy Chicken nugget but lacked the distinct tikka flavor. This is not to say that it was a bad kebab, just that it didn't feel Tikka enough to me.

Tandoori Tangdi was a juicy leg of meat. While I won't say that the meat came off the bone easily, the flavor was quite amazing. I took the effort to clean the meat off the bone. The spices, flavor and a mild bit of tang completed a tasteful alchemy.

Captain : A True man of the sea enjoys his drumsticks.

Crewmate : A nice Captain shares his grub with his mates.

Captain : Be happy with your drumsticks lad.

Crewmate : Drumstick. Not Plural :(

Taltali Fish was a fried fish kebab that felt a bit insipid. Tandoori cuisine is so full of vibrant flavors that a fish like Basa makes a poor choice for a fish Kebab. I felt that sea fish would have worked better in this kebab than Fresh water fish. The natural saltiness and sea aroma would definitely have had more bang.

Bhatti Ka Bater was my first encounter with Quail. The masterchefs and other fine dining shows have made me well aware of this meat in western cuisines but I had largely remained unaware of Bater(Quail) in Mughlai cooking. BBQ Nation introduced me to quail and the meat was tender with the flavor being spicy and potent. Definitely one of the highlights of the special menu.

Cajun Spiced potato felt a bit off. The Tang from Cajun is remarkably different from the flavor in this item. It felt a bit yoghurty and my friend and fellow food blogger Ritika put the most apt comparison for it - It tasted a bit like Dahi Wada.

Corn Shammi Kebabs were tasty vegetarian delights full of corn, ginger and spice. Despite being flavorful, these had but one problem, that is being placed together with the Mutter Palak Ki Tikki. Read on to find out why.

Mutter Palak Ki Tikki was perhaps the best kebab in the vegetarian set. Made of Spinach and pea mince, these were also pumped with a bit of cheese. The bite was full of flavors and the addicting undertones of cheese.

The mains were decent in comparison to my previous BBQ Nation experience.

Nihari Gosht - What Mohammad Ali Road festival would ever be complete without this? This meat stew is often cooked with bone marrow and as a result it has a distinct flavor and aroma. BBQ Nations version was a flavorsome curry with a trance inducing aroma. The meat was well cooked and the gravy was quite delightful as well.

Mutton Raan was not part of the festival menu but a special mention needs to be made for this. This was by far the best lamb dish of the evening. The spicy and savory flavor complemented some tender (falling off the bone) meat. Each bite unleashed a torrent of wild flavors on the taste buds. The Aroma was divine as well. It somehow reminded me of the Old Delhi street style of cooking. I had so far never experienced it in Mumbai.

Captain : Long long ago, in a place far far away.

Crewmate : Whats this ? Episode 7 The Food awakens?

Captain : I had food that felt just like this.

Mutton Khichda is a green colored Hyderabad mutton preparation that uses lentils. The flavor was quite strong and tasteful but this dish had way too many bones for my comfort.

Chicken Angara(Right side in picture) is a dish that symbolizes the delicacies usually found during Ramadan. Its a spicy dish that is slowly cooked over charcoal. The flavor here was spicy, salty and savory. Imagine walking through a street with tandoor stalls at both sides. That typical aroma that tantalizes one's olfactory senses while walking through this lane is literally converted into flavor you can eat in this dish. It has a smoky, street side rustic feel to it.

Captain : I feel like I am dining with the Mughal Emperors with this one.

Crewmate : I feel like I am a Mughal Emperor when eating this.

Captain : A Mughal Emperor to sweep my decks next week, ha that's something.

A bit of seafood mains here. I skipped the Crab on the right side as it appeared too messy to crack open. The Kanta Kali on the left was a tandoori Basa preparation which had excellent gravy but the Basa felt like a bad partner which retained its gooey flat flavor.

Zam Zam Pilaf had a strange name. I am not aware if Pilafs are served in traditional Mohammad Ali celebrations and I am pretty sure that we prefer Pulao over Pilaf in term usage in India. Nevertheless, the rice in this one was full of aroma and spices. In my opinion, it was closer to a biryani than a Pilaf. It had lamb chunks in it, although I prefer my pilafs/Biryani to be boneless - tradition or not. The rice seemed to pair well with the Nihari Gosht. I'd suggest the two being eaten together.

BBQ Nation has a large Dessert platter which offered as many as nine different desserts. Additionally they also offer Kulfis which are made in a live counter.

The Black Currant Phirni was an interesting concoction. Apparently made after hard labor and extensive reworks by the chef, this was a great result of bold creativity. The Black currants supplied a subtle flavor in the phirni. It was married properly and did not feel like a simple mixture of currants and phirni.

The Fudge Brownie was a sweet sinful delight. It definitely leaned more on the fudge side than on the brownie side. That worked for me since I do prefer fudge over brownies.

Toffee Pastry felt like a run of the mill pastry with some toffee sauce on it. It lacked flavor and clearly paled in front of BBQ Nations better desserts.

Billed as Kiwi Cheesecake and resembling a big slab of Paneer, this was an interesting dessert. It was no baked cheesecake for sure but was a very good Kiwi flavored Cream cake or a no Bake cold Cheesecake.

Sitafal Kulfi with white chocolate, tangy candy balls and caramel sauce. This little beauty was my favorite moment of the sweet show. I customized the toppings myself. There were close to fifty different options which I could have added but I chose the white chips, candy and caramel. Tasted great and henceforth this combination will be known as The Captain's Mix. (Cheesy I know but lemme have me moment.)

Captain : Legend has it that a funny whimsical fella accidentally created this mixture.

Crewmate : Isn't that how some of the best foods got discovered Captain?

Captain : A serendipity of some sorts eh lad?

Crewmate: I wonder who that fella is.

The pricing at 800 INR per person could feel a bit on the higher side. But considering the fact that its a buffet with unlimited grub and desserts at your disposal, I think it actually balances out. In fact if you are a hearty mate like me, then this is quite a steal of a deal.

The service was interesting. Yes you read that right, 'Interesting' - the servers were polite, professional and they even put up a little dance show in the late evening. Their dress code and scarves look very much like traditional Iftar attire.

To wrap this up, I'd say they actually infuse three elements into their festivities - Service, Food and decor. BBQ Nations Mohammad Ali Road festival is a fun stop for gourmands and adventurers alike. Be here for the food, the feel and the festivities. This festival ends on October 18, 2015.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

"A fine nation tis' be. For now we leave but who knows when the winds will blow us again to these shores."

Map Co-Ordinates
Barbeque Nation
4th Floor, Atria Mall,
Dr. Annie Besant Road,
Worli, Mumbai

Phone : 022 60600000

-I was invited by the Restaurant to sample the Mohammad Ali Road menu.-

Barbeque Nation Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato