Thursday 29 September 2016

Pizza Express - Powai, Mumbai.

We climbed down into the abyss, walked our course and easily climbed back on the other side. It was so easy compared to our ordeal before. We had found the place to be larger, deeper and spookier in the dark. Firsty fashioned a torch out of a piece of wood we broke from an old book rack. However, we faced a new challenge as we emerged from the structure. The island's remaining cowards who had no courage to explore the mansion on their own had surrounded us.

PizzaExpress(without the space) needs no introduction. Its a casual dining pizza chain located virtually all across the globe. The brand is quite a big player in Mumbai itself where they have four outlets in four different food districts.

The first thing that I noticed upon my entry was its dual styled ambiance - bird cutouts on one side and bird shaped lights on the other. PizzaExpress restaurants use a different theme in every outlet. Since this outlet was located in Powai, they used a lake and birds motif. One side appeared like a casual dining Pizzeria while the other side felt like a fine dine.

Ginger Fresca was a Ginger flavored fizzy drink that was cold, refreshing and quite comforting to the throat. Its flavor was dominated by Ginger ale with a hint of mint. A great choice if you are tired of the same old Mojitos and soft drinks.

Gamberetti Piccante was a healthy prawn based dish made in a spicy passata sauce. This passata is said to be sourced from the famed Greci family in Italy. The flavor was mildly spicy and savory. The Tomato passata dominated the flavor while the spinach and Italian herbs provided taste depth to the dish. The rustic home food flavor and the flamboyant red color concerted well together and made it quite a great choice for an appetizer.

Island Rogue : You may have beaten Cuvo but he was nothing more than a low level barnacle. I am the great Pirate Lord Roni and you will hand over the chest that you found inside that building to me.

Captain : Fancy title kiddo. Was the great Pirate Lord too scared to enter the dangerous structure himself? Sorry buddy, finders keepers.

Roni : Enough! My men have surrounded you. You stand no chance.

Captain(chuckles) : My, my we have quite the situation then.

Etna Pizza is named after the famous Sicilian volcano. Its texture appeared rough due to less cheese and its color was dominated by dry cured ham and sausages giving it an appearance like an active volcano. I thought the pizza appeared artistic. It was almost as if someone baked it in a Prisma Oven ha. The flavor was meaty, savory and the rough texture extended to the flavor as well. Its a great pizza to have if you enjoy good meat but if you are a cheese addict then there are other choices on the menu. The Jalapenos compliment the ham well.

First Mate : Stop messing around mate, just blow them.

Captain : Aww shucks, I was having fun ya know.

Roni : I wait no more. Get them Boys. 

Captain : Ever been in the middle of a storm Great Pirate Lord :)?  (Opens Chest of Storms while pointing it at Roni's gang)

Roni : Oh Lord...NOO.
(A strong hurricane blows Roni and all of his men away)

First Mate : Wow they blew further than a pro Golfers Tee shot.

PizzaExpress' Cheesecake is the classical and the near perfect rendition of the Baked Philadelphia cheesecake. The flavor is amazing and its definitely one of the best cheesecakes in India. The only thing not traditional about it is that PizzaExpress uses McVitties Digestive biscuit crumbs instead of Graham crackers for the base. The latter tend to be more brittle.

Raspberry Cheesecake Gelato is a recent addition to the PizzaExpress menu. Its a decent emulation of a cheesecake flavored ice cream. Unlike the versions found in major ice cream outlets in town, this Gelato truly tastes like a liquid cheesecake with a tarty raspberry flavor. While I did enjoy the Cheesecake above, I must admit that this was the better of the two desserts.

PizzaExpress serves great pizza though I do feel its pricing is on the higher side. However, they use imported ingredients for a truly Italian pizza experience so that affects things. 

The service was excellent. My server knew every detail of every pizza on the menu, the places from where the ingredients were sourced and answered everything I threw at him. His conduct was very professional. This is the kind of service one desires at any place.

I love Pizzas, its one of me favorite things in the food world. And I love going to PizzaExpress whenever I can. Its a shame that there isn't a PE outlet in my neighborhood otherwise I would probably be giving them business at least once a week. But yes, if you live in Mumbai and if you love Pizzas - Do visit Pizza Express.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

Captain : We got this chest but still don't have a clue to the next spot.

Navigator : The chests inscription's resemble our map greatly. Could it be?

Nina : Nya :3

Captain : (Places the map on the chest) Wow the inscription is a near identical copy except for this bulge here.

Navigator : That bulge happens to be Faraway island. The worst place in all seas. If I had to hide a legendary artifact. It would be there.

Captain : Makes sense. I have a good feeling about the worst place on the sea. Set course to Faraway Island.

Map Co-Ordinates
G14, A Wing,
Ventura Hiranandani Business Park,
Powai, Mumbai.

-I was invited to sample the menu by the Restaurant. My review however remains objective.-

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

Thursday 22 September 2016

Veranda - Bandra West, Mumbai.

I am not a stranger to strange things but nothing made sense till one of me mates lit up a match which briefly flickered till the wind put it out. There was a small tunnel inside the building walls. It wasn't big enough for a man but large enough for a cat. Nina used this passage to come to us but how did the little fur ball know about the tunnel to begin with? Cat Magic? These questions would be addressed later. There was a loud noise up ahead. It was almost as if there was a storm somewhere. But how does such a small structure have a colossal abyss and such strong wind within it. Cautiously our party walked ahead, leaving the abyss behind.

A painter and a chef are both artists. One pleases the visual senses by the rendition of colors on a canvas while the other pleases the gustatory senses by the rendition of flavors on a plate.

To me, people are defined by what they make of the space given to them. As new eateries and new restaurants pop up like never before, it is important for a restaurant to have something unique that etches itself onto the memory of its visitors.  

Veranda, located inside the Executive Enclave Hotel is a place that enchants you with its art gallery inspired ambiance. The place sometimes feels like a royal palace of a lost age with all of its decor and splendor. The Rohra brothers(Owners) have taken great time and designed the place very tastefully. Elder Brother Rahul is a man with an eye for details. He came up with the decor for both Cafe Terra (Located on top of the same building) and Veranda. And one has to admit that both places score highly on the ambiance. For the art connoisseur, the paintings rotate after a period.

 I don't do drugs, I am drugs.
Younger Brother Monish is a chef who has extended the artistic themes to the menu. With dishes like chicken Redbrandt, Banksy Bharta, Raja Dahi Varma and Mario Goan Miranda - One can see the homage paid to artists from all walks of life. The dishes in most part do justice to their namesakes.

The Amuse Bouche was made of a spicy-tangy drink and mini idli coated with gunpowder. An excellent first course as it invoked my appetite.

Pablo Picacho(left) and Kin Sue(Right) made an excellent soup based second course. The Pablo had a very Indian flavor to it and had pulled chicken julienne with mint and onions. It was a thin soup with a lot of flavor. The Kin sue was made of pumpkin and sour cream. It was a creamy and flavorful soup that was quite addicting. The pumpkin flavors signified the onset of Autumn. It was served with blue cheese croutons which made it a top notch fine dine experience.

Contem Beet Root Salad was a boat load of stuff. No pun intended. This mixture was comprised of Quinoa salad, Rocket drizzled with Kasundi honey mustard and cups fashioned out of hollowed baby beetroot with hung curd inside. The salad was both a visual spectacle and was full of sweet, tart and savory flavors. This had to be one of the best salads I have come across. Bonus points for artistic creativity.

Captain : This gigantic chamber seems to be the source of the wind. 

First mate : I have been thinking. Have you lads heard about the Chest of storms?

Captain : Thats a legend.

First mate : Indeed, as is the blue compass.

Mushroom Car pachino was made of portobello and the rare(+expensive) Shimeji mushrooms. It also had roasted edamame, cherry tomatoes and asparagus. The dish was smoked in a Hickory chamber lending to it a distinct rustic flavor which I have not experienced anywhere else in Mumbai. The dish was colorful, healthy and full of mildly savory sensations. If you are a vegetarian then this is a must have.

Raja Dahi Varma was a piece of art. When it was served on my table, it looked so pretty that I did not want to damage and eat it, ha. Baked yoghurt was used to make the square structures which were filled with Tamarind gel. The crisps were made of potatoes and were placed on a dollop of sweetened curd and Urad dal flitters.

This dish was as beautiful with its flavors as it was with its appearance. It tasted very much like Indian curd based street foods like Dahi Kachori or Dahi Bhalla but its appearance was unlike anything I have ever seen. This is an absolute must have for anyone who visits Veranda. Raja Ravi Varma would be proud.

Image Courtesy Zomato/Veranda
Dhaba Chicken platter was made of three popular Kebabs. I quite enjoyed this platter. The Green Pudhina(mint) Kebab was full of juicy hariyali flavor. Kashmiri red chili was a spicy and a strong flavored kebab. The Zaffrani Chicken Tikka combined the popular tikka flavor with a bit of creaminess. I was upset that this got over so fast but it made an ideal bar nibble.

Nina : Nya 

Captain : Its cold here but the wind (gulp) seems to be coming from inside this...

First mate : Say it :)

Captain : Chest.

Chicken Redbrandt was a red themed dish with Chicken Teriyaki, sticky spicy Tawa rice and Thai Salad. The rice was full of flavors and tasted well on its own. It complemented the mild flavored Teriyaki Chicken really well. This was the quintessential main one seeks at a fine dine restaurant.

Gulkand Choco bar was something that would have been perfect for Masterchef's visual illusion or food deception challenge. Styled like a Chocolate Popsicle, this isn't its namesake in reality. Its an eggless chocolate mousse that looks simply amazing. The mousse is soft and airy. The dessert was good though the almond flakes could have been lesser and the Gulkhand(rose) flavoring a little more prominent.

I cannot comment on the service presently since most of the things were served by Monish himself and the crew was being trained. The place is brand new and growing up at the moment.

The pricing is on the higher side as the restaurant is a fine dining installation. The creativity and the effort put into some of the things does merit the price. I felt that the prices were mostly satisfactory as far as quality and portion sizes go.

Veranda is going to be big in a few months. It will be a popular feature in food magazines and articles alike. Everything seems to work for it. But I feel that one could exploit it while it still remains to be a hidden gem. The food and the wonderful ambiance without the long queues and reservation hassles is an early bird reward.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

First mate : Close the chest.

Captain : Doing it. (Closes chest)

First mate : See. No more wind. Do you understand how useful this chest can be to us?

Captain : Light up your matches lad. Lets see what we are into. 

Crew mate : (Lights the match)

Captain : What the? This chamber isn't as big as we thought. 

First mate :(walks back) Look at our "abyss".

Captain : What the? That must just be about a hundred feet below. But it felt so deep while climbing.

Nina : Nya :3

First Mate : Darkness tends to distort perception.


Map Co-Ordinates
Veranda at Hotel Executive Enclave,
331, Dr Ambedkar Road,
Pali Hill, Bandra West

-I was invited to sample the menu by the Restaurant. My review however remains objective.-

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

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Artisan at Sofitel - Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai.

There are people meant for higher things and people meant for falling down into the abyss. Those were my thoughts as I clutched the rope of the bridge. There was a strong wind around out us and it snapped the rope bridge into two. The three of us hung onto the bridge rope leading to the other end while a bottomless abyss stared at us from below. We hung below the other end and now had to climb up. We prayed that the rope doesn't snap as we slowly climbed upwards to an unknown place.

For two long years, I have been searching for an authentic French restaurant in Mumbai. I have heard many things before. Indian palates are not quite ready for French food. Indians like their food spicy. But that did not deter me from my quest which seemingly appeared endless. But everything that begins must end, and my search finally concluded at Artisan, Sofitel.

Artisan at Sofitel which is owned by the French Accor group brings a genuine French Bistro experience to the table. This is one of the world's most loved and popular cuisines by people who know French food. The new Bistro menu has authentic French dishes made the way they are supposed to be for the French. No Indian adaptations and tinkering with the flavor. Chef Manav Koul who has extensive experience working with French food was all too happy to curate the show.

The restaurant has a classy appearance combined with a party vibe. Its a fine dine that blends in contemporary with the sophisticated. At my time of visit, there was also live music with a singer dishing out jazz numbers and a guitarist paying homage to the 80's rock era.

So without any delay, Bon appetit. Heure du dîner.

The experience started with this welcome drink which was a cool looking Champagne cocktail.

This was an eight course dinner, nine if you count the drink. I must admit that this has to be the largest course I have ever experienced. A truly luxurious and a grand experience.

First Course - Butternut Squash Parfait was a creamy, savory little teaser that served well as a amuse gueule. It seemed to further my appetite as well.

First Course - Gougeres wild mushroom ragout was a mild flavored semi solid stew with a flavor that reminded me of wild herbs. It was served on a choux pastry or Gourgeres.

First mate : You're lucky that none of us fell into the pit. Your rashness almost killed us.

Captain : Ya know, its hard to climb with ye pressurizing me with yer trap. Be thankful, it could have been worse.

First Mate : How could it have been worse?

Captain : We could have been more than three.

First Mate : Ha ha, not funny mate.

Second Course - Creamy seafood Vol au Vent was comprised of a hollow puff pastry filled with creamy dreamy seafood. There were some greens at the bottom making the Vol au Vent resemble an egg on a green nest. This was smooth on the palate and naturally salty. Flavor oozed out with every bite. It was made of salty flavors that I had never experienced before. T'was a truly memorable course.

Third Course - Fish Almandine was made of mildly salty Seabass garnished with a lemon butter garlic sauce. The fish was soft, gooey and had a comforting flavor. This course seemed to make the weight of the world seem lesser. This was a dish extraordinaire.

Fourth Course - Crepe Ratatouille with Heirloom tomato sauce and Basil. Each vegetable in this dish was sauteed separately and then baked together. It was layered with tomato concasse and fresh basil. The dish was a wonderful mix of many flavors. Each veggie seemed to taste differently with the crepe. If you are a vegetarian then you will love this dish for its diverse flavors. This preparation had a wonderful aroma as well.

Before we moved to the main course, we were served with this palate cleanser which was made of lemon sorbet with a dash of Midori. This had to be the most pleasant palate cleanser that I have had till date.

Captain : Good Lord, this sure is a long climb. We could have reached Everest's summit by now.

Crewmate : These winds are a bother. What if this rope breaks too?

First mate : Then we fall and die.

Captain : You don't know that for sure.

Fifth Course - Jarret D'Agneau was a dish that I couldn't even google for an English result. It was a delectable braised lamb dish that surprisingly tasted like home cooked lamb. Soft and savory, this was easy on the palate. It was served with a Roquefort potato puree with a balsamic drizzle. It carried the essence of a Bistro in it with its home like flavor. Bistros historically were run by families. It paired well with a 2014 blend of Red wine.

Sixth Course - Fromage Platter. The first time that I came across the French word for cheese was as a child watching Dexter's lab on the telly. Omlet du Fromage, I heard it so many times that I went to a local library and used a French English dictionary to find what it actually meant. The cheese platter was made up of Roquefort, Brie and Comte served with a dip made out of honey and fig puree.

Seventh Course - Creme Brulee was a bit average, I have had better before. The chocolate mousse was dark, decadent with a great consistency.

Captain : I think I see the top. 

First mate : I have been wondering. How do we get back with the bridge out?

Captain : Lets get to the top first. 

The Profiteroles were a great eat and had a bit of visuals too. All credits go to Chef Siddharth Anand, the pastry chef for a wonderful experience.

The last course was made of Tea and Coffee which I skipped.

The service was excellent with the restaurant's manager Marshneil Fernandes personally explaining us each course, pairing wine and ensuring that everything was in its place. And it wasn't just our table, she took care of all other tables concurrently.

The pricing is like a good uptown restaurant but its lesser than what one would pay in restaurants inside other Five star Hotels. For an excellent French experience, the moolah is well spent here.

Located in BKC, Artisan at Sofitel is well connected to all parts of the city and is easy to reach. It offers an experience like none other and trust me its almost impossible to find French food in Mumbai, let alone good French food. So if you want to have French, do try the Bistro menu at Artisan inside Sofitel.

The Captain's Score : 9/10

Captain (Dusts himself) : Phew. We made it. There seems to be a dark path ahead.

First mate : We don't have a light. We have no idea where we are.

Crewmate : I have a few matches. 

Captain : There seems to be a bit of light oer here. Reason I could see it from below.

Firstmate : These rocks seem to glow a bit. Hope the place isn't radioactive.

Nina : Nya :3?

Captain : Hey Nina...NINA? How did you get here?


Map Co-Ordinates
Sofitel Hotel,
C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex,

-I was invited to sample the event menu by the Restaurant. My review however remains objective.-


Artisan - Sofitel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato