Sunday 14 October 2018

The Runaway Project by PizzaExpress - Lower Parel, Mumbai.

There was this one episode in a satirical TV show where central characters manage to get into a fancy uptown restaurant only to be disappointed by the overly expensive minuscule portions of tasteless food.

Runaway project which tries to bankroll on the "goodwill" of its parent concern PizzaExpress is a real world example of that satire.

Located in the noisy second floor of the new Skyzone wing in the Phoenix mall complex, this restaurant has a classy lounge like ambiance where any notion of classiness fades away due to the deafening loud music that they play. Apparently, there is a competition going on between Runaway, Soda Bottle openerwala and Chili's where each tries to outdo the other by raising their volumes. The scene is worse than a foul mouthed politician's rally.

My small group decided to order two pizzas and an appetizer. Let me tell you that the pricing here is unforgiving. It is more expensive than the likes of Indigo and the food is neither good in quality nor quantity. I sometimes wonder if they are just extracting the prime location's expensive rent from the customers.

Here is what we ate : 

Cigar Club - Described rather fancily in the menu as Filo cigars of cottage cheese and marinated roasted peppers, spiced mayonnaise and balsamic glaze.

I wonder if they got a PR professional or a Food Blogger to write this fancy piece of falsehood.
The Spiced mayonnaise and Balsamic glaze were nothing but a few droplets sprinkled randomly in the ugly presentation above. Cottage Cheese translates to paneer here so its rather a cheap Paneer pastry snack that you can buy in most local street bakeries in Mumbai. The taste was dry and it required a dip like accompaniment which seemed to be missing. And I'd rather not call these six small pieces of puff pastry as cigars. Not to mention if your are paying INR 475 plus taxes for this - you expect a satisfactory portion size and a little bit of effort into making it look appetizing.

Hawaiian Pizza -  The Pineapple on pizza trope might trigger some pizza enthusiasts but fear not, they replaced actual pineapple with Pineapple paste(chutney). This pizza which is priced at an unforgiving INR 625 plus taxes, was smaller than the smallest of pizzas offered by most pizza exclusive places. It was rather unsatisfying to say the least. The menu strangely doesn't even mention the carpet bombing of Basil. The basil leaves completely ruin the flavor profile of this pizza. It seemed like a last minute addition by an inexperienced but over enthusiastic chef.

Giardiniera Pizza - Recommended by the server for the vegetarians in the group, this was a visually displeasing and overdone pizza (Burns on the crust). Needless to say that it was too less even for one person  - let alone be split by two people. The only thing big about this pizza was its name, one wonders if it was actually suggested by Dr. Shashi Tharoor.

This was definitely not worth the INR 625 we spent on it.

As the grub was far from satisfying or filling - we ended up going to Chili's next door to fill ourselves up. While there are similar expensive places around the city - the portion sizes there at least fill one up. Indigo has gone down in quality over the years but its pizzas at least feel satisfying, the same can be said for the pizzas at a place like Pizza by the bay.

The Runaway Project only appears to work on fancy nomenclature and paid promotions via "prominent"(but misleading) social media personalities. The ambiance is killed by the overly loud music, the pricing is bad and the food fails on all fronts.

Would I recommend Runaway Project to anyone? No. 
I'd have to say at this point - if you want a drink  - go to any bar themed restaurant in Phoenix. If you want a pizza go to Indigo or Francesco. If you want good mains - Go to Smokehouse or Delhi Heights.

The Captain's Score : 4/10

Map Co-Ordinates
S-1, Second floor, Skyzone,
Phoenix Mill Compound, S.B. Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai

Tuesday 6 February 2018

The Paper Pot Food Fest at Shanghai Club - ITC Grand Central, Parel, Mumbai

Food festivals and special themed menus need no introductions. Every week, there are many food events all over Mumbai. However, your time and resources are still limited and precious so it literally pays to know which festivals and places to attend and which to skip.

I usually share my recommendations about festivals on my Instagram these days since it connects faster to an audience who may not have time to read a post like this. However, I want to chronicle my experience regarding the Paper Pot festival menu at the ITC Grand Central over here. I want this memory to remain in the universe.

Shanghai Club is known for its authentic Chinese food and its dishes are designed by ITC's very own Chef Jia who hails from China. The paper pot festival was his idea and he had to import the paper pots and ingredients straight from China .

Food served in Paper pots is a rare occurrence anywhere in the world, let alone in India. Food is usually cooked and served in Paper pots called as Washi - The paper is both fire proof and water proof. You could boil food inside it over high heat and the paper won't catch fire. Although, the restaurant did not cook the food in paper pots in this case, the food was served in paper pots with a flame underneath it to keep it warm.

This was a first time in my life, hence it had to be written.

I sampled two meaty pots along with one vegetarian pot. It was not just the pots but even the dishes that were unique to the festival. One may not find these dishes outside the festival. 

Shanghai club offers an ambiance that seems like a perfect mix of class and luxury. Its good for the sophisticated white collared folks who prefer a noise free rich environment. And its good for the Tourist and food lover types who love a bit of Asian blended into their surroundings. After all, the ambiance does help you in enjoying your food more. 

Like a good prologue to a rich novel, White Jasmine tea serves as a good starter to a wonderful Chinese dinner experience.
Not really a part of the menu, these dim sums were ordered by my company to add an appetizer course before the pot mains. The Chicken and Prawn based dim sums were of the best quality. Far superior to what one would have had at the many blooming Pan Asian places in the town.

The Chef's special Chilli bean pork was served in a silver colored paper pot. The paper's color was purely aesthetic. It was the chef's choice to differentiate meat based dishes from the vegetarian ones.
The best of the three pot based dishes, the flavor was the king here. Soft flavorful pieces of pork with comforting sauces and veggies tossed in, this dish was quite delightful.

It is important to note that Chinese cuisine has a lot of Pork based dishes. A lot of Asian restaurants discard Pork based dishes from their menus thereby sacrificing cuisine authenticity. Shanghai club thankfully remains truly Chinese.

The Prawns in Special Chilli Soya were the seafood lover's delight. The prawns had a rich flavor, texture and the sauces worked well in synergy. Although, I did feel that this dish would have looked better in a white pot.

The Chinese greens with Chilli Garlic Soya was a simple but flavorful vegetarian dish. Served in a white paper pot as part of the chef's convention - this dish truly exemplified the paper pot festival. As evident from my picture, the paper is both fire and wetness proof. Plus it does not contain any harmful chemicals or toxins that would affect the food.

I ended the meal with these delicious desserts.

ITC Grand Central is not as flashy with promoting its events as some other five star properties which call a legion of Instagrammers, journalists and socialites to promote their events. However, the food quality and the experience were no lesser than any other. In fact with an experienced Chinese Chef on their team, Shanghai Club ensures that food is truly Chinese.

The Captain's Score : 8/10

Map Co-Ordinates
Shanghai Club
ITC Grand Central,
287, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road,
Parel, Mumbai

-I was invited to sample the menu by the Restaurant. However, my review is remains objective.-

Shanghai Club - ITC Grand Central Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato