Thursday, May 31, 2012

Breakfast Tiffin at Saravanaa Bhavan and then some.

I landed in Chennai early morning and Prats whisked me off to Saravanaa Bhavan for breakfast. It was my request. I love idli, dosa, sambhar, the chutneys, idli podi and of course good South Indian filter coffee. And I want it traditional and I want it perfectly Tamilian. Chennai's varied cuisine is always beckoning me. My friend Prats happens to be a wonderful guide into the not so well known but spectacularly delicious places in the city.

Of course, Saravanaa Bhavan's reputation precedes itself. With over a 100 outlets world over it is probably the best known restaurant for good, fast cheap South Indian food. What I did not know was that my fondly called Idli- Dosa is actually called a tiffin. Hence we had tiffin for breakfast. Prats ordered an appam with sweetened coconut milk. My exposure to appam has been limited and mostly accompanied with a chicken or fish curry. She poured the coconut milk in the center of these bowl shaped pancakes made of fermented rice flour. The center is slightly thick like an idli. The coconut milk fills up all the pores and moistens the pancake. And with our hands we mixed and turned and tore and scooped at this absolutely delicious and simple tasting breakfast snack. I ordered a rawa masala dosa. It was good, crisp, hot with perfect filling of spicy potatoes called masala. The variety of chutneys- white coconut (not so spicy), green coconut (spicy), tomato (spicy and tangy and of course sambhar. My favourite always is the tomato chutney. The sambhar accompanying hit the spot. We got ourselves some good South Indian filter coffee that Prats poured back and forth in the little metal bowl accompanying the glass. She 'stretched' her coffee as it cooled down in the pouring. I followed suit and really enjoyed the experience. It seems like I always had my filter coffee the wrong way.  It was a rewarding breakfast after an early morning flight from Mumbai to Chennai. My favourite sort of breakfast.

Prats took me next door to the oldest Nalli's in Chennai. Housed in a quaint old bungalow this Nalli's has serviced women purchasing sarees for various occasions for almost 80 years. This place is historic and best known for its south Indian silks especially from Kanchipuram. Later I told my mom about going to Nalli's and she told me she had been to the exact same Nalli's several years ago when I was a little 3 year old girl. I bought my first Nalli's silk to make into a typical Tamil Nadu skirt. Ms. Prats is going to design that for me. Can't wait!

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Cinderella's weekend at the Le Meridien, New Delhi

The following article is written by my lovely cousin Anjum who spent the weekend with me at the Le Meridien, New Delhi. I was invited by the hotel to experience their art spaces and their cuisine. Here are her thoughts on the experience.

Does a Cinderella like thing happen in today’s world? Till 26th April a cynic like me would have not hesitated a second to say "NO' but that was then.....
My sister, the food blogger (this is her blog dude) was invited by Le Meridien, New Delhi to blog about their spaces and their cuisine and she was allowed to bring a guest along. Out of all us sisters (we are a big family) I was the chosen one.

So for next 2 days I was transported to this magical land of the finest French and Oriental fusion cuisines at their world-class restaurants. Stuff that you only read in books or travel magazines had now became a reality. You name it, they had it and we could eat our hearts content at any of their restaurants.

My first day started with the signature breakfast at The One, which is apart from their regular buffet. My eyes literally popped open with the eye openers (wake up shots for the jet lagged and lucky ones with a hangover) drinks like watermelon and mango chilly sorbet. We feasted on croque madame, which is a toast with cheddar cheese, fried eggs and bacon, goat cheese custard with dill and olive tapenade, spinach buck wheat pancakes and oatmeal soufflé with spices n berries. All delicately flavored and artistically presented. It was a meal straight out of an Enid Blyton. The chef was nice to come and explain the food to us. 

To burn all the calories we both hit the pool with the attendants supplying us with Pina-Coladas, Margueritas and Bloody Marys.

Lunch at Eau de Monsoon, prepared by a 3 star Michelin chef, was another gastronomic delight. Welcome drink of mushroom cappuccino with starters of French & Lucknow inspired galauti kebabs with foie gras(duck liver a first time for the uninitiated like me). After each course the attendants gave us palate cleansers of apple sorbet and berry compotes to clear our palate so we could appreciate the finer tastes, texture and aroma of the next course. (Ahem ahem). It was a totally out of the world experience for me.  Their sommelier Manisha, a rock star drink mixer has recently won a Grand Prix in a global coffee mixing competition. Thanks Manisha for the amazing wine tips. My sister who is more reserved about her opinion also could not help smiling through her lamb chops main course. Apparently lamb chops are the love of her life.

Taking a break from all the amazing meals, we went shopping at Khan Market, checking out interiors of Blue Frog at the Kila The Shroom, attending a private German party at Out Of the Box, Hauz Khas village.....
Sleep sleep go away, come again another day ... Life was at its best...Thanks Jyo!  Thanks Le Meridien!

And as the clock struck twelve, in true Cinderella manner my chariot became a pumpkin and my train for Dehradun left New Delhi exactly at midnight. The Cinderella was back home but not without my teenage daughters sulky comment "mom has all the fun".

Meeting friends in Delhi is so always refreshing.
So much love from friends.

My personal Musings: First of all I would like to thank Le Meridien for inviting me to experience their space and their cuisine. While the interiors were a bit loud for me, I really did enjoy the food. I also think the art gallery has tremendous potential and the art I witnessed was fantastic. Every one at the hotel was excited to have us and waited on us like we were some VIPs. I hope that is exactly how each of your guests is treated anyways. Thank you for the lovely break. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fun, Fast Food Break at Bombay Blues

I did like the decor and the interiors. The blue and white illustrations of famous landmarks of the city I call home now for the past two years. I was invited to blog about Bombay Blues at Phoenix Mills. I decided to take mom and dad along with me as we wanted to celebrate mom's new job.

The restaurant manager and chef were very sweet and made sure we tried a variety things on the menu. Bombay Blues serves a variety of cuisines- Indian, chaats, Lebanese, Mexican, Sizzlers etc. If you have grown up in Mumbai as Cream Center and New Yorkers as your childhood haunt- this place seems like a bit more modern version of those classics. As a kid though- the Mexican and Middle Eastern food held so much appeal.  I did enjoy the nachos and cheese (home made crisps). Mom loved the alu tikki stuffed with hung curd. That was pretty unique- the creaminess of the curd with the potatoes. Of the non- veg appetizer platter I liked the jerk chicken quite a bit. The flavours were authentic something I have not had in India yet- a Jerk chicken done right. The other two on the platter was a Andhra style lamb done in a deep fried spring roll (a bit much) and the other was a spicy fried chicken.

I think the rest of the food - the pasta and the sizzler were alright. The sauce of the pasta was a bit too sweet. To be fair I was too full to eat the sizzler and the large pieces of sausage just looked a bit intimidating. I am very fond of sausages off the grill and these were missing those char grilled marks.

We finished the meal with a sizzling brownie. Even though I have had this combination many times before I still enjoy the whole show of pouring hot chocolate sauce on a hot iron platter and watch the whole thing sizzle. My parents thoroughly enjoyed their dessert. I am a bit of brownie Nazi and love a gooey super chocolatey brownie. I have yet to come across brownies in Mumbai that make the mark for me. I did take a bite and as I said before- it was alright. 

I have to thank Bombay Blues though - my parents and I did enjoy our meal and the overall ambiance of the place. We relaxed and let the chef pamper us. Would I recommend it. Definitely for the snacks and appetizers and if you still have space for more experiment off the main courses.