Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Anniversary Yauatcha!

December is the month that makes me the happiest, what with the Christmas cheer, the mornings with a nip in the air, playing Secret Santa, baking goodies, planning how to party on the new years eve while secretly analyzing my own growth over the entire year. I am looking forward to all those Christmas Special movie nights, watching Home Alone movie marathons, and all the other RomComs, from Serendipity to Sleepless in Seattle... I already have a smile on my face as I am typing this. This December began on a rather fantastic note, as I received an invitation from one of my favourite places to dine in, Yauatcha. Yauatcha is not the place that needs any feedback, but is nice enough to still ask people and actually give the suggestions an honest thought. The scrumptious food is only an added advantage. I have never really eaten an average tasting dish here, everything is cooked to utmost perfection.

From the 1st December 2014 to the 15th December 2014, Yauatcha is celebrating their 3rd anniversary, and celebrations include all-you-can-eat Dimsums and Wine between 3 PM and 7 PM. Along with that, they have also revamped their entire menu and I was lucky enough to give it a try!


The Yin Yang Dumplings were filled with three kinds of Mushrooms and were delicately cased together so they would melt in your mouth as soon as you put them in your mouth. We also tried Prawn and Seaweed Dumplings which were nothing short of exceptional.



The Charcoal Lamb Buns were light and steaming but one bite into them and I felt that depth of the tender lamb, which was so delicious that it made everyone at the table shut their eyes for a moment and savour the pure burst of flavour. This one is definitely going to be regularly ordered!



The Crispy Sugarcane Chicken and Prawn Roll was the most wow dish served to us, presented with a lot of personality in the form of biting into a sugarcane stick while chewing into the roll, just so that underneath the crisp exterior and the tender middle, there is a sweet and juicy hit, something you would never imagine to work on paper, but hey, my palate loved it!



The Crispy Prawn and Edamame Rolls were innovative and tasted like nothing I had ever tasted before. The dish is served with a sauce alongside, and you can choose to have the sauce poured over the rolls or eat them as is. I tried them both with and without the sauce and I prefer the sauced up moist and yet crunchy goodness!



The Stir Fried Pumpkin Prawns were pure genius. The Prawns are coated in a batter made out of puréed Pumpkin and fried till tender, and the Pumpkin batter makes them taste so good!



We next tried the Lamb in Kam Hyeong sauce. I have never had Lamb so tender in India. The curry was heavily spiced but was not overwhelmingly loaded with unnecessary spices at the same time. 



Yauatcha is one of the places where I feel that the Vegetarian selection does as much justice to the customers as the Non Vegetarian ones, if not more. The 4 style vegetables proved that yet again. We had them with the Chicken and Egg White Rice, in a bowl, with chopsticks, relishing every little morsel. 



I got to try the much talked about Raspberry Delice for dessert. I have to say this, it was not worth the hype. I agree that it is a pretty looking plate but it was too sweet for my liking. That being said, while it was not up to the Yauatcha standard, it still beat the many desserts I have eaten at random places. It was still yummy!



I also tried the Jasmine Tea Cake and I have only one word to describe it... WOW. The light and airy mousse cake came with a side of ice cream and the whole plate was like a marriage made in heaven. If I had to pick one dish to recommend from Yauatcha it would definitely be the Jasmine Tea Cake, and also the Pumpkin Prawns. 




I also tried the Macarons from the dessert display at the ground floor but I was not too excited about them, I guess my Macaron love probably lies in Delhi... Or maybe Paris!

Here's wishing Yauatcha a Happy Anniversary once again and thanking them for having us over! It is always a pleasure visiting you guys!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: The pursuit of 'Happi'ness. Me So Happi, Khar, Mumbai.

I am back, after another hiatus, to apologize about my absence. This time is a little different, 'coz I come bearing good news, especially for the forever hungry people in Mumbai. As I am trying to desperately find balance between my love for food, and leading a healthy and fit lifestyle, I have recently had the opportunity to try some real fun places in our city and as a "foodie" I feel very excited about the change in the food scene, with people open to trying stuff from around the world, stepping out of their dal-chawal-aloo-tikki-chaat-masala zones and opening up to subtler flavours, while taking their palates through a culinary roller coaster.

I could go on about what's hot and what's not, but its for you to decide. What I can tell you is that when I go to a restaurant, review or otherwise, I look for good food (obviously), great service, smiling faces, loud chatter, and a great ambiance. Basically, I look for a good vibe. A vibe that makes me happy- which is what Me So Happi did, it made me happy.



Me So Happi is an all day diner located right next to the Guess showroom on the Linking Road, Khar. You will easily spot the happy writing on their sign board. Walk in and you will be transported to an upbeat ambiance, with large windows, plenty of natural light, and little nothings that meant something to us as kids such as a jar full of Kismi Bar chocolates. I, for one, am not a huge fan of the high chair seating but surprisingly the chairs were very comfortable. What looked like a quaint little place was actually enormous inside, with an outdoor seating area and décor with lots of personality. If you are lucky enough you will spot the owner, Aarathi Arambhan, and the Chef Anirudh taking rounds and interacting with customers and getting feedback all along. Here is what we tried:



Smoothies: We tried the California Smoothie and the Mr.P Nutt Oats Smoothie. It was a surprise to us that this place actually served up smoothies and we were so glad we ordered these! The P Nutt Oats Smoothie is a must try.



Salads: We tried the Caesar Salad which was spot on, the Chicken and Egg Salad was nice too, but I am more of a Caesar Salad girl :)



The Quinoa and Beet salad was excellent and a refreshing change from the normal leafy stuff!



Appetizers: We also tried the Prawns on Fire, which were actually perfectly balanced and fried to crispy awesomeness. I would not say the same about the Baked Potato Skins. Safe to avoid them.



Meat lovers, do yourselves a favour and try the Big Bad Meanie Lamb Burger. I have attached the picture and it needs to explanation. It was juicy and yummy!



Another succulent meaty dish is the Meat On Top, with an amazing gravy topping a bed of mashed potatoes. You will love it, I am sure!



We thought of trying the Cheesecake for dessert but it was out of stock (yes it is that good) so we tried the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, which was topped with none other than Magic Pop! This one is an absolute must try!



The Pecan Nut Pie was nice as well, just thought it was a tad eggy for my liking. Will stick to the Mousse Cake or the Cheesecake!

In the end, Me So Happi made We So Happi! :)

P.S. They have recently started a Sunday Breakfast menu that opens at 7 AM and goes on till 11 AM. Cannot wait to try it!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Times City Gourmet Week 2014 #GW2014 at Levo, Andheri W, Mumbai.

My life has always been an irony. As a kid, I was quite amused at the prospect of wearing spectacles. No matter how much my parents tried to convince me otherwise, and stubborn that I am, I looked into the telly so closely, it would probably put Sherlock Holmes with his magnifying glass to shame. No extra points for guessing that I did end up with a pair of spectacles after years of trying, and hated it almost immediately. I grew up to be a good looking teenaged girl, but chose to call myself fat and lower my self esteem while I spiraled down into an emotional eating phase and actually did end up getting fat. I had Rapunzel- like long tresses which I chose to go chop-chop on, just because I was being rebellious. Hated that too, so decided to bleach my hair... By now I am sure you agree with me. I hated food and cooking before, and here I am, writing a food blog and conducting baking classes, so while I am trying to eat right and shed the excess flab off, it is only fitting for my inbox to be full of invitations to the best restaurants for the best events. I caved in.

Picture Courtesy : Levo Facebook Page
It has been raining Gourmet Weeks in Mumbai off late. Just two weeks ago was the Tastes of Europe restaurant week where top restaurants around the city participated in creating a menu to celebrate the produce of Europe being brought into India, starting with Mumbai. Last year I visited the erstwhile Otto Infinto (now changed to Cafe Infinito) and had a fantastic 5 course dinner. The fond memories made me extra excited about receiving an invitation to attend the Gourmet Week again this year. I chose to go to the newly opened Levo in Andheri West, for 2 reasons - First that the menu looked great on paper and seemed affordable, and secondly I really wanted this to be a good experience, for Andheri does not have a good place which serves gourmet cuisine consistently, with that amount of space which can cater to parties and huge crowds.

Here is a snapshot of the menu that was created by Levo for the Times City Gourmet Week 2014.

The Menu
We started off with a glass of wine each, and I went for the usual, Fratelli Chenin Blanc. I can never get enough of this wine. My plus one decided to go for a glass of Shiraz.

Cheers!

First Course was the Amuse Bouche, which were Goat Cheese Lollipops, studded with soup sticks and served with a Balsamic reduction. A perfect start to our meal and did exactly what it was supposed to do - beg us leaving for more and set the tone for the meal to come.

I had the Poached Pear and Arugula salad with a Red Wine Vinaigrette. The Arugula was not of the freshest kind, you know where you have a distinct bite to the leaves, when they have been sitting in the fridge for too long. Sadly enough, that was not the worst part of the dish. Poached Pears are sweet in themselves so the Red Wine Vinaigrette only made it sweeter. I wished there was some more Feta Cheese to offset the cloying sweetness.

Arugula and Poached Pear Salad

The Sambuca Prawn Salad did not taste like Sambuca at all. The portion was quite small. While it wasn't bad, I would not go back and order this.

Sambuca Prawn Salad

The next course was the Pizza course. Personal Pizzas were served to us, I went for the one with Prawn and Salmon, while my plus one went for the Pepperoni and Lamb Pizza. The crust was crisp and thin. Here's the thing with places like these which offer Pizza on their menu - I feel they should really celebrate the Pizza. If a restaurant boasts of authentic flavours, and were priced at a steeper range, it is only natural for anyone to expect a Pizza that goes the extra mile, and by extra mile I do not mean exotic ingredients. I mean simple ingredients done impeccably. Exotic ingredients are just an added advantage. While we did not LOVE the Pizzas, we did not hate them either.

Far Left: Salmon and Prawn Pizza and Near Right: Pepperoni and Lamb Pizza
The next course was the Main Course. I chose the Ricotta Gnocchi with Peri Peri Sauce. The Gnocchi was pillowy and melt-in-the-mouth, and while I say that it was one of the best Gnocchi I have had in Mumbai, the downside is that the dish was completely ruined by the Peri Peri sauce. Peri Peri in my knowledge is an African based sauce which on paper seemed perfect to go with the cheesy Gnocchi. The overtly creamy gravy tasted like... nothing. It had no taste at all. At this point I was welling up inside, because I really wanted this to go well. I wanted to flaunt a good eating place in my area.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Peri Peri Sauce

My plus one chose the Braised Lamb Navarin with Forked Mashed Potato and thankfully this was a saving grace. The meat was tender and the sauce was perfectly seasoned. When I read forked mashed Potatoes on the menu I just felt it was an excuse for poorly mashed Potatoes but I was so wrong. It all worked harmoniously well. The half eaten Gnocchi from my plate was finished off by scraping away the sauce and rolling it in whatever was left over from the lamb to make it bearable.

Braised Lamb Navarin with Forked Mashed Potatoes

Looking at our reactions, the server came over and asked for feedback. He apologized for the Gnocchi dish and offered to replace it with the Lamb. Lovely gesture, but I did not go for it. I had to save some space for dessert.


Here is the other problem I had with Levo. You do not host a restaurant week if you don't have the supplies. 2 dishes that I was most excited about were unavailable. The Rawas and the Mississipi Pie. They offered us a Creme Brûlée instead of the Mississipi Pie.

Desserts.
 The Creme Brûlée was redeeming, but I don't know why there was a berry compote along with it. The Tiramisu had a chocolate sponge and a layer of whipped cream on it. You be the judge.

 I could not help but notice the amount of effort a boy seated on the next table was putting into cutting through his steak. I asked the family about their meal and they told me that the steak they had ordered for was rare and what came to the table was way over well done. Not just that, the Penne Jambalaya that they had was too spicy. I was watching them reach for water and calling out for more. I noticed a man in chef whites doing the rounds and addressing the tables but I have no idea why he chose to stand aside and send his server to ask us if everything was okay. As disappointed as I am with my meal, I seriously hope that the cooking staff at Levo was having a bad day. They really need to fix their food and they need to fix it fast. I hope Times City also goes over the menus at all the restaurants participating and makes sure that they are well stocked. When diners are out with a set meal with limited options, it would be nice if they were available too. I wish I had gone to some other restaurant, but I think I'm gonna wait till the next Gourmet Week!

The TimesCity Gourmet Week is on from 15th September 2014 to 21st September 2014. You can make reservations here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Recipe: Couscous with Browned Garlic, Watermelon Seeds and Raisins.


I have been trying to jump on the healthy eating brigade since forever. The more I try to experiment, the more I love it. Call me typical, but I seem to stick to my goals better when I am documenting them. It makes me feel oddly answerable, and makes me work harder to keep up my work. 

I went out with the BFF for the 'Chef' movie. It was a mistake to enter the movie hall while we were hungry. I think my stomach started to hurt with the empty swallows and the drool worthy dishes and just the fact that I could not have them hurt me even more, and this was only 20 minutes into the movie. I can never forget how almost an entire movie hall rushed out on the verge of starting out a stampede, to the food vendors outside just so they could eat something, because it is impossible to watch the movie without food. We ended up eating a lot of unhealthy stuff, but I decided to make up for it next day for lunch. Why can't healthy food be awesome? It surely can. Here is how:

Couscous with Browned Garlic, Watermelon Seeds and Raisins.
Serves 1
Recipe: Self (and a little bit of 'Chef')

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup Couscous, uncooked
3/4 Cup Water
4 finely sliced Garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Chili Flakes
15 Raisins
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 chopped Tomato
Salt to taste
A squeeze of Lemon juice
Some chopped Coriander
A handful of Watermelon Seeds



Method:

In a pan (or in the microwave) heat up the water with salt until it comes to a simmer.

In the mean while, in another pan (should be with a lid) heat up Olive oil. Fry sliced Garlic till golden brown. Add in the chili flakes, Couscous and Raisins (I also added in a handful of blanched Green Peas). Toss to incorporate. Pour water over this and close the lid tight. leave untouched for 15 minutes.

In the mean while, heat up a dry pan and toast the Watermelon seeds for 5 seconds. This is strictly optional, you can have them as is!

Once the Couscous is done, fluff it with a fork and add the Tomato and Watermelon seeds, Serve with a squeeze of Lemon, some more Watermelon seeds, and lots of chopped Coriander. If you're anything like me, you will add a dash of Olive Oil over the top too!

Easy enough, right? It is quite yummy too, I promise.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Recipe: Thai Curry with Jasmine Rice.



Mothers are truly God's wonders. Other than being intuitive and unconditionally loving, they also have a good amount of 'tough love' going on for us, which is expressed in various forms from a yelling to taunting to sometimes letting you down just so you decide to prove her wrong. Little do we know that it is all a ploy, and while we prove it to her, she sheepishly smiles, for it is her victory. Just like that, Mom pulled me out of bed this Sunday just to tell me that I could not cook a good Thai Curry. I was nagged from step 1 to the final garnish, and when I asked her for feedback, all I received was a silent nod of approval. It was when I saw her go back for seconds (rare occurrence) that I realized I did deliver. She made me cook the Jasmine Rice again for dinner, just to finish the Thai Curry leftovers. I'll take that as a compliment!

Thai Curry
Serves 4-5
Recipe: Self/Various/Based on trial and error

Ingredients:

For the Curry:

4 Tbsp Thai Curry Paste (readily available in markets)
3 Tbsp Oil
1 Lemongrass Root (Optional)
2 Cups Diced Assorted Vegetables (I used Brinjal, Cherry Tomato, Baby Corn, Baby Onions. Mushrooms, Zucchini and Asparagus work great too!)
2 Cups Coconut Milk
1 Cup Prawns, de-veined, with tails on. (You can add Chicken or Tofu or Soy Nuggets)
1 tsp Palm Sugar/Sugar
Fish Sauce, to taste
2-3 Kaffir Lime Leaves
2-3 Basil Leaves

For the Rice:

1.5 Cups Medium Grained Rice
3.5 Cups Water
1 Jasmine Tea bag
Salt, to taste.

Method:

For the Curry:

Heat up Oil on a medium high pan, add in the Thai Curry paste. You can use the Green or Yellow or Red paste, as per your liking. Be careful as this will splatter. Cook thoroughly till you can smell the fragrance.

Add in the Vegetables and toss them well till coated. Keep mixing them around for 2 minutes. If you are making a Chicken/Tofu/Soy Nugget Thai Curry, your protein will go in at this stage. Mix for 2 extra minutes.

I used the Coconut Milk powder to make my Coconut milk. I made a cup and half of thin Coconut milk and a cup of thick Coconut Milk. If you're using the canned stuff, that is already thick enough, so use 3/4 Cup of thick canned Coconut Milk and dilute it with 3/4 Cup of warm water to make thin Coconut milk.

Add the thin Coconut milk to the vegetables and mix well. Turn the heat to medium low. Add the Sugar/Palm Sugar and mix. Leave the spatula in your gravy to avoid any splitting or curdling.

When the curry comes up to simmer, add in the prawns. Cover and cook for 3 minutes (you will still cook for these 3 minutes even if you do not add the Prawns). Finish with the thick Coconut milk, and check for seasoning. Add Fish sauce as per taste. Final flourish would be hand-torn leaves of Basil and Kaffir Lime.

For the Rice:

I cooked my rice in a pressure cooker. Simply throw all the ingredients in together and cook till done, about 20 minutes.

If you are making rice in a normal pan then I suggest boiling water first (use 4 cups water if cooking without pressure cooker), when it starts to boil, add in the tea bag and salt, and let it come to a vigorous rolling boil. Add in the rice and cook with the lid on until done, about 17 minutes on a medium low flame.

Discard tea bag before serving.

Enjoy!

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