Grilled at last…

Bombay (yeah I know…but I don’t like saying Mumbai) – supposedly a haven for eating, dining, breakfasting, brunching…lunching…teaing and all that. I say ‘supposedly’ because I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore more than 10 eating joints in the last six years of my stay here, so going by what I’ve read and heard, that’s what it is – a haven. I should be ashamed of calling myself that with my fantastic record. But in my defense, of the limited joints that I visit, I am pretty much, a patron.

This post comes in the light of a slight deviation from the routine of six years. My very vegetarian in laws (just sis in law and hubby), my preferably vegetarian husband and the purely non vegetarian me decided to meet for dinner last Saturday. We almost entered the restaurant where we went to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, first Sundays of the month, buying a new lampshade, getting all traffic signals green, …basically anything. Anyway, just as we were entering, my SIL said she’d heard of a grill house nearby that we could check out. I was thrilled since the last time the four of us (or even just me) went to a grill house was two years back, soon after my marriage. That was something that had undergone more planning than the marriage itself…hey come on, we were going to ‘Kebab Factory’ (in Noida I think) for the first time and it was a big deal. We have been planning to go to Barbecue Nation near Bandra for the longest time but in vain. That’s another story.

Anyway, in less than five minutes we were out of our favoured restaurant and outside ‘Grillopolis’, in a place called Oshiwara located in the western suburbs of Mumbai. The name was about as far Greek as the place could get. Can be surer of that as my husband and I went holidaying in Greece last year and are pretty sure no façade there inspired what we saw in front of us. But I did not let that bother me…food (read grilled meats) was what I was waiting for and I was sure it would beat the ‘oh so famous’ (dunno why) Greek salad. Being a Saturday, we got a table in a record 10 minutes. Obviously we did not go for the a la carte since the buffet had five non veg and five veg starters, just as many dishes per category in the main course and desserts. Not bad. I didn’t even bother with the veg…and I’m not sorry. First up, I dug into the chicken kebabs that had some sort of a rice flour coating – soft and juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside. Lightly spiced but delicious. Then came the grilled fish with baked beans (didn’t know that could be a combo). It certainly wouldn’t have qualified for Masterchef Oz coz there were BONES!!! Did anyone watch the episode where Gary cooked a fish dish in a Masterclass and Callum found a bone in it…what a slap (or should I say prick) that was! Anyway, the grilled fish was decent. Found no more bones after the initial bits. Then followed some delectably soft mutton shammi kebabs served on tortilla chips (huh???). Didn’t bother with the tortillas but the kebab was lovely. It did not have the hit smell or taste of the original shammi kebab but it was fragrant and really really soft. Probably that’s why they served them on the tortillas so that they held shape. Then, dhan ta tan…grilled prawns. Was having prawns after eons. Didn’t mind how they were served…except raw of course. Spicy, well cooked. Very nice. Four down, one more to go. As I waited for it, I wondered what they could possibly serve – chicken’s done, so is fish and goat and prawn. Hmm…and then it came…chicken again!!! Well, that’s about as big as the non veg circle went. Pretty orthodox for a place called Grillopolis eh? But this time the chicken was quite interesting. It was a seekh kebab. Indian notes of garlic and earth spices in the beginning and then a kick of soya in the end. Sounds odd but it made for a pretty interesting combination. Quite nice, quite different. Had several helpings. Some of the names of these dishes may have sounded Indian, but they all had a pretty western hint in their tastes. A little here, a little there. If you go there expecting to find Karim’s kebabs’ copies…mmm…not that good an idea. The name of the place actually helps putting such expectations at rest.

Anyway, by now I had had my fill. But after a walk around the buffet counter for the main course I felt some empty spaces spring up out of nowhere within me. How else was I to stuff in the masala crab and fish and mutton biryani and drunken chicken and butter chicken??? (These guys really know their way around with chicken) Ah! Is there a cloud number 10? Well I was beyond that. Yeah I had to struggle a bit to maintain dignity while eating the crab. And that was not it. I had to make a pretence to my family (veggie, remember?) that eating crab was just like sucking on drumsticks (no not the chicken ones…the green ones you put in sambhar). But how…with crab…how??? Finally I found recourse in the wall of glasses and salt n pepper cellars that I created around my plate. Couldn’t eat the crab as much as (I mean to the last shred) I would have wanted to but that sufficed for the time being.

No more space left to create space for dessert! But the brave soldier marches on and the sight of those gooey, creamy, chocolatey delights made me brave enough to run. I had two helpings of dessert…hah! Strawberry pastries, chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, baked Alaska – layered sponge and fresh fruits topped with soft peaked whipped cream and lightly bruléed. They didn’t do it too well as quite a few grains of sugar met their end between our molars. But what the hell…it tasted great and the attempt can at the least be appreciated. And the bottomline is…all good things come in sweet packages…

With a sumptuous meal down, we got discussing whether they served the same menu everyday. We said obviously not. I’m sure they know more than four chicken dishes. When will they serve those? Might go and find out soon.

Places for Birthday Treats in Gurgaon

I must confess that its a task to figure out places to give treats, everyone is up for a free lunch specially in my team, there are a couple of places in Gurgaon that I would like to call food-joints-esentially-for-treats.

Starting from a name that’s really ALL-THAT-YOU-CAN-EAT experience is Barbeque Nation, its the one stop shop for both veggies as well as non-veggies. But its slightly over exposed over the year [was my find :)] infact, not only have I visited it on ‘official’ purposes but also for personal, my husband freaked out when we went there for dinner, he’s a hard core Kabab Factory Fan. Barbeque Nation is located in Sushant Lok if I may say walking distance from
IFFCO chowk metro station. For a lunch buffet with limited choice of 3/4 snacks its Rs350 per head with beer, soft drinks are extra.

The other one that we went recently to was ‘THE CHOWK’ it’s all you can eat in a different way,it’s basically not for an evolved audience but for people who would like to EAT read hog there. I didn’t find variety but the boys hogged on the two non-veg dishes one of chicken and another mutton with unlimited hot rotis that made the experience atleast, worth while, it was I guess Rs250 per person. Slightly boring for vegetarians with same roti , dal, sabji that you could eat anywhere. What I like about ‘The Chowk’ is that has innovative and bright interiors, its located in MGF.

Another gem of all you can eat for veggie fair is ‘ Rajdhani’ I find it disappointing ,as most people I know are veggies and I do eat my share of veg at home also, so not my choice but ya, its good, located in MGF again.Not so fancy fair but totally veg options, good on pocket are Haldirams and Bikanervala, I have  cravings for chaat, so I don’t mind that too much.

Another place that is not really heavy on the pocket but I  like the food is ‘The Red Hot Cafe’, Thai and Chinese here are good, as per the Indian palette, I really like their spring rolls, you can actually ask them not to fry, so it has a thin outer crust and succulent on the inside and their Pad Thai is good too.

Sushiya, if you like Japanese, now that’s a tough choice for most Indians as Sushi per say is not fulfilling read fills but doesn’t satisfy 🙂 .Their ala carte menu is expensive if you give people a free hand at choosing what they want to eat then you’ve had it but if you are ordering in then Sushi Platters come in alot of variants and Satays are a good option too. You could tie this up Red Hot Cafe and order the good ol’ noodles and manchurien. Can be ordered online as well as on call, I had heard about a restaurant that they had opened in Cyber Greens.

For Italian, Mrs Kaur’s at Sec 30 is a good option, I had gone there for a Saturday lunch from work, now this what I’d like to call Punjabi-Italian, not the right place for people who like to eat roti, sabhji. But veggie selection is good too, their open sandwiches , brownies and spaghetti with meatballs are something I would like to recommend. The service and the delivery is slow so keep ample time before your order.

Last but not the least is the King of all food, ‘Nizam’s Kathi Kebab’ one kebab fills up a normal guy and women usually share 1 into 2 style ;), but apart from the standard kebabs I really like their Keema-Pao, that’s for starters, apart form that everything else is avoidable. Don’t forget to order an aerated drink as the oil kebab really fills you up.

Statuary warning-
This is definitely not an exhaustive list but a list that I usually follow for treats and Saturday lunches. This list is also limited to the vicinity where I work. Let me know what you think about this? In my next list I’d write about the uber cool, slightly expensive but some places that I really really like.

Olive Bar & Kitchen – A ‘Lazy’ Review

As the bleary winter sun struggled to descend through the clouds and trees on a Sunday afternoon, we walked into the meticulously Mediterranean Olive Bar & Kitchen at Mehrauli in Delhi for a long-planned and much anticipated ‘lazy Sunday brunch’. (No matter that most only turn up around lunch time, and then spiritedly chat over copious wine – it must always be called brunch. And lazy.)

The six of us – the wife and I, another couple, and our one 4 year old daughter each – walked past the whitewashed walls through the tree studded white gravel courtyard, initially thankful that we did not get reservations at any of the courtyard tables on this cold, weakly lit afternoon. But as we walked through to our table indoors, past the gas fires and coals smouldering in the ‘karhais’, we realised that outdoors would have been cosy enough. Unfortunately, a ‘private party booking’ in the courtyard put paid to those thoughts.

Once inside, the wine was quickly served (the kids had juice, in case you were wondering). The Chilean red on offer was quite crisp, with a fresh, cool bouquet (cannot yet tell the raspberry / plum notes, or the pine / oak finish!) – although cold as the weather was, a wine with a little more body may not have gone amiss. The Chilean white seemed quite nice as well, as far as the blurry photo below can tell!

On to the food then. The smorgasbord of cold cuts, terrines, salads, sauces and relishes was inviting enough and we sampled a fair selection. It wasn’t too bad but I’m not sure if that sort of food carries enough flavour for this weather. Oh well, my under-developed palate to blame I suppose. Who can however resist a freshly grilled plate or three of tiger prawns, tenderloin steak, lamb and basa fish. We couldn’t, so we duly got three steaming plates of lightly spiced, gently flavoured meats.

The service was prompt and efficient, the wine barely got to the bottom of the glass before it was refilled, and the mandatory broken glass (toppled by yours truly) was quickly mopped clean. Could it however have been a little more smiling and friendly? Especially since they weren’t busy serving a la carte? Yes, perhaps. We had to make do with cool and surly (broken wine glass to blame?).

The pizza was very warm and friendly by comparison. Rarely do desire and fulfilment follow as closely as they did when the pepperoni (with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and onions) pizza made it to our table in under 10 minutes, gushing with flavour and laden with just the right amount of cheese. Six slices were almost too few! A second pizza, of chicken and sundries, followed soon after.

Another interesting sight in the courtyard was of the beer-bummed chicken. I can think of no other name for the whole chickens grilling on the coals, hoisted on cans of beer, looking somewhat like headless chickens laying a particularly bizarre kind of egg. The chef explained that this was to infuse the grilling chicken with the flavours of beer (I can think of other ways of doing that, but that’s another post). This was a must-order, but it disappointed. The chicken was tender but flavour of beer or any other kind was hard to find.

Another wine, and it was time for the main course (you might be wondering what I think we’ve been having all this while). I suppose they expect people to stay lazy and boozy, eat up way too much salad and terrine, get conned by the beer-bummed chicken (guys certainly!) or seduced by the pizza. Because between all that and dessert, there was all of a live pasta station, one vegetarian risotto, looking like a green ‘khichdi’ turned out in rage, and a shrimp risotto, that had clearly been sitting on the buffet fire since Saturday morning. I actually hadn’t noticed the vegetarian option until I pointed out the caked shrimp risotto to the manager who agreed it had gone dry, looked at his watch and said they were near closing time, and then pointed out the green sludge for me to try if I wanted my risotto ‘wet’. The last station was then the one where your pasta would be cooked ‘live’. Thankfully, as live pasta stations go this one turned out better than expected, although the wife’s pasta was below par.

Dessert was wide-ranging and varied – I didn’t have any, not being particularly keen on dessert (and I had not planned to write this review!). The rest of the table evidently enjoyed, since what was brought to the table was quickly wiped out. Twice.

Terrific setting and ambience then. The wine’s not bad. And food is pretty good overall – the grills and pizza would be the pick of the lot. And I suppose if one doesn’t take up the offer of ‘lazy’ brunch too literally and lands up well before closing, the risotto may be great. I wouldn’t know though, my loss entirely. And just a live station for pasta is a little underwhelming, I guess laying out a few special / specific options would make the live station more fun.
The service is definitely hit and miss – one doesn’t expect feudal fawning, but some more ‘happy to see you’ would be welcome. And did anyone say good bye?