Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the month “November, 2016”

Review: Dawat – E – Awadhi at Edesia

As I reach Crowne Plaza Today in Okhla, my stomach growls in anticipation. I love Awadhi food and with their all-day dining Edesia promoting a month-long festival called Dawat-E-Awadhi, I was about to indulge in an evening of rich and glorious slow-cooked delicacies. My mouth was watering.

Making my way up the elevator into the first floor, Edesia beckoned on the left. The 24-hour restaurant serves patrons various cuisines but their month-long Awadhi food festival is the centre of attention. Big handis (deep and wide-mouthed vessels) line the buffet counter. For Rs 1900 (plus taxes) a person can indulge in a fantastic Awadhi dinner. Children can enjoy the feast for Rs 1000 (plus taxes).

Non veg appetizers

Non veg appetizers

Two appetizer platters arrive on the table. The non vegetarian options have melt-in-your-mouth Galouti, delicious and tender deep fried chicken, miniature Shammi kebabs and Kathi rolls. The vegetarian one has stuffed Paneer Tikka which is rich and creamy, and meatless versions of the others. I would definitely recommend the deep fried chicken, Galouti and Paneer Tikka. They were my favourites.

Check out their tawa section because the options change everyday. While I tasted Tandoori Pomfret which was the star that day, they do serve raan and other such specialties. I preferred the tawa chicken more than the fish but then again, I’m not partial to pomfret.

Tawa counter

Tawa counter

Tawa chicken and tandoori pomfret

Tawa chicken and tandoori pomfret

Now came the time for indulgence. To be honest, I don’t do buffets because like most, I tend to overeat. But with experience and practice I’ve found the right path – take tiny tasting portions! The Awadhi Mix Dal was so tasty. Different lentils and ghee make for a perfect combination on a winter night. The vegetarian fare includes Paneer Shahi Pasanda, Subz Makhanwala and Palak Mushroom Malai. The paneer is soft, the mixed vegetables have the right amount of spice with an after taste of butter while the mushroom and spinach combination hits all the right spots. Then comes the Awadhi Dum Aloo. Small potatoes in a rich gravy is best eaten with buttered breads.

Mixed dal

Mixed dal

Dum Aloo

Dum Aloo

For hardcore non vegetarians, I would definitely recommend the Shahjehani Karele ki Nihari. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined liking meat with karela (bitter gourd). The meal just melted in the mouth while the bitterness of the karela was enough yet not overpowering. The quality of the meat was superb and it was interesting to chat with executive chef Sudershan Bhandari on the unique combination! The Noorjahani Murgh was extremely rich and creamy while the Zaffrani Fish Curry in a red gravy was spicy enough to give a balance.

Nihari with Karela

Nihari with Karela

Creamy luscious chicken

Creamy luscious chicken

Zaffrani fish

Zaffrani fish

The rice section has three handis – steamed, pulao for the vegetarians and of course the famed Mutton Biryani for meat lovers.

Mutton biryani

Mutton biryani

Every rich meal deserves a richer ending. While the dessert section is inviting, the deep fried sweet Jalebis are perfect to pop into the mouth. Made in front of your eyes, you consume the intricate handiwork of the chef while the sweet syrup leaves its mark on the white plate. I could barely move despite those tiny tiny portions!

Tiny hot piping jalebis

Tiny hot piping jalebis

The Dawat-E-Awadhi is on till November 30, 2016. Go taste the wonders of Awadhi cuisine at Edesia. You won’t go home hungry, I promise.

Where: Edesia, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi in Okhla Phase 1

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Review: Royal China

Table setting in Royal China

Table setting in Royal China

The elevator doors opened, I stepped inside and pressed on the 16th floor button. The contraption hurled upwards and my empty stomach churned with the sudden shift in momentum. “It’s the anticipation,” I thought. I love Chinese food and when I had the opportunity to review Royal China, I simply jumped at it. To relish a favourite meal and take in a breathtaking view of the city alongside, it wasn’t really a difficult decision to take.

Royal China is located in Eros Towers, Nehru Place, just beside Satyam Cinema Complex. On the top-most floor, it offers a calming view, away from the hustle and bustle of chaotic Nehru Place. The interiors are calm and soothing, the music playing in the background blends in and you immediately feel comfortable. Opt for a table near the glass windows because on a clear day the view of the Lotus Temple and its surroundings are lovely. The table is set with crisp linen, sauces that act as condiments, and chopsticks as menu cards are handed over with a warm greeting as you sit down. There’s so much to choose from!

Royal China has branches in Mumbai and Pune. I had been to their Mumbai branch years ago and remember absolutely loving every bite. Would this time round be just as good? Let me tell you right now, it was. Even better I might add. If you enjoy Chinese and you’re in Delhi, Royal China should be a must-visit. Right from the time you enter till the elevator transports you back to the ground floor, the staff looks after you, making sure you enjoy a lovely meal.

Royal China offers patrons an a la carte menu of course but those with a fixed idea of wanting to try a bit of everything, I would suggest try the Tasting Menu. It’s available for lunch (Rs 1550/Rs 2100 with alcohol) and dinner (Rs 1800/Rs 2500 with alcohol). They also have Set Meals on the lines of Seafood Gourmet (Rs 1950), House Dinner (Rs 1750) and Vegetarian Dinner (Rs 1500). They are best known for their dimsums. So, if you’re in the food to gorge only on different dimsums you can think of, definitely order the Unlimited Dimsum Menu (Rs 1750/Rs 2450 with alcohol).

The Lychee and Strawberry Martini is a delight to start the lunch with. Having grown up on James Bond films thanks to a fanatic father (who plays Bond best is a debate that rages every time I go home), I always end up ordering a vodka Martini (not in a deep champagne goblet though!). It was the first I tried a variation and was suitably impressed.

Set against the backdrop as seen from the 16th floor

Set against the backdrop as seen from the 16th floor

I like to try small portions so I ordered the Tasting Menu. It’s enough for two people and one gets a taste of what the fine-dining establishment offers. First came the appetizers. The Fried Soft Corn Curd with a mint and coriander sauce, Crispy Seaweed and Chicken with Dry Red Chilly. The Corn Curd is melt-in-your-mouth divine while the Seaweed is crisp as the name suggests. A big thumbs up to the two. The chicken is very good but I loved the vegetarian options more.

Chicken with Dry Red Chilly, Fried Soft Corn Curd and Crispy Seaweed

Chicken with Dry Red Chilly, Fried Soft Corn Curd and Crispy Seaweed

A full plate!

A full plate!

Then arrived the Roast Pork Puff. Take one bite and the puff flakes the right amount. The stuffing is on the sweeter side and the seasoning is spot on. It’s a good thing I stopped at one, else I could continue and fill up my stomach with just those tiny puffs.

Flaky puffs filled with roast pork

Flaky puffs filled with roast pork

Royal China’s stars are dimsums. They come in all fillings, shapes and sizes. Three bamboo steamers were placed on the table. As I lifted one lid, the steam escaped and left behind a gorgeous aroma of fresh dimsums. I have to say I’m biased towards dimsums because I can live on them. Every meal can be a dimsum meal, seriously I kid you not. Anyway I digress. The first steamer had Chicken and Chive, the second Chicken with Vegetables and the third Siu Mai. All three were juicy and tender as you popped them into the mouth.

Chicken and chives, chicken with veggies (background)

Chicken and chives, chicken with veggies (background)

Orange in colour but delicious in taste

Orange in colour but delicious in taste

Sui Mai

Siu Mai

The Crispy Aromatic Duck starred in the third course. The duck was golden and crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. It’s best eaten rolled inside a soft and steaming pancake with cucumbers, scallions and hoisin sauce. The duck in all it’s glory is shredded by expert hands in a matter of seconds. Then the sauce is spread on the pancake, the raw vegetables are placed on a side. The meat is added last and the pancake rolled up. There was nothing else to do except bite into it. The duck lived up to it’s visual temptation. Crispy and soft; the sauce and the vegetables combined perfectly for my taste buds to go into overdrive mode.

Crispy aromatic duck with its condiments (Before)

Crispy Aromatic Duck with its condiments (Before)

Crispy Aromatic Duck (After)

Crispy Aromatic Duck (After)

By the time the main course arrives, I’m already stuffed but when there’s Chinese food, the motto is never say never. Bowls containing Egg Fried Rice, Vegetable Hakka Noodles, Sliced Fish in Black bean sauce, Stir Fry Vegetables and Chicken in Chilly Oil fill up the table. My chopsticks couldn’t decide what to dig into first. The fish was so soft and the black bean sauce perfectly harmonised. It paired well with the noodles. The chicken was spicy and tasted wonderful with the fried rice. My favourite, however, was the stir fry! If my stomach allowed, I would have nibbled on them all day! Sigh… if only.

A full table filled with main courses

A full table filled with main courses

I love my plates full! This time with fried rice, noodles, fish, chicken and vegetables!

I love my plates full! This time with fried rice, noodles, fish, chicken and vegetables!

By this time, after a Martini refill and stuffed to the brim, the Banana Toffee with Vanilla Ice cream was a perfect way to end the long lunch. The ice cream neutralized the sweet and the taste buds ended on a high.

Banana Toffee and Ice cream

Banana Toffee and Ice cream

I would definitely recommend Royal China if you like Chinese or specifically, suffer from dimsum cravings like yours truly. Good food, great atmosphere and a wonderful view, what more can one ask for?

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: 16th Floor, Eros Towers, Nehru Place, New Delhi
Follow Royal China on Facebook and Instagram

Review: Piali – The Curry Bistro

I recently went to Piali the Curry Bistro for lunch. I was pretty hassled that afternoon as my day was just not going according to plan (and I’m a planner believe me. I even have a notebook to jot down the day’s proceedings). Cut to three hours later. I have a big smile (all teeth showing sorts) plastered on my face, my stomach way too full and having forgotten everything worry-inducing. That’s the effect the the four-month old restaurant in K Block Connaught Place, Delhi, had on me. I had one of the best meals there and I can’t wait to go back soon to try new things on the menu.

It’s a small restaurant, just a 70-seater, but extremely warm, cosy and inviting. It has a fine dining space, a lounge and a bar. One of the few child-friendly places, as the name suggests Piali the Curry Bistro, the restaurant serves up delicious curries from around the world. From different parts of India to Sri Lanka, Myanmar to Thailand to name a few. They specialize in curries but their appetizers range from Mumbai’s street food to Singapore’s satays. An amalgamation of sorts, they wet the appetite for the second course fragrant curries which are accompanied by rice or breads.

Delicious cocktails

Delicious cocktails

The Chapli (left) and the Galouti

The Chapli (left) and the Galouti

Jaffran Prawns and more

Jaffran Prawns and more

Accompanied by a friend for this review, we started off with Piali the Curry Bistro’s signature vodka-based cocktails – Sex on the Beach and Aam Panna. Feeling refreshed, we waited eagerly for tasting portions to arrive. And arrive they did. The Chapli Kebab (pashtun style minced kebab) was tastefully seasoned while the Galouti Kebab (a vegetarian version with mushroom and singhare) was literally melt-in-your-mouth. I’m a hardcore non vegetarian but I would have gladly had second helpings of the vegetarian galouti. Then arrived spicy Jaffran Prawns with Curry Leaf. A big thumbs up to the prawns as we dipped them into the sauce.

Corn Tempura (left) and Sindhi Chole Tikki

Corn Tempura (left) and Sindhi Chole Tikki

Chicken satays with peanut sauce

Chicken satays with peanut sauce

Mumbai's Dhabeli

Mumbai’s Dhabeli

Corn Tempura and Sindhi Chole Tikki left us floored. We were licking our fingers long after the plates had been removed. Had we been eating at home, we would have licked the plates clean. People can stare when you do it in public so we refrained! Biting into the Chicken Satays reminded me of my frequent visits to Singapore and I was transported to East Coast Park where delicious satays leave the mouth watering. Dahi Batata Puri and Mumbai’s famous Dhabeli rounded off the first round.

For the mains we chose to taste Khao Suey from Myanmar (a coconut based soup with noodles and garnish), Green Curry with sticky rice from Thailand, Ambul Thiyal (a spicy fish curry from neighbouring Sri Lanka), Martaban Meat (tender pieces of lamb cooked to perfection in an earthen pot) and being a Bengali, Daab Chingri (prawns in coconut curry served inside a coconut) was a must have.

Ambul Thiyal or spicy fish curry from Sri Lanka

Ambul Thiyal or spicy fish curry from Sri Lanka

Martaban Meat with butter rotis

Martaban Meat with butter rotis

Yum Daab Chingri

Yum Daab Chingri

Khao Suey with condiments

Khao Suey with condiments

Thai Green curry

Thai Green curry

The Martaban lamb was so tender the meat fell off the bones as I dug into the gravy with butter rotis. The Daab Chingri was perfectly cooked and the gravy paired well with steamed rice. The Ambul Thiyal had just the right amount of spice and the fish ever-so-soft. The green curry was fragrant while the Khao Suey was rich, a meal in a bowl.

Despite our stomachs giving us hints that it was ready to burst any moment, we couldn’t help but take a quick bite of the signature Pineapple Halwa. Decadence in a bowl is a better way to describe the delicacy! It’s a must try when there.

Pineapple Halwa

Pineapple Halwa

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and Beverage: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: K Block, Connaught Place, New Delhi

Guest Post: A Tale of Two Biryanis

The magnificent Biryani

The magnificent Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani (kachchi)

Only a few weeks ago, I undertook the seemingly herculean task of making a Bakr Eid biryani. Up until then I had just been an avid fan and a diligent consumer of the preparation. Have biryani, will eat. I don’t discriminate when it comes to the nawabi delicacy. Still, gun to my head, I would side with the Hyderabadi and the Murshidabadi variety. On this particular occasion, I decided to bet on the former.
I chose the Kacchi biryani recipe, consulted friends who were in the restaurant business on the correct way, went through a dozen web videos and recipe charts, memorized it and recapitulated it in my head again and again and then some. In stark contrast to my paranoid planner mold, my partner is more the take as it comes kind. However, I literally force fed the recipe to him and even revised it with him, night before Eid. He did his best to keep a straight face and I managed to not lose my cool.
As with everything too well-planned and rehearsed this biryani was doomed from the very start. The supposed aged long-grain rice, crumbled to the slightest duress (much like kheer rice) after its 30 minutes in waterbath. Then the mutton did not tenderize, in spite of the measured portions of unripe papaya. And the best of the lot, the sealed dum mold cracked open midway. Total sabotage. Long story short, I was staring at a resounding failure on a day when six expectant stomachs were counting on me rather hungrily. I can’t even begin to start counting the lessons learnt. But those are for me till I risk the next attempt.
I was especially heartbroken because the homesick me wanted to recreate a childhood memory. One of my fondest. That of a perfect, homecooked pot of biryani. As meals go, for me, biryani constitutes the start and end of perfection. Biryani meant summer holidays. Biryani meant festive. Biryani meant family. Biryani meant Sundays.
Growing up we were a wildly happy bunch. And Sundays for no rhyme or reason made us happier. And when we got too happy we cooked biryani. So my first memories of a Sunday cook were filled with aromas of onions slowly caramalising to a crispy sweetness, rice boiling in whole spices, meat stewing to juicy tenderness and fat potatoes being prodded and poked, baked and crackled with the intimacy reserved for old friends. It was like a montage right out of a lovely French film. Such beauty. Such visual generosity. Such homely warmth. We were smiling from our stomachs. All guts and glory. What went behind the scenes was another story.

Chicken Reshmi Kebab

Chicken Reshmi Kebab

I took the longest time to fall in love with my plate of food. I don’t really know what it was about my childhood that deemed mealtimes as merely a four-time necessity to be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. Not surprisingly those four times were the most dragging part of my day that required stories, threats and coaxing on my late mother’s part. Quite a task considering taste buds and appetite were never my strong suit as a kid. Gritty woman, she did get every mouthful to its designated destination, sometimes prying my jaws open with a spoon, if and when needed. At least I remember it that way. I salute her a thousand times every day as I now run after my finicky toddler at mealtimes.
But the summers were different. Summers at Grandma’s. The only time when food was something more than just a daunting routine. The only time when food turned into something more festive. Not suggesting a change of heart towards meals though. (I still hated those rude, unwarranted intrustions into my playtime and daydreaming). It was the hoopla around food. The sights, sounds and aromas.
My mother was the eldest of five sisters; all married with two kids apiece. That made my grandma’s ancient two storied house a veritable epicenter of boisterousness. Ten cousins in all shapes and sizes seeing each other once a year generated enough revelry that could literally bring those wooden beams down. A little insight into what food represented in my family. From where I come, a man’s character and likeability was plainly shown in his palate and his plate. If you nursed a healthy appetite you were pretty much golden. And that required  at least three additional servings/helpings at the table. Yes three was just about ideal. Anything less than that was considered an insult to the food and hospitality. (So if you happened to find yourself saying, ‘No thanks’ after the first helping, consider yourself judged forever). I have actually seen some of my uncles with superhuman capacity for food and abyss for stomachs who wouldn’t shy away from five or more helpings. I kid you not. But of course, each of those addendums (or the very suggestion of it) were to be politely declined at first. Till the host piled the ladle-full on the plate, that is. It was one of those joys you couldn’t deny the host. This joy of love demostrated in terms of vertiable forcefeeding. You could literally see the eater’s hand defending the front of his plate in a mock protest with due shyness but abandoning it at the behest of the host’s greater will.
Now considering that my Grandma was fond of all her sons-in-law, one can imagine the quantity of food prepared and the chaos and clamour surrounding it. She took an inhuman amount of pain and pride in her food. Not joy so much. Never actually.  The kitchen was her cross and her crown. I guess when you have been doing something for five decades it becomes second nature and the spark of it as an accomplishment fades. Or maybe she lived in times that saw culinary brilliance as a prerequisite rather than a cause for applause. Every plate of food she put up had a beautiful narrative to it. But it went largely untold. I can’t even imagine her telling anyone about making a brilliant pot of stew or taking a picture of it. It would just about embarrass her perfectly. She lived years before the validation or gloating of social media invaded our kitchen counters and table tops and poked it’s nose right into our food plates with the ‘Like’ buttons.

Mutton Shami Kebabs

Mutton Shami Kebabs

To tell you the truth I have really never seen my grandmother anywhere outside her kitchen except when she slept next to me at night. Her frown was chiseled on her forehead and with her horn rimmed glasses she was the matronly masthead, the epitome of domestic dictatorship presiding over all things dead or alive entering the four walls of her kitchen. Trespasser were prosecuted. Her penchant for perfection was characteristic of her generation. She didn’t budge an inch from her recipes (all handed down through generations). So while the summer holidays were fun for us kids, Grandma with ten hungry children and five set of parents had her task cut out.
Work, always, started a day before. Everything was shopped early morning from the local bazaar. The trusted family butcher (you just needed to tell him what you were cooking and the rest was his job), the spice seller, the vegetable woman – all those people who were part of my childhood and unknowingly made so many of my fondest memories- would instinctively know what to suggest when told about Grandma’s feast.

Soya Chop, for the vegetarians

Soya Chop, for the vegetarians

And so would begin the grand undertaking. Under the watchful eyes of Grandma. With my mother and aunts played minions. Since Sunday biryani could never mean just biryani, there was a separate meat dish or two, a few vegetable preparations, sweets and salads on the menu. And everything was made right from the scratch. There was peeling, chopping, cleaning, grating, mixing, grinding and dozen other processes undertaken, while abundant gossip and tea broke the austerity. Rows of sun-kissed spices, saffron steeping in a now golden milk, sheets of wet muslin and a beautiful langour covering everyone. Kids were left alone with a simple brief. ‘Go play. Don’t disturb.’ (I was 13 when I was first allowed to set foot in the hallowed space only because I was making my first dish ever- green banana koftas in gravy) Now, while on regular days this would be a God send, these happy Sundays made us crave for the grown-up attention. Resultantly, one or two of us would loiter around stealing a peek, taking in a whiff and hearing a bit of gossip before we were chased out of the circle with an earful.
Once the prep was over (and we are still around 9 in the morning), the shiny brass and copper cauldrons and pots (all big enough to fit two of us five year olds inside) would come out. It was an alfresco event, our biryani. The fire was lit on the terrace and each of the ingredients would be carried up. No longer able to hold our curiosity, we would run amok, knowingly risking being swatted along with the flies.

Chicken in creamy gravy

Chicken in creamy gravy

The cooking part was tricky. Of course, there was the rice to be prepared, then the meat to be prepared, then the layering and the final Dum. But ‘tricky’ lay in handing over the ladle to one of her sons-in-law each of whom claimed to know more than the next. To quash the cacophony Grandma ended up squatting under the canopy monitoring and bringing in a much needed restrain as everybody got a chance to stir the pot. There was always a fight about how much of water to be added. But I guess they reached a consensus when Grandma punctuated the flying arguments with one of her coughs. As we neared lunchtime, the aromas wafted through the whole house and garden and I bet the neighbourhood. It wasn’t unusal for one or two neighbours to drop in claiming they ‘happened’ to pass by.
Rows of food in shiny brass and copper utensils, embroidered sheets running from length to length of the room. After a day of regimented exercise, this meal could stretch till evenings at times. Slow, easy, filled with conversation and anecdotes, laughter and such copious amounts of bonhomie. Sitting there listening to it all, food was the least of my thoughts. In fact, it would be years before I started to revel in the succulent, melting pieces of meat or draw happiness in the alchemy of ghee or rejoice the versatility of potatoes in the magic rice. Till then all I cared about was the happiness at being a part of it all. It was my carnival.
I was relatively cheered up when friends dropped in with Eid biryani the next day. A little more when my Maasi made the same biryani and the usual accompaniments I set out to make and promised me a cauldron full during her next visit.

Maria Bilkis is a Mumbai based writer, visual artist and committed foodie. Follow her journey as the amateur food writer and new mommy learns the ropes in her tiny kitchen on Instagram and Facebook

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