Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the category “Photographs”

Review: Cafe Yell

My first impression of Cafe Yell at Defence Colony Market was adorable. As you walk inside the cafe, the theme reminds you of clothes and tailors. After all, the cafe is a venture of the clothing brand Yell.

With oversized buttons, sewing machine, measuring tapes and coloured spools as decorations, Cafe Yell gives off a cozy and comforting feeling from the moment you step inside. It’s been about two months since the opening, but Cafe Yell has already made a name in the locality.

The smile is warm and inviting as you are seated. The menu cards are crisp and to the point, each dish described without much fuss, just how it should be. We order for iced tea, lemon soda and Yell watermelon mojito. They were perfect thirst quenchers in the heat which has engulfed Delhi and will continue to do so for some months.

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The food at Cafe Yell is what people are talking about. Let me tell you now how impressed I was. Right from starters to the mains, each dish was well balanced and left our tastebuds wishing for more (of course we’d need gigantic stomachs for that!)

First up, the Mozzarella Jalapeno Bombs had the perfect amount of gooey cheese and with their special dip, the taste just accentuated to a higher level. Don’t we all love Nachos? Well, you must try them at Cafe Yell because it has the perfect amount of topping and melted cheese. Together with salsa and sour cream, they make for a delicious start to your meal. The chicken Quesadilla was tasty and well-seasoned but somehow, didn’t quite hit the mark as much as the other two starters had.

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Mozzarella Jalapeno Bombs were the bomb!

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Chicken Quesadilla!

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Nachos anyone?

For the mains we started with pizza with four different types of toppings – Polo Speziato (chicken), pepperoni (pork), fungi (mushroom) and Spring Fling (assortment of veggies). The thin crust hand tossed pizza was simply outstanding. I’m not fond of veggies on my pizza much, but at Cafe Yell I licked the plate clean (just figuratively!) Then came the lamb burger with fries and slaw. The patty was succulent and well seasoned which is so important while the bun on its own was soft. But the highlight personally was the Risotto with bacon. There are some plates of food which look good but a taste undoes all expectations. At Cafe Yell, the moment the Risotto came out hot, just looking at it made us salivate. And as we took a spoonful to taste, we were left craving for more. The salt from the bacon complimented the creamy rice and took the experience to a different level altogether.

The desserts, however, didn’t live up to our expectations. While both, the salted caramel cheesecake and butterscotch brownie cup were good, we preferred the starters and mains more.

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Yell Watermelon mojito

We found out that Cafe Yell has a breakfast menu. So, the next time we are in the mood for some brekkie, we sure know where to head!

I would definitely recommend heading to Cafe Yell because the food is great, service fantastic and the pocket pinch not too much. So what are you waiting for!

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Review: Med Fest at ChaoBella

When I think Mediterranean food, images of hummus, pita, baba ganoush, olives, stuffed vines come to mind. However, to my American friend, the cuisine evokes memories of Greece and Italy, leaning more towards the western side of the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean region comprises a huge area and no matter if the countries surrounding it have distinct cuisines, there’s always a common thread – olive oil!

The variations of Mediterranean cuisine is loved world over and to give the people of Delhi an authentic experience, ChaoBella at Crowne Plaza Okhla have come up with a delicious food festival – the Med Fest. They bring together various Mediterranean delicacies from around the region to your table. How do I know it’s delicious? Because I’ve had the pleasure of tasting the portions which evoked happiness in every bite.

Shorba for the vegetarians

The Med Fest begins with a soup – Shorba (Chorba) for the vegetarians and a chicken for the non vegetarians. I love stews so Shorba was the automatic choice. It was very light and flavoursome, and most importantly, tangy which I adore in broths. In fact, every spoonful reminded me why I hadn’t made it at home for a while. It’s so easy and hearty that I promise you, Shorbas will become part of your weekly meals if you try it.

Fattoush

Fattoush or a bread salad with greens is something I can gorge on everyday but it was their non vegetarian option – smoked chicken and artichoke salad that blew me away. The combination of the chicken, artichoke, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, onions and lettuce with seasoning and balsamic was so tasty that I was reminiscing about the flavours the next morning!

The star – chicken and artichoke salad with pine nuts

Mostly from Southern Italy, the seafood pasta was a delight. Generously topped with fish and prawns, the seafood pasta grew on you with every bite.

Seafood pasta you’d want to eat over and over again

We ordered for the Norcini, or buffalo mozzarella, sausage, mushroom and tomato pizza. It was rustic which was very appealing because I am all for thin crust and crispy bites.

Pizza anyone?

It was then time for the mains. My tenderloin was a bit dry but very tasty. The chicken was well seasoned while the fish very well cooked. The accompanying greens and shitake made it a wholesome meal.

Tenderloin and greens

Chicken with veggies

Well cooked fish with veggies

For dessert, there was a pear and almond tart and blueberry cheesecake.

A very happy me! With a lot of running involved the next day!

The Med Fest is on till March 20 so if I were you, I’d head to Crowne Plaza Okhla with not a moment to spare to gorge on simple yet tasty Mediterranean food in Delhi.

Where: ChaoBella, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi in Okhla Phase 1
Follow them on Instagram

Review: Taksim at Ansal Plaza

Cocktails at Taksim

Cocktails at Taksim

I stay very close to Ansal Plaza located in Khel Gaon, yet in the short years that I’ve stayed in the city, I’d never manage to go there. It looked so run down from afar. But now there’s a buzz. New restaurants have opened, many more are in the pipeline while a sporting goods store has many visiting Ansal Plaza on a daily basis. Taksim opened its doors in December 2016 but their alcohol license came only a month later. It’s only been some weeks, but Taksim has managed to garner a crowd of regulars, which I might add, is difficult in this city.

“Why Ansal Plaza?” I asked. Sahil, who manages Taksim, replied, “Why not? It’s in the heart of the city, has a huge parking space, a prime location and convenient.” And going by the crowd, it seemed Taksim had hit upon a jackpot — jam-packed on a weekday evening!

The cutlery wall

The cutlery wall

As we walked into Taksim, the music from the good old days filled the air. Lip syncing to Abba and Whigfield and remembering the last time I heard their music, I felt impressed with Taksim’s interiors at first glance. Spacious, a lot of wood, pretty walls and an open space – a really good combination. The menus were placed in front of us as we ordered for drinks – Cosmo for the sister and Taksim Square (vodka with pomegranate seeds and basil) for me. Sipping on the delicious cocktails (both hit the mark), we ordered for the food.

Fish fish, spicy spicy

Fish fish, spicy spicy

First arrived Kohliwada Fish Tikka. Played against white, it stood out against the brown table. As a food blogger, we do tend to let the food get cold just to capture that perfect shot. But not this time! The smell was just too enticing so pictures captured, we dug in. Spicy just the way I like with a mint dip, it set the mood for the rest of the evening.

Crispy spinach with curd, tamarind and mint

Crispy spinach with curd, tamarind and mint

Then came the Palak Patta Ki Milly Filly Chaat (Crispy spinach leaves with yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutney). Each bite had a great balance of sweet and sour. The Ishq Sufiana (cottage cheese or paneer with fennel) was the highlight for me. I’m a strict non vegetarian but the paneer had me the moment it touched my mouth. So soft and well seasoned that each bite had me craving for more.

Paneer love aka Ishq Sufiana

Paneer love aka Ishq Sufiana

The Thai Basil Chicken is a good appetizer option with drinks and cocktails while the Chicken Shawarma is an option when you visit in a group. Served with pita and hummus: tear, fill and gobble! The cottage cheese steak pao is a meal in itself. A slab of cottage cheese in between a bun served with a huge serving of fries and dips, is definitely an option for a main at Taksim.

Chicken Shawarma platter

Chicken Shawarma platter

Thai Basil Chicken

Thai Basil Chicken

Who can so no to dessert right? We ordered the Blueberry cheesecake and Banoffee Pie. By then the lights had dimmed, the 90s music had given way to live Sufi music as the crowd swayed to the rhythm. Taksim actually has music theme nights – from reliving the 90s to EDM and live acts. Realise the kind of music you’re in the mood for and head to Taksim to enjoy a fulfilled evening with good food and music.

Paneer pao

The paneer pao is very filling

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Ansal Plaza at Khel Gaon Marg
Follow Taksim on Facebook

Review: Chinese New Year Celebrations at ChaoBella

The Chinese New Year Menu!

The Chinese New Year Menu!

When we think of Chinese food, what is the first thing that comes to mind? I don’t know about you but my mind lights up with the thought of steamed dumplings in bamboo steamers. That’s what most of us immediately associate Chinese food with I presume. So, to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, ChaoBella at Crowne Plaza Today Okhla have decided to let patrons get a taste of authentic food, beyond the usual fare. Their Chinese New Year celebrations are on till February 13, 2017 and starts from Rs 450 onwards.

As I walk into the hotel’s Italian and Chinese restaurant ChaoBella, my stomach growls in anticipation. Chinese is an all-time favourite and actually works as comfort food. I think at least once I week I do indulge in Chinese food, homemade if not store bought. I’ve probably imbibed this from my father. He needs to try Chinese at least once wherever he travels to, even if in a place which has no Chinese connections!

Anyway I digress. So as I was seated by the window, I was presented with the menu. It looked tempting so with a glass of Limoncello Colin (so so good) I was set for an afternoon of indulgence.

Glassnoodles soup

Glassnoodles soup

First arrived a hot bowl of Glass Noodles soup. A light well balanced broth and crunchy vegetables and chicken was the perfect way to start a meal. As we are celebrating Chinese New Year, Hargow represents good luck and wealth. So, the chef specially sent over spinach and prawn dumplings to the table, which was consumed with much gusto.

Prawn Har Gaw

Prawn Har Gow

Prawns and cocktails!

Prawns and cocktails!

The starter that arrived was named Emperor Salt Baked Tiger Prawn. I must say I was extremely impressed as its aftertaste left me craving more.

Sweet and Sour Tenderoin

Sweet and Sour Tenderloin

The mains that arrived on the table were Sweet and Sour Tenderloin, Steamed Salmon in black bean sauce and Cantonese Chicken, accompanied by fried rice with olives and vegetable noodles. The outright star was the fish preparation. It was the first time I had the combination of Salmon and black bean sauce which left me feeling blissful. The fish was cooked perfectly. The tenderloin was a bit too sweet for me personally as I lack a sweet tooth but tasted well otherwise. The chicken had a very nice balance and combined well with the fried rice.

Salmon with black bean sauce

Salmon with black bean sauce

Cantonese Chicken

Cantonese Chicken

Fried rice and noodles

Fried rice and noodles

A full full plate!

A full full plate!

Stuffed to the brim, out came a trio of deserts – date pancake, black sesame ice cream and dumplings with a peanut coating and chocolate. The ice cream was outstanding. The texture was unique and paired excellently with the sweet pancake. The dumpling resembled the Rosogolla but when cut, out poured chocolate. The glutinous coating was very nice, something I tasted for the first time.

Sweet platter

Sweet platter

The well-thought of Chinese New Year menu is on for a short span (February 13, 2017). I would recommend not missing it because the flavours are an eclectic mix. And definitely don’t miss the Salmon. It’s been days but I’m still drooling at the thought!

A happy food blogger aka me!

A happy food blogger aka me!

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

Review: Johnny Rockets – An All-You-Can-Eat Heaven

It's all about the burgers at Johnny Rockets

It’s all about the burgers at Johnny Rockets

Walk into the Johnny Rockets outlet at DLF Promenade in Vasant Kunj and you think you’re transported to the Archie comics world. Right from the juke box at the door, the seating style at booths and the counter, the Pop Tate-styled old fashioned diner hats on the servers and the smell of hamburgers – it seems you’ve actually stepped into an old-fashioned American diner, right out of Riverdale!

The specialty of Johnny Rockets is their commitment to fresh produce and no short cuts. When they say their shakes are dairy based, they mean it. The burgers are cooked fresh and customised accordingly. Thick and rich, they pair beautifully with the hot burgers that come to your table fresh off the grill. Eating at Johnny Rockets is definitely where good times roll.

Hello chocolate shake!

Hello chocolate shake!

Johnny Rockets has recently come up with a winner. They have started an ‘All-you-can-eat buffet’ (priced at Rs 449 for vegetarians and Rs 499 for non vegetarians without taxes, per person) which is a complete steal. For the amount, the whole Johnny Rockets menu is open to you – starting with shakes, pre-appetizers, appetizers, salad of the day, burgers and dessert —and is unlimited! If you have the appetite, eat to your heart’s content. It’s such a jaw dropping promotion that people find it very hard to believe. “We get calls to ask if it’s actually true,” I’m told as I munch on the appetizers. I’m partial to tater tots so guess what I indulged in the most out of all the different appetizers laid out in front of me.

Spoilt for choice! Which one to gorge on?

Spoilt for choice! Which one to gorge on?

Small portions of chicken wings with a barbecue sauce, chicken poprocks with a peri peri dressing, spicy sausages accompanied by ranch were placed in front at first as I slurped the thick chocolate shake. Then came crisp onion rings and tater tots. More milkshake and more bite-sized appetizers kept me going as the staff at Johnny Rockets burst into dance much to the amusement of other patrons. Camera flashes were instantaneous as we all clapped along!

I guess Onion Rings make for good photo ops!

I guess Onion Rings make for good photo ops!

It was now time for the main course aka Burgers. Take your pick from chicken, vegetarian, lamb and tenderloin and six variations. Think hard, not too much though as there’s always a possibility of seconds if the stomach allows. The best burgers are the no nonsense ones so I chose the simplest – tenderloin patty, caramelized onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese all tucked into brioche buns aka Route 66. Personal recommendation: always go for Brioche for more flavour and eat it while it’s hot.

The Route 66

The Route 66

The burger was spot on. Perfectly grilled patty that paired beautifully with the Brioche buns while the cheese, onions and mushrooms enhanced the flavour. I wish the glutton in me had more space so I could eat another but alas, the appetite does decrease with age. Or so I’m told!

A gentleman comes up and stares at the menu card. “It’s unlimited?” he questions. It didn’t seem to register that the whole menu was open to him at a nominal price. “Really? Ok then get me this and this. Don’t get any of the vegetarian ones… This and keep repeating,” he orders pointing to his chosen dishes.

For the ones with sweet tooth, delicious brownie with ice cream

For the ones with sweet tooth, delicious brownie with ice cream

By the time I could barely finish my brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce, the gentleman in question had wolfed down two burgers and was on his second shake, asking the staff to repeat the starters! I was very envious of his appetite!

A very very happy food blogger aka Me!

A very very happy food blogger aka Me!

There is no nearby expiration date of the All-You-Can-Eat offer at either of the Johnny Rockets outlets. So what are you waiting for?

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Where: The All You Can Eat promotion available only at DLF Promenade (Vasant Kunj) and Ambience Mall (Gurgaon) outlets
Follow Johnny Rockets on Facebook

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

In Photos: An Impromptu Visit To Fatehpur Sikri

It was last year this time that about 10 friends had come home for lunch. From devouring chicken curry with rice, fish in mustard sauce and ending the spread with two desserts (chocolate cheesecake and lemon pie if memory serves), talks turned to travel. It’s no surprise really because every time the gang meets, travel plans are discussed. The only issue, they fall through because it’s very difficult to get so many people who are free at the same time.
The conversation went somewhat like this… “Its been ages since I travelled,” said A. “Oh I can’t remember when I just packed my bags and left.” “Where did you go?” asked B. “I just came back from Kheerganga,” informed C. “Roadtrips man, it’s been a while,” said D. “Why don’t we go for a roadtrip tonight?” a voice was heard from among the chatter.
We all turned at her. “It’s Sunday tomorrow. We are all off. So why don’t we leave tonight from Delhi to someplace nearby and we’ll be back in the afternoon?” That was an idea! Quick calculations later, we zeroed in on Fatehpur Sikri. Three cars, munchies, a good music play list and a need to get out of town is what egged us. We had all been there before of course, but there’s something so tempting to go back to places we’ve been to before. Beer helps in that decision too, just saying!

The view as one enters the complex

The view as one enters the complex

For history buffs
Akbar, the third great Mughal ruler, built this city and shifted his capital here in 1571. However, after his death and thanks to insufficient water supply, it was abandoned but the majestic Indo-Islamic architecture wows travellers to this day. Barely 40km away from Agra, the red sandstone walls of the palace has found its way into many must-see travel lists.

Inside Fatehpur Sikri

Inside Fatehpur Sikri

The complex is famous for structures such as the Buland Darwaza, Paanch Mahal, Diwani-Khas, Tomb of Salim Chisti, Palace of Joda Bai, Hawa Mahal etc. As one enters the complex, it’s a step back in time. You realise the grandeur of the Mughal era, wishing you had a chance to see it when it was a flourishing city. It must have been a fantastic sight to behold.

That's a pose in front of the massive Buland Darwaza

That’s a pose in front of the massive Buland Darwaza

It's a massive door - Buland Darwaza

It’s a massive door – Buland Darwaza

The Darwaza from inside the complex

The Darwaza from inside the complex

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid

Corridor in symmetry

Corridor in symmetry

Anoop Talao

Anoop Talao

Diwani-Khas, the picture we've seen in history books all our lives

Diwani-Khas, the picture we’ve seen in history books all our lives

The Paanch mahal was being worked on, so the next best thing was to go under it

The Paanch mahal was being worked on, so the next best thing was to go under it

Tomb of Salim Chisti

Tomb of Salim Chisti

The sunrise from the hill top, before entering

Seeing the sunrise before entering

The sun rises

The sun rises

The beautiful complex

The beautiful complex

Picnic Pasta Bake with Mini Chicken Meatballs

The much-loved Delhi winters have come and gone but the weather hasn’t turned so warm that one can’t enjoy a picnic. If you ever visit Delhi, make sure Lodhi Gardens is on your go-to list. Green, gorgeous, tranquil and in the heart of the city, the gardens are a perfect picnic spot. I absolutely adore picnics. It’s a time to be silly, play badminton to your heart’s content (a great exercise for the indulge ahead), eat gorgeous food, doze under the shade of a tree, catch up on your reading, gossip with friends and feel like a child in the adult world. This bake is super easy but takes time. So, make sure you are not in a hurry. It is the perfect picnic food to consume on a lazy weekend in the midst of history and greenery with friends from back home.

The gorgeous greenery at Lodhi Gardens

The gorgeous greenery at Lodhi Gardens

Ingredients
For Meatballs (Makes 12-15 depending on size)
500g Minced chicken
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs chilly flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 egg
250g breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbs oil

For Sauce
2 large ripe tomatoes (diced)
1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
2 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 can tomato puree
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chilly flakes
1 tsp heaped smoked paprika
3 tbs butter (room temperature)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs olive oil

For Pasta
2 handful Penne
1 lt boiling water
1 tsp oil
Salt to season

For Bake
2 cubes of cheese (grated)
1 tsp butter (to grease baking tin)

The view from our picnic spot

The view from our picnic spot

– Boil the water with oil and salt. Cook the penne according to packet instructions.
– Drain penne and keep aside. But save the water.
– Place the minced chicken, chopped onion and garlic, dried oregano, chilly flakes, cumin, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
– Mix well and use your hands to form mini meatballs. Keep aside.
– Heat a pan and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and chilly flakes to sautee well.
– Add the chopped carrot and onion. Let them cook through.
– Add the tomatoes and the can of tomato puree.
– Add oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. Clamp on a lid and let the sauce cook.
– As the sauce cooks, heat another pan with oil.
– Once hot, add the meatballs in small batches and brown.
– Add the meatballs to the sauce and let them cook through. Be patient as this will take some time. You will notice the sauce reduce considerably in quantity. Take off the heat
– Grease a baking tin with butter. Pre-heat the oven to 250 C
– Take out the meatballs and place them in the tin.
– In the sauce, add 1 tbs butter and a ladel of the starch water. Mix well.
– Repeat this twice more untill you see a sheen on the sauce. It will become a thin sauce.
– Add more dried herbs (optional)
– Put the meatballs back in the saucepan along with the penne. Coat pasta and meatballs well.
– Place the mixture in the greased baking tin and cover generously with grated cheese. (I use processed for this)
– Put in oven for 20 minutes.
– Take out once the cheese has melted and cool
– Pack in foil and you’re ready for the picnic!

The pasta bake uncovered!

The pasta bake uncovered!

The view from the top - Pasta bake, biryani, chips and two types of cakes!

The view from the top – Pasta bake, biryani, chips and two types of cakes!

After a soul satisfying day, we saw the sun set at Lodhi Gardens

After a soul satisfying day, we saw the sun set at Lodhi Gardens

Slowcooked Coriander Chicken

I will be called incorrect for the usage of the term slow cooking but I’m purely talking from a personal perspective. No I don’t use a slow cooker not do I cook for hours end which old Royal recipes call for. I’ve always favoured easy and jiffy cooking but when I get the luxury to relax, I make myself a cup of fragrant Darjeeling, bring out a book I’ve been trying to finish. I sip and read while I slow cook whatever I’ve put on the gas.
There’s nothing to beat the smell of fresh coriander and I love using the herb as a flavour base in cooking rather than just relegating it to garnishing. The combination of chicken and coriander is simply a way to greet winter. It sums up beautifully what a winter afternoon should be like.
This slow cooked chicken dish has the perfect combination of spice and fragrance. It’s not too hot neither too bland and is best served on the centre of the table with rice and raita as accompaniments!

Ingredients
For Marination
500g chicken
3 tbs yoghurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Pinch of salt

For Curry
Handful curry leaves
1 tbs black mustard seeds
Handful (or more) coriander (Chop the stalks and keep the leaves aside)
1 red chilly (deseeded, finely chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tomato (chopped)
2 tbs tomato puree
Salt to taste
1 tbs vegetable oil

– Wash and clean the chicken pieces and add the ginger-garlic paste. Mix the spice powders with the yoghurt. Add to the chicken with a pinch of salt and let it marinade overnight.
– In a hot wok add the oil.
– Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the seeds start to sputter add the chopped onion, garlic and red chilly. If you like it very hot, keep the chilly seeds in.
– Once this is well sauteed, add the coriander stalks.
– You’ll start to smell the frangrance of coriander in a bit. Add the tomato now and slowly let it become slightly mushy.
– Add the overnight marinaded chicken to this. Add the tomato puree and salt.
– Put the gas on low. Clamp on a lid and let it cook for about an hour.
– Halfway through, add some coriander leaves to the chicken and continue cooking.
– Garnish with more coriander leaves and eat hot with rotis/rice/bread.

A bowl of deliciousness!

A bowl of deliciousness! Top view!

Greens and chicken!

Greens and chicken!

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