Thursday, 14 September 2017

New Breakfast option in Khan Market: SodaBottleOpenerWala

Khan Market has plenty of breakfast places, yet another one is always welcome. And in true Irani café style, SodaBottleOpenerWala has always had some great all-day dishes like the akuri, eggs Kejriwal and bun maska, that work perfectly for breakfast. So it only made sense for the restaurant to open 9am onwards to serve the ‘most important meal of the day’, but of course with many more additions in the menu.

Left: Hazelnut Nitro Brew and Five Berry Sober Sangria.
Right Top to Bottom: Meaty Poro, Espresso & Whiskey Pancake;
Navsari-style French Toast.

Pancakes and Poros
While you may be familiar with pancakes, poros are Parsi-style flat omelettes. Here there are six varieties of poros ranging from 100% vegetarian to smoky, herby and angry poro. This last is a spicy one with red chutney, spring onion and bharli mirchi. I had a tough choice between the Goan chorizo poro and the meaty variant. I must say that I was more than satisfied with meaty poro (Rs 225) for its delicious filling of ham bits, pickled onion, gherkin, cheddar and lots of crispy bacon. It came accompanied with some grilled vegetables, mushrooms and hash brown.

Pancakes have been given a healthy twist with the batter being made with ragi and oats instead of the usual all-purpose flour. They come with toppings like Mixed Berries, Cream and Mint; Caramelised Banana & Butterscotch or a very tempting Espresso & Whiskey Cream (Rs 165). I tried the espresso and whiskey cream pancake which lived up to its description.

Additional offerings include sandwiches like Mumbai’s popular Raasta sandwich, the all-time favourite egg sandwich and SodaBottleOpenerWala’s famous Chicken Bhuna Sandwich made with multi-grain bread. I am told that all the breads are made in the in-house bakery, including the brioche which is made into a delicious French toast. The Navsari-style French toast (Rs 175) comes with cream, raisin and plum compote and the traditional wedding pickle from Navsari from where this dish gets its name. Other offerings from the bakery section are range of breakfast cakes like Wheatgrass and Citrus, Double Chocolate Chip, Multigrain, Semolia and Coconut & Raisin Cake, while you can always get into a comfort zone with the regular mawa cake, Matunga coffee cake and chocolate walnut banana cake.

Smoothies and Sangria!
Yes, you can start your day with the Five Berry Sober Sangria (Rs 165) and a range of fresh juices, fresh fruit smoothies. But if like me you need a coffee fix go for the Nitro Cold Brew (Rs 140). Cold Brew is essentially freshly ground coffee soaked in water for 12-14 hours. You can then infuse various flavours such as star anise and mandarin, lime and cinnamon or hazelnut. Although I couldn’t taste the hazelnut in the one that I ordered, I am happy to share that the addition of nitrogen indeed cuts the acidity that one typically finds in a cold brew.

You can even enjoy a longer breakfast with the Beer and Breakfast Combo that comes with unlimited fresh beer.

SodaBottleOpenerWala, 73, Khan Market, New Delhi.
Ph: 011-43504778/ 43504878.
Breakfast Timings: 9am-12noon.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

AnnaMaya: Locally Sourced Ingredients Served in a European Style Foodhall

If you like a restaurant with a story and the food to have some meaning besides being delicious, AnnaMaya is the place for you.

Andaz Hotels by Hyatt are all about showcasing the local culture of the cities that they are located in, alongwith creating vibrant social areas and serving locally inspired cuisine. Living up to this philosophy, AnnaMaya the European-style Foodhall is Andaz Delhi’s 24-hour multi-cuisine offering. The high-ceilinged space is flooded with natural light streaming in through panels of coloured glass and is split into varied seating areas, breaking up the expanse of this 200-odd seater restaurant.

The well lit interiors; rock salt grinder; microgreens.

When you visit for the first time you’ll most likely be taken on a tour that starts by explaining why it is called a foodhall - they retail a variety of merchandise that is procured locally for use in the hotel. You’ll thus find a range of natural millets, organic honey, flavoured salts and sugar as well as crockery, copper glasses, glass bottles and other qwirky bric a brac that are stocked up on various shelves all over the restaurant. The prices are only nominally higher than the MRP to cover the cost of the transportation. AnnaMaya also uses a large variety of organic vegetables that will be made available for sale shortly.

Bric-a-Brac: Andaz Ambassador Letter Holder; Coloured Glass Bottles

“Eat Mindful. Shop Artisanal. Raise Awareness” is the tagline on the menu which is divided into three sections – Foodhall, Microgreen Farm and Tijara Organic Farm.

Foodhall has specialties inspired by the flavours and diversity of India, made with native artisanal ingredients. Burrata with lime and honey, fire-roasted tomato with basil naan shows how local ingredients have been amalgamated seamlessly into an Indo-European dish. But don’t expect everything to be fusion fare; purists can tuck into a wide variety of Indian or European dishes such as kadhai paneer or Amritsari goat milk paneer tikka as well as linguini with asparagus snowpeas and poched egg or penne with burrata and a smoky tomato coulis. We try the luscious asparagus orzo that is made rich with a silken asparagus puree, enhanced with stewed Kashmiri morels.  

Top: Tijara Farm's organic carrots, Amritsari Goat Milk Paneer Tikka.
Bottom: Succulent Lamb Patty with Timur Pepper.

Microgreen Farm highlights the farm to table concept by using the microgreens that are grown in a temperature controlled environment at Andaz Delhi. The fresh cut aloe vera with microgreens is a delicious revelation of a unique way of using aloe vera. Then the pretty, crunchy greens not only beautify the butter baked garlic prawns, but also lend an inimitable freshness to this dish. One also finds them atop a juicy lamb and spinach patty that comes with a creamy mash and onion compote. The highlight of this plate though is the freshly crushed Himalayan timur pepper. This wonderful spice lends itself very well to gin-based cocktails as well and is available for you to buy!

Refreshing Drinks and Organic Salads. 

And the last section of the menu uses vegetables grown at the Tijara Organic Farm in Rajasthan which is known for its organic and biodynamic farming practices. I have to admit that everything that we try from this selection is fantastic. Do try the slow roasted carrots, their natural sweetness is enhanced with Himalayan honey and contrasted with black onion seeds. The kale, mandarin and goat cheese salad is tied together with a lychee honey dressing and topped with melon seeds and red currants. And lastly the roasted new potatoes have a rustic appeal and flavour. We are informed that the crunchy zakiya seeds used in this dish, that look like small mustard seeds, are brought in from Uttarakhand.

Chef Gordon with his Monster Shake. 

As is evident so far, the choice is extensive, food is delicious and largely organic. There’s an equally large choice of mocktails made with fresh juices, and flavoured lassis, leaf tea and herbal infusions besides a full-fledged alcoholic beverages. And finally we reach the dessert section. The attractive counter is placed right at the beginning of AnnaMaya and is laden with candy, gelato, pastry, meringue and more. The way to do justice to Chef Gordon’s creations though is to order one of his monster shakes. It is a shake topped with brownie, pastry, another pastry and gelato in a waffle cone, candy floss, lollipop and all of this is layered in between with chocolate sauce, crushed Oreo biscuits or brightly coloured Gems. This one’s definitely for folks with a sweet tooth and will delight kids and adults alike.

Details: AnnaMaya, Andaz Delhi, Aerocity, New Delhi.
Ph: +91-11 4903-1351

This article first appeared on on June 5, 2017. 

Nimtho: For Delicious Sikkimese Food

Let’s face it: how much do we really know about Northeast Indian cuisine other than momos and thukpa? Yes, the last couple of years have seen handful restaurants in the capital serving cuisines from Nagaland and across the Himalayan region. And there are occasional pop-ups featuring Assamese fare and so on. But did you know that Sikkim has been declared as the first Organic State of India? Or that the state has just one tea garden and yet boasts one of the finest qualities of white tea? Binita Chamling proudly shares these and other trivia about her home-state. She’s the co-founder of Nimtho, a cosy restaurant in New Delhi’s GK-1 serving home-style food of Sikkim. And if you thought that Sikkimese food was limited to momos and thukpa you owe yourself a trip to Nimtho.

“Nimtho” translates to “an invitation” in the Nepali language. The restaurant aims to share a glimpse of Sikkimese hospitality and warmth through their food. “Many people think that in Sikkim we speak Sikkimese, but actually there is no language called Sikkimese,” shares Binita, adding that almost 70% of the Sikkimese population actually migrated from Nepal many, many years ago. That is why Nepali is spoken widely in the state and even the cuisine is heavily influenced by that of Nepal. It also has some influences from the neighbouring state of West Bengal and even Bihar.

The Sikkimese Thali

So without much ado we decide to order a Sikkimese thali because we feel that a thali is undoubtedly the best way to sample an array of a relatively unfamiliar cuisine. A beautiful brass platter comes with matching cutlery and bowls. It is filled with assorted pickles, some salad, churpi soup, sautéed spinach and mixed vegetables made with carrots and potatoes, a delicious chicken curry, succulent pork, rice, papad and sesame crusted karela fritters. The meal is delicious and has the appeal of home-style cooking, some familiar flavours and even some that take your palate on an adventurous ride. Although the thali contains more than sufficient food for one person, we also decide to explore the menu a bit more since it features traditional and even some forgotten foods of Sikkim.  

From the range of soups we try the Sisnu ko Raas, a soup made with the stinging nettle’s flowers, stalks and shoots stewed in pounded rice. It is delicious and we enjoy it even more when we learn about the many health benefits of nettle. You could even try the Mutton ko Raas, a Nepali soup made with mutton and daal. An interesting vegetarian option is the Churpi ko Raas that was also served in the thali. Churpi is a traditional cheese made in the Himalayan region, either with yak or cow’s milk. Here it tastes much like cottage cheese. There is also a Mula Churpi salad made with juliennes of radish and churpi. The range of starters includes spicy salad mixes with crunchy noodles, and dishes made with soya bean and potatoes. Gundruk is a specialty made with fermented and dried mustard. For non-vegetarian options there are chilli chicken, chilli pork, pork ribs, fish and Syapta, a choice of stir fried meat with fresh ingredients. 

Top: Buckwheat Momos
Bottom: Sisnu ko Raas; Wacheepa.

And then there are, of course, the momos and thukpa. Apart from steamed and fried varieties of momos, there are jhol momos that come in a soupy broth, tigmo momos or steamed buns, saphalay or pies stuffed with minced meat and taipo or steamed buns with a choice of fillings. We try the buckwheat momos with pork, that are a modern take on this traditional food item. They are soft to the bite and filled with juicy, almost soupy, meat. The three accompanying sauces made with red chillies, coriander and churpi and schezwan pepper as delicious as the momos.  The next time you have a momo-craving, this is certainly where you should head. We will be going back too, also to try meals in a bowl like the thukpa, gyathuk and thenthuk. Then there’s a choice of Sikkimese curries and assorted noodle and rice dishes. The Wacheepa is a rice dish made with char-grilled chicken; its flavour is further enhanced with the powder of burnt chicken feathers.  

In short, Nimtho serves an extensive choice of home-style Sikkimese food. If you have an adventurous palate you’ll be delighted, and there’s also enough comfort food for people with conservative eating choices. Do try it out and let us know about your favourites. 

Nimtho, 304, Block R, 1st Floor, Greater Kailash I, Greater Kailash, New Delhi, Delhi 110048.
Timings: 12–11:30 pm.
Phone: 011 4909 3620
Prices: Starters Rs 179 onwards; Momos Rs 239 onwards; Thalis Rs 439 onwards. 

This article first appeared on on August 1, 2017. 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Safapore: Authentic Kashmiri Pandit Food Home Delivered

Years ago, when my husband and I were asked individually about ‘the one dish that we could eat daily for the rest of our lives’ our unanimous response was: ‘Rogan Josh from the Kauls’ home’. And we were not the only ones who felt so passionately about it! We would typically get to relish this succulent meat at least once a month, but it was clearly not enough. And now that the family has finally been persuaded by their friends and family to start catering, I personally am thrilled!

Manas Bal Lake

The Kauls hail from Safapore, a town on the banks of Manas Bal, a pristine lake that is much cleaner than the touristy Dal. I remember a shikara ride down Manas Bal a few years ago with the Kauls, while it was abundant with lotuses in different stages of bloom, and hearing stories of a happy childhood spent swimming in the lake, catching fish, and enjoying a lifestyle that revolved around different meals of the day. The stories were steeped in nostalgia and a vivid recollection of a life before the Kashmiri Pandits left their home-state. The culture, customs and cuisine, however, have been largely kept alive, no matter in which part of the world the family scattered to. To this day, traditional food in their household is cooked with various ingredients and spices sourced from Kashmir.

The symbolic lotus enwraps food in neatly labelled boxes.

Even though I am much too familiar with this food, I decided to taste the experience of having it home delivered. So one Sunday evening, my parcel from Safapore arrived in a beautiful bag designed with the symbolic lotus, containing six boxes neatly labeled with the contents: rogan josh, kabargah, lal masch, peela paneer, dum aloo and tsok wangun. All the dishes can be ordered in packs of 500 g or 1 kg of meat. So the minimum order of Rs 3,000 is sufficient for 4-5 people and could typically include 2 non-vegetarian and 3 vegetarian dishes.  

Non-Vegetarian: Rogan Josh, Kabargah, Lal Masch.

Other than the kabargah, everything else is ready to eat. Kabargah is essentially mutton chops and ribs that are simmered in milk and spices and finally deep fried. This last step of frying is required to be done just before eating. Although the label clearly states that it should be fried for 5-6 minutes on each side on a slow flame I ended up frying it on a high flame. So it became darker than it ideally should, but the flavour was spot on, with the tender meat just melting off the bone. I can say the same about the Rogan Josh that is their signature dish. The extremely aromatic curry contains Kashmiri chillies and saunf amongst other things, and the robust flavour permeates the meat beautifully. Perhaps that is why the dish doesn’t contain too much curry and actually pairs very well with steamed rice. However, if you like maybe you can request for some extra curry to be added to the dish. Although the pieces are very bony, the meat comes off so easily making it suitable for people who don’t usually like meat on the bone. But if you still prefer something boneless, go for the Lal Masch. These minced mutton kebabs are cooked in a spicier red curry. For something non-spicy, try the Yakhni Masch which is cooked in a milk broth made rich with spices like cinnamon. 

Vegetarian: Peela Paneer, Dum Aloo, Khatte Baingan.

The menu is limited overall, but equal importance is given to vegetarian fare as well. There is the ubiquitous Dum Aloo and Haaq Saag without which a Kashmiri meal is never complete. But for those who’d like to venture further I would highly recommend the Peela Paneer and Tsok Wangun. While the former is almost self-explanatory, the latter is popularly known as khatte baingan. These Kashmiri aubergines are pink in colour with unique flavour and texture that lends itself beautifully to the spicy, tangy sauce.

As I am sharing this delicious experience with you, I am only glad that the weekend is here and we can order this gorgeous meal all over again.

Ph: 099995 16645.
Pricing: Vegetarian: Rs 300 onwards; Non vegetarian: Rs 800 onwards. Minimum Order Rs 3,000.

Timings: Delivery only on weekends, at least a day’s notice required. 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Mamagoto: A Fun Hawker's Menu

Mamagoto is synonymous with ‘fun Asian eating’. Oh ok, this is their tagline! But the truth is that Mamagoto has converted many Chinjabi loving Delhiites to enjoy pan-Asian flavours, including Thai, Malaysian and Burmese. And now taking the fun a notch higher is the new Hawker’s Menu.

Top: Thai Puchkas
Bottom L-R: Surfer's Lunch; Rice Pancake.

My Favourites
As the name suggests, they have brought in streetfood inspired from the popular hawker’s carts across Thailand. So what better way to start than with Thai puchkas. Yes, puchkas, golgappas, panipuri, call it what you will, but don’t give it a miss. With a fabulous mix of spice, sweet and tang that is a must for puchkas, these crunchy bites come stuffed with peanuts, onion and red chillies rolled up in a betel leaf (the betel leaf wrap used to be served as an amuse bouche earlier, but has completely transformed in this avatar). And the accompanying sweet ginger and peanut sauce gives one the satisfaction of adding the ‘pani’ in the puchka. Then move on to the surfer’s lunch - opt for shrimp or soft shell crab tempura topped with coconut cream, peanuts, chilli and tamarind. A fabulous street-style twist to a bowl of rock shrimp. {Would it be too much information if I told you that my mouth is watering while writing about both these dishes?!} As with the rest of the Mamagoto menu, vegetarians are well taken care of; aubergine and okra tempura are presented in the same way as surfer’s lunch. Rice Pancake is a thin pancake loaded with very flavourful shredded chicken or mixed vegetables, served with an apple and mint sauce. It is a complete, comforting meal on its own.

More Options
For a more substantial meal there’s Garlicky Rice Noodles with silken tofu and broccoli or chicken or shrimp topped with burnt garlic. If you like tropical flavours, go for the Jungle Hula Hoop Curry with pineapple and jackfruit cooked with Thai herbs, spices and coconut. Mekong Boat Chicken Curry is rich with crushed peanuts and served with rice noodle nests. I find this to be a nice twist to the popular Chiang Mai Noodles in the regular menu.

Korean Specialties
Lamb Bulgogi and Bibimbap are popular additions from Korean cuisine. I have to confess that I have never eaten bulgogi before since most places serve a beef/buff version of it so I can’t really comment on the authenticity of this lamb dish. While it is usually grilled on a barbecue, here it is most likely stirfried. But it is a comforting dish of tender lamb pieces, slightly sweet since they are marinated with pear.

L-R: Lamb Bulgogi; Fried Banana with Icecream.

The best dessert to round off a meal hawker style is panko crusted fried banana with icecream and caramel sauce. Utterly sinful but an indulgence that we should allow ourselves, because #YOLO!

Mamagoto, Saket, S9, 2nd Floor, Select Citywalk Mall, Saket, New Delhi.                                                      
Phone:  011 4654 5160; 011 3399 9610.                                                                                                
Meal for two: Rs. 1,600 plus taxes (approx).                                                                               

Opening hours: 12 noon - 11.30 pm.     

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Lady Baga: A bit of Goa in the heart of Delhi

At First Glance
Conveniently located in the outer circle of Connaught Place, Lady Baga occupies the first and second floor above a Subway outlet. The first floor is divided into two sections, one has a brightly lit rustic ambience, the other transports you to a beach - complete with sand on the floor and the entire length of the two walls covered with a screen playing the video of a beach. I would recommend you to book a table in this section for a real feel of Goa. The second floor is very shacky, with different nooks created with thatch, somewhere on a sloping roof and somewhere on the wall and cane tables and chairs as one finds in most shacks in Goa, as well as low couch type seating.  This dimly lit space is cozy and the music here is softer, allowing you to have a conversation with your companions. The different levels as well as seating options through the restaurant are tied together with all the funky artwork on the wall. 

Feel the Goan Vibe.

Food and Drinks
Not only is the décor in keeping with the theme but so is the food on offer. The prices too are similar to what one would expect to pay at a shack on Baga beach - this is especially notable because when Goa’s popular Souza Lobo had opened in the Capital a few years ago, the prices were at least three times of the restaurant in Goa. From chilli fry (Rs 275) to Bombil fish (Rs 350) and chorizo pao (Rs 475), calamari (Rs 400) and dishes in Recheado and Cafreal masalas are served much like they are in Goa. The Kara Beef Fry (Rs 400) is really fiery {I am told by my companions since I don’t eat beef or buff), but the Recheado prawns (Rs 550) are very flavourful as is the chorizo pulao (Rs 475). The menu is extensive and I can see myself going back to try the vindaloo, crab and a fish thali. But if you’re not hot on typical Goan fare but want to check out the laid-back, hippie-ish vibe of the place, there are burgers, pastas, et al.  

Clockwise from Top Left: Father Lorenzo's Chorizo; The Baga Bong and
The Fisherman's Tonic; Surmai Rawa Fry; Prawn Recheado; Bombil Fry.

The drinks too are well priced. A pint of Kingfisher Ultra beer is just Rs 100. Signature cocktails are in the range of Rs 300-400, while the classics start from Rs 290. If you like desi flavours try The Fisherman’s Tonic (Rs 325) that is a gin-based drink with flavours like kokum and curry leaves. The Baga Bong (Rs 350) is served dramatically in the midst of nitrogen infused smoke {we are warned by our server not to pour our drink into the glass filled with the chemical} and is a refreshing mix of white and dark rum with lime, grapefruit and Cointreau. And when we asked for a pitcher of mojito to be custom-made, our instructions are followed to the T, motivating us to go for another pitcher of the same.

The service is friendly and efficient, the vibe chilled, we have no complaints from the food or drinks, and we have certainly no reason not to come back again. In fact, whenever we miss Goa, Lady Baga will be our saviour.

Lady Baga, P-3/90, Connaught Circus, Connaught Place, New Delhi.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Nagai: The newest Japanese restaurant in Gurgaon

Gurgaon has a burgeoning set of Japanese restaurants. The newest one to join the pack is Nagai. Named after Chef Reina Nagai, this is the second outpost; the first one is in Ibiza. Located in sector 29, Gurgaon, and open only for dinner, Nagai is in a standalone building, away from the bustling market. 

Split over two spacious floors, the ground floor features a large dining space done in Japanese minimalistic style and large contemporary art adorning the walls. The basement has a well stocked bar, and a performance area which is put to good use on Friday evenings with an assortment of live music performances. The seating arrangement here is more casual with plenty of high tables and comfy bar stools, as well as lower chairs and tables. The crowd is eclectic on the Friday that we visit, with a few couples enjoying their date night, a bunch of girlfriends, some Jap suits as well as a large family group. 

Nagai: Food, Sake and Decor. 

What’s Hot

The food has plenty of choice for non-vegetarians as well as vegetarians. Although the fare is primarily Japanese, there are influences from Thailand, Spain, Mexico and Italy, where Chef Reina and her partner Eleonora have spent a lot of time pursuing adventure sports ranging from snow-boarding and sky-diving to surfing and deep-sea diving. Prior to Ibiza, the duo had restaurants in Thailand and two in Rome as well. Hence the menu includes Japanese inspired tapas from classic steamed edamame to crispy pork and aubergine skewers. Starters feature salmon and tuna tartar and vegan choices such as caramelized lotus root with soya and sesame. The highlight of our meal includes ceviche with prawns and seabass zinged up with lemongrass and ginger. The scallop nigiri is another fabulous offering on the menu. 

The bar is rather impressive with some seasonal and Japanese inspired cocktails, using fresh fruits and sake respectively. The choice of Sake is good and the waitstaff is well trained in helping guests pick the right tipple too from a junmai to shenjyu. We’re asked about our preference for dry or sweet sake and suggested accordingly. Both, the Hana Kizakura Junmai and Kubota Senjyu that we try are premium quality.

What’s Not
Maybe we chose a wrong day, but refrigeration seems to be a problem. We’re sure that this technical glitch can easily be handled, because maintaining the right cooling temperature is critical for Japanese cuisine due to the abundant use of raw seafood. While the Nagai black cod turns out to be a waste of the Alaskan fish due to its excessive saltiness, we also think that the sushi can be rolled better considering the prices that one is paying for this meal. Teething troubles, maybe, but once sorted, Nagai definitely has the potential to be a great restaurant. 

It will be worth going back for a hearty bowl of Japanese curry chicken as well as their selection of house made gelatos and semifreddos.

Nagai, SCO #305, HUDA Gymkhana Road, Sector 29, Gurgaon.

This article first appeared on on May 5, 2017. It has been modified by the author to fit the requirements of