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

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Old-fashioned Fun in a Refreshingly New Setting

Now that school exams are over, most Delhi kids are enjoying a session break before they join their new classes in April. Needless to say, everyone is looking for fun activities to engage their kids in. With flowers blooming everywhere and the grey winter sky giving way to a happier blue, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors before the harsh summer sets in. The Picnic Table at The Gateway Resort Damdama Lake, Gurgaon offers the ideal setting for some good old fashioned fun with the tots.

Choose from the many activities at the Adventure Zone. 

Located in the outskirts of Delhi and Gurgaon, the resort is a lush getaway that is accessed through lush fields and tiny villages, lending a feel of going on a road trip. The recently launched Picnic Table is a fun concept that allows you to enjoy the outdoors and myriad adventure and sports activities, without checking into the hotel, not even to eat! There is a kiosk that offers picnic fare such as burgers, wraps, sandwiches, chana bhaturas, French fries and delicious shakes and soft beverages. Here, you can enjoy the Taj hospitality at ‘non-five-star’ prices. 

The Picnic Table has a range of options for kids and adults.

While you can enjoy a game of cricket or soccer in the verdant lawns, adventure enthusiasts can choose fun activities at the Adventure Zone that includes a range of options for various age groups from rappelling, commando net and zip lining to bubble soccer, rifle shooting, archery and paintball. Many activities are complimentary, but some have a per head charge, such as riding ATV bikes on the exclusive mud track. All safety equipment is in place and a trained team ensures that the activities are safe for kids to enjoy. 

If you want to just kick back and reminisce about your own childhood, simply lie back on the grass and gaze at the clouds floating across the sky, without worrying about any rowdy crowd, coochy-cooing couples or even stray dogs that have proliferated in the public parks. The only suggestion we’d give is to leave the gadgets back home and connect with the outdoors, and with each other! 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Michelin Star Chef Riccardo Sculli Creating Magic at Sorrento

What do you do when you can’t visit Michelin Star Chef Riccardo Sculli’s Ristorante Gamberro Rosso, Marina di Gioiosa Jonica RC, Italy? You enjoy his creations when he is invited to curate a handcrafted menu at Sorrento, Shangri-La’s - Eros Hotel, New Delhi!

Chef Riccardo Sculli

In town just for a fleeting four days, Chef Riccardo is serving up some of his signature dishes such as Carpaccio di Aragosta e verdure (Lobster carpaccio with seasonal salad and tomato gelè) and Risotto allo zafferano con mud granchio e ribes rosso (Saffron risotto, mud crab and red currants). Hailing from the beautiful Ionian coast along southern Italy, he finds inspiration in the sandy beaches, pristine waters and mountains of his region. “Every dish has its own story,” he says. Thus the spaghetti that he makes with black cod and truffle is an exquisite yet utterly simple dish that is currently available in his restaurant since the cod comes from the surrounding sea and black truffles sourced from the mountain nearby. And as always, after enjoying a couple of his beautiful dishes, I got a special takeaway for you: Chef Riccardo’s recipes!

Sorrento, Shangri - La’s - Eros Hotel, New Delhi, 19 Ashoka Road, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110001.
Dates: Till Tuesday, 28 February, 2017.    
TimingsLunch 12.30pm-2:45pm; Dinner 7.30pm-midnight.
Price: Rs 4,495 plus taxes per person for a 4-course meal curated by Chef Riccardo Sculli.
Tel: 011 41191040. 

Spaghetto Con Merluzzo Nero E Tartufo Nero
Spaghetti with Black Cod and Black Truffle

320 gm Spaghetti           
240 gm Black cod fillet         
20 gm Black truffle soaked in oil      
200 ml Fish stock            
Salt to taste
8 gm White pepper       
40 gm Extra virgin olive oil  

1.       Blanch the spaghetti in boiling water, until al dente.
2.       Add the fish stock in a pan, along with the spaghetti, and season with salt.
3.       Cube the black cod fillet, and add to the cooking spaghetti along with the black truffle oil.
4.        Toss well to combine.
5.       Ladle the spaghetti onto a serving dish, place pieces of cod and black truffle on top of the spaghetti.


Bon Bon di gambero
Bon Bon Shrimp, Pumpkin, Burrata, and Anchovy bread

400 gm Shrimps               
150 gm Burrata                           
4 gm Lemon zest              
40 ml Extra virgin olive oil        
50 gm Pumpkin puree                 
40 gm White bread                      
10 g Anchovy in oil                       
Maldon Salt to taste
Micro greens for garnishing

1.      Wash and devein the shrimps, and spread them out on butter paper and drizzle olive oil on the. Then beat the shrimp gently to flatten them into a thin, uniform layer.
2.      Chop burrata, and add lemon zest to it.
3.      Spread the shrimp on a half moon mould, fill with burrata and lemon zest mixture, and cover with another flattened shrimp and mould it into a round shape. Sprinkle Maldon salt on top.
4.      Mix dry white bread crumbs with anchovy, and bake in oven until the breadcrumbs become crisp.
5.      Now cook the stuffed shrimp in a moderately hot oven for three minutes, or until shrimps are cooked.
6.      Heat pumpkin puree in a pan.
7.      Spread pumpkin puree on a plate, place cooked shrimp on it, sprinkle anchovy bread crumbs and garinsh with micro greens.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Celebrate The End of Winters at Tian – Asian Cuisine Studio

Chef Vikramjit Roy is known to do things differently. A strong believer in progressive cuisine, he questions the validity of ‘authentic recipes’. “I have documented 182 recipes of Thai green curry from a trip to North Thailand,” he says, “so which one would you call authentic? Almost every north Indian household has its own take on the ubiquitous rajma, as do Malayali families on the meen moilee.” So it is not surprising that while most restaurants introduce menus to celebrate the start of a season, Chef Vikram even finds reason to create special dishes to mark the end of a season. 

The End of Winters menu at Tian – Asian Cuisine Studio is based on ingredients that will be available only for a short period now. “It showcases today’s food – not yesterday’s, not tomorrow’s,” he says and adds that this philosophy is also very much in line with the ITC Hotels’ endeavours to reduce carbon footprint and promote responsible luxury. From green peas to black carrots, even certain lentils from Punjab that according to Chef Vikram have a unique flavour in the current month, find pride of place in the dramatic presentation of a 10-course menu. 

Even though he claims to have gone easy on the presentation while pushing for techniques in the kitchen, his artistic inclination is sure to take you on a gastronomic experience that’s enthralling, evocative of some familiar flavours with completely surprising ingredients. So an amuse bouche that seems to have burrata and cherry tomato has neither, and Thai curry and rice is presented in a way that you would never imagine possible, yet tastes very much like one would expect Thai curry and rice to taste!

Coming back to the 10-course extravaganza, I am wondering whether to reveal the details of my experience or if I should leave you with just a few glimpses so that you may enjoy the show as much as I did. Yes, you read right! I did call it a ‘show’. It is in fact story telling in its most creative form with dishes named as Grass, Fog & Smoke, Cyclone, Aftermath, Snowfall and finally Sleep. From prawns, Bay of Bengal bekti, steamed chicken tartar, lamb chops, halibut and crab, non-vegetarians are well taken of, as are vegetarians with corn cakes, sweet potato, herbed tofu, soya chops, braised daikon and seasonal vegetable dumplings. 

I will now leave you with a collage of pictures that is enticing enough to make you want to try this menu for yourself, without divulging the details of the dishes so that they may be revealed to you as dramatically as they were to me.

Tian, ITC Maurya, Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi. 
Timings: 7pm –11.30pm.
Phone: 011 2611 2233.
Prices: Starting from Rs 2,500 plus applicable taxes, 10-course menu for 
Rs 5,000 plus applicable taxes.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Tales of an Exquisite Japanese Meal at Megu

There are grand chef’s menu tastings, and then there are those that are grand in every possible way, yet when each bite is savoured, it leads you to a tranquil state, beyond the chatter of co-diners. The latest menu at Megu, The Leela Palace New Delhi thus transports one to a zen-like space while each course showcases culinary artistry, visual beauty and precise techniques that have obviously been used in the kitchen.

The primary theme of the menu that was introduced a month ago is inspired from Japanese winters. Thus most dishes use root vegetables, dry vegetables and cold water seafood. After being served chilled sake our gastronomic journey starts with some appetisers. {But before I get on with the details, I’d like to share with you that after enjoying the meal I sat down with kitchen executive, Shubham Thakur, who patiently answered my many queries regarding the ingredients and cooking techniques. Hence, you’ll find a load of info on Japanese cuisine, ‘cos after all we do live and learn! And for me almost every meal is an opportunity to learn more, and this particular one unfolded a wealth of knowledge.}

Top to Bottom: Nanohana; Tokyo Iri Hijiki; Hokkaido King Crab.

Appetisers come as three small plates. Hokkaido king crab, one of the most expensive fetch, is deshelled, blanched in salt water and served chilled with soy and salmon roe, also known as ikura. This beautiful, translucent orange-coloured roe just pops in the mouth in all its salty glory that complements the sweet meat of the iconic crab. What looks like broccolini is nanohana, Japanese rapeseed or mustard flower. Here it is simmered in dashi, soy and wasabi and is served over soft bonito flakes. As is widely known, seaweed is a high dietary vegetable cultivated beneath the sea by fishermen and is famous for its super nutritional value. Tokyo Iri Hijiki looks like a simple mix of julienned seaweed but I am informed that the seaweed is simmered in dashi broth for 45 minutes and finally dressed with roasted white sesame sauce that makes all the difference. The appetisers set the tone for the rest of the meal that showcases complex flavours, yet highlights the quality of ingredients that clearly shine through in each dish. Needless to say, ingredients are the key for any meal but especially important in a Japanese meal that requires many fresh ingredients. For instance, the fresh wasabi that is served at Megu is exclusively cultivated for them at a fourth generation family owned farm in Japan that provides clear flowing water to each wasabi plant. This wasabi has an intense flavour but it leaves a sweet aftertaste. 

Sushi and Sashimi
Left to Right:
Namerou Miso Chicken Roll; Peony Shrimp; Blue Fin Tuna;
Hokkaido Scallop; Sea Bream; Tiger Prawn Sugata Sushi.

Next up is the part of Japanese fare that is most popular: sushi and sashimi. It is suggested that we have the Namerou miso chicken roll with fresh avocado soy sauce. Even though the farm-bred chicken used in this sushi is prepared in Namerou style that’s a confit of chicken leg steamed with sake and salt, and then marinated with a homemade miso sauce, it does little to impress me. But then things only get better. Peony shrimp is a sweet Alaskan shrimp that is so buttery and just melts in the mouth. The temperature has to be maintained perfectly for this gorgeous shrimp to reveal its inimitable taste. The bright red coloured Blue fin tuna is as delicious as expected. One of the finest variants of tuna, I am told that Megu is probably the only restaurant in India that serves it. Then there’s lightly seared Hokkaido scallop that is served with a slice of yuzu lemon. Sea bream is another Japanese farmed fish known for its buttery texture here it is served with Sevruga caviar. Again, a superior quality, the smaller the eggs of this caviar the more expensive it is. Finally, the Pacific tiger prawn sugata sushi. In This sushi type, the fish used is stuffed with vinegared rice. This course is followed by Zoni Soup, a light bodied but very flavourful dashi broth that is enhanced with yuzu, braised French duck, Japanese mochi rice cake and organic spinach. 

Top to Bottom:
Arimayaki glazed Chilean Sea Bass
Cod with lotus root, tofu and wakame dashi sauce.

The mains include two types of fish – Chilean Sea Bass and Black Cod. The former is glazed with Arimayaki, a homemade sweet soy and mirin sauce and fresh sansho pepper. Cooked over a robotayaki grill using Binjotan, a special kind of coal that is equally aromatic and nutritional, this fish has a refined smokiness that incorporates the flavour of the coal. It is then garnished with homemade daikon pickle and ginger root. The cod, sourced from the Sea of Okhotsk, is steamed with lotus root, tofu and wakame dashi sauce. It is more complex and offers a range of textures in each bite.

Petit Fours
Left to Right:
Black Sesame Macaroon; Sake Granita;
Flambeed Yuzu Lemon Tart; Truffle with Ichimi; Matcha Macaroon;
Raspberry Wasabi Cheesecake.

Finally, I have to admit that I am glad that the team steered clear of traditional Japanese desserts that require a serious acquired taste for appreciation. The grand finale for this spectacular meal is a platter of Petit Fours or bite sized desserts comprising black sesame macaroon, sake granite, flambeed yuzu lemon tart, truffle with ichimi spice, matcha macaroon and raspberry wasabi cheesecake. So while the flavours are Japanese, the desserts are appreciated by all. The tangy yuzu lemon tart with its crunchy top layer turns out to be my favourite and I’m glad that I save a tiny bite for the very end to round off an exquisite meal.

MEGU, The Leela Palace New Delhi, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110023, India.
Timings: 7 pm to 11:45 pm.
Phone: +91-11 3933 1234.
Price: Rs 5,500 plus applicable taxes, per person for a pre-set meal.

This article first appeared on on February 25, 2017. It may have been modified by the author to fit the requirements of