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 d├ęcor 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