Wednesday, 9 October 2019

New Restaurant | This award-winning restaurant from Chennai and Pune has finally opened its doors in NCR

Savya Rasa, is not just another ‘south-Indian restaurant’. It takes one on a culinary journey spanning the four southern states, with handpicked dishes from the seven major culinary regions of South India. So, Mangalore and Mysore have been picked from Karnataka, Malabar and Nasrani from Kerala, Chettinad and Kongunadu from Tamil Nadu and Nellore from Andhra Pradesh. 

The vibrant interiors of Savya Rasa.

Located on the 3rd floor of Ardee Mall in Gurgaon, the ambience is reminiscent of a wealthy home in the South, with elements from the different states. While the windows and pillars have been inspired from the many ancient temples, they have been fitted with stained Belgian glass. Tiled flooring adds a traditional charm while keeping the place cool and the art work on the walls includes a large piece of kalamkari painting made with vegetable dyes and wall art depicting the interior of the famous Meenakshi Temple. 

Start Right: refreshing mocktails or fragrant rasams.

Coming back to the food, the choice is aplenty and the wait staff is well-trained to explain the origins, ingredients and cooking techniques, adding to the overall experience. Take your time to navigate the extensive menu that is divided into the modern-style soup, starters, mains, breads rice and desserts, although the recipes are as traditional as possible. My meal starts with the thengai paal rasam, a delicious coconut broth made with tomato puree and tempered with ghee. There is also an aromatic and peppery kozhi rasam, a hearty chicken soup that is a winter specialty from Chettinad.

Clockwise from Top Left: Chicken Porichadhu; Yam Patty;
Baby Potatoes; Fish wrapped in Banana Leaf.

While the menu features my favourites like podi idli fry and methu vada, I went with the starters that I had never had before: senai vadai, a deep fried patty made of boiled elephant foot yam and Malabar urulai roast, or baby potatoes marinated with rice flour and chilli mix, that is deep fried and then pan tossed with sliced onions and aromatic Malabar spices. This is going to be a hit with potato lovers! For the non-vegetarians, kozhi paniyaram, stuffed with finely chopped chicken sounds like a good bet. There is of course a great choice of mutton, prawn and fish options too. Mini meen polichathu is seer fish marinated in a tangy masala made of tomatoes, onions, red chillies and tamarind, rolled in a banana leaf and grilled on a tawa and makes a great appetiser.

Curries Galore
Idiyappam with Veg Ishtew
Bottom L to R: Bun Parotta with different curries;
Manga Curry and Rice.

The curries are absolutely delicious too. You can go for the Andhra special tamatar pappu, yellow lentils cooked with tomatoes, or try the tangy mango curry from Kerala or the very flavourful vegetable ishtew. Kozhi mappas is a Syrian Christian delicacy cooked especially during Easter and Christmas. Or, balance out the spicy gongura mutton with an aromatic meen moilee. The breads to mop up all the aforementioned curries include the whole gamut from appam and idiyappam to neer dosa and a variety of dosai. Thus, the Savya Rasa special bread platter comes highly recommended. And, the chutneys deserve a special mention. They are the freshest and tastiest varieties of white coconut, spicy red and tangy green chutney. 

Must Have
Clockwise from Top Left:
Bun Parotta; Curd Rice;
Filter Coffee; Black Rice Halwa.

Of the things that you shouldn't miss are the bun parotta, a crispier and flakier version of Malabar parotta and pair it with a tangy manga curry or flavourful mutton sukka. And do save space for thayir saadham or curd rice, black rice halwa and of course the filter kaapi, to wash it all down. 

Insider Tip: If you like to taste a variety of dishes the weekday lunch thalis come in vegetarian, non-vegetarian and seafood options. 

Savya Rasa, 3rd floor, Ardee Mall, Sector 52, Ardee City, Gurgaon.
Ph: +91 9319429735; +91 7428495530
Timings: Lunch 12noon – 3.30pm; Dinner 7pm-11pm.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

New Restaurant | This One is for Virat Kohli Fans

All the Virat Kohli fans, please say “aye”! If you like to get up close and personal to your on-field hero, here is a place that gets you a glimpse into his off-field world. The Indian Skipper is quite a foodie and has invested in a couple of restaurants already. His latest F&B venture is one8 Commune at the hip and buzzing Worldmark 2 in Delhi’s Aerocity.

If you haven’t guessed it already, the restaurant is named after the number on his jersey. And sure enough, when you walk in, you’ll find his autographed jersey displayed proudly. The waitstaff are as excited as us about Kohli’s visits, and he happily obliges them with taking selfies, giving autographs and of course reveling in the food on offer. We’re told Kohli is a proper Delhi foodie who can indulge in rajma-chaawal three times a day. While kadhi-chaawal follow as a close second, his fitness regime requires him to stick to a healthy meal plan. So he abstains from alcohol and sticks to nutritious food, like a bowl of red and white quinoa salad.

Kohli's Favourites
Top: Red and White Quinoa Salad
Bottom: Truffle Mushroom dimsum

What’s Hot
We are promptly served the same and we find it is as delicious as it is nutritious, with the combination of balsamic vinaigrette and chives dressing giving it a certain umami. His other favourite on a ‘cheat day’ is truffle mushroom dimsum, which also gets double thumbs up from us. In fact, the menu starts with a section called, “Virat’s Favourite” which includes a Buddha bowl and mushroom sliders, besides the aforementioned dishes.

The Eclectic Choice
Top: Sriracha Tacos; Butter Garlic Prawns
Middle: Spinach and Feta Puffs; Pepperoni Pizza
Bottom: Mock Meat Tikka; Roast Chicken

Among the other fare, the menu that has been designed by Chef Sabyasachi Gorai and Chef Pawan Bisht features a diverse range of multi-cuisine dishes. We start with delicious sriracha chicken tacos, have some fabulous pepperoni pizza, before moving on to a bowl of buttery garlicy prawns zinged up with olives, capers and cherry tomatoes. Vegetarians who look for mock meat options will be happy to know that there are more than a couple of dishes like mock meat tandoori malai tikka, soya keema pav, soya boti kebab and even a mock meat taco. Just as cricket unites the country, even this menu showcases flavours from across India. There are plenty of regional favourites like Amma’s tamarind brinjal, Gymkhana sandwich, and representatives of cuisines from Andhra, Malabar and Goa.

Raise a Toast

The drinks are at par with the food. With mixologist Yangdup Lama concocting signature cocktails, you needn’t expect any less. Cocktails are well priced and offer plenty of choice from millennial cocktails and disco age cocktails and prohibition era cocktails. So you can boogie with Hot Pants on The Rocks, that blends different flavours like Tabasco and apple juice with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, or shimmy with the Bari Manilow Copacabana, made with white rum, redberry puree, lemon juice and in-house Maraschino liqueur. Even though all the sections include interesting gin-based cocktails as per the current trend, you’ll find an additional section of Gin n Tonic Twists. The bartender is happy to help you choose one {or more} to suit your palate.

Top: Chocolate Fondant
Bottom: Five Rivers Mud Cake

Finally, the desserts! Do not miss them, especially if you’re a chocoholic, we highly recommend the chocolate fondant and five rivers mud cake to finish your evening on a high.

What’s Not
The first floor has an entire wall made like a scoreboard featuring seemingly live scores of games of cricket, tennis, soccer and NBA. But alas! These are faux scores. This only makes us wish that there was more to offer for sports enthusiasts, either live scores, screens featuring live games and maybe even a few games like in sports bars in keeping with the ‘Kohli theme’.

Our verdict: one8 Commune is a fun casual hangout that works well whether you’re out with your colleagues or family, romantic date or a rollicking evening with a bunch of friends.

One8 Commune, 8 Worldmark 2, Aerocity, New Delhi.
Timings: 11am to midnight.

Ph: 011-66992235

This article was first published on on 24th September'19.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Special Cuisine | The Authentic Chettinad Experience by The Bangala Comes to New Delhi

Most of us in Delhi have very limited exposure to Chettinad cuisine. Today's pop-up at The Lodhi showcased an extensive choice of dishes from The Bangala Table. A lovely sit-down lunch proved to be a delicious celebration of the rich repertoire of this ancient cuisine. And trust me, there's much, much more to the cuisine than Chettinad Chicken! In fact, I was particularly impressed with the variety of vegetarian fare that left me licking my fingers.

The delicious Chettinad spread served beautifully at The Lodhi.

Nestled in Karaikudi, The Bangala is almost a 100-year-old heritage hotel in the heart of Chettinad. It is renowned for its family kitchen, which has been rated the 28th Best Restaurant in India by Condé Nast Traveller in 2018. While you can book exhaustive masterclasses on Chettinad cuisine at the property, the recipes have been documented in a book, The Bangala Table. Co-authored by the family matriarch Ms. Meenakshi Meyyappan and Sumeet Nair, it includes classics like Chettinad Mutton Fry, Chettinad Chicken Pepper Masala and Quail 65; Crab Rasam to Anglo-Indian Mutton Cutlets; Pineapple Curry to Prawn Biryani; as well as the Chettiar vegetarian specialty Mandis to more familiar Pachadis.

For the real thing, head to The Bangala and book yourself a Masterclass. 

Coming back to today’s lunch: It started with koottu (mildly tempered seasonal vegetables), potatoes and peas masala poriyal, pomegranate raita, sweet mango pachadi, snake gourd bhajis and banana flower vadai. While there was a fair bit of aromatic mutton, chicken, crab and kingfish, the highlights for me ended up being butter beans kurma, pineapple curry and mandi made with bhindi, shallots and garlic with lemon rice, tomato rice, plain rice and a variety of poppadams completing the meal.

Chefs from The Bangala have flown down with special ingredients to make this experience as authentic as possible. This promotion is especially for DLF properties with an exclusive dinner on 20th September at Golf Lawns, for The Camellias and King’s Court patrons; dinner on 21st and 22nd September at DLF Golf Club; lunch and dinner on 24th and 25th September at The Lodhi, New Delhi and finally lunch and dinner from 27th to 29th September at Magnolias Club.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Recipes | Pakodas - The Snack for All Seasons

Sangeeta Khanna's book, Pakodas, unveiled by Vijay Wanchoo,
Sr EVP The Imperial New Delhi.

"Pakodas - The snack for all seasons" is a beautiful celebration and a thoroughly researched book on this ubiquitous Indian snack. 

Author Sangeeta Khanna has done her master's in Botany and is a trained microbiologist. She works as a nutrition coach, designs menus for top notch luxury hotels and wellness retreats and often showcases regional menus, especially the food of Benaras, her hometown. But beyond everything else she is known for relentlessly propagating healthy food, desi and videshi - she talks about ancient and rare to find Indian vegetables with as much as ease and expertise as she talks about handcrafted pastas or homemade sourdough bread. 

At yesterday's book launch Sangeeta dispelled many myths associated with pakodas. "When you talk about pakodas one usually imagines deep fried, even 'artery-clogging' food," she said. But this is far from the truth, she added lamenting that people happily eat cookies daily that are laden with fat, but abstain from pakodas. 
- Firstly, pakodas maybe deep-fried, shallow-fried and even steamed!
- Secondly, even in the deep-fried variety, there is no fat in the batter; and when dropped in hot oil the outer surface immediately gets sealed. Thus oil only clings to the surface and doesn't seep in. When you drain the pakodas on paper even the surface oil drains out, leaving a plateful of pakodas with far less fat than an average cookie. 

The session included a lot more eye-opening information, demonstration of a variety of pakodas (recipes below) and finally a lavish high tea that included an even wider variety of pakodas from different regions. 

The book is not a run-of-the-mill cook book. It includes anecdotes, explains recipes with logic, nutritional information and even cultural stories of pakodas made for special occasions and festivals. It is divided into three sections: Vegetarian (including flowers, leaves, fruits, seeds), Non-vegetarian and an array of Chutneys (that are also superfoods, explains Sangeeta).

If you'd like a copy, it is available on Amazon.


Kankauve ka Pakoda

20-25 Leaves of Kankauve
200 ml Mustard/Peanut Oil

For the Batter:
½ cup Besan
3 tsp Rice flour
½ tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Red Chilli powder
¼ tsp Dry Mango powder
3-4 pieces Paste of Garlic cloves
½ tsp Carom seeds
½ tsp Salt
¼ cup Water

1.     Wash the leaves gently in water and drain.
2.     Mix all the batter ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
3.     Heat the oil to medium-hot. Dip the leaves one by one into the batter, wipe off extra batter and drop them into oil.
4.     The batter-coated leaves shall puff up immediately.
5.     Keep turning the pakodas gently to cook evenly until they become crisp and golden brown on the surface.
6.     Remove from oil with the help of a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with a kitchen towel.
7.     Serve with a thin chutney.

Nariyal Katli ka Pakoda

1 Fresh Coconut, halved and sliced into ¼ cm- long thick slices
400 ml Mustard/Peanut/Coconut oil                            

150 gm Besan
100 gm Rice Flour
1 tsp Carom seeds
½ tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Red chilli powder
1 tsp Lime juice
1 tsp Salt

1.     Mix the besan, rice flour, spices and salt in a mixing bowl.
2.     Pour water in a thin stream while whisking the batter thoroughly to get a medium-thin consistency.
3.     Heat the oil to medium-hot. Dip slices of coconut katlis into the batter, drain off extra batter and drop in to the oil.
4.     Fry the crescent-shaped pakodas until they become golden brown.
5.     Remove from oil with the help of a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
6.     Serve hot with a chutney of your choice.

Bhaap Ki Mungodi

1 cup Mung dal, split
1 tsp Coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Red chilli flakes
½ tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Dry Mango powder
Asafoetida to taste
1 tsp Salt
250 gm Mustard oil

1.     Soak the mung dal for an hour. Drain and pound either in a mortar-and-pestle or blend in a food processor to a crumbly coarse paste.
2.     Add all the spices and salt, adjust the seasoning, and mix thoroughly.
3.     Whisk the mungodi batter thoroughly to aerate.
4.     Grease the steamer plates and drop the mungodi batter in it, either with a piping bag or with your fingers.
5.     Steam for 8-10 minutes or until the mungoids come off the steamer plates.
6.     Alternatively, tie a muslin cloth over a pot of boiling water and drop the mungodis on the cloth and cover with a dome-shaped lid. Steam for 8-10 minutes and scoop them off the cloth with a flat spatula.
7.     Serve hot with a diluted version of Coriander chutney. You can also add a seasoning of cumin seeds, asafoetida, red chilli powder and some curry leaves.

Arbi Ke Patton ka Rikwachh

10 Colocasia leaves
2 cups Beasn
1 tsp Garlic paste
2 tsp Red chilli paste
2 tsp Cumin powder
1 tsp Pepper powder
2 tsp Dry Mango powder
2 tsp Turmeric powder
1.5 tsp Salt
2-3 Large pods of tamarind soaked in ½ cup water for the extract
100 Mustard oil

1.     Mix the besan with all the spice powders, garlic paste and tamarind extract.
2.     Add some water and make a sticky paste that spreads easily.
3.     Rinse and wipe the colocasia leaves dry. Pick out the biggest leaf from the bunch and spread on a clean surface with its rough side up. Peel off the veins to make the leaf smooth and pliable. Repeat the process for all the leaves.
4.     Drop a tsp of the besan paste over a leaf and spread evenly. Now place another leaf over it with its smooth side facing the leaf below and press to make them stick together.
5.     Spread some more paste over the second leaf and repeat the process to layer five leaves.
6.     Now roll up the stack of leaves tightly, folding the sides of the stack to seal both ends of the roll. Secure it with some more besan paste.
7.     Make another roll with the remaining five leaves and arrange both the rolls over a steamer plate. Steam for 30 minutes on medium heat.
8.     Remove from steamer, allow the rolls to cool and let them rest in the fridge for 24 hours so that the tartness of tamarind neutralizes the itchiness in the leaves.

9.     Shallow-fry the spirals with a drizzle of mustard oil until crisp and golden brown.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Art & Culture: An Art Tour at This Colonial Hotel Takes You Down The Annals of History

Ranked as one of the top hotels in India, The Imperial New Delhi, in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi, offers utmost luxury, fantastic restaurants, an unbeatable art collection and a space where history comes alive.

The most charming aspect of Delhi is the way the old exists alongside the new. The broad tree-lined avenues of Lutyen’s Delhi are interspersed with opulent gardens built by the Mughals. Swanky neighbourhoods of New Delhi still preserve various remnants of the past. Apart from the traces of the different dynasties that ruled over Delhi at one time or another, you will still find many monuments that were built during the British Rule. Whether Delhi prospered or was plundered by the various rulers is a debate-worthy topic for another time and place, for now we will stick to the premise that the city gets its inimitable charm from its various layers of history.

An Art Tour through the hotel reveals the rich collection of noteworthy
paintings and photographs portraying the rich history of Delhi.

Historical Relevance
The Imperial also enjoys its fair share of historical relevance. Lady Willingdon, the wife of the 22nd Viceroy and Governor General of India, Lord Willingdon, commissioned the construction of this hotel. Unlike many other heritage hotels, this was one hotel that was built as a hotel and at no point did it serve as a home for anyone. The hotel was designed by Blomfield to be one of the finest monuments of Lutyens’ grand vision of the Capital City’s original master plan presenting a unique blend of Victorian, Old Colonial and Art Deco styles. Located on the prestigious Queensway, now known as Janpath, it was inaugurated by Lord Willingdon in 1936, and was named and conferred the exquisite Lion Insignia by Lady Willingdon. It is also said that Pandit Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met at The Imperial under congenial conditions to discuss the partition of India and creation of Pakistan.

A couple of paintings up close.

The Art Tour
Even today, the grand façade, painted a pristine white against the verdant lawns, the 24 king palms that lead up to the porch, high ceilings and period furniture, and a treasure trove of original art works and lithographs evoke a sense of nostalgia for guests.  It’s no surprise then that the art tour through the hotel is one of the best selling activities.

The walk that starts right at the porch by viewing the lion insignia and goes through Lahore Lounge, dedicated to the six Anglo-Sikh wars with the portraits of the two war heroes Sardar Hari Singh and Shyam Singh along with the medals won in these wars, transports you to a time warp. Then there’s 1911, the popular all day dining, but did you know about the relevance of this year? This was the year when Delhi was declared the capital of India, and also the year of coronation of the King and Queen of India. The corridors leading up to the restaurant are laden with beautiful paintings of the coronation, giving a glimpse into the kind of preparations that went into the event and so on. There is even a watercolour of the coronation ceremony of Queen Victoria that was supposed to happen at the erstwhile Calcutta but was cancelled at the last minute. This is also where one can see pictures of the Narendra Mandal, or the Chamber of Princes, a gathering headed by the Viceroy General of India, where all the Indian royalty would meet. Seeing the original pictures of India Gate and Rajpath is literally like taking a virtual history lesson. Besides the paintings on the walls, some select pieces of furniture are also noteworthy. Almost all the tables at 1911 are made of wood, except for one marble-topped table, which is even slightly longer than the other tables at the restaurant. This was Gandhiji’s preferred table! And people in the know (very few, we assure you) especially reserve a seat at this very table.

“The Imperial, proudly displays a priceless art collection of ‘British Art on India’. The collection includes the works of great artists who worked in India in the late 17th and early 18th century and produced etchings, wood engravings, lithographs, aquatints and mezzotints based on sketches of landscapes, architecture, topography and life and times of India,” shares Vijay Wanchoo- Sr. EVP & GM, The Imperial New Delhi. He adds that the hotel has three main art galleries and a collection of life size oil paintings of the Princely Rulers of India. The entire northern wing of the ground floor main Art Gallery adorns the established works of the Uncle and Nephew duo - Thomas (1749 – 1840) and William Daniell (1769-1837), including the famous ‘Oriental Scenery,’ published in 1808. The art on the first floor is dedicated to the ‘Views in Lucknow’ based on the siege and mutiny in Lucknow by Assistant Adjutant – General David Scott Dodgson. The first floor of the southern wing houses James Fergusson’s (1808-86) works titled ‘Rock cut Temples of India’ (1845). The Royal Ballroom, that exudes the exuberance and grandeur of the first ball inaugurated by Lord Willingdon, boasts of the 11 ft. by 22 ft. oil painting by Bourne and Shepard, titled The Durbar of the Nawab of Maler Kotla, and vividly depicts the generous luxury of the early 1900s.

The restaurants are not only aesthetically designed, but also contain many
original works of art worth appreciating. 

Another point worth mentioning is that The Imperial has the largest collection on display of land war gallantry awards in India and neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan and China apart from a sizeable record of orders and decorations bestowed by the King, the Emperor of India as an honor to the local Maharajas and ruling Princes of different states of India. You will find most of these at the blue room called Lutyens and Baker Room at the 1911 Bar. The Patiala Peg is another bar dedicated to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. There is an interesting anecdote about how the Maharaja tricked his British opponents over a match of tent pegging, a popular cavalry sport during the early 1900s. Thinking that his team was sure to lose to the better-trained British team, he hosted a party for his rivals a night prior to the game and served them copious amounts of alcohol. Sure enough, the Patiala team won and thus was born the famous Patiala peg. As an ode to Punjabi style of hospitality, even today the last drink of the evening at this bar is served with an extra 15 ml alcohol. 

There are many more anecdotes, history trivia and beautiful art to marvel at during the tour through the hotel. In keeping with the hotel’s hospitality style, the enriching walk culminates with a lavish high tea at The Atrium.

Details: Rs 1,750 ++ without high tea; Rs 3,000++ with high tea.
Ph: +91-11 41116306 

This article was first published in a luxury lifestyle magazine in July 2019.