Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Looking Back at 2007

I will remember 2007 as the year of food, travel and (of course) blogging! The year began at Bali, where my family and I had a truly magical time. Then came Japan which was a gourmet's delight. The vacation at the African Kingdom Lodge in Orlando Florida was another fantastic family experience. As was our vacation to Switzerland and England later in the year. In addition to all this, I made several business trips to the USA, and as you can expect, indulged in a variety of culinary delights that the Bay Area has to offer.

I continue to build bonds with old blog-friends even as I make new ones. Thank you Sank, Sig, Sandeepa, Foodette, Zhu, Renny, Anil, Vishal, Bee, Hari, Backpakkar and Indicaspecies for being regular readers of my blog over these months and commenting on my posts. My blog saw 25,000+ visits during this year and the readership has moved up considerably in recent months. I look forward to another great year ahead.

As this year comes to a close, here's wishing all of you - my readers - a Very Happy New Year! May you live all the days of your life in 2008 and beyond.

FlowersHari of The Long Hol tagged me recently to select a photo from this year and explain why this photo is special. So here it is: a picture of some flowers blooming. Special because it's taken by my five-year old daughter who's quite a nature lover already!

Bali posts: Ringing in the New Year, Indonesia, Island of the Gods, Gourmet in Bali, Laguna Resort. Japan posts: A Dish to Die For, Around the World, Land of the Rising Sun, Kawaii, Epicurean Part 1, Epicurean Part 2, Living Twice. Orlando vacation posts: The Magic of Disney, Africa Recreated, Downtown Disney. England and Switzerland posts: Timeless London, Sweet Dreams, Massage at 36K feet.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Top Pune Eat-Outs

Lunch Thali at the Mystic Masala PuneIn an earlier post, I had listed my top five favorite restaurants in Pune. However, for new visitors to Pune, here is a larger list of eating options which I frequent, to give you a flavor of what's available (and good!). Please note that I am partial to restaurants located in the Camp Area. Also, I am only covering mid-range restaurants in this post which are 'safe enough' for our friends from abroad.

Note: The locations and phone numbers of all restaurants mentioned here are provided at the end of this post.

Update, June 2011: Updated post on Best Dining Options in Pune.

Indian food

By default when someone says Indian food, it usually means North-Indian food. The menu will include kababs, curries, and common breads such as Naan and Roti.

Kulfi Falooda at the Mystic Masala PuneSigree has a better lunch buffet (now) than the Bombay Brasserie and therefore would be my top choice for a business lunch. Bombay Brasserie easily makes the best kababs in town and will be my top dining choice for Indian food. They also have a sit-down buffet option outdoors during the evening which includes unlimited kababs, bread, dal, biryani and desserts. If you choose the à la carte menu, I recommend Murgh Kali Mirch and the Sheek Kababs here, followed by Dal Bukhara with Garlic Naan and Gosht Biryani. Make sure you try the Rabdi for dessert, or better still combine and share portions of rabdi with malai kulfi.

Buffet at the Sun N Sand PuneAmong the five-star hotels, Chingari at the Le Meridien and Kabab Hut at the Sun N Sand are good options, but the quality of their kababs fall short of those found at the Bombay Brasserie.

For something different, you can also try the Lunch Thali at the Mystic Masala in the Taj Blue Diamond hotel. The South Indian thali was the best one I have had so far at this place.

Mainland China PuneChinese and Thai

Mainland China is the best option for great food during lunch or dinner. They also have a special lunch menu which let's you order a soup, entree, rice/noodles and desserts for a fixed price. I recommend the Peppery Lemon Soup (chicken or prawn), the steamed dim sum platter and the Chengdu Clay Bowl Chicken.

Malaka Spice and Silk Route are great options for Thai food (they also have Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay and Korean and other Far East Asian food items on their menus). Malaka Spice has a decent wine list too. The ambiance in Silk Route may not be top-notch but the food more than makes up for this.

Alternately, Whispering Bamboo at the Taj Blue Diamond is an excellent choice for a business dinner or for one of those special occasions. Do try their prawns in pepper and salt as a starter and the water-chestnut dessert here.

Mainland China PuneSea-Food

Sea-food in Pune usually means Cuisine from the Konkan Coast. These restaurants will serve you a variety of fish, prawns and crabs made in different styles.

My top choice is Krishna (they used to call themselves Trishna earlier) and Coconut Grove, followed by Spice Garden (old-timers will know this place as Farshid's). Mahesh Lunch Home, which showed a lot of promise earlier, sadly comes fourth in my list!

At Krishna, I usually order Pomfret fry (bone-less) which is excellent with mint-chutney and onion rings. At Spice Garden, I love their tandoori Surmai (king-fish) chunks. At all these places, I love having a Gassi with either the appam or neer dosa. The gassi is a Konkan curry that is made of grated coconut and spices with prawns, fish or chicken. The appam and neer dosa are speciality steamed breads only found in some of the southern Indian states.

The Coconut Grove also serves a mean Clams Masala that you must try when visiting this place.


This is a new category of eat-outs I only encountered when I made Pune my home; I do not remember any 'sizzler' restaurants in Delhi. And my friends from the USA, this isn't a Pune version of Hooters! It's not the waitstaff that sizzles but the food they serve on hot iron griddles. :-)

Sizzlers usually consist of grilled meats, veggies and fries that are arranged on a hot iron griddle and serves with a sauce of your choice. The loud sizzling noise and smoke as the food is brought to your table are what makes this interesting. My top choices are Yana, Zamu's and Yoko's. If you don't mind the cramped interior Bounty is a good one too. Incidentally, The Place claims to be the first sizzler restaurant in Pune (and apparently in the country too).

My favorite sizzler is usually the Chicken Shaslik (because it is the spiciest one of them all!) but I ask them to serve it with fries instead of rice. Try the sizzling brownie with ice-cream for dessert if you are eating at Yoko's.

International Fare at Flags PuneThe Others

And finally, here my other favorites that don't fall into any particular category.

La Dolce Vita and Toscana for Italian food. There is a new restaurant in town but I haven't tried that yet. La Dolce Vita has a large selection of wine and has recently opened a Martini Bar right next door. Toscana is my choice for a romantic dinner during the summer evenings.

Flags is an interesting restaurant that features food from many different countries; good ambiance, lots of entree choices and innovative cocktails make this a good dinner destination, especially after a movie at the neighbouring Inox multiplex.

International Fare at Flags PuneNot Just Jazz By The Bay is in my list, not only for it's live music during the evenings, but also for their creative Salads & Sandwiches lunch buffet during week-days.

For unwinding during the evening over drinks, Kiva' new location in Koregaon Park is my current favorite. Extensive menu of starters, cocktails, retro and rock music. Very tastefully done interiors too.

And finally, Arther's Theme which claims their cuisine is French. French or not, the food is good. I love this place for sentimental reasons: it is one of the earliest places I and my wife frequented during our first weeks in Pune. However, I love their quaint interiors and innovative menus too. They are one of the few restaurants in Pune where you get nicely presented plated food.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I am certain I will have other eat-outs to talk about in the coming year. Meanwhile, if you are at Pune and have try one of these places, I would like to know if you agree with me or have another opinion. Bon Appetit!

Locations and Phone Numbers

Sigree: City Tower, Dhole Patil Road Road & Boat Club Road Junction : Ph- 66027080
Bombay Brasserie: City Point, Dhole Patil Road & Boat Club Road Junction : Ph- 66011101
Chingari at Le Meridien Hotel: RBM Road : Ph-26050505
Kabab Hut at Sun N Sand Hotel: Bund Garden Road : Ph - 26137777
Mystic Masala at Taj Blue Diamond Hotel: Koregaon Road : Ph -66025555

Mainland China: City Point, Dhole Patil Road & Boat Club Road Junction : Ph- 66013030
Malaka Spice: Lane 6, Koregaon Park : Ph - 26136293
Silk Route: Lane 6, Koregaon Park : Ph - 26135793
Whispering Bamboo at Taj Blue Diamond Hotel: Koregaon Road : Ph -66025555

Krishna: Ashoka Mall opposite Sun N Sand hotel. Ph - 26132331
Coconut Grove: Mangalwar Peth,Opposite Ambedkar Bhavan : Ph - 26053981
Spice Garden: Dhole Patil Road (at the end of the lane on which Zamu's is located)

Yana: Gold Ablabs Multiplex, Kalyani Nagar : Ph - 56092451
Zamu's: 189 Dhole Patil Road : Ph - 26123610
Yoko: 3-G, 5th avenue, Dhole Patil Road : Ph - 30908165
Bounty: Landmark Garden, Kalyani Nagar : Ph - 26613360
The Place: Moledina Road & MG Road junction, beside Hotel Aurora Towers : Ph - 26134632

La Dolce Vita: City Point, Dhole Patil Road & Boat Club Road Junction : Ph - 26145555
Toscana: Next to Bishop's School, Kalyaninagar : Ph: 26686520
Flags: Metropole, Bund Garden Road : Ph: 26141213
Not Just Jazz by the Bay: E-Square Multiplex, University Road : Ph: 56044200
Kiva: Lane 6 (all the way down towards South Main Road), Koregaon Park : Ph - 30520987
Arthur's Theme: Lane 6, Koregaon Park. Ph - 26132710

Recent Updates on Pune's Dining Scene:


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Manipulative Restaurant Menus!

Forbes Traveller ran an interesting article on 'menu psychology'. Here's an excerpt:

Smart chefs (or their menu consultants) know that when most of you open a menu, your eyes go right to the top of the page on the right side. And, armed with that knowledge, chefs place the menu item that will give them the most profit at the top of the page. Hence, it soon becomes their biggest seller.

Then, your eyes normally drift to the center of the page. That’s where many chefs place their absolutely most expensive item. They do that not because they expect you to buy that item, but because the psychology of menus indicates you’ll probably then look at the items immediately above and below the high ticket item and order one of those. Again, those two items rank second and third for generating profits.”

Read the original article in full here.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Other Side of Diversity

A few years back, Robert Putnam, one of the world’s most influential political scientists revealed some bleak side-effects of ethnic diversity on society. Putnam found that living in diverse communities makes us worse neighbours and citizens: “Immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital...Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer,” he wrote.

Putnam's controversial book, Bowling Alone, details his research on diversity and American society; his subsequent work found similar patterns in European and Asian societies too. You can read some more about his work on Wiki.

Science is making other uncomfortable discoveries. As The New York Times warned in a front page story last month, the DNA era is raising “new worries about prejudice”. In the article, Marcus Feldman, a Stanford biologist, explained: “There are clear differences between people of different continental ancestries. And it has the potential to spark a new era of racism if we do not start explaining it better.”

All this, even as countries-- and business -- become increasingly multi-ethnic. I think our societies will be reshaped during the next few years as we learn to reconcile between the meterial benefits of diversity and the strain it creates in our (existing) social fabric.

Even as I (and many of my world traveller blog friends) hope we will learn to live in multi-ethnic societies, Putnam's research shows why immigration is such a hot issue for voters everywhere.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unlimited Kababs To Heaven

The heady flavors of spices seduces you even as your teeth begins to sink into the well-marinated meat. You savour the sensation of expertly cooked meat -- fresh from the tandoor. The crunchiness of onions, and the icy freshness of mint chutney mingling with the juicy meat in your palate. You are now certain -- heaven can't be more pleasurable than this!

Gilawati Kabab at The Great Kabab FactoryThis evening almost didn't happen. I and a colleague had earlier planned a drive to Fisherman’s Cove, a seaside resort in Chennai with an excellent open-air restaurant. We changed our plans at the last moment and decided to have dinner at a place closer to our hotel instead. What better place to choose than The Great Kabab Factory (TGKF) at Radisson.

The Concept: TGKF only opens for dinner and has a fixed menu. You are served six varieties of kababs with a variety of Indian breads. Multiple servers in factory uniform serve kababs directly onto your plates. Kababs are followed by two kinds of dal, biryani and five different types of desserts. You can order unlimited helpings of anything on the menu! The menu changes every day – the restaurant claims to have expertise in over 140 different kinds of kababs.

Taftan at The Great Kabab FactoryOur reservations were for 9:30PM. The hostess managed to get us a table quickly. The ambiance is the same as their Delhi and Noida restaurants: low lighting, dark colors, walls adorned with cooking utensils, an open kitchen at the far end, checkered table-cloth, and flatware made of twisted steel.

Dinner began with the best kabab of the night, the Gilawati kabab. The kabab was accompanied with an Ulte Tawe Ka Paratha, a thin, pan-fried bread. The server helpfully informed us that the Gilawati was made with 123 spices and ingredients. You place the kabab in the paratha, add onion rings, mint chutney and roll it up to eat. The Gilawati was deliciously aromatic and melted in my mouth. What a great way to begin today’s kabab journey.

Raan-E-MurgThe next kabab was the Raan-E-Murg, a chicken drumstick marinated in spices. This was well made too - crisp outside and succulent inside, with a distinct flavor of cumin. As recommended, we paired this kabab with yogurt chutney.

We were now served with the Bakharkhani and the Taftan, two speciality Indian breads. I chose the former, and it was excellent. (See my post on Indian Breads).

The Chaat Methi Mahi Tikka came next. This was very good. A large chunk of fresh king-fish marinated in fenugreek and chaat spices. The flavors mingled very well with the mint chutney.

Chaat Methi Mahi TikkaThe Kaali-Mirch Ki Pasanda was marinated lamb that was beaten into thin strips and heavily seasoned. The predominant flavors were from the black pepper. The taste was complimented by the tomato chutney that accompanied this dish.

Now came the Zafrani Murg Tikka, chunks of chicken marinated in saffron, yogurt, and other spices.

And the last type of kabab was the ever-popular Sheek Kabab. Skewers of minced lamb mixed with many spices. The one served to us that night was soft but coarsely ground. The flavor of the spices came out nicely and the kabab was hot and spicy the way I enjoy it.

We couldn’t resist ordering another round of the excellent Gilawati kabab before we moved to the Biryanis.

Today’s biryani was a Murgh Biryani, which was good, but I prefer the Gosht Biryani (which is made with mutton/lamb instead of chicken). I also tried their Dal Makhni, which was good, not unusually so.

We were very full by now. But how could I say no to desserts? The server got us all five of them to taste.

Mithai at The Great Kabab FactoryThe kheer-malai was very good as was the kalajaam. The gajar ka halwa tasted just like home-made ones (which was good!), and the malai kulfi was excellent too. But the one that I will remember most among the desserts was the Khubani Ka Meetha. Those who don't travel to Hyderabad may not ever know this one. This exotic sweet-dish was popular with the Nizams and I can see why! Made with apricots and cream, this is quite an interesting dish that lingers on in your mouth and memory for a while.
Kabab lovers, I recommend you try this restaurant on a week-day when it is less crowded.

The Great Kabab Factory first opened in Delhi at the Radisson Hotel (near the International Airport). I remember being blown away by the concept and quality of kababs during my first visit. Since then, the concept (and brand) has become so successful, Radission has opened Kabab Factory restaurants in other cities, including Chennai, Jalandhar, Varanasi and recently Bahrain.

If you enjoyed reading this, here are some other posts you may enjoy:


Monday, December 10, 2007

Quick Trip to Chennai

Last Friday, I drove out at 4:30AM to catch a morning flight from Mumbai to Chennai. It was a cold, wintery morning and there was an accident on the expressway. Two trucks had collided in the opposite lanes, and all incoming traffic from Mumbai was backed up for miles.

I reached Mumbai airport in two hours and thirty mintues without the driver over-speeding; see how much time you can save if the Mumbai traffic is absent from the streets?

Mumbai is one airport where almost every newspaper is available for free for passengers! I don't remember which one of them began this trend, but now every one of the national and business dailes are there for your reading pleasure!

Jet Airways IndiaThe Jet Airways flight that took me to Chennai was the first one I have ever boarded that did not have a Premiere section. All seats were done up in brown leather (different from their older blue colored interiors). Seems like this is the new color scheme we will see in their newer aircraft. Matches well with their new canary yellow uniforms.

As we landed, I could see that it had rained during the night. It was cool and dry now - by Chennai standards; Pune people would probably still call it warm and humid. :-)

I was back at the Le Meridien (I had blogged about this hotel and one of their restaurants earlier this year). I had to quickly change into work clothes since I had a meeting coming up. That is when I realized the hotel room didn't have an iron and board. How annoying! But hey, wait. Thy press your clothes for free. I called housekeeping and my shirt was ready in 10 mins!

A quick lunch at the Cilantro and we were off for a long day of meetings. I did try hard to keep the lunch light! I had the Saag Gosht, fish Amritsari, crab masala, a fiery eggplant dish, some rasam, and steamed pulao. I had to taste two desserts, the Malai Madhuri and the upside-down peach pudding. Like I said, a light lunch. :-)

During the evening, it was decision-making time again! Dinner at The Taj's Fisherman’s Cove or The Great Kabab Factory at the Radisson? Great sea-food at a sea-side resort or great kababs just 15 minutes from our hotel? But the dinner deserves it's own post!

En route, I picked up some more interesting tid-bits from the in-flight magazines:

Oberoi Udaivilas HotelConde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2007 are now out. In the Hotels and Resorts category, La Scalinatella on the Isle of Capri in Italy topped the list with a perfect 100. Only the second time this has happened in the 20 year history of these awards.

At #2 was Oberoi’s Udaivilas in Rajasthan which came in at 99.6 (very close indeed!). Oberoi also had the #3 and #6 positions with the Vanyavilas at Ranthambore (97.7) and the Amarvilas (97.3) at Agra respectively. Three Indian hotels in the Top 10 and all of them Oberoi properties!

On a different note, JetBlue this month began offering free email and instant messaging on its flights. Virgin America and other airlines are expected to follow with more online access during flights within the USA.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Norwegian Troll Visits Pune

Norwegian Troll in Pune IndiaA troll came visiting today from distant Norway. My blog-friend, RennyBA, had sent him my way! Renny is a prolific blogger and a strong believer in the power of social networking and the Internet: He blogs about life, food and culture of his country, Norway. He even met his wife online, and his blog was recently rated as among the top three European blogs of 2007.

Fellow muggles who don't know much about trolls, here's a quick starter course for you:

Troll from Norway1. Trolls have long crooked noses, only four fingers and toes on each limb, and most of them have a bushy tail.

2. Trolls live in the icy mountains of the North, and only come out after sunset. Sunlight makes them crack or turn into stone.

3. Trolls can be big (almost gaints) or small: mine is a small fella, as you can see in the picture here. :-)

4. Trolls have super-natural abilities and sometimes lure men by turning themselves into beautiful young girls. Tip: When in doubt check their behinds, because they are unable to hide their bushy tail! :-)

5. If you keep them happy, they can make your livestock yield much milk and get fat and sleek. That's why people put a bowl of porridge in the barn for them during Chistmas Eve.

Alrighty then. That should keep you safe when you visit the icy North on your next Norwegian trip. Thanks, Renny for the wonderful gesture!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The New Black...Is In Your Plate!

From cocktail dresses to the iPod and now onto your plate! Black is chic, even when it comes to gourmet food: check this article in the latest issue of Time magazine. I had never heard of black chicken or black carrots before.

Black Silkie Chicken
Intrigued, I researched some more. The sudden interest in ebony colored food by gourmets is attested by the fact that even the New York Times ran a recent article on this trend.

Forbidden Rice"The craze for ebony-tinged foods can be traced to Asia, where inky ingredients have a long and illustrious tradition. The nutty flavors and raven tones of forbidden rice were once reserved for Chinese emperors.", says Time.

Silkie chickens originated in Asia, where they are valued for their deep gamy flavor. US chefs are more interested in the novelty factor that this meat offers. This chicken -- which has white fluffy feathers but black bones, meat and skin -- is also being touted as the new 'health food'.

The Scotsman reports, "Black-bone silky fowl have been used as a "folk invigorant" in China for 1,000 years. Now Chinese food scientists have confirmed they contain high levels of a substance called carnosine. This is a powerful anti-oxidant and is taken in supplement form in the West to improve muscle strength and alleviate the effects of ageing, autism and diabetes."

Black CarrotsThat's Fit points out the Japanese have always been fond of black food, "Historically, the Japanese sought foods such as black vinegar, black soybeans and black mushrooms for their rich taste. But now deeply-hued foods are recognized for their nutritional value."

And therefore, next time you find dal mein kuch kaala hai, it maybe because you are dining at a gourmet restaurant! :-)


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Train Journeys in India

A long time ago, I looked forward to summer vacations when schools would close for a month. Every year at this time we went to Calcutta, Allahabad or Kanpur to visit my many aunts, uncles and grand-parents. We would travel by railroad for two days to cover the 2000 kms distance from Mysore. This wasn't unusual; very few people took a flight when traveling within India those days.

A Train and the Indian MonsoonThe long train journey was a joyful experience. I was absorbed by the fascinating sights and sounds during the train ride. Air-conditioned coaches were rare, which meant open windows (and dusty faces); we kids could stick our faces against the windows in an attempt to see the rest of the train winding its way through hills, valleys, forests and creeks. Photo credit: Train in the rains by Bramha.

I don't think I have seen as much of India as I did during those train journeys, albeit through a child's eye. When I was older and travelled alone, I would get down at every station to stretch, sip tea from earthen cups and soak in the sights and sounds. Every station was a little different: there were large 'railway junctions' in towns otherwise unknown, vendors hawking foodstuff special to that town: oranges in Nagpur, pethas in Agra, and mihidana in Burdwan.

A Train Snaking Across IndiaThe cries of the chaiwallahs, the wiry porters in their red shirts, the myriad vendors and fellow travellers rushing by, all fascinated me. I never really noticed the dust, the flies, the stinking toilets, the sweaty crowds, or the malfunctioning ac during those days.

Photo credits: Snaking train by Arjun, Blue train by Vinu, Toy Train by Bishal Rai. Please click on the pictures to go to their respective Flickr pages.

Years later, I bought myself a first class ticket on the Rajdhani Express from Delhi to Calcutta. To me that was the epitome of luxury travel. A completely air-conditioned train, the Rajdhani was quite a status symbol those days. The train reached Calcutta at least five hours faster than every the other train. The experience on the Rajdhani was closer to that of a flight: cleaner, less noisy, and less dusty! It was also the beginning of the end of my relationship with Indian Railways. I now valued time and comfort over everything else, and so began choosing flights over trains.

Indian RailwaysIt's been a long time since those days. I took the train during a recent journey to Goa after a gap of several years. It was fun reliving my childhood memories once more. Not much has changed on the Indian railroad during these years. I have! I now notice the dust, the flies and malfunctioning Ac's even as I enjoy the splendid views of the lush green countryside. The earthen cups for chai have been replaced with plastic ones. I see more foreigners (mostly from Israel) in the train. Still, it seems like old times.

For those who want to discover India beyond the Taj and Software, a train journey is probably the easiest way to get a head start.

For new visitors to India, here are my top three recommendations for your first train journey in India:

#1: Train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling

Darjeeling TrainPlan for this popular ride to Darjeeling on the narrow gauge Darjeeling Himalaya Railway, and a night or two at the Windamere Hotel. This train is now a UN World Heritage Site. Take the Darjeeling Mail from Calcutta (at Sealdah station) to New Jalpaiguri, leaving Calcutta Sealdah at about 10PM and arriving at about 8:30AM next morning.

The 'toy train' connects with the Darjeeling Mail in New Jalpaiguri, leaving at 9AM and arriving Darjeeling at 3:30PM. The leisurely day spent on the toy train through the Himalayan foothills is a day well spent.

The Windamere at Darjeeling was a boarding house for bachelor tea planters, and became a hotel in 1939. Meals are served by white-gloved, turbaned waiters and eaten by candlelight to the sound of Cole Porter tunes on the piano. Even if you can't afford it, make sure you come along for afternoon tea - probably the best cup of tea you will ever drink here.

#2: Train ride from Delhi to Shimla

You will leave Delhi on the Shatabdi Express for the train journey to Kalka. Here you change to the narrow-gauge 'Toy Train', which will take you on a wonderful journey up into the hills to the town of Shimla at over 7,000 feet. Shimla was chosen by the British as their retreat from the summer heat, and not only is the main street called the Mall, but many of the buildings in the town are very British in style. You can choose to stay at the magnificent Oberoi Cecil Hotel or Wildflower Hall both of which enjoy fabulous views of the Himalayas.

#3: A train ride on the Konkan Railways

This railroad passes through some of the most pretty coastal landscapes of Western India. You can either travel between Bombay and Goa or all the way to Kerala. Pick a train that travels during the daytime so you can enjoy the scenery outside.

Palace On Wheels IndiaAlternately, you can try one of the touristy luxury trains that combine city tours along with the train journeys between cities. The most popular one is the Palace on Wheels.

The Palace on Wheels is a moving hotel. It has 14 air-conditioned coaches and each sleeper has four compartments with en suite facilities and twin lower beds. Your personal attendant or Khidmatgar is available at all times. Dining is in one of the two opulent restaurant cars, the Maharaja and Maharini, serving Indian, international and Chinese cuisine. There is a comfortable lounge car and bar. The decor and furnishings reflect the colours and traditions of Rajasthan. Over 7 days, the train will take you from Delhi to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Arga before returning back to Delhi.

Palace on Wheels IndiaThe Deccan Odyssey is another alternatives to the Palace on Wheels. The Deccan Odyssey covers Maharashtra and a pinch of Goa - Mumbai, Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Goa, Pune, Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora.

Update, June 2008: Visitors to Bangalore please note, Karnataka has introduced it's own tourist train experience, The Golden Chariot.

Update, Jul 2008: And now, The Viceroy of India takes you on a luxury train travel across India from Bombay to Calcutta covering Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Varanasi and Darjeeling. Check Cox & Kings for details.

Update, Jan 2009: This month will see the introduction of the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, an improved version of the Palace on Wheels. Over seven days, this train will set off from Delhi to cover Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Agra. This journey will bring to you Rajasthan's forts, havelis, lakes and wildlife in a super-luxury train journey. The tariff varies between $900 - $2000 per person per night. Here's a brief comparison with the Palace on Wheels:

Check out these sites for more information:

The Indian Railways Fan Club
Luxury Trains
Rail Tourism India Site