Sunday, December 05, 2010

Going Shakahari In Style

Shakahari at Marriott ICC PuneEveryone thinks of India as a land of vegetarians. And why not? We probably have the largest number of people who do not eat meat. A survey in 2006 put the number at 31% of our population. As most of my readers will know, I do not belong to that tribe! While I love the many lip-smacking veggie delights my wife is capable of turning out at home, I develop serious withdrawal symptoms if I have to go without meat, fish or poultry for a few days.

Many visitors of this blog and followers of my twitter feeds grumble that I never review vegetarian items on the menu, which accounts for almost half the options in any restaurant in India. To you, dear veggie lovers, I dedicate this entire post!

Shakahari Pune MarriottShakahari, the signature restaurant at the newly opened Marriot Pune Convention Center, is completely vegetarian. This is probably the only 'five-star' purely vegetarian restaurant I have come across in India. Like the rest of the hotel, this restaurant is designed with a lot of dark wood, soaring ceiling and sports a very contemporary look. The buffet counter, with its splash of red, gives it an Asian touch.

Shakahari Pune MarriottThe dinner consists of a buffet-style selection of starters, salads and soups. You then choose from one of two fixed menu: one North Indian and the other Thai. Finally, you walk up to the 'dessert room' to sample their selection of Indian and Western delights.

Starters at ShakahariI was not sure if alcohol would be on the menu of a vegetarian restaurant, and was relieved that it was! The Chilean red was very good. I chose the Indian option for my main course, while my wife decided to try the Thai.

There were a variety of tawa fried tikkis and pancakes with their special dips that were all quite tasty. I tried a couple of salads and they were good too. I must point out that the spice levels were quite high in some of the dips and salads - not a problem for me, but could be for those not familiar with Indian food. The Laksa soup was a hit with my wife and daughter, but I found it a little different from the real thing. What I enjoyed most were the skewers of fresh tofu and veggies with a peanut dipping sauce.

Laksa Soup at Shakahari Pune Marriott
Veggie Starters at Shakahari Pune MarriottThe Indian dishes were all expertly prepared. Home-style cooking at its best in a five-star setting. Reminded me of the fixed lunch menu at The Oberoi in New Delhi, which was the one place I had eaten something like this before. The Sanghar Aur Paneer Ke Kofte was a delicate morsel of cottage cheese cooked in a tomato-cashew gravy. The Hing Dhania Ke Chatpate Aloo was asafoetida tempered baby potato cooked with yogurt and yellow chilli. The Bhuna Saag was spinach flavored with garlic. The accompanying bread basket of Naan and Missi Rotis were very good too.

Indian menu at ShakahariThe Thai options were delicious, going by the reaction of my wife and daughter. Their platter consisted of many interesting dishes: Thai Green Curry made with eggplant, bamboo shoots and sweet basil; Tofu with Black Pepper Sauce that was delightfully made with the addition of brocolli and white onion; Sambal Belchan that had okra, bok choy and beans with sambal paste; Mushroom and Bokchoy; and finally, Wok Fried Peanuts with Water Chestnuts in Kung Po Sauce. They loved the Soba Noodles too which was made with mixed vegetables.

Soba Noodles and Mushroom Bok Choy at Shakahari
Waterchestnut and Tofu dishes at ShakahariOverall, a good dining experience in a nice, upscale setting. The portions were very large and we were quite full even before touching the desserts. I tried the Baked Yogurt and the Kala Jamun from the dessert room. The Baked Dessert was particularly interesting with its honey topping.

The Dessert Room at Shakahari Pune MarriottVegetarian food in India has always been found in affordable settings. There are few upscale restaurants that restrict their menus to vegetarian stuff. Shakahari not only does this but takes the concept further by having Jain items on the menu too. For those who don't know, Jains do not eat most root vegetables, garlic, etc. The food here is good; now let's see if you love your veggies enough to pay for a five-star experience, instead of the usual Madhuban-Vaishali-Coffee House fare. :)

Shakahari at the ICC Marriott is located on Senapati Bapat Road, Pune. Ph: 6683 3333.


Mark Bregman said...

This is where you're taking me next time I'm in Pune!

Jerry (from the veggies tribe) said...

Your tribute to the vegetarians is much appreciated :)

Pooja Deshmukh said...

This on my To-Visit list when I'll be in Pune! Thanks :)

Ravi said...

Thank you! Thank you so much! Pray do a similar vegetarian review the next time you are in the SF Bay Area as well.

Anonymous said...

@Mark: Really? I guess Californians are among the most veggie loving people in the USA. :)

@Jerry: You (and your tribe) are most welcome!

@Pooja: Any plans to visit in the next few months?

@Ravi: I will, I will...

Sandeep said...

Interesting post about Shakahari.I was at Spice Kitchen recently, never new they have a Veg only place there. After reading this I must go there next weekend!

Thanks for writing this excellent review!!


Sandeep said...

Sandeep back again!.Just wanted to share a experience I had at Spice Kitchen last week on Sunday lunch. I was trying to click snaps of my team with whom I had come for lunch. And there come the security telling me, that I cannot use my camera for Security reasons! ...I mentioned the guy that I am not here to click snaps of their property as I would probably find them on internet already!. I was just keen to have the moment captured with my team.

Karthik Sankar said...

Splendid mouth watering veggie post. Needless to say cause I am a veggie!!!Your blog has always been a delightful gastronomical read :)

Shailesh Dongre said...

Thanks Shantanu for excellent review. I came across this article at right time, recently went there for dinner on occasion of marriage anniversary and we were extremely happy with the food, choice of menu, ambience etc. Though we found service bit slow could be because they are yet to settle things with the new restaurant.

KamalKitchen said...

Hallelujah!! Many thanks from a vegetarian who is always looking for interesting veggie options that don't just include paneer and cream laden stuff!

** Nice to know they had tofu; a rare find indeed

** sorry to hear about spice levels - having a mild palate, most food served in restaurants is too robust/hot/salty for me..

The Thai variety sounds interesting but an important question I have is -- did it have shrimp paste or fish sauce?? Most restaurants use some kind of ready made pastes that either have dried fish or some kind of fish scent added to it. Not only is this undesirable for vegetarian people, but I also have a shellfish allergy which means its gonna make me sick.

**Most servers are unaware of this and tell you that its 100% veg but you get a nasty surprise when you actually taste the dish!

So coming to the point, did your thai food taste fishy?

It will be nice if you cover this aspect in any future thai joints or thai dishes that you review( for veggies).

Thanks again!!

Kumudha said...

Great blog!

Thanks for the wonderful restaurant reviews.


I was waiting for your post on Shakahari.

I kept on telling myself that I must visit Shakahari and on last sunday don't know how I completly forgot about Shakahari and i/o went to Royal Orchid.

Shantanu said...

@Sandeep: Thanks for sharing. I think the buffet at Spice Kitchen is great too - for now.

@Karthik: Thanks.

@Shailesh: Glad to know this post helped make your anniversary special.

Shantanu said...

@KamalKitchen: They are serious about the vegetarian aspect of their kitchen. They have a vegetarian substitute for the shrimp/fish paste. Also, they do not list wines that use animal protein in their distillation process.

@Kumudha: Thanks much!

@Harekrishnaji: Good to see you here again.

Jenish Shah said...

Went there recently had a good time with good food. Thank you as you mentioned that they provide Jain food which tempted us to go there and had nice food..


I was in Shakahari the other day, however I enjoyed their "Spice Kitchen" more.