Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delightfully Delhi

Threesixty at The Oberoi DelhiI was back at the Taipan for dinner during another quick trip to New Delhi. The last time, I had indulged in their excellent dimsum lunch offering. Tonight I wasn't very hungry and decided to have some soup, noodles and a small dessert. The prawn dumpling soup was steaming hot and tasty, a very pleasant start in the cold Delhi winter. The noodles stirred with greens made for a good combination with prawns and green chillies.

Taipan at Oberoi Delhi
Soup at Taipan
Noodles at TaipanThe Oberoi in New Delhi may not have roominess of the newer hotels. but it more than makes up with its class, old world charm and impeccible service.

Kababs at 360 Oberoi
Biryani at 360 Oberoi
Kulfi Falooda at 360
Even ThreeSixty their all-day restaurant serves up some delightful buffet lunches and a mean platter of kababs and dum biryani. Threesixty has a lovely Indian lunch offering that includes home-made chapatis, a rarity in restaurants. During breakfast, I had to indulge in those incredibly puffed up pooris.

Pooris at 360 Oberoi
The Oberoi DelhiAmong the five-star circuit, one of the best buffet lunches I have recently tried was at The Lalit in Connaught Place. This hotel which has seen multiple names changes in the last two decades, has been renovated with an impressive-looking lobby that has an M. F. Hussain and a Satish Gujral sculpture. The lunch buffet at the lobby cafe is amongst the best I have seen.

Lunch Buffet at The Lalit DelhiA sumptuous spread of Indian, Oriental and Western cuisine - every dish tastefully created. Not something you find in buffet lunches. Even the dessert selection was fantastic.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Haute in California - Part II

Branzini at Luce San FranciscoThe Michelin Guide has been a barometer of haute cuisine in modern times. When the Michelin brothers began publishing this guide in 1900, cars were rapidly changing the landscapes of the western world. The little red book soon became the authority for discerning foodies in France and other European countries who could now reach acclaimed eating places out of town. Chefs reached highs and lows of their careers as they were awarded Michelin stars or had their stars taken away.

Michelin began covering New York City and the Bay Area a few years back. In the recently released 2010 guide, a new reciepient of the Michelin star is Luce. Luce (pronounced Loo-chay) is located within the Intercontinental Hotel in the SoMa area of San Francisco. Chef Dominique Crenn draws inspiration from contemporary French and Asian cuisine and blends them with local flavors. The decor is simple and elegant with high ceilings and polished surfaces. I began with a stack of Casco Bay Bouchot Mussels in lobster broth. A slice of sourdough with rouille was placed on top of the stack. The gleaming black mussels made for a pretty sight! The garlic and olive-oil tastes from the rouille combined perfectly with the flavors of lobster as I soaked my bread into the goodness of the broth between nibbles of mussel.

Mussels at Luce San FranciscoElaborate food arrangements were practiced as early as the middle ages. Kings and nobles were often presented with extravagent creations such as pies baked with live blackbirds (remember that old nursery rhyme: Sing a song of sixpence?), beautiful specimen of peacock and swan with their feathers still intact but stuffed with meat, dry fruit and spices. You can see scenes depicting this in the TV serial on the life of Henry VIII, The Tudors.

Branzini at Luce San FranciscoMy main course was in front of me now. The Branzini is a Mediterranean sea-bass. The Branzini in front of me was an exquisite presentation on a dark slab of wood, with artichokes Provencale, sauce Romesco, roasted chickpeas and chaat masala. The fish was fried very like we do in Bengal and the chickpeas and chaat masala gave it a distinct Indian twist. The taste of olive oil, garlic and peppers in the sauce blended well with the flavors of the fish.

Guava Parfait at Luce San FranciscoIncidentally, British experimental chef Heston Blumenthal attempted to recreate the blackbird pie for his TV series. Upon discovering that blackbirds were a protected species in the UK, he switched the recipe to pigeon. The pie and pie lid were cooked separately and allowed to cool. The live pigeons were inserted only moments before presentation. Initial attempts resulted in the pigeons refusing to fly out. This was solved by using trained homing pigeons to fly to their cages suspended in the ceiling, whereupon they defecated on the celebrity diners beneath.

12oz ribeye at LB SteakI ended my lunch at Luce with an exotic dessert, a coconut-guave parfait. This one was a winner too! The combination of guava and coconut was fantastic. This restaurant certainly deserves its reputation. The service is efficient and the atmosphere casual. The highlights are clearly the food and presentation, commonly categorized as New American cuisine.

Baked potatoes at LB SteakAs vegetables and fresh ingredients finally became fashionable again in America in the late 90s, and immigrants from Asian and Latin American influences . Californian cuisine became synonymous with fresh and organic vegetables and meat sourced from farmers' markets with a strong attention to presentation. Jerimiah Towers, and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse along with Wolfgang Puck are credited to popularizing this cuisine.

Chef Dominique Crenn appears to be a worthy addition to the pack of super chefs this region continues to produce.

Dessert at LB Steak
LB Steak in Santana RowI discovered an interesting place in San Jose's Santana Row. LB Steak is a steakhouse with French inspiration! Combining comfortable and elegant French chic in the heart of Silicon Valley, this is a swankier, hip version of the American steakhouse. The menu ranges from great small plates to impressive steaks with all the sides. A few of the pictures in this post are of this restaurant and of the 12oz Prime Ribeye I ordered, with green peppercorn sauce and a side of sliced baked potatoes topped with cheese and capers. A meal that celebrates the journey of haute from France to the farthest coast of America.

Next in this series: More hauteness in California.
Part I of this series: Haute in Michael Mina


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Pune Dining: TGKF, Shikara & The Ship

The Great Kabab Factory in PuneWe finally made our way to the newly opened Radisson to check out The Great Kabab Factory. The restaurant differs in look and feel from its Delhi and Chennai counterparts. More airy and larger, the tables more spaced out, and the tableware not as interesting.

Thankfully, the kababs and biryani more than make up for it. The signature Gilauti Kabab on an ulte tawa paratha was as fragrant with its heady mix of spices as I remember it. Their version of the Tangdi Kabab was absolutely fabulous too. I wasn't too excited by the Amritsari Mahi Tikka but enjoyed the Sheermal and Bakarkhani -speciality breads - with their version of Black Dal. Next came the Dum Gosht Biryani and the finale: a dessert selection that comprised of Gulab Jamums, Rasmalai and Teeli Wali Kulfi - kulfi on a stick.

Signature Gilauti Kabab at TGKF PuneOverall the food here is every bit as authentic its original Delhi avatar. The Radission itself is a welcome addition for people in this part of town: a short drive for those in the Kalyani Nagar and Koregaon Park area. By the time we walked out after dinner, a trio of Philipino (?) girls in itsy-bitsy dresses were belting out a number in the lobby. The bar area was unimaginative and didn't seem very exciting.

Tangdi Kabab at TGKF Pune
TGKF PuneThe Radission Hotel in Pune is located in Kharadi. The easiest way to get there is by Nagar Road; keep going past Kalyani Nagar, Viman Nagar and turn right into the large divided road that goes all the way to Magarpatta. The Radisson sign is visible from a distance and is on the left hand side of the road. Ph: 2706 0606. Website.

Desserts at TGKF PuneShikhara shares space with the newly opened Cafe Zaatar and is located on the terrace atop Casanova in Kalyani Nagar. From what I could see, this is one restaurant with two names and two menus! Persian themed tents covered the tables and a hookah occupied pride of place on the tables. The entire place seemed set up like a casual lounge rather than a fine-dining restaurant.

Shikharra PuneThe food, however, was a revelation. While Tabak Maaz was on the menu, we wanted something less oily. We chose a Zafrani Boti Kabab - tender mutton pieces delicately marinated in saffron infused spices and barbequed, a Chakori Kabab - chicken marinated with fenugreek leaves along with herbs and barbequed over charcoal, and followed with Gushtaba - a Kashmiri delicacy of finely minced mutton-balls in yogurt gravy. The kababs were excellent and the Gustaba was the best I have had in Pune.

Chakori Kabab at Shikhara Pune
Gustaba at Shikhara PuneWe ended with a dessert of Baklava - I guess this was from the Cafe Zaatar menu! However, the Baklava was quite good, richly doused with syrup and dry fruits, and came with a scoop of delicious rose-flavored ice-cream. Ph: 26608888. Website.

Baklava at Shikhara PuneI was back at Malaka Spice for dinner. This time we took a table in the outdoor area which has a far more interesting ambiance. This restaurant is clearly a labor of love for the owners and the food continues to delight. You must try the excellent sour and gingery Assam Laksa seafood soup with noodles and fish, a Malaysian staple. We skipped the starters tonight. The slow-cooked mutton in a red paste from Indonesia was a perfect companion to the Mee Goreng, Malaysian spicy noodles stir0-fried with chilli, sprouts, and vegetables. Very nice! Ph: 26156293, 26151088. Website.

Malaka Spice PuneThe weekend buffets at Mainland China on Boat Club Road retains its quality. However, it helps to start early since this popular place becomes madly crowded after 1 PM. We were seated at 12:30 pm when people were just trickling in. The variety on offer was impressive and included crab, prawns and fish in the main courses. Starters included dim-sums and other delights. Ph:66013030. Website.

Weekend Lunch Buffet at Mainland China PuneFinally, The Ship in Kalyani Nagar. I had always loved the concept and the food. Among the few places that serves a variety of International cuisine with an eye on presentation, this restaurant has a lively bar area and a brand new open-air lounge on the terrace. The restaurant has changed owners but continues to be popular with the expat crowd in the evening hours. Visit this place for their excellent grills, seafood, pasta and desserts. The music is usually retro and the ambiance casual.