Monday, April 26, 2010

Pune Dining: Five Senses

Grilled Norwegian Salmon at Sen5es PuneI was suitably impressed by the chic, ultra-modern interiors of Sen5es (yes that is how this restaurant is stylistically named). The contemporary glass and wood interiors of this bright and airy restaurant would make many a five-star resturanant in this city look downright dowdy in comparison. Therefore, iI wasn't very surprised when I discovered this place had been designed by Masafumi Sanada from the Japanese company M-Style, one of the top restaurant designers in the world.

Oakwood Premium is located just after the Sports Stadium at the end of tony Koregoan Park and is a new addition to Pune's burgeoning upscale serviced apartments. The restaurant consists of a lounge area overlooking the pool and a dining area alongside open kitchens.

The menu contains sections for Oriental, Indian, Western Grill and Italian selections. There is also a section for Soups and Salads as well as a selection of popular coffee-shop snacks.

We ordered a Mango and Raw Papaya Salad from the special seasonal menu on the table followed by Grilled Norwegian Salmon, pasta and a Lebanese sandwich.

You can get your pasta cooked to order here. Mine was spaghetti with mushrooms, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, brocolli and zucchini and grilled chicken in arrabiata sauce. Arrabiata is a Roman sauce of garlic, of garlic, tomatoes and red chilli cooked in olive oil, sometimes with a hint of basil. The pasta was perfect!

The salmon was equally appetizing. The grilled fish was served on a bed of asparagus and orange-citrus sauce which complemented the dish very well.

The Lebanese sandwich, a falafel with grilled chicken and veggies was served with a side of hummus. Filling but not particularly memorable.

Which brings me to the salad. The taste of not-quite-ripe mangoes mingled with grated raw papaya was particularly refreshing this time of the year. The light spices and thin slivers of red chilli made every morsel tingle in the mouth.

I have to be back to try their Indian dishes - they even some Fusion dishes on the menu. This place is probably also a great choice for a few drinks in the lounge area. If you are in the Koregaon Park area and want to give this place a try, here are the details: 81 Mundhwa, Koregaon Park Annexe (turn right on North Main Road after you cross the Sports Stadium). Ph: 4142-8888.

Update, May 7: This place is even more amazing in the evenings. Fire-pits on the water-bodies that surround the restaurant are lit, and the combination of fire and water transforms the surroundings. Do try the lamb-chops or the T-bone steaks, they are among the best you can find in Pune!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wining and Dining in Sonoma Valley

Fish tacos at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar HealdsburgMy recent trip to California took me to Sonoma Valley, birthplace of the Californian wine industry. The long drive through the scenic countryside was a welcome change from the towering buildings and backed up city traffic. Rows upon rows of vine training trellises dotted the undulating valley as I drove down to my hotel in Healdsburg. Luckily, the sun was shining brightly, a complete change from the day before when downtown San Francisco was dull, damp and very chilly.

Healdsburg Hotel Sonoma County
Healdsburg Hotel Sonoma County
Healdsburg Hotel Sonoma CountyMy hotel turned out to be a classy affair. The Healdsburg Hotel, owned by celebrity chef Charlie Pace, was just the kind of place I would enjoy spending a vacation. This place is also within walking distance of most of this town's restaurants and bars which is very convenient. The lounge in the lobby is another highlight where you can cosy up with a book (or in my case the new iPad) in front of a roaring fire at night.

On the first evening, we went out to Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar which I highly recommend. We were served dozens of tapas-style small plates in three courses. The food is excellent and the atmosphere very warm and friendly. Great place to spend a few hours wining and dining with friends and colleagues.

Oysters at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar HealdsburgWe started with the freshly shucked oysters with a vinegar and hot pepper sauce dip that was fantastic! The first course consisted of an artisan cheese plate with pecan crostini, charred rare Ahi with truffled soy, and an endive and arugula salad with honey vinaigrette. I still remember the excellent pungent goat cheese and the Ahi.

Artisan cheese at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar Healdsburg
Arugula Salad at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar HealdsburgThe second course included French fries (!) with goat cheese ranch dip, roasted asparagus with miso butter and warm maine lobster roll. The lobster roll was very tasty but also very filling.

Gourmet fries at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar HealdsburgThe third and final course was flash fried calamari with orange chili gremolata, grilled hanger steak with aji panca and chimuchiri sauce followed by grilled fish tacos and a plate of sauteed spinach with lemon marmalade. Whew!

Fish tacos at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar HealdsburgAmong all that food, the hanger steak was certainly the most memorable. Served kabab-style, the meat was succulent and very tasty. We ended with a couple of desserts: the warm bread pudding was clearly the winner.

Bread Pudding at Willi's Raw Bar Healdsburg
Dessert at Willi's Raw Bar HealdsburgOn the next evening, we had a sommelier give us a little lesson in wine blending that was fun. We tried creating our own and giving it a name before trouping down to our hotel's very own restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen, that came highly recommended.

Wine blending at Sonoma CountyWe began with with a long shaved cucumber artfully encircling a salad of local Sonoma greens, banyuls-shallot vinaigrette and brioche croutons.

Dry Creek Kitchen Healdsburg
Gourmet salad at Dry Creek Kitchen HealdsburgUp next was the Duo of American Duroc pork: a pan-roasted loin with a slow cooked belly served with black trumpet mushrooms, pickled cherries, sauce charcuterie and winter truffle bearnaise. This dish had won the chef an award only this month, and the dish lived up to its reputation.

Duet of Pork at Dry Creek Kitchen HealdsburgOther choices for the entree were the peppercorn crusted New York strip loin, the olive oil poached Alaskan halibut and the Yukon Gold potato gnocchi, all of which looked appetizing too.

I chose chocolate fondant for dessert. The fondont was served with chocolate ice-cream and cocoa streusel.

Chocolate Fondant at Dry Creek Kitchen HealdsburgThe Hotel Healdsburg is a wonderful getaway with its elegant ambiance and prime location. You can wine and dine to your heart's content and walk back to the hotel instead of appointing a designated driver. There are ample choices for the foodie in and around this town, including Michelin-starred restaurants such as Cyrus and Madrona Manor. Right next to the hotel, there is also a fantastic burger joint if you crave comfort food after a while.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roller Ice-Cream, Anyone?

Roller Ice-creamHaving run out of inspiration, many Indian chefs and restaurants have begun rediscovering street-food. I remember finding tilliwali kulfi, kulfi ice-cream on a stick at Masala Art restaurant in the Taj New Delhi. Then I was offered golas for dessert at another reception in a five-star hotel in Mumbai. And now roller ice-creams!

I was at an industry event in Mumbari early this year. The evening reception turned out to be a classy affair with elegant tables and setting, entertainment program that included Shiamak Davar's dance-troupe and a performance by a group of children who had won the national dance award on a tv channel.

NASSCOM gala dinner Feb 2010
NASSCOM gala dinner Feb 2010
NASSCOM gala dinner Feb 2010
NASSCOM gala dinner Feb 2010Dinner was an elaborate spread of Indian, oriental and western food. All prepared well by the wonderful chefs at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai. It was however, the dessert section that was interesting. First the roller ice-cream, and then the earthern pot of hot milk flavored with saffron and topped with slivers of almonds.

NASSCOM gala dinner Feb 2010
NASSCOM gala dinner Feb 2010For those who haven't seen roller ice-cream before, it is a huge slab of ice-cream in the shape of a drum which revolves. You scrape layers of ice-cream from it on to your bowl. Like I said, interesting...memories of childhood days!