Sunday, December 30, 2012

In and Around Chennai - II

Kapaleeshwar in ChennaiChennai is home to several functioning temples that are over a thousand years old.   These temples are located in places that continue to bear names by which they were referred to in Tamil hymns dating back to 7th century AD.  On our second day in Chennai, we spend most of the day visiting a few of the most famous ones.

Kapaleeshwar is probably one of the most venerated temples of Tamil Nadu. Located in the temple complex of Mylapore, this temple is visually stunning with its elaborate gopuram.  The name of the temple refers to a legend where Lord Shiva plucked one of Brahma's head because he had failed to show respect.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

In and Around Chennai - I

Mahabalipuram Five RathasRecently we have begun adding smaller 'culture tours' within India to our vacation plan every year.  During my childhood days I remember taking long train journeys to distant parts of India during summer vacations that left an lasting impression on me.   Now, as the parent of a ten-year old girl, I realise I haven't given her the same chance to discovery our country.  She has seen more places outside India than she has within; I am hoping to rectify that.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hakkasan vs. M.Y. China

December saw the entry of two fancy Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, within a few blocks of each other.  The first, Hakkasan, founded by a self-made billionaire from Hong Kong has made waves wherever it went for its extravagant interiors and exquisite food.  The second, M.Y.China, is celebrity chef Martin Yan's first own restaurant. Yes, that is the same Yan from Yan Can Cook!


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Enoteca in Barcelona

Rack of Lamb at Enoteca BarcelonaBarcelona's restaurant scene effortlessly straddles the distance between avant-garde culinary innovation and the more rustic dishes of traditional Catalan fare. Catalans have been famous for their love of the fresh bounty from the Mediterrenean to the Pyrenees.  The phrase mar i muntanya - meaning sea and mountain - reflects their love for 'surf and turf' combinations on their dinner plates.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goan Rhapsody - II

Loster Shack, Taj Exotica Goa The pleasantly warm weather, the long sandy beach free of crowds, and the well-maintained gardens of the resort made our experience at the Taj Exotica Goa enchanting, but what is a vacation without some equally memorable food? Thankfully, the Taj Exotica resort in Goa is home to some excellent restaurants.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Goan Rhapsody - I

Taj Exotica GoaEver since we moved to Pune a dozen years back, Goa has been our default destination for an impulse vacation.  When we suddenly decided to spend a few days away during the Diwali holidays, I realised with some surprise it has been four years since our last vacation here.
This time we were at the idyllic Taj Exotica, a luxury resort on Benaulim beach in southwest Goa.  The Taj Exotica is located right on one of Goa's cleanest stretches of beach and fifty acres of neatly manicured lawns and swaying palms.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Ethiopian Experience

Injera galore! It was another of my frequent trips to the Silicon Valley.  On this evening I was meeting with some old friends over dinner.  It was a Friday evening and most restaurants were packed.  After wandering around the restaurants of Santana Row, we finally decided to get a little farther out and try something different.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Bistro in Koregaon Park

Popcorn Crab at The Bistro PuneBistro opened a few months back at Oakwood Premier in Koregan Park.  With the casual ambiance of a roadside Italian cafe, this is another welcome addition Pune's growing dining scene.  I have been a fan of Oakwood's other restaurant, Sen5es, and I was eager to see what they had on offer this time. Bistro provides a choice of outdoor and indoor seating.  We took an outdoor table but then moved inside because the sun was a little too warm for us on that day.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Day in Steel City

Sheffield, UKSheffield is a city that was central in the production of steel during the industrial revolution.  Its geographic location - near fast-flowing rivers and mineral rich hills - made it a hub of the Western world's iron and steel industry.  Several innovations such as 'crucible steel' and silver plating originated here.  Interestingly, the bowie knife - popular in the American Wild West - was imported in large quantities from the city of Sheffield too!


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Noshing Through London

LondonI flew into London on a gloriously sunny day.  Unfortunately, this was short-lived and the next day was dull, rainy with chilly winds blowing - in other words, London was back to its normal self!  That didn't hold me back from walking through the Kensington Gardens and Notting Hill areas and trying some interesting restaurants.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Taste of Prague

Pineapple Dessert at CottoCrudo PragueThe meat and potatoes diet of the locals in Prague is quickly being supplemented with fine dining options from other parts of Europe.  The city's first Michelin-starred restaurant, Allegro, was located at the Four Seasons hotel where I stayed during this visit.  Sadly, Allegro is now closed but its successor, CottoCrudo, turned out to be pretty good.  I particularly remember the pineapple dessert during one lunch here that was especially delightful!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Castle and Vintage Cars

Prague Castle dominates the skyline of this wonderful city.  What began as a walled building in the 9th century became the abode of the Bohemian kings and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.  Prague Castle is also supposed to be the biggest castle in the world!  It took me about 30 minutes to walk up the pretty cobblestones streets from my hotel to the castle gates.  The walk to the castle was actually as much fun as touring the castle itself.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

City of a Thousand Spires

I was excited as my Emirates flight touched down in Prague on a bright and sunny day.  It was a while since I was in a new country.  When I told a few of my friends I was going to be in the Czech Republic, almost all of them referred to the country as Czechoslovakia.  It is endlessly annoying to the locals that people around the world seem to get this wrong even twenty years after the new Czech Republic was formed.


Saturday, September 08, 2012

New Dining Options - Part II

Breads at Cafe Mangii Pune Cafe Mangii advertises itself as Mumbai's most popular Italian restaurant. Not sure if that is true, but I was quite happy with the experience during my first visit to this restaurant within Phoenix Market City. This place has a contemporary casual look with great thin-crust pizzas and cappuccinos. When I returned last weekend, I had difficulty getting a table; apparently it is also getting more popular!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Dining Options - Part I

Sarson Ka Saag at Punjab GrillJiggs Kalra's Punjab Grill opened in Pune.  And boy, has that improved the quality of North Indian dining in town!  Having been here three times already, I can say with confidence that this is now clearly the high-bar in Pune for North Indian kababs and curries.

The Murgh Tikkas at this restaurant are completely extraordinary. Wonderfully marinated and grilled, these simple kababs showcase the expertise of master-chef Jiggs Kalra.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pesto Pesto

Pesto Pesto in PuneAmong the many Italian restaurants now in the city, I think Pesto Pesto is among the best when it comes to reproducing the authentic tastes of Italy.  Located on the top floor of Onyx Towers in Koregaon Park, window-side seating at this restaurant makes for a romantic dinner experience.  But if you want to sample a larger variety of items, you may want to be there for the weekend lunch buffet.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Eating the World in Singapore

Turkish breadHaving tasted Malay, Chinese and Japanese food during the preceding days, I turned to Turkish and German for the remaining day!  Completely different cuisines from different parts of the world but prepared and served by immigrants from those countries in Singapore.  While both Turkish and German cuisine is dominated by breads and meat, they are - of course - completely different.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Days in Sentosa

Rasa Sentosa resort, SingaporeIt was a business event that brought me to the resort world of Sentosa.  We were at the beach-side Rasa Sentosa resort run by the Shangri-la group. In the bright sunlit day, I could see the vast expanse of green-blue waters of the ocean pock-marked with ships of all shapes and sizes.  Singapore's importance as a maritime trading port has been has remained unchanged since the late 13th century.  You can see that most of the vessels anchored off the coast are industrial and cargo ships; I didn't spot any leisure boat or yachts like I would in such a sunny coastline in any other part of the world.  There is no mistaking that Singapore is business first!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's Raining Restaurants in Pune

1st Brewhouse at Corinthians PuneKeeping up with all the new eateries mushrooming in Pune is turning out to be quite a feat.  However, with a never-say-die attitude, I solider on!  :)  Last weekend, we decided to drive to the other end of town and visit The Corinthians for a taste of what their website promised was a Greek restaurant.  Then we tried some quick bites at Malaka Street.  Finally, a visit to Oye Pape and a cappuccino at Dario’s - all at the new Amanora Town Center.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Konkan Cafe in Cuffe Parade

Konkan Cafe MumbaiI had heard so much about the excellent Konkan Cafe from fellow foodies but never found the time for a meal here.  This restaurant is the creation of one of India’s best known chefs, Ananda Soloman, and serves the food of India’s Konkan coast that covers the coastal regions of Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and the northern parts of Kerala. Located at the southern tip of Bombay’s Cuffe Parade, Konkan Cafe has built up a legion of fans who swear by its food.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Royal Gardenia Continues to Delight

Edo at Royal Gardenia BangaloreI returned to two of my favorites restaurants at the ITC Royal Gardenia in Bangalore.  I had last visited Edo when it had just opened about two years back. I could see that people here are slowing beginning to develop a taste for good Japanese food beyond sushi. As for my other favorite, Kababs & Kurries, they continue to be very popular during lunch and dinner hours, and for good reason.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

More Pune Food Reviews

Zambar in Pune Phoenix Market CityFor the first time in Pune, we paid a visit to a shopping mall to dine rather than shop.  With the opening of Phoenix Market City and Amanora Town Center, you finally have malls that include upscale sit-in dining options. We were here to try Zambar, a restaurant that serves South Indian coastal food in a wonderfully creative setting.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pune Updates: Copper Chimney, Zomato and More

Baked Potato Skins at Hard Rock Cafe Pune Copper Chimney needs no introduction to those who have lived in Bombay.  They have been serving delectible North Indian mughlai cuisine in that city for over 35 years now.  Pune isn’t new for the people behind Copper Chimney; they ran a restaurant called Bombay Brasserie in Dhole Patil Road; used to be my favorite place for kababs and curries until they closed and Oh! Calcutta took its place.  The good news is they are back!  Copper Chimney opened its doors in Koregaon Park last week.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Steamboat Dinner in Singapore

Steamboat refers to an interesting dining style prevalent in parts of Asia.  The dinner consists of a simmering pot of stock at the center of the dining table.  While the pot is kept simmering, a variety of thinly sliced meats, seafood and vegetables are placed into the pot and cooked at the table.  This type of dining is also known as Hotpot or Chinese Fondue in other parts of Asia.

Hot pot cooking has existed for a long time in China.  It became widespread as early as 700 AD during the reign of the Tang dynasty in China and regional variations soon developed.  While the traditional coal-heated steamboat has been replaced with electric or gas stoves, this communal style of dining continues continues to be very popular in Singapore, China and Korea.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Evvia in Palo Alto

Evvia Palo AltoThe restaurant business is unusually fickle.  Only 7% of all restaurants actually succeed and 9 out of 10 close before the end of their first year.  This makes it all the more incredible when you find a restaurant that has stood the test of time and flourished.  Evvia is one of those rare ones.  Not only has the restaurant being serving its patrons for over 15 years, it continues to be among the best in the Silicon Valley for Hellenic cuisine.


Sunday, June 03, 2012

Back at Boulevard

Boulevard restaurant San FranciscoOnly a few weeks back, Boulevard won the equivalent of the Oscars, when it was named America’s outstanding restaurant by the James Beard foundation.  This San Francisco has made a name for itself during the last few years with regards to food, service and atmosphere.  Chef Nancy Oakes is among the most recognized names among foodies in the Bay Area which has several Michelin-starred restaurants and celebrity chefs.  I decided it was time for another visit when I arrived in San Francisco on a Sunday afternoon.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kababs From the British Raj

Saheb Sindh Sultan in Bangalore Saheb Sindh Sultan is one of the more interesting restaurants in Bangalore.  This restaurant does a admirable job of recreating the atmosphere and culinary delicacies from a bygone era of Indian royalty and the British Raj.  As for its unusual name, let me acquaint you with a page from history.  In a watershed moment of India's locomotive history, three steam engines pulled into Mumbai with 14 carriages and 400 passengers - the first passenger-train in India. The date was April 16, 1853. The three steam engines were named Saheb, Sindh and Sultan.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Frascati, Artichokes and Pecorino

Mozarella and Ham at RomeLiving out of a rented apartment for a week in Rome allowed us to discover several local culinary delights that are native to the region.  Ancient Rome had played a pivotal role in the history of wine-making.  What earlier used to be the privilege of the ruling classes was swiftly democratized by the Romans, who considered wine a daily necessity for life, even for their lowly slaves.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Piazza Hopping in Rome

Bernini's fountains at Piazza NavonaStrolling through the piazzas of Rome is an experience you don’t want to miss.  These historic city squares of Rome serve as a place to meet, dine, watch people and chat.  So if you truly want to ‘do as the Romans do' when in Rome, you want to indulge in this simplest of pleasures.

Piazza Navona is the most famous of the Roman piazzas.  A large cobblestoned square surrounding the magnificent fountains designed by baroque sculptor Bernini, Piazza Novona has an unique charm.  Scores of artists and street performers set up shop in the center, while cafes and gelateria busily attend to their customers around its perimeter.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Trattorie of Trastavere

Osteria del Rugantino RomeIt can actually be fun to get lost in Trastavere!  This Roman neighborhood beyond the Tiber retains its character since the medieval times.  Narrow, winding cobblestoned streets lined with old houses, several tiny pubs and interesting restaurants, Trastavere was easily my favorite haunt in Rome, especially during lunch-time.

The first time we visited here was on the recommendation of our landlord (or rather lady). Trattoria sora Cencia turned out to a busy place that served a variety of fresh pasta and meats.  We were hungry and went with the fixed three course meal.  They started us us on bruschetta before our pasta entrees.  I had chosen the Rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce and wild boar - and it was out of the world!  I followed with a escalope of veal in marsala wine and roasted sweet potatoes.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Roman Holiday

Travellers' Choice 2012, an annual rating by millions of travelers on TripAdvisor, recently rated Rome higher than Paris as a tourist destination.  While I may not rate these two fabulous cities in quite that order, I can see why Rome has continued to fascinate so many travelers through the ages.

Pantheon Rome We had rented an apartment on Via die Serpenti, a quaint little street that sloped gently down from the towering ramparts of the Colosseum, lined with tiny shops and graffiti-adorned wooden doors.  An old fountain gurgled in the middle of a small cobble-stoned piazza.  Wrought-iron chairs and checkered table-cloths spilled out of trattorias around the piazza.  Micro-cars, scooters and bikes lined both sides of the tiny streets.  The late-April morning in Rome was refreshing cold as I looked out of my window, a full ten degrees lower than the hot Pune summer I had left behind!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pepper Crab In Singapore

A Study in Apple at The Golden Peony Conrad SingaporeThe last time I was here, I had feasted on Singapore’s celebrated dish, the Chilly Crab.  Discussing this dish with local friends, I also realized there are two kinds of crab lovers in this food-loving nation-city: those who swear by chilli crabs and those who prefer the pepper crabs instead.  Aha, I thought, what better excuse than this to plan another primeval crab dinner, the Singapore way.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Murray Circle in Sausalito

Murray Circle San FranciscoI was back in the lovely precincts of Cavallo Point, a resort hotel overlooking the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay from Sausalito.  Since this was a business trip, I did not have the time to relax in their super-cosy rooms with their real fire-places.  Unlike the last time, a constant drizzle and cold winds kept us indoors the entire time.


Sunday, April 01, 2012


RN74 in San FranciscoIf you are looking for a hyper-trendy, sophisticated restaurant for an evening of drinks and dinner in San Francisco, RN74 may be just the place for you! Flickering candles, colored glass and loads of atmosphere characterize this offering from Michael Mina.  Incidentally, this place gets its name from a highway in Burgundy.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Timeless Cuisine of the Nawabs

Shahi Tukra and Kulfi at Dum PukhtDum Pukht has been one of the finest restaurants showcasing the 200-year old legacy of the nawabs of Awadh. Characterized by the subtle use of spices, this restaurant serves the renowned Dum Pukht biryani and the Kakori kabab, best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Dum Pukht at the ITC Maratha in Mumbai recently reopened its door after a complete renovation. While the menu remains the same, the decor has been changed for the better.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Days of Michael Mina

Bourbon Steak Trio of FriesMichael Mina celebrated 20 years of cooking in San Francisco just a few months back. Through these years Mina has set up a culinary empire that spans the country. But San Francisco is still special, for it was here he first began his meteoric rise. A couple of years back, he moved his eponymous restaurant to the same location where Aqua once existed, and where he began his climb to stardom.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Coi in San Francisco

Lamb at Coi San FranciscoCoi is clearly not for everyone. Chef Daniel Patterson's culinary journey is best appreciated by foodies who are willing to stretch their boundaries and appreciate the special ingredients and complex preparation that goes into every serving. Coi's philosophy is based on sourcing the best local ingredients: cultivated plants grown from heirloom seeds; wild-harvested leaves, flowers, barks and roots; local fish, seaweeds and coastal grasses; pastured meat, poultry and eggs from small farmers. The 11-course dinner here reminded me of an excellent Kaiseki dinner I had experienced in Tokyo.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pune Dining: New Updates and Reviews

Food at Kiva Ivy PuneKiva first opened on Range Hills Road in Pune and quickly became the drinking hole of choice for students and youngsters in that side of town. The tastefully done interiors looked like something out of the Star Wars movie - Tatooine for those who know their Star Wars universe well! They went on to open a second, larger restaurant and bar in Koregaon Park, this time done up in Pacific island themes, totems poles and all. Now they have three more, each of them uniquely themed with a satisfying bar menu and great food.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dining at The Hyatt Chennai

Hyatt Regency ChennaiThe Hyatt Regency opened its doors last year in Chennai. All the floors are not ready yet, which can make for some rough edges if you choose this hotel for a business trip. However, what tilts the balance in it favor are its excellent restaurants. The hotel is home to three restaurants: Stix specializes in Chinese cuisine from the Sichuan region and street hawker-style cooking from the East; Focaccia serves up home-style Italian food from the southern part of the country; and, Spice Market which provides you an all-day dining experience in a pleasant and airy setting.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Another Whirlwind Trip

Another quick trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I expected downtown San Francisco to be very cold but the weather turned out to be pleasant, unusually so for this time of the year. Emirates had upgraded me to first class on my entire onward journey from Mumbai to San Francisco, and I was nicely rested by the time I arrived. By the time I checked in, showered and thought of lunch, it was pretty late in the afternoon.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Quick Bites at Phoenix Mall

Malaka Street PuneLarge department stores and shopping malls began opening in Pune about a decade back. Few have lasted long, but newer ones continue to open every year. Right now, the shopping district of choice is clearly Nagar Road where three new malls have recently opened their doors. The biggest of them all? Phoenix Market City.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tasting Malaysia

Cencaru fish with chili padai and petaiKL can be an exciting place for foodies with its incredible variety of street food and cuisines - brought together by the different ethnic groups that make up this interesting country. I had a chance to sample a selection of foods, some for the very first time. There are three distinct sets of cuisines associated with the major ethnic groups: Malay, Indian and Chinese, but there are also some lesser known ones such as Nyonya (of the Straits Chinese ethnic group) and Sarawak (a community that lives on the island of Borneo).


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Enter The Dragon

Chinese New Year at KLKuala Lumpur was decked in gold and red as the city got ready to celebrate the Chinese New Year - the Year of the Dragon. Chinese restaurants in the city advertised special menus with names such as Prosperity, Happiness, Wealth. The upscale malls of Jalan Bukit Bintang were crowded with well-heeled shoppers out to have a special time for the New Year. Seeing all the excitement, one wouldn't realize that only 20 percent here are of Chinese origin while the majority are Malay who are predominately Muslim. This is one reason why Malaysia advertises itself as Truly Asia. With a vibrant multi-cultural population of Malays, Chinese and Indians, this country is a melting pot of religions, cuisines and cultures, not very unlike India.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Shisha & Addah

Shisha Cafe PuneShisha is Persian for hookah. Which gives you some idea of what to expect: a Persian themed cafe run by an Iranian where a flavored hookah can be ordered at the table-side. However, what makes Shisha truely popular with the locals and foreigners alike is the refreshingly different interiors, the greenery all around, and the live jazz on select weekend.

Shisha is a great place for a casual date or even a late-evening rendezvous with friends and colleagues. But it isn't a place you visit with kids in tow! The large restaurant has two levels and on most days is packed during the late evenings. The restaurant opens for a late breakfast and lunch, if you are nostalgic for some Iranian staples in the city.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Tuk-Tuks and Temples

The Reclining Buddha in BangkokThere were no signs of the recent floods during the day we spent gallivanting through Bangkok. We had decided to take some time off from our beach vacation in Koh Samui to soak up some culture and food in this captivating city. Our hotel, the Royal Orchid Sheraton, was located right on the banks of the Chao Praya River, giving us the flexibility of choosing between a taxi, tuk-tuk or a riverboat. In addition to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew - which I have visited before - we took a diversion to some other temples off the beaten path.

Wat Ratchabhopit, a temple dedicated to the Buddha, was a-glitter with gold and red motifs. Far away from the tourist hordes, this temple provided us a peaceful oasis from which to admire the thought and intricate workmanship that went into building Thai temples, many of which such as this one is a combination of influences - local Thai, other Asian and European.