Saturday, October 24, 2015

Asia Box and Jimmy Hu

Khao Suey at Asian Box PuneFood and cooking styles from Persia and countries in the west entered India from the time Arab traders began landing on our shores. On the other hand, cuisines from the Far East got in only recently; the earliest among them, Chinese. The Chinese have been traveling to India since Buddhism began entering their country, but their food made its way to our shores only during the heydays of the British East India Company. Immigrant Hakka Chinese made their way to Calcutta whose port afforded them plenty of jobs. They brought with them their noodles, soups, sauces and woks. Chinese cooks soon opened eateries here, learning quickly to combine their sauces with local vegetables, spices and produce, even learning to adapt their menu to suit local tastes.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dravida’s & Peter Donuts

Classic Rock Coffee Co. in PuneDravida’s Bistro is a welcome addition to Pune’s food scene.  Where most restaurants that serve Indian food tend to focus on oily dishes that can leave you feeling heavy and lethargic, Dravida’s has filled its menu with home-style South Indian food with a contemporary twist. The focus is on the use of fresh vegetables and healthy grains. What surprised me the most was the price-point.  For the food on offer and the casual but upscale ambiance I am sure many would be willing to pay higher.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Picantos & Wadeshwar

Burrito Bowl at Picantos Pune.Mexican food has taken a surprisingly long time to get to Pune. I have never quite understood why.   Indians traveling to the USA during the 90s when there were few Indian and South Asian restaurants in that country quickly found themselves at a Taco Bell or something similar that served the basic Mexican fare of tacos and burritos. That was the nearest they could come to spicy fare that was familiar to their taste-buds when they craved for some comfort food.  Now, we have so many eateries in town serving Italian, Mediterranean and Thai, but nary a place that serves Mexican. Until now.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Classic Rock Coffee and Bombay Bronx

Classic Rock Coffee Co. in PuneClassic Rock is unlike any other coffee place you would have been to, unless you have visited one of their outlets in the United States.  It is like being in a backstage lounge of a rock concert.  They are as much known for the variety and the quality of their coffee roasts as for the usually cool and funky ambiance. Bombay Bronx is the newest answer to our city’s never-ending quest for new watering holes and they have done a fabulous job of carving their unique identity already.


Saturday, September 05, 2015

Food Story and Zamu's

Food Story in Pune For those who never tire of kababs and curries, Pune now has one more excellent destination. Food Story on Boat Club Road brings to you the delectable fare perfected by Nawabi families of Hyderabad in upscale surroundings. For those who prefer good food with a casual old Pune vibe, Zamu’s continues to be a great choice. Lip-smacking sizzlers and Parsi delicacies like Dhansak make it to the table just the way they did 16 years back when I moved into Pune, albeit in surroundings that have undergone a makeover.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Desi Delights

Mastani at Sujata Mastani PuneSweet lovers have not had it so good in Pune. You have several sweetmeat sellers that conjure up the most delicious classic Rajasthani and Bengali sweets. From expertly made burfis to an authentic ghewar, from fluffy roshogollas to palm sugar sandesh and kheer kadam. You no longer need to trouble friends travelling from Delhi and Kolkata; you can have them all - right here in Pune. For those with a taste for Western delicacies, say a cheesecake or a creme brûlée, you have several great choices too. However, this post is not about these classic desserts, but the ones that have been  crafted and perfected by our street vendors over the years.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Tale of Two Bakers

Pastries at La Bouchee D’Or, PuneGerman Bakery in Pune has been a favourite haunt for foreigners, hippies, and expats ever since the early 90s when most outsiders came to this city to get away from the stress of modern urban life.  When I first visited this place at the turn of the millennium, it was teeming with maroon robed inmates of the nearby Osho commune.  And so it continued until that fateful day in February 2010 when terrorists exploded a bomb here killing 17 and injuring over 60 people.


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Fish Curry Rice and Nisarg

Fish Curry Rice PuneI have heard of Fish Curry Rice for so long and yet been unable to try it due to its location and the lack of parking. This week I was finally able to sample what many say is the best seafood restaurant in town. Fish Curry Rice brings local coastal cuisine to its patrons in its real form  without the adornments and embellishments of the typical restaurant fare. This is in fact the next best thing to home-made food!


Saturday, August 01, 2015

Kapila Kathi Kababs

Nizam’s Kathi Kababs KolkataDuring my college days, I did my summer internship at Kolkata. Among the many things I remember from those days are the street food that were not only easy on the pocket but also a gourmet’s delight. The most popular of them the Kathi Kabab and Muglai Paratha.  When I came to Pune several years back, I discovered Kapila Kathi Kababs, a small ‘hole-in-the-wall’ outlet on Dhole Patil Road that recreated the deliciousness of the Kolkata Kathi rolls and have been addicted ever since.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Where Else in Pune?

Chicken dish at Where Else? in PuneWhere Else Cafe & Bar is another of the new generation cafes that have sprung up in Pune. We got here on a weekday during lunch hours and found the place mostly bereft of customers, but from the large number of bags being readied for home delivery indicated their popularity with patrons that live and work in its vicinity.  The cafe has a bright, youthful vibe and give you an option of outdoor or indoor dining.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Beetroot and Krusty's

Beetroot and Krusty’s are a new generation of Western-style restaurants that are becoming increasingly popular in a city that was dominated by North Indian and Chinese food until recently.  Clearly food lovers in Pune are finally beginning to experiment and cast their net wider when hunting for a new place to eat. Italian pastas are no longer the only European food they want to try!


Saturday, July 04, 2015

Two Countries for Foodies

Saboten Tonkatsu SingaporeGreece and Japan - two nations on other sides of the world, one a proud Eastern culture that has been developing its culture and forming new layers for thousands of years, the other even older and among the first civilisations of the Western world. They don’t seem to have much in common until you see them through a foodie's eyes.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hungry in Silicon Valley?

What better place to get hunger pangs than in the Bay Area? This mecca of all that is high-tech in the vicinity of Palo Alto and San Francisco also offers much for both the discerning palate and to  those who just want a quick interesting meal. My recent trip here has been replete with exciting new discoveries in addition to visits to old favorites.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sahib Room in Mumbai

Sahib Room at The Palladium MumbaiInfusing a dose of British Raj nostalgia into an Indian fine dining experience has been done before. Saheb Sindh Sultan in Bangalore is one that immediately comes to mind which tries to recreate the romance of train travel in British India. Oh! Calcutta too crafted a menu and experience to recreate the food experience of Calcutta under the British. The Sahib Room at the tony Palladium Hotel in central Mumbai takes this concept forward and manages to please in the process.


Saturday, June 06, 2015

Khorisa Brings Assam to Pune

Indians tend to be conservative when it comes to food. North Indian and Chinese continue to be the most popular choices when people dine out. South Indian food is popular in the country too, but only as breakfast or snack food. Therefore, the vast richness of our regional cuisines remains unavailable outside of their native regions.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

farm:table & Tycoon Thai

Daily Bread at farm:table San Francisco is chock-a-block with interesting restaurants. You could be a few blocks away from a  great little place you would love but not find it.  Technology hasn’t evolved enough to match people with the places they are sure to enjoy. This is specially true of restaurant apps such as Yelp!, OpenTable or Zomato, all of who use crowd-sourced ratings to sort restaurants. Food is a very a personal thing that everyone tends to rate differently. A lover of spicy food can find even a good French restaurant insipid and bland, but even if their taste buds did not vary, one may give a higher importance to atmosphere, price, and/or service quality than another.


Saturday, May 02, 2015

Dimsums Galore at HK

We are a family of dim-sum lovers. When we decided to book our flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific, I had to give in to the temptation of making a brief halt for a dim-sum tour of Hong Kong.  This island was a refuge for fleeing Chinese from the mainland, first during the Mongol invasion and then again during the Opium Wars when the British wrested this island from the Chinese and made it a strategic military port.  Immigrants from the East and the West brought with them culinary techniques that soon resulted in a medley of tastes and flavors that continue to tempt the palate.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Trip to Kyoto

Taking the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto is an experience in itself.  On a good day you can even see the symmetrical beauty of the snow-clad Mt. Fuji as you get a taste of Japanese efficiency. The bullet-train gets you there in less than two hours traveling at a speed nearing 300 kmph. The attendants bow deeply every time they enter and leave a coach. The punctuality, cleanliness and efficiency of these trains reminded me of Germany. Kyoto, like the train journey, is a study in contrasts.  The traditional and the new jostle to impress the visitor.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ramen, Soba, Udon and More

Soba Noodle soup in TokyoFor those less familiar with Japan, when you think of food you probably think sushi. As you dig deeper, you will discover it is so much more!  Like the French, Japanese are passionate about food and celebrate the wide variety of their eating choices in small and intimate surroundings.  Where they differ from classical French is their Zen philosophy of keeping it simple.  No elaborate sauces for them! They focus on putting together the best seasonal produce and enhancing their natural flavours with delicate sauces and seasonings.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Holiday in Japan

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo 2015It was dark when we were finally checked into our room on the 49th floor of the Ritz-Carton Tokyo.  The panoramic cityscape of twinkling lights outside our windows was dominated by Tokyo Tower which looked no less impressive than the Eiffel.  We had landed in Narita more than an hour back on a really cold evening.  Our Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong had been delayed by a few hours.  I wasn’t concerned at all.  Being on a vacation with the family seems to make my irritability and impatience disappear - qualities that show up in abundance when glitches happen during business travel!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Of Jalebis and Imarti

Imarti at Haldiram'sAnother day dawns in one of the small towns and villages that dot the North Indian Gangetic plains.  Roosters crow in the distance as the faint morning light begins to permeate the early morning mists.  You can see smoke beginning to waft from dozens of stoves along the winding streets and alleys as local halwais open shop and get ready for the day.  Many of these early morning confectioners and sweet-makers specialize in just one sweet that is ubiquitous in small-town North India during this time of the day: the jalebi.


Sunday, March 01, 2015

Weekends in San Francisco

San FranIt is not often that I get to spend an entire weekend in downtown San Francisco. It is even more rare when such a weekend begins with the most perfect weather. Now that I had gotten one, I was going to make full use of it.  The previous week, I had flown into Boston during a time when the region was in the midst of a deep freeze due to crazy weather that seem to be the norm now-a-days. I could hardly venture outside for a coffee without feeling uncomfortable in the chilling wind. Washington DC was somewhat better, but only a little. This made the lovely weekend in San Fran even more welcome!  After waking up late and getting some food under my belt, I decided to take a long walk to the Ferry Building.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pune Food Roundup

Pune continues to see a rapid influx of new restaurants even as some old (and not-so-old ones) go belly-up. As the city replicates Bangalore’s explosive growth during the last two decades, I expect this trend to continue for several years. This can only be good news for foodies! When I moved into Pune in ’99, it seemed like there were only a few places to choose from to eat-out. Today, we are spoilt for choice. I can no longer boast that I have eaten at every good restaurant in town.


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Gajalee In Pune

Grilled Pomfret at Gajalee PuneMumbai’s popular seafood restaurant Gajalee is now in Pune!  Their raison d’être is simple: turning the freshest catch into sumptuous coastal delicacies with a minimum of fuss.  We turned up a their nicely done up (and large) restaurant next to the Inox multiplex in Camp.  Unlike in Mumbai, where there would be a long line of people waiting for tables at their flagship restaurant during lunchtime especially on a weekend, this restaurant was mostly empty.


Monday, February 02, 2015

A Craving for Burgers

Hops Original at Hops & HominyMy craving for burgers continues unabated. Every time I am in the United States, I hunt out new places to relish yet another spin on this uniquely American comfort food.  Thankfully, there is no dearth of variety! Burgers are now offered as fast food and in gourmet variants.  You can go gaga over In N Out or Super Duper Burgers, great examples of fast-food versions that are actually fun to eat, and then there is also the designer version dished out by Ralph Lauren's RL in Chicago, a favorite of celebrities such as Oprah.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Grand Mexican at Colibri

Colibri SFThere has been an upswing in the number of new and inventive Mexican restaurants in San Francisco lately.  Places such as La Urbana, Nopalita, and Tacolicious have successfully combined cutting edge Mexican culinary techniques with an upscale and chic ambiance that has both locals and visitors flocking to them.


Saturday, January 03, 2015


Dezio in PuneDario’s has been a long-time favorite for Italian food lovers in Pune. This was pretty much the only place for authentic Italian fare in town until a few years back. Started by an Italian chef who decided to make Pune his home, the only thing missing in Dario’s impressive food menu until now was meat. Carnivore fans you can now rejoice! Dezio, their new restaurant in Kalyani Nagar not only celebrities the flavors of Sicily, but also brings meat on the menu.