Restaurant Review: Botticino

Address: Trident, Bandra Kurla Complex
Reservations: Yes
Price: Rs. 8000, meal for 4 minus alcohol

The Italians have a saying that goes ‘Viva il cuoco che ci delizia con leccornie e allegria’. This means ‘bless the cook who serves love and laughter’. I’d like to begin my review by thanking Chef Sushil and Manager Ms. Alisha Rampal of the Italian restaurant Botticino (Trident Hotel, BKC) for serving my family and I one of the finest Italian meals we’ve had in a long time. I cannot seem to remember the last time that I ate such good food, leaving me craving for a whole lot more.

We kicked off my sister’s 21st birthday countdown with this dinner. Quite frankly we entered the restaurant with no expectations because Italian food has now become so redundant all over Mumbai, there’s nothing new left to try. Little did we know we would be proven wrong.

Dinner began with a bottle of Fratelli Sangiovese and freshly baked bread. My mother was supremely happy because the restaurant offers a completely different menu for vegetarians. Her night was made at that very moment :). For my Jain readers, a lot of the dishes on this special menu can also be made as Jain preparations. We chose the Mushroom, porcini and morel cream soup and the Roman style Minestrone.  For mains we had the Parmesan ravioli (celery cream, black truffle, butter and sage), Asparagus and bell pepper risotto (cherry tomato and scamorza cheese), Primaverole pizza and the baked lasagna (with aubergine caponata, mozzarella cheese and parmesan sauce).

Both soups were absolutely authentic. The minestrone is such a simple soup yet tingled every one of my taste buds. The mushroom soup was definitely worth the allergy that broke out by the end of the meal (for those of you who are allergic like I am, just pop in a pill! You don’t want to miss out on this soup). It’s served with a ricotta and truffle tortellini and dried porcini. The server then pours hot morel cream over it. It’s now ready for you to enjoy.

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The pizza unfortunately was a bit of a let down after this. We found it a tad rubbery and it saddens me to say that it was served at room temperature.

The ravioli came next and found it’s way to my heart making me excuse the pizza debacle. After just two bites of the buttery-sage, celery cream, black truffle goodness that was the ravioli, I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to share the rest of the dish with my family, but I kind of had to! The next time I’m back at Botticino I will be sure to order one ONLY FOR ME.

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The Arborio rice (risotto) was cooked to absolute perfection. The asparagus, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes blended perfectly with just the right amount of scamorza cheese.

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For me, the hero of the evening was the ravioli (probably because I’m a sucker for truffles), but for the rest of my family it was the lasagna. The caponata was extremely tender with the right balance of cheese and parmesan sauce. Finger licking good!

After this point I didn’t think that I’d be able to go through dessert but, as the Italians say ‘C’è sempre posto per un ultimo boccone’, which means ‘there’s always room for a tasty treat!’ So we ordered a selection of the homemade ice cream – sea salt and burnt sugar, bitter chocolate and stracciatella (similar to your plain Jane chocolate chip ice cream, only much better!) and their signature dish, the Mocha Budino. Alisha explains that this is a coffee flavoured mousse, but the texture is such that it can remind you of a pudding. They serve it with cannelloni filled with ricotta and pistachio and has hints of candied orange, extracted from the orange peel (that is a part of the filling). What do I know, I was just too busy devouring it! We also cut a small  celebratory chocolate mousse cake that was nothing short of DIVINE, that was on the house, courtesy of Botticino being on the American Express fine dining list. Let me also add here that if you are a Cassata fan, Chef Sushil is happy to whip it up for you if you let him know in advance. 

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There are two Italian sayings that I’d like to finish with because they do complete justice to my experience – ‘Cucinare è una forma d’amore‘ which means ‘cooking is love made visible‘ and ‘La buona cucina rende allegri’, ‘laughter is brightest where food is best’, roughly translated. Both these stand true because this was one of the loveliest dinners we’ve eaten together as a family. I for one cant wait to go back to see what Chef Sushil comes up with in the new menu (to be launched soon, or just to see how the ravioli is doing!).

Buon Appetito!

P.S I wish I had carried my camera along for better photographs 😦

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The sweet flavours of Holi

Hello Readers!

With the Indian festival of colours Holi a day away, I thought it was only essential to share recipes of typical Indian sweets that one simply cannot go without on this day – malpua, gujiya and of course, thandai. Before I share these recipes though, since a lot of my lovely readers are situated outside India, let me give you a little background on the bright day that is Holi.

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This is one of my favourite photographs of the festival courtesy of National Geographic.
Source: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/holi-celebrants-india/

Come Phagun Poornima (full moon night) and the streets of India reverberate with the chants of “Holi hai” (it’s Holi today!) clouds of abeer and gulal (dry, coloured powder) float through the sky, and the day turns into a riot of colors among great bonhomie and camaraderie, and of course flirting! The colors of this festival are entrenched in the very soul of every Indian.

This ancient festival, originally called Holika, is believed to have existed several centuries before Christ. And while all of us know the story of the evil Holika and the Shivbhakt Prahlad (http://www.holifestival.org/legend-holika-prahlad.html), Holi also heralds the commencement of spring, and so is also called Vasant mahotsav.

In some parts of India, specially in Bengal and Orissa, Holi Purnima is also celebrated as the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Hindu monk from the 16th century). And in South India Kaamdev (Hindu God of Love) is worshipped on this day. The Sikks call it holla mohalla and show their might on this day. However, the literal meaning of the word ‘Holi’ is ‘burning’. There is also a scientific reason for celebrating Holi. The mutation period of winter and spring, induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere as well as in the body. When Holika is burnt, temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenhiet. Following the tradition when people perform Parikrima (circumambulation) around the fire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it.

However, nowhere it is celebrated with so much charm and enthusiasm as in Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon – the places associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna. The people of Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate Holi for over a week. Legend says that the young Krishna was extremely jealous of the fair Radha. On complaining Radha kyon gori, main kyun kala (why is Radha so fair whilst I am so dark?), Maiya Yashoda (His mother) asked him to go and color Radhas face, and since then, this loveable prank of Krishna has been immortalised in the celebrations of holi. In fact, the entire country gets drenched in the coloured waters of pichkaris (small water pipes) when it is time for Holi and celebrate the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. At Barsana, the birth place of Radha, Holi assumes the name of Lathmaar Holi. Here, women of Barsana give a tough time to men of Nandgaon as they come to play Holi with them. Women drag the unlucky captives, beat them, dress them in a female attire – yet all is in the spirit of Holi. These celebrations draw tourists from around the world, and in the interest of tourism and safety, the state tourist board has set up excellent vantage points for the public. A large open ground, on the outskirts of the town is specially set aside for the most magnificent display of the festivities.

Holi is celebrated all over the country under different names like sigmo, dol jatra, khadi holi, dhuleti, ukkuli and kumaoni holi. The one common ritual being the colors, dancing and the revelry, and mouth watering gujiya, mathri, malpua and thandai associated with holi.

Here are a few good recipes that I found online:

Gujiya: http://food.ndtv.com/recipe-gujiya-218891

Thandai: http://food.ndtv.com/recipe-thandai-218155

Malpua: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/recipe/Malpua.html

This Holi, do not forget to be safe, protect your skin and hair, and have a whole lot fun!

 

Café Review: Sugar Rush

Address: 2, Bajaj Arcade, Union Park, Carters Road, Khar West, Mumbai – 400054
Telephone: 022-6530111/9820151417
Hours: 10.30 a.m. – 1 a.m.
All desserts are eggless.

If you’re driving down towards Carter Road from Khar, you will be compelled to see gorgeously bright, candy pink doors on the right side of the street. These doors will make you want to stop your car and walk into the mini candy land that is Sugar Rush. Now if only it was located on a cobbled street, with perhaps a rivulet gurgling by, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe.

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Owned by Rushda Azmi Shaikh, sister of renowned restaurateur Farhan Azmi, Sugar Rush is a delightful dessert boutique that made me forget I was in busy Mumbai for a few minutes. With a graduate degree in hotel management and a diploma in bakery, this is Rushda’s first venture. I stepped into Sugar Rush three weeks ago in order to satiate my sister’s chocolate cravings not knowing that I would be doing a review for them. I met Rushda and her family then and was greeted with extreme warmth. I’m always impressed when there’s a personal touch involved during sales, so she earned brownie points at that very moment 🙂

What I ate

A mud pie, blueberry, red velvet and chocolate ganache cupcakes, a cream cheese macaroon and a Nutella banana smoothie (new on the menu). A friend that had accompanied me tried that Strawberry smoothie. Don’t I just have everybody’s dream job?

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You may stop drooling now.

The chocolate mud pie was TO DIE FOR. Incredibly gooey, you want to get your hands on this one. Of all the mini cupcakes, the blueberry was the one I liked the most. I should add here that the red velvet cupcake is totally devoid of food colour. They use fresh beetroot juice instead. In a world where everybody is still going gaga over red velvet, which is pretty much only food colour, this was pleasant surprise. The cream cheese macaroon was interesting to say the least. This is made from the base of the red velvet cupcake with sugar and cream cheese added. The Nutella banana smoothie was absolutely delicious, a tad on the sweeter side; if you don’t like your smoothies too sweet, there are plenty of other fresh fruit options to choose from, like the strawberry smoothie. It was a burst of fresh berries in my mouth. As summer approaches, I look forward to their mango smoothie.

With a back kitchen in Andheri, Rushda ensures that each dessert displayed in the boutique is made fresh every day. Besides the above, they also have a range of cakes (single pastry, 1/2 and 1 kilo), chocolates, cookies, brownies, breads and other beverages. They are also happy to make you custom cakes.

Décor

I fell in love with the charm Sugar Rush has to offer the minute I stepped into it. The interiors have been designed by Rushda’s husband Sakib Shaikh of Bombay Painting Works fame. His attention to detail is admirable. I particularly loved the cupcake wall clock. The French windows and candy pink high stools are sure to grab your attention.

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Sugar Rush and Rushda were both an absolute delight and I definitely recommend a visit.

P.S. Do not leave without eating her mud pie!