The Dineout Experience with Shiros

Open your App Store, enter ‘Food’ in the search bar and a 100 different apps will pop up presenting to you, the problem of plenty. In this new age of Digital Food, Dineout comes to us at the right time bringing to us a cashless experience. I kid you not, there couldn’t have been an easier app to use to help you book a table at your favourite restaurant in town and experience your lunch / dinner party ‘cashless’.

‘Dineout is a times internet acquired premium table reservation app. We believe in making your meals hassle free by eliminating wait time. Recently Dineout has introduced smart pay an easy and quick way to pay your bill cashless. If you pay by mobikwik you get 40 percent as cash back in your wallet which you can always enjoy at your next meal’. 

Spread across 8 cities, they seat over 1,00,000 diners a month, have over 4,50,000 active app users and a strong ecosystem of top restaurants, discerning diners and premium Food and Beverage outlets.

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Step 1: Download the App

 

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Step 2: Take a quick tour

 

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Step 3: Set your location and search for your favourite restaurant

 

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Step 4: Enter your booking preferences and confirm your contact details

 

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Step 5: Enter the SMS verification code sent by them and you’re set!

It’s literally as easy as that!

Dineout recently conducted a bloggers’ table for a few with the boys from Eat Aloud at Shiros, Lower Parel, Mumbai.

 

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The captivating entrance

With mesmerising interiors, great crowd and good music this seemed like a recipe for a great night.

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The Shanghai Sunset

My poison for the evening was The Shanghai Sunset. A delightful amalgamation of Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila, vodka, melon liqueur, pineapple and cranberry juice. Tequila lovers must give this a try.

Considering that I was famished by the time I got to Shiros, the Korean Chilli potatoes were a welcome delight and I managed to finish 3/4th of that plate by myself. Tangy, spicy and a little sweet, these golden fried babies made mama happy. The Shanghai Mushroom dumplings on the other hand, did not. Whilst the stuffing was tender the dumpling itself was excessively chewy.

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Sautéed green beans and fried garlic are always welcome on my plate. These were cooked perfectly – crunchy, juicy and full of garlic, they make for a great side dish.

The vegetarian Thai curry was high on flavour but definitely not one of the best curries I’ve had. Nothing to rave about here. The fried rice by itself was fragrant but still needed a little help from the curry to help bring out its flavour.

Since I no longer eat eggs, I was unable to try any of the desserts.

Would I go back to Shiros? Without a doubt. The food may not be something to write home about but the drinks, the music, the decor and the overall vibe of this place is certainly worthy of more than one visit.

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What’s Your Food IQ?

I read an excellent article posted by the Times of India (a leading newspaper in India) recently, titled – What’s your food IQ? The article asks 7 basic questions, some answers can be quite surprising ! I got a 5/7.

Test yourself here – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/diet/Whats-your-food-IQ/articleshow/45055942.cms
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Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Even if you don’t do too well, it doesn’t matter because there’s 7 great things to learn. Read away!

Dining in Greece

First off, my most sincere apologies for the delay in posting this article. It’s terrible having to get back to your work routine after a vacation, but no more excuses! If only work and travel could somehow come together, it would make life so much better. Ahh the joys of wishful thinking..

Now to the more important matter at hand – FOOD! In this article, I’m going to talk about the restaurants I dined at in Greece. I’m also going to let you in on a little secret. Besides the fact that I was looking forward to this trip because it was my first one with just friends, I was excited about the gorgeous beaches, people (read: God-like Greek men), and relaxing; but more than anything else, I was looking forward to eating great food. Being a vegetarian isn’t always easy when you’re travelling, luckily Greece gave me no trouble at all. What I loved the most about the food I devoured was its freshness and superior quality. Not only did every dish taste great, but also looked spectacular – the variety of colours on my plate and the presentation were a severe temptation. What I also LOVED was that almost everything I ate was quite healthy, so I’ve enjoyed my meals guilt free!

Athens

Arcadia Restaurant
‪27 Makrygianni St, Athens, Greece

You’re wandering around the streets below the Acropolis of Athens, tired, sweaty, dehydrated and starved.. What do you do? You go look for a good, fulfilling meal. And that’s how we landed up at Arcadia. Makrygianni Street (around the Plaka) has a ton of restaurants lined up, but the menu here seemed most tempting. The restaurant has two sections – one inside and one right on the street. A few cool beers and glasses of orange juice later, we were enjoying friendly conversations with the wait staff. This place can boast exceptional service! You can choose from an extensive menu of pastas, seafood and local dishes. This was the first restaurant where I tried local delicacies – dolmades, vegetarian souvlaki and zucchini fritters. It was a delicious meal, just what we needed after touring the Acropolis in the sweltering heat. The wait staff was kind enough to serve us tall glasses of local iced coffee and slices of watermelon (on the house) to help us cool down.

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Image Courtesy: Trip Advisor

Balux Café – The House Project
Posidonos Av. 58, Glyfada, Athens, Greece
http://www.baluxcafe.com
Location courtesy: Euphoric Traveler

The sounds of the calm sea, candlelight, drinks and a gorgeous sunset, followed by dinner beneath a sky full of stars and tasteful music – Balux Café breathes ROMANCE. It’s the perfect sundowner. Treat your lady to a dinner here or just chill with friends. Balux has a few cafes/restaurants, but the one you want to be at is The House Project. It’s divided by different sections. If you’re there during the day and want to relax by the beach, they have sunbeds to offer. If you wish to lie around, watch television, read a book or two, play table games, they have sections for those as well. There are two sections (indoor and outdoor) for drinks and dinner too, but I recommend you get a table by the beach. The vegetarian appetizers here sure to tickle your taste buds; we particularly enjoyed the grilled asparagus bruschetta in Parmesan sauce. Mains included a margarita pizza and a farmhouse pizza, Santorini pasta and a beautiful asparagus risotto. The restaurant is extremely famous for their sushi options, which I can’t comment on, but my friends thought it was delicious. It is a little bit pricey, so expect to pay around 30 euros per person, including drinks. It can also get very crowded, especially on nights when they have live bands playing, so you want to ensure you have a reservation. It is also a good 40-minute cab ride from the main city, so getting there is a little expensive. We managed to find a private car company to take us there for 90 Euros (one way) and since we were 9 people, we ended up getting a pretty good deal.

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Image Courtesy: http://www.baluxcafe.com
It’s as magical in reality as it looks in the photographs online.

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Image Courtesy: http://www.baluxcafe.com

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Image Courtesy: http://www.baluxcafe.com

Mykonos

Hippie Fish
Ioannis Diakoftis ‪84600

Bringing together Greek and Mediterranean food with the Mykonian Sun in a Cycladic setting, Hippie Fish is a must visit. Situated right at Agios Ioannis beach it makes for a fantastic location. The restaurant is famous for its sushi and that the movie Shirley Valentine was shot here. Their cocktails are a little expensive but are quite wicked! My recommendation here is the Apple Mojito, without a doubt. We decided to go local and ordered a plate of pita with hummus and melitzanosalata to begin with, followed by dolmades, fritters and the Greek salad. Taste and quality were both superior. You can take a look at their menu here – http://www.hippiefish-mykonos.com. The wait staff is friendly, but service is extremely slow. Luckily for the serenity of this place, we ended up spending a good 3 hours here just soaking it all in. It’s a bit pricey, but the experience is definitely worth it. You must also visit the absolutely gorgeous beach by the day.

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Bottom right photo courtesy: http://www.hippiefish-mykonos.com

Nammos
Psarou Beach, Mikonos
Location Courtesy: Euphoric Traveler

This is one experience I am never going to forget. Every penny spent at this extravagant place is completely worth it. Situated right by the Aegean Sea, Nammos is divided into several sections (refer to the photo below).

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They have a club, a spa, a boutique with only the most expensive designers, a sheesha lounge and two restaurants. A sheesha will cost you 180 Euros for an hour (yikes!). We sat at the restaurant by the beach; it’s a lot more affordable. This place attracts only the crème de la crème of Mykonos and the islands around it. Even though the top few reviews on Trip Advisor are negative, we personally thought the place was incredible – fantastic crowds, delicious food and a very helpful wait staff. Get here before sunset and this place turns into a beach club with brilliant music. However, do be ready to spend at least 35-40 Euros per person for a meal, minus the alcohol. There is also an entry fee of 4 Euros. My recommendations here are the rigatoni with asparagus and tagliatelle with truffles in a creamy garlic sauce; summed up in one word – DIVINE!

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Santorini

After having eaten so much over the last couple of days in Athens and Mykonos, we decided to take it easy in Santorini. We ate our breakfast and lunch, both in the hotel because honestly, it was too hot to go out. At night we went to the village of Fira, and found a great local, roadside place serving excellent falafels – Yogi Gyros. A single falafel here is a meal in itself. A bottle of chilled water/soda to go with it and you’re done for the evening. This will cost you approximately 6 Euros, not more. We ended up having this on 2 out of 3 nights! On our second evening we were feeling a little lazy and therefore ate at a cafe very close to our hotel – Aegen Cafe, Imerovigli. I tried the bell peppers stuffed with rice and herbs (the waitress convinced me that it was a local dish so I should try it), but they were extremely disappointing. My cousin though, had a seafood pasta in wine sauce which she quite enjoyed. What was really interesting was the that the pasta resembled grains of rice, something I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately I do not have an image, but for the record it’s called Orzo.

Quick Tip:
Service at restaurants in Greece is extremely slow, for reasons unknown, so if you’re famished, act accordingly. Also, for some reason they provide you with bills only in Greek so remember the price of the dish you ordered otherwise you won’t end up knowing what you paid for.

I do hope this article was helpful. Write in to me at chaicakekitsch@gmail.com and let me know what you think! X

10 Reasons You Need To Visit Greece ASAP!

Oppa!

I’m back from my fantastic vacation in beautiful Greece, completely tanned and rejuvenated, that little wonder for the major withdrawal symptoms ☹. This magical land stole my heart! I am so glad that I can finally tick this country off my bucket list, but I do feel like I haven’t had enough. I am quite certain that I will go back in a few years to explore the other islands.

We spent 2 nights in Athens (which is more than enough), 4 in Mykonos and 3 in Santorini. Here are my top 10 reasons why Greece must be on the top of your bucket list:

1. Sunsets
The island of Santorini is most famous for the riveting sunsets it has to offer and undoubtedly, this was the highlight of my trip. We took a day cruise to see one (3 p.m. – 8 p.m.) and believe you me, it’s the best way to experience the magic. I recommend taking a private boat for your group as opposed to the bigger, commercial boats that take over 50 people.

Online, we found a family run business that offered to take us. It was the best 70 Euros (per person) we had spent. There were two Captains on board and one server, who very quickly became our new friends. They offered us some great local white wine, food, and Greek music. But better than that, they took us to see the Red beach, the White beach, spoke about Santorini coming into being and then suddenly stopped the boat in the middle of the sea. They encouraged us to jump in and go snorkelling. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever experienced! Even though I had a little difficulty in breathing through the tube initially, the different hues of the water and the little fish swimming around took my breath away. I fell a little sick though later on because I’d swallowed too much seawater, but the crew was extremely generous and took great care of me. After lunch (which was at 5 p.m.) once again, the Captains turned off the engine in the middle of nowhere in order for us to enjoy the sunset. It was mesmerizing – the calm of the sea, beautiful Greek music playing in the background and the Sun that seemed like it was kissing the water.

Even though the most famous sunset point is the one recommended in the village of Oia (it’s the one you see on every postcard), I recommend doing a day cruise. It’s an experience in itself. Besides, good luck trying to catch a place to sit or even stand to get a view at Oia!

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2. Beaches
Google ‘beaches in Greece’ and you will be treated to some stunning images. In reality too, it’s exactly the same. This country is blessed with gorgeous beaches surrounding the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea. There are organised beaches where you can get drinks and food delivered right to your sunbed. Our favourites were Platys Gialos, Psarou, Ornos and Agios Ioannis. Then there are Paradise and Super Paradise (beaches) if you’re looking to party literally anytime during the day or night. Cavo Paradiso is an incredible club at Paradise beach.

Even better than these are the unorganised beaches. There are no crowds, just a few tiny shacks offering local delicacies. One such beach that our hotel in Mykonos recommended was Agios Sostis (see bottom right photo). Lots of sunlight, glistening waters and just us. All you need to do is pack yourself a nice picnic basket, a good book to read, lots of sunblock and you’ve got yourself a deal. Agios Sostis quite interestingly has a tavern called Kikis that is famous for not using electricity. Everything is cooked fresh, right in front of you on a huge charcoal grill.

So whether you’re in the mood to see a beach with white sand, red sand, black sand, beaches that are famous for day parties, or ones that are quiet and peaceful, whatever you wish for, Greece has it for you.

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3. Food
Greek food is more than just gyros and souvlaki. As a strict vegetarian I was a little apprehensive, but it ended up being a piece of cake (literally, because I had the most decadent chocolate fondant ever). Plus I love trying new food.
Greek dolmades were one of my favourites (see top left hand corner). These are essentially grape/vine leaves stuffed with rice, lemon zest, and pine nuts. The classic Greek salad with super fresh ingredients was light on the stomach. The Santorini salad is slightly different though, the difference being it contains capers instead of olives. There was also vegetarian souvlaki and zucchini fritters but my most favourite were the tzatziki (cucumber with yogurt, parsley and a special seasoning) and melitzanosalata (eggplant with yogurt) dips. The land is also a delight for seafood lovers.

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4. Dining
Dining is not just about eating great food. I truly believe it should be an experience in itself. A lot of restaurants gave us the opportunity to enjoy dinner by the beach, listening to the sounds of the calm waters whilst sitting under the stars.


Look out for my next post where I recommend my favourite restaurants.

5. Nightlife
The nightlife in Greece is incre-hhh-duhh-ble! The Greeks party like the world is about to come to an end! Whether it’s the weekend or a weekday, the bars are full, blaring insane music and alcohol flows like water. When planning your trip try to visit Mykonos over a weekend since it’s the party capital. It’s what we did. They have some great nightclubs.

Bretto’s Bar in Athens is a must see because of its décor and service. It is situated in the Plaka area. In Mykonos, my favourite was Caprice Bar. Situated in the Little Venice Area right by the waterfront, it has an extremely Mediterranean décor and feel. What we loved was the brilliant music, fabulous crowds, and even better, the spirits! We had a super delicious fresh fruit margarita, local beer, and lots of tequila shots 😉 ! My all time favourite club however was the 2 Brothers Bar in Santorini. Fabulous service, well priced alcohol and music like you’ve never heard before. This place is MUST SEE.

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6. Friendly locals
The Greek are super friendly and welcoming! Whether it’s the wait staff at a tavern, restaurant, bar, or at your hotel, everyone has a smile on their faces. Some of the nicest people we met were in Mykonos and Santorini.

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That’s us with the sunset cruise crew.

7. World famous historical sites
The Acropolis, Ancient Agora of Athens, Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, and the island of Delos are amongst the world’s top heritage sites. We were unable to visit the island of Delos but managed to cover the rest and the sites were absolutely marvellous. Unfortunately it was extremely hot the day we climbed up the Acropolis (temperatures were around 35˚C), which wasn’t very pleasant. I made the error of not keeping myself hydrated enough so ended up getting a little sick by the end of the day. The climb is also quite steep so it can take a toll on your body if you’re not used to walking.

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My recommendations:
i. Drink plenty of chilled water and keep yourself well hydrated
ii. Wear comfortable footwear, preferably sports shoes. The climb up is rocky and slippery. Don’t forget the suntan lotion and shades and a hat

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8. Alcohol
When you think Greece, you’re going to think lots of alcohol. The Greek people are super fun anyway, but with alcohol, they’re totally cray cray! Greece has some fantastic local wines and beer to offer. The best part is they’re not too heavy on your pocket either. A pint of beer costs around 5-6 Euros. Cocktails on the other hand are a tad expensive. I am personally not a beer drinker but Mythos, which is a local beer, is highly recommended.

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9. Photography
This country is a photographer’s paradise. If you like photography, there will be no dearth of opportunities. You will enjoy shooting the white washed, blue domed churches of Santorini, the sunset, the beaches, the crystal clear seawater, plenty of landscape, quaint markets, and yes, even the food.
You can check out my gallery here: https://chaicakeandkitsch.com/2014/09/16/greece-gallery/

10. Shopping
There are loads of places to shop at, whether you’re in a city or at the islands. If you’re looking to buy high-end luxury brands or local street stuff, you wont be disappointed. However, if you’re on a budget, don’t expect to be able to afford too much. Shopping is quite expensive. Also, they do not appreciate bargaining.
We bought some beautiful, aromatic, traditional Greek spices, cheese, baklavas, local wine, pretty jewellery, and jars of their famous kalamata olive paste.

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I do that hope you find these reasons and images compelling enough to plan your next trip to Greece! If you have any comments or suggestions, don’t forget to write in at chaicakekitsch@gmail.com.

To plan your perfect trip, also feel free to write into my friends at Euphoric Traveler.

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Mithais (sweets) this Ganesh Chaturthi

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My favourite time of the year is finally here! Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, is celebrated by Hindus as the birthday of their beloved Lord Ganesh or The Elephant God. It falls in the Hindu month of Bhadra and lasts for 10 days, ending on the day of Anant Chaturdashi.

This year it will be celebrated on the 29th of August with much joy and grandeur in my beautiful city of Mumbai. I plan on making Besan laddoos as an offering (or Prasad) to my Lord.

This article was originally supposed to be titled Laddo made laddoos (super cheesy right? But hey, that’s me !) since some of my closest friends know me by that name (you know who you are!); but since this is my very first post and I am launching my blog on this auspicious day, I decided to dedicate it solely to my Lord.

For years my mum has depended on HER Mom’s hand written recipe book for fresh, home cooked Indian food, and on the late Mrs. Tarla Dala’s cookbooks for more esoteric vegetarian fare; so when I decided to teach myself how to prepare laddoos for this festival, I figured I didn’t need to look anywhere else. I’ve grown up staring and simultaneously salivating at the photographs in her cookbooks so I reached out for one of mum’s many books and used the following recipe:

BESAN LADOOS (makes 12 SMALL LADOOS)

 Ingredients:

1/3 cup ghee (at room temperature)

1 cup besan (Bengal gram flour)

½ cup powdered sugar*

½ tsp elaichi (cardamom) powder**

a pinch nutmeg powder

almond slivers and kesar (saffron) strands for decoration

*I suggest using ¾ cup powdered sugar, since I felt the laddoos could be a little sweeter

** I used ¼ tsp elaichi powder simply because I’m not its biggest fan

Method:

1. Head the ghee in a kadai, add the besan (once it starts to simmer and your kitchen is filled with that nasty smell)

2. Sauté on a (very) slow flame till the besan turns golden brown*

3. Once it’s done, take it off the heat and set aside to cool

4. Add the sugar, elaichi powder, and nutmeg powder to the (cooled down) mixture. Mix well

5. Divide it into equal portions (I was able to make 12 with this recipe although the original mentions 10) and shape them into round balls

6. Pretty up your laddoos with the almond slivers and kesar strands **

*Keep an eye on that besan because it’s extremely tricky, especially if you are a novice. When it comes to besan I have found that there is a very fine line between golden brown and brown, so do be careful.

** To me, presentation is as important as taste, so I took the time to carefully place every almond sliver and saffron strand on each laddoo.

Serve immediately or keep aside in an air tight box. Do not refrigerate. They will remain fresh up to 3 days.

Quick tip: Mrs Dalal’s recipe mentions that the powdered sugar must be sieved to ensure that there are no lumps in your laddoo mixture. I say, follow this BLINDLY.

I do have one request to everyone celebrating this festival – Please bring home an eco – friendly idol, one that is made from bio-degradable clay. Perform the visarjan (immersing the idol in water) in one of the many artificially created ponds in your city. The Lord takes no joy in being immersed in a sea causing harm to sea life.

I pray that all your wishes get fulfilled and He blesses you with much health and prosperity!

Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Meal fit for a King