From the kitchens of Royal Rampur

“If there is one place on the face of this Earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when Man began the dream of its existence, it is India”     – Romain Rollan

India, a land of diverse cultures, languages, religions and more.. a plethora of colours, traditions and festivals.. but the two things that bind us all, a deep sense of pride for our nation and our love for food. Cooking and eating in India are not just mundane, daily tasks. They stem from a long love for feeding those around us and feeling a sense of contentment looking at joyful faces that surround the dinner table, enjoying fulfilling conversations and a great meal. Indian food is not just curries, papadoms and spicy dishes. It is an amalgamation of several hundred years of history, being ruled by various invaders, Western influences and a strong desire to revive and globalise traditional cuisine.

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Masala Bay at The Taj Lands End Hotel, Mumbai, with the help of renowned Chef Mujeeb Ur Rehman and his team hosted the Rampuri food festival, a cuisine revealed as one of India’s best keep secrets. Best described as a ‘courtly cuisine’, seeing as it was born and developed during the times of the Nawabs, it is a blend of Awadhi, Mughlai, Rajput and Afghani kitchens. The dishes are cooked with an array of spices on a low flame for long hours in traditional utensils. Chef Mujeeb personally treated us to everything vegetarian on his carefully crafted menu and the experience was Royal, to say the least 🙂

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Dinner began with a platter of appetisers – Paneer Saron Peeli Mirch Tikka, Paneer Hara Masala Pasanda, Mutter Ke Kabab, Aatishi Khumb and Neze Ke Aloo. 

The two Paneer dishes were melting moments, grilled and spiced to perfection. The Mutter Ke Kabab was a beautiful potato patty stuffed with green peas, asafoetida and roasted cumin. Bursting with flavours, this one was a treat for the palate. The clear winner for me however, was the Aatishi Khumb or the button mushrooms which had been marinated in yoghurt with a pickled masala and cooked in a clay oven. I believe it was the genius of the oven that made the vegetable stand out. The Neze Ke Aloo or tawa-cooked baby potatoes with cream, sandal dust, red chilli amongst other spices were not a favourite, perhaps because this was my first time tasting sandal wood powder (I’ve only ever used it as a paste with rose water on my face!) However given time,  I’m positive I’ll come around to its unique taste.

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Subz Tahiri 

2

Paneer Noor Mahal 

3

Dal Aswad 

Mains included Paneer Noor Mahal, cottage cheese served with assorted bell peppers flavoured with a special chungezi masala, Nawabi Baigan Bhurta, smoked eggplant baked with yogurt, onion and mustard, Dal Aswad, the nation’s favourite black lentils, slowly cooked overnight with butter, tomato puree, herbs & spices in a tandoor, Ittr Ke Dal, a rich recipe of pigeon pea prepared by a rakabdar (gourmet cook) with cream, milk, pure ghee and a hint of sweet essence. There was also a handi of Subz Tahiri, a preparation of aromatic basmati and vegetables cooked on a dum. The smoked eggplant dish stood out because of its baked texture and yogurt goodness. The paneer again was extremely soft but did not impress the tastebuds. The two lentil preparations warmed my soul with their richness and spices which I enjoyed with a sweet Sheermal, a preparation of flour and milk which was unlike anything I have ever eaten before. The softness of the bread with the sweet, cutting through the spices of the vegetables made for a perfect combination.

Dessert comprised of Chukander E Afroz, a simple beetroot halwa much like a gajar ka halwa, Gur Ke Yaquiti, a traditional chickpea flour milk pudding with jaggery and Sheer Khurma that was made with vermicelli, milk & nuts.

The overall dining experience left me feeling like royalty. The efforts being made to revive local cuisines is certainly applaud worthy. Taj hospitality, wonderful food, delightful conversation all came together for a wonderful evening in Mumbai 🙂

 

 

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Raising The Bar Real High!

Carter Road is famous for many things – the promenade, beautiful sunsets, friendly faces, even a tattoo shop and food, so much food. You can find everything here from Shawarma joints, to FroYo shops, Subway, ice cream parlours, even a Chinese and Mexican food restaurant (in one), and Café Coffee Day at the corner (that has been around for almost half my life).

But tucked in a small corner above CCD, one can find the new age, uber chic restaurant ‘Masala Bar’. If you’re passing by on a midnight drive, you might even miss it, but definitely not ever since the rave reviews and reception the restaurant has received.

It is the hippest new joint in Bandra, almost impossible to get into, albeit completely worth the wait. With an all-black theme, dim lighting, fancy cocktails, fancier Indian food, and riding on the brand name of the Kalras, this restaurant offers the perfect mixture of food, drinks and ambience.

As you enter, you will walk past red walls, black stairs with melting candles on both sides of the staircase giving it a very gothic look, reminding me of Poe’s ‘The Raven’.

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We had not booked a table (BAD IDEA on a weekend, but doable on a weekday), but since we were early the staff gave us a table of our choice (politely reminding us that we would have to move to the bar in case those who had booked it showed up on time). The restaurant is all black and boy does that add to its charm. The lighting is only through lamps on every table and the candles I mentioned earlier, creating a very intimate setting. (That can be a bit of issue while reading the menu though).

Drinks
Bollywood Bhang (Rs. 700) and Filter-Kafi Uska (Rs. 700)

If you’ve been to Masala Library, you know that presentation is everything. The same concept applies here. Bollywood Bhang, was served in a wooden tray with vodka, thandaai and a flask with vodka and basil leaves. True to theatrical flair, the server used a blowtorch at the bottom of the flask to create smoke which we were asked to inhale. The basil flavour of the smoke set the tone for the bhang, which was phenomenal. I am not too big a fan of creamy cocktails, but this one is definitely worth trying, especially with its skull-shaped glass.

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Filter-Kaif Uska – largely coffee based, the drink (with copious amounts of vodka), had a hint of cinnamon as well. It had a very strong flavour and frankly I could not finish it because it hit me pretty fast (!). I’d say you could give it a miss and consider their whiskey cocktails.

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How pretty is this?

Appetizers 
Mushroom Soufflé Nuggets (Rs. 350), Pan-tossed shrooms (Rs. 350), and Litti Chokha Profiteroles (Rs. 300).

The nuggets were to die for! The truffle flavour was impeccable and despite the fried covering, the calories were worth it. A must try for any truffle lover.


From left to right: Mushroom Soufflé Nuggets (2), Pan-tossed shrooms, Litti Chokha Profiterolls

Since I love mushrooms so much (clearly), we ordered the Pan-tossed shrooms, which was like a mushroom bruschetta, the twist being good old khaki biscuit used as a base. The flavours worked perfectly together especially with the mint green chutney that accompanied. The Litti Chokha Profiterolls was a Bihari dish, so we thought we would experiment. It did not go down well with us 😦 On the outside it was a soft bread roll, filled with vegetable stuffing. While it looked gorgeous, I didn’t find the taste all that appealing so you could give this a miss. This could be replaced by the Carbon Pav Bhaji, a dish that I will try out the next time.

Mains
Truffle Shitake Steak Burger (Rs. 310) and Puffed grains and Pesto Khichdi (Rs. 395).

The Burger was accompanied by potato crisps on a skewer, which were a delish blend of crispy and soft. The burger patty was amazing, sadly the truffle flavour was not very evident. There were too many caramelized onions on top of the patty affecting the taste. The pesto Khichdi on the other hand was the highlight of the night. Accompanied by olives, papad, and ‘mamra’ the flavours were brilliant. If mom could make khichdi at home like this, I’d gladly fall sick everyday!

We ended our dinner with another drink, the Malabar Point (Rs. 700). Our server told us that this was inspired by Malabar Hill, an iconic location in Mumbai. The drink was themed as a blend of all the elements – sea, land and the sun. It was fruity, with apple and cinnamon topped with thyme foam. I was a little worried about the foam but the flavour was minimal. Again, the presentation of the drink was superb, with flasks and what not taking me back to Chemistry class! Definitely one to try for a vodka lover.

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Zoravar Kalra and his levels of creativity never cease to amaze me and once again with Masala Bar he has most certainly set the bar extremely high !

Address: Carter Road
Price: Meal for two Rs. 5,000
Reservation: Highly recommended
Overall Rating: 5/5

 

Restaurant Review: IndiKitchen

Address: Shop 16, New Link Palace CHS, Andheri Lokhandwala, Andheri West
Tel: 022 33126808
Price: Approximately Rs. 300 for 1 person
Home Delivery: Yes

The F&B industry in India, especially in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune has seen unprecedented growth in the last few years. There’s either an opening of new restaurant, a new concept is being introduced, a new cuisine has been tapped, an old cuisine is getting a makeover, fusion foods, molecular gastronomy, the works! It’s almost impossible to keep up (and is also responsible for increasing the waistlines of us food bloggers)! It’s great news though because it’s a great time to be a part of such a vibrant industry. It’s also a testament to how the Indian consumer is so welcoming of change and is looking to experiment.

Wok-boxes have become extremely popular thanks to the insane number of Asian restaurants mushrooming all over the country. This one Indian food restaurant though decided to apply it to our home cuisine and I must say, this will definitely catch on.

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You start by picking either a Roomali Roll, Paratha box, Naan Bowl (butter/garlic) or a rice box. Then you select your vegetables.Step 3 is the selection of your gravy and Step 4 includes selecting your protein.

I chose the Garlic Naan Bowl with capsicum, peans and onion in a makhani gravy with aloo tikka.

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The Gravy was absolutely splendid, with the aloo tikkas melting in my mouth ! Fresh out of the kitchen, I definitely recommend trying this one. I just wish it was cooked in a little less oil though. The Naan unfortunately lacked taste and texture (it was too rubbery) but forgiven because the vegetable was so delicious.

I also tried the Chocolate Samosa which just did not settle with me. It’s a brownie stuffed in samosa (!?) drizzled with some chocolate syrup. Give it a try if you with to, but it’s not my favourite.

IndiKitchen also offers you a wide range of drinks from Paper Boat to wash down your food with. My personal favourites are the two you see below. Sure to help you revisit your childhood!

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It had been quite a crappy day and it took me almost 2 hours to get to IndiKitchen, but the food and my pals from the FBAI made the evening worth it 🙂

Bao Chica Wow Wow!

The latest culinary trend that seems to have caught up to us Mumbaikars’ palates’ is the Taiwanese Bao, or Gua Bao, or (primarily) pork belly buns.. However, with the number of vegetarians around, restaurants to have created their new, fun versions, a job well done.

The Fatty Bao, pretty much responsible for the bao’s popularity, announces their #BaoWowFestival this February At The Fatty Bao, Mumbai and Delhi. 

“Thirteen varieties of soft pillowy white baos, each filled with a fusion of flavours and just fourteen days to taste them all! Step in to The Fatty Bao, from 1st February to 14th February 2016 for the #BaoWowFestival and feast on a variety of baos with different fillings and combinations. Bite into these white steamed buns packed with an array of different meats and fillings, each one more delicious than the other. An awesome selection of Baos- a pick of our all time favourites and a whole new selection of inventive combinations, especially created for the festival by Executive Chef Prashanth.”

Last night I was at The Fatty Bao, Bandra for a preview, and for a change I was lucky enough to get a table the moment I entered. It is crazy, absolutely crazy how packed this place gets even on a weekday ! It is much deserved though. I’ve been here twice and have always been treated to exceptional service, great cocktails and scrumptious food. Oh and not to mention the uber cool decor and fun vibe.

What I had:
Spicy Mushroom and Chickpea Bao, drizzled with chilli garlic mayo, the Cheesy Kimchi Potato Bao with scallion, sprinkled with Korean chili powder and the Fried Eggplant Bao marinated in miso with kimchi cabbage and a drizzle of Sriracha sauce.

Of the 3, the Spicy Mushroom and Chickpea Bao is my pick because unfortunately, the bread dominates the other 2 dishes. The Cheesy Kimchi Potato Bao sounds promising but sadly fails to deliver. It has great potential but has very little filling and is not cheesy enough. The Eggplant Bao also could use a more flavour. I did have the opportunity to meet Chef and let him know what I thought, he was extremely gracious in accepting my feedback. It’s a little heartbreaking because I’ve always left the restaurant with a great taste in my mouth. I did order the Vegetarian Curry Ramen bowl and that was finger licking good, as always! 

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Photo courtesy: Kunal Chandra

There’s no doubt that The Fatty Bao still continues to remain on my list of must visits in Mumbai. In the meantime, do be a part of their festival and be sure to use the official hashtag – #BowWow.

Don’t forget to share your experiences with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or via email! x

 

 

Restaurant Review: Fratelli Fresh

Renaissance Mumbai recently invited us to an ‘Art and Lunch – R Art Series’ event at their restaurant Fratelli Fresh, run by Chef Christian. It sounded like the perfect plan for a cozy Sunday afternoon. It did not unfortunately live up to what I had imagined.

If I’m being honest, it is a little disheartening when you’re invited for an event and the venue is not set up for you. We were about 10 bloggers who had this opportunity and we were all left disappointed. Not only did the event begin late (slated to begin at noon, it did not start until 1.30!), well.. it didn’t really turn out to be an event.. The artist had put up his creations on display and that was about it. Somehow, we did not get the chance to have him tell us what inspired his creations, etc.

So we decided to move on to brunch, curated by the charming Chef Christian.

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Fratelli Fresh

The lighting allowed for delicious photography. Hopefully you shall all enjoy these photos 🙂 As much as I would have loved to begin with dessert, as inviting as they looked, I decided to start healthy and picked up a bunch of greens, some olives, some caprese, baby roast potatoes and sautéed asparagus. Freshly served, not soaking in olive oil and / or salad dressing, these were a great start.

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Lunch comprised of the usual, different types of pastas, ravioli (Chef’s recommendation), pizzas and a hot curry. These failed to impress. Sorry Chef – even though all his pastas are freshly made everyday, I’ve had better ravioli. Stuffed with spinach and cheese, this lacked garlic, butter and the pasta itself was too thick.

Now to the best part of the meal. Even though I’m watching my weight and therefore could not gorge on too many of these, I was pretty impressed with the spread and presentation. Feel free to drool.

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This one was called Pistachio Religious (?!). As pretty as it looks, not sure if I’d give this a try.

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Pretty looking red velvet squares. I consider red velvet to be overrated but hey, if you’re a fan, nothing should stop you.

I did have great company, so overall it was a lovely brunch:) Here are my ratings ( _ / 5 ):

Overall: 3
Service: 2.5
Food Quality: 3
Ambience: 2.5

Feel free to write to me at chaicakekitsch@gmail.com if anything x

All images belong to Chai Cake and Kitsch and are subject to copyright. Please do not use without prior permission.