Menu Review: Wok Express

Wok Express, one of Bandra’s favourite Asian food restaurants has now opened its doors to Lokhandwala, after Kemps Corner. Situated in one of the locality’s busiest corners, Wok Express opens with additions to its original menu. These include a variety of Sushi, Bubble Tea, Sticky Buns (stuffed) and Sticky Rice wraps.

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On the new menu:

Sushi – Classic vegetarian California Rolls, Cucumber Creamcheese rolls, Orange Chicken rolls and Chicken Teriyaki rolls, all freshly prepped

Bubble tea – Pink Guava, Strawberry, French Vanilla Coffee, Peach, Lemon and Thai, all prepared using authentic Singaporean Tapioca pearls

Sticky Rice wrapped in a lotus leaf and steaming hot Asian Dumpling Buns (in vegetarian and chicken options)

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For those of you who are new to vegetarian sushi, I’d recommend the cucumber creamcheese rolls because of the simplicity of ingredients. It’s also easier on your palate. Unfortunately the day I visited the restaurant they only had the guava, peach and lemon options leaving me to try the pink guava (I was looking forward to the French Vanilla). Taste wise, I’d give it a 4/5. I only wish it had been served extremely chilled. I’m not a fan of Bubble tea being served at room temperature.

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The stuffed steam buns are full of flavour and a must have. I’ve always thought of classic steam buns as bland so I’ve shied away all this while, but the stuffing prepared by Wok Express is delicious. The Sticky Rice with vegetables requires to be dunked in soya sauce for the flavour to come out completely, but once it does, this is an appetising meal in itself.

If you’re looking for a place to grab a quick lunch or are too lazy to cook on a Sunday evening, I’d say Wok Express is a good bet.

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Address:  Lokhandwala – Shop 16, Plot 98-A/116, Grenville CHS Limited, Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri West, Mumbai (At the Mocha junction, opened in place of Café Coffee Day)
For home deliveries: 98333 80808
To order online: http://www.wokexpress.in

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Restaurant Review: Punjab Grill, Andheri

Address: Ground Floor, Morya Landmark – II, Opposite Infinity Mall, Off Andheri New Link Road, Andheri West, Mumbai
Telephone: +91 9920302139
Reservation: Recommended
Price: Approximately Rs. 2500 for 2 people including alcohol
Timings: 11 a.m to 11 p.m

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Being an active member of the Food Bloggers Association of India (FBAI) comes with quite a few perks, I must say. Sameer Malkani, head of the FBAI has been extremely generous in inviting me to some great evenings with scrumptious food at restaurants par excellence and lovely company with my FBAI crew. The latest event that I was invited to was the launch of the summer menu at Punjab Grill. Started by the famed restaurateur Jiggs Kalra, Lite Bite foods is at the helm of affairs at Punjab Grill. Under the leadership of Mr. Amit Burman (Vice Chairman, Dabur India) and Mr. Rohit Agarwal (Director, Lite Bite) and the talent that is Chef Gurpreet Singh, this fine dining restaurant has found its place in my top go-to restaurants in Mumbai. This was not my first visit here, technically speaking. I’ve been to the one at Lower Parel, albeit 3 years ago and it wasn’t exactly the nicest experience. However, with this new menu, Chef Gurpreet brings to us an eclectic selection of delectable Punjabi dishes. Take a look at what we had:

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We were given the warmest welcome with a little band of ‘gajra’ (jasmine flowers) to wear around our wrists and escorted to the bar area where a lovely set up awaited us.

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Loved the sweet smell floating around the room 🙂

Dinner began with a portion of pickled olive bhel, jaljeera granita mixed lettuce salad with a burani raita dressing and a tall glass of Jamun Ice Tea. The bhel helped kill my hunger pangs, but unfortunately the jamun cooler didn’t do much for me. It was too thick in consistency and since they tried keeping it natural, lacked sweetness. It also did not seem to blend with the food. All praises for the salad though that came next. I wouldn’t have imagined a burani raita dressing, but the chef got it just right. It was light, fresh and played beautifully with my palate. This is a must have. Starters included tandoori paneer, beetroot tikki and dahi ke kebab. The paneer was kind of plain jane and thankfully the texture wasn’t rubbery. The beetroot tikki, deep fried obviously, was outstanding. The crisp tikki on the outside and the soft beetroot on the inside with a little bit of fresh cream was worth the guilt I felt eating fried food. The dahi ke kebab was too sweet so this was a no-no.

By this time I was already full since Punjabi food can get a little heavy but to ensure I did justice to my review, I had a spoonful of the mains. The palak makkai was your usual spinach and corn, nothing to rave about. Since the menu has better options, you can sit this one out. Now comes the hero of the evening – the paneer malai pede. This dish has literally, melted in my mouth, slid down my throat and into my stomach and then taken me to heaven. I urge you to try this dish. The texture of the paneer was nothing short of silk and it was served as tiny ‘pedas’ in a tomato malai gravy. In spite of being so full, I did talk myself into a second serving. The tava asparagus was another brilliant dish. Something as simple as just crunchy asparagus and capsicum, but full of so much flavour and so succulent, my fellow vegetarians will love this. Plus psychologically this dish led me to believe that I ate a tad bit healthy that night.. tee hee 😉 The daal panjratni was extremely homely and felt almost as good as comfort food. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat a morsel more, they whipped out the bahurangi biryani. Full of flavour and an intoxicating aroma that wafted through the area, two spoons were more than enough to let me know that I will be ordering this the next time I go back. By this time I was sure I’d explode if any more food was brought to the table.

However, the chef himself came out to introduce the speciality of the evening – the Summer Dessert Platter. This was a mix of the most interesting and not to forget delicious goodies – jalebi churros with rabri, mulberry sorbet, mango lassi, litchi, fresh slices of mango and diced fruits. It was undoubtedly the best way to end the meal because even with so many items in the platter, this did not feel heavy at all. Every item had the perfect balance of sweetness and the most perfect taste. An evening at Punjab Grill does not of course end without a shot of “paan” to cleanse your palette and that’s exactly how this evening of excellent company and food and service both par excellence came to an end.

I would also like to make a special mention here about the service. Every server was well informed, well mannered and had a smile on his face. What I appreciated the most was that not once was I offered to try a non-vegetarian dish by mistake. Most places that I have been to never seem to care about how important this can be for a pure vegetarian, so much appreciation for that. If I had to rate my evening, this is what it would be: Food – 9.3/10 Taste – 9/10 Quality – 10/10 Presentation – 8/10 Drinks – 8/10 Ambience – 10/10 Service – 10/10

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 😦

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!

Restaurant Review – The Sassy Spoon, Hill Road

Location: Classic Corner Building, Next to Holy Family Hospital, Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
Telephone: +91-8655555555
Reservations: No
Meal for two: approximately Rs. 2000
Serves alcohol: Yes
Valet Parking: Available

I just recently 23 yesterday ( big boo hoo 😦 ), so to celebrate me getting a year older and hopefully wiser, my sister chose The Sassy Spoon for dinner. I haven’t been to the one in South Bombay, but have heard great things so, no arguments there. Plus, I’ve passed by the restaurant a few times and the decor has always seemed peculiarly inviting.

Step into Sassy Spoon and (if you can do yourself a favour and ignore the loud traffic outside) you will feel like you’ve just entered a romantic Parisian cafe – charming wooden tables, bright upholstery, their signature display wall with vintage bread baskets, et al. The staff is extremely courteous and we were greeted with big smiles – they were in my good books already.

Appetizers and Mains

My dinner began with a much needed glass of Fratelli Cabernet Sauvignon as my sister happily sipped on her pink apple lemonade. Chosen from a self proclaimed eclectic European menu, appetisers consisted of a smoked eggplant and chickpea bruschetta, tomato and basil soup and a soup of white onion and smoked scar – absolutely brilliant! I’m huge on smoked eggplant and onion soup so my night was pretty much made. The onion soup was everything but healthy – creamy, buttery (hence delicious), making it difficult for me to order another portion. Mains were recommended by the staff – brown rice paella (vegetarian), mapo tofu and spaghetti lemon beurre. The paella seemed a tad bit bland to me, but I would go back just for the tofu and the spaghetti. The mapo tofu prepared in a black bean sauce was what they call a melting moment. If I could, I would’ve licked my plate clean. The spaghetti with the lemon butter was nothing short of perfection. It’s one of their most recommended dishes. My only wish is that some more vegetarian options are added to the menu so there’s a larger variety to choose from.

Dessert

Sassy Spoon has a completely separate menu for desserts so I suggest you don’t fill yourself up on the food. Trust me when I say this because you want to spend the last half an hour of your meal just devouring their desserts. I only got to try three of them so I know for a fact that I’m going back to sample every other item on this menu. We got the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (umm.. YUM!) and a basil and olive oil ice cream. I have never tasted anything like it before and this is a MUST HAVE if you’re ever here. Since it was a special occasion I asked them to surprise me with a dessert, and boy did they! They brought out their signature ‘Sassy Stacks’ – a mini red velvet cake with a shot of cappuccino foam. Order this dessert just so that you can dive into that coffee goodness!

Overall, my dining experience was splendid – from the food, to the decor and the friendliness of the staff – I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve given one less only because I wish there were more vegetarian options.

A meal for 4 cost us approximately Rs. 5,000 (we were charged only for one dessert).

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Vegetarian Bruschetta

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Soup of white onion and smoked scar

 


Brown rice paella with artichokes and the Mapo Tofu

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Sassy Stacks

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I completely fell in love with this setting

So whether you’re going out on your first date, celebrating something special, having a girls’ Sunday brunch or just want to eat at a great place, I say Sassy Spoon is the one 🙂