Aloo vada

Smaaash, Lower Parel

Disclaimer: This was an ex client for 1+99 experience consulting and hence tried multiple times; earlier as mystery try outs, then with changes and subsequently again as mystery.

Smaaash an activity center which has football, cricket, bowling, paintball etc as bonding games along with food and bar facilities also.

We have tried out different items on the menu over the past 5 months, with hits and misses, but let me focus on the hits with consistency.

Barbeque Fries – The perfect chakna with beer and drinks whilst playing games.

Pizza – Veg or Non Veg has been the mainstay, much better than other touted places so to speak; the toppings are pretty generous, the base just right and good accompaniment with beer or carry a slice around watching friends play.

Sandwiches/Panini – Veg or Non Veg – At times panini is not available, but the bread is also pretty good, with the choice of stuffing and salad, a meal by itself. Most preferred snack which also replaces lunch for me.

Burger – Tried it but, somehow the crumbly bun made it difficult to finish it and hence doesn’t work for me.

Indian – Surprisingly the garlic naan, chicken patiala, aloo jeera and yellow dal tadka have been excellent and consistent.

The current Monsoon menu – Bhajiyas, Dal vada, Aloo vada are quite nice and worth a go. Though, I liked only the mirchi bhajiya because the other were not spicy enough for my taste.

The best VFM is beer, but enjoyable in a group is the midget cocktail

Location: Lower Parel
Meal: Lunch/Snacks/Drinks and Starters
Food: 7/10
Service: 6.5/10
Damages: Refer Disclaimer

2014-07-27 00.02.04

Neel, Andheri

A restaurant that has been operational since a while in Mahalakshmi. Always planning, but just the thought of driving or reaching there exhausts me. And it remained on my list. Finally an outpost of the main one, opened a while back, very close to my house, heard good things about it and have been meaning to go there but somehow kept missing it out. A friend from out of town dropping by and then a party where we ordered in. Equal veg and non veg. Over the two times tried

Bhutta malai sheekh – good, liked by everyone, did not work for me because don’t like American corn very much; Aloo panch foran – very good repeated both times.

In the Non veg tried Gilawat kebab and worked pretty well, more so with hot roomali rotis and pyaaz.

The mains had Paneer makhni pasanda – excellent, worked for the kids, personally found it a bit sweetish; there was an aloo dish that I liked but can’t recall the name, but Baigan aur Mirchi ka salan was quite a change and very good.

The murg baradari korma and kashmiri rogan josh were both outstanding; followed by Tarkari Dum Biryani – quite piquant in taste and common for all with Lasuni dal tadka, which was extremely good when had there but lacking a bit of dum when ordered home.

Personally loved the Nizami kakdi raita with pomegranate seeds, quite different. The assortment of warqi paratha, naan and roomali worked well, but the packing for breads needs to be a bit better.

All of this polished off finally with Angoori Rabdi – the master which made everyone forget the missed tadka etc. The only sweet that we had because of popular demand, but I don’t eat it.

Definitely on my repeat list. But I seriously wonder why they cannot have a tasting menu :(

Location: Andheri West
Meal: Drink and Dinner
Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Damages: Approx ₹6700/- for 4 people with a drink

Naan in istri

Lucknow, Food & Folklore

A week ago, late night tweets with Chef Ranveer Kalyan and Adarsh and an impromptu plan suggested by Chef and an invite led the three of us to Novotel for a specially cooked Lucknowi food.

With a miss on Wednesday, rains playing usual mischief on Thursday, we finally reached Novotel. Whilst waiting for Adarsh, Kalyan, Ranveer and me had quite a chat, covering food, places, PR, blogging and of course why we did not attend blogger meets 😉

Adarsh soon walked in and we were escorted inside where a nice small privie room had been made ready for us and we began, with a small story by Ranveer accompanied by white wine and a fresh lime for Kalyan.

And so it began, the photos – not all, in fact the killer raita was missed out as probably one more, because we were enjoying ourselves so much, listening to Ranveer share stories, run to the kitchen, back again.

In the meantime, I learnt from the two Food Bloggers – Kalyan who normally does not do restaurant reviews, has now promised to teach me quick pasta recipes, plan to check out the Puchhka place in Juhu; whilst Adarsh who opens companies faster than Ambani and still finds time to review, blog, romance, shop (ah! the benefits of age).

We also spoke and gossiped about a whole host of Press, Restaurants, Bloggers, change in food scene in Bombay etc. But as they say “What happens off Twitter, remains off Twitter”.

All of us did agree that, smaller evening with 4-6 people is the ideal way to try out or review, but then the brands and PR companies have their KRAs and priorities.

Kalyan had an answer to my “Fortunately, I don’t get invited as much as you do. And when they do invite me, they either offer Rs. 500/- or with a whole gang of kids” His answer ‘They are scared of inviting you’ :(

All in all a lovely evening, we parted with plans to repeat this soon, not like a year as it has been this time.

Kulcha Chole

Sion Chembur Food Drive

Chatting over coffee with CJ, Ranjit and Anupam the discussion turned towards food as usual and a spur of the moment plan to eat in Sion and Chembur happened with CJ the leader.

Anupam dropped out due to child duties, so Jain was called and he reached earlier than we did, given the excitement of his love to try out vegetarian food. When we reached our man SnoBo was sweating away to glory just outside the Sion gurudwara, reason being “Unaware of protocol of visiting a gurudwara and not carrying a handkerchief”

A quick look for Manjit Chole Bhature, who apparently comes only in the morning before our guide herded us in to the Gurudwara. A peaceful brief communication and we hit the road to try out Kulche Parathe and chole at Chawla. First order was Kulcha and no it is not the same as paratha – huge with a dollop of butter with little chole and some onions was kept on the table. Kulcha had a smattering of ajwain sprinkled on the top which when mixed with butter tasted just superb. There were green chutney, raw green chillies and pickles already on the table. Whilst the others waited for the kulcha to cool, I could not, tried the first hot bite with chole – superb masala with the chole a bit bland and watery as it normally should be; followed by the second bite with the pickle, onions and the question arose, Why do I not eat this regularly, #WifePalm moment when one could hear her saying “Look at your damn size already”.

By now others had started digging in and we ordered a Chole Bhature which came in double time – piping hot and a newspaper below to soak the oil. This too was demolished in double quick time. Ranjit packed kulchas for home and we were off to try the original Mini Punjab – unfortunately closed as were some of the others, who normally open in the evenings. Jain gulped two chhas and I settled for a small pepsi. (Total Rs 200/-)

Undaunted, we decided to try Guru Krupa (A1 Samosa) and Jhama. After taking a couple of wrong turns reached Guru Krupa and opted for sitting in the AC. Ordered the entire menu Samosa Chole – excellent with the chole actually different tasting due to the Sindhi preparation, Pattice chole which has to be had with pav and the mixed chutney, dahi bhalla – quite good but the dahi a bit sour which is as it should be but not cold enough for me. Ordered a plate of sev puri, forgot to photograph it and so ordered another 😉 but the difference in puri was visible – it is handmade outside and was thick and crunchy. A couple of more plates of samosa was polished off along with Lemonade and topped with Gulab Jamun – I did not like it – small, with no nutmeg or badam inside and not even luke warm. (Total of Rs 500/-)

On the way showed Gaurav the upper class Hanuman restaurant – a childhood favorite – before dropping him to a cab. Burrping and semi snoring, promising to go and try the non veg stuff in the evening, dropped off the others and reached home.

Disclaimer The trip was non commercial and just amongst friends. CJ does not operate it as a profession

Contest Khelo – Meet, eat, chat, Learn…

Meeting people has been a passion for years, probably as a Salesman when you had to meet 8-12 new prospects everyday. Over the years it has become a kind of habit, interviews, office, partners, business over food (another passion) drinks, coffee at home, restaurants, clubs…you name them.

Sometime in 2012-2013 I met a lot of entrepreneurs at coffee shops and learnt from them and bought them coffee. A few kept in touch, shared their journey, sought advice; whilst most just disappeared, but that is Life.

I also invited, got invited to tasting menu accepting very few because of the demands of time and travel; also the terms of attending did not meet my thoughts. I met new people, renewed acquaintances with old who had not met for quite a while.

For the last couple of months, have been working with a client who is pretty well known in lower parel on changing/expanding/adding to create a newer experience. Whilst the changes have been taking place and have been pretty well received, we have been reasonably happy with the kind of feedback received.

It is towards this that I had struck a bet with the CEO about certain milestones where as an incentive he had agreed that I could call friends/acquaintances over to try out the new experience — food and beverage (which has been changed substantially) new cocktail and of course take a look at the available activities also.

I won and now have a dedicated pre selected day — one evening a month, when I can get people to try the place out with me, over the next 3-4 months.

So like the earlier years, the offer is simple — #milna hai is ‘My bucket list of people I want to meet/drink/connect with this year’

But, as somebody pointed out that this would lead to too many people (there was a list of 115 in 2012 out of which I’ve managed to meet 55+ in two years) So, what do I plan to do? First ask who would like to meet me in Parel, have a drink, try out some changes. You can be an wantrepreneur, entrepreneur, corporate honcho, housewife, consultant, lawyer, accountant — does not matter. Then I am also going to run a “Contest Khelo”. Rules will be simple. I will declare contest headings of the week — Month 1 — Wantrepreneurs/Entrepreneurs Month 2 — Food and Drink lovers Month 3 — Ladies and the first 25 people to respond have a free invite. NO OTHER TERMS OR CONDITIONS.

I will seek the help of the client & agency with dates and getting the names. For those who are still wondering the place is Smaaash

2014-04-26 13.43.25

Artisan @ Sofitel Mumbai

I have been a member since it has opened and have enjoyed the place and I always maintain that J W Marriott and Sofitel are my new favorites given the fact that they are closer, convenient and have probably the best consistent service.

The most common meal at both places has always been breakfast, with Marriott winning a bit because of the known people there, daughter being pampered more (bribed with cake and always recognised); but I have had many meetings at Sofitel in the recent past, love the oasis kind of feeling in middle of BKC.

Yesterday was just another meeting and would not have made it to my blog, except for a small incident.

Walking into the hotel, the usual assorted greetings ensued, with the token Sardar eyeing the kada and wished ‘Sat Sri Akal Pra’ Quite a refreshing change, brought a smile to my face and made a note to reward him when leaving.

Passing the lobby towards the Artisan – a lovely place with very good and comfortable chairs, which are a primary requirement in my old age now – saw a dapper gentleman walking towards me, shared a smile and he introduced himself with the statement ‘I am Biswajit, General Manager of the hotel and you sir look like a happy man who loves life’ Boom that made my day, we chatted a bit, exchanged contacts and went our way.

Ordering my favourite watermelon juice, got started with work. 10-15 minutes in the meeting, Biswajit walked apologising for the interruption and shared that Artisan had revamped part of the menu and had a new chef, who was trying out a range of chocolates and gifted both of us a small box of assorted chocolates.

The gentleman I was with tried out a couple of them on the spot and found them extremely delicious. Not being too much of a sweet lover, carried them home, where the daughter pounced on them and pronounced “Awesomest ever” Guess a visit to Sofitel is on the cards over the weekend. Damn this Biswajit :)

Himanshu and Jyoti Arora

J. W. Marriott #Rasoi

J. W. Marriott is one of our favorite hotels, primarily for Breakfast and BBC; but recently had a good experience in Indian food also, that you can read here

A couple of emails from a young lady inviting me with friends to try out Master Chef Jyoti’s cuisine one evening. With Gaurav and Ranjit landed up there to give it a try.

A quick glance at the table and saw Himanshu the big boss himself, had a brief chat and down to food it was. Chef Jyoti explained a few things and the service began.

Pedhe ki lassi and Badam ka Doodh were served, just tried a spoonful being lactose intolerant and not a great lover of sweet, but could see the entire table going Ah! so concluded that it was good :)

The starters began the rounds – Amritsari machhi which went well with the green chutney (fortunately it was not Basa); chicken which was okayish but did not really work for me; a spoonful of Paneer bhurji sans onions which was excellent and led to an exciting conversation of availability of good paneer in Bombay.

The Maa ki daal very good, chole that were just perfect, and paneer tikka masala was excellent. The non vegetarian was a complete let down – Kheema mutter had more mutter than kheema which does not really work and the mutton was just okayish. As a Punjabi robust Rasoi, I was expecting more chicken the desi style. The puri with chole was nice, but keeping a basket of it let it get cold, but the mirchi ki roti worked very well. The pulao/biryani/rice was quite flavourful and worked well to finish it off.

This was completed by Kheer, Rabdi which was pretty good.

To sum it up, the vegetarian ruled that day, with non vegetarian except the fish, being quite iffy for me. As I shared with Chef Jyoti that she also seemed to be corrupted by my wife to convert me back to complete vegetarianism.

Location: Juhu
Meal: Dinner
Food: 6.5/10
Service: 8/10
Damages: This was by Invite to try MasterChef Jyoti Arora #Rasoi

Loyalty – Food Cards!

Loyalty, a word highly prized both by people, family, friends, relative, businesses for years.

Recently, a deluge of Loyalty – Food Cards has begun. In the past two years, I have been on the receiving end of having received free or bought or gifted some of these. Let me share my experiences!

J. W. Marriott I have been a member for past 3 years; extremely satisfied, maybe not with the card department, but with the service and overall approach. Have I made use of it? Definitely for dining options, the other useless vouchers – swimming never utilised, stay expired and they did not renew etc. Will I renew again this year? Seriously have my doubts, because I do not see a value addition being provided – after all how many times in three years can one eat at the same place? The card is not valid at any other property.

Courtyard Marriott A gift from a friend, lay in my wallet for more than 11 months, before being used exactly once. Reason being definitely the location as well as the validity of the card for the one location!

Accor Advantage Plus This is my second year, have brought it as a group of friend, will get a renewal done free because we share the freebie that happens for a group. Value proposition currently, because use it for Dining, Travel and it is applicable across the Accor range of hotels.

Last year, Good Food Magazine – one of the most worthless experience – sent a card along with the subscription. Tried using it at two places, who refused to honor it; wrote, spoke to Good Food Magazine, nothing because it was an outsourced activity and of no interest to them.

This was followed by Burrp card. The letter/brochure accompanying the card had some dozen names/logos, tried out three of them, all refused to honor. Others who were gifted the card had similar problems.

Most participating hotels do not bother to communicate, neither are they interested.

CoupCard launched with only xxx nos available and were picked up quickly; the next lot was referral by others etc. Yashesh has been using this for a while and recommended it. Then I received an email a couple of days back; given the fact that there are 3-4 locations which I do visit out of their 22, I decided to evaluate. 4200 inc ST for a year. If one were to visit all 22 and spend 1500 per visit you save around 5000 which pays for a card! Still trying to figure out, if this is really worth it.

What other Food Loyalty cards do you have? Are they worth it? Share your experiences.

2014-01-15 13.11.13

All Stir Fry

A sudden business meeting, where the preferred location was Indigo colaba, got changed to Stir Fry; and not having visited, decided to go along, more from a perspective of not having been to Gordon House since it’s opening week and old loyalties, with of course good food thrown in, given the fact that I had two hospitality stalwarts accompanying me.

Reaching at 12.30 pm the entry is quiet and nice, with large spacious seating, AC turned on quite well and the service pretty good to start with.

All of us decided to go for the ‘Wok’ which was basically choosing your own, vegetables, meat, noodles, rice, sauces and watch the chef do their magic in front of you.

We decided to take it easy, and try out maybe two different varieties, at least that was my plan. Went with the first one, basics – veggies, bits of eggs, chicken, noodles with lots of garlic. Came back to the table and tried it out, was done quite well, though others on the table had a different view of their wok.

Half way thru, the doors slammed open and we saw tons of streaming students pouring in uniform, and being guided to the other side of the restaurant. Dumping their bags they made a bee line to the ‘Wok’.

Just recovering from the shock, called over the restaurant manager to ask about this influx and were told that this was some lunch deal done by the hotel, but they would be glad to organise our requirements on the table. Even the manager appeared a bit embarrassed. In ordinary circumstances, it may have worked, with a bit of cribbing, however given the fact that we needed peace and quiet, it definitely did not.

As in the words of youngsters, it was so not happening. We quickly paid up and made our way out. Will we repeat; Highly unlikely, given the fact that 1) It is way beyond my visa area 2) No guarantees about it not being repeated.

Location: Colaba
Meal: Lunch
Food: 6/10
Service: 6/10
Damages: Approx ₹2500/- for 3 people

Sheekh Kebab

Noorani

A visiting friend needing to catch a train from Bombay Central brought us in search of quick sustenance, and suddenly Noorani came to to fore, not having visited since years.

A quick check and there was parking arranged in the front and we entered. Quite full, with some love birds also sitting in the ‘Family room’.

A quick order of Sheekh Kebab – surprisingly two pieces were excellent, succulent and juicy whilst the other two were just ok. Bheja Masala was wonderful as confirmed by the two friends who tasted it; whilst Kheema mutter was just perfect, with less oil and spicy. This went down well with tandoori rotis and papads.

All in all a nostalgic and quick meal.

Location: Near Haji Ali
Meal: Lunch
Food: 7/10
Service: 8.5/10
Damages: Approx ₹1000/-