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

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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

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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/-

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Masala Library

Masala Library – a new place opened by the famous Jiggs and Jorawar Kalra in BKC and making waves for a long time. Their VP operations had been quite keen that I check out the place, but personal commitments kept it in abeyance.

Soon, December with my birthday arrived and I decided to try out at least 3 new places during the birthday week. Monday began disastrously at Renaissance Powai; but tuesday seemed destined to be quite good, in spite of not having a driver. Reached Masala Library quite on time and met Varun, had a little chat – they have just two sittings in the evening 8.30 pm and 10 pm – which actually was quite nice.

The layout is quite open and spacious – though the pass thru could have done with 12-15 inches more for people to walk thru, but then this is Bombay 😉 We were seated quite well, at the end back to the wall in the opposite direction from the kitchen and bar, probably on purpose, but then this gave quite a view of the entire restaurant and is normally considered VIP seating, if my little knowledge serves me right.

We began with a light refreshing drink, no alcohol since I was driving, and then the entire menu in some form was presented.

There was maska bun, yogurt spears papdi chat adn sev puri on the go – Amazingly presented, and just burst in your mouth giving a flavour, difficult to repeat, a sort of tradition with a twist; could have had multiple of these.

This was followed by wild mushroom chai – molecular twist and quite exciting to watch, wife and daughter did not love it but loved the watermelon chaat that followed.

Added to this were the last of starters – curry leaf & pepper prawns – amazingly succulent but I felt they had a bit of too much salt (probably evolved taste buds due to no drinks) Dahi kebab – just exquisite and melt in the mouth kind, as were the pesto kebab.

Taking a break, cleansing the palate with Misti Doi Sorbet – another unique molecular proposition that went exceedingly well.

After a couple of deep breaths, the main course began with Prawn Chettinad (salt persisted :() Tandoor chaap soya rada – quite nice, but the ladies hate soya and were not too excited about it. But the bhindi jaipuri and papad ki subji made up for it very well, it had a bit of rajasthani masala which was quite nice. The anar and mint raita made on the table with nitrogen was chilled and went extremely well with the food. The bread basket was quite nice.

We were unable to finish the entire lot, before being told that there was still sweets to be eaten. Daughter who is a hardcore sweet person, was off sweets, so we tried two of them – Jalebi caviar which won hands down from both of us, compared to Ghewar cheese cake, which did not work for me at all.

All in all a wonderful evening; and definitely worth a repeat in february. The service was perfect, with the server explaining everything.

Advice: Ask for the Tasting menu and allow the server to help, they are extremely knowledgeable.

Disclaimer: It was on invitation and hence unable to grade my usual.

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Bread ka Chivda

I had written about cooking earlier and had begun the process all over again, with eggs, sandwiches, pizza, pasta and now bread chivda.

I am yet to write about my earlier experiments, but since this is fresh in memory I decided to begin with it.

Bread chivda has been a perennial favourite since childhood with weird experiments made then. Over the years I learnt that it is also known as Bread Upma.

Ingredients

8-10 slices of bread or 4 Pav
2 tbs oil
1/4 tbs of rai, haldi
1/2 tbs of red chilli powder
Salt to taste

Recipe

Dice bread or Pav in small pieces, if fresh then put them in the oven so that they become crisp – though there is another school of Upma thought that it should be soft, so whatever works for you.

Take a sauce pan – non stick works better but for kurkure the regular is fine.

Pour oil, let it sizzle a bit, add rai (black mustard) once it is hot, add the cubes of bread. Keep turning it over at medium flame and let it turn a little brown. Add the haldi, chilli powder and salt. Continue turning so that it mixes well. Preferably on medium flame.

Switch off and serve hot.

Time 10-15 minutes

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100 Pillows

100 Pillows A weird name for a restaurant isn’t it?

This began early this year, when a good friend Yashesh kept sharing his dream of wanting to spend time in Goa and open an restaurant. He had already invested in a house there and was very keen to shift.

Time passed quickly and suddenly he had a lease signed up, name decided and I get a call out of the blue “When is your Shravan?” and just a couple of days before Shravan I am invited by him and his lovely wife Cherry who is the main chef and back bone, because our man Yashesh is like Lord Faukland and will be faffing around in his shorts and cursing the cellphone companies for no signal in Goa.

So I reached their place and along with a couple of other friends tried out a vast array of food. Whilst I shall not share my comments, I will share the photographs.

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The photographs speak for themselves, don’t they. So go to Goa, Tweet to them, grab a bite and learn why the name.

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My Le 15 Patisserie story

A place famous for macroons run by Pooja Dhingra opened an outpost in Palladium, lower parel sometime in 2011/12 if my memory serves me right.

I happened to notice it the day they opened and decided to take it for my daughter, unfortunately they were over. My daughter who is a sweet fanatic, kept insisting that since my office was close by I pick them up soon.

Over the next couple of months, I must have passed the place number of times at various times of the day (since we had a store and it was easier to meet people in High Street Phoenix) Every single time, there were no macaroons available or at times just one variety. I had tweeted this in disgust a couple of times, when Pooja had responded that it was teething problems and they were selling it pretty fast etc. Fair enough, but then you need to scale up. However, their business so moved on, no longer worked in lower parel so forgot about it.

This year they opened in Bandra and there was a repeat of the similar; probably more to do with my luck, but couple of other people also shared the same problem :) In the meantime, just like youngsters these days, my daughter decided to go off sweets for a while and hence there was no urgency what so ever.

But hearing me talk about it, a dear friend Manisha Lakhe decided to gift us a box, not realising that my daughter was no longer fascinated.

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She picked them up and made a special trip to bring them over. Wife tried one, found them good. I tried two halves and liked them, but not being a sweet lover, did not understand the fascination about them. Mother finished the rest, one every day :) and loved them.

Will I buy them for myself – Not really; but yes once my daughter decides to eat sweets again, it is a distinct possibility. Or better still, ask her to eat them at Palladium, given the fact that she now works there and save me the hassle. Though I am now given to understand that they have enough stock.

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Pico Express – Trial

Pico Express had opened in Lokhandwala and I was amongst the first to try it out and write here

After nearly a year, somebody from a PR company sent a request mail (very polite) asking if I would be interested in trying out their Pot – something they had just introduced, which was basically a full meal and perfect for working people or even as a one off evening.

I responded saying that I had tried out their non vegetarian and found it good and in fact had tweeted about it also. However, they sent across another trial with a thank you note. Nowhere during this entire communication was a request to tweet/blog about it.

During the same week, I noticed that a lot of famous food lovers & personalities had also received it and there were discussions, photographs galore.

I tried it out along with my daughter and found it quite good, in fact better than my paid trial 😉 however my daughter claimed credit of having mixed it and heated it correctly.

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Post that, I’ve tried out all the variants and found the non veg better than veg, maybe because I don’t like mushrooms and similar vegetables :) And yes, they had also kindly sent a voucher for Rs. 500/- to try out the other stuff. I preserved it, because of its proximity, I had practically tasted everything, but soon.

This retails around 200-300 and is decent value for money.