When we ODed on the richest food and some amazing Mehman-nawaazi!!!

Get me a food lover from Delhi who has not explored the streets of Old Delhi in search of the rich delicacies they serve and I would promise to make him fall in love with the food the oldest part of our city serves. Every year during Ramadan our food lover group takes a walk through the famed street of Matia Mahal (opposite Gate No.1 of Jama Masjid) during Iftar time to sample the amazing food the people of the area have to offer.

The imposing structure against the patters of twilight.

The imposing structure against the patters of twilight.

Iftar time commences.

Iftar time commences.

The Majestic Jama Masjid

The Majestic Jama Masjid!

 

Venue                  : Food Walk around Jama Masjid area, Old Delhi

Duration              : Ramadan

Time                    : Iftar

Now, this experience is neither very innovative nor is it that the first time anyone has done it. Consequently countless blogs, food walk pictures, opinions and write ups are available online. In fact I did a blog post too one year ago with a lot of tempting pictures and added to the sea of other posts about Old Delhi food walks, which are already floating in the cyberspace. So I asked myself, “What was the point of keep on adding to the similar (sometimes identical) posts?” And, the point is that the hangover, from the food, hospitality and the passion to serve you, is so high, that even after a week of experiencing it, I cannot get it out of my system unless I document it.

The troops gather!

The troops gather!

The best time to start for me has always been around 7.30 pm, just after Iftar when the fasting Muslim community breaks their fast at sunset. More so, because the festival mood is setting in, the shops getting ready for their shoppers and the fresh smoke from the recently flamed charcoal of the food stalls. The imposing architecture of Jama Masjid against the twilight greets one majestically as one walks to the famed eateries housed in the by-lanes of this mosque.

This time we went in for full on Non-vegetarian fare and took to some not so well-known eateries branching out in the by-lanes from the Matial Mahal lane or as one of my foodie friends fondly calls it the Food Gully. The food has always amazed me but the large hearts of the men cooking and serving is something which will always touch a cord with you. The warm hospitality and their welcoming nature would make you feel as if you are a guest in their own home, which is actually true. These are the real torch bearers of the age-old Mughlai cuisine and for them this everyday fare has become a second nature. The tastes, textures, use of spices and the smoothness of their cuisine has remained consistent and no matter which restaurant or street side stall you walk into, you would want to come back for more.

The best part is that there are no NO pretentious servers, NO unnecessary waiting in lines, NO fancy cuisines with complicated names & no paying through the nose for a meal. This is where it gets as real as possible and when you experience real food from the “heart” you would not prefer it any other way? Also, surprisingly we observed that the lanes were very clean and even though people worry about the hygiene issue, we were surprised that this did not even concern us standing on the side of a road eating a hearty meal.

Just in case you wanna call!

Just in case you wanna call!

The Seekh & Boti Kebabs at Lalu

The Seekh & Boti Kebabs at Lalu

The Masterchefs at work.

The Masterchefs at work.

The creation!!!

The creation!!!

The food as always is the best part of going to Jama Masjid and walking up to Matia Mahal, you would not be able to resist the flavours emitting from Lalu Kababee’s charcoal grill. If you have no qualms about eating buffalo meat or buff (commonly known as bade ka meat in the area) then the Seekh & Boti Kebabs here are a definite yes for you. The meat in the Seekh Kebabs is like butter, melting in your mouth and leaving an exceptional after taste to savour. Grilled to a dark brown colour and burnt at some places this is the real deal. With a combination of well-done Boti Kebabs next to them and served with Onion and mint chutney, the whole plate for a cost of Rs. 50/- each is a much more than a steal.

The Shammi Kebabs ready for the evening!

The Shammi Kebabs ready for the evening!

With some food in our bellies we had that extra spring in our step and the muggy weather along with the heat could not deter us, though the Sharbat wala down the Matia Mahal road (20 meters ahead of Aslam Chicken) was a life saver. We started with a wonderful concoction of the Watermelon-Roohafza-Milk-Ice cooler and then tried the Apple-Kesar-Milk-Ice. Two glasses each and we were “Eating fit” once again. Two sizes of glasses for Rs. 20 and 10 are available, and you would be offered a spoon in the end to eat the fruit leftover from the Sharbat.

Sharbat coolers ... don't think there is a better way to wash down the food.

Sharbat coolers … don’t think there is a better way to wash down the food.

Turn around and you will spot the cycle wale bhaiya, who has set up a stall now and I finally got to know his name. Nadeem Bhai and his brother setup the assortment of food in huge utensils full of some great mutton dishes. They start around sunset to finish much before sunrise every day in Ramadan. Specialties from Nadeem Bhai’s kitchen are Keema … Mirch Keema … Daal Ghosth … Brain Curry. One better than the other, devoid of any singular/ master gravy and the Bheja (brain) took my heart away. Polished it all off with the Moti roti and a couple of Roomali roti (Indian bread as thin as a handkerchief). The love and hospitality they showered is definitely worth a mention. From arranging a make shift table in the middle of a busy road, to asking us to eat more and not stop, the welcoming nature was heartfelt and devoid of any vested or business interest. You cannot miss him on the Matia Mahal, Chitli Kabar chowk and you should not miss him.

The specialities at Nadeem Bhai's stall .... (Clockwise from the Top Left) Mirchi Keema, Daal Gosth, Brain Curry, Keema.

The specialities at Nadeem Bhai’s stall …. (Clockwise from the Top Left) Mirchi Keema, Daal Gosth, Brain Curry, Keema, Roomali Roti.

The Brain Curry

The Brain Curry in all its glory and equal amount of richness!

Nadeem Bhai’s stall did upset one thing and that was that we ate more than we anticipated and for the rest of the evening we had to tread carefully. But No complains here and our next stop to Pehelwan Biryani was a good and sweaty walk, which helped us work up an appetite. The Biryani is one of the best I have tasted and Pehelwan Miya sits at the Degh himself and serves you a plate full with chunks of meat for just Rs. 50/-. The man again would insist you sit and eat, but you cannot help standing next to him, chatting with him while you eat and listen to his stories. A big man, with a large heart and a lot of character on his benign face, arguably one of the most flavourful biryani I have had in my city.

Pehelwan Miya ... The man with a large heart!

Pehelwan Miya … The man with a large heart!

Pehelwan Miya ki Biryani ... one of the best I've tasted.

Pehelwan Miya ki Biryani … one of the best I’ve tasted.

A short hop from there is the Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale and if you don’t mind buff Nihari, then come directly to this place. The Nihari served with smooth gravy was soft and so smooth that it came apart by a single touch of fingers and melted in the mouth. The Magaj (brain) masala is something which I can promise you have never tasted before. An innovative way, which is not for the faint hearted, but if you are a fan of the brain curries around the city, there is no way you can miss this one. I still thank my friend who introduced me to this joint and you can obviously thank me when you visit it. Stand out and eat and you would be treated to the locals coming in to collect their fare, much to your amusement and entertainment. Good food and great people. This is a place I would be going back again and again.

Haji Shabrati ... This is the place to be if you want Nihari and Brain.

Haji Shabrati … This is the place to be if you want Nihari and Brain.

We had decided to stop by at Aslam Chicken and then Karim’s on the way back, but after this carnage were so full, that we skipped Aslam and finally landed up at Karim’s to park ourselves in the air-conditioned dining halls and sip some Thumbs Up. Sadly, this time the standard at Karim was not upto our liking, though fortunately we had stuffed ourselves already and did not miss much. Last year my experience at Karim had been much better, but might go and try them again soon.

Sadly, the food at Karim's was not as good as he previous visits.

Sadly, the food at Karim’s was not as good as the previous visits.

Seekh Kebabs at Karims were extremely dry!

Seekh Kebabs at Karims were extremely dry!

This much stuffing of the stomach requires a digestive and what better way to do it than to try the Paan at the corner of the road. Walking back out I wanted something cold and could not resist the Ganne ka ras (Sugarcane juice) at one of the many stalls outside Jama Masjid.

The bazaar is full of these melange of colourful dry fruits.

The bazaar is full of these melange of colourful dry fruits.

Having eaten so much in these bylanes, the food never disappoints but what elevates the experience is the warmth and “mehman nawaazi” (hospitality) of these people who serve you from the heart and insist that you eat not only to your but their heart’s content too.

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Soulitude … Coz your soul needs a vacation too!!!

There are home stays and then there are home stays. Soulitude of course falls into the latter category. A jewel of a place nestled in the Kumaon Himalayas on a peaceful hill in Gagar (enroute Mukteshwar), Soulitude luxuriously takes you into the lap of nature. Situated close to the hustle bustle of the ever crowded hill-station of Nainital, this home cum resort is a discovery for most of the overworked city folks like me. The place is so serene, relaxing & hospitable that we, along with the kids, dropped the idea of visiting Nainital and take in the beauty of this place … though we still wished we could stay another day and then another.

Soulitude in the Himalayas

Soulitude in the Himalayas

Soulitude is not a hotel or a resort but a destination. Whether you’re are travelling in a group or as a small family the experience is similar to staying in a home, a vacation home to put it more aptly, with personalized service and attention to small details by the hospitable staff. Soulitude is owned by an enterprising and friendly Manish Chandra and you can get in touch with him through the property’s website or by giving him a call on his cell phone (which is also mentioned on the website). The property has 10 rooms, all done up differently and in a unique style. Four are very large rooms termed as suites and I would suggest while booking you should definitely try for one of these depending on your taste … Awakening for privacy, Bliss for blissful living and amazing views, Quietude for quiet and peace & Nirvana to literally attain Moksha.

180 degree views of the Himalayas

180 degree views of the Himalayas

Roadtrip to Soulitude is highly recommended especially if you are from Delhi

Roadtrip to Soulitude is highly recommended especially if you are from Delhi

Rustic elements gives u the place a personalized feel.

Rustic elements gives u the place a personalized feel.

A strong influence of Hill architecture

A strong influence of Hill architecture

Cozy corners and terraces are fun areas for the kids

Cozy corners and terraces are fun areas for the kids

The resort architecture has a very strong influence of hill architecture with extensive use of stone and wood, materials and elements which are easily available in and around the mountains. What makes the place more special are the use of small rustic elements and the cozy interiors, giving a personalized feel to the whole place and making one feel at home the moment they drive through the gates of Soulitude. Every corner and every detail of the house has not been left unattended. The use of colours on the wall, the heavy wooden beams supporting the wooden trusses and roofs and the perfect angles created by the amalgamation of various elements create a space which is difficult to express … don’t even know why I am trying. The landscaped areas and the terraces add to the rustic old world charm and you are in heaven for the duration of your stay. The property is very well maintained and both the main house and the cottage are very high end. We were lucky to get Bliss, which is on the top floor of the main house and done up in a bright shade of yellow, deodar coloured wood and brick tiles on the wall. Bliss has a 270 degree view of the mountains in front and you would be treated to fresh cool breeze when the windows are open. Lots of surprises in this room like the skylights above your bed looking into the sky or at night at the stars OR the sunken bath with a large picture window with a view of the mountains. The kids loved it and Bliss and Awakening are the only 2 rooms in Soulitude which have a TV, just in case you cannot stay without one.

Bliss .... Whoever said "Ignorance is Bliss" never stayed in this room

Bliss …. Whoever said “Ignorance is Bliss” never stayed in this room

The staff and the service make or break your vacation. The service however supersedes any expectation you would have had from a Home stay or even from resort. From the moment you book your vacation at Soulitude, a pleasant email greets you with all contact details, directions to the place and suggestions enroute in case you are driving. Feel free to ask and re-ask anything and Manish or Prithavi (the GM of the property) would be prompt with their replies. The day we were supposed to leave from Delhi, I got an early morning text message on my phone, explaining me the directions in detail, along with a suggestion to call them in case I was lost. The treatment is VIP and Prithavi called at least thrice on the way to confirm where we were and give suggestions for food on the way. The drive is magnificent and when you reach Soulitude, the staff is eagerly expecting your arrival. A welcome drink made from the local Rhododendron flower would greet you after a long drive. There are no conventional check-in procedures and Prithavi himself saw us to our rooms, delicately explaining the house rules and giving us a tour of public areas. Once settled, the check-in was done at leisure in the common TV room at my convenience.

Old world charm

Old world charm

Cozy interiors

Cozy interiors

The amazing use of colors livens up the whole place

The amazing use of colors livens up the whole place

Cozy interiors

The quaint little dining area

The food as guest you have to consider would not be lavish like a resort or a hotel but closer to home food. Soulitude takes serious note of wastage and they cook as per the no. of residents or any guests if expected. Chef Rawat, is an amazing person, open to suggestions and constantly works hard to incorporate your tastes, preferences and occasionally your fancies. The first night of dinner I had some suggestions for Prithavi and Chef regarding the menu and the food and they surprised me beyond my dreams when they took pains to please me and every other guest with their efforts. Most of the veggies are grown on the property in an organic way. The quality of ingredients and the food was excellent and no complains there. The food would seem a little on the expensive side, considering the choices are limited, but the way the staff feeds you and the extra care they take in considering each individual’s preference more than makes up for it. The individual attention was quite visible when the Chef did a non-vegetarian barbeque only for me as the rest of the guests including my family were vegetarian one night. I would highly recommend letting the Soulitude team know your allergies, preferences and any special dishes you prefer and they would be more than happy to serve you.

Let the staff know your preferences in nearby Souiltu and they would be happy to comply.

Let the staff know your preferences and they would be happy to comply.

The ever smiling Chef Rawat

The ever smiling Chef Rawat

Soulitude is a place to relax and I am sure Manish conceived it like a luxury home in the rustic Himalayas with all the comforts of a modern home but not the banes of the modern society. You can do a lot of stuff around the area, from Village walks to treks, driving to Mukhteswar Dham temple or just explore the area on foot and eat Maggi on a roadside shop. I would also suggest you do a complete research of the property on their website, www.soulitude.in which mentions every little detail, as it is not a conventional hotel.

Nature Walks are a fun part of Soulitude

Nature Walks are a fun part of Soulitude

On the way to Mukteshwar try stopping at this amazing chocolate shop.

On the way to Mukteshwar try stopping at this amazing chocolate shop.

Morning views

Morning views

Views at night

Views at night

Soulitude is definitely for people wanting to get away from the city madness, the over-crowded typical hill-stations and the pollution laden air.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail

A romantic dinner!

A romantic dinner!

Bonfires!!!

Bonfires!!!

Small Details make Soulitude what it is!!!

Small Details make Soulitude what it is!!!

You would not want to leave once you settle in and make sure you book a minimum of 3-4 nights when you stay there.

Posted in Architecture, Design, Food, India, Lifestyle, Nature, Photography, Review, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Artusi … the Art of Italian food in the heart of Delhi

George Bernard Shaw said, “There is not sincerer love than the love of food,” and this holds true for both the people who create the food and those who love to eat. This sincere love for food is what I saw with the team of Artusi, from the owners, to the chef and all the way down to the staff.  This passion for food is what makes a place stand out & the recently opened Artusi, in the busy M-Block market of GK II, Delhi, is definitely doing a good job of standing out within a month of its opening. So an invitation by the Artusi team was jumped upon by me both because of their innovativeness and some already great recommendations.

Ms. Gurpinder Balcon the lady behind the restaurant along with her husband Mr. Oscar Balcon is a well travelled couple, largely due to Oscar’s banking job. Oscar hails from the Emilia Romagna region in Northern Italy, which besides its rich food heritage is famous for trend-setting fashion designers and the dream machines, like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati. No wonder, the clarity and the understated elegance is clearly reflected in this venture, which is their own little Emilia Romagna in the heart of Delhi. Gurpinder has spent quite a few years in Italy and is an avid cook herself.

The Artusi Team ... Gurpinder and Oscar Balcon both trust their Chef Romina!!!

The Artusi Team … Gurpinder and Oscar Balcon both trust their Chef Romina!!!

The name Artusi is borrowed from Mister Pellegrino Artusi, also known as the founder of Italian cuisine and author of “Science in the Kitchen” and “The Art of eating well”, which is considered as a bible for modern Italian cuisine.

Chef Romina Lugaresi has taken the food legacy of her region Emilia Romagna and has been more than happy to introduce the people of India with the actual authentic Italian cuisine. With a witty side to her, she does not shy away from mentioning that North-Indians are almost as similar to Italians with their loud mouths, insatiable appetite and even larger hearts. My first ever interaction with an expat Lady Chef, I admire the way she has settled into the Indian structure maintaining her individuality at the same time. Happy to pose with us for pictures, Chef Romina went the extra mile to cook up a meal for us which left us very full.

The Interiors ... Art Deco elements and the yellow colour is the most striking part of the design.

The Interiors … Art Deco elements and the yellow colour is the most striking part of the design.

As soon as you enter the restaurant, the bar area welcomes you along with the warm yellow color (which will be flowing all through the décor) and the oak finished wooden paneling and furniture. The motifs and moulding elements used in the furniture are very Art Deco and Oscar takes pride in explaining to you how he worked closely with design team to achieve this very European Art Deco theme. The bar counter done in Oakwood finish has a glass display housing all the desserts along with the signature Espresso machine at the back. The bar area has a seating facing outside consisting moulded plywood bar stools with leather cushioning making them comfortable and adding a spring to the seating. A great place to park yourself, have a drink and even a meal if you are dining alone and prefer to look at the crowd pass by on the busy street outside. As you enter the main dining area which is right behind the bar area you are overwhelmed by the interiors, largely due to the use of the earthy colors, wooden textures and placement of motifs which, though you might have never experienced it does transport you to a different era. And, when Oscar mentioned that he had replicated “His Grandma’s Dining room” all questions about the design, lighting, seating, etc. came to a rest. The place is cozy and the warmth and passion of the team is aptly complemented by the use of yellow color.

The other most striking feature of design is the artwork and graphics on the menu mostly done by a talented artist called Faiyyaz R. Khan. Artusi’s portrait at the beginning of the menu bears a striking resemblance to him and the paintings in the restaurant though post-modern complements the Art Deco style of interiors perfectly.

Service for me always makes or breaks a dining experience. The GM of the restaurant Aman is a well travelled man and has worked in Italy for quite some time, another great find for Gurpinder and Oscar. He has trained his team well, though I did observe the service to be a tad slow and the staff was kind enough to recognize this and make amends accordingly during our meal itself. The training shows and I believe on my next visit the staff would be much more polished and efficient. The knowledge and names of the dishes, which are tongue twisting and have to be pronounced correctly, have been taught well to the servers and they take pleasure in explaining what they are serving you. If you tell them preferences (including your allergies) they would be happy to inform the Chef. The team is eager to know how you liked your food and I presume they work on your suggestions.

I still don’t believe I am a food critic and my critique is limited to what I enjoy or in some cases don’t enjoy. And, when you are invited for a Chef tasting rest assured the feeding frenzy continues for hours, but who’s complaining.

Ferro

Ferro

What is Italian without its salads and The Ferro Salad was with what we started our meal. Made with Baby spinach (which I confused as Rocket leaves), grapes, pears and goat cheese salad and finished with toasted pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Overall fine … but a veggie overdose for me and I would have preferred more cheese in it.

Rape e Noci

Rape e Noci

Rape e Noci was next with Roasted beets, water cress, green apple, walnuts, goat cheese -finished with croutons and balsamic vinegar. The server mixed the contents and served it, though I felt, it should be served as presented on the plate. Let the diner try savour each ingredient. I loved the crunchiness of the ingredients and the excellent presentation made it looked like a work of art.

 

Pollo Tiepido ... Warm chicken breast was cooked juicy, just the right temperature and cooked to perfection.

Pollo Tiepido … Warm chicken breast was cooked juicy, just the right temperature and cooked to perfection.

Pollo Tiepido was which lifted my spirits after 2 vegetarian salads and the Warm chicken breast was cooked juicy, just the right temperature and cooked to perfection with. It was set in a fennel salad with oranges and olives and oregano which lent the citrus flavour to the whole dish. This was a Salad which caught my fancy and I finished the whole plate.

Tortelli & Cappalletto

Tortelli & Cappalletto

Artusi makes their pastas in their own kitchen and the textures you experience as you bite into one are amazing and make you reach out for more. We were served the Tortelli hand-made pasta pockets which seemed to be made by an artist filled with a mix of pumpkins and potatoes, set in creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce. And, the Cappelletto which were hat-shaped pasta pockets, intricately made by the Chef, filled with ricotta and Parmiggiano Reggiano cheeses. The light tomatoes and basil sauce gave it a desirable and tangy taste.

Gnocchi Pesto e Patate & Pappardelle Faraona (Pic Courtesy: http://tigersexperience.blogspot.in/)

Gnocchi Pesto e Patate & Pappardelle Faraona       (Pic Courtesy: http://tigersexperience.blogspot.in/)

Pappardelle Faraona & Gnocchi Pesto e Patate were the next serving and though by that time, my taste buds were craving for meat, I still loved the Gnocchi in fresh pesto sauce. Didn’t even feel guilty coz it was “green”.

 

Risotto (Pic Courtesy: http://tigersexperience.blogspot.in/)

Risotto (Pic Courtesy: http://tigersexperience.blogspot.in/)

The Risotto Ortolano made in very high quality Carnaroli rice, seasonal veggies and authentic Grana Padana cheese. This traditional Italian Risotto added to the Italian dining room charm made me feel closer to Italy (though I have yet to experience it first hand).

After downing the marathon of Pastas, I had to get up and take a walk. It seemed we were nowhere close to the completion of the meal and I had to digest the amount of food I was fed.

Lemon Sorbet topped with Sparkling wine to cleanse the palate.

Lemon Sorbet topped with Sparkling wine to cleanse the palate.

Luckily, a surprise was waiting for me at the table in the form of a Sorbetto al Limone or simply a Lemon Sorbet topped with some sparkling wine. I also sampled the Sorbetto all’a Mela verde, Green apple Sorbet, but the Lemon Sorbet is what I stuck with. The sorbet was an excellent detail to cleanse our palate and for the meats that would be waiting for us.

 

Branzino Cartoccio (Pic Courtesy: http://tigersexperience.blogspot.in/)

Branzino Cartoccio  …. A must try (Pic Courtesy: http://tigersexperience.blogspot.in/)

I was delighted to smell some fish when they served the Branzino Cartoccio wrapped in an Aluminum foil. The Oven baked Sea Bass filet was served with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives. Due you to its wrapping in the foil, which is opened on your table, the flavours and fragrances of each ingredient remain intact. I could down a couple of these if I was not expecting more food. The Chef floored me with this one and if you happen to land up at Artusi, you have to try this one.

Angnello & Costine di Maiale

Angnello & Costine di Maiale

The meats were next starting with the Lamb Chops, Angnello. Lamb chops imported from New Zealand were grilled with a touch of pistachio lemon oil and served with baked potato, grilled eggplant, tomatoes and crunchy leeks. The marination of the meat lent it a yummy flavour and even after so much food made me hungry. Soft and succulent I loved this and if you are a meat fan like me, please don’t miss this one.

 The ribs or the Costine di Maiale served with French fries & grilled vegetables were a little disappointing. The meat was tight and a little hard coming off the ribs. I really wanted to try the complete rack and the Chef said I should come back for more … well I already have a reason to go back.

Oscar joined us when the desserts were starting and it was a pleasure to go through with him through every little detail of Artusi. Chef Romina was back too, to check on us and to serve us her signature desserts.

The Pana cotta

The Pana cotta

Now, I am not a person with a sweet tooth but had heard so much about the Panna cotta that would have been a fool not to try it. The pudding served with caramelized figs and roasted almonds, this was the real deal. Every bite melting into the mouth and the colours on the pudding made it look like a work of art. I could frame a picture of it and hang it on my wall.

Crema Pistacchio e Caffe'

Crema Pistacchio e Caffe’

However the bitter sweet dessert Crema Pistacchio e Caffe’ was the one which took desserts to another level. A smooth pistachio custard cream with coffee gelatine, finger shaped butter cookies & pistachio crackers done in two layers of green and coffee brown, served in a glass was an amalgamation of flavours. By the time I tried to figure out what it was, I had already polished off the whole glass. If you like the innovation and surprise in your food, you definitely have to try this.

I cannot give a verdict on a restaurant, but I enjoyed my time and my meal at this place. More on the expensive side and might lighten your pocket by around 5K for a meal for two, I would still recommend you try this if you love Italian food and want to sample genuine Italian hospitality in the heart of Delhi.

Posted in Food, India, Lifestyle, Photography, Restaurant, Review, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heropanti or Tigerpanti … getting back the Masala flavour in cinema!!!

Tiger Shroff, a name which definitely implies that his Dad Jackie Shroff always wanted him to be a “Hero.” Jackie Dada made his debut in the movie HERO and created history. His son exactly after 30 years steps into his shoes and tries hard to take this legacy forward with a similar sounding name for the movie and the signature flute from Hero in the background. The similarity however ends there and what Jackie achieved from his first movie, Tiger seems miles away from achieving that.

Heropanti OR Tigerpanti

Heropanti OR Tigerpanti

Sabbir Khan’s second film as a director, Heropanti is based in the hinterland of Haryana, referred to as Jaatland in the movie, with the central theme of Honour killings. How love develops between the hero and the heroine amidst the backdrop of a traditional Jaat family, who already are madly looking for one of their eloped daughter. The turn of events, situations and sequences are all very expected and the plot is ordinary. The focus of the movie is to showcase Tiger Shroff which it effectively does. The action sequences, the dance sequence and the songs are very well done and a delight to watch if you are a masala movie fan like me. The Hero is a complete package who can fight like his life depended on it, dance like he was in an international competition and a smile that can make girls fall all around him. All in all the movie doesn’t fail to cover the all bases of a typical masala entertainer.

The screen presence is definitely there ... this man is here to stay!

The screen presence is definitely there … this man is here to stay!

Tiger Shroff is as convincing when he is fighting big beefed up goons as he is when he is romancing his delicate on-screen heroine. No one can write him off and he is here to stay even though his dialogues were cheesy, forced and at times unconvincing. However, having said that, Tiger is no less impressive with his screen presence. With a face that is more on the feminine side but very likeable, a body that seems to be perfectly sculpted out of stone, his fighting skills which would match any established action star and his acrobatics in his dances, all make him Star-material. He has used all his martial arts skills and used them effectively to give us some great passionate action sequences. Salman Khan has been able to pull off movies solely on his shoulders by his mere star power. Tiger, who definitely needs to work on his acting skills and mature to a man from a chocolate boy, might command the same loyal fan following like Salman.

Kriti Sanon shares great chemistry with Tiger.

Kriti Sanon shares great chemistry with Tiger.

The other star in the making is Kriti Sanon, who has played the good looking, obedient and sometimes dumb daughter. She complements Tiger perfectly by looking both hot and innocent, and the chemistry between them is electic. She can move up the ladder pretty fast, if she chooses her roles intelligently, and makes a mark like she has made in this one.

The Enfield Bullet is retained from Jackie's movie Hero, though the model is latest.

The Enfield Bullet is retained from Jackie’s movie HERO, though the bike model is latest.

The surprise package would be Sunil Grover, our very own Gutthi from Comedy Nights with Kapil, despite his 5 minutes in the movie he has you in splits laughing at his comic timing. Prakash Raj as the anti-hero & the hurting father does what he does best, and seems to be the only choice for villain/ character roles in all movies currently. The rest of the actors are big, burly and ready to break your bones, but at the end of it just props. Another similarity with original Hero is the Enfield Bullet motorcycle which was an integral part of Jackie’s movie.

The action sequences and stunts are excellently choreographed.

The action sequences and stunts are excellently choreographed.

Another star son has risen, and the debut movie has given him a romantic-action hero tag. It is for Tiger now to build up on his new found fame and take it to the next level. I would suggest you go and do some “Whistle bajaoing” with the newcomers, if you love masala movies, cool action sequences or the age old formula of boy meets girl and falls in love. Plus, you get to see Delhi and its sites as most of the movie is shot in our very own city.

Whatever the reason, Tiger is worth the watch.

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Architecture in B&W

“Architecture begins where Engineering ends” … Walter Gropius said this and the debate still continues between both disciplines. But, as an architect when one travels the world visiting different cities and ancient buildings, one cannot help but wonder that the best of both disciplines would have gone into the making of these landmark structures. The debate I will reserve for another blog post, and this I will restrict to love of architecture, travel and photography. Big cities and landmark buildings still give me a high like none other I have experienced.

Taking a step forward I have showcased a handful of my recent pictures from my travels … all in Black & White.

The "Blue City" of Jodhpur ... founded in 1459 & named after Rao Jodha of Mandore.

The “Blue City” of Jodhpur as seen from the canon mounted at Mehrangarh fort … founded in 1459 & named after Rao Jodha of Mandore.

The Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan ... also know as the "Windy City" ... you can see the Sears (now Willis) Tower standing tall on the left side.

The Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan … also know as the “Windy City” … you can see the Sears (now Willis) Tower standing tall on the left side.

 

The famous Chicago loop ... negotiating it is a work of art.

The famous Chicago loop … negotiating it is a work of art.

Downtown Chicago at Night with the mist settling in.

Downtown Chicago at Night with the mist settling in.

The stairwell in Mehrangarh fort, Jodhpur

The stairwell in Mehrangarh fort, Jodhpur

The Taj Mahal in all its glory!!!

The Taj Mahal in all its glory!!!

Stanford University Entrance ... California.

Stanford University Entrance, California … the lines and angles are perfect!

The gates to knowledge ... Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston

The gates to knowledge … Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston

San Francisco Skyline from the Bay bridge ... a work of art.

San Francisco Skyline from the Bay bridge … a work of art.

Port Louis ... the capital city of the Island of Mauritius.

Port Louis … the capital city of the Island of Mauritius.

Hong Kong by the night!!!

Hong Kong by the night!!!

The Flatiron Building "originally the Fuller Building, New York was built in 1902.

The Flatiron Building “originally the Fuller Building, New York was built in 1902.

The Landmark Golden Gate suspension bridge in San Francisco, built in 1937.

The Landmark Golden Gate suspension bridge in San Francisco, built in 1937.

The Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir

The Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir

Steel & Glass buildings in downtown Chicago

Steel & Glass buildings in downtown Chicago

The Hindu temples of Orchha, Madhya Pradesh

The Hindu temples of Orchha, Madhya Pradesh

Umaid Bhawan ... a palace converted to a hotel ... Jodhpur

Umaid Bhawan … a 1943 palace converted to a hotel … Jodhpur

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Dhaba by Claridges … your Truck should definitely stop here!!!

I have always believed “Food like Design is very subjective”.

Advisory: The rather long review is to be read at leisure and in conjunction with the pictures. You may experience sudden pangs of hunger or a mouth watering urge to feast on some typical north – Indian food. The quantity of food shown in the review is consumed by experts in eating and should not be tried without supervision.

It is very difficult to please everyone. However, Chef Ravi Saxena, seems to have found a solution and created a masterpiece out of the Dhaba legacy. Dhaba by Claridges is a masterstroke by Chef Ravi, Vineet and the entire team. Now most of us who are from Delhi and love food (which most dilliwaalas do), have had the pleasure of visiting Dhaba at the Claridges Hotel, which started in 1984, at least once in our life time. Ravi took this 30 year old legacy brought it out to the masses, the youngsters and the mall goers in a brilliant move by opening Dhaba by Claridges at two of the most happening food locations of DLF mall Saket and Cyber Hub, Gurgaon.

Dhaba by Claridges ... The Truck stops here!!!

Dhaba by Claridges … The Truck stops here!!!

We however had the pleasure of Ravi and Vineet’s company at their DLF Place, Saket outlet. Going to Dhaba is an occasion to celebrate and celebrate we did along with our perfect hosts. As you come up to the 2nd Floor by the escalator and turn left you cannot miss the hoardings and signs which take you all the way to the Dhaba. As soon as you enter you are greeted by the lively, colorful and innovative décor of the place and though food is the most important part of the restaurant, Dhaba in itself is an experience which starts from the point you enter it to the time you exit. The place is huge with various sections for seating, Live kitchen, Theka (Indian name for a liquor shop), and even a full body actual truck which has a seating mounted on its carriage.

IMG_5805

The Dhaba Style Kitchen complete with the big metal utensils.

The Theka ... Indian liquor store.

The Theka … Indian liquor store.

The interiors are an interesting mix of industrial materials and funky colors supported by some pretty unique elements, like the faucet styled chandeliers, the exposed ducting and concrete floors and the bar counter decorated with no. plates. Once you are seated at your tables, you will keep noticing the witty graffiti done on the walls, the coasters and anywhere you eye rests. Every time I looked up from eating I discovered something new in the décor. Clearly a one-time visit is not enough to explore this amazingly done restaurant and hats off to the designer & the team of Dhaba for getting it all together.

Chef Ravi explains his concepts and his journey.

Chef Ravi explains his concepts and his journey.

Innovation ... the Faucet styled chandeliers light up the restaurant.

Innovation … the Faucet styled chandeliers light up the restaurant.

Considering when one is the guest of the Chef and the GM, it is sometimes difficult to gauge the kind of service one would actually receive at the hands of the server. But, I have always believed that grooming shows irrespective of who you are dining with. And this is what the management seems to have taken pains in doing, grooming their staff and servers. The servers are dressed in classic roadside dhaba attire of pajama styled pants and old fashioned shirts with shoulder straps and buttoned pockets. They are educated about the dishes they are serving and always pleasant to talk too. One could make out that they indulged with the other diners and encouraged them to try out suggestions. The best part is that when you are engrossed in eating the rich food on your table, they will break into an impromptu jig on one of the popular Bollywood numbers. Though I did not try, I am sure they would welcome you to shake a leg if you are in the mood or a couple of drink down.

The servers dancing to "Badtameez Dil"

The servers dancing to “Badtameez Dil”

The mood for food is set when the ambiance and service is impeccable and I for one could not wait for it to arrive. Chef Ravi however had other ideas and in the middle of a week day he insisted that we try the Desi Tharras … naturally who were we to refuse when the master himself stressed on it. The Tharras (which is Hindi for street liquor) came in Quarter (pahua) bottles and I tried 3 different concoctions with Guava (Toofan), Aam Panaa (Somrus) & Cucumber (Basanti) each mixed with vodka and filled to the brim in the 180 ml bottles. I least expected but Toofan was the one which literally took me by storm.

Desi Tharras ... a must have!

Desi Tharras … a must have!

Having tasted the goods of the Theka (bar) the array of dishes started sashaying down our table.

We started with the Tawa Mutton, mutton cooked to perfection along with a thick gravy on the Tawa and sprinkled generously with the typical (dhaba style) tomato, onion, green chilli & coriander garnishing. The mutton was chewy and soft enough and the spices were thoroughly embedded in the taste.

Tawa Mutton

Tawa Mutton

Next came the Vada Pav & the Keema Pav, both dishes from Maharashtra but made as per the north Indian taste. The Vada Pav was very filling along with the chutneys and an excellent choice for vegetarians. The Keema in Keema Pav, was spicier and more like the dhaba styled keema and that for me made it a north-indian dish. Served separately in a bowl, I would suggest you stuff the pav with keema till it overflows and spills over when you put it in your mouth. Believe me the feeling does get heavenly (haven’t I heard that term before for a fast food).

Vada Pav & Keema Pav

Vada Pav & Keema Pav

The Dhaba Murg Roast and the Tandoori Bhune Aloo came next and were devoured as soon as they came. The Murg roast was crispy on the out and tender inside and you could ask for no more. Simplistic and pleasing to the taste buds. The Tandoori Aloo was crispy fried potatoes served with the same dhaba tyled garnishing and chutney. More like a Tikki chaat, and like all Dhaba dishes heavy on the tummy, but who’s complaining.

The Dhaba Murg Roast ... better known as Tandoori Chicken

The Dhaba Murg Roast … better known as Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Bhune Aloo

Tandoori Bhune Aloo

Next were the Veg Galouti Kebab with Roti, and these veggie babies can easily fool you into believing that they are Non-vegetarian. The perfect texture, soft and melting in the mouth, the best vegetarian starter I tasted on the table that afternoon.

The Veg Galouti ... my favorite Veg Starter

The Veg Galouti … my favorite Veg Starter

Now, eating at Dhaba is as much an art as is creating the food you eat. If you stuff yourself with one dish or two dishes, you will be missing out on the rest of the sumptuous food that can be taken in during one meal. Forget the no. of courses that a conventional meal has to offer, at Dhaba the food does not stop if you have the capacity for it. A roadside dhaba used to stuff the overworked tired drivers & travelers with good rich food and the team has diligently followed that one rule in taking care of its diners.

The Coolers and the Cool dude ... The Sugarcane like juice, Tiger eyeing the Jeera Cooler, The Pan Mojito

The Coolers and the Cool dude … The Sugarcane like juice, Tiger eyeing the Jeera Cooler, The Pan Mojito

After the jamboree of starters we took a break with a few mocktails & coolers to take the main course head on. The Sugarcane “like” juice, the Pan Mojito and the Jeera Cooler offered us the much needed respite to our constantly munching jaw-line.

The main course ordered was an elaborate one and rivaled the starters dish by dish. Any Dhaba you go you’ll know the quality of food by the Butter Chicken it serves. And Dhaba by Claridges is no exception this rule. The butter chicken here is done in the classic north Indian style and we were served the boneless version, though personally I like to get my hands dirty with the one with bones. The gravy is thick and filled with roasted chicken pieces. The Chef told us that they cook half of it in the tandoor and then transfer it to the gravy to cook it fully. This gives the chicken a complete flavor of the gravy and the smoky flavor of the tandoor. One of the best I have tasted.

And the main course is served ... (clockwise from top left) ... Kanastari baingan ka bharta, Tawa chicken pulao, Balti meat, Dal Dhaba,  Rajma, Amritsari Chole & Butter chicken.

And the main course is served … (clockwise from top left) … Kanastari baingan ka bharta, Tawa chicken pulao, Balti meat, Dal Dhaba, Rajma, Amritsari Chole & Butter chicken.

Along with the Butter Chicken we had ordered quite a few vegetarian dishes ranging from the Kanastari Baingan ka bharta, Rajma, Amritsari Chole and Dal Dhaba. The Kanastari baingan ka bharta did impress me with its packaging in a rectangular old fashioned metal box, but if you have read my reviews before, vegetarian food is something hard for me to dwell upon. Having said that, each item tasted good enough and maybe one day I will try a complete vegetarian meal (I am actually keeping my fingers crossed when I say this). But if you really want to tr, I recommend the Dal with the Tawa Chicken Pulao.

The Star of the Meal ... Balti Meat!!!

The Star of the Meal … Balti Meat!!!

Save the best for last is what they say and I am sure this saying was coined by a foodie. We always save the best morsels for the last and the best thing that I tasted on that table was the Balti Meat. The meat dish is served in a small metal Balti, meaning a bucket, as the name suggests. The presentation is a work of art and so is this dish. Every Dhaba by Claridges serves the Balti Meat with the same meat cut with a long Nalli piece and shorter mutton cuts drowned in a rich gravy of “something out of this world”. I have people talk about sinful food and food porn, but this one is way up on the pedestal of all these titles. This mutton dish is one of the best I have had and will ever have and if you go to the Dhaba and not try this, you should be asked to pay a fine … Ok I admit that is stretching it a little too far … but, a must try. The mutton is cooked to perfection and just sticks to the bones and as soon as you bite into it, it comes of or better still glides into your mouth. Only a perfectionist can achieve this day in and day out at different locations. I was truly floored by this one.

Try it with the Dhaba Roti, which is coming soon on their menu, and thank me forever.

The desserts ... tired them all.

The desserts … tried them all.

The culmination of the meal like all meals was the desserts and we were spoilt for choice again with Rasmalai, their special Phirni and extra large Gulab Jamuns. A real foodie never chooses and so we tried them all and stretched on the chairs … only if they had charpais (the local Indian cots). The icing on the cake was Panditjee ka Paan another ritual which all original Dhaba goers would identify with.

This was an afternoon well spent with great food and even better company. Do ask the team to show you around the place when you are done and the walk certainly helps you to digest. And, on the way out check your fortune on the weighing scale which you find on railway station platforms.

On your way out ... do check your fortune

On your way out … do check your fortune

I know the review is a little long, but this is the edited version, so you can imagine the kind of hospitality you should expect when you are a guest at Dhaba by Claridges.

Posted in Design, Food, India, Innovation, Lifestyle, Photography, Restaurant, Review, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tonino … celebrates 10 years!!!

Those who are from Delhi and love eating out know about Tonino and I am sure each one of you have a story attached to it. Tonino is now 10 and in this day a restaurant going strong even after 10 years of its opening is a commendable feat in itself. It has always been a good place for an overall dining experience, with an excellent ambiance, earthly decor and good food. It was a pleasure to be part of the restaurant’s celebration along with fellow foodies, the team of Tonino along with the charming host and the owner Simran Sawhney.

The special Menu for 10 year celebrations

The special Menu for 10 year celebrations


After you alight from you car and walk towards the main property, you can’t help but get a feel of the Tuscan styled architecture which the dimly lit pathway leads you too. The restaurant is divided into the outdoor seating area (including the terrace above the main block) and the indoor villa styled seating area which is divided into various dining rooms and Private Dining Rooms. The outdoor seating offers a romantic setting for the special occasions even when the weather is not so conducive. The outdoor patio furniture is done in a classical wrought iron style and the tables are arranged around trees which gives the place an old world charm and a cozy feel to the whole area. 

Italian ho aur Olives na ho!!!

Italian ho aur Olives na ho!!!

Being the guests of the restaurant the service was impeccable with Chef Suman explaining to us the concept and the origin of his dishes. Simran was the gracious host taking us down the memory lane from the time Tonino was first conceived. The servers were in their element paying attention to each diner and making it a memorable afternoon for all of us.

Happy birthday Tonino

Happy birthday Tonino

Food at Tonino has always been great and we had a special menu prepared by Chef Suman for the lunch. I started of with the Beer, unlike the wine everyone else was having. The Antipasti started with the …

Asparagi Bellavista

Asparagi Bellavista

Asparagi Bellavista, consisting of the roasted red pepper with Asparagus & garlic crumb. Plated like a work of art (which most of the food is) the roasted red pepper had a unique flavor which was intriguing.

The Burschettas

The Burschettas

The tray of Bruschettas came next, specially prepared for the afternoon, my favorite was the one with cheese and caramalized onions.

The Pollo Con Pesto

The Pollo Con Pesto

 

Now, no matter how good the veggies, meat is where my heart lies and the Pollo con Pesto or the Pan grilled marinated chicken with Parmesan cheese ball, set the ball rolling for the carnivores. The chicken was succulent with the marination bringing out the flavors and served on small skewers which was very easy to handle.

So much Green!!!

So much Green!!!

The Rocket leaves salad was nice, but I am not a fan of salads leaves and other greenery, so I better not comment on that, though I found my friends polishing of their salad plates.

Spinach Ricotta ... Tick

Spinach Ricotta … Tick

Always judge an Italian restaurant by the Pepperoni Pizza it serves!

Always judge an Italian restaurant by the Pepperoni Pizza it serves!

 

The second course started with the Spinach Ricotta … tick and the Pepperoni thin crust pizza which always tells me how good the Italian restaurant is. And the pizza at Tonino, which no one can dispute, is one of the best ones. Keep them coming was all I could mouth while it was full.

The Chicken chops ... Eccellente!!!

The Chicken chops … Eccellente!!!

For the main course I chose the Costolette Di Pollo Con Salsa Piccante … saying these names by itself works up an appetite … which was in easier words Chicken Chops with BBQ sauce served with Grilled potatoes & veggies. As the Italians would say … Eccellente. You have to try, period. The sauce is something which is the Chef’s creation and have won him a coveted award.

Chocolate Lasagne

Chocolate Lasagne

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

The Tiramisu and the Chocolate Lasagna desserts were brilliant and a great culmination to a great afternoon. Try the Chocolate Lasagna over the Tiramisu if you are watching your calories.

Tonino has always scored with me on a lot of points and this afternoon was impeccable. They really do celebrate their birthday in Style. 

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