Friday, 30 September 2016

Food Festival: An Essence of Chettinad @ Sheraton Grand Bangalore

Twitter: @nkandhari     Facebook: Review Of Restaurants     Instagram: Review Of Restaurants 

It was Day 01 of the Marriott - Starwood Merger and Yes, I was there :)

We kicked off our evening at Sheraton experiencing the in season Oktober Fest menu; buts that's for another post. Fast forwarding the evening to when Chef Sabari with all enthusiasm walked us to our table at feast to experience the food festival close to his heart - 'An Essence of Chettinad'. Hailing from the region, Chef Sabari shared stories of the culinary journey his team set out on to bring the authenticity and experience back to Sheraton Grand Bangalore and it clearly showed through the evening spent.

Indian section of the buffet was dedicated to Chettinad cuisine which was extensive enough to ignore the rest of the otherwise magnificent buffet spread. True to the restaurants name, the Chettinad spread alone was a 'Feast'.

We were welcomed with Panakam and Neermore and before heading to starters we started off with condiments placed on our table like a variety of chips, chutneys, pickles, spread of podi and more before we progressed to the next course of starters. Panakam is a jaggery based drink with lime juice, ginger, cardamon forming key ingredients. We shamelessly enjoyed a couple of rounds of this drink as we nibbled through the condiments placed on our table.

Starters was an enjoyable course - a result of good ingredients, spices, marination and cooking style. The non-vegetarian starters included quail cooked in Chettinad spices (Kadai Perattal), prawn fry (Karuvepillai Eral Fry) and lamb chops (kari Varuval). This only made me look forward to the coming courses from the buffet spread.

Live stations continuously dished out vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters, appam, Adai, parothas and Nei Paniyaram. Adai as recommended by Chef was enjoyed in the company of ghee and jaggery. Neil Paniyaram was relished with the wide spread of chutneys and podi. 

Mains included a range of dishes for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. There was Karaikudi Attiracha Curry; a flavourful lamb dish and Chettinad Meen Melagu Varuval; a seer fish preparation (yes! I was equally excited to hear Seer and not Basa)  that went well in the company of a nice flaky parotha. There was also Chettinad chicken biryani which I have usually never been  fan off. 

This was not all, I loved the vegetarian section too which had Pusanikkai More Kozambu, Vatha Kozambu and more. These were my favourites from the vegetarian menu and were relished with steamed rice. 

I'm not a big fan of desserts but I did venture into it. Amidst a wide spread selection, a fellow blogger recommended I try the Sago Payasam and it hit the bullseye. I did not need to look for any other dessert from the spread. At the end of it all there sure was a need of a digestive and to finish there was a delicious paan on offer.

It's a limited time showcase and the menu offering is on a rotational basis. So head here to enjoy a buffet that has an extensive offering of Chettinad food prepared from the heart by Chef Sabari and team. While only one more day remains for this food festival, I urge you to try it out and if that's not possible the buffet spread at Sheraton Grand Bangalore is fantastic and makes for an enjoyable experience. The buffet at feast comes priced at Rs. 1445++ for lunch and Rs. 1595++ for dinner.

Quick Tips:
Go enjoy an Essence of Chettinad at Feast, Sheraton Grand Bangalore and stay tuned for more to come.

Address: Sheraton Grand Bangalore, 26/1, Dr. Rajkumar Road, Malleshwaram - Rajajinagar, Bangalore - 560055
Phone Number: +91 80 4252 1000

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

'The Moplahs of Malabar' - Unique Tastes at Dakshin - ITC Windsor, Bangalore

Twitter: @nkandhari     Facebook: Review Of Restaurants     Instagram: Review Of Restaurants 

Under the aegis of Kitchens of India, ITC Hotels have been hosting numerous food festival; each showcasing an aura of specialty cuisine that they aptly categorize under the following themes:
- Unique Tastes
- Forgotten Treasures
- Royal Repasts

Like always, this running food festival showcasing the unique tastes of 'The Moplah Cuisine' is no less of a grandeur giving insights into the food and cultural amalgamation of the highly respected community of Kerala Muslims also known as 'Moplahs'. Under the able guidance of Mrs. Ummi Abdullah - a Moplah culinary specialist; chef George at the helm from ITC Windsor's Dakshin along with his team are wonderfully steering a legacy that ITC hotels is known to live by.

A meal here always starts with generous servings of a variety of chutneys, uttappams, papads and fries. I've always looked forward to this especially the banana uttappam which tastes so very distinct when had with a different type of chutney. I expected it to be a long evening with loads of food so I had to balance out my indulgence to be able to last through the rest of the evening.

The experience of the 'Moplah Cuisine' started with the arrival of none other than Mrs. Ummi Abdullah who in all her enthusiasm shared stories ranging from the love for cooking, extracting coconut oil, the 3 generations that follow her, all time favorites, complexities and unique techniques involved with this traditional cuisine and so on. All these conversations were enjoyed in the company of delicious appetizers that followed one after another.
Mrs. Umi Abdullah (3rd from Right)
Taking the lead were fried onion fritters and deep fried pockets of spiced chicken; the former called 'Ulli Ada' and the later being 'Kozhi Ada'. A bite into each of these and you know right away that the food is non-greasy, not spicy / hot but the emphasis is clearly laid on the use of fragrant spices. I can be biased towards non-vegetarian food and you know that very well too. But in this case, I was really impressed with 'Ulli Ada' the fried onion mini samosas if I may call them.
Kozhi Ada
Fried Onion Fritters
The filling of deep fried sweet onion and it's marriage with the fragrant spices hit the right notes on my palate. 'Kozhi Ada' was minced chicken subtly flavored with spices stuffed in a really thin yet perfectly crisp casing. I was amazed to hear that this can be deep fried and then stored for over a month packed in containers for consumption as a tea time snack. How cool is that! Isn't it?

Next up were 'Thenga Unda' and 'Chemeen Unda'; both being steamed rice dumpling with the former containing onion and coconut while the later contained fragrant - spiced minced prawns. subtle and delicate flavors and the simplicity of flavors is what made me happy about 'Unda'. 
Tenga Unda
Chemeen Unda
If you thought this was all we had for starters, the best was yet to arrive and when it did; it seemed like a complete meal by itself. This was the 'Meen Porichandu' - grilled seer fish slices marinated in Malabar spices. A drizzle of lime and accompaniment of onion was all that was required to make this soul satisfying.

With this, we made a foray into the mains which were served in the classic Dakshin thali. Served on the plate left to right in the cups is - 'Meen Mulakithattu' a traditional moplah fish curry made with tamarind; 'Chena Varatharacha Curry' yam simmered in coconut gravy; 'Erachi Nadan Porichathu' an authentic preparation of succulent lamb in a paste of garlic and coriander; 'Thakkali Vattichathu'; 'Kozhi Varattiyathu' chicken drumsticks tossed with traditional malabar spices and to the extreme right is 'Alisa' a porridge of slow cooked broken wheat and lamb topped with fried onion and ghee. This was similar to haleem and traditionally in a Moplah household; Alisha is best enjoyed with a mixing of sugar and hot ghee. I tried it both ways and did love the rich consistency of Alisha. 
Main Course - Dakshin Thali

The mains were accompanied by 'Appam', 'Podi Pathiri' and Ney 'Pathri'. Each one was very different from another and was a blend of distinct texture and unique tastes. The course does not end here. What followed was a delicious 'Thallasseri Mutton Biryani' which was fragrant rice  with succulent mutton and topped with dried fruits.

Mrs. Ummi Abdullah at the start of the meal introduced our table to a dessert that is a result of finesse. This uses egg as a main ingredient and when plated traditionally it takes the form of a garland and hence the name 'Muttamala'. Muttamala made with egg yolk is served resembling string hoppers and comes topped with 'Kinnathappam' steamed and sweetened egg white disks. Saffron, cardamom and the sugar syrup used as ingredients in the making of this dessert wonderfully basks the otherwise prominent flavor that egg can leave behind in a dessert if not done right. This was perfect and was polished off in no time. 

This meal at Dakshin is available for lunch and dinner as a thali or can be called for a la carte from the menu till 12th September. At Rs. 2300 + taxes (ITC does not levy Service Charge), trying the thali is the perfect way to experience the unique tastes of Moplah cuisine which is yet another experience wonderfully curated by the team of ITC Windsor.

Address: ITC Windsor, 25 Windsor Square, Golf Course Road, Near Sankey Road, Bangalore
For Reservations - Phone Number: +91 80 4140 1205

Note: This visit to ITC Hotels Windsor, Bengaluru was on invitation but the opinions expressed are solely mine and are absolutely unbiased nor influenced by the brand in any way.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Exotic Pizzas at Mezzaluna, Movenpick Hotel, Bengaluru

Twitter: @nkandhari     Facebook: Review Of Restaurants     Instagram: Review Of Restaurants  

"Breads are holy to Italians", Said Chef Armando of Mezzaluna at Movenpick Hotel Bangalore in the very first minutes of my interaction with him.

For many, the word 'bread' brings imaginations of different kinds of foods to different ethnic groups across the world. For some it might be sandwiches and burgers, for some - pita bread, bagels; for some pav and so on. Of it all, the most common response will likely be Pizza.

It's a crowd favorite in India too and keeping this in mind, Chef Armando and team has come up with a special menu dedicated to Italian pizzas which is being offered at Mezzaluna; the specialty Italian restaurant at Movenpick hotel. This special menu dedicated to Pizzas and calzones has a listing of 13 pizzas – 6 vegetarian and 7 non-vegetarian; so there’s aplenty to choose from. You have a choice to have it in the form of a pizza or as a calzone. What will you pick? Moving on, to take it a step further with every pizza / calzone ordered, you also receive a house pour of chilled draught beer unlike the usual glass of wine that gets paired at an Italian restaurant when they come to think of food and beverage pairing.

Coming straight from the brick oven are pizzas topped with the soul of Italy expressing in every bite freshness, simplicity and uniqueness in the sauce and toppings. Yet at the heart of it all is the light and thin crust of bread.

While the pizzas were being readied to be plated, we sampled different forms of bread made out of the very same dough but yielding different taste and texture. The bread sampler on the table was soon enjoyed in the company of the traditional olive oil with a Balsamic drizzle. At Mezzaluna, I was recommended to try it with a sprinkling of salt and pepper too in the olive oil and I loved it. Once the tray holding the breads was swept clean, the refills came arrived as if it was tacit. Acknowledging this gesture to Chef Armando, I was explained, “In Italy, a table will always have bread available all through the meal.” I’d clearly love such a table. 

I knew we were moving closer to the pizzas when the Anti Pasto arrived which is also considered the official beginning of an Italian meal. There was the traditional Bruschetta, Aranchi, pickles and more. It was nice but I didn’t want to fill myself up as the starts for the day were slated to arrive next.

It started with a vegetarian pizza – ‘TRINITA’ DEI MONTI – Ricotta, tartufo e olive’. Toppings of truffle, olives, ricotta cheese made for a great combination. The topping as you see in the image was present and surely there but in apt portions to add the required flavor to go along on a bread that was thin, light and perfectly baked to not make it to crisp or soft.

The first one set expectations from what was to arrive next and when it did arrive, it for me was the star from the vegetarian selection of the pizza. ‘PIAZZA DEL POPOLO – Carciofi ed asparagi’ came on bread with a sauce made of asparagus, topped with artichoke hearts, asparagus and cheese. I’m surely heading back to Mezzaluna and from vegetarian this one is gonna be back on my table. I highly recommend to you to visit Mezzaluna and when there this master piece and a few more of the pizzas have got to make it to your table. Read on.

Up next was a pizza topped with linguine pasta. I was skeptical but this one ended up being the best of both the worlds – creamy pasta and a Italian pizza. Need I say more?

Switching gears, we moved on to select non-vegetarian pizzas from the menu. Humble lamb and pecorino cheese arrived topped on yet again a bread that I’m now at a loss of words to write any further. This toppings on each pizza were clearly present to enhance the flavors but still there was not an overload to steal the show away from the bread or make the pizza really heavy like what happens with the New York style pizzas. So is this also the difference between the humble Italian pizza and the overloaded New York style pizza? Leaving you with some food for thought.

‘PINCIO – Rucola, prosciutto e fichi’ swept me off the floor. Read it slow and steady – Parma Ham, Rucola salad, figs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Again! Parma Ham, Rucola salad, figs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. This combination of freshness from the salad, saltiness from the Parmesan cheese, Salty-sweet profile of the perfectly sliced ham and the sweetness from the fig was magical. The experience of actually eating it is the only way to do justice to this wonderful creation and in the non-vegetarian section, this one is the brightest star of this galaxy named Mezzaluna.

While we had a choice to get a pizza or a calzone on the table, so far it was just pizza’s but the last two for the evening – one vegetarian and the other non-vegetarian were brought in the form of a calzone from the very same brick oven. Vegetarian one was ‘VIA DEL CORSO – Crema di peperoni e zucchini’ filled with cream of bell pepper and zucchini and the non-vegetarian one was ‘FONTANA DI TREVI – Acciughe e gamberi e fiori di zucca’ denoting anchovies and prawns. Crisp bread casing and the gooey stuffing; here’s and image of the non-veggie one.

Dessert was the Italian classic Tiramisu served with a twist from Chef Armando’s kitchen. This one was light and smooth. One of the really good tiramisu’s I’ve eaten in Bangalore.

Moving back to the stars of the evening – pizzas here are excellent with some breaking barriers and creating new standards which can be hard to match up to. I highly recommend you to visit Mezzaluna at Movenpick Hotels; for this kitchen dishes out  an outstanding pizza and the tap pours out draught beer, all of it at a fair price of Rs. 699 exclusive of taxes. I’m going to go back here for their pizzas and I do hope to see you too at Mezzaluna.


Address: Movenpick Hotels & Spa Bangalore, 115, Gokula Extension, HMT Road (Near BEL Circle), Bangalore - 560054
Phone Number: +91 80 4300 1000 

Note: This visit to Movenpick Hotels & Spa, Bengaluru was on invitation but the opinions expressed are solely mine and are absolutely unbiased nor influenced by the brand in any way.