Tangerine - Alwarpet

Chennai's first stand alone Sizzler restaurant

Spectra - Leela Palace Hotel

An Exquisite all day dining restaurant with best Sushi's in Chennai

Beyond Indus - Taj Club House

For best dishes from the Indus region, this is where you should head

Anise - Taj Coromandel

The coffee shop at the luxurious Taj Coromandel, the Gilli Biryani is a must have

Coffe Bean and Tea Leaf - Phoenix Market City

The ideal coffee shop for both beverages and short eats

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Chennai has truly never had an issue with Italian cuisine be it pastas or wood-fired pizzas. However most of the restaurants were the typical ones that dished out a variety of regular pasta’s in different sauces or replicating the traditional pizzas from Italy. So if one was looking for a more intricate avatar of the Italian cuisine, it was almost a challenge. Considering how much Chennaities love Italian food and also the business connection between Italy & Chennai thanks to the large leather industry has provided an opportunity for a couple of Italian fine dine restaurant to start shop.
One such restaurant that recently went a grandeur makeover is ‘Prego’ at one of the prestigious hotels in Chennai, the Taj Coromandel. With a new young and talented Chef Luca at the helm of the kitchen, Prego has truly created an impression. When a restaurant of such calibre decides to throw in a colourful pasta festival highlighting what distinct flavours make up coloured pastas, it was something not to be missed. 
(Chef Luca at his Workshop)
(Different Shapes of Green Basil Pasta)
Prego is currently running a ‘Festa Della Pasta’ which literally means ‘Feast of Pasta’, introduces us to the different types of coloured pastas. And by colour it isn’t the sauce we are talking about instead the pasta itself. The evening started off with a small master class by the chef himself where he provided us with a live demonstration of how pastas are rolled and shaped. Once we were awestruck at the pace at which he was dolling out pastas, we just couldn’t wait to get our hands on them.
(Potato beignets with goat cheese cream, tomato coulis, leek puree and some caramelized cherry tomato)
(Truffle scented provolone and Leek soup)
(Ortolana and Feta Cheese)
The five course meal began with an Amuse Bouche. We were served with ‘Potato beignets with goat cheese cream, tomato coulis, leek puree and some caramelized cherry tomato’ to top it off. The beignets were crispy on the crust while delicately soft inside. The combinations of dips gelled well with the dish and the presentation was top notch accurately reflecting the passion of the creator. This was followed by a fantastic ‘Truffle scented provolone and leek soup’ along with an ‘Ortolana and feta cheese’ pizza. The soup was delectably light and creamy providing a very comforting environment for the rest of the course that was to follow. On the same tone, the pizza that was served was thin enough to hold the weight of the toppings yet was very light. The fresh ingredients had a tremendous impact on the flavour which made it outstanding.
(Tomato flavoured Tagliolini Pasta tossed with fresh Basil Sauce)
(Flavoured Lasagna layered with Beef Bolognaise)
This was followed by a sort of mini main courses. My choices for the evening were one each from the vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu. I chose ‘Tomato flavoured Tagliolini pasta tossed with fresh Basil sauce’ for the vegetarian variant and a ‘Flavoured Lasagna layered with Beef Bolognaise’ for the non-vegetarian dish. To start with the tomato flavoured pasta was extremely flavourful with short burst of tomato hitting you ever subtly as you dwell in the basil sauce and the crunchy vegetables that accompanied the course. The topping of pine nuts helped provide a good textural balance between the pasta and the veggies. Just writing about the next dish makes my palate go gaga. I just have one thing to say about the ‘Beef Bolognaise Lasagna’ here at Prego, mind blazingly amazing. The best lasagne I’ve ever had by a huge distance. This particular lasagne has redefined my standard for Lasagna and I’m sure to be heading here more than often as lasagnas are my favourite Italian food. The pasta sheets were of perfect thickness and it was delight to watch the Lasagna which was demoulded hold it shape till the very last spoon. There were bits of crunch in the sauce which was surprising and assume was because of the way the beef was cooked. It was just WOW!!!
(Stuffed Chicken with Cheese Sauce)
(Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli in a Saffron Sauce)
After having such a gastrorgasm, I was least interested on what was to follow as my mind was all set on when to come again to savour the amazing lasagne again. However as part of the evening, we had to continue our meal course and I was provided with a choice of catch of the day or a stuffed chicken. Being someone who is very choosy on seafood, I went in for the stuffed chicken. Not too sure if it was the Lasagna effect or what, I felt the chicken wasn’t as great as I would have expected it to be. To me it was a bit on the dry side but the disappointments were only with the meat as the accompanying cheese sauce and the potato sides were flavourful. I don’t know how the potatoes are called but it was in the form of thin slices apparently marinated or soaked in some sauce that gave it a truly unique taste. I would have loved to gorge on it all evening. With all this happening, Chef Luca decided to throw us a surprise and dished out one of Prego’s most sought after dish from their regular menu, the ‘Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli in a Saffron sauce’. No wonder it is the sought after dish as the ravioli’s were packed with some amazing flavours with the saffron sauce being the gloss on the flavours contained with the ravioli.
(Bitter Chocolate Flavoured Lasagna)
(Chef Luca’s Deconstructed Tiramisu)
To bring closure to the evening, we were served with two desserts, one which is a stronghold of any Italian restaurant, the ‘Tiramisu’ while the other dessert for the evening was from the Festa Della Pasta menu, namely the ‘Bitter Chocolate flavoured Lasagna’. Every time I see chocolate lasagne or pasta on TV or online forums, I always wondered when someone would dish one up in Chennai. So being uber excited dwelled into it first. I found the lasagne didn’t have as much bitter as I was expecting as the dish had bitter on it but nevertheless was a fantastic dessert and made my first experience of chocolate pasta a memorable one. Now coming back to the Tiramisu, the version we were presented with was a modern interpretation of the classic. Aptly named ‘Chef Luca’s deconstructed Tiramisu’, the dish had all elements that made it a winner just with a glance. Apart from structural differences, the other major difference from the traditional variant was that the ladyfinger biscuit was swapped with an equally soft and chewy sponge. The espresso drizzle provided the kick that was required along with the other elements to authentically replicate the same flavours as the original. This tiramisu is now officially on my ‘Must have Desserts list of Chennai’. To realize that we were taken on such a gastronomical tour by a Chef who was all of 27 is sure to make us introspect on how talented people can become at very young ages.

The ‘Festa della Pasta’ is on till the 19th of July, 2015 at Prego – Hotel Taj Coromandel located in Nungambakkam. An A La Carte meal for two should cost about ₹ 3000 - ₹ 5000 depending on the number of courses. You can also select one of their pre-set course meals that start from about ₹ 1500 per person for a 3 course meal.

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

After beginning the Ramadan Iftar series with the review of Pista House Haleem, this time around wanted to check out on the Iftar fare from a non conventional place that serves one of the best home delivered Biryani in Chennai. Among the non conventional outlets, Daawat Biryani's Iftar menu seemed to have caught my attention well before others. Knowing that food from Daawat Kitchen can rarely be disappointing, decided that their Iftar pack would be my first pack of the season.

As always went through their offerings and placed my ordered on the previous evening for a Haleem Combo and an Iftar pack. Although you just need to order one out of their three combos for them to deliver, I wanted to get a broader overview of their fare and hence ordered for the above two combos. As highlighted in my first post of the Ramadan Iftar series, the review style will be crisp and on the following parameters.
Quantity:

First up the Haleem combo consisted of 500ml of Haleem and 5 pcs of medium shaped triangle Mutton Kheema samosa. The Iftar pack comprised of about 175ml Haleem, 2 nos of Kheema samosas, 3 nos of Chicken kebabs, a Chicken roll, Phirni and 150ml of Ice Lemon tea. 

Quality:

First things first, the Haleem looked considerably different to what I've so far known to as Haleem. I've been having Haleem for quite a few years now with some of them being hand brought by family when they fly down from Hyderabad just to let you know that I'm no stranger to it. The Haleem was very thin and watery as compared to the rich and gluggy authentic ones. To be honest the consistency was more of a hardened curry rather than the one that is synonymous with Haleem. It was also much lighter in colour as I was able to make a comparison with another Haleem that I carried over from the previous evening. Having a total of about 675ml of Haleem, I resorted to some kitchen experiments to get the consistency right. After reducing it for about 10 minutes with a vented pot, I was able to get a texture comparable to the traditional ones. However this Haleem was devoid of any bones and was to an extent flavourful minus the extra work I needed to do in order to overcome the runny consistency and get the true feel of having Haleem.

The mutton samosas were quite flavourful but would have liked it to be packed with more filling for the price being paid for it. The wrappers used for also great as inspite of being cold during the delivery, it didn't turn very soggy. The Chicken kebabs were a complete miss for me as the kebab was completely dried out and provided a sort of fine dusty texture on the palate. It was just too dry. On the contrary the Chicken roll was spot on. I loved the filling and the succulent parotta that was used to make the roll all added to the flavour. The roll was big enough for a person to consume and felt it to be the best item in the Iftar pack. 

As for the drink, the lemon ice tea there is nothing much to elaborate excepting that it was just about 150ml which in no way could be a sufficient quantity for a fasting person. Coming to the dessert in the pack, the Phirni unfortunately was again a major let down. Don't know if it was the packaging or what but when I transferred it to a bowl, it fell into it as a big ball. It had become way to thick and lost the complete feel of the semi liquid phirni that one craves for. As I had to scoop it out rather than spoon it, felt that it was a tad too high on sweetness level. However because of how it had turned too by the time it reached my place, I decided to do away after a few mouthfuls.

Price:

The Haleem combo is priced at ₹ 375 while the Iftar pack is priced at ₹ 295. Delivery charges are extra and for Kilpauk it was ₹ 55. 

Felt the pricing to be higher in comparison to the average price in the market. 500 ml of Haleem is priced at about ₹ 200-₹ 250 elsewhere. While the pricing of the Iftar pack is at the same as most other outlets, the number of items in the pack is comparatively much less here. The basic ingredient of breaking the fast which is the dates and water are not part of the Iftar pack. This coupled with a few other things leave the Iftar pack incomplete and wanting for more. Adding to this, the delivery charge, I felt just inflated the overall pricing because if the food was top notch it wouldn't have pinched so much.

Packaging:

The overall packaging was good except for the juice and dessert. The Haleem came in a sturdy container while the samosa and kebabs were boxed in an aluminium box. The roll was wrapped in the usual wrapper. However the Ice tea came in the form of a pouch knotted with rubber bands which was a big big disappointment.The same was the case with the phirni too. I seriously believe the packaging of the phirni had a major role in how it was perceived by me.
Rating:

  • Quantity - 3/5
  • Quality - 2.5/5
  • Price - 2.5/5
  • Packaging - 3/5

Overall I felt a bit disappointed as the high expectation I had keeping in mind how awesome their awesome is was definitely not matched by their Iftar offering.

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

With another year gone by and the Holy Month of Ramadan setting in, I’m back with the Iftar specials. Being much focussed reviews, I’ll be following a different evaluation system that will focus on Quality, Price and Packaging. For the first time I’ll also be following a rating system as I consider these to be individual products rather than an experience.

Gone are the days when Iftar meant Conjee and samosas. Of late the most trended product is the ‘Haleem’. To begin the series, which better savoury to start with than ‘Haleem’ from the famous ‘Pista House’ of Hyderabad.

Until last year, Haleem from Pista house used to be flown in everyday from Hyderabad. But this year, they have set up a kitchen in Chennai and are preparing it fresh every day. They have also setup selling points across the city for easy access to folks across the city.
Quality:

First impressions, the texture looked perfectly as how it should be. The Haleem had a great consistency with all the ingredients perfectly blended resulting in a gluggy feel to it which provided the right balance along with the caramelized onions and the accompanying lemon. The taste was impeccable however the Haleem as a whole had a major put off due to the presence of bones in it. Haleem is always known for its boneless texture and the bones of varying sizes made the whole experience of eating it very cumbersome. I so wished they strained the bones out as it could have easily been the best Haleem.

Price:

They serve in two sizes.
  • 400ml Haleem costs ₹ 160 at the kitchen and about ₹ 180 if bought in one of their delivery centres across the city. It can serve for about 1 - 2 people.
  • 2 litre Family pack costs about ₹ 750 which can cater to about 5 – 6 people.

(400 ml Pack)
Packaging:

Exceptional packaging quality. The Haleem is poured hot into a tub that insulates the warmth for quite some time. The tub is latched strongly and is in comparison to the ice cream tubs of international brands.

Rating:

  • Quality – 3.5/5
  • Price – 4/5
  • Packaging – 5/5

The Pista House is available at their kitchen located at Al – Malick Function hall, Opp. to Wallajah Big Masjid on Triplicane High Road. They also have delivery points at Adyar, Anna Nagar, Taramani, OMR, ECR, Ramapuram, Periamet and Siruseri.

P.S: - As I didn't have my camera at hand, the pictures are courtesy my foodie buddy Chennai Soru.

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

The food scene in Chennai is slowly transforming into one that will always provide a choice for everyone irrespective of their preference, thanks to the numerous food festivals that keep happening round the year keeping in line with the season and festivities. But one establishment takes their food festivals a notch above the others. Rather than having the usual type of festival celebrating the broader cuisine of a place, Hyatt Regency curate festivals specializing on a specific food family within the broader cuisine of the place.

And the latest in their festivals is the ‘Traditional Kashmiri Wazwan’ experience that brings to Chennai the authentic wazwan cuisine. For those wondering what does ‘Wazwan’ stand for, ‘Waz’ means Chef who has rare culinary skills that are passed on for generations within the family while ‘Wan’ stands for shops with a large selection of meats and delicacies. The Wazwan Chef is usually someone of high regards in the society and used to exclusively cook only for momentous events and special occasions such as Marriages.
(Wazwan Traem)
To rope in the authenticity, Hyatt Regency has flown down Waza Bashir Ahmed from Kashmir who will help provide the same experience along with the chefs here in Chennai. The traditional Wazwan usually consists of 36 courses with each having its own traditions. However, the meal that we experienced was a shortened version having about 16 different dishes. 
(Traem - Sharing Plate)
(Seekh Khabab)
For the starters, we had some ‘Tabak Maaz’ and ‘Seekh Kababs’. The ‘Tabak Maaz’ is sort of a signature dish of the Wazwan cuisine and is prepared by infusing Lamb Ribs with spices and milk and finally being fried in oil or butter. The Seekh kababs need no introduction and here they have an option of meat or veggie. 
(Shirmal)
The main course comprised of several curry dishes that were accompanied with a ‘Kashmiri Pulao’ and ‘Shirmal’, the traditional Kashmiri sweet bread. The two stand out dishes were the ‘Lamb Rista’ & ‘Chicken Daniwal’. The rista is spicy paprika based red curry while there was also another subtle version of the same lamb preparation called Gushtaba which uses a yoghurt base. The Chicken daniwal as the name suggests was a preparation using loads of coriander that infused the flavour well balanced to the curry. Being an avid meat lover and having sunk in the ocean of culinary richness from the curries, I decided to forgo the veg mains and indulge in some Qahwa, the traditional Kashmiri tea.
(Desserts)
The desserts that were served helped tie all the dishes together in a celebratory style. The ‘Kesari Mango Phirni’ was truly outstanding with the flavours of mango, saffron and dairy complementing each other perfectly. The other dessert of the afternoon was the ‘Zarda Pulao’ also known as sweet rice. Had this been the only dish of the afternoon, then I would have raved but the Phirni just brought about the perfect closure to this wonderful journey of the Kashmiri Wazwan festival. 
(The Man behind the food - Waza Bashir Ahamed)
The Wazwan experience is being held at Spice Haat in Hyatt Regency and is part of their buffet spread. One can also savour the Wazwan experience in the authentic way by ordering for a ‘Traem’ which comprises of a large plate with rice heaped in the middle and surrounded by all the other elements of the cuisine. This is ideal for groups to indulge and share the love of eating from a single plate.

The festival is on till the 21st of June and is priced at ₹ 1550 plus taxes for the buffet while the Traem will cost about ₹ 1440 plus taxes for the non veg option and ₹ 1100 plus taxes for the veg option.

.To be updated on my latest reviews, do subscribe to the feed by leaving your email address in the subscribe section on the top right hand side of this post. If this article interested you, please share it so others may be interested and benefited too!!! Request you to also visit our Facebook page Food In Chennai - Facebook and share the page with a Like amongst your friends and also follow us on our twitter handle at @FoodInChennai. You can also follow us on Google Plus at Food in Chennai-GooglePlus. Please also feel free to g+1 this post so others may be benefited too.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

With more and more people travelling abroad now, international food chains have felt the need to start their outlets in India more so than before. I don’t know why the case is so, the irony is that Chennai never gets to witness the bloom of any international brand. More so these brands come to Chennai only after establishing at least a couple of outlets in places like Mumbai, Bangalore, etc, which can take anywhere between 6 month to a year. I’m sure there are several reasons to this equation but being an ardent foodie nothing gives me immense joy than knowing that an international chain has finally chosen Chennai as their launch city. 

After establishing a niche for themselves with over 50 outlets across half the world from Oman to Japan, the famous speciality sea food restaurant ‘The Manhattan Fish Market’ has opened up their first outlet in India in namma Chennai. Bringing us the American style of sea food cuisine, this place created quite a pre-opening anticipation thanks to the early announcement of their arrival along with some great social media buzz.

Coming to the experience of the evening, first things first. The restaurant is situated across two floors with the first floor has a live kitchen space in addition to the tables while the second floor consisted of a few tables and around 3 private dining areas. The ambiance was on the lines of the food they dish out. Once we were seated, the person waiting on us explained their elaborate menu to us. To put it in a nut shell, the seafood on their menu can be cooked essentially in five different techniques, viz. Deep Fried, Poached, Baked, Grilled and their signature Flame style. As we were in a group, we decided to order a couple of platters to experience their different cooking styles and also savour most of their offerings. As we had a vegetable loving friend, we needed to cater to her requirement too which wasn’t much difficult considering there was only about four vegetarian dishes on the menu. 
(Creamy Mushroom Soup) 
(Garlic Herbed Mussels)
(Fried County Mushrooms)
The first up was the ‘Creamy Mushroom Soup’, which turned out to be a different interpretation of the classic Mushroom Cappuccino. Nevertheless, it tasted quite good but personally felt the cream to be a bit heavy along with the saltiness of the mushroom being a dominant flavour. For starters we had ordered, ‘Fried Country Mushrooms’ and ‘Garlic Herb Mussels’. Being a very choosy seafood eater I only eat sea food that are placed on the opposite ends of the spectrum, either Sushis or Crustaceans, along with the occasional Salmon. So I gave the Mussels a miss while I thoroughly enjoyed the fried mushrooms. It had a very light batter that elevated the flavours of the mushroom right enough to strike a chord in making you forget you were consuming a vegetarian dish.
(Fish N Chips) 
(Flaming Manhattan Star Platter)
(Flaming Manhattan Star Platter)
(Grilled Flaming Lobster Platter)
With the starters done, it was time for the mains. I couldn’t go past the page that had ‘Fish N Chips’ as this was my only source of seafood protein during my stint in UK. On rare occasions that I wanted to have something different, I would head to the corner place and pick up a take away of some Fish N Chips. Just love the way, we get it in UK with the fish wrapped in a parchment paper that would drip with oil. Having made up my mind on ordering this, I left the other mains to the choice of my buddies. After some deliberations, it was decided to also order a ‘Grilled Flaming Lobster’ & ‘Manhattan Star’ platters. The Fish N Chips arrived first and on initial looks didn’t resemble my corner shop one. But it aint’ fair to expect that as I’m sure people will run screaming oil, oil if the same is served here. However the flavour of the fish and batter made it up. Probably my preferred choice now in Chennai for Fish N Chips. With regards to the ‘Grilled Flaming Lobster’, it was a visual treat to experience the way it was being served. The platter comes with a serving of Grilled lobster, some garlic mussels, Fried calamari and fish fingers. The waiting staff that brings an industrial size blow torch and turns the heat up in the room flamboyantly by flaming the lobster. I leave it to the photos to do the talking. I loved the Calamari and the lobster over the fish fingers while I chose to forgo the mussels. On the other hand, the ‘Manhattan Star’ platter consisted of a Grilled Calamari, Fried Oysters, Poached Mussels, Flaming Prawns and Baked Fish. My palate preferred the fried calamari over the grilled version while the flaming prawns was just too good that I had to fight for more portions with my friends because I had to skip the mussels. Overall the star platter provides an opportunity to savour all five cooking techniques in a single platter.
(Manhattan Mud Pie)
(Tuscan Tiramisu)
(Oreo Kaboom Shake)
To bring closure to the evening, we decided to order their signature ‘Manhattan Mud Pie’, ‘Oreo Kaboom’ shake and a ‘Tuscan Tiramisu’. The mud pie lived up to the expectation by being the best dessert of the evening. The shake unfortunately lacked the characteristics of a shake and felt more like an Orea Coffee flavoured drink while the Tiramisu definitely did not par to the original Tiramisu as it again seemed to be their own interpretation and had a different twist. But we fell in love tremendously with the mud pie that we decided to order another portion to offset the mild disappointment with the other desserts.

Overall, The Manhattan Fish Market would be a paradise for ardent sea food lovers looking to savour and experience the best of catches using different cooking techniques. Joining the ranks of just a handful of stand-alone speciality of seafood restaurants, I’m sure this fish market is bound to last long in namma Chennai and provide us with this differential experience.

The Manhattan Fish Market is located on RK Salai opp to Marvel Wedding cards. A meal for two should cost you around ₹ 1500 if it’s the regular fare. If lobster is a preferred choice then be prepared to splurge as the Grilled Lobster platter is priced at ₹ 2490 but is worth every penny.

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

The food scenario in Chennai has recently seen a plethora of International brands setting up outlets presenting us with their signature specialities. The latest non-contemporary brand to join this list of International brands is ‘Menchies Frozen Yogurt’ from USA with the Chennai outlet being their second location in India. FROYO (FROzen YOgurt) as it is commonly referred to is an absolutely perfect healthy substitute to those staying away from ice creams.
(Froyo Dispenser)
There are a couple of things that makes Menchies unique in comparison to other dessert places. First and foremost, you can completely opt for a hands on experience on creating your own version of FROYO. All you need to do is pick up a waffle/cone/cup and head to the froyo dispenser and dispense your choice of flavour from about 10 flavours that are changed on a daily basis. What is more surprising is that the flavours are paired as couples such that in case you need a mix of 2 paired flavours, you do not have to make the effort to dispense each flavour as you can use the middle portion of the dispenser to provide a mix of both flavours amongst the pair. There is no restriction on how much you would like to fill your serving size as the froyo is not priced based on flavour or size rather on the total weight. So feel free to have as little or as much as your palate desires.
(Toppings Counter)
Once you have picked the flavours, next is to add toppings and sauces to enhance the flavours. They have a choice of about 16 toppings to choose from and another 6 sauces to choose from ranging from fudge to Nutella to honey. Once you have created your dream combination, you just need to take it to the staff nearby who will weigh in the froyo. I honestly believe that this methodology of serving desserts gives the customer the flexibility to have a guilt free experience as they are not bound to over consume under the disguise of not wanting to waste the same.

During my visit, I got to taste a combi of Mint & Chocolate and also another combi of Mango & Vanilla. The Mint-Chocolate froyo resembled the famous chocolate “After Eight”. The lightness of the froyo made it very easy on the palate and made us wanting for more as there was absolutely zero guilt. Having sampled the other flavours (Yes!!! You can sample as many flavours as you want before you make up your mind), I wanted to try the classic combo of Mango-Vanilla which is my opinion was the most divine combo on offer that evening. The flavour of Mango was perfect to elate it in comparison to the vanilla yet wasn’t strong such that it was over-powering. Overall, Menchies frozen yogurt is truly a great replacement for those who want to avoid ice creams without compromising much on taste or texture. 
(Mint-Chocolate Froyo)
(Strawberry Waffle Cone)
(Mango-Vanilla Froyo)
‘Menchies Frozen Yogurt’ is located on Khader Nawaz Khan Road and should cost you about ₹ 150-200 per serving depending on the quantity and toppings you choose. The charge per gram is ₹ 1.30 + taxes plus any additional for waffles or cones. 

To be updated on my latest reviews, do subscribe to the feed by leaving your email address in the subscribe section on the top right hand side of this post. If this article interested you, please share it so others may be interested and benefited too!!! Request you to also visit our Facebook page Food In Chennai - Facebook and share the page with a Like amongst your friends and also follow us on our twitter handle at @FoodInChennai. You can also follow us on Google Plus at Food in Chennai-GooglePlus. Please also feel free to g+1 this post so others may be benefited too

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Those who have been following my posts over the last few years may by now have known that I'm a major dessert person. When it comes to dessert, I can gulp down anything and everything that is laid out on the table. But even I've had evenings when I really didn't feel indulging in a lot of sugar but yet craved for something sweet. My saviors on such days were 'Waffles' and occasionally the 'Pancakes' as I'd always considered pancakes a breakfast thingy. Having tasted some amazing waffles outside India, this was always a major setback for me in Chennai. There were only one or two places that served waffles that even had the right of being called waffles as most shops/kiosks/restaurants usually serve a huge chunk battery stuffs.

As I usually stick to the two trusted places, I was not so excited when I heard about 'Waf O'Bel', a dedicated stand alone waffle place opening, as I assumed it to be yet another shop claiming to serve something in the name of Belgian Waffles. But this perspective changed when curiosity got the better of me. Upon researching more about the place, I came to know that 'Waf O'Bel' has a Belgian Waffle Chef by the name of Christophe. The more intriguing aspect was the fact that they had both the types of Belgian Waffle, the 'Liege' and the 'Brussels'. This sealed the deal and I decided to visit them the same evening.

To all those thinking of a swanky place, do not expect further. 'Waf O'Bel' is located within a pizzeria and shares seating with them. They have a simple menu comprising of a selection of 'Liege' and 'Brussels' waffles along with a host of hot beverages. For those of you  wondering about the difference between the two types, 'Liege' waffles are made from brioche bread dough mixed with sugar crystals and are more denser than the commonly represented 'Brussels' waffles which is made from a light batter and hence more light and crispy. The waffles at 'Waf O'Bel' can be topped with chocolate chips, nutella, ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, fruit compote and sprinkles.
(Brussels Red Carpet)
(Liege Cool Banana) 
For the evening, I ordered for a 'Liege Cool Banana' and 'Brussels Red Carpet'. The Liege waffle as expected was dense and chewy with ample toppings of banana, nutella and whipped cream. However, the winner of the evening was definitely the Brussels Red Carpet. This was by far the lightest and the crispiest waffle I'd ever tasted in India. It was just mind blowing. I could have just sat there in oblivion downing waffle after waffle. The Red Carpet variant of the waffle had a topping of fruit compote and whipped cream. Now if anyone asks me where to head for some waffles, there are no longer multiple options, its just 'Waf O'Bel' as I'm sure if they continue to dish out waffles with such taste and consistency, they have a great demand awaiting them.

'Waf O'Bel' is located inside Eatzaa pizzeria (formerly known as Sam's Pizza) on Jagannathan road, Nungambakkam and the waffles cost about ₹ 70 for the waffle alone while with toppings it can range up to ₹ 140 plus taxes. 

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Gone are the days when there were only a handful of amazing restaurants located within five star hotels. With the mushrooming of several new properties every year, the existing hotels are continually looking at increasing their revenue by revamping the restaurant offerings situated within. One such chain of hotels that has been consistently great with their restaurants is Hotel Raintree. Among my multiple visits to both their properties in Chennai, I’ve never left back with a single iota of worry. So when I was told that the Coffee Shop at their St. Mary’s road hotel had been renovated, I just couldn’t wait to check the new place.

First things first, the restaurant has been rechristened as ‘The Colony’ and flows seamlessly all the way to the lobby with a different ambiance set up near the lobby and a very colonial set up with art pieces depicting the Colonial era of Chennai inside the main dining area. As I settled down into my place, I was greeted by the Executive Chef Mr. Hushmoin Patell, whose looks immediately made me feel that I’m in for a delight tonight. After brief pleasantries, Chef informed that their concept of buffet is slightly different as in addition to the spread, a few dishes are made on order and served hot and fresh right at the table.
(Chicken and Mushroom Cappuccino)
(Salad Counter)
(Cold Meat spread)
(Cold Platter)
(Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous)
While I waited for the soup to be served, I made a visit to the spread and was quite surprised at the same. The cold counters had an assortment of salads with a cold mezze platter too. Some of the salads that were intriguing were a ‘Salad of Broccoli, Orange & Bocconcini’, ‘Surati Fafda’, ‘Vietnamese rice paper rolls with raw Mango & Vermicelli noodles’, ‘Salad of Wine poached Pear, Asparagus and Arugula’, a delicious ‘Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous’ and a whole lot of dips including ‘Mustard Mayo’, ‘Hummus’, ‘Babaganoush’ and ‘Labneh’. By the time I could pick up my choice from the cold counter, the ‘Chicken & Mushroom Cappuccino’ made its way to the table. The soup had the perfect balance of both flavours and along with the biscotti made me feel as if it was a meal all by itself. The beginning was just fabulous.
(Mutton Chapli Kebab)
(Spicy Bean Fattayar & Kudamulagai Bonda)
(Prawn Pollichathu)
With the entrĂ©e’s complete, there was an order placed to the kitchen for some of the made to order items from the buffet. First up was the ‘Mutton Chapli Kebab’. Although looks similar to the Galouti, this is quite different as the texture is coarser. On enquiring, Chef informed me that the Chapli is from the Indus region and is considered to be the forefather of the Lucknowi Galouti. With the plate completely swept, I made way for some ‘Spicy Bean Fattayar’ and ‘Kudamulagai Bonda’. While the fattayar was a mix of flavour, the bonda did not fancy me much. Not wanting to stuff myself, I wanted to try out something that was unique to the restaurant. So ask the Chef and he says I’ll get you some ‘Prawn Pollichathu’. I was excited to try it out as it has always been Meen Polichathu and being a prawn lover, was expecting a burst of flavours. The presentation was cute with the prawn beautifully wrapped in the leaf served along with some crunch. However, the first bite and I was slightly confused as I couldn’t feel the taste that you get from a claypot. Upon enquiring, Chef revealed that they don’t use a claypot due to the complexities involved as this is the only dish on the menu that may require one. Nevertheless, the prawn was still amazing and great selection.
(Buffet Spread)
With different flavours playing inside my mouth, I just had a quick sneak peak of the other main courses on the spread which included a yummy ‘Badami Murgh’, a crispy ‘Kozhi Erakai Varuval’ and ‘Roasted lamb with waterchestnuts’. In addition, I also tried the ‘Shahi Paneer’ which had a very succulent paneer. With about 60+ items on the buffet menu, it was one large spread yet by the way the spread was placed didn’t look that massive.
(Dessert Counter)
(Dessert Counter)
To bring closure to the evening, I headed to the dessert counter and realized that vast variety of selection that was displayed. Being very confident that not more than a couple can be accommodated by myself, I picked up the ‘Apple Strudel’, ‘Carrot Pudding’, ‘Rasberry Mousse’, ‘Chenna Malai Sandwich’ and a ‘Mango Velvet cake’. With this done as I was just about to call it an evening, the Chef asked me if I wanted to try a speciality dessert of theirs. Me being someone who will go to any extent for desserts, was game for it.
(Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta)
What came next took me by a big surprise. The speciality dessert was a ‘Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta’. Mighty heavens it was just mind boggling. The aroma was just like our original filter coffee while the panna cotta was perfectly set and to balance the textures it was accompanied by a lime curd and peanut Florentine. This was by far one of the best panna cotta that I’d savoured during my food journey and is on the must have dish list that I’m compiling for Chennai. Truly outstanding. If you are looking for a different buffet experience with a wide variety of cuisine, then I may say that “The Colony” awaits you.


The Colony is located at Hotel Raintree, St Mary’s Road in Alwarpet with the buffet priced at ₹1,300 plus taxes.

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