Pan Asian - ITC Grand Chola

An authentic fine dine Asian restaurant at ITC Grand Chola

Tuscana on Chamiers - Alwarpet

An fine dine Italian restaurant serving Italian Thali

Llyods Tea House - Gopalapuram

A first of its kind Tea House in Chennai

Southern Spice - Taj Coromandel

An authentic fine dine restaurant, part of the Taj group of Hotels catering to South Indian cuisine

Haagen Dazs - Khader Nawaz Khan Road

The world's famous premium ice cream lounge

Monday, 31 March 2014


“Fish??? Please no Fish for me”. Thanks to the Chefs at The Leela Palace, Chennai and the Master Chefs from Japan, this statement will no longer have any validity in my food blogging sphere. 

Being a foodie can be quite a task especially if you are into not just eating but also reviewing. The most significant is the ability to be willing to taste all type of foods. This is a department where I’ve always not been able to keep up as there two things that I have to avoid while considering food elements, Pork and Fish. The first due to religious beliefs while the second mainly because of personal choice. I love seafood though and can eat non fish ingredients such as prawns, lobster, crabs, and scallops. Very rarely do I consume fish and it is predominantly in the Asian form of cuisine as it masks out the complete whiff of the fish. Otherwise, it is a complete no-no and has often made me miss out dishes which I know would have tasted fantastic.

I’m sure you must be wondering, why I am talking so much about fish here. Well, beat the irony, a person who absolutely avoids cooked fish gets invited for an International Sushi Training Workshop. Yes, to be honest I was freaking out by the mere thought of Sushi. But being an invitation from one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, I made up my mind to honour the invitation and challenged myself to take it in my stride and try out the Sushi. But yet once again, the mere thought of a raw fish going down my throat was giving me the shudders.
(Sushi)

(Tuna)
The fear turned to excitement and anticipation when I attended the press meet for the workshop. The moment the Master Chefs were introduced, I was determined that if I was to ever taste Sushi then it better be from the professionals. Chef Masayoshi Kazato & Chef Hirotoshi Ogawa are from the “All Japan Sushi Association-World Sushi Skills Institute” and were here to train professional chefs on the art of crafting Sushi. Yes you heard it right the first time, to teach professional chefs. This new found interest was furthered during my post-meet conversation with Chef Dharmen Makawana, Executive Chef & Chef Avinash Mohan, Executive Sous Chef at “The Leela Palace, Chennai”. Chef Dharmen revealed what I felt was the most practical approach for those who are trying Sushi for the first time. It is always better to start with cooked Sushi before moving to cured Sushi and then taking the plunge into Sashimi. 
(Chef Masayoshi Kazato)
(Chef Hirotoshi Ogawa)
(Chef Dharmen Makawana)
(Chef Avinash Mohan)
The litmus test was during the luncheon hosted for us on the next day. After having been well informed by the Chef’s the previous day, I was looking forward to my first Sushi. The first thing I noticed on entering “Spectra”, Leela’s all day dining restaurant was their Sushi Bar which was right at the entrance and the two Master Chef’s handling the counters. Although the smell of fish was all around but it was not of the way that would put one off. Moving to the Sushi counter, I was shocked to see Chef Kazato using the arm of one of his assistants as a chopping board. This he says is a sign of confidence and control any Sushi Chef must possess. The way he chopped the vegetables on the arm, the vegies came out cleanly chopped with even a slight impression on the arm. It was nerve wrecking to see that as the knives used are razor sharp. 
(Nervous looking Human Chopping Board)
(Relieved looking Human Chopping Board)
(Assorted Plate)
(Beautiful Fish Cuts)
Chef Dharmen was very courteous enough and helped me plate my dish with a range of Sushi & Sashimi as I couldn’t wait getting into the action. I had an assortment of Salmon, Scallop, Squid & Tuna Sashimi along with some cooked Prawn Sushi and a single serving of a vegetarian Sushi just for the heck of trying it. For the first time in my life, a fish seemed tempting to me. The moment I picked up some Soy sauce along with Wasabi, I was all set to take the first Sushi bite. Everything around me became still for a second when the first Salmon Sashimi entered my mouth. I was shocked and surprised at how delicate and flavoured it was. My immediate reaction was, “How could I have committed such a grave mistake being a foodie?” Why did it take me so long to realize how amazing they tasted?
(My Plate)
One by one the other Sushi’s & Sashimi’s were being emptied of my plate with each providing a very unique flavour profile. My favourites of the afternoon were the Salmon Sashimi, Scallops Sashimi & the Cooked Prawn Sushi. Once I had the vegetarian sushi, I realized how there can never be a vegetarian sushi as it doesn’t do any justice to the authentic Sushi. One way I feel it was a blessing in disguise that I waited so long to venture into this unknown territory as now I’ve got the feel of what real and authentic Sushi is straight from the hands of world renowned Sushi Master Chefs. 
(Baked Yogurt)
As I wanted to relish the flavours of the Sushi, I just had a few dishes from their regular lunch buffet spread promising myself to return again soon to do full justice to their exhaustive lunch buffet. From the dishes I tried that afternoon, I loved their Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and the Pita. Their hummus is probably the only truly replicated hummus available in Chennai. How can a meal be complete without a dessert and to do justice I had a portion of the Baked Yoghurt with cracked French Macaroons on it. On our way back after the meal I bumped into Chef Dharmen & Chef Avinash who were very courteous in listening to my experience of Sushi and were glad to find out it was a memorable one. We ended up chatting for quite some time on various topics pertaining to food and the general restaurant scenario in Chennai. The Chefs were very down to earth and were open to giving culinary tips without any hesitation. The conversations really enlightened me on different aspects of food preparation, storage and cooking.

This amazing experience and training workshop was organized by The Indian Federation of Culinary Associations & JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) along with The Leela Palace Hotel, Chennai.
(The Team behind organizing the Workshop)
Whenever you feel the need for Sushi, hold no bar, head straight up to Spectra, the all-day dining restaurant at The Leela Palace Hotel, Chennai for a mind blowing experience.

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Thursday, 27 March 2014



More than often we predetermine what kind of eggs we would like to have for Breakfast or snack time. This often depends on our mood and the accompaniments that we want along with the egg. But did you ever experience a situation where you knew you are going to eat some eggs but highly confused by looking at the egg menu. This is what Chef Sridhar from Paprika in Courtyard by Marriott Chennai has exactly in mind. Take this simple ingredient and make a menu completely surrounding it.

Yes, they are running an Eggs special menu festival called “Eggs & Kegs”. With 10 different preparations to choose from one can only sit and wonder how such a simple ingredient can be cooked in so many different ways, each having its own unique flavour and taste. To accompany the egg preparation, you get a mug of Beer and for those who do not consume alcohol, it will be replaced by a Mocktail of your choice.

Having never consumed more than two eggs at a time, I was a bit wary about how the entire evening was going to be gastronomically for me. Just as the conversation was ending with a friend who had accompanied, we get four different preparations of the eggs from the menu sent to our table. The ones we had were
(Assorted Platter)

  • Egg – Salt N Pepper
  • Egg Pakoda
  • Burmese Egg
  • Muttai Kal Varuval

I take a bite of the ‘Egg Pakoda’ and my first impression was on how delicately the eggs were boiled. They were one of the finest boiled eggs I’ve seen and tasted. The yolk were perfected such that a fork pierced came out clean while the whites still had that tad bit of sweat on them. It took the entire experience to the next level. The batter for the pakodas was very light and fluffy that it felt awesome having the pakodas. Very different from the one’s we make at home. The secret to the perfectly boiled eggs was the time which the Chef revealed to be * minutes. Did you really think, I would be entailed to such a privilege? Yes the Chef did give me that privilege but I believe it’s his secret and should remain so.
The ‘Burmese’ Egg was a twist on the famous Burmese dish ‘Khow Suey’, as the boiled eggs were topped with fried onions. The ‘Kal Varuval’ was the Chef’s take on the classic ‘Meen Kal Varuval’. This imparted the flavours of south and Chettinad into the eggs which gave it a different dimension over the others that we had so far tried out. The ‘Salt n Pepper’ was again slightly similar to the pakodas but the batter here was very thin almost just like a small wrap over the eggs with flavourings of salt, pepper and chilli incorporated along with the batter.

The portion sizes are between two and three eggs depending upon the preparation and the eggs used are Free-range gggs.With this adventure, we were willing to call it quits as we couldn’t take any further intake of eggs. That’s when we realized that how can we miss the King of all Egg preparations, the mighty ‘Bread Chutney Omelette’.

(Bread Chutney Omelette)
The instance the ‘Bread Chutney Omelette’ was placed on the table, the aroma begin to play with us with an intense desire. As were honestly full, we just ordered one serving and decided to split it between us. The omelette was wrapped around the two humongous slices of bread that were smothered with butter and a very different chutney than the ones we regular get on such omelettes. It wasn’t spicy yet carried the hotness, wasn’t fluorescent green but on the contrary was a darker dull green with strong influences of mint. The incorporation of the cheese within the omelette gave it a good fluffiness and texture.

The ‘Eggs & Kegs’ is available all day at Paprika, located on the Ground Floor of Courtyard by Marriott on Mount Road until the 31st of March.

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Monday, 10 March 2014

When it comes to movie stars, I'm sure most of us believe that they have a very strict diet regime. But have you ever wondered as to what they would indulge in on those days that they set aside to binge without any restrictions? What could be the dishes your favourite movie stars like? If you have such questions, then you should head straight to California Pizza Kitchen. The pioneers in California-styled pizzas have introduced a limited time special menu that encompasses some of Hollywood's favourite dishes. The last time I was at California Pizza Kitchen, they wooed me their amazing pizzas & pastas. You can read the review here. So when I was invited to try their Hollywood menu, the expectation were quite high.

The special menu comprised of 2 Mocktails, 5 Pizza's, 2 Pasta's, 2 Speciality dishes and 1 Dessert. Once we were showed our way to the tables, we were briefly told about the why this special menu. Apparently CPK wanted to give their Indian diners a little peep into the life of Hollywood & what their celebs eat at CPK. It was all about showing the home of Bolly/Kollywood the food of Hollywood. 
(Hawaian Chicken & Grilled Pineapple Pizza)
(Jamaican Jerk & Chicken Pizza)
(Rustica Pizza)
(Spicy Sonora Pizza)
The first dish on the table was the 'Hawaiian Chicken & Grilled Pineapple' pizza. This is one pizza that had already made it's way into Chennai since the first pizza chain opened up, probably because it is a classic recipe. The next up was 'Jamaican Jerk & Chicken' pizza. This was more of a healthier pizza option as there were ample amount of spices, a unique pizza sauce, roasted peppers and the famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken. This was followed by the only vegetarian pizza in the special menu, the 'Rustica Pizza'. This ain't the same old Italian rustica but was more of a take by CPK made up of grilled zucchini, white mushrooms and olives over a very very thin crust. The penultimate pizza which was the ultimate pizza for me was the 'Spicy Sonora Pizza'. This was probably also the most favoured pizza amongst all of us. The sauce is a lime cream sauce with roasted corn & black bean salsa and some spicy smoked chicken along with cilantro. The last pizza to be served was 'Deli Style Bistro Pizza' which I had to skip as it contained bacon.
(California Peri Peri Chicken)
(Spinach & Paneer Malfati With Milan Sauce)
Once the pizza shower was over, we felt a quench and decided to try out their mocktails. Against the choices of 'Mango Mint Ecstasy' & 'Pineappe Twister', I went for the Ecstasy. Although the flavour of mango was somewhat present, the mint had a very overpowering effect thereby making it a minty drink. The next mains to be served were from the specials section. The 'California Peri Peri Chicken' was again a crowd favourite. The boneless chicken was grilled in their secret California peri peri marinade and then baked in a creamy sauce. We loved the dish so much that we went to extent of asking for one more serving of the same. This was followed up by the vegetarian special which was the 'Spinach & Paneer Malfati with Milan Sauce'. This was a Paneer-Spinach Gnocchi cooked in a creamy caramelized onion sauce served with roasted corn kernels and flavoured with Garlic and Feta Cheese. 
(Spaghetti Carretierra)
(Mediterranean Roasted Mushroom Spaghettini)
(California Delight)
The first pasta of the evening was the 'Spaghetti Carretierra' which was yet another CPK's twist of the Italian classic. Although it doesn't have any chunks of meat, this is a non vegetarian pasta as the creamy sauce is made use chicken broth. It also comes with bocconcini which are small ball shaped mozzarella cheese. The alternate vegetarian pasta on the menu is the 'Mediterranean Roasted Mushroom Spaghettini' made of roasted mushrooms, garlic, chillies, Mediterranean herbs and tossed in olive oil. It tasted similar to the pasta Aglio e Olio. To finish the evening, Hollywood's special dessert was served. Aptly named 'California Delight', it was a trio of white chocolate, strawberry & dark chocolate mousse with cranberries along with some almond praline to give some crunch.

A meal for two should cost about ₹ 1500 and the Hollywood Special Menu is up until the 16th of March, 2014.

California Pizza Kitchen in located on the ground floor of the swanky Phoenix Market City in Velachery.

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Saturday, 25 January 2014

(For the Love of Coffee Platter)
Who doesn't loves having pastries during mid-day breaks, more so if you can tag along a few friends for a small get-together. On the other hand if you are the one who would prefer some serene and calm from all the bustling activities that your busy work day throws at you and all that defines a perfect break is to spend some me time listening to music and munching away some sinful desserts, this could be for you too.

Chennai being synonymous with Coffee, Paprika the all-day dining restaurant at Courtyard by Marriott has introduced a new offering called “For the Love of Coffee”. Available throughout the day, this concept brings you 5 Classic Éclairs paired with a choice of coffee from some of the finest coffees around the world.

The Éclairs that form the platter are
  •          Classic Chocolate Éclair
  •          Mixed Berry Éclair
  •          Dark Chocolate and Orange Éclair
  •         Chocolate and Almond Éclair
  •         Salted Caramel and Coffee Éclair

(Éclair Platter)
(Dark Chocolate & Orange Éclair)
(Classic Chocolate Éclair & Coffee Éclair)

(Mixed Berry Éclair)
(Chocolate & Almond  Éclair)
The Éclairs are all served together on a single platter and are quite a bite size. My favourite of the lot was the Choco-Almond one and the Coffee éclair. I just couldn’t resist with one such that I flicked another one from my friend’s plate.

On the other hand, the coffee options are
  •          Kumbakonam
  •          Colombian Supremo
  •          Ethiopian Sidamo
  •          Rajgiri Pearl
  •          Coorg Blend
Having savoured the Indian coffee at various occasions earlier, I decided to go with the ‘Ethiopian Sidamo’. As is well known, Ethiopia is commonly known as the birthplace of Coffee, so why not try some coffee that was grown and harvested from the birthplace itself. The coffee felt very light yet packed a good punch of flavour. Together with the éclairs, the evening felt like a full-fledged dessert expedition.

The ‘For the Love of Coffee’ is available all day at Paprika, located on the Ground Floor of Courtyard by Marriott on Mount Road.

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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Pizza's have always been associated with the genome of fast food but in reality pizza's during it's inception era was indeed a single complete dish more often associated with healthy food. But over the years, thanks to the various marketing activities of international food giants the entire concept has changed. It has now become common to associate a pizza that is related anything to American as the fast food version of the well known pizza. These are often the ones topped with loads of toppings and cheese. But can you imagine a pizza chain that has a very American name yet the pizza's served there reflect the authentic Italian ones in nature. Yes, I'm talking about the famous "California Pizza Kitchen" which has its branches all across the globe.

CPK as it's commonly known is a well recognized american chain of restaurant that differs a lot from the regular pizzeria. CPK in addition to pizza's also serve up numerous other exotic dishes such as pastas, salads finger foods and so on. My first introduction to CPK was through a relative who used to tempt me with his experiences at CPK in the US. So when I knew CPK was launching in Chennai, I just couldn't wait to savour their offerings. Being in the now hip mall in Chennai, the Phoenix Market City, it was quite a drive from central Chennai during the bustling traffic. But from my experiences that evening, it was a drive quite worth it.

Tucked in a corner of the mall, the first thing that strikes you is the decor of the restaurant. It has a mix of traditional wooden feel coupled with a modern contemporary look. As we were being seated, I noticed that they has a semi-open kitchen that was constantly dishing out beautifully plated dishes. The first dish that made it to our tables was the 'Thai Crunch Salad'. This is an original creation of the CPK kitchen and consisted of crispy rice sticks, some crunchy wontons, roasted peanuts tossed in a overwhelming mixture of cabbage, carrots, cilantro, green chillies and chicken. The dressing for the salad was their in-house signature lime-cilantro along with some peanut dressing. The next up was the 'Mediterranean Salad' which was a pure veg salad comprising of a mixed leafy combination of cherry tomatoes, onions, kalamata and some olives. This was served with some pita breads on crumbled feta cheese topped hummus bed.
(Thai Crunch Salad)
(Mediterranean Salad)
This was followed up by the appetizers. The first of the lot was the 'Mediterranean Foccacia'. It is basically a pizza bread served with some flavoured olive oil and parmesan. The next was the 'Sonora Chicken'. The chicken was perfectly grilled with flavours of lime. It was accompanied with a salad and chipotle dipping sauce. This was followed by the 'Spicy Chicken Supreme and Slaw'. It consisted of boneless breast strips coated in a very crisp Panko breadcrumbs. It was served with a special coleslaw and a ranch dipping sauce. The last among the appetizers was the 'Lettuce Wraps'. This dish was unique in a way that the wok seared Shiitake mushrooms along with water chestnuts in soy ginger sauce needs to be mixed with the crispy rice noodles that it is served on and then this entirely needs to be wrapped in the provided iceberg lettuce cups. It was very refreshing and packed a punch.

(Mediterranean Foccacia)
(Sonora Chicken)

(Spicy Chicken Supreme and Slaw)
(Lettuce Wraps)
With the appetizers done, it was finally time for the pizzas. The first one up was the 'California Veggie'. The crust was a deep dish multi-grain crust with exotic toppings such as broccoli, grilled zucchini, grilled baby corn, sun dried tomatoes along with the regular vegetables. To be honest it was more like a salad pizza as barring the mozzarella, the pizza was a full fledged healthy affair. The next up was the 'Chicken Fajita Pizza'. First impression completely blew me out. The pizza was wafer thin but enormous in size. True to its name, the pizza had fajita written all over it. Spread with cilantro pesto, the pizza was topped with lime marinated onions, assorted peppers and shredded chicken with ample amount of mozzarella and cheddar cheese. This was of the most unique pizza's I've ever tasted and trust me it's a must try. This was followed by two different pastas. If you are wondering what pastas are doing in a place called pizza kitchen, don't be mistaken, their pastas are a fusion between the American and Italian flavours. The first pasta served was the 'California Putanesca', which was a penne served with imported Italian tomatoes, some basil, red hot peppers along with garlic and black olives. The non vegetarian version is served on a bed of grilled chicken breast. The next pasta was the 'Aglio E Olio'. This was a spaghetti literally on fire. Tossed with red chillies, garlic and olive oil, it was served with cubes of juicy chicken bites.
(California Veggie)
(Chicken Fajita Pizza)

(Really really thin!!!)

(Chicken Fajita Pizza)

(California Putanesca Penne)
(Aglio E Olio Spaghetti)
By the time the pasta's were done, we started getting signals that the tummy was reaching it's breaking point and it was time to wrap up. But then how can we miss out on the desserts. It was when this thought was running that we spotted on the menu a dessert that no one can say no to. There tucked in between few other desserts was the divine 'Tiramisu'. In all honesty the Tiramisu at CPK, was one of the finest I'd tasted in India. It is another of a their must have dishes.
(Tiramisu)

Though Chennai has always been at the fag end when it came to international restaurants opening shop here, it is better late than never. The overall experience at CPK was very good and contrary to their brand name, this place has loads of non-pizza dishes that are truly worth a try. A meal for two should cost you anywhere between ₹1500 - ₹2000 depending on how big your appetite is.

California Pizza Kitchen in located on the ground floor of the swanky Phoenix Market City in Velachery.

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

For those of us who lived in the Europe, the concept of Pub food would bring in vivid memories of our experiences there. Personally for me, some of the great food memories of my time in the UK are characterized by the food that used to be part of our weekend feast. Often then ever, it evidently ends up in something that is available only in the Pubs. But be assured that food in British Pubs are one of the best pub foods you will ever get to savour.

Having been away from the pub food scene for quite a few years now, was uber excited when I came to know that Courtyard by Marriott was organizing a Pub Fest. When I was told that it is no ordinary pub food but instead a celebration of British Pub Food, I was determined to visit. The visit happened soon and was I not disappointed. The dishes were so authentic that it took me back to my old days in the British Land.
Upon taking our seats, we were met by Chef Sridhar, the Executive Chef at the Courtyard by Marriott. Having a great amount of culinary experience in the Europe, Chef Sridhar came about the pub food concept to showcase the same to the people of Chennai. My expectations were quite high especially on dishes like Chips and Pies. The first dish that was served to us was the 'Vegetable Burger with Hand Cut Chips'. The other vegetable loving friend savoured the burger while I was busy savouring the chips. They were one of the finest chips I've had especially being triple cooked. The advantage of being triple cooked is that the flavours are all preserved while the chips is still crunchy and wholesome. This was followed by the 'Vegetable Lasagna' accompanied with some Garlic Bread. I gave a miss to this dish as I was eagerly awaiting the dishes to follow.
(Vegetable Burger with Hand Cut Chips)
(Vegetable Lasagna with Garlic Bread)
Next up was one of my all time favourite pub food, the Cottage Pie. We were served a dual dish on a single platter with a sizeable portion of 'Cottage Pie and Mashed Potato' and 'Lamb Liver in an Onion Gravy'. The first mouthful of Cottage pie threw me instantly tumbling down the memory lane. It felt like I was dining in some restaurant in the UK. The blend of flavours and consistency were much much better than some of the best pubs there too. They meat was succulent and was filled with flavours and the mash topped it all. Being aversive to Offals, I generously donated my share of the liver to another friend of mine. But I did have a go at the gravy and the veggies. The gravy was again packed with flavours but my only regret was not being able to have the meat. The vegetarian version of the pie was a 'Onion, Cheese & Potato Pie'. Having tasted the Cottage Pie, I was in no mood to split the after taste and hence gave the veg pie a skip. Having thoroughly enjoyed the hand cut chips, we requested the chef if we can have another serving which was obliged in a grandiose manner. This was again a clean sweep.
(Cottage Pie & Lamb Liver)
(Onion, Cheese & Potato Pie)
(Hand Cut Chips)
(Hand Cut Chips)
With the mains done, the desserts were slowly reaching our table to our awe and wonder. The desserts arrived in style and by style, I mean real style. They were so creatively plated that we couldn't resist tasting all of them. The first dessert of the day was the 'Apple Crumble Pie'. This was a de-constructed version of the traditional apple pie. It resembled a lot like an apple muffin. This was followed by the a very unique yet weird named dish called 'Spotted Dick'. Yes that's why I mentioned weird. But trust me, this was the best dish of the evening. It is quite complicated to describe but imagine a dish that is a combination of a cupcake, muffin and a scone. This served with some thick custard made one helluva dessert. The next up was the 'Treacle Tart' topped with a cone shaped tuile. The last dessert and dish of the evening was a 'Chocolate Pudding' which was thick and chocolaty with some generous shaving of nuts. 
(Apple Crumble Pie)
(Spotted Dick with Custard)
(Treacle Tart)
(Chocolate Pudding)
Overall I had an amazing time tasting some of the traditional British Pub food that has been recreated true to the sense of the original ones. The British Pub Fest at Courtyard by Marriott is on till the end of November and is priced at ₹ 800 plus tax for Beer, Mains & Dessert.

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