Showing posts with label Asian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asian. Show all posts

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 entrée’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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Friday, 27 March 2015

The first thing that hits you at the thought of dining in a Japanese restaurant is the thought of Sushi and raw a.k.a cured meat. But on the contrary there also exists a different avatar of the Japanese cuisine namely the “Teppanyaki” which will suit the Indian palate more. This style involves using a girdle to cook the food. Wiki says that “The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan (鉄板), which means iron plate, and yaki (焼き), which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried”. Folks in Chennai are lucky in a way as India’s first stand-alone Teppanyaki grill restaurant opened here. Named “Teppan”, they have been catering to Chennaities teppanyaki needs over the last couple of years.

Having had my first teppanyaki experience in the middle east many years ago, was truly excited on hearing about Teppan opening and visited them on their first week itself for a truly fabulous experience. Was surprised when I learned that they were having a “Makizushi” festival. One thought that ran through my mind was that how can restaurant that is already well renowned for Japanese cuisine have a dedicated festival for a staple dish. This intriguing thought was set aside the moment we saw the menu as the amount of research that has gone in to designing this festival was clearly evident from the offerings that were as part of this “Makizushi” festival.

The menu was clearly divided into three sections, namely ‘Gunkan Maki’, ‘Te Maki’ & ‘Maki’.If you are wondering what these are then to put them in perspective the ‘Gunkan Maki’ is a variant of sushi that comes in big portions such that two pieces can satisfy even the biggest appetite while the ‘Te Maki’ is a cone shaped sushi equally big in portions. The ‘Maki’ is your regular sushi roll. 
(Tempura Wasabi Mayo salad)
(Palate Cleanser drink)
(Gunkan Maki)
For the evening we ordered the ‘Tori Soboro’ and ‘Kanishake’ from the Gunkan Maki section. The ‘Tori Soboro’ was a Chicken version of sushi that was seasoned with tongarashi and wrapped with sushi vinegar rice and nori. Being my first chicken sushi, I somehow felt that it did not do justice as there were confusing flavours that did not pair with each other. This re-instated my belief that sushi should never be made with anything other than seafood. The ‘Kanishake’ on the other hand was one of the best sushi’s of the evening. It was made of tempura fried crab stick tossed with spices and wrapped with sushi vinegar rice and sliced salmon. This was just mind boggling.
(Te Maki)
(Te Maki)
(Maki)
The next up was ‘Shake Sarada’ and ‘Karai ebi’ from the Te Maki section. These were humongous cone shaped sushi. ‘Shake Sarada’ was a marinated salmon wrapped in nori with avocado, lettuce, cucumber and vinegar rice while ‘Karai ebi’ was a prawn sushi seasoned with mild spicy mayo and tongarashi, spring onion, tobiko and again hand rolled with sushi vinegar rice and nori. Both of them were equally good with a subtle flavour of the meat owing to the enormous proportions of the accompaniments. From the Maki section, we ordered for some ‘Furai maguro Maki’ and ‘Takayama Maki’. The former was a seasoned tuna sushi with cream cheese, avocado then rolled with sushi vinegar rice and nori and finally deep fried with breadcrumb. This was truly outstanding as one can feel the heat of the deep fry yet savour the freshness of the sushi all at one go. The ‘Takayama Maki’ was a tempura fried sea bass with carrot, avocado, spicy mayo, rolled with sushi vinegar rice and nori then topped with tuna, sea bass and spinach. This too was equally good but my bet is on the ‘Furai Maguro Maki’.
(Tempura Fried Prawns)
(Fried Rice)
With the heroes of the festival dealt with, we decided to order for another dish which was a hard recommendation from another foodie, the ‘Tempura fried prawns’. My oh my!!! Hands down, this is the best tempura fried prawns I’ve ever tasted. It was as light as it can get while being the crispiest it can get too. It is already in my must taste dishes in Chennai list. Just to bring closure to the evening’s meal, we had some sautéed vegetables, chicken and a fried rice that was prepared right in front of us in the teppanyaki style.
(Dessert Platter)
(Wasabi Ice Cream)
One we were done with the savouries it was time for the desserts. Having savoured fresh produce all through the evening, I really wasn’t in the mood for desserts even though I’m a dessert freak. But one stop at the dessert counter and it all changed. In a short while I found myself in the company of an amazingly silky coffee chocolate mousse, a soft and crunchy nutty brownie, a delectable pie and a well-balanced Wasabi ice cream. Glad I didn’t miss the desserts as they brought about a perfect curtain closure to the amazing evening of sushi.

Teppan is located on TTK Road above Benjarong and a meal for two should cost about ₹ 2500.

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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Over the years Chennai has been seeing a host of Food Festivals being organized by the numerous Food & Beverages outlets located here. Some of these festivals have been very unique while the remaining were often the regular Biryani, Kebabs or Regional cuisines. However, there is one chain of luxury hotels that does things differently, way different than all others. Yes, Park Hyatt part of the Hyatt group of hotels conducts a culinary festival across all their locations globally. Chefs across different Hyatt hotels will take their expertise and culinary wisdom to showcase it other Park Hyatt locations. This culinary festival is aptly titled “Masters of Food and Wine” and is a perfect showcase of brilliance in culinary and beverage experiences.
The Grand Opening of the 2015 edition of the “Masters of Food and Wine” at Park Hyatt Chennai was on the 21st of February with the theme for the current edition being ‘Korean Cuisine’. The participating hotel for the current edition is the Grand Hyatt Incheon in South Korea with Chefs Eunseok Yang and Kyuchon Lee leading the way. Throughout the week they will be serving amazing Korean specialities at the Park Hyatt Chennai’s signature restaurant, “The Flying Elephant”. In addition to the culinary experience, one can also participate on a hands on Masterclass with the Master Chefs themselves.
(Chef Introductions)
The Grand Opening started off with the introduction of the all Chefs who were to take us on this culinary adventure. With the bonhomies done, we were now being geared to face the barrage of exquisite foods that was to be presented. Being the grand opening, the menu for the evening comprised completely of live counters. As there was so much to explore, I kept on hopping from one station to the other wondering where to start and where to end.
(Cured Fish along with some Antipasti)
As I made my way across the room, the first thing that struck me was the enormous variety of food being showcased. I started the evening with some Antipasti comprising of Tomato, Mozzarella along with Basil Pesto. This was followed by ‘Cured Fish’ comprising of a cured Indian Basa wrapped over some orange flesh with acidic green apple and topped with micro greens. The basa was cured to perfection and the marriage of orange made it a lovely pair. Being an ardent fan of cheese, I moved on to make a small cheese platter for myself with some Parmesan, Goat Cheese (Similar to Feta but difference being the composition of goat milk being higher in goat cheese) and some Emmental. Apricots, Figs and some nuts made the perfect accompaniments.
(Kimchi Salad)
(Kimchi Pancake)
(Cinnamon Punch and Bibim Bab)
With the Cold counter done, I next moved on to the Korean speciality counter where a ‘Sweet Pumpkin Porridge’ awaited. I would rate it to be one of the finest porridges to be tasted in a restaurant. This was followed by a ‘Korean Pancake’ made using Kimchi. The next up I was told was a staple road side dish in Korea called the Bibim Bab. A fellow foodie who accompanied me was raving about the same and decided to have a go. The rice along with the veggies and the Chilli sauce made it amazing such that I had a second serving of the same. To soothen our throats, the Korean section had an uber cool drink called the ‘Cinnamon Punch’. It seemed to be a combination of Cinnamon, Sugar and water but the drink was too good that within a span of few minutes I had myself take down a couple of glasses of the same.
(Mexican Counter)
(Taco and Corn Tamales)
(Spiced Plantain and Green Onion Enchiladas)
After trying out the Korean specialities, I ventured into the land of Latin America. We were greeted with some fresh crispy taco filled with the traditional guacamole, red salsa, cheese and sour cream. Also part of the Mexican fare was the ‘Corn Meal and Cheese Tamales’ served with a choice of refried beans or chicken stew. As always the last dish was the best for we got to savour some ravishing ‘Spiced Plantain and Green Onion Enchiladas’.
(Indian Counter)
From Latin America my gaze took me to our very own subcontinent, yes I moved on to check the menu at the Indian counter. From first looks, I could make out an array of different Biryani pots accompanied with equivalent number of clay pots filled with aromatic gravies. The different biryani’s presented were ‘Banajar Biryani’, a take on Hyderabadi biryani made using lamb followed by ‘Kattal Biryani’, comprising of Baby Jackfruit and culminating with ‘Malabar Prawn Biryani’ made using prawns cooked in coconut milk to infuse the Malabar flavours. The starters counter had a very unique tikka being dished out. The ‘Bhatak aur Anjeer ki Tikki’ was a succulent cutlet made using Turkey and dry figs that was served on top of a huge saffron bread topped with some Brown Onion and Tomato curry. 
(Baked Brie)
(Baked Brie)
(Beef Bourguignon)
With the tummy already going on a gastronomical world tour, it was decided to try the French counter before calling it a night. The French counter was manned or rather wo-manned by Chef Megha, the frivolous and outspoken Chef de Cuisine of The Flying Elephant. On platter for us here was the ‘Baked Brie’ which is an all-time personal favourite and a ‘Nicoise salad’ platted with some seared tuna, quail eggs and an anchovy dressing. However, the hero of the evening was this next dish, as it was the softest piece of beef I’ve ever savoured. This was so soft that I definitely didn’t need a fork leave alone a knife. The ‘Beef Bourguignon’ was truly outstanding. It had a piece of beef accompanied with some Jerusalem artichoke foam along with Mandarin zest and confit pearl onions. 
(Park Hyatt Signature Chocolate Cake)
(French Macaroon)
(Chocolate Decadence)
(Bounty Cake)
(Mango Cremeux Coconut Parfait)
(Coffee Pavlova with Seasonal Fruits)
(Mandarin Tart)
With all the savouries sampled, it was time to hit the dessert counter. Having desserts spread across an entire room can make any dessert lover a kid. I was just too excited to try them all and had planned for this right from the beginning of my food adventure that evening. The first up on the platter was the ‘Chocolate Decadence’ followed by a cake which Chef Dinesh and Chef Prabhu revealed was a version of the famous chocolate ‘Bounty’. In between I sneaked a few French Macaroons while heading to the counter stacked with some ‘Mandarin Tart’. This was followed by the ‘Mango Cremeux Coconut Parfait’ which stood out as the best dessert of the evening and a close second by the ‘Coffee Pavlova’ adorned with seasonal fruits.

With the desserts coming to a close, we called end to the sumptuous conclusion of the Grand Opening of the “Masters of Food and Wine” at the Park Hyatt Chennai. For those who are intrigued by this magnanimous experience and are awaiting to taste some fine Korean specialities, head straight to ‘The Flying Elephant’ to have an experience of a lifetime.


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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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