Showing posts with label Mezze. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mezze. 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 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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Friday, 6 February 2015

Nature and dining go hand in hand when one thinks of a perfect ambiance for a meal. Beach side or a rooftop restaurant can always elevate one’s dining experience to a completely new level. Being in Chennai, we are lucky to have the second longest beach in the world thereby creating multiple opportunities for beach side restaurants. The only hiccup is most of them are located outside the city barring a handful. But when it comes to rooftop dining, a couple of great options do exist. Albeit the summer weather can make it a warm experience, the months from September till about March are the best time to enjoy a scenic view of the bustling city from a height.

The first restaurant in Chennai that comes to mind whenever I hear the word rooftop, is ‘Kefi’ located at the Hotel Taj Club House, Mount Road. Ever since they had opened, this became the de facto destination for all memorable occasions in the family resulting in every visit bringing back fond memories.  With such great experiences at Kefi and the restaurant always delivering above expectations, I was in for a shock when I got a call inviting me for a preview of the to-be-launched ‘Rooftop Alfresco’ at the Taj Club House. I was wondering on the lines of a change in Kefi hence was quite eager to know more.

The first thing I noticed on reaching the rooftop was that Kefi still was there. This gave me a smile on my face. But then there were some differences in the seating arrangement. That’s when I was informed that Kefi will remain as Kefi while the Alfresco dining experience is a new concept the hotel is trying. With the recent ruling against the ban of hookah, the rooftop provided the perfect setting. The Alfresco dining experience comprises of the area around the pool with a relaxed seating arrangement and a hookah bar. The concept in the food revolved around quick eats and single course meals.
(Mezze Platter)
(Flamed Prawns)
The evening started off with a mocktail for the teetotallers and a glass of wine for the others. The first dish to make it to the table was the ‘Mezze Platter’ comprising of a Spanakopita, Lebanese styled Hummus, Tabouleh and a falafel accompanied by some yummy soft Pita breads. Must say the falafel along with some hummus and Tabouleh wrapped in the pita made for an amazing short wrap. Was thoroughly delighted with the mezze. This was followed by probably the funniest sounding dish I’ve ever heard, the ‘Ricotta gnudis’. Feeling funny at how to pronounce it correctly, we checked on with the creator of the dishes Chef Siddiq who revealed that the ‘g’ needs to be silent. At the end of the day it still sounded funny. So coming to the dish itself, it was an innovation on fried cheese sticks. The Ricotta were shaped into small fingers and fried with a crispy crust. It was served with a mushroom sauce that complemented the cheese sticks perfectly. As this was the vegetarian setting, the non-vegetarians got the ‘Flamed prawns’. From the name of the dish, we were expecting to see a flaming Sambuca styled prawns to make its way to the table however that was not to be the case. The dish was more of a flame grilled prawns tossed with garlic, parsley and chardonnay.
(Maize Wrap)
(Maize Wrap)
(Ras al hanout Pizza)
With a subtle break in service perfect enough for us to enjoy the wonderful ambiance, the next dish was brought up to the table. The ‘Maize wrap’, was a generously stuffed wrap with buffalo mozzarella, pesto and plum tomatoes accompanied by a small portion of fries and a lettuce salad. This was followed by the ‘Ras al hanout pizza’. The pizza slice was topped with mushrooms, peppers and loads of cheese. The next up was the final course for the evening, a splendid ‘Key Lime Pie’, which was of the perfect flavouring and had the right amount of crustiness.
(Key Lime Pie)
What was interesting with this concept of dining was that the dishes on the menu were all equally exciting and intriguing. Most of the dishes gave that feeling that it needs to be tried. I’m sure that this would definitely be possible as the Alfresco setting provides a perfect situation for those days when we are early from work to relax or on those really stressful days when you just want to have some light eat and distress yourself.

The Alfresco experience is available at the rooftop poolside at Hotel Taj Club House, Anna Salai opposite to Spencers Plaza. A meal for two should set you by ₹ 1500 without alcoholic beverages.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Amongst all cuisines for me, if it’s Mediterranean then it automatically gets on to the to-visit list with a priority. With hardly any standalone Mediterranean restaurants in Chennai, I was excited when I saw on Facebook that a new one was popping right in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, it was during the month of Ramadhan and the multitude of attempts to visit proved futile. It was on the top of my list once Ramadhan got over but still couldn’t make it as I had to travel out of India. It just kept eluding me while couple of friends had some good reviews to make of the place that made the urge all the more significant.

Finally on 15th August an impromptu dinner plan was made with the family and before any suggestions could come up, I suggested ‘Lavash’. Having made our reservation as it was a holiday, we promptly reached the place. The first reaction was on the ambiance. It had all the perfect setting for a Mediterranean restaurant. There was both an indoor as well as outdoor seating. As we were with my son and the climate in Chennai has still not reached to the point where outdoor seating becomes a comfort, we gladly went inside. The interiors had a Middle Eastern rustic feel to them and the lights complemented the look and feel.
(Bread Basket)
As it was already way past our dinner time, we quickly got digging into the menu. The menu looks to be meticulously planned with a select variety of dishes under each category. Though this made ordering easy once you have decided on the type of meal, it made it difficult to choose the type of meal as there was easily around 10 different courses. The menu had the usual soup, salad, cold & hot Mezzes. Adding the Mediterranean touches were the grills, Tagine, Rice, Pastas, Pizzas, Shawarmas & Breads. Being a dinner and with a long weekend ahead, we decided to go light on the tummy.

(Hot & Cold Mezze)
The first order for the evening was a ‘Hot & Cold Mezze Platter’. The platter consisted of all the cold mezze’s such as Hummus, Muttabal, Baba Ganoush, Muhammara, Tabouleh & Dolmades (Stuffed veggies and rice rolled in Vine leaves) while the Hot Mezze’s included were Cheese Sambousak, Falafel, Kibbeh and Chicken Harissa. As indicated on the menu, it was a perfect fit for two. The dolmades tasted different to those I’d savoured elsewhere in the Middle East while the rest of them were pretty close to the original.
(Lamb Souvlaki)
(Shish Taouk)

The next up were from the grills and we went with ‘Shish Taouk’ and ‘Lamb Souvlaki’. Each portion served were apt for two persons. Both grills came skewered on top of the Arabic bread ‘Kuboos’. This made it easier for those who wanted to convert the grill into a wrap as all that was needed was to remove the skewer and add the desired dressing and voila the wrap is ready. The ‘Shish Taouk’ was well flavoured but the chicken seemed a tad dry to my liking. But nevertheless, it disappeared in a flash. The story with the ‘Lamb Souvlaki’ was another twist. Though the lamb was quite tough, it was marinated thoroughly and had a good amount of smokiness to it which elevated its flavouring so much that we didn’t mind the toughness and ordered again for another portion.

(Chicken Tagine)
Having favoured our desire with generous amount meat, we decided to have a very light main and ordered a ‘Chicken Tagine’. The tagine seemed to be well prepared as the stew had deep infusion of flavourings from the vegetables and the chicken. Also to mention, the chicken was well cooked this time and was very tender. The highlight was the Couscous that was served along with it. Probably one of the best couscous tasted by me so far. Overall, if they can slightly fine tune their seasonings to avoid incorporating Indian flavours and retain the authentic flavouring, I’m sure ‘Lavash’ would definitely establish itself as a dominant Mediterranean restaurant in Chennai.

Lavash is located at the Oyster Building on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. A meal for two should cost you about ₹ 1200 including taxes. 

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