Showing posts with label Vivanta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vivanta. Show all posts

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

As the New Year dawned over Chennai, the food scene too seemed to be dawning with a fresh lease of life. With loads of new restaurants opening up and existing restaurants getting re-launched, 2016 sure seems to be a year to look forward for foodies in Chennai. With my blog turning a little more than 3 years old, I think the time to give a new style and format to my reviews has become inevitable. And here it begins!!!


Upper Deck @ Vivanta by Taj Fisherman’s Cove – East Coast Road

Fisherman’s Cove has always been the go-to resort on East Coast Road aka ECR for Chennaities need of a romantic getaway closer to the city. Having been a regular patron with my first visit dating back to the late 90’s, I’ve always been in awe of the setting of the resort per se. In fact, Upper Deck, one of the restaurant in this property has been consistently ranked as one of the most romantic restaurants in India and when I was informed that this very restaurant has had a makeover, it definitely was time to visit. 


Upper Deck is a signature restaurant of Fisherman’s Cove and is situated at a secluded section of the resort right at the doorsteps of the tantalizing private beach that the resort sits on. With tables set amongst the beach rocks, this is the only restaurant in Chennai that can provide such an ambiance. With a few tables accompanying the beach rocks, a few others are set within a huge gazebo set up on a wooden deck floor throwing in a rustic feeling to the entire place. This restaurant definitely scores top scores in my list of romantic places to dine at.


The makeover was not just with the ambiance but with the menu as well. The menu has been refined and given a distinct classic European touch with dishes being as original as achievable. The evening started with a great ‘French Onion Soup’, that had all the classic flavours that one would attribute to the original version available in the bistros of Paris. However, I felt that it missed the rustic look an original soup brings with cheese bubbling all over and dripping along the soup bowl. But this is completely understandable as the current setting of the restaurant was not a bistro and they had some strict presentation protocols to follow. 
(French Onion Soup)
The soup was followed by the ‘Roasted Beet Salad’. Off late I’ve been developing a major liking for roasted beet and this was no exception. Along with some arugula leaves, candied pecan and feta, the salad was yum thanks to the flavourful raspberry vinaigrette that elevated the salad. With the soup and salad done, we moved on to the entrees. First up was the ‘Chicken Liver Pate’. Although not a big fan of offal meat, I gave it a go. The liver pate was accentuated thanks to the apple chutney and onion compote that accompanied it. I layered them on the walnut bread and had a bite. The offal did hit me back but the accompaniments were top notch. I’m sure offal lovers will definitely love this dish. The other dish that I took a bite of was the ‘Salad Nicoise’. It was a simple salad with seared yellow fin tuna, boiled egg, cherry tomatoes and some greens.
(Roasted Beet Salad)
(Chicken Liver Pate)
(Salad Nicoise)
The next up was out rightly the best dish of the evening according to me. If a vegetarian dish can earn this repute with me, then I’m sure you can imagine how much of an influence it must have had on me. To be honest, it was the best savoury tart I’d ever savoured in all of my food journey. The ‘Leek Tart with Goat Cheese’ was divine. A simple dish with goat cheese, walnut, leek filling and topped with parsley could be ever so delectable was just not imaginable. This of course is until you bite into the tart crust. Please please do me a favour and go savour this dish. I can’t do justice to it by writing as nothing can replicate even closely my feeling towards the tart.
(Leek Tart with Goat Cheese)
(Leek Tart with Goat Cheese)
For the mains, we started with a portion of the ‘Giant Shrimp Grilled with Sea Salt’, a dish that went hand in hand with the ambiance of the place. The shrimp was grilled to perfection and loaded with flavour. In fact, it was a delight to remove the meat from the open shell without damaging it. The Fettuccini was a perfect accompaniment to the shrimp which by itself was grilled using the basic of ingredients retaining the actual flavour of the meat. However, my only nit-pick would be that the meat was a bit cold when I bit into it. The next up was the ‘Wild Mushroom Risotto’. Risotto in general are a very complex dish to make as they can turn from hero to zero in a matter of few seconds. The risotto here was bit of a mixed bag. The flavours were strong with the sauce being spot on. But an important measure of a good risotto is the crunchiness of the rice. I felt this is to be completely missing. Nevertheless, the dish was close to authentic on the flavour front. The other dish that was presented was the ‘Polenta Skewers’. I just had a few bites and was a bit confused with the flavours so decided to skip it and head to my favourite part of all meals.
(Giant Grilled Shrimp with Sea Salt)
(Wild Mushroom Risotto)
(Polenta Skewers)
With the entrees and mains setting such high standards, I just couldn’t wait to savour the desserts. The first dessert to present itself was the mighty ‘Tiramisu’. Dished up in a nice glass and topped with a lady finger, the expectations were super high till the first mouthful hit the palate. It only had faint traces of coffee as well as lady finger biscuits. Though not disappointed as the main components were available only in traces, I enjoyed the dessert on a whole as it had the right balance of sweetness and texture that made it a great dessert but definitely not a great Tiramisu. The next up was the ‘Apple Tart’. After experiencing the earlier savoury tart, I just couldn’t wait to savour this. However, the tart wasn’t as awesome as the savoury one but it didn’t disappoint as well. I felt the tart to be a little crumbly as compared to the savoury tart while the filling was apt. Not that the desserts disappointed me, I felt that overall the desserts didn’t live up to the standards that the savouries set. I’m sure a little fine tweaking is all that is needed to make the experience a wholesome one as amazing desserts often take home the lasting memory of a meal.
(Apple Tart)

A meal for two should cost about Rs. 2800 plus taxes without alcohol.


Upper Deck is located at Vivanta by Taj Fisherman’s Cove on East Coast Road after the Muttukadu Boat house. A reservation is preferable on most days as the restaurant has limited seating and is usually completely booked.

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Friday, 23 October 2015

If one was to define Indian cuisine and the dishes that constitute it, I’m sure it would be a colossal effort. For Indian cuisine is not as simple as it may sound. To put in simpler terms, Indian cuisine is more a collective term and in true essence significance should be in mentioning the varying regional cuisines that are prevalent within India.

But if there was to be one such regional cuisine that has created an identity of Indian cuisine in the western world, then it’s got to be the Awadhi cuisine that originates from the Lucknowi region of Central India. The Awadhi cuisine is not completely indigenous to India as it was brought to India by the Mughal rulers from Persia. But over the centuries, the cuisine has adapted itself to its new found land.

The common saying goes that the true essence of Awadhi cuisine can only be felt in two places – one the kitchens of the royal family descendants and the other in the streets of Lucknow. Unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to gain an audience at either of the places. But luck struck when I was told that Awadhi Cuisine was going to make a stopover in Chennai. But being the food snob, I wanted to check it out only if it was going to be authentic. But when it came to my knowledge that it was being hosted by none other than Vivanta by Taj – Connemara, I knew it could possibly be the closest I can get to Lucknow.

The Awadhi food festival at Vivanta by Taj Connemara is spearheaded by Chef Shamshad Ahmad from the famed Oudhyana restaurant at Vivanta by Taj – Lucknow along with Chef Jaffer, Executive Chef at the Connemara. When I heard that they had flown the chef from Oudhyana, I knew for sure that the authenticity of the cuisine could be guaranteed. The festival takes over the complete menu and is in the form of a buffet spread with starters and soups served on the table as is the custom.
(Mutton Shammi Kebab)
(Murgh Gilafi Kebab)
(Paneer Tikka Hariyali)
(Khoya Khubani ka Kebab) 
The evening started of with a ‘Murg ka Shorba’, a mildly spiced chicken soup. The depth of flavours in the soup was immaculate and paved the way for a great meal ahead. The first of the starters to make way were from the non-vegetarian stable, with the ‘Murg Gilafi Kebab’ which was the followed by the ‘Mutton Shammi Kebab’. The Gilafi kebab was a variant of the sheek kebab with a mix of exotic Awadhi spices. One thing that was a standout was how rigid the kebab was in spite of taking the shape of a sheek as sheek has a tendency to break down to pieces once we begin cutting into it. The Shammi kebab on the other hand was equally delectable with a good texture. This was followed by the vegetarian kebabs with the mighty paneer making its way in the form of ‘Paneer Tikka Hariyali’. But the highlight of the evening has to be the ‘Khoya Khubani ke Kebab’. This was a combination I’m hearing for the first time. I’m sure most of us know the famous Hyderabadi delicacy, Khubani ka Meetha but a kebab made of Khubani (Apricot)? Well it turned out to be the star dish of the evening. It was loaded with flavours and had a very soothing textural effect on the palate. I loved it so much that I don’t even remember how many servings I’d had. If you happen to chance upon this dish anywhere in an Awadhi environment, please do not miss it.

(Chicken Awadhi Biryani)
(Dum Kofta Biryani)
(Rumali Roti)
(Nihari Gosht)
(Murgh Korma)
With the starters taking a major portion of our palate, there was very little room for the mains. So I settled in for some Rumali Roti along with ‘Nihari Gosht’ and some ‘Murgh Korma’. The Nihari Gosht was perfectly cooked with the meat falling of the bone effortlessly. The curry had a very aromatic taste thanks to the special secret spice mix that goes into it. On the other hand, the Chicken korma too was delectable but the Gosht was a clear winner. To take in some rice, I’d requested for some ‘Chicken Biryani’ and ‘Dum Kofta Biryani’. The Chicken Biryani was in true Awadhi style and was a marked contrast from the Muslim household biryani that I’m very accustomed to. But Biryani being biryani, no two cooks can cook the same style of Biryani. I liked the infusion of saffron and how the masala was light with the rice being unevenly coloured between white and yellow. The Kofta biryani was also very similar to the Chicken biryani barring the fact that the chicken was replaced by fried kofta which added another textural element to the dish.
(Dessert Platter)
To bring closure, we were served with the Awadhi desserts that shared space with their regular dessert spread. The desserts on the platter were a ‘Shahi Tukra’, ‘Sheer Korma’ and ‘Zarda Ananas’. The Shahi Tukra is a dessert that finds its place quite often in Muslim households during functions. It is a dessert made using bread which is soaked in ghee, fried and topped with dry fruits and nuts. The Sheer Korma resembled our kheer quite closely excepting it had a Date flavour to it. The Zarda was a saffron and pineapple flavoured sweet rice which was neither too sweet nor too dull. But comparing to the grandeur that is expected from Awadhi cuisine, I felt that it could have been upped a bit more.

The overall experience was quite frankly exhilarating as this was the closest we could get to being in Lucknow. However, there was one thing missing and I just couldn’t control myself from asking the Chefs present there about it. If you have guessed what it might be by now, I’m sure you have either read my reviews consistently or a great admirer of Awadhi cuisine. Yes, how can an Awadhi festival be complete without the mighty ‘Galouti Kebab’. It was then that the chefs confided in me that an important ingredient was not available matching to their high standards and as a result, they decided to leave it out for that evening. However, I was not to give up. Couple of days later, two other food buddies and I made a visit again just to savour the galouti’s made by a true lucknowi chef. And boy did we not regret for coming back again. Although mildly spiced, the galouti was bite sized and when combined with the Shirmal (Saffron flavoured Sweet Bread), Onions and some Pudina ke Chutney, it was just mind boggling. A perfect combination of flavours and textures exploding in the mouth with every gnaw. I just couldn’t resist and could have easily gulped down about 5 mini rolls.
(Galouti Kebab - Pic Courtesy: Chennai Foodie)
This experience has once reiterated the belief that the Awadhi cuisine can rightly be termed as India’s Royal Cuisine as it delivers to that title on every bite. The Awadhi Food Fest at Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is up until the 26th of October, 2015 at their all day dining restaurant ‘The Verandah’.

Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is located in Egmore between the iconic Spencer Plaza & Ethiraj College with the buffet priced at Rs. 1500 plus taxes per person.

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!!! For quick reviews, ratings and yummylicious images, follow me on Instagram at @FoodInChennai. 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.