Showing posts with label nachos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nachos. Show all posts

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.

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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Monday, 11 February 2013

Spoonbill!!! Isn't that a really fancy bird? But what is a spoonbill doing in a bustling city like Chennai. Well for those of you lost in your thoughts, the Spoonbill that was spotted on TTK Road, Alwarpet is not a birdie. It is an amazing initiative undertaken by Street Food lover Charlie to bring authentic street food from Europe to namma Chennai. Still confused at the name of the restaurant or assuming it is named so because of the spoon shaped mouth of the bird. Well you got it half right but the exact reasoning behind the name is owing to the fact that Spoonbill’s are predominantly habituated in Europe but migrate ever year travelling across vast lands to our very own Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary located close to Chennai. It is this similarity and Charlie’s passion for birding that he felt appropriate to incorporate the bird's name for his restaurant. Charlie has taken meticulous effort and risk in bringing the same authentic taste of European street foods to patrons in Chennai, a task akin to migration of birds.

Having traversed the globe, Charlie has always had an immense liking to street foods available in European countries. In most countries in Europe, street food is a concept rather than a class of restaurant. Whenever one needs a quick bite in between busy schedules, it is common to often end up at a street food vendor to savor some of their delicacies. But on the contrary, street food in India is always associated with tags such as unhygienic, poor man’s food and so on. Noticing a gap in this segment in Chennai, Charlie’s goal was to serve authentic street food to Chennaite’s in a hygienic and ambient setting. Thus was born the reasoning for starting Spoonbill. But street food is not something that is restricted to a few varieties. In fact when Charlie began channelizing his thoughts, he had a list of 300-350 items that he wanted to introduce. When it came to logistics of operations, his thoughts had to take a beating. With difficulty in sourcing ingredients that go into making these many varieties to recreate their authentic taste, Charlie had to re-evaluate his intentions and finally decided to reduce the total number of items in his offering. Thus was born in 2012, Chennai’s first European street food outlet ‘Spoonbill’.

Spoonbill is a spacious 40 seater restaurant with a resto-café ambiance and with Wi-Fi to keep you occupied during your dining experience. Spoonbill also offers an unobtrusive dining experience similar to that one will enjoy in Europe where you get to experience first-hand how your meal is being prepared. They are also into outdoor catering in case you would like to have the taste of some authentic European street food at your parties.

Coming to the important aspect of the restaurant, just a quick look at their kitchen work station will re-assure you of the strict quality standards that are being followed at Spoonbill. The first dish that was crafted for us was from the land of Germany. The famous Curry wurst was served in its chicken variant. You are provided with an option of choosing the spice flavorings from a list provided near the curry wurst station. I was recommended to go in for the Madras Spice. Charlie enlightened me with the knowledge that the particular spice that he recommended is called ‘Madras’ not because of the city. In fact the original street vendors in Germany too call this combination of spice as ‘Madras’ and it is this that provides you with the authenticity. The curry that goes in is usually put to cook for close to 24 hours before the true flavor can be obtained. The curry wurst was accompanied with a Brotchen (German bread) and a portion of fries.
(Chicken Curry wurst)
(Chicken Curry wurst with Brotchen)
The next on the platter was the Chicken Doner Kebab. The doner kebab, an all-time personal favorite is the most commonly had street food just not in Europe but indeed all across the world. Doner Kebab is very similar to the Shawarma and Gyros. In fact except for a little difference in the preparation, they are mostly identical. Again depending on where you have them the presentation can vary. For example in the Middle East it is usually rolled in a sort of Pita bread known as Kuboos, in Greece it is filled in Pita pockets, in a few other countries it is served in the form of a sandwich. For those seeking it out in Spoonbill, the Doner comes sandwiched in a Turkish bread. It comes with a sumptuous filling of salad, meat and sauces, too filling for a single person to complete.
(Chicken Doner Kebab Sandwich)
(Chicken Doner Kebab Sandwich)
Taking a break in between the tastings, I ventured out to find out what are their offerings in the beverages department. I was amazed to see that tea at Spoonbill is prepared in almost the same way most of us do it at home and yet more wonderful is it gets done right in front of you. True street style on a stove. Besides different varieties of Tea and Coffee, Spoonbill also has an assorted variety of soda drinks and their own FroYo. They have wonderful monstrous muffins to accompany the hot beverages. These are probably the biggest muffins I’d ever see till date being served in a resto-café.
(Hot Beverages Station)
(Giant Muffins)
(Giant Muffins)
With the short break taken, the next on the table was from the land of Mexico. A very aromatic Chicken Burrito was placed in front of me. Already being stuffed with the portions of curry wurst and doner kebab, I had to honestly accede to the fact that I can only have a few bites of the burrito. Good for me, Nishanth of Chennai Food Guide accompanied me for the feature and requested him to share the same with me. The tortillas were super soft and the chicken flavored with the right amount of hotness. The layer of salad and re-fried bean paste along with salsa and sour cream made it a complete super dish. The burritos were accompanied by a portion of nachos with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Being a major fan of Falafel’s and to give a fair judgement to my vegetable loving friends, I ordered for a portion of Falafel but rather than going in for a sandwich like the doner kebab, I opted for a salad this time. The moment I took my first bite, I was transformed to my days in the Middle East. The falafels are packed with flavour and they hit your taste buds immediately.
(Burrito Station)
(Chicken Burrito)
(Falafel Salad)
(Falafel Salad)
The finale was truly a mind-blowing experience. Being a sugar-addict, it is mandatory for me to have a sweet ending to any meal. While scanning through the menu, Charlie asked if he could give me a suggestion. He asked me to try their crepe. Having savored crepes at some of the best locations in Paris, I was always hesitant to try them in Chennai especially after having a disaster of sorts at an earlier outlet on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. But on Charlie’s insistence I decided to give a try once again. I had asked for a custard filling crepe as it would help my craving of post meal desserts. The moment it was brought to my table, I was amazed as it resembled the shape of a cone. It looked yummy and gave me an instant high just by its visual appeal. Not wasting a moment, I immediately took a bite and was I not amazed. The crepe were perfectly made and the filling was just mind boggling. Not too sweet but packed with flavour, this truly was the most outstanding dish amongst all that I savored that day. Every time I keep thinking about it, I can still sense those delicious flavors.
(Custard filled Crepe Cone)
(Custard filled Crepe Cone)
Being a self-service restaurant, Spoonbill has introduced an innovative technology in their ordering system which is prevalent in many eateries in Europe and the USA. They have a paging system that alerts the customers once their order is ready so that they can go and collect the same. “This helps resolve a lot of problems as the customer is not disturbed nor is his/her name/token number called out which can be embarrassing at times”, says Charlie.
(Table Pager)
Spoonbill is open from 11 am to 11 pm and has a European themed breakfast on Sunday’s during which they open at 9 am. Also they have a fantastic Happy Hour offer running between 3 pm and 6 pm when the customer may order any item equaling to their billed amount as complimentary. They are also provided with a free Wi-Fi password which can be utilized during the happy hour time at Spoonbill. Most of the items in their menu can also be upgraded to a full meal by paying Rs 80 extra which will provide them with a drink and a portion of fries.

Spoonbill is located on TTK Road, Alwarpet and has free parking too. For more on Spoonbill, follow their Facebook page at Spoonbill Resto Cafe - Facebook and they can also be reached at Spoonbill - Website

This experience at Spoonbill was courtesy of Chennai Food Guide as part of their premium restaurant feature. For more on Chennai Food Guide, visit Spoonbill - Chennai Food Guide

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Sunday, 6 January 2013

With the weekend setting in and with absolutely no plans in the making, was wondering how to pass over the weekend. Just then get a buzz on Facebook from my oldest pal saying he is visiting Chennai (Yes, oldest!!! Our friendship dates to more than 18 years now). Asrar and I are friends since 2nd standard when I was studying in Saudi Arabia. I was more than excited at the prospect of meeting him as it was more than 4 years since we last caught up with each other. He was off to Germany to pursue his Ph. D  Yup folks, he is a Scientist in a leading research laboratory there. Yay, one of my best buddy is a Scientist. Cutting short on the history, it was agreed to meet over lunch on Sunday and have a hearty talk. 

Being a Sunday, the usual lazy waking up was customary. As my buddy was held up with some work, he informed me that he will communicate to inform once his work is done. This happened close to 2:30PM and all hopes of going to a restaurant for a lunch buffet came tumbling down. We met up near Citi Centre and were contemplating where to go to catch some grab. Me being the foodie amongst us, it was up to me to decide. Taking into account the locality, I suggested Mexican and his reply was "Kewl, lets do it!!!". Well if its Mexican and on Cathedral road, then it has to be Don Pepe.

Don Pepe though not new to me, have been here on earlier occasions predominantly for their amazing nachos. So was always wanting to find the right opportunity to try more from their menu and voila today was the day. We drove down straight and on entering Don Pepe, was completely taken aback. Something which is not at all expected from any restaurant leave alone one that is of the category of Don Pepe. They were in the middle of their power cut schedule and didn't have a backup generator. Result - No Air Conditioner. Only a fan to keep the place cool. Checked with my friend if he still wanted to continue??? Both of us being hungry and a slight hint that the food might be good, we decided to stick on (Must admit the temperature was pleasant so the necessity of the air conditioner was never really felt). 
(Mexican Dips)
Although it was close to 2:45PM when we entered, the place still had a decent crowd and people were still dropping in. As our hunger pangs were puncturing us, we instantly asked for the menu and started on the starters. What better starter than the famous nachos. We ordered a Chicken Nachos for the starter and were contemplating on the next course. After a good amount of discussion munching on the Chicken Nachos, we zeroed in on our Mains too. Talking about the Chicken Nachos, folks shall not get confused with the Nachos at Satyam/Escape Cinemas. The Nachos here are different and represent the original Mexican food. The Nachos are layered with chicken fillings and a delectable level of cheese. This is finally topped up with some veggies to provide the right amount of balance in the dish. We were also served with the traditional Mexican dips which included a Salsa dip, Cream Cheese and Sliced Jalapenos. Both my buddy and myself wiped the dish clean.
(Chicken Nachos)
(Chicken Nachos)
We were catching up with old stories and how the world has changed so much over the years alongside laughing over the frolicsome we did while we were kids. Our talks were briefly paused when we saw the mains coming. The mains that we had ordered were Chicken n Nut Sauce and Chicken Fajita (pronounced as /fəˈhiːtə/ or in simpler terms fa-hee-ta). We were wowed at the sheer brilliance of the dish and how colorful the dish and its accompaniments were. To start with, the Chicken n Nut sauce was perfectly flavored with the dish being not too spicy while at the same time not too bland either. Served with Crispy Potato Wedges and Mexican rice, the dish was a palate filler. A palate filler and at the same time nice and light too. 
(Chicken n Nut Sauce)
(Chicken n Nut Sauce)
My buddy was surprised on his dish. He was under the impression that the dish would be served as fajita wraps but to our surprise the fillings were served on a plate so we could customize the fajita wrap as per our liking. Once I completed my interruption of his lunch by clicking the dish, he instantly got into making the wraps. He also explained to me the proper method of wrapping a fajita. The fajita fillings had a sumptuous amount of chicken, along with a minced chicken tart, crispy potato wedges and Mexican rice. Three tortillas were provided in a sort of clay box. Based on his opinion, he seemed to have enjoyed the wraps and was too full to have rest of the accompaniments on his plate. Being best buddies, I for once did not hesitate jumping into his plate. The tart had the same chicken that was served in the nachos and served as a good quick bite.  Being too full for anything else, we called it a day and skipped the desserts. 
(Chicken Fajita Fillings)
(Chicken Fajita Fillings)
(Chicken Fajita Wrapped)
I would be of the opinion that the food served at Don Pepe truly resembles what I have known so far as Mexican food (haven't been to Mexico so have never really had the opportunity to taste authentic Mexican Food till date) and does justice to the quantity of food served as against pricing taking into account the dearth of Mexican restaurants in Chennai. If only they had their ambiance in order that day, it would have passed off without any disappointment. But overall, a good place to have Mexican cuisine and a meal for two shall not cost more that Rs. 1500.

Don Pepe is located on Cathedral Road just along the flyover. It is located on the same building as that of Hot Breads adjacent to Copper Chimney and Zaras. 

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