Showing posts with label shawarma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shawarma. Show all posts

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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Monday, 21 July 2014

Having lived in the Middle East for a considerable part of my life, Mediterranean cuisine has always played a great impact in my passion for food. Cuisines from Turkey, Lebanon, Greece, Southern Italy & Tunisia have a lot in common yet are different in their own ways. The Shawarma in Lebanon is known as Doner in Turkey while in Greece it’s called Gyros. Although technically all the three are same it’s the flavourings that create the difference and this has a lot to do with the local culture. 

Most of these Mediterranean countries follow a broad classification of cuisine called the ‘Sun Cuisine’. Dishes that represent the sun cuisine have a strong domination of Olive Oil, Tomato, Seafood and Meat (especially lamb). The seasonings and methodology of preparation makes all the differences within the Mediterranean cuisine. One such country in this area that has a strong contribution is Tunisia. It was here that ‘Cous Cous’ was first prepared is also regarded as their national dish.

One restaurant in Chennai that has been serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine ever since they started is ‘Kefi’ at the Taj Club House. Kefi has always been my to-go place as the roof-top ambiance with the Gazebo seating always made it the right choice for special occasions. Being in the month of Ramadhan and wanting for some good Mediterranean food, the moment I found out they were having a special ‘Tunisian’ menu, I just couldn’t resist missing it. So as usual a group of us got together to experience the Tunisian sun cuisine at Kefi.
When it comes to restaurants belonging to the Taj group, one thing that always stands out is their hospitality. We were welcomed with a fresh smile and escorted to our table. Upon settling down, we were given a short introduction about the Tunisian cuisine as it was what we had come for. With the pleasantries done, in typical fine dine fashion, the amuse-bouche was served first. It was a cute beetroot leaf wrapped with feta cheese. This was followed by some Pita bread along with harissa and toum. Harissa is a Tunisian speciality spice dip aka Tunisia’s National Condiment and is made up of different chillies of varying hotness while Toum is a dip made using garlic and oil.

The starters for the evening were ‘Solanum Brik’ for the vegetarians while for the non-vegetarians it was ‘Fatmas finger’. The non-veg starter was themed around sea food and had a filling of mushroom, garlic and seafood wrapped in pastry sheet and fried. On the other hand, the veg starter was a Mediterranean spiced creamed potato encase in pastry sheet and baked. Of the two, the ‘Solanum Brik’ was my favourite. This followed by the ‘Lablabi’ which is a chickpea based creamy soup. The lablabi served to us was garlic flavoured chicken with a rich creaminess from the well-cooked chickpeas. 
(Solanum Brik)
(Fatmas finger)
With the soup and starts thoroughly enjoyed, we couldn’t wait for the mains. Wondering how come cous cous was not yet served, we were just waiting to see what was for the mains. We got the ‘Phoenician Spicy grilled chicken’ which looked true its name. But all that changed with the first slice through the chicken. We were surprised to find out that the meat was stuffed with cous cous and prunes. This added more flavouring to the cous cous from the fat that must have rendered while cooking the chicken. I was happy that the chicken was grilled with the skin on as that is how I prefer my chicken to be served. The chicken along with jus made for a complete dish for the cous cous.
(Phoenician Spicy grilled chicken)
Being thoroughly satisfied with the proceedings of the evening, we were eagerly awaiting the desserts. Mediterranean desserts are some of the best in the world as they are very unique and can be customized in numerous ways. The dessert for the evening was a ‘Makroudh Baklava’, which unlike the regular baklavas wasn’t stuffed top to bottom but was rather rolled in small bite size rolls. The filling for the baklava followed the traditional route with pistachios and dates soaked in rose syrup. How can a Mediterranean dessert be complete without a rose & citrus element. The citrus element today was brought in by small slivers of oranges soaked in rose syrup accompanied with an orange flavoured caramelized toffee. The entire experience truly felt like a travel to the culinary world of Tunisia. 
(Makroudh Baklava)
A great thanks to Chef Siddiq, the Executive Chef at Taj Club House for bringing such distinctive cuisines to Chennai. And yeah, don’t forget to break a plate near the entrance if you are satisfied with your meal. 

The Tunisia special menu runs till the 27th of July, 2014 at Kefi located in Hotel Taj Club House, Anna Salai. The menu is an A-la-carte and will cost you around ₹ 1,250 - ₹ 1,500 per person (inclusive of taxes) for four course meal.

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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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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Kebabs are an all time favorite at the household. More than often, it is a common accompaniment at meals prepared at home. I'm sure you all will agree that nothing like a good kebab can compliment home made rotis and dals. Owing to the sudden dearth in quality and taste with the shops providing yummy kebabs in the locality, we begun preparing them by marinating our own meat and doing it at homes most of the time. But this needs a lot of preparation and nothing can beat take away's. While we were struggling to find the right shop to get our kebabs popped a new restaurant in the locality. Aptly named as Kebab Street, they were very simple in their offerings. A huge variety of kebabs, limited variants of gravies and desserts and a single variant of Shawarma's (I'm happy it is just one as this is the best that is available in the city).

Situated on my route back from office, it would constantly strike me to stop and check it out. But thanks to the traffic woes, getting back home quickly was a priority. But all changed one day during the holy month of Ramzan when I was asked to buy some kebabs from outside for the Iftaar. Instantly, Kebab Street came to my mind and ever since, it is the only place in the locality where we get kebabs or shawarmas from. 

Having savored their yummy shawarmas and grilled chicken for a long time and being confident in their consistency, I was now convinced that I can strongly recommend this place to fellow peers. This review is based on my latest take-away from Kebab Street. The order for this time was a full grilled chicken and a portion of Butter Chicken Masala.
(Grilled Chicken in take away containers)
The grilled chicken was the usual. Juicy and perfectly grilled. The skin of the chicken was intact at some places and added to the taste of the meat. The accompaniment that is provided is one of the best garlic mayo I've ever had. It just adds an additional tinge to the taste of the chicken. Unlike other restaurants serving grilled chicken, the ones at Kebab Street are well cooked and still retain their juiciness. Only let down is the rumali roti that they provide. But this could also be attributed to the fact that it has always been a take-away for me and it is really difficult to keep the rumali fresh. Probably the rumali would taste better had I dined in.
(Garlic Mayo Dip) 
The Butter Chicken Masala was equally nice. Though this was the first time I had bought a gravy based dish from Kebab Street, I was thoroughly impressed as unlike other places, the use of food coloring was very very minimal in my butter chicken masala. The number of pieces of chicken were comparatively more and were also very tender to bite. This has given a precedence to try their other gravy based dishes too.
(Butter Chicken Masala)
As this was a take away for lunch, there was another dish, which is a household favourite, that could not be ordered. For all those who guessed it correct, It is indeed the Chicken Shawarma. Having been in the middle east for a good part of my life, I have tasted the best and the worst of shawarma's. The scenario changed in India in the early 2000's with a few restaurants serving up the famous street food of the Arabs  the Chicken Shawarma. Although the scenario was sad as it could hardly be called a shawarma for those who had been to the middle east, something was better than nothing. But again the scenario slowly changed. More and more outlets began to crop up. But most of them were serving shawarma's that were dry and lacking a few basic ingredients like french fries and stuffs. Fortunately, the shawarma at Kebab Street is just too good. Though it doesn't resemble the original middle eastern shawarma, this is as close as it can get. Juicy, crispy, crunchy and most importantly long and yummy. If not for anything else, Kebab Street is a must visit for at least their shawarma's.

Their pricing too seems to be in line with what the others charge. A full grilled chicken costed Rs. 320 and the Butter Chicken masala costed Rs. 140. For those curious about the Shawarma's, it is priced at Rs. 80. Don't be taken back, the shawarma's are filled with chicken and much longer than those available else where.

I just hope and pray that they do not compromise on quality and taste. If that doesn't happen, I'm sure it will become a very successful restaurant in the neighborhood. 

Kebab Street is located at Landon's Road, Kilpauk. It can be reached from both Ega theatre as well as Taylor's road.

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