Saturday, 8 December 2012

As the weekend approached, it was decided to hit a Thai restaurant for the Saturday dinner. With many options now available for Thai cuisine in Chennai, we decided to try the newly opened ‘Grand Siam’ at RK Salai. Being a regular at another Thai stand-alone restaurant, we were pretty apprehensive about trying a new place but having sampled Chef Murali’s produce at his other restaurant ‘CHAO’, I thought the gamble could play out well. Indeed, it did excel our expectations.

Knowing it was a Saturday evening and restaurants in Chennai can get crowded, we arrived promptly at the time we had made our reservations. The front-house was very welcoming and the interiors were given an oriental touch with loads of wooden furniture’s and wood carvings. An enormous Buddha fountain statue welcomed us into the dining area. 
The menu card was promptly placed on the table and the opening page had a very interesting story about how Thai cuisine and Indian cuisine have so much in common and so on. It talked about the history and ancient kingdoms which were responsible for the similarities in both the cuisines. The menu was exhaustive and was intricately detailed in what the dish constituted. This I feel is very important in oriental restaurants mainly because most of the dishes are described by their original names which can get us really confusing on what the dish comprises of.

First to hit the table was “Mien Khem”. Though have had this several times at other Thai restaurants, never knew the reason behind why it was served first. Upon enquiry, I was told by Chef Murali that, it is the Thai tradition of welcoming guests for food. It consists of all 5 flavours that are used in Thai cuisine. This was followed by the family’s all-time favourite Thai soup, “Tom Yum” soup. As usual, they had ordered the “Tom Yum Goong”, where ‘Goong’ means ‘Prawn”. The soup was extremely authentic and had a perfect blend of spices. Most of the times I have had this at other places, it is either too peppery that my eyes turn watery or it is bland with no spiciness at all. But it was just perfect to my liking this time.
(Mein Khem)
(Tom Yum Goong)
Following the soup, our next order came in. Called “Pla Tod Samunp”, it was a Raw Pumpkin salad served with dry fish cakes. The salad was both juicy as well as crunchy while the fish cakes had a tinge of the fish smell on it. I personally am not a fan of the fish variety in sea food mainly because of the smell associated with it. Due to this, I had to ignore the fish cakes while the salad was sumptuous. 
(Pla Tod Samunp)
Once the soup and salads were served, we were then dished up with the starters of the evening. We once again went with an all-time favourite starter, the “Gai Hor Baiteay”. This is a very common delicacy in Thai cuisine and is most often served either in chicken or fish. This time around we had gone in for the chicken version. The chicken is first fried and is then wrapped in Pandan leaves, and cooked. The dish is served with the leaves still wrapped over the meat to ensure the complete flavouring is infused into the chicken. The chicken was juicy, moist and had almost no oil residual on it. The next starter was “Pu-Nim Tod Nam”, which was a first time order amongst the family. It was a dish that was suggested to us by the manager and decided to go for it. It was a Soft Shell Crab cooked in a Spicy Chilli Paste. Having heard of a soft shell crab for the first time, was anxious to know if it can be eaten directly with the shell. I was reassured that it can definitely be. Immediately after my first mouthful, my verdict was out. It was just too good to be described. Never knew soft shell crabs were such a delight to the taste buds. Though they tasted similar to chicken, you could still make out a distinctive taste as you bite in the shells. The spicy paste was indeed a bit spicy but added to the overall glory of the dish.
(Gai Hor Baiteay)
(Pu-Nim Tod Nam)
With the starters done, we decided to go light on the mains. We ordered the “Jungle Fried Rice”, which we knew needed no sides as the rice itself would be packed with loads of flavours. It was as expected, the rice was indeed full of flavours and really kept up our expectations. It wasn’t too chilly unlike the previous time I had it at another place. We were also served with a Stir Fry Vegetable, complimentary courtesy Chef Murali, which livened up the flavourings of the Jungle Fried Rice. 
(Jungle Fried Rice)
(Stir Fry Vegetables)
Next on the table was the dessert. When it comes to desserts, it is always a riot ordering them. I often end up finding many a desserts that I would like to taste but eventually have to settle at the best choice at that moment. This time it was the regular “Tub Tim Grob” and the new try at Grand Siam, the “Shankhaya Fakthong”. For those who are not familiar with “Tub Tim Grob”, it is a must try at any Thai restaurant. It is basically Water Chestnuts soaked in Coconut Milk and chilled. No one can stop with just one serving. The other dessert of the day, the ‘Shankhaya Fakthong’ was a pumpkin custard served with Coconut Ice cream atop it. The pumpkin custard was more like a rocky road. It had a mixed texture of both crunchiness and smoothness. Overall it made a great combination together with the Coconut Ice Cream which tasted really fresh. 
(Tub Tim Grob)
(Shankhaya Fakthong)
Having tasted at many other Thai restaurants in Chennai, I personally feel Grand Siam is a good competitor to most of them. With regards to their pricing, they seem to be a tad lower priced in comparison to the other restaurants in their league. The evening dinner bill for the two of us was around ₹ 2200/-.

Overall, if you feel jaded with the same Thai restaurant you have been visiting for a couple of years now, Grand Siam can be a good alternate and is a must visit at least once.

Grand Siam is located at RK Salai (Cathedral Road, under the Mylapore Flyover) and in Anna Nagar (Behind Yesses Super Market).

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

With a short break of one week, it was time for yet another CFG Showcase. The move by many restaurateurs to invite CFG members to their restaurant for a Showcase seems to be improving as the months go by. I am sure this is because they can clearly see the advantage of having a CFG Showcase both from a culinary perspective as well as from a PR perspective. 
(Inside Seating Area)
Coming to this week's showcase, Ashvita, a very cosy, niche and quite restaurant tucked inside a small lane off RK Salai had invited fellow CFG bloggers and photographers to showcase their newly revamped menu. Having been to Ashvita a couple of times more than 2 years ago, was intrigued to find out what has changed over the years and if this change still retained the atmosphere Ashvita was then known for.

Owing to sudden plans for the CFG admins, a fellow CFGian and myself were delegated with the responsibility for the showcase. This resulted in me reaching Ashvita well ahead of the others as this enabled me to have an interaction about how the evening was to unfold with Munira, the PR Co-ordinator for Ashvita and Ashwin, who owns Ashvita.
(Lounge Non Alcoholic Drink)
The CFGians slowly trickled in as the clock kept nearing the beginning time of 7:30 PM. Once all the customary introductions and camera light adjustments were made by the members, the Showcase had begun.  On behalf of CFG, I thanked Ashwin for having invited us over for the CFG Showcase and that we are eagerly looking forward to sampling his new menu. Ashwin then took over the proceedings by giving us all a brief history of Ashvita, how it started and what their core beliefs are. Ashwin also introduced the lot to a new canned drink that was on the block. A brand of Non-Alcoholic drinks called "Lounge". They were being launched at Ashvita first and will roll out in retail stores shortly. Three flavors are currently available viz., Mojito, Tonic Water and Margarita. A couple of other things that Ashwin told us was not to expect any healthy food on the menu as he believed in indulgence of taste more than health and also that they do not serve seafood, pork or beef at Ashvita.

Post Ashwin's introduction on Ashvita, the culinary magic begun. One thing that I was thoroughly impressed at this particular Showcase was that we were not huge portions on a single plate. Instead they served small sample size portions to everyone and some dishes were prepared to be shared by 2. This helps a lot in a Showcase as the photographers can be at peace taking their own time to capture the smiles on the food.
(Asian style Tomato soup with Pasta and Egg)
(Garlic and Mushroom Cream Soup)
(Chicken Shorba with Caramelized Onion and Egg)
(Peas and Spinach Cream Soup)
(Pumpkin Coriander Soup)
The showcase began with a tasting session for the soups. We were served with not one or two but with five different soups. First on the table was "Asian style Tomato soup with Pasta and Egg". The soup was light and had good flavors but was a little too peppery for my liking. The pasta and the egg complimented the textures of the soup. Next was "Garlic and Mushroom Cream soup". This was a favourite with many. The garlic were roasted perfectly and mushroom well cooked and gave the right amount of crunch that was needed in the soup. The third entrant was "A Chicken Shorba with Caramelized Onion and Egg". Yes the inspiration for Ashwin was the French Onion Soup but it funneled down into this soup. As it is a Shorba, it had strong flavorings of Chicken along with caramelized onion that were not too strong and the usual egg floats. Next came the "Peas and Spinach Cream soup". This one definitely had some tweaking to do. To start with the texture was coarse and tasted a little too bland. Amongst all the soups, this was the only one that most of us used additional seasonings to bring the flavor. Last but not the least of the dishes we were to sample was the "Pumpkin Coriander Soup". A pumpkin soup was a first to me. Felt the textures of the pumpkin were well balanced with the tinge from the coriander. This was a normal clear soup sans the pumpkin and coriander flavoring. Some had suggested that the pumpkin be julienne'd rather than being used as chunks. The soup tasting session was filled with fun n frolic. I would rate the soups in the following order of awesomeness,
  1. Garlic and Mushroom Cream soup
  2. A Chicken Shorba with Caramelized Onion and Egg
  3. Asian style Tomato soup with Pasta and Egg
  4. Pumpkin Coriander Soup
  5. Peas and Spinach Cream soup
(Crispy Spinach and Sprouts)
(Inverted Masala Papad)
(Grilled Chicken and Cheese)
Once the soup tasting ended, we were immediately flooded with the starters. The starters were rushing from the kitchen at such a pace that we had to ask Ashwin and Munira to slow down the pace. The first starter to reach the table was the "Crispy Spinach and Sprouts". This was true to its name, Crispy. But for those of you who immediately associated Spinach and Sprouts with being a healthy food, you are absolutely to be mistaken. Like Ashwin had informed earlier, their is no diet/healthy food. The Sprouts and Spinach were perfectly fried and that gave them the amazing crunchiness. Next was another innovative dish, the "Inverted Masala Papad". This was nothing more but a regular papad rolled like a cone having the only healthy filling of the evening, mixed chat masala. The next starter was from the continental kitchen, "Grilled Chicken and Cheese". This was an instant favorite with the poultry lovers. The chicken juicy and was perfectly grilled with the right amount of cheese. In fact the cheese was not too strong to take away the flavors from the chicken by being too cheesy rather was of the right amount to complement the grilled chicken.
(Kakori Kebab)
(Onion Rings Salt Pepper)
(Punjabi Breakfast)
(Fried Rice Corn Tikki)
Following the grilled chicken, we were served upon with a dish I think known as "Kakori Kebab". But this was with a different take on it. Instead of the traditional kebab, this had minced lamb rolled in a thin wrap of egg. With the right amount of spices incorporated into the kebab, they were delicious. After the continual attack of meat, we were served a very simple dish with a twist. "Onion Rings Salt Pepper" as they named it. Being a major fan of onion rings, like the experimentation that was done in this dish. The dish that followed had its share of questions and answers. Called "Punjabi Breakfast", we were served a dish that consisted of boiled eggs, veggies and a sweet roti. Though Ashwin called it a Punjabi Breakfast, a fellow CFGian who happens to be a Punjabi was giving his insight that Punjabi's do not eat Sweet Roti's for breakfast. This ought to be more of the Gujarati/Maharashtrian type. The feedback was well received by Ashwin and he guaranteed that the origins will be researched upon once again. What followed next was yet another dish that was sweet. The "Fried Rice Corn Tikki" wasa tad bit sweet but they were deliciously crispy and light on the palate.
(Sesame Chicken)
(Fried Momos)
(Steamed Chicken Momos)
(Chicken Lipta)
Following the string of vegetarian dishes, came the winner dish of the evening. The "Sesame Chicken", as it was called was a clear notch above rest of the dishes that were served during the course of the evening. The dish was a chicken kebab with sesame flavorings. The chicken was succulent and cooked to perfection with the flavoring of sesame felt floating above the chicken. Just as quickly the dish arrived it disappeared in a jiffy. Following this we were presented with two different types of "Momos". The first one was a fried variant while the latter was steamed momos with chicken. They tasted pretty much the same barring the crunchiness felt in the fried one. The last of the non-vegetarian starters was a dish called "Chicken Lipta". Although looks similar to the crispy chicken dishes available at Chinese restaurants, this was a completely Indian dish. Though wasn't as crispy as expected it was certainly packed with strong flavors.
(Paneer Mushroom Jariyawala)
(Potato Chat)
(Mushroom Gotiya)
The last few dishes that arrived brought back the delight on our vegetable loving friends. The "Paneer Mushroom Jariyawala" was a typical Indian tandoori dish. The paneer was soft but the mushroom was a bit too slimy to my liking. This was followed by the "Potato Chat" and "Mushroom Gotiya". The Potato Chat was more of diced baked potatoes along with some veggies and a dressing. As the dish was placed away from us, the carnivores, I decided to skip it. The Mushroom Gotiya was another tandoori dish but the mushrooms in this were more palatable.
(Big Boss - Chicken)
(Big Boss - Paneer Tikka)
(Big Boss - Kashmiri)
Following the starters, came a completely surprising dish. Called the "Big Boss", it was indeed the big boss of all dishes at Ashvita. Customizable to suit your needs, we were served with three variants of Big Boss viz., Chicken, Panner Tikka and Kashmiri. Well the Big Boss is more like a take on pizzas. The base is replaced by a thick roti on top of which are the toppings and dressings as per your preference.  The Chicken Big Boss was my favorite among the lot. With chunks of chicken and potato with a dressing of mayonnaise, the big boss was just yummy. The Panner Tikka was similar to the Chicken variant except that it had more cheese and a lot more vegetables. The Kashmiri Big Boss was quite different from the previous two. It was in fact packed with wonderful flavours of dry fruits and nuts that it tasted like a mix n match of sweet and savoury dish.
(Assorted Indian Breads)
Once all the big boss's were eliminated by us, Ashwin threw a much bigger task for us. The Buffet was now open for us to sample. CFGians who always are excited to taste food practically gave up this evening. After a stomach filling sampling of 5 soups and 17 starters, none had the capacity to have a buffet dinner. Some totally skipped it while others decided to take small servings to sample. The main course on the offering were

  • Vegetable Jalfrezi
  • Badami Chicken
  • Bhuna Gosht
  • Roasted Lamb in Mint & Coriander sauce
  • Dal Makhni
  • Mushroom & Tomato Rice
  • Coloured Plain Saffron Rice
  • Pan Fried Noodles
  • Indian Breads - Egg Paratha, Gobi Paratha & Bajra Roti
After tasting so many dishes, I had by now lost the sense of taste. But one dish that really impressed me was the Badami Chicken. It had a rich taste of badam in which the chicken was cooked as a gravy. The rest of the dishes were palatable excepting the Mushroom & Tomato rice which many felt didn't pack much flavor. The Egg paratha though tasty lacked some seasoning. It was also a bit heavy on the palate.
(Oreo Milkshake)
(Mocha Milkshake)
(Kit Kat Milkshake)
Once we had settled down and relaxed after the short main course, we were all excited for the samples that were to arrive next. Yes the ever wonderful desserts. To the excitement of all of us, Ashwin again revealed that we will be sampling 6 desserts. The desserts round started with the arrival of "Oreo Milkshake". It was very appetizing to have the Oreo Milkshake after such indulgence in the starters that one full glass was empty in a single gulp. The next on the table was the "Mocha Milkshake", which as the name suggests was a little heavy on the coffee and a bit too liquidy for a milkshake. The final milkshake was made up of one of my all time favorite chocolate, the "Kit Kat Milkshake". Being my favorite flavoring, I had absolutely no complains on this. 
(Beetroot Halwa)
(Vanilla Cake)
(Citrus Cake)
Following this attack of milkshakes came the desi "Beetroot Halwa". I would rate the Beetroot Halwa at Ashvita as one of the best I've tasted anywhere. It was perfectly cooked, with the required amount of crispiness while at the same time retaining the juicy content of the beetroot infused with milk and sugar. It was so yum that I requested for another serving of the same. The last desserts to be served were "Citrus Cake" and "Vanilla Cake". Nothing extraordinary about the cakes as they were basic sponge cakes with a flavored icing on the top. The flavoring seemed perfect in both the cakes.

With this marathon tasting session, came the end of the CFG Showcase at Ashvita. The owner, Ashwin, was kind enough to be with us the entire time and clearing our doubts while taking feedback on how the dishes fared. As it was well past 10 PM, all of us were in a hurry to get going and I made an impromptu vote of thanks to Ashwin for providing us with the opportunity to have such a wonderful evening and for taking our feedback in the right spirit. 

In terms of pricing, they seem to have mastered this art as usual. Just like the earlier times, they have been able to find a good balance between what is a affordable price with that of an exorbitant price. I'm sure those who visit Ashvita will agree that it is wallet friendly for the ambience and the food that you get here.

Ashvita is located in RK Salai after Hotel President (opp. to Dominos Pizza). You will find a big board that says Ashvita at the entrance of a small lane. Enter that lane and you will have Ashvita on your right. They have Valet Parking too.

P.S: This seems to be my longest post so far. At last count was 2k plus. Kudos to Ashvita for setting an example for a Showcase.

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Talk about chocolates and tell me who doesn't love them. Gone are the days when chocolates were associated only with children. It is very common now for everyone to indulge in the fantasies of chocolates. Today's blog is about a sweet's story that is 'The Sweet Story'.

It was a regular get together of a few foodies at Pizza Republic and assuming that I would be indulging only on pizzas, I was at Pizza Republic totally unprepared for what was in store. In due course of the evening, I was informed that today would be the launch of a new home venture by Chestha Malik. Known as 'The Sweet Story', it indeed led to a very sweet story about how the rest of the evening transpired. 
(Rocky Road)
'The Sweet Story' is an attempt at making different dishes mostly with a single core ingredient. Almost every offering from The Sweet Story makes use of this ingredient in one form or the other. I'm sure you would have guessed that wonderful ingredient by now, yes Chocolates.

After having relocated to Chennai from New Delhi, Chestha Malik and her husband have followed their long time passion of sharing joy by means of dishing out different dishes made up of chocolates. The concept behind The Sweet Story  is that you can not only order for home made chocolates but take it a step further by also ordering home made desserts based on chocolates. 

Arriving a little behind schedule, this team of husband and wife instantly got on with the preparations for the launch of The Sweet Story. While the foodies were anticipating what was in store for us, Mr. Ramki from Pizaa Republic delighted us with another of his specialty. Keeping in theme, he dished out a very unique Dessert Pizza with sauce of chocolate and other sweet toppings (More on than at a later post).

(Dessert Pizza/Courtesy: Bharani Shivakumar)
Once the offerings from The Sweet Story were aesthetically arranged on a make shift display table, all we foodies pounced upon each other to see what was so special. Boy were we excited. The entire table was filled with delicacies that had the chocolate stamped all over it. Even a chocolate hater would have converted to an ardent chocolate lover. No wonder Chocolates are aphrodisiac. This was the moment I truly regretted for not having my camera with me. But that did not stop me as the spread was so tempting and a review worthy. So I ended up borrowing the camera from Chestha's husband to start with the clicks. 
(The Sweet Story)
To begin with, let me first list all the desserts that were presented to us.
  • Rocky Road
  • Fruit Trifle
  • Boozy Coffee Pana Cotta
  • Watermelon & Blackcurrant Cup Cakes
  • Chocolate Mousse
  • Chilly Chocolates
  • Berry filled Chocolates
  • Sweet Hearts
  • Chocolate enrobed fresh Strawberries
  • Marzipan soft centered chocolates in Water Melon, Blackcurrant & Caramel
  • Ginger Pineapple Pudding
(Boozy Coffee Pana Cotta)
(Cup Cakes)
To start with, the Rocky Road was just as the name suggests, a real rocky road with a different taste with every bite. The Rocky Road was also the name banner for The Sweet Story. The Fruit Trifle was a nice dosage of fruits with a small quantity of chocolate and was indeed very refreshing after the pizzas. The Boozy Coffee Pana Cotta were infact boozy. It had an almost impeccable balance between coffee and chocolate and was served in a beautiful miniature cup. Though didn't personally taste the cupcakes, heard from peers that it was mind blowing. 
(Chilly Chocolate & Berry filled Chocolate)
(Chocolate Mousse)
(Chocolate enrobed Strawberries)
Coming to the Chocolate Mousse, it was so rich and creamy that I had instantly fell in love with it. It will probably be one of the best mousses I've ever had. In regards to the different flavored chocolates, the chilly really took me by surprise as this was the first time I was indulging in one. It had a tinge of the chilly which was complimented by the smoothness of the chocolate. The Marzipan's were really chocolaty and the caramel one that I had was very subtle with the taste of caramel along with chocolate. The Chocolate enrobed fresh Strawberries was probably the closest competitor to the Chocolate Mousse. I guess that reveals how yummy they were. The strawberries were not too sour but were of the right taste. After this enormous indulgence with the different chocolates, decided to skip the pudding. I heard good opinions about this too from the other foodies gathered there.

If just reading the review made you yearn for chocolate, then wait no further. You can also begin your indulgence in yummy varieties of chocolates immediately. All you need to do is mail Chestha Malik at or call her on +91 98405 99101. You can also check out their facebook page at

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