Friday, 16 June 2017

Daawat-E-Khaas… A walk down Mohammad Ali Road (In Pune)

Eighty-Eight, Hyatt Pune is hosting #DaawatEKhaas, a ‘Mohammad Ali Road Food Festival’ and Team #FoodProwl was invited for a tasting. As we walked into the restaurant, we felt we had been transported to Mohammad Ali. The plush tables had been covered with red plastic table covers; the food was served in steel vessels and thalis; typical of stalls at Mohammad Ali road. The mood was as festive as it gets to be at Ramadan, during Iftaari. Rows of live counters and typical roadside decorations adorned the entire room. We reached the venue nearly an hour late because of incessant rain and maddening traffic. Consequently, we were famished and waiting to dig into all the delicacies.

To begin with we were served Ice Gola, Aloo Tikki Ragda and Chana Chor Garam. I gave the Chana Chor Garam and the Ice Golas a miss but as ravenous as I was, I dug into the bowl of Aloo Tikki Ragda with gusto. The combination of tikki and yummy ragda, with a smattering of finely chopped onions, was delicious!

The kebabs served were Tangdi Kebab, Mutton Seekh Kebab, Soya Bean Chaap and Paneer Tiranga. The Paneer Tiranga was nothing special but the other three kebabs were mind-blowing-ly awesome!! They were moreish and succulent. Even the vegetarian soya chaap were so perfect in flavour that this hard-core carnivore could find absolutely nothing to complain about.

We simply could not keep away from the live ‘Tawa’ counters. They served us tawa fried Gurda Kaleji and Soya Mutter Keema; both the dishes were delish! 

They had a variety of mains on offer; Nalli Nihari, Murgh Korma, Haleem, Kali Dal and Paneer Khurchan to name a few. 

With so many dishes to taste, I opted for the ones that appealed the most. The Nalli Nihari was spot on as was that richly piquant Murgh Korma. I simply could not stop dunking pieces of paratha and rumali roti in it. Sigh! The Bohri Mohalla Murgh Pulao was another winner. The rice was fragrant; the chicken was well cooked. 

The star of the evening, though, was the Mutton Haleem. Cooked to perfect texture and taste; not many places in the city make such a fabulous haleem.  This was one dish that we went back to for a second helping. (Greedy grin)

Photo courtesy: Foodmirer
While we waited in gleeful anticipation, knowing it was time for desserts, typical Ramadan goodies made their way to our table: Noorani Malpua, Suleman Usman ka Phirni and Mawa Jalebi.

I gave a miss to the phirni as I’m not much of a phirni fan but judging from what the others at the table said, it was a tad pasty. 

The Mawa Jalebi was good but I loved the malpua! The malpua wasn’t as egg-y or greasy as the ones we find at Ramadan stalls and shops. Also, it wasn’t very sweet and was smothered in a gorgeously silken rabdi. Together, the malpua and the rabdi danced in perfect harmony on my palate.

The festival commenced on from June 14, 2017 and shall be on until June 26, 2017. Priced at Rupees 1300 + taxes, the #DaawatEKhaas, Mohammad Ali Road Food Festival is a part of the regular DINNER buffet at Eighty-Eight. They plan to change/rotate the festival menu every day but favourites like pulao and haleem will be a constant part of the menu until the festival ends. I loved the atmospheric buzz at the food festival. Do check out the festival; I have a feeling you will return home in a satiated, happy puppy mode. I know I did! :-)

Address: Eighty-Eight, Hyatt Pune,  Adjacent to Aga Khan Palace, 88 Nagar Road, Kalyani Nagar, Pune.
Tel: 020 41411234

Some more photographs... but as I mentioned in the write up, I reached nearly an hour late hence having taken due permission these photographs are courtesy: FOODMIRER - FoodProwl - A G RAMGADIA Foodie in Me Thank you guys! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Linked To ‘Link’ - My Tapri For Life!

Link is the tea lounge that my bestie and I have been going to since 2008. It used to be known as the ‘Tea Lounge’ (Le Meridian) but it changed hands last year and the place now goes by the new name ‘Link’ (Sheraton Grand). We go there for after-dinner tea or coffee and sit there talking (read: bitchin’) for hours. 

There was a time when at around 3 am the housekeeping team would come up to us to ask us if they could vacuum the floor. We’d, of course, say ‘yes’ and they would go about their job, around us, while we sat gabbing. Now, after 9 years, they don’t even bother to inform us; they merely smile at the two angelic ladies (very evil grin) talking nineteen to the dozen and go about doing their work.

Link serves a good range of teas and as it is mainly tea that we have at the Tea Lounge/Link, we call it our ‘Tapri’. Our all time choices for tea are, the Twinnings Assam, English Breakfast or Earl Grey.

At various times, we have tried a variety of pastries, sandwiches, croissants, quiche, pies, etc. The pastries that figure on our list of favourites are their Chocolate Truffle, the Berliner and the Chocolate Éclair. The Éclair at Link is all about that delicate, airy choux, filled with feathery cream, smothered with chocolate on top; such a pleasure to bite into. 

The Berliner is a sweet dough pastry, quite similar to a doughnut. The patisserie cream filling that oozes out at first bite is delightfully delicious, as is the actual ‘soft as a baby’s bottom’ pastry! As for the Chocolate Truffle cake, it is densely decadent, rich and everything a chocolate cake needs to be. Truly sinful in the most wonderful kinda way!

The nut pie and cheesy chicken quiche, at Link, figure high on our list of favourites. We’ve also tried the Focaccia Smoked Salmon and the Sheraton Club sandwich, WITH extra cheese; MINUS the tomato and lettuce (most of you, by now, know why). The Sheraton Club is very nicely done. As for the Focaccia Smoked Salmon sandwich, they need to work on the focaccia. The bread is very thick and feels a lot like regular white bread. One can barely taste that gorgeous smoked salmon hidden in all that bread and that is such a darn shame. A thinner, tastier version of the focaccia would be ideal. However, they serve the most amazing crisp fries with their sandwiches. We love ‘em!

Their other bakery items that steal my heart are their croissants; the plain and the chocolate ones. I truly believe the humble dough gets crowned ‘King’ when a baker decides to make a croissant. 

The light crispness on the exterior and the buttery flakiness within: sigh! I fall short of words to describe how I feel when I find a perfect croissant. 

The plain croissants are oblong; tapered at both ends: while to differentiate between the two, the chocolate croissants are rectangular, pillow shaped ones. Both varieties in regard to the airiness and flakiness within are perfect; vital features for a good croissant!

Link serves all that I have mentioned and more but what makes the place even better are the smiles showered on us by their ever courteous staff (Kerman, Shreya, Maruti, Anmol to name a few… and many others). Then, of course, there is always Chef Mark Philipose, knowledgeable, humble, helpful and kind. Having gotten to know our choice of food/cuisine, he always guides us towards the correct delicacies. Link is the perfect place to while away time; to sit gabbing with a bestie or friends, sipping on tea and munching on pastries and sandwiches. Ah, the good life, indeed!

Oh by the way, let me fill you all in on a teeny-weeny secret. Between 8 pm and 12 midnight bakery stuff on the Link counters is available at a 50% discount. Do you need a better excuse than this to visit my ‘tapri’?

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Ambience: 5/5

Address: Sheraton Grand, Off Raja Bahadur Mill Road, Sassoon Road, Pune
Tel: 020 26050505 / 020 66411111

Link - Sheraton Grand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Some more photographs...

One of the delicious babies (Berliners) that came home with me in the box featured above ;-)

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Café Goa - Simple Yet Sublime!

This is a combined review for two visits to Café Goa.

1st Visit:

When a crazy gang of foodies decided to spend an evening together the unanimous choice of restaurant was one that we had heard rave reviews about: Café Goa. Situated in a by-lane of Viman Nagar, this tiny restaurant serves the most awesome Goan cuisine, seafood et al, without burning a nasty hole in your pocket.

Though we chose to go for an evening meal the sultry summer was getting to us; hence as soon as we rested our butts we ordered refreshing fresh lime sodas. These were served in vibrantly coloured glasses; the myriad of colours were very pleasing to the eye. The fresh lime sodas were very well made with the perfect balance of tang and sweetness.

Our choices for starters were Pomfret Masala Fry (Raechardo), Surmai Rawa Fry, Surmai Masala fry (Raechardo), Squid Rawa Fry, Prawns Rawa Fry and Prawns Stir Fry (Raechardo).

Be it prawns; surmai or squid, every variety of seafood was cooked to 'spot on' texture. I was especially pleased with the squid and prawns because some restaurants tend to overcook these beautiful babies. 

The Raechardo masala was spicy yet totally yum. The chef hadn’t allowed the spices to overpower the deliciousness that this masala is so capable of imparting. We all loved it!

For the mains we opted for Chicken Cafreal and Rus Omelette. The Cafreal was delicately spiced and the chicken was cooked just right so as to retain its succulent quality. 

The Rus Omelette was a new dish for me. This was a regular onion omelette served with Xacuti gravy served with four pieces of soft ladi pau. As known to most of you, I’m a hard core carnivore so trust me when I say, the Chicken Cafreal was delish but the Rus Omelette simply blew me away! I loved the combination of the omelette and gravy. Imagine: You cut a piece of the omelette while dipping a piece of soft pau into that robust rus. You ponder a while wondering what the taste will be like because you’re having it for the very first time. You put that morsel in your mouth and ‘bang!’, the flavours hit you all at once, savoury and spicy! Such a simple dish and yet it so vehemently made its mark among stalwarts like surmai and chicken. There are only two words to describe it perfectly… sublime deliciousness!

By the time we finished our dinner we were in two minds whether to opt for dessert or to go easy on our tummies. A friend (if I name him, I'm dead meat) with a perpetual sweet tooth (actually, that’s a darn understatement, he has ‘sweet teeth’ :P ) who really cannot do without dessert made that decision for us and we opted for two Caramel Custards, to share. We cannot thank him enough for goading us into having dessert because this was one of the best Caramel Custard we had ever eaten. The caramel was burnt just right, lending that perfect hint of bitterness; such a vital part to a good Caramel Custard.

Our tummies were so full with everything we’d eaten that we simply could not try the Goan curries from their menu. We plan to use that as a major excuse to revisit this eatery. (Evil grin)

2nd Visit:

On a second visit, a couple of days back, we stuck to the same items we ordered in our last visit with the addition of two new dishes. The new dishes were, the Pomfret Rawa Fry and Prawn Curry Rice. 

The pomfret was fresh and fried to perfection. I didn’t expect them to get that wrong and they didn’t! The prawn curry was served with approximately 6-7 prawns. The prawns, too, were cooked perfectly, but considering that they serve Goan cuisine, I expected the curry to be more flavourful and full-bodied. Unfortunately it fell short in regard to flavour and texture. It wasn’t bad; it just lacked ‘oomph’! A wee bit of tanginess and some thick coconut milk would have added that ‘oomph’.

Except for the curry, I truly cannot find fault with a single thing we ate that evening (Konkani music included.. sigh!) and for that very reason my ratings for Café Goa are…

Food: 4.5/5
Ambience: 3/5 (it’s a simple non-AC joint but clean)
Service: 5/5 (polite, courtesy, attentive.. what more can one ask for?)

Address: Shop No 3-4, Faith Center, Near NEXA Showroom, Sakore Nagar, Viman Nagar, Pune
Tel: +91 9820159824

Cafe Goa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato