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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Eighty-Eight at Hyatt Pune - Gusto d’Italia (Taste of Italy) - Complimenti per il lavoro svolto!!


Eighty-eight, at Hyatt Pune, regularly sets up a buffet for breakfast and evening dinner. The hotel has a 4 course meal option available for lunch (Express Lunch). Eighty-eight has various festivals on through the year and those festivals are a part of their evening buffet. This time they decided to concentrate on Italian cuisine. This cuisine happens to be one of my favourites, which is why when I was invited by Team Food Prowl for the tasting, I instantly agreed to attend the event. The beautiful menu for the festival ‘Gusto d’Italia’ has been curated by Chef Sarika Kamble: she specializes in Italian cuisine.



As we settled into our seats, the servers placed platters of cheese with crackers, crudités and nuts before us. The varieties of cheese on the platter were Provolone, Edam, Emmenthal, smoked Scarmoza and my all time favourite, French Brie. As most of you know, all it takes to make me happy are two ‘C’s; one of which happens to be cheese. I, intermittently, munched on the nuts but gave the crudités a miss as I steer clear of raw vegetables. My favourites cheeses of the evening were the smoked Scamorza and the Brie (but of course). An honest confession: I’m nibbling on a wedge of Brie as I type this and I know I will polish off the wheel by the time I’m done with the write up. (Shameless, greedy grin)


They served us a cooler made of Strawberry, thyme and basil. I couldn’t have asked for a more delicious and refreshing drink on a warm summer evening. I loved it!


Next, platters of antipasti made their way to our table. There were slices of prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, and salami. Digging into this platter was a sheer delight for this hard core carnivore! Meat overload!! Yayyyyy! :-)


They also served a Caprese Salad, Parma Ham & Melon and Baked Figs with Goat Cheese & Nuts. As usual, I gave the salads a miss but everyone at the table dug in happily hence I can confidently say, they were very good salads. 


I did try the Caramelized Onion & Fig Bread served with the salads. It was so delish that I reached into the basket for a second piece. Yes, you read right, I ate figs. It was yum!  


The Pea soup with chicken and chive cheese quenelle was creamy, hearty and very satisfying. The creaminess of the soup came through beautifully, and in fact, this carnivore could well have done without the chicken in the soup. Says a lot about the soup, doesn’t it?


For the mains we were served Honey Rosemary Glazed Lamb Chops with Courgette Roulade & Jus, Pan Seared Sea bass with Parmesan Potatoes and Tomato Caper Anchovy Sauce, Parsley Buttered Prawns served over Crab Cakes with Garlic Sauce, Stuffed Chicken Breast with Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Potato, Wild Mushroom Brie Cheese Risotto and Spaghetti Bolognaise.


The Honey Rosemary Glazed Lamb Chops with Courgette Roulade & Jus was the star of the meal! It was grilled to a deep warm brown from outside and a beautiful pink from within. A few of you, on seeing the photograph, may say the meat looks raw. It was not! The chops were a perfect medium-rare in every sense of the word! Questo piatto era delizioso! (As done in Italy, kissing the tip of my fingers and blowing a kiss towards Chef Sarika in total appreciation of her cooking skills).


The Wild Mushroom Brie Cheese Risotto was another winner. Can anything with Brie be anything but classic? The Arborio rice was creamy and yet retained that light bite. The only thing I missed in the risotto was that delicate sharpness that a drizzle of white wine lends to the risotto. The chef was unable to use white wine because of the ‘no alcohol 500 meters from the highway – Indian Supreme court’ issue. What a terrible letdown for the culinary artists of our country!


Pan Seared Sea bass with Parmesan Potatoes and Tomato Caper Anchovy Sauce, Parsley Buttered Prawns served over Crab Cakes with Garlic Sauce were also gorgeous dishes. 


The fish and the crustaceans were cooked to a ‘spot on’ texture. 


The Stuffed Chicken Breast with Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Potato was the only dish that needed looking into. Though well seasoned, the chicken was a tad too dry and overcooked. If the chicken had been cooked till moist and succulent, this also would have been a stellar dish. 


By the time they served the Spaghetti Bolognaise I was so stuffed that I merely took a bite from the dish. The spaghetti was cooked al dente (perfecto!) and the mince was deliciously robust in flavour. Had I not stuffed myself with the other dishes I would have dug into these savoury strands of wholesome goodness with immense gusto. 


The desserts for the evening were strawberry ice cream, Berry Cheese Cake, an in-house Pistachio Biscotti and Panna Cotta. The ice cream was the regular kind but the other three desserts simply blew me away. If only I could lay my greedy paws on those in-house Pistachio Biscotti’s, they’d be a snack I’d nibble on for a life time. I fall short of words to describe it! The biscotti’s were outstanding! 


The Berry Cheese Cake was light and tangy, just the way I like my cheese cakes to be. As for the Panna Cotta, as usual, the first thing I checked for was the luscious wobble. Oh it wobbled alright; it wobbled just right! It was creamy and melted on the tongue in a jiffy. A perfect Panna Cotta, no doubt!


Gusto d’Italia (Taste of Italy) festival is on until May 17, 2017 (dinner only/priced at 1300+taxes and well worth the price). Heed my advice; check it out. I promise, you won’t regret it!

I extend a heartfelt thanks to our hosts Hyatt Pune (Chef Sarika and Shruti Sengupta) for having us over and for trusting our taste buds and our feedback. It was a wonderful summer evening, with delicious food, spent in the company of marvellous friends. Dolce vita!

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

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Pizza-N-More: Can’t wait to try more!


When it comes to food being home delivered, I tend to stick to tried and trusted restaurants. Just this once having read raving reviews about Pizza-N-More, I decided to give it a try. My choices were; Hot Wings, 2 pieces portion of Fried Chicken and a Half & Half pizza.

The Hot Wings were… NOT hot! I was sent the bland variety. (sulks) The wings also lacked seasoning. (major sulk) The saving grace: they weren’t dry and overcooked.


The fried chicken was on the lines of KFC; well seasoned, crisp and crusted from outside and succulent from within. These, in fact, were seasoned beautifully and were delish!

I’m not a big fan when it comes to local pizza. I tend to stick to brand pizzas. (Oh, bite me! :P ) As for the Half & Half pizza, one half was spicy pizza and the other half was roast chicken. The pizza was ‘loaded’! I say ‘loaded’ because I got a chicken chunk at each and every bite. And the best part, they had been extremely generous with the cheese. If that’s not ‘loaded’, damn, I don’t know what is. Would I choose this pizza over brand pizzas?? Easily! I would, on any given day! It was a fantastic pizza! (Please keep up with the quality!)

Overall, except for the wings that disappointed (majorly) I would love to try more stuff from this restaurant. The next time when hunger pangs hit this ‘likkle’ puppy, who she gonna call?? Naah silly, not ‘Ghostbusters’.

Pizza-N-More, I truly look forward to trying more stuff from your menu.

Based on the three items I ordered:

Food: 4/5 (2 good dishes out of three would actually warrant a 3.5 rating but that pizza was such a pleasure to eat that I cannot help but rate this meal a 4 on 5)
Service: 5/5 (online via FB)
Ambience: 5/5 (Ghar par khaya to 5/5 dena toh banta hai ;) )

Address: Shop No 1, Hindustan Royal, Behind Welcome Hall, Opposite Omkar Garden, Parge Nagar, Kondhwa, Pune.

Tel: 020 30189261

Pizza-N-More Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Rhubarb – So Worth The 50 Km Drive


Usually my friends and I prefer to go out for luncheons; that way we get to extend the meal right into evening tea. ;) The city, these past few days, has been experiencing scorching summer heat which has put a damper on afternoon jaunts. We opted for dinner instead and our choice of restaurant was Rhubarb!


Rhubarb is situated in the same building as Seasons Hotel, at Aundh. It is, however, independently owned and is not a part of Seasons Hotel. The decor is a stylishly minimalistic; mainly in shades of black and white. I loved it!


We were parched and opted for drinks as soon as we reached the restaurant. We chose freshly squeezed orange juice, Two Grandmothers Lemonade and Aam Panna. The oranges used for the juice were not sweet enough and, oddly, felt as if mixed with sweet lime juice. As for the fresh lime soda and the Aam Panna, I’ve had better! They need to up their game with regard to the drinks they serve. They simply did not dazzle.


For starters we ordered, Baked Cheese, Croquettas and Sautéed Mushrooms served with herbed bread, with butter and olive oil-balsamic on the side.


The Sautéed Mushrooms were cooked just right. Atop the mushrooms was perched a perfectly poached egg. As one of my friends is an eggetarian we requested Amogh (owner and chef) for an extra serving of poached egg and he amiably obliged. I could find absolutely no fault with the dish. The reason you don’t hear me going ga-ga over this simplistic yet beautiful dish is because although I did taste this dish and enjoy it, all my greedy attention was diverted towards the next two dishes that I am about to write about.


The Baked Cheese was molten deliciousness; served with thin Melba toasts and olive tapenade. The main cheeses used in the dish were Camembert and Brie. Do I need to say anything more after having mentioned the names of the cheese? When they served us the dish, the tapenade did not look appetizing but, not one to judge food merely by how it looks, I gave it a try. It was stunning! It complemented the cheese and toast perfectly. We kept dipping toasts in that magnificent-melted goodness and licked the dish clean. Well, not literally but you get my drift, right? :)


The Croquettas, were balls of molten cheese and braised lamb served with chilli mayo. They were crumbed from outside, while the braised lamb shreds tangled with melting cheese from within. The chilli mayo served with the croquettas added a classic zing. They were delish! 


For mains, my vegetarian friend chose hand cut Pappardelle with asparagus and parmesan, while the carnivores chose Year of the Rooster and 12 Hour Pork Ribs.


My friend loved the in-house, hand cut pappardelle as she is someone who makes pasta at home, from scratch. According to her, the dish in entirety was delicious. I merely took a bite from the bowl of pasta; with chicken and pork staring at me from other plates can you blame me for ignoring the vegetarian pasta? I have to honestly say, my comments about the pappardelle dish are from the feedback I received from the person who had it and raved about it.


The Year of the Rooster is half a chicken, beautifully charred and served with Schezwan glaze, egg fried rice and sautéed vegetables. The chef described a particular technique he used to ensure that the chicken remained succulent on cooking. I recognized the method as similar to the one used by a very famous international chef. The chicken was charred from outside but was superbly succulent from within. The fried rice served with the chicken was not the usual long grain rice. This was a broken variety of Indrayani Rice. I am someone who loves long grain rice, but this rice, and the way in which it was cooked, was so darn good that there is no way I can sulk or throw a tantrum for it not being the long grain variety. This was a fantastic dish!


The 12 Hour Pork Ribs was the dish of the day! Cooked in molasses and Korean chilli paste, it was a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The dish brought back flavourful memories of Yangnkeom Tongdak (Crispy Korean Chicken); a recipe I regularly make at home using the very same Korean paste. I was the only ‘oink’ eater at the table hence could not finish the entire portion served. I requested Chef Amogh to 'doggy-bag' the rest of the ribs. By the time I reached home, an hour later, all I could think of was devouring the succulent babies travelling home with me. I behaved, though, and had them the following day, for lunch. These ribs are among the best I’ve had in Pune! On any given day, I’d travel all the way to Aundh (a total of 50 kms, 25 to and fro from my residence) just to lay my greedy paws on these sinfully pieces of ‘oink’. Sigh!


Our dessert choices were Mint Panna Cotta with Lemon Curd, Strawberry Jam and Meringues (served in a glass), Warm Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Cream and Seasonal Fruit Tart with Rhubarb Jam. The fruit tart was not for me as I steer clear of fresh fruit. My friends enjoyed it, though. The panna cotta was refreshingly different and yummy. The minty flavour melded beautifully with the tartness of the lemon curd and the sweetness of the strawberry jam.


The Warm Chocolate Cake was as comforting as chocolate cakes can get. In fact, it was so yum, I could easily have had it all by itself without the hazelnut cream.

Owner and chef, Amogh, is extremely passionate about the food he cooks and that passion clearly reflects in all that he serves! How then can one leave a restaurant disappointed? We didn’t! Three happy puppies trudged home with full bellies, satiated smiles and we raved about the food, all the way home.

In the past month, Rhubarb has added many new dishes to their menu. They also have a new breakfast menu coming up from Saturday, May 6, 2017. The breakfast menu will be served Tuesday to Sunday (Monday closed), from 8.30 am to 11.30 am. I can't wait to check out the new stuff... Soon, very soon!! :-)

Food: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Service: 5/5

Address: Shop No 1, Seasons Apartment Hotel, Sanewadi, Aundh, Pune.
Tel: 020 30189220

Rhubarb Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato