Thursday, 30 March 2017

Peppercorn - The Home Chef - The Babumoshai’s Biryani that tugs at my Foodie Soul...

A few weeks ago, a home chef (Anubhav Sen of Peppercorn - The Home Chef) had sent me a pot of Mutton Dum Biryani and some Chicken Chaanps. The biryani and the chaanps were delicious which is why, this year, when I decided to go the lazy route for Navroze I knew exactly who I was going to order from.

This time around, instead of Chicken Chaanp, I decided to order Mutton Mince Chops and same Mutton Dum Biryani I had the last time. I just could not get enough of that deliciousness.

This is a Bengali style dum biryani with potatoes (Yayyyyy to that because a biryani to me is never complete without potatoes – Blame it on the Bawi in me :P ) When I opened the biryani pateela (vessel), its fragrance wafted out and filled my home with enticing aromas. The texture of the mutton and rice was spot on! Those heavenly potatoes had absorbed the flavour of the biryani and were so delicious! They tasted so darn good even when I had a bite of them without the biryani rice and mutton. The biryani was neither dry and nor too greasy. The spices/masala was not excessive and overpowering. I’ll have you know; I am not a big fan of biryani and rarely drool over them. I, very occasionally, enjoy it at a couple of restaurants and from the kitchens of certain home chefs/caterers. This one, however, makes me go weak in the knees. Yes, I’m still talking of the biryani, not Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan. (Angelic grin) This biryani is to be bowed to and revered!

I did not want a gravy based dish hence, instead of Chicken Chaanp, I ordered the Mutton Mince Chops. A beautiful crumbed exterior encased the soft, delicious, mutton mince within. The mince was beautifully piquant. A few sultanas, almonds and cashews were added to the spicy mince. The sultanas delivered a light and intermittent hint of sweetness while the almonds and cashews lent that wee bit of crunch factor to the chops. This was another winner!

Knowing it was a Navroze meal for the family, Anubhav, thoughtfully, brought us a box of Rosgullas. I couldn’t have asked for a better Navroze meal! Thanks Anubhav, your thoughtfulness is truly appreciated!

Anubhav Sen aka Peppercorn Chef has a small menu to choose from but his food clearly indicates that he knows his genre very well. The next time you decide to order Bengali food, especially Bengali style biryani, do give this Bong Biryani Babumoshai a try. You’ll be licking your fingers clean! :)

Anubhav can be contacted on: +91 7378386637 / +91 9730115725

Food: 5/5
Service: 5/5 (with a smile and lots of food talks)
Ambiance: NA (home chef)

Note: This was not a tasting; this was an order placed with Peppercorn Chef hence there was no way to control the greedy gang at home. They allowed me to only take photographs of the mutton chops. I’m using the old photographs for the biryani as the one I managed to click is so terribly hazy that I dare not put it up. 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

An Epicurean Evening at The Deccan Epicure

This write up comes a month late but as I always believe, better late than never, more so, if the write up is well deserved. The choice for our monthly AGOG meet up, for the month of February was, The Deccan Epicure. We had been hearing marvellous things about this restaurant so what better way to check it out than with my beautifully angelic gang of gals.

The Deccan Epicure is a tiny, yet pleasant restaurant in a by-lane at Viman Nagar. The kitchen is based on the ground floor and the customers are seated on the mezzanine floor. I have bad arthritic knees hence was a tad unsure about the stairs I would have to climb. For any of you, who have troubled knees; let me assure you the stairs are safe and easily climbable so don’t let that stop you from visiting this eatery.

Our choices of drink for the evening were Fresh Lime Soda, Ginger Lemon Fizz, Watermelon & Pepper Salsa Detox. I, of course, flatly refused to touch the detox drink because it had that dreaded ‘F’ word in it. Fruit, fruit, I meant fruit! What were you thinking? (Evil grin) 

The Ginger Lemon Fizz was my drink and I loved it! It was an invigorating and well balanced drink. The ginger came through and I loved the fact that its taste did not overpower on the palate. I took a sip of the Fresh Lime Soda and that too was very nicely made. 

We also ordered tomato soup. It was served with a side of croutons and pesto sauce. The soup was good but the pesto was even better: it was superbly flavoured! We just could not get enough of it!

Our starters comprised of, Poached Pear Salad, Watermelon & Feta Salad, Barbeque Chicken Wings, Orange Honey Pork Ribs, Corn Cheese Fritters, Onion Blossoms, Spinach Pea Tikki and Wada Pau Hot Dog.

I am not someone who eats raw food (salad) hence I am not qualified to write about the salad served but I will say, ‘the other four faces at the table seemed very pleased with the salads’. They mentioned the salads were fresh, well seasoned and drizzled with adequate dressing.

Of all the starters the Spinach Pea Tikki and the Wada Pau Hot Dog were the ones that did not entice our foodie souls. My vegetarian friend wasn’t too impressed and nor were the carnivores. The Spinach Pea Tikki had a very thick outer coating and the spinach within would have been better had it been pureed to a finer texture. 

The Wada, too, had the same problem with regard to the outer covering. A thinner batter for the wada would have been ideal. As for the potato filling within, I have to say, I’ve had better. These two dishes need to be worked upon to improve in taste and texture. We did give immediate feedback to Kevin (the owner) who was pleasantly receptive to our negatives as he was to the positives. I truly appreciate that; it clearly shows that he is a restaurateur determined to do better.

The Barbeque Chicken Wings were nicely done. They were a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. 

The Corn Cheese Fritters were also a hit. What’s to not like about something that is loaded with cheese? 

We were extremely eager to try the Onion Blossoms and most of the petals of the onion blossom were beautiful and crisp, except for a few deeper layers within the onions. Kevin had given us fair warning about the deeper layers remaining a tad soft and translucent. As we had been told about it in advance there was no feeling of disappointment. Plus, the crisp, outer layers had more than made up for the few soft, translucent petals that remained on the onion.

The Orange Honey Pork Ribs was ribs glazed in a blend of orange and honey but the dish was not overly sweet at all. The ribs were savoury and succulent to the perfect ‘fall of the bone’ consistency. The two of us, the hardcore carnivores, who devoured the pork, were ecstatic puppies! For us, this was the ‘dish of the day!’

For our main course we chose, Barbeque Pork Chops served with Barley and Apple, Butter Garlic Prawn with Deccan Risotto, Roasted Cauliflower and Almond Deccan Risotto, Fish & Chips and Steamed Ginger and Leek Tilapia Fish served with Red Rice, Mushroom and Broccoli.

Of the mains, the only dish that did not work was the Steamed Ginger and Leek Tilapia Fish served with red rice, mushroom and broccoli. I enjoy any and all kinds of fish; I’m not the type to turn my nose at a strong flavoured fish. I do believe, though, that certain fish, with very sharp fishy odour, should not be used for delicate, brothy seafood dishes. The fishy odour hits the olfactory senses quite harshly. Tilapia lent a very sharp, fishy smell and flavour to the broth. A milder flavoured fish would’ve been more suitable for this particular dish. The red rice also did nothing to enhance the broth; and vice versa. The dish gave off vibes similar to that of a divorced couple. :P

The Barbeque Pork Chops were beautifully cooked. Once again this pork dish had the pork eaters going ‘ummmm’ at every bite. I cannot begin to describe how delicious they were. Deccan Epicure sure knows how to get their pork right! The vinaigrette dressing drizzled over the apples was superb! The apples and the barley complemented the pork beautifully. The apples with the perfectly balanced vinaigrette, added the tartness; while the barley lent a softer bite to that sticky, succulent pork. Can there be a better ménage à trois on a plate? I don’t think so! These chops were simply delectable!

I always seek creaminess and that perfect bite in risottos. The risottos boldly held their personality in regard to the creaminess but they were a tad short in regard to the ‘bite’ factor. Taste wise, the risottos were very appetizing. The garlic prawns served with the non-vegetarian risotto were fresh and beautifully cooked. No, I did not try the roasted cauliflower (Evil carnivore-ish grin). 

The Fish and Chips was another winner. The fish was fresh, fried to perfection in a wonderful light batter. The Tartar sauce was spot on and the chips were crisp and gorgeously golden. One of the best fries I’ve had in a long time!

As most of you, who read my write up for these AGOG meet ups, know, we never miss out on desserts. We checked out their list of desserts and they had us drooling even before they arrived at the table. Our choices: Banana Bread with Honeycomb Butter, Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Bar, Chocolate Fondant with White Chocolate, Orange Wedge & Mint, Saffron & Vanilla Panna Cotta with Orange Syrup and Pavlova with Fresh Fruits.

I was a tad apprehensive about the Banana Bread. Time and again I have known this dessert to be dry and difficult to swallow. When the bread was set at the table the whiff of the banana bread hit me so hard that all I wanted to do was quickly click a couple of photographs and dig my spoon into it. That is precisely what I did! That divine honeycomb butter melted into the warm bread in rapturous joy. The bread was one of the most delicious desserts I have ever had.

The panna cotta had the spot on texture and wobble. (Yes, as usual, I did record the wobble and the video is up at the blog) The saffron and the vanilla came through beautifully. The orange syrup with a sprinkling of orange segments was nectarous. 

The Sea Salt Caramel with Chocolate Bar was a big hit at the table. Kevin sprinkled just a wee bit of salt on the dessert and was kind enough to give us some more, separately, in case we needed a saltier hit. When the words caramel, sea salt, chocolate, all come together, how would you describe that in two simple words? Brilliantly decadent!

The pavlova and the chocolate fondant were also lovely desserts but the ones I’ve described in detail, and swooned over, are the ones I liked best.

Kevin and his servers were extremely attentive and kind to us all through the evening. We gals are a boisterous bunch (angelic smile), not at all easy to handle, but the restaurant did a fantastic job all through the evening in regard to food and service to ensure we have a marvellous meal. Kevin, my friends and I thank you! We truly appreciate that all through the evening we were served with a smile. Also, your honest suggestions and receptive demeanour touch our hearts. Rest assured I shall soon be back for those ‘oinky’ dishes; that’s where my heart lies. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants. ;) :D

Food: 4/5
Service: 5/5
Ambiance: 3/5

Address: Turning Point, Unit II/0I, Phoenix Boundary Road, Viman Nagar, Pune

For reservations: Call Kevin: 020 65808011

The Deccan Epicure Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A few more photographs...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Nawabs of India Food Festival – Zeera (Conrad)

The Nawabs of India Food Festival at Zeera, Conrad (Pune) caught my eye on the Facebook group of Pune Food Bloggers Guild. I saw photographs of the food served and read reviews for the same. Each review gave me the feeling that Zeera was personally beckoning me. What better day, then, to visit and indulge in the finest of cuisines than on Navroze day!

The restaurant is plush, classy and very aesthetically appealing. I loved the fact that they hadn’t gone the garish route with regard to the decor. As we settled at our table, we checked out the scroll placed in front of us telling us about the festival and the dishes that would be served. We couldn’t wait to begin our gastronomic journey.

They brought us a well balanced mocktail: Tandoori Mojito. It was a citrusy drink with the right amount of masala (it came across as chaatt masala) added to it. It was one of the most unique drinks I’ve ever had. It was very refreshing: perfect for a summer evening. We loved it so much that we requested a refill.

I had opted for the ‘Non-Vegetarian Set Meal’, whereas my friend opted for the ‘Vegetarian Set Meal’. Let me admit, I flicked tiny bits of vegetarian food from her plate. It’s only right that I did. How else would I be able to write a line or two about the vegetarian fare? (Evil grin – my all time valid excuse to hog everything that’s placed on the table)

The Non-Vegetarian Appetizers served were Lagan Ki Boti, Murgh Kalmi Kebab, Maas Ke Sooley and Tandoori Sarsoon Machi. Additionally, they very kindly served us Shammi Kebab even though it wasn’t mentioned on the festival menu.

Of the kebabs, the only one that I would make a slight change to, in terms of texture, would be the Maas Ke Sooley. Though perfectly marinated and absolutely scrumptious, I would have preferred the mutton to be more succulent. Let me clarify a wee bit; the mutton wasn’t undercooked or raw, just that I would prefer it to be  more tender; almost “falling off the bone’ texture. Except for the texture, I would not want anything changed about this piquant baby.

Among the non-vegetarian kebabs, the Lagan Ki Boti was my favourite. Soft chucks of braised lamb, perfectly spiced, and tenderly heaped on a paratha; the dish was amazing good. The paratha was also beautifully made. It was light on the palate and not at all doughy or heavy. The boti and the paratha came together in rapturous harmony!

The Murgh Kalmi Kebab, Tandoori Saroon Machi and Shammi Kebab were also delish! The fish used for the Sarsoon Machi was rawas, which pleased me immensely and the sarsoon (mustard) was used in just the right quantity. It did not over power or take away the flavour of the fish. Now that’s what I call excellent cooking! 

The Shammi Kebab and the Murgh Kalmi Kebab were both flavourful appetizers. The Shammi Kebab was marinated in perfectly blended spices and the mince, too, was the correct texture. It was served with Varqi Paratha. The Murgh Kalmi Kabab was a beautiful plump piece of chicken. It was creamy and succulent and ticked all the boxes in terms of taste and texture.

I tried a wee bite of each vegetarian kebab, but there were two that I requested, as extra, all for myself. They simply blew me away. One was the Kumbh Ki Galouti and the other, Aloo Ki Nazakat.

The Aloo Ki Nazakat was filled with soft crumbled paneer, dry fruits and topped with aromatic strands of saffron. The saffron pleasantly hit my olfactory senses at the very first bite. Simply divine!

The Kumbh Ki Galouti was the kind of kebab that ‘kebab-ish’ dreams are made of. The only way to correctly describe it is as a gastronomic orgasm in the mouth. These melt-in-the-mouth babies were made from kumbh (mushrooms) and were the vegetarian versions of the mutton mince galouti. Please believe me when I, as a hardcore carnivore, tell you that this was the ‘Kabab of the evening!’ This was a 11/10 kebab! A classic galouti!

I will not go into the details of the vegetarian mains as I barely tasted them but from what I could gather from the look on my friends face, she was one happy puppy. :-)

For the non-vegetarian mains they served, Gosht Tar Kalia, Kheema Karela, Machchhi Dampukht, Nizami Murgh Korma, Sailana Dal Tadka and Awadhi Chicken Biryani. I’m not much of a main course person but I tried a bit of everything and every dish was perfect. The sauces of each dish were spectacular and the protein, whether mutton, chicken or fish, were all cooked to perfection.

The John Dory fish used for Machchhi Dampukht was fresh and gorgeously flaky in quality. Dee-lee-chee-ouss! I specifically remember the gravies of the Gosht Tar Kalia and the Murgh Nizami Korma. They were rich, creamy and totally yum! Unfortunately, by the time the mains arrived, I was so stuffed with the starters that I could not do justice to them. The mains were all served with superb flaky Varqi Parathas. My friend wanted to try the Khimiri Roti and they very kindly served us that too. 

The biryani rice was beautiful and long grained; lightly spiced and very aromatic. The chicken in the biryani was superbly succulent! A very good biryani, indeed!

Once we were done with dinner they brought a wet hand towel (not a paper towel) to wipe our fingers. The hand towel was steaming hot and soaked in rose water. I think that was a lovely touch.

After a while dessert was served: Gulab Aur Phaloon Ki Rabri. The rabri was sweet and creamy, just the way it should be but I could not eat more than two tiny spoonfuls as it was loaded with bits of ‘phal’ (fruits). Anyone who really knows me knows I steer clear of all fruits except mangoes and bananas. How I wish that the delectable rabri was served by itself. Ah well, mukammal jahan nahi milta and all that jazz. 

Executive Chef Mandar and his team ensures on all fronts, be it food or service, that their patrons are treated like royalty. I cannot thank them enough for making our dining experience such a pleasant one. All in all it was a beautiful evening; Navroze celebrated with one of my closest friends and with food and service, truly, fit for Nawabs. The ambiance, the service and the food will titillate your senses and leave you wanting more. The Nawabs of India Food Festival is on until April 2, 2017. My take on it, DON’T miss it!

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Ambiance: 5/5

Zeera - Conrad Pune Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A few more photographs...