Turkish Pop-up – Ottoman Cafe at Four Seasons Worli, Mumbai

I have discovered a new love for traveling or if i put it right, traveling for food. There’s no bigger way to explore a city or country than learning about its culture and food forms a huge part of it. While I have still to embark on my first International trip (yep, I am heading to Japan in September), I’ve already traveled to Ahmedabad, Himachal (read about my McLeodganj trip) and there’s still a lot of 2016 left.

When I am not traveling I make sure I try as many various cuisines in Mumbai as possible, this is a way I get to mentally travel to those cities/countries through the flavours. Two days ago, I took a quick trip to Istanbul via the Ottoman Cafe pop-up happening at Cafe Prato at Four Seasons Worli. Chef Yener Altunay and his team from Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul has put together a menu of mezze platter, eight hours slow cooked lamb shank, handmade manti – Turkish ravioli, yogurt kebabs and of course the traditional dessert baklava and kunefe – layeres of crunchy kadayyf filled with unsalted cheese.

The chefs have brought a few ingredients straight from Istanbul to keep the flavours intact. Here’s a blow-by-blow account of what I ate.

Mezze Platter - Ottoman Cafe, Four Seasons Worli

Mezze Platter – Ottoman Cafe, Four Seasons Worli

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A Punjabi food haven in Mumbai

Being anywhere remotely close to Matunga East for me has always meant eating at one of the South Indian joints. A lot of our working saturdays (my office is in Matunga West) are planned around going for a Keralan meal at Mani’s Lunch Home or wolfing down hot rasam-vadas and paniyarams at Arya Bhawan. Two weeks ago when I planned a trip to Shanmukhanand in Sion to attend a concert, my brain was already hatching ideas to eat at either Arya Bhawan or the legendary Mysore Cafe.

On Sunday afternoon we drove to Sion and I suddenly realized that I was a hop, skip and jump away from Sion Koliwada. Which meant that Chawla’s chole-kulche joint mentioned by Gaurav on his blog (Eating Out In Bombay) was somewhere here. I asked around and we paced towards the area which was soon to become a mini Punjabi food paradise for me in Mumbai.

The tandoors (clay ovens) outside every shop took me back to my childhood when every summer holiday was spent eating rotis straight out of these tandoors. My nana-nani’s (maternal grandparents) village in district Udhamsingh Nagar was inhabited by Punjabis and there wasn’t a single house without a large tandoor in its courtyard. After the last game of eye-spy or langdi-kabaddi when we walked back home in the evening, calls of “rotti kha le” (come have food) from every home would entice us; their doors always stood ajar to welcome whoever was passing by.

Back in Sion Koliwada I was walking past counters lined with imartis and mathris and shops filled with jars full of pickles. But the partially downed shutters and cold tandoors made my heart sink. The Gods of food were definitely smiling on us cause we spotted Chawla’s at a corner, tandoor still fired up and people still sitting and eating.

Few rickety tables and wooden benches made the road-side eatery’s sitting area. An old, Punjabi uncle took our order – 1 plate kulche-chole, 1 plate chole-bhature, 2 chaas, 1 plate dahi all for just Rs 90.

Practiced hands of the cook stuffed dough with spicy potato mix, rolled it into a round disk and slapped the disk against the inner wall of tandoor to let it roast. As the kulcha cooked slowly my mind wandered to a similar road-side dhaba in Amritsar where I had eaten the best kulchas of my life almost 10 years ago. The potato stuffed flat-bread with crispy layers, laden with butter and served with spicy chole has been one of my best food memories. Mouth salivating and tummy rumbling in anticipation, we sat down to eat. The mashed, dark brown chole were the exact replica of my Amritsar memories and baloon like puffed bhature were stretchy, like a bhatura should be. The kulcha didn’t have so many layeres and wasn’t so crisp but every inch of it was stuffed with delighful potato masala. We washed this down with thick, cold chaas flavoured with cumin powder and coriander.

Our hearts completely satisfied, our tummies slightly heavier, as we walked back it was the sweet shop distracting us again. The good fortune was still shining on me and I found chhena murki – sweet made of cottage cheese and dipped in sugar syrup, something I was craving for two days ago. Mouth stuffed with chhena murkis and stomach full with kulche-chole, we walked out of the mini Punjab in the heart of Mumbai.

Greek Food Festival @ Renaissance Convention Centre Hotel

It won’t be an exaggeration if i say that Renaissance, Powai is my favourite hotel in Mumbai. The location is just perfect; in the midst of greenery, by the lake it’s a great place to unwind. Their Italian restaurant is undoubtedly the best in the city and their Executive Chef Jolly probably one of the most charming Chefs. 

I have attended quite a few food festivals, media dinners and bloggers’ meets here. After a long gap I visited Renaissance again to try out their Greek Food Festival at the Lake View Cafe. Chef Douskos George from Ledra Marriott, Athens has flown down to share his recipes for this festival. Here’s what I liked (and didn’t like) from the spread.


Apart from the traditional Greek salad there was one with prunes, bacon and zucchini and a pickled fish salad. Loved both but Greek salad won because of feta, of course. 


Out of hummus, babaghanoush and yogurt dip I liked the yogurt dip best. For some reason I prefer the Lebanese hummus over the Greek one.


Greek version of shawarma or gyro were good. Still, shawarma wins for me. The roast lamb leg in mustard sauce was the dish of the day for me, also the moussaka. Sorry for not taking pictures, I was a little too busy eating.

The dessert section was somewhat generic and the famous baklava was missing. But these Greek yogurt tarts made up for it. The yogurt was mildly sweet and the tart perfectly baked.




Loukoumades or honey puffs were specially recommended by the Chef. The deep fried dough balls were flavoured with cinnamon and topped with honey and crushed dryfruits. The dessert had a crispy and mildly sweet crust but was too dry from the inside. It didn’t hit the right note with us sweet loving Indians. However, the Chef served it again topped with a little Nutella which made it taste almost like a doughnut.


And yes, we did break a plate.


The Greek Food Festival at The Lake View Cafe, Renaissance Conventions Centre Hotel is on till Sunday, September 8; 7.30pm onwards.

Wine, Wazwan and conversations at Taj Lands End + Mutton Roganjosh Recipe


Wazwan is one of the most famous and still untouched cuisines of India. Very few restaurants foray into this rich food culture and those who do, do not go beyond Roganjosh or Kashmiri Pulao. Well, there’s a lot more to this cuisine which is influenced by Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims from Samarkand and surprisingly Buddhist Monks who migrated to Kashmir from Laddakh. My interest in Wazwan was generated when I read Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar The Clown several years ago and that’s what took me to Kong Poush, a now shuttered Kashmiri restaurant in Oshiwara which was my real introduction to Wazwan. Given the extreme unavailability of Wazwan food in Mumbai it was tough to say no when an invitation to taste the Kashmiri food came my way. 

Masala Bay at Taj Lands End in Bandra is celebrating the elaborate cuisine till the 31st of March and has flown down Chef Sewa Singh from Vivanta by Taj in Srinagar to prepare the delicacies. Apart from the bloggers and the people from media the Executive Chef of Taj Lands End, Chef Anirudha Roy also joined us for dinner. It was an extremely fruitful evening with good food, good wine and conversations about the history of Wazwan, the food culture in Kashmir and books. The normally media shy Chef spoke to us at length on various topics. 

As far as the food is concerned I am in love with the subtle flavours used in Wazwan dishes. The spices never overpower the principal ingredient. Wazwan, which is mainly a celebratory cuisine comprises of 36 dishes. Well actually the original cuisine had 105 dishes but most of them are lost in history. The menu at Masala Bay has included at-least 15 dishes out of the 36. They also serve a Peach mocktail garnished with kesar which gels well with the food. 


Although soup or shorba – very mildly spiced lamb broth, is not really a part of Wazwan it has been included in the menu and was a pretty good start to the meal.



The Kashmiri sheek kebabs were succulent, moist and full of spices unlike the dry sheek available at Mumbai’s most famous joints. Try them with the Apricot chutney served on the side.


Nadir or lotus stem is probably the most important part of Kashmiri cuisine and after eating the Nadir kebabs you won’t be wondering why. The soft and crunchy kebabs are made with a mix of lotus stem and dryfruits.



While the vegetarian options are limited the Paneer ki tikki is something that’ll keep you happy. Made with fresh cottage cheese, anardana and dryfruits the tikki is a fabulous blend of sweet and spicy flavours.



The main course has dishes like Rista which is served at the beginning of the meal. Rista is made with pounded meatballs (there’s a long process to prepare this meat where it is pounded till the red meat turns white and then it’s made into balls) cooked in a Kashmiri gravy made with moval extract, asofoetida, fennel and other spices. Gushtaba which is served at the end of the meal is the same meatballs cooked in a tangy yogurt gravy. We were blown over by both the dishes. The Mutton roganjosh was cooked with no onion or garlic in just ginger, asofoetida and fennel gravy and had meat falling off the bone. This with Kashmiri zafarani naan was a combination made in heaven, and with the food coming straight from the heaven on Earth I wouldn’t question that.



The rich Rajma made with small kidney beans and the Morel pulao was again something that had subtle flavours. Chef Anirudha told us that the technique to make the morel pulao is again very long and complimented which is one reason we don’t see it on a restaurant’s menu.


Another special addition to our meal was the small grained Kashmiri rice which the Chef had brought from the land itself. Now here’s an interesting fact that rice is actually the staple diet of a Kashmiri. A lot of their agriculture is based on rice. Bread on the other hand is mostly eaten for breakfast with Nun chai or salted tea. Rice or baatha is so important that during a Kashmiri wedding there’s a special function which involves cleaning of rice for the wedding. Only the closest female members of the family are invited to clean the rice. You can read more about it here. We were served this rice with Tilapia, Kashmiri fish cooked in red chilli gravy, another pair made in heaven.



The dessert wasn’t the usual Phirni, surprisingly, but was Suji ka halwa instead. The mildly sweetened semolina halwa had bigger grains instead of the regular small and fine ones.


The meal ended with a flavourful Kahwa, a Kashmiri tea which doesn’t have any tea and is made of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and fennel. 



It’s a pity that we are not aware of a cuisine which is so vast and is a culture in itself. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if i say that Wazwan is not just food, it’s a way of life.

The Wazwan Food Festival is on till the 30th of March.

Chef Sewa Singh

Post our meal we met the man behind all the goodness that we had just devoured, Chef Sewa Singh. The Chef might be a bit camera and people shy but he is the master of the art of cooking. Very graciously he shared his recipe of Mutton Roganjosh with me and here it is for you all to try.


Ingredients:

Lamb cubes (with bone)                1 kg
Desi ghee                                           110 gms
Turmeric powder                             10 gms
Kashmiri chilli powder                   25 gms
Dried Kashmiri chillies                  30 gms
Lamb stock                                       1 ltr
Dry ginger powder                           50 gms
Fennel powder                                 25 gms
Green cardamom                            5 nos.
Cinnamon stick                               4-5 nos.
Dry mint powder                             10 gms
Lamb fat                                            30 gms
Salt to taste

Method:
·         Blanch the lamb and wash to clean off all impurities.
·         Boil the whole chillies until soft, wash and make a fine paste with water.
·         Take ghee and lamb fat in a vessel, add cardamom and cinnamon, allow it to crackle.
·         Add salt, turmeric, red chilli powder, and red chilli paste and lamb stock.
·         Now add lamb, and cook until tender.
·         Remove lamb, strain the gravy and cook further till desired consistency.
·         Check for seasoning, finish with ginger powder, fennel powder and mint powder & serve hot.



Food Review: Purani Dilli Ka Zaika @ Copper Chimney

When going out for a family dinner an Indian restaurant is always the safest bet for me. So, on one of the Sundays we planned a dinner to celebrate a birthday. The unanimous choice was Copper Chimney in Oberoi Mall because it is close and convenient, especially when we were going for a movie at PVR. I have always liked Copper Chimney for its good food and not-so-exorbitant prices.

Before going for the dinner I checked out a couple of food blogs for the reviews of the ongoing ‘Purani Dilli Ka Zaika’ festival. There were few highly recommended dishes on these blogs and I decided to try them out. A separate menu for the festival was given to us which included road side food of Delhi such as shakarkandi ki chaat, aloo tikki chaat etc. followed by starters, main course and desserts.

I am not a fan of shakarkandi or sweet potato but the chaat had to be tried. We ordered one and it was a little sweet (which is its natural taste) and was tossed in a tangy masala and had a very ghar-ka-khana kind of touch to it. We also ordered aloo tikki chaat, tali machli and mutton sheekh kababs. While the tikki wasn’t as great, not very spicy but tangy chhole saved the day for it. Mutton sheekhs had more spice than other flavours and were a little ignored. The winner was tali machli; fried yet not oily, crispy, perfectly spiced and fresh. The highlight was that they used Vietnamese basa and made it desi, in a good way. I was glad that nothing was hole-in-your-sole spicy.

Shakarkandi ki chaat
Chhole tikki chaat
Mutton sheekh
Tali machli

Moving on to the main course we ordered Jama Masjid ka gosht korma. The dish sounded loaded with spices but it wasn’t. The thick curry or korma had a very light flavour of cardamom and well cooked mutton pieces. From the bread section we opted for the khameeri roti; rotis made with fermented dough which made them a little sour and fluffy. The combination of khameeri roti with the korma worked perfectly well. We also ordered a murg Changezi just to make it a whole meal by ordering a chicken as well. But it wasn’t a great idea. The chicken leg pieces were cooked in a very spicy dry masala and capsicum and tasted like any other dish at any other restaurant.

Jama Masjid ka gosht korma
Khameeri roti
Murg Afghani

At this point we decided not to try the desserts mainly because I have tried their phirni earlier and wasn’t too impressed. I remember it being too dry and loaded with kesar.

Given that out of 7 things that we tried, 4 were good and 1 excellent. Copper Chimney’s Purani Dilli Ka Zaika is worth a trip if you are planning a dinner with family or office colleagues.

P.S. – I hope tali machli also features in their regular menu.

Kharcha – Around 3000/- for four
On the burp scale – 3.5/5