Saturday, March 01, 2014

Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli revisited


The gorgeous Dilli ki Sardi continues, albeit, a lot abated. What better way to make the most of it than eat out; at a restaurant with loose white pebbled floor, over lots of talking and good food! Skeety did just that at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli, where she sampled some of the offerings of the new chef, Sujan Sarkar. He has taken over what was Chef Saby's stronghold and is wooing diners with his food artistry.
Sujan brings in a lot of zing to the food at Olive. If Skeeter has to sum up Chef Sujan Sarkar's vegetarian food in a line it would be this: Basic vegetables cooked and served with varied elements carefully weaved together to make the dish a work of art.
A wild mushroom tortellini had Skeeter floored at the onset. It has a robust flavour (hail the morels)and the presentation was at par with the taste. Nothing could comfort soul and sight more. Oh and the brioche served with it made for an excellent pairing!


Next came the Deep fried Brie with marinated beetroot, mandarin, apricot pûrée and rocket leaves. The thing about cheese is that when you cook it, it needs to be served at the right temperature. You either hit the spot or miss it. The brie was perfect and the accompaniments made it better, especially the marinated beetroot. Skeets is a big beet fan anyway. 
Gnocchi served up right in the cast iron skillet on a wooden tray was a treat to the eyes. Just like your mom would bring it to the dining table at home! It tasted perfect and had Chef Sujan's creative skills written all over it. The gnocchi came with broccoli and was tossed in a blue cheese sauce and sprinkled with garlic crumbs for a superb finish. Divine!



The wood oven roasted pumpkin stole the show at the table. It came with green beans, a dollop of creamy mascarpone labneh, a sprinkle of black quinoa seeds, popped amaranth, a dash pumpkin seeds, a slather of apricot purée, and pumpkin seed oil mimosa. The dish has eleven elements and is a killer if you are a pumpkin fan. If you are not it has the strength to turn you into one. Chef Sujan has pretty much an Indian mind {using many elements (read masalas) to make a star of a dish} but has tweaked it in an international style. While most Indian food is a resultant blend of many masalas, Sujan serves up the many ingredients in a dish in such a way that they taste superb. You can see them all and yet the clubbing of them make a single dish a star. So you know exactly what went into the making. Skeeter could go on... 


The garden vegetable primavera had handmade spinach fettuccine tossed with vegetables, pesto and pine nuts. The handmade fettuccine's texture was a revelation as the flour had semolina mixed in it to give it a crunch. Also, it would retain its texture for a greater time period as compared to total APF. The pesto in which it was tossed tasted fresh and the dish was decadent. It was served with a truffle mash potato on the side. 


For dessert we had a Mille feuille of strawberry with strawberry sorbet, strawberry and mascarpone mousse. It was every girl's dream dessert. Skeeter wanted to take it home, freeze it and frame it :D 
The signature dark chocolate fondant was well plated but nothing to write home about. Also, do try their petit fours which come in a striking peacock blue box containing butter cookies, honeycomb, chocolate bombs with Callebaut goodness and a stack of macaroons. Go for it!
P.S. You are likely to experience a visible change in the staff. They know what they are serving and would come and politely introduce themselves to you. A good sign, I say.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Of Raclette and chocolate at Hyatt Regency, Delhi

Delhi winters are coming to an end and Skeeter hates bidding good bye to winters. All fatty (read yum) foods are best enjoyed in Dilli ki Sardi. So Skeeter decided to bid adieu to Delhi winters 2013-14 in style. A Stammtisch dinner at Hyatt Regency, Delhi did it for her. No one eats cheese like the Swiss and the French do. And you know you are in good hands when a Swiss chef is taking care of you. Skeeter met chef Marin Leuthard who has put together the Stammtisch menu after some pondering over which cheeses to include, what would his patrons like and so on.
Stammtisch is a friendly dinner over conversation, great wine and food. It originated in Germany where regulars meet at a table reserved for them one particular day of every week. They debate/talk on various topics. At Hyatt, there is a long table for 12 reserved for the Stammtisch where people can meet, greet and eat. There can be strangers on the table too! All unite for food and talk.

Our table on the day we visited had a rather small gathering but a rather interesting conversation that ranged from the preferred cheeses of the Swiss, to Raclette that we sampled later, on to the delightful Swiss chocolates and much more.
The buffet menu is pretty wide and changes on a rotaional basis so that guests coming back get ample variety to savour. Skeeter shall share her three favourites from the Hyatt's Stammtisch menu.


Raclette is a Swiss cheese which is nothing short of poetry for the way it is had. You heat it over a special Raclette grill or a pan, scrape off a melted portion onto a plate. Baby potatoes, Rosti (a swiss potato pancake),  gherkins, pickled onions and dried meat are the usual accompaniments. It is so famous that almost every Swiss household has a Raclette grill. Raclette is made from cow's milk and there are a couple of stories associated with it, the most prominent one being that the farmers had it as a nutritious meal. They would leave the cheese near the fire and go to work to come back to a melted Raclette, which, they would then have with bread. Buy the story or not, do go to Hyatt for the Raclette experience. You can skip the Rosti they serve it with or ask for a non oregano-ed/herbed version of the same. Skeeter bets it would taste better without those.
Skeeter's next favourite was the Spatzle. It is dish which surfaces in many German, Swiss and Hungarian meals(pre-packed ones are available too). Spatzle is essentially a homemade egg dumpling which was super soft and was served with some Emmental cheese and topped with fried onions. Yum!

A white chocolate bark studded with almonds had Skeeter floored towards the end of the meal. It was showcased brilliantly: unevenly broken barks of Swiss milk chocolate with almonds clumped together in glass. It tasted great and had great visual appeal. Have never loved white chocolate like the way I did at Hyatt.

Oh and there was a fab cake spiked with Kirsch too!


Friday, January 31, 2014

Rosang cafe has a new address

A hands on host, simple, uncomplicated flavours served up straight from the heart sum up the Rosang experience in one line for Skeeter. Cafe Rosang was on Skeeter's 'hitlist' since long. They shut shop at Hauz Khas Village only to resurface at a new address in Green Park. The menu features indigenous food from the seven Northeastern states of India. One might be tempted to order the usual suspects (momos above all elese), but it is advisable to unleash some new flavours on your tastebuds and have them rollling!


Skeets tried the Veg combo meal in which she opted for Aloo Taama from Sikkim, a dish made with potatoes and bamboo shoot curry. It was a very flavourful curry of potatoes and bamboo shoots with whole peppercorns thrown in. The base of mustard oil lifted its taste manifold. The Masoor dal in the accompanying bowl was simple fare that had a very gratifying 'I ate my dal chawal' effect. It was scented with lemongrass which can give your daily dal a whole new perspective. A must try! 

The Kol Posola from Assam is the pith found in a young banana plant. It is quite unique in its flavour and is an acquired taste for those who are not used to eating hitherto unknown parts of the banana plant. Some communities in India make the best use of the banana plant from the fruit to the leaf and on to the stem. Another culinary jewel, this! The Iromba (made with fish paste) was replaced on our request with a Raja Mirchi chutney. We were suitably forewarned to have only a little at a time and we did! But we liked this bomb on the scoville scale so much that we ended up getting it packed for home as well!!!





All of the above came in very apt portions and could easily be shared if you don't have a big appetite. We also got a serving of wild red rice on request and happily ate it all. The red colour and the slight chewy texture made it fun to eat.  Though Skeets would've loved to try a lot more on the menu, the meal ended with a fragrant red rice tea, which is a digestive beverage of sorts. It is very popular in some South East Asian countries. If you like the earthy flavour of ground rice, this is a delectable one, served with a small piece of jaggery to end it all on a sweet note. Oh and did I say the place is pocket friendly? You bet! Rs 1100 for a meal for two with one non-vegetarian dish. Skeeter promised herself to go back for more! Watch this space :-)


Friday, December 27, 2013

Zerruco By Zilli

Pre-launch preview of Zerruco By Zilli



Aldo Zilli, one of Skeeter's favourite Television chefs, opened doors to Zerruco by Zilli at Hotel Ashok this week. Skeeter was invited and she happily hopped, skipped and jumped for the pre-launch preview. It is one thing to see him on TV and another to have him cook for you. Skeeter is a lucky girl! Without further ado, lets gets cracking!



Meeting Zilli
Though Reeta Skeeter finds herself at a loss of words, she will try to sum up her experience here:
Aldo, is a thorough gentleman, and a fine host. If he's around Skeeter can bet, you will be treated like a royal. Skeeter turns princess?! Aldo noticed that the dining table was more than a couple of inches away from Skeeter and promptly made a correction. He noted Skeeter was the only vegetarian on table and the waiting staff were instructed very well. It often happens that Skeeter is served one non-vegetarian dish at some or the other meal she has. At Zerruco, she did not have to bother.

Zilli tidbits
Zilli has been serving a lot of Indians at Zilli Green and is well aware of the no-egg, no-fish, no-chicken clientele. Read Skeeter was well-fed. He has no qualms about serving his food to vegetarians. After all, he has authored Fresh & Green with over a 100 vegetarian recipes! Most non-Indian chefs opening in India find it a challenge to serve food to vegetarians. For Zilli it was a smooth ride.
Zilli revealed he does not believe in the concept of whole wheat pasta. He said, "it just does not taste the same". And who would care? There are so many fresh vegetables tossed along with pasta that you do get your share of health food.

Unlike other international chefs foraying into new territory (India), Zilli has had all his fingers in curry thanks to his good friend and Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar who has fed Aldo, a lot of Indian food.
When Manish Baheyti of of Haute Services Pvt. Ltd spoke to good friend Atul Kochhar when they were looking for a chef, it was Kochhar who recommended Aldo Zilli's name. The rest, as they say, is for us Delhiites to savour at Zerruco by Zilli.

Food at Zerruco by Zilli

We started with warm flatbread served by Aldo Zilli himself! It was accompanied by a very fresh pesto and olive oil, balsamic on the side. Fresh ingredients, which are a Zilli trademark, ruled the table. Minestrone classico, the classic Minestrone soup, got the nod from all on the table with fresh vegetables, beans and baby pasta. It touched the soul. The Melanzane Alla Parmigiana or layers of fried aubergine with tomato sauce, fresh mozarella cheese and basil came next and set the mood for the evening.

Melanzane Alla Parmigiana

Fresh and hot tagliatelle pasta with Mediterranean vegetables and red pepper pesto came plated in a classic way and impressed Skeeter's tastebuds. A salad with garden fresh lettuce, select olives, roasted bright yellow zucchini, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan was rustled up for Skeeter.


Tagliatelle pasta with Mediterranean vegetables and red pepper pesto
Warm salad

And while the stomach was protesting, who can resist a pizza? Skeeter is glad she had it! The Pizza was extraordinary and Skeeter highly recommends it. Skeeter is definitely going back for some more! THE best Pizza in Delhi. The crust, the base sauce, the cheese, the temperature of the pizza while serving it, were all  perfect!


                                            Fragrant rice and vegetable steak

The Tiramisu was fab (though Skeeter prefers the sponge fingers dipped in rum for that spike) and these two (Pizza and a dessert) make or break an Italian meal. Happy to report that Zerruco by Zilli has nailed it!

Tiramisu: Italian classic trifle flavoured with coffee,layered with sponge fingers & mascarpone 

About Aldo

Aldo Zilli is an Italian from Abruzzo and has been living in the United Kingdom, where he rose to fame and is known for his Italian, vegetarian and seafood. Besides being famous for his food, he has authored a few cookbooks, hosts TV shows and is always striving for providing people around him something new and better. You can read more about him here

Where: Zerruco By Zilli, Ashok Hotel, Diplomatic Enclave, 50 B, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Deep fried delights from Old Delhi


The delayed onset of Delhi winters had Skeety huffing and puffing, till she got a call from a friend who wanted Skeety to take a few friends on an Old Delhi trip. Skeets only likes going to Old Delhi alone, so this was a first of its kind trip. It brought much needed cheer and we were soon walking past Red Fort and entering Old Delhi. Though Skeeter did not have much time to plan this one, but she tried to make the visitors take back with them some happy Delhi food memories.
At the first halt, we had bedmi puri and a spicy aloo sabzi with a tangy, crunchy instant carrot pickle, kachoris at the mouth of Kinari Bazaar. Old marwari delicacies, these. No onions and garlic are used in the preparation of food in marwari/Jain households and yet it is so appealing to the taste buds. We proceeded to have kesar pista milk (we Delhiites call it bottle wala doodh), which is boiled with nuts and saffron and then chilled and poured into the classic old (recycled) bottles. Moving on, we had some fabled "banta" or lemon soda from the very famous Ved Prakash lemon wale. The bottle here again is iconic. Skeets read a story about the banta bottle here and would love to share it with the readers and especially Anita (the mastermind of the trip), Nandini & Ajit, Manisha who were with Skeeter on the trip.


At the onset of winter, most residents of North India begin stocking on their favourite revris and gajjak. These are sesame seed and jaggery brittle preparations (some call them nut bars/energy bars) in various shapes, sizes and flavours that keep you going when the winters unleash their cruelty. They are healthy when had in small quantities per day and well, keep you warm and going. We get ones with peanut too! Some have rose petals thrown in and others have pistachio or cardamom and other spices. You get to choose your flavour but all of them have a distinct taste that keeps your craving another bite. Inside Kinari bazaar, there are two shops that stock gajjak from Meerut. We stopped and bought our share before proceeding to the famous paranthe wali gali. We met Khemchand, the Daulat ki Chat guy on our way and everyone loved it. Manisha who had "seen" it on on of her earlier visits, got to taste it as well! You can read more about it here


Ajit really was in the mood to sample some paranthas and none of the party wanted them, but we stood by him, and helped him polish off his paranthas. He got a little shock when the parantha people told him he cannot order a single parantha. He had to order minimum of two! He observed many a things there, one them being that they "actually use shuddh ghee" in Old Delhi. He was amazed to see large cannisters of shuddh ghee or clarified butter being poured out for use. Here's some more of his observation in his words, "Lot of the base items (paranthe, bedmi puri etc) by themselves were mild (little seasoning). But when you have them with the accompaniments, they're heavenly." He observed this as he got spicy aloo sabji and instant carrot pickle with bedmis. Also, with his deep fried, artery clogging paranthas, he got Aloo matar sabji, pumpkin or kaddu sabji, meethi chutney with slices of banana, khatti chutney, some more instant carrot pickle! His Sunday was definitely made! 
It was our turn now, as Ajit wiped his hands and we went across the road for Natraj Dahi bhalle and some HOT aloo tikkis. Skeeter feels the Natraj Dahi bhalle have lost their old glamour, taste and quality, nevertheless they were soft and appetizing.  The HOT aloo tikkis made Skeeter's Sunday. 
So while our stomachs were begging for mercy (no more food please), we went to Ballimaran to see the celebrated poet, Ghalib's haveli. On our way we stopped for some shakarkandi chaat (sweet potatoes tossed with a tangy masala and some lemon). What is a visit to Old Delhi in winters without sampling some of it. Nandini hit childhoood nostalgia on having it and told us how it was a common breakfast treat for her as a child and how we take such delicacies for granted and later, grow up to blog about them. Eh Nandini?! :-) On our way back we tried some Tiwari ke laddoo, some kulfi falooda and even packed some assorted savouries and Daulat ki Chaat for unaccompanying family members.
And last but not the least, thank you for what I call my baksheesh :D




Sunday, October 27, 2013

Delhi's hidden gem: Aap ki Pasand tea boutique by San-cha







Old Delhi's mystical charm draws Skeeter to the kuchas and gallis of this part, time and again. This time around, it was in order to dig another gem. A different one from the chaat, kheer or the bedmi puri kinds. Skeeter's been visiting Aap ki Pasand tea boutique by San-cha since a few years. When Splenda invited Skeeter for a 'harmless sweet' afternoon to her favourite tea shop, she found yet another reason to visit her favourite part of Old Delhi. It is chaotic, it is dirty, but it all emanates from the mind. Once you look beyond such things which usually keep the well-heeled folk from visiting these areas, you discover the underlying charm, which needless to say is quite underrated. We prefer malls over culture. Meh.
A group of eight food and drink enthusiasts gathered to learn a thing or two about tea from the very experienced tea taster Mr Sanjay Kapur who also happens to be the owner of the shop. Skeeter's been meaning to hear him talk "tea" since a long, long time. And sometimes you get things you ask for without having to bat an eyelid like Skeeter did. Mr Kapur touched upon a few important points which the emerging category of health conscious Indians are curious to know. The average person may however go about drinking his cuppa without having to care much. Skeeter is enlisting a few points touched upon by Mr Kapur for those who'd like to dwelve deeper.

Tea and Caffeine

250mg of Caffeine is the limit beyond which the American Psychiatric Association (APA) draws a line.

How much tea is enough or good?

It can be concluded that the regular intake of five or more cups of tea per day facilitates healthy ageing - Dr H. Weisburger. Institute of Cancer Prevention, American Health Foundation.

The average tea cup

The average tea cup contains 25mg Caffeine. The average cup measures 150 ml approx. The average tea bag contains 2mg of tea.

The black tea or green tea debate

There is no real evidence that signifies green tea to be better than black. In fact, Sancha's First Flush Darjeeling Black Tea selection which Mr Kapur describes as world's finest Darjeeling cuppa is very high in anti oxidants. It turns out that the PM took this tea as the Indian State's Gift to the Emperor of Japan early this year.

We tasted the Masala tea, the ginger tea and the First Flush Darjeeling Black Tea by Sancha. Skeeter quite liked the ginger tea without any added sugar or sweetener. And she is certainly going back for more.

More about Aap Ki Pasand
Locations:
Darya Ganj
Santushti shopping complex
Gurgaon (coming up very soon)

Tasting
Go to the tea boutique and taste your cuppa free of cost and pick what you like.

Recommendations
Besides the First Flush Darjeeling Black Tea, Skeeter recommends the ginger tea and the Jasmine tea pearls (a botanical blend).
Besides, there are several other blends that come packed beautifully, with a very Indian feel to them. They make for a great gift for the festive season or if you are travelling abroad and want to gift a something "very Indian" to your friends and relatives. Take your pick.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Guppy by Ai: talk of the town

To eat a different cuisine, and that, to a heartful doesn't happen very often. It happened at Guppy by Ai. Chef Vaibhav Bhargava and manager Gulzar, our hosts for the evening explained that at Guppy by Ai they serve their take on traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine with slight modifications to suit the Indian palate. The new menu, he goes on to explain, was a result of old favourites from Ai and the innumerable food tastings that happened at the restaurant before they opened doors to public. No wonder their menu is full of wonderful gastronomical surprises for the vegetarian taste buds. Skeeter for sure will be seen eating there more often. Chef Vikram Khatri who heads the kitchen was unfortunately not present on the night Skeeter visited.
Guppy is already the talk of the town as Skeeter spotted the who's who of town on the night of her visit. Chilli garlic flavoured edamame kicked off our evening. The edamame bean pods are usually boiled and salted but the Chilli garlic rendition of Guppy by Ai lent it a different note altogether. A must try. Next, came, a very fresh Guppy house salad with Zucchini ribbons, carrot ribbons, thin slivers of beet, bamboo shoot, bits of broccoli and palm heart tossed in karashi mustard, finished with a sprinkle a roast sesame seeds.
Rice paper vegetable rolls which had shredded vegetables and lettuce, wrapped in rice paper followed with yuzu kosho sesame sauce. The presentation was what fascinated Skeeter. Caramalised onion slivers plated in a way that they looked like a leaf! Ask for the Rice paper vegetable rolls and the house salad if you are particularly watching your weight. Anyone who indulges in the Sushi is not vegetarian debate, MUST try the tempura Sushi here and decide for themselves. There is a Sushi counter in the dining area where you can watch all the action live.
Chilli lime dressed Agedashi Tofu was the next to have Skeeter floored. Agedashi Tofu is traditionally served after it is cut into cubes, dusted with cornstarch and deep fried. It is then served placed on hot broth. This one had a tangy chilli lime dressing and a little salsa on the top and was served aka oroshi (a Japanese radish condiment) and dashi sauce. I've had better versions of the Miso soup elsewhere about but the Crisp vegetable Harumaki was a relevation: Baked filo pastry with a stuffing of shredded vegetables. Crisp on the outside with tender, flavourful vegetables inside; this top notch dish was presented strewn with pearl-like corn. It can be served fried also, if one requests (but I wonder who'd do that and why?). Impeccable plating clubbed with outstanding flavours. A winner, this. The presentation of all the food we had matched the equally delightful decor. Origami paper used as lampshades, metal lion fish lights, Japanese dolls and other Japanese artefacts placed all over the restaurant showcase the effort put in for doing up the place.

The rock corn tempura stole Skeeter's heart. It was served with a Sriracha spiced mayo that teased the tongue gently. The Teriyaki glazed artichoke and Tofu set made a good pair with the garlic fried rice which Skeety really enjoyed. End your meal with a Yuzu lemon cheese cake which has a splendid Kaffir lime glaze on top of it, or opt for a warm carrot cake with a cream cheese drizzle. The warm carrot cake was ethereal. Served at an excellent temperature, this sublime cake was spiced with cinnamon and was a great finish to a phenomenal meal.

I've also had people sing praises about Guppy by Ai's gorgeous Black Cod plated on a hot stone, the Ramen that is served in a broth that take 72 hours to prepare and excellent Pork Belly. But more about that later.
Address- 28, Main Market, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi
Timings: 12 to 3.30 and 7pm to 1am
Lunch for two w/o alcohol: 1500 ++
Dinner  for two w/o alcohol: 2000 ++
For Reservation - 01124690005/6, +919650185005