The Vegetarian Bhukkad | The journey of a food addict
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Sucheta had major Gujarati and Punjabi influences in her eating habits during her growing up years. Restaurant Reviewer! Runner Up, Best Vegetarian Food Blog at the Indian Food Blogger Awards 2015
There are some meals that leave an imprint on you and then there are places that make each and every visit of yours worthwhile and memorable.
The Leela, Mumbai is a family favourite and honestly, we are just looking out for reasons to visit!
Chef Surendar Mohan’s food and Deepak’s hospitality at Jamavar and Tushar at Citrus during the brunch service and the entire team at the Leela go all out to make sure you not feel very welcome, they make you feel respected, they make you feel special, they ensure you are happy and leave grinning ear to ear, abiding by the basic rule of hospitality, “Hospitality From The Heart.”
The Leela, Mumbai currently has the “Stories of The Streets”, where every Sunday, they take you through the local foods across a different part of the world. Last Sunday, they took us through the Middle East and our love for food from that region took mom and us to the Citrus for lunch!
Tushar was there that afternoon and took us through the various foods offered and the buffet in general.
The buffet had a large spread, there was Middle Eastern, there was South Indian, there was Thai, there was Indian, there was Italian, there was local Mumbai chaat, there was Dessert and so much more!!
We obviously gorged on most of the Middle Eastern fare that they had to offer, but their South Indian food was equally phenomenal too!
The Middle Eastern fare was huge but we had a few favourites!
The Sweet Potato Steak was a very welcome change to the deep fried hash browns that we usually eat, this was well made and the hint of spice made it an enjoyable appetiser. We also had the Vegetarian Cutlets, Lebanese style and what I really liked about these was that (a) they were freshly made and not out of a packet, and (b) you could actually taste the vegetables used in them.
Moroccan Ice Tea
Tushar mentioned he wanted us to try one of the specials form their menu and there he came with Rock Corn, an appetiser from the Citrus menu, which he thought was something I would be trying for the first time and I was like, “Hey! That is my favourite from the menu and two portions of the same are a must when my friend Kriti and I come over because we always end up fighting over a portion and it is NEVER ENOUGH!”
Excitedly, I took the Rock Corn, called Kriti and then introduced mom to it!
Mom finally ended up getting a platter of some salads and sips that interested her and I got mine!
We loved the Muhammara, the Tzatziki, the Mediterranean Rice Saladthat exceeded all our expectations, the Broken Wheat Saladwas new flavour dimension for both mom and me when to broken wheat and we loved it, the Hummus that was phenomenal (I may have had at least 2 bowls of this!!) and the zatar mac and cheese on the other hand was something we did not like in particular!
Mom had the Tamatar Shorbaand loved it, the flavours were distinct and filled you with warmth every time you took a sip while I awaited my Masala Dosa. The dosa was fantastic and I loved the generosity of the bhaji in it. The dosa came with 4 coconut chutneys, carrot which was a little sweet, the tomato which was nice, the plain coconut which was brilliant and the coriander which was good too!
Tushar got us something called the Maharaja Dosa next. He asked us to taste and guess what it actually was and we loved what we had, we found it to be a little sweet and the colour on the dosa was a little different, so we guessed it could either be a dessert dosa or a dosa made from different ingredients.
Alas, we were wrong, it was the same dosa, slow cooked with more ghee than the usual.
We also had the Falafel Sandwiches which lived up to all expectations!
The Dessert spread was massive and boasted of dishes like the Pink Chocolate Fountain, Sevaiya Kheer, Motichoor Laddoos, Mango Coconut Cake and what not!
Mom went for second helpings of the kheer and I could not resist the Mango Coconut cake! It was the finest I have EVER had!
And then we thought we were done and suddenly there is this delicious looking waffle on my plate. Something Tushar made himself, crisp waffles, whipped cream and chocolate! Very homely and truly soulful!
What we also love about the Leela and their people is how they take you through the journey of food served that day and their attempt to build conversations with their guests and personalise the entire experience for them is genuinely what makes people want to go back again and again and again!
All I can say is, Thank You for the Memories.
You’ll do make every meal worthwhile!
The Non Alcoholic Brunch on Sundays that we usually have is priced at INR 2695++
Earlier this month, we celebrated World Chocolate Day, not only did we celebrate World Chocolate Day, we also celebrated 70 years of Cadbury in India! E
70 years of a brand that actually introduced India to the taste of chocolate,
70 years of a brand, that has consistently been the taste of chocolate in India,
70 years of making moments special,
70 years of being your companion through ups and downs,
how many companies can boast of that?
My grandparents and great grandparents, even to this day address a bar of chocolate as Cadbury, whatever it may actually be. And for us, getting a bar of Cadbury as appreciation from our elders is still the proudest of all awards and my mum even today as a matter of fact will always opt for a bar of dairy milk over any other fancy chocolate!
Cadbury celebrated this milestone with 2 major things:
The launch of a brilliant cookbook filled with recipes using Cadbury ingredients by Zeba Kohli, and
The official launch of their newest product, the Dairy Milk Spready!
While the cookbook boasts of some very delicious and very simple recipes and am still to try those out, am already a couple of jars of the Spready down!
Unlike the other brands of chocolate spreads that are thick and luscious and gooey, this one has a really thin consistency but it does taste like a combination of eclairs and dairy milk which is definitely a walk down memory lane!
To also mark 70 years of Cadbury in India, they have also launched The Cadbury Vintage Box that you can order from Amazon. The box specializes in Cadbury wrappings from day 1 and weighs around ½ a kilo!
It always gives me so much joy when brands go out of the way to curate festivals and dining experiences revolving around regional cuisines in India, bringing an experience on a dining table that not many would have had a chance otherwise, thereby giving their guests a sneak peak into the rich culture and heritage of the said region and there by, also busting a lot of myths and highlighting facts in the process.
What also makes gets me more excited is when a Gujarati Food Festival is hosted. All my love for Lebanese and Punjabi food put apart and then there is this part of me that only loves and craves for Gujarati food, the cuisine I grew up eating, the food that we are known for, the food that cuisine that also became a family identity for us, the cuisine that is the reason for so many awards in my maternal grand mother and mother’s name and when Sofitel Mumbai BKC announced their Gujarati Food Festival at Tuskers, I knew I had to visit this, come what may!
Gujarat is a state with varied flavours and recipes for similar dishes, different areas using locally grown ingredients which are dependent on weather conditions and water availability in the region. The difference can be very easily spotted between recipes from South Gujarat and North Gujarat, the former using a primary spice base of freshly grown and ground green chillies and fresh garlic while up north, they use a lot of dried red chilli powder! The cuisine from the state of Gujarat has so much to offer in terms of variety of flavours and experiences that it can get overwhelming for a lot of people!
Back to my experience at the Gujarati Food Festival at Tuskers, this time, Maharaj Jankidas who helms Tuskers was joined by Chef MukeshKumar and Chef Diwakar from Novotel Ahmedabad for this festival with a common aim of bringing authentic Gujarati delicacies to Mumbaikars.
With Bandhnis and elephants and katputlis, Tuskers set the mood right in terms of the ambiance and Anthony went all out with his fabulous hospitality!
While Neha was on her way and I was super hungry, I started off with a portion of Sabudana Wadas. Accompanied by some pudina chutney and tamarind-date chutney, unlike the others, this one was more flatter, less oily but equally delicious!
The Gujarati Food Festival menu at The Tuskers ahs both options, a la arte and a set meal!
We opted for a set meal and requested them to serve it to us in a thaali form!
The thaali arrived in all its grandeur, with a large variety of food!
The Farsan element of the meal had Sev Rolls, Methi na Gota, Lilva Kachori and Handvo. The sev rolls were hand down my favourite, mashed boiled potatoes lightly spiced, rolled in vermicelli and deep fried! Is there anything about this that you may not like or enjoy?
The Methi na Gota were a little dense for my liking but the handvo was perfect!
The mains had Vaal Nu Shaak that tasted just like the one that my mum makes; Lasania Bataka which were the highlight of my meal (ended up eating some of this plain after my meal); the Surti Undhyu which was a little moist for my liking; Bhinda Capsicum which was a new for me even though am a Gujarati and I thoroughly enjoyed this combination. The set meal actually had Sev Tameta nu Shaak and since I personaly don’t like this much, I had requested them to replace it with Lasania Bataka and am so glad I did that!
The Sabjis were accompanied by Biscuit Bhakri, so good that you could taste the ghee through it, Bajra no Rotlo that tasted like what my nani makes at home and hot Fulka Rotlis. I mentioned to Anthony that I like my rotlis kadak and doused in ghee and did he deliver? Hell yeah, every time I finished a rotli, another piping hot rotli was waiting for me!
The Khaati Meethi Dal was overpowered by the strong flavour of cloves and the same was the case with the Kadhi.
There was also Bhaat and Kathiawaadi Khichdi and ghee and jiggery and athaanu to accompany our meal!
The desserts followed and even though we were too full to eat them, we did relish a bite! There were Ghugras and Mohanthaal, traditional Gujarati sweeta usually made for festivals!
Almost 3 and a half hours of good food, brilliant hospitality and fun conversations later, our meal ended on a happy note and we left smiling!
Some meals, do make happy memories and this one was indeed one of those!
Celebratory meals have always held a very special place in my life and I personally go all out to ensure they become memorable! When Hotel Marine Plaza reached out to me last week to visit them, I knew for sure that this one was going to be special! With mom’s birthday coming up and the view that The Marine Plaza offers, this meal would have been the most perfect way to kickstart her birthday week! That’s how we ended up at The Bayview at The Marine Plaza hotel late last week!
The Bayview not only hosts a brilliant buffet with a large variety of foods and dishes from across various regions and cuisines, but also has a really appealing a la carte menu that we eventually opted for!
Our meal began with a variety of beverages that we were apt to kill the heat! Mom had the Iced Tea that was a little bland while I had the Jade which had a refreshing undertone of pineapples, this one was such a delight and oh so welcome!
The Roasted Tomato Soup was a surprise change from the usual tomato basil soup that has taken over all our meals outside and the fact that this was accompanied by some very delicious pesto toast which was literally the cherry on the cake; the soup had this lovely smoky flavour that the pesto on the toast lifted so well!
The sight of the Mumbai local segement on the menu had me all excited and knowing how much maa enjoys Ragda Pattice, we just had to order this and nothing makes the both of smile like a well made ragda pattice does! This dish was over in a jiffy!!!!
The Tandoori Bharwnan Aloo was something I personally was really looking forward to knowing my love for potatoes! This came with a really tiny bowl of dal, some super dry salad and some papad and chutney! This dish, honestly in my opinion would go off very well as an appetiser with just the chutney! The Dal and the rotis and that salad (that salad felt and tasted really old) were really not necessary for this, because they just stiff you up; don’t leave you satisfied like you would after a meal!
The Tiramisu was indeed a disappointment! The basic cake sponge was very dry and the lacked the coffee flavour in general!
A few misses, some really good hits; our lunch at The Marine Plaza was indeed memorable and something I would maybe think about twice before going to again!
It is very rare, that I sit to write about a dining experience immediately after getting home, my experience at The Culture House a couple of hours ago was one such experience!
Helmed by 4 Gujaratis, Mr. Divyesh Thakkar, Mr. Sameer Gandhi, Mr. Jayesh Vora and Mr. Kaushik Mehta, who love to not only eat food, but also feed people. The Culture House is a restaurant with an amalgamation of the rich cultural heritage that our nation boasts of, of royal hospitality, of recipes passed down generations, of the joy of feeding your guests and ensuring they have a memorable experience and leave them wanting more!
In a day and age where delivery kitchens have literally taken over our houses, and cooking at home has drastically reduced as compared 5 years ago, the Culture House aims to attract you to a dining experience of the food that all of us grew up eating, food that our grandparents made where the secret ingredient was always love!
While The Culture House opens to public today, we were amongst the few who were invite to be part of the launch yesterday. The launch had the families and friends of the owners and a few media writers at the event, where all you could feel in the atmosphere was a genuine warmth and affection, something that we don’t experience on a daily basis at least when it comes to restaurants!
The evening kick-started with some unique and yum beverages like the Thandai Shots (which were a little strong on the pepper, keeping the chill in the air in mind); the Ice Orange Cold Coffee that were espresso shots, orange flavoured; and the Damroo Paan Shots, that I personally loved, why these stood out was because thy did not use any paan flavouring and actually had betel leaves blend through along with the feeling for the famous Calcutta meetha paan.
The Bajri Soup and The Clear Vegetable Dhokli Soup were all things wintery and what my nani usually makes every winter. The Bajri Soup also had whole Bajri millet in them and was flavoured with just the basic needed spices, hence allowing the Bajri to shine and the dhokli in The Clear Vegetable Dhokli Soup was highlighted by the flavours of ajwain also lifting the soup into itself being being the hero of the table. Simple flavours, nothing overpowering each other and soul touching food is what this course was about!
The Appetisers and Chaat followed, beginning with the Moongdal Bajri Khichu which also turns out to be maa’s favourite and she thoroughly relished it! This came with the usual oil and sukho sambhaar that khichu is traditionally eaten with. You could actually see maa break into a smile as she relished this, and it is after a long time I have seen food have this impact on her. The Tam Tam Dhokla came next and I loved this one. My favourite nylon dhokla was tossed in butter along with some red garlic chutney and coarsely chopped garlic, served with a dhania chutney, I truly relished this dish! The Sasumaa no Handvo came next and what impressed me with this dish was the fact that this came with pudina chutney, just showing how much attention to detail has been put into understanding flavour combinations and planning the menu!
The Chaat brought along with a lot of surprises (literally!). The Jalebi Mirchi Chaat came first and just the name of it had us a little worried about how it actually would be, this was basically a sev puri recreated, where the jalebi replaced the puri and the mirchi vada replaced the potato stuffing; just a bite into this and you know nothing ever went wrong with this and is now a new favourite. The Kolkata Dahi Wada came next and the Kolkata touch in this dish, rasgullas! Yes the dahi wada’s were actually rasgullas topped with whisked curd, chutneys and masalas! So, so cool! Since we don’t eat raw curd, we had ours without the curd and loved it even then!
The mains had us really excited, mom opted for another of her favourites, The Rigna No Olo and Bajri Rotlo and I ended up with the Puran Poli with Aloo Chips Sukhi Bhaji. The Rigna No Olo and Bajri Rotlo was fabulous and came with homemade white butter, jaggery, urad dal, spring onions and garlic chutney. A meal on its own, and a delicious one indeed, this one portion can easily feed two people and. The Puran Poli with Aloo Chips Sukhi Bhaji turned out to be the dish of the evening for me! This is anyways my favourite food but why it stood out was unike the usual haldi-mirchi-dhania jeera masala we use to cook the chips nu shake with, this one used very basic fresh spices, coriander and fresh coconut; flavours that worked so well with the puran podi too! Love, Love, Love happened (and it happened again when I ordered another portion of it)!!
The Achari Waghareli Khichdi and Kadhi was something we just tasted but loved and would have cleaned out had we not eaten so much already! The kadhi was just like what maa makes at home and the khichdi, unlike most places actually had khatti kairi (a traditional Guajarati pickle) in it!
Mom loves Shrikhand and she refused to leave without trying this, and like the rest of the meal this did not disappoint either!
The food at The Culture House primarily is a Gujarati-Rajasthani food, simple, homely, low on oil and leaves you satisfied!
The interiors at are a blend of of both old and new world, with elements that reminded maa of her visits to her nani’s house in Gujarat during her childhood! Indeed, some very warm memories.
What also made our evening very special was that every course was introduced to us through a sing song that was performed live by Gujarati theatre actors, Mr. Chirag Vohra, Ms. Akanksha Gade and Dr. Parag Zaveri and our meal ended with a talk by the renown Gujarati speaker, Mr. Jay Vasavda who highlighted the importance of bringing traditional Indian recipes, passed down generation to the world (a fan of Mr. Vasavada that I personally am, I also got lucky to get a copy of his latest book signed) !
We all come across ups and downs in life, a lot of these are lessons that have been results of experiences with bad and good. Today was one such day!
Almost a fortnight ago, I received an invite to review the newly launched Tasse De Thé in Bandra west. Already a big fan of their Fort outlet, I was super excited for this one and after a lot of planning, we finally visited it today, with my favourite people for company, Anahita aunty from sweetannu.com and I were doing a joint review. Everything was perfect, or we thought so!
Tasse De Thé in Bandra is spread across two floors, a ground floor and a first floor. While going upstairs since Anahita aunty had already reached and was seated upstairs.
While climbing up, someone from the team was very impolite and said you need to come down and order, we wont be coming up; fine, that is alright!
Went up, met Anahita aunty and we moved downstairs.
Since this was a review invite and we knew this was a set menu, we asked for the waiter to run us through it orally since they had literally no printed menus, except the thing on the wall with just the variety of tea mentioned.
Things went downhill from here, the manager refused to come out from behind the dessert counter and talk to us; he just leaned over and said we will send things on our own. I was like alright, just make sure to be a little careful since am extremely allergic to mushrooms! We also requested for some water and ended up doing so for the next 15-20 minutes till we raised the issue with this person in the restaurant who claimed to be the owner’s brother and and interior decorator. This person the asked us if only I was interested in some water or would the others on my table also be interested (like really!!!).. The water came in a jiffy and then we were asked what beverage would we like from the latte, frappe and iced tea menu! I opted for the Classic Hot Chocolate, Anahita aunty opted for the Blueberry Frappe and my mum opted for the Orange Rooibos from the latte menu. Something as basic as tissues and spoons were given after asking for them. Both, the hot chocolate and blueberry milkshake lacked sweetness and mom’s orange rooibos was curdled! We showed this and they said its supposed to be like this; we asked them again, curdled milk, that can result in people falling severely sick is when they decided to take it back!
The sandwiches followed, we were not given a choice as to what sandwich we would like and they served Anahita aunty with a mushroom sandwich which was super bland and needed a lot of ketchup, a plum sandwich and a sriracha sandwich (mind you, this was a lunch review, oh and don’t go by their menu on zomato, you wont get anything of what’s mentioned on the menu on zomato here). The plum sandwich was just plum and fat on stale bread and the bread on the sriracha sandwich was no good either. Once again, we had to request for tissues which came after asking twice!
We also asked for some water for all of us which did not come after repeatedly asking for a very long time. Already upset with this entire experience, we asked the manager if there was anything else coming or should we just leave; he very conveniently replied saying bloggers can order whatever they like; at the same time I had turned around to this owner’s brother and I was like I have been asking for water since half an hour, is this how you’ll make people who you have invited beg for water and it is only when we come to you that the staff comes in a jiffy with the water! All said and done, make your guests feel like beggars for water is truly not acceptable!
What made matters worse was there were paying customers on the next table and the treatment rendered to them was a total opposite of the treatment given to us! When confronted over this they were just so ignorant.
Why invite people over if you don’t want to treat them correctly! Why discriminate between a paying customer and someone you have invited over?
There are things such as respect and courtesy that is really important the food being bad really didn’t upset me as much as the way the staff treated me because I love Tasse De Thé fort, but after this kind of treatment, I doubt I would ever recommend this place to anyone. Oh wait, ia cutely would. If there is someone you really want to have a bad day, or feel insulted, please do send them to Tasse De Thé’s Bandra outlet; they’ll do the most perfect job ever!
A couple of days ago, we dined at the newly launched Bombay Cartel located in Breach Candy, very close to Mahalakshmi temple.
The thing about pub visits in the afternoon is that you usually end up getting the entire place to yourself and have a laid back afternoon, that is exactly what happened at The Bombay Cartel.
A beautifully done up space with gorgeous large french windows, an open bar and some fantastic music sets the mood right at this place.
While going through the drinks and beverages menu, we were introduced to this concept unique to The Bombay Cartel called #ParkYourBottle where they allow you to purchase an entire bottle of your favourite drink, drink as much as you can from it and then store your bottle till your next visit/s till the bottle is over. You will be given a card for the same and you could even give the card to your friends for their next visit, incase you aren’t visiting (P.S. it makes a great gift too).
While it came to the beverages, we started off with the Tusker for me and the Burning Sour for Neha and they both were fantastic. Only downside was the server tried heating up the whiskey to give the flambé effect on the table but failed; nonetheless, the drink was fabulous and made up for the small incident!
Half way through the meal, the manager suggested we try the Lemongrass Martini and the Skydive, both of which nowhere matched the description in the menu, had no distinct flavours and were super sweet.
When it comes to the food, we started with the Potatoes Gonna Potate Platter. Most of the platter comprised of various ready to eat products easily available in the market, so it really does not make sense to comment on those, but there were these house onion rings on the platter that stole the show!
The appetisers followed and we opted for the Mini South India and the Golden Era and sadly, both disappointed. The mini idlis did not come with the salsa as mentioned on the menu, were coated in loads of masala, enough to maybe cook 3 portions of the same and put you off to such an extent where you wonder if you should be waiting for your next order or just leave.
The Golden Era basically was pav bhaji bruschetta topped with cheese and again was a massive disappointment with more than double the amount of chilli in it. We ended up asking for some sugar to calm us down!!!!
Since we had already ordered the mains, we decided to wait. The Dal Khichdi and the Penne in Tomato Cream. They arrived piping hot and to say that we truly loved these two dishes would be an understatement. These two truly ensured we left on a happy note with massive smiles.
Well cooked, not overspiced and just perfect. Only if all the dishes we ordered be made this way, we would have been happier souls!
Nonetheless, we do hope to visit this place again maybe in the evening and see how the other dishes fare!
How important a role does ambiance play when it comes to an eating experience is definitely underrated. Oh the food must be this and it must be that and oh it is always the food that matters over and above anything else and many such conversations undermine the role that an ambiance plays when it comes to a dining experience.
A couple of days ago, I got the chance to dine at the recently launched, The Fork Tale in Fort and this is the second time in the last couple of years that a standalone restaurant has an ambiance that played such an important role in making you feel royal!
A large, gorgeous chandelier welcomes you as you step into this very tastefully done restaurant and you immediately find yourself smiling and telling yourself that the drive from the suburbs has been worth it!
Coming to the food, The Fork Tale offers a unique dining experience, a buffet on your table; yes, you heard that right, a buffet on your table apart from the usual a la carte menu!
We opted for both and had a wonderful time indeed.
For the buffet, we opted for the “Patiala House” option and I personally was floored! This starts off with two variants of chaat and one of them was an apple chaat that I had for the very first time and surprisingly loved; the soup and appetisers followed. As delicious as these were, what truly made my afternoon was the main course! A large thaali appeared with an assortment of breads, the most sinful jeera rice that I may have ever consumed, dal tadka, seekh sabji (yes, veg seekh kebabs cooked in a gravy) which was the best part of the meal for me, methi malai mattar that tasted exactly like what nani makes at home, mix veg in a spinach gravy, and paneer tikka masala; so so good! So full by the end of this that I decide to totally skip dessert, but the smile of satisfaction by the end of the meal was indeed a genuine one!
While I totally binged on the Patiala House meal, my family decided to go a la carte and this is what they had:
Carrot Capuccino: A delicous carrot soup, well spiced topped with a delicious vanilla foam; what made this special was the contrast combination that gets you confused in the start and then slowly you start enjoying it and find it difficult to stop.
Wild Rice Nachos: A concept never heard of, the wild rice nachos are different and delicious. What also makes wild rice beneficial is that this is gluten free and packed with nutrients. These came served on a bed of grated cheese and not a cheese sauce, sour cream, guacamole, beans and salsa. A unique, yet delicious experience.
Veg Blast Pizza: Topped with generous portions of peppers, zucchini, olives, and jalapenos, this was delicious indeed but for me, I personally liked my pizza with a little more sauce, but thats about it.
Pumpkin Ravioli: I recently fell in love with the pumpkin and feta combination and hence this dish was a must! Topped with a sage butter sauce, cooked to perfection, not burnt, but cooked to that extent where it tastes hazelnutty!
Mix Veg Risotto: This came in a pink sauce and tasted just like what maa makes at home and we were delighted to get home style food here, why; not because the place has a fancy ambiance but also because it shows the attention to detail in the food and how they strive to give you comfort food, cooked well with good quality ingredients.
Cottage Cheese Steak: Amongst the least liked dishes of the meal, this was a grilled cottage cheese steak on a bed of mashed potatoes and vegetables topped with a honey mustard sauce; the honey mustard sauce actually killed the dish for us, but relished it otherwise.
Caramel Popcorn ice cream and Raspberry Cheesecake ice cream: The younger sister a caramel and ice cream addict and not ordering multiple scoops of ice cream for her at the end of a meal is a crime in the literal sense because she will literally be chewing our brains for the rest of the week then; the fact that these got cleaned out in a jiffy means they were good!!
The Fork Tale is a pure vegetarian restaurant, owned by Sarthak Oza, Marzy Parakh, Parth Dalal and Nikhil Mody.
It is very easy to find a lot of similarities between Sri Lankan food and traditional South Indian food, having taken a lot of inspiration from a. Local produce, b. Neighbouring nations, c. tradesmen visiting from across the world!
There is so much about Sri Lankan food that remains unsaid, similarities to South Indian food would be just one small part of it; the textures, the flavours, the impacts of various religion and what not; and it does come to me as a major surprise that a city as diverse as Mumbai, who is home to people across varied taste buds and welcomes so many people from across the world on a daily basis to lack on something like good Sri Lankan food!
That said, when I first heard of The Leela Mumbai hosting the Sri Lankan food festival in association with the Sri Lankan Consulate, saying no to even consider visiting it was not a choice!
They had Deshbandu Publis Silva, MasterChef, Mount Lavinia Hotel, Sri Lanka who came and took over the kitchens at The Leela for a couple of days.
What makes Dr. Silva and his food so special, one may ask!
Well, Read On:
A lot of you’ll may know, that apart from blogging I work very closely with restaurants in various aspects; last week, I was at the launch of the Sri Lankan food festival that was hosted by The Leela Mumbai, in collaboration with the Sri Lankan embassy;
What makes me want to share this part of the experience, apart the food, is one person who I met that day and am sure am to going to meet anyone like him ever!
I have met and interacted with, on a one on one basis, with a lot of seniors from the Food Industry, and this defintely is one experience that am sure am not going to forget for a long time to come.
This person am talking about is Dr. Publis Silva, an 81 year old chef (yes, you read that right, 81 year old) from Sri Lanka who has flown down specially for this festival.
When you look at him, he comes across as any South Indian chef who one could easily blink and miss;
Standing in one far corner, away from the lime light, just waiting for the formalities to get down with so that people could start eating; a lot of people from the hotel and the embassy spoke about the festival and the inspiration behind it and one of them introduced chef; what we heard was unbelievable!
He has been awarded the highest civilian honour of Sri Lanka, had the most humble of beginnings, is the most celebrated and decorated chef of sri lanka, has a documentary made on him and also has his own biography!
And then we started to eat, the food was unbelievably good!
What also happened was he went from table to table individually talking to people, getting to know them, asking them their take on his food (people from across different food cultures, and each ones were known for their knowledge of food were part of this evening) and what not. He made each one of us at home.
I also learned that he has cooked every single dish on the feast that day, himself, and was in the kitchen form 3 pm that day!
This man started of as a coal carrier at this hotel and then went on to hand scraping coconuts and they say the rest is history; today, he is not only the head chef at the hotel, but also a director!
2 years ago, he was felicitated for 60 years of service at the hotel, and what a humble man! all he wants is people enjoy his food, you know how grandmothers ensure you are well fed, he would go to every individual doing that, filled with warmth and love.
Such a rarity to meet people like him, the kind of people we never thought existed!
And now, we come to the food, with a large variety of both vegetarian and non vegetarian food, this feast truly was food made for the Gods!
From exotic Sri Lankan teas to this delicious coconut water and honey beverage and so much more; the beverages were a fantastic beginning to the feast!
Apart from the usual seafood that Sri Lankan food is known for, the vegetarian variety surprised us!
The assortment of Sambols (Katta Sambol being my personal favourite from the variety) to the Sri Lankan Pulav, Traditional Sri Lankan Dhal Curry (made with whole lentils, and a thick sabji like dish), the Lady Finger Isharum (bhindi cooked in coconut milk) , to the Tempered Potatoes that had such a familiar, yet so different flavour!
There also were three more dishes that stood out for me and that will definitely be etched in memory forever; the Kothu which was chopped lachcha paratha cooked along with chopped vegetables and local Sri Lankan Spices, and the local Sri Lankan hoppers that were very similar to the Appams we eat and we paired this with a traditional Cashewnut Curry, truly a match made in heaven! In all my life, I truly haven’t had something as soulful as the Hopper-Cashewnut Curry combination and I truly doubt am going to be able to enjoy a more soul satisfying meal anytime soon!
To The Leela Mumbai and Dr. Silva, thank you; for making us understand the humility and magic of food so simple, humble and delicious!
Dr. Silva went back to Sri Lanka on monday, but the festival is still on at Citrus and the food truly touches your soul!
The Chai Pakoda festivities continued with a week long celebration at Viviana Mall, thane with 8 restaurants participating in this festival with specially curated menus for the same!
From Hitchki to SodaBottleOpenerwaala to Tea Trails and D:OH!, all of them were participating in the same!
This also was the first time I believe a mall has celebrated something of this sort and having a lot of restaurants within the mall partner for the same too and I was more than happy to be part of these celebrations!
It was a pleasant thursday morning when I found myself driving towards Viviana, glad it was sunny and the drive would be smooth and the moment I reached, it started raining, just in time to set the mood for an afternoon filled with pakodas!
We decided to visit two of the participating restaurants, Tea Trails and D:OH!
At tea trails we were in for a treat with the large variety of pakodas on offer! From the staples like aloo pakoda, pyaaz pakoda and bread pakoda to fusion pakodas like cheese chilli pakoadas, the menu was varied!
We simply loved the bread pakoda, aloo pakoda and pyaaz pakoda, the pyaaz pakoda deserves special mention because it immediately took me back to my childhood when chaiji would make often and had them waiting for me when I would return from school!
The cheese chilli pakodas were pretty okay to be honest and a little raw in the centre!
The highlight of a pakoda chai meal has to be the chutney that accompanies it, and the one at tea trails was phenomenal.
D:OH! Our visit to D:OH! had a uniques experience awaiting us!
From the tea to the variety of pakodas, everything was different. D:OH! had a special monsoon menu going on with a large vegetarian and non vegetarian variety. We opted for the Bombay Bhajia Company which were bhajias made of green chillis, bhavnagri chilli, bottle guard, zucchini, squash and the likes. Very different from the usual lot! The also had something called the Chop Chop Slider which the menu said were sliders made with Kolkata style Aloo Chop but what actually came were Gujarati style Batata Wadas, nonetheless, we were happy!
They also had this thing called Blue tea that came two ways, hot and cold, and would turn purple when lime juice is added to it!
Overall, a lovely experience and I can’t wait to see malls take more efforts to get the community to celebrate, just like Viviana did.