Monday 18 January 2016

Bungalow 9, Bandra West, Mumbai

Thanks to a Twitter contest that I somehow won (Hip Hip Hurray :D) along with a bunch of other foodies, I had the chance of meeting Kunal Vijaykar and Maria Goretti for dinner at Bungalow 9. Been hearing about this place for some time,so to be able to sample some treasures as a contest win came as a double bonus :D

Bungalow 9 is situated just behind Lilavati Hospital and if you get lost,like I did, just call them up, the hostess is very patient while giving directions *Thanks* :) The ambiance is simply perfect for a romantic date. I usually like bright ambiances, but what they are going for here is a dreamy candle-light-y environ and it works very well. Beautiful and Serene. There is an outdoor seating section which is a bit dark for my taste but if you are on a date, well, you will be very pleased. 

We were able to meet Kunal Vijaykar and Maria Goretti for about 10 minutes before they had to rush off for some important event or interview or something else, however, for us foodies, the evening had just started. Extremely warm service throughout the evening, can't praise it enough :)

The menu has an amazing medley of European, Continental and some Oriental dishes too. This is one super classy place and thus quite expensive. But treat it as an experience to cherish, it is definitely worthwhile. There were 9 of us and we ordered for many dishes, I might not even remember the names of all of them, but I know each one tasted brilliant. There were more vegetarians in the group than non-vegetarians and so we had more veggie dishes on the table :D

Started with Mushroom Cappuccino, a soup unlike anything else I have ever had. Creamy yet not heavy, warm and so flavorful. The presentation was another marvel. There was this foam above the soup, it actually looked like soap, but thankfully tasted nothing like it :D In fact,even the foam tasted Mushroom-y! How does one achieve this feat? Unbelievable. Fabulous!

Then came Moroccan Cottage Cheese in Pita Pocket for veggies and Golden Fried Prawns for non-veggies. The Pita Pockets were full of cottage cheese, in fact even being listed under the appetizer, it is enough as a main course for a light eater! The prawns were delicious too from what I heard. We also called for Dim Sums and I loved the Spinach & Tofu one, it not only looked beautiful, it also tasted amazing. It was not oily at all, neither was the outer layer thick or under/over-cooked as many places do with dim sums. Fabulous once more.

We really wondered about what to order for main course. We settled on Burmese Vegetable Khow Suey, Goat Cheese & Spinach Risotto and BBQ Pork Spare Ribs. The Burmese Vegetable Khow Suey alone is enough for 2 hungry people, and it is also the best dish on the menu. Very velvety creamy and a little bit on the sweeter side, it definitely has the ring of authenticity but not the heaviness we usually associate with rich dishes. Risotto was good but I was busier in finishing off the Khow Suey. I heard that the Spare Ribs were enough to be polished off by 3 hungry people and very delicious too, so there is that. 

Now came the dessert section, my favorite part of the evening and the ever-polite server recommended Jack Daniel's Ice Cream, Italian Cheesecake and Chocolate Marquise. Heavenly! The Italian Cheesecake was a dream and if you are a cheesecake lover, yup, that is what you wanna finish every meal with :D Chocolate Marquise turned out to be a dark-chocolate meets dark coffee brownie with a molten center and a dash of white chocolate, definitely a must try for ardent chocolate lovers. But the star dish, right after Burmese Khow Suey, was Jack Daniel's Ice Cream. It is the one dish I will swim across 7 oceans for. I asked for it once more and to be frank,I would have had one more if the usual societal pressure of not looking like a pig when it comes to free food had not restrained me :D 

Brilliant taste, Marvelous presentation, Great portions, Innovative menu, Efficient service - Bungalow 9 is a 100% winner on all counts :) ♥♥♥♥♥

Noodle Bar, Lower Parel, Mumbai

My sister loves Chinese food and would have it all the time if she could :D However, she is on a strict diet right now and so Chinese food indulgence has been pushed to maximum once-a-month regime which works great for me but not so much for her. Now she is thinking about Noodles and Manchurians and Dim-Sums all the time :D Anyway,so when it was her birthday (this was about 2 months ago),obviously we had to go for Chinese food, but without hurting her diet. After much deliberations, she settled for a late night movie at PVR Cinemas, preceded by a light family dinner at Noodle Bar, a place we had been to about 2 years ago and quite liked it. So here we were,at 7.40 PM sharp on a Friday evening. It had opened up just 10 minutes earlier so we had no problem finding a cozy family corner to perch on :) Be aware, every single place in Phoenix Mills,Lower Parel has a huge waiting line post 9 PM especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So if you are like me, someone who hates waiting in long lines, make sure to have your dinner before 9 PM :)

Now coming to Noodle Bar, the ambiance gives off a very oriental feel,it is quite elegant and comfortable. They also have quite a few festivals going on from time to time (Dim-Sum special, Soup special etc.) which could be a value for money proposition,so do check it out. There are these LCD TVs inside,almost always relaying some cricket/ football/ kabaddi or other sports match in vogue. It has a very family feel to it,good for large groups as there is ample seating around. 

All dishes are priced between Rs. 200-600, portions are quite good,so it is neither very value for money nor very expensive. Quality wise, I think, price is quite justified. I especially love the complimentary bowl of Kimchi which they brought for us,twice,since I finished the first one all by myself *Greedy Piggy Me* :D We ordered for Crystal Veg Dumplings and Four Seasons Dimsums, both tasted nice but I found the Crystal Veg ones quite thick as in,the outer layer was a bit thicker than expected and also a bit oily. Four Seasons was absolutely fabulous, very delicate and flavorful. Among the starters, we had earlier tasted Corn Curd, Crispy Chilli Vegetables, Asian Barbecue Cottage Cheese which were all tasty and in fact,I remember that we did not order any main course after that,portions were that good! This time, we had Crispy Thread Paneer which is a must try dish from this menu. Lovely big slab of Paneer in this crunchy web (thread), to be had dipped in a slightly sour mayo-yogurt dip, yumm is the word :D Five Treasure Asian Vegetables with Hakka Noodles completed our dinner for the evening and it was very well balanced in terms of flavors. Not very spicy, not bland either. Portions were enough for 3 people. In fact, ordering for dim-sums and starters alone would have sufficed for us, but who is complaining of over-eating when everything is delicious :D We also had a refreshing lime soda drink to help digest it all. I feel that food here is not heavily Indianized (a bit,yes,but not very) and it isn't very oily either.

My sister was pleased and that is all that matters. Service was very quick and efficient. We had to catch at movie at 8.40 and our meal was done and bill settled easily by then! Our visit has been a good one and we would definitely consider coming back here :) 

Pizza Hut, Mumbai CST

Growing up in a small town in the 1990s, we had no idea about burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, smoothies, milkshakes, sundaes, garlic bread..Yes,my childhood was as healthy and far away from processed/fatty food as possible (and how I wish I could go back in time to those days!) but all this changed when we moved to Mumbai. A bright eyed youngster in high school, I was introduced to the world of fast food and pizzas with my friends chilling out at McDonald's, Domino's and Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut became our favorite because of course, cheesy pizzas :D And also a fun ambiance which encourages friendly banter :)

Pizza Hut has by and large kept that ambiance and that fun vibe alive. The Pizza Hut outlet at Mumbai CST is very close to Sterling Cinemas and a perfect place to chill out for some time with friends and/or family before watching a fun flick. The color combination of the interiors is all peppy with red and yellow and flicker of blue/green/maroon. It is the very definition of casual dining. I always feel like entering here wearing my Bermuda shorts and floral t-shirts :D A smattering of couples, families and large friends' groups can be seen anytime. The bottomline - enter here to have cheesy pizzas and loads of good conversation.

As far as menu goes, I do not think I need to elaborate much on that. Both Domino's and Pizza Hut are mass pizza chains. They do not have gourmet pizzas, they do not have oven baked authentic Italian pizzas, they do not even pretend to create a little Italy for us here. It is all about basic pizzas, cheese, breadsticks, garlic bread, salad, desserts in a fun ambiance. Taste is very standard across all Pizza Hut outlets, at least all the 5 outlets of Pizza Hut in Mumbai that I have visited have proved that :) I like how Pizza Hut tries to bring something new in terms of flavors and toppings every few months. So there are standard pizzas, then there are some with extra paneer and extra veggies. Then there are some which extra cheese between the crusts. Then there are some with Mexican flavor, some with Punjabi flavor (Chana as toppings!) and I especially love the dessert section in the menu. They have some amazing pastries and the like :)

I especially like the Tandoori Paneer, Veggie Supreme, Country Feast and Veggie Overloaded pizzas. I find the toppings quite generous in these and I don't even have to add any extra chilly flakes or oregano to make them extra spicy or anything. Of course I usually like my food less spicy, if you are like my mom, then you would definitely add a lot of oregano and chilly flakes as she loves her food and even pizzas very spicy :D I have tried Minestrone soup here too, it was quite nice and less spicy than I expected (great for me but my mom again added a ton of chilly flakes in her bowl :D) The garlic bread is quite soft but I would like a bit more cheese and the breadsticks are fantastic (soft and warm and fragrant) but have way too much salt sprinkled over them! 

As I said, I love the dessert section. Try anything,it will be delicious :) Sizzling Brownie, Pastry, Tiramisu and some really innovative ones right there. Of course, got to stop counting calories once you reach this place :D

What I think is the real USP of Pizza Hut is that it makes something exotic very 'reachable', especially for middle classes, just like McDonald does in the case of burgers. I know many of my friends' moms who love having pizzas here because while a gourmet pizza lunch will cost Rs. 400-500 per person, here you can have a pizza for 3 people in the same budget,and they have successfully Indianized the whole experience. It gives a place to sit and joke and laugh and indulge in some cheesy fun which is actually praiseworthy *Just my 2 cents* 

I have never had any issues with service here. I do think they are a bit short-staffed, especially evident on busy weekends but I have always had super polite and efficient staff experience. All in all, this is one place I do intend to go back to when I have some time to kill and some amazing company to enjoy :)

Thursday 14 January 2016

Discovering Mumbai - Babulnath Temple and ISKCON, Chowpatty

I spent the last day of the year 2015 roaming around some places I had not seen before. 31st December is also my mom's birthday,as such,we always go out to have a hearty lunch which we did this year at Barbeque Nation and thereafter we try to visit some new place. Having been in Mumbai for over a decade, there are very few places we have yet to visit. However, this year we truly hit the jackpot. We had been to Babulnath Temple once or twice but never knew that just across the road, we have ISKCON Temple, Chowpatty. Such a beautiful place we had no idea existed right here in the middle of all this hustle and bustle of South Mumbai! Here are a few glimpses as we saw it. 

Whenever you are in Mumbai,do visit these tranquil temples,if for nothing else, just to feel some peace and quiet and meditate, right in the middle of this megapolis :) The architecture of both these temples is quite engaging and they both have a peaceful vibe that really soothes the mind. Babulnath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and there is a little trek to be undertaken via a large stone pathway while ISKCON is all about Lord Krishna, replete with a cozy little Vrindavan park!


Wednesday 13 January 2016

The Pantry, Fort, Mumbai

On a lazy afternoon in the first week of the new year, I ventured through the lanes of Kala Ghoda and ended up in this beauty to behold. Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting The Pantry :) A place that has already been in news plenty, especially for its waffles that has bewitched at least half of my sister's college friends :D

Kala Ghoda  on its own gives a very tourist-y feeling, a feeling of wafting through some Spanish or Portuguese village and there are really a lot of tourist milling about too. This cafe also looks like something at ease in a French alley and inside also, more than half the tables are occupied by tourists only. So you can be pardoned for thinking that you just migrated from Mumbai to France for a couple of hours :D

The colorful,quirky menu includes Salads, Sandwiches, the famous Waffles, Coffee, Juices, Pasta..Phew, it is considered a great place for breakfast but come on, there is enough to feed an angry hungry hippo platoon for breakfast,lunch and dinner :D I had already had lunch just an hour earlier but was accompanied with my sister who hadn't,so we ordered for Ginger Lemon Iced tea, Savory Duo Cheese Waffles, Veg Lasagna and Nutrition Boost Salad. The decor is so pretty and cozy, it really kept us engaged and food was on our table within 8-9 minutes or so. Very fast, very fresh, very tasty :)

I am not much into drinks. You can see from all my food and restaurant reviews that I hardly ever order drinks, mostly because I find them pre-packaged OR overloaded with sugar and artificial to taste OR too pricey. Well, the Ginger Lemon Iced Tea had a beautiful kick of ginger that I normally would have hated but here it worked perfectly to give a cleansing and refreshing kick that I needed that afternoon. Not packaged, no artificial high sugary content, Me Likey A Lot ♥

The Nutrition Boost Salad had a lot of green leaves (I think, Kale) and Tomatoes which are again not my favorite ingredients but then it had some nuts and orange rinds which altogether balanced the taste well,again a surprise find for me.

I was not very hungry and that is why I did not order sweet waffles. My sister does not have a sweet tooth and so she ended up ordering for Savory waffles which made me giggle-I had only ever heard of waffles being sweet! How would this savory duo cheese waffles taste? Well, like we gulped down a big cloud of awesomeness :D It was soft and warm and melted in our mouth over and over. I ended up having more of it than my sister which made her so angry I had to pay the entire bill :P

Finally, the Veg Lasagna gave me the 3rd surprise of the afternoon. I had some excellent lasagna earlier but all of them had one common thing-the cheese would ooze so much that the moment I would cut down the layers,it would decimate into a big delicious blob. Not here! For the first time, I have had the pleasure of eating non-Indianized Lasagna, with each layer so carefully constructed, so generously heaped with vegetables and that soft cheese that still manages to hold everything together (despite me stabbing vigorously at it!) This is my repeat dish here for sure :)

There were quite a few vegan options on the menu too which is a plus in The Pantry's favor. Service is very efficient and everyone is so polite. Prices are on a bit higher side but each dish is enough for 1 person so that way it is not very expensive and certainly not unreasonable looking at the quality of each and every dish. The ambiance just adds to the plush feeling. All in all, a very memorable visit and waiting to go back soon :) ♥♥♥♥