Saturday 30 April 2016

Dino Island | Travel Back In Time | Phoenix Marketcity Kurla Mumbai

Traveling in time without using any time machine is possible! Yup, we have movies, books and for the lucky few, interactive events to make it possible as well as enjoyable. Strolling through Phoenix Marketcity Kurla Mumbai for some family shopping time, it was a pleasant surprise to come across this indoor extravaganza for kids as well as kids at heart of all ages :D 

Dino Island is an interactive display event covering the exciting world of Dinosaurs. Who among us has not been fascinated by the thrilling adventure displayed in Jurassic Park movies? Who is not enamored by the story of these beasts of an era gone by? Kids of all ages (yup,me included :D) specially love to get scared by the very idea of encountering a Dinosaur. Well, now they can! Phoenix Marketcity has brought this world alive in a spectacular way. I never cease to be amazed by the innovation and creativity of some folks! These are not mere installations, it seems to be a recreated part of an actual jungle with blinking,roaring dinosaurs of all sorts. Take a look :)

Jurassic Park is alive once more! Enjoy :)

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Chef Sisters, Borivali West, Mumbai

Borivali. It is like the end of world for anyone living in Dadar-Lower Parel-Bandra stretch :D It is a 2 hour drive for someone like me who refuses to get squashed in local trains which are now crowded 24/7, no concept of  'peak hour' anymore :P I don't even remember the last time I was in Borivali, let alone eating here, BUT and that is a biiiiiig but, this time it was about eating at Chef Sisters i.e. 2 sisters running a pure veg restaurant in Borivali West. How could I miss this :D I just took hold of my sister and we went to meet the Chef Sisters. Was the trip worth it? YES, a 1000 times YES, and more ♥♥♥

Chef Hasti and Chef Hiloni are the brains behind this funky,vibrant and cool place situated just before Vijay Sales on S V Road, Borivali West. While Hasti specializes in desserts (she studied at Le Cordon Bleu!), Hiloni specializes in Indian & International cuisine, so aptly described as creating magic with masalas :) There is a delicious dessert counter with a quite spacious outdoor seating as well as AC indoor seating which is a bit small. Cheerful colors, basic ambiance, keeping in tune with their aim of providing delicious food at value for money price point. I love how honest they are about not aiming at connoisseurs or gourmands with 'authentic fine dine' but about providing lip-smacking fare that normal people, our families love to eat regularly, delicious everyday dine! You know, what we call comfort food, what we love to eat again & again, what we crave for. I like that. Not that there is anything wrong with fine dine or anything but in a world where so many people pretend to be something they are not, these sisters are upfront about presenting food (even International dishes) in an easy to recognize-and-love format, just for our taste-buds :) It was interesting to chat with them about how they are still learning and growing as they go along, taking in feedback from customers, regularly adding new dishes and updating the menu and so on. So when you go here, do not forget to chat with the sisters :) 

The menu is quite extensive and once again dispels all notions that veg food is in any way limited or inferior :D LOVE THAT! There are choices of North Indian, Mexican, Italian, Continental, Chinese. Some regular favorites like Milkshakes, Biryani, Hakka Noodles, Nachos as well as some innovation such as Pav Bhaji Fondue, Moroccan rice, Rabdi cake and much more! Mix and match all you want just like we did and you will find something to love for sure :)

We had Kit Kat Milkshake, Oreo Milkshake, Blueberry Mojito and Dryfruit Milkshake to start the proceedings on the sultry afternoon. Pure bliss was had with Dryfruit milkshake in particular. It was a bit too sweet for my sister but for someone with sweet jaw like me,it was perfect :D You can tell them to make it less sweet, but have this for sure. Reminded me of amazing Thandai I had at Varanasi once,with real dryfruits and Kesar strands :) Kit Kat and Oreo Milkshakes are better than what many gourmet cafes serve, especially since there was negligible ice,something that bothers a lot of us when milkshakes become watery,right? Nothing like that here, everything was dense, creamy, flavorful :) Blueberry Mojito was a bit tangy and again a bit too sweet for my sister's liking, but if you have been roaming around in the sun for too long,this will be the perfect refreshing drink. As I said, you can always ask the Chef sisters to make anything as per your liking. So if you are a normal human like my sister (and not endowed with a sweet jaw), ask them to make it less sugary or more icy or whatever else you wanna personalize it with :) They are all great drinks,especially for the summer season!

While my sister and I were debating about whether to have a burger or a pizza, we sampled some fantastic starters. Cheesy Loaded Wedges would be a cheese lover's dream come true with an overload of carbs with potato as well as gooey cheesy goodness all over it :D I am not much into spices,so it being a little bland was fine with me, while my sister generously sprinkled oregano and chilli flakes over it. The Garlic Bread with Cheese basket was too cute and the garlic bread itself was perfectly soft in the middle while crunchy on the sides. My absolute favorite was Paneer Schezuan, the juicy soft chunks of Paneer in mildly spicy-kick laden sauce, yummy! My sister's favorite was Potato Chilly, just perfectly done up potatoes in a bit spicier (chilli,obviously!) sauce :D So you see, everyone was happy as we all got something to savor.

Willing to try something different as we were feeling adventurous, we ventured into Pav Bhaji Fondue, Moroccan Rice and Mexican Pizza territory. Being a huge Pav Bhaji lover, my sister simply cherished every bite of the Pav Bhaji Fondue. How innovative! A big bowl of Pav Bhaji (not too spicy, real flavor of minced veggies coming through) with bread pieces (with cheese in the middle), papad pieces, puffs and grilled pav. This is a must try dish here, a twist in the tale sort of thing :) If you love pasta (as my sister and I do) and especially white sauce pasta, then Moroccan Spiced Veg with Garlic Rice will definitely steal your heart as it did ours. Very sublimely flavored garlic rice with creamy,mildly cheesy, very filling and dense gravy with exotic veggies. This dish is perfect for 2 hungry souls in itself. Lovely dish,not too heavy on the stomach either, perfect for a summer lunch where you want to stuff yourself but not become comatose :D Finally, the Mexican Pizza which was my favorite. As everyone knows by now, my taste-buds veer towards sweeter things automatically. This particular pizza has beans salsa as base, with crunchy capsicum, corn and of course an avalanche of gooey cheese on top, all together a medley of flavors. The base was a bit thick, but it was not soggy at all, which is what happens at a lot of places when one puts on innovative toppings. I loved it. Perfectly baked, it was warm, fragrant and comforting. I am sure nobody in Italy has pizzas like these :P But as it was clear from the beginning, this place is all about comfort food.

Oh, it is not over yet! Even though we were full, we had to have the famous Rabdi Cake dessert here. This dish alone is enough to inspire me to come back here again and again. Now, it looks like a simple enough pastry-kind of dish, served with Rabdi. But when we dug into it, there were layers of flavors,all melding together perfectly and EVEN my sister, who is not at all into sweets, went right to foodie heaven :D The secret is that they soak the base in Basundi and then serve it with Rabdi. Anybody who loves Indian sweets and knows actually what Basundi & Rabdi are,would instantly know what a killer combination that is. Just look at the picture of the dessert because I don't think anything I say could do justice to how good this actually is. Just. Go. And. Eat.

There are many dishes on the menu that I would love to eat here for which I would love to come back here again :) Lovely portions, homely service, comforting and delicious food, value for money price points, interactive sisters taking feedback from customers, what else could one want? I just wish they grow into many more branches and open some in Bandra/Andheri/ Lower Parel area (so it would be closer to me) and because the food here is definitely going to pull crowds :) I love the Chef Sisters, we are like foodie soul sisters ♥♥♥♥♥

Friday 22 April 2016

Zulu Terrace, Andheri West, Mumbai

Dark. Insipid. Avoidable. These are the words I usually associate with Hookah places. Mostly because I don't like hookah myself. And because I get blind without sufficient lighting and I need my food well-lighted to enjoy it. And finally because most of the hookah places don't really pay much attention to food because they earn most of their revenues from hookah and alcohol. I have been to a couple of such places with my friends and office colleagues in last couple of years and always come home quite disappointed. Hence those words to describe them.

Zulu Terrace is here to probably banish all these thoughts for once and for all by taking care of us all whether we love hookah or not :D I got an invite to visit them for a blogger review and did not have high expectations. All I prayed for was a chance to see my food clearly in good lighting before eating it and good enough vegetarian food options. I was pleasantly surprised on more counts than one.

Go in the Fun Republic Lane and take the first left. Zulu Terrace is located right ahead, above Doolally and Barbecue Nation :D Go up the huge stairs and well,as the name explains it, walk right out on the terrace with canopies, trees lit up by ethereal lights giving it a fairyland-ish aura and a very laid back, hookah-soaked ambiance. It screams relaxation with friends. Needless to say,a lot of youngsters can be seen enjoying hookah and conversations. There is a huge TV screen along with a couple of small ones where right now, IPL matches are being screened LIVE but if you are not interested in that, just sway to some awesome music. It is like a pub + cafe + everything that signifies laid-back comfort to everyone,all together at one place. It would look beautiful in the morning too with chairs as well as plush sofa seating. Plus they have a mist fan cooling system so it is never really hot even if one is not sitting directly in the path of a fan :) AND while it is certainly dark,as all hookah places/bars are, they have placed these beautiful lamps high above which perfectly light up all my food so it was not like a literal blind tasting for me. Love that :D

Chef Danny Lobo warmly welcomed us and navigated us through the menu. He can be spotted personally taking care of everyone who walks in and most of the patrons are regulars whom he welcomes with a happy smile or a bear hug :) We ended up chatting on length about how he has a dream of Zulu Terrace not just being a hookah place but also being recognized for its food, how they keep changing the specials of the day to keep the regular patrons interested and happy, how they have imported the mist fan cooling system from China, how the place was conceptualized as an all-day place to chill for anyone and everyone, how he personally makes some dishes including the amazing brownie we had during the desserts...It was not only an evening of good food but some great conversations too! Oh,he loves cricket, so if you are a cricket lover, do not miss to have a memorable chat on the topic with him :D

Chef helped us taste some of the best dishes on the menu which has a lot of options for both veggies as well as non-veggies. This is where my earlier perception of all hookah places being 'dark and disappointing' melted away. The menu has Indian, Chinese, Mid-Eastern, Continental dishes that have been carefully chosen and put together. So the choices might be limited (there aren't 100 dishes to choose from) but everything is delicious. This is how it should be. Give me just 30 dishes but make them memorable :)

We started off with a Guava and a Fruit Blossom Mocktail both of which instantly refreshed us. I loved the Guava mocktail that started off sweet but thanks to that swipe of salt on the rim, went down like a slab of tequila :D Mocktail that behaves like Cocktail? Yes Please! It was instantly followed by Veggies on a grill where Potatoes, Cauliflower, Paneer, Tomatoes and Corn jostled for our attention. It was accompanied by a dip made of hung curd that my spice-loving sister loved. I loved the corn which was perfectly grilled yet remained extremely juicy from inside. Lip-smacking. Next entree was Exotic veggies in Hunan sauce. Self-explanatory. The sweet-spicy and flavorful Hunan sauce did not overpower the veggies,all of them retained their natural crunchy flavors.

The main course started off on a winning note with Penne in mixed sauce as I was confused whether t go for White sauce or Red one. Well, Chef Lobo banished the confusion by giving us a lip smacking pasta in pink sauce where cheese enhanced rather than overpowered our tastebuds. A good pasta, now is there anything better than that? Well, maybe yes :D One would think that like all hookah places,Zulu Terrace will also only excel in finger foods or starters or pasta/pizza. Nothing could be farther from truth as we sample 2 full meal plates- one with fried rice and tandoori veggies plus Paneer steak in mushroom pepper sauce and another one with fried rice and exotic veggies in barbecue sauce. Honestly, I cannot choose a favorite. My sister and I dug in and did not stop till we had licked the plate clean. I love mushrooms but I never choose mushroom based sauce for anything, here I loved the rice and mushroom sauce paneer steak combo. My sister loves barbecue sauce in any case and it was just an explosion of flavor through and through.

While we were already stuffed, we remembered Chef mentioning him making brownies in-house and we had to taste Sizzling Brownie with Ice-cream. It was a good end to a very good meal. I would say that looking at the ambiance and the regular clientele, they have got the menu pat down. There is plenty to satiate every taste bud. Not only that, people like me who don't like hookah or don't drink have enough to be happy about. Most importantly, the price is justified and a good meal for 2 will not cross Rs. 1200. Staff is very efficient and quick on their toes. I could see every 2nd table enjoying a hookah, I hope that with passage of time they become equally famous for good food at affordable price points too. AND they have some amazing happy hours offers going on throughout the day which must not be missed by anyone. I will definitely be going back with some of my hookah loving friends :) 

Thursday 21 April 2016

Aroma Magic Anti Pigmentation Glossy Pack | Beauty Review

Aroma Magic is one of the best beauty brands in India with natural products that truly work and are available at very affordable rates. Aroma Magic Anti Pigmentation Glossy Pack is my most favorite product from their stable and perhaps the best face mask for all skin types in India too! Everybody in my family has used and loved it,including my dad with severely oily skin, my mom with natural mature skin, my sister with mildly oily and very acne prone skin and myself with sensitive,combination skin. That should say it all :)

I got it from Amazon for around Rs.395 for 100 grams tube and it is also available easily on Flipkart, Nykaa etc.

Claims include lightening complexion, hyper pigmentation, dark spots, under eye dark circles and age spots, healing blemishes and imparting radiance to skin. Ingredients include Clove, Nutmeg, Manjistha, Blackberry Leaf & Pennywort with Glycerin, Beeswax and Essential Oils of Lemongrass, Jojoba and Ginger. Phew, that is one heavy duty natural cocktail of goodies! Packaging is solid and travel friendly while quantity is enough to last more than a month when used twice a week on face.

Like all aromatherapy based products, Aroma Magic Anti Pigmentation Glossy Pack also has a strong smell and in fact this is the only product that has a near-foul smell. It actually smells like mud mixed with wet grass with dried cow dung :P The first time I opened the tube,I thought that the product had expired. With repeated use however I have gotten used to it. 

It comes out as a dense henna green paste that spreads on the face like a thick ayurvedic paste and does not really dry fully. It thus does not tug on the skin like those clay masks and I love leaving it on for upto an hour after which I wash it off. Instantly brightened skin and guess what, within 3 weeks of using it, I could see the small blemishes I had on my cheeks visibly lightening! I also see increased glow and radiance. Aroma Magic Anti Pigmentation Glossy Pack is one product that truly accomplishes all that it promises :) My whole family has seen a visible result in their skin tone and thus I can vouch for the claims not being tall ones, rather they are real and measurable :) It is not an overnight miracle but I am willing to use it for the rest of my life because I have had pigmentation and blemishes problems for such a long time and not many products have been able to work so wonderfully on them. This is my Holy Grail face mask for sure. The only other product that has worked so brilliantly on my blemishes has been Just Herbs Silksplash Neem-Orange Rehydrant Face Wash :)

  • Potent natural formulation devoid of parabens and chemicals
  • Very affordable and Easily available 
  • Solid packaging, travel friendly
  • Fulfills all claims for real
  • Works on all skin types
  • Moisturizes, Brightens, Softens, Makes a real difference
  • Can be used as an under eye mask too since it does not dry up and tug on the skin!
  • Not tested on animals,YAY :)
  • Absolutely love the way the product is described at the back of the pack :D
  • Smell takes some time to get used to :P
  • Works slowly but surely,not an overnight miracle (This is not a con but I had nothing else to complain about :D)
Recommended- YES! The best face mask for soft and bright skin is here, no fear :) Rating is 5/5 :)

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Peninsula, Sion, Mumbai

Almost a decade ago, when I was still in college and had recently moved to Mumbai, I used to crave for good north Indian style chats. Central Peninsula in Sion, which was a pure veg restaurant close to my house, serves the most lip smacking chaats, perfectly spicy and tangy, just the way I like it. I also took my mom to savor them from time to time. There were quite a few friends' gatherings I hosted here too back then on my meager pocket money, tucking into chaats & south Indian delicacies. After a while though, I moved away from the area and latched onto new eating joints, but I still remember those chaats and the very warm hospitality we college boys & girls received there :)

Went here for lunch with my sister, it brought back all those memories. Even back then,we knew that Peninsula chain of restaurants were probably the biggest name in Sion. After all, it was established in 1989, followed by the pure vegetarian Peninsula Next & Central Peninsula soon after! Peninsula serves exotic veg & non veg dishes and is spread over 2500 sq.ft. (ample seating there) and has a beautiful bar too :) I took my sister along as she is far more finicky with food than I am. Even growing up,I would happily eat whatever mom served me while my sister would make her go crazy when it came to food :D

So we went today for lunch and were warmly received by the staff. The ambiance can be summed up as elegant and vintage. Back in 90s,I remember going to family restaurants for special lunches or dinners. Remember those days when there was no Domino's,no McDonald's, people used to really plan for going out and get dressed up? Yes, this really reminds one of those days! There are comfortable and plush sofas, marble counters, staff in formal suits and melodious 70s & 80s classic music played in the background. Love the nostalgic trip down the lane :) Looking around the patrons too,it is clear that they have an established clientele that makes regular trips here which I think is fantastic. I later spotted the manager personally chatting up with other patrons which just shows how important interpersonal relationship is for them.

It just got better with the food served. There is Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Continental - a complete army of deliciousness to choose from. I just regret not having 2 extra stomachs so that I could taste all of them :P We started with Cream of Tomato soup which was appropriately sweet and bit tangy and full of delicious tomato wholesomeness. I am not much into soups or drinks but my sister is,and I am glad she called for this. We also got 2 beautiful and delicious drinks-Barman's special which was basically a thick milkshake+ice cream, every sip filled with strawberry and mango flavor. Yumm. And then there was Coffee Toffee which my sister savored. She loves milky chocolate and dark (but not bitter) coffee and this drink blended just these 2 in the best possible way. I could see Barman's special on a couple of other tables too. Drinks here are a must-have I say :)

Starters and Appetizers here are actually filling enough for light eaters. Portions are so very generous for everything! We had Spinach Paneer and Chilli Paneer along with Hash Corn Vegetables. Both Paneer dishes were fantastic with melt-in-the-mouth Paneer. Interesting thing is that my sister loves spicy stuff while I lean towards sweeter but here my sister actually loved the soft & minimally seasoned Spinach Paneer more while I loved the mildly fiery and saucy Chilli Paneer more :D Hash Corn Vegetables is an inventive dish which I suspect a lot of people with traditional tastebuds will not like. It has a sweeter gravy base with very delicate and thin potato patties on top. Imagine a bed of corn mixed with tomatoes, onions, a drizzle of cheese and some exotic veggies just sauteed in a tomato based gravy. It could be called an updated Mexican chat. I liked it a lot and so did my sister. It was something different, maybe not for a traditional meal but perfect for when one is in a mood to try something new. Maybe those who like their food spicy can ask for it to be made spicier :) I know my parents,who are very traditional when it comes to food, will like it too but my mom would surely ask for it to be made spicy & will also use a lot of chilli flakes or oregano on top :D

One absolutely lovable thing for me was how they presented beautiful salad art with each dish. I looked around and every table that had a starter had similarly beautifully crafted carrots/tomatoes/salad art. Adds to the elegance of the experience. 

Frankly, even for us hungry hippos, the 3 starters were more than enough but we did want to try more dishes so we called for Kabuli Naan and a Paneer gravy dish to go with it. Having seen some world movies, I know that in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, they do prepare tandoori breads with loads of dry fruits for special occasions. Kabuli Naan is an ode to that. Stuffed with cherries, shredded paneer and little bits of pineapple plus generously topped with butter, it is obviously sweet and what a delight to cherish. The spicy Paneer gravy went perfect with that, every bite establishing a song and dance between the sweet and the spicy :D I was completely stuffed to the brim otherwise this made me want to order for more dishes from the menu! I saw a table nearby order for veg biryani and 1 dish was enough to feed 3 people and it looked so yummy. I have to go back just to have that :D 

We finished our gastronomic delight adventure with Kulfi-Rabdi combination which is one of the best I have had in a long time. Ever had Rabdi made at home,in a clay pot? It has a very rustic flavor that is not available in the mass-manufactured branded Rabdi available in markets. That flavor is what I got here. Creamy and dense,it was the perfect end to a satisfying afternoon after which we were too full to move :D This is one place which brings old world charm and brilliant food together. Even my finicky sister finished everything on her plate :D Looking into the quality of dishes + efficient service, I would say the prices are justified for that and would recommend everyone make a plan to enjoy a special afternoon or evening with family here as there are vintage favorites as well as some unique dishes to be savored with loved ones.