Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Desi Roots, Saket

I often find myself in the backlane of Select CityWalk, to make an entrance from the rear of the mall. I also often find myself gazing at some standalones behind the mall, thinking, some day, I will have the time to try one of those rather than just parking myself at one or the other eateries within the mall.


My last visit was different, as I entered one called Desi Roots. What seems like a one hall restaurant from outside is actually a spacious three hall dining space. You enter a cafe with desi knick knacks (coal irons, pickle jars, film cameras and more) holding your attention. Do not miss the dining table made from an old-fashioned sewing machine on which you can actually rock your feet!


Just a little ahead is another dining space which gives way to the semi private dining table and a bar. As I was invited to the restaurant, the management enlightened me with more desi elements of the design before we settled down for an amuse bouche of dal/masala vada on a bed of fresh coconut chutney in a mason jar topped with a crisp kadi patta.


What came next, bowled me over. A warm galawati pate of Jimikand served with sheermal crisps, onion rings and green chutney in a Alice's 'Drink Me potion' like bottle on a black tray fitted in a wooden frame. The presentation had me kicked and the taste was superlative. I was digging my sheermal crisp into an amazingly textured and sublime pate, that, if I may say, would give a non-vegetarian galawati a run for its money. The flavours oozed oomph and boasted of a complex mix of Indian spices, which were rather well balanced. Surely desi in its roots. Had I not been having it at a restaurant, you'd find me licking the jar clean. 


The Taboulleh Kachumber dhokla with grilled spicy watermelon came next. A big piece of dhokla came sitting underneath the Kachumber Taboulleh. The fresh tomatoes, onions, mint and coriander made the dish quite appetising. The watermelon on the side was spiced with an achari mash and was quite a delight. While the taste was spot on, Desi Roots could present the dish in a better way. 


Chef Rajiv Sinha, the genius that he is, used his Calcutta Roots rather cleverly to come up with a warm samosa deconstruct with aam papad chutney at Desi Roots. A stunning and delicately spicy mash of potatoes with whole coriander seeds and fennel seeds sat between strips of crisp nimki or namakpara studded with carom seeds (ajwain). This was an open samosa and with every bite it will transport you to your favourite local eatery that serves this wonderful Indian snack. An epic dish, this.


For mains, I wanted something light and chose the Jawdropping Khichdi ke char yaar or 4 grains of khichdi (rice, quinoa, jowar, bajra) with some hesitation. While Khichdi is something I'd never order in a restaurant, and was rather vary, but took the risk and it paid off. The four Khichdis at Desi Roots came sitting individually in pretty props of tiny pressure cookers and Indian pickle jars. I liked classic, quinoa, jowar and bajra in increasing order of preference. Each came topped with a different kind of papad: palak, chana, pepper et al as well as a slight hint of a different kind of pickle each. So Desi Roots lifted the khichdi to another level and turned it from 'food for the sick' to something rather enjoyable. Comfort food, that. 


The breads at Desi roots are something to look out for. They serve their choice of breads or rice with the mains. Do not even try to change that as their choice of breads is great. I was served the Brar jee ki mashoor rasmalai makhni. A delicate and flavourful rasmalai dipped in tomato juice and served in a makhni gravy, this dish comes recommended by Reeta Skeeter. It will tease your tongue and satisfy the hungry soul. Mine came with a fresh, hot, crispy laccha parantha.  


If you visit Desi Roots for a family dinner with kids or without, try the Bachpan Platter for dessert if you want to revisit Tit Bits, Lollipops, Kisme toffees, Gems, Chikki bites, wafer fingers and more. It is an experiential concept. But I preferred Jamaluddin ki Kheer from Badal beg masjid. Also known to us Old Delhi lovers as Bade Mian, this Kheer is brought all the way from Chandni Chowk to be served at the restaurant. This thick, creamy delight will make you walk out of Desi Roots with a big smile. Read more about Bade Mian here.



Monday, February 09, 2015

Haak - Kashmiri greens recipe

There's so much comfort food that winter brings in, that one is spoilt for choice. Soups, stews, noodles, rice, rustled up with lots of fresh veggies. The sabji mandis (vegetable markets) are filled to the brim with fresh produce. One would get every shade of green and every year I discover some or the other vegetable that has not yet seen the light of my kitchen. While I enjoy what is left of Delhi winters, I'd like to share this simple recipe of Kashmiri staple Haak saag, cooked using a few basic rules but not any Kashmiri recipe in particular. Haak goes best with steamed rice and believe me you, this would be the best kind of saag you'd have ever tasted. 


Recipe:
For 1 medium bunch of Haak: Wash the leaves well. Look out for worms. I put them in salted water for 30 mins, rinse and then use. Snip off the ends and use the leaves as well as the tender stem. Heat mustard oil in a wok. Add 1 or 2 whole red chillies, depending on the quantity of your haak. Chop a fat garlic clove and add. Immediately thereafter, add 1.5 cups of water and let it simmer. Now add the whole Haak leaves and salt to taste. Let it boil for 7 to 10 minutes or till the leaves wilt a little. Enjoy Haak hot off the wok with steamed rice. Bliss!

 '

As mentioned earlier, I don't follow any typical Kashmiri recipe mentioned in recipe books and sites, but do follow some basic rules: 
Use whole leaves and some stem.
Keep spices minimal to bring out the flavour of the haak well.
Do not overcook.
Ideally, do not reheat and make it 15 mins prior to serving.
Serve hot with steamed rice.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shiv Sagar, Delhi (Aye!)

All the Bombay vs Delhi debate doesn't work for me. Nor does the Mumbai vs Bombay. Dilli vs Delhi neither. What a Pani Puri with hot ragda can do for a resident of Maharashtra, the Delhi girl in me could not understand in my few years in that part of the country.
When I arrived back in Delhi, I loved what the good old Delhi Golgappa with cold, boiled potatoes and chickpeas and teekha pani did to my tastebuds. In Delhi, for sometime now, I find myself craving Pani Puri, the Maharashtrian way at times, and the Vada Pav very often. If there is any difference at all between the two cities, that I'd readily admit, it is the pricing. Bombay food is cheaper. Period.
When one of my favourite Bombay eateries opened up in Delhi, I decided to give it a try. Shiv Sagar, of Bombay fame has a Janpath address now. #Win


The ambience is welcoming. A Bombay person would easily connect. Start your meal at Shiv Sagar with a pineapple or watermelon juice, as I recommend them for their taste and freshness. Ask for a no-masala version, if you please, else they add it by default. I had a sample of 6 juices they offer on a sci-fi test tube platter, all of which I enjoyed. The sev puri comes recommended too. Papri topped with potatoes, a medley of chutneys and spices, finished with a generous helping of sev and pearls of pomegranate. Street food, the hygienic way, served up on the table. I'd have preferred it a bit more spicy. 



Shiv Sagar also manages to do justice to the quintessential Maharashtrian street food, the Vada Pav. The chilli garlic powder on the side is amazing too! If you are in the mood for something tangy, go for the chinese bhel. It is neither Chinese nor Bhel, but crispy fried noodles tossed in a sweet and sour sauce and topped with onion and coriander. Yum!


Last but not the least, do not leave Shiv Sagar, Delhi without sampling their Pav Bhaji. Doused in butter, it is the nearest you can get to the Bombay version. Other offerings at Shiv Sagar that one should try are the Veg Makhanwala, Veg Kolhapuri, Biryani with Raita and the cheese grilled sandwich. Icing on the cake? They are gonna turn into an all-day dining, just like Bombay. And the prices will make every Delhiite smile on their way out. Very pocket friendly! An average meal would cost about Rs 800 for two.





Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Pop Up



After trying out many a new cuisine and variations of the same, Delhi dining is steering towards out-of-the-box concepts or so it seems. Take The Pop Up as a case in point. This new refurbished restaurant replaces the erstwhile Tonic at Siri Fort complex, albeit for three months. The chefs at the very successful Tres in Lodhi Colony, Jatin Mallick and Julia Carmen Desa, are behind the kitchen counters. And here's a teaser of what you can expect at The Pop Up.



Finger-licking good tomato jam and chilli oil keep you busy till you are ready for your order. Do not miss the awesome plating.


Skeeter started with an Undressed tart of sundried tomatoes with goat's cheese, caramelised onions, bell peppers, salad greens and tomato infused balsamic (Rs 400). The dish balanced the myriad flavours well and set the tone for the evening, leaving me curious about the next dish, but the presentation got a thumbs down.


Our next order was the Kashundi and dijon baked button mushrooms on a crispy croute (Rs 375). The mushrooms came HOT on the table, we loved the temperature and the taste. This dish would've lost all glory had it not been served at that temperature. The explosion of mustard in the mouth satiated us. The croute beneath was not crispy though and that is hardly a complaint because beneath the bread we found to our surprise some Oyster mushrooms!!! So we are not sure if it was deliberately not mentioned on the menu (like it was supposed to Pop Up as well?) or what but we loved what we ate!



For the mains Skeeter had a Doh'nut burger with Pan roasted winter vegetables and Shiitake mushrooms and cheese (Rs 450) which came topped with water chestnuts that looked like little square chunks of cheese. Two doughnut buns replaced the regular big fat burger bun, so this could easily be shared. It tasted great and I believe it was the chef's take on a meatless burger with lots of oomph and texture. A big hit on the table. The icing (or cheese?) on this burger was that the waiters are well-informed and had forewarned about how the Doh'nut burger has two portions and can be shared. A big thumbs up to them.
The portions at The Pop Up are very generous. Knowing that, I still went ahead to order a side of Hand Cut Double Cooked Fat chips drizzled with a blue cheese sauce. At Rs 150, they easily are the winners of the best deal for fries in town and that it is winter, only helps!


A refreshing cucumber lemonade was a welcome break from the regular soft drink suspects on the menu.



The Tian of Dark and White chocolate mousse with a layer of wine jelly was only a befitting end to a superb meal. Rush to The Pop Up while it lasts :)





Sunday, November 23, 2014

Yum Yum Cha, Select City Walk

Joining the Pan-Asian brigade of Diva Kitsch, Yum Yum Tree and others is a colourful cafe called Yum Yum Cha in a busy mall in Saket. To begin with, Yum Yum Cha takes Sushi and Sashimi from fine dining restaurants to a more casual, relaxed setting. The food is stunning and how they dole out such gratifying fare from a tiny space at Select City Walk mall, Saket is a wonder. Well, not really. What else would you expect when you get to know Yum Yum Cha is a product of the famous sibling The Yum Yum Tree? 


The 40 cover dining space is an open cafe done tastefully with colourful Japanese Origami dumplings, tea pots, geisha, slippers denoting casual dining, tea-pots and more. These symbols are also embroidered on napkins and on aprons of the ushers and would keep you visually engaged while you wait for your order (which won't take very long).


While the Spicy Asparagus dumplings (4 pieces for Rs 245) with a filling of asparagus in satay sauce and Bok Choy dumplings (4 pieces for Rs 245) with vegetables and garlic, chilli are good, the star of the show is the Crispy Vegetable Cheung fun (Rs 385 for 6 pieces).





Asparagus tempura and Spicy avocado Sushi come at Rs 485 for 8 pieces. Club that with a nice drink and you have an afternoon meal. We tried the Black Magic and the Thai orange and Kaffir Lime fun bottles from the listed beverages. The drinks, however, were a little underwhelming. Some tweaking and intensifying of flavours would reap yummy benefits. The Crispy Corn cake (Rs 285) was topped with chillies and burnt garlic. Bang on flavour, pretty presentation, tweaked for the Indian palate (read spicy and full of garlicky goodness) this was a show stopper and comes highly recommended.

The sizzling basil & chilly sticky rice were served up beautifully in a hot stone pot in which it was assembled and cooked. The server stirs it up right on the table for an interactive touch and some fun on the table while you drool into a coma by aroma. The Paper Hot Pot based on Japanese Nabe will have the people on your neighbouring table stealing glances. We ordered the Ramen soup with noodles and it was pretty acceptable.

Your buck would really stop at the dessert. Do not order anything other than the world famous 
Icecream. For the uninitiated, Mochi is made from a  glutinous Japanese rice which is pounded into a desired shape and coloured suitably. The ice-cream comes filled in the Mochi. We tried the classic Matcha Green Tea which is a Skeeter favourite. The coconut and Jaggery Mochi is a sensational delight for those who like things a little sweet.

The service was good and a tad fast. It was heartening to see owner Prathna Tuli enthusiastically manage tables rather than leaving the task on the shoulders of their able staff.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Olive, Mehrauli: Winter Menu 2014, a sneak peak

Skeeter woke up and felt she needed to pinch herself to believe that she actually had the kind of food she did one night ago. It was Olive time again. Olive is one of the most pleasing places to eat at. Whether you pick a daytime visit, a cool evening or an unrelenting winter night; you are bound to want to stay there a little more. Couple the ambience with great food and here's what follows: Skeeter arrived to this beautiful box of savoury cornetto planted on arborio rice like a bejwelled mini garden. Chef Sujan Sarkar never fails to amuse (bouche)!


What stuns Skeeter most is how the chef plays around with beetroot to yield (oops plate) spectacle after spectacle. He presents the same ingredients in a different avtaar whenever he wants! Last time Skeets had a Salt baked beetroot with goat's cheese, wild rocket leaves, orange and apricot puree. This time she had a Beetroot Carpaccio sandwich (piped cream cheese sandwiched in two slim roundels of beetroot) seated around artichokes, scattered pine nuts, orange segments and drizzled with a mint dressing. Who'd  think beetroot can be had in so many deelish variations?




The Melting Camembert was another stunner. The presentation was as classic and appealing as the dish itself. Gooey, melting Camembert cheese surrounded by a mix of mushrooms fried in garlic and perfumed with thyme with a side of a perfectly done puffed wheat toast served on a cast iron pan standing on a wooden platter. How very 60's?! You'd want to dig right in like Skeeter did and stop only when you wipe the pan clean :)



Plating food in an arty way is sure a treat to the eyes and the senses. But when you see a remarkably well-plated dish it is equally heartbreaking to demolish it. So it happened with Skeeter when she saw the Pan seared Gnocchi, with minty Zucchini and green beans, with pea puree, crunchy toasted almonds in a blue cheese emulsion. The Gnocchi came swimming in the blue cheese and pea puree and was topped with watercress that made the whole thing look like a heavenly herb garden where fairies come to play. Have a look! 


There was a sublime wild mushroom risotto too!

All through her meal, Skeeter was sipping on this wonderful drink called Hot Velvet, perfect to nurse a cold or just get mildly high on a nippy evening. It was stirred up with Grey Goose, spice syrup and earl grey tea; served warm, and came glistening in a transparent, long glass mug, with a stick of cinnamon, a star anise, an orange rind for company. 


The dessert made a befitting end to a great meal. Mini creme caramels, drizzled with caramel popcorn consomme, a chia seed and hazel nut crunch topping. A must try on your list, when you go visiting Olive.

P.S: Skeeter was invited for the winter menu sampling





Friday, October 17, 2014

Pizza Express Delhi vs Pizza Express London

It's raining Pizzas in Delhi and how! Last month Skeets visited Indigo Delhi, then came Tonino and Pizza Express. The buck stops at Pizza Express for Skeets as they make another foray to the Pizza market in Delhi. 
It is one hell of a task for Skeets to write about Pizzas as she is extremely biased towards orginal/classic Margherita pizzas. There's no looking beyond for her. But she shall try. Skeeter's first tryst with Pizza Express was in London and that was an overwhelming experience. So, she was looking at a repeat experience at Pizza Express, Delhi, very reluctantly. 


Live kitchen and some take away boxes

The signature dough balls (Rs 165) were mopped up with garlic butter and this, Skeets must warn is an addictive combo at Pizza Express. One can opt for the dough balls with a trio of dips and a larger portion. Skeets then proceeded for the Bruschetta Con Funghi (Rs 385) which was a mini meal in itself. The golden bread was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and came topped with baked button mushrooms, bechamel sauce, red onion, chopped parsley and a drizzle of balsamic. Pizza Express has loads of salads on offer but Skeets skipped them to do justice to Pizzas and dessert.

(Left: Dough balls and garlic butter. Right:Bruschetta Con Funghi )

The Pizza tossing spectacle at Pizza Express, Delhi

(Left:Proofing of the dough at Pizza Express, India. Right: Pizza base with tomato sauce from Parma )

The Giardiniera Pizza (classic base) is topped with mushrooms, mozzarella, leeks, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and olives on a tomato and pesto base drizzled with fragrant garlic oil and comes at Rs 510. The Pizza Express classic base has its own fan following but if one wants they can upgrade it to the thinner, crispier Romana base for Rs 100. Extra toppings for any pizza come at Rs 45 a pop; choose from char grilled veggies, eggs, sweet peppadew among others. There are some non-veg toppings available too but that was not Skeets' area of interest. Skeets moved on to the Padana pizza (RS 595) on a Romana base. It came topped with Goat's cheese, mozzarella, spinach, caramelised onions and a drizzle of garlic oil. This sublime Pizza was Skeeter's personal favourite and she recommends you must try the Padana at Pizza Express. Oh and do drizzle some extra garlic oil for enhanced flavour.

 Padana pizza on Romana base
On to desserts, Skeets is happy to report that the Pizza Express Cheesecake did not fail her. The baked vanilla cheesecake (Rs 295) is served with your pick of cream, gelato or mascarpone cheese and fruit coulis on the side. It did justice to the chain and lived up to Skeeter's expectations. There are a few other desserts and Dolcetti on the menu, but Pizza Express is all about classics for Skeeter.

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with mascarpone and fruit coulis
London vs Delhi

The few branches of Pizza Express in London that Skeeter likes are the Bromley and Bloomsbury ones. The ambience of Pizza Express, Delhi is pleasant and inviting with comfortable seating. The decor of every Pizza Express branch represents something from the area in which they open shop. This one has painted plates on the wall to represent ceramic pottery of the area. There is a splendid rooftop seating coming up soon too and the liquor license is awaited.
The wait staff are very well trained. Full marks for that! The menu in London is a little more elaborate with a few extras in each section. Am sure the Pizza Express, India people will up their game with time and add more from the London favourites.
The Pizza standards are up to the mark as there is a taste tester who is flown from London for quality maintenance. The tomatoes comes from a region near Parma in Italy, a tradition being maintained by the chain since 1965.
There was a drizzle of cream that dressed the Cheesecake at the London branches. Skeets prays the Pizza Express at Delhi incorporate that and make Skeety happy.

A meal at Pizza Express would be approximately Rs 2000 for two people. A must try Pizzeria, this.