Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ping's Cafe Orient, Lodhi Colony - a preview

Skeeter raises a brow when another restaurant starts serving 'oriental' slash 'Pan Asian' slash yada yada. Let's begin with the food. Predictably so, it'd be a mix of dimsum, soups, noodles, tasting similar to that served by other establishments and even bearing similar or 'inspired' names and we could go on. Ping's Cafe Orient at Lodhi Colony Market serves Oriental food. But they attempt something different. For one, Ping's Cafe Orient opened to public in their 'trial' phase where the printed menu says 'sample menu' and is available for the public to walk in and they seek feedback during the meal (not the best thing to be subjected to) and at the end of it. The menu promises that when they launch, they'd have some Korean dishes and a lot else on offer. And then Ping's Cafe Orient opted out of the tried and tested 'Japanese, Thai and Chinese' route to venture into serving a good mix of food from Japan, Phillipines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea et al. They have even christened the dishes after famous cities and rivers of these countires. It's fun identifying them on the menu!


The decor is different too! A refreshing break from the regular stuff. Thankfully there are no bulbs with filaments staring at you or bare walls (these are best left as signatures of the restaurants that started the trend). Rather, Ping's Cafe Orient is a dim lit place which has these cute 'Pings' or buttons which switch on coloured bulbs hanging on your table when you want to 'ping your server' (the staff gleefully informed us on our arrival of this feature as we walked in). Interestingly enough, Skeeter managed to annoy a cozy couple on her first Ping as the bulb or the Ping light was shared by our tables. Curios are strewn all over but not overdone and that gives Ping's Cafe Orient a very non-intimidating and comforting feel. Ping's Cafe Orient utilise the restaurant space better than their predecessors Ploof, but some tables on the ground floor are placed a little too close for comfort (especially those that seat twos). The first floor is a more eclectic space where you walk up and stare at an installation of denims drying on wires, walk past a mini salon to enter the loo. Don't miss the quirky loo signage! There is an extra long table on the slightly undone terrace which Skeeter could immediately imagine being held by a gang of youngsters having a wild time out!

The Grub & service

The menu is divide into Nibbles, Salads, Ping's signature salads, Soups, Highway Style Appetisers, Dock side Appetizers, Mains, Ping's signature dishes, Noodles, Desserts and Cocktails. A bottle of Sriracha on each table assured us that good things will follow. We started with crackers, sambal (the staff did not inform us that it contained fish sauce, thankfully we knew) and a fantastic house made black bean jam that called for repeats.

Skeeter picked Bamboo forest style Edamame Sea Salt (Rs 245) from the Highway Style Appetisers section. These were seasoned with good quality sea salt but were a tad overdone. The Edamame come in a Wok Tossed Chilli flavour too. 

Makati Manila's Pomelo Salad with roasted Pine Nuts was no less than a rockstar except that it contained peanuts and not pine nuts as promised on the menu. Segments of Pomelo danced their way into Skeeter's mouth with a refreshing burst of a variety of flavours that came together well, yet held their own. The citrus of the pomelo, the heat from the bird's eye chilli, the freshness of julienned red and yellow peppers with a dressing that matched it all and finally the crunch of roasted peanuts - all made a very promising salad. 

Cebu style cheese Lumpia rolls with a twist were next. A generous portion of 8 rolls were served with the in-house black bean jam rather than the usual nahm jim. Crunchy rolls oozing with cheese & some veggies with a prominent hint of lemongrass make for an instant lift-me-up appetizer on a weekday. Yum! Service gets slow as we saw many people anxiously awaiting their food when the restaurant was running packed.

Skeeter loves a place that serves good appetisers and could make a meal of those. But she went ahead and ordered the Pho, the vietnamese noodle soup that comes in a vegetarian option at Ping's Cafe Orient. 

Skeeter just had to try it and she's glad she did! Pok Choy, broccoli, snow peas, shiitake and oyester mushrooms with some more greens and flat noodles come floating in a fragrant broth and topped with fried garlic and onions, something that'd be so comforting on a damp rainy day or a cold sunless one. Nevertheless, the Pho was hearty and a gigantic portion, that! For dessert, the coconut-jaggery icecream that Skeets tried was nothing exceptional but ended the meal on a pleasant and sweet 'oriental note'. Will Skeeter go back again? Hell yeah!

Meal for two: Rs 3,000 (including all of the above plus 1 non-veg starter, 1 non-veg main, 1 mocktail)
Address: 13, Main Market, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi
Phone: 9999447977

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Tokyo Mon Amour

Guppy by ai has been Skeeter’s favourite over and over for its non-intimidating yet non-casual vibe and is the perfect spot for some afternoon Sushi hogging with the girlies before a movie date or a relaxed evening. Their new menus that give regulars something new every season are what Skeeter usually looks forward to – a new ingredient here and a new preparation there, is always welcome. This time round, they’ve turned their bar area and the courtyard into an eclectic pop-up bar called Tokyo Mon Amour or Tokyo My Love - the Tokyo connection being their tie-up with Le Bistro du Parc, a French bistro and Skeeter was invited for an experiential evening. What is served as a result of this collaboration is Japanese food with touches of French and it is starkly different from the regular Guppy menu. There are numerous small plates and a bevy of cocktails lined up on the menu.

But before we hop on to that, a bit about the look and feel. At Tokyo Mon Amour there are tall wooden tables with fresh flowers on each of them, candles spelling zen and some really good music – all elements that leave you feeling chipper. Outside, the courtyard tree is bound with a string of fairy lights, lighting up the space and giving it a new flavour. The pop-up has been designed by Naina de Bois-Juzan of Le Bistro du Parc and the food comes from the able kitchen of Guppy by ai’s Chef Vikram Khatri. This was my second different experience of the same space, the first being a La Compagna dinner. It is fascinating to see how they do something different with the space each time. From a sit down dinner to now a flattering pop-up.

We started the evening with a Wasabi Mimosa, a perfect summer drink, with the tang from oranges finding a friend in the sting of Wasabi. It paired well with a refreshing Cured Tomato & Gingko Nut Salad which is a three-day cured chukka tomato salad also starring palm heart, celery, grapes and gingko nuts with a ginger-citron dressing. Skeeter looks at it as an attempt at presenting a tapas (a la Japanese and French style) style menu which most restaurants tread towards warily as the smallish portions are despised (and criticised) by many. Skeeter’s take bing that Tokyo Mon Amour portions are apt for their format and well worth the dough.

The Cheese Korokke came next– deep fried, crunchy on the outside croquettes filled with gooey cream and gruyere cheese were served with Mayo and Worcestershire sauce. Curry Pan bread caught Skeeter’s attention too. This Panko crusted Japanese ‘Kare’ bread was made of a slightly sweet dough, filled with a spoonful of curry, panko crusted and deep fried. Though the server politely informed us, still do remember that the bread is hot enough to scald the palette.

It was washed down with the Ichigo Punch made with Sochu, mixed berry compote, fresh strawberries and topped with sparkling wine. But Skeeter’s second favourite cocktail was the Painap Flip stirred up with brandy, thyme, fresh pineapple, lime and sugar. Though Skeeter's eyeing a white wine sangria pitcher for her next visit as it is summertime! For the eats, the Mushroom & Asparagus Gyoza came with an unusual combination of rustic tomato salsa, chives and cream reduction. They’re gluten free, crisp bottomed pot stickers and exude a melody of flavours. These certainly call for repeats. 

We were wise not to do that as a brilliant Home smoked brie, fresh figs, rice crackers & greens was to be had. Queen of cheese, the soft brie, smoked in-house comes seated on a black serving plate and looks as good as it tastes. Wonder why we don’t see many cheese platters on Delhi menus?

Skeeter could not end her evening without having the Black rice sushi roll with Avocado, Cucumber & Cream cheese finished with tempura crisps and sesame seeds. The only Guppy offering that makes an appearance at Tokyo Mon Amour. Gratifying, as always!

All the vegetarian dishes are priced between Rs 250 & 350 except the Home Smoked Brie & the Sushi roll. The cocktails carry a maximum tag of Rs 375. The pop-up is on till April 30.

Where: 28, Main Market, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Dirty Apron, Safdarjung Enclave Market

A quaint and cozy bistro has sprung up on the upper floor of The Piano Man in Safdarjung Enclave and it is called Dirty Apron (Delhi is surely getting better at naming its restaurants). At Dirty Apron, they serve Eurasian food and what better than European with touches of Asian for a bistro menu in a city that has a wide palate?

Dirty Apron is owned and run by Arjun Sagar Gupta, an ardent music lover, while fellow food blogger Ruchira Hoon Phillip is the food consultant. Skeeter was at The Dirty Apron in Safdarjung Enclave the other day for a bloggers' table over lunch. Located bang opposite Deer Park, the approach to the place is easy with plenty of parking space, unlike the neighbouring madness that is Hauz Khas Village. While The Piano Man has a lovely energetic vibe and a following of its own, Dirty Apron is more of a calm and inviting place (read soothing white walls, hanging planted pots and more), just the kinds you'd want to head to after a hectic week at work or a quick lunch on weekdays. 

We started with a Pumpkin and peanut butter soup made up with roasted pumpkin puree and creamy peanut butter and served with a portion of ultra buttery and garlicky bread. All flavours complemented the other, and the rich, velvetty, decadent, nutty soup is a must try! A Beetroot, orange and feta salad was up next. Crisp greens, beets, tangy orange and creamy feta built this refreshing salad. Another salad followed - The Warm Asian Potato Salad. Perfectly roasted spuds tossed in an Asian dressing with a sprinkle of sesame seeds were lent a suitable kick from fresh red chillies. 

Stuffed Mushroom Nonya Sauce were next. Plump, crispy batter fried mushrooms tossed in Nonya or sweet sticky japanese sauce. Though Skeeter tasted this sauce for the first time, she quite liked what she ate. Mains were Coconut rice with Sambal and Okra served with crispy onions and lime. The ladies finger were tossed in a house-made Malay samabal sauce served with on a bed of coconutty rice - a different preparation of Okra, this. 

A woody and hearty wild mushroom risotto followed. There beer cocktails were appreciated by the table. Must try another time. For dessert we tried the Lemongrass and Kaffir lime scented Creme Brulee - which hit the spot and we had to ask for a second round - that good. 

Some fabulous food aside, they have a terrific terrace seating, perfect for the spring in Delhi right now. Brightly coloured walls and comfortable seating - one could spend hours at such a pretty place.

Where: B 6-7/22, 2nd Floor, Opposite Deer Park, Safdarjung Enclave Market, New Delhi
Phone: 011 33107861

Monday, February 22, 2016

Indigo, One Golden Mile

Indigo at One Golden Mile, Delhi opened with much aplomb and almost soon after, celebrity chef Rahul Akerkar exited the company. Skeeter visited the restaurant both before and after his exit and here's an account of her last visit for a winter menu tasting. One enters the sprawling courtyard, passing by their Deli, from where Skeeter remembers picking some good breads and croissants on her last visit.

On a crisp winter evening, the tasting menu started with a lovely amuse bouche of brioche topped with jam and goat cheese, with an edible flower petal that brightened the plating. A spectacular wild mushroom consomme with mini chevre tortellini followed thereafter. The consomme was light and hearty, and the tortellini paired well with it.
Amuse Bouche
Wild mushroom consomme with mini chevre tortellini

The salad of asparagus, shaved fennel & green apple, baby greens, chives and parmesan dressing was crisp, well dressed, refreshing and aptly portioned. 
Salad of asparagus, shaved fennel & green apple

As the evening wore, the table got a little impatient as the service got a little slow and we got our mushroom mille feuille with whipped chevre, rucola and porcini liquor, after a long wait. But the company on the table kept the evening warm with friendly banter. While the deconstructed take on the mushroom mille feuille with baked puff pastry assembled in crisp layers to stand over the whipped chevre was nice, the porcini were rather cold and the taste was amiss. Overall, a dish that is best not remembered.

Mushroom mille feuille with whipped chevre, rucola and porcini liquor

Faith in their food was restored with the Herb ricotta & saffron stuffed cappelletti (hat shaped pasta) with basil butter roasted mushrooms, baby carrots and parsnip puree. It was a stellar dish full of oomph and flavour. Skeeter would go back for this one.

Herb Ricotta and saffron stuffed Cappelletti
But the show stopper for the evening was definitely - the dessert sampler. With its fun, colourful, simple yet stunning plating, the dessert sampler consisted of a decadent and wonderfully flavoured smoked chocolate mousse, a sublime Belgian chocolate & hazelnut dome, a creamy Mango & Passion Cremeux and a Deconstructed Red Velvet Cake. The food at Indigo is still as good after the celeb chef's exit and the presentation has gotten better. Kudos!

Dessert Sampler

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chef In a Box

Ever been there? - Reaching home late, wanting to eat at home, but hunger forces you to order in, instead? Or having trouble getting out of that soft blanket in treacherous cold or leaving the air-conditioned room in sultry summer and having to gather, wash and chop ingredients before you put together a meal and then gobble it down?

Chef-In-A-Box is the solution to all of the above; and they came to Skeeter’s rescue on one such day by asking her to try out their offering. They've tied up with a couple of home chefs and bakers who prep the recipe, gather measured ingredients for you, deliver to your doorstep and all you have to do is cook them per the instructions.
Skeeter has heard raving reviews of Shreyaa's Kitchen and since they have a tie-up with Chef-In-A-Box, it was one of the obvious choices! Skeeter picked the Veg Khow-Suey for her mains. Considering it is one dish that requires quite a few diverse ingredients to have at home, before you think of making it, even though Skeeter knew what was coming, it was a delight to see everything prepped, packed and sent over. 10 ingredients, no less! Garnish as well! Skeeter asked for the egg to be omitted and they did so. The cooking bit was a breeze. The taste was spot on (salt, spice, all in place)! The only low point in the entire process was that the gravy thickened a bit too much upon adding chickpea flour. Skeeter had hot water handy and salvaged her Khow Suey dinner. The quantity was enough for two, and depending on your appetite, even three can easily share this one! 

The second recipe that Skeeter tried was Rich Dark Chocolate Pots, a dessert by Chocooze, which was a cool four-ingredients dish. This one was again a breeze to make and requires three hours of minimum refrigeration. With minimal effort required to put this one together, it was a hit, and tasted swell! Skeeter chose two big pots instead of four.

What needs improvement? Same day delivery needs to be introduced. More chefs/home cooks need to be added for greater variety.


Khow Suey from Shreyaa's Kitchen (Serves 2): Rs 410
Chocolate pots from Chocooze (Serves 4): Rs 455
One has to order a day in advance, so yes, this is not one of those instant services, but convenient for sure. 
Where to order?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Bombaykery

Amid tons of bakeries opening up at an eye-popping speed, few leave a mark. Bombaykery is one that caught Reeta Skeeter's attention, for reasons more than one. Let us unfold them one at a time.

The concept

Bite sized desserts. Need we say more? You fix that craving of yours and you can't possibly get greedy as it is all over in a bite. Or two! A bite whose taste lingers on, long after it is over. These desserts also make for perfect picks for a get-together at home, as you continue to sip wine and talk late into the night.

The treats

Here are Skeeter's picks from their kitty!

This absolutely fab Passion Fruit Tart with a mini macaron (Rs 60). Looks pretty, tastes better! Move away lemon tart, you have competition!

The Belgian chocolate fudge studded with nuts and dusted with more chocolate (Rs 30 a pop with minimum 6 pieces to order). Best had under the blanket with a book in hand and Jasmine tea on the side!

Bite sized baked Kala Khatta cheesecake (Rs 60) with an enticing blueberry and blackberry compote. Love their raspberry cheesecake too!

And I'd save the best for the last. Skeeter loves her savouries more than dessert and these nigella and sesame seed studded cheese sticks (Rs 200 for a jar) are perfect tea-time accompaniments! 

And while they promise to pop-up at yet another food fest 'near you', you can always order from their home kitchen. You can find their number and menu here

Here's to many food adventures ahead. Happy 2016!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Marou - Ba Ria Single Origin dark chocolate

Skeeter hoards chocolates. Marou is in the stash currently and to share over here is a) possible and b) necessary. Marou is a Vietnamese, single origin chocolate that is made from cocoa beans sourced from family owned farms in that country. Today, Skeeter shares about Marou Ba-Ria 76% single origin, dark chocolate. The packaging is stellar and before moving to the taste profile, Skeeter but can't help elaborate a little. Peel off a tangerine and gold wrapper, to reveal a gold foil. Peel the M - for Marou sticker and you find yourself staring at a gorgeous bean-to-bar chocolate. The M - for Marou embossed on the bar is every inch elegant. A few lines of the wrapper were imprinted on the bar, but that didn't bother Skeeter much. The bar is scored in different sizes and shapes (a big rectangle in the mid, some triangles, and even diagonally elsewhere). It has an uneven sheen.

The tasting

It is a hard snap to begin with. Good signs! In the mouth, earthy flavours are experienced at the onset and the guessing game begins as the chocolate slowly melts and reveals fruity notes. There's a certain tang which is the signature of Ba Ria - slightly sour, which reminds me of a raspberry or an unripe, tart cherry. The finish is smooth and long. And that's chocolate heaven. Ba Ria gets a thumbs up!

The brand story

Marou is the labour of love of two Frenchmen - Vincent and Samuel, who have used French techniques and indigenous Vietnamese ingredients to make Marou, from the bean to a bar. They work closely with Vietnamese cocoa growers to source the best cocoa beans (Ba Ria is sourced from the hills of Ba Ria province). They collect cocoa from five regions in Vietnam. The colour of each wrapper is similar to the colour of the cocoa bean it is made with. And that indicates heaps of thought behind the packaging! They have raised the bar for Vietnamese chocolates certainly, considering Vietnam only produces 0.1% of world cocoa.

Where to look for Marou in India?

Price: Rs 790 for 80 grams.

Brand website: