About Me

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Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie.. Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... I Am crazy about music,books,friends and my doggie... :)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Abyssinian, Chennai

Being a travel buff, the minute I come upon a country I am not quite familiar with, I instantly start reading up on it. This is exactly what I did when I heard of Abyssinian, the new Ethiopian restaurant that had opened doors in the city. Incidentally, Ethiopia was once called Abyssinia and that is how the restaurant earned its name as well.

Situated in the same building as two other restaurants- Meena Tai [Maharashtrian restaurant] and Batlivala & Khanabhoy[the Parsi restaurant], this is the 3rd restaurant from the brother’s duo Uday Balaji and Vikram Mohan of VM Hospitality.   While chatting with Uday, I came to know they have a test kitchen in Coimbatore where all recipes are tried out. Infact, they set up a farm to grow the Ethiopian grain, Teff but are also exploring other venues to make this happen. When I enquired about how easy or difficult the journey of establishing the restaurant has been, Uday shared the issues they face in bringing in the ingredients, the hassles with customs and other such concerns, which is why it took as long as it did for the restaurant to launch.

Since India and Ethiopia have strong connections from the past, especially with reference to Spices, it comes as no surprise that the cuisines are quite similar as well. The first thing you notice when you step into Abyssinian is the space, there are just four tables, but it adds to the charm. The walls are adorned with traditional Ethiopian musical instruments and scripts, not to forget the quirky the light fittings. The seating is low- chairs and stools and the center table is meant for the platter.  Their menu is quite extensive; all dishes are given their original name with a description to help us understand. They also have a glossary, which helps make sense of what we are served. J

We were there for lunch and it so happened all 4 of us were vegetarians. The eating style in Ethiopia is community style and so you eat from a single plate. This was taking the phrase “a family that eats together stays together” to a whole another level.

Our meal began with Thej, the official drink of this land. Made with nothing but honey, sugar and water, it is allowed to ferment a bit before being served. It was tad pungent but quite nice, and not too sweet.  Next up was a plate with Mandasi [resembles our bonda] but with strong ajwain & garlic flavours and it was served with Abe [coriander green chilli dip].

While we were busy polishing these off, we were served the sou - 'Adengare Shorba' - kidney beans that had been cooked with onion and tomato. It was light and simple. 

The staple from this region is Injera- the traditional bread of sorts that is eaten by all. There is no rice in this region [hallelujah, my kinda place].. Injera is made with a grain called Teffa [ which the restaurant is trying to source, but until then Injera is made using Ragi and rice- two variations] . if I were to explain it to you, it is similar to our dosa except it feels steamed.

The plate arrived at our table and there were two big pieces of Injera at the bottom and small rolls of Injera for each of us. And then came the side dishes, I lost count after 4.. Was happy to note they had quite a range of vegetarian options.

We were served
Dinch Wot- curried potato simmered with berbere, garlic and spices – this was a big hit, loved the flavours.
Yedinich Alicha - a stew of potatoes and carrots with onions,fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric. It was semi dry and simple in terms of flavours.
Yatakilt Wot- curried vegetable stew of cauliflower, potatoes, carrot, cabbage, beans with onions and berebere- loved this one as well. 
Yeduba Wot - curried pumpkin simmered with red onions, berebere, garlic and spices – Since I love yellow pumpkin, I enjoyed this one as well.
Indubay Tibs - mushroom sauteed with onions, chilli peppers, tomato and rosemary. Reminded me of the sauté I do at home. 
 Fir Fir - pieces of injera tossed with onions, garlic, berebere paste and Ethiopian Spiced butter- wasn’t a big fan of this, but it kinda resembles the kothu parotta.- this is typically served at Breakfast.
Shiro - powdered chickpeas stew flavored with onions, garlic and peppers- it was mushy and runny like our daal
Azifa – guessing I got the name right- It was a daal of sorts that had brown lentils that had been cooked down with spices and was quite delicious.

Apart from the main dishes, we had three sides that added a nice touch to the side dishes.
Ayib - plain crumbled cottage cheese that added creaminess to dishes. 
Mitmita  - cottage cheese with quit a hit of heat [with a local birds eye chilli, cardomon seeds and salt]
Awaze- This was a sauce made with Berebere and olive oil. It was a hot sauce that you add to increase the heat factor in any of the dishes

Phew, now those names are quite the challenge to remember, right?! That is the joy of trying something new and out of your comfort zone.

We weren’t done yet, now came the trio of desserts - 
Kita- Fried Ethiopian Flat bread with honey- this was a big dry for my liking.
Nech Azmud cake- Soft olive oil cakes made with ajwain and served with liberal amounts of honey. It contains egg [quite strong flavour as well] – one of those desserts that you eat a few bites and are done.
Sweet Sambussa- the winner among the desserts- Friend flat bread parcels of sweetened carrots, dates and nuts served with honey – Loved this one…

And to bring the meal to the close came the infamous Ethiopian Coffee that was served with a bowl of salted popcorn. Yep, you read it right. That is how Ethiopians wind up their meal. The coffee is served black into small cups, and you can either have it as it is or add some spiced butter and salt to enhance the taste. I tried both and loved them equally. The butter and salt adds a bit of warmth and cuts the bitterness. 

Oh what a fabulous afternoon it had been. An experience like no other I can say with confidence. I had shared a few pictures during the lunch and was amazed to see that a few friends have tried Ethiopian food across the world and were quite excited we had one option in Chennai and then there were those who wanted to be taken here for a treat… J

One other thing I must tell you is they are planning on introducing an afternoon coffee session where you could be privy to tales about their coffee brewing tradition or just some history about the place and people. Keep a look out for these events.

We were very impressed with the level of knowledge possessed by Eswar, the staff who took care of us through the meal. it apparently took him 3 months to master the names of dishes but he was phenomenal when it came to answering our questions and explaining the dishes. 

If you were to go for the Messob, which is this community style eating and are a group of 4 vegetarians, it would cost you Rs3399 . The restaurant also has tasting plates, curated with a combination of dishes. 

40, Maharaja Surya Road, Venus Colony, Alwarpet, Chennai- 18
[Take right at the end of Kasturi Rangan Road, drive past Tangerine and you will spot this on the right]

Dial 044 42082809 for reservations. 

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AbyssinianRestaurant/

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Biryani fest at Spice Haat in Hyatt Regency, Chennai till 10th Dec

Biryani, a dish that is much sought after by many and one that most of us vegetarians only dream about [ cos there is no such thing as Vegetarian Biryani if you were to dig into the history] Here is what I found when I went snooping on the history of Biryani.. Biryani is derived from the Persian word 'Birian'.  In Farsi, Birian means 'Fried before Cooking'. 

In the olden days, rice was fried (without washing) in Ghee (Clarified butter) which in turn gave the rice a nutty flavor and burnt the outside starch layer gelatinizing it. Once this process is complete, it is boiled in water with spices till half cooked.

Typically Biryani is made with Goat meat, which is marinated in a whole bunch of spices with yoghurt as well. And then the meat is cooked till it falls off the bone. And finally, in an earthen pot [Handi], the rice and meat are layered, few layers of condiments are added- spices, rose water, ghee and so on. It is then sealed and sat on Coal fire to cook. The process has evolved with time, with influences from various regions adding a twist to the flavours and each region today seems to have their own special kind of Biryani as well. One other point I was told was that back in the days long-grain brown rice was used in North India; while the short grain Zeeraga Samba rice was used in South India. [Another article I read on the net about Biryani]

Coming back to this evening, we were at Spice Haat [Hyatt Regency Chennai] who have come up with a Biryani Carnival of sorts. One that features 5 different kinds of non veg biryani, one veg biryani/pulao and then there is the plain Rice cooked with spices and with fried onions on it as well.  There are quite a few side dishes for the Biryani- both in veg and non veg section, ranging from the Mirchi Ka salan to Egg curry to Kaju mutter paneer, not to forget the array of raitas. 

Being a vegetarian, I made a beeline for the veg dishes and enjoyed them all, including the Rice, it had mild spices and was well cooked, while the rice had a bite to it [I hate mushy rice]. It was fascinating watching the non veg part of the group taste the rice, the meat and share their opinions, As with any dish, biryani too comes with a range of flavours, and how cooking process, the spices used makes a world of difference in the non veg arena.

To wind up the meal, you should check out their dessert counter, they have Kala jamun, tiramisu, other pastries and elaneer payasam as well [which I felt was way too watery and bland, missing the beautiful elaneer flavours]. I did have a south indian filter kaapi before calling it a night. J

The Biryani Carnival is on till 10th December at Spice Haat and is open only for dinner [6.30pm-10.30pm]. Every day the biryanis on the buffet change with one special biryani as well.

Two options are available during this period-
     a)    Buffet priced at Rs1550/- [excl tax] where you get to dig into the various kinds of biryanis apart from other dishes available on the buffet or
     b)    A la carte where you pay for Rs999/- [excl tax] to try one biryani but this comes with two Beers. 

Do call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations.

Spice Haat
Hyatt Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai,

Teynampet, Chennai.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Koramangala Social, bangalore

It was a place like no other I have been to. I rode the elevator to the 3rd floor, and entered the place and was instantly greeted by nothing but plush greenery and plenty of sunlight streaming in through the glass panel windows above. It was such a breath of fresh air, especially for someone who has been to pubs across the country where most of them are dark and dingy. Infact, you don't know where you are stepping in most places.

I found my friend seated in a table with a mix of chairs, I chose the sofa and it was damn comfortable. I got a view of the place and the one thing that hit me was the wide open spaces, the funky kitsch furniture, the overhead hanging plug points [you can pull em down if you wish to charge any device] and ofcourse the cool gear worn by the staff, very military style. 

There was a small aluminium bucket of sorts on the table that held the different menus [ they resemble the newspaper], a tissue roll with funky quirky words on it and cutlery alongside the same. I was in love with the place. Not to forget the girls whose company I always enjoy. We must have spent about 4 hrs there, and could have gone on for few more.. When I walked in, friend was drinking chai, there was a tall glass with tea, a small cutting glass with milk that said "cutting" [in hindi]. I instantly ordered one for myself. Similarly, I noticed that most glasses had a hindi word on them [paani=water, and so on]

Now coming to the food and drinks, I loved all that we ordered. I enjoyed my tall glass of Long Island Iced tea [ 500ml that came in a tall narrow glass with a long straw- it was made well] .. As for the food, the presentation is a big part of the experience- the plates, bowls they were served in and the flavours as well [except for the Laksa which I felt was different from what we expected and was tad spicy as well] 

We ordered pretty much everything on the menu, starters to desserts and were happy campers at the end of the meal. We tried the Khao Suey  [which was good,but the sauce felt a lot like what was served in the Laksa], the Paneer in a box [ it was served in a Chinese box with chopsticks], the Bhel puri and ofcourse the trio of desserts - Ramesh Suresh [ deep fried 5 Star chocolate served with vanilla ice cream in a metal box], the date sticky toffee pudding and chocolate explosion of sorts [ forgot the name, it was just an overdose of chocolate]

The damage [the box that contained the bill had this word printed on it..lol] was around 3k, but well worth the price...  The place has options for working, bring your laptop sit and work away; plenty of greenery which adds to the whole charm [apparently the other Social outlets are different and this is the largest of them all- 13000 sq ft]. Spotted quite a few groups with kids and babies as well. 

118, Koramangala Industrial Area, Koramangala 7th Block,
Ph- 080 40515253

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Smoked Tofu and a salad in a jiffy

Last weekend was the By Hand from the Heart event at Crowne Plaza.. For the last few years I have been attending this event, it all began with a friend having a stall, and over the years well it has become a tradition of sorts. The event is different from others because it is a Maker's market, all products on sale are hand made - ranging from clothes, cheese, honey, chocolates, jewellery, bags, etc etc... 

So, on Saturday a friend and I made plans to visit, it was the 2nd day and we wandered about checking out the stalls. The 2nd stall right at the entry point was by Aurosoya, and there we met Dhaval Chandarana who spoke to us about their products and got us to taste the Smoked Tofu. It was love at first bite, we picked up a packet each along with few other items from the stall. 

I have always enjoyed Tofu and was quite excited about using this product in salads or stir fries.  Anyways, after about an hour we were done here and wondered where to head for lunch. I asked friend if she had been to Benjarong and she said it had been ages. It was down the road and within minutes we were in the restaurant and shown to a table. 

I have been here way too many times and the Chef [Ramkumar] is a good friend as well... But that day, I dint tell him I was coming and hoped to get away... [Wishful thinking]. We decided to try the Vietnamese set meal that started with the delicious Vietnamese coffee. Just as we were getting ready to dig into our soup, he came over and we chit chatted. I told him about the exhibition and proceeded to give him the packet of Smoked tofu to try. 

Voila, next thing I see him back at our table with a plate that looks divine. He has managed to whip up a salad using the smoked tofu and raved about its flavours. The salad was simple, yet packed a punch. It had lemon juice, garlic, some peanuts, chilli oil , cherry tomato and few other elements. The one thing about the dish was that it heroed the Smoked tofu...  How amazing is that. Friend was stumped and excited at the same time... 

As we wound up the meal and left the place a statement my friend made plays in my head often... "It is amazing how you connect people and are more than happy to do that"... :-) 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fabelle comes to town, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai

There were Quality Street chocolates in those round tin boxes when I was growing up. And then I discovered the world of Lindt, Ghirardelli and Godiva… But then I am not a big chocolate fan, and am reminded of this every time the entire family comes together. They laugh about how they would have me in the room and wipe out the entire Quality street box and I wouldn’t cry asking for one. Well, am pretty much the same today when it comes to chocolate. Only difference is if there is dark chocolate around, you will see me come back for a second piece a day or so later. That apart my appetite for information has grown multi fold over the years, am constantly curious – origin, the process that transforms the humble cocoa pod into the chocolate and beyond… How fitting that I got to visit a Chocolate boutique when am reading a book called The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier which is about students and chocolate boxes.

When I heard about the newest entrant in the chocolate arena in the city, I was curious to say the least. Fabelle is the brand am referring to, they have partnered with ITC Hotels across the country and opened swanky chocolate boutique within the property.  In Chennai, ITC Grand Chola is where you find the Fabelle boutique.

If you are the kind who enjoys chocolates, loves to just let them linger in your mouth and allow the taste buds to have a party, then this is where you should head to. Sit down in one of the plush sofas, browse through some interesting and quirky books, walk around the place listening to the staff give insights/facts about the chocolates and finally do indulge…

You can choose from the box of Ganache [dark or milk chocolate], the one called Elements [Earth, wind, fire, wood and water] or maybe a dessert made with these fine chocolates [ranging from chocolates from Saint Dominican, Madagascar and so on] along with cinnamon, cocoa nibs, ancho chilli, nectar, almonds, salted caramel, coffee, berry, and some more to create the most amazing chocolates. The best part is, you pop the chocolate in your mouth and just let it melt, and enjoy the burst of flavours... Sinful ~!! 

I watched the Chef put together this beautiful dessert- Chocolate Flower [similar to a dessert created on MasterChef Australia]- she patiently arranges the mousse in the center with precision, and steady hands place the chocolate Petals around it, then the tiny drop of flavours all around; Wait, here comes the drama- a warm liquid made of orange and white chocolate is poured all around it and the petals fall down one by one. The mousse also has layers within- raspberry coulis and a crunchy pistachio layer.

 Oh and you can also create your own little cups of heaven - "As you like it" [on the tablet available at your table] - pick a base, add a filling, now the topping and voila and can bite into it within minutes.  Looking for something to wash it all down with- well choose from their hot or cold beverages.  ITC sure is turning things up a notch- be it food or these chocolates. What more could you possibly need? I loved the dark chocolate Ganache, it was just yummilicious. Oh and I also tried the 100% cocoa mass, and 84% dark chocolate- both of which I love love loveddd… 

The plated desserts are priced around Rs575 while the box of 5 pieces [Elements] is priced at Rs 400, and the box of 20 Ganache pieces is around Rs675. I must make a mention of this- their  attention to detail, if you were to ask for a box of the "As you like it" or the Ganache, it comes with a special ice pack to ensure the chocolate retains its texture and form till you reach your destination.  

Disclaimer: The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  :-)