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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... :)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dario's once more...

And there i was, back at Dario's for a dinner. You can read my previous review here

This time with the CFG gang and Suresh Cumar [ the man behind Dario's Chennai] was also with us tonight. Instead of doing another detailed review, am going to do a photo feature with a one liner on each of the dishes..

Focaccia Bread with Sun dried tomato dip/sauce- This is served complimentary and are quite flavorful.

Antipasto Siciliano -A fun platter- Olives, olives stuffed with red chillies, gorgonzola cheese, pickled onions, sauteed Italian vegetables, Brinjal cooked the Sicilian way and sun dried tomatoes- We all loved the cheese, it was stinky but we couldnt get enough of it. 

Funshi Darios- Whole roasted Mushrooms with lemon, garlic, parsley & olive oil- I loved this, even though garlic was strong.

Assorted Bruschetta platter- 2 with gorgonzola cheese, and 2 with Sundried tomato paste- The Cheese ones won hands down. 

This was another platter of Bruschetta- with sauteed zucchini, olive paste and tomato & basil- I quite liked the zucchini ones]

hey, wait a minute, we were offered 2 kinds of salads, damn, forgot to take pictures of them.. One was Aranciazola [Mixed salad leaves with orange slices, gorgonzola, olives and herbs] . The 2nd salad was   Verdure Grigalate [Warm mixed vegetables- baby potatos, colour peppers,zucchini, carrots and onion] 

Polpette Di Spinaci e Formatggio -- Spinach & Fresh cheese balls served with spinach cream dip -- We had this last time as well, i loved the starter but wish it was served with a spicier dip.

Pizza Carduni- Mozerella cheese, Artichoke, Broccoli, Mushroom, garlic, Olives an sun dried tomatoes - Loved it, the pizza stood still when you held it and dint wilt like a dried up flower.

 Pizza Stromboli-Mozzarella, red chilli, spinach, red peppers and sun dried tomatoes-- Personally, i loved this one-

During the course of the evening, we were all suddenly talking about Tea when Suresh mentioned they had a Morrocan mint which was quite good. Well, yes, we ordered some and between us had quite a few cups of the tea. And then, he also said they had Blackcurrant tea. Ta da, I wanted it, i love the flavour and quite enjoyed the tea. but Blackcurrant tea is not something you can have cups and cups of, it is quite strong. So, if you are at Dario's,, do try the Morrocan Mint, you will not regret and will come back to Thank me! This image is of the Blackcurrrant tea :)

Ok, moving ahead, here are the main courses that we got to sample..

Risotto al funghi Porchini- Risotto made with porchini mushrooms- It was creamy and simple flavours

Risotto Siciliano- Risotto cooked with tomato sauce, red chilli,aubergines, oregano,capers and cheese: This felt very Indian, maybe because of the tomato base.

Ravioli Kamarina- Ravioli stuffed with spinach& cheese served on a bed of tomato sauce cooked with peas , chickpeas, rosemary and cream- It was quite good, i am not a great fan of Ravioli but the texture here was light and soft.

Tortellini Formaggi &Funghi- Pasta Parcels stuffed with mushroom & cheese served in Cheese sauce- I love mushrooms and so liked it, but not a big fan of white sauce[gets heavy on the tummy]

Fusili Vitale-- Fusili tossed with fresh tomatoes,sundried tomato, garlic and mushrooms- It was good, but nothing new as i make pasta quite often at home.

Crepelle Al Funghi- Baked pancakes with mushrooms, garlic, cheese, tomatoes and peas- Creamy and rich, crepes filled with veggies, dint try it last night as i had this last time around :)

Moving on, we were served not one or two, but 4 desserts, of which 2 I loved and others were Ok... not my cuppa tea.

Erupting Chocolate- Well, it was like the molten chocolate cake, you cut in and out oozes rich chocolate sauce. If you are a chocaholic, go for it. 

No prizes for guessing- Tiramisu- However, this one tasted very different, and Suresh mentioned it was eggless. 

Where are the other 2? Patience... I have saved the best for last... Remember the song? yes, well, here it is, the dishes that stood out amongst the others, the ones that still lingers in my mind... What is it? Read on... 

 Risottoragli Asaparagi- Risotto cooked with Asparagus, cream and cheese- Oh man, this was divine. you could taste the richness, the flavour and there were so many different textures. It was the highlight of the evening for many of us. :-)

Panna Cotta- A simple dessert served with Blueberry preserve and thin slices of apple- every spoonful was heavenly

The Lemon cheesecake- Hubba hubba hubba.. This one sure is a winner.. The lime flavour comes out so beautifully, it sings a song in your mouth :-)

As i bid adieu, it was one awesome evening with Friends, Food and an ambiance that oozed with FUN...

You can read my earlier review here

Highlights at Dario's
  • It is a pure vegetarian restaurant
  • There is a lovely indoor and outdoor seating area
  • They are open till 11pm... 
  • There are plans to launch corporate lunch packages with a set menu[ for large groups] priced around Rs650
  • The desserts are eggless, even the Tiramisu.. 
A meal for 2 should cost around Rs1000 - 1500... 

Dario's Address:
#11, Kasturi Rangan Road,
2nd Street,
Chennai- 600018
Ph:             044-4919 3333      
URL: [you can not only read about the restaurant, but also see the detailed menu]
Landmark: Next to Ashwini Hospital [1st right after the Russian Cultural Centre]

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  :-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Haagen-Dazs arrives in Chennai

Häagen-Dazs, a name that brings a twinkle in every eye,
Häagen-Dazs, a brand that people who are into desserts, especially ice creams will know
Häagen-Dazs, need i say more?

Well, today, Chennai has a new entrant in the ice cream arena, that too in prime location- Khader Nawaz Khan road. Yes, you read it right. Even though all this while  Haagen-Dazs ice creams were available across select outlets in the city, a stand alone outlet sure changes things. It shows that the city has welcomed the brand, has shown them they have a place in this beautiful city. :-) 

Häagen-Dazs (pron.: /ˈhɑːɡəndɑːz/) is an ice cream brand, established by Reuben and Rose Mattus in the Bronx, New York, in 1961. Starting with only three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, the company opened its first retail store in Brooklyn, New York, on November 15, 1976.  Häagen-Dazs produces ice cream, ice cream bars, ice cream cakes, sorbet and frozen yogurt.
~Source: Wikipedia 

The outlet is situated in the same complex as Cascade & Man mandir store in Khader Nawaz Khan road, and on the ground floor is where Haagen-Dazs is located. The Franchise is owned by Sam Paul, the one who opened Crimson Chakra on KNK road, and who also owns Toni & Guy salons in the city.

 The range of desserts-Top shelf- Brownie, Cookies[they were huge], Blueberry muffin and choco muffin; 2nd shelf-  Cheese cake, Blueberry cheese cake, Apple crumble pie and behind is the Minnesota Mud pie. 

 The waffle cones, they were divine- so crisp and beautiful

 Paradise- a layered heavenly dessert- ice cream scoops tucked between layers of waffles, served alongside fresh strawberry fresh cream and chocolate sauce.

Chef Anthony, addressing the crowd & answering queries

               The set of 3 cup cake ice cream desserts
                                                                                                                          The tub of ice cream we got when we left

The pricing is around,
Single Scoop Ice Cream Rs 180/- 
Double Scoop Ice Cream Rs 300/- 
Large Pint Ice Cream Rs 700/- 
Shakes/Drinks Rs 300/- odd 
Sundaes 3 Scoops+Sauces Rs 420/- 
3 Cup Cake Ice Cream Desserts Rs 550/-
There also offer elaborate desserts, almost like a meal, which cost around 800 bucks. So, take your time, sample the ice creams and then decide what you want :)

They are priced similar to Movenpick situated across the street. Only time will tell which of the two giants survive and which one buckles.  

 No. 32, Ground Floor, Platinum Towers, Khader Nawaz Khan Road
Chennai - 600034

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  :-)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pongal... Kanu pidi...

1st comes Bhogi, the day when old and unwanted things are burnt and thrown out to ring in the new. The highlight of the day is Bholi [rice pancake with lentil or coconut filling made with jaggery]

2nd day is the Main Pongal day, the day when people rejoice a good harvest. Us city dwellers wake up , shower, do a pooja thanking the Lord for all that he has blessed us. Special prasadams are 
Sakkarai Pongal made in the traditional paanai with Manjal leaves tied around it [ sweet rice dish cooked in the traditional vessel- either a brass pot or pan with fresh turmeric plant tied around it]
Karumbu [sugar cane]
Payasam [ milk based rice pudding of sorts]
Plain Rice with ghee 

3rd day is Kanu pidi and Maatu pongal [for the cows]. 
On pongal day, before we hit the bed, we were told that the next morning we had to wake up early [before 6am if possible]. These days we do Kanu pidi sometime in the morning. Gramma would draw a line using the fresh turmeric on our foreheads and then we would prep the space for the Kanu pidi..  Women of all ages place offerings for the crows while praying for the well being of their family, husbands and brothers incl. 

  • In an open space in our backyard, gramma or mom would draw 5 kolams in a line. 
  • Atop that we would place two Turmeric plant leaves for each person. 2 beetle nut leaves, 5 pieces of Karumbu, 2 of beetle nut is placed on the left side. 
  • 3 bowls - 1 with sakkarai pongal, 1 with curd rice and finallly one with white rice coloured using the fresh turmeric is kept beside the leaves. 
  • A small bowl of water is also kept

We make small balls of the different rice and place them in rows on the leaves. And then wash our hands, take some water in our palm, run it around the leaves and drop them on the ground. Say a prayer and complete the process.  
Women say "Kakaipidi vachen Kannupidi vachen, Kakka kuutam kalienchalum, enka koottam kalayama irukkenum" [i hereby make an offering for the crows, for the family, even if the crow family splits, mine should not] before winding up and heading for a shower.. The other key aspect is that one has to make sure none but crows eat these, other animals/birds need to be shooed off [cos we believe crows are our ancestors]... :) 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kalakal Cafe, Chennai

This was turning out to be quite an interesting Saturday. After a few hours on the Mylapore Food walk, we decided to head over towards Kotturpuram to meet the regulars at Kalakkal Cafe.

An initiative byVidya Sagar, the campus is actually a school for children with special needs, and this café is a space for those with various disabilities to come and hang out. The place is open from 4.30 to 6.30pm two saturdays in a  month. There are ramps for those on wheelchairs, mugs with handles/sippers, and simple food that suits vairous palates. I have been wanting to come here for months, but everytime i plan, the plan falls through and finally saturday i was glad to have made it.  Anuradha Shankaran [Anu Akka as they all her] is the coordinator of this Cafe. As i walked into the cafe, the poster on the wall caught my eye. It had a painted image of a tea jar with the title "Diversitea?"- Just one word to encapsulate the spirit of the place. There were few other paintings that were up on the notice board, each one speaking volumes about how smart/talented/deserving each and every individual who came there was. The food in the stall just outside the cafe offers snacks [bun, samosa] from Winners Bakery at subsidised rates, and they also offer drinks such as Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and so on.

We had a cup of hot chocolate and split a few samosas/buns between us. They were very good.

On Saturday, there were a few already at the cafe by the time we reached. Apparently, most have a fixed auto wala who drops them off and comes bacck at 6.30 to pick them up. Only 2 of them had come with their dad, others on their own.

I met,

Ummul Khair has finished her law course and now works with a law firm. She is into general law. She was the most independent of the lot.

Karthik Chandrashekar who runs a book lending called Sri Chakra Lending Library  in West mambalam and a sense of humour that would put the leading comedians to shame. When i asked him on what book he was reading now, he instantly replied " These days am reading only Facebook". If you want to pick up books, donate books, please do so at his library that is open through the week. 

Anjana, who's completed undergrad and battling with a few personal issues. She kept saying she wants to go to Kanpur to meet a lady who she'd met here earlier. And wanted us to give her info on trains and timings. 

Janakiraman- He is one of those who cant speak, he uses a board that has alphabets, numbers, and months and he points to the letters forming words... 

Santhosh- He was the last to arrive, pulled in by his dad. He kept asking for snacks and his dad kept telling him "no, you just had something at home"  He had a diary and insisted we all fill in our email and facebook id in it.

I heard a dog barking and followed the noise to find a cutie pie in a small room of sorts. He was a basset hound that kept barking at me. The security said his name was Mani.. Such a cutie pie... 

There are a few others, but they werent present on Saturday. Even though these are specially abled people, they are all so talented and smart, that i wish the society gives them more opportunities and allows them to spread their wings further.... They are all familiar with Facebook and were so keen on adding us all in and staying connected. You can also read about them on friend's blogs--  karthik and Deepa .

No 1 Vidya Sagar Formerly The Spastics Society Of India, Near Anna University, Ranjit Road, Kotturpuram, Chennai - 600085.
Ph-044 22354784,22354785

They are open on 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month. Do visit, and do what you can.. It need not be monetary, just spending some time with them... thats all they want!!

Mylapore Food walk.. The Mylapore Festival

The Mylapore Festival has been happening for a few years and i havent been able to go for it. But this year, when the gang at CFG said "lets do a Mylapore food walk on 11th Jan between 2.30 - 5pm" I made sure to mark in my calendar and go for it. It so happened that the saturday was when a lot of plans were being made and i dint know how many i could attend, and how many i would have to miss.. I ended up missing a Tweetup...

Fazil & I arrived in Mylapore around 2.20pm, found a spot to park his car and made our way to Karpagambal Mess, which was the meeting point. There were crowds thronging the streets, especially around the temple as there was the Puri Jagannath Rath and ISCKON devotees singing bhajans and trying to get close to the chariot. Managed to locate Nishanth at Kalathi Newspaper mart [at the corner of East Mada Street and South Mada Street.]along with few others, and that was where the evening began.

A glass of chill Rosemilk [all of Rs12], perfect for that warm afternoon; the flavours were amazing, reminded me of the rose milk syrup we used to buy [that tiny bottle] and the man behind the counter said they had those bottles for about Rs70- 80. Enjoyed the glass of rosemilk, met a few new members and chatted a bit before scooting from there.

The trail had been set, and next on our agenda was Rayars Mess, that was in a narrow alleyway, tucked away between houses. If you are not familiar with the area or the place, you are sure to miss this Mess. A tiny space, with a long room housing 3 tables that could seat 4 in each, a small kitchen and 2 wet grinders busy churning out dough for Dosa, and Adai. Kumar anna, the man who owned the place was there cooking, serving, chatting, and collecting money [ he said - people who come there eat and give money and go, there are no fancy equipments, or a man behind the bill counter here, and this is how its been forever] We were among the last few to eat, and i enjoyed the Urulaikizhangu bonda and half an adai along with a sip of the coffee. Was good. In all we were 20 of us and the bill came to Rs800, a mere Rs40 per pax. And the food is better than what we get at the big restaurants.

In mornings, Rayar mess is jam packed with breakfasters, serving up Idlis by the dozen, while afternoons they served-
Potato bonda
Rava dosa - plain & onion
Gulab Jamun
All served with Chutney[s] & Sambar

We met an elderly couple there, the aunty mentioned they were out shopping and thought they might get hungry and came to Rayar. She also added that the standard of food has gone down since they moved here. Was curious about us, asked how we came to know of these places and enquired about where else we were headed.. I was damn kicked about hearing their stories of years gone by and how the city has changed..... everytime i hear the tales, my love for the city increases...

It was time to move on, and the final stop for the evening was Maami's mess [Pichu Pillai Street, Off East Mada Street], on the street across from Kalathi/Karpagambal mess.. The lane was filled with gypsy women showing off their beads and jewellery colletion. Apparently they have moved to this street because the one near the temple is packed during the festival season. They had beads of all colours, neck pieces, earrings, bracelets and some even had catapults[ which a friend's son bought]. They sat there laying out their pieces with small children helping them out, some stood and smiled asking us to take their picture while others hid behind their mothers and peeked at us.

A few steps into the street, and there it was- Maami's mess, or Mami Tiffin stall as it is called with a fancy Pepsi sign board. The place was also packed to the brim and so we stood outside while a few ventured inside. There was a boy standing next to me calling out to his father in the apartment above. Picked up a conversation and discovered he was in 5th std in a nearby school and his family owned Mami tiffin stall. He dint want to climb the 3 flights of stairs and was yelling out from here, but in vain. :-)

Suddenly i heard my name and noticed S holding a vattai tumbler of hot filter kaapi [coffee] and moved ahead to the group and we began talking about food. Some tried the piping hot Vazhakkai bajji and Molaga bajji, but i gave it a pass as the bonda was still sitting heavy :) A few minutes chit chatting, a group photo and we were all set to move on to the next agenda for the evening.

Some bid good bye, while others said they were going to return here to Mylapore for the evening Food Street, where a lane between Karpagambal and Kalathi would be transformed to an Eat Street with stalls laid out. Wow, what fun... next year i shall explore that.

The one place we couldnt make it to was Jannal kadai, near Kapaleeshwar temple.. And remember, during the festival, best is to park your vehicles where you find a spot and walk around, beware of the crowds!! 

Off we went looking for the car, excited about the next destination.... The city sure is bustling with activities and things to do..

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Grand Siam, RK Salai, Chennai

Ah, the 1st showcase in 2013. Well, i was looking forward to this one as we had visited another Restaurant under the same group- Chao and the experience had been anything but delightful. But it was an evening of surprises, good and otherwise. While it was lovely meeting the regular suspects, i realised how close we had all grown over the year, and the bonds developed between some of us stronger than others. 

The 1st thing that struck me about Grand Siam were the Buddha idols placed across the restaurant- there was one on the maitre de's table, a bigger Buddha with a mini fountain of sorts in the main lobby and then a few small ones in alcoves across the place. The decor was quite pleasing and the lighting just right, not too bright nor was it dark and dingy. The place looked small on the outside, but upon entering i noticed it was quite large and i also got a glimpse of the neat kitchen. The tables had a vase with a single strand of Orchid on them, reminding me of another restaurant. I noticed couple of others sipping on a drink that had a strong ginger flavour, and passed up on it. The 2nd one that came around too i nearly missed but for a few sips from KK's glass. It looked pink, had fizz and a green Shark stirrer dunked in it. I called it the Shark suicide point :D

 We were given a long table on the right side f the restaurant, and we seated ourselves after a wee bit of debate on where the vegetarians will sit and non vegetarians will. We were 6 veggies, and well, the night seemed long and tad frustrating. The traditional meal opener was served on the table-Mien Khem- a plate with a few baby spinach leaves- coconut shavings, onion, peanuts, red chilli, ginger, lime pieces and jaggery syrup. You serve yourself all that you like on a baby spinach leaf, fold it and eat the whole thing. It is quite yumm and we had a few of these while we waited for the soup. 

1st came the Tom Yum Phak soup- a light vegetable stock with veggies [baby corn, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms] cooked with Thai herbs and spices - galangal, lemongrass, red chillies, kafir lime leaves.. It was very watery and not as spicy as what i've had in other places. The major let down in the soup were the mushrooms, as much as i love them, i felt the ones in the soup were beyond their date and therefore were chewy and had a smell. 

Following this, we saw a plate with an assortment of starters- corn tartlets, spring rolls and mushroom in skewers served alongside a good portion of Raw mango salad. The corn tartlets were good, spring rolls were a bit bland, but tasted good with the peanut sauce. The mushrooms once again were a let down, they had a burnt taste and lacked flavour. The salad was divine, i could have had a bowl of just that and been happy with the meal :) 

Through the meal i must have had a jug full of water, or even more, that is how spicy some of the dishes were. And i had to keep beckoning the waiter to fill up my glass. Moving on, the mains on the non veg side started arriving while we waited wondering what was in store for us. Between meals, we got the chance to speak to the Chef, share our opinions and feedback, and hear his side out. 

For the mains, we saw a bowl of plain rice arrive, a Thai Green curry[ wonder why they add brussel sprouts, it kinda alters the taste adding a touch of bitterness to the dish], a stir fry salad with the tofu and sprouted beans[ which was yummy], a stir fry of veggies [ felt a bit soggy, and broccoli was definitely overcooked] and a bowl of noodles [ i dint taste this but from others learnt it had a strong spring onion flavour]. Oh and there was also the plate of deep fried potatoes and baby corn tossed in a thai sauce [ was good, but the potato could have been sliced smaller]. I had a few spoons of the rice with the different side dishes and the sprouts salad stood out, in terms of texture and flavour. 

It was time for dessert, for once i skipped the cup of Lemongrass tea, diving into the bowl of Tub Tim Grob [Water chestnut in coconut milk]- it was good, but i must agree that i have had better ones. We heard there was also another dessert on the menu- Pumpkin pudding with coconut ice cream, but alas dint get to sample it.

1/200, Dr Radhakrishnan Salai,
Opposite Maruti Suzuki Showroom [next to Duchess & Kabul]
Phone 044 45568323

A meal for 2 [vegetarians] would cost close to Rs600. This was a pre set menu served to us.. Shall update cost of this shortly
This was part of a Chennai Food Guide showcase conduced by Chennai Food Guide and so i am not going to rate the place. But i will tell you this- if you are bored of the usual Thai restaurants, give this one a shot, and do let me know what you thought of the food/service/ambiance/price.  All i shall say is the Restaurant needs to notch up their service, pay more attention to the dishes and they will see more crowds at their doors vying for a table!

Remember- This was just my review of the place, my opinions might vary from yours. And the dishes might change, so will  other factors!