Thursday, 29 November 2012

Chutney's, Secunderabad

En route Hyderabad (technically Secunderabad) for a weekend, we sat chatting in the bus about what we planned to do on this weekend holiday. While we planned to visit Ramoji Film city, watch (again) ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on IMAX screen, party and just have fun; we could not miss talking about the food we’d eat. Given we were visiting Hyderabad, biryani was the most sought after dish among us. Keeping this for lunch or dinner, we decided to head to Chutney’s a fine dine restaurant in the breakfast space.

The menu comprised south Indian classics like idli, dosa and uttapam varieties, vada etc and Andra specialties like Guntur idli for breakfast. For lunch and dinner; the restaurant served the regular Indian and Indo-Chinese fare. 

What we ate:
Not certain if they take reservations, we landed up at Chutney’s only to realize that we’d have to wait a bit to be seated on a table. During this wait, we looked up the menu for options and were set to order on being seated. A couple of portions of Guntur idli, vada - sambar, pongal and masala dosa it was. And Sudoku begins…. Yes, as we waited for the food to arrive, most of us tried to solve the Sudoku puzzle on the table, while I sat trying my hand at photography.

Engrossed in Sudoku, we were delighted to receive the first arrival on our table; Chutneys - 4 different types of them. Starting with the top right and going clockwise is (1) regular coconut chutney (2) Peanut chutney (3) my personal favorite – Coconut milk chutney and (4) onion, red chilli and ginger - garlic chutney.

Soon to follow was portions of Guntur idli. This was steamed rice idli topped with loads of ghee and red Guntur powder. The accompaniments to this were piping hot sambar and the variety of chutneys served. The Guntur idlis were flavorful and tasted exceptionally good with the sweet coconut milk chutney, peanut chutney and sambar.

Pongal came along with onion raita. The flavor was subtle. Thought it tasted well with the raita, my recommended accompaniment for would be sambar.

While pongal was being downed, we were distracted with the arrival of vada dipped in a bowl of hot sambar. Without wasting any time; the bowl was cleared. While the vada was good, it was the sambar that drew our attention. The flavor is so addictive with the sweetness to hit the palate initially and then the spice.

We finished with masala dosa followed by hot coffee. The dosa was of a  golden brown consistency. It was very light and crisp.  The coffee was typical south Indian filter coffee; packed with flavor and best sipped when served hot.

The service we received; from the time we were asked to wait for a table to be readied right up to the time we paid the bill and left the restaurant was fabulous. The staff was attentive, polite, and friendly. They ensured that the food served and any refills of sambar requested was served hot. As for the food, with no second thoughts; I can say that Chutney’s has been consistent at serving great food and delighting its patrons.

Difficult to find parking on Sardar Patel road; we were happy to be received by the valet parking staff. 

A breakfast here at Chutney’s costs an average of Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 for two and is worth every rupee spent.

Quick Tips:
Go here for a relaxed breakfast and you are sure to have a great start to your day.

Do not miss trying the guntur Idli, the variety of chutney’s served here and not to forget the vada – sambar.

Address: 1-8-303/ 48/ 3 Main Road, S P Road, Secunderabad
Phone Number: 040 - 66908484

Friday, 23 November 2012

Coastal Junction, Bangalore

It was a pleasant Saturday a couple of month ago when my stomach craved from some good seafood while my heart wished for a restaurant with open seating to enjoy the lovely weather. With an aim to satisfy both my stomach and heart, I decide to head to Coastal Junction a roof top restaurant on 80FT Road, Indiranagar. The restaurant is located on the 5th floor of the building and is run by the owner of the building himself. This restaurant is lit by natural light of the sun during the day giving it a very fresh and natural feeling. The tables are well distanced and the bar at the entrance is well set up adding to the ambience of the restaurant. Coastal Junction happens one of the few fine dining restaurants in the Coastal Cuisine segment in Bangalore.

The word coastal tends to bring in an imagination or thought that the food would be mainly sea food fare with the menu holding limited variety for the vegetarians and the non vegetarian. While the menu does comprise of sea food, the restaurant focuses on the cuisine around the coastal belt of our country. Thus, having a lot to offer in vegetarian and non-vegetarian food which includes other meats as well. 

What we ate:
Being a lover of non-vegetarian food, my visit to Coastal Junction comprised of just sea food (read: fish) and Chicken with accompaniments. For the starters, I called for Fish Masala Fry and Meen Pollichathu. While the starters arrived, I was served some complimentary fried papadums with I guess a chutney and a pickle and a hot glass of rasam. While I sipped the hot rasam which was really flavorful and spiciness for perfect to my linking, I chose not to eat the papadums since I awaited the fish starters to arrive.

The first starter to arrive on my table was Fish Masala Fry which was one big piece of seer fish covered with a red spicy coating and curry leaves. The mere sight of this was an absolute delight. Before digging into it, I added a dash of lime for I like the freshness and tanginess that lime brings in to food especially if it is on the spicier side. The fish was fresh and well marinated with spices. The curry leaves brought in this wonderful flavor and combined well with the spices.
Fish Masala Fry

The next starter was a fish fillet that arrived wrapped in a banana leaf. Yes, it was Meen Pollichathu. The banana leaf was unwrapped and there it was a pomfret coated with spices waiting to be devoured. The fish was fresh, cooked just right to break easily and was good to taste. With the arrival of this dish, it was certain that the portions at Coastal Junction are big.
Left: Fish wrapped in leaf; Right: leaf unwrapped (Meen Pollichathu)

So ‘fish’ it was for the starters…

Moving on to the main course, I called for Chicken Coondapur and Chicken Varutharacha Curry and a couple of appams to go with it. The former was a coconut based semi-dry chicken with its roots from Coondapur/Kundapura a town in the Udupi district of Karnataka and the latter originates from the Malabar region of Kerala. While Coondapur is a grounded coconut based dish, varutharacha curry is roasted coconut based gravy. Both the dishes were good to taste, however, the chicken Coondapur famous for the flavor and content of ghee lacked any trace of it. To make a preferential comparison, Chicken Varutharacha Curry was a bigger hit with me. The appams were made fresh and served from a counter that was placed in one corner of the dining area.
Clockwise – Starting from left: Meen Pollichathu, Chicken Coondapur and Chicken Varutharacha Curry

I have also tried Chicken Sukka, fish fry for starters and Crab masala for the main course during my previous visit with a group of friends. The portions are good and tasty. The crab was meaty and fresh giving a very good flavor. Unfortunately, there are no pictures available of these dishes.

It was good to have a chat with the restaurant manager whose motto was to ensure a pleasant dining experience for every customer.  This belief runs down from the owner of the restaurant who drives the culture of ensuring customer satisfaction. This was also very clear from the actions and the body language of the staff. They were attentive and prompt in their service. 

The food was very good and definitely a restaurant I'd love to visit again and again for delicious coastal fare. I have been to Coastal Junction twice and can now claim that they have been consistent in food quality, taste and service.

A special mention of the restaurant manager who noticing that I am alone offered to provide half portions of starters thus; giving me a chance to sample and devour 2 varieties in starters as well as main course instead of the just 1 portion of starter and main course I would have been able to eat. For those wondering how I could eat 2 portions of starters and 2 portions of main course alone, here comes out the secret of my appetite – All portions were served as halves.

The tab for the food I ate came to about Rs. 650 with a glass of coke which is fair enough considering good quality sea food is served here and is one of the few restaurants in this cuisine to provide a fine dining option. 

Quick Tips:
Go: for a relaxed fine dine experience, great coastal cuisine.
Don’t go: if you do not prefer coastal cuisine.

Address: 80 Feet Road, Near BSNL office, Indiranagar, Bangalore

Disclaimer: Coastal Junction restaurant is temporarily shut down. Its management plans to relaunch this brand in a bigger way sometime during the 1st quarter of 2013 with 2 new locations – One in 100 FT Road, Indiranagar and another in JP Nagar.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Willy Vanilli, Bangalore

Quite often we friends tend to hang out in Koramangla for the fact that – one; a common meeting point is a friends restaurant, two; a couple of us love the momos served on the street side there and three, we love the burgers and sandwiches at Willy Vanilli (WV). This is exactly how we land up at Willy Vanilli every time. Multiple attempts have been made by us to skip rest of the places and head straight to WV. All I can say yet is, “We need to make a couple of attempts more.” WV can be classified as a cafe with simple yet nice interiors. The cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating.

The menu mainly comprises a vast section of burgers and sandwiches. To give them company are a few continental items like stroganoff, quiche, waffles and some beverages like coffee, canned juices etc. There is a good range of selection available for both vegetarians and non vegetarians and are easily identifiable based on the color indicators.

What we ate:
My quest for good burgers in Bangalore brought WV into my radar of places to visit. This drive not only compelled me to try out the burgers here but also rest of my friends who have dined with me at WV. While the ultimate burger I’d like to devour is WV’s Gourmet burger, I must say, “This is yet to happen.” The only way to allow this to happen will be avoiding visit to the street stalls serving momos.

Burgers to have visited us are classic veggie burger, classic chicken burger and cottage cheese burger. Apart from the burger, our table also welcomed mushroom sandwich, veg stroganoff, and cappuccinos.

Classic veggie burger comes with a slice of cheese on a nice juicy patty of minced vegetables and mashed potatoes while the cottage cheese burger comes with a nice and chunky cube of marinated paneer and fried onion rings. Both these burgers come loaded with mayo, coleslaw,  and sliced veggies; all in between the bun. On the sides, both these burgers come in the company of more coleslaw served on a lettuce, French fries and vegetable chunks. What’s also common between the two is; how wonderfully the ingredients blend together to bring in a burst of flavor in every bite.

The classic chicken burger being no different comes with a nice patty of chicken topped with cheese. All other ingredients in between the bun and on the side remain the same as the veggie burger. The burger was awesome. The marinade of spices was perfect; not less nor overpowering in flavor. Unfortunately, no one waited for its picture to be taken. Ruthless carnivores; we must me.

All burgers had a good contrast which made every bite enjoyable. Softness of the patty/paneer in the cottage cheese burger and crunchiness of the onion rings, the spice blend in the patty to the sweetness from the coleslaw.

The mushroom sandwich was a Double Decker sandwich toasted to perfection and generously filled with mildly spiced mushrooms and cheese. The sandwich was plated with slaw, fries and fresh vegetable chunks. I am not a big fan of mushrooms the buzz on our table for this sandwich was – ‘A mushroom lover’s delight.’

The veg. stroganoff was a disappointment. Just by the look of it, the portion of stroganoff was insufficient for the amount of rice served. Being served some additional gravy on the side was not an option as we learnt this dish was pre-plated and sourced from a vendor. The taste of the veg stroganoff failed to excite our palate.

Willy Vannily is definitely a great place to hangout and for sure one we love to visit. Having said this, I must point out, “we do not love everything about Willy Vanilly.” We love the food they serve, but not the service. The service has numerous weak links. To start with, the staff is not very attentive especially when you are seated outdoors. At times, you might actually be required to invite them personally to attend to you. Water is not served here until asked for and when you ask for I recommend you specify the number of glasses of water to be served.  Other issues include, non functional air conditioners, card machines for bill payment, etc. Yet, a place I love to revisit for good food and a casual lunch or dinner with friends.

Parking on week days, especially during lunch or early evenings can be difficult for Willy Vanilly is located in a busy 80 FT road and also does not offer valet parking service.

The food served here is definitely not economical yet not unreasonably expensive. A meal per person here can cost anywhere between Rs 200 to Rs 450.

Quick Tips:
A great place to visit for good burgers and sandwiches and accepting the fact the service may not be up to the mark. 

Address: # 58/A, 80 Feet Road, 5th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore
Phone Number: 080 - 65470742

Friday, 9 November 2012

Richies Rahhams, Bangalore

One evening it was raining cats and dogs, we sat by the window pane enjoying the amazing weather and at the same time deciding on a restaurant to visit for my cousin’s birthday dinner. Non-vegetarian food being the agenda, we chose to pick a restaurant for some delicious biryani. With EID gone by a few months ago, we already missed the biryani, samosas, kababs and other delicacies that were available at the various stalls on MM road put up during the month of Ramzan. 

The mention of MM road in our conversation had 2 of us say in chorus – ‘Richies’. This is how we decided on Richies Rahhams (still known among its fan fraternity as 'Richies') on MM road, a restaurant to which we’d not paid visit in a long time.

Menu has an assortment of Indian and Chinese cuisine with focus remaining on the Indian listing. For the vegetarians, there are quite a few options available in both Indian and Chinese. But it is the non-vegetarians who will be totally delighted with the options available in terms of both the variety of dishes and meats on offer. This place going by the menu and prior visits is a meat eater’s paradise.

What we ate:
A look at the menu only made us hungrier. Without looking any further, we called for half a portion of Chandini chicken kabab in starters, brain fry masala accompanied by tandoori rotis, mutton biryani and chicken biryani in non-veg. One of us being vegetarian called for roomali roti and chilly paneer.

Chandini chicken kabab, was a nice tandoor preparation. The chicken was well marinated and flavorful. It was served hot and tasted really good. We just wished it had been a tad bit tender and moist.

The next to feast on for the non-vegetarians was brain fry masala with tandoori rotis. Brain fry masala was a semi gravy preparation with a nice blend of spices. The brust of the spices and pepper was well received by us. This was relished with nice and crisp tandoori rotis.

Biryanis, the most awaited dish of the evening was quick to follow. The mutton biryani was really nice, and full of flavor. The rice was light and non-greasy and the meat was succulent.

I have a large appetite when it comes to biryani or non-vegetarian food. This is how, I happened to dig into some chicken biryani as well which was delicious too. A biryani meal is never complete at Richies without a sweet to follow. On our day, it was muzaffar; a rice based sweet. This is served complimentary with biryani and is the best way to round off a scrumptious meal.

The chilly paneer was totally Indian style Chinese food. It didn’t taste bad; though it is something I would not recommend calling for when you visit Richies.

Our expectations were not high on the service side.  We just looked for good food and prompt service. I must say, the expectations were met. The service was prompt and we had no problems in placing the order or having the food served to us.

Parking and getting to the restaurant can be a bit of a hassle here when it is raining. We were prepared for it. The restaurant does not have the facility for valet parking. However, it is not difficult to find a parking space around here.

The food here is complete value for money. We ended up paying about Rs. 1000 for our meal here which included a couple of non-alcoholic beverages (no liquor served here), a couple of starters, a main course dish, few rotis and 3 biryanis.

Quick Tips:
Do not look for great ambiance. Just go here for good non vegetarian food. You are sure not to be disappointed. 

Biryani being the fastest selling item on the menu at Richies, I’d recommend you to check for its availability before heading there especially if going for a late meal.

Richies branching out from Frazer town now is spread across the city in areas like old airport road, R.T. Nagar, Kammanahalli and the soon to be opened Cunningham road.

Address: 82, MM Road, Frazer Town, Bangalore
Phone Number: 080 - 25808700, 25809700

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Bharawan Da Dhaba, Amritsar

I was in Amritsar for just a day and had just 2 things in my to do list during this visit:
1) Pray (@ Darbar Sahib/golden temple)
2) Eat (@ Bharawan da Dhaba)

In this space, I will share my experience of dining at Bharawan da dhaba.

Being on a family holiday, 8 of us went to Bharawan da Dhaba which is located in the very much accessible - Town Hall area of Amritsar. The restaurant serves only vegetarian food and seems quite familiar because the taxi driver took us right there with just a mention of the Bharawan da dhaba.

The restaurant has a small entrance which was really crowded with people walking in and out of the restaurant. On entering the restaurant, I saw the restaurant's large hall packed with family, couples, and foreigners to full capacity. 

Within a few minutes of being seated, we were presented with menu cards. Needless to say, the menu was filled with the rich and tempting Punjabi food options.

What we ate:
Being in Punjab, it is hard not to get tempted to try the paneer, chole and dal makhni. To devour all of this, we decided to call for a special veg thali which also included boondi raita, salad, rice, pickle, papad and 2 lacchha parathas. The paneer, chole and dal makhni were excellent and the portions too were well sufficient for the accompaniments. The lacchha parathas were hot and fresh from the tandoor loaded with butter on top. It was not only delicious to eat but also a delight to watch the paratha with butter smothered over it. Boondi raita was loved so much that we called for additional portions of it.

A meal in Punjab is best accompanied by sweet lassi and the one served here was very nice and refreshing. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of the glass for a picture.

There is nothing better than a sweet ending. My search for a perfect phirni ends here. It was served just the way I always wished to eat it - cold, in a small disposable vessel made of clay, nice thick paste like consistency, garnish of some dry fruits. Perfect! 

Indeed a very satisfying meal.

The service was very nice and polite. In spite of being full house, the service was brisk, food served was fresh and hot. Even better, repeat orders were entertained with a smile. The atmosphere was really nice, comfortable and relaxed with a nice mix of crowd.

An average meal for 2 here which includes a couple of thalis, lassis and dessert is very pocket friendly and will cost anywhere between Rs. 500 to Rs. 700.

Ohh and Yes.. 

The food here was loved so much that one of our meat lover (who planned to eat non-veg for another meal in Amritsar) said, “If I get such amazing vegetarian food to eat, I don’t mind skipping the plan to eat non-vegetarian food in Amritsar.”

Address: Town Hall, Amritsar
Phone Number: 0813 2532575