Celebrating The Dragon Boat Festival at Yauatcha

Perhaps because Kolkata has such an age old connect with the Chinese thanks to the colonial trade and also boasts of the only Chinatown in India our love for this delicious cuisine runs deep. I am a regular at Yauatcha, Kolkata and I love the food there, I was therefore extremely happy to be invited to partake of the special Dragon Boat Festive Menu by The Management.

The Dragon Boat or Duanwu Festival is said to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a noble hailed as the inventor of verse poetry in China. Duanwu commemorates Qu Yuan’s sacrifice on fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. The festival is celebrated with Dragon Boat Races, drinking Realgar Wine and eating Zongzi – sticky rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaf.

Zongzi is the most traditional Dragon Boat Festival food. They are a kind of sticky rice dumpling made of glutinous rice filled with meats, beans, and other fillings, wrapped in triangle or rectangle shapes in lotus leaves. Yauatcha has four varieties on offer – Chicken & Prawn, Minced Lamb, Pork Belly and Vegetarian. We were spoilt for choice and I enjoyed them all but I would be slightly more inclined to the Pork Belly variant if I was forced to make a choice , my advice however would be go ahead and sample them all because they were absolutely delicious.

The festive menu also has four very tasty Wok Dishes to pair with your choice of Zongzi – Stir fry French beans with shiitake mushrooms, Wild prawn curry with almond and water chestnuts, Braised chicken claypot with mushroom and last but not least the Stir fry lamb in black pepper sauce. The Wild Prawn Curry is an old favorite and much loved as is the Braised Chicken but the absolute star of the evening was the sensational Stir Fried Lamb with Black Pepper Sauce …. tender, juicy slices of lamb tossed in a delightful pepper sauce with just the right punch, for us it was poetry on a plate and we could not get enough of it.

This delightful repast ended with the (as always) stunningly plated Mango and wine soaked water chestnut cake with Sauvignon Sorbet. The best part about dessert in Yauatcha is that it tastes as good as it looks, the balance of textures and play of flavors is always spot on. The Sauvignon Sorbet and lovely diced fresh mango was in perfect harmony with the Water chestnut cake and the plates were wiped clean in record time. Our dinner was accompanied by a stellar collection of green teas with the Champagne & Strawberry Flavored one being rather popular on our table with my co-diners.

Add to the evening the elegant but contemporary ambiance of Yauatcha and some great company and it was truly a delightful celebration of food and friends – exactly what The Dragon Boat Festival should be all about.

Duration: May 27- Till 26th June 2017

Time: 12 noon to 1130 pm.

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend as a guest of The Management but the views expressed are entirely my own.

Picture Credits: Suneha Saha

Yauatcha is fully equipped to cater to guests with restricted mobility.
Yauatcha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nourish, Energize and Indulge with The Wholesome Kitchen

I love to eat and whenever I travel to places I visit fairly frequently I have what I call my “goodie list” which consists of the things that I “must” eat whenever I am in that location! Le 15 Patisserie & Café in Mumbai makes a sinfully good Dark Chocolate Macaroon and it’s right on top of my “must eat list”. I never miss dropping in for my macaroon fix at Le 15 as soon as I am in town. Pooja Dhingra is a baker par excellence who trained at Le Cordon Bleu (Paris) and returned to Mumbai to open up Le 15 Patisserie which has been a stunning success. Her first book “The Big Book of Treats” was a scrumptious treat of a read.

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Naturally when I was sent an invitation to attend the Kolkata Launch of Pooja Dhingra’s second book “The Wholesome Kitchen” I was delighted to have a chance to meet India’s Macaroon Queen in person as well as catch her in action in the scheduled cooking demonstration of some of the recipes from the new book. The event was hosted by The Corner Courtyard a lovely and quaint boutique hotel in Kolkata.

Pooja Dhingra’s popularity was reflected by the huge buzz surrounding the event and there was literally only standing room for a number of people on the day of the event at the venue. The Corner Courtyard was packed and the anticipation palpable. I was delighted to share the experience with friends and fellow bloggers as well as colleagues from work all of whom seemed to really look forward to the evening. Pooja with her vivacious personality charmed us all and got the cooking demonstration going with three recipes – Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles and Peanut Butter Bites all of which sound calorie loaded but in reality thanks to the wonderful combination of ingredients used were healthy and very tasty.

During her chat with us she mentioned that her inspiration for the book came when she decided to train for and run the Marathon. She had to change her own dietary habits while ensuring that her taste buds were not compromised and that the recipes she followed offered lots of energy but were healthy. Her sister-in-law Viddhi Dhingra a nutritionist has partnered with her and helped formulate the recipes and has co-authored this book. That apart the ingredients are locally sourced and presented in a way that is easy to follow with simple and precise instructions. The accompanying photographs in the book taken by Daniel Shechter are beautiful and certainly want to make you try the recipes out so you too can dig into the rather tempting goodies.

Throughout the Cooking Demonstration Pooja not only kept us all engaged and enthused but she also invited some of the young bakers in the audience to assist her and that was a wonderful experience for them. Naturally we were all very excited to taste the goodies that we had watched being prepared and they were delicious. Baking can be healthy and tasty indeed and the food was certainly devoured by all of us with gusto!

The evening ended with lots of photographs and selfies along with an opportunity to get a copy of The Wholesome Kitchen signed by the author herself and chat with her. The Corner Courtyard served some nice light bites and beverages that all those present were invited to enjoy which bought a rather lovely evening to a close. A special thank you to The Corner Courtyard for putting together this lovely event and look forward to more in future.

DISCLAIMER : I was invited as a guest to attend the event but the views expressed are entirely my own.

PICTURE CREDITS : Suneha Saha

Phoenix @ The Astor

I was quite the Party Animal in my day and I have always loved to dance. One of my fondest memories is my father coming home from office in the evenings and putting on one of his enviable collection of LP Records and the sound of Paul Anka, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis, and The Beatles would flood the house. Sooner rather than later my father who was quite the Party Animal of his days would sweep my mother into his arms and twirl her around the room. This was the cue of tiny yours truly to get into the act by hanging on to each of my parents legs and dancing with them. As I grew older you could not keep me off the dance floor and Cloud 9 and later Plush at the Astor were places where you would find me shaking a leg every week. What always stood out was along with the great music and ambience was the food which was always very good and you all know that is my weakness.

Fast forward to last week and I was invited to visit Phoenix, The Lounge that has opened up after Plush closed down and has reinvented itself into the swankiest nightspot in the City. Sophisticated and elegant interiors given a cutting edge with some fantastic Madrix LED Lighting that can configure up to 50,000 effects in sync with the music for the first time in the city. Phoenix is designed on Brick and Wood with Globe Pendant lights and tungsten filament LED look lamps and a 32 foot antique iron grill bar with industrial look ceilings. The high quality JBL sound output is world class and it’s quite obvious that the owner Vikram Puri has left no stone unturned to make this one of the very finest party destinations on offer in the City of Joy.

The drinks are great and though I rarely drink I did have a sip of the Lavender Margarita that Suneha ordered and it was lovely and delicate and is going to be quite popular with the ladies. The Absolut Grapetini, Elderflower Mojito are also on offer and I intend to try them as soon as I visit next. The Shots and Bucket Menu is also going to be a great favorite with the guests.

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The food was what I was looking forward to (as usual!) because The Astor has always served up excellent fare and we were not disappointed. The Tawa Mutton Bhuna was outstanding, juicy and succulent boneless mutton cubes tossed with onion and bell pepper served up with a Paratha was one of those dishes I know I am going to end up ordering on every visit. Next up was the Chicken Reshmi Kebab which is my all-time favorite at The Astor and it was polished off in record time by us. The KungPao Prawn with Fried Rice ticked all the boxes for me and a dish that is great to sort you out for a night out on town. There was also a Greek Sampler Platter that I was too full to do more than peck at but the food really was excellent.  Looking forward to trying out some of their other specials like the Butter Chicken Cannelloni,  Crumbed Fried Parmesan Chicken with house mayo, Pesto Grilled Kolkata Bekti with yin and yang of mashy green peas and garlic mashed potatoes which all sound quite mouthwatering.

They have special nights Wednesday through Sunday so just put on your dancing shoes and let the party begin with  – Wednesday Challenge, Thursday Jazz Encounter , Friday Synergy, Saturday Showdown, Sunday Smasher which are on offer currently.

Fantastic Vibe, Fabulous Music, Stunning Interiors and Delicious Food….  Congratulations to Vikram and the Team and all good wishes for Phoenix to rise and take the City of Joy by Storm!

DISCLAIMER: I was invited to Phoenix as a guest of The Management but the views expressed are entirely my own.

PICTURE CREDITS: Suneha Saha

 

Phoenix is accessible for those with impaired mobility but there are a couple of steps one may have to navigate inside.
Phoenix - The Astor Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bohri Dawat @ ITC Sonar

My first experience with Bohri’s was in school where a dear friend was a Bohri Muslim. We shared a common mother tongue Gujarati and coincidentally both our fathers studied together and knew each other as well. Over the years after we left school we sadly lost touch but I always remember her fondly.

When Arundhati from ITC Sonar called and invited a group of Food Bloggers for a tasting I naturally jumped at the opportunity because this is not an easily available cuisine. The lure of good food and the company of friends is always the best incentive and so on the appointed day we all landed up at the ITC Sonar to partake of the Bohri Dawat.

Bohri food is a confluence of Mughlai and Middle Eastern Dishes with a significant Gujarati influence since the since one of the earliest settlements of Yemeni merchants came and settled in Surat and its surrounding areas in Gujarat. The food is prepared and served in traditional ways and served in a thal that is communally shared by the household and eaten in specific courses. The meal traditionally begins and ends with a pinch of salt which acts as a palette cleanser. Another specific custom is that the meal begins with a sweet dish and usually another sweet dish is served before the main course rather than after the savory dishes. All these unique customs would perhaps explain why I was really looking forward to my culinary experience.

Our repast began with some delicious Khus Sherbet which was perfect on a hot summer day and was enjoyed by all of us. Since we were at ITC Sonar we did not have the absolutely traditional shared Thal rather, to maintain as much authenticity as possible we were served in individual thalis with some salt placed on the side and a portion of sodanna which is a sweet rice with sugar, ghee and dry fruits to begin our meal.

Next up followed the starters and I confess this was something I was really looking forward to …. Bheja Fry (Mini Brain Cutlets) , Naan Chop and Russian Chicken Cutlet all of which were delicious but I was most delighted with the Bheja Fry which reminded me of Bheja Cutlets a Parsi delicacy which both my Dad and I love. Next up was a yummy Bohri Samosa made with the delicious pati that gives their samosa such a wonderful crunchy texture.

Thereafter we were served two sweets …. an absolutely gorgeous Pineapple Halwa that was appreciated greatly by the majority and I confess I would love some more because the taste still lingers. There was also a badam pak barfi that we gobbled down.

The main course followed with a pleasing variety ….Dabba Ghosht which was delicate and delicious in a white gravy, a gorgeous bohri chicken qorma, channa batata (potato curry) , paledu ( a vegetarian rice dish made with lentils) and a couple more . Even though I had just had a taste of each dish I was pretty full. But the Zam Zam Biryani made with offal (liver,kidney etc) and chicken served up with Raita was still to follow. This biryani has no potato but it is garnished with boiled eggs. It’s subtle and light and I really enjoyed it. I also happen to like offal and this was the first time I have had it in Biryani so it was a rather unique experience.

My thanks to ITC Sonar and especially to Chef Md.Zaber Khan who had come across from Mumbai to serve up this scrumptious feast to us and is a specialist in Bohri Cuisine. One thing I figured out was that it’s important to go very hungry to a Bohri Dawat so you can do it full justice because the variety of dishes was vast. It was fun to eat dessert twice during are meal in the very beginning and after our starters. I am certainly looking forward to exploring more of this cuisine.

 

DISCLAIMER: I was invited as a guest of the management but the views expressed are entirely my own.

The Bohri Dawat was at the Eden Pavilion at ITC Sonar and is wheelchair accessible.
Eden Pavilion - ITC Sonar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burnt Garlic

Burnt Garlic is a Café Bar located on the Ground Floor of the Priya Cinema Complex. I loved the décor which was rather different from the average city café. Elegant Grey walls with some unusual paintings surrounded by needlepoint hoops mounted with bright fabric swatches. The area inside is divided into a mezzanine which is ideal for private parties and a cozy bar area and a general family section. The distressed wood tables were rather pleasing and I thought they made a grate background for the food pictures we took. The dividers made out of rolling pins added a lovely color palette to the setting.

We were warmly greeted by Gavin Baptist the Manager who not only took wonderful care of us but also patiently answered all our queries regarding the Menu. But as always the best and most important part of our experience is the food and that was what we were looking forward to. Our drink orders were taken and we were served up a Mai Tai to begin with since we preferred a Rum based cocktail. Later on during our dinner we also tried the Strawberry and Kiwi Mojito and both are great choices for Summer Cocktails and were well made.

Our dinner kicked off with a fabulous salad called Savor It. Now most people who know me will be surprised because I am not a salad person but I really enjoyed this one. It was such a perfect dish after the hot sultry weather and I loved the fresh citrus flavors of the orange sections against and the crunchy iceberg base. A Broccoli & Spinach Soup followed which I gave a miss because it was just too hot but my co-diners seemed to enjoy it. Two more starters followed Crispy Fried Cottage Cheese and Coriander Chicken …. The Cottage Cheese was very nice, I loved the Vinaigrette they served with it since it gave the dish some punch in terms of flavor as well as the texture of the dish. The Coriander Chicken was slightly on the bland side and I feel greater depth of flavor could have been achieved had the chicken been marinated longer.

Next up was a rather nice Oregano Chicken Burger. I believe they also have Pulled Pork and Juicy Lamb Burgers which I hope to try out on my next visit. The fries served alongside were nicely done and not at all soggy, a perfect accompaniment to the Burger. A Mushroom and Artichoke Crepe in a Thyme Cream Sauce followed and this was certainly one of the stand out dishes of the day for us. I would certainly suggest this to all those who visit and are not into overtly spicy food, lovely delicate flavors.

A Chicken Steak topped with Porcini Sauce and Roasted Potatoes followed and though I found the Chicken slightly bland I loved the Porcini Sauce which and the perfectly done potatoes. This has the potential of being an incredible dish with just a bit of tweaking.

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The much loved Chinese staples followed with a very good Veg Hakka Noodle and a spicy but tasty Kung Pao Chicken and these insured we ended our lovely dinner on a high note. It was good Indian Chinese and I loved both the noodles and chicken.

Despite us being stuffed our hosts insisted we try a dessert and the Tiramisu followed which was nice and fresh if not an absolutely authentic one.

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I am looking forward to further food explorations because a few items on the Menu have caught my eye. Do Grilled Pork Chops, Pork Pizza, Lamb Bolognaise Pizza, Roasted Chilli Pork sound as good to you as they do to me?

I am delighted to see these standalone places coming up in our city and giving us more choices and variety to explore and experiment.

DISCLAIMER: I was invited to dine as a guest of The Management but the views expressed are entirely my own.

PICTURE CREDITS: Suneha Saha

The venue is fairly accessible to those with restricted mobility but please note there are a couple of steps to negotiate while entering.
Burnt Garlic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aaheli 24 e 24

Bengali Cuisine today has attained great popularity and a number of popular local restaurant chains have branches literally all over the country. However a quarter of a century back there was a very different picture. Bengali food was restricted to homes and except for the local Pice Hotels they were largely unavailable. Gradually a couple like Suruchi and Kewpie’s did come up and while the food was delicious the ambience and experience was at best quaint and homely. That was until one man’s vision created a trend which has grown and keeps growing. On 18th May 1993 Mr.S.K.Roy who is now the Chairman of The Peerless Group took the plunge and created Aaheli, India’s first Bengali Fine Dining Restaurant and the rest as they say is history.

I was absolutely delighted to receive a personal invitation from Debasree Roy , Sr.Vice-President of the Peerless Group to attend a preview of 24 e 24to celebrate the twenty fourth birthday of the iconic Aaheli with a special thali consisting of 24 items. Each one was a gem and yes I was lucky enough to taste them all but more on that later!

We were given a warm welcome by Debasree and her Team, it would not do justice to this fabulous culinary experience to simply call it a meal so I would rather call it a Feast! We began with a delightful Aam Pora Shorbot which was one of the best I have sampled and a perfect drink after a hot and muggy day. Thereafter we were served one of their signature dishes the “Rui Machher Patishapta” which was outstanding. It is a pancake stuffed with minced fish and spices and served with kashundi (mustard). Depending on availability it is made with either Rui, Bhekti or Hilsa fish I fell in love with it after eating it and  I can completely understand why it’s so popular.

Then it was time for the “24 e 24” Thali to make a grand entrance and it floored us. The spread seemed endless and smelt delicious and it took oodles of self-control to click the photographs to share with all of you before we dived into this exquisite meal.

A nice Gandhoraj Ghol was served up and being a huge fan of the Gandhoraj Lemon I enjoyed it. We were served those gorgeous golden luchi’s that I was eyeing from the moment the Thali was laid out before me and the Panch Bhajar Bahar(5 kind of fries) where I really loved the Begun(Brinjal) and the Bori’s. Gobindhobog Rice and Ghee and a superb Goynaborir( sundried lentil savories shaped like ornaments) followed.  Shuktoni (mixed vegetable curry), Piyaz Postor Bora (onion and poppy fritters), Mohini Mochar Ghonto(banana flower curry) , Dumr-er Dalna(lentil dumplings) , Enchor-er Kalia(jackfruit curry), Purbora Potol (Pointed gourd stuffed with cottage cheese) rounded off the vegetarian offerings which were all excellent. We were also served up a really good Macher Matha Diea Moong Dal (fishhead cooked in lentils) which was really delicious and one of the nicest I have had in a long time.

Now followed the stars of the meal for me – Bhalo Laga Bhekti Paturi … lovely balance of spices, fish cooked to perfection … Bhalo Laga means something you like very much and this dish was so very aptly named because I could wax lyrical about it. Chamatkari Chingri Malai Curry was next … picture a plump, juicy golda prawn swimming in a bowl of delicious Malai Curry and you will want to dive in and join it. The Queen of Fish Hilsa or “Aahamori Aam Tel Eelish” followed and I promise I went straight to Cloud 9. Hilsa is my absolute favorite fish and this one was a winner all the way. By now though we just had a bite of everything we were super stuffed but the lure of the Kochi Panthar Jhol (mutton curry) paired with Pulao Rajnandini (slightly sweetish rice pulao) was impossible to resist and we dived in to this lovely combination and it surpassed expectations. Beautiful tender mutton in a bold rustic curry pleased us all and we wiped our plates clean.

The feast concluded with Kancha Aam-er Chutney and Papad followed by three sweet jewels. Paramanno , Aam Doi and Rajat Rajbhog with Pan and a very sweetly packed mouth freshener(roasted fennel seeds). Please note that all the sweets are made in-house by their halwai and were superb. Most of the ingredients are prepared from scratch in their kitchens.

Asheem Da the Manager has been there since the inception of Aaheli as have most of the Kitchen Staff and they treat every patron like a guest in their own home and take such good care of you that you look forward to your next visit before you even leave. The exquisite “24 e 24” Thali is available for Lunch and Dinner from 18th- 24th May, 2017 at both their outlets (Peerless Inn and Axis Mall). It’s priced at INR 2400/= plus taxes and the first twenty four guests who order it will receive a discount of 24 % each. If the finest Bengali Cuisine in the city is what you’re looking for then Aaheli is the place you should head out to. Wishing the entire Aaheli Team a very Happy 24th Birthday and looking forward to many more delicious meals and happy memories there.

DISCLAIMER: I was invited to dine as a guest of The Management but the views expressed are entirely my own.

PICTURE CREDITS: Suneha Saha

Aaheli and all the restaurants at The Peerless Inn are fully accessible to people with limited mobility as they have a ramp and an elevator.
Aaheli - The Peerless Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dhaba Style Food Festival,Durbari, Swissotel

Dhaba’s are the lifeline of the highways of India. They provide nourishment, sustenance and rest to travelers and commuters. Their necessity can’t be questioned but the local cuisine they have birthed has a huge following and great popularity. It’s the kind of food I love …. bold and rustic flavors that are unpretentiously delicious. I was therefore really looking forward to my dinner when I was invited for a preview of the Dhaba Festival at Durbari.

Durbari has a quiet elegance that is pleasing, though my favorite part is the painting in the lobby at the entrance of the hotel because it provides the ethnic touch to this Indian Restaurant. We were comfortably seated and our journey on the tummy highway began with a rather delicious Ambani Panna , a tart summer cooler made with raw mangoes. With this we were served a generous portion of assorted Papads and Dips of which the Aam Kasundi was hands down the one I would happily down bowlfuls of though all were rather good. There were also little bowls of assorted chutneys and pickles and the Aam Chutney was delicious. Soon a steaming hot bowl of a Kukkad da Shorba … a flavorful chicken broth was placed before us. I rarely indulge in soup in the summer but my first spoon for tasting made me continue to indulge.

What came up next was undoubtedly rather pleasing to my tummy … the delicious kebabs. Dhaba da Paneer Tikka , Tawa Jheenga , Tandoori Murgh , Seekh Kebab Pinjori , Barra Chaap and we quietly buckled down to gorging on the scrumptious fare on offer. Each dish was perfectly prepared and had its individual flavor that we thoroughly enjoyed.

By now we did not have an inch of space but the maincourse and dessert were still left. We insisted that we will share a single dish and thankfully we prevailed on our warm host to oblige. Gosht Nalli Korma, Dhaba di Dal and Paratha were again excellent. The Gosht was perfectly cooked falling of the bone and the Korma Gravy tasty enough to make a meal of by itself with our paratha. I really liked the rustic Dal and only wish I had more space to eat more than a spoonful.

We ended on a sweet note with a delicious Gulab Jamun each and staggered home happy! The Dhaba Festival is on till 21st May and I would highly recommend that you stop by and sample the delicious fare.

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Beside the comprehensive Ala Carte Menu, Durbari also has an excellent Set Meal with numerous choices in both Vegetarian & Non-Vegetarian options.

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DISCLAIMER: I was invited to Durbari as a guest of The Management but the views expressed are entirely my own.

PICTURE CREDIT: Suneha Saha

Durbari located in Swissotel is completely friendly to people with restricted mobility.
Durbari - Swissotel Kolkata Neotia Vista Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My passion is my enduring love for food of all kinds. Blogger, Writer, Food Enthusiast, Traveller, Bookworm, Founder : Kolkata Food Fanatics.