Of Winter Evenings and Alfresco Dinners in The City of Joy

Though I was born in Kolkata I spent my childhood primarily in the North, hence I love long cold winters which many of my friends in the city don’t. Sadly Kolkata barely has really cold winters but the best way to enjoy the season in my opinion is to dine alfresco so I can combine my two loves great food and cold winter evenings.
At the onset of the winter season we were invited by ITC Sonar for the Winter Barbeque which goes on all through the winter months on the Eden Pavillion lawns by the Water Garden . It’s a spectacular setting, and one of the loveliest ways to spend a beautiful evening and indulge in some wonderful food in a beautiful ambiance. The spread includes Soups and Salads, Cold Cuts and Antipasti ,Biryani and what have you. However for me the main attraction is the Live Grill Section which has the delicious Peshawari Kebabs , Mediterranean Shawarma , Various proteins and some fantastic fresh Seafood. There was a lovely live music arrangement which only added to the relaxed mood of the evening. The Winter Lawn is a destination and your meal is an experience not to be missed so do put it down on your winter calendar of must do’s.


There were over a dozen varieties of Grills of the World and we were truly spoilt for choice. For the Vegetarians I loved the Paneer Ajwani Tikka , Rajma Ki Galouti and the Veg Seekh Kebab all of which were worth a second helping. The Non-Vegetarian section was equally outstanding Murgh Angaar , Gosht Shami, Tenderloin with Crusted Black Pepper , Prawn with Lemon Juice and Chilli Flakes Squid with Coriander and Lemon Juice. I don’t have to say much about the Indian selection because the Peshawari Kebabs are outstanding but what I loved about the other grills was the fact that the produce was so fresh that the ingredient was the hero. Loved the seafood and the tenderloin. Though I wish my sausages were Pork rather than Chicken because personally I am not partial to Chicken Sausages.
We were pretty stuffed but I wanted to try a bit of the Biryani which I did and once again it was perfect. We nibbled on dessert and relaxed and chatted till quite late because of the wonderful setting that made us feel we simply don’t want to go home. Many thanks to ITC for inviting us … it was one of my favorite meals of the season. Timings are 7-30pm onwards.

A few days back Novotel Kolkata Hotels & Residences called and invited us for their Weekend Grill by the Pool which they have on Friday and Saturday nights. Though I have attended a couple of functions in the Banquets I have never visited the restaurants. Everytime I was invited I had some prior engagement and could not make it so I am very glad I finally did. Their poolside was lovely and the Weather God’s were kind and it was a nice cool evening. A few other friends who are also fellow food bloggers were invited and so it turned into an evening filled with fun and conversation about you guessed it….Food !!!


There was a live counter with separate Grill selections and sections for Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarians which was a nice touch , a salad bar and an assortment of Breads, an Indian Section with Biryani , Kali Dal and Indian Breads , a live Noodle Counter as well as a Dessert Counter along with the Poolside Bar.
The kebabs were served to us on Charcoal Grills to keep them warm on our table and the delectable aroma of meats grilling on coal will get me every time. I loved the Chicken Tikka which used a Sriracha Marinade as well as the Juicy Fish Tikka made from Kolkata Bhekti that was served to us. The Chicken was my personal pick and I loved it. They were serving us Cocktails and the Musk Melon Mojito seemed to be the crowd favorite though I stuck to my Diet Cola as I rarely drink. There were Mushroom and Paneer variants for the vegetarians and the Paneer was melt in your mouth good. The Mushrooms were passable, I think because of the size variation the degree of cooking differed so it was a bit of a hit and miss. We were also served Grilled Chicken and Fish both of which were good as well as some sausages. Baby Corn and an assortment of mixed vegetables followed. The kebabs were however the winner for me.


We then made our way to sample the Indian main course which I felt needed a bit more variety. The Chicken Biryani was light and flavorful though I missed the presence of the Potato in it. The Kali Dal was a bit underwhelming it lacked punch. A non-veg and veg gravy option would certainly have been welcome and added much needed variety to this section. We also sampled the live Noodle Counter though our portion was a tad too salty for my palate.


Dessert was calling out and though we were rather full we purposefully made our way to the dessert counter. Both the Poached Pears and the Blondie with Chocolate Sauce were excellent and demanded a second helping to do them justice. The Crepes however were a bit of a letdown because they were undercooked. I like my crepes thin and golden with a sauce or syrup to complement them .The chocolate sauce served with them was very good though. Chef also made us sample a wonderful Chocolate Mousse that was heaven and I would gladly go back for it time and again.


The Grill by the Pool is on only on weekend’s 7-30pm onwards. Priced at Rs.750/= for Vegetarians and Rs.950/= for non-vegetarians (plus taxes as applicable) it’s a fantastic deal. Make plans with friends and drive out for a wonderful evening out at The Grill by the Pool before the summer sets in.

DISCLAIMER : I dined as a guest at both the above mentioned venues by invitation of The Management however the views expressed are entirely my own.
Picture Credits : Suneha Saha
Both venues are Wheelchair Friendly for guests with limited mobility.

Vintage Asia

I have to admit I am a little partial to Asian Food though I love all kinds of food as those of you who read my blog will know. Vintage Asia at the JW Marriott , Kolkata was the venue for the New Year meet for my foodie group the Kolkata Food Fanatics. My mad crazy foodie family is now almost 3 years old and is very close to my heart I had wanted to do something a little special to kick off the year and I doubt it could have been more perfect. I had visited the venue to check out the place and fell in love with it because I loved the understated elegance of the place. The little touches like the burnished copper tea kettles used to pour the Jasmine Tea , the Blue and White pottery , the Wooden Tea Chests , the lovely rustic earthenware kettles all just added to the charm of the place. The Bar with its 24K Gold plated glasses for their Signature Cocktails, the cozy spaces created by the layout of the tables , the open kitchens where you get to see the Chef’s in action only added to its charm.

We were a group of 17 hungry foodies and our menu was specially curated and designed for our meet but all the dishes featured are available on their regular menu. We began our epic meal with Cocktails , Dumplings followed by Soup , Appetizers , Main Course , Accompaniments and finally Dessert. It was an unbelievable experience for any food enthusiast and I am delighted that we could start the New Year on such a gastronomic high.

Kobid Sinha the Beverage manager had created some special concoctions from the Asian Beverage factory at JWM. Sinsen the wonderfully presented Cocktail which had a Tequila base , herbs from Asia ,lemon grass and celery, perfectly complemented by the sweet flavours of Palm Sugar. There was also a lovely Mocktail Called tom Yum Siam where the Red chilies from Thailand paired perfectly with basil and lemongrass further complemented by galangal. We literally started our repast on a high !

Soon we were served four varieties of beautiful fresh steaming hot dumplings –  Prawn Har Gow , Pork Xiao Long Bao , Edamame and truffle (v) and Asparagus & Water Chestnut Crystal Dumpling (v). They were all excellent but the Pork Xiao Long Bao, the Chinese steamed soup dumpling was just amazing. Pick one up carefully so the covering does not tear and pop it into your mouth and then feel the flavors literally explode on your tongue. The Vegetarian Crystal Dumpling with its almost transparent casing made with potato starch was also brilliant and I am sure the vegetarians are going to love this one.

The soups followed, Hot and Sour and Wonton in Superior Broth. S and I ordered one of each so that we could taste both and I liked both. The Hot and Sour one of my favorite soups was lovely because the heat did not overwhelm all other flavors and it had great balance. The Wanton Soup had a lovely broth indeed. A superior broth is a specially made stock / broth prepared using various proteins as well as ginger and scallions. It therefore has more complex flavors and enhances the taste of the soup. The soups were available in both the Vegetarian and Chicken options and both ours were Chicken.

Four appetizers followed Steamed Silken Tofu with Edamame & Chiu Chow Chilly Oil(v) , I loved the punch and texture the Chilly Oil gave this pretty looking dish. Thai Glass Noodles with Bean Sprouts Spring Roll served with Sweet Chilli Sauce (v) followed and the Spring Roll Casing was thin and crunchy and the Sweet Chilli Sauce was a huge hit with all of us. Chicken Wings with Chilli & Golden Garlic Paste was up next and a crowd pleaser albeit a slightly messy dish to eat but juicy and tender nonetheless. The best was saved for the last with the Crispy Fried Prawns Salt & Sichuan Pepper with Wasabi Mayo, which were absolutely delicious and the Wasabi Mayo was spot on and the perfect accompaniment. The one thing I noticed and appreciated with all our Appetizers was that the accompanying dip/sauce lifted the dish even further.

The Main Course was a gorgeous Mapo Tofu with Celery, Young Corn, Sichuan Peppercorn possibly the best Mapo Tofu in the city and being a staunch non-vegetarian I had two helpings of it. The Crispy Potato with Spring Onions and Fermented Chilli Paste was another winner and I really liked the Thai Red Curry with Asparagus, Squash, Water Chestnut & Thai Sweet Basil. The Sweet Basil gave it an added dimension altogether. The vegetarians are going to be rather happy with all the options that Vintage Asia has on offer for them.

The non-vegetarian options were all excellent starting with the Sichuan Fried Chicken with Peppercorn & Mountain Sun-Dried Chilly which was a beautiful dish with lovely flavor and texture. The plump and tender Wok Tossed King Prawns with Xo Sauce was wonderful and I sea-food lovers should not miss out on this dish. But yes I am guilty of leaving the undoubted star of this brilliant meal for the end ….. Spiced Caramelized Pork Belly with Pineapple & Crispy Garlic. I can truly say we were practically worshipping this dish and could not get enough of it. Possibly one of the best things I have eaten in a long time and you all know I am lucky because I get to eat a lot of great food thanks to my blog so that is saying something! The Pork was perfectly cooked, juicy but with the outsides perfectly caramelized. The sweet tender diced pineapple gave little bursts of pleasure from time to time and out of all the wonderful things we ate yesterday for lunch I will carry the memory of that Pork belly in my heart and in my very happy tummy for a long time to come.

The brilliant Main Course was served up with some lovely Burnt Garlic, Spring Onion Fried Rice and Hakka Style Chicken & Egg Noodles which were the perfect canvas for the works of art Vintage Asia was whipping up for us.

This extraordinary or as we say in Bengal “ashadharon” Meal ended with a choice of two desserts. A Mango Coconut Creme Brulee with Palm Sugar Caramel & Sesame Tuile and Toffee Sesame Banana with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. As always S and I ordered one of each so we could taste both. The Crème brulee was comfortingly delicious but I missed the Sesame Tuile which they did not serve. I would have liked to see how the sesame worked with the Brulee . The Toffee Banana and Salted Caramel Ice-cream was excellent and I loved it.

A special round of thanks to Chef Sudip , Chef Tan and his wonderful Chefs in the Kitchen who labored tirelessly to put all this wonderful food in front of us , to Kobid Sinha   for the wonderful cocktails and mocktails we were served and to Armaan Khan who took great care to fuss over all of us and make our meal a memorable one. Ashish ,Trinaa and Khushi for patiently tolerating my finicky tweaks with the Menu during the planning stages and indulging my whimsies and fancies. Thankyou JW Marriott for a beautiful experience and making sure that the Kolkata Food Fanatics have a truly delicious year ahead!

 

Vintage Asia is open daily for Dinner and for Lunch on weekends only. The number to call for reservations is 033-66330000. A meal for two would cost Rs.2500/= . There is an elevator so there is complete ease for people with impaired movement or those who need wheelchair access.

 

Picture Credits : Suneha Saha
Vintage Asia - JW Marriott Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato