Monday, 30 May 2016

Pizza From Box8, Mumbai

I have already tasted sandwiches, wraps and salads from Box 8 a number of times in past several months from various outlets and loved every single time whatever I ordered,such as HERE. Moreover,my colleagues and I have travelled through Mumbai for various conferences etc. and we have ended up ordering sandwiches from here often and even they have all liked them a lot :) I am not much into full fledged meals so those roti/rice combos still remain untested for me but recently I had the pleasure of trying out a pizza from here and they again surprised me pleasantly :) 

Now when it comes to pizzas, I am not a big fan of fat,soggy or chewy crusts and I love loads of toppings. I am particularly a fan of thin crust or wood-fired oven baked pizzas. But as anyone who reads my reviews knows, I am no gourmand and am happy with even a decent tasting dish :D So yeah,I am never looking for ekdum authentic Italian pizza or anything,just give me non-soggy,non-fatty,non-chewy,tasty stuff and I am sorted :) 

So I got Tandoori Paneer wrap, Garlic breadsticks and a large Everything Special Pizza from here as my sister and I were really hungry, this was supposed to be a heavy evening snack and then we were planning to make some pasta at home for dinner. Delivery was done within 40 minutes which was great, everything came in fresh and fragrant and the delivery guy was super polite :) I maintain that the wraps here are awesome, at least I always get good ones. Tandoori Paneer wrap had this generous stuffing of paneer with many veggies and an awesome combination of sauce (very reminiscent of Subway) and was enough to fill up a light eater like my mom :P She loved the crunch of the veggies and the mess of the sauce. I will not be eating this while on a journey as it really messes up the fingers and it is so delicious that I always end up making a mess like a 2 year old kid :P 

The garlic breadsticks were soft and came with a cheesy dip and quite value for money. Most of the time, a lot of salt is used on these breadsticks (my experience at domino's as well as pizza hut!) but here there wasn't thaaaat much salt used, however it could be a bit much for someone with high blood pressure. I guess that is a hazard for all fast food stuff. 

Finally,the pizza! It is huge and sufficed for complete dinner for my family of 3 that night :D And my sister and I are really heavy eaters. So just about Rs. 650 for a large pizza that is enough for a hearty dinner is quite good value for money. We went for this because it was difficult for my sister to choose one from many options (yup,she is really bad at making choices :P) and so we got this one that has our combined favorites of Mushrooms,olives, corn, onions, tomato and it was delicious. In fact, we had 2 slices and then went out for a bit and came back half an hour later and even though it became slightly cold, it was not rubbery at all. Score! I would have liked a bit more toppings which would make it a perfect 5 star dish for me but I am still going to sing its praises because I loved the base! It was not thin or crispy,rather it was just like focaccia bread! I love Focaccia bread and loved how it felt like I was having a pizza made out of it. There was this amazing fragrance of herbs in there which made this pizza not only look good but taste incredible too :) Rather innovative and deliciously so :) 

I am definitely keeping Box8 pizzas in my go-to-list-for-ordering-pizzas-in-mumbai now :)

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Diageo Reserve World Class Masterclass Mumbai Edition, Farzi Cafe, Lower Parel

Diageo. The ultimate name when it comes to spirits. These are the guys behind some (or rather, most) of the most iconic brands in the world ranging from Smirnoff to Ciroc! They are undoubtedly in the business of spreading happiness, with responsibility ;) 

It was thus an august occasion when some of Diageo's most luxury premium spirits were used by 4 supremely talented bartenders to create a bevy of magical cocktails in the Diageo Reserve World Class Masterclass Mumbai Edition and yours truly had the honor of watching the men at work. Now these guys are among the finalists of World's best and perhaps the most exhaustive bartending competition known as World Class. This is not just another competition where making 1-2 great cocktails is gonna win anyone lifetime accolades. It includes exhaustive rounds testing theoretical as well as practical knowledge to pick out world's best mixologists. After all, Diageo Reserve portfolio includes Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Gold Label Reserve, Don Julio, Ciroc and so on. Obviously, the best in fine dining and world's finest drinks go hand in hand and this is what this evening showcased to us, the chosen few.

While I am not much of a cocktail lover myself, it was impossible to stay untouched by the passion with which the Indian finalists were introduced and how they created and presented the drinks for us. The theme was 'fresh in-season fruits' thus doing away with the need of using pre-packaged or frozen or stored fruits pieces since just like food, even the taste of drinks is affected by the freshness of ingredients used. Add to that the torturous Indian weather right now and I think the refreshing zing inherent in the theme was perfect. Hello fresh litchis, pineapples, mint leaves and more :)

It was during the LIVE Masterclass session that I came across many interesting tit-bits of information. Such as-it is not only the freshness of the ingredient used that creates a particular flavor, rather it is also the duration for which the drink sits out in the open! Moreover, it is our noses that contribute the most when it comes to how attractive we find a particular drink. That is interesting, since I thought it was only the aroma of food items that made us salivate, turns out the same is true for drinks too! Then we had the pleasure of learning about the various flavors and undercurrents such as fruity, full-bodied and so on that leads to variations in recipes and how mixologists/bartenders take care of them on duty :)

Crushed Parle-G biscuits atop a whiskey based cocktail? Tastes even better than it sounds, trust me :) How about our very own Kokam with a twist,incorporating vodka and garnished with curry leaves? Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Well, here you go, take a look at the wizardry of these brilliant cocktail masters!

All Photo Credits : Prachi Shailendra

All Photo Credits : Prachi Shailendra

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Rola Rossa, Andheri West, Mumbai

Foodie Paradise. That is the world we are living in right now. Almost everyday a new restaurant seems to be opening up and it seems to be a cluttered space, or so many of my friends claim :D As a living breathing hippo myself, I am not going to complain. But then there comes a little place, no fuss, no muss and you stumble upon it and go, 'Voila, this is magic! This is genie in a bottle.' Behold as I just discovered a magical place quite recently. Rola Rossa.

I first heard about them kicking up a good storm among some of my friends who live in the area. And then I came to know about it being the brainchild of a teenager, a high school student, Shrey Sanghavi and his mom, the erudite chef Rupali and I had to check it out. It takes buckets of courage to go out and follow one's passion and when someone does it at so young an age, well, it takes so much more than what most of us can muster. 

So here I was with 3 amazing foodie blogger compatriots, in the busy Lokhandwala market area, on a scorching weekday afternoon. Rola Rossa is situated very near the famous Options store, in case you are lost for directions. Google Maps has got it down right,so that is not a worry :) Welcome to a small enchanting wonder-house. Bright red dominates the interiors color spectrum and makes even the limited space pop with vigor and vibrancy, bound to make even 50 year olds feel like 20 once more. Quirky little quotes, faux-windows design, absolutely adorable ambiance which just increased our appetite for some really good food. 

With the menu having some choicest options from Indian, Italian, American, Greek and Mexican, we turned to Rupali ma'am for suggesting the best of the lot. Service was polite, quick and pleasant throughout, just like family AND they made us eat like family too :) Actually, everything was so top-notch that we wanted to keep eating even long after our tummies were threatening to burst at the seams :D

Being a scorching afternoon that we had endured on our way here, some refreshing drinks were first on our mind. And there we were, glugging down their house specialty Virgin Mary and Tangy Guava. Virgin Mary was sweeter than expected (never a problem with me as everyone knows,I am a sweet hound :P) but Tangy Guava was awesome. Blend of sweetish-soury notes, this made a rejuvenating splash to the beginning of our delightful food journey.

Then came the house specialties. Haven't you wondered yet what exactly is a Rossa? Yup, it is a dish (basically a bread pocket stuffed with cheese and other delish stuff) which is absolutely not to be missed. Try every Rossa on offer and if you are endowed with stomach of a pigeon (don't worry,it is normal,there are people in my family afflicted with that too :P), at least do try Continental Rossa, that heavenly combo of Cheese, Spinach, Basil and Corn in warmest bread pockets possible. That burst of gooey deliciousness (no,it does not mess up the fingers :P) is pure bliss. One dish that will make me come back for more! And if you love to spice things up, go for Spicy Indian Chatka Rossa, it will be reminiscent of our favorite dadi/ nani maa making a Rossa with Potatoes, Onions, Spices in tandoor perhaps. Fiery! And you won't be able to stop eating it at all. It is perfect for quick snack and is served alongside a spicy-sour raw salad that is a delight to nitpick at. Pure love this dish is :)

When you are done worshipping the deliciousness of Rossas on offer, do take a peek at the Crispy Cheese Allowances that stole our hearts next. Another simple dish, one would look at it and go, hmm, well that looks good, but does it taste good? Yes Sir, it does :) Simplicity is divinity sometimes. These are little puff pastries (savory) with an avalanche of flavors atop it in the form of Cheese, Cabbage, Lettuce..just look at the picture, I swear that does more justice to its brilliance than a 1000 poems I could compose :D

I haven't even introduced the star dish and am salivating all over again. Do not forget to taste the Ice Bhel. Nope, I did not misspel anything :P It is really Ice Bhel, a specialty here, and quite possibly a life saver for us all in this wretched Mumbai weather! It is exactly what you would imagine it to be but tastes better than any of our imaginations. A plate of bhel with all the chutneys (on the sweeter side,Mumbai style) and crispy kurkure puris crumbled atop,served with a judicious helping of ice mixed in it! Sounds deceptively simple,no? Now imagine making a chaat and trying to add ice to it, without diluting any of the flavor or making it a watery mess. Get the picture? Yup, that is the genius part and something you have to taste to appreciate. A new way of having Bhel is here and I don't think I am going back to the old way anytime soon :D

When you have tried everything in the starter section (I am coming back and doing that peoples!), move ahead to some serious business. I have my heart set on the Pizzas, Panini which I am sure would be awesome just like their Pav Bhaji Fondue and 2 in 1 Baked Pasta was! Pav Bhaji Fondue is perhaps the next great thing in vogue right now and is definitely a must-try. Imagine all the awesomeness of Pav Bhaji,now accelerate it by putting some Cheese in the Bhaji, a little bit of Butter and put in all atop the fondue flame. It all melts and mixes together without creating a artery-choking mess but just the perfect thing to share among 4 friends. The accompanying crispy buttered bread toast pieces are delicious to have on their own & get simply divine when dipped in the fondue! I licked the bhaji clean and loved that it was not unnecessarily oily or spicy. It was delicious by retaining the original flavors of the mashed veggies and enhancing them with cheese,not overpowering it. Amazing.

No, there was no space left in our tummy after all this, I know that is what everyone is itching to know :P But we couldn't say no to the 2 in 1 Baked Pasta. If you like White Sauce Pasta, you will love it and even if you love Red Sauce Pasta,you will love it because it is 2-in-1 :D Both sauces and a variety of pasta shapes (Penne, Fusili, Fettuccine) make this a delight for kids and for those who are still kids at heart. Or anybody who loves cheese really :D This is one densely flavored and heavy dish, for those who want to do some heavy duty and delicious eating! And then go ahead to end it all on a sweet note with any of their cupcakes, as we did with the cute little red velvet ones. 

The portions are generous and prices are oh-so-light on the pocket. A hearty meal for 2 heavy eaters here would not cost more than Rs. 700 and I am talking hippo level hunger levels by the way :D Add to that excellent service, cool ambiance and a chance to create some special memories over really delectable food and Rola Rossa turns out to be one of the most incredible foodie finds. Ever ♥♥♥

Friday, 27 May 2016

Home Decor Ideas & More From JW Marriott Juhu Mumbai

Beauty in everything and everywhere. As someone who ardently believes in of Unicorns, Santa Claus and Fairies, I spend a large amount of my time appreciating beauty in myriad forms. In fact,my friends and family have repeatedly told me to get my woozy head checked because they find it frustrating how I can walk in any place and get mesmerized by a painting, sculpture, poster or even the arrangement of cutlery and flowers in a restaurant. Maybe there is something wrong in my head,maybe not, who cares :D All I know is I love capturing unique, creative, artsy stuff. 

So here is a glimpse of some of what enamored me at JW Marriott Juhu Mumbai when we attended Indiblogger Quaker Bowl Meet there :) There is some quirky art, some beautiful paintings and sculpture not to mention the glorious colors all around, it is all really regal and I reckon they also give fantastic home decor ideas. 

Incorporate some of this and watch how any room sparkles with these creative and contemporary decor items such as a vase or funky painted bottles or vibrant pottery or antique lamps. Or just plan the interior decor with these golden hues, I love them! 

I love walking into legendary hotels and discovering unique art pieces or art decor ideas everywhere from the lobby to the washrooms. Funnily enough I don't see many people stopping to admire it all. What is the rush peoples? Slow down, appreciate the good things around you, spread the word, share it all, enjoy :)

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Aquafire, Vile Parle East, Mumbai

Vile Parle East?!!!

You can practically hear 1000 exclamation marks at the end of the response for the question to any Mumbaikar, 'Will you come to Vile Parle East for lunch/dinner' :D This reminds me of how Grandmama's Cafe changed the face of Dadar East as this was the same reaction everyone gave when people made plans in Dadar :P Well, that is how the perceptions go. Some places like Bandra, Andheri, Churchgate, Kala Ghoda are 'happening' and places like Vile Parle East are not! I am glad to report that Aquafire is definitely capable of changing it for better :)

A sneak peek into some new dishes they are considering of introducing in the menu brought some hardcore foodies to this superb place situated like a calm oasis. Very elegant contemporary ambiance welcomes one, something I am told looks like a fairyland at night, absolutely not hard to imagine considering how beautiful it looks even in broad daylight. Comfortable seating and gorgeous bar area too. I am definitely coming back to enjoy the afternoon buffet as I have heard extremely good things about the Indian dishes especially. Even at first glance, it is apparent this is one rare place which one would never expect in 'Vile Parle East'. Here is a toast to demolishing pre-existing biases and prejudices :)

Menu for the day included some exciting discoveries for us as we tasted one amazing dish after another, not a wrong note in between! Started with Pinacolada Strawberry Mocktail, something that instantly refreshed us on the sultry afternoon with perfect balance of sweetness and little acidity mixed with mild creaminess. Something to reorder again & again. A while later, we gulped down warm Coconut & Curry Leaf shots. Sounds interesting? It tastes even better :D Looks like a creamy frothy concoction, it is very much like the Kadhi in Gujarati Thali, except that it has a beautiful coconut & curry leaf medley. Now what could top that you ask? Well, wait for the crunchy Lotus Stem Crispies. These are delicate lotus stems deep fried and sprinkled with various spices making them the perfect chatpata crunchies for any snack time. Also had the pleasure of having Bhindi Kurkure that are already among Aquafire's bestsellers and are much denser in flavors. Lotus Stems are more subtle on the palate and thus my favorites :) 

This was just the beginning of something special as Gandhari Kebabs made their appearance. Now I know Gandhar region is actually Kandahar region in Afghanistan and common perception is that all signature dishes from Afghanistan-Iran-Iraq area have nuts/ raisins/ cherries in them, so I expected this to be a kebab stuffed with dryfruits maybe. Oh boy,was this the surprise of the day as it turned out to a kebab stick with sugarcane in it! Imagine eating a Kebab and the sweet sugarcane breaking the monotony, what a pleasure. Definitely my favorite of the lot as everyone knows how I am blessed with a sweet jaw :D

A note here about the service as they went above & beyond what was expected from our side :) The tasting menu had mainly non vegetarian main courses but when they saw that 2 bloggers were vegetarian, they ensured that we were not left wanting in any respect even though we had no issues! They were swift, warm, polite, co-operative and it was just like extended family taking care of us. Memorable indeed. We had the pleasure of tasting their signature Veg Biryani which was fabulous. As I have complained many times, many places serve Veg Pulao in the name of Biryani which I am not a fan of. Here we had really delicious Biryani which was not even heavy on the stomach, something worth being thankful for during these extremely hot summer months. And the raita served alongside, looked like a piece of art and was delicious, perfectly mildly spiced and not sour at all (a common problem with raitas in many restaurants). We also chanced upon tasting Paneer Tikka with Tulsi & Dhaniya and Cottage Steak in Herb Sauce with Vegetables & Mash. Being a Paneer lover, I was in love with them at first sight itself. Tasting them just made my afternoon even more beautiful with such tender, melt-in-mouth Paneer pieces, perfectly marinated for the Tikka & elegantly served in the Steak format with veggies & mash. Delicious, Delectable, Dazzling in every sense of the word.

Our non-vegetarian compatriots were served some beautiful dishes too, the special mention for their presentation proving that even a hardcore vegetarian like me was admiring them :D They looked delicious and our friends confirmed that they tasted even better. They had a chicken dish with a sweet & spicy Mango Jalapeno sauce. If you are a non vegetarian, this is a MUST-HAVE. I just tasted the Mango Jalapeno sauce and couldn't stop eating it. I can imagine how amazing it must have tasted with Chicken. For that matter, I could drink this sauce by the gallon ♥ There was a fish dish they had too with a Coffee Cumin sauce which again pushed the boundaries for innovation & deliciousness. These are some masterchef worthy dishes, I tell you :)

I was wondering how would the desserts round make us hold on to our hats. Well, they did and how. First we gorged on some smooth and flavorful Mango Ice-cream with fresh Mango Cubes, with none of that icy or artificial texture. Pure bliss, especially during summers :) And then we had the decadent Seven Layered Dark Chocolate Pastry with Creamy Vanilla Ice-Cream. When I say dark, I mean Daaaaaaark. The kind of chocolate that makes one go yummmmmm, not a soul ready to stop eating it to say anything :D Just when you would think, okay, that is it, now there can be nothing to top that, comes the final attack on our palate (in the best way possible :P) by Hazelnut, Almond and Butterscotch Pastry with Coffee Liquor Reduction. Explosion of true flavors, crunchiness and gooeyness. Best way to end a truly gastronomical delight session on a lazy afternoon. 

Watch out peoples, Vile Parle East is a happening place yo :D