Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Benjarong, TTK Road, Alwarpet - Flavours of Vietnam

21:53:00

Chennai seems to be opening up to different types of cuisine lately. People are not afraid to try something new. My experiences with Vietnamese food is down to dining at Chao and I don't have any other experience to compare this food to. Anyways I was invited to Benjarong to sample their ongoing Vietnamese food festival. There was something which I realised by the end of the meal, which is, the Vietnamese cuisine is not all that different from our Indian cuisine.




After a round of quick intros with the manager and the chef, it was down to work. The meal started off with Iced Coffee with a Vietnamese twist. On inquiring I found out that the coffee beans are roasted a bit longer which makes em a bit darker, more chocolaty in colour. The strong black coffee is passed thru a filter into 5ml of sorts of Condensed milk. Quick stir and poured into a glass of crushed ice, Wola!!! One terrific Iced Coffee. I loved it so much, I had another one.


Then I was served with Pho Ga ( Rice Noodle Soup ) which is essentially a Chicken soup in a clear chicken broth with rice noodles with a topping of sprouts and chilli. Loved it! Sure will work, when you suffer from cold. Since I was the only Non-veggie at the table and the other person was a veggie, I had a ball of time, sampling both Veg and Non-Veg dishes. From what I understood by having a look at the menu was the lack of food items for vegetarians. Moving along.



The starters started to come along, I was served with a Chicken Salad while my friend who was the vegetarian was served with Mushroom Salad. Both very identical in ingredients apart from the main element, but still very different in flavours. I somehow felt the mushroom was better. There was also a Squid Salad. I do love squid, but comparing the Mushroom, Chicken and Squid - Mushroom > Chicken > Squid was better. There was a little bit sweet taste to the salad which definitely works. There was also a Banana Blossom with Tofu which totally different. Could not believe that banana stem could work like this.


Next up, we were served with non-veggie & Veggie sampler of sorts. The non-veggie sampler which I relished were: (First the highs) Bò Cuộn Sả Nướng Bún Tươi Nước Mắm Tỏi ỚtI have no clue what it means. But it is actually Charcoal Grilled Beef on Lemongrass Sticks served along with Vermicilli ( aka Iddiyappam). I loved it. If this was a steak I would eat it regularly. Next was the Gà Xiên Que Nướng Mật Ong Cơm Nắm Mè Dưa Chua which is BBQ Honey Chicken Skewers. BBQ honey imparted a sweet flavour which I dint mind. Then came the ChảCáThìLàNướcMắmXoàiTượng which is fish on a skewer. There was also some deep fried vegetable spring rolls, which were quite fresh and rich in veggie flavour. 




After gorging on these delicious delights, we moved on to the main course. I was served with Cá KhoTộ Cơm Trắng Rau Luộc which is Caramelised Fish in Claypot and  Càry Gà Nước Cốt Dừa which is Vietnam Chicken Curry in Coconut Gravy to go with Miến Xào Cua which is stir-fried Glass Noodle with Crab Meat and Xôi Đậu Xanh which is Green Mungbean Sticky Rice. 

The Caramelised Fish had great depth of flavours, but it was a bit salty for my taste. I was offered a bit of steamed rice to cancel out the saltness, but I was too full to even try. Vietnam Chicken Curry in Coconut gravy will pass off as a Kumarakom Gravy if the chicken was swapped with fish. Green Mungbean Sticky rice was first for me. I have heard Kylie Kwong talk about sticky rice. But to taste it was just divine. Finally the Stir-Fried Glass Noodles with  Crab Meat was at a whole different level. 




Binging down the mains we were served with Bánh Đậu Xanh which is a Mungbean Cake and Bánh Chuối Hấp Nước Cốt Dừa which is a Crystal Steamed Banana Cake served with Cream Coconut. Comparing both I loved the Crystal Steamed Banana Cake. Somehow I could relate to the flavours. It was more like belose (Indian Banana based sweet dish).

Over all the meal was a Stunner!!. This Vietnamese food festival is on till the July 27th. Most dishes here have fish based ingredients. If you do suffer from Seafood allergies I would recommend you to inform the Chef well in advance. 

A meal for two would cost around Rs 2500/- . I am pretty sure one cannot resist the iced coffee and it is bound to have another round. 

Benjarong is located on TTK Road, Alwarpet next to French Loaf.

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*A review about a place holds good only for 6 months as there can be a change in quality and quantity of the food, the service and the staff, due to reasons best known only to them. So kindly consider these factors while visiting the places.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sun Cuisine @ Kefi, Taj Club House, Mount Road

20:47:00

There are very few quality roof-top restaurants in Chennai. Of the lot, one of the most romantic places to dine is Kefi at Taj Club House. I have been here a couple of times and the food here, has never disappointed me. It is one of the best Mediterranean restaurants which the city is blessed with. I was invited here to sample the dishes which are a part of the Sun cuisine.


Sun cuisine serves food native to Tunisia. Tunisia is a region is which is located on the northern most tip of Africa which is part of the Mediterranean belt. Food wise, it is very similar to the other Mediterranean countries but a little spicier The executive chef, Siddiq has taken the right ingredients to produce a food experience which is second to none.

The proceedings for the evening began with a Amouse Bouch (Palate cleanser) which is a delicate paper thin beet root, wrapping a small piece of cheese. It was a sharp contrast of flavours with sweet beet root and sour cheese. In the gap between our starters and palate cleanser, we were served with lovely soft bread which tasted yummy, with both garlic yoghurt and Harissa.



The only vegetarian at the table was served with Sollanum Brik. I wondered at its pronunciation..... I want to sollanum :P I wonder what it wanted to sollanum..... Anyway I was not greatly interested in a veg dish, so I dived right into my Fatmas Finger - a baked pastry which contained a mix of seafood , mushroom and garlic. Those who love seafood would find it right at home. But then, those who find the seafood aroma a no go , would be disappointed. 




Following the lovely starter we were served with Lablabi, which is a chickpea and garlic soup with a nice piece of chicken. The soup was thick, rich, aromatic and delicious. This was one of the times I had actually enjoyed a soup. Gulping down the soup, we were served with our main course. The sole veggie guy of the party, was served Marqa which is a Tomato stew with Broccoli, bell peppers and zucchini. While I was served with Phoenician Spicy Grilled Chicken. I really don't know to explain it. The chef is a genius, he had stuffed Cous Cous in a grilled chicken. The dish as such lacked a bit of bite. The chicken was delicious, the Cous Cous was great, the sauce was fantastic. But this did not turn the entire dish into a plus. I did wish it was served with a increased amount of sauce, but then would it have affected the taste of the grilled chicken?  I wonder...


Finally the delicious meal ended with Makroudh Baklava. Which is the traditional Baklava with a spin. Served in a roll form filled with nuts, dates flavoured with rose syrup and garnished with a hard orange candy. It was a big bite into heaven. 

If you had loved reading, then rush over to Kefi. The sun cuisine is available from July 18th to 27th. A meal for two should cost roughly around Rs 3000/-. 

Kefi is located inside Taj Club House on Mount Road.

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*A review about a place holds good only for 6 months as there can be a change in quality and quantity of the food, the service and the staff, due to reasons best known only to them. So kindly consider these factors while visiting the places.

Iftar Box 2014, Jewel Box @ Blue Diamond, EVR Periyar Salai

20:38:00

My 2nd stop for this year's Iftar food affair was from Jewel Box at Blue Diamond. This box is an Iftar box on a diet. A small box which does not fill you up, so you can do your prayers quite comfortably.





The box contents:
Tata Gluco+ - 1
Nombu Kanji ( Porridge) - 1
Dates -2
Chicken Cutlet - 2
Iddiyappam Biryani - 1
Mixed Fruits - 1
The entire box costs Rs99/-


Nombu Kanji aka Rice Porridge which is a spicy porridge with a bit of rice, vegetables, dhal and a small helping of mutton. The chicken cutlet seems to have dropped in size compared to the previous year's box. A little minuscule but right on the spices. Finally you get a small serving of Iddiyappam Biryani with small pieces of chicken in it, which is rich in south indian flavours. You do get some Mixed fruits to cool down your digestive system. The entire box is a total value for money priced at Rs 99/-

Food - 7/10
Price - 9/10

The Iftar box is available from 5pm onwards during the month Ramadan.

Hotel Blue Diamond is located on E.V.R Perriyar Salai next to K.J. Hospital.

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*A review about a place holds good only for 6 months as there can be a change in quality and quantity of the food, the service and the staff, due to reasons best known only to them. So kindly consider these factors while visiting the places

Monday, 14 July 2014

Awadhi Food Festival @ Courtyard Marriott

16:05:00

Awadhi cuisine - Galouti Kebab - Marriott. These keywords were enough. I said yes to trying out the Awadhi food festival at Courtyard Marriott. Marriott had flown in Chef Younis Khan who specializes in this cuisine for the special food festival. For those who don't know what Awadhi cuisine is.... It is essentially a Lucknowi food which specialises in Dum cooking and is heavily influenced by the Mughal and Persian style of food. As I have said a numerous times I am sucker for Galouti / Goluti / Galwati Kebabs and this was just another reason to dine here.




The meal started of with Malai Prawns. I must say it was out of the world. Okay, I missed saying I love Seafood as well. I just cant resist them. If this was not enough we were blown away with veggie version of Galouti Kebab. For once I thought this could pass off as an alternative to the original. Just as I was binging on the doupelgangers we were served with a Masala Paneer and Malai Paneer. The Maiai paneer was a little flat in  flavors. It was soft no doubt, but a little flat in the spices department.  Masala Paneer was the one, everyone would relished.



With all these dishes being served I was beginning to become impatient. I was waiting for the star attraction, the Galouti Kebab. Finally after all the waiting, it was served. Looked great, was definitely soft, but on eating I found the taste to be a little different which I did not mind as it was still melt in your mouth types. Finally if this was not enough we were served with Tandoori Lamb chops. OMG! It was delicious, soft, tender and decadent.



Finishing off the starters I was too stuffed to even move around. But then the smell of the Awadhi Biryani and Lamb Nihari shook me up. The Biryani had a different color, but was packed with richness. It is safe to say that this is one of the best Biryanis I have ever had in a Star Hotel. On the other end the Lamb Nihari was a stunner. Tender cooked lamb with roti was just what the royals would want. I was way too stuffed after the main course to even sample the desserts.

Chennai has become the home of many poor buffet. But this was the only time I felt that the major portion of the buffet was great.

Awadhi food festival is on till July 21st. It is priced at Rs 1250/- Do try em, don't miss out on this unique food festival.

Courtyard Marriott is located on Anna Salai next to Manyavar.

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*A review about a place holds good only for 6 months as there can be a change in quality and quantity of the food, the service and the staff, due to reasons best known only to them. So kindly consider these factors while visiting the places.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Zaitoon, Anna Nagar - Iftar in a Box 2014

20:06:00

Each year, Muslims spend the ninth month of the Islamic calendar observing a community-wide fast. The annual fast of Ramadan is considered one of the five "pillars" of Islam. Muslims who are physically able, are required to fast each day of the entire month, from sunrise to sunset. The evenings are usually spent enjoying family and community meals, engaging in prayer and spiritual reflection, and reading from the Koran.

Fast-forward to the present day. It has becoming increasingly difficult for families to sit down and dine together as one during the month of Ramadan. Knowing this all Muslim and certain non-Muslim restaurants across town have geared up to serve filling meal at the time of Iftar to cater to the Muslim community. 



My first stop for this year's Iftar special or Iftar combo aka Iftar pack was at Zaitoon.
The box contains the following items:
- Bottle of Water -1 (Bisleri)
- Tata Glucose + - 1
- Dates -2
- Mutton Kheema Puff - 1
- Chicken Shawarma - 1
- Haleem - 1
- BBQ Chicken - 1
- Khubus - 1
- Parotta -1
- Butter Chicken Masala - 1
- Mutton Biryani - 1
- Mayo - 1 small container
- Gulab Jamun -2
- Kheer - 1
- Assorted fruits -1
- Packet of Ketchup - 1
The entire box costs Rs 299/-.



The pricing of the box is much lesser than what it cost last year. So what is different this year?? You  find the items to have increased.

After tasting a bit of all the contents, I found it difficult to finish off the entire box. So this can definitely feed more than one person. The quality of the Haleem is still the same as the last years, no changes here. Mutton Kheema puffs is a little dry and lacks filling. The shawarma is a little anaemic with regards to the filling. Gilled chicken was spot. The Gravy and the Biryani were not up my alley, it was more like a namesake dish, just as the previous year's. Fruits and sweets were fine. Packaging a Tata Glucose water is a really great idea. It restores electrolytes back into the body. Having opened both the boxes, we found one of our boxes missing a Box of ASSORTED FRUITS, which maybe due to a packaging mistake. 

The box priced at Rs 299 inclusive of taxes is definitely a VFM!

Food - 7.5/10
Price - 8/10

The link to 2012's box
The link to 2013's box

Zaitoon is located in Anna Nagar, opposite to Naturals Spa. Also they have other outlets spread across town. 

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*A review about a place holds good only for 6 months as there can be a change in quality and quantity of the food, the service and the staff, due to reasons best known only to them. So kindly consider these factors while visiting the places.