Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Must Try or Let It Pass By

The Jon Snow of Shawarmas

For 7 seasons, the bastard son of Ned Stark went about his business with everybody telling him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow”. Imagine not knowing any better.

Masquerading Shawarma at Al Bake, New Friends Colony, New Delhi

My food-loving pals across the globe will not know of this, but many moons back, when I started my radio career, we came across this joint in New Friends Colony market called Al Bake in New Delhi that used to make shawarmas. The term was as new as the recipe. It was a simple roll of flatbread with a spiced chicken filling; served with a dollop of sweet mayonnaise. My hungry pals and me took it as it was dished. Shawarma, they called it.
But, we knew nothing, Jon Snow.

And then a 10-year stint in Dubai, Middle East, taught me better; from the unassuming shawarma served in Malabari cafeteria to posh pan Arab restaurants.
Jon Snow finally knew it.

And so after 15 years, I decided to assault my taste buds on the pretext of nostalgia. The shawarmas arrived, looking exactly like they used to 15 years back. It was almost like they were on some anti-ageing formula. Not one to hesitate when there is food on the table, I bit generously into one. I must give it to the cook for consistency of taste; for it tasted exactly like what it used to way back then. Either they had perfected the ‘secret recipe’ for this Indian shawarma or my taste buds were on holiday. And so, they still didn’t taste like the shawarma they were supposed to be.
Dracarys!

5 Word Food Review: You know nothing, Jon Snow!

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Smokin’ Johnny Rockets

When Johnny Rockets is 2 stores next to a store where people buy chicken by the buckets, it is not a surprise that JR was virtually empty. This is exactly how I like my dining environment. Not so fast. And well, when you have burger on your mind, then a visit to JR is quite imperative. Johnny knows his Rockets!

Smokin' Johnny RocketsI asked the server for some help to navigate through the new menu, since a few names were repeated separately. After browsing the menu card, which happens to be my favourite literature, I settled for the Smokehouse burger.

Lamb patty sitting on a squishy bed of ‘smokehouse’ BBQ sauce with a dull shining, melting slice of Cheddar that balanced crispy bacon and some onion rings on top. All this goodness was arduously held together with a very “muffiny” sourdough burger bread. This was what made the burger very special. Sourdough – full marks.

Smokehouse Burger from Johnny RocketsI demolished the burger within minutes, also since the size wasn’t that huge. The taste made up for such shortcomings. What really fell short on expectations was the milkshake.

All shakes are ice cream based and hand-spun. After reading such descriptions along with the flavours available, you expect a big, fat glass to sit in front of you – a glass that should reach your eye level and make eye-contact with the guest in front of you, a difficult and distracting task. That is something that doesn’t happen. Have you seen those glasses, Johnny? They are, at best, teenaged shot glasses that hold about 4 glugs of milkshake!

Johnny, your menu card and its graphics really create a mirage in the eyes of the good eater. It is something that commonplace restaurants do. Your order never looks the same as the picture.

So, here’s what you do:

  • Redesign that menu. Read – simplify.
  • Do not repeat your burgers on different pages. Never confuse the customer.
  • So, you have chicken, lamb and tenderloin? What meat would tenderloin stand for? Lamb? Pork? Beef?  Given the moo(t) situation now, a clarification would be less stressful, don’t you think?
  • And get those shakes in a bigger size.

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#BurpAndBelch Meter: 3 burps full

#5WordFoodReview: Can You Get Me XXL?

The Juicy Lucy Burger

This Juicy Lucy Burger @CafeDelhiHeightsThis has got be a man’s doing. Naming a burger Juicy Lucy. I am yet to come across a menu where the woman chef has gotten back, full square. However, now I shall steer clear of any accusations of misogyny and focus on this burger that is a global favourite.

The Juicy Lucy or Jucy Lucy Burger is just another slightly pimped up version of the American cheeseburger. Any quick search will tell you that it came about in Minneapolis with a controversy on its true parent. With a history like that of a DC superhero and a name like that of a NSFW website, I would safely presume that the burger would blow my brains out with its taste.

I was in Cafe Delhi Heights in Mall of India with my wife and my radio guru. He recommended that I dig into the JLB. You don’t say ‘no’ to your teachers.

The positives first:

When the burger appeared on my table, I was instantly in love with its size. As big as my outstretched palm, with the sesame bun shining and well buttered on the inside. Sure I like my food well-endowed.

The burger sure was juicy. And this wasnt just the tomato squishing against the grating of the cutlery.

The patty was served at the exact temperature it should be consumed. Not too hot and dry, warm, moist and the melting cheese wasn’t as hot as lava.

The lamb was not gamey and smelled rather appetising.

The not-so-positives:

Have you seen its plating? The most insipid, boring and disinterested plating ever. Slapping on some lettuce on a plate will not earn you any star (presuming there is no hunger for the Bibendum star). And where is the dressing? How difficult is some balsamic or citric dressing?

The patty was under-seasoned. Stark would certainly not have approved of this one since one could not get a whiff of pepper for miles.

And the cheese. Well, if you are serving me a gigantic burger, please make the cheese serving ginormous. I should be able to taste the cheese in each bite. Maybe a pepperjack would have been a better idea since we were low on pepper to begin with.

Stop obsessing with mayonnaise! Never understood this new obsession of mayo in everything people want to eat. At this rate, there will be mayo in biryani too.

An excessive bed of red cabbage does nothing even though it is dunked in mayo. When one is crunching a mouthful of cabbage, it makes me feel like a wanton cow or having those roadside sandwiches that serve you cabbage in the name of a vegetable sandwich.

And the burger bread within was way too much than the burger. Serious munchers will get this concept of bread to meat ratio. I ate the burger without the top cap. I finished it later since I wanted a clean record of finishing up my entire Juicy Lucy Burger.

Wouldn’t want Lucy to feel offended, do we?
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#BurpAndBelch Meter: 2 burps and half a silent one

#5WordFoodReview: Sorry Lucy! Didn’t Work Out!

 

Man vs Lobster @ Zheng He

TheCalmDev @ Zheng He - Man vs Lobster
TheCalmDev @ Zheng He – Man vs Lobster

Unfair fight. Lobster alive or on the plate, notwithstanding.

Little did I know that I was going in for combat when I walked in with my dearest friend at Zheng He by the waterfront at Mina’a Salaam. Priority seating, with uninterrupted views of the Burj Al Arab changing gels in the evening, was quite the highlight. And then the food started rolling out.

The Dragon Boat Festival @ Zheng He
The Dragon Boat Festival @ Zheng He

To celebrate the dragon boat festival, there was a special dimsum menu. Truth is, whatever the festival, I am always up for dimsums. Chicken, prawn and mushrooms, tempered, and stuffed inside delicate translucent steamed bags is something I can do on repeat mode every evening.  The only thing that beat it was a crispy golden king prawn in Chinese mustard and spicy mango. Our kind hostess from the Orient, oriented us and patiently answered our questions. Spicy mango, not spiced mango, said she. This appetizer is highly recommended. In fact, I do not mind having it as a main course.

And then on followed a kingly sight of soups, duck, shrimps, octopus and scallops. My co-eater asked for the whole Canadian lobster in black pepper sauce. It didn’t alarm me, as I thought it would be an equal share of the crustacean. When it arrived, I was left to wrestle it all by myself. Understand this, I had half the Tasmanian Sea inside my stomach and then I had to eat the entire lobster! (Ideally this line would have sounded better with an expletive.)

The lobster on the far right. What I ate was bigger!
The lobster on the far right. What I ate was bigger!

And so, I set out for the impossible. The head and the tail shells on the plate taunted me as I slowly reached out my chopsticks for the chunks of juicy lobster meat flavoured with the essence of the Sichuan area. The taste was incredible, as was the texture. My hands picked up momentum, picking and delivering piece after piece until my mouth was unable to keep up. Chewing and swallowing on an almost-full stomach is not an easy task. I was thinking of greater glories like my name on Zheng He’s aesthetic walls discussing my superhuman feat; or comforting things like eating in my loosest pyjama in front of TV. I wasn’t prepared to give up easily on this deliciousness on my plate. I was about 7 pieces more to go before fame and glory would throw their garlands around my neck. I wasn’t looking at the Burj, or at the table next to me with 5 gorgeous girls daintily eating their Chinese food. And then there were 3, left. Lobster pieces. I felt like Achilles in the siege of Troy. To destroy a 1.5 kilo lobster all by myself is no less satisfying. With my plate polished off clean, I stood up akimbo, much to the surprise of my bemused friend, the 5 beautiful co-diners and our Chinese stewardess. I told her stoically that I was adjusting the lobster inside my stomach and she did have a strange look on her face. Hah! You should have seen mine – it was like Po with his mouth filled with buns.

Ni hao! And how!

#BurpAndBelch Meter: 5 buuuuuurps (sorry, was I too loud?)

#5WordFoodReview: Eat Pray Eat! Then Repeat!

Zheng He's - Mina A' Salam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Carter’s – for English grub and King Tut

BurpAndBelch @ Carter's
BurpAndBelch @ Carter’s

When you have a mall in Dubai, in the shape of a pyramid, with walls adorned with hieroglyphs, Ramasses II greeting you at the gate along with Anubis, then little wonder that there will be a pub called Carter’s.

The Englishman who shot to unprecedented fame when he ‘stumbled’ upon the untouched tomb of boy-king Tutankhamen, was celebrated for opening up the preparatory after-life of the ancient Egyptians to the whole world. That was just the history appetiser. For those that want to know about more Howard Carter or King Tut, read up. If you want to know about the ‘meteoric’ iron used for King Tut’s dagger, read this: MeteoriteIronForKingTutsDagger

Carter’s is a lively, charming, colonial gastro pub (and sports bar), Carter’s features some English favourites and gourmet newness that one can enjoy without the starched formality.

The menu was rather square, something I would have personally designed if I was running the show here (with a few tweaks here and there). Luckily the staff was friendly enough for you to come back a second time. Well, I have seen this for the last 10 years, so this felt like old times.

When in an English pub, eat Stilton. This beautiful salad could be my best friend for a long, long time. Oven roasted beetroots, with a drizzle of Stilton blue cheese, baby gem lettuce and macadamia nuts for crunch was simply delish. It was too dark for me to behave like typical food bloggers and whip out my phone camera and shoot the food a zillion times before eating it! So, I just ate it in peace!

Right after this got over, the live rock music took over. That meant, the abrupt end of conversation as the drummer was within earshot and a careless flick of the Stilton could have soiled the guitarist’s shiny black leather waistcoat. I stuck to my crispy calamari for comfort.

Peppered steak - demonstrative picture
Peppered steak – demonstrative picture

For mains, I ordered the peppered filet with hash and buttered spinach. Do not miss the peppercorn sauce. Eating this sauce is like listening to your favourite tune on the radio. My dinner mate settled for Carter’s Cod and Chips. Now the thing about fish and chips is that there is nothing new that can be done to a classic. It’s like a vintage car. You can just rub the chrome 4 times extra for value add. There was mushy peas and tartar sauce. Home run. Although I am a little blah to the bland batter the fish gets coated in. So, instead of helping my friend out when he couldn’t finish it, I chose to relish on the perfectly done, medium well, steak with handsome grill marks et al. What the dish lacked was the crunch of steamed veggies which the wilted spinach could not perform.

We washed the food down with our beer. While on that, make sure to ask for the Summer Sale where you get pints and selected grapes for very cheap. Will certainly come in handy for the rock night.

All in all, Cater’s is a great place to unwind with family and friends. Use the terrace when the weather isn’t that muggy. Or else just sit indoors and crane your neck to see the inquisitive Carter bent over the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen. Should do the trick!

#BurpAndBelch meter: 3.5 out of 5 burps

#5WordRestaurantReview: Not What King Tut Ate!

Carter's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NOSH It Up At Movenpick JLT

Fisherman's Market at Nosh
Nosh Eat this!

My last few days have been very seafood-laden. Not that it is a complaint; just an observation. And then when the Movenpick JLT branded their Thursday evenings as the Fisherman’s Market at their restaurant Nosh, it did call for a visit.

At the outset, I need to put down the fact that I have not experienced such warm hospitality in most of the well-heeled and shiny reputed restaurants in hotels. And that is exactly what has made my visit to Nosh so memorable.

Fisherman's Market at Nosh
Oysters

Right from the First Impressions Officer to the restaurant manager, the servers or the lively Canadian chef who went about shucking oysters, all staff were upbeat, welcoming and took detailed care of their guests. So refreshing to see that.

Fisherman's Market at Nosh
One section of the Sea of Salads

While I sipped my white vino to sooth away the fatigue of a hard work week, I plotted what I would store in my stomach. Started with different types of refreshing seafood salad, my favourite being the niçoise.

Fisherman's Market at Nosh
Food Prawn!

After flirting with prawns and tuna, mussels and clams, decided to profess my liking for oysters that were shucked by the jovial Canadian Executive Chef. Dont miss the fish and chips or the crispy calamari rings.

Fisherman's Market at Nosh
Sea Troopers

Main course had different varieties worth straying right from seafood pasta and risotto to breaded fish. The live kitchen had the appointed chef cooking your choice from red snappers to crabs. This time I gave the sushi counter a miss since I was enjoying my flings with the Mediterranean styles of cooking.

Desserts had the usual suspects including the fondant fountain. What I liked most was the toffee pudding.

Fisherman's Market at Nosh
Smiling Chef at the live station

While Nosh may not have the best layout for something as elaborate as the Fisherman’s Market theme, but they make the most of it with its food arrangements and the heart-warming service-with-a-smile.

Thank you Cybelle, Executive Sous Chef Patrick Lanteigne, the smiling hostess Nova Embred, the industrious Abhishek Bose and the rest of the Nosh team for making it such a delightful evening.

#BurpAndBelch meter: 3 out of 5 burps

#5WordRestaurantReview: Wanna Eat With Their Staff!

nosh Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mundo – World of Seafood

Sea of Seafood at Mundo
Sea of Seafood at Mundo

The mere mention of seafood brings up images of all things that can poetically be called “fruits of the sea” and Mundo (at Jumeirah Emirates Towers) had exactly that. Sea of seafood for the eyes and the belly at the seafood dinner at Mundo

Sea of Sea Food at Mundo
Mundo – for all the seafood you need

The restaurant, running almost-full for a weekday early dinner,  welcomed me and my chowdown partner to plush interiors and counters and islands of seafood. We invested in surveying the spread, mentally noting the stations to stop at and counters to give a miss. You possibly cannot eat all that is on display.

Sea of Seafood at Mundo
See Food – oysters, scallops and prawns

We started with cold oysters that were shucked in front of us. For accompaniments, I usually avoid the creamy sorts, as I feel it numbs down the taste of the sea. They go best with lemon juice and pepper. I also tried the tomato salsa and a pineapple salsa that certainly brightened up my palette.

Sea of Seafood at Mundo
Salsa Verde & Chimichurri

Moved on to prawns and scallops, followed them with ceviches and stopped over at the cheese and fruits counter. I was very happy to have the British Stilton present there along with the usual suspects. I spied the winning avocado salsa verde (nobody would penalise if one were to call it the guacamole) and next to it sat my current favourite the Chimichurri sauce. Those led me to overeat a little more before stopping over to the paella and grilled fish stations.

Funnily, I spied a quiet corner that served Indian cuisine. However, I was sad to see that Indian seafood preparations were completely missing from the table. I would certainly recommend scouring the western (and eastern) parts of India to source out some excellent seafood varieties that would add some geographical and gastronomic weightage to the Mundo of seafood.

Sea of Sea food at Mundo
Eel Sushi with Green Eggs of Flying Fish on top

Special mention of the sushi counter that served an eel sushi with green eggs of flying fish on top. It was delicious. The flying fish certainly excited me since I had read about them in my childhood and seen ample documentaries.

With perhaps a huge haul of the Mediterranean in our bellies, we settled down with sticky toffee pudding and a selection of desserts to end this world tour of sea food at Mundo.

Mundo offers a global gourmet journey through the Mediterranean, Middle East, India and Asia other than the seafood dinner from Sunday to Thursday.

BurpAndBelch meter: 3 burps out of 5

5WordFoodReview: Seven Seas On Your Plate

Mundo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato