Tag Archives: restaurant

Hint Of Salt

I think I had my first cheesecake on my honeymoon. As far back as I can go in time, I think that was when I sunk my teeth into the softest cheesecake possible. Yes, it was then. I had just married my girlfriend and we were honeymoon-ing in Malaysia. This restaurant was on Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur that served award-winning cheesecakes. I do not remember the name and Google didn’t throw up anything that could ring a bell.

Pic courtesy: http://coombs.info/baking/2010/03/recipe/new-york-style-cheesecake-gluten-free/
Pic courtesy: http://coombs.info/baking/2010/03/recipe/new-york-style-cheesecake-gluten-free/

I didn’t care much for cheesecakes. My wife, however, was quite the enthusiast. As I manoeuvred my knife into the cloud-soft marble cheesecake, I was completely unprepared for the experience  that would erupt in my mouth. Soft, creamy, like a welcome wintry duck-feather quilt, rich, satin-smooth, like clouds, the even sweetness spreading like a sheet of rain, crumbly biscuit bed adding the crunch and then – no, it cannot be – a hint of salt!!!

My exterior was calm. I didn’t want my wife to think that I didn’t know they used a hint of salt in cheesecake. I felt like a late-bloomer. I was thinking of all the moments in life where I might have given that impression. As my tongue swirled like honey dripping from a honey-sceptre, I couldn’t get over the fact that there was salt in a sweet dish!

We ‘umm’-ed and coo-ed. Said good things about the cheesecake. The missus decided to ask for another one with a different flavour. I thought it opportune to mention the salt. And so, like somebody who knew cheesecake from history, I mentioned the salt.

Wife with incredulity, “You didn’t know?”

Me, sheepishly, “No, no, I did, just mentioning how beautifully it has been incorporated.” (I suck at lying!)

Wife just smiled.

I didn’t ask her why she smiled. I don’t want to. Keeps the magic in the marriage alive!

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Killer Broccoli at Grand Hyatt

There is something mysterious about the broccoli. The effect  begins with its spelling. It sounds like new villain in town! It could sound like a new Italian music composer! Some may build a connection with secret agent 007! But there is a connection that IZ, the authentic tandoori restaurant in Grand Hyatt, has established and an irrefutably delicious connection at that! And that is their signature dish – grilled broccoli!

IZ is perhaps Grand Hyatt, Garhoud, Dubai’s best kept secret. They serve the most delectable north Indian fare without the sensational fanfare that other restaurants deploy. I love the setting – partially inside, surrounded in dark woody hues and outside seating beside a roaring fountain. Why I say ‘best kept secret’ is because of its location. You could miss it, unless you can smell the ‘tandoori’ air just around it.

So, sitting down for a lunch meeting at IZ, was a very happy and special moment. Conversations alternated between food to business. The very pleasant PR Manager Leenu graciously hosted me and my colleague as we sat to discuss the imminent launch of IZ Brunch. And of all things included, she presented me with a plate of grilled broccoli.

Killer Broccoli at IZ, Grand Hyatt
Killer Broccoli at IZ, Grand Hyatt

I brandished my fork and knife and dumped 2 florets on my plate. I know broccoli. I know how they taste. I use them myself, regularly. I cut down a decent part of the floret and popped it in my mouth. And after that, my vocabulary got drastically changed. So did our conversation!

I havent tasted broccoli that sensational! Perfectly cooked. Tender yet crunchy. And from deep within, came a buttery taste that complimented the florets so beautifully. Broccoli overtook the table. Broccoli beat the chicken and salmon. Shamelessly, I pulled in the last floret on the plate, lest it gets taken away by the smiling and efficient IZ staff. I requested Leenu to call the chef over. Chef Aftab is a very humble man. I conveyed that if anybody can make broccoli taste this sensational, then that person must be a very capable chef! I have also managed to convince them to teach me how to grill broccoli to perfection and part with the recipe. And I will not be able to share it on this blog.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Order the grilled broccoli. You will learn to love your green veggies.
  • Order the grilled broccoli. You will revel in the taste.
  • Order the grilled broccoli. They are on the brunch menu. Yayy!
  • Order the grilled broccoli. They can only be beaten by their signature mushrooms.
  • Order the grilled broccoli. I strongly recommend  it.

PS: I am negotiating with Grand staff and Leenu to rename the broccoli as Killer Brocs! I am putting my weight to that!

Brunch at IZ the tandoori restaurant at Grand Hyatt launches early May 2014. Watch this space for more.

Add That Coffee

Dubai is the place for fashionable brunches. If you do not like ‘fashionable’, then read the first sentence again without the adjective. The idea remains that breakfast is an option that is as expansive as fast food chains here.

There are breakfast options for all kinds of hunger. The kinds where you can walk-in in your floaters and not be judged to places where Dior or Chanel maybe the calling of the day. And there is a global menu to suit most palettes. From ‘desi’ Indian or Pakistani to Continental to Oriental even. Even the unpretentious omelette served in a roadside shack gains VIP status with myriad stuffing, and served with fancy tableware. I have also been with people who do not bother about what bread they eat but will ask for multi-cereal in upmarket breakfast joints.

I do enjoy this broadband of breakfast options. Shacks, to roadside eateries, to queuing up at Ikea, to a relaxed Safa Park break to fancy Citywalk names to the uber posh nosh at 5 stars! I have but one request! This is for those places that serve great breakfast but do not include the coffee. Please understand that the humble bread and egg and everything else that is used with tongue-twisting names leaves enough mark-up for you to brew me some good, strong coffee. So, keep as much as you want for your cash registers, just include the coffee with the breakfast. See, it is like buying a mobile phone that also has a transfer cable with the charger. You’d hate it if you had to buy them separately.

Hope you get the drift Mo’s, Citywalk. If not, you need a stronger (caffeine) kick!

Taste of Music, Sound of Food

I am not really in favour of restaurants with live music.

I have my reasons for not liking the mix of hot food and live music. First and perhaps, the foremost, I feel that music is being degraded by presenting it to a bunch of people who are more interested in what is on their plates than on the singer’s lips. There is an automatic curtain that we draw in our heads trying to separate the live performers and food. Music, when presented live, requires some amount of attention. Respect for the craft and the craftsman completely flies out of the window when one walks into a ‘restaurant with live music’. I start detesting the idea when fine dining restaurants have live performers. How am I supposed to concentrate on the food, then?

Second, if I need to have entertainment in front of my eyes while I eat, I usually switch on the TV. At least I can change channels as opposed to stuck with singers who I might not fancy.

I do not see the point of having singers who put on a show as if they were applying for American Idol. Singing while people eat will not guarantee music loving audiences.

It is a conversation killer. How am I supposed to talk to my co-chair when some Johnny or Jenny is trying to wrench all their emotions in a song that is blaring across the restaurant? Excuse me, I want to talk. I want to discuss the food. I want to share how my day went. I want to know what is happening in my friend’s life. I do not want to practise sign language with a knife and fork in hand and look like a complete retard. Pardon my French.

Besides, the quality of music (or sometimes dance) is not good, most times. It takes away from the taste of my plate when the music that is dished out is below standard.  Like Instagram has made photographers out of everybody, karaoke has made everybody singers. I recently walked into a karaoke restaurant, not knowing that it was a karaoke night, and I cursed my decision all throughout the evening. As if the restaurant singers were not enough, there were other customers, who decided to sing a love-lorn sing in between starters and main course. You have no idea, what I went through that night.

Does one not find it weird when strange pairs of eyes keep looking at you and your dinner ridden plate for compliments or clappings? Does one not find it weird to eat with somebody looking at you? I do. Neither do I like the idea of customers staring brazenly at the singer (God bless, if you are a woman)!

All in all, I find the idea, rather futile and infertile. If music be the food, then play some music softly, like most restaurants do. Let there be good conversations and mirth, let people enjoy the food, savour it with their eyes and taste buds. Let the multitudes in the food and beverage industry learn to respect food and music separately. One can be the other’s inspiration but both hold different positions. Let us not take it away from them.

Ode to the Humble Kathi Roll

Most South Asians, especially from the sub-continent, will know the pleasure of sinking their teeth into a hot and juicy ‘kathi’ roll! It is a unique preparation that is something in the middle of a starter and main course. And while on the subject, this needs to stated that the best ‘kathi’ rolls are the ones that are made by the street-side vendors.

Let me into the simplicity of this humble ‘kathi’ roll. A toasted flatbread is the base. No inter-continental cousins like burritos can substitute the flatbread. In India and Pakistan, it is called ‘parantha’. So, while the flatbread is being toasted, an egg is beaten well with some salt and chilly. A splash of oil, throw in the egg emulsion and as soon as you see the egg firming up like an omelette, place the flatbread on the semi-liquid egg. Flip it over, a couple of times and take it off the heat. Chopped onions, salt, pepper, squeeze of lemon and chilly sauce rolled into the egg ‘kathi’ roll. That, my friend, is the quintessential ‘kathi’ roll.

Varieties are also available. Egg. Mutton. Chicken. Egg Mutton. Egg Chicken. Double Egg. Double Egg Chicken. Double Egg Mutton. Here, take the tissue and wipe that drool off. Oh, I haven’t mentioned any vegetarian options as they just simply don’t qualify as a ‘kathi’roll. Apologies, veggies.

I have seen enough of those being made. I can visually tell if a certain roll will be carry the right DNA of a Calcutta ‘kathi’ roll. I have tasted some delectable rolls on the roadsides of Kolkata and Delhi. I know the imposters as well. They never will see me as a repeat customer.

My search for that delicious ‘kathi’ roll took me to Shiraz Golden Restaurant. The name can be a little misleading – it has nothing to do with the Iranian city, or wine. Shiraz in Bur Dubai serves Awadhi food – food that was native to the royal kitchens of the Nawabs of Awadh or Oudh during the British Raj in India, specially during the life and times of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.  Well, the man certainly had good taste in food. No wonder that those recipes are now a hand-me-down reality for food buffs like me. Shiraz originally opened up in Calcutta, India’s gourmet capital. This is their second and first international outlet.

I need to clarify, that I work on a simple principle when it comes to food. If the simple can me made in a lip-smacking way then the exotic dishes are worthy of a try. And a Kolkata food joint needs to be taste-tested by asking for the ‘kathi’ roll.

As I hungrily tore off the tissue, I could tell that this ‘kathi’ certainly was rich with promise. The first bite in it certified that it was a thorough-bred ‘kathi’ roll. Ah! The pleasure of the crumbly exterior that holds a fluffy egg; wafting with the smell of the green chilly and chilly sauce.

Shiraz certainly passed the ‘kathi’ roll test. And now, for over a year, I have been a regular and a loyal customer; using it as a venue to catch up with friends. And whatever be ordered from the menu – be it the Awadhi biryani, or chicken chaap or the mutton rezala, it all starts with the ‘kathi’ roll!

5 burps on the Burp-o-meter!

MSG for MSG

It is a known fact that maybe all; correction, most Chinese restaurants use mono-sodium glutamate in their preparations. A lot has been vociferously voiced about MSG being unsafe for human consumption, specially for children. Food and health bodies claim that MSG consumed at ‘customary’ levels, is safe. Popular belief went otherwise. MSG continued to be in the centre of culinary controversy and in Chinese recipes. Some scientific groups found no connection with various symptoms and MSG while others believed it to be a PR coup by Ajinomoto, the company that marketed MSG; a name that did what Xerox did to cyclostyling.

A particular restaurant in the UAE markets their Chinese food as MSG-free. Other restaurants use it without naming credits, as it were. On one occasion, one restaurant owner asked his chef not to mention that they use MSG before a commercial shot that I was directing. So, probably representing the common-man’s stand I understand that MSG could be avoided.

Add to this never-ending controversy, doctors forbidding consumption of MSG for pregnant women. So, women are asked to avoid Chinese food during pregnancy but considering the myriad urges et al, I gather that Chinese food without MSG would be a possible option.

Now what turns funny is how most Chinese restaurants in Dubai react when you ask them for Chinese food without any MSG in it. Some stammer on the phone like a child lying to their parents! Most keep a stoic silence, as if they had never heard of anything called MSG!

How about a simple acknowledgement that the MSG has been understood?