Disclaimer: I was in JW Marriott, Sahar Airport in Mumbai on an invitation. The article below is not a restaurant review and no ratings are applicable. This is a factual account and my personal views about this buffet. Craving seafood? It cannot get better than this buffet at the JW Marriott Hotel, Sahar Airport in…
The beauty of Cantonese food is truly in its simplicity. Unlike the Indie-Chinese preparations that we are accustomed to, Cantonese food is not greasy or spicy. The spices are only used to compliment and enhance the flavor of the dish but they don’t dominate the flavor of the main ingredient. It is one of the eight traditions of Chinese cooking, perhaps among the most nutritious styles of cooking. Ingredients are used at the peak of their freshness; in fact some restaurants across the world also have aquariums to ensure freshest seafood. Steamed seafood and lightly greased, crunchy stir-fried vegetables are among my personal Cantonese favourites.
After a certain 2016 resolution I made to have mercy on my stomach and opt for light, nutritious choices, I was really glad that I had an opportunity to sample a Cantonese menu; the WowTables Fixed 4 Course meal at Hakkasan, Mumbai.
If you are ordering from the Ala Carte menu at Hakkasan, a meal for two comes to around 4000 rupees. So, at first when Wow tables contacted me, I did not understand what was so great about the Wow Tables experience if I would end up spending roughly the same amount for a meal for two! Isn’t it the same thing?
Actually, no, it is not the same thing as ordering from the Ala carte menu. There are a couple of advantages that you have, the first being that you don’t need to pay a penny in advance. Wow Tables or the restaurant does not charge any advance payment for the meal booking. Everything from the table to the set meal can be pre-booked online so your dining experience is smooth and stress-free.
The other advantage in my opinion is for a lazy, lazy evening where in the best of the restaurant’s selection is already hand picked for you, and you don’t need to spend several minutes figuring out the best option on the menu. The best part though, is that you get to sample more variety at the same price. The fixed menu offers each person 2 small eats, 1 main, 1 rice or noodle, an option of dessert and a glass of wine or martini. This range of dishes would cost you more if you were ordering straight from the ala Carte menu. Anything you order over and above these options in the fixed menu is charged extra.
The #Foodmantra Top 3 WoW Factors in this meal were the Crystal Dumpling, Mock Duck Salad (Perfect textured Soyabean meat for Vegetarians) and the Lotus Stem Stir Fry was amazing. I also enjoyed the Pakchoy dumplings, Duck Wraps and the Ginger Fried Rice a lot. The service was prompt, courteous and warm. #Foodmantra for this menu, do try out the vegetarian textured soyabean meats, it is unique and interesting.
Isn’t it rarely that we see a glimpse of honesty and expression in business? Especially when it comes to food, I think expression must be an integral part of the business. Few restaurants honour the integrity of the cuisine over saleability. In my opinion, Foodstory, located in Koregaon Park is an interesting blend of commercially safe dishes and authentic recipes from Hyderabad, which are complex to prepare and easy to relish.
Until my recent visit to Foodstory, Pune, having worked in Indian Hotel Kitchens before, I believed that all Indian kitchens work in the same way. We prepared four or five base gravies – brown, orange, white and green, half prepared the meats and veggies, fired up a combination when the order came in. A selected few of the Hyderabadi dishes in Foodstory though, are not just chicken tikka thrown in ready makhni gravy but prepared by cooking the meat with the stock to develop flavour slowly through the night on low heat, like they did in the old days.
Mr. Subhash, the owner of Foodstory is somewhat a puritan when it comes to cooking Indian food. He understands the relevance of uniqueness in flavouring every ingredient and insists that right flavours need patience. Honestly, I wouldn’t visit a Foodstory for its generic items, even though the Dal Makhani was yummy! I would visit this place for all those rare dishes that seldom appear on an Indian restaurant menu in Pune.
My Foodmantra for Foodstory is
- Don’t Miss Thy Kebabs; Non vegetarian or Paneer, either way, you’re in luck! The flavours of ghee, nuts and spices, unique textures achieved by stone cooking and dry fruit mixtures keep palate hooked.
- Venture out of your comfort zone and try the extraordinary. Who cares for all the orange makhnis when the selection includes fresh and robust tomato kut flavoured with kalonji (onion seeds), a homely, comforting Dalcha and earthy, aromatic methi murgh. It is a refreshing Indian menu.
- I didn’t get to taste the Hyderbadi Biryani, but after hearing so much about their Biryani, I expected the Avadhi Biryani to be far better than what it turned out to be. Honestly, I was a little disappointed, after everything I had heard about it, I thought that their biryani would be a revelation. The biryani was good but nothing wow about it.
- Thank God for new Indian desserts. I was beginning to fear that many Indian kitchen chefs have forgotten that desserts other than Kulfi and kheer exist. If you wish to sample a Hyderabadi Gile Firdaus or Khubani ka Meetha here’s #WhereToFindIt
- Pathar ka Ghosht – for the oh-so-awesome aroma of ghee and spices, along with that unique chewy texture of the meat that comes from cooking it evenly on stone.
- Chicken Kebabs flavoured with rose petals – Love at first sight, it is a beautiful looking dish. Other than its beauty the rose petals go surprisingly well with the supple leg of chicken.
- Tomato Kut – it may sound like a simple dish but the essence of umami packed in these cooked tomatoes pairs perfectly with kalonji and a garnish of boiled eggs.
- Dalcha – vegetarian or not, their dalcha cooked with courgettes and flavoured with curry leaves and kalonji is a revelation. It may even pull you out of the dal makhni fixation and make you experience a whole new world of delicious dals.
- Gile Firdaus and Khubani ka meeta, I can’t pick one of them because they are both so delicious and different from our regular favourites. The pulpy, jelly like apricots are syrupy, juicy and sinfully rich. The Gile firdaus on the other hand, in spite of being a milk based sweet, is light and somewhat tangy in way, it got a thicker and fuller texture with grated, cooked courgettes in it.
Service : Not Applicable
Value for Money: 4/5
That Thing About This Place: 3/5
I’m not much of a sweet tooth. When it comes to a heavenly breakfast, I would rather choose a plate full of sausages, hash browns and eggs. Honestly speaking, I couldn’t care less about waffles, let alone vegetarian waffles.
Yet, something changed on a damp and grey Sunday morning in June. A touch of strawberry warmth coloured the sky bright pink, and I began to see how sometimes food can turn my day, and my life around!
Nothing was going as per plan, it had been pouring the past few days, the entire weekend was dull and drab, we spent time at home because my sisters wouldn’t step out in fifty feet of muck. I was just plain bored with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Finally, I decided to get out go for a drive, or a boat ride, whatever you like to call it. My sisters sulked even at the idea of stepping out of the house, “come on, I’m bored”, I said. After a lot of pulling, pushing sulking, I managed to get them out of bed and into fresh albeit blah clothes.
It was amazing! Driving along the rocky seaside on Carter road, it was still raining heavily and our stomachs were growling because it was 3 in afternoon by the time we got there. We went into a little shop called Wafflist to satiate our hunger.
The moment I saw the big, fat sign saying 100% vegetarian waffles, I started to turn back. “No waffle without egg can taste decent”, I claimed, when Chef Vinod standing behind the counter, said “Ma’m we use 17 different ingredients to make the perfect waffle without egg, you must try it”. The man was nice and we were hungry, so we decided to try a crispy waffle. When we couldn’t decide which one we wanted, Vinod offered us a waffle that had 6 different toppings.
The Cookie Rookie with Oreos
The XOXO with Strawberry and Chocolate
ZOZO with Rasberry and Chocolate
Banana and nutella
Whipped cream with a cherry,
And, my favourite – Chocoloaded that was literally loaded with different types of Chocolate.
I believe that sometimes there can be moments that change your entire perception about something; in my case it was this moment that changed my perception about soft Eggless waffles. I stopped frowning about what a mockery they make, when people try to toy around with traditional recipes, and was able to appreciate the waffle that they have perfected in doing so.
It wasn’t so much a fan of the crispy waffle though, I did like two of the toppings a lot. When I tried this XOXO – Strawberry and Chocolate topping and that oh-so-sinful Chocoloaded topping on the soft waffle then all this noise in my head just stopped, and I simply smiled ear to ear and enjoyed the moment as I dug into my waffle.
Surprisingly, it was pretty reasonable for the quality; I mean you can enjoy a big waffle and a nice hot drink for around 200 bucks as on date, which is great if you’re enjoying it on date with friends by the sea! I also loved their Before 8pm drink which has coffee, chocolate and mint, bitter-sweet and really flavourful.
I can tell you this, next time I’m around Carter road I’m definitely stopping by for one of these bad boys, and you should too! It is sure to brighten up your day and cheer you up when you’re down.
Have you ever heard the Valentine’s Day story? It has nothing to do with love as we know it and certainly has nothing to do with roses, candles, boyfriends, girlfriends or red colour. I think we just needed a day to celebrate romance. Honestly, I love the pink-ness of this day. It is perfect for strawberry season, they are everywhere! Then there are big red hearts hanging in shop windows, and heart shaped boxes for little presents, cards and balloons, in fact I would say the celebration attached with Valentine’s Day in India is almost like our Christmas celebration.
For me or any woman it is just another excuse to be pampered by her man. Valentine’s Day is my excuse to put on a red dress and high heels, and be my man’s perfect fantasy. It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold, just perfect for warmth, wine and wooing. On a Friday evening when he gets back from work, just lay out a rug and light some candles (great if you have a chimney! Light that), then take your shoes off and cuddle up before a serving of warm fondue.
Fondue is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the privacy of your home. While grabbing the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner in your favourite restaurant is a tempting idea, there is nothing like the warmth and comfort of your own home just to cuddle up and eat together. Then there’s the opportunity feed each other those strawberries or tease them with cheese. The gooey, moist and warm bowl of cheese or chocolate is the most romantic food I could think of. It also has the advantage of being surprisingly simple; anyone can make it in a matter of minutes before your partner arrives from work.
My plan was to follow a 3 cheese fondue for dinner with a boozy chocolate fondue with fruits for dessert. The 3 cheese fondue is pure indulgence, and the right way to do it involves grating cheese. Now, I will be honest with you, I didn’t want to put on a lovely dress and then grate cheese. So instead of that, I have decided to put on my red dress and melt chocolate for a warm, boozy chocolate fondue!
For the first half of the evening I decided to let him pamper me and please me with his cooking skills, fingers crossed for that perfect steak meal. In the latter half I would serve chocolate fondue on a rug, light the place up with candles and be the perfect seductress. Haha.. No prize for guessing that he is more likely to take me out for dinner rather than cook it himself after work. Let’s face it men will be men, lazy. If you are a man taking notes though even if you do take her out to dinner, be sure to serve the perfect boozy dessert at home for that cherry on top to a perfect evening.
It is really simple to make this chocolate fondue, I mean when I rehearsed this recipe the chocolate had melted by the time I finished putting my dress and my make up, and then there was very little to do after that. No, you don’t need to rush now & go buy a fondue set, unless you really want to. You can simple have the perfect makeshift arrangement, use a glass bowl holding the fondue over a fitted steel bowl with an inch of hot water (you can replace the water when needed), and use satay sticks in place of fondue forks. Satay sticks are like long toothpicks used to make satays, kebabs and they are easily available. You can use any two spirits in this recipe, in my version I used two great whiskys I had, Macallan and Tallisker. In the recipe I have used cognac and rum with orange for some warmth and depth.
To Make a Warm, Boozy Chocolate Fondue
You Will Need
Dark Cooking Chocolate Slab (I used Morde) 250g (1/2 slab)
Cream (packaged) 100ml (1/2 cup)
Cognac (use brandy if cognac is unavailable) 30ml
Dark Rum 30ml
Orange zest (remove shavings from the peel with a zester) 2 teaspoons
Cinnamon Powder 1 teaspoon
Grapes (I prefer Black grapes) 1 bunch
Marshmellows 1 large packet
Sliced Cake, cut into croutons 1 cake
Heat a steel bowl with water and bring the water to a boil. Break chocolate into pieces and place the chocolate in a glass bowl that fits over the steel bowl with the boiling water. Melt the chocolate in this double boiler.
Add in cream to the chocolate and stir. Let the chocolate be placed over the hot water but turn off the heat.
Now add in the cognac and rum into the melted chocolate and stir.
Add in the orange zest and cinnamon powder. Stir.
Allow it to stand for a 5 to 7 minutes so the flavor is infused in the chocolate (light the candles meanwhile).
Place a fresh bowl full of hot water under the chocolate fondue and serve with strawberry, black grapes, marshmellows and cake croutons if you like.
Have your ever felt like you were walking on a cloud? It is the best feeling in the world. Well, driving on a cloud just as good, even better than that. The clouds were so thick that we couldn’t even see the road. We could see no more than two feet of the way forward amidst the thick mist of clouds.
To me the monsoon is my fondest memory growing up in Pune. Year after year, as the clouds kiss the earth, the mountains turn into emerald green all draped in fluffy white clouds, we set out on long drives. Singing old hindi songs with family, humming tunes that we had forgotten. It is the best time of the year. Truly, it is the season of love even if you aren’t one of those couples walking hand in hand in the rain.
Around the rains and the Ganesh Mahostav the city of Pune turns into a gorgeous bride, bright, youthful and lush. If you are just visiting then even the outskirts of the city will mesmerize you and make you want to stay back forever. If you already live here, you will find all the weekend treasures the city has been hiding through the touch summer.
This year, over all others has been so rich in long weekends, and seems like Punekars have been blessed with an opportunity to discover all the weekend getaways around the city.
I have already visited Mulshi Dam, Khadakvasla lake, Pavna Dam Picnic spots a zillion times. Bhushi Dam with the water staircase in Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani have always been on the monsoon-to-do list. The best weekend getaway is always the ride and trek up to the Sinhgad fort during the monsoon. You work up an appetite and then have the most extravagant and surprisingly cheap monsoon feast up there.
There is romance in enjoying hot bhutta (corn) cooked on coal and sprinked with masala, sipping steaming cutting chai on a hilltop and savoring the oh-so-comforting wada pav and kanda bhajiyas on a damp, chilly day in Pune.
Many little travel, adventure and experiential tour travel websites and operators have popped up in Mumbai and Pune in the past few years. These websites have opened up a lot of weekend experience and homestay options. After spending over two decades enjoying monsoon treks, picnics and zunka-bhakar with thecha on Sinhgad fort, this year dad and I decided to do something different this year. We found out about a group trip from “The Western Routes” a Kothrud based travel community going for Kundalika River for White Water Rafting this Sunday.
Dad and I enjoy the adrenaline rush so we decided to book our rafting tickets right away. We found that the weekday trips were cheaper and since dad loves driving on hills during the monsoon we decided to drive down to Kundalika river for rafting two days earlier than the community trip (which by the way is great for solo travellers).
We had to leave by 5.30am because it is a 100km drive from Pune and the rafting trip goes only once a day starting at 8.00am. The rafting season is restricted to the monsoon months, the heavier the monsoon the better the rapids in the water for rafting. If you go at the peak of monsoon or during the last spell you are likely to get a good speedy water flow. The rafting vouchers costed us Rs 1035 for weekday (Rs1445 on Bank holidays & weekends). We did not opt for the dining hall lunch, which was priced at Rs 350 for a vegetarian spread.
Even though the driving directions were pretty clear (if you set your odometer correctly on zero at Chandni Chowk) , we detoured about 5 km on another downslope road, and reach technically reached the start point before the office. We only got to the Mercury Himalayan Explorers rafting office (www.mhe.co.in) at 8.45am after we found our way back. The guides had come on contract from the Himalayas and were well trained and practiced in rough waters, so even if you don’t know how swim, with the gear provided and the guides, you will survive this voyage.
Before our adventure began we enjoyed some chai, wada pav and batata bhajiyas at a little tapri next to the Mercury office. It was the perfect setting for a great day. The raining was lovely and pouring down, pattering on the thatched metal roof, it was chilly and our hearts were racing with excitement. That sukha mirchi, peanut, coconut and garlic chutney was doing wonders to those garlicky steamed and warm potatoes with curry leaves in that crispy wada. You can never have enough wada-pav. Wherever I go in the world, no matter what fine foods I eat, I will always come back home to wada-pav, it is just that kind of love.
Finally with a short introduction on “How to save your life while rafting” we were in the river. Our nerves had already picked up pace before we actually hit our first rapid. The raft tossed, and turned from side to side, but luckily for us it did not topple. The first rapid came as a shock; we weren’t prepared and drank up a lot of the water. By the second rapid we were ready to fight the waters and make our way forward. In fact we were ready for more rapids, going farther into the water and towards that frothy white wave.
After several minutes of tireless rafting, we made into a patch of slightly calmer waters, and I decided to just jump inside the water. With a thumping heart, I just went ahead and jumped. It was fabulous, I haven’t felt so alive in such a long time. The water was cold and the soft rapids were slowly coming towards us, the rescue kayak was right behind me. First big wave hit, and I went straight into the water. Drank a lot of it as well. By the time we hit the second wave, the water was still in my lungs, but I did not panic, just sneezed it out.
Then another rapid came and this time I was not in the boat but not unequipped in the water, my body was just flowing into the rapid. I did not struggle or fight this time, just went with the flow and enjoyed every turn.
Ten kilometers of rafting and 3 kilometers of swimming later, I felt lighter, like a different person, and like I was the only person left in the world. It was a moment when I really felt like I am alive, feeling my life on this planet; I didn’t care for the boat, or the sounds I had left behind me. I just felt ecstatic, just extremely happy to be there.
White water rafting in Kundalika River is a safe sport and a rich experience. I’m glad that I finally decided to just go for it, it had been my dream for many years and I think I would love to venture into the Himalayan waters sometime soon for a more bold white water rafting trip.
On the way back we drove through an even denser fog of clouds. It was a picturesque drive. Every two meters that we drove there was cheerful waterfall gushing down the mountains. Along a stretch of 40 kilometers we were driving alongside a mountain range with a string of waterfalls, like a picture frame.
We made a pit stop at Mulshi for some bhurji-pav and chai at a tapri still hung over on the awesome experience we had. Our shoulders were aching with the crazy arm activity in the rafting. I slept for three hours straight after waking up at 5 am followed by a tiring day. If you want to feel exhilarated, tired and refreshed all at once you should try this too.
There are a bunch of Travel and Tour operators for short and adventurous weekend trips and treks. In my opinion, these are some of the ones that I have tried and trust for safety.
- Western Routes
- Infinite Journeys
- Empower Camps & Z-Bac Adventure are right next to Kundalika Rafting sight
- Nature Trails
- India Adventure Curry
- Breakaway – Experiential Tours