Restaurant Review: New Thai Food Menu Haaochi Sun N Sand, Mumbai

Name: Haaochi, Sun N Sand

Location: Next to Novotel, Juhu Beach

Date of Visit: 12th December, 2014 (Dinner Hour)

What is your relationship with food? Do you look at it with honest love or passionate lust? You see, this questions becomes very important when you drool over butter chicken, but it is pure love when the item that you’re drooling over is Broccoli & Waterchestnut Dimsums – without sauce. As for me, my relationship with food started out as lust, pure greed and the have-it-now attitude but slowly it has grown into deep love. And one can only hope that yours will too, after this meal.

I first visited Haaochi, the Oriental restaurant at Sun N Sand, Juhu last year, right after its opening. Ever I always remember this place for its tea and dimsums. When you think of going for an extraordinary white tea with golden tips or think of gorging on gorgeous dumplings with subtle notes of flavour weaved in textured stuffings, think of going to Haaochi. After my extraordinary experience with the tea and dimsums at this place last year, I was really excited to taste their new menu with which they have recently launched Thai food.

One thing that is worth noting about this place is that the food and menu at Haochi has an edge. While they understand the Indian palate, common preferences and design their menu for our taste, it is still not a common menu. It is certainly not common food. Haaochi does their food differently, and not in the modern “playing with concept way” but they just make every dish very well. You can see study, balance and patience in each of their dishes. While I am not a fan of the slightly crowded ambience, I always enjoy the food because sometimes it is the hardest to do common favourites that well.

For instance, whether it is the succulent – Wild Catch Black pepper prawns from the new menu or that gorgeous piece of art that is called the Broccoli & Waterchestnut Dimsum, the flavour in every dish, doneness, freshness and texture is just perfect. I have cooked in restaurant kitchens and I have cooked at home, so I can tell you that this is food cooked with love. May be it helped that we were there on a weeknight, so there wasn’t a crowd.

It may as well be that they were taking special care back in the kitchen but the new menu was not that regular old satays and Thai Curry rant, it was really new, and different and had the right balance of flavours. Like any other Thai food it was fragrant but designed for the Global Indian taste buds. How often do you hear that “Mieng Kham” or a Thai paan is being served at a restaurant? Not very often. In fact I had never tried this chaat-like Thai style appetizer before. It was a betel leaf served with five bowls of accompaniments, lime, peanuts, plum sauce, ginger and spring onion. I won’t say it tops my chaat list but it was interesting. Then came the spare ribs, charred, with were way to sweet for my liking and a wee bit tougher meat than I like. This was followed by the wild catch prawns from the new menu, topped with browned lemon grass julienne and my hot-favourite crystal chicken and vegetarian dumplings from the old menu.

The main dishes included Massaman Lamb Cury along with coconut fried rice. The fried rice was a fresh concept and fairly coconuty and its light sweetness paired nicely with the robust flavours of the lamb curry. The curry had great consistency with deep meaty flavours, an enjoyable addition to their menu. Some of my proud “Bangkok-return” friends might say that the food doesn’t taste the same in Thailand. These dishes are as authentic as easily accepted by our Global desi palate. If it doesn’t taste exactly the one that you had in Thailand it is because it is designed to comfort our taste buds aka Global Indian taste buds. The food must be enjoyable, balanced in flavour, consistent and pleasing in texture and theses dishes from the new menu most certainly all that. Haochi is one of those restaurants that can easily become your comfort zone. It is familiar food designed to please, the ambience albeit a little crowded, is no-frills, old fashioned and pleasing. It serves Chinese food with gorgeous Dimsums made by an expat or imported Dimsum specialist from China.

This new addition to the menu offers Thai Curries and delicious fried rice, noodles and extends that comfort zone some more. After all curry is always a welcome addition, right? Haaochi is the right place to go with family or to plan a business lunch because with the new additions in the menu there’s something for everyone, even choosy kids! When you don’t know what everyone will eat, curry & fried rice are always that safe bet that ought to be there. And that is the “That thing about this place”. If I have to describe it in 3 words, I will call it – Comforting, delicious & simple. I was at Haochi for a review invite. The new menu includes Thai food delicacies and will now be permanently available on their menu.

Rating  

Ambience : 3/ 5

Menu: 3/5

Food: 4/5

Service: Not Applicable due to Invite

Value for Money: 3/5

That thing about this place: 3/5

Rating: 3/5 – Good    

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Pune Restaurant Review: Olive Bistro, Bundgarden Road, Pune (Mediterranean Cuisine)

Name: Olive Bistro, A la Carte Menu

Date of Visit: 11 November , Dinner Hour

Location: Inside Poona Club

Cost of the Meal: Rs.3744 (on 11 Nov 2014) comprising of two dips with pita bread, an extra pita bread, 1 vegetarian soup, non-vegetarian appetiser, 3 main course dishes (2 were vegetarian) and 1 beer.

Firstly, let’s talk about Mediterranean Cuisine. What flavours is this cuisine dominated by? Which part of the world is it from? Classic dishes from this cuisine and as such.

Mediterranean Cuisine is the food that belongs to the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea. Broadly it includes Greek Cuisine, Lebanese food and Egyptian food. Although the exact parameters of what exactly Mediterranean cuisine is, is somewhat vague, the world over it is understood as a healthy cuisine meant for entertaining. It has earned a reputation as healthy food because of the emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, in spite of also giving us lamb souvlaki and the original pizza! The Classic dishes include grilled meats, fish and poultry with plenty use of olive oil, greek yogurt based dips and other dips with pita, kebabs on a mezze platter and pizza, filo pastry and as such.

The prominence of fresh vegetables & flavoured olive oil over creamy sauces and stretchy cheese, salads with feta and refreshing fruity salsas are perfect for a summer afternoon with a frozen margarita. A celebratory birthday evening in November though, not so much. Olive Bistro wasn’t perhaps the smartest choice for my mom’s birthday dinner.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

And “after a not-so-good dinner, one can punish anybody, even one’s own relations”, let me explain.

I had been hearing a lot from my friends about Olive Bistro for a year or so. They mostly go to Olive Bistro for some drinks in the cosy outdoors with the lovely white, sculpted fountain lady in the center and cushioned chairs, a wooden bar with lamps hanging low above our heads, the whole place has a very homey & cosy decor. In the afternoon the living room-like indoor seating complete with cotton cushions in pastel shades would be a comfortable place to hangout.

The menu is unlike other European or contemporary dining menus. This is a good thing because you are encouraged to try a few new dishes, and also a bad thing because the Oh-so-comforting accessible choices are few. Yet, from the same old four cheese pizzas, crispy chicken, grilled fish and steak burgers, this menu is a breath of fresh air. I just wish the waiter had been a little more responsive when we asked him what were the popular dishes and what we should go for.

By the way, none of the dishes mentioned in the Zomato reccomendations are on the menu currently. When the waiter didn’t seem to guide us much, we decided to go for what people had recommended on Zomato. We ordered a soup, we were told similar to a Minestrone, a spicy feta dip, smoked salmon dip and pork chops. All safe choices, since we were new to this place.

We were off to a good start, the soup with its robust tomato flavours and firm beans was pleasant & refreshing. Both, the spicy feta and the smoked salmon dips were yummy, they were thick, creamy and tasty. The second batch of pita bread that we ordered was neither warm, nor crispy or properly toasted for some reason. The pork chops were nicely cooked, sweet, succulent, though not melt-in-the-mouth succulent, but enjoyable.

When I asked the waiter what he would recommend between the tortellini and the risotto he seemed confused. I don’t expect him to understand our taste and preferences but I’m sure he had an idea about what most people preferred! Anyway, I ordered both, the plum tomato risotto and the pumpkin tortellini, along with a red snapper with a spicy coulis.

The tortellini was served to us, this is when all hell came crashing onto our table. Seriously, that tortellini solely managed to ruin my mother’s entire birthday dinner. Firstly, there was no ricotta to be found in the tortellini although it was mentioned in the description of the dish. Secondly, these massive pieces of tortellini were not only extra, thick and rubbery, they were only partly stuffed, an inch of the rubbery, thick fold hanging flimsily over. Sort of like our new Pups ear, joked my little sister (yes, I got a new pup, he is adorable). When I tasted the filling I wanted to hug the Chef for filling it improperly because that pumpkin puree without any other significant flavour was quite a disappointment on its own. I am an optimist, I had to be, after all I was the one who chose this restaurant. I thought that the basil-spinach sauce will make it better, I’m sure the sauce will help us enjoy the massive pumpkin “guijiya”. I was only fooling myself, the scent of basil was faint and light, the spinach bland and pasty, neither did I like the concept, combination nor the presentation. It was a disappointment when he brought it to the table, and even bigger disappointment when I had to stuff my face just to finish it (we are not allowed to waste food, I wish just this one time it was allowed).

Moving on from the torture tortellini, the risotto with mascaporne and plum tomatoes was edible but not enjoyable. The risotto grains were all broken, they are meant to be firm and whole. Besides we were still recovering from the trauma of the tortellini, and we would have needed something seriously spectacular to passify our taste buds. The risotto was average in taste and so was the fish. In Mediterranean dishes vegetables should look bright and happy, crunchy vegetables would’ve made all the difference on the side of my fish . It seemed as though the cook had lost his passion, and the plate was plain, limp and tasteless. In the end, we were so disappointed with the main course that we refrained from ordering any dessert. We decided instead to go to a nice place, eat great dessert and feel better about the evening.

All evening, and possibly all my life I will have to hear about how I brought my family to Olive Bistro on my mom’s birthday and ruined the evening by ordering that tortellini. We are a well traveled family with a global palate, and while every culture has its own specialties, we understand the definition of good, well-made and inspiring food, food made with passion, and this was not it. This was food bland in taste and in passion. It seemed as though the person cooking it did not like the food himself or herself. No matter how great the location or the ambience is, Rs 1000 per person approximately for a meal like this in a Tier II city isn’t justified, because it’s all about the food.

I really hope that Olive Bistro will take my feedback seriously. We are a generation that knows food, googles food and talks about food. Word of mouth is everything, the waiters must know their menu and be able to guide the diners, the food must have a wow factor for it to work and Mediterranean flavours must be full of bright, happy looking fresh and flavourful vegetables. Olive Bistro has immense potential because the cuisine served taps a growing market of health food fans and over a half of the city’s population is vegetarian which a Mediterranean diet celebrates. Until then, on any trips to Olive Bistro kindly focus on the dips & appetisers with drinks. That thing about this place is its location inside Poona Club in the city center.

Ratings:

Ambience: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Menu: 3/5

Food: 3/5

Value for Money: 2/5

That Thing About This Place: 2/5 

Ratings: 3/5