Lunch @Hakkasan

So…a day before I leave for Bangalore my college bestie and I caught up for a ‘gup shup’, meal and deal afternoon. Shashi came laden with goodies like khari, cashew rusks, mini samosas, mawa cake …sigh! Just that I don’t miss muggy Mumbai for a couple of days after my return.

We toddled off to Hakkasan to have a 6 course curated meal by the chef, which we polished off, course by course, ably helped by some fabulous piping hot Jasmine tea.

Hot and sour soup, gently seasoned with just the right amount of heat,water chestnut and prawn Har gau, chicken Shu mai, and the fabulous Hakka braised pork belly gently simmered in a soy sauce and seasoned with crisp lotus stem and Kumquat! Even the spicy fried rice surprised me with a generous sprinkling of Edamame!

I may have not admitted this in the past but the food in Mumbai, the choice of cuisines, both local and foreign is completely superlative!
People and entrepreneurs here are innovative, quick and right off the bat…
The sheer template of different tastes and aromas is one of a kind…

I have traveled quite a bit, but I won’t be exaggerating if I said that this city has a great variety of cuisines and perhaps some of the best in the world…If one wanted to find a Scottish sausage Haggis, I’m sure you would find it…but I’m sure as hell wouldn’t find a kheema baida roti in Scotland!

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Sunday Brunch @Bastian

My Mumbai sojourn draws to a close and there is a niggling feeling of sadness (at leaving the kids), and a feeling of elation at re-discovering and thoroughly enjoying this vibrant,muggy, electric and mesmerizing city…full of contradictions and diverse in its topography and people…a city blessed with good fortune where dreams come true and a meal can cost anywhere from Rs 10,000 a head to ten rupees. A city from my childhood that I took so much for granted, and ran away from…but life turns a full circle doesn’t it? My children have now adopted it with open arms…c’est la vie!

My son Adu arrived on Thursday, and even Bobo thinks these mad people have shifted en-masse but as long as his family is there he’s just fine!

So but naturally… a lot…I mean a lot of eating, drinking, meeting people and general party times are going on unabated!

Sunday was brunch time at Bastian, the uber hip ‘n’ happening lounge bar and restaurant. It reminded me of any hip eating place in NY, in the East Village or Meat Packing District. The Bollywood glitterati’s fave watering and eating hole I am told.

We spent a couple of hours there until I went into FOOD COMA! I was literally nodding off at the table!

The food was (all small plates,tapas style), beyond exceptional! The Sunday brunch menu is different (which is such a clever idea!) but the regular menu for lunch and dinner has more SE Asian influences and is beyond exceptional too.
A lot of ‘keto’ influences and the textures,flavours, freshness of the ingredients and sheer inventiveness of the food was ‘cry with sheer joy’ worthy!

I met with Chef/owner Kelvin Cheung, a friendly guy who very obviously knew his food and clientele,and beyond gush and act like a giddy teenager, I did nothing significant!

The proof is in the pudding as they say…and fortified by the many French 75 cocktails (Beefeater gin, lemon, sugar and sparkling wine) and the stupendous food…my pudding was licked clean!

Farmers’ Café

BBQ chicken pizza with garden fresh veggies olives and fresh Gouda cheese… Flavored lamb mince pizza with red onions bell peppers and skimmed mozzarella…High School 3 cheese Pizza…. now I’m enjoying my cappuccino sweetened with jaggery and a coffee almond brownie… sweetened with jaggery of course!!!

An Evening in Mumbai

I spent a scintillating evening with my friends, filmmakers, activists, author and brilliant and interesting people who I am proud to call friends…Saeed and Jennifer Mirza. Their house always abounds with food and food for thought. This evening was no different… I got my book Memory In The Age of Amnesia signed by Saeed … so thrilled to be ‘like’ family
The night was still young so…. dinner with the family at the most happening fab Jap/ South Asian restaurant, The Blue… a hole in the wall but man!! What food!!!

Nara

The BKC area in Mumbai only becomes swankier and more confusing every time I visit. This time was no different. My munchkins and I stepped out for dinner and landed up at Nara Thai because The Blue, an exceptional pan-asian hole in the wall was full.

We sat out doors, the weather was cool yet balmy, rejoicing at the fact that we were together and did what we do to bond… eat!!

I am counting my days down and I know we need to get back eventually without the kids and the prospect is daunting. But I see how happy they are in my old home town, I see how well they’re doing and the ease with which they have slipped into their new way of life and it makes me immensely proud and happy… Mumbai I guess is really ‘meri jaan’ !

Slink & Bardot

So, a sequel to my fun time in Mumbai was had when I met up with my school friends! Tara Kapur a high flying ad executive who now is one of Mumbai’s top food bloggers and who runs a famous patisserie ( gluten and sugar free options too) and the lovely Monisha Mullick who is a leading perfumer and a fabulous ballroom and salsa dancer!!!

All great women with a wicked sense of humour, interesting, intelligent and sassy!

So we met up at the new happening nightspot Slink & Bardot, over some fabulous French food and some wicked cocktails!

Our conversation is strictly off the record, but needless to say that our raucous laughter said it all !

You girls are fabulous.., and we must do this again and again.., and yes! Perhaps again!!! Looks like one can never take Mumbai out of the ‘mulgi’

Sindhi Cusine @RockSalt

When you can say that the finest chefs and food aficionados are your friends, then surely I must be the luckiest woman alive!

My journey has given me the opportunity to eat my way through some of the finest culinary establishments both here and abroad and I certainly hold some of them in higher esteem than others. Clear favourites rule my taste buds and one of them is most certainly my bondhu Chef Abhijit Saha’s various restaurants! It doesn’t matter whether the choice of food is European, Mediterranean or Indian…they unanimously titillate my palate!

So when the formidable (Sindhi) gourmand Suresh Hinduja called to say that he was secretly working with Abhijit and his team at RockSalt for the last 3 months to perfect a Sindhi meal,I jumped at the opportunity to indulge myself at the pre-trial luncheon.
There were an enthusiastic group of new and jaded palates at the trial run.But, the chorus was unanimous…the food served was authentic, superlative and simply fabulous.

Abhijit and Suresh held an impromptu discussion on how they tried procuring the ‘elusive’ condiments and ingredients that give Sindhi cuisine that slightly different taste and texture which the proud people of Sindh hold so dear, especially after migrating from Pakistan.The cuisine has ancestral secrets passed down through generations, and of course each one of them think that their recipe is the best!

Suresh joked about the how this meal was a result of ‘his grandmothers’ recipes and ‘but naturellement’ were the best!
Some foods are better eaten than described…how does one describe a perfect Aloo tuk, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, or the fabulous Sai bhaji, mutton curry, methi fish or Dal Makhani (because the yellow dal has an almost silky consistency) or a melt in your mouth keema tikki, encrusted with panko….the list is endless!

As I polished of my dessert of a delicate khaja samosa (khaja embellished with slivers of pistachio and saffron,surrounded with the flakiest puff pastry) with a side of a panna cotta consistency thandai,I was truly in Sind heaven
The Sindhi festival is on from 29th of August to the 2nd of September…my advice…don’t miss this!

#InMyFathersName!

The sky wept like it has been happening in Bangalore for some time now, there was a perceptible nip in the air, the trees that my father had planted in the National Military Memorial swayed as if to welcome me, and I stood there on the eve of our 72nd Independence day with tears steaming down my face…

My father, Brigadier B.M. Chakravarti was the founder director of LRDE, which has now moved and merged with the DRDO.I grew up within those precincts, playing with other fauji children (Maneka Gandhi included) watching our fathers at work, building radars, conceptualizing new and wondrous gadgets,always on call, always on duty for their country

I was luckier than other fauji kids who moved incessantly wherever their fathers were posted, but I remember well how we we all had trunks covered with colorful covers that doubled as sofas,where money was meagre but everything was spit and polish and most of all I remember, a sense of heart wrenching pride and honour.

The National Military Memorial, set up with pride to honour the martyrs of Kargil, lies unsung and in total dis-repair…glorious LRDE, where all the past Presidents and Prime Ministers visited and whose technology is still at work in the borders, lies like an unwanted orphan. The veeragallu, a monolithic stone with the names of our martyrs lies languishing in some forgotten field in the out skirts of Bangalore for the last 8 years!

Every year some well oiled politician comes along with promises, every year the corrupt BDA promises to restore the Memorial and have the Veeragallu shifted and every year we watch, we wait and we fume as our unsung martyrs lie disrespected.

Led by the inspirational Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, we the fauji kids decided enough was enough…so this Independence day, we sang, danced, painted our faces, had walkabouts and inter-acted with veterans and children and adults alike celebrated our Independence with pride.

We have the worlds most disciplined armed forces….totally apolitical unlike our neighbours all over SE Asia and further…we the fauji children learned to live without our fathers most of our lives, so, you could live with yours.

So next time remember…every time you curse our country a knife twists in our hearts…my father threw stones at the Chinese because there was no ammunition, my young mother’s hands were calloused incessantly knitting pull overs and socks for our jawans in sub zero temperatures…encourage your children to join the forces and teach them, that ‘sare jahan se acha, Hindustan hamara’

Loyalty is unquestionable…pride, honour and respect…is that too much to ask…#InMyFathersName!

Karavalli revisited

Whenever we have guests visiting us from aboard, there is only one request…when can we eat at Karavalli?

Karavalli is undoubtedly the ‘jewel in the crown’ as far as South Indian restaurants go and we are really lucky that it sits within the cool green confines of ‘naama uru’.
With the very humble and grossly talented Naren Thimmaiah Executive chef of Taj Gateway, ably managing this 25 year old restaurant, Karavalli has only grown from strength to strength.

We were truly delighted to be invited to the second reading of food writer Priya Bala’s book reading, Secret Sauce, at Karavalli, knowing fully well that we would be meeting the afffable Naren and sampling some of the best cuisine from the Karavalli coastline that is basically the western coastline encompassing north and south Kanara.

Karavalli embodies the spirit, the cooking styles, hidden recipies, time honoured cooking styles and produce(both from the land and sea) in its cuisine.I have taken my friends, relatives and even visiting foreign chefs there who have always been gob smacked with food and the massive operations that make Karavalli (in my opinion) one of best South Indian restaurants in the world!

I suppose ‘the secret sauce of success’ is embodied in a restaurant like this…a top class chef, great ambiance, food always consistent in taste and quality, fabulous service (The Taj of course!) and constant innovations in the menu…Adipoli Karavalli!