Food tales… Disasters

Be it at home or outside, when we spot something that is not meant to be in our dish, we get disgusted, angry, upset and sometimes just up and walk away…

This has happened quite a few times across restaurants – and it is quite a dampener. The minute we spot hair or any other foreign object, the initial reaction is “Yeww” and then we hail a staff member, show him/her what we discovered and send the dish back… 

And then there are times when food is uncooked.. What do you do at such times? 

I am not one to create a ruckus, infact most times I would message the restaurant owner [who I might/might not know] expressing unhappiness about the same thing.. But there have been times when it has gone sour, blown out of proportion and erupted like an angry raging volcano… 

I have had restaurants serving me the wrong dish, serving me non veg [I am a veggie], mixing up orders, burning dishes [no not sizzlers], desserts which are sour [ cream has spoilt, etc]…. 

The most recent was yesterday- we were a bunch of girls at Kipling cafe [ most of us visiting the place for the 1st time]. We were shown to a table, and as we skimmed through the menu, we were not very impressed with what we saw, esp when we saw the prices against each of them. We braved it, ordered a cold coffee, a crepe [in orange sauce] and a mud cake. 

To sum it up, all 3 were disasters.. Cold coffee felt like i had taken cold milk, mixed in a spoon of nescafe and sugar… The mudcake was more of a lava cake [was good  as a lava cake] and then comes the highlight of the evening- the crepe in orange sauce.. The sauce was nice, the crepe was uncooked and bland and we found hair in the crepe… Sigh~!!  We sent the crepe back, and quickly paid the bill and got out of the place. Made us wonder “what is the point of having a lovely property, ambiance, seating and serve such terrible food” 

What would you do if you were in such a situation? 

Flavours of Vietnam- Benjarong, TTK Road, Chennai

“Chào bạn”
… that
is how you greet someone in Vietnamese. No, I am not learning the language, was
just curious to know how people greet each other. Where did this come from? I recently
got the opportunity to attend the Vietnamese Food Festival going on at
Benjarong, TTK Road and that is where my interest in this region.

All the
tables had a little standee which described the Vietnamese Cold Coffee [Ca phe da] in
detail along with a picture of the same. So, when we met the Chef the 1st
thing I asked was “can we try it?” He obliged and soon we had a staff brought
the apparatus and began showing us how it is made. They brought a glass that
had a tablespoon of condensed milk at the bottom. He proceeded to place a
coffee filter [much like the south Indian filter kaapi filter] on top of the
glass and poured hot water on the coffee powder[  the powder was not finely ground, but was
coarse], soon coffee began dripping onto the condensed milk. There was another
glass with crushed ice in it.  Once the
coffee was done dripping, it was mixed well with condensed milk and then poured
on the crushed ice. It was divine, tad bitter and chill.


While we were
enjoying the coffee, the chef came over to take us through the cuisine, the
chefs and how the whole process unfolded. The festival starts in Chennai, and
then moves to Bangalore before winding up at Kolkatta and available only at
Benjarong restaurant across the cities.

We were then
Pho Ga ( Rice Noodle Soup ), the broth was
just divine, not overpowering, very different from Tom yum soup [ thai soup] –
subtle beautiful flavours that filled your taste buds. The soup also had a mix of
veggies- mushrooms, carrots and greens, garnished with coriander. We loved it.
The Chef did mention that the ratio of veg to non veg dishes wasn’t exactly
equal as most of the Vietnamese food involved a lot of meat [& sea food]

on, a wide range of starters arrived at our table and each one looked sinful.
There was a cane basket that had an assortment of starters- a veg wrap [raw
veggies in a rice wrap], stir fried chestnut and cashews, a medley of pickled
veggies accompanied with a peanut based dip, there was a plate with Banana Blossom
& Tofu starter and finally the showstopper, a cold mushroom salad [ that
was the star of the evening]

Phew, that was a
lot of food and we had a whale of a time enjoying them while chatting with the
Chef.  He spoke to us about the Chefs who
were visiting from Vietnam, one of them understood some English and other dint
but they communicated via hand signals. Thumbs up for good and down for bad.
They went on a trip to Koyembedu market and commented on how the markets back
in Vietnam were quite similar to how it was here in Chennai. But since many of
the ingredients were not available here, some of the dishes were taken off the
menu and then ofcourse Benjarong does not serve pork so none of those dishes
made it as well.

It was then time
for the main course. I saw a plate of Glass noodles,
Green Mungbean Sticky Ric [rice cooked with
moong daal that was tad sweet], a Tofu dish cooked in the traditional clay pot
and then there was the
Vietnam Veg
Curry in Coconut Gravy. Each of these dishes
were unique in terms of flavour and the combo of rice to curry was heavenly [
the gravy would pass off for a dish from Kerala, probably because of the
coconut gravy base]

And the only
way to finish off such an elaborate meal was to have interesting desserts. We
were offered two- one was the Mungbean Cake and Bánh Chuối Hấp Nước Cốt Dừa
which is a Crystal Steamed Banana Cake served with Cream Coconut. I quite loved
the Banana dessert, probably because of the texture and complex flavours.

With that the
evening was a wrap!!  Oh wait, we were
given a cute hand massager as a gift when we bid the team adieu. Catch the
festival in Chennai till 27th, else you gotta visit Bangalore or

A meal for 2
should cost around Rs 2500-3000 [depending on all that you order- veg/non veg] But
the one thing I would recommend is the Vietnamese cold coffee and mushroom
salad…And for those who love Benjarong’s food, their original menu is also available!! 

Xin chào [Goodbye] … Mai mốt gặp lại [We shall meet again soon]

‘Sun Cuisine’ of Tunisia at Kefi, Taj Club House, July 18 – 27

This rooftop
restaurant is one of our favorite haunts.. My friend & I have been here
more times than we can count. Situated on the rooftop, they serve some of the
most amazing Lebanese dishes. What is this restaurant? It is Kefi
 at Taj Club
House. We were back here to sample the dishes that were part of the Tunisian menu. The dishes at
Kefi are from the Mediterranean region and around.

Tunisia is located at the tip of north Africa
and has strong influences from both Africa, Mediterranean and India. Executive
Chef Siddiq with his team has drawn the menu for this festival. Aptly called
the ‘sun cuisine’, all dishes are based on olive oil, tomatoes, seafood and
meat (mainly lamb), with a distinctive spicy fieriness. 
The food is very similar to the Mediterranean
except the spice factor is tad high.

The evening began with the
Amouse bouch- a slice of beetroot wrapped around feta cheese. It was absolutely
amazing, the sweetness of the beet went well with the sharp sourness of the cheese.
We managed to spend a few minutes learning about Tunisia from the Chef when a
plate of pide bread with dips arrived. I quite love this bread- with the garlic
yoghurt sauce, harissa and pickled olives/chillies. 

Since the bunch of us knew each
other quite well, we were catching up on our lives when the starters slowly
made their way to the table. I was the only vegetarian but it so happened that
the veg starter that stole the show. I was served the Solanum brik (Baked
Pastry filled with and Mediterranean spiced creamed potato); which just melted
in our mouths and was creamy in texture.


The others got the Fatmas Finger which was baked pastry filled with seafood, mushrooms and garlic. Some of them were not into seafood and they switched sides and enjoyed the veg starter.

The flavours were beautiful, very different from what we are used to and that made the evening special. Following the starter, we were served a bowl of soup- Lablabi soup (Tunisian Chickpea and garlic flavored soup) that was served plain for me while the others got chicken in theirs. It was quite a filling soup, thick, creamy and delicious.

Soon, it was time for the main courses, I got the Marqa (Tomato stew with Broccoli, artichoke, zucchini and bell peppers) while non-vegetarians were served a Phoenician Spicy grilled chicken (Cous cous and prunes stuffed traditional Chicken leg served with spicy Harissa). We also learnt that couscous was invented in Tunisia and has since then spread across the world. I quite liked the stew; it was like a thick soup made with a lot of veggies and macaroni as well. It was served with a small portion of rice. Only thing I would change would be the amount of tomatoes in the stew.

A fitting finale to this kind of
a meal can only mean digging into a sinful dessert. We were in for a treat, the
Makroudh baklava (Fillo pastry filled with nuts and dates
flavoured with rose syrup) served with a flew slivers of orange slices soaked
in spices was heavenly. There was also a sticky candy along with the baklava,
adding a touch of playfulness to it. 

Mouth watering right? Well, catch this festival at Kefi from July 18 – 27.
It is available as part of their a la carte Dinner menu and would cost you
about Rs1100 [excl of tax] per person. To book a table, call
 +91 44 6631 3131

Taj Club House Hotel, 
Club House Road, 
Express Estate
Road opp Spencers Plaza.

Starbucks comes to town…

It is always good to see International brands come to Chennai, and more so when it is to do with coffee. Even though the Chennaites are a tough bunch to crack and truly believe in their filter kaapi, they are always ready to welcome new kinds of coffee into their city. Phoenix Market City in Velachery is where Starbucks has set up their 1st outlet. The US based coffee brand ventured into India with a partnership with Tata Global Beverages and has so far opened nearly 49 stores across the country.

The launch in Chennai took place on 8th July 5pm where a select group of people were invited and given the honor to walk down a green carpet to their store. Each of us was also given a wrist band with Starbucks on it giving us entry into the store. It felt cool to be there. And it was quite a high profile event featuring leading bloggers, foodies, celebrities and the who’s who from Chennai. As soon as you enter the outlet, you are greeted by dark brown interiors and comfortable chairs and sofas. There are is a long counter manned by capable staff wearing name tags where the 1st name is their name while the last name is that of their favorite coffee. Apart from the seating inside, there are quite a few tables outside as well, with a green umbrella sporting the Starbucks logo and the name written in Tamil.
Apart from coffee there are quite a few other beverages including iced teas, Mancha tea latte and other non caffeine drinks as well. For those who are looking for something to bite into, there is quite a range of bites- both veg & non veg, salads to sandwiches to pita pockets. And for those with a sweet tooth, time to dig into the sinful red velvet cake or the cute little orange & blueberry scones. Most of their beverages are priced between 180 – 250 Rs and come in 3 different sizes as well. Overall, the place wins big thumbs up when it comes to the products. As always, they retain their merchandise as well- mugs, containers and a drip apparatus that people can use at home to make their own pot of coffee. We even had one of their staff, a chief Brewer show us a demo of how this contraption works, and got to taste the coffee as well, which was quite good.
In a city known for its filter kaapi, only time will tell how this brand fares and how far they have managed to reach into the Chennai market. Next time you are heading towards Velachery or looking for somewhere new to visit, you should drive straight into Phoenix Market city and head near the Amphitheater area to Starbucks!

Food Tales – The tale of the idli

After a brief hiatus, am back with more tales… Few days ago, had been invited by friends for breakfast and she had made both idli and dosa. Plates were laid out, the table was set and she began serving us. She placed a dosa and 2 idlis on all the plates. I quietly went around the table, picked up a plate and removed one idli and went about eating the rest with the yumm chutney she had made. There was also the spicy milagai podi that was crunchy and delicious.. Just as we were all done with the 1st round, she opened both the containers and offered us idli or dosa. I automatically reached out for the dosa while few others went for the idli.

That was when she remarked ” oh I forgot you are not too fond of idlis”.. I smiled and said its alright, am not that fussy when am out…

But yes, truth is idlis are not my favorite, I go for them only if nothing else is available or if there is a yumm chutney/sambar to go with it. I also prefer idli when am travelling as it is safe to eat the hot steamed idlis.

I have this other best friend… she has a good laugh everytime I visit them, for she makes idlis often as her kidss love it and then she watches me push every bite down with a plunger and a semi frown on my face. She laughs as she mutters “may you find a guy who demands idlis every day” and my retort would be “I shall send him to you, you can feed him, stuff him and send him back”

I have no clues as to when this love-hate affair with idli began but it has been with me for as long as I can remember…  there have been days when I forego breakfast cos it is the boring idli and other times when it stares me in the face as if to say “I dare you”

Is there any dish/item/ingredient that you love to hate?

Sar v Sri – Veggie delights!!

The city has quite a few vegetarian hotels and eat outs, but there are not many places that offer both veg & non veg is served where the veg fare is quite good. Invariably the non veg dishes get rave reviews and us vegetarians are left staring into a bowl with a paneer gravy or starter. So, when I heard about Sar V Sri and their food, I was curious. 

Couple of days back, was invited to sample their veg fare and gladly went along. The food arrived in a big box and was hot an hour later as well. There were neatly packaged boxes of gravy, sambar rice and foil wrapped rotis of different kinds- tandoor roti, plain parantha and aloo parantha as well. 

Apart from this there was a container of Raita and not to forget the yummm Gulab jamuns. 

The bunch of us sat in the sofa and chairs, holding on to plates and tissues wiping the plate clean. The 1st thing I tried was the samosa, which were nearly oil free and quite good, had a large amount of filling as well. Subsequently, I also sampled the sambar rice with raita and it was quite good- the rice had a strong cinnamon tone which I loved. It was a tad spicy, but the raita was perfect combo. I am not someone who enjoys spicy food but this was good. 

We noticed the foil wrapped package inside the box and took out one aloo parantha and a spoonful of Dal makhani and Aloo side dish. They were all good, but again many of us felt the Dal was quite spicy. I was glad it wasnt overloaded with cream like it normally is. The other side dish was paneer gravy, the gravy was good, but the paneer was tad dry and chewy. 

We were all eagerly waiting for the box of gulab jamuns to be opened. Shamelessly, we grabbed a spoon and passed the box around and happily dug into it. It was literally melt in your mouth divine!! 

They have quite a few combo options and the portion sizes are fairly large. Apart from North India, they also offer few Chinese dishes in their menu. So, when you are inviting friends over or planning a dinner, you should order from these guys!! What is more, they are very reasonably priced.

Phone: +91 7373 177444