Writer’s Cafe, Chennai

When I first came upon an ad in the paper, I was instantly curious and excited. It is always such joy to read the word “writer”, heck any word related to “books and words” gets me going. And so, the Writer’s Cafe was a place I knew I wanted to visit. 

The place

As luck would have it, a friend and I decided to meet up and I picked this place as the venue [ sly me]. I was there ahead of her, took me a second to find the entrance [it is on the side] and as I walked in all i saw were books lining the walls on either side. It so happened that I visited the space twice in two days, the next day a bunch of us decided to meet her. It was a double whammy for me ! 😀

There were tables in the middle. On the right side is another smaller room with the pastry shelves and a black board with more food/drink items listed down. The place has a warm feel to it. They have a floor above which is available for anyone who wants to hold a book club meet or any other literary event. 

This is  a venture between Higginbothams and Mr Mahadevan [Chairman of Oriental Cuisines- Hot breads, Copper Chimney and so on]..  

What sets this place apart from other cafes? Well, it is a CSR Initiative meant to help Burn victims learn baking and again a new lease on life. All who work here [about 7 women are employed here as of now] have been trained by Silke Stadler, a Chef from Switzerland. The profits earned by the cafe will be shared with International Foundation for Crime Foundation and Victim care. Mr Mahadevan is a name associated with several other such initiatives. 

The Food:
Well, the menu is offered on an exam pad, but if you want to see the dessert menu or beverages I would recommend you walk to the other side of the space and take a look. The desserts available are quite exotic..  

We tried the crispy fried spinach and corn starter along with a bruschetta platter as well. Both were good, I loved the crunchy spinach with corn in it. For the mains, we chose the Pesto Zucchini and olives Flammkuchen [really thin crust pizza with pesto and thinly sliced zucchini on top], it is simply out of the world and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves to experiment with food. 

A friend ordered the pickled beetroot and lollo rosso salad with roasted walnuts- there were more greens than the beetroot and it wasn’t so great… Another opted for a chicken pasta in white sauce which he enjoyed going by how he polished the plate.

Moving to desserts, on the 1st visit, I opted for the Apple crumble [with chunky apple pieces] that was just yummy. Friend ordered the Tiramisu and Milkmaid cake, both of which were alright. The cake was more like a sponge cake, while Tiramisu lacked coffee flavour.  On the 2nd day, I ordered the Pancakes that are served with honey and cream, quite delicious. Friend ordered for waffles with Maple syrup but it was served with cream and honey [when we enquired, they apologised as Maple syrup wasn’t available] We had cappuccino and on the 2nd day I ordered for Masala chai [unfortunately it was Dip tea, which was a bit of a let down]

But overall, it is a lovely place to catch up with friends or just to enjoy some sweet treats. The books lining the shelves are all up for sale- most of which were magazines and food related books. 

The Price:
It works out to about Rs200-300 per person [ again depends on what you order]

The Writers Cafe is at 98, Peters Lane, Royapettah, Chennai.. [lane ahead of Saravana Bhavan]
Phone: 044 4861 1604

Colonel & Co Nachos in a box

When shopping in Nilgiris, I spotted these in the snacks aisle. Was instantly curious and picked up one packet.. Colonel & Co- Chip & Dip- “Peri Peri Nachos”. Priced at Rs50, I picked it up thinking what the hell, lets give it a shot.

Got home and had it later in the evening and must say it was good, better than what I expected. The nachos and salsa are in two separate compartments, the salsa is sealed with a foil wrap which makes sure there is no spill or leaks… The nachos were crisp and the salsa was yummilicious…

They also have another option- Olive & Herbs Nachos. Spotted it on Snapdeal as well , but do check your local grocery store and grab one box…

Revamped menu at Cafe Mercara , ITC Grand Chola

A Hotel with restaurants that have always bowled me over with the dishes
A Chocolate Boutique that gives us an experience I am yet to see elsewhere
A coffee shop where meetings are fun, and music is always something I can hum along with. 
A Hotel that I have visited more times than I can count on my ten fingers
Well, as you can see, I can go on and on… 
Yes, I do have a soft corner for this property.. and it goes way back, when they had just opened doors to the world. 
And here I was back again to explore the new menu at Cafe Mercara at ITC Grand Chola. What made the afternoon extra special was the fact that the new menu was being launched Pan India at the same time with #TrendingatPavilion being the hashtag for the event. How cool is that?
The one thing that is visible across the menu was the “Caringly Selected, Mindfully Prepared” theme. Each dish has been hand picked, carefully put together and presented. Starting with the detox drinks to the Tulsi seed and Indian summer fruit Muesli to the melt-in-your-mouth quinoa and sweet potato kebabs, every dish has you feeling good- not just about what you are eating but also about the health aspect. Oh and be prepared to be surprised.. All you need to do is close your eyes and let the flavours play with your taste buds.. I assure you a fun ride ahead.  
Brace yourself and come along with me on this journey…. 

 The menu and the theme behind the same. 

 Tulsi seed and Indian summer fruit Muesli – Loved it, esp since this is very my kinda breakfast dish

 The three drinks- [L to R] 
Natural: Jamun and Mint 
Detoxifier: Apple Carrot and Ginger and the

                         Cleanser: Watermelon Beetroot and Mint.. My favourite was the beetroot drink. 

 Crusty Bread with house dip – Oh the dip was out of the world- herbs with cheese, couldn’t get enough of it.

Carrot and Coconut Soup with carrot paper and croutons. Oh my, it was light, packed with the coconut milk flavour and clean.

 Burrata and Beet-For the uninitiated, Burrata is cheese..This dish had the cheese with Balsamic balls on top, red & yellow pepper puree drops, beet sauce base and fresh greens along with a crispy slice of bread on the side. Could have just had this dish and been happy.

 Vazhapoo Cutlet/Vadai- a local delicacy made with Banana flower. Love this one! 

Quinoa Shakarkandi Kebab ( from the Kitchens of India)- it was melt in your mouth and am not exaggerating. The quinoa and sweet potato combination Chef told us was something he had achieved after a lot of research. They went so well together. 
Brie En Croute from their world cuisine section. It was a parcel with Cheese that had caramelised onions inside. Oh man, the accompaniments on the plate were equally sinful and went so well with the cheese. 

Chicken Soltado again from their World Cuisine section was Rice served with stir fried chicken along with vegetables .. It had Chinese influences am guessing. 
Unfortunately, I had to leave before the Vegetarian main and desserts arrived, but did hear they were outstanding as well… always a next time 🙂 The menu is interesting, it is divided based on categories and each dish has a simple explanation along with it. Overall, the menu looked very inviting and am already looking forward to the next meeting or tete-a-tete that shall have this cafe as the venue~! Kudos to Chef Nikhil and the entire team for their efforts and dedication to serving up healthy, delicious and interesting/quirky dishes. 

For more images and video, visit @Talesfromaaroo on Instagram 

For reservations, dial 044 30853758. It is a perfect setting for a fun afternoon with friends or a serious business discussion as well. 
The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  🙂

Abyssinian, Chennai

Being a travel buff, the
minute I come upon a country I am not quite familiar with, I instantly start
reading up on it. This is exactly what I did when I heard of Abyssinian, the
new Ethiopian restaurant that had opened doors in the city. Incidentally, Ethiopia
was once called Abyssinia and that is how the restaurant earned its name
as well.
Situated in the same
building as two other restaurants- Meena Tai [Maharashtrian restaurant] and
Batlivala & Khanabhoy[the Parsi restaurant], this is the 3rd
restaurant from the brother’s duo Uday Balaji and Vikram Mohan of VM
Hospitality.   While chatting with Uday, I came to know they
have a test kitchen in Coimbatore where all recipes are tried out. Infact, they
set up a farm to grow the Ethiopian grain, Teff but are also exploring other
venues to make this happen. When I enquired about how easy or difficult the
journey of establishing the restaurant has been, Uday shared the issues they
face in bringing in the ingredients, the hassles with customs and other such
concerns, which is why it took as long as it did for the restaurant to launch.
Since India and Ethiopia
have strong connections from the past, especially with reference to Spices, it
comes as no surprise that the cuisines are quite similar as well. The first
thing you notice when you step into
Abyssinian is the space, there are just four
tables, but it adds to the charm. The walls are adorned with traditional
Ethiopian musical instruments and scripts, not to forget the quirky the light
fittings. The seating is low- chairs and stools and the center table is meant
for the platter.  Their menu is quite
extensive; all dishes are given their original name with a description to help
us understand. They also have a glossary, which helps make sense of what we are
We were there for
lunch and it so happened all 4 of us were vegetarians. The eating style in
Ethiopia is community style and so you eat from a single plate. This was taking
the phrase “a family that eats together stays together” to a whole another
Our meal began with Thej,
the official drink of this land. Made with nothing but honey, sugar and water,
it is allowed to ferment a bit before being served. It was tad pungent but
quite nice, and not too sweet.  Next up
was a plate with Mandasi [resembles our bonda] but with strong ajwain &
garlic flavours and it was served with Abe [coriander green chilli dip].
While we were
busy polishing these off, we were served the sou – ‘Adengare Shorba’ – kidney
beans that had been cooked with onion and tomato. It was light and simple. 
The staple from
this region is Injera- the traditional bread of sorts that is eaten by all.
There is no rice in this region [hallelujah, my kinda place].. Injera is made
with a grain called Teffa [ which the restaurant is trying to source, but until
then Injera is made using Ragi and rice- two variations] . if I were to explain
it to you, it is similar to our dosa except it feels steamed.
The plate
arrived at our table and there were two big pieces of Injera at the bottom and
small rolls of Injera for each of us. And then came the side dishes, I lost
count after 4.. Was happy to note they had quite a range of vegetarian options.
We were served
Dinch Wot-
curried potato simmered with berbere, garlic and spices – this was a big hit,
loved the flavours.
Yedinich Alicha
– a stew of potatoes and carrots with onions,fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric.
It was semi dry and simple in terms of flavours.
Yatakilt Wot- curried
vegetable stew of cauliflower, potatoes, carrot, cabbage, beans with onions and
berebere- loved this one as well. 
Yeduba Wot –
curried pumpkin simmered with red onions, berebere, garlic and spices – Since I
love yellow pumpkin, I enjoyed this one as well.
Indubay Tibs –
mushroom sauteed with onions, chilli peppers, tomato and rosemary. Reminded me
of the sauté I do at home. 
 Fir Fir – pieces of injera tossed with onions,
garlic, berebere paste and Ethiopian Spiced butter- wasn’t a big fan of this,
but it kinda resembles the kothu parotta.- this is typically served at
Shiro – powdered
chickpeas stew flavored with onions, garlic and peppers- it was mushy and runny
like our daal
Azifa – guessing
I got the name right- It was a daal of sorts that had brown lentils that had
been cooked down with spices and was quite delicious.
Apart from the
main dishes, we had three sides that added a nice touch to the side dishes.
Ayib – plain crumbled
cottage cheese that added creaminess to dishes. 
Mitmita  – cottage cheese with quit a hit of heat [with
a local birds eye chilli, cardomon seeds and salt]
Awaze- This was
a sauce made with Berebere and olive oil. It was a hot sauce that you add to
increase the heat factor in any of the dishes
Phew, now those
names are quite the challenge to remember, right?! That is the joy of trying
something new and out of your comfort zone.
We weren’t done
yet, now came the trio of desserts 
Kita- Fried
Ethiopian Flat bread with honey- this was a big dry for my liking.
Nech Azmud cake-
Soft olive oil cakes made with ajwain and served with liberal amounts of honey.
It contains egg [quite strong flavour as well] – one of those desserts that you
eat a few bites and are done.
Sweet Sambussa-
the winner among the desserts- Friend flat bread parcels of sweetened carrots,
dates and nuts served with honey – Loved this one…
And to bring the meal to
the close came the infamous Ethiopian Coffee that was served with a bowl of
salted popcorn. Yep, you read it right. That is how Ethiopians wind up their
meal. The coffee is served black into small cups, and you can either have it as
it is or add some spiced butter and salt to enhance the taste. I tried both and
loved them equally. The butter and salt adds a bit of warmth and cuts the
Oh what a fabulous
afternoon it had been. An experience like no other I can say with confidence. I
had shared a few pictures during the lunch and was amazed to see that a few
friends have tried Ethiopian food across the world and were quite excited we
had one option in Chennai and then there were those who wanted to be taken here
for a treat…
One other thing I must tell
you is they are planning on introducing an afternoon coffee session where you
could be privy to tales about their coffee brewing tradition or just some
history about the place and people. Keep a look out for these events.
We were very impressed with the level of knowledge possessed by Eswar, the staff who took care of us through the meal. it apparently took him 3 months to master the names of dishes but he was phenomenal when it came to answering our questions and explaining the dishes. 

If you were to go for the Messob, which is this community style eating and are a group of 4 vegetarians, it would cost you Rs3399 . The restaurant also has tasting plates, curated with a combination of dishes. 

40, Maharaja
Surya Road, Venus Colony, Alwarpet, Chennai- 18
[Take right at
the end of Kasturi Rangan Road, drive past Tangerine and you will spot this on
the right]

Dial 044 42082809 for

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AbyssinianRestaurant/

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  🙂

Biryani fest at Spice Haat in Hyatt Regency, Chennai till 10th Dec

a dish that is much sought after by many and one that most of us vegetarians
only dream about [ cos there is no such thing as Vegetarian Biryani if you were
to dig into the history] Here is what I found when I went snooping on the
history of Biryani..
Biryani is derived from the Persian word ‘Birian’.  In Farsi,
Birian means ‘Fried before Cooking’. 

In the olden days,
rice was fried (without washing) in Ghee (Clarified butter) which in turn gave
the rice a nutty flavor and burnt the outside starch layer gelatinizing it.
Once this process is complete, it is boiled in water with spices till half
Typically Biryani
is made with Goat meat, which is marinated in a whole bunch of spices with
yoghurt as well. And then the meat is cooked till it falls off the bone. And
finally, in an earthen pot [Handi], the rice and meat are layered, few layers
of condiments are added- spices, rose water, ghee and so on. It is then sealed
and sat on Coal fire to cook. The process has evolved with time, with influences
from various regions adding a twist to the flavours and each region today seems
to have their own special kind of Biryani as well. One other point I was told
was that back in the days long-grain brown rice was used in North India; while
the short grain Zeeraga Samba rice was used in South India. [Another article I
read on the net about Biryani]
Coming back to
this evening, we were at Spice Haat [Hyatt Regency Chennai] who have come up
with a Biryani Carnival of sorts. One that features 5 different kinds of non
veg biryani, one veg biryani/pulao and then there is the plain Rice cooked with
spices and with fried onions on it as well.  There are quite a few side dishes for the Biryani-
both in veg and non veg section, ranging from the Mirchi Ka salan to Egg curry
to Kaju mutter paneer, not to forget the array of raitas. 
Being a
vegetarian, I made a beeline for the veg dishes and enjoyed them all, including
the Rice, it had mild spices and was well cooked, while the rice had a bite to
it [I hate mushy rice]. It was fascinating watching the non veg part of the
group taste the rice, the meat and share their opinions, As with any dish,
biryani too comes with a range of flavours, and how cooking process, the spices
used makes a world of difference in the non veg arena.
wind up the meal, you should check out their dessert counter, they have Kala
jamun, tiramisu, other pastries and elaneer payasam as well [which I felt was
way too watery and bland, missing the beautiful elaneer flavours]. I did have a
south indian filter kaapi before calling it a night.
Biryani Carnival is on till 10th December at Spice Haat and is open only for
dinner [6.30pm-10.30pm]. Every day the biryanis on the buffet change with one
special biryani as well.
options are available during this period-
Buffet priced at Rs1550/- [excl tax] where you get to
dig into the various kinds of biryanis apart from other dishes available on the
buffet or
A la carte where you pay for Rs999/- [excl tax] to try
one biryani but this comes with two Beers. 
call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations.
Spice Haat
Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai,

Teynampet, Chennai.

Koramangala Social, bangalore

It was a place like no other I have been to. I rode the elevator to the 3rd floor, and entered the place and was instantly greeted by nothing but plush greenery and plenty of sunlight streaming in through the glass panel windows above. It was such a breath of fresh air, especially for someone who has been to pubs across the country where most of them are dark and dingy. Infact, you don’t know where you are stepping in most places.
I found my friend seated in a table with a mix of chairs, I chose the sofa and it was damn comfortable. I got a view of the place and the one thing that hit me was the wide open spaces, the funky kitsch furniture, the overhead hanging plug points [you can pull em down if you wish to charge any device] and ofcourse the cool gear worn by the staff, very military style. 

There was a small aluminium bucket of sorts on the table that held the different menus [ they resemble the newspaper], a tissue roll with funky quirky words on it and cutlery alongside the same. I was in love with the place. Not to forget the girls whose company I always enjoy. We must have spent about 4 hrs there, and could have gone on for few more.. When I walked in, friend was drinking chai, there was a tall glass with tea, a small cutting glass with milk that said “cutting” [in hindi]. I instantly ordered one for myself. Similarly, I noticed that most glasses had a hindi word on them [paani=water, and so on]
Now coming to the food and drinks, I loved all that we ordered. I enjoyed my tall glass of Long Island Iced tea [ 500ml that came in a tall narrow glass with a long straw- it was made well] .. As for the food, the presentation is a big part of the experience- the plates, bowls they were served in and the flavours as well [except for the Laksa which I felt was different from what we expected and was tad spicy as well] 
We ordered pretty much everything on the menu, starters to desserts and were happy campers at the end of the meal. We tried the Khao Suey  [which was good,but the sauce felt a lot like what was served in the Laksa], the Paneer in a box [ it was served in a Chinese box with chopsticks], the Bhel puri and ofcourse the trio of desserts – Ramesh Suresh [ deep fried 5 Star chocolate served with vanilla ice cream in a metal box], the date sticky toffee pudding and chocolate explosion of sorts [ forgot the name, it was just an overdose of chocolate]
The damage [the box that contained the bill had this word printed on it..lol] was around 3k, but well worth the price…  The place has options for working, bring your laptop sit and work away; plenty of greenery which adds to the whole charm [apparently the other Social outlets are different and this is the largest of them all- 13000 sq ft]. Spotted quite a few groups with kids and babies as well. 

118, Koramangala Industrial Area, Koramangala 7th Block,
Ph- 080 40515253

Smoked Tofu and a salad in a jiffy

Last weekend was the By Hand from the Heart event at Crowne Plaza.. For the last few years I have been attending this event, it all began with a friend having a stall, and over the years well it has become a tradition of sorts. The event is different from others because it is a Maker’s market, all products on sale are hand made – ranging from clothes, cheese, honey, chocolates, jewellery, bags, etc etc… 

So, on Saturday a friend and I made plans to visit, it was the 2nd day and we wandered about checking out the stalls. The 2nd stall right at the entry point was by Aurosoya, and there we met Dhaval Chandarana who spoke to us about their products and got us to taste the Smoked Tofu. It was love at first bite, we picked up a packet each along with few other items from the stall. 

I have always enjoyed Tofu and was quite excited about using this product in salads or stir fries.  Anyways, after about an hour we were done here and wondered where to head for lunch. I asked friend if she had been to Benjarong and she said it had been ages. It was down the road and within minutes we were in the restaurant and shown to a table. 

I have been here way too many times and the Chef [Ramkumar] is a good friend as well… But that day, I dint tell him I was coming and hoped to get away… [Wishful thinking]. We decided to try the Vietnamese set meal that started with the delicious Vietnamese coffee. Just as we were getting ready to dig into our soup, he came over and we chit chatted. I told him about the exhibition and proceeded to give him the packet of Smoked tofu to try. 

Voila, next thing I see him back at our table with a plate that looks divine. He has managed to whip up a salad using the smoked tofu and raved about its flavours. The salad was simple, yet packed a punch. It had lemon juice, garlic, some peanuts, chilli oil , cherry tomato and few other elements. The one thing about the dish was that it heroed the Smoked tofu…  How amazing is that. Friend was stumped and excited at the same time… 

As we wound up the meal and left the place a statement my friend made plays in my head often… “It is amazing how you connect people and are more than happy to do that”… 🙂 

Fabelle comes to town, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai

There were Quality Street chocolates in those round tin boxes when I was growing up. And then I discovered the world of Lindt, Ghirardelli and Godiva… But then I am not a big chocolate fan, and am reminded of this every time the entire family comes together. They laugh about how they would have me in the room and wipe out the entire Quality street box and I wouldn’t cry asking for one. Well, am pretty much the same today when it comes to chocolate. Only difference is if there is dark chocolate around, you will see me come back for a second piece a day or so later. That apart my appetite for information has grown multi fold over the years, am constantly curious – origin, the process that transforms the humble cocoa pod into the chocolate and beyond… How fitting that I got to visit a Chocolate boutique when am reading a book called The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier which is about students and chocolate boxes.

When I heard about the newest entrant in the chocolate arena in the city, I was curious to say the least. Fabelle is the brand am referring to, they have partnered with ITC Hotels across the country and opened swanky chocolate boutique within the property.  In Chennai, ITC Grand Chola is where you find the Fabelle boutique.

If you are the kind who enjoys chocolates, loves to just let them linger in your mouth and allow the taste buds to have a party, then this is where you should head to. Sit down in one of the plush sofas, browse through some interesting and quirky books, walk around the place listening to the staff give insights/facts about the chocolates and finally do indulge…

You can choose from the box of Ganache [dark or milk chocolate], the one called Elements [Earth, wind, fire, wood and water] or maybe a dessert made with these fine chocolates [ranging from chocolates from Saint Dominican, Madagascar and so on] along with cinnamon, cocoa nibs, ancho chilli, nectar, almonds, salted caramel, coffee, berry, and some more to create the most amazing chocolates. The best part is, you pop the chocolate in your mouth and just let it melt, and enjoy the burst of flavours… Sinful ~!! 

I watched the Chef put together this beautiful dessert- Chocolate Flower [similar to a dessert created on MasterChef Australia]- she patiently arranges the mousse in the center with precision, and steady hands place the chocolate Petals around it, then the tiny drop of flavours all around; Wait, here comes the drama- a warm liquid made of orange and white chocolate is poured all around it and the petals fall down one by one. The mousse also has layers within- raspberry coulis and a crunchy pistachio layer.

 Oh and you can also create your own little cups of heaven – “As you like it” [on the tablet available at your table] – pick a base, add a filling, now the topping and voila and can bite into it within minutes.  Looking for something to wash it all down with- well choose from their hot or cold beverages.  ITC sure is turning things up a notch- be it food or these chocolates. What more could you possibly need? I loved the dark chocolate Ganache, it was just yummilicious. Oh and I also tried the 100% cocoa mass, and 84% dark chocolate- both of which I love love loveddd… 

The plated desserts are priced around Rs575 while the box of 5 pieces [Elements] is priced at Rs 400, and the box of 20 Ganache pieces is around Rs675. I must make a mention of this- their  attention to detail, if you were to ask for a box of the “As you like it” or the Ganache, it comes with a special ice pack to ensure the chocolate retains its texture and form till you reach your destination.  
Disclaimer: The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  🙂

The Drop, Pan Asian, ITC Grand Chola

My mantra when it comes to food- be open, be prepared to try something new, it could be a dish, it could be a vegetable or meat, sauce, anything… Once you get to this point, life is nothing but awesome.. 

This is probably why last evening was special, no doubt about that~! When Chef Vikram calls and invites you over for dinner, you go with a big grin on your face and excitement bubbling within- that is the reaction he & his food evoke in us.. And these evenings are where I realise how much I have changed over the years, in terms of food- palate, preferences, being open to new flavours/textures,etc… 

Last evening was simply fabulous, romantic even… actually I am constantly looking for new adjectives- no no , not being cliched or any such, it is truly magical. Chef Vikram always has a story to tell, he talks about using art from various parts of the world, uses local produce [can transform a humble lauki into something fancy] and believes in giving the guests a truly WOW experience. This dinner was all about “The Drop”- the essence, the trees of life where it all begins, falls on concrete & splatters, lands on Earth,  moves towards water, and so on… Each course had a story to tell, each element on the plate had a role to play and the flavours simply play with your senses not to forget the surprise as you pop it into your mouth.  

Here is the journey we took through dinner, the 10 courses… 

The drop – lychee bubble served on a betel leaf- we were asked to lift the leaf with the drop, pop the drop in our mouth and then take a bite of the leaf. It was accompanied with celery smoke.. He stood next to us, waited for us to try and asked us what we thought of it with a gleam in his eyes… 

 Pumpkin soup in a bulb, with a splash of chilli oil combined with truffle pate.. The minute you unscrewed the top, the truffle flavour hits you. It was served alongside a chinese bun coated in pumpkin powder. Soup was super spicy while the bun was fun to nibble on.

I took a glug of the soup straight from the bulb and nearly burnt my tongue, but it was fun, I paused but continued while my friend drank out of his spoon. Chef came over and asked us if we had used the spoon, almost in a reprimand tone.. Now these little bits are what makes him so special..

The tree of life- A quinoa salad [almost like a risotto] served with mushrooms, brazilnut pesto, drops of sauces -beetroot,carrot and few others…  and there was also these circles made with melted cheese.. Dont ask me for details, every spoonful was heavenly-creamy, rich, flavour packed… 

The drop splatters- My favourite dish of the evening… I had three croquets of sorts made with onion shell that had miso & few other ingredients mixed together sitting on a black bean sauce served on top of cabbage mash and a dehydrated Chinese cabbage leaf. Oh my, don’t ask me how it was- you have to taste it to understand it..

 And the drop spreads as it splatters- This dish was a mystery- the bottom layer resembled radish, yet tasted different, above it were more veggie layers topped with sauce and burnt leek ask around for bitterness. Chef told us the art form in this was Coded graffiti that Hitler had used to send out messages. 

 The drop slowly moves towards water- the crab sand [art form from Orissa- the sand was made with Japanese fermented chilli paste and olives- it was sweet yet super hot], a base of onion mash, with a serving of wasabi with few other elements and a dehydrated orange slice. We bit into the orange first and then moved to the other elements. Once again, every spoonful was fabulous. 

 Basil Sorbet- to give our palates some relief.. Boy oh boy, was this fun to eat, sitting pretty in a bowl made of ice, with some dry ice adding to the smokey effect, we had fun playing with it. 

Main course- Corn steak, the sauce smeared on the plate was Wow, there was also a dehydrated powder made with pineapple and something else [can’t remember for the life of me what that was]

 Lasagna – Pumpkin sheets with tofu mash in-between, slices of beetroot and little circles of betel leaf on the side. It was served along side a sauce that was strong, had Thai flavours and was quite a power packed dish. We had jasmine rice to go with this. Loved every spoonful of it. Infact, I was able to have only half of this, was beyond filling. 

Drum rolls please… Here comes the show stopper- The dessert- A plate arrived on the table, Chef then handed me a rose, I could hear music in the background, it was so beautiful, my mind was slowly drifting away till I heard his voice telling us to smell it and then smash it on the plate.  What smash, yes he replied giving a nod asking me to do it. I dint do a great job, he took the rose and smashed it all over my plate… Egads… wait, this was beautiful.. Art in its truest form. There was dark chocolate, cranberry, cherry, cool ice cream, the sweet rose petals, oh the elements were playing games with my head, leaving me dizzy…. 

What more can I say? If you are ever curious about food that looks and tastes like this, you should head over to Pan Asian and try out the food there. And don’t go with the familiar dishes, ask the Chef for his recommendations- you will be in for a special treat~! 
As for me, I sure am glad to have connected with Chefs of this calibre, and those who truly madly enjoy food.. All they want is for their guests to love their creations, relish the dishes and come back for more.. A meal like this costs around Rs2250/- [but then it this is not something you will find on their menu, lemme tell you that!]

Delhi Street Food at Buzz, The Gateway Hotel IT Expressway Chennai till 30th Sep

Imagine squeezing your way through the crowded lanes in Chandni Chowk or Jama Masjid in Delhi- the aromas of freshly made samosa, the kebabs, hot paranthas wafting in the air and then there are the vendors selling nimbu pani, shikanji , thick creamy lassi or even the kulfi in a matka to those who stop for something to give em the energy to go further..  Infact during my recent trip to Delhi I did visit Chandni Chowk and we had a blast… [Have written about them here and here]

All this and more is what we got at the Delhi Street Food festival at Buzz in The Gateway Hotel IT Expressway.. The only difference is you get to taste all the yumminess of street food in a beautiful ambiance with good cutlery and of course cooked in a hygienic surrounding [But then, I do agree that the charm of eating along the street side is something else].. With Navratri around the corner, Delhi and the food is something I always think about [ the food at Ramleela event on the last day is just mind blowing]

So, as part of this festival, the spread at Buzz was outstanding. They had flown down a Chef from their property up North and the food was absolutely amazing. I also got to meet their in house Chef Meril who explained how the whole thing came about. We got to try Rahul ka anda, Gupta ke Burger, Bishan swaroop chaat[fruit chaat] and so much more that beautiful evening. 

The evening opened with the two divine drinks- 
Angoor Sherbet & Malai Lassi- Loved the Angoor drink, it was grapes with subtle blend of spices [ mint, jeera, black salt]. The Lassi was thick and perfect.

Chat counter 

Samosa Chaat – the filling was so different from what we usually get, loved it

Palak Kachori with Subzi- this was my favourite- loved the kachori 
Bishan swaroop chaat (fruit chaat) – this was humble papaya with boondi and chaat masala on top 

Aloo tikki – served with a spoonful of channa masala the tikki was soft , crisp and hot.
Golgappe (served with variety of flavored water)
Potato Bajji – the familiar bhaji was served hot , which makes it that much more enjoyable.

Live stations

Kadi Chawal – loved it, was the perfect comfort food.. 
Gupta Burger counter – a different version of vada paav, the bun was crisp and the patty nice and soft.

Rahul Anda counter- this was basically toast with egg on top 

Appetizers from onsite Live stations

Paranthe counter – Mooli, Aloo , onions – oh this took me back to the Paranthe wali galli and these were sinfully yumm with a dollop of curd. 

Amritsari kulcha with chole – it had masala in filling and generous spread of ajwain on top

Chole Bhature- the Bhature was just so soft, i couldn’t resist having a few bites with the gravies..

Roti and Plain rice are available with the gravies- 
Bharwan Tinda Masala, Chui
mui kofta & Dal Sultani   [there were two kinds of biryanis and few sides for the Non vegetarians]

Rabdi Falooda / Jalebi / Teel
wali Kulfi / Phirni
There was barely any space, we were all comatose with the bites I had greedily had over the course of the evening. But managed to make some space to try the desserts.Loved the kulfi and falooda. The jalebi was tad too sweet for me.

This Buffet Dinner is priced at Rs. 1200 plus taxes [works out to about Rs1470 per pax] . If you have wine/alcohol, the rates will differ. This festival is on till the 30th, so if you have fond memories of Delhi Street food or have been craving any of these, do a reservation and head over there right away.. It is well worth the drive.. 

Address309 Rajiv Gandhi Salai (OMR), Sholinganallur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600119
Phone044 6680 2500
URL: https://gateway.tajhotels.com/en-in/it-expressway-chennai/

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  🙂