Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Spicy Venue

Even as I set my eyes on the menu of The Spicy Venue, I knew it was not a great idea to visit it.
What cuisine the restaurant wanted to promote, what image it wanted to portray, what it wanted to be known as is something that has not been worked at. All the reviews speaking highly of this restaurant are, I am sure, not by vegetarians.
Had gone there on a special invite. Otherwise, the menu was the most uninspiring one for a discerning foodie. All my fears about the menu were not unfounded after I saw the offer.
Let me add a disclaimer before I write further about this place. I don't eat non vegetarian food and can speak nothing about it. Having said that, I see no reason why any person following a vegetarian diet will want to go to this restaurant. There are just a handful of restaurants offering Telugu food in Hyderabad. And if this restaurant is promoting itself as one offering it, I would definitely want to experience the authentic Telugu food. What's an authentic Andhra cuisine? Well, unlike many other cuisines, the Andhra food is extremely particular about the presentation and the order in which it is presented.

The traditional feast is served on banana leaves following a particular method. Cooked 'tur dal' (lentils) is served on the right lower corner of the leaf followed by 'halwa' (a sweet dish) 'pachadi' (raita or yogurt), chutney, two dry vegetables, gun powder or curry leaf powder, fryums made of white pumpkin, rice fryums and pappad, pickle and salt. The above items are served all around the leaf till the left corner. 
 Then mixed rice or vegetable 'pulao' is served in the center of the leaf and curd 'vada' next to that. Two dry sweets - 'bobatlu' or boorelu, laddus, are served in a cup. This is how the leaf is set and made ready before the guests are seated to enjoy the meal. After this elaborate meal, 'paan' (betel leaves) and nuts are served.

I had searched for and shared this information with someone who wanted to go all traditional and present a complete and authentic Telugu meal to a North Indian family.  (I forget the source now. Hence unable to acknowledge)
What we had instead was anything but a typical Telugu meal. We had this:

And this is what I hoped to get:

Telugu vari vanta
                                         Image courtsey:

I mean if one were to offer an authentic Telugu meal, I dont look forward to a mish mash of various menus. The above two pictures cannot be more contrasting. One gives a Tamasic feeling and the other, a Satvic feeling.
I heard someone say that their Paneer Butter Masala was awesome. I ask, if I want to eat a Punjabi dish, why should I go to a restaurant serving Telugu food? The items listed under Telugu traditional dishes contain not a single vegetarian one.
The ambiance is also not too inspiring. The vegetarians need not come here for authentic Telugu food.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chennai Express

Chennai Express' success cocks a snook at all critics who panned it.
The 8th day, and it is running houseful. People have loved it. I loved it. It is a through and through entertainer. 
As a South Indian, I understand a smattering of Tamil and this made the experience more enjoyable.
Shah Rukh Khan, the only non-South Indian cast as admitted by its director, Rohit Shetty, has done a marvelous job of being the comic character trying to come to grips with the Tamil culture.The story is about his journey from Mumbai to Rameswaram and how he finds himself trapped amidst the don (Deepika's father) and his followers. The South Indians aren't treated with derision. But the cultural differences do evoke a smile from the audiences. There were times when I felt I was watching a South Indian movie and not a Hindi one. So strong is the south flavor and the sensibilities within.
A thin story line, no great dramatics but not a moment of boredom as the film keeps you engaged throughout. There are references to past movies of Shah Rukh Khan but not so many that they leave you bored and yawning. In a way it was funny watching Shah Rukh try to dance in rhythm with the southern music, especially in the item number. To compare, Dhanush's dance in Ranjhana is a good example of showcasing the speed, intensity and loudness in southern film dances. For a change, Shah Rukh doesn't do the slanted- Christ posture but he surely couldn't keep up to the required speed. 
Shah Rukh is back doing what he does best--the romantic role of Rahul--which fits him like a glove. Deeepika, dancing attired in her 'pavadai' ( a long skirt), long plaited hair adorned with jasmines, to music from south is so different from  her head-swaying-hair-flying-bikni-clad dances (Dum maro Dum, Cocktail, Yeh Jawani...). She is definitely the surprise factor in the movie. May not be an intense performance but an energetic one without going OTT.
This movie is funny and silly but neat, delightfully free of sleaze, double meaning dialog and exposing.
Everyone can head to this movie with their parents, brothers, sisters and kids and thoroughly enjoy the movie. I did.
It is such a relief to watch an uncomplicated entertainer! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

soups n salads: a healthy option

When the foodies group suggested an event here, I was one among the first to grab this offer that was priced at only Rs. 250 for the vegetarians. Health at that price was actually priceless!

Soups n salads is less than a year old and is situated on Rd. No 36, Jubilee Hills, close to Madhapur police station. This is a new kind of offer, hitherto unheard of in Hyderabad. Among my acquaintances,  it is known that I hardly am attracted to the main course of any meal. The soups, salads and appetizers have all my attention. And therefore, I looked forward to the absolute bliss of dining here.
The restaurant runs from 11 am to 11 pm and its ambiance is more like a coffee shop with a long corridor of tables to the left and the cooking station to the right. I was told later that it was supposed to be a self-service place but then we foodies got served at our tables, had a customized menu and a special price. There were both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. The lunch consisted of soups, salads, a cooked pasta salad, a wrap, a slush and a dessert. It is debatable whether this constitutes a meal or can be given the status of an evening snack
Well, the good and bad of this eatery--
Soups: Tasted three soups: the Tomato lemon grass soup, Cream of Sorrel and the Tuscan vegetable soup. Must admit that all the three failed to impress. The tomato one was a little too thin and bland for my liking. The cream of sorrel was good as compared to the other two: a first for me. It was slightly thick with the unmistakable taste of local grown 'gongura.' The sourness was prevalent, yet not so sour that we couldn't handle it. The cream in it kind of toned it down. The Tuscan vegetable soup was a disaster. It tasted like 'rasam' with lot of vegetables thrown in. It was neither here nor there.
Salads: After this rather insipid fare, I looked froward to the salads with a slight trepidation.
Yet, when it arrived, like a goat which has found the greenest grass to chew on, I kept delving into bowl after bowl of the salads with a great gusto. What I found delightful was that all the salads had a very light coating of the dressing. I had a Caesar salad with a cream base, a pear salad with balsamic vinaigrette base, a roasted beet salad and a farm-house salad with Dijon mustard dressing.
The strength of Soups n Salads is definitely the salads. The vegetables used within are all very crunchy and fresh...the lettuce and cherry tomatoes deserve a special mention. It also helps, perhaps, that they have the Nature's Basket store right beneath their's. I think that a customer with a good knowledge of salads and dressings can as well get his salads customized according to his taste.
Among the salads, the highlight was the Roasted Beet Salad with its sweet-sour dressing, the greens,orange and a sprinkling of fried nuts.I normally keep away from the rather tasteless beetroot but here a magic was spun with this recipe. Just awesome and a must-have.
We then had the Mexican Bean Wrap which was quite decent in taste. I mean, a wrap is a wrap and consists of boiled and raw veggies wrapped in tortillas or the Indian rotis. The slushes consisted of strawberry lemonade and the orange blast both of which were quite good. No regrets on ordering these.
At the end I ordered a Creme Brulee and I found it quite tasty. I do not have a sweet tooth and therefore am ok with any sweet. But my fellow foodies, some hard-core dessert lovers, were not that enthusiastic about it.
The service really couldn't match up to this kind of 40+ crowd in one go. There were long waits. One of my salads was served without a dressing and a salad without one is just a heap of boiled/raw vegetables.
The pluses of the this coffee shop are the quality of the salads served and the quantities. All your orders come with huge servings. Despite consuming four bowl-fulls of salads, my stomach felt empty within 3 hours' time. This is in sharp contrast (and a relief) to the uneasy and unhealthy feeling one is left with after a dine-out. Here, you  get to eat food that's live, has a soul and prepared with great care
Food: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Service: 1/5
Value for money:3/5