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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dilwale

Just as I was leaving for the movie, I was asked, "Which movie, then? The brainless one or the tortuous one?" (Of the two Hindi movies released)
Little did I know then, that I was going to get the combo in a single package. What was Shah Rukh Khan thinking when he made this movie, produced and acted by him?
There didn't seem to be a plot, no big LOL moments, no seeti-maars in the hall...a few that happened in the beginning died down eventually, no tear-jerker moments, no great acting...not even that famed hamming...no surprises, no twists, and... not even as many cars flying. This Rohit Shetty directed movie didn't even have the lunacy his films are famous for.
Well, looks like Shah Rukh thought of trying Salman Khan kind of movies, forgetting that only Salman can effortlessly and successfully pull off that illogicality. Shah Rukh didn't bother to turn on his charm or energy to infuse life into the romantic role he is so famous for.
The film begins with Shah Rukh Khan getting shot at and falling to the ground. That was the flash back. In the present, he and his brother Varun Dhawan together run a salon for styling and repairing cars.
Looks like Varun has tried to emulate characters from his father's famous comedy films but sadly lacks that acumen for comic timing. This is the first movie of Varun I went to see and he is as tepid as I imagined him to be.
The flashback takes us back fifteen years when Shah Rukh was a mafia don in his past and why he gave up all to lead the life of a common man. This flash back and what happens there with his lady love, Kajol looks thoroughly unconvincing and contrived.To the movie's credit, there is a twist in the tale at this juncture. And with it came a misunderstanding which could have been sorted out with some conversation but Shah Rukh and Kajol remain silent till Shah Rukh's brother, Varun falls in love with...you guessed right...Kajol's sister (Kirti Sanon). Of course, they are both against this match. But obviously in this most boringly predictable movie, all's well that ends well...the two couples are united.
No aspect of the story is developed adequately. Logic is all lost in the cacophonic medley of trying to throw a bit of everything in.
A lot of effort has been put into the lead pair look younger in the flashback and to ensure you got it, at a point in the movie, you are shown in quick succession, the alternate old and young faces of Shah Rukh and Kajol.
Boman Irani is supposed to be the comic villain but you need to look hard and very hard for those scant moments of humor. Wasted talent here.
There are also Johnny Lever, Varun Sharma and Sanjay Mishra but they look rather inadequate in the shoddily built plot.
Brief flashes of brilliance in Kabir Bedi's role as Kajol's father and Vinod Khanna as Shah Rukh's father. They both look good but I must say Bedi can still steal a few hearts.
Sometimes, a movie needs a star to elevate its story (Bajrangi Bhaijan, for example) but some movies make even their big stars appear diminutive. Dilwale is one such movie. Watch at your own risk...forewarned is forearmed.
I go with 1/5  just for the compelling chemistry between Shah Rukh and Kajol even after all these years.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pune food journey

I was at Pune for a meet and had carried with me a list of food recommendations but as the purpose of the trip was different, I could fulfill less than half the list.
As planned, as soon as I checked into the hotel, I went to Darios, a vegetarian Italian restaurant, which came with high recommendation. It was advantageous to have it so close to my hotel and also that it runs through the day.
I ordered only for a salad and a pizza. This Caprigna salad, priced at Rs. 480/- was temptingly described as "Melted goats' cheese croutons served on a bed of mixed lettuce with pomegranate and creamy French dressing."  The quantity was generous but the taste didn't match the cost. Goats' cheese was a mere smearing on the bread; the mixed lettuce turned out to be a mix of lettuce and bitter basil; hard chewy stalks ; and not much evidence of a dressing. Nothing improved the taste--neither the addition of mayonnaise nor olive oil. On top of it, I got the standard response...'this is how we cook it in our restaurant.'

Caprigna Salad at Darios


The bread served in the beginning was quite soft though.



The thin crust pizza ordered, priced at 530/-,   was the Dario's special and came with tomato sauce, mozzarella, smoked egg plant, potatoes, oregano and capers.When this is Dario's special, the expectation is high. The pizza base was good but had very sparsely scattered veggies for topping. To add insult to the injury, the waiter scattered some pineapple pieces on top of the pizza, without baking, to 'compensate' for the bitter taste in the salad  :(
The service was slow and shabby.
Not recommending this place to anyone...ever!

Dario's pizza

Didn't stay back for a dessert as I had enough of Darios. My next stopover was at the famous (blast-wala) German Bakery for desserts. The ambiance was pretty cool with outdoor seating. The bakery itself is tiny but had many diners.


I decided to have a go at their Tiramisu priced at 120/-. The first taste to hit the palate was that of bitterness. I enjoyed every bite of this thick, creamy, bitter coffee-like tiramisu.

Tiramisu at German Bakey
I took away this blueberry muffin, priced 80/-. This was quite good and remained fresh even on the next day.


Our meet happened at 11, East Street Cafe. The bus has nothing to do with the ambiance inside. There were some AC enclosures on the second floor and the ten of us were accommodated there. Hats off to the waiter for patiently catering to some screeching, excited bunch of senile oldies, each with her own specific demands.The food and the mock-tails were pretty decent.

11, East Street Cafe
We also wanted to explore the famous Kayani bakery, right next to East Street, but found it closed on a Sunday! I knew I'd miss the chance as there wasn't time to return to this place.



The dinner that night was my wish for a Maharashtrian Thali and my friend took me to Krishna Dining on FC Road. The thali, if I remember right, was priced at around 300/-. In thalis in Pune, the dessert is separately ordered and we went for Mango Kharvas (Junnu). The veg thali was  pretty decent but had a mix of non-Maharashtrian items like a paneer sabzi, chole etc., taking away from the authenticity of the thali. The dhokla was simply great!


Krishna Dining (also part of Wadeswar)

Kharvas in Krishna Dining

On the second day of our meet, we went to Amanora mall. We weren't interested in exploring the mall but were trying to find a perfect place to unwind. It was the middle of Dusshera and found 'kitchen arroma' advertising a special veg and non-veg thali on the occasion.
It being a Monday, the place was all ours. To top it, the veg thali priced at 250/- was simply amazing! Authentic Maharashtrian and the freshest ingredients used. I found this surprise find far surpass the  tastes of the more traditional Krishna Dining's thali.

At Amanora Mall
Looks like the Punekars have quite a taste for potato. There is either potato tikki or cutlet with their thalis.
Veg thali at 'kitchen arroma'
Normally I look for the traditional/local tastes when traveling, but couldn't control myself when I eyed Burger King at a mall. I had been wanting to taste at Burger King for long.
I wasn't too hungry and so went for a Regular (from regular, medium and king size) combo of Veg Chilli Cheese Burger priced at 145/- The burger was great and surpassed all I had at Hyderabad.

Veg Chilli Cheese burger at Burger King

While shopping off Lakshmi Road, I had this much-recommended Mastani, the famous Pune cold drink at a small road side dhaba off Sadashiv Peth. The price was 100/- for this! Roaming under the hot sun, this mix of ice cream, cream, mango flavors and juice brought the much needed respite.



Once the shopping was done, I went to R Bhagat Tarrachand, a vegetarian restaurant off Budhwar pet, recommended by a friend. The place is fortunately open till 4 pm. As I was starved by then, I quickly ordered for the dish of the day which happened to be this Paneer Hill Top priced at 200/-. Awesome, soft, fresh and well-marinated, it was a great start to the meal.

Paneer Hill Top 200

Next was the Malai Kofta (180/-) and Garlic Nan (70/-). The garlic nan was soft yet crisp and full of flavors. The malai kofta was a bit tepid but I was kind of forewarned. It was a bit too creamy though not sweet actually.

Malai Kofta at R Bhagat Tarrachand, Pune


Garlic Nan at R Bhagat Tarrachand, Pune

The last purchase was at Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, off Sadashiv Peth, the original store. I bought a Kachori to see what it tastes like. And the thinnest crust with the sharp flavors of urad dal inside didn't  disappoint at all.

Kachori from Chitale Bandhu

My family and I had the pleasure of having a go at these traditional, Maharastrian items: the Dink Ladu, Amba Wadi, Sheng Dana Ladu, Chivda, Puran Poli, Potato Sev, all these at a mere cost of Rs. 400!

From Chitale Bandhu
Though I had the desire to explore food options in the small and big eateries at Pune, the paucity of time didn't allow me to explore beyond few. The post on my Gujarat trip was definitely a more insightful guide to Gujarati food. My food journey in Pune didn't really help me form an opinion about it.Yet, what I found was that the food in small or big places in Pune is definitely much more expensive than those found in Gujarat.or even Hyderabad.
Well, I hope I can go there again to look at more options.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tamasha

A few minutes into the movie and I thought, 'Kahan phas gaye yaaron'. It was a drag, the narration going back and forth.
But as the plot unraveled, I could see what the director, Imtiaz Ali, was trying to say. He plays with a whole lot of human emotions and shows that within each one of us is not just Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but numerous facets to who we are and why we behave the way we do.
Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone meet in Corsica, an imaginary fictitious land. In this land, the two of them promise that they would only tell  lies to each other. The logic? So that they could get away from boring reality...from the boring circle of girl meets boy, boy tries to woo girl, they fall in love etc. etc.
They promise not to meet each other in the 'other' world but inevitably they do and that changes Ranbir's outlook to life. He comes to terms with what he is and what he has always aspired to be. The simple story line is about how each of us subjugates our aspirations to become this boring self who grows up to study what our parents want us to (an engineer), waking up to the alarm, work from 9 to 5, follow a set routine, get promoted over a period of 5-10-15 years' time
Deepika's rejection of this Ranbir, hugely upsets him and it is then that he sets on a path of self-analysis.
The movie begins with a young Ranbir fascinated with story telling by an old man on the hills and it is to this man that Ranbir turns to at this juncture of life. He narrates his life story and wants the old man to complete it for him. But the old story teller tells him that the answers all lie with him and is he fearful of listening to those answers? Suddenly enlightened, Ranbir feels free and sets out to do what he always knew he was good at.
The movie has an Inception-like narration though not as intriguing nor as ingeniously woven.The narrative contains little conversation, which was okay but for the songs that keep interrupting the flow.
The movie reflects the awakening in today's youth who have the luxury to refuse to tread the beaten path. Relatively free of financial constraints (unlike former times), they'd rather find happiness in listening to their heart.
The narration may be a bit opaque but what stands out is Ranbir's absolutely brilliant performance. It is a delight to watch him so easily slip in and out of all the multiple personalities that he portrays thus transcending his last few debacles.
The chemistry between Ranbir and Deepika is so evident, you wonder what they are actually doing with other partners in their real life. Deepika matches Ranbir in his energy and is the key factor to the twist in the story.
When you go to watch, go with the expectation that it is not the typical romantic, feel-good movie and is definitely not a 'leave your brains at home when you go to watch this one' kind of movie.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hotel Studio Estique


Pune, though not far from my city, has so far been an unexplored arena for me. An impromptu plan of meeting a few of my classmates from school triggered a frenetic lookout for hotels to stay. I shortlisted three and finally selected one: a 3-star rated Hotel Studio Estique. Compared to the Gujarat hotels (on my previous vacation), I found Pune hotels rates on the higher side and therefore decided to try Airbnb. The rooms, I found were okay, but then most of the amenities not even close to the ones offered by hotels. My selection would be decided by
1. Room rate
2. Flexible check-in, check out timings
3. Provision of complimentary buffet breakfast
4. Availability of Wi-fi
5. Proximity to the railway station
I had almost zeroed in on a room with airbnb, albeit reluctantly because of its distance of 7 kms from the station, when son found a very sweet deal through makemytrip which would knock off 50% or more from the hotel charges. Yipee! I could get the hotel I was looking for and that too at a much cheaper rate. Not having tried these deals ever before, I was skeptical of how it would work and if there would be a glitch and a substandard room because of the reduced rate.
But no, none of that happened. The check-in process was smooth. The only difference I found was that the amount needed to be paid upfront. I was fine with it. When escorted to the room, I was quite floored. The first impression was, " it is so cozy!"  The narrow entrance had the bathroom to its left and a space to place one's bags and baggage on its right with big drawers below it. What really impressed me was the single queen-sized bed that had only two sides, the third and the fourth sides attached to the wall against which you can lean and laze around when in the mood to.

The room on first day

Another view: the room on first day
One complimentary bottle of water was given everyday. The room had the kettle with sachets of tea, coffee, milk and sugar provided.

The bath area reflected in the mirror

The bathrooms were excellently maintained...the bath area neatly partitioned by a glass wall. Only two toiletries were provided though-- a body wash and a shampoo. One major drawback was that, they assume that the client isn't an Indian. I say this because there is no provision for a faucet at the W.C. There is only the toilet roll and also no provision of buckets to fill water in for a bath. You can only shower. The third drawback is the very low pressure of water . It becomes exasperating  to see what you thought had flushed down hasn't actually done so. The water in the washbasin too swirls around for quite some time before it drains.
The buffet breakfast, from 7.30 to 10.30 a.m, is a major draw. There was a great variety of the Indian and the continental food. Apart from this, a live counter providing varieties of dosas, parathas, eggs and pancakes. The usuals were the fruits, fruit juices, the cereal, freshly baked bread rolls, sauteed vegetables, beans and one non-veg item. Other Indian items would vary.
Where they scored in the continental and West Indian dishes, they didn't do well in the South Indian...clearly not their forte. But that's okay. I just loved their sauteed vegetables and had my fill with it.

My favorite item from the breakfast
The distinctive feature was their coffee. It wasn't any machine-made one but was prepared afresh and I greatly enjoyed their cappuccino.
Coming to the service, I found it very decent. My do-not-disturb board was earnestly honored and not a knock once the board was hung.
The reception was quite friendly too and helped me find directions and one of them even booked a transport for me when I wanted to go around the city.
Only when I wanted to check out after the first day, I was told rigidly about the check-out time of 12 noon and that I could not occupy the room after the said time. Nor was the foyer air conditioned so that I could relax there.
I checked in a day later to stay for two more days. The room I was allotted this time was supposed to be an upgraded one. It was good with a double cot and carpeted floor instead of a wooden one. Though a very good place, it didn't give me the comforting feel of the previous one. It wore a severely sterile look. This was on first floor. What was disconcerting was a connecting door to the adjoining room. I used to double check the door to ensure that there would be no surprise intruders.

The room on the second day
Be a little wary when you are allotted room on this floor though, as the walk-in wardrobe has a full length mirror and when you open the doors, the light automatically turns on and then you see a refection in the mirror. You stifle your scream when you realize that you are only looking at yourself.
Both rooms allotted were absolutely noise-free. The comfortable beds and the noise-free environment allowed one a sound sleep.The first room had a wooden ledge all around which helps you rest your stuff on but the second room didn't have any such facility and the only table was so cluttered already that it leaves you very little surface to place anything on.

Another view: the room on the second day
In these times of technology, more electric sockets to plug your electronic equipment would help.
During check out, I, unfortunately returned late to the room and then had to hurry to check out and reach the railway station.
What irked me then was the amount of time taken by the bell boy to check around and get the luggage down to the reception. Second, my debit card didn't work. They tried thrice but it failed. I had to use another one. Later, when I checked my messages I came to know that instead of swiping for a certain amount, they had tried by adding two more zeros. Luckily that particular bank of mine didn't have that kind of balance or I am sure I would have been held up for a longer period. I am sure this was a human error and not intentional but then when you are tense about reaching the railway station in time, all these delays add to your stress.
The blessing though is the proximity that made me reach the station in fifteen minutes. Well, all's well that ends well.
Do I recommend this place ? Yes, definitely: for their service, the breakfast , excellent wi-fi connection, and the amenities. You want a cozy room, go for the ones on third floor .
Having an INOX multiplex right beside the hotel doesn't hurt either. Go for it!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Srimanthudu

"Telugu movies have come of age. First it was Bahubali and now Srimanthudu," was the line yesterday by, (now I know), a big Mahesh Babu fan.
I had resisted going to this movie as the trailers promised nothing exciting. Yet, I fell for the above line and went today to see this movie, expecting something on the lines of Nenokkadine. The movie began ten minutes late, perhaps waiting for the theater to be filled. But it remained half-empty. This should have tipped me off.
The beginning was a LOUD song and dance sequence in God's prayer, hoping perhaps that the movie works? Sigh! I thought if the beginning is as mundane as this, what do I expect from the movie?
The song and dance over, it was the routine, quickly falling in love with the heroine to meet again and again...fall in love...fall out of love... and then separate when she discovers he is rich and taunts him about knowing nilch about his native village. He leaves for that village which happens coincidentally to be her native village as well.
This is the first half, wasting 1+ hours watching the apathetic romance happen. Before interval, the hero is seen bashing up some gundas and this is a precursor to what's to come.The second half is filled with gunda -bashing and more bashing and then some more bashing and then the film ends.

Some questions:
1. Just because a bimbette tells the hero that he doesn't know about his village, is it an inspiration enough for the hero to leave everything, go to a village, adopt it and take care of its infrastructure?
 2. The hero joins a rural degree college in the middle of the academic year just because the heroine happens to study there but seems more absorbed in study than the pretty lass. So why did he join that college?
3. He also drops out when he wants and implements all he has learnt in the village that he has adopted. Don't know why they have a three-year degree course if everything can be learnt in a few months (or is it days)?
4. The hero is shown helping a poor family get its daughter married . Why this incident , no one knows, as later they make no impact on the story at all.
5. Why does the otherwise good looking Jagapathi Babu have to act as Mahesh Babu's father? Why does he have to have white hair and a white beard when his wife sports jet-black hair?
6. What are the hero and the heroine's mothers (Sukanya and Sithara) doing in the film?
7. Does just rolling out a map of the village mean that you are a civil engineer and are capable enough to plan the village infrastructure?

No plot conviction:
The movie doesn't give enough time for a plot to linger and build. It just fast forwards itself jumping from one incident to another. There is no cohesion, whatsoever.
The audience is not convinced of the hero's motives. The hero himself seems to be just going through the motions and not convinced about what is expected of him in the movie.
The villains haven't done enough evil to get bashed so badly, forget getting killed at the end.
 Lot of characters are introduced with very brief roles, bordering on cameos. And everyone seems to have sleep-walked through the movie.
Mahesh Babu for the nth time, speaks through clenched teeth and bashes up people. He definitely seemed bored of the repeat stuff.
And what's with Mahesh Babu's heavily made-up face. Does he think he is aging or what?

Two bright spots in the movie
1. The reliable Rajendra Prasad, as usual, doing his best
2. The absence of Brahmandam and his clich├ęd dialog, acting and script.

Just remembered I didn't mention the heroine's name. Uhh...does it matter ?
Go at your own risk, and only if  you have nothing else to do.

Pay heed to what Jagapathi Babu keeps saying in the movie, " Nuvvu emi chestunnavo naaku artham katmaledu, ra."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Sizzle-Drizzle or Fizzle?

Sizzle Drizzle, a Sizzler feast at Melange, Golconda Hotel

Sometimes you are so bedazzled by a so very polite and attentive service that the quality of the food is easily condoned.
It happened with me today. A sucker for sizzlers, I went to Golconda to partake of their sizzlers feast. For me, it was a different experience, as what was offered was an imaginative and adapted version of the regular sizzler, where Indian sizzler was offered with dal and nan, Continental with bruschettas and Oriental with fried noodles and rice.
Something very, very different than what I am used to...potato cutlet, rice/noodles with lots of veggies. But then I told myself, why not be adventurous and give the palate a new twist ( and taste) ?
I ordered the 'Little Feast.' It promised five vegetables with penne, tomato, basil, and vegetable croquettes.



The waiter offered to serve me the sizzler on plate. Having never been made this offer earlier, I declined and dug into it directly. The dish sizzled for a few seconds and then went dead. It was all fizzle and no sizzle then on. By the time I hit the last bite, it had gone stone cold.
The vegetable croquettes were very nice. Crunchy on outside and soft inside. Though lacking flavors, it was alright. The penne pasta by itself was good, though no vegetables found in it. It turned out to be a mix of macaroni and penne. But however experimental, a cream-based  dish on a sizzler? The vegetables were a very sad state of affairs. They looked slightly steamed and had no crunch expected of a sizzler dish.
The waiter helped me patiently by offering different sauces and condiments to pep up the taste but then when you start with something as dead as the above, one can't really infuse much life into it.The quantity wasn't too great either and the balance definitely not.... far too less veggies in proportion to the pasta and the croquettes.
Was served bruschetta also on the side, which again, was just okay.


To keep this review short and simple, all I need to do is present a REAL sizzler in contrast and I think that says it all. I had this at KOBE, Chennai. This was almost five minutes after being brought to the table. It kept sizzling for at least ten minutes more and was scalding hot till the last mouthful and this, despite me being a very slow eater.


If I go back for the sizzler, it would be for the excellent service by the waiter (Mahesh) who was very patient in listening and trying to compensate for the lack of a gratifying experience. 
If you go thinking this is not a sizzler dish, then the tastes are quite decent. Of course, a superb ambiance awaits you, if you do.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Saffron Mantra


Saffron Mantra was being spoken about quite a bit but I ignored it for a long time. The mixed and usual menu of Indian + Chinese didn't excite me much. Till one day, too lazy to travel to the other side of the city, I inquired in the foodie groups for a feedback. Hearing good things, I geared up to visit the place.
Situated on the Karkhna main road and having worked in the same building for a long time, finding it wasn't a challenge at all.
The place is huge and spacious with well-spaced tables. Tall, wavy, lacy saffron curtains added to the idea of space.


Saffron Mantra

When the waiter appeared, I requested him just one thing: 'ensure I get quality stuff', haunted  as I was of recent experiences of getting nilch for good money.
He sent for another waiter, a Oriya guy (forget his name now). I repeated my request of getting good stuff...and there begins my journey of a great experience!

My first order was for Manchow Veg soup. It was simply awesome in taste. The right vegetables, served at right temperature, not too spicy...just perfect! The good part was that the noodles were served separately as I kept adding them while I sipped the soup.

Manchow Soup
Foodie members recommended the Poha Hara Kabab. Just after ordering it, I realized there was a starter platter called Subz e Khajana. I quickly called the waiter to ask him about it and he said I could order four of the vegetarian starters from the menu. I left it to the waiter's choice. I approved of Galouti Kebab  and Paneer Kairi Tikka as these were also highly recommended by the foodie members. He suggested Tandoori Cauliflower which I accepted half halfheartedly (a very common dish).

Subz e Khazana

Poha Hara Kabab was made of spinach and paneer and rolled in poha to get that crunch. And it was that crunch that added to its taste.
The Paneer Kairi Tikka--I was skeptical of the mix of sweetness in an appetizer. But this was a very clever trick. The chef had just added a sliver of mango jelly sandwiched between two pieces of the softest paneer and the result was awesome-- a great balance of spicy and sweet.
What I had not heard of and was purely the waiter's suggestion was the Tandoori Cauliflower. The menu description says 'gobi with garlic, almonds and cheese sprinkled with red chilli'. I may not have been able to discern all the ingredients and spices but the result was just GREAT! In the whole of Hyderabad, I have yet to taste Tandoori Gobi which tasted so good. Right spices, right creaminess and well-grilled. Thanks to the waiter for this suggestion.
On the down side, the Galouti Kebabs, so spoken about by lot of foodies were a disappointment as I found them too soft. Upon asking, the waiter says, they were supposed to be melt-in the-mouth experience. But to me they were under cooked.
I only had to give this feedback and they were quickly removed from the platter and replaced with this corn rolls (not on menu) which again were quite decent in taste. To compensate I got four pieces, instead of three on the starters platter :)


Feeling full by now, I ordered for a sweet and sour fresh lime soda and was pleasantly taken by the presentation and the quantity served. Need I speak of the quality? No complaints on this.

Fresh Lime Soda
In the main course, I ordered for a Methi Dum Aloo which was described as 'fresh fenugreek and baby potatoes in creamy gravy' and for me the only disappointment of the day as neither did I find baby potatoes in it nor did I find any creaminess to the dish. It had regular potatoes chopped into big chunks and pretty much the regular red gravy. The fenugreek added a slight bitterness to the dish. Perhaps a bit of blanching would have helped get rid of that bitterness. The waiter offered to replace the dish but I by this time I had spent quite a bit of time in the restaurant and wanted to return.
The bread section had a vast variety to choose from and the garlic nan that I ordered was decently soft and crunchy .

Methi Malai Dum Aloo & Garlic Nan
In keeping with its Saffron backdrop, the bill was presented in this tiny saffron bucket.




Apart from the regular North Indian and Chinese, the restaurant also serves stuff like South Indian tiffins, pizzas etc. in the evenings.
When I opened the carry bag with the left-overs at home, I was pleasantly surprised to see them all so neatly packed and labeled. Some dedication this!

For me
Ambiance: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Food: 3.5/5
VFM: 4/5

Will I go back? Yes! I look forward to trying their other stuff soon..

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bajrangi Bhaijan

Khamoshi, 1996, was the last Salman Khan's movie I watched in the theatre. After nearly two decades, I went on to book a ticket for a Salman movie without waiting for the reviews. Something about the trailers promised a very different movie. Of course, there was the attraction of  Nawazuddin Siddiqui
I am no Salman Khan fan but I always knew  he just needed the right story and script to bring back that Prem in him. And Bajrangi Bhaijaan provides him just that opportunity! He has that presence to lighten up the screen with his larger than life persona.Yet, what's amazing is the way he tones down his body language to be anyone...you, me or our neighbor. He also has a way with kids and director Kabir Khan has exploited this trait.Though older by a couple of decades, Salman still infuses an innocence to his role and we are there empathizing with him 
The hero is not to be seen for the first half hour of the movie at all. There is no 'dhamakedaar' entry of the hero. In fact, when first seen, he is seen in clothes smeared with holi colors dancing for his Hanuman. He is a Bajarangi bhakt and bows to every monkey he sights. 
In the life of this  staunch Hindu, who believes in adhering strictly to Brahmins' way of life, enters a six year old Pakistani girl (Harshaali Malhotra), who is separated from her parents and wanders into India. The story is about how Salman Khan has made his mission to re-unite her with her parents in Pakistan. 'Hum ne Bajrangbali se wada kiya hain' is his refrain. 
By the end of the movie he forgets he is not supposed to enter a masjid. He doesn't eat non-vegetarian food but when the child wants to eat, he takes her to an eatery which serves her what she likes. He believes in getting what he desires by always speaking the truth.
It is a great relief to see subtle messages in the movie without ever adapting a preachy tone...in sharp contrast to PK (have not forgiven PK yet)! Nowhere does Kabir Khan ridicule or put down any belief, religion, caste or country. What he does show is that human relations are more important than all these differences. Two important elements, humor and irony, are used to strengthen the narration. 
The little girl steals your heart from the word go. Not only does she look very pretty, she wins you over with her expressions without speaking a word! 
Nawazuddin Siddiqui  plays the role of a bumbling freelance journalist who finds a juicy story when a Hindustani is caught entering Pakistan. But as soon as he realizes the nobility of Salman's mission, he helps him unite the daughter and mother. He is, of course, someone who doesn't need to 'act' and is a delightful match to Salman and the kid. 
It is sad to see Kareena Kapoor waste her brilliance in an insignificant role. She shines even in that short appearance.
The last fifteen minutes of the movie are emotionally manipulative but then you easily overlook this, overwhelmed as you are with the story by this point. 
For all the Salman fans, does Salman take off  his shirt? Yes, he does!
A must-watch for all those who aspire to watch a movie which is both entertaining and heartwarming.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cooking Culture

This time, heard of this restaurant from just a bunch of people and depended mostly on a popular food site for an opinion.Though I don't really trust their reviews, just the attraction of a vegetarian restaurant was enough to draw me to Cooking Culture.
One look at the menu and I was floored! There was a wide array of Indian and International dishes on the  menu. I told myself, however much I order, I cannot taste all this and must come back with family to taste from each section. I ordered three items because I wanted to carry back half of everything for my family, wait for their verdict, and come back for more of the vegetarian stuff.
I braved the traffic, the one-way route and reached the place. Having skipped breakfast to have an early lunch, I requested the owner/manager to keep the starter ready as I wanted to have it as soon as I went there. I was told not to worry as it will get ready in 5-10 minutes' time. Taking his word for it, I asked for the Makhmali Paneer Tikka starter as soon as I was seated. It was a good twenty minutes before I got it. .
The dish does look attractive, doesn't it?

Makhmali Paneer Tikka

To their credit, this was the softest paneer I have ever eaten. I gobbled up the first one hungrily. But despite the ravenous hunger, I found a distinct lack of flavors with the second one. It was supposed to be marinated in cream, yogurt, cheese, green chilies etc.
I could only taste a thin layer of cream and yogurt. It was very bland otherwise. Once you wipe that thin layer away, it was just like eating plain paneer. It wasn't marinated at all. I had explicitly asked the waiter before ordering and he confirmed that it was indeed marinated.Moreover, the skewered capsicum and tomato were raw too.
My next order was the Thai green curry. Wanted to try their non-Indian food too. After the initial disappointment, I told the waiter that I look forward to a pure Thai experience and not an Indianized version. He assured that they would take care.

Thai Green Curry

The quantity served was okay but there was a highly skewed ratio of veg +gravy to the rice. The gravy should be at least twice the quantity of the rice. So ended up eating a very diluted form of the dish...that too with very less flavors from the condiments within, not even enough salt .But it was creamy and that saved the dish to some extent.
The third and last item was this Shahi Biryani.


When asked for Biryani selection, the waiter suggested their Mumbaiya biryani. I was in the mood to eat something subtler. The waiter cautioned me that the Shahi Dum Biryani would be sweet. I was okay with it. The word pilaf conjures up images of aromas...of a Kashmiri pulao like sweetness loaded with dry fruits, kismis etc.

What came was this! Never having been served this way, I was curios to see what lay underneath. 

Shahi Dum Biryani
Upon opening, I could see the  raw and under-cooked piece of roti reveal this: (Still wondering about the role of that roti cover)



Already skeptical by the lack of aromas, I hesitantly asked the waiter to serve a bit as I was already full. It was like eating plain colored rice. There was nothing in it. No promised mint flavors, no dry fruits, no sweetness, nothing! When I informed the waiter, he tried to scrape some 'gravy' from the midst of the dish. Another waiter/cashier came and said to the waiter, "we don't serve gravy in this dish, so what are you searching for?" No answer!
My advice:
If you want to serve dhaba style, bring on the strong flavors. If you want to serve the royal Shahi stuff, use delicate flavors which result in those aromas. We are more forgiving of dhaba fare as the prices and the expectations are low. But when you pretend class with all the wonderful dishes in the menu, the expectation is higher and the disappointment greater. 
I have had disastrous experiences in restaurants before but never met with such nonchalant attitude. Remember how ticked off we are when the customer care keeps saying 'sorry for the inconvenience caused' and does nothing about rectifying anything? I had the same feeling at the end, as despite giving constant feedback, I got only this as an answer.
To top it all, you are asked to come inside to a small space to get your card swiped instead of getting the machine to your table. Felt weird doing it.

Ambiance gets a 2/5; food gets a 1/5; service promptness a 2.5/5
Going back? No

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Coffee Cup


The one-foot high coffee cup at the entrance.
Coffee Cup at Sainikpuri was that elusive bait dangling before me for a long time. I was holding back because of the distance and then traveling all that way just for a few snacks and coffee wasn’t too tempting a thought, But when a search for the Italian threw this as a surprise option, I didn’t think twice and decided to brave the threatening clouds.
I called before starting to confirm that they serve at that hour (5.30 pm) and was ensured that they are open through the day because of being a cafe.
The directions were rather hazy and I ended up meandering through a few lanes before I reached. For those who want to go, the directions are simple. Reach Radhika theatre, drive a couple of kilometers more and you find the BP petrol pump on your right, just behind is the outlet.
The entrance is a big round door like in an old fortresses. A tavern-like appearance with wood all around bowled me completely. As you bend to let yourself through it, it leads to stairs going up, opening to a small place thumping with music.

The entrance

The left wall on the entrance

 I was promptly seated close to a glass partition. This side of the partition were the diners and that side were the smokers playing around with a coffee and indulging in different games like ludo, chess etc.
The owner (Nishant) discussed various options for me, a vegetarian. 70 % of the menu contained non-vegetarian items and of the remaining few, some of the options weren’t available. Not having had lunch, I was starved and it didn’t take me too long to agree with the option that Nishant offered: a grilled sandwich with corn and spinach. Two slices of bread stuffed with cream, cornflour, spinach and corn made a very decent fare as it was served with some chips.

Cheesy Spinach and Corn Sandwich

The filling in the sandwich

Having the bread already, I decided to not go for the burger, another bread item. Instead, I asked for their appetizers. No vegetarian item in that section was available. The order of salads wasn’t encouraged. I was left with the entrees’ and nachos. I opted for the entrees and this is how colorful the fare was.

Cottage Cheese with roasted vegetables

I liked the mild flavors of herbs but wasn’t impressed with the amount of paneer pieces it contained. I like loads of veggies in my dishes and felt this was a very skewed ratio. I was left chewing lot of paneer (or was it tofu? ) I  loved the crunch of the well-sauteed vegetables. The bread served with the dish was rather dry and upon coming home, I saw in the menu that I could have opted for mashed potato instead. Wish I was told about it.
The third  order was the pasta. The pasta was very well cooked in white alfredo sauce, rightly creamy and with the right amount of vegetables. Served hot with two slices of bread. The bread slices were again a tad dry but this was quickly rectified upon asking  by the addition of some garlic butter which not only took care of the dryness but also introduced a sharpness to the overall taste.

Veg Penne Pasta

I resisted the shakes/mojitos because having come to Coffee Cup, I wanted to taste their coffee. I ordered for Frappe, their cold coffee and I must say that this was one of the creamiest and tastiest coffee I have had in a long, long time.  The Espresso blended with ice cream was worth waiting for till the end of the meal.

Cafe' Frappe'

Now for the Pros and Cons:

I didn’t opt for the dessert because the coffee more than compensated for a nice end to the meal. And also because EVERY dessert was made of chocolate and me being a chocolate hater didn’t have ANY option at all. But for chocolate lovers, there is a huge array to select from. On my way out when I went downstairs again, I discovered their ice creams. Had they provided the dessert menu along with their regular one, I might have ordered one. The menu itself was a printed paper stuck to a metal plate and was in a badly worn-out state which made it very hard to read in places. They should replace it, for sure.
The vegetarian section needs more attention. None of the appetizers in the vegetarian section were available. The vegetarians will definitely cater to a decent clientele with a repleted list of vegetarian items on the menu.

The ambiance was cool, hep and allows one to let one's hair down. I was not really dressed for the place as I was equipped more for the rain, yet I was not allowed to feel out of place. The service was very attentive and prompt. The washroom was decent too. The whole space spells cool.

Coffee Cup offers an Italian and Continental cuisine. The menu contains coffees, teas, shakes, sodas, burgers, pastas and breads among other things. Though slightly expensive for a cafe, the portion sizes are very decent. The meal I ordered was enough for two.

The food: 3.5/5
Ambiance: 5/5
Service: 4/5
This was a very decent experience for me. My first time is surely not going to be the last.