Friday, March 27, 2015


Most of the foodies look forward to a new cuisine getting launched in Hyderabad, what with a dearth of internationally exciting and happening scene here. In such circumstances, an announcement of a Tex-Mex cuisine was much looked forward to.
I was pretty excited to be invited to the launch of Habanero, an upscale Tex-Mex restaurant opening in Hi-Tech city.
At 8 pm, on the very day of launch, the restaurant had drawn a decent crowd. As the evening progressed, it was teeming with diners, a sure sign of people hungry to taste at Habanero. The ambiance was rustic Mexican and had the waiters dressed traditionally  in the wide-brimmed Mexican Sombrero and a Serape, a large cape-like garment around their neck.
A percussionist complemented the experience perfectly.
The menu consisted of both veg and non- veg options and had all the Mexican regulars like Burritos, Enchiladas, Tacos, Nachos...
We foodies started the meal with Nachos and a dip made of beans, tomatoes and peppers. The nachos were very crisp and I felt we could have them forever. The accompanying dip seemed reflective of Indian flavors and went well with the Nachos.

Nachos with beans dip
Another dip to accompany the nachos was the Queso dip. This seemed to be made of cheese, mayonnaise and spiced with finely chopped green chillies. The chillies did add some hotness to the dish but in its absence, the dish could use more spices.

Queso dip

Another starter that we found to be quite different and tasty were the Zucchini fritters. These were made of cheese and grated Zucchini bound with bread, and shallow fried. The fritters were topped with chopped onions, tomatoes and ranch, served on a bed of tangy sauce.

Zucchini fritters

We foodies had the privilege of not only being introduction to the Tex-Mex cuisine by Chef Dan Durkin, but also happened to watch a live demo of making a simple salsa with chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies. Medium spicy was what the foodies had asked for and the spiciness level matched exactly.

Chef Dan Durkin

The stand-out dish was the Tostada salad which had the beans, tomatoes, pineapple, cheese, lettuce spread on a very crisp, thin and crunchy corm tortilla base served with honey mustard vinaigrette.
Another noteworthy dish was the Chilli Cheese Fries. A nice spread of the potato fries topped with melted cheese, onions, tomatoes and appropriate seasoning.

Chilli Cheese fries
In the mains, we got to taste Soft Shell Tacos. Among the three options for filling, I chose the traditional re-fried beans and grilled vegetables. The filling inside two crisp corn taco shells was very much in proportion to its shells. This was accompanied with sour cream (great), salsa ( good) and chopped jalapenos. Guacamole was supposed to be served but they didn't have a stock of it. The tacos were quite good but the accompanying rice turned out to be blandish and could hold some more flavors.

Soft shell tacos 
Desserts brought Churros, doughnut sticks rolled in cinnamon sugar, served with dark chocolate sauce for dipping. The Churros were delightfully crisp and the sauce too was thick and tasty but then the Churros  were rolled in too much sugar. Asking the restaurant to go light on sugar would  help strike the right balance between salt and sweet.

Churros con Chocolate

The second dessert we got to taste was the Snickers Chimichanga served in strawberry sauce and accompanied with ice cream. We had the Snickers Chimichanga cut into two so we could share. The Chimichanga was perfectly baked and had a delightful filling of gooey melted Snickers candy but was again too sweet for me to handle. The melting ice-cream too didn't help enhance the flavors.

Snickers Chimichanga

Most of the dishes we got to taste were quite good. You need to specify your spice requirements to the chef to get the flavors right.
The few misses we had can be contributed to the undue rush on the day of launch. The service was pretty delayed too.
Overall, worth going back to.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The hero of Mahabharat: Karna

Among all the Amar Chitra Katha comics read in my childhood, my favorite one was that on Karna, perhaps because of his being an under-dog, his honesty and selflessness. Came across this story of his generosity and wanted to save it for a greater audience. Here it is:

Once Krishna and Arjuna were having a chat while walking towards a village. Arjuna wanted to know from Krishna why he thought Karna was a role model for all Danas (donations) and not Arjuna himself.
Krishna didn’t answer him straight away and thought a little demonstration would be the apt way to make him understand. Wanting to teach him an important lesson, Krishna snapped his fingers and came up with an idea.

Krishna came up with a challenge for both!

The mountains beside the path they were walking on turned into gold. Krishna said “Arjuna, distribute these two mountains of gold among the villagers, but you must donate every last bit of gold”.

Arjuna went into the village, and proclaimed he was going to donate gold to every villager, and asked them to gather near the mountain. The villagers sang his praises and Arjuna walked towards the mountain with a huffed up chest. For two days and two continuous nights Arjuna shoveled gold from the mountain and donated to each villager. The mountains did not diminish in their slightest.
Most villagers came back and stood in queue within minutes. After a while, Arjuna, started feeling exhausted, but not ready to let go of his ego just yet, told Krishna he couldn’t go on any longer without rest.

Krishna then called Karna. “You must donate every last bit of this mountain, Karna” he told him. Karna called two villagers. “You see those two mountains?” Karna asked, “those two mountains of gold are yours to do with as you please” he said, and walked away.

Arjuna sat dumbfounded and wondered ‘Why hadn’t this thought occurred to him?’.

And here’s the answer (and a great lesson)!
Krishna smiled mischievously and told him “Arjuna, subconsciously, you yourself were attracted to the gold, you regretfully gave it away to each villager, giving them what you thought was a generous amount. Thus the size of your donation to each villager depended only on your imagination. Karna holds no such reservations. Look at him walking away after giving away a fortune, he doesn’t expect people to sing his praises, he doesn’t even care if people talk good or bad about him behind his back.

That is the sign of a man already on the path of enlightenment.”.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

I was getting quite bored and wanted to watch any movie. Happened to read some reviews and found that this movie had some good feedback.
I went with not much expectation about this two hour Yash-Raj movie set in a very small town (Haridwar) with Ayushmann Khurana and Bhumi Pednekar (debut) as leads. Bhumi acts well with no apparent display of reticence.
The backdrop of a dusty amber tinge is persistent throughout the movie set in a very small town. The narrow alleys reminded me of Jaisalmer  where every home was once upon a time a palace/ part of a palace or the soldier/common man/servant quarters. Set in the 90s, Ayushmann  runs his father's cassette shop and is a big Kumar Sanu fan. He has the ear phones plugged in at all times.
The movie starts with Ayushmann going to see a girl and when he finds out that the girl is obese, he refuses to marry her. The movies speaks about a middle class household, where beating up a 25 year old to coerce him into a marriage he is against, is ok.
Of course, Ayushmann gets married to the girl in a mass marriage ceremony but rebels by refusing to consummate the marriage. At one point of time he insults her by speaking about her to his friends. Aghast at what he thinks of her, she leave his home and files for a divorce. How, they as a couple, overcome all these hurdles and come together forms the rest of the story. The climax which shows the hero winning in a competition is a big heart-warming moment in the movie.
Watching the movie was like watching a Sanjeev Kumar-Jaya Bhaduri pairing of old times. A nice narration of two human beings who are basically good people but some trivial misunderstandings separate the two.
Many matters incidental to middle class living are dealt with. That they do not have big villainous characters in their midst; that issues aren't really very complicated; that it is ok to lie to get your child married; that some sort of hypocrisy is common in our lives. It also speaks of how unprepared are the bride and the groom in middle class homes  about marriage and its responsibilities. All these small things make up the movie.
No where does one find melodrama or any over-the-top acting. Superbly sharp dialogs are the main strength of the movie. There are moments of comedy, very subtle and sweet.
Ayushmann (and his costumes) does great justice to his character by adapting his body language to exactly suit the demeanor of a middle class family guy.
The message is that marriage is a responsibility that works when two people make an honest effort to want to keep it together. The 'bua' or the aunt's character is also used to portray that sometimes it is too late to make up...especially after all is lost.
The movie ends with a firm tongue-in-the-cheek group song of the 90s with the hero and heroine changing clothes every ten seconds with a tune suspiciously close to 'dekha hain pehli baar' song. Kumar Sanu does have a blink and miss cameo.
The movie transports you to Amol Palekar's times and will find you slip into that placatory mood, as though there is nothing to hurry back to.
Smile and peace is what you leave the theater with.
I rate it a 3.5/5.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Pasta Bar Veneto

While in search of an alternative to the good old FSM, we happened to hear good reviews of  The Pasta Bar Veneto and decided to visit the place. After a very long time we decided on a dinner, inconsistent with our family practice of having a light supper. And am I glad that we did! As you step onto the terrace, the dim light and the cool breeze create a magic.
We selected a table and proceeded to order. The lighting was dim and even the presence of a lamp did nothing to enable our reading of the menu. Moreover, a noisy batch of people who had occupied a vintage position of the city view were reveling noisily and spoiling the quietness of the ambiance.
Reluctantly, we moved to the inside of the restaurant. Even the lighting inside didn't help us. Our mobile torches enabled us to read the menu and place our orders. Upon being asked, the waiter recommended the Verdure alla Griglia, a baked vegetable dish consisting of various vegetables and served in a paprika and tomato sauce, (Rs. 295)

Verdure alla Griglia
I don't claim to have a thorough knowledge of Italian food. But I should have had my antenna up seeing the paprika and tomato sauce in its description.
On returning home, I looked up 'Verdure alla Griglia'  and found that it was a dish basically made by grilling vegetables and sprinkle them with herbs like parsley and olive oil. And here, I was served with a dish dunked in tomato sauce. The grilled vegetables were all nice and crisp, the mashed potato in its midst, awesome, but when the sauce hit the palate, it was pure Indian flavors, making this an unsavory experience. Also be cautious of the very tough piece of cottage cheese served in this Italian dish.
Next order was my favorite, Caesar's salad (Rs.175)  The lettuce was crisp, all right but eating deep fried croutons was a  first time experience. The oily smell was a put-off. We had to ask for additional dressing (we were given olive oil, Parmesan cheese and honeyed mustard) to sharpen the taste..

Caesar's salad

Our order of Cheese Garlic Bread topped with mozzarella, four to a plate, was priced at Rs.135. They were well baked and tasty. But addition of some chilly flakes would have done magic.

Cheese Garlic Bread

I had called the manager ahead to reserve a table and ask for availability of vegetarian dishes. He ensured that good care would be taken of us. Despite this promise, I found a serious lack of attention from the waiter(s). No one spent time to explain the dishes, ask us for our preferences or customization. Each dish very quickly followed another and at one point of time we had three dishes on our table. We didn't know which ones to eat without the other going cold. The experience was like 'eat quickly and leave'. I couldn't but help comparing Peperoncino experience with this one. Every waiter there was so knowledgeable and so patient in explaining the menu! I realize now that perhaps a change in the tables had resulted in disinterested waiters.

The manager came at this point to ask if the meal was ok. I told him about my disappointment with the Indianized sauce in the grilled vegetables. He then asked me if I wanted a white or tomato sauce for my pasta, the next order that I was contemplating. I said I prefer a white sauce.

The waiter who had first served while we had sat outside, re-appeared now and apologized for not being able to attend to us and asked what we were looking for. I again told him that we were looking for an Italian experience and not 'spicy' Indian. While we were still talking, another waiter appeared with a 'white sauce' pasta without even our asking for it and again even before we could have our previous dish. But our waiter took care and sent away that dish and instead agreed with our selection of Pesto di Pomodoro as one being closest to an Italian experience (sun-dried tomatoes, pine nut pesto, garlic, tossed with cream and pasta, Rs. 295). It was great in taste and served with a side of a slice of bread. Once this waiter, Vijay, took over, it was all smooth-sailing from then on. He got some veggies added to the preparation, ordered another slice of the bread, and in general took care that we were satisfied with the dish.

Pesto di Pomodoro

Ended with mock-tail which was a complimentary offer, perhaps because of my complaint about the grilled vegetables.
The portion sizes were decent and hence I can call them value for money.
The big minus for me was the placement of the opposite chairs so close to the table that me and my co-diner found ourselves kicking each other under the table throughout the meal. We had to make a conscious effort to keep our feet very close to our body...something like sitting in the economy class of an aeroplane. The narrow table width and the continuous dumping of the dishes in front of us made it so crowded that we had to push all condiments and cutlery placed on table aside to make some space for our plates.
The total bill came to Rs.1145/- and because of absence of light, added to the feeling of 'hurry up and get going' attitude, we ended up paying a good  tip on top of service charges without checking the bill! Left with a feeling that not enough was done paying attention to the customer. Had so looked forward to a relaxed dining experience!
I might just go back as there is definitely a promise of tastes (despite the slightly high-priced dishes).

Even the bill was prepared without our indicating the end of our meal.