Pallette at Lower Parel


Penne in Alfredo Sauce

Went to a place called Pallette, “an urban kitchen” from the guys who run Le Mangii. Cheap and comforting Italian fare. The Penne in the cheesy white sauce was al dente and the Chocolate Mousse Cake was to die for. At Kamala Mills in Lower Parel. Go during lunchtime.

Chocolate Mousse Pastry

Dobos Tortes, Sigree Global Grill, Mumbai



Those pastries that you see on the tray are called Dobos Tortes. Hungarian in origin, it is basically a sponge cake with layers of chocolate buttercream but what makes it really special is that caramel on the top. That caramel is supposed to be wet enough to keep the torte moist and yet not runny enough to slip down from the side. Tricky but oh so tasty!


Naturally Infused Spirits in the New Cocktail Menu at Mamagoto


We went on our honeymoon to Cambodia! We knew about Angkor Wat. We discovered Pub Street. So while the mornings were spent looking at the largest religious monument in the whole wide world – also the location for that all important last scene of In the Mood for Love – the evenings (read nights and late nights) were spent around these two busy lanes in Siem Reap lines with bars and restaurants. There we landed up in a bar called The Warehouse who used to infuse their own vodkas. Everything from Lemongrass Infused Vodka to Kampot Pepper-Infused Vodka. We used to try one shot after the other and the ones we liked we used to ask them to turn it into a cocktail.
We never imagined that something like this was possible in India. Till we walked into the Hill Road outlet of Mamagoto one fine evening recently. They have got a new cocktail menu and one cursory glance we were grinning from ear to ear. Mamagoto has come up with four new flavoured spirits all done in-house and all infused naturally. Thyme Infused Gin, Kaffir Lime Infused Tequila, Juniper Berry Vodka Infusion and Vanilla Pod Infused Vodka.

While you can simply have these infused spirits on the rocks – 30ml shot over ice – Mamagoto has come up with some fantastic cocktails using those naturally-infused spirits. We tried almost all the cocktails on the new menu.
First up was the Thyme and Elderflower Martini. Elderflower has been used in food and drink right from the Roman times. The Elderflower Cordial and the Elderflower Lemonade are found on many cafe menus abroad. Jamie Oliver for one loves cooking with elderflower. So, it’s great to find an Indian bar and restaurant using the fresh and acidic, a tad perfumed sweetness of the elderflower. The Thyme Infused Gin is used in this one and shaken with the Elderflower essence and lime.

The Dark Juniper Cooler uses the Juniper Berry Vodka Infusion and blends it with natural blueberry puree, along with sugar and lime. This is clearly the sexiest looking cocktail on the new menu although the berry blast in the mouth somehow pushes the vodka somewhere in the background. Works as the first drink but when the spirits are high, you might want to choose something more potent.

Next was what they call the Mexican Confusion. What can possibly be confusing about a drink which has Kaffir Lime Infused Tequila? Lychee Juice. Yes, it is a challenging combo but the presence of the Kaffir Lime beats the candied sweetness of the lychee hands down. To make the most of this one, you can ask the bartender to go easy on the lychee juice and let the kaffir lime show its true colours.

And that brings us to the best cocktail on the new Mamagoto menu – Vanilla Passion! That homemade Vanilla Pod Infused Vodka is made to mate with Passion Fruit Extract and you get this stunning tall glass of spirited magic. They also add white chocolate to the mix but white chocolate has only cocoa butter and tastes like vanilla on its own. So you can’t taste the white chocolate separately but it does give the body to the drink, I was told. This one’s really the must drink item and can play on loop for the night.

What to eat with all that beautiful alcohol? Well, Mamagoto’s also put out a limited Bar Nibbles menu. Standard chakna, but with a twist. Like the Home Made Mama’s Peanuts are peanuts roasted with crushed kaffir lime leaves. The Potato Wedges come with this killer Chilli Mayo dip. But what will really blow your mind is the Sambal dip which is served with the Prawn Crackers. If you want get into the meat of the matter, there’s the Robata Grill Sticks. The Chicken Stick Platter had two sticks each of Indonesian, Yakitori and Satay. The Indonesian stick with its soya sauce marinade was the best of the lot.

If you are not into the naturally infused spirits and want to stick to the tried-and-tested cocktails, Mamagoto is now also serving pitchers for their mojitos, margaritas, daiquiris and sangrias. There are three kinds of sangria – the orange and passion fruit sangria, the green apple and cinnamon sangria and the classic pomegranate sangria. Also, they are running an offer of unlimited cocktails for Rs 899. Given the prices of their cocktails – ranging from Rs 459 to Rs 499 – it’s an offer you can’t refuse.
Literally translated, Mamagoto means “to play with food”. But they have just taken things to the next level by playing with drinks. Cheers!

Why I love MasterChef US!



If the three versions of MasterChef, the popular cooking contest format, showing on Indian television can be compared to the Grand Slam tennis tournaments, MasterChef Australia is like the Wimbledon, MasterChef UK like the French Open and MasterChef US is, well, like the US Open.

There is, of course, no doubt that MasterChef UK is an excruciating exercise in boredom; the real debate is whether MasterChef US can hold a spoon to MasterChef Australia. Well there have been more nays than yays, but I for one enjoy the American avatar. Here’s why…

Competition: MasterChef US is all about competition. Yes, it’s a food show and they do celebrate good cooking but the focus is more about who’s advancing and who’s getting eliminated. The judges actually encourage the competition and often pit contestants against each other. Unlike the Aussie version, the show’s not bothered with the sympathy-seeking backstories of the contestants or what they did after being ousted. It’s a battle at the benches and there is always a palpable tension in the air, lending a certain no-nonsense feel to the show.

Speed: The American version is way faster than the Australian show. Both run for an hour in the Indian telecast but the US show really gets on with it. While a MasterChef Australia episode would have one Invention Test round panning over the entire hour, MasterChef US will manage to fit in a Mystery Box Challenge and a Pressure Test within the same time.

Raw: While one can argue that the show from Down Under is very feel-good, with contestants hugging and kissing each other as if they are long-lost siblings from Kumbh mela, we all know that’s not how it is in the real world. MasterChef US shows that ugly side and how! Contestants rarely help each other, curse each other openly and really turn up the heat. Not surprising then that the Indian telecast is often a whole lot of beeps and sugar-coated subtitles.

No India quota: The biggest let-down of MasterChef Australia, and this has started from Season 4, is the forced presence of the Indian contestant. Yes, Rishi was good but it’s usually a case of getting more people to watch the show in India. How can a Deepali, whose best dish is dhokla and who cannot identify silken tofu, be in the Top 24 of all home cooks in Australia? There are lots of Indians in America too and the show plays here, but till now no one has been put there to garner TRPs.

Gordon Ramsay: Yes, it’s great fun to watch Chef Gordon outside the Hell’s Kitchen. He’s the star of MasterChef US and he knows it. The other two judges –– Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot –– simply rally around him. Gordon’s not the scary Ramsay on the show. It’s Joe who plays the rude card, while Gordon keeps his tongue firmly in cheek. When he is not tasting, that is.

Written for The Telegraph:

Malvani vs Goan Fish Curry




Fish is usually available in local restaurants in Mumbai either as fried or in a Malvani gravy. The Malvani gravy is like a melting pot of all Indian spices including dry red chillies, coriander seeds, cloves, black cardamons, green cardamoms, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, dry coconut, poppy seeds, fennel seeds and even star anise. But some restaurants also serve the Goan fish curry which has an altogether different concoction of spices. There’s dry red chillies and scraped coconut in this one too, but the real difference comes in the use of ginger and garlic, tamarind, fenugreek (methi) seeds and green chillies. While the Malvani gravy is red in colour, the Goan curry usually has an orange hue. In the picture above is Indian Mackerel (Bangda) in Goan Fish Curry served with Parboiled Rice (Ukda Chawaal) at Konkan Swad in Malad.

The Curious Nomenclature of the Waikiki Pizza



Domino’s used to called it Hawaiian Pizza. Now the small – but many times tastier – pizzerias in the country call the chicken-and-pineapple pizzas “Waikiki”. I google Waikiki and the result showed “Waikiki is a beachfront neighbourhood of Honolulu, on the south shore of the island of O’ahu, in Hawaii, United States. Waikiki is best known for Waikiki Beach, the white sand beach shoreline fronting the neighbourhood.” And they don’t call their pizzas as Waikiki like the bhel guy on the streets of Mumbai doesn’t sell Mumbai Bhel. Maybe it’s just the association of cheese-and-pineapple with Hawaii that’s prompted people to call that pizza Hawaiian or Waikiki. Either way, it’s super tasty!

Kebabs at Sigree Global Grill, Mumbai



Sunday Special: Teriyaki Chargrilled Chicken Wings, Jeera Murgh Tikka and Harissa BBQ Chicken resting on the live grill at the table in Sigree Global Grill, Malad, Mumbai. When they reach the table they are already cooked and the live grill just keeps the meat warm and if kept waiting a little too long, the chunks start drying up. The Teriyaki Wings were the most flavourful with the sauce really infused in the chicken skin.