In Photographs

Asado: Mumbai’s first Latin American fine dining restaurant

We recently dined at Mumbai’s first Latin American fine-dining restaurant named Asado. The word Asado comes from a social event – more like a barbeque session – in Argentina. The term is used for a range of BBQ techniques. Now you get an understanding of what exactly this new restaurant is all about!

During my visit, I must admit that I loved the the Mexican Seafood soup the most. But what took so long to set up a LatAm themed restaurant in Mumbai? And does it match up to Mumbaikars’ expectations? The following interview with the owner Trimaan Singh Chandock, Director of Concept Development, should provide some clarity on the background of this special themed restaurant in Bandra.

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ASADO_STREET SETTING

Asado is believed to be the first Latin American restaurant in Mumbai. What do you think took so long to set up one in the city? Also, what inspired you to take the lead?

We thought of coming up with a Latin American fine dine restaurant about a year ago. Opening a new restaurant needs a lot of work, especially when it is a specialised cuisine. We didn’t have a reference point and nor did we want to follow someone. So working on the menu, the ambience, sourcing raw materials for kitchen and building the right team, all together meant a lot of work.

I have travelled to Brazil, Argentina and Mexico a couple of time and have always been inspired by their food habits. Every time I visited, I have enjoyed their al fresco style street restaurants and their grills. And that’s where I got my inspiration for ASADO.

How would you describe Latin American cuisine?

Latin American cuisine refers to typical food, beverage and cooking styles common to many countries and cultures in highly diverse areas of the country. Some items typical of Latin American cuisine include maize-based dishes (tortillas, tamales, tacos, Flautas, Empanada, Enchilada) and various salsas and other condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, mole, chimichuri, Habanero chili, aji, Jalapeno). These spices are generally what gives the Latin American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country in Latin America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. So a simple sauce of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs can taste different by mixing the style and quantity that originally referred to a specific combination of sautéed or braised aromatics, which exists only in the Latin American cuisine. Also there are some special fusions because there is an influence from Spanish, Italian and Japanese communities that are there. This also helps bring in variety to our cusine.

Have there been any alterations made to recipes to suit the Indian palate? If yes, give us an example.

No, the food from our kitchen is absolutely authentic. We believe in authenticity, and that is the reason why we also import almost most of our ingredients like Cheese and Tortillas so that we do justice with the preparation.

What is the kind of research that went into putting together the menu? Did you and your team speak with people or any other process?

Yes, there is a lot of research work that has been done before we finalized our food and drinks menu. We have been to Latin America, different Latin Cuisine speciality restaurants in London, Dubai to find out the best dishes. We also learnt a lot through managing Loco Chino – our Tex Mex QSR in Mumbai. The key elements to our success have been Mr Jaspal Chandock, our MD, our talented chef and the brilliant team at Balu Hospitality.

How has the response been so far? Are Mumbaikars welcoming this new cuisine like you’d hoped it would? Do share some best experiences with us.

So far the response has been are amazing. Just in the first week of opening, and we are trending as the second best restaurant on Zomato. We had the courage to open a Latin American speciality Restaurant because of Mumbai, and touch wood we have been welcomed and appreciated by foodies, bloggers and media in the very first week of opening. Asado did a full house on the first weekend.

Quinoa Salad_ASADO

Quinoa Salad

Mexican Sea Food Soup_ASADO

Mexican Seafood Soup

Katafi Pastry Prawn_ASADO (1)

Katafi Pastry Prawn

Chicken Enchilada_ASADO

Chicken Enchilada

Chicken and Bacon Wrap Dates Antichucho_ASADO (1)

Chicken and Bacon Wrap Dates Antichucho

Cauliflower Pistachio and Gorgonzola Soup_ASADO

Cauliflower Pistachio and Gorgonzola Soup

Caramelized Pork Belly Salad_ASADO

Caramelized Pork Belly Salad

Baked Parmesen Polenta_ASADO

Baked Parmesen Polenta

One-word descriptions

Ambience: Chic

Food and drinks: Not-that-great

Service: Clumsy

Music: Super! feet-tapping

Pocket-heavy? Decent. INR 2000 for two

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My awe-inspiring experience at Adlabs Imagica

If it wasn’t for my sister, I would have still not seen Adlabs Imagica. If you’re working, and you have your weekends off, you know what it’s like to stretch your Saturday slumber till afternoon. But no, my sister insisted that we go to Imagica and explore the celebrated theme park. So I woke earlier than usual and took off to the outskirts of Mumbai. I was still not quite awake even when I reached the entrance of Adlabs Imagica, and my first impression of the place, to put it in simple words, wasn’t all that great.

After crossing the main entrance, I landed on the other side that brought to life fairytales that were read to us when we were kids. For a moment, I was swept out of reality and and transported to the fantasy world where there was a dashing hero, a villain, a beautiful scenery, lots of picturesque lands and water bodies, grand palaces, soothing music as I strolled along, and then at once, my eyes landed on the roller coaster! The kid inside me sprang to life and my sleep took a nap of its own, while I zoomed on Nitro, my fave roller coaster at Adlabs Imagica.

One after another, I took some of the most scary, freaky but thrilling roller coaster rides. The Dare Drop seemed scary too, but again, what doesn’t seem scary at Imagica? For me, it was a matter of letting loose and having fun. I got off one roller coaster and ran towards the other. Between these I stopped for a boat ride which was relaxing and didn’t match up to my excitement level. What was totally ironic is that, my Sister who dragged me to Imagica, refused to get on to any ride. So when the time came to try out the themed attractions such as Mr India, Wrath of the Gods, I for India and Prince of the Dark Waters, I made a concious effort to leak out less information about the rides and took her with me. She did scream her lungs out, but well, at least she managed to enjoy a bit of Imagica 🙂

She took the front seat during our meal breaks. For lunch, we marched towards The Imagica Capital, an Indian buffet restaurant, which caters to most of the crowd. As a staunch non-vegetarian, I was not quite impressed when I saw only veg dishes listed on the menu. The main course had only one chicken dish. Not that I was hungry and wanted to hog on, but the little chicken on the menu didn’t disappoint.

The Street Food Festival was on, and my sister relished every bit of it. The pani puri was spicy and fiery. While she was pre-occupied with the extensive chaat menu, I couldn’t wait to go out and get back to the field of fun!

Hunger started seeping in towards the evening. So we quickly took a tea break at the Red Bonnet American Diner. The decor made up of vintage cars, dinning tables and quite the American style was impressive, and the range of burgers didn’t let us down.

I covered as much as I could on that one Saturday, and I couldn’t imagine leaving Imagica without getting onto the Scream Machine. It was scary. Even the thought was scary. I gathered all the courage I had and decided to my make it my last ride for the day. Most onlookers are filled with a mixture of dread and excitement at the thought of boarding the Scream Machine for the height it touches. When the machine first started, I had my heart in my mouth. As it started getting faster, I began to relax and within two minutes, I felt so close to the sky. I could kiss it. But just as we were spinning and going higher at the same time, the ride was coming to an end. I was transported back to reality. The sky seemed far, again as my feet touched the ground.

If I’m quizzed about my most awe-inspiring experience at Adlabs Imagica, it will be this Scream Machine. It’s scary, no doubt. But it’s a fantastic challenge you could counter your fear with!

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Otto Infinito Review: Eight to Infinite

(Please note: This review was first published on Indian Food Freak)

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The Mediterranean (Med) cuisine is majorly made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, wholegrain and olive oil. Let’s not skip the fact that this is considered one of the healthiest diets across the globe. Gradually, a lot of Mumbaikars have started adapting to the Med diet, including office goers. So, if you are one of them and if your office is situated in BKC, you know which restaurant I am referring to. This toddler Med restaurant focuses on eight cuisines from countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea with a goal to offer infinite options around the same theme.

Apart from the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner, Otto Infinito has a pick-up-and-go as well as a delivery option. I was at this spacious, softly-lit restaurant for lunch last week, and was welcomed with cheerful smiles. My companion and I settled in, and were pleasantly surprised to be offered freshly baked breads. The server is en route to every table with a basket of multigrain and seasame bread. The breads were soft and light, and served with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbed butter. An amazing start! I was handed the lunch menu, which surprisingly featured more veg recipes than non-veg. But Med cuisine is a lot about fresh food, so this menu is not a letdown.

Selecting a drink is never easy for me as there’s so much to choose from. However, we settled on a Bittersweet Martini (Limoncini, Campari, fresh lime, sugar) which was strong, and Otto Ginger Blend, a mix of fresh ginger, red chillies, vanilla, black pepper and lime soda. The latter was an excellent choice considering the rising temperature. It was all ginger-y!

So as it happens, we ate brilliantly at Otto Infinito.  What I loved was the Harissa Spiced Prawn— Five flavourful prawns cooked in hot chilli sauce.  Next to seduce my taste buds was the Chicken Lasagna. I couldn’t help but compare it to the lasagna that’s served at Candies in Bandra. It has a thin layer of batter and the minced chicken spreads its flavourful juices across the egg and spices. Lovely! Unlike the regular round pizzas, the Quattro Formaggi was a 12” X 10” square pizza. What I loved about this dish is that the crust did not get soggy even after 10 minutes. The Grilled Fish in Olive Oil and Italian lemon came on a bed of sautéed spinach and baby potatoes were its neighbours. I loved those cute and tiny unpeeled potatoes more than the black pomfret. The fish was grilled to perfection. This was all good. The only recipe that was not-so-good was the Balsamic Chicken and Green Apple Salad. We started off with this dish, but it didn’t have the same impact as the ones mentioned above. It was presented beautifully and reminded me of an aircraft. Four pieces of chicken were laid out like the wings of the aircraft, but it lacked taste, and was mainly lettuce. There was very little of green apple and chicken.

That was what I loved. This is what I loved the most – Hazelnut Baked Cheesecake. Before placing an order for dessert, I was tied between blueberry cheesecake and hazelnut cheesecake. I’m glad I chose the Hazelnut Baked Cheesecake. If you’re on diet, put it on hold! You must try this little delicacy. It was consistently delicious. On the other hand, we also ordered for a Hot Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Ice Cream. This was served in an unusual manner. We were expecting both the ingredients in two different vessels, but surprise! Surprise! It was all mixed and served in an old-fashioned glass.

Otto Infinito is an elegant restaurant with beautiful interiors. I liked the lamps that were suspended from the ceiling. Italian and Arabic numbers topped the playlist. The restaurant can house around 150 hungry people – 100 inside and 50 outside. I would rate service 10 on 10. No 9.9! Every time my attendant, David, came to our table, the service was garnished with a smile. I like!

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Bittersweet Martini & Otto Ginger Blends

Grilled Fish in Olive Oil and Italian Lemon

Harissa Spiced Prawns

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Quattro Formaggi

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Mexifornia at California Pizza Kitchen

Today, I skipped my evening snack. Why? I was attending the bloggers’ meet at California Pizza Kitchen to try out the menu that’s rolling out for the Mexican festival called Mexifornia from April 29 to May 19. CPK boasts of (in a nice way) celebrating international festivals and appealing to various palates globally, and this culinary festival is to celebrate Mexico’s favourite holiday — Cinco De Mayo. So here’s my verdict!

Cranberry Mist: I love when I start a meal like this – by sipping on a refreshing drink. I chose to give alcohol some rest and called for this mocktail. Cranberry Mist is a blend of cranberry juice and lime juice topped with soda. The slight tint of lime was lovely. Just the kind of drink I was longing for.

Enchiladas: A corn tortilla roll that was filled with vegetables and chicken. For the vegetarians, it was vegetables and paneer. The roll was soft and spicy. Something you can definitely look forward to at the fest.

Chicken/ Paneer Taco with Mexican Rice: This came with tiny pieces of chicken/ Panner. I wouldn’t call it the best recipe, but it’s okay. My palate refuses to give this a green signal. The rice turned out to be a little sour due to the lime that was squeezed over it. Not a fan.

Chicken-something Pizza: I couldn’t register what exactly the pizza was called, but all you need to know is that it was delicious. Shredded chicken coupled with onion that’s sliced straight down from the centre were lying on a thick crust bed. The crust was soft and fluffy. I like!

Baja Supreme Pizza: Ah! This was the highlight of the show. Just before it arrived at my table, I was trying hard to make the vegetarians feel bad about their food preferences. This Baja Pizza was a tight slap on my face. It turned out to be the best recipe! It was a burst of spice in my mouth. The orange sauce was playing it well. Chopped mushrooms, onions, beans and corn toned down the spice.

Churros: We ended on a perfectly sweet note! The Spanish donuts made it to our table with a bowl of Chocolate Mousse. It was a sugar rush and as I like it to be, a perfect ending! 🙂

Cranberry Mist

Cranberry Mist

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Enchiladas

 

Chicken Tacos with Mexican Rice

Chicken Tacos with Mexican Rice

 

Paneer Tacos with Mexican Rice

Paneer Tacos with Mexican Rice

 

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Baja Supreme Pizza

Baja Supreme Pizza

 

Churros

Churros

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Gola, Chaat, Pav Bhaji and Falooda at Juhu Beach

When it comes to hogging, we don’t care about the crowd at Juhu Beach. The plan to go to Juhu was born in 5 minutes. Two other friends and I hailed an auto and headed straight to this crowd pulling beach, all for the love of Golas.

When we reached Juhu beach, we couldn’t resist anything. We started with Golas which slowly extended to chaat – bhel puri, shev puri and dahi puri. We couldn’t keep our eyes off the huge thava of Bombay pav bhaji. So we ate that as well. We were feeling stuffed, but couldn’t resist kulfi falooda. Now, since we’ve come all the way here, we thought of completing our hogging session with some dessert.

IT WAS ALL SO SO DE-LI-CIOUS!

We were full till the brim. So much so that we were afraid to sneeze or even laugh. One of my friends said, “If I only sneeze, all that I’ve eaten will come out through my nose.” The other friend was afraid to laugh because of the same reason. I had to return home and file three stories, but alas, how could I after stuffing myself so much? Well, I didn’t. I procrastinated my work till this morning.

Take a look at the delicious food!

Gola Syrups

Dahi Puri

Pav Bhaji

Kulfi Falooda

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Everything Fishy at Versova Fish Festival 2013

Fish! The true Goan in me wakes up at the sound of this word. Fish sounds delicious, looks gorgeous and tastes extraordinary. Last evening, my gal pals and I were lucky enough to make it to the third and final day of the Versova Fish Festival. The ground was decorated beautifully with fish nets and thermocol art.

With over 40 stalls serving all types of cooked fish, we couldn’t decide where to begin. However, we had fried Bombay Duck (Bombil) that was as fresh as we could imagine, Prawn Pizza that turned out to be quite delicious. At least, we didn’t need any sauce to alter the taste of the pizza. Next, we settled for a Prawns Gravy and Squids that were coupled perfectly with the rice rotis.

After hogging as much as we could, we walked to towards a counter that served Falooda Kulfi. This had to be the end of our evening. No more could we in take.

Scroll down to get a glimpse of what you missed!

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Missed A ‘G’, May Be? Not At All!

Pardon my poor knowledge about home furnishings, but when I first saw this hoarding, I thought they missed a “G”. See it for yourself.

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P.S. OODLIFE is a joint venture between Sycamore, a construction conglomerate from Dubai and Uyork, a designing and manufacturing factory for furniture. OODLIFE is the brand name used for marketing modern contemporary furniture across the world, and has established itself in China, India, Europe, Middle East, Japan and Australia.

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‘Chai’ Needs To Be Loved And Missed

For, chai needs to be loved just for itself.
Not because it is fragrant, flavoured, exotic, from new trees or old.
Not because it can bring you relief, respite, anti-oxidants.
Not because it is strong, or mild, or just right, or vaccum-sealed. 
Just because it is chai and chai is good (unless it has been treated badly).

– Annie Zaidi, Author, Known Turf

Cutting Chai Memories

 

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Serafina: Does Better In New York, I Guess

Last evening, I accompanied my colleague to the much hyped, New York based, Italian restaurant – Serafina at Palladium. The Mumbai unit launched after four chefs returned from a three-month training session in New York, and within a month-and-a-half trained the rest.

My take on the restaurant:

  • The ambiance looked classy with every wall featuring a painting.
  • Drinks weren’t disappointing. I sipped on the Ginger and Basil Mojito. The drink was refreshing, and had white rum as it’s base. All in all, well balanced.
  • With Regard to the food – I was quite disappointed. Most of the dishes (mostly, seafood) that we’d ordered turned out to be salty. The salads are very fresh and flavourful. Pizzas are freshly baked (you can supervise the baking process as well), and are famous for the thin crust. They all come in 12″. However, the ham on the pizza was unevenly distributed. The Lamp Chops definitely get a thumbs up from me. The meat was tender and delicious.
  • We were quite unlucky to not get a chance to taste Serafina‘s famous Tiramisu. A quick chat with the chef conveyed that cream was unavailable. However, we tried Serafina‘s home-made cake that turned out to be the best. It was served hot with a scoop of ice cream. The cake simply melts in your mouth leaving behind the taste of chocolate.
  • Items are priced between Rs. 300 to Rs. 1500 for food items. Drinks start at Rs. 500.
  • Service was excellent. We did not have one particular server, but every server that attended to us was trained very well, and could deliver answers to every question we asked.

Click here to know more on Serafina.

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First Adventure Calling: Coorg

By the end of September, I’d almost geared up for the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) that was shortly to commence in Mumbai. I even confirmed my 7 days leave with my boss. But a brief conversation with a close buddy from Goa set my mind thinking. I was mainly hungry for a break from my routine work schedule. So if I wanted a break, why not accept my friend’s invitation and drive down to Coorg? So with a heavy heart, I dropped the idea of attending MFF and packed my bags to see Kodagu (Coorg), a district in Karnataka that’s pretty famous for its scenic beauty and local coffee. But let me admit – neither of us had our research in place. Not even the route we were taking to reach Coorg. Truly, adventurous? Not at all! We were just being susegad Goans.

Alright! On a serious note – the moment I read articles on the tempting coffee Coorg produces and the delicious pork cooked with exclusive coorgi spices, I was convinced that my first adventure trip will not go in vain. The excitement began to grow, and I was way eager about my trip.

As soon as I stepped out of the car at Madikeri, the breeze whispered something into my ears, and the very next moment I was hugging my sweater. Within a couple of minutes we found ourselves shelter in a 3BHK bungalow in the heart of the headquarters. After giving ourselves an hour to freshen up, we were out on the street, hunting for the best restaurant that’d serve us Coorgi pork. Coorg Cuisine was lucky enough to have us grace their restaurant for lunch. We ordered for pork, rajma, mutton curry, steamed rice and rice rotis. The rajma turned out to be very delicious and the pork burnt our tongues with its spicy nature. That was the first and last time we ate pork in Coorg. Even though I’m not a mutton fan, I must admit that it was delicious.

The one item that was never ignored during any of our meals was coffee! I could roam all over with a flask, hoping it would automatically refill every time I poured myself a cup of coffee. However, I had enough to quench my thirst for coffee. Our breakfast had a stable menu of idli and medu vada on all three days that was at its best. I’m quite surprised; mutton doesn’t get its due coverage. It seems to be one of Coorg’s top food items. The one food item that’s undoubtedly disappointing is cottage cheese (Paneer). Every restaurant served us an edible form of rubber. And that really saddened me. Just for that time, I missed Mumbai.

On all three days, we started our journey around 10 am. On day two it was the much hyped Abbi Falls that we visited, followed by the breathtaking track to the Mandalapatti Hills. The journey through the ardous mountainous roads got us swinging from one end of the jeep to the other. But when I was on top of the hill I didn’t mind the bumpy ride. It was worth it. I was surrounded by hills on all sides. While some had their tips covered with clouds, other hills glowed with the rays of the sun. They looked so pretty in different shades of green. It felt amazing to be on top of the world.

On day three, we had plans of visiting the Elephant Training Camp at Dubare, but were unsuccessful due to our timings. However, we went river-rafting for about half an hour.  It was fun rowing the boat. Some of my friends had thoughts of going swimming, but the water was quite cold. We then headed to Nisargadhama, an island surrounded by river Cauvery. It looks more like a picnic spot surrounded by bamboo trees. You need to cross the hanging bridge to reach the forest with tree-top shelters and eventually the Deer park. Once again we were unfortunate with the Elephants due to our bad timing. There was not much to see here, so we immediately took off for Bylakuppe, also known as mini-Tibet. This place is very famous for the Golden Buddhist Temple that houses 7000 odd monks who are pursuing their monastic education. We weren’t very lucky, so we didn’t get a chance to enter the Temple. Check out the place for amazing ethnic Tibetan artefacts. We then tried to make it to the Harangi Dam, but our eventful day was interrupted when we halted to ask for directions. We were told that no one was allowed to visit the dam. So we reversed and took the road going back to Madikeri. It was evening, so we thought of dropping by Raja Seat to witness the sunset. The weather was getting cold now. Nevertheless, we got the scene where the sun was setting, but was blocked by a huge cloud. That was one of the best moments I had in Coorg. The rays reflected on the mountains through the cloud making it an amazing experience. If you think our day was coming to an end; no, it wasn’t. We then went to a store that was selling all kinds of Coorgi specialties that included spices, honey, chocolates, masalas as well as coffee. We made our purchases and headed to our bungalow. Visiting this store was the best decision, because on the following day the whole of Coorg was deserted due to the agitation regarding river Cauvery. It was our last day at the hill station. Somehow we managed to reach the Bangalore-Pune highway by 8 pm, and then sped to Goa.

In my conclusion, I’d say Coorg is quite an over-hyped place. The food is not economical. It costs more than it costs in Mumbai and Goa. The scenic beauty is fabulous. Stop your car in front of any person belonging to that place, and they will never refuse help. It’s quite funny how they responded in Hindi. We’d roll up the windows and try to talk in their accent, and then continue laughing for the rest of our journey. However, Coorg is a lovely getaway if you want a break from the hustle-bustle of the city. Just rent out a cottage, sip on some coffee, visit local places and allow nature to talk to you.

Abbi Falls

Our Ride to the Hills

Mountainous Roads

Surprised? 🙂

Nisargadhama

Deer Park

The Golden Buddhist Temple at Bylakuppe

An Old Monk 😉

Food. Food. Food 😀

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