Monday, October 20, 2014

Wimpy’s Burgers New Delhi

All right, this one is about Wimpy’s at Delhi. Now Delhi and Gurgaon seem to be going through a transformation and have hit upon the phase of cafes. And there are joints every here and there wich serve burgers. But there are some things which just are the originls and the basics. These are the classics. They have existed when no one else existed. Wimpy’s and Nirula’s to me are those classics. Much before Mcdonalds came to India. There are memories of growing up in Delhi and going to these outlets and hanging out.

Unfortunately, Wimpy’s  is now limited to a very few places. The only one that I am aware of is one at Hauz Khas- at Aurbindo Market. If you are driving from Essex farms or IIT and driving on the road to AIIMs, on your left is the Aurbindo Place Market. The road next to this market leads to Hauz Khas Village.
Now it’s a basic takeaway outlet and there is some casual outdoor seating. The menu is limited and I usually opt for the lamb burgers here. They have a hamburger- which is a lamb burger of smaller size, and the maxi burger is the same burger, but bigger size. I usually go for the double maxi burger.

Now the burger itself is very basic and simple, and perhaps this why I love it. No riff raffs like the new cafes and gourmet bugers. It doesn’t boast anything other than two lamb patties, which are juicy and with cabbage, and mayonnaise and a cheese slice. That’s it. Perfectly simply. You get to relish the juicy patty, its beautiful. I don’t know if it’s the simplicity or the memories of growing up, but I just love the burgers at Wimpy’s.  other fare includes the fish burgers, chicken nuggets and chicken burgers. They do serve pizzas as well. However for me, it is as simple as going for the double maxi burger.

31, Aurobindo Place Market, Hauz Khas, New Delhi

011 26512763

Dine Esty

All right this one is about Dine Esty. Dine Esty is a Chinese Japanese restaurant in Gurgaon, near the Huda City Center, in the building adjoining the Radisson Suites. Now there is a bit of history to my experiences to this restaurant. This restaurant has been there for close 10 years now. I have been in Gurgaon since 1999 and I had seen this restaurant over the years. I had in my initial years headed out to Bercos for a few years and the Golden Dragon. Due to certain shortcoming on these places, I started with Dine Esty and boy, its been good. Over the years, if I have to go to Chinese in Gurgaon- this is the place for me.

The interiors are pretty good, modern and yet a bit with the Chinese influence. The music is normally western. As you enter, there is a bar to the left. Further in and on the right is the diner section. Further ahead, there is a kitchen where they make sushi and sashimi. I have probably gone there innumerable times so I’ll talk about a few dishes.

In terms of starters, my regular favorite is the chicken salt and pepper, which is usually smaller pieces of diced chicken, which is golden fried in a batter, and with garlic and spring onions. This is the best starter in my humble opinion, which I order almost every time. There is the Xian chilli chicken with bigger pieces of chicken fried with stripes of capsicums.

The serve a large variety of dim sums, although to be honest, I prefer momos’s outside , but that’s my choice and taste. I did try recently the Singapore chilli prawns. They were a bit sweet and spicy at the same time. Again wet, sticky and gooey texture with red sauce.  The prawns Id say were just descent and I have had recently much better prawns at canton spice co. The prawns were probably a bit smaller and that you felt that there was too much of batter which made the prawn less to find. Not bad, but not that great.

In the soups, my favorite is the Mun Chow soup with minced onion, veggies and chicken soup. This usually comes topped with the crispy fried noodles on the top. Other wise, you can go for the hot sour soup, lemon coriander or the Talumein. All the soups are good. The only soup which I didn’t seem to like is the sweet corn soup, which seemed canned soup to me in texture.

Coming to main course, I usually go in for the chicken in hot garlic sauce. The Kung Pao chicken is great. Also, the chicken in XO sauce, and home style are great. I really like there sauces and they are really good. The chicken with bamboo shoot and black mushroom seem to be pretty bland and simple.

They do serve crab, whole fish, lamb and pork, although I don’t have a review as I usually stick to the chicken. In the fish, I can tell you that the fish in butter chilli pepper garlic is very tasty and recommended. With veggies and a white sauce, I love this preparation of fish.

The one dish that I always have here is also the American chopsuey. Now I don’t know whats so American, but the crispy fried noodles topped with hot red tangy sauce with chicken and topped with a fried egg. Boy, it is a delight to see the egg yellow break and spread over the sauce. A spoonful of this with crunchy noodles getting soaked in the sauce.

The fried rice, corn kernel  and spring onion rice are good. The mixed fried rice is also my favorite. The pan fried noodles, are also good, they are crispy on one end and a bit soft and liquidy on the other end. It comes with loads of veggies, so don’t under estimate the quantity.  The hakka noodles and chilli garlic noodles are pretty standard.

So all in all, the food quality is very good. Now different people have different perceptions of what Chinese should be. For me, most of the Chinese you get in India is Indian Chinese at the end of the day. I personally love this more than anything else. Staying abroad, I have had Chinese, but I don’t exactly like it. In India, the Indian Chinese has more pronounced flavors, more garlic and chilli, more crispy fried.

So essentially, I love Dine Esty and it satisfies my craving for Chinese. I call Bite Quest and get an additional 15% discount. The overall cost of this restaurant is a bit on the higher side, where a meal for two may cost approx. Rs 2000- Rs 2500/-.

My recommendation is yes for a visit to this place. I would definitely go again.

Time Square Building, B Block, Sushant Lok 1, Gurgaon

Canton Spice Co., Cyber Hub, Gurgaon

All right, the third one in the row.  Same crazy night when me and my childhood mate were painting the streets of Gurgaon red.  So after the two joints, our third place to check out was Canton. Now the recommendation  was to definitely have the sea food and the lamb. We came in and the were not too sure about this place until we said, what the heck, lets go for it.

The interiors were pretty basic to be honest. Not too stereotyped Chinese and probably simple wooden décor. We looked at the menu although we knew it wouldn’t be a meal. We had already had food elsewhere and probably needed some starters.  We settled in for the Kung Pao Prawns and a couple of LIT’s.

While LIT's are LIT’s, it was a bit strong and I think I have had better tastings LIT’s. The prawns came soon and when I saw it, I was startled. Startled because it had hardly any quantity. It came in a small plate – like the saucer in the cup plate set. I was instantly smiling and thinking, bloody Gurgaon, everyone is out to rip you. Imagine what 700 bucks gets you- a small plate with some prawns. Amazing!

Anyways, the prawns were served and looked gorgeous. A little oil flowing creepily in  the side. Some green shallots, some peanuts, sliced garlic in a red thick sauce. Interesting. In some ways, I perhaps thought I was having small quantities of tapas ;-). Now one bit into the prawns and tell you what- I am stunned. Unbelievable and out of world. I have never tasted something as delicious as this. As it is, I crave for Indian Chinese, and then I come over here to have the prawns. I am speechless. The taste is amazing. Not too hot and spicy, with a delicious saucy texture.  I simply loved it. The quality of prawns were good. And the spices were well balanced. I loved the peanuts on the dish.

Just to give you a context, I tried another prawn starters a few days later at my most favorite restaurant. The prawns at canton won it hands down.
Highly recommended and yes, I do want to come here again to give it a try for another dish perhaps.

17-18, Cyber Hub, DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Soda Bottle Opener Wala, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon

All right this, this one is again about the second joint at cyber hub which we tried out in the same evening. Well, it always helps if you have local help and my friend who works nearby at DLF Square knew it all inside out. In some ways I am tempted to admit that he was like Jason Statham in the transporter. A few drinks and he was smooth, maneuvering effortlessly through the crowds, ladies and the  pubs to reach Soda Bottle Opener Wala. I had heard previously of this joint from another friend and I was eager to visit.
Now, parsi food. I had no clue. To be honest and not disrespectful, I haven’t been aware too much of Parsi culture or food other than what we have seen in Bollywood movies, which are usually more stereotyped. 
Anyway, we enter, its quite a set up. Like the ambience and its got this casual feel. Like the parsi bakeries. There is an outide seating for open air and apparently a waiting as well. One step into through the doors, w come across this sort of cubicle with jas of cookies etc. Small tables, scattered across, interesting artefacts such as vintage telephones,  round glass tables, wooden chairs, hanging lights. There is a bar and a pool table further up, along with a washroom having a pic of Freddie Mercury.
The décor is quite tasteful and well selected. Good music. That night there was to be a stand up comedian who was to perform.

Coming to the food- we ordered for a parsi style fried chicken and the famous keema pao. Well the fried chicken aka Marghi Na Farachi. This was crunchy and served in a tin box, with onions and a green chutney. The one portion had about 5 pieces. I wished there was a bit more, though, and the chicken was juicy and yum.  I loved this one with the green chutney.
Next came the Dikra Kiri, the sodabottle special which has ganne ka juice or fresh sugar cane juice with Bacardi. This was quite the combo and honestly I was amazed. Tasted really nice. Highly recommended.
Next we came to the keema pao. This was gorgeous. Mutton mince, cooked indian style, along with pao (breads). First few bites, and it was ok, but, it was so yum that you keep on eating and when you finish,  you crave for more. It was quite delicious. At the end of the whole eating of what we had ordered, we were tempted to order more either here or go try out something else.
The stand up comedian who did turn up was descent, although, it was hardly for 5 minutes and perhaps I expected better and more out of him. The wau it was publicized, I thought it would have been a longer act, but this turned out quite short to be honest. But yes, I did learn that for parsi’s the hindi is not too strong, and hence leads to more double meaning talks, there has to be alcohol and swearing J.

All in all, I loved it and would definitely visit again.  Highly recommended.
0124 6518801
+91 8527636633
DLF Cyber City  › 3, Cyber Hub, DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon

Beer Café, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon

All right, I have not exactly been in touch with Gurgaon over the years, as I usually visit twice a  year and for may be a month in total. Hence I end up going to the regular spots, which I knew and craved for from the time when I used to stay here in Gurgaon. This time, and this year, I had been hearing about Cyber Hub and I was curious to figure it out. The occasion was my childhood friend, with whom I have grown up, right through school and well into my MBA as well. It had been quite some time, about 7 years to be honest, when we hadn’t caught up properly (with the exclusion of short visit a few months back). So this was historic and we had so many tales and memories to talk about.

So we got into cyber hub and boy I was impressed. The first place he took me was titled the Beer Café and as the name suggests, it was all about beer and snack food.  More casual atmosphere, people from surrounding offices were dropping in after work for a quick few rounds. A few couples trying to talk heart to heart (where it was the good looking girl talking on and on, while the man drank the beer!!!!)(sorry, but not being a sexist) Some expats and foreigners working were also partying out. So electrifying atmosphere all in all. Large screen TV’s and sports, made it full of energy and buzz. The layout was probably a bit cramped , but may be due to the sheer amount of people trying to get in there.

Now let come to the food. They had a selection of various finger foods along with very vast array of beers- and to be honest, quite a few which I wasn’t even aware of. Anyways, we were debating between the sausage platter or the Calcutta Chilli Chicken. Well we finally settled for the Calcutta Chilli Chicken. Now I have always had glorious fascinations of Indian Chinese in particular, and when it comes to Calcutta Chinese- it reminds me of tangra and the bald Mr Saha from Calcutta who went to the extent of getting us some chilli sauce. This came pretty soon and boy it looked wow. The chicken were big chunks which deep dried with some batter, which made it really crunchy from the outside. Inside, the chicken was juicy. The stir fry with the diced capsicum, onions, burnt garlic and chives was perfect. The occasional green chilli, my friend did the justice to the word chilli chicken.

All in all, I liked the dish and yes, I would like to visit again, may be for another match.
The Beer Cafe
2-C, Ground Floor, Tower- 10 C,
DLF Phase 2, Cybercity,
0124- 425 3636

Monday, October 13, 2014

HImanshu Rao Dhabha, NH8, Near Rewari

All right… this one is about my dhabha experience on NH8. Well, I had driven down from Gurgaon to my new flat at Dharuheda and after an entire day of arranging things for the new flat, I was starving. At one time I was tempted of driving further to Neemrana for a lunch at the fort. However, one of my friends who was there last week at the Neemrana fort advised that the lunch ends at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was approx. 4:30, so no point driving down there. So in turn I was advised to check out the Rao Family Dhabha which while coming to Manesar is on the left.

Now I was driving from Dharuheda and the first dhabha on the left- it was called Himanshu Rao’s Family Hotel and Caterers. To be honest, I always believed and thought that the real Dhabha’s exist in Punjab and that those in Haryana and Rajasthan are only a compromise, and I’d rather end up eating at a McDonalds or any other branded joint. Nonetheless, I was starving and I didn’t really expect anything. So there we drove into the little service lane. I wasn’t sure if this was the one, but who cares. As we got off the car, this was a descent sized enclosure and a number of cars were parked there. There was a cemented area with chairs and tables in the open air. There was a roofed area with a number of huge size coolers. Another areas with a small lawn.

It was close to 5:00 P.M. and I was initially thinking of some tea and snacks. However, looking at the menu, I decided to  go for a meal intself. So we ordered a mix veg, a dal fry and roti’s and palak paneer. The food didn’t take too long to be honest. First a salad was served along with chunky chaat masala. Next came the picked chillies, and then the steel cutlery.  In about 10 minutes, the daal fry came. This was followed by the two other dishes and the roti’s with butter. Man, I was in for a shock. The food looked delicious. One bite of the roti and the sabji, and it was heaven. I have no words to tell you that the food was so great and awesome. The mix veg was a bit oily, well spiced and very delicious. It had pea, beans, onions, capsicums, cottage cheese. The Dal Fry was the yellow dal or yellow lentils along with spices. Again, amazing and delicious. Out of the world. The tadka of onions and tomatoes was beautiful. The consistency was not too thick and not too liquidy. Beautiful. The palak paneer ( spinach and cottage cheese) was pretty descent. It is not supposed to be too spiced, the paneer was fresh. The rotis were freshly baked from the tandoor with the dash of butter. All in all the experience was what I was not expecting or looking for, but you know how it feels – when you get something that you didn’t expect. The food was fresh and delicious. Just at a loss of words to be honest. So good that I had extra roti’s just to savor the food.
At last we ordered the tea and asked for the special chai and this was again even better. The best part of the meal was perhaps the chai at the end. The dhabha food and experience at a day when dhabhas are fast changing was overwhelming. The meal cost nothing to be honest. I could have paid much more for this food at any other place. About 300 bucks. Very good value for money.

While driving back from this dhabha, I realized there were clos to 6 or 7 dhabhsa with the name rao and minor alterations. One was old Rao, another Harsha Rao. So not sure what the history is in this stretch with the name Rao, but I would highly recommend the one I went to – Himanshu Rao Family Hotels and Caterers. NH-8, Opposite HP Petrol Pump, Malpura (Rewari).
Phone: 9416590306, 9416590307, 9992885617.

Jaipurà 200 K.M. is Dharuheraà1 K.M. from Dharuhera is Himanshu Rao Hotelà Delhi.

Spectra, Leela Ambience, Gurgaon

Now the background is that I had just returned to India after six months and the occasion was a team lunch. I wanted to out the tea, for a good lavish lunch, preferably with a good spread and at five star hotel location. So as I looked up the options, there was the Oberoi’s, The Westin and The Leela. We decided to settle for the Leela hotel, which was offering a 10% discount and buffet was on till 3:30, perhaps the longest, as the others finished by 3.

Now we were a group of 5 people and it was the Navratra time as well. The Leela hotel as such is one of the best and the ambience was wow. Upscale, modern and chic. As we settled in, we were offered for complimentary drinks as part of the buffet. I settled in for a lemon ice tea. And the we head towards our gastronomical journey.
First I will come to the spread and talk about it. So the spread did seem big, and what the hotel did was spread it out over a large area. There was the Asian section with Dim Sums, a few stir fries of pork, chicken and veggies. Fried Rice and vegetable noodles.

The Indian side had a few assortments of dal, sabji, chicken tikkas, chicken Biryani, chicken curry. The vegetarian had a few more options of dal makhani, paneer etc.
There was a continental sections which had breads, a cheese platter, a meat platter, breadsticks. Chicken casseroles, and a veg counterpart. Next came the Italian section which had fresh/ live pasta’s being made to order. Pizza slices, lasagna. There was a Chinese chicken soup and a veg counterpart in the Indian style. Another section did the meats and sausages being grilled to your choice. There was steaks for order to your taste and wishes.  For the vegetarians there were the sticks of capsicum diced, onions and cottage cheese.
A small little counter at the back was serving a middle eastern fare which had chicken shawarma, hummus, babaganoush and whole lot of other dips.
The dessert section was quite impressive, with mousse, cakes, pastries, gulab jamuns and cookies and cakes.
Now let’s come to the food.  I started with the dimsums and they were average. The Chinese spread with the chicken in hot garlic sauce and vegetable noodles. The chicken was not boneless and I nearly fell of my chair. I mean, why would you have a chicken in Chinese sauce and have it boned. I think I have boned version is really small eateries or at the thekas but no, not at a five star hotel. The noodles were cold. Considering I really crave for Indian Chinese or Chinese when I come to India, I was quite disappointed.
The chicken tikkas while well marinated, was feebly warm. The chicken biryani again was descent- but I wished it had more chicken and was hot. Again very mild warm. The chicken curry was average.
The chicken lasagna was good. Again, not too hot, but was delicious and I liked it. The pizza slice was descent. I ordered for a lamb sausage and this was nice. Juicy and tasteful, although to be honest I have had better sausages in India, but I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it. The mince was chunky and juicy.
The chicken shawarma was a disaster. Cold chicken and not wow at all. I ordered for a stick of the capsicum and cottage cheese to be barbequed and this was again, just ok.
The chicken casserole with mushrooms and chicken in white sauce was ok.

Overall comments on the food.
While the ambience and the first impression of the Leela and its restaurant was overwhelming and subsequently a spread that had such variety, the food fell short by miles. I guess, at the end of the day, it was more of a desi five star I think. You can keep a spread which boasts to be pretentiously multi cuisine, but if the food is not up to the mark, then it makes no difference. For indian guests who crave for continental spread, I wouldn’t recommend- saying that you will get better food elsewhere. For the international guests, well, you’d probably have better choice elsewhere to be honest.

I’ll be honest, for a large part of my life when I lived in India and I craved for continental food, I might have thought wow. But now after living abroad for close to a decade, I was in a catch 22 situation. I was in India and craving for Indian food. Leela didn’t have such a good spread of Indian food in the buffet. Like seriously, cold chicken tikkas, and average chicken curry. Come on guys, is that your best.
Now because I do keep having international food, by virtue of staying abroad, I can tell you that the international selection was just about average and probably misleading. Not great at all.

The biggest feedback was that all the food was cold or rather luke warm. Nothing was hot. The service was about ok.

I still cant believe how average the food was. May be I expected something extra ordinary from a place like Leela and its brand, but this was a tragedy.
The only saving grace in the entire buffet was the dessert section. Amazing chocolate mouse, tarts, and cakes. The chocolate custard cakes variants were blissful. The gulab jamuns were warm and good. The apple pie was good and so were the cookies.

So to summarize. I would probably never go again to Leela Spectra for a lunch buffet ever again I think and I wouldn’t recommend either. Go take your chances with Westin or may be Crown Plaza. For a whooping price of approx Rs 2400 per person, I’d say you are just paying for the brand. For the food people at Leela- please heat your food, and think about making it worthwhile for your customers.