Thursday, March 10, 2016

Restaurant review - Shizusan, The Asian Bistro - Phoenix mall, Pune

Ambiance - ***1/2
Menu - ****1/2
Taste - ****
Service/Price - ***1/2
Overall - ****
The bistro takes its inspiration from its mascot’s - Shizusan’s - explorations across China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea & Malaysia. The ambiance is simple and not in your face, which is a good thing. Menu is interesting. It takes you through Shizusan's journey and also has sketches of the dishes in the menu - that helps in deciding what you want to eat. Good thinking. Half a point just for this. The number of items in the menu is huge! Since I had gone there for tasting, there was a preset menu of some of their best dishes. Tried most of them. Here's the feedback on them -

Veg. Selection
  1. Edamame, Petit Pois & Truffle Oil (S) - A light green pocket and a lingering wasabi aroma Рd̩licieux! Japanese soul; French flavour. --- 3/5. Needs more flavour
  2. Crystal Vegetables (S) - Translucent dumplings with the freshest carrots, squash and crunchy pokchoy --- 4/5. Beautifully translucent. Good taste
  3. Vegetable Chui Chow (S) - Pouches of tofu, mushroom and roasted peanuts served with chilli oil --- 2.5/5. Too bland
Non - Veg. Selection
  1. Prawn & Chive (S) - Inspired by Malaysian food stalls  – tender prawn and minced chives with a pickled green chilli relish --- 4/5. Needs more spices
  2. Poached Chicken (S) - Money bag-shaped pockets of minced chicken, ginger, chestnuts, and pokchoy; Served in a tangy broth --- 4.5/5. Excellent
  3. Lamb Suimai (S) - With a filling of minced lamb, leek and coriander - some serious flavour packed into one dish --- 4/5
  4. Shizusan’s Chicken Soup Dumplings (S) - Dumplings filled with steaming hot broth of minced chicken and shiitake mushrooms. Make a small tear with your chopsticks (or fork) and then sip, slurp and savour! --- 3/5. The hot broth was good. Delicious in fact. But the dumpling itself was, meh…

Veg. Selection
  1. Shizusan’s 17 Ingredient Signature Slaw - Pickled red onions, salted plum dressing coupled with my secret ingredients --- 4.5/5. Excellent, inspite of being veg ;)
  2. Vietnamese Watermelon Salad - Fresh radish, mint, cilantro, feta, toasted almonds in a nutty chilli and garlic soy dressing --- 3/5. Would have preferred a more fresh taste
Non - Veg. Selection
  1. Tuna Carpaccio - Topped with chillies, lime, Thai fish sauce, crispy onions and burnt garlic --- 3.5/5

Veg. Selection
  1. Pepper Garlic Mushrooms - Tossed generously with Thai holy basil and Shaoxing wine --- 4/5. Nice mix of flavours
  2. Chilli Celery Cottage Cheese - Cooked with Sichuan peppers and dried red chillies --- 5/5. Best veg flavour of the evening. Just fantastic
Non - Veg. Selection
  1. Malay Style Chicken Satay - Marinated in galangal and lemongrass with the hotness of bird’s eye chilli --- 3/5. Too average and safe compared to other dishes
  2. Baby Back Ribs - Flavoured with our homemade barbecue sauce and signature spice rub --- 5/5. Now this definitely was the best non-veg dish of the evening. Succulent. Spicy. Perfectly cooked

SUSHI - (8 pieces to a plate)
Veg. Selection
  1. Sriracha Blush - Wholesome avocado, cucumber, crispy jalapeno and cream cheese --- 4/5
  2. Asparagus Tempura - Crispy asparagus centre covered in nori and a black sesame crust --- 4/5
  3. Quinoa Maki - Pickled veggies and seaweed complemented with wasabi peas --- 3/5. The idea of using Quinoa is good. But it just doesn't work that well
Non-Veg. Selection
  1. Dynamite Shrimp - A delectable shrimp tempura centre topped with Sriracha mayo --- 3/5. Needs more flavour
  2. Mud Crab Salad - A sweet and tender core with ponzu, prawn, tobiko and baby mayo --- 3.5/5
  3. Rainbow Maki - Tuna, salmon, crab stick, cucumber, tobiko --- 3.5/5. Good presentation. Tastewise, it was ok

SASHIMI - Assorted Platter of 9
Veg. Selection
  1. Crispy Portobello - Cool minced cucumber accompanied by Sriracha mayo and jalapenos --- 4/5 though it was a little tough to eat
Non-Veg. Selection
  1. Pulled Chicken Bun - Succulent chicken cooked in an Asian BBQ sauce plus caramelised onions and slaw --- Did not taste
  2. My PBJ Bao - 12-hour braised pork belly topped with a hot jalapeno slaw --- Did not taste

Veg. Selection
  1. Stir Fried Oriental Greens - Fresh coriander, light soy and crispy garlic gravy --- Did not taste
  2. Trio of Mushroom & Asparagus - Shiitake, button and oyster mushrooms with galangal, basil and baby garlic --- Did not taste
Non - Veg. Selection
  1. Steamed Thai Fish - Marinated in garlic, chilli and lime dressing. Spice meets tang in this combination --- 3/5. Needs a stronger dressing
  2. Pattani Lamb Chops - With the lip smacking Thai flavours of fresh green peppercorn, ginger and basil --- 3.5/5. Well cooked. Taste ok
  3. Minced Chicken Kaprow - Thailand’s popular staple fare cooked in red chilli, galangal and young garlic --- 3.5/5. Nice and spicy. But chicken was a little over done

  1. Thai Green Curry
    1. Veg --- Did not taste
    2. Chicken --- Did not taste

  1. Hot Stone Rice - Watch as I take this classic dish and transform it on your table right before your eyes! --- 3.5/5. A little (very little) bit of theatre to the process. Tasted fine but the rice wasn't cooked through

  1. Phad Thai Noodles - My take on the very popular sweet–spicy flat rice noodles --- 4.5/5. Spicier than most phad thai noodles that you get at other places
  2. Chilli Garlic Noodles - For those who want to play it safe and spicy --- Did not taste

  1. Peanut Butter Pie - Topped with chocolate ganache and roasted peanuts --- 4/5. Very… peanutty :)
  2. Lychee & Date Wontons - Crunchy and sweet golden brown wontons with vanilla ice cream --- 3/5. Idea is good. But didn't get a taste of either lychee or dates
  3. Tiramisu Asia - Green tea sponge, coffee dust and creamy mascarpone, a recipe from the modern bylanes of China --- 4.5/5. I don't like tiramisu. But this was quite good. Definitely best of the three

  1. Apple based and watermelon based mocktails were fantastic. Orange was ok.
  2. They don't have alcohol license yet. But they expect to get it in another month.

Service was very good and efficient. There was a little lull in the middle but that's expected considering the restaurant was full and we were a very picky bunch. Sukhmanjeet did a fantastic job of tending to our table. And he knew well what he was serving. That's very important. Thank you.

Price, what do you expect? Of course it's high. The premium being charged is for the extra efforts they have taken to tweak the dishes and making them more exciting. I would say, go there once. At least. After that, decide based on the increment that you get this year… 

Shizusan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, March 7, 2016

Recipe - Chenna Poda or Fresh cheese & Semolina cake

Chenna Poda

Ingredients - 

These ratios are for paneer/cheese made from 1 lit of milk

  1. Semolina/Rava - 3 Tbsp
  2. Sugar - 150 mg (or less or more as you prefer)
  3. Baking powder
  4. Raisins, Cashews
  5. Ghee/Clarified butter - 2 Tbsp
  6. Any other flavour you want to add (powder) - Cinnamon, vanilla etc
For paneer/cheese
  1. Milk - 1 lit
  2. Lemon juice/vinegar - 1 Tbsp max
Method - 

Making paneer/cheese
  1. Start heating milk in a pan
  2. Before it boils, put the lemon juice or vinegar in it and mix using a spoon
  3. Increase the flame to max so it starts heating faster. This speeds up the curdling process
  4. Switch off the flame just as the milk is about to boil
  5. While the milk is still warm, strain the paneer using a strainer or a muslin cloth. Strain all the water out by hanging the cloth for about 15-20 min or by twisting and pressing it by hand (be careful not to burn your hand)
  6. Save the water that comes out. Some of it will be used later
Rest of the process
  1. Once the paneer is ready, break it soften it in a bowl
  2. Mix semolina and ghee and start mixing again
  3. Add sugar and mix it well. Use the strained water to make this task easier
  4. If there are any other flavours you want to add, add half a teaspoon of that powder into the mix
  5. Pour a little more of the water to make the consistency just a little thicker than a cake batter
  6. Put the dry fruits crushed into smaller pieces.
  7. Once it's ready, put baking powder in and mix well. Don't over churn
  8. Butter a baking tray properly (or put a butter paper in it)
  9. Pour the batter in it
  10. Keep in a preheated oven at 160 Celsius (320 Fahrenheit) for about 55 min
  11. Use the standard knife/toothpick test to see if it's cooked properly at the end of it (Put the knife/toothpick vertically in the cake and see if it comes out clean)
  12. Serve as is or with a little sweet cream on the side

Friday, March 4, 2016

Restaurant Review - Social Clinic - Koregaon Park, Pune

Ambiance - **1/2
Menu - ***
Taste - **
Service/Price - ***
Overall - **1/2

Visited Social Clinic at Madness for a food tasting event along with fellow foodies. It is part of 3 sections of "Madness". The theme is that of an operation theatre. Wheelchairs instead of normal chairs, operation theatre lights on the outside, stewards and stewardesses dressed as doctors and nurses. But that's where it stops. There are tables outside & inside that have nothing to do with the theme. The cutlery and other accessories are also run of the mill and the menu only has the page titles which are more "doctory" but actual dish names or serving bowls etc. are all normal. Drinks are served in different types of glasses and things out of a chemistry lab rather than a hospital. They did mention that they wanted to tone down the theme as not everyone may like it - but then it defeats the whole purpose of having a theme. Oh and there is valet parking so you don't have to worry about that. However, do ensure that they know how to turn off the lights of your car - mine were left on for 4 hours while I was there.

There's a second "Donkey's arse" which is a bar/comedy club that is pretty nicely decorated with funky furniture and lighting. But we didn't get a chance to listen to the comedy standup. Also there's a kid's section themed around super heroes where there are various games and food items for the kids. Parents can leave their kids in that section while they have dinner downstairs or go out shopping at KP. That was closed due to some regulatory issues which they are trying to resolve.

So back to chef's table. There was a set menu for us which the chef believed were the best dishes from their kitchen. A look at their regular menu showed that it is … multi-cuisine. Mexican to American to Middle eastern to North Indian to Goan to Vietnamese to Chinese and more. I personally prefer more themed menu but then it's the restaurant's prerogative. The bar menu has the usual cocktails and mocktails plus some special ones that were served to us. So here's what we tried -

  1. Pepper Mary - Bloody mary served in capsicum. Extra salt. Tasted good
  2. Last war - Ok
  3. Beyond expectations - Alright. Not too sweet
  4. Lambi Nashili Chai - Long island iced tea with orange juice and lemon juice instead of coke. Served in a HUGE tube with tubes for everyone to drink from. Was ok. Though I love oranges, the orange flavour didn't go too well with the liquor in it
  5. Ginger based mocktail - Good. Spicy
  6. Green apple mocktail - Alright
  7. Strawberry mocktail - VERY sweet
  8. Full charge - Was ok
  9. Bellini - Sparkling wine based. Good

  1. Mushroom Galauti - based on the feedback from other foodies (I allergic to mushrooms), it was too spicy for their taste
  2. Mix veg coriander - Not good at all. Bland. However the spring onion sauce and the tomato garlic sauce server with it was amazing
  3. Chilly garlic potatoes - was just about alright. Needed more salt and garlic though
  4. Chipotle prawns - Slightly sweeter than it should be but was good nevertheless
  5. Tandoori pomfret - Very bland. And dry. Probably because it was served on a sizzler plate
  6. Murg malai tikka - Soft and juicy but there was some weird taste to it that I couldn't put a finger on. Couldn't eat more than a bite
  7. Chilly five spice chicken - Not good. The five spices need some rearrangement in it. Not a good combo

Main course
  1. Mad farmer pizza - Veg pizza. Dunno what was mad about it. Was very bland and again that weird taste from the murg malai tikka in it. Even the cheese didn't taste good
  2. Cottage cheese betook - Best dish of the evening. Sauce was amazing. Paneer was nicely cooked.
  3. Wild mushroom stuff chicken - Based on the feedback, it was too dry and needed more spices. Mashed potatoes were good. Quite good
  4. Garlic prawns - Not cooked properly. Struggled to eat
  5. Mad chef creation - Veg burger. Tasted ok. Not my thing. Might tickle some tastebuds
  6. Mutton rogan josh - Cooked well was too mild. Needed more spices
  7. Tandoori chicken momos - We were served the same momos as before and told these are tandoori chicken momos, even when we mentioned that this is the same as before

  1. Gulab Jamun Brulee - Of course sweet. Could have been good, but the brulee was not done properly. Sugar crystals were still clearly visible and not caramelized well
  2. Spanish Churos - Good. Chocolate sauce is always good
  3. Brownie with ice cream - Standard. Made well

No issues with the service. However prices are a bit on the higher side.

Overall, I believe the idea is good but they need to go full on with that theme. Even then, diners will come once for the novelty. After that, it's the food that will stick in their mind. That needs a lot of improvement.

Social Clinic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tips & Tricks - 20 tips for a better time in kitchen

Everyone who cooks faces these issues regularly. Here are some tips for a better time in the kitchen -

  1. When making dough for bajra or jowar bhakri, make it using warm water and cover it for sometime after the dough is ready. This will reduce breakage while making bhakri
  2. While making ghee or clarified butter, make it in a non-stick pan. It's doesn't stick at all and gets cleaned easily
  3. Apply a little lemon juice to apple slices. This will prevent them from becoming red
  4. While boiling potatoes, put a little turmeric powder in the water. They will boil quickly
  5. Put neem leaves in rice or any grains that are stored. It will reduce formation of larvae
  6. Before cooking spinach, if it is cut using a grinder, the green color will stay
  7. While making laddoo or similar sweets, use milk instead of water while making the sugar syrup. Tastes better
  8. When you're making curd from warm milk, if you immerse and move around alum inside the mix for a few seconds. Curd will become thicker
  9. Store dry coconut pieces inside toor dal. Coconut will not spoil
  10. While roasting brinjals for making bharta, apply a little cooking oil all over it and also make a few holes using a knife. They will roast better and steam will also nto get trapped inside
  11. Soak rice in water for sometime before cooking. The grains will remain separate and also become bigger. Also, put a little oil in the pan for this
  12. Mix peanuts with wet hands before roasting. They will roast better
  13. To remove lemon juice stains, rub ginger on it
  14. While making bhendi (okra), put a few teaspoons of curd in it. It won't become sticky
  15. Put a little lemon juice in sugar syrup so the sugar doesn't crystalize again
  16. Soak lemon in warm water for a few minutes, you will get more juice out of it
  17. Grind rock salt in the grinder every month. Helps keep the blades sharp
  18. Put a little boric powder in the corners of the kitchen to keep cockroaches away
  19. If your hand is smelling of onions or fish, rub besan (chick pea flour) on it and wash. Smell will go away
  20. Carrot, Tomoto, Cucumber, Radish, beet etc. become stale and soft after a few days. Soak them in salt water overnight. They will become fresh again

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Recipe - Nested Eggs

1. Eggs - 3/4 as needed
2. Onions - 2 big
3. Chilli powder - 2 tsp (as per taste)
4. Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
5. Garam masala - 1 tsp (optional)
6. Salt - 1.5 tsp (as per taste)
7. Cumin seeds - 2 tsp
8. Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
9. Ginger/garlic paste - 1 tsp
10. Oil - Preferably peanut, but any not too strong oil will do - 1 Tbsp

Method -
1. Cut the onions into half and then along the the length into 2-3mm thick pieces
2. Heat oil in a flat pan
3. Put mustard and cumin seeds. When they start splitting, put the onions and ginger garlic paste and mix well. Cover the pan and keep the flame low-medium so the onions cook well. Remember, the base of this dish are the onions so you can put more if you wanna increase the quantity.
4. Once the onions are golden brown, put all the spices and mix well. Let it cook for another 3-4 minutes on low-medium flame
5. Put 2 Tbsp of water and mix well. Then spread the mix properly in the pan while the flame is set to low.
6. With a spoon, dig out the mix at 4 places in the mix. Break the eggs and fill the holes with one egg each. Ensure that the egg yolk doesn't break while doing this.
7. Cover the pan and let the eggs cook for 5-7 minutes
8. While serving, cut out each egg with some onion mix on its side. Serve with hot chapati.