Archive for March 2007

Cozy Tete-a-tete lunch in Pune

March 30, 2007




Which is the best place for a cozy tête-à-tête lunch near Deccan in Pune? Khyber? Good food, but it’s always crowded. Poona Coffee House? It’s disappeared! Good Luck? Not quite the ambiance. Vaishali? The whole world will come to know!

I’ll tell you what – just head down Bhandarkar Road to Raviraj. It has just the right blend of ambience, food and service for you to enjoy your snug heart-to-heart (romantic?) lunch in undisturbed serenity. [By the way, I am talking of lunch – at night the place is quite crowded].

Tell me – is there such a thing as a ‘romantic meal’? As far as my experience goes, my attempts at so-called romantic meals always ended in unmitigated disasters! Whenever the food was terrific, the romance was a disaster; and when the romance was memorable, the food was forgettable! Maybe I’m a ‘mindful’ sort of chap and can focus only on one thing at a time. But I’ll tell you about my disastrous romantic meals later. [Like my most romantic meal where the pasta was so insipid that I had no choice but to accord my total undivided attention to my attractive companion!] Now let’s talk the lunch I enjoyed at Raviraj recently.

Outside it was noisy, suffocating and scorching blazing hot [the sweltering summer heat in Pune is worse than Delhi now-a-days]. Inside it was tranquil, pristine and soothingly cool. We sat comfortably in the pleasantly muted, placid environment whispering sweet nothings to each other. No one disturbed us. [That’s the beauty of this place – they don’t disturb you at all. You can sit for hours in peace, undisturbed, uninterrupted, and enjoy your tête-à-tête. Should I say the service is discreet? Subtle? Nonexistent? Maybe inconspicuous, or conspicuous by its absence! If you are in a hurry, go elsewhere.]

We beckoned the waiter, placed our order and let it take its time. The Tandoori Chicken was really good – cooked just right, delicious – reminded me of Moti Mahal Daryaganj Delhi [I’m not exaggerating!]. The Mutton Masala was okay – nothing to write home about. The specialty of the place is the Malai Kofta – rich, tasty and filling. The Methi Malai Mutter (one of my favorite veg dishes) was quite heavenly, but not that delectable to mesmerize me totally. Of course I made an effort and I tried to desist from eating too mindfully. This enabled me to tactfully apportion my attentions between the food and my charming companion [I think so – overall the meal was not a disaster].

They serve Mughlai, Chinese and Continental. And there is beer, spirits and wine too for the spirited. It’s a nice place to have a cozy tête-à-tête or leisurely repast on a lazy afternoon.


Potato Ice Cream

March 19, 2007


Boil a litre of milk on a gentle fire till it thickens and becomes half of the original quantity.Boil a kilo of potatoes and after peeling them, mash them nicely and add a little water and pass the pulp through a sieve to make it even. Add this even pulp to the thickened milk and cook it for a few minutes. Add a little pista and chironji chopped fine, and then add 300 grams of sugar (a bit more if you like your ice cream sweeter).Cool it. Add a few drops of fine essence of your choice. Put it into a freezer and allow it to set. 

Then, dear fellow foodie, please make it, eat it and let me know how it tastes, for I don’t have the courage (and stomach) to try out  this exotic recipe and sample this wacky potato ice cream myself! 

This recipe is from a cute little book I discovered in my bookcase called POTATO DISHES compiled by the Pusa Institute Ladies’ Association and published by Popular Prakashan Mumbai in 1965 priced for a “princely” sum of Rs. 2.00 ( yes, you read right, the book costs, or costed, Rupees Two only!). [I wonder how this delightful cookbook entered my bookcase – probably my mother may have bought it back then!] 

Whenever I feel low, I leaf through my book shelves and pick out a cookbook. I browse through the appetizing recipes, and in my mind’s eye I “eat” and relish the yummy lip-smacking cuisine, my mouth waters, my troubles seem to go away, my spirits are lifted and I feel good. [Earlier, when I was in Mumbai, I used to rush out and actually eat the dish, or something similar in lieu, which further raised my spirits to a new high; but now that I am languishing in the back of beyond, I just savor the scrumptious food in my imagination which is probably good for my weight!]. It’s true – just the thought of good food can elevate you to a happy plane of living. 


This 80 page book has a collection of 120 recipes arranged in 8 sections, all featuring the ubiquitous potato as the main ingredient, which were compiled during a cookery exhibition of potato dishes organized by the Pusa Institute Ladies’ Association in New Delhi. 

Whatever potato delicacies you could imagine like the curries, koftas, dums, sukhas, rasedars, samosas, bondas, kachories, puris, parathas, snacks, pakoras, chips, chaats, cutlets, rolls and other run of the mill stuff is there. It’s the exotic, out of the ordinary, at times seemingly outlandish, dishes that make interesting reading.  

Let’s have a look at section 7 – the Cakes section. [The recipe for Potato Ice-Cream, described above, features in this section – I didn’t know Ice Cream was a cake!]. The Potato Chocolate Cake, Potato Soufflé and Potato Doughnut sound interesting. 

In section 8, they’ve incorporated and integrated potatoes into all the known Indian sweets – Rosogullas, Chum Chums, Gulab Jamuns, Jalebis, Kheers, Halwas, Pedas and Burfis. I wonder how they will taste and am tempted to try a few. 

I tried a recipe called Alpama, a nice spicy and healthy savory, comprising cashewnuts, dals, suji, and of course the ubiquitous potato, served piping hot – it was delicious and invigorating!  

And while you try out the Potato Ice Cream, I’ll try something substantial like Potato Paneer or the Nargis Potato Kabab. 

Till Next Time – Happy Eating! 





March 19, 2007






What is a perfect end to a rich and heavy Mughlai Meal? A kulfi? Well, I prefer a cool refreshing falooda. Like the ice cold Shahi Gulab Falooda I always have at Shalimar in Bhendi Bazar after devouring my favorite tandoori raan masala and other spicy rich non-veg delights. 

And what is a perfect end to a spicy Kolhapuri Meal? It’s a Mastani – no doubt about it – a cool, refreshing, lip-smaking Mastani to quench your fires and perk you up with it’s blissful sweet cool revitalizing effect. 

Mastani is to Pune what Falooda is to Mumbai. You get Mastani at many places in Pune. The first time I tasted Mastani when I was a small boy was at Kawre Cold drink House near Ganpati Chowk off Laxmi Road, but now I feel that their Mastani isn’t as good as before, and Punekar’s have their favorites like Sujata in Sadashiv Peth, which is close to the “Kolhapuri” food district of Pune near Peru Gate, but I like the Mastani at Gujar Mastani House near City Pride on Satara Road. 

At Gujar, I order a “Bajirao Mastani”. If you look at the menu, you will get confused, as there feature all types of fancy Mastanis fortified with dry fruits and all sorts of rich high-calorie embellishments, which will in fact will make you feel heavy and slothful, rather than quench, stimulate, revitalize and perk you up. So remember the golden rule, the “signature” no-frills authentic item will always be at the top of the menu, least expensive in that class – so go ahead and order it. 

The contents of the tall glass comprise an attractively appetizing looking and fragrant layered creamy milky liquid of increasing density topped with ice-cream, with a straw thrust vertically through.  The glass is so full, that in order not to spill the stuff, you first sip through the straw a bit of the deliciously sweet pineapple syrup at the bottom, which feels heavenly as it mingles with, permeates, and overcomes, the spicy “Kolhapuri” aftertaste on your tongue. [And if you are just plain parched, dehydrated and thirsty, the first sweet sip itself is deliciously thirst-quenching]. 

Then you have small dollops of vanilla and pineapple ice-creams that adorn the crown. After that you can savor the Mastani as you please, but I like to stir the contents into a creamy mélange and spoon the delicious concoction onto my tongue, roll it in my mouth and savor every drop, rather than hastily suck the liquid via the straw straight into my throat down the hatch. The “Bajirao Mastani” at Gujar is pineapple flavored and the small juicy pieces of pineapple at the end leave you with a tangy feeling. 


I don’t know if you get “Mastani” in Mumbai, or elsewhere. But next time you visit Pune, do enjoy a Mastani. Eat a “Kolhapuri” meal to your heart’s content and end off with a Mastani, or just have one if you are feeling parched on a hot summer day as a thirst-quencher. And tell me, didn’t you feel refreshed and perked up? 



Fast Food

March 2, 2007






My wife observes and indulges in (and consequently subjects me to) all types of fasts. She fasts on Mondays, Chaturthies and any occasion she wants to fast. Actually, her “fasts” are not true fasts in the rigorous real sense, only a change of food, to what I call “fast food” which is quite delicious and maybe a bit more calorie-rich than normal food (that’s the “fast food” I’m referring to, not the burgers and pizza you thought!).


My favorite fast food is the Kachori. No! No! It’s not the scrumptious Rajasthani style lip-smacking Khasta Kachori I’m referring to, but the Sweet Kachori served by most Udipi eateries in and around Mumbai and Pune.


Take boiled mashed potato, add a bit of sabudana peeth (sago flour) for binding, a pinch of salt and sugar and knead into a dough.


Roast fresh juicy grated coconut with sugar, khus khus, dry fruit like raisins, cashews, till it is nice and crispy “khamang” – and your filling is ready.

You must roast in pure ghee, as oil is not permitted on a “fast”.


Make largish round patties with the potato dough on the outside and a  generous portion of the roasted sweet coconut filling inside and deep fry till nicely crusty, crisp and light brown and your sweet kachori is done (fast and simple isn’t it?).


Serve with a katori of whipped sweetened curds and your “fast food” is ready to eat.


You will be tempted to break a piece of Kachori, dip it in the curds and then eat it – don’t do it, that’s not the right way to eat sweet kachori and you’ll ruin the experience as the concoction will turn soggy. What you must do is to place a chunk of crisp hot kachori on your tongue and close your eyes. Now savor the “khamang” crunchy taste of the lively roasted coconut filling for some time, then press your tongue on your palate and roll till the heavenly sweet filling and the crisp potato covering amalgamate. It’s really yummy!


Now is the time to pop in a spoon of sweet curds, and let the feisty assortment of flavors dance and mingle on your tongue till the food dissolves in your mouth and disappears into you giving you a feeling of supreme satisfaction. [I once saw a movie called “Blow Hot Blow Cold” in the seventies – the art of eating a sweet kachori is similar: hot and cold, hot and cold, crunchy and soft, crunchy and soft, sweet and sour, sweet and sour!].


I first tasted the sweet kachori at a place called Apsara near Hirabaug on

Tilak Road

in Pune. It’s still my favorite. Vihar, at Churchgate in Mumbai, serves an excellent sweet kachori too; and I’m sure you’ll find it on the menu of almost all Udipi restaurants.


So next time you want to relish your “fast” you know which “fast food” to eat, in addition to the usual sabudana khichadi, sabudana wade and ratalyacha kees.


Happy fasting!




Ceylon Bake House

March 1, 2007

MOUTHWATERING MEMORIES [ Idiappam and Chilli Chicken at
Ceylon Bake House ]


The last time I visited Ceylon Bake House off MG Road near Jos Junction in Ernakulam  [ Kochi, then Cochin ] was almost a decade ago in 1987, but the nostalgic lip smacking gastronomic experience of Idiappam and Chili Chicken still delightfully lingers within me, and instantly makes my mouth water, so I hark back, reflect, reminisce and I write this from my memory. The place may have undergone a transformation now, maybe even metamorphosed into a highfalutin snobbish restaurant (I hope not!) but I recall Ceylon Bake House as a down-to-earth Value-For-Money eatery for authentic Kerala cuisine in
Kochi. I wonder why it was called a “Bake House”!

It was an unpretentious place, but so popular that it was always bustling and crowded even past midnight. My favourite food here is the Idiappam and Chilli Chicken – I love eating the noodle-like rice-based soft and steaming Idiappams along with the zesty reddish Chilli Chicken, as the contrasting tastes sizzle, mingle, blend and marry on my tongue. I felt revitalized and recharged after every bite of the delicious combination. 

I also liked the Fish Curry, Veg and Non-Veg Stews, Biryanis, Roasts, Kormas; Veg, Egg and Non-Veg Curries, and, not to forget, the heavenly yummy Malabar Parottas served at Ceylon Bake House.  

If you are in
Kochi, have a meal at Ceylon Bake House, and do let me know whether it is still the same old down-to-earth value for money authentic Kerala cuisine eatery it once was, or has it changed! And can someone please tell me where to find good Kerala cuisine in Pune.






Polka Dots

March 1, 2007




It’s almost dark; Overcast Sky; Thunder, Winds and Rain; lights go off (so typical of Pune – a bit of wind, a hint of rain and the electricity fails); a depressing evening. My daughter says: “Let’s go to Polka Dots. It’s nearby and my friends tell me it’s good!”

So we land up at ‘Polka Dots’ – a cute little eating place on DP Road near Parihar Chowk in Aundh, Pune.

The café (I wouldn’t call it a restaurant) is on the side of a house, the seating well covered, the cooking area open and airy.

It’s a multicuisine eatery and the menu is confusing – it features vignettes of all types of cuisine so one can’t really classify the genre of this eating place – so we order a Roast Chicken Lyonnaise for my daughter, a Chicken Corden-Bleu (I suspect the spellings may be wrong but that’s how they spell it!) for me and a Mexican Corn & Jalapeno for my vegetarian wife.


The Chicken Corden Blue is excellent – succulent breast of chicken in a bed of mint flavored mashed potatoes drenched in delicious sauce is exquisite. The Chicken Roast is scrumptious – reminds me of the Roast Chicken I used to relish at the Sassanian Boulangerie near Metro in Mumbai. My son devours a Shepherd’s Pie – I taste a bit – it’s wholesome, nourishing and delicious. My wife tells me that the vegetarian corn and jalapeno was excellent too.

If you love a potpourri of cuisine from around the world, try the place; you may find it a bit expensive, but it’s okay once in a while. The crowd is young and the ambience is lively. And do let me know if you liked the place.


Aundh Food Walk

March 1, 2007

Aundh Food Walk


Vikram Karve

Come with me on a food walk in Aundh. Let’s start from the Body Gate or Bremen Chowk end of DP Road.

As you enter DP Road, to your right is a typical fruit juice bar cum pav bhaji open air place called Bala’s. I’m real hungry, so let’s move on.

There’s Baker’s Basket Cake shop to your left – it’s not my birthday, and cakes are not what I have in mind to satiate my pangs of hunger!

Just ahead there’s Bananas – a pizza, pasta fast food joint and Baskin Robbins. Looks good – maybe some other time.

Now we come to Deepak Sweets. Let’s stop and watch the cute young things relish Bhel, Pani Puri, Chaat, Kachori, Samosas, Dhoklas and gorge on rasagullas and sweets.

Ahead is the Mann Dairy – Arguably the second best lassi in Pune (nearly as good as Shiv Kailas opposite Pune Railway Station). A must on every food walk in Aundh. And next door is Radhika – an Idli / Dosa place. A little ahead on the opposite side of the road are Vishi’s and Mongini’s Snack and Bake shops. And just before Parihar Chowk is Arya’s pure veg and then there is a dark looking udipi managed permit room bar and restaurant of the ubiquitous type one sees outside every suburban railway station in Mumbai.

Cross the ITI Road and reach Parihar Sweets for a quick snack of Khasta Kachori, Samosa, Batata Vada and Jilebis. A little ahead is the unassuming Diwadkar [of Karjat Batata Wada fame] an unpretentious down-to-earth eatery for Value For Money snacks.

Then comes my favorite multicuisine café called “Polka Dots”. Tasty food, but does not satiate! A decent place for a tete-a-tete.

And then we have the popular Shivsagar – A spruced up version of the ubiquitous Udipi eatery on finds in every nook and corner of Mumbai and Pune. And on the other side is the road is Jerry’s and Tasty Bite Takeaway. Doesn’t look appetizing. And the counter at Spencer’s.

DP Road turns left and we come to Rasoi – a Tandoori Place which appears run of the mill and doesn’t look inviting. A furlong ahead is the classy Seasons and at the end DP Road, where it meets ITI road is Sarjaa – a Mughlai, Punjabi family place.

Turn left on ITI Road and you will cross Kobe- the Sizzlers place, Pizza Hut, Pulse Ozone with its cafes and basement sweet stall called Kadai, where the malpuas and gulab jamuns are okay, a van selling Burgers opposite and a lady making dosas.

And of course we have the newly opened McDonalds opposite Convergys and on the Aundh Road towards Khadki there’s the Spartan Irani-clone Maharashtra Restaurant, the Spicer’s Bakery stall famous for its Lamingtons, cakes and patties, and Babumoshai Bengali Sweets for roshogullas and lavang lata.

That’s all there is in Aundh. If you are a Foodie, think twice before you decide to settle down in Aundh. Around here you only get run-of-the-mill stuff, nothing authentic, nothing special, and no street food. After having stayed in foodie destinations like South Mumbai, this place is pathetic. Probably the IT types who stay around here are just not interested in good value for money authentic cuisine, and probably eat for the sake of eating.

But as far as I am concerned – “There is no greater love than the love of eating”. So every time I pine for some really good food I have to go all the way to Poona Camp or into the heart of Pune City to relish authentic stuff and satiate my pangs of hunger.