Monday, September 19, 2016

Birdie Num Num - Bringing Extensive Flavors from All Corners of India

Last weekend I was invited to review Birdie Num Num, a newly opened Indian restaurant in Gurgaon that serves food with extensive flavors from all corners of India. The name of restaurant follows a popular phrase from the 1968 American comedy film ‘The Party’ starring Peter Sellers. Located at the ground level of upscale Global Foyer Mall on Golf Course Road, Birdie Num Num curates an elaborate menu from years of food research across the country.


Brainchild of Yuvna Damani, this unique modern restaurant specializes in coastal food of India, especially seafood. Yuvna also owns the immensely popular Spoonful of Sugar, which happens to be Bangalore’s first patisserie.

Birdie Num Num

A lot of recipes on Birdie’s menu are handpicked from her travels and friendships; few are recipes from her mom, who as luck would have it came over to train the chefs. With spotlight on family recipes, Yuvna does a great job in introducing homely Indian food from remote regions of India – be it the Sindhi Kadhi served with Alu Tuk’s or the Fried Sea Food Platter from Arpora.

Birdie Num Num

From the north-eastern Kukura Curry to the western Kohlapuri Mutton, there are a lot of firsts at Birdie Num Num, and you can't wait to explore them. In some dishes like the Gorkha Style Mutton Curry, authentic ingredients such as the expensive Timbu pepper is used.

Birdie Num Num

My personal favorites include the Makkar Curry (from the remote Padavne village near Devgad on the coast of Maharashtra), Rogan Josh (from Kashmir), Kashundi Scotch Eggs, and the signature ‘Birdie Goes Fishing’ seafood platter.

Here’s what you can try as well:

  • Cocktails
    • The Magic Egg: A signature cocktail that combines bourbon, amaretto, egg white, and banana syrup.
The Magic Egg
    • I Feel Good: A white rum based cocktail infused with popcorn, casis, cranberry juice, and lime.
I Feel Good
  • Small Plates
    • Bhoot Jholokiya Chili Cheese Melt with Tomato Salsa: Definitely not for the fainthearted. If you’re a sucker for ghost pepper (once considered the hottest chili pepper in the world), this is the dish to go after.
Bhoot Jholokiya Chili Cheese Melt with Tomato Salsa
    • Stuffed Snakegourd with Tamarind Sauce: Snakegourd (a.k.a. Padwal or Chichinga) stuffed with mashed potatoes and topped with roasted semolina, best served with sweet and peppery tamarind sauce that provides the best bang for the buck.
Stuffed Snakegourd with Tamarind Sauce
    • Telangana Chili Chicken: Spiciness alert yet again! Succulent pieces of chewy, boneless chicken cooked in a perfect combination of herbs, spices, and green chilies.
Telangana Chili Chicken
    • Aloo Momo Newhari with duo of Gundruk: From the land of Darjeeling comes this unique potato momo dish, doused in a thick, rich gravy full of red chilies. Combine it with a quirky salad containing finely chopped dried radish leaves, onions, carrots, and lemon, and you have a potential winner at hand. The salad supposedly contains properties to cleanse the belly.
Aloo Momo Newhari
    • Cornmeal Iddiappam Nests: Steamed and pan-fried Iddiappams made of cornmeal, and topped with a spicy mix of corn kernels to represent 'eggs in a nest’. Spiked finally with a homemade Mollogapodi oil.
Cornmeal Iddiappam Nests
  • Mains
    • Goan Fish Curry with Malabar Paratha: Did you know that the staple food of Goan people, including both Hindus and Catholics, is fish curry and rice? The Goan fish curry is replete with tangy flavors of tomatoes, coconut, and light spices. Replace rice with multi-layered Malabar Parathas from Kerala if you want to spice things up a bit.
Goan Fish Curry with Malabar Paratha
    • Chicken Datchi: Datchi is a Bhutanese dish, which essentially means cheese. Hard to fathom a chicken dish cooked in cheese? Once you develop a palette for Bhutanese cheese, you’ll compliment this cheese and garlic based chicken curry even more. Best served with long grained, steamed Basmati rice.
Chicken Datchi
    • Veg Ishtew with Appam: In my quest for the best dish at Birdie Num Num, this one takes the number one spot hands down. The veg Ishtew contains the perfect blend of coconut milk with nicely sautéed French beans, peas, and carrots.
  • Desserts
    • Banana Pate with Chocolate Sauce: Craving a perfect dessert but worried about fat and calories? Then Banana Pate with Chocolate Sauce is probably your best bet! Made of millets, jaggery, and bananas and topped with finely sliced almonds or pomegranate seeds, this smooth dessert is hailed for its sweet and light texture.
Banana Pate with Chocolate Sauce

The decor of the 200-seater casual dining restaurant and bar is aesthetically done, with handpicked furniture from Jodhpur, crockery from Khurja, and marble from Agra. These elements go well with the ‘converging the nation’ theme of the restaurant.

Birdie Num Num

So what are you waiting for? Gather your flock and fly to Birdie Num Num – a culinary experience you won't forget.

Birdie Num Num Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Peninsular Kitchen - Bringing the Best Coastal and South Indian Cuisine to Delhi

Few days ago, a friend of mine asked if I could recommend a quintessential Indian restaurant in Delhi that serves authentic cuisine from the coastal region.

Interestingly, there are nine states and two union territories that form the Indian coastline, and to my knowledge, the only restaurant in Delhi that serves authentic cuisine from five coastal states (Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh) is the Peninsular Kitchen.

So my answer was in a way pretty obvious!

On a related note, I noticed that even though I had visited and reviewed this restaurant in the month of May early this year, I had completely forgotten to post my review on the blog.

In this blog post, I make a case about why you should visit the Peninsular Kitchen.


Opened to general public in May 2015, Peninsular Kitchen is the brainchild of restaurateur Gaurav Goel who hails from Delhi. Gaurav is a hotel management graduate from IHM Mumbai (1997). As luck would have it, he spent a good 15 years in the same city working for F&B brands.

Peninsular Kitchen

Being a foodie himself, Gaurav developed a strong liking for the coastal food after frequenting South Indian states like Karnataka, Kerala, etc. In fact, the liking grew so much over a period of time that he gave up his corporate job in 2014 and returned to his birthplace to start a new coastal restaurant.

Gaurav Goel

Post relocation, Gaurav researched the F&B market in the national capital for almost a year and inferred that the coastal cuisine was grossly under-presented here for various reasons. So he, along with his wife, Anshu Goel, decided to invest in this restaurant. Together, they did a market survey on location and zeroed in on the posh Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj (to both of them, South Delhi seemed like a more lucrative business proposition than Gurgaon at that point in time).

And that's how the Peninsular Kitchen was born!

Peninsular Kitchen

With a cover area of more than 1500 square feet, the restaurant is conveniently housed on the third floor of Ambience Mall. The kitchen is in the capable hands of Head Chef Shankar Pujari and Sous Chef Ramadasan. Arun Kumar dons the responsibility of the Operations Manager, which includes supervising a staff of 20.

See Through Kitchen

The restaurant can easily accommodate nearly 48 guests and is open every day from 10:30 am to 12 midnight.

Peninsular Kitchen

If you're visiting them on a weekday, make sure to check with staff w.r.t. the Happy Hours (from 11 am to 9 pm).

Peninsular Kitchen

As I entered their premises, I couldn't help but notice the aesthetically done 'nautical' design. What really struck me was how every minutest level of detail was taken care of, leaving no scope for uncertainty - be it the hanging anchors or the wall paintings of the coastline.

Peninsular Kitchen

According to Gaurav, half the guests who walk in here have little idea about the coastal cuisine. As a rule of thumb, the restaurant does not serve any kind of Dosas between 4 to 7. The idea is to educate people on South Indian and coastal cuisine, which goes way beyond the cliched Dosas and Idlis.

Hanging Anchor at Peninsular Kitchen

Here are my top recommendations of what you should try at the Peninsular Kitchen.

Welcome Drink

Solkadhi
Often served in Goa and the Konkan region of India, Solkadhi is hailed for its digestive properties. It is made from coconut milk and kokum.

Solkadhi

Beverages

Mocktails

Deccan Emerald
Tamarind water based drink, infused with mint rock salt and Sprite.

Guava Burst
Filled with the richness of Guava nectar, mint, green chili with roasted cumin, and lime.

Guava Burst

Coconut Mojito
Topped with lemonade and ice, this breezy cocktail is made of lime chunks, mint leaves, brown sugar, and coconut syrup.

Coconut Mojito

Cocktails

Paan Burst
Experience this unique vodka based cocktail blended with betel leaves and gulkand.

Ambitini
Another vodka based cocktail infused with Aam Panna and a combination of lemon and guava juices.

Khattalicious
What happens when you mix Kala Khatta syrup with dark rum and soda? Nothing short of Khattalicious!

If you have room for more, go for the Green Chilly Sangria.

Soup

Punarpuli Saaru
Popularly known as Kokum Rasam, this popular soup comes from Udipi in Karnataka. Known to contain several medicinal properties, this soup is highly recommended to treat cases of constipation or indigestion.

Starters

Seafood

Fried Fish Koliwada
Relish the unique flavors of boneless Fried Fish Koliwada, a popular dish from the state of Maharashtra. Best served with green mint/in-house chutney.

Fried Fish Koliwada

Kerala Stir-fried Prawns
Popularly known as Malabar Chemmeen Varathathu, this rare dish from North Kerala is both sweet and spicy, with a twist of onion tomato masala.

Chicken

Ghongura Chicken Fry 
Ghongura Chicken Fry is a classic combination of Ghongura/Sorrel leaves, chilies, and marinated chicken. Cooked in special Andhra style recipe, this South India delicacy is a must have.

Ghongura Chicken Fry

Vegetarian

Tossed Mini Idli
Steamed idlis tossed in spicy podi/lentil masala make a perfect snack for all occasions.

Tossed Mini Idli

Savory Rice Dumplings
Popularly known as Kuzhi Paniyaram, these shallow fried rice and urad dal dumplings are quite a rage in Tamil Nadu. Best served with gun powder (dry dal chutney).

Savory Rice Dumplings

Curries

Seafood

Malabari Fish Curry
Popularly known as Meen Moilee, this classic fish curry from Kerala wins hands down for its unique flavor. I liked that the coconut gravy was mildly spiced and contained a perfect blend of green chilies and shallots.

PS: You could also try the Kerala Fish Curry (a. k. a. Naadan Meen Kari), which is a traditional fish curry from Kerala.

Jinghe Ka Korma
This prawn delicacy from the city of Hyderabad is cooked in rich spicy gravy containing khoya and cream.

Mutton

Mutton Stew
This goes pretty well with Appams and contains boneless chunks of mutton perfectly cooked in cardamom flavored coconut gravy.

Chicken

Andhra Chicken Curry
Popularly known as Kodi Kura, this curry traces its root in the Konaseema region of coastal Andhra. If you like your curries to be spicy, this is the dish to go after. The gravy is thickened with poppy and sesame seeds.

Chicken Xacutti
This is a classic Goan chicken curry, made of chicken and potato mixed with a rich gravy of poppy seeds, fennel, and coconut.

Vegetarian

Vendakai Pulusu
Vegetarians in the house must try this tangy tomato gravy which contains ladyfinger and spices from the land of Seemandhra.

You could also try the Kadala Curry and Parippu Curry if you're curious about the South Indian version of the dal.

Curries at Peninsular Kitchen

Accompaniments
  • Red Rice
  • Steam Rice
  • Appam
  • Malabari Paratha
  • Idiyappam
  • Neer Dosa
Malabari Paratha
Appam

Desserts

Aravana Payasam
This special dessert from Kerala contains a good amount of jaggery and is prepared as an offering to Lord Ayyappa on Pongal.

Aravana Payasam and Pineapple Halwa

Pineapple Halwa
This classic dessert contains slow cooked pineapple with coconut milk and dry fruits.

Bebinca
Bebinca is a traditional Goan dessert with seven layers, including plain flour, sugar, ghee (clarified butter), egg yolk, and coconut milk.

Ada Prathaman
Served around Onam, these rice pancakes are cooked with jaggery and dry fruits.

Finally, Peninsular Kitchen is a one stop destination to satisfy all your coastal and South India food cravings. In my opinion, this will be a key differentiator compared to their competitors like Swagath, Zambar, or Sanadige

Peninsular Kitchen

I strongly urge you to try your own local cuisine first before you try any other. India has a lot to offer!

Peninsular Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Food On Wheels - Best Authentic North Indian Cuisine in Faridabad

Last month I was invited by the Rastogi family to review their flagship food property in the heart of Faridabad by the name of Food On Wheels.

I graciously accepted their invitation for two apparent reasons - one, they agreed to arrange a cab for me knowing that it takes approximately 40 minutes from my place to reach their restaurant, and second, this was going to be my first food review of a food joint in Faridabad.


Open every day from 12 noon to 3 pm and then from 6.30 pm to 11 pm, Food On Wheels is hailed for serving the best, authentic North Indian cuisine in Faridabad. Their curries and tikkas from the live kitchen are to die for!

That said, little did I know that I would be meeting one of the most promising, young food entrepreneurs on the day of review, Ayush Rastogi, the brainchild behind Food On Wheels.

Ayush Rastogi

At 19 years of age, Ayush is probably one of the youngest food entrepreneurs in the country right now. And you can easily tell that he is passionate about food (cooking in particular) - in fact for the entire duration of my stay there, Ayush assisted the folks in kitchen, churning out one amazing dish after the other.

Ayush Rastogi

Here are my top recommendations of what you should try at Food On Wheels.

Tandoori Non Vegetarian 
  • Stuffed Tangri Kebab (Specialty)
Stuffed Tangri Kebab (Specialty)
  • Chicken Burra
Chicken Burra
  • Chicken Seekh Kebab
Chicken Seekh Kebab
Tandoori Vegetarian 
  • Dahi Ke Kebab
Dahi Ke Kebab
  • Malai Chaap Roll
Malai Chaap Roll
  • Chili Paneer Tikka (Specialty)
Chili Paneer Tikka (Specialty)
  • Veg Galauti (Specialty)
Veg Galauti (Specialty)
Mains - Vegetarian Gravy 
  • Paneer Changezi
Paneer Changezi
  • Tawa Chaap Masala
Tawa Chaap Masala
Mains - Non Vegetarian Gravy 
  • Chicken Gurdaspuri (Specialty)
Chicken Gurdaspuri (Specialty)
Breads 
  • Keema Kulcha
Keema Kulcha
  • Garlic Naan
Garlic Naan
Desserts 
  • Oreo Pudding Pot
Oreo Pudding Pot

Food On Wheels might not be easily accessible for residents of Delhi-NCR but is surely a popular hunting ground for those in Faridabad. They also specialize in free home deliveries here (minimum order of INR 250), thus earning the reputation of a takeaway restaurant. 

Kitchen Staff in Action at Food On Wheels

There's limited seating available for 35 guests, should you want to enjoy a fully AC dining experience. They even make special arrangements for birthday/kitty parties and outdoor catering.

Limited Seating at Food On Wheels

I didn't have enough time to try their rolls, Chinese food, mini meals, special combos, sandwiches, burgers, and wraps, but whatever else I tried was absolutely brilliant. Won't mind visiting them again!

Food On Wheels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato