Sunday, July 06, 2014

A Surprise Dinner at Eden

My uncle was visiting us from Bangalore just for a day. Since we hardly meet, I decided to take him out for dinner at Eden, another famous vegetarian restaurant which my family, friends and I patronize.

I also got my aunt a simple jewellery piece as a belated birthday gift and their sweet little kid, a big bar of chocolate. We picked up a sea blue t-shirt for my uncle, which he liked, but not before he tried the earlier tshirt that I had bought, which turned out to be too big for his medium frame. So the plan was to drive over to the beach, find a parking spot on a Saturday evening if you are truly blessed, walk over to the shop and exchange the t-shirt and head over the beach for a while and wrap up with dinner at Eden.

It was a perfect plan and it worked beautifully. The evening drizzle made it even more endearing. I had completed a cycling session an hour earlier and was lucky to have caught a rare rainbow over the ocean. It was such an unexpected magical moment, so I called home and let them know incase they were interested in making a dash to the beach. 

It was breezy and just a great feeling to sit by the banks, enjoying the bluish-grey sky and watching the corns getting grilled over the charcoal. As the evening progressed, the beach came alive with the rows of snack shops ready to fry away the usual favourites. We decided to make a move since we were hard pressed for time.

We went to Eden by 7.00pm and the place was relatively empty. Within 30 minutes, it was packed with waiters scurrying from table to table taking orders. They forgot our soup and the Tandoori salad and had us waiting for over 30 minutes. 

We were terribly disappointed with their service and I was embarrassed when my uncle suggested we cancel the order! After a reminder, the tomato soup and the salad were served immediately. The soup was well flavoured and served at the right temperature. The tandoori salad, which is my favourite did not measure up. The cottage cheese (paneer) seemed chewy and possibly not fresh, because if it was fresh panner, it would cut through like butter. The rest of the vegetables were done well. The coriander dip was an excellent accompaniment. 

For the main course, my uncle preferred rotis. For the sides, I ordered a dal makhani and a tandoori gobi masala. While the dal makhani was cooked with the right spice levels, the gobi (cauliflower) masala was a little too hot for me to handle. So mom and I attacked the mildly spiced lentil gravy.

Thankfully, we had ordered just enough portions and except for the dry vegetable, we cleared our plates. The bill for three was INR 1300 including tips, moderately priced.  I usually don't tip for poor service, but gave them the benefit of doubt on this occasion. The service is usually impeccable and the waiters are old timers who take care of each and every customer who walk through their doors. Some days are like that I guess. Who knows I may need the benefit of doubt on another day!

Sizzlers at Cream Centre and Off to Rescue the Dragon

videoSundays are off for my house help. So I sometimes plan a movie or hop over to our cousin's place or just grab a lovely lunch at one of our usual haunts. I was craving for sizzlers for a while and on this particular Sunday, I was  not feeling well and like a cat on the wall, was undecided for most part of the morning. I dragged myself to Art class and when I got back, decided we might as well do the lunch and head over for the afternoon show, How to Train Your Dragon-2 at Express Avenue.

Creams Centre is a usual favourite at home. We had been there on so many occasions with friends and family. Its a 15 minute drive from home and you have valet parking since the restaurant is on the main road.They serve only vegetarian and the menu is a little bit of everything. I sorely miss my hummus with pita bread, which was always my first bite. Their Spring Vegetable soup is well prepared with fresh cottage cheese, shredded cabbage, carrots and spring onions in a light corn flour mix with soya sauce. The sizzler menu is huge hit with the masses. One this particular day, pretty much every table had some sizzle going on. The quantity is good for two. 

The onion ring starters are served in an interesting visual presentation, but we usually avoid it since we make a more rustic version at home. Second in this hot weather, we can the deep fried starter a miss. The American Corn Cheese Balls is another delectable treat, fattening but tasty. Kids usually take to it like a charm. Most of the sizzler menu have taken turns at our table with different luncha and dinner groups - you have the Mexican sizzler, Italian, Chinese and Paneer Shaslik. The Paneer (cottage cheese) version and the Italian are by far our favourites. The Paneer ka Baap, a signature dish and the Crispy Aloo (potato) Tikki sizzler seemed like a recent addition, but I am not sure. Anyways, we went ahead and decided to take on their signature version. 

The service was a little slow eventhough we went early. During the busy hours, if you are lucky, you may find a table by their garden enclosed in glass, which is refreshing. The signature dish did not disappoint. It was simply smacking good. The price for two was INR 600, which was reasonable. 

After wrapping up with a lovely lunch, we headed over to train the dragon. Only it should have been, How to Save Your Dragon-2. The effects were excellent, but the story was like a soppy love story with too many dialogues and just colourful dragons whizzing all over the place. Gerard Butler's voice did make me smile, but lets face it, at the end of it all, I could not wait to get home for a cuppa!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lunch at Pind, Velachery

We had a team lunch at the Pind in Velachery recently. It was a stone's throw away from work and a few folks told me that the food is delicious. So the decision was easy. Pind in Punjabi means a village or community. The entrance to the restaurant is quite interesting with local references.The lassi (yogurt based drink) was highly recommended and it is supposedly served in bottles as is the local practice in Punjab. 

Reservations were made since we were a large group and it was recommended on their site as best practice. Once we were seated, no service was available for a while. Maybe we should do the reservations for that as well!

We all decided to go for the Patiala thali (plate served with a variety of dishes) since it seemed wholesome, but unfortunately did not include the lassi. The service was terribly slow and it seemed to me they were avoiding us while we were getting starved.

Finally after a long while, the food seemed to trickle in. We were served tomato soup followed by the tandoori paneer, which was to die for. Succulent and well spiced, it was fantastic. This is followed by a greasy fried corn sautéed in soya sauce, which we still ate because we were famished.

The bread basket arrived and the sight was overwhelming with the roti (wheat based) and naan (all purpose flour) stacked and gleaming under the lights. The thali itself looked heavy. There were a lot of paneer  (cottage cheese) based dishes and I could not really enjoy it because they were so rich and makes your stomach feel heavy. You have a choice of plain rice or pulav, and the pulav which was everybody's favourite was the villain of the piece. The spices had our tongues crackling.

So we dived into the dessert, which was the gulab jamun with ice cream that eventually cooled us down.

Overall, good food but poor service. Ambience was interesting, but nothing to die for. The house serves pure vegetarian dishes which is great news for some of us folks.

Parking is an issue since the restaurant is located in a narrow street. Valet service is available if that makes you feel better. 

I think the thali was INR 250 per head which is a tad expensive. I suspect the reason is they won the Zomato Users Choice Award. You can certainly pop in there atleast once and that is how I get to do my reviews.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Calvin's CLoud

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.
 ~Author Unknown

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Evening at the Wharf, Mahabalipuram

One of my favourite quiet evening getaway for a warm dinner by the ocean side would be The Wharf. The restaurant is part of the Radisson Blu, Temple Bay Resort property located at Mahabalipuram. This five star property is usually jam-packed on weekends since it offers a quick one hour drive from the city. 
The Wharf is beach front restaurant and serves continental cuisine. The earlier menu had a restricted palate for the vegetarians, but since my last visit, the file has certainly got thicker. You have seating both closer to the beach as well as inside around the open kitchen. I had some lovely stuffed vegetables marinated in a sauce and spilt a pasta with my friend. For the dessert, I was recommended the crepe with condensed milk and chocolate that left me wanting for more.
My sister-in-law loves this property and wanted to stay here the last time they visited us, but ofcourse too much to do in too little time. I decided to drop in to check rates and keep options available should they decide to plan a similar visit.

This time I settled for a warm roasted bell pepper-tomato soup which was perfectly balanced in acidity, smokiness and spices and along with that I also ordered a plate of chargrilled vegetables, which was equally well made and presented. I skipped the dessert this time for obvious reasons. 
The food and service is absolutely spot on. Evenings are the best time to enjoy the property whilst listening to the sound of ocean. The price is what you pay for good quality food and excellent service.

The only thing you got to do is turn on the music, sit back and enjoy the drive.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Lunch at Dynasty, Harrisons

Its no wonder I pile on the pounds and stay slim while living out of my home country. I barely eat out and preferred home cooked meals and long walks. Back in Chennai, I love visiting the Chinese haunt, Dynasty at the Harrison hotel. I had been here for lunch on a number of occasions while attending language classes back during my college days. I loved it.

I went there two years ago and was pleasantly surprised that the hospitality and the quality of the food remained memorable as ever. 

I usually order the sweet corn vegetable soup along with delectable spring rolls with a spicy sauce and wrap it up with their famous pan-fried noodles topped with an assortment of vegetables, served warm.

The dessert is sometimes a crisp noodles served with honey and ice-cream, which is nice. The bill for two was at that time INR 1200 approximately. 

Should plan to get back there sometime soon.

Sizzle at Kobe

While meddling with my blog template and its look and feel,I realised some of my posts were marinating in my drafts folder. This post was written a long time ago when my mom was on one of her long spiritual tours.

On one of those long days, when I was in no mood to cook, my friend and I decided to dine at Kobe's, famous for its sizzlers.

Originally set up in Mumbai, the sizzlers soon made their way to Chennai in Khader Nawaz Khan Road. The ambiance is alright, nothing out of the world. Infact it was way too noisy for my liking. We spent some time hunting for some quiet corner, but we were not lucky that day. To make it even more difficult, there was a wailing baby, which the parents could not pacify. I had ordered a vegetarian sizzler, while my friend had a chicken sizzler. Initially, we had ordered for a lime soda. We sat there wondering why none of the orders had come through, only to be told by the staff that the orders were somehow overlooked. I was really annoyed.

Finally when the sizzlers arrived, I was not really impressed. It was similar in taste to the ones you will get at Tangerine or Creams Centre. However the mash potatoes served as accompaniment for the chicken was to die for. The quantity is one huge pile as you can see. Pricing is the usual. It costs an average of Rs.1000/- for a couple.

It wont hurt to visit the place atleast once.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

App Zap

I did not ever imagine I would be app-zapped. The iPhone 4s, a birthday gift from my brother had me completely sold out on their apps. For years, I believed that Android is the way to go and more user friendly. I resisted Apple for a long time even before I used their product until necessity pushed me in that direction. It was destiny.

Facetiming with my nephew was a critical need. Atleast thats how it all started. I had the little one's tshirts printed and sent by speed post along with a personalized calendar from our family trip to Bali. If only I had explored the photo and video apps much before, I could have put together more fun stuff.

For these collages, I used Aviary to treat the photographs and made a collage using Pic Collage.

Other apps I dig are Elevate, a brilliant concept that trains your cognitive skills

A lighter fun app is the Word search, which I always enjoyed playing even as a child

The other usual must haves include VLC player to sync your video downloads and Google Maps to get around.

Watsapp is undeniably huge as a communication tool and if you are a book lover, Flipkart should be there by default; and if you are a traveller, TripAdvisor is reliable for reviews and if you are stumped for a ride, try Uber.

As I discover more, the Aap Zap story will continue to enthral you and you will be crushed senseless (Dave Matthews Band, ring a bell?)

The Ashtalakshmi Temple, Besant Nagar

I had not been to the Ashta (eight) Lakshmi (wealth) temple in ages. Infact, I have no recollection of my last visit to this beautiful temple by the shore. It was by chance when mom and I were visiting the Arupadai Veedu (six abodes of Lord Muruga) that we decided to drop in to the Ashtalakshmi temple down the road.

The temple history states that it was constructed on the behest of Kanchi Chandrashekarendra Saraswati swamigal, famously known as Maha Periava. Each form of the goddess was breathtaking. Ashtalakshmi refers to the eight forms of wealth such as education, wealth, courage, food, bravery, offspring and success. The shrines are built at different levels, which was quite interesting to observe. We also prayed at the Lakshmi Narayana sannidhi, Guruvayrappan (Krishna), Anjaneyar (Hanuman, the monkey god),  and Ganapathi (Elephant God).

As much as I enjoyed visiting the temple, I was disappointed by the attitude of the priests. Their eyes were fixated on the purse and few of them emotionally push you to keep some money at the feet of the goddess to earn wealth and prosperity. One of them were also open enough to announce to his colleague that three tourist buses have arrived and they need to make arrangements. 

It seems to be the case in a large number of temples these days. I wonder if it because they are poorly paid or is it plain greed? 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Maleficient (2014)

She is the mistress of Evil from Walt Disney's 1959 creation, Sleeping Beauty and now the question is whether Angelina Jolie can pull it off? The teasers which portrayed her devious look with ghoulish contact lens, prosthetics for her cheek bones and heavy horns certainly garnered attention and the icing on the cake was Jolie's baby girl, Vivenne who played the toddler princess Aurora. The buzz is that the kids were too scared to face Jolie in her evil avatar and it was only Vivenne who walked the talk. I wonder if it is destiny calling, given that the parents do not want their children to become actors!

I was looking forward to an element of sinister fun since Jolie is famed for playing intense dark roles in her previous performances. However, I think the four year hiatus and motherhood with six children seemed to have softened her a bit. The beautiful and carefree Malificient, protector of the Moors from humans lets her curiosity get the better of her. A human, a little boy Stefan who steals from the Moors is apprehended by the protectors and Malificient retrieves the stolen good and returns it to its home. This sets the relationship between the fairy and the human rolling. ""Iron burns fairies, tells  Maleficient to Stefan when they shake hands and the iron ring on his finger burns her, not realising her Achilles' heel will be used to kill her. He throws it away that very instant and her heart melts. But humans are ambitious and Stefan wants to rule the kingdom. As they grow up, Stefan forgets Maleficient until one day, Stefan hears the king proclaim that whosoever can tame the protector of the Moors will get his daughter's hand in marriage. His moment had arrived. 

Stefan returns to the Moors and convinces Maleficient he loves her and feeds her with a sleeping potion. Not having the courage to kill her, he instead cuts her glorious wings leaving her for dead. Stefan goes on to become King, while Maleficient her pure heart filled with revenge and hatred returns with her pet crow (Rescued from near death), Diaval (sounds like the Devil) who acts as her wings. From time to time, she gathers information from Diaval about Stefan, planning for the opportune moment to punish Stfean for his betrayal. Then princess Aurora is born. Now her moment had arrived.

None from the Moorland is invited for Aurora's christening, but three little fairies arrive to bless the child. Maleficient arrives uninvited and is insulted by the king. She pretends to be unpreturbed and as a gesture of goodwill, blesses the child. She blesses the child with grace and beauty and before anyone could react, curses that on her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a death-like sleep, and as a reprieve when Stefan falls on his knees and begs her, softens the curse that a true love's kiss will bring her out of her slumber. She curses thus because of her betrayal and her belief that there is no true love in the world.

The twist to the tale is the question of what is true love. Is it only a man's kiss? It was interesting to watch, but on the whole, I felt a little let down by Jolie's performance. The scene where Maleficient is expected to cry out in anguish when she realises her wings had been cut was played out so poorly. In some parts of the movie, her lines look trivial and poorly delivered. Barring the beautiful visuals and creativity, the movie, which was solely riding on Jolie fails to deliver. 

Ironically, it could put the audience to sleep. Only a bag of butter pop-corn can save you.