Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fusion 9: My new Chennai haunt?

Despite being scarred by the events of the previous night, I was determined to find a new good eat-out in Chennai and my efforts paid off. Fusion 9 is a new restaurant in town and we trekked here to see whether it was worth the fuss. Dim lighting, an island bar and music playing at an appropriate volume (unlike Zara's which believes in blasting the ears off its patrons) give Fusion 9 a lazy lounge feel.

They have a vast and varied menu with East Asian, Continental, Lebanese and Indian options. They also have a separate dessert menu (and that can only mean good things). For starters we had the lemongrass and corn cutlets (I forget the fancy name that the menu gave them) and spice paneer tikkas. The cutlets were very average. Lemongrass has a distinct flavour which can't be mixed with just anything. The flavours were all wrong and the dish had a weird aftertaste. I quite liked the paneer. It was soft and the spicy sauce complemented it. Though not everyone in the party was a fan.

This was quickly followed by the main course (and our rumbling tummies were very grateful for that). In search of good Thai food in Chennai, I picked an all time favourite: Thai Green Curry. The Green Curry was wonderful with just the right amount of coconut milk, veggies and spices. It got all the flavours right and was a tad on the spicier side. The rice it was served with wasn't great but the Curry was so good that I didn't care. 

Edward ordered the Lebanese Pizza, a dish that I had never tried before. This turned out to be a stuffed pizza dominated by cheese and oil soaked herbs. The dish was pretty decent and though I'm not a huge fan, if you are looking to try something different, then you may want to go for this.

Banker Madame went in for a more traditional pizza with cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and a lovely thin crust. I really liked this pizza.

Dr. V and the White Mark ordered the Tenderloin and Veg. Shwarma and had only great things to say about both. A special mention to the potatoes with the Tenderloin: artfully presented and tasted great.  All the mains were priced around Rs. 400. Portions are quite large.

We had our minds, and stomachs, set on dessert and placed our orders after much deliberation. All the desserts that we ordered: the mascarpone apple tart, the cheesecake, the tiramisu: were wonderful and hit our sweet spot. But the best of the lot was the chocolate walnut fudge sundae. Chocolate, whipped cream, walnut fudge, brownie and crumbly, chocolate filled biscuits came together in a decadent, melting mess. Each dessert cost Rs. 200 or thereabouts.

The service was very average and needed constant reminders to get our drinks. They have a super clean and very nicely done loo. 

Fusion 9 is great place to have a long dinner with your friends: enjoy a few drinks (they have a vast and reasonably priced drinks menu) and some great food. I definitely intend to visit this place regularly.

Pricing: Rs. 600 per person (without drinks)
Location: 2nd Floor, Aruna Centre, 145 Sterling Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai
  • Phone: 42664299

    P.S: I apologize for the bad photos, my cam is still in Bombay. If anyone is coming  from Bombay to Chennai or B'lore, pleeease bring my cam with you??

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Texas Fiesta (Not!)

Trying Mexican food has always been a bit of a risk: it could go either spectacularly well or disastrously wrong. Deciding to take the risk, we landed up at Texas Fiesta. The decor dominated by cowboy hats, mounted cow heads and a foosball table. It reminded me a little of Millers 46 (and I was hoping that the food would be just as good). The seating is comfortable and the slightly dimmed lights add a nice touch. 

Excited by the sheer amount of greasy food on offer, we ordered the Nachos with Fiesta Land dip and the Potato Wedges. The nachos lacked the essential crispy crunchiness and felt like they had been kept out for too long. The taste was very average and even generous addition of cheese failed to redeem the nachos. The potato wedges were OK (how can you go wrong with fried potatoes) but the cream dip it was served with was terrible. It lacked all semblance of flavour (even salt was completely missing) and we left the dip untouched. (At times it felt like the universe was punishing us for untold sins by stuffing us with large quantities of incredibly unhealthy and completely tasteless food)

Very wary after this we decided to just try one Veg Burrito. The Burrito was OK. The wrap tasted a lot like rumali roti and the rice, beans and salad inside were decently done. However, the dish did nothing to change our earlier wariness. We decide to cut our losses and quickly headed out. The bill came to Rs. 600 which I thought was quite expensive. Quantities at Texas Fiesta are fairly generous.

Maybe we ordered the wrong things, maybe its particularly bad for veggies, maybe we caught the chef on a bad day: who knows? But I do know that I won't be paying Texas Fiesta another visit any time soon (and quite frankly, neither should you). 

Pricing: Rs. 400 per person
Location: 17/2, Shaffee Mohammed Rd, Off Khader Nawaz Khan Rd., Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai
Landmark: Near Apollo Children's Hospital

  • Phone: 43087882

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Nothing invigorates the Chama clan quite like a wedding and impending nuptials saw various members arriving in Chennai. After animated discussions, mock-serious arguments and the passage of much time (2.5 hours tbe exact) we zeroed in on the culinary offerings of ID.

ID stands for Idly-Dosa and is located on the first floor of Sathyam Cinemas. The decor is dominated by black and white and the stainless steel cutlery complements the stark decor. The no nonsense attitude is carried onto their tiny little menu which quickly details their offerings. They offer a variety of south Indian snacks from the ubiquitous idli  to more exotic items like adai and ulithiyal. (And of course, an array of chatnis)

As a starter or snack you should try the kirai vadai. This flat, spicy modification of a traditional vadai is sure to whet your appetite.

Though almost everything at ID is good, I recommend that you give idli and dosa the ditch when here. One of my regular orders at ID is the appam (Hoppers made with rice batter and some coconut milk). You can choose to have appam with milk, vegetable stew (my personal choice) or ulithiyal (a spicy side dish which has distinct overtones of tamarind).

Another favourite of mine is adai and more specifically the aviyal it is served with. Similar to dosa, adai is a thicker crepe made from a mixed-dal batter. The best part however,  is the avial. A vegetable dish with a yoghurt and coconut base. ID's versions is mouth watering. The pesarratu, with upma stuffed inside is also a good choice.

Their sweets section is a little limited but don't leave without trying the kasi halwa. This pumpkin based sweet is soaked in ghee, butter and all things good. Not for the calorie conscious, this is sure to send you in raptures of sugar induced delight. Their kesari is pretty decent but I insist that you try the kasi halwa. 

Wash it all down with a glass of spiced buttermilk.

The service at ID leaves much to be desired. They take forever to take your order and procuring a glass of water can often be a difficult task. 

ID is one of my favourite South Indian restaurants in Chennai. It is infinitely better than the over-rated and over-priced Murugan Idli (clearly, I am not a fan). Sometimes, it is the best part about watching a movie in Sathyam Cinemas.

P.S: This post is dedicated to Thatha. We miss you so very much.

Pricing: Rs. 80-100 per person
Location: Sathyam cinemas, 1s floor, Royapettah, Chennai
Phone: 43920346

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gallipoli Bazaar, London

This article was published in the Hindu's Sunday Magazine on 19 March, 2011 :)

Deciding to explore the gastronomical offerings of North London, I dragged the crew to Angel and Upper Street. While a number of small, cute restaurants dot this area, Gallipoli beckoned us the minute we set our sights on it. Everything about this place — the hookahs, the dim lighting, the glassy mystical Alladin-esque lamps and the Mafioso handsome waiters navigating through the cramped space — screams Oriental. Even the carvings on the table tops fit the ambience and I loved the attention to detail. While we abandoned the outdoor seating in view of the incredible cold that evening, it should offer you a wonderful view of a bustling London in milder climate.

Veggie options
Their menu is vast and even had a considerable vegetarian section. (Keep in mind that the vegetarian variety cannot compare to that in India). Though they did have a few lovely sounding starters, we decided to head straight to the mains. In the vegetarian section we ordered Vegetable Couscous (£8.55) and Special Vegetarian Mousakka (£8.65). Initially, the barren blandness of the couscous left me a little disappointed but I soon realised that it's a dish that grows on you. Bland as the couscous is, the well-cooked veggies and sweet-sour raisins oddly complement it. The dish left me feeling warm and full. Even though the couscous managed to salvage itself, I preferred the Special Vegetarian Mousakka. This bake of aubergines, potatoes and mushrooms in red sauce was served with warm pita bread. Almost like a lasagne without layers, this dish served with a tangy sauce and a discernible undertone of cheese was a big hit with us. The other veggie dish that sounded really good was the Imam Bayildi (stuffed and fried brinjals). If any of you do end up trying it, let me know how it was.

In the non-veg section we ordered the Kafta (£8.60), grilled, herbed minced lamb with rice and salad. The meat was succulent and flavourful. The herbs gave it a distinct flavour that I quite liked.
The real star of the meal was the set meal for two (£10.95). This consisted of a cold mezze platter that included lamb guzvec, meatballs, falafel, hummus, yoghurt dips, borek, bakla and many other exotic sounding things. With warm pita bread on the side, this makes for a wonderful, filling spread that will satisfy even the most finicky connoisseurs, I daresay. The hummus deserves a special mention. Though easy to make, hummus is quite difficult to get just right but Gallipoli managed to do that very well. The Dolma (stuffed vegetables wrapped in grape leaf) was also exceedingly good. The vegetables inside were cooked nicely and the grape leaf added a special flavour to the dish. In keeping with my (and all Tamilians, I believe) love for anything curd-based, I devoured the yoghurt dips appreciatively. The veggies need not despair. They have a similar platter with dessert to cater to the non-meat eaters. At nearly £17, it is a little pricey though.
There is a wide seafood, grills and tajine selection too (Originally from Morocco, Tajine dishes are cooked in a clay pot that helps cook meat/veggies slowly at low temperatures).
Sweet tooth
Desserts largely consisted of the regular chocolate and ice cream-based offerings. If you do want to indulge your sweet tooth, and quite frankly who doesn't, I suggest you try the Baklava. This layered Greek pastry filled with honey and nuts is sure to hit your sweet spot. They have a decent wine menu and even serve some Turkish beer (Efes).
The servings at Gallipoli are good enough to leave you feeling full but not so large as to make you burst out of your pants. Service was efficient. The seating is a little cramped but somehow fits the general theme of the restaurant. They also have Gallipoli Cafe in the vicinity.
Quick Look
Ups: Good food, generous servings and efficient service.
Downs: Cramped seating, pricing (if you are on a moderate budget).
Bottom Line: Gallipoli serves fairly authentic Turkish fare in a mystic, Oriental atmosphere. I would definitely recommend going here and enjoying a lazy meal or two.
Pricing: £15-20

Location: 107 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN (Near Angel Tube Station)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TLR Cafe, Delhi

I found myself in Delhi last weekend, and most surprisingly fell in love with the city. Between some typically touristy gawking, pigging out on Delhi street food and a whirlwind trip to Agra (Wah, Taj!) and Fatehpur Sikri (visit Now!), I managed to squeeze in time for an indulgent dinner at The Living Room Cafe.

Walk in and the place screams bohemian. A band on the ground floor and a manic looking artist on the first floor reiterated my first impression. The menu was pretty decent and had a good variety in both the vegetarian and non vegetarian section. TLR cafe largely serves continental food. Waiting to see if the food lived up to its ecclectic ambiance we quickly placed our orders. 

The service at this place is terrible. Constantly there when we were not ready to order and promptly disappearing when we were. It took them forever to get our orders and some dishes arrived nearly half hour after the others. 

Southern Madam ordered the lasagne and that was a mighty fine choice. This dish made with sheets of  flat pasta, cheese and minced lamb was done perfectly. The bolognaise sauce and incredibly tender meat deserve a special mention. This raised our hopes for the rest of the meal. Unfortunately, the chef proved to be slightly erratic.

I ordered the basil pesto which was just OK. The pesto sauce was creamy with a nice flavour and brocolli and leeks, sparse as they were, provided a nice crunchiness to the dish. There were way too many basil leaves for my liking and not enough veggies. The dish wasn't bad but it wasn't great either.

Banker Madam and Edward ordered the Munshi Munch and the Aubergene Parmigiana. The Munshi Munch was pasta in chili red sauce. Despite the presence of sun dried tomatoes (one of my all time fav ingredients), I am going to give this dish a thumbs down. No pasta should be this spicy and the spicy flavour wasn't complemented by the rest of the dish. The entire dish was somehow out of sorts.

The Aubergene Parmigiana  was very well done. The aubergine had a lovely smoky, grilled touch. The cheese and subtle tomato sauce complemented it quite well. The dish was, however, served with toasted bread as opposed to garlic bread which doesn't speak very well. This may sound snooty but it was a snooty sort of place.

If you know me (and by now, I am kind of hoping that you do), you know that none of my meals are complete without dessert. I ordered the creme brulee which was a bit underwhelming. Neither the caramel nor the custard made me go 'Wow!'. The hot choclate souffle oozing with molten chocolate and ice cream looked sinfully decadent. I made a mental note to try it the next time.

Quantites at TLR are good. If you go there, be prepared to loosen your purse strings. Prices here are quite steep and dining here is a bit of an indulgence (especially if you are in the business of alleviating poverty).

TLR has a nice artsy feel to it. It hosts a number of music and other events. TLR is more a place to be seen at than eat at. If you know what to order (and after my review, you should: the lasagne!) and aren't expecting good service then this is a fairly good option. TLR is also a great date place.

Pricing: A meal for two will cost you close to Rs. 2000. Please note that they add VAT of 12.5% for food and 20% for alcohol on your bill. 

Location:  No.31, Hauz Khas Village, Hauz Khas, Delhi

  • Landmark: Near Cotton Curio
  • Phone: 46080544, 46080533

P.S: All photos have been flicked off the net as my beloved cam is holed up in Bombay.

P.P.S: Kau, I am really really sorry. Please don't be mad.