Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Seoul, Chennai

I have been in Chennai for nearly 10 months now (Wow!) and I just realized that I haven't yet blogged about one of my favourite restaurants in the city. The last thing I was expecting in thayir-saadam eating, Saravana- Bhavan-loving Madras was a stellar Korean restaurant. But that's exactly what I found at In Seoul.

Unassuming, without any signs and carelessly placed on top of a supermarket, the place has a distinct 'don't-bother-us' attitude. But once you walk into the restaurant you know its the real deal. Before you get to the daunting task of figuring out what you want, let me tell you about one of the best bits of In Seoul: their complimentary starters. There is always 5-6 different small dishes (banchan)  on your table. This can vary from some terrible seaweed-esque thing to a yummy yam dish and some mean kimchee. When I took Nympho there, she drooled over the squid banchan they had. If you are veggie, make sure you ask them to take away the non-veg ones.

For the veggies, I highly recommend the Soondubuchigae: steaming bean curd stew with veggies served in a stone pot. This comes with a small serving of steam cooked rice. As unlikely as it seems, this tofu soup is a favourite of mine.

My other favourite is the bibimbap (apparently, this is Korean for mixed meal). This consists of servings of rice, egg, veggies (and beef, if you want the non-veg version) and a spicy sauce. Ask the waiter to mix it for you based on your spice preference. The one adjective that comes to mind when I think of this dish is wholesome (and not in a yucky brussel sprouts way).

I also like the soupy noodles at In Seoul. I once had the japchae (glass noodles) and wasn't a huge fan. The sticky gooey texture of the noodles and the slightly sweet, bland flavour just didn't sit well with me. If you are a meat lover, there are plenty of options for you. Their beef bulgogi is very popular. They also have an extensive sea-food menu. Have a glass of soju to round up the experience.

In Seoul is also a great place for people watching. From the drunk Korean who has turned purple by the end of the meal to the table of uncomfortable looking Indians who are morosely contemplating the contents of their meal: In Seoul never disappoints. If you do visit this place, there is a one in five chance that you will spot me. Come over, say Hi!

If you are a Korean food novice, then the menu will appear practically indecipherable. The best course is to ask the waiter for his suggestions. 

Portions at In Seoul are generous. Their service is generally OK but can be slightly rude at times. Their loo is barely passable and I would advise you against using it. 

As much as I love this place, I know that it may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you love food and want to try something different, you should definitely make it here. 

Pricing: Rs. 350-500 per person
Location: 530 (S149 & 150), TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai (Above the More supermarket)
Phone: 43009521, 24353377

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saltwater Cafe, Bombay: Terrible Service

I wanted to make my last meal in Bombay an indulgent one. After much discussion we decided to try Saltwater Cafe in Bandra. The first thing that struck us was the service. They kept us waiting (even though we had reserved a table), and left us in limbo for over fifteen minutes. Bored and tired, we jumped at the first vacant table and claimed it as our own and then began the long process of catching the waiter's eye. If you haven't already figured it out, terrible service will emerge as a recurrent theme in this review.

We placed the order for food and drinks. The drinks order took ages to arrive and it was all mixed up. The waiter was not entirely sure what we ordered or what he was serving. None of the drinks were spectacular, though Sassy's Melon Sangria was a fine choice.

The food arrived in bits and parts. Kocch's food arrived halfway through our meal (Maybe it was the chef's punishment for ordering a sandwich). On the bright side, the food was pretty good. A special mention to the impeccably done Lasagna. Sassy's steak was well done. The pastas were decent but neither blew my mind.

Being firm believers in the 'there-is-always-room-for-dessert' theory, we couldn't leave without indulging our sweet tooths. The baked cheesecake was 'melt-in-your-mouth' delicious.

The (flour less?) chocolate cake that we made much fun of turned out to be wonderful and surprisingly, not too heavy.

The tiramisu was so-so and my least favourite of the desserts. 

Portions are sufficient, service terrible and prices steep. While the food is pretty decent, this place definitely needs to pull its socks up. Bombay has no dearth of great restaurants and standing out requires more than a snooty attitude (I hope). 

The loo at the Saltwater Cafe is cute and clean. 

Pricing: Rs. 1000 per person

Location: Rose Minar Annexe, 87, Chapel Road, Next to Mount Carmel Church, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra West, Mumbai

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Candies, Bombay

Bombay is a great city which has many, many things to offer but Candies has the one thing that is nearly non-existent in Bombay: SPACE. I climbed past the ground floor and was transported out of clustered, claustrophobic Bombay to a sprawling 5(?) storeyed, colonial mansion. Candies has various levels: sky garden, the forest, the room of lamps and some others that I cannot remember. Tables are scattered all over the place and in true Bombay style, every nook and cranny is utilized. Unlike most other Bombay establishments however, there is walking space between the tables. While the cramped cafe style of Leo's and Mondy's has its own charm, it was nice to sit at a table without being privy to the conversation at the 4 adjacent ones. The eclectic tile art work, the tributes to Michael Jackson and the lush green trees all around add to the casual charm of the place.

Ambiance aside, the food is largely pre-cooked and its a takeaway/ fast food sort of place. The food is average: not too bad not memorable either. It's greasy food that is definitely not good for your weight. But that has never been a deterrent and this time proved no different. I raided the salad bar and Nympho ordered the chicken fry both of which were OK.

The dessert at Candies is way better than its food. We tried a variety of the tiny desserts and I heartily recommend the jelly slice and the chocolate tart.

As wonderful as the ambiance is, the wait at the place is tortuous. It's self service and the lines are serpentine. It took us nearly half an hour to get our order and Nympho claims that this is the fastest service she has seen. They now have a counter on the fourth floor which is less crowded and infinitely quicker. Definitely try that.

The prices at Candies are very reasonable and quantities generous. Candies also attracts a lot of teenagers and can feel like a high school hang out at times. We walked out of there feeling old and very, very full.

I think you would be hard pressed to find another place like this in Bombay.

This review stands only for the Candies at Pali Hill and not for the other branches.

Pricing: Rs. 200 for a meal
Location: Mac Ronells, 5AA Pali Hill, St. Andrews Road, Near Learners Academy, Pali Hill, Bandra West, Mumbai
  • Landmark: Near Near D'Monte Park
  • Phone: 26424124, 26422324, 26432425, 26430728