Khiva – Phoenix, Pune 

‘Khiva’ from Mumbai, is the latest addition to the restaurant scene at Phoenix Market City, Pune. 

Considering that this place serves rich, traditional Bukhara cuisine, the decor is quite modern, simplistic, with just a few touches like, artefacts, paintings, Middle Eastern music, that try to stick to the concept of the restaurant. 

I was invited to a Preview dinner last month, & the tasting menu we were served that evening was pre decided by the management. 

Not the best mix of dishes, honestly. I would’ve loved to sample their Signature dishes, or something unique in terms of flavour, style of preparation, & presentation. 

But frankly, how different can a Palak Paneer, a Methi Mutter Malai, or a Rasmalai be, than any other place serving it ? 

The kebabs we tried – Chandni kebab, & Murg Mozarella kebab, both had a similar marination of cream, yogurt, cheese, green chili, & were pretty average in terms of flavour, presentation, and portions.

The vegetarian starters – Makai Seekh Kabab, & Mutter aur Cheese ka Tikka, were both dry and crumbly, & not really big on flavour (and Defintely Not Worth spending close to 400 bucks on!) 

The 1st (& probably the only) impressive dish of the evening was Mutton Lahori, a smooth thin onion based gravy, with absolutely tender melt in the mouth chunks of mutton that tasted brilliant with hot Naan. 

Murg Peshawari was another simple homestyle chicken curry, which is worth a try, but is it worth the high price ? I doubt. 

The vegetarian mains, as I said, were just like any other place serving this cuisne, would prepare. There was nothing different, nothing unique, in the Palak Paneer, Dal Makhani, Methi Mutter Malai or Meloni Tarkari that we were served that evening. The presentation was also as regular & run of the mill as any other place would serve. Which is exactly why I keep wondering why they’re charging whatever they are. (check the prices on Zomato, you’ll know what I mean 😐) 

Chicken Dum Biryani served with Mirch ka salan did not disappoint. Good ratio of meat to rice. Generous sprinkling of saffron and spices, and balanced flavours. No complaints there. 

It takes a very good dessert to impress me, & compel me to go for a 2nd helping, as I’m not really a big fan of Indian desserts. 

The Anjeer Halwa, Angoori Rasmalai, & Lychee ki Tehree served that evening unfortunately failed to compel me to go even for a 2nd bite, leave alone a 2nd helping. 

With the Supreme Court highway ban on alcohol still in place, you will have to settle for a mocktail with your meal at Phoenix, as of now. 

So taking all these factors into consideration, will Khiva be able to impress guests, and have them come over a 2nd time ? 

Well… it’s barely a month since they’ve opened, maybe I’ll just wait for a few more weeks, give them some more time to settle, then try the food again… I’ll reserve my opinion till then. ☺

In the meanwhile, if you do try it out, do let me know about your experience there. 

* Bloggers table was hosted by Khiva * 

A Pinch of Patience, a dash of Kindness, a spoonful of Laughter, a heap of Authority, & a Ladleful of Love 

This is what a tea break on a normal working day looks like – 

People often think that I visit only fancy, expensive restaurants & hotels, for tastings & reviews. They are often under the impression that being invited for a ‘tasting’ means we just go there, eat for free & then post pictures on social media. 

Well, I wouldn’t blame them for thinking that way, because they do see pictures of expensive places, delicious food & all that jazz. 

So, yes, Food Bloggers do that generally. 

However, that’s just a small part of what I do. 

In case you’re thinking that’s the ONLY thing I do…Lol…NO ! 

I have run my own commercial kitchen for almost 10 years, from where I used to supply baked goodies, desserts & confections to a lot of restaurants.

When I shut down my kitchen after 10 fantastic years of crazy schedules, massive workload, deadlines, & zero personal life, I thought of taking a sabbatical. 

But the constant need to ‘do something constructive & be productive in some way, wouldn’t let me sit quietly at home, for too long. 

It was then that I started taking up assignments for Consultancy & Training in the food industry.

Many restaurants avoid hiring trained staff, due to the fear of paying higher salaries. But what they don’t realize is that they are doing themselves more harm, rather than being ‘smart’. 

If you think hiring trained staff is expensive, try hiring unskilled people !   

So that’s when a ‘consultant’comes into the picture. Someone who can train the staff, set systems in place, right from grooming them, teaching them the importance of personal hygiene, to showing them how to do the dishes, wait tables, serve food, the importance of communication, keeping a check on inventory, & a million other things ! 

So in short, you could say, my work has a lot to do with ‘man management’. 

When readers/followers on Instagram see the beautiful glitzy, glam pictures from events, & tastings, and all those lavish ‘food festivals’, there are also some ‘behind the scene’ pics that they never get to see ! 😅

Kitchens are hard environments, and they form incredibly strong characters. 

Some days are peaceful, while some turn out to be real nightmares! 

You have to act as a mediator at times, handle temper tantrums – not just the guests’, but also your team’s. 

There are issues regarding salaries, job profile, leaves, and so on.

Sometimes there are mishaps in the kitchen, & you need to be prepared for the worst. 

So…Coming back to the point, how does a normal workaday look like ? 

Well….sometimes it’s looks like this – 

And some other times, it looks like this – 

Yup….when I’m working with boys from the Cleaning team, the actual ‘Dishwashers’, or the ‘Bussers’, who clean tables, mop floors, carry dishes back to the sink to be washed, or clean tables, set the tables again for the next service.

These boys generally come from economically weaker backgrounds, most of the times they haven’t even  completed their basic education. 

The fancy food served at restaurants is something they’ve never even seen or heard of, in their life. 

They do not understand the importance of personal hygiene, etiquette or communication. That’s where my work begins. At the grassroot level, most of the times. 

People in general, often think that I visit only fancy, expensive restaurants & hotels, for tastings & reviews.

But just recently, I was actively working with a team, comprising of people who have varied jobs in restaurants, right from – dishwashers, technicians, servers, cooks, managers & restaurant owners. 

Which means, one day, I’d be teaching the dish washer guy his cleaning duties, while the next day, I could be telling the cooking team about chopping or ‘Garnishes’, discussing some cooking techniques with the Chef, or speaking with the managers about ‘effective communication’ with the clients; & the same evening attending a launch party with the restaurant owner & a bunch of ‘celebs’. 

The other day, all the boys from the restaurant, where I’m working on a training & consultancy assignment, stopped by at this ‘tapri’ (street food cart) for chai. 

It was the best half an hour of the day, for me.☺  We ate together, had tea, shared our views on how things need to be changed/improved, & how I expect work to be done, even when I’m not around.

I get to learn so many things from them. So many things we would never get to know, or imagine, living in the cozy comfort of our plush high rise apartments. The smiles on their faces when they realize, that you genuinely want their opinion, is such a nice feeling.

Doesn’t matter if you’re their ‘pack leader’ & have to assign tasks, & be strict at times. For them, to follow & genuinely respect you, the most important thing is that YOU respect them 1st, & be part of their circle. 

Kitchens are hard environments & they form incredibly strong characters.

Yes, on some days my Brunch meeting could be at a 5 * property with the best of sparkling wine, followed by tea at a roadside tapri with these guys. 

And the trick is, to be able to balance both, with just the same comfort & ease. 😊  

World Tapas Day ! 3rd Thursday of June. 


Its World Tapas Day today !

Which reminded me of this amazing meal I had in Madrid on my birthday last year. 

I went bar hopping ALL DAY….every day 🙈😂 & totally fell in love with the tapas bars in Spain. 

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish/Portuguese verb tapar, “to cover”. Before the 19th century, European roads were in bad condition. Travelling was slow and exhausting. Most people could not read or write, and Spain was no exception. 

Inns, called posadas, or bodegas, grew along the roads, offering meals and rooms, for travellers. Since few innkeepers could write and few travellers read, inns offered their guests a sample of the dishes available, on a “tapa” (the word for pot cover in Spanish). 

In fact, a “tapa” was (and still is) a small portion of any kind of Spanish cuisine. What we commonly refer to as ‘small plates’ in restaurant. 

A tapa in Spanish cuisine, is an appetizer, or snack. It may be cold such as mixed olives and cheese or hot such as chopitos, which are batter fried squid. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. 

There are literally thousands of types of tapas, and they very from region to region, depending on the produce and climate. 

Honey Chili Chicken 

​Dinner last night, was this easy Honey-Chilli Chicken. 

It’s the kind of dish that gives you a healthy dose of protein, plus add veggies of your choice, like brocolli, bellpepper, onion, mushrooms, or baby corn…and your 1 dish meal is ready in under 15 minutes! 

■ Cut boneless chicken into bite sized cubes. 

■ Marinate with a bit of salt, pepper, soy sauce, & ginger-garlic paste. Set aside for 15-20 mins. (You could also marinate the chicken & leave it in the fridge before you go to work. All you need to do is stir fry it later in the evening, & your meal will be ready in minutes. 

Anyway…so back to the chicken. 

■ While your boneless chicken cubes are soaking up the soy sauce, & ginger garlic flavours, dice veggies of your choice into bite sized cubes. 

■ Finely mince some ginger & garlic. Slit some green chillies lengthwise (or mince them if you like) 

■ Toss the marinated chicken In some dry cornstarch so that all pieces get covered with a thin and even dusting of cornstarch. 

■ In a wok, heat couple of tsps of Sesame oil, add minced ginger-garlic, green chillies, veggies, soy sauce, salt to taste and Honey. Toss on high heat for a minute. 

■ Add cornstarch dusted chicken to the wok and keep tossing till the sauce coats all the veggies and chicken evenly. This should take only 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook chicken and vegetables. 

■ Garnish with fresh spring onion and sesame seeds. Serve hot. 

■ If you want to serve this chicken with rice, add water and simmer for a couple of minutes till you get the desired consistency of gravy. 

Farm to Table Sunday Brunch at Hyatt Regency, Pune.

​Sundays are meant to be enjoyed lazying around, catching up with friends and family, and ofcourse enjoying a laid back brunch.

That’s exactly what I did last Sunday at the Farm to Table Sunday Brunch at Hyatt Regency.
This brunch offers you an assortment of cuisines that use fresh, organic seasonal produce, seafood, meats, all procured from local farmers markets and suppliers.
The freshest and most tempting fruits, & veggies welcome you, as you walk into the The Cafe for brunch.

The spread is large indeed, with something to please every palate.
They serve everything from Salads, Chaat , to Lebanese (read Hummus, pita , fattoush, tabouleh, babaganoush) to Japanese (read Sushi – Ok ….the vegetarian ones with Tomato, Bell Pepper and Okra wasn’t impressive at all….but the standard ones like Crab, Prawn, and Tuna more than make up for it.)
There’s a Salad and Pasta station where you can get your dishes customised as per your choice.
The Grill counter offers an array of Chicken, Shellfish and other Seafood, Beef (buff) etc)
For mains, you can choose from a plethora of dishes, whether it’s a spicy, rustic Chicken Rassa, Thecha, Zhunka and Bhakri you’re craving, or a perfectly cooked Dum Biryani or Murgh Makhni.
The vegetarians have a choice of the freshest seasonal produce cooked right in front of them, be it Indian Curries, Thai delicacies or Salads.
The enticing aroma of Thai curry and steamed fish wafting from a corner of the restaurant is sure to lead you there, and try out the delicious Curry and Rice. You can choose from the variety of seafood, chicken or vegetables and get your curry made as per your preference.
If you’re more a ‘wine and cheese’ kinda person, then you’re in luck. The restaurant offers a huge selection of Cheeses and Cold Cuts to enjoy with your favourite wines.
I’m sure no matter how much you eat, there’s always a little corner in the tummy reserved for Dessert !

Those with a sweet tooth will have a tough time choosing from the countless options on offer.

Everything looks so good, and tastes equally good, that you wish you spent all day there !

End your meal with a lovely cup of cappuccino (if that’s even possible, after eating so much !)
I really wish they extend their brunch hours though.

Atleast 12:00 – 16:00….(instead of 12:30 – 15:30)
*Review conducted on Invite*

‘Farm To Table Sunday Brunch’ will be on till February end

Dimsum Festival at JW Marriott, Pune

A peek into the ongoing Dimsum Festival –
I was invited last week to Spice Kitchen, JW Marriott, where they are hosting a Dimsum Festival till 29th February ’16.
This huge spread of Dumplings, bao, chinese green tea is definitely a treat for the tastebuds. The vegetarians need not feel left out as there is plenty to choose from.
My favourites from the Vegetarian spread were –
Chinese chive dumplings
Shitake mushroom dumplings
Veg coriander bao

And the must haves from Non Vegetarian spread are –
Prawns Hargan
Lamb Bao
Chicken Sesame Sphere

While enjoying these yummy dumplings, dont forget to try the green tea cocktails.
My favourite was a blend of Chinese Green Tea and Gin, served chilled to wash down the sumptious spread of dimsums and the huge variety of accompaniments and sauces.
There’s something for everyone here…and you have only 2 days left to check it out.