Category Archives: restaurant review

Dishes to Die For From the deep South! Dakshin – A review.

 I could not scripted it if I tried, but I had the opportunity of dining at two splendid dining establishments in as many days. The first, dedicated to Frontier cuisine of the North-west & Punjab, the second, a fitting complement paying tribute to the best of Southern Indian Fare.

The two styles of cuisines , (for those who are under the misguided notion that Indian food revolves around Paneer & Naan) , are about as alike as chalk and cheese. Its almost like trying to understand and compare two languages which never had any common origins or script to begin with. South Indian cuisine makes full use of spices that originated in its native soil (such as pepper, cinnamon, cardamom & cloves, originated and evolved in the Southern Indian peninsula).  When paired with the magical aromatic combination of Curry leaves and asafetida, the end result is truly magical.

Dakshin, the flagship ethnic cuisine restaurant at the Park Sheraton in Chennai has consistently been THE place to go for great South Indian food. Some of the best memories of my life have been celebrated with a dinner at this very restaurant, The other half’s promotion to a Bell Labs DMTS, my son Ishaan’s first birthday, to name a few, and the taste memories of every one of them linger on pleasantly.

I needed no coaxing to visit the restaurant once again on a whirlwind overnight trip to Chennai for a family celebration. The only difference, I allowed myself the luxury of letting Sous Chef Harish advise me on what to eat, and the end result was an unforgettable culinary journey to be savored and cherished for all times.

The Beautifully designed menu

opens up to a cornucopia of dishes.

Every table is set with gleaming brass containers of deep fried Appalams (Paapads) , Vadaams (wafers made with Rice flour) and sun dried Chiles & guar beans,

and a selection of traditional Chutney powders.

Every female guest is welcomed with a string of fresh jasmine blossoms,

And then the Feasting begins!

Its starts off with dollar sized versions of classic Iyer (Tamil Brahmin) dishes such as the Banana Dosai and the Adai, a lentil pancake with a crunchy bite and an extremely satisfying chewy texture.  While the Adai is a familiar staple in many households, the next offerings were completely new to me.

Little addictive hush puppies made with shredded plantains spiced with curry leaves, and classic masala Vadas  with fennel.  The palate cleanser at the end of the appetizers was mildly blanched Cauliflowers tossed in a heady blend of toasted cumin, crushed peppercorns and curry leaves.

I was practically in seventh heaven with these goodies when the Chef announced that they would be setting the plates out for the main course There were six different curries, each representing the different culinary regions of South India, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu as well as Pondicherry & Chettinad. These included a Tomato flavored dal from Andhra, A tamarind based curry with shallots from chettinad, a spiced potato roast, The classic ‘Ishtu from Kerala,  and an amazing turnip Kootu from Pondicherry made with toasted garbanzo beans.

and the surprise , a divine, crispy Okra Stir fry with coconut (For an avid Okra hater like me, I actually not only tasted it, but liked it as well).
Each one of these dishes were paired with classic breads (if you can call it that) from the south, Flaky, layered Malabar porottas, Pillowy Aapams,

Freshly squeezed and steamed rice noodles,

which were topped off with a classic dish that binds all of South India together, Thayir saadham (Yogurt rice), served up with your choice of spicy Achars & ‘Thokkus’ (cooked chutneys)

And in saving the best for last, Chef Harish presented an unforgettably brilliant bread pudding from the erstwhile French colony of Pondicherry,  a true genius of an idea bringing together influences not just from the Southern Indian Peninsula, but also reaching out the French influences from further east in Vietnam.

The bread in this pudding is a baguette made from rice flour, spiced with cloves and cinnamon, soaked up in a creamy coconut milk  reduction redolent of cardamom, saffron & Pistachio.

Anything I write about this unforgettable dinner will not really do justice to the food that is served up at this flagship restaurant. The best way to experience is to visit and treat yourself to the best food that the deep Indian South can dish out!

Dakshin is located at the Sheraton Park & Towers, TTK Road Chennai , TN 600 018, Tel : (91) (44) 24994101

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Paan Shots once again at the Punjab Grill.

 Its an oft heard story, new restaurants open, offer fabulous food to the point that you count the days to going back, even though you and the restaurant are physically located on two different continents, and then when you go back, POOF!.. either the the food quality or the service has degenerated down the tubes.

is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

It was by sheer serendipity that I ended up dining once again at Jiggs Kalra’s restaurant ‘Punjab Grill’ (the Bangalore branch) yesterday. It was G’s (the other Half) birthday and we initially decided to walk up to another restaurant closer to home that previously had served up great food, Just as we finished toasting our wine glasses and were contemplating what to order, there appeared a nasty unwanted pest of the 6 legged kind right on the table, the one that makes you scream and hop onto chairs. We called up Punjab Grill right then and there, made a reservation and set off immediately.

As I walked into Punjab Grill almost 2 years to the date of my previous visit, the first thing that struck me was that the decor was as elegant as ever, with minor re arrangements of the seating. Since the kids were getting peckish, we settled down to ordering food almost immediately.

The appetizer we picked was Paneer Tikka Multani, Huge morsels of smoky grilled Paneer cheese marinaded in a green blend of chile, cilantro and mint, washed down with a glass of chilled ‘Shikanjvi’ . Shikanjvi is a tangy Indian style lemonade spiced with salt, pepper & cumin. The version this time around was more of a delicious slushie made with crushed ice as opposed to the straight forward version chilled with ice cubes.

 There are some classics that one looks forward to eating again and two dishes certainly qualify as signature dishes in my book. One is the Dal Makhani, a blend of slow cooked lentils & dal in a creamy sauce. Rich, yet subtly spiced, it is a ‘MUST ORDER’ at the restaurant.

In contrast to the creamy Dal, is the other signature dish that is worth visiting the restaurant for is the Malerkhot de Achari Aloo –  Potatoes cooked up in a tangy lip smacking gravy of Indian pickling spices. Perfect for waking up your palate to the other offerings although I would have preferred more potatoes in the gravy.

The other dishes we ordered were the Pindi Channa, the drier version of Channa Masala, piquantly spiced with generous amounts of Dried mango & Pomegranate powder.

 The surprise was the Mixed vegetables, the Subzian de Milliyan, a mix of vegetables cooked along with crumbled paneer. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, retaining a light crunch and their characteristic flavors stood up and yet complemented the flavors of fresh ginger that dominated the dish.

 Dessert was a trio of Gulab Jamoons, the classic version with Pistachios, and the others flavored with white and dark chocolate. (Disclaimer: it was just one serving ordered for my 7 year old, who promptly dispatched them, Considering that he also happens to be one of my Taste testers, I’m going to conclude that they must have been delicious)

 And of course their ultimate signature sign off shot that beckons the diner for more visits in the future..The Freshly blended Paan shot, with fresh betel leaves, fennel, cardamoms & other spices.

It is a rare pleasure indeed to visit a restaurant the second time around and savor the same amazing food and service. If you’re ever in Bangalore, Treat yourself to a meal at this wonderful establishment.  Punjab Grill’s Bangalore outlet is located at SJR Primus, Koramangala , 7th block Bangalore 560 095, Tel: +91 80 40902161/62. Reservations recommended.

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf
Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended.. – See more at: http://www.panfusine.com/2011/09/paan-shots-at-punjab-grill-restaurant.html#sthash.DViJjXBA.dpuf

Indiblogger meet at Junoon, NYC

The Date: Sunday Sept 16
The Venue: Junoon , New York City
First things first.. For those of you who are wondering who or what on earth Indiblogger is, its the biggest blogger network for Indian bloggers from across the globe. They’ve been up and running for the past four years and in that period have done wonders in bringing together bloggers from all walks of life. Discussions span relevant topics of common interest to bloggers, including that all pervasive scourge that hangs over all of us, the threat of plagiarism. (they exposed one such scumbag and its amusing to read the thread of comments including those from the shamelessly unapologetic culprit).
Back to the event. It was a varied group of bloggers, with graduate students, a lawyer, a photographer,
a couple of graduates from the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA), All of us with one thing in common, we all blog, about life, food, arts & craft.
Junoon  is a Michelin star rated Indian restaurant in the heart of New York City. Founded by Rajesh Bharadwaj with the culinary operations spearheaded by Executive Chef Vikas Khanna and Chef de cuisine Walter Rozario, It is unarguably one of the finest dining establishments for elegant, high-end Indian food.
View of the entrance with the ‘trees of life’ aligned in the foreground
Chef Vikas Khanna needs no introduction to the Indian diaspora. One of the most recognized celebrity chefs in India, he’s been a judge in the Indian version of ‘Master Chef’ as well as other culinary shows such as ‘Throwdown with Bobby Flay’ and ‘Hells Kitchen’ with Gordon Ramsay.
A native of Amritsar,Chef Khanna embodied the essence of the well known Punjabi hospitality. Warm and easy going, he welcomed us graciously to his establishment. (although we must have  looked more like a bunch of students from IIT – Bombay — I’m taking the liberty of quoting my alma mater here — wearing our Sunday best, rather than the well dressed Wall Street and Park avenue clientele that the restaurant is accustomed to).
The Indiblogger team headed by Anoop (‘the Zombie’) Johnson and Diana did a fabulous job of arranging the details down to the fingertips. There was a small meet and greet/registration session set up in the elegant bar area of the restaurant (inspired by decor in  a hotel of the Taj Chain that Chef Khanna was associated with, early in his career), followed by appetizers in the private dining area set up exclusively for the group. Of course, the food ..
The Menu
Murg Tikka Mirza Hansru. — Didn’t ask what the name meant, just know that it was chicken.
Lahsooni Gobhi

Lahsooni Gobhi – Crisp fried cauliflower florets in a garlicky tomato sauce.
Paneer Pakora
And my personal favorite,  Paneer Pakora, delicately spiced paneer,  in a chickpea batter fried to golden perfection. Served with a chilled Chenin blanc. The Paneer is made from scratch daily at the restaurant and is spiced specifically for the dish. More on that later!
As the wine goblets were being filled and the appetizers set on the table, Anoop introduced us to a first hand view of what Indiblogger was and their passionate mission to bring together bloggers not just in India, but Indian bloggers from all over the world. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Just as he signed off, in walks Chef Khanna in person. He led us through a personal guided tour of the restaurant, explaining each and every detail that went into its planning, creation and execution,  from the decor to the desserts. 
The tour of the spice room
This was followed by a trip to the temperature controlled ‘Spice room’, an olfactory feast with the chef personally sharing his spice wisdom with a bunch of us foodie rookies, in such a down to earth manner. The prevailing atmosphere was similar to a pre-wedding saree/ trousseau viewing session with family! And about family & loved ones it was, Chef Khanna speaking fondly of his grandma ‘Biji’ and how she was THE  inspiration for his choice of career.
 It was back to the table where a divine spread was laid out paired with a perfect wine selection of Malbec.
Nadru Kofte
Nadru Kofte: Delicate dumplings  of Kashmiri lotus root and Fresh paneer , shaped into quenelles and cooked in a fennel and fenugreek spiced sauce,  with an exquisite garnish of a fried lotus root wafer.

The all time comfort food, Daal Makhani

and a Meat entree Murg Lababdar (which of course I skipped, being a vegetarian) served up in the most gorgeous Mauviel cookware, (Hey I can still drool at the pots and pans, can’t I?)

All served up with a selection of Naan & Rice and Mint Raita.

There was a little culinary quiz which served as a palate cleansing course as much as it was an experiment in neuroscience (there I go again, You can take me out of neuroscience, but you can never take the neuroscience outta me..It adds a captivating dimension to my foodie passions). We were served tasting potions of a soup and asked to identify the ingredients and write them down without consulting each other.

It was exactly like that proverbial fable about four blind men trying to identify an elephant after touching different parts of the animal. Chef Khanna must have had a rip roaring time reading our lists, but the take home message was that once your memory systems latch on to a familiar dish, it ceases to think beyond the ingredients that are already imprinted in your memory. To me the soup reminded me of a ‘kootu’ that my mom made with Suran (Elephant’s foot yam).

Dessert was a beautifully plated dish of Mango and ‘Paan’ flavored kulfi duo. Beautifully set into perfect cubes and frozen to perfection in a blast chiller.

And remember that awesome Paneer Pakora I was talking about??..

More of that in my next blog post with a review of Vikas Khanna’s latest cookbook, ‘Flavors First’

& needless to say, this was an experience I’ll treasure for years to come! Thank you Indiblogger & Junoon for the beautiful memories!

Thats ME with a Cheshire cat like grin standing with the Chef. (the spotless Junoon Kitchen in the background)

‘Paan’ Shots at the Punjab Grill: Review of Jiggs Kalra’s new restaurant

Yea Yea… like many other blogs, I too should be writing a post on Ganesh chaturthi, being in India while this festival is on in full swing, especially since i have a LOT of cute photographs of the ‘modak’ making process AND numerous varieties of the delightful snacks. Trust me to take off in a different direction! but then writing a blog is all about what excites you, isn’t it?

Stumbled upon Punjab grill through my aunt’s recommendation, returning from Bannerghatta National Park  (Not much by way of natural wildlife, but they run a respectable conservation effort to preserve tigers, Asiatic lions & sloth bears)

To Indian readers, J. Inder Singh Kalra (better known as ‘Jiggs’ Kalra) needs no introduction. A journalist by profession and former food columnist at the Times of India, He’s been involved with food in the Indian media, the same way Mark Bittmann has been doing so through the NY times (except that Jiggs Kalra precedes Bittman by about 20 years or so!). I shall refrain from expressly using cliched terms like  ‘Czar’ to describe the gentleman although I absolutely concur that he is worthy of such labels. Here is a link to an interview with the man himself

Punjab Grill is a chain of restaurants run by Mr. Zohrawar Kalra, (Mr Jiggs Kalra’s son), inspired by the cuisine of the Punjab. Making its debut on 19th August 2011, the Bangalore branch is the first of the chain to opens its doors in a southern Indian state.

The decor within is elegant & classy, in earthy shades interspersed with bold splashes of black & red.

The staff is well trained, courteous & extremely helpful. We trooped in there without a reservation, three adults with a hyperactive 2 year old. Initially seated in the lounge area, they quickly set up a table complete with a high chair.

 Ordered Shikanjvi (Indian style sweet n’ salty lemonade), Ambi Panna (Raw mango cooler) and Matta (fresh churned punjabi style buttermilk), can’t really decide a single winner, they were all equally excellent. The street food style Shikanjvi, made from ripe limes ( referred to as lemon in India) had the perfect blend of tart & sweet and the sprinkling of masala (with cumin, black salt & pepper).  The Ambi Panna had an aroma of sun dried mango combined with the lively freshness of mint and an effervescent green color. An instant pick me up. As with most traditional Indian beverages, it is seasoned with a touch of  salt, pepper and cumin.

Green Mango Cooler (Ambi Panna)

Fresh churned Punjabi style buttermilk (Mattha)

Sweet & Salty street style limeade (Shikhanjvi)

The beverages were paired with complementary papad, chutney & the usual bowl of spiced & sliced  onion with wedges of lime

The range of dishes in the appetizer may  be what gives the restaurant the the grill in its name. Most of them are tandoor offerings, and  something to be noticed is the significant number of dishes with morel mushrooms. I forgot to ask where they get the supplies from of this treasured ingredient!

Skipped the appetizers and moved on directly to the main course. We ordered Amritsari Malai kofta, Malerkotlae di achaari aloo and the Punjab grill house  daal paired with roomali & tandoori bread.

Amritsari Malai Kofta (garnished with more nuts!)

The highlight of the dishes ordered was definitely the Malai Kofta. This has been the most decandent Punjabi dish I’ve probably ever had. The fried dumplings (kofta) consists of blanched & ground almonds combined with finely (almost ricotta consistency) crumbled paneer and khoya (Milk solids, obtained by evaporating all the water from full fat milk). The gravy … you guessed it, more creamy goodness – Cashew based, the dominant (almost singular) spice used here is cardamom. In fact the first thought that came to mind..I could freeze this  & eat it up as a savory ice cream. An absolutely MUST TRY dish!


The house daal is a regal version of the classic punjabi daal with lentils & whole urad dal. Seasoned with onion garlic and tomatoes and slow cooked and simmered for a long time, it still retains the texture of whole cooked lentils that give it a wonderful mouth feel. finished with generous amounts of cream it is comfort food at its best when paired with tandoori roti and cumin flavored rice.

Daal Punjabi grill

The achaari aloo consists of baby potatoes cooked in a tomato gravy seasoned with fennel and bishops weed (ajwain). Spicier in terms of heat than the other selections, the well cooked tomato dominates in the flavor profile. The potatoes tended to be sidelined, It perhaps needed a bit of smoky grilling prior to being added to the gravy, to embolden their presence. A tasty dish nevertheless.

Malerkothlae di achaari aloo

Succumbed to indulging in Kulfi falooda for dessert. Unlike any other ice cream the decadent confection is almost thickened paste of sweetened cream, saffron and nuts frozen to obtain a shape.Served with chilled cornflour noodles (which had an oh-so familiar aroma that i can’t quite place except that i think it had rose) over a betel leaf, Its a perfect ending to a wonderful feast.

Kulfi Falooda

Or so I thought. the ultimate cherry on the icing over the decadent cake of a feast was the Paan shots served up as we asked for the check. A freshly blended concoction of coconut, supari (a mouth freshner) and betel leaf (The leaf from the vine from a member of the pepper family). MADE THE DAY!! If nothing, go visit the place & have a meal simply to savor this novel shot!

Punjab Grill is located in Bangalore at SJR primus, ground floor, Koramangala, 7th block, Bangalore 560095
Tel +91-80-40902161/62.. Reservations recommended..