NYC (Coffee Shop) at Hotel Radisson Blu Plaza – Restaurant Review by Rajeev Gulati

Restaurant Review – NYC (Coffee Shop) at Hotel Radisson Blu Plaza, Mahipal Pur, Delhi
Meal – Sunday Brunch
I was a regular to NYC from 2008 to 2012 but then somehow, it just slipped out of my frequent list. Not for any particular reason but, just like that. I revisited this restaurant on a friend’s invite, after a gap of around 2 years, over a relaxed Sunday Brunch.
My first observation was that buffet layout and spread has been changed, with more number of dishes on offer and are tried to fit-in to the limited space they have. It’s a 90 to 100 cover restaurant and it was almost full at 1:30pm which is a good sign.
I started with a mild cocktail of White Wine Spitzer and Gol Gappe / Chaat counter, which is a new addition. Average to good stuff with options of Gol Gappe with various flavours of water, bhalla, paapari, bhel puri, dhokla, matra kulcha, aaloo tikki but what surprised me most was Khandavi made to perfection. I enquired and was surprised to know that all the chat items were prepared in-house and nothing was outsourced.
There were around 7 types of Veg and 7 types of Non-Veg salad options including smoked salmon and prawns cocktail with various dips, a full cheese platter and a separate full Mezze Station with Babaganoush, Tabbouleh, Hummus, Mastvakhyar, Lubia bi Zayt, Marinated Olives and normal as well as Whole wheat Pita. The salads and Mezze were fresh and crisp. The dips were perfectly flavored.
I next moved to the live starters counter where there were many options like lemon grass seared fish (Average), Grilled prawn with mango sauce (Good), Chettinad chicken satay (very different flavor- good), Chutney filled Paneer Pakora (Star dish of the counter – Excellent), noodle and tofu spring rolls (Crisp – Good) and Chicken Shawarma With Pita, Tahini, Pickled vegetable (Good). There was fresh Pizza with various options and combinations which I did not taste.
There were two soups on offer as Potato and Leek soup and Tom Yum Goong. The Veg soup was very mild and flavorful but what surprised me was Tom Yum Soup. Absolutely authentic and with perfectly balanced flavors. This I guess, is the benefit of having a Thai specialty restaurant and a specialty Thai Chef in-house.
By this time, I was so full that I could not do justice to around 20 to 25 main course dishes on offer. I could only taste a little bit of Gosht Biryani which was ok, Vegetable Hakka Noodle and Wok Fried Chicken with Sichuan Pepper which again were average. The Dal was excellent, thanks to the recipe and expertise of The Great Kabab Factory in neighborhood.
Out of the 20 to 25 desserts on offer including Chocolate Fountain with Condiments, I could only taste Walnut Tart, Gulab Jamun, Kesari Phirni, Strawberry Gelato and flavored Yogurt. All these items were very good. I rounded off with a cup of excellently brewed hot lemon tea.
A special mention about the efficient service. Despite the restaurant was almost full to capacity, the service was fast and accurate.
All in all, I found the buffet to be better than what it was 2 years ago. There are much many options to choose in each section and the service is efficiently better. However not all the dishes are super tasty but not bad either. The quality ranges from average to good with few dishes to remember for their great taste. But on the other hand, I guess that’s what a buffet is all about. A mixed bag of experience for everyone.
Looking in to the competitive pricing, the Sunday Brunch at NYC looks tempting VFM. However, there are better Sunday brunch options available elsewhere in Delhi NCR but at a much higher price.
Price (Without Taxes)
Food Only @ 1700
Incl. Soft Beverages @ 1800
Incl. Wine, Beer & Cocktails etc. @ 2000
Incl. Champaign @ 2200

Fio Cookhouse & Bar : Beautiful Place, Mixed Food

Fio Cookhouse & Bar is located in Epicuria, the much epic ‘food court’ located in the premises of Nehru Place Metro station. Fio is surprisingly spacious with quite a few tables on the outside which are termed Al Fresco which in simpler words just means casual dining in an open area. Stepping inside, its at par with some of the more modern restaurant designs that I have seen, tall roofs, some greenery inside and the air conditioning done in such a way that its gives a natural feel to the place. Very pleasant for borderline claustrophobes like me.

Inside Fio
Classy looking Fio

We started off with ordering cocktails and drinks. We tried three cocktails Bellini Martini, Lemon Martini and Whiskey Sour. Lemon Martini is not on the current menu and hopefully would be added to the menu they are going to introduce soon. Though three of them cocktails were nicely done, however I experienced the use of Thyme in a cocktail for the first time and I must say I quite enjoyed it. Whether it was the novelty factor of experiencing something new, only time can tell.

Bellini Martini
Lemon Martini
Whiskey Sour

Then came in the bread-basket along with assortment of oils, vinegar and other condiments. The thing that caught our attention was Duqqa, which is supposed to be eaten with bread as Hors d’oeuvre. A quick google search tells me that its an Egyptian side dish of which you can have many versions. In the one that was served to us we were told that a huge variety of nuts have gone into it. Talking about the taste, nothing that really caught my fancy. I am someone who appreciates and loves fresh bread, I love trying them with various olive oils but then the bread here did not really leave its mark on me.

Breads served on the table
Duqqa – To be mixed with Butter and/or olive oil and eaten with bread.

Oil, vinegar and other condiments.

Next up was Flamed Feta Salad which is a mix of Bell peppers, cucumber, onion, tomato, olive, herb vinaigrette topped with hot (flamed) feta cheese, which I have a soft corner for. Fresh ingredients, tasty dressings, just the right mix for a salad.

Flamed Feta Salad

We ordered three dishes from their ‘Shareable Small Plates’ section and thankfully there was nothing small about the portion sizes. First one was Crusty Fish Finger, which did not work at any level any of us three. The only thing that we enjoyed was fried potato ‘lachha’ on top of the fish. The second dish being Cookhouse Mezze Platter which comprises of Pane, hummus, tzatziki, aubergine, tapenade, red lentil quenelles. Pane turned out be bread which had a dressing of garlic in olive oil (I would assume) on top of it and it tasted very nice. All the dips were done very nicely and quenelles offered perfect replacement for the falafel which we are so used to eating in mezze platters or with humus and dips in general. The third dish Spit Fired Grilled Chicken was also the star of evening, also proving once again that how much in love with chillies we Indians are. Chicken breasts perfectly rolled with some peri peri chilli inside. The breast was done perfectly neither it was under-cooked nor chewy. The Chilli did its job well and left quite a fire in the mouth. A must try dish if you like hot chics, I mean chickens which are hot.

Crusty Fish Fingers
 Spit Fired Grilled Chicken – Can you see the red chilli peeking out?
For the mains we went for a mix of cuisines, we ordered a pizza with Smoked Chicken, Zucchini, Red onion, & Cilantro which was quite nice as a pizza, however nothing stood out for us. Please mind that does not make it a bad pizza, its still a very good pizza by all means, but then now a days you get a good one at lot of place, nothing distinguishing this one from others.  The came in the Grilled Prawns which were marinated beautifully with lemon and cilantro. The taste of the marination, seasonings and dressings was lovely, however the quality of the prawn itself left a lot to be desired, not sure if it was due to the way they were cooked or just bad quality of raw prawns, passed on the message to chef, would leave it to the professionals to fix.

Pizza

Mutton Nalli Pulao was ordered to taste what they are doing in the Indian section and we were not disappointed at all. The taste of the dish was brilliant with aroma being more magical. The fragrance of rice, saffron and mint was good enough to intoxicate you. However the only downside being the cut of the meat, as Sahil Mahajan tells me, for those who order nalli and know how to eat it properly, might just struggle with it. Last of the mains, but not the least was Raviolo which apparently is the big brother of Ravioli. We ordered the vegetarian version of the same and it came stuffed with a mix which primarily comprised spinach and ricotta cheese, and despite the onslaught of food and flavors before it, we still ended up appreciating it. One of the better things we tried that evening for sure.

Raviolo
Coming to the most important part of this review, it was time for desserts and we had heard great things about desserts that this place has to offer. First up was Tiramisu Jar which I am sure was a novel idea when it started (if it was started by fio) but now I know of several other small and big players which you jar as a prop for their Tiramisu. It taste it was quite good, if not the best out there. Second was the Fio Chocolate flan which is a cake of three layers and about 70% of it has to be dark chocolate topped up with a layer of mascarpone cheese. Sinful was the word, a must try for chocolate lovers. They also serve something called Fresh Baked 15 min Cake, which is made of Carrots & Raisins and served with raspberry ice-cream. This one was subtly sweet, and its freshness was its USP. Felt light compared to the other two desserts and with ice-cream melting into it, it was take to the next level. A must have for those who like their desserts to be on subtle side.

The Chocolate Flan – I was not kidding about 70% of chocolate you see. 

I generally refrain from commenting on service when I am being invited for a review, however I must mention that the staff here seemed quite knowledgeable and courteous, something you do expect from a place at that price point. I have also not mentioned prices here we as did not pay for the meal, nor you can judge such places on value for money.

Overall a mixed experience in food, however I can definitely go back for that Spit fire grilled Chicken, while I sip on my whiskey sour to douse the fire of Piri piri chilli. A portion of Raviolo would just hold me good, while I save some appetite for those gorgeous desserts. And the best part – All this in a very comfortable and welcoming environment which allows you to kick back and have a good time. 

Varanasi – From a food lover’s point of view

Varanasi has been one of the most gratifying destinations that I have landed up in recent times. I don’t think I can say anything that has not been said before. However despite whatever that has been written and said before I am sure travelers would find something of their own in this ancient city. For me this place has more character per square feet than any place else I have visited before. For the sake of sanity, I will try to keep this blog about food as much as I can, and  I am sure I can do a good job of it, not because I have confidence in my skills, however I have confidence on the food of the city that it would not allow me to wander much away from itself.
To understand food one needs to understand a bit of city itself, which attracts travelers and tourists from all over the country and world. Technically I would have considered it a North Indian city, however one visit and I can say that there is nothing North Indian about this place. The alleys are full of pilgrims from all over India and South Indian influence is very apparent. So is Bengali, Gujarati and Oriental as well and these are the ones that I could pick in 48 hours I spent there, more exploration would reveal lot more colors for sure.
Talking about local food, Benarsis just love their Milk and its products and description of the city’s food has to start with Milk. There was a time when I was looking for water bottle and all I could find was Lassi all around and more milk products. Coming to Lassi, I tried it at three different places and three different variants, and I was blown off by all three of them. From quality to taste everything was in order. You can see the love of milk in numerous places selling sweet curd, chaina sweets, thandai even they make the Bhalla out of Chhaina-paneer.
Lassi at Blue Lassi, a shop which looks local however is thronged by foreign tourists, so much so that I was the only non-white person in there amongst 20 others. That said, tried the Banana Lassi which in Benarsi tradition was super thick and something you eat instead of drink.
Lassi I had at a random shop, pure magic for Rs.20.
They also sell Malai in those sweet shots, yup.. pure unsweetened malai which they top with a very thin layer of rabri to add some contrast in the flavors.
Lassi I had from a shop that my Auto driver took me to in Mughal Sarai near Benares. Rs.35 odd for this awesomeness loaded with Rabri. Again something you eat with the spoon, still very refreshing.
Ras-malai
Sweetened Curd in kullahd sold for Rs.10. Simple, basic, tasty. Seems like the famous Bengali Mishti Doi is a richer cousin of this curd.
Thandai. They seem to do lot of flavors and variants for this super cooler.
Selling Thandai near Kashi Vishwanath Temple

It came as a surprise that the streets are full of small joint serving Dosas at very fast pace and cheap prices. There are hole in wall joints that would start serving Idli, vada, upma etc very early in the morning cratering to pilgrims and locals both with same fervor. The busy bazaar outside the main entrance of Kashi Vishwanath Mandir or Golden Temple converts into a breakfast hotspot at around 7-8 am in morning with carts all over the place selling delicious South Indian fare. I tried one of the busy ones one of the mornings and had amazing Dosa & Uthapam made in butter which just made them better.

 

Uthapam ready to be served
A Masala Dosa in the making.
A plain dosa being made, they still add some basic vegetables to it and leave them to sizzle in butter a bit, which in turn makes the vegetables taste better 😉
Uthapam being made.
Uthapam sizzling with Butter.
Idli with Coconut Chutney
The cart selling South Indian breakfast. You will find a bunch of them near Golden Temple in morning hours.

The city is also known for its chats, something that you will find in abundance out there and the taste and ingredients are much different from what we get in Delhi. I will not say if they are better or not, however very different for sure and to sample some of  the goodies I landed up at Kaashi Chaat Bhandaar which is like a destination in the city. The rates were reasonable, the quality good and taste awesome. What more can a food lover ask for? Google it up to find the exact location, or if in Benares, just ask around.

The way Gol Gappe are served. Atta Gol Gappa with matra mixed with other stuffed inside, with paani the side. And the Paani has to be the most delicious one I have tasted ever, with kaccha aam in it and other delicate spices in abundance.
Palak Patta Chaat – Something very unusual. Palak leaves batter fried in besan, made crips and then served like a chaat. Here lemme tell you that Chutneys and condiments are not as ‘rich’ as their Delhi counterparts, however the flavors go well together like magic.
Tamatar or Tomato Chaat
Tamatar ki chaat, after stirring it a bit.

 

Aloo Tikki – Tried one, loved it.
Gulab Jamun – Stuffed with mawa, not the best one out there, but can be tried.

Kachoris seem to be their staple breakfast food, atleast for local populace, and they come in all shapes, sizes and qualities. Its attachment to the city can be gauged from the fact that they have a street named after the dish, called the Kachori Gali. However I ventured in that lane early in the morning, around 7-8 am, and I found only one guy selling kachoris, it seems the Kachoris have gone from the Gali of Kachoris now. That said I tasted them at 3-4 places in the city, one thing that was common was that all of them serve it with kale chane ki subzi which again was something new for me. I have had kachoris with kadhi, aloo subzi, kabuli chane, chutney etc, however it was my first taste of it with Kale Chane and I guess I have had enough of it already. Another major difference for me that all of them were stuffed with potatoes in one form or the other, something I have experienced for the first time.

Found these small bite sized kachoris at one of the hawkers, they serve 4-5 of these in a serving, top them off with Kala Chane ki subzi and other condiments.
The shop serving at Kachori Gali.
And this is how it is served at most places.
A shop I was taken to in Thutheri Bazaar, selling stuff made in Desi ghee. The Sunday morning craze for their Bedmi-subzi was crazy, unfortunately was not able to try them.
Samose made in Desi Ghee, one of the best Samosa you will ever have. The potato filling in them was very very nice, full of spices blasting flavors in your mouth here, there and everywhere. At the  ‘Di Ram Bhandar’.
Kachoris at ‘Di Ram Bhandar’, were very nice, but by this time I had an overdose of Kala Chana.
Oh! and Benarsis eat Kala chana like this as well, made a chat out of the spouted ones. This portion was for Rs.7 and I must say made for an awesome snack.
Not sure what its called, but for convenience I will call it Tikona Mathi
And this is how they serve that mathi too, with Chane and other condiments.
Another thing that I gorged on while I was in Benares was Paan, from saada to meetha to zarda, everything that I had there was in a different league. No wonder its the land of paan. From quality of the leaves used, which literally melt in your mouth to other condiments which make you feel what chemicals they serve in Delhi, the Benarsi paan was next level for me. Lived upto its legend and how.
A saada paan in the making.
This is how they pack it up for you, in a leaf with some supari and chuna on the side.
And those streets are full of sweets, with a huge variety of Bengali and Chhaina sweets on display all around the winding network of alleys that is Benares. However I did not try many of  them, something that I have left for my next visits.
The plain old boondi – more juicy (syrupy) than usual, I ate them with sweet curd and man was it a bliss.
Aaah! jalebi, I don’t think I can write anything about this princess of sweets.
Laung lata – from outside just some maida fried and soaked in sugar, but the surprise lies inside. Oh how I loved this one.
Benares is also a major center for tourism in India, which attracts lot of foreign tourists, many of them chose to stay in the city to learn music, dance, arts, languages or simply to absorb the vibe and soak in the spirituality. To cater to them Benares has a huge selection of food options, which can be termed international in true sense. Did not try much of those options, however another thing that I would save for my future visits.
A dish in one of the Korean places run by a Bengali gentleman. Kimchi Egg Ramen. Simple top ramen cooked with lot of kimchi it and two eggs poured in it. If you like spices then this would be SUPER comforting and delicious for you.
Hummus at Shree Cafe, recipe of which has been shared and developed with by an Israeli visitor for them. can you get more authentic than that?
I was staying in an area called Bengali Tola, which I would assume roughly translate into the Area of Bengalis. One of the evenings while walking around I found this guy with a small kadhai by the street side frying stuff up. On checking it turned out to be chops and pakodas, done in Bengali style.
Aloo pakoda and Veg Chop, check the crisps around the chop.
Chop was stuffed with carrots and other vegetables, quite interesting for me atleast.
Mirchi pakodas being fried up.
A place of pakodi I pciked from a random shop for Rs. 5, served with subzi, mooli and chutney.
Phew! coming to the end of it, I realize that it was lot of food to eat for around 48 hours I spent there. Here I must share that most of the dishes served there are very cheap and served in very small portions. A portion good enough to give you a proper taste of it, however is not gonna fill you up for sure. Even the lassis are served in small kullahds unlike the gigantic glasses up north, and yeah its richer than any lassi that I have had before be it Delhi, Amritsar or Vrindavan – Benares beats all of them fair and square. Plus its the nature of the city, as a tourist you can keep walking in those alleys, be lost and everywhere you are lost you will run into a food outlet or the other which would invite you to try it out.
Its a city that for sure is inviting me for many more visits,  because I am sure in 48 hours I have only seen the tip of ice-berg, there is a lot more, a lot deeper to be discovered and more importantly to be eaten. Waiting for winters to come, when hopefully I can travel back to the City of Ganges, with an army of tummies with me for support hopefully.
In the meantime me and my family are enjoying this Incredible Mirchi ka Achar that I got from there. VERY spicey, but I ain’t complaining.