Monday, September 29, 2008

Barista - 4/5

Nothing great about this place except that its on Chennai High Street and is next door to office.

When do I go there?

-         When there’s no work

-         When there’s a lot of work

-         When I’m itching to spend some money

-         When I don’t have money

-         When I’m out walking to get some exercise

Why do I go there?

-         Chocolate Excess 

-         Hot Brownies

-         A combination of the above with Vanilla and Chocolate Sauce

Every time I have one of these I feel like Edward Hyde.

Belle Ciao - 2.5/5

Had last been to Bella Ciao when it first opened and I recollect ...good cheesy (no pun intended) fattening Italian Food coupled with voluminous portions et all. Reminiscent of old times I comfortably suggested this to my friend .. and alas.. what a let down. 


1. They’ve taken the fish fingers off the menu. (Not a good begining for two Bengali's, one of them who has'nt had good fish in a while). I remember their earlier mammoth portions of Fish Fingers served with french fries that would pass as a meal by it self. As an option, we were suggested the Prawn Batter fry – this had to be the most ludicrous pieces of prawns I’ve tasted in a restaurant (esp at this price!). This came with something they passed on as Squids – it seemed like fried rubber though. We were told this is how it ought to taste. 

2. Next, we went in for the time tested Lasagna. Again, courtesy old memories (they served portions enough for 2.5 ppl) we ordered just one. It was three quarters their previous portions! But must say, it was very well made and we thoroughly enjoyed that. 

3. Oh I forgot, we started with some mocktails that ought to be the most average ever. 

4. And lastly, there was this dude trying to pass off as a DJ. He tried hard to play music all evening. Rubbish connotations using synthesizers were played at comfortably high decibels and this dude was grooving as though he was plucking the notes out of air and obliging us. 

All in all, except for a bit of lasagna, there was nothing Italian about the food/place, if you leave out Miss. Ciro Cattaneo, the Italian Entrepreneur who runs the place. 

Benjarong - 4/5

The word exotic conjures metaphors of mystique, so does Thailand and so does Benjarong. The place housing this fine eatery has a very uncluttered look to it and makes it look snug and old world. You enter and are met by a round blazer toting file noting concierge, who keeping in mind mystique doesn’t quite give you an elaborate smile, just a gentle nod of the head, knowing that by now most of them who drop into this place are already in awe of the substance they heat up. So what if I was'nt after the meal... 

The entry has a small feel to it (it literally is mighty small) and the entire place is a section of split diners. The staff are friendly and quickly usher us to a corner at the end and we’re quickly served with the younger cousin of benaarsi pann like looking green leaf. With it comes coconut, a few sweet syrups and something else. We greedily stuffed the leaf with the ingredients and go ‘Ummmm.. ‘ 

(You’ll have to forgive me here. I don’t remember any of the Thai names. In fact that only thing uniquely Thai I remember is Paradon Srichapan and the poor guy is not to be seen anywhere now). So for starters we had something like Fish Satay which was ok. Wait a minute, just Ok? Er.. well.. U’ll have to come up with some thing really out of a world to impress ‘Bengali me’ when it comes to fish. You could try ‘Succulently Fried Bhetki’ or ‘Bhapa Elish’. Anyways, the fish was good and I’d recommend it. We went in for the chicken drumsticks next. Courtesy banana leaves, they were very well made and you could feel the aroma as your teeth sunk in the soft meat. Meanwhile the pineapple fried rice arrived and along with a mix of boneless crabs we had a nice hearty chomp. Sadly, the crab meat was too finely chopped. You almost lost the flavour of it. Shell crabs are best eaten steamed and slightly garished. 

Rounded up with my fried ice creams and I still can feel them courting my tongue :) My fried tried a payasam kinda thing with cherries which was ok. 

Over all good food.. but not great food. If you've tasted Thai food before and have not been to this place dont worry, you aint missing nothing. And mister, the prices are ridiculous! Ok ok ok.. fine dining and all that but if I avoid going to this place say 4 times over the next 1 year I can fly down to Bangkok for a quick lunch and be back. 

Net net - decent food, over priced and the fried ice creams are sooperb. 

Cascade - 5/5

Reviewing this place is a bit like reviewing Dravid’s foot work. Well, not exactly, but you get the drift right? The place has been cherished by foodies for a quite a while for now. 

We’ll come to the food later. The Cascade is one of the most elegantly and art fully done up restaurants in town. In terms of size this isn’t too big but the minimalist décor gives the place a good airy feel. The furniture is not assembly line either. Few in the middle are circular and the ones in corners square’ish, leading to a very aesthetic look. 

Food now. The menu comes in well bound leather and the staffs gladly explain house specialties. A light starter is served on house while you make up your mind on what to order. Beware, portions here are really big. But unless you’re gunning for size zero, don’t bother. Order what you want and pamper your self. 

The mixed sea food lemon grass soup was good. So were the crispy chicken wantons. I’ve never tried the Dim Sums here though. Tasted them enough at the Tibetan eateries up north east. Coming back to the soup, we ordered a ½ and after we were served, we had to check with the staff if it was 4/2. Ok, we didn’t do that but you can figure out the portions right? Meanwhile, the starters arrived and the prawns were good. Not too fried, just perfect. Chicken Satay was next. They were kinda light on the peanut flavor. They were good and were really a mouth full. Next was Phuket Fish. It was lightly fried and then curried. They went well with the fried onions. We ordered a mixed sea food fried rice and that was enough to feed a Panda. Desserts were regulation fried dates with ice cream and were good. 

If the food made you feel good till now, the check will make you feel wonderful! For a restaurant at the locale it is and class it is in the prices are definitely reasonable. On the whole, perfect place for a wholesome meal with friends/colleagues or for a date.

JC Cafe - 3.6/5

Non descript – decent food

Two reasons for checking out this place: (a) Some rave reviews by other foodies and (b) its close to my office.

The first question on seeing this place was ‘Whoa! This is good real estate.. whats a non descript café doing here?’ Of course, then came the missionary back ground and things fit onto place.

The interiors are pistachio green and furniture a mix of plane Jane diners and a sofa set. It was after office hours and I crashed on the sofa. They had some good reading material and lot of biblical literature. They had nice gospel music playing. ‘Its South (U.S) so the lyrics are good’ I was told. Oh, like that ah? I thought.

I began chatting up the owner and ordered my food. I ordered a club sandwich and lasagna.

Club Sandwich – the menu screamed ‘tough to handle’ or something like that. ‘Good’ I thought. I was hungry and nice portions were welcome. But what came was a disappointment. Though the French fries were good, the sandwich in itself pretty ordinary. A club sandwich is well…. a CLUB sandwich! Mammoth volumes of fillings with an evenly toasted exterior is what a clubbie is – not three toasted slices with mid some filling’s! Was’nt too happy.

Chicken Lasagna – Remember that last ball six that Javed Miandad hit at Sharjah? The chicken lasagna was some thing like that and came just in time to salvage what ever the sandwich had let me down on. It was sooper awesome. The portions were great and no kanjoosi with the chicken. And honey, garlic bread is not ‘modern bread’ toasted with butter with a garlic essence. It’s a wholesome piece of bread by itself. Anyways, it was good and nicely priced at Rs. 125. If you go for the combo you get some more stuff @ Rs. 150/-

If any of you want to ‘get lost’ and don’t want to be seen, this is the place. Catch up with all the magazines, listen to some music and generally laze. 

Oh, yours truly could not resist giving the owner a few tips on what menu should be like :) “Lebanese and Arabic would be exotic” said me. “Oh thanks, we’ll keep that in mind”.

So, if you're close to Nungambakkama and hunger pangs strikes and inflation conscious and also have a hungry girl friend to feed, drop into this place. It's non descript. Chances of being spotted here is the same as the BSE hitting 21,000 next week.

Where: 10,Jagannathan St. While on nungambakkam high road, take the left before HDFC Bank; take the 2nd right from there. You can reach them at 044-64610767

Seasons Cafe - Accord Metropolitan 5/5

This easily is one of the most underrated restaurants in the city. We opted for the buffet, and after a brief discussion on why its ‘buffey’ and not ‘buff-ett’ I maroed my ‘It’s a proper noun’ funda and we started with the soup. Note: Never ever stuff thyself with soup while on a gorging trip. We dutifully stuck to the note and after a few sips set aside the soup tanker.

The place is nicely done up with minimal woodwork, but some how does’nt resonate the old world charm its meant to conjure. I somehow feel tastefully done up wood work should go with minimalist lighting.

The staff were very friendly and efficient. They served crisp medu vada’s with the soup. We had a formality bite at them. The spread was, well, very well spread. The south Indian variety screamed a lot of varieties and we gave them a miss, heading to the continental counter. The counter had good helpings on red meat – and I was very impressed with the Ice Base – all the servings were atop ice rocks. Not sure if Ive seen this before, looked very appealing and nice. While we were gorging on this, the friendly staff served us grilled chicken and grilled fish. The grilled fish, I must say was good. My friend pointed out they ought to have been marinated to give them a more succulent flavor. Point. This was a good marketing tactic as well –when ure served with something in addition to what’s on the spread and the live counter, the feeling of ‘ahh.. what value.. what service’ is conjured. Very clever :)

I had an overdose of my old fave ‘Augration – with just Corn and Spinach’. The chicken meguri was good and the afgani murgh was standard fare. I gave the crushed lamb, aarthuri fish and sarsoonwali machi a skip. In between, I don’t recollect what we had. We asked for the grilled fish refill once again. The rest of the fare included an array of lentils, north Indian dishes, south Indian fare, subjees and the like .. nice elab dressings and toppings... and much more. Oh I forgot, we were served Pizza in the middle and we asked for a Aapam and cheese (i think) Omlette at the live counter. The desert options were on the lower side I thought. All the standards were there, though what stood out was a a simple Nawabi dish - Shahi Tukda. It was rusk thoroughly drenched in think malai and was yummy. Approximately 4 hours, and we were finally done with our lunch. Given the duration of our luncheon, I wish they had more comfortable seats :)

Over all, great food, good service and good value for the dough.

Ps - here's the kicker for those who drink - on Sunday's, ure served unlimited draught beer for free.