Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cooper's Grill & Bar (Restaurant Review)

Who would have thought that Zomato would be responsible for helping me with my romantic life? Their discount coupons, in this case for Rs 1000, have been really awesome and give a chance for the wife and I to sneak out for a couple of hours every now and then, without the kids, on a quiet date. This time around it was the Cooper's Grill & Bar situated a stone throws away (provided you're of the caliber to become an Olympic stone thrower) from where I live, which has received fairly positive reviews from people I know.

Cooper's is right in front of Star Mall and being a corner property makes the most of the location by having big glass windows all around which in turn gives its average size a much bigger, more open, feel. It has a combination of couches, single sofas, and chairs giving the customer a nice little variety to rest their bottoms on, and the placement is such that the restaurant doesn't come across as either empty or crowded. The music at Cooper's is very 80s-90s Rock and Pop which was a hit with my wife and she was happy to give the place a 5/5 rating simply based on this. Amateurs I tell Ya!

I, on the other hand, was quite impressed with the service. Everyone was genuinely friendly and attended the table with smiles on their faces. The ambience is similar to most bar and grills, however the section we sat in was low on light. Copper's does have free WiFi, and I was easily able to connect to it, however it was so slow that I could not even check-in to the restaurant.

The drinks and food menus are quite extensive with a wide variety of products. I decided to go with a pint of Asahi and the wife chose a Peach Ice Tea which was what one gets everywhere, that is, not made with fresh products. The food menu caters to the carnivores a lot more than to the herbivores; nevertheless it has enough that no one would go hungry.

The food in general was good. The Soya Sliders had a mildly spicy soya filling in small soft buns which would work well with any drink you're having. The same also goes for the Spinach and Corn Tarts which had a nice crunch and the filling was hot and cheesy. However do remember that these are "starters" so the quantity is just right for two people. In case you're a big group, order more. As a result I did order a Chicken Lemongrass Kibbeh towards the end of the meal. Now, the chicken was tender and juicy, but lacked the lemongrass flavour that should have been dominant. Moreover, there was chilly sauce on the chicken kibbeh which made it quite spicy and further killed any lemongrass taste that was present. It's not bad at all, however the flavours need a little working on.

For the mains, we went with a simple Four-Cheese Pizza comprising of Buffalo, Cheddar, Danish Blue, and Ricotta. Not being a cheese connoisseur, I could still identify a couple of cheeses and overall I liked the fact that the pizza had the simple cheese toppings and nothing else (there was a thin tomato sauce spread on the surface of the base). The base was thin, very thin, and crunchy and very much to my liking. A little heads up, looks can be deceiving, and this thin crust 12”cheese pizza is quite heavy on the stomach, so keep that in mind.

For dessert we tried the House Brûlée. All the food was presented in a pretty fashion so it's clear that thought has gone into the presentation and not just the taste. The Brûlée was creamy with perfect sweetness and the thin layer of crackle on top was delicious.

Cooper's Grill & Bar works for the customer on a number of occasions; you can visit it for some drinks after work, or have a quick bite if not too hungry, and lastly it also works well for a place to have a proper dinner. The restaurant is comfortable, easy going and some of the neighbourhood apartment complexes even get a 15% discount. In short, Cooper's Grill and Bar is recommended and on my visit-again list.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Roots - Cafe in the Park (Restaurant Review)

I'm wary when everyone talks good about a restaurant. There's always a catch. It can either be their lack of taste or just me being pretentious but popular restaurants have usually disappointed me.

Usually, that's the key word here. For, once in a while I have to swallow my ego and agree with popular thinking. Roots - Cafe in the Park is part of that exception. Situated on one side of Leisure Valley Park, Gurgaon, at first look Roots comes across as a Dhaba, albeit with "proper" hut covered seating. Its popularity is evident, especially amongst the breakfast crowd, by the 20-minute waiting on a Sunday afternoon even when the sun struck us with its first round of intense heat for the year.

Roots creates a lovely laid back ambience with the indoor (hut) and outdoor (park) seating and plenty of space to move around. The shade surprisingly kept us cool and the fact that the restaurant is situated next to a huge children's park, with functioning swings and slides, kept the little ones preoccupied enough to let us eat in peace.

Roots has a limited menu, a solitary page, front and back, and that's all. I love that. I like a place that knows what it does best and sticks to it rather than trying to impress all tastes. Comprising of an extensive breakfast menu and some mains, there's enough for everyone. Do note that the food here is vegetarian, well Eggetarian, so meat cravers, beware.

With a note pad and pen on each table, the kids enjoyed writing down the order. Every time we wanted to add something new, we'd simply jot it down and hand it over to the staff. I loved this too. It's simplistic and fun in nature and a chance for some to get a free pen at the end of the meal (we didn't take one nor do I suggest you do, but you could if you wanted to).

As we were in a group of 4 adults and 2.5 kids, we managed to order a variety of food. The drinks were served in mason jars. Most of you who read my reviews know that it's a trend I think that's gone a bit too far. Nevertheless the Masala Neembu Soda and Jal Jeera were wonderful. The Soda especially with a mixture of spices floating in it was refreshing. The Sweet Neembu Pani was also perfectly blended with just the right amount of sweetness from sugar and sourness of the lemon.

When it comes to food, I was impressed with their consistency in delivering one delicious dish after another. The Poha was homely and spiced just right. It's easy to make Poha that is really dry, but that was not the case here. I realized that mixing the Poha with the Wai Wai Bhel was a lovely new concoction that adds crunch to the Poha and softness to the Wai Wai Bhel, which was good enough on its own as well.

The Bun Omelet which got a few laughs from the kids because I referred to it as "Bum Omelet" was like a big sandwich/burger filled with healthy goodness. It tasted just fine without having to use any condiments. Besides the “Hari Chautney”, I liked the fact that Roots served sweet-and-sour ketchup in place of its plain avatar.   

The Bangla Masala Scotch Eggs with a beetroot covering were my personal favourite while the rest of the group devoured the rather straightforward yet crunchy and flavorsome Sabudana Fingers.

In terms of the mains, we ended up trying the Nepali Platter which was the only disappointment of the entire meal. Although it came with suspiciously menacing looking, but intriguing, red bread (it had beetroot in it), the entire platter lacked any real taste. The Indian Thali on the other hand with the usual suspects (Paneer Sabzi, Kheer, Kadhi, Daal, and fresh hot Roti) was brilliant.

I did sneak in a Kejriwal Sandwich at the end just because I've been fascinated by this apparently legendary Wellington Club (Mumbai) specialty that I first came across at SodaBottleOpenerWala. Sadly, while the sandwich was acceptable, it came across more as an omelet on top of bread. The one I had at SBOW had all the elements (Eggs, Fresh Greens, etc.) separate, but at Roots it was more like a homemade amateur version of the dish which also lacked an oozing egg yolk that can make or break the sandwich.

The service at Roots was exceptional with lots of staff all around taking care of everyone. They were friendly and the food was served quickly without any notable delays. I did find that the chair I was sitting on was breaking and more alarmingly nails were poking out. The same was pointed out to the staff, but I would hope such checks were conducted by them on their own.

The bill for the entire meal was Rs. 1737,- inclusive of taxes and a 5% Service Charge in place of a 10% one which is a norm nowadays. Can’t complain about the bill, and in fact would term the meal as a bargain.

Roots - Cafe in the Park is an excellent place to visit. The food is outstanding and you can pretty much order anything with your eyes closed and it should turn out to your liking. The ambience suits the winter time more, but I'm told they keep the place nice and cool during the hot summer months. I honestly believe that places like Roots should be applauded and cherished and more people should visit it, just not on the day when I'm visiting simply because I don't want to wait in line to get in.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Eggjactly (Food Truck Review)

Food trucks are the latest trend in the culinary world these days. They’ve taken the idea of street food and made it not only mobile but have also managed to bring about a hint of experimentation and ingenuity to it. It's nothing new mind you, for I remember eating Indian Chinese food from a number of permanent/parked food trucks while growing up in Delhi. The West has had Food Trucks for quite a few years. But, it's the ever growing popularity of food shows on TV such as MasterChef and quite recently the success of the movie Chef that the idea of food trucks has caught the fancy of both people who want to invest in them and those that simply want to eat from them.

The name of the game in any business is being the early bird so that you not only get the pick of your worms but also stay ahead of your competition. Location is another aspect, but here it’s easy to move from one to another if things don’t work out. Eggjactly benefits by being amongst the first to truly adopt it in its purest form and then doing it right by having a social media presence. Personally, I expect a more active social media interaction from them but then paying attention to the food they serve is and should be a priority.

Food trucks, including Eggjactly, suffer from one dilemma. Their biggest advantage is also their biggest problem. Because they are mobile and because they work in a limited kitchen, everything is a tad spur-of-the-moment for the customer. It took me three attempts to finally get hold of the Eggjactly food truck. First time, they were parked someplace else. The second time, I called only to find they had packed up due to less traffic. As if to make the saying appropriate, I truly was third time lucky. I must say that although this guessing game of will-they or won't-they can be a turn off for some, I actually like the mystery in it all.

Parked by the side of Leisure Valley Park in Gurgaon, Eggjactly was busy serving a nice little line of people as we (friends and family) approached it at around 9PM; Managed to get road side parking in a jiffy and found the food truck very conventional in looks, which is fine. I could see four people inside working so they've obviously spaced it out nicely to make cooking is easy.

Eggjactly had a person out on the road helping the customers with the menu (which included having a digital copy handy on a big screened mobile phone/tablet). They were quick to inform us that non-vegetarian food was not available (probably due to Navratras) and that some of the other food items had also finished. The possibility of not being able to choose from the entire menu is a risk one should be ready to take when visiting a food truck. It's expected and should not be complained about later, according to me.

Having selected on a few things to eat we were surprised when informed that three of the four items we ordered were part of the "Buy One Get One Free" scheme. I'm glad Eggjactly does this and it's a good way to finish off the inventory every night while making a few customers happy which in my case guaranteed them a few extra rating points.

The Farm Burger was simply delicious. Served fresh with a hot tasty patty and soft buns, it comes under my favourite burger list in Gurgaon. The addition of Mushrooms was what clinched the deal, giving the Burger, which otherwise borderline tastes like a Delhi Burger, a punch that makes it unique.

Next up we tried the Soya Wrap which had I not known could pass as a meat filled wrap. The mixture is a bit spicy but so tasty and juicy that even though I knew it was vegetarian, I couldn't help but think of it as a couple of succulent Gaulati Kababs wrapped up in a perfectly cooked Parantha.

The kids had the vegetarian pasta with white sauce and olives. They enjoyed it but I found it a tad bland. Having said that, if the pasta was spicier, the kids wouldn’t have eaten it at all, so, try it and make your own mind.

The same stands true for the Masala Butter Maggi. Rich in taste, spicy, and definitely recommended if you can't live without Maggi, although personally Eggjactly has a lot more to offer and I'd rather have that before I eat the Maggi.

Now, the entire dinner turned out to be extremely cheap, keeping in mind the one plus one free scheme. 2 Burgers, 2 Wraps, 2 Pastas, and 1 Maggi was in the range of Rs. 500. The proportions were good. Even if you don't have the scheme and the lot costs in the Rs 1000 range, I'd still say this was a bargain because the food is exciting and entertains the tastes buds like all good food should. However my one recommendation to Eggjactly would be to have a few items that are unique to them. It can be a sandwich or a burger or something else, but as long as it is different, with ingredients that others don’t normally use, it can do wonders by being the USP of the truck. Just a little something to think about for the management.   

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mocha Arthouse

My initial impression about Mocha Arthouse was that it was a place that was being exaggerated about by the "younger" crowd because of its graffiti painted walls and the art wall on the inside (the restaurant is divided into two sections). I'm happy to say that while it doesn't have the quirky factor of Central Perk (FRIENDS reference people) it does have a modern look that takes the idea of a café a little further in India. It's more than just about good coffee and their comfortable couch seating up front which is extremely relaxing and laid back is one example of that.

The idea of having an art wall is brilliant because it gives the place an opportunity to constantly change. Many a times a favourite café might lose its charm because for the regulars it eventually becomes a drab even though it infuses familiarity. On top of that the outside seating during Delhi winters is always a hit.

Now, Mocha Arthouse is famous for its Sheesha/Hookahs but since I visited bang in the middle of the afternoon for a quick bite, that option still eludes me till this day. However, their service was good and the staff was courteous which is always appreciated, although with the high and mighty visiting them due to its location in-between Promenade and Emporio Malls, there is a certain standard they obviously need to keep.

I was extremely impressed with the variety of coffees available, and have to say that it's one of the best coffee menus that I've come across in the Delhi NCR region, if not THE best. I tried the Antigua beans, which turned out to be great, but I was more happy to see them being presented in an a actual coffee press.

The Cottage Cheese Panino was quite similar to the what one might find at another coffee shops, nevertheless it did taste good. I personally loved the cottage cheese rolls with their unique texture and taste.

The Fish Balls served on sticks were soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The good food continued with the Farm Fresh Pizza which had a generous amount of veggies on top.

Mocha Arthouse is what you would call a hip place but still maintains a quiet presence with regards to its popularity. People who know about it, like it, but surprisingly it doesn't come up too much in foodie discussions. That's something that should/will hopefully change soon.