5 Star, Chennai, Eating out, Haleem, Iftar, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials

Step in to an Iftar World

My dislike for buffets has been well documented. Especially if I am off to a food festival that ends up being part of the buffet. But there is the odd buffet that steps up its game and surprises me. With a Ramzan that started reasonably terrible with respect to food, the last couple of weeks has been a saving grace. With Cafe G at Holiday Inn serving iftar, I was looking forward to another nice set menu and once again I was a little skeptical when I found out that it was a buffet. The one at Taj was a poor excuse for a Iftar buffet with the only thing iftarish about it was that it began at 630 PM.

Thankfully, Holiday Inn has got it near perfect. Priced at Rs 1250 plus tax (ends up at Rs. 1500), the price is a shocker for a 5 star buffet. Eat the food and I was left wondering if they make any money off it. While it is certainly not the biggest buffet in the city, it is definitely one of the few buffets with almost a-la-carte quality food.

A plate of fruits, dates and a green drink was presented to us to kick start our feast after the fast. The green drink was a beautiful chilled milk spiced perfectly with cardamom that was soothing for the fasting tummy. The haleem was also served on the table. While I would have preferred classic haleem, that is not going to be possible in a 5 star kitchen, but what the chef has done here is commendable. The liquid fat on the haleem here was ghee, but to make up for it, it was served with a nice Sheermal and onions. Having the haleem with sheermal was brilliant. The meaty flavour of the haleem was shining through and it ended up being a side dish for the sheermal. I wasn’t complaining.

The mezze platter that arrived next had three dips. The hummus, the tzatziki and the beetroot dip. The hummus was excellent and one of the best available in a Chennai buffet as of now. Beautifully thick, olive oil floating and smooth, we licked the glass bowl clean!

The bread basket didn’t have any naan or roti and I loved that! It had sheermal and varky paratha, a form of sweet paratha flavoured by honey, from the Lucknow region. While I had the sheermal, this time with the gravy and dhal from the buffet, the varky paratha simply didn’t need anything to be enjoyed. We had it with the gravy and then realised that it was a dish by itself. Super soft, flaky and moist with ghee and honey, this was the hero dish.

Biriyani was a disappointment. Clearly, the focus on the other dishes didn’t allow any space for focusing on a dish like the biriyani, but being an iftar buffet, it was there. The live counter had a beautiful looking chicken roulade that looked a lot better than it tasted.

There was a large dessert counter and a lot of them were disappointing, but three excellent dishes made up for the rest. The strawberry basbousa was soft, deeply flavourful and melt-in-the-mouth consistency. I could have eaten a dozen of it. The Wattalappam, though wasn’t perfect (I mean home style authentic), could pass off as a good dish and the baklava was yummy. Without a glass breaking top, the blueberry creme brûlée was a mushy mess!

While the ITC’s Iftar meal is the best sit down meal this Iftar, G Cafe’s buffet is lot more value for money with its killer pricing, a wonderful spread of dishes with a good focus on Iftar based meals and kurtha and skull cap clad waiters carrying off the theme rather well! I wish I had known of this earlier as I had to entertain a few guests for iftar early last week and this would have been the perfect place for that. Knowing what the chef is capable of in a buffet, it would be interesting to see if Holiday Inn opens a specialty restaurant soon! I hope they do and I hope they retain this quality of food in the buffet!

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5 Star, Chennai, Eating out, Iftar, Indian, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials

Nihari to the rescue!

With the iftar offerings going from bad to worse, and haleem and nombu kanji competing for the worst dish awards, I almost forgot about a dish that won me over last year. Served at the ITC Grand Chola, the Nihari was new introduction to the city’s iftar palate, but one that was poorly advertised. I checked with ITC and it was available this year too, so come Sunday, the family iftar eat out happened at Cafe Mercara.

It was as set menu. We were offered a choice between haleem and nihari for one dish and choice of breads for the second main course. A platter of fruits, dates and a rose sherbet arrived first to help the stomach ease into the next course.

There was no next course. All three courses arrived together in a neat set menu, similar to the Welcome meals served at ITC hotels. Since we were four adults (and two kids, their drinks came free), we were able to sample both the haleem and the nihari (and four different breads in each of our plates). Biriyani and Dhal Makhni completed the well plated platter.

The Nihari, a slow cooked broth with lamb marrow, had meat falling off the bone with ease, with some saltiness of the broth adding a nice flavour tone and the pink meat giving out all the flavour notes of a beautifully cooked lamb. Dhal Makhni at ITC hotels are usually spot on and today was no different. Four pieces of naan and butter naan and garlic naan and roti simply eased into the tummy.
The biriyani was all meat with a little rice here and there. Seriously! Every plate had good portions of succulent meat that the kids also enjoyed as there was so much to share. I also gulped down some haleem from my sister’s plate (and sneaked it into the photo)! Thankfully, the haleem was good as I had given up on haleem in Chennai. Thankfully!

A saffron phirni in a mud pot served chilled and thick with saffron dominating the plate completed an excellent iftar meal for the first time this Ramadan. We paid Rs. 6004 including all taxes for four adults with enough food to share with the two kids. This is probably the only place in Chennai serving a sit down iftar meal, appropriately priced! 

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Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

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Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tj95YI

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tj95YI

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tj95YI