Saturday, January 3, 2015


First off, I must apologize to my Mom, who said my reviews are getting longer and longer day by day. This is another one of those long reviews and me writing this here, now, doesn’t really help that cause any further.

SodaBottleOpenerWala (SBOW) has been the talk of the town for quite a while now. It was about time that us North Indians were treated to something different and unique, and the notion of having Parsi and Iranian food, which is still limited across the country, was welcomed wholeheartedly.

However SBOW eluded me till now primarily due to the menu catering mostly to Non-vegetarians which meant that it was hard for me to find company. So, the first chance I got to eat out with a non-vegetarian friend, I found myself at the restaurant.

A Monday lunch and CyberHub, Gurgaon, where SBOW is situated was buzzing with either office-goers taking a stroll or families and groups getting together for holiday lunches and then there was also the occasional business lunch taking place. A mere 20 minutes after we sat down to eat, the place was full, so much so that by the time we left there was a waiting in place. My experience at SBOW was what I’d say fifty-fifty. It stood out and I will visit it again, there's no doubt about that, but certain things were amiss that took away from the whole eating experience.

First impressions do last and SBOW gets brownie points for keeping the decor just quirky enough so that it doesn't come across as being “trying too hard”. Clean, comfortable seating and enough cultural inputs make the place easy to the eye and also gives something for the visitor to look at during those silent moments in-between conversations. Unfortunately, the service lacked the class I expected. The staff assigned to us seemed clueless and when we asked for a recommendation he could only come up with one suggestion. Furthermore, as the place started to fill, I could tell they wanted to turn our table around and asked twice if we'd like the plates cleared. I had to ask and stop them from taking my plate at one point. I hate this. I enjoy my conversations, especially if I am meeting a friend after 3 years. I like to sit and relax and eat and not feel that someone is looking at me in the hope that they'll clear the place the moment I take the last bite. While the staff was courteous, a general lack of good service was a major let down.

Onwards to the food and drinks; The Raspberry Soda was bright, filled with real fruit bits and proved to be quite the refresher. The Irani Special Chai on the other hand was fairly standard and didn't have a distinct enough taste one would expect. The Khade Chammach Ki Chai comes with the description "No charge if you can drink this ". Curiosity got the best of me and I ordered it without bothering to ask what it was. Why someone would serve anything that they don't expect their paying customer to finish, I know not why. As it turned out, it's a glass 3/4th full of sugar with 1/4 tea on top. What a waste of money and sugar if you ask me. I still would have been okay if the ratio were reversed or it was at least 50:50 sugar and tea, but the novelty and quirk quotient of this got a big thumb down from me and my friend who refused to even taste it.

Enough badgering for now as we move towards the good stuff. The Dhansak (Mutton), the one dish that I had heard of from before, the quintessential Parsi dish, was Out of This World! Simple and homemade flavours of the lentil that was smooth and perfectly seasoned with pieces of tender mutton served with caramelized rice and Kachumbar (mixed salad) was divine. It came in a typical Mumbai Dabba and the quantity was good enough for two people to share. With the Kachumber being fresh and colourful and the taste of the lentils still lingering in the corner of my foodie-mind , I'd visit the restaurant again for this dish alone. It should also be noted that I'm not a mutton fan so this really is a big deal.

The Goan Sausage Pav was bright red, tangy, and exciting. While the onion flavour ruled over all the other ingredients, it did add a zing to the entire dish, and the moderately spicy concoction was brilliant. Both the Dhansak and Goan Sausage Pav plates were wiped clean as a result of their excellent tastes.

Everything we ate till that very moment raised the bar quite high, so when the Tamota Papeta Par Eeda, which is basically baked eggs, was served, our expectation levels were sky bound. As all good things must come to an end, so did the flavor festival which we were enjoying till then. I'm not sure how this dish works. Once again it lacked any uniqueness and with a tomato base with potato and an egg seasoned poorly it just took away the joy the previous two dishes had infused in us. I seriously think the Tamota Papeta Par Eeda (it’s fun to say, and that’s about it) needs to be given some serious thought by the management and either drastic change should ensue or removal from the menu altogether.

When it comes to re-visits, unless the management reads this and stops me, I'd very much like to return and try out more of the "authentic" options they have. A variety of typical Bomaby food is also available and there is a bakery that I need to try, but for now it's the Parsi and Iranian dishes that truly interest me.

SodaBottleOpernerWala would easily have gotten a 4.5/5 star rating for me, instead of the 3.5 stars I gave it, had it not been for the average service, the Tomata thingy, and the Khade Chammach ki Chai. Hopefully I can discover some of their other specialties next time and increase the rating afterwards. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

T G I Friday’s

It's hard for me to review T G I Friday’s with the same clarity that I view other places with. There's a lot of nostalgia linked to it. It was our go to restaurant in school and during the time when I would come home during holidays from college and then later with work colleagues during my tiny stint with British Airways. Granted that most of my visits to TGIF have been to the Vasant Vihar branch in South Delhi, which might have closed down since, I'm not sure, but their food has remained pretty much the same across various franchises.

TGIF is a great place to drink, and since with age my drinking habits have reduced so have my visits to TGIF, and even though it's a stone throws away from where I live now in Gurgaon, I have only visited the restaurant four to five times in the last decade. However, I do like how the Gurgaon TGIF in Metropolitan Mall is housed in a separate building just next to the main building of the mall. The interiors, the furniture, the bar, the service, everything is pretty much same. If you've been to one TGIF, you've been to them all in that sense.

So, what do you look out for at TGIF? Deals... Deals on drinks to be precise and there's always something or the other that is on. If not then there's always the happy hour which is what we (my family consisting of only 4 adults this time) made use of and got us a couple of beers and a couple of Virgin Mojito's. Yeah, yeah, virgin... What ya gonna do about it then?

The Virgin Mojito was a tad disappointing as it proved to be too salty for my liking and lacked the minty sweet freshness that crave from the drink, and that's why I pretty much gulped it down in the end. The beers were run of the mill stuff nothing to really write about.

TGIF serves typical pub grub with the Tex-Mex and the Burgers and Pizzas and the platters or as I like to call it, Up-Market Fast Food. There's quite a bit of variety and most of the food has been a hit or a miss over the years. Some work, some don't. Some work when you're drunk, while others when you're sober.

The Sizzling Cottage Cheese Fajita this fine evening looked a tad drab and colourless, just like PK the movie (click for review) which we'd come out of, so the photo does a lot for it, however it tasted perfectly fine except for some rice being stuck to the bottom of the plate. Then again it is a sizzler of sorts so that's acceptable. Unfortunately the presentation was very basic, but I personally loved the colours of the fillings that were served on the side. A mix of this and that (cream, chipotle, cheese, salad leaves, onions, tomatoes etc.) the plate proved to be fresh and oozing with goodness.

As for the Vegetable Quesadilla, the roasted vegetable filling was warm the cooked to perfection having just the right taste and spices along with the crunchiness of the bread making it an above average dish.

Going back to what I said earlier, there are a lot of memories attached to T G I Friday’s in general and the food might be good or bad, it was good this time round, but I'll always end up here sometime, somehow, that much I know.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gola Sizzlers

If you grew up in the 1980s, visiting restaurants especially in the heart of Delhi, then Gola Sizzlers might appeal to you. It's nostalgic in that sense, with the decor or the manager personally taking the order and checking on you during the meal. It even has that smokiness to it that I distinctly remember from visiting some of the classic places in Caunnaught Place. Now, while earlier it was mostly due to cigarettes being smoked in the open, here it's temporary due to the steam of the Sizzlers that come out every few minutes.

Gurgaon's Sector 29 has become a major hub for foodies with the numerous food outlets. Gola Sizzlers has tough competition and while it hits the mark in food, at least the things we tried, it misses on some of the other stuff. It's fairly average on all accounts in terms of ambience, decor, and service. I would like to mention that the service was not bad and we did not have any trouble with it, but it didn’t stand out either. The Manchow soup that we ordered wasn't that great and was left half finished, but the Tomato soup was very old fashioned with the spice and croutons and personally I loved it. The sizzlers that we tried, vegetarian both of them, were excellent and so was the quantity, so much so that four adults were able to make do with two sizzlers and a starter.

The Cheese Cutlet and Paneer Shahlik Sizzler was brilliant because of the oozing melting soft cheese from the cutlets and panner shashlik cooked beautifully. The Vegetable Kabab Sizzler had two types of Kababs; a soya Kabab which I personally loved and a vegetable Kabab which was just okay. Both the orders came with an assortment of vegetables and the Kabab sizzler had rice as well.

The starter, the tandoori platter, was slightly spicy and average in taste with a mix of the usually kababs that are served everywhere else; paneer, vegetable kabab, mushroom etc., but thankfully the sizzlers came piping hot and sizzling and were not at all spicy.

Gola Sizzlers is a nice change from the usual fare, especially if you want to have Indian food but want to avoid the usual Dal-Roti routine. However don't go with high expectations and you should be just fine. Another mentionable point is that even though the place was packed, as there was waiting by the time we left, the service was fast.

The entire order, including three bottles of beer, cost us about Rs 3800 which is certainly acceptable.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hard Rock Cafe

You only have to walk into Hard Rock Cafe early on a chilly winter Sunday evening to shatter all your expectations about it. Granted it was very much before dinner time, but a quiet un-crowded look doesn't fit well in my mind when I think of the legendary brand that is Hard Rock Cafe. I'm not complaining though, for once I was over the initial shock, the sparseness actually was welcoming especially since I was accompanied by my young kids.

Judging a restaurant by the number of people that are in it at a specific given time is like judging a book by its cover. You simply don't do that. Yes, if a place is perpetually empty round the clock all days of the week, think twice, but since that's not the case here, we settled down on one of the comfortable big couch sections with ample sitting and table space. You see the silver lining now don't you?

I've been to a few Hard Rock Cafe's around the world but this happens to be the first I tried in India and I'm glad to say that it exceeded my expectations. The service first and foremost deserves a special mention for it was not at all intrusive and the staff was extremely helpful and friendly. I’m sure the place being less crowded gave them time to attend to us more, but nevertheless I shall hold my comments on how they are with a full-house once I witness that myself.

Our order consisted of the Vegetarian Jumbo Combo that in turn consisted of lovely Potato Skins, crunchy Onion Rings, freshly chopped Tomatoes on the Bruschetta, and fresh salad leaves with tasty Santa Fe Spring Roles. The presentation was brilliant and the quantity enough to justify the price.

Kid menus are slowly becoming more and more popular amongst restaurants and are greatly appreciated by parents in general. So, my daughter had the Mac and Cheese with bread and chocolate milk, all of which were satisfactory. Personally the pasta could have been boiled for a couple of minutes more, but it wasn’t that a big a deal. I found the white sauce to be delicious and of sufficient quantity. The entire portion of the dish too was more than enough for a kid.  

Since we were sharing food, primarily because the quantities are huge, two burgers were ordered amongst three adults. They both came with massive sides of potato fries. The HRC Veggie Burger was very good and once again a mention needs to be made that all round the salad leaves used were clean and green, something that I don't always find in restaurants these days. At the time of ordering, we were asked our preference with regards to the sides for the Veggie Burger with a choice between salad or fries. We decided on the salad but fries were served. It did not matter so we didn't even mention this to them. However, the staff realized their mistake on their own and after about 5 minutes brought a side of salad free of cost. This is excellent service in my books, and I’m not saying this simply because we got a side of salad on the house.

The Mediterranean Burger was what I had and it was once again pretty good. The only issue with it was that it didn't have a Mediterranean feel to it. Maybe using a different cheese, feta in place of cheddar, or something else would make it more "sunny" and colourful. The sundried tomato aioli lacked that distinct flavor of the tomatoes and since overall the taste was satisfactory I wouldn’t mind having it again way down in the future.

In general, the ambience at Hard Rock Café was appropriate. Those that prefer a more fuller venue, I recommend visiting when they have one of their musical events, but then, going with kids might not be the best of ideas due to noise levels. Leaving aside the emptiness, those that have visited any HRC would know that the walls are covered with music memorabilia and some make for excellent picture taking opportunities. The music being played at the time of my visit was 80s-90s Rock and since I grew up listening to that very music, you won't be hearing any complaints from me.

I will have to visit HRC a few times before I can vouch for their consistency but they are very proud of their burgers and food/drinks in general so I'm guessing I won't be disappointed the next time round as well, especially since the damage to the pocket for all of the above plus water and a non-alcoholic drink was an acceptable Rs. 2800.