Restaurant Review - Food Nirvana



On a fine Saturday Oct month, myself and the housemate(TH) decided to go out for lunch. When he suggested a Full Buffet in Accord Metropolitan I gave a long look. That look had at least 100 meanings in it :-). But no guy can completely decipher a woman's thoughts. Right???.

Well, one inference that the housemate got from my glance was that month being Purattasi, non veg was a complete no-no to us. So if non-veg options are curfew-ed, then I was not the one to spend a few hundred bucks on a veg buffet. My hubby was also against it. So both were quickly suggesting some veg outlets.

I suggested (Pizza) --- TH (oh no not for a Saturday lunch), He (Saravana Bhavan) --- Me (again a scornful look), I (Rajdhani) -- TH (he was interested in the huge platter they serve and was ok-ok). I told him to check if there are any other outlets apart from the one in Phoenix Mall, Chennai. He started checking it over web and stumbled upon something which he initially didn't reveal to me. He mentioned we are going to RA Puram and I heard it as Arya Gowda Road😆. I was wondering is there a restaurant in Arya Gowda road as I'm cognizant of this area and the nearby shops. 

So after a brief ride, I understood that he is taking me to some other place. I started pestering him with my usual questions "where are we going". He asked me to be blind and just accompany him.

After a quick ride for 15 minutes we reached "Cafe Nirvana". It is a vegetarian restaurant situated on the Chamiers Road in Alwarpet/ RA Puram area. Well, the board is not easily recognizable due to the tall trees on the road. Luckily TH was driving the car slowly. It is just a few yards from the Velveteen Rabbit Pub & Restaurant on the Chamiers Road. There is limited parking space available for the Cafe Nirvana restaurant. 2 or 3 cars can be parked and the rest have to be parked along the kerb. but good thing is that they do valet parking. The restaurant sits on the 1st floor. There is a ATM downstairs.There is no lift but stairs are comfortable to take. 

As I entered the restaurant, I found the ambiance to be simple and good. The restaurant was spacious and decent. We were asked to wait for few minutes and were taken to an enclosure inside (meant for exclusive family dining or small party, I guess). 

We were greeted by the waiters and were given the menu card to choose from. The menu card was clamped to a board which resembled like a cutting board to me👸. I started going through the menu and asked the usual question of what TH is going to order. The discussion with him went for few minutes and waiters had waited till we decide on the food from menu card. 

Hot Pepper Soup
TH started with Soup of the Day. Asked the waiter what was the variety for that day and it was Hot Pepper and I too got interested. Hubby asked the waiter to make it 1/2 and the waiter obliged kindly. TH ordered a Paneer dish - Paneer has become synonymous with desi vegetarian folks and also for TH. The dish he ordered was "Deggi Mirchi Paneer Tikka". I don't remember a day he hadn't order any paneer dish in any of our dine-outs.
Deggi Mirchi Paneer Tikka
I topped up the order with two more starters “BBQ Bell Pepper & Cottage Cheese Wrap“ and “Jamaican Jerk Chilli Cheese Toast”. While him and me were relishing the Soup, the 1st starter "Deggi Mirchi Paneer Tikka” came at the right time. The Paneer was soft and cut into nice square cubes and garnished with herbs. It tasted yummy. The “Jamaican Jerk Chilli Cheese Toast” and “BBQ Bell Pepper & Cottage Cheese Wrap” came swiftly one after the other. The Jerk Chilli was an absolute delight – not too spicy not too bland – just the right mix. The Cottage Cheese wrap was ok-ok. Nothing great about it.

The one thing which was common in all the plates was a beetroot noodles which was simply attracting and nice to eat as well. 

BBQ Bell Pepper & Cottage Cheese Wrap
For the main dish, he ordered one of his old favorite “Kashmiri Naan” and to go with this sweet naan he ordered spicy “Subzi Kofta Curry”. He didn’t have Kashmiri Naan for a very long time and when it was available on the menu, he quickly checked with the waiter if its available. Since my tummy was already full with the delightful starters, I didn’t go for a separate main dish and just asked the waiter to bring one more Kashmiri Naan. The Naan was great topped with dry fruits in abundance. The Naan was not too oily and was cooked to the right level. The Naan went well with the spicy Subzi and we really enjoyed the dish.

Both our tummies were full but still we were interested to try the “Paan Icecream”. We ordered one and shared it between us. The ice cream was heavenly and it signed off a well-fed lunch. He asked for the bill and it was not high considering the quality of dishes served. I would recommend “Café Nirvana” to any veggie lover who wanted to try slightly different but still not too offbeat. Happy Eating!

Jamaican Jerk Chilli Cheese Toast

Kashmiri Naan

Subzi Kofta Curry

Paan Icecream

Indian Curry Trail Ratings:

Vegetarian / Non - Vegetarian: Vegetarian Only
Cuisine: Continental, North Indian
Food: 4.5/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Service: 4.5/5
Kids Friendly: Yes 
Cost for Two: 1000 INR
Value for Money: Moderate
Parking: Yes (Valet Partking Available)
Address: 23/11, 2nd Main Road, RA Puram, Chennai

Disclaimer: This is not a paid review and opinions are truly mine.

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Chola Aval Pidi Kozhukattai / Flattened Rice Dumplings

Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai1
My foodie mind becomes an exciting kid when I see an unusual ingredient(s) during my visit to supermarket. It happens every time and this time, the reason behind excitement is aval - millet based.

Grabbed assorted packets and tried different dishes out of it and of course traditional recipes as well including Pidi kozhukattai.

Coincidentally, I didn't have any aval based pidi kozhukkatti version in the website, I thought posting one would wake my website up which has been idle for a while.

Millet based avals are now available in almost all leading supermarkets. It is perfectly fitting in any recipe that calls for aval and it is even tasting good when is eaten raw.
Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai2

Basic Information:
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 10 dumplings
Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai3

Ingredients:

Oil - 1 tablespoon
Mustard seed - 1/2 teaspoon
Channa Dal - 1 tablespoon
Asafoetida - a pinch
Greenchilli - 2 no., chopped thinly
Curry leaves - 1 spring, roughly chopped
Red onion - 1 /2 cup, chopped finely
Carrot - 3/4 cup, grated
Water - 1 cup
Chola Aval / Any Aval Variety - 1 heaped cup
Salt - to taste
Fresh Coconut - 1/4 cup, grated

Method:

1) Heat oil in a wide pan. Throw mustard seeds, channa dal and asafoetida.
2) When channa dal becomes slight brown colour, add greenchilli and curry leaves. Let it fry for few minutes.
3) Add onion and saute till it becomes soft and translucent.

Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai-Step1

4) Add grated carrot and salt to taste. Stir well, sprinkle some water, cover and cook carrot.
5) Once carrot is almost cooked, add water and allow to boil.

Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai-Step2

6) Add aval. in a medium flame cook aval. Stir in between if required. Do not stir too much otherwise aval becomes mushy. At the end, add grated coconut and turn off the flame.

Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai-Step3

7) Cool the mixture and when you can handle the heat using hand, take a small ball size portion and make kozhukattais.
8) Steam it for 4-5 minutes.

Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai-Step4

9) Serve hot with spicy tomato chutney.

Chola-Aval-Pidi-Kozhukattai4
Notes:

1) Any aval variety can be used for making this kozhukattai. If you use thick aval, pulse it to coarse mixture before making and for easy cooking.
2) Any other vegetables can be used along with carrot.

Aam Panna / Raw Mango Drink

Aam-Panna-1

This is what I did as a first thing when I got my first batch of mangoes from the market. Scorching heat forced me to prepare something cool. So I came with the idea of Aam Panna. I used 2 mangoes to make this drink and the rest were used to prepare an instant mango pickle.

Aam Panna or Aam ka Panna (Raw Mango drink) was introduced to me by a veteran blogger Aipi aka Puja of US Masala sometime around 2011. Since then, I have prepared this drink many times, especially whenever I used to come across sour mangoes. I really don't know what her original recipe calls for. But I have been making it in my own way, described below - Adjusting as per my family taste.

I roast the mangoes or pressure cook them - It depends on the time available and my state of mind. I prepare it by mixing it with the freshly ground spices and mint leaves. There were days, I used dried mint leaves and made the panna ready mix at home. However my vote always goes to the Aam Panna that has been prepared with roasted mango for the perfect flavor it gives. You will not disagree with me on this!!! 

Basic Information:
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 1 to 2 litre

Aam-Ka-Panna-2

Ingredients:

For Mango Pulp:

Raw Mango - 2 nos., medium size
Water - 1 and 1/2 cup

For Making Panna:

Roasted Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Black pepper - 10 nos.,
Fresh Mint leaves - 1/4 cup
Mango pulp - 1/4 cup
Black Salt - a big pinch
Sugar - 1/3 cup or to taste
Water - 1 to 2 litre or as required

Method:

For Mango Pulp:

1) Wash and wipe the mango. Cut them into slices.
2) Pressure cook it by adding 1 and 1/2 cup of water. Alternatively, you can roast it  in the flame directly.
3) Once the pressure subsides, scoop out the pulp from the skin and discard the skin.

Aam-Panna-Step1

4) The mango pulp is ready. You can store this pulp in a clean container and keep inside refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

For the Panna:

(For making 4 glassess of panna)

1) Using a mixie, powder the roasted cumin seeds and black pepper.

Aam-Panna-Step2

2) When it is powdered, add mint leaves and sugar. Again powder it.
3) Finally add mango pulp and required water.

Aam-Panna-Step3

4) Once everything had mixed well, strain (Optional) pour in tall glasses, top it with ice cubes and serve.

Raw-Mango-Drink-3

Notes:

1) Adjust the water and sugar according to the sourness of the mango.
2) I used to prepare fresh spice mix to retain the aroma.
3) The quantity of mango pulp can be adjusted based on its sourness.I used very sour mango, hence added only 1/4 cup to get 4 glasses.
4) You can even ground roasted cumin seeds, black pepper and dried mint leaves together to make a Aam Panna ready mix. Add sugar and salt to the mango pulp, a teaspoon of the ready mix to make Aaam panna.

Assam 1860 Tea - Review

Assam-1860-tea-review-1 

Grown up in the family where everyone loves filter coffee, my taste was towards tea. A decade ago, I was neither a tea nor a coffee aficionado. But later after getting into my professional life, I grew a liking towards Tea and started having it everyday.

For me, Tea time is everything and the people who know me would tell how much I love tea. For this simple reason I accepted to write a review about Assam 1860 tea. A request came from them few months ago, if I would be interested in reviewing their sample and I accepted it.

Some time back, Perfectly parceled and sealed sample pack reached my home. It was a single pack containing loose tea(CTC) and 10 tea sachets covered in rich black cover with florescent green letters in it. The backside of the tea sachets are transparent so you could see the tea bag kept inside it. *Now they changed the cover and you can view it here.

Picture Courtesy - www.assam1860.com
Now, let me tell you about who are these folks! Not one or two but 10000 people are behind this Assam 1860. They play a vital role in processing and bringing the fresh and high quality tea to all consumers.

The tea leaves are carefully picked directly by them, very little processed before they ferment to ensure maximum Quality and thickness.

If we travel back in deep, The James Warren tea company who are the source and launched their black tea named "Assam 1860" which has been growing tea in Thowra Estate, south bank of assam since 1860. And the teas are straigt from their estates.

They ensure freshness and they best describes it on how I feel...

"The leaves are plucked, processed and packed in the estate itself, ensuring quality and freshness that is unparalleled. So wherever you are, you might as well be drinking your cup of Assam 1860 on the verdant verandah of the Thowra Bungalow, overlooking graceful rolling greens on our lush terraces."

I used both tea bags and loose, both are equally good, stronger and fresher. I drink black tea once in a while amidst of my work schedule. I made my cuppa using one tea bag but I felt it was very strong and added some more water and shared another cup with my colleague. It was very thick, darker and juicer. Definitely black tea lover wouldn't miss the chance to taste it.

I used loose tea with Milk, the way love my tea all time which i liked to the core. I used full cream milk, even then it gave brown colour and a strong aroma to the quantity I usually use. I just brewed it, added enough milk which is very very perfect for flavour, colour, strength and taste. These things which I always love in my tea.
Assam-1860-tea-review-2

I personally felt the tea bags are bit stronger than the loose tea if we compare both of them. 

On a hot sunny may day, I made iced tea as well using their tea bags. I used only one bag to make 2 tall glasses of iced tea. With tea, lemon and mint I lost myself in this tea. The taste is very distinct and you can feel it only when you taste it.

Assam-1860-tea-review-3

What else, just go to site, shop it online. They also provide COD(Cash on Delivery option) within India.
It is also available in leading supermarkets.

Munthiri Kothu


Never though in my dreams that I will get friends from all over the world through food blogging. Without seeing them, we got to know each other and developed a good friendship. Sireesha got introduced to me as a London based food blogger and later point of time, we came to know that we are working for the same IT organization. The time difference between India and UK helped us to share and talk about food, photography and sometimes about project too. One day, when she asked to do a guest post on any traditional South Indian recipe, I happily agreed. Coincidentally, I also had a traditional recipe that I prepared for last year Krishna Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturti festival. I decided to send her before any of the said festivals. but various personal activities, few vacation trips and festivals kept me busy last year and didn't get time to work on the recipe post. So, I planned to post it now without further delay and decided to send another very warm, unique and traditional recipe later to her :-)

Now its apt to talk about the actual recipe - Munthiri Kothu. A traditional sweet from southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu, especially in the kanyakumari and Thirunelveli district. If you translate the recipe name directly into tamil, you get as Cashew Nut bunch.

Mundhiri means cashew nuts
Kothu means bunch

But to your surprise, there is no relationship between cashew and this recipe and it doesn't even use cashew in it. In colloquial Tamil of southern districts of tamilnadu and in kerala, mundhiri translate as grapes. It is also deep fried as bunches of three or four which resembles a bunch of grapes, hence the name. I prepared it in a bunch(kothu) of three but it can also be prepared as a bunch of four or five. The process of making this sweet is long and it requires patience and care because of which we used to prepare it only during the festival and functions. Since it has longer shelf life in room temperature, We prepare it in a big batch but believe me before that you finish off everything.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year 2016!


Basic Information:


Preparation Time: 50 minutes - 1 hour
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 20-25 nos.,


Ingredients:

For Stuffing:
Whole green moong dal / Yellow split moong dal - 2 cups
Jaggery - 2 cups
Grated fresh coconut - 2 cups
Green cardamom - 10 nos.,
Dry ginger powder - a pinch
Salt - a pinch (Optional)
Water - 1/4-1/2 cup,, just to immerse the jaggery

For Outer Batter:

Raw rice - 1/2 cup
Idly rice - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Water - as required

For Deep Frying:

Oil / Ghee - as required


Method:

For Stuffing:

1) Dry roast moong dal in small batches for even roasting. I used 1/3 cup of moong dal each time in 6 batches.Transfer the contents to a plate and cool down.


2) To the same pan, add grated fresh coconut, fry till it becomes crisp and contains no traces of moisture in it. Now transfer the contents to another plate and allow it to cool down.


3) Make a powder of moong dal by grinding it along with green cardamom and dry ginger powder. A coarse grind would also be fine.


4) Heat jaggery in a wide pan. Add water just to immerse the jaggery.


5) Once the jaggery melts down, filter it to remove the impurities.
6) Now heat the jaggery once again and allow it become slightly thick and frothy.
7) Turn off the heat. Add grated coconut and powdered moong dal.


8) Add a pinch of salt and mix it well. Allow it cool for sometime.
9) Take a small pinch from it and make an amla sized ball(size can be varied as per personal choice). Allow this to cool down under a fan if you are making it immediately or keep it for overnight for the next day's preparation.


10) The stuffing is ready meanwhile you can prepare the outer cover.

For Outer Batter:

1) Wash and Soak the rice in water for an hour or overnight.
2) Grind it to a smooth batter (slightly thicker than the dosa batter) by adding enough water.


3) Add salt and turmeric and mix well.
4) The batter is ready.

For Deep Frying:

1) Heat oil/ghee in a wide pan.
2) When it is hot but not smoking hot, pour few drops of batter. The batter floats on the surface of oil. This is the right temperature for deep frying the munthiri kothu.


3) Take 3 moong dal jaggery balls, form a bunch of three, by making sticking it with each other if possible.
4) Carefully dip it into the batter and slide it down in the hot oil.
5) Carefully fry it till it is cooked and the colour of outer cover has changed. Now transfer it to a plate covered with kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.
6) Once cooled, store in a clean dry container. It stays good for a week time.


Notes:

1) If you are not able to make it as bunch, feel free to fry as individual balls. Shape doesn't matter.
2) You can also use thin batter just to coat the bunches or thick batter. Its your choice. Traditionally it is prepared as slightly thicker than the dosa batter.
3) Instead of ground rice batter, you can use rice flour or maida or dosa batter. But ground dosa batter and rice flour batter gives a longer shelf life. If you use dosa batter, there is a slight change in taste.
4) I was left with some batter after I was done with all the bunches.

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