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Food Lite Blogs Restaurant Reviews

Pop-ups a way to explore

Existing restaurants are usually the best option because all of the necessary equipment is already on hand, and the hosting restaurant can also generate some cross-promotion buzz…writes N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE

What better way to showcase the diversity of Indian cuisine than through pop-ups? India is known for its diverse culture, appearance, and cuisine. We are all aware of how well-known India’s street food vendors are at this point. Everyone, including office workers and college students, appreciates a food innovation that blows their minds, even if it’s a simplified maggie.

“Food pop-ups in my experience are one of the best things that could happen to the food industry. Many aspirational restaurateurs have the inherent ability to produce Instagram-worthy food but lack the funding and capital required to set up mainstream restaurants and cafes.

“The concept of food pop-ups in tandem with the factor of becoming viral on social media, disrupts the traditional food industry. It also instills and encourages an entrepreneurial spirit in the people, which is crucial to the economy from a micro-perspective.

“Food pop-ups have the added advantage of mobility, which allows them to serve locations strategically, all while acting like a QSR with commendable service time,” says food blogger Vishal Bharadwaj.

Food pop-ups have been shown to be very effective in terms of showcasing creativity and earning, while also creating a fun food idea for visitors, giving new meaning to eating on the streets.

People in the food industry have been extremely vocal about their experiences and according to Maj Dinesh Sharma, Founder, and Director of APCA – Academy of pastry & Culinary Arts, “Pop-up restaurants are a fashionable but powerful force in the food industry. The food industry took on new meaning with the pop-up, Chefs frequently use pop-up restaurants to showcase their culinary skills to a larger audience and potentially attract investors for a future restaurant.”

Maj continues to tell about the concept’s benefits and drawbacks, “The pop-up restaurant could potentially set up shop anywhere it is legal and safe to do so. They’ve been discovered on everything from city building roofs to the insides of barns.

Existing restaurants are usually the best option because all of the necessary equipment is already on hand, and the hosting restaurant can also generate some cross-promotion buzz.

Every business has advantages and disadvantages, and this one is no exception. It’s a relatively inexpensive way for a chef to get their name out there and start getting people familiar with their work or establishing themselves in a new area, but there’s a pretty hard cap on the number of people that can be present, and you’ll frequently find there’s more interest than you can accommodate”

Food blogger Bharadwaj who believes food pop-ups will thrive with the right infrastructure, such as a street cart food court, and basic amenities such as hand washing and nearby seating said, “The food tastes quite different, to be honest. Pop-ups’ main concentration would be towards quantity and pricing it cheap whereas posh restaurants look at quality and plating. The crowd differs and that would be one of the key differences.

“For me, I would surely prefer a food pop-up for some great Indian or Indo-Chinese quick food and go to restaurants for some great Continental food or probably a fine dining experience.”

“Pop-ups are as much a way for consumers to explore their palates with different cultures and styles of cooking, as it is a marketing and an engagement tool.

“Be it moving out and doing a pop-up or having one of my chef or mixologist mate coming over to my restaurants/bars and doing one, there’s always something new for people to explore, thereby also making it a great way to tap into a new audience, all while retaining your patrons. It’s also a great way to enhance your skill set as you get to collaborate with the best and learn a few new tricks from them,” says Chef Tarun Sibal, who recently collaborated for a pop-up with Rooh, Delhi around Gourmet casual.

According to Tarun, Pop-ups have been becoming increasingly popular especially post Covid since they have huge perks for both – the chefs and the diners.

He adds, “They bring freshness to an existing menu while giving guests a unique dining experience. They make restaurants accessible to diners in different geographies and give chefs an opportunity to experiment with their craft.

“Collaboration of chefs and cuisines from different countries, and different cities, diverse thought processes, food philosophies, new techniques, and ingredients are things that are at play when we talk about pop-ups. The guests end up as the winner.”

ALSO READ-Restaurant insolvencies jump by over 60%  

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Food Lite Blogs Restaurant Reviews

Best spots in Mumbai for refreshing salads

The restaurant veganized its menu by introducing dishes such as Soya Kheema Pav. Salads, such as Zesty Quinoa Salad, can be eaten for a juicy and nutrient-dense meal…reports Asian Lite News

Salads are one of the most adaptable meals that can be made quickly and enjoyed in summer. As people have become more health-conscious, there has been a dramatic shift towards quick, scrumptious, yet nutrient-dense meals. Here are some of the best spots in Mumbai for you to grab a refreshing salad:

Poetry by Love and Cheesecake

Poetry by Love and Cheesecake draws attention to its light and artistic salads. This cafe has a lot to offer, from the gooey Burrata Salad with crunchy walnuts and roasted sweet peppers to the basic Warm Grilled Chicken Salad. To accompany the vibrant and flavorful meal, enjoy a steaming bowl of Cream of Mushroom Soup or a gourmet tea, Little Buddha, this Monsoon season. Not to mention the warm and welcoming hospitality in the prime locations of Juhu, Bandra, and Powai.

Sequel

Sequel is a popular health club in Mumbai, with locations in Bandra, BKC, and Kala Ghoda. The delectable recipes at this Bollywood-favorite restaurant are made with organic produce. There are numerous options available, ranging from vegan to nutrient-rich to gluten-free. Despite being on the healthier side, Sequel’s salad bowls like The Wholesome Bowl and Pretty in Pink will captivate you.

Garde Manger Cafe

Garde Manger, located in Vile Parle and Juhu, is a vegetarian cafe that has expanded into vegan cuisine. The restaurant veganized its menu by introducing dishes such as Soya Kheema Pav. Salads, such as Zesty Quinoa Salad, can be eaten for a juicy and nutrient-dense meal.

Pishu’s Cafe

Pishu’s Cafe has locations in various parts of Mumbai, including Malad and Andheri. This place has gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts due to its emphasis on healthy and power-packed meals. It makes luscious smoothies of seasonal fruits and berries with super fresh ingredients. Furthermore, there are numerous salad options, including The Exotic Salad, which consists of sprouts, baby corn, bell peppers, and other vegetables sauteed in their homemade sauce.

ALSO READ-How does diet play a role in body odour?

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Food Lite Blogs Restaurant Reviews

Qatar tourism unveils budget-friendly restaurants

While Qatar excels in luxury offerings, the country also allows for budget dining without scrimping on quality. The road to the FIFA World cup has never looked so delicious…writes N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe

Qatar Tourism reveals the budget-friendly restaurants best for big appetites without breaking the bank. For less than $30 a day, fans can taste authentic Middle Eastern flavours, or any international cuisine, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with local teas and “qahwa” coffee to boost energy levels in preparation for the match excitement.

Chief Operating Officer of Qatar Tourism, Berthold Trenkel, said: “Sometimes, all a traveller wants is a quick, affordable, but delicious meal to get them through the day. In Qatar, visitors can grab shawarma with meat fresh off the grill, or dip warm falafel into tahini for just a few Qatari riyals. With a never-ending portfolio of pocket-friendly bites on every street corner, sometimes the simplest meals are the best. Football fans should get ready to be wowed with our low-cost sweet and savoury sensations.”

While Qatar excels in luxury offerings, the country also allows for budget dining without scrimping on quality. The road to the FIFA World CupTM has never looked so delicious.

Shay AlShomous: Located in a corner of Souq Waqif, Shay AlShomous is owned and actively run by a renowned Qatari woman called Shams Al Qassabi. Biryani CornerWith all menu items priced under $7, it’s a must-visit location for authentic Qatari food. Top tip: the restaurant is known for its breakfast rush.

Chapati & Karak: It’s always tea time at Chapati & Karak. Located in Katara Cultural Village, this establishment serves an assortment of flavoured chapati and innovative teas to quench both sweet and savoury cravings, for under $2. Top tip: perfect for a quick mid-day snack.

Karak Mqanes: Karak Mqanes serves traditional Qatari cuisine with a hint of local charm. With more than 20 locations serving recipes shared through generations, Karak Mqanes is known for its Qatari breakfast, desserts, and authentic karak. Most of the menu items are priced under $5. Top tip: make sure to leave room for dessert.

Chapati at Karak Mqanes.

Turkey Central Restaurant: Located in the heart of the city, Turkey Central is known by both locals and expats for its mouth-watering menu, generous prices and prompt service. The menu options start from $1 upwards, with plates big enough for two to share. Favourites from the restaurant include mixed mezze ($8), mixed grill ($9), half grilled chicken ($7) and the renowned lamb chops ($10). Top tip: be sure to arrive early, as it’s first come first serve and always packed with customers.

Petra: Visitors can drop by any Petra location for a taste of the Middle East. With all sandwiches under $2, this is a trendy destination for a bargain bite. Popular choices include the falafel and chicken sandwiches. Top tip: order two, no one stops at just one.

Marmara Istanbul Restaurant: Guests can mark ‘eating shawarma in Qatar’ off the checklist with one of the best at Marmara. Priced at $3.50 and $2 for large and regular-sized shawarma respectively, this restaurant is always buzzing with people at all hours of the day and night. Top tip: the restaurant is open from 9 am to 4 am.

Sabah W Masa: At $5.20, this Lebanese restaurant serves some of the greatest falafel in town. Fresh Lebanese cuisine is available on the go from a wide menu suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Top tip: one main menu order is good for two people.rak

Ali Al Naama Cafe: Visitors can dine amongst the hustle and bustle of Souq Waqif at this local eatery. Adorned with traditional seating, the Ali Al Naama Cafe has become a crowd favourite for its quick service and low-priced menu with most items under $4. Top tip: the combination of the egg and cheese paratha and a cup of Karak make the perfect meal combination.

Biryani Corner: Visitors in the mood for some south-Asian cuisine can grab a hearty plate of biryani for under $5 from this local eatery. The selection includes vegetables, eggs, chicken and mutton biryani to fulfil everyone’s appetite. It’s best for a quick takeaway. Top tip: order a side of papadum, pickled veggies and yoghurt to make any meal a feast.

TeaTime: With an extensive menu available 24/7 and most items under $4, TeaTime is a night owl’s dream. With branches all over the city, visitors can grab a burger, wrap, snacks and its famous Karak everywhere they go. Top tip: most branches do not have dining areas, so it’s best for a quick takeaway.

ALSO READ-Healthy food tips for Ramadan

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FEATURE Food Restaurant Reviews

Dining at Hilton London Croydon

Hilton London Croydon is the perfect place to stay if you intend to visit the capital or to explore all the nearby attractions, or to spend time in the Surrey countryside … writes Reza Amirinia

Our stay at Hilton London Croydon gave us the great opportunity to see London from a different perspective. After a day exploring what Croydon has to offer including spending time in Croydon’s large shopping centre (called the Whitgift Centre), and walking in Lloyd Park near the hotel, now it was time to treat ourselves to a romantic and memorable evening. We sat at a reserved table in a quiet corner of the Lounge Bar. There is also the Larder restaurant in the hotel, which offers a different ambience.

The menu was quite comprehensive. We chose red pepper and tomato soup as the starter with nachos. The combination of roasted red pepper and tomato soup served with sourdough bread was delicious. With the nachos came a starter plate of beetroot, linseed, and turmeric tortillas, topped with jalapenos, grated cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream which made a very rich dish. We couldn’t finish it all as we needed to save some space for the main course.

Dining at Hilton London Croydon

For our mains we chose grilled chicken. It was served with a flat mushroom and the plate delicately decorated with roasted vine cherry tomatoes, chunky chips, and came with a pepper sauce.

The restaurant manager, Mr Clifford generously guided us on the selection of dessert. He offered us two of the most popular dessert options from the menu. We chose a cheesecake with blackcurrants. Then the manager surprised us with a complementary dish of their mandarin sorbet dessert. Both dishes were very rich and tasty. We finished off this feast with a mint tea and added lemon to help better digest all those deliciously sweet and sugary desserts.       

After a great night’s sleep we woke up feeling great. Our breakfast was a real treat, with a variety of healthy options on the buffet but with table service. The chef, Mr. Von Collantes, gave us a quick tour of the extensive selections. We also looked through the colourful breakfast menu. We ordered an omelette with beans, potato patties, tomato, and vegetable sausages. While waiting for our order, we started our breakfast with oat porridge and a small bowl of fresh fruit. The chef lovingly prepared our omelettes which were neigh-on perfect and the potatoes were lovely and crunchy. The chef made us feel very special being attentive to our every need. Now I was comfortably full and finished off this breakfast feast with a cup of strong coffee.

Hilton London Croydon is the perfect place to stay if you intend to visit the capital or to explore all the nearby attractions, or to spend time in the Surrey countryside. If you are interested why not visit the Croydon Airport visitor centre which is housed in the original terminal building. Unfortunately, we could not visit as it was closed due to the pandemic.

Dining at Hilton London Croydon

There is a quick and frequent train service from Croydon to “Victoria Station” in central London that gets you there in less than a 20 minutes journey on the direct train service. You can drive into central London but be aware of the Congestion Charge Zones. The M25 motorway is just 20 minutes away giving easy access to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports as well as seaside towns like Brighton and Hastings.

I highly recommend staying at Hilton London Croydon as you will not be disappointed. You will certainly experience luxury at an affordable price and lovely friendly staff.    

More information

Hilton London Croydon offers Wellness Guest Room from £96 for two adults and Wellness Junior Suite from £141 for two adults.

To find out more about Hilton London Croydon and book your next trip, please visit https://www.hilton.com

To see Reza’s images of Hilton London Croydon, go to http://www.amirinia.com/uk.

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Food Lite Blogs Restaurant Reviews

Sizzling Swan Sets New Standards

Restauranteur Zorawar Kalra meets Asian Lite’s FnB columnist Riccha Grrover to share his thoughts about good food and the concept behind his talk-of-the-town restaurant venture SWAN that has taken Delhi eating-out scene by a storm

Perfecting the science of molecular gastronomy with India’s spice and flavour, Mr Zorawar Kalra is a name that commands respect in the Indian hospitality industry. The face of Massive Restaurants, Mr. Kalra proudly tells the tale of a brand that majestically owns and operates trendsetting and critically acclaimed brands.

Zorawar Kalra

Counted amongst one of the youngest, most successful restaurateurs of India, he reinvents Indian cuisine with his strong business acumen and a rich heritage spanning over four decades. Considered as the ‘Man with a Vision on a Mission’ & ‘The Prince of Indian Cuisine’, he has been recognised amongst the 50 Most Influential Young Indians by GQ India (thrice); GQ Men of the Year – Restauranteur of 2017; Economic Times 40 Under 40; Forbes Tycoons of Tomorrow; Restaurateur of the Year Award, 2014 & 2017, Times of India & Vir Sanghvi Awards; a Finalist in E&Y Entrepreneur of the year 2017; HT Crystals, 2014 and Entrepreneur of the Year in Service Business – F & B Services, Entrepreneur India Awards, 2014.  Reviving Indian cuisine and now putting it on the global food map, he holds the recipe for success, delectable food and humility.

In conversation with Mr Zorawar Kalra on Swan, Massive Restaurants’ newest gourmet offering.

RICCHA GRROVER– What does your new restaurant venture SWAN as a concept stand for? What would make it unique and different from other Italian and Japanese restaurants in Delhi?

ZORAWAR KALRA– The name ‘Swan’ signifies beauty, elegance, and simplicity. Swan is one of a kind of restaurant and bar with an incredible outdoor space and a breath-taking terrace overlooking the beautiful monument of Qutub Minar in Delhi. It is the only restaurant in the city that offers both Japanese and Italian cuisines in their truest forms. It is one of the very rare terraces with a tree rooted in the ground floor making its way to the terrace. Swan, Delhi brings diners a concise food menu offering only signature dishes. Each dish has detailed elements and the ingredients are the heroes of every dish.

From handmade artisanal pastas to fresh wood-fired pizzas, the Italian menu focuses on seasonal produce with ingredients that are freshly sourced. Our Chefs are trained at globally acclaimed restaurant brands Zuma and Nobu. Our Italian food is hearty and traditional with unique nuances like parmesan pinwheels that will transport our guests to the Italian countryside.

Riccha

RG- What does the cuisine of your restaurant take inspiration from? What kind of a meal experience can diners expect from Swan?

ZK– Japanese and Italian cuisines are poles apart: one is fresh and light and other is creamy and full of carbs and fat! We wanted to come up with a restaurant that focused on simplicity and ingredients. Japanese food is all about simplicity and technically, so is Italian. We’ve got out of the way to let the ingredients do all the talking to the discerning diners. We’ve focused a lot on sourcing, and at 1500 sq ft, the restaurant’s kitchen is the largest in our system. It’s a  restaurant where we are very serious about the authenticity of taste with a menu that’s passionate and precise so it gives that authentic experience to those dining with us.

RG– What are the top 5 signature dishes that you would recommend a first time customer to try from your menus?

ZK– Avocado crostini, Sliced yellow tail, Grilled New Zealand lamb chops, Miso Chilean sea bass, French toast.





Zorawar Kalra

RG– Tell us about the interiors, music selection and overall vibe that you have created at Swan. What is your mantra of creating and recreating successful FnB brands like swan that become a rage soon as they are launched?

ZK– The decor at Swan is more than just eclectic. The interiors of the restaurant are chic and will in seconds make you fall in love with the place. You could either dine indoors or occupy space on the terrace under the green canopy of the beautiful Neem tree. A massive metal tree installation at the bar dominates the interiors; while the natural setting, a beautiful Neem tree and the view of the Qutub Minar makes the terrace sitting space perfect for a night under the stars. The music helps put the place together; it acts as a stimulant, and at Swan, the vibe is purely chill and LoFi Hip Hop.

I have always aimed at creating the best restaurant company in the world. But we don’t open restaurants just to meet deadlines. We open only once they are perfect, and perfection takes time. We want to grow, but with a lot of integrity. Our journey is like a game of golf, where we want to do better than ourselves every day and beat the course, instead of the opponent.

RG– Do you Cater to dietary requirements? Is your menu at swan a fixed one or do you have seasonal specials too?

Pork-Belly-Skewers-with-Apple-Fennel-tartar-teriyaki-sauce

ZK– Many people choose to follow a specific diet for health reasons, a personal belief system, or simply because they don’t enjoy certain foods. We try our best to accommodate requests that we get from our guests. We cater to gluten free and vegan requirements or if any special request comes up for dietary restrictions, we try to do the best possible. We don’t serve any seasonal specials though.

RG– What would be the challenges for FnB business brands in a post covid world in your view? What challenges faced you personally as a Restauranteur especially launching this restaurant in a post pandemic environment and how did you overcome them?

ZK- A restaurant is never a last-minute call. These were ventures planned before Covid. We opened a few locations in December 2020 and in January 2021 such as +94 in Mumbai, Swan and Bo Tai Switch in Delhi. When the lockdown was first announced in March, most of the spaces were in various stages of construction. The only challenge was to bring back the workers once the government allowed work to commence. For every other department, people were itching to get back to work which actually smoothened the process.

Today, people prefer going to a place they trust. We are following all safety norms with the food covered and the menu smaller as we have reduced kitchen staff. The smaller menus have not only helped us reduce our food cost by 6 percent, but it even helped us cull fancy dishes that were not hot-sellers.

RG– Did you always want to be a Restauranteur or dabble into the profession? What words of inspiration would you give to aspiring foodpreneurs?

ZK– I grew up in a house where food has always been the focus. I grew up on fantastic dinners and fascinating dinner table conversations which were on food. Further, food became my passion and soon after my MBA I decided to set up a business, capitalized on my father’s long standing expertise in the food biz field and my passion.

Literally, being in the food industry is not really like doing a job it is more of a lifestyle choice. It is not a 9 to 5 thing, it is about devoting your entire being to it. It is important to think of your restaurant business as a lifestyle choice for your guests and offer great experiences so that they continue to choose you over other choices.

To all those who are passionate about food or anything else in life, I would like to say – Always dream big. When you dream big and shoot for the moon, you are forcing yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Never quit. Perseverance makes all the difference. You are never too late or old to dream big! And there are no shortcuts in life, hard work is very important to achieve your goals.

The strategically located dining space with its sprawling terraces offers a breath taking view of the Qutub Minar and authentic Japanese and Italian fare are beautifully complemented by a picturesque al-fresco experience. Exuding a warm and elegant aesthetic, Swan’s design incorporates the spirit of the immediate lush landscape. Mood lighting and music help the romantic, warm dining space by day easily transition into a high-energy bar by night.

Spearheading Massive Restaurants that includes Farzi Café, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Made In Punjab, Pa Pa Ya , Younion, Bo Tai, Botai Switch, +94 Bombay and Swan under its wing, it has been an adrenaline-charged journey for him as he watches it grow exponentially. Owing to its success stories, the brand has raised INR 160 crores from Gaja Capital for the purpose of expansion. With strong foresight, he is a visionary who aims to launch properties in 10 new cities within this year.

Prawn-tempura-maki-roll

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Business Food Restaurant Reviews

PARAT: Passion To Treat Your Palates

Chefpreneur Harangad Singh meets Asian Lite’s FnB columnist Riccha Grrover to share his experiences on starting up his own takeaway business venture PARAT amidst the pandemic times. Parat reintroduces people to the simple joy in food and a promise of a standout dining experience full of flavour, passion, and outstanding service to homes across Delhi and Gurugram

Chef Harangad specialises in Indian cuisine. Over the years he has been able to carve a niche for himself in classic, innovative and nostalgic Indian food which focuses on freshness, use of local ingredients. His formative years at Taj Vivanta Bengaluru and Varq at the Taj Mahal Delhi and Tresind- Dubai working under perhaps some of the finest chefs helped to groom his style and concept of the cuisine. Above all, he believes in honest-to-goodness taste.

Chefpreneur Harangad Singh
Chefpreneur Harangad Singh

Chef Harangad has travelled extensively across the country to entrench himself in the various elements of regional Indian and nostalgic cooking. Inspirations from diverse flavours of India, the bounty of Delhi markets and where his passion stemmed from aka his palate, all reflect in the previous restaurants that is Prankster and Pra Pra Prank at Biggie Hospitality where he was the Corporate Chef.  Parat is his first venture as an entrepreneur.

In conversation with the culinary wiz Chef Harangad Singh on how the pandemic brought out the entrepreneur in him…

RICCHA GRROVR- What does PARAT as a concept stand for? What would make it unique and different from other Indian restaurants and takeaways?

Mutton-Korma

HARANGAD SINGH– Parat Means Layer. We have a belief that food is always prepared layer by layer. So Parat is Layers of Indian Flavour. This is only delivery place which will give you The Royal and Street experience of India at home. The difference that you will notice is in the detailing of each and everything in the brand . For example- the packaging is very unique, the flavour patterns are very unique and the whole experience of the brand till the time you finish the meal is unique.

RG- What does the cuisine of your restaurant take inspiration from and what part of India is the menu representative of? Tell us more about your menu especially the kali jalebi and truffle butter chicken and other exclusives?

HS- The cuisine at Parat we call is Evolved Indian Cuisine. We get inspired by the recipes from royal families of India and also from streets of India. Like Kali Jalebi you will find in old Delhi and we got inspiration from there and made it the part of our menu. It’s a very unique jalebi made from mawa. We do Butter Chicken with truffle and the magic of truffle with butter chicken amazes the discerning diners. Then our mutton dishes like tawa bhuna chaap and Sikandari Raan have become very famous and our diners have become committed fans of these concept dishes, which is so encouraging.

RG- What can diners expect when they order a meal from parat? What are the top five dishes that you would recommend a first time customer to try?

HS– First thing is the detailing in quality of ingredients procured and then detailing in packaging. So our menu is divided in different sections like kebabs, royal curries of India ,street curries of India , pulao , breads and desserts. 5 dishes which I highly recommend are – Tawa Bhuna Chaap, Kalmi Kebab , Muradabadi subz seekh, Nalli Nihari , Patiala Shahi Murgh Kali Mirch.

Parat-E-Raan-Pulao-

RG- Do you cater to dietary requirements? Is your menu a fixed one or do you have seasonal specials too?

HS– Yes we do customise the meal according to our guests flavour pattern as we believe that we will never serve our ego on the plate but we will always cook what our guests wants to eat. We do seasonal specials like Sarson ka saag, Gajar halwa in the winter months and this keeps evolving like the seasons.

RG- What would be the challenges for FnB business brands in a post-Covid world in your view? What challenges face you personally as a chefpreneur serving customers at home and not in a restaurant space?

HS– Post-Covid everyone will be more concerned on the quality of procurement of ingredients which will ultimately become a challenge to also control the food cost. The market is very price sensitive, so you will be also not able to increase the prices of the dishes. At a restaurant if the balance of the dish is little out then we can redo the dish for the guest but in delivery, you have to be on your toes with the balance of flavours.

RG- What are the other FnB brands that you have worked for, tell us about your professional journey as a chef?

Raan-Nihari

HS– I started my kitchen career with Vivanta by Taj at Whitefield Bangalore as Commi 1. After Working as Commi 1 for 3 years, I got an opportunity to be a part of Taj Management Training Program which is one of the finest programs in hospitality in India. In management training program I specialised in Awadhi cuisine and Middle Eastern Cuisine. Then after management program, I got an opportunity to be part of Varq restaurant at Taj Man Singh hotel. Then after Varq I was part of opening team of Tresind Dubai. After Tresind, I came back to India and did Prankster and Pra Pra Prank as Corporate Chef . And during the pandemic, we opened Parat, it’s been an eventful journey!

RG- Did you always want to be a chef or dabble into the profession? What words of inspiration would you give to budding chefs and aspiring foodpreneurs? 

HS– I never thought I will be a chef but Taj group groomed me to be a good cook and I’m thankful for that.

Only one suggestion I will give -that is first be very strong with basics of the cuisine you learn before experimenting.

RG- Tell us about your packaging?

Riccha

HS– So we are packaging the food in the boxes made with sugarcane husk. The reason is that the Indian food is prepared at 100 degrees and when we pack it in plastic containers, it sometimes acquires taste is the plastic and the flavours changes after one hour of packaging. So we customised the containers. The spoons also we use are made with potato starch.

The food at Parat is presented with simple elegance. However, the depth that is soon experienced on the palate, is an outcome of exploring the roots of these dishes, and their voyage through time and geographies.  Diners who enjoy the shades of regional cuisine will enjoy the fresh approach to Parat’s menu: it is Indian without being clichéd and rich without being heavy.

Parat’s Bhopali Murg Rizala; and the Patiala Shahi Murgh Kali Mirch for example will recall the most special curries from Royal kitchens. Rediscover Indian street food culture with the likes of rich, fragrant Keema Kalejiand then with Taksaali Machi all of which share space with heart-warming old favourites, including Lucknowi Anda Curry.

The kebab sections offers specialties without just the typical giloutis and seekhs that one would associate with the cuisine. The Kalmi Kebab is a speciality as is the Parat’s Special Barra Kebab. Sharing meals is an honoured tradition in the Indian world and a great way to do is by ordering the very special Sikandri Raan. 

The Pilafs are jam-packed with flavour and include options like Tawa Mushroom Pilaf and Nalli Pulao. At Parat it’s all about the little details, every aspect is taken care of to provide a wholesome meal experience, once you try the Maqbooli Roti, you will understand that more. And there is the Kaali Jalebi to wrap up your meal on a sweet note.

Parat reintroduces people to the simple joy in food and a promise of a standout dining experience full of flavour, passion, and outstanding service to homes across Delhi and Gurugram. Parat is surely your ticket to a revolutionary Indian food experience without boundaries!

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Food Lite Blogs Restaurant Reviews

Delectable Dining at XR London

Columnist and Restaurant Reviewer Riccha Grrover in an interview with Carlo Scotto, Chef-Owner of XR, Modern European cuisine with Asian influences showcasing restaurant in the heart of London’s fashionable Marylebone neighbourhood. An exclusive for Asian Lite International.  

Carlo Scotto – Xier

With over 15 years’ experience working in some of London’s top restaurants – including several Michelin-starred kitchens – Italian-born chef Carlo Scotto opened his first solo venture, Xier and XR in Marylebone, in March 2019.

Through this menu, Scotto’s signature creativity shines through with dishes marrying unusual flavours and experimental techniques. Whilst the menu uses mainly organic British produce, Scotto takes influences from Japan and Scandinavia, where he has travelled extensively.  

When not in the kitchen, Scotto travels as much as possible. For him, travelling is less about uncovering new ingredients, and more about discovering the cultures behind the ingredients, and bringing this to the table through his theatrical and experimental cuisine.

XR – interiors bar

With an ever-changing A-la-carte menu, XR champions fresh produce and vibrant flavours in a comfortable and welcoming environment. XR offers a casual version of Chef Carlo Scotto’s formal fine dining menu that he serves in the upper part of the restaurant called Xier. XR pays homage to seasonal produce sourced from organic farms across the British Isles.

RG- What are the top dishes you would recommend a first time diner to try ? How would you describe the food at XR in 3 words? What can diners expect when the book to have a meal at XR? 

CS- Everyone who dines with us loves the truffle pasta – it’s a best seller for sure and really delicious, so would be great for a first-time diner. Otherwise, one of the sharing dishes – like the 1kg tomahawk would be a good choice.

The food at XR is seasonal, impressive and delicious.

When diners book at XR, they can expect top quality food in a relaxed and informal yet stylish setting. The team are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, and always on hand to answer any questions about the menu. I also think it’s fairly safe to say there’s something on the menu for everyone, no matter what they’re in the mood for! 

XR T-bone

RG- Do you have a seasonal menu too or is it always a fixed ala carte menu? Where does your menu take its inspiration from? 

CS- We have a few core classics that remain, but yes we absolutely change the menu regularly to reflect the best produce of the evolving seasons. 

The menu is modern-European, but with a few Asian influences too.

RG-Tell us about the decor, interiors, drinks selection, music and the overall vibe you have created- how does it compliment the meal experience at XR?

CS- The vibe at XR is relaxed and casual, yet still very chic and stylish. The interiors are elegant and inviting, with blush pink walls adorned with deep blue panels for the perfect contrast, complete with bold statement artwork. During the week we keep the music fairly casual, and at weekends it’s more of a party vibe thanks to our Bottomless Champagne DJ Brunch. In terms of drinks, our Head Sommelier Fillipo Carnevale is in charge, with a wine to suit any taste, as well as an extensive cocktail menu.

XR – grilled harissa chicken

RG-Tell us about your sharing mains like salt baked sea bass and other dishes by the kilo- tell us about its exclusive visual appeal of being served by the chef at the tables and how do discerning diners feel when they see a visually appealing freshly made to order sharing mains? 

CS- I firmly believe food tastes its best when shared with loved ones, so that’s why I incorporated these dishes into the menu. The 1kg seabass and 1kg tomahawk do look very impressive when presented on a diner’s table, and I think it just adds to the overall experience and makes it that bit more special.

RG- What advice would you give budding chefs and restaurateurs? 

CS- Be prepared to work incredibly hard! The restaurant industry is a challenging one, now more than ever and if you want to succeed you need to understand it’s not going to be an easy ride, you need to be fully determined and dedicated. I’d also say find a mentor if you can, someone you admire and who can help keep you on the right path. Never stop learning…

RG- How is the modern European cuisine different from other restaurants in this genre- what makes it unique? 

CS- I think our sharing dishes are pretty unique. They are designed to be wow factor dishes and I think we achieve that! In terms of the rest of the menu, we focus on relatively simple dishes, but just done extremely well and using the best produce

XR floral exterior

RG- How has the pandemic affected the meal experience at XR? How have you kept the restaurant going and what changes do you need to incorporate in your restaurant safe and enjoyable for diners in a post covid era? 

CS- The pandemic has not been an easy time at all, and it has hit us hard, as it has done with every hospitality business. We’ve reduced our cover numbers to ensure for plenty of space between tables, we’ve increased our cleaning regime and introduced hand sanitisers throughout the restaurant. Our team also of course wear all the required PPE when working, as their safety is paramount, along with that of the customer. Other than that, we’ve tried to keep things as normal as possible, as part of the joy of eating out is it is a touch of escapism from the everyday, and I think we need that now more than ever.

The menu at XR is made for sharing, with plates that are perfect for get-togethers with family or friends. Influenced by global flavours, particularly from Scandinavia and Japan, enjoy classic dishes from Chef Carlo, elevated by his innovative use of ingredients. Showstopping mains such as sea bream with fennel and orange salad; and autumn black truffle and basil pizza, are sure to impress. Larger dishes – designed to be shared between two or four – like the whole sea salt crusted seabass is surely to write home about! 

Attentive service and delectable food in a stylish, elegant ambience are sure the right ingredients to make it a favourite jaunt! 

Categories
Food Lite Blogs London News Restaurant Reviews

Indian food reaches new heights of fine dining at Benares London

Columnist and Restaurant Reviewer Riccha Grrover in an exclusive review of the iconic Mayfair london restaurant Benares and in conversation with their Executive Chef extraordinaire specialising in nouvelle Indian cuisine-Sameer Taneja, for Asian Lite International. 

Sameer Taneja

Chef Sameer spent many years working mainly with French chefs such as Pascal Proyart (2003-2009), Michel and Alain Roux (2009-2010), Joel Antunes (2010- 2011) and Pierre Koffmann (2011-2012).

The much lauded chef Sameer is originally from Delhi, India. He received his degree in culinary arts from Mangalore, on India’s South-West coast. Prior to moving to the UK in 2003 he worked at The Oberoi Rajvilas in the pink city of Jaipur in Rajasthan which is consistently ranked amongst the top hotels in the world by Tripadvisor and Conde Nast.

RG- Tell us about your journey as a professional chef, across kitchens and cuisines? Did you always plan to be a chef or did you dabble into the profession as an extension of a hobby? 

ST- Honestly speaking, I have had a challenging but satisfying career journey so far in the culinary world. I have had my fair share of ups & downs, few successes and some failures in my journey as a chef,  but surely with plenty of learning! 

Interestingly I never really planned on being a professional chef and nor that cooking was a hobby…my interest in food concepts, experimenting, innovating, cooking professionally came by chance and I each day I Thank God for it as this is surely my passion! 

This is the second best thing that happened to me in my life – first are my children! 

RG- What is like working for a big brand name restaurant kitchen of Benares?  How is benares different from all the other high end indian restaurants in central London in terms of what unique food experience you offer? 

ST- Benares is an institution in itself. It is a top indian fine dining brand. For me it is a dream come true to be able to cook here. Benares has its own style of food offerings. Our ethos of serving Indian food to discerning diners lies in simplicity yet innovation.

RG- What are the top five dishes you would recommend a first time diner to try ?

ST- I am biased! I like each dish that features on the menu but Oyster & Seabream Chaat, Baked Scallops, Venison, Spatchcock (Butter Chicken Roast) and Mashed Aubergine are very close to my heart and I cannot recommend these enough! 

RG- Do you have a seasonal menu too or is it always a fixed ala carte menu? Where does your menu take its inspiration from? 

ST- We have a seasonal pre fix 3 courses menu which changes often, a Tasting Menu (7 courses) which changes seasonally and A La Carte menu which is also refreshed seasonally. My menu is always inspired by the good ole home-cooked food from various indian households across the subcontinent and also regional eats offered by street hawkers. I then give it my own spin to showcase it in a globally acclaimed kitchen for the perusal of evolved and seasoned palates of diners in london city who love to dip into those flavours! 

RG- Tell us about the decor, interiors, drinks selection, music and the overall vibe you have created- how does it compliment the meal experience at Benares? 

ST- Benares restaurant exudes the beauty and the vibrancy of the holy ‘City of Lights’ in India while creating a strong impression with its striking contemporary design. Guests enter an elegant lounge with hand-crafted India inspired furniture and is complimented by a beautiful pond decorated with fresh flowers, creating a luxurious aesthetic. We have a unique cocktail menu with some Benares signature cocktails along with our Wine selection where styles meet spices! All the elements compliment the meal experience at Benares. It’s all about the balance. Drinks are led by my very talented colleague Jeepson Lopes.

RG- Tell us about some of your highs and lows in the  journey as a chef. What keeps you motivated and what’s been your mantra of success? What advice would you give budding chefs? 

ST- Highs and lows have been in plenty and have helped me to grow. They are too many to mention! But most importantly for me I try to find positivity in everything; I am in my element when surrounded by smiles. My family and my team support keeps me going. I am far from success, miles to go so I’m still working on my mantra as I discover it! 

My only advice to young chefs would be- head down, focus, push and repeat! 

RG- What is your personal favourite from the benares menu? What’s your favourite cuisine and restaurant when you go out to eat ? If you weren’t a chef what would you have been doing? 

ST- My absolutely favourite is Oyster & Seabream Chaat. This dish is inspired from street hawkers of India, every mouthful tingles your tastebuds with salty, sweet, sour, spicy, umami, bitterness.

I love, love, love it!

I have a soft corner for any home cooked food and It has always been my weakness. I like fish & spice  – can I call this my favourite cuisine?! 

Baked Malabar Scallop

There are many restaurants I like, but to name few Hoppers, Sabor and Corner Stone.

And oh …I would probably be a Stand-up comedian if I was not a chef! 

RG- How has the pandemic affected the meal experience at Benares? How have you kept the restaurant going and what changes do you need to incorporate in your restaurant  in a post covid era? 

ST- The pandemic have not only effected Benares but the whole FnB industry in general.

Here at Benares we are complying with all the Government regulations for a safer yet the original, gratifying and classy meal experience.

Indian Fine Dining Restaurant with British Flair in the Heart of Mayfair is a food destination, a culinary extravaganza, a lavish food experience to cherish. A food experience here can make any mealtime special and a special occasion even more special! The service is impeccable, the class-act unmatched, the food is worth writing home about, and the passion of the chef along with his team clearly shines through! 

Benares Restaurant and Bar since its opening in 2003 has been considered one of the finest Indian Restaurants in the city.

A meal at this Mayfair jaunt is a memorable one, the delectable food memories linger on! 

Categories
Interview Lite Blogs Restaurant Reviews

Fusion Of Flavours

Columnist and Restaurant Reviewer Riccha Grrover in an exclusive review of  NoriTacos from brand Sugoi JPN and in conversation with the entrepreneur of award-winning food concept Felipe Preece for Asian Lite International. 

Felipe Preece

Initially based out of a small dark kitchen under a railway arch in Bethnal Green, and catering to a local pub via a food truck, Sugoi JPN (known for its unique NoriTacos) is now working on a new franchise expansion initiative and plans to launch 10 sites in 12 months during a global pandemic, with two sites already open in South Wimbledon and Palmers Green.

Sugoi JPN is inspired by Tokyo’s ‘Piss Alley’ street food market and Latin America’s street food stalls. A hybrid between Japanese nori and Mexican tacos, the brand prides itself on championing NoriTacos, a crispy seaweed tempura shell shaped like a taco and packed with sushi rice and Japanese-Latin toppings. The secret recipe took a year to develop with particular attention to its structure in order to create the ideal street-food dish that is easy to eat on the go.

For more than fifteen years Felipe and his wife Veronica had been developing Japanese restaurant concepts together providing management, strategic planning, marketing and design and have a proven record of successful concept development. 

They have both advised and eaten in different Nihon restaurants around the world including Chicago, Miami, California, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Paris, Caracas, Santiago, San Juan, and of course, London. They were the creators and founders of SushiOlé (Madrid 2004-2008), Sushi House (Mallorca 2008-2010), Japo Express (Mallorca 2010-2011), Oh! Sushi (Miami 2011-2012).

In 2012 they came to London and following their working stunts with Aqua, Hakkasan and SSP they self-funded Sugoi JPN and within two years became an award-winning brand.

RG- When did you set up Sugoi JPN and what inspired you towards it?

FP- When we arrived in London five years ago, we realised that the Japanese food market was saturated so we were keen to create something different, unique, simple, but cool (which is what Sugoi means). The hospitality industry is aware that delivered food is an increasingly important feature of urban living, uptake is highest in the capital. Technology has been the catalyst, driving uptake via mobile platforms and digital marketing with full-service delivery platforms opening new channels. As a result, we decided to bet on the dark delivery kitchens to try our crazy cool idea, and we found one in Bethnal Green, which we shared. The kitchen was located down an alley under a railway arch which was coincidental, considering our concept was inspired by Piss Alley (Tokyo).

RG-Tell us about the concept of NoriTacos and what cuisine is it? 

FP- We are combining the best of Latin and Japanese, traditions, culture and flavours to get a new intense street food and delivery concept: noritacos.  These are 100% fresh & fun, in other words:  Eating Japanese – Living Latino.

Nori is the Japanese name for edible seaweed which is primarily used as an ingredient to wrap sushi. Taco is the traditional Mexican dish consisting of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling.

If we combine the two words, Nori + Taco, we get, Noritaco: A crispy seaweed tempura shell with Japanese-Latin fusion fillings.

RG- Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur who’s aiming for expansion as the FnB industry is still reeling under the post lockdown impact? 

FP- For more than fifteen years my wife Veronica and I had been developing Japanese restaurants concepts together, providing management, strategic planning, marketing and design. We have the knowledge and expertise to create and define restaurants, the brand positioning and expansion, from the initial idea through to the construction, start-up and beyond. 

We are professionals who know the Japanese fine dining and casual restaurant industry, with a proven track record of successful concept development.  We have also advised and eaten in different Nihon restaurants at cities around the world including Chicago, Miami, California, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Paris, Caracas, Santiago, San Juan, and of course, London.

We are also the creators and founders of SushiOlé (Madrid 2004-2008), Sushi House (Mallorca 2008-2010), Japo Express (Mallorca 2010-2011), Oh! Sushi (Miami 2011-2012) and Arepita Sliders (2019 – Currently).

The hospitality industry has hugely been impacted by Covid-19 and it’s all about supporting each other during this crisis and getting through it together.

Most restaurants that closed were pivoting their business to delivery and takeaway, however to continue to generate profit, this is almost impossible. Whilst we were closed, we thought about this issue and how we could get around it and we decided on an exciting partnership.

As so many people know already, owning your own business is not always a piece of cake. It’s very rewarding, but it involves more of your time, energy and dedication. So we wanted to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to run their own delivery kitchen, and professionals who would like to maximise their restaurants or delivery/takeaway business, by adding a successful and multi award-winning concept to it.

We do the training, we give them the right to use our brand, we teach them our know how, etc. Their venue does not need to have our branding, it will work just with online presence. It will help others to make it happen through maximizing their structure (rent, staff, etc) and it will help us to expand our brand at the same time in a professional way. The whole idea is to be able to run a multi-concept kitchen where entrepreneurs can manage their concept and ours simultaneously in the same venue.

We are quite proud of what we have accomplished over the past two years. As you read through this interview, you’ll see why we say, “This is not just a company, it’s a concept!” and we would love to work with more partners to expand this cool concept.

We don’t want to be thought of as someone who only sells ‘franchises’. That isn’t our intention. We’ve designed this business as if we are going to grow together.

RG- Tell us about your current locations, range of menu options? Do you cater to vegan and vegetarians? Where are your current franchises/outlets? 

FP- We are delighted with the response of our partnership idea! We have received hundreds of proposals that are currently being taking into consideration, however, we would like to develop a small and controlled expansion. For the moment we have two Sugoi JPN sites open; the first one started trading at the beginning of August in South Wimbledon and it is working wonderfully, better than we expected. The second one opened at the end of August in Palmers Green and it is part of an Italian restaurant that closed to become a multi-concept dark kitchen – it is also working very well.

We are currently in negotiation to open more Sugoi JPN sites in East London and there are a couple of good potential opportunities in the Central area as well. Simultaneously we are launching a new concept of franchise partners inspired by Venezuelan food which has been adapted to meet the needs of the modern consumer during the pandemic. The concept is called Arepita Sliders and the first kitchen opened on September 17th in Tooting Broadway.

Our concept was designed to meet the growing demands of the vegan and gluten-free consumer market as well as online delivery. Our forward-thinking team are also on a mission to tackle one of the biggest challenges we are facing as a global community; food waste.

Both concepts offer options to suit a wide range of palates and dietary requirements.

RG- What are future plans for Sugoi JPN? Does your menu have specials or seasonal dishes or is it the same menu across venues through the year? 

FP- With regards to the future, our plan is to develop a controlled small expansion, with ten more kitchens opening in London. After that we can think about opening internationally, maybe in the Middle East, who knows! Things can change so quickly, as we have seen with Covid-19, so it’s about being flexible, and having the capability to adapt to drastic changes quickly and calmly.

Also, we would like to think that in the future our nori shells could be available in retail stores and supermarkets so our customers can make their own noritacos at home.

We are constantly adapting our menu on a seasonal basis to keep up with the latest trends and we do launch cool limited time only dishes, so yes, we have some special dishes once in a while.

RG- What kind of a meal can diners look forward to when they order a meal from your outlet? What’s the kind of vibe you wanted to create with your menu? 

FP- We offer a very unique menu. We are a very positive, original, humble brand, and that is our aim, not to be recognised as the best ones, or be in the top 10, we just want to keep it cool, relaxed, friendly, and connect with our customers.

RG- What have been your high points that keep you motivated to be in the food business? What would you say are the challenges involved in FnB start-ups? 

FP- Without a doubt, our motivation is the personal satisfaction we feel when we see our guests smile after trying our food and they leave happy.

With regards to the challenges, definitely the lack of passion in the industry, but also the level of initial investment. However, when we speak about street food, there are not as many high risks if we compare it with a brick and mortar restaurant in a local high street that comes with rent and cost pressures, as well as maybe needing refurbing, equipment, an army of staff, etc. You can start your business and develop your concept at a considerably lower risk. I would advise collecting and analysing feedback, improving the logistics, operations, etc before you go and invest half million in a restaurant and realise that you made a mistake – it will save you a lot of time, effort and money.

However, the revenue is proportional-you won’t make as much money at the beginning as you could in a restaurant, but it can be more profitable.

RG- What would you say is the reason of the continued success of your NoriTacos offerings? 

FP-Just three words – we are Sugoi!

RG-Any words of advice or inspiration to budding enthusiasts for setting up their own food brand?

FP- Without passion your game is going to be over sooner or later, that is the most important thing. You need to be human, we are dealing with people, not with numbers. This is hospitality and if you don’t have the enthusiasm and love for it, people will notice it.  Remember, happiness brings success, not money!

And with the pandemic situation we are currently in, do not see this as a crisis, but an opportunity! Be positive and open your mind and think outside the box. Everyone is starting from scratch, take advantage of it and make this new start work for you.

Sugoi is a Japanese superlative, is an exclamation linked to the positive admiration of talent or power, very used in Japan to describe something that is wonderful or incredible (Cool-Awesome). JPN is the acronym or the international abbreviation for the country of the rising sun. It could be interpreted as the incredible power of Japan, its cuisine, but with a happy Latin twist in the case of their food concept.

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