Restaurant review: Chili’s, Mumbai

First ever guest post on Nothing Intellectual. Old friend Sanket Chavan, who is a freelance photographer, and a better writer than he thinks, does the honours. Here goes:

Chili’s gives you the feel of a regular watering hole filled with chatter from neighboring tables. The place emphasises on the south western American cuisine, influenced by Tex-Mex. I was invited for Chili’s Grill and Bar’s food festival; they had a special menu for it. Rezy, the restaurant manager was of a great help throughout the evening, explaining what goes into the dishes and managing our expectations, especially when people think that Chili’s must have something to do with all the dishes being spicy. They are not.

Steak - Medium done

Steak – medium done

Rezy recommended starting out with a Beer-ita. As expected, it came in a tall beer glass, dark, yellow and frothy. It tastes like the usual draught (sans the bitterness) and leaves an aftertaste of margarita. It was accompanied with Bold Calamari with Cilantro ranch (Rs 395). The pairing would’ve been ideal if it were to be just beer. However, the Calamari was crunchy and satisfying enough.

Then, we were recommended the Triple dipper (Rs 495). Given the fact that I was sharing my table with a vegetarian, we ordered Southwestern Rolls, Texas Cheese poppers, Paneer bites and Boneless chicken wings. Other than the wings all of them were vegetarian preparations. However, the best of them was the Paneer bites, you felt the initial crunch as you bit into the softer insides, it just disappears in your mouth. The Cheese poppers can barely be qualified as solid, these just melt as soon as it slides in your mouth. Chicken wings were a bit spicy with a sweet aftertaste, Southwestern Rolls were devoured before I even had the opportunity, must be that good.

Triple dipper

The Tripple Dipper

As I primarily eat fish at any given opportunity, I was waiting for the Orange Habanero Salmon (Rs 725) ever since I read the menu. Finally it arrived, paired with the freshest Brocolli and cucumber, the orange coloured fillet sat there emanating a smoky aroma. After taking a deep breath I sliced a part of the fillet, pink flakes of the salmon gave way for my knife. As soon as it was in my mouth I could feel the balanced flavors. The Habenaro and fish combination goes really well.

Orange Habanero Salmon

The Orange Habanero Salmon

We had also ordered a Paneer and Cheese Fajita (Rs 395). For someone who has never tasted the Quesadilla, I would want to recommend this to them vegetarians. Molten cheese, paneer, mushrooms, sour cream, four different toppings… it’s like a carnival of all things nice and soft on a platter.

Paneer and Cheese Fajita (2)

Paneer and Cheese Fajita

The meal concluded with the Molten Chocolate lava Cake (Rs 325). Sitting on top of a bunt chocolate cake is a dollop of chocolate coated vanilla ice-cream. As soon as you break open the chocolate coating along with the cake to get a spoonful of the Lava cake, you can see the ice-cream and the chocolate ooze out. Drool worthy site, quite literally.

Motlen Chocolate lava cake 1

Motlen Chocolate Lava Cake




All photographs by Sanket Chavan. Check out more of his work here. Also, Sanket would like to thank his dear friend Amrita Hom Ray for inviting him and Karishma Shah for being such good company.

Chili’s: 13, Ventura Building, Hiranandani Business Park, Central Avenue Road, Powai, Mumbai. 

Phone: 022 67419002, 022 67419003

Book Review: Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly

land where i flee book coverNew year. New book.

After forcing myself to finish King, Queen, Knave by the celebrated Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (best recognised for Lolita), I was desperate to read a book I could relate with and enjoy. Although it has been praised for its ‘delicious prose’, I found the excessive metaphors and personification in King, Queen, Knave tiring. The pace too was a real drag. I was eager to begin a new novel.

A few days earlier, my ex-colleague and friend Shiwangi sent me an author signed hardcover of Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly, all the way from Gangtok, Sikkim, as a belated birthday gift! Shiwangi has always been the super sweet girl so I was more touched than surprised. Last year, I had borrowed from her and read the debut novel by Prajwal (who is her friend) called The Gurkha’s Daughter and quite liked it.

Now, coming to Land Where I Flee. To put it very simply, I had a good time reading it. Land Where I Flee is set in Gangtok, where the author himself grew up. So, it’s a culture and people he knows well. At it’s core, it’s a tale of fractured familial relationships, old wounds, and the refusal to patch up. The characters that people the novel are interesting, real, conflicted, layered, and thankfully, not complex to the point where you do not fully understand their motivations.

An old, formidable, beedi-smoking, Nepali-speaking Hindu widow Chitralekha Nepauney is set to turn 84. Her 84th birthday, or chaurasi, is an event to commemorate. Her grandchildren, who she single-handedly raised after their parents’ death in a car accident, are coming from different parts of the world for the chaurasi. She has, however, a bone of contention to pick with all three of them.

The eldest, Bhagwati, had eloped at 19 to marry a low caste, untouchable Damaai. She, of Brahmin ancestry, had ruined the family reputation. Her Baahun grandmother left no opportunity to taunt her slither by. The second in line, Manasa had done the respectable thing by marrying a man from one of Nepal’s most prestigious political families but by refusing to get her husband along for the chaurasi, earned the wrath of her grandmother. Chitralekha’s only grandson, Agastaya, stubbornly remained a bachelor at 34. Apart from Chitralekha’s incessant mocking, complaining and rebuffs, the three siblings have their own demons to fight and hope only to come out of the chaurasi unscathed. The novel follows the events that unfold when they all congregate in their childhood home. As if there wasn’t enough melodrama in the household anyway, a mischievous eunuch maid and an uninvited guest take it upon themselves to create even more. 

The sentences Parajuly weaves are quite simple in structure but every third page contained a word or two I was unfamiliar with! An aspect of Land Where I Flee I particularly noticed and liked was the liberal doses of dialogues and the muted, crisp narrative. The author doesn’t waste precious words in describing scenes and settings in great detail, and lets the story flow freely and quickly. The tension among the siblings and with the grandmother is brought out appropriately well by the words the characters chose to speak. The novel inevitably has a sprinkling of the Gorkhaland movement. However, one does wish that the author move out of his comfort zone in his next outing.

To sum it up, Land Where I Flee is a non-pretentious novel—literary enough but not absurdly, unbearably so.

On an aside, I hope 2014 turns out to be a great year for Indian authors and of course, the publishing industry in general. People of the world, please buy more books and show them damn Kindles and e-Readers who’s the boss.

PS: I also reviewed Sangeeta Mall’s Flight of the Flamingo recently. Click here for the link.

Book Review: Flight of the Flamingo by Sangeeta Mall

Flight of the Flamingo by Sangeeta Mall

To put it simply, this is chick-lit with brains. In that, it’s fairly easy to read through but has enough substance and poignancy packed in. This novel is first in the ‘Beyond Pink’ series by Westland publishing. And if the first is this good, I look forward their upcoming titles. The attempt here is to tell stories about the contemporary urban Indian women-their dilemma, choices, aspirations, et al. And the author here definitely succeeds.

The novel follows the life of Preeta Dhingra, a short, plump woman in her early thirties. Preeta works in a publishing house in Mumbai and is tired of editing brainless romance novels that her company so loves to churn out, The story begins when an extraordinary manuscript lands on Preeta’s desk. The submission is by a high-profile celebrity banker. Preeta’s boss shoots down the idea as ridiculous and risky. In flat defiance against her boss’s wish, Preeta decides to go ahead with it, and in doing so, risks her job. Along the way, many things happen. There is also a love angle in the novel. But that is hardly the focus of the novel. If, like me, you are tired of reading women-centric novels that deal only with love and relationships, you’ll appreciate The Flight of the Pink Flamingo for going way beyond that. 

Preeta leads a tough life. But there is none of that wallowing in self-pity or lengthy ruminations about how tough life is. You tend to understand and also admire the way Preeta deals with life. The character feels real. It could be someone you know. The novel scores on plot, narrative and characters. What more does one want, really!

Postcard from Goa + other pics

Hello,

A long overdue post. Sharing some pics from my trip to Goa. Went there a few months ago when my sister was living in the beach state. So she took me around. Zooming around on her two-wheeler, we went to beaches, a funky French Bakery, met her friends, discovered a small Tibetan restaurant, drank wine instead of water at her house, went club-hopping in the middle of the night, missed a silent night party, shopped some, sent a postcard to my friend in Thailand, and lazed around a lot. Think that sums it up.

Unfortunately, our digital camera was acting up, so had to click everything from my cellphone..

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And since I don’t have too many pics from Goa, thought I’d upload a few pics taken over the months.

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Just so pretty!

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My friend Partho is a chef turned demo lecturer at a hospitality college. He invited me to his place for lunch one weekend and made amazing pasta, completely customised. Big thank you to him and his lovely wife Medha for having me over.

DSC00934It’s okay, you can laugh.

This is from my recent press trip to Della Luxury Resorts and Adventure Park, Lonavala. Quad biking on a dirt track in the rains. I’m sure I must have looked hilarious but I had a great time.

So long!

Manali

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