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Awesome Korean Food in Greater NOIDA

Greater NOIDA has this very mixed bunch of residents, of which Koreans constitute a small part. A few restaurants have sprung up in the area to cater to their culinary needs, such as Shimter restaurant.

Located in Ansal’s Golf Link 1 in Greater NOIDA, Shimter exists in a three story residential house. Staffed by Koreans and folks from north Eastern India, service is friendly, prompt and informed, though language can be a bit of a barrier.

Indu, Cherie and I were shown to a bare room, with a table seating four and an attached bathroom – as private as it gets, and since the walls are solid brick, being a bit loud is fine too.

As with every Korean meal, a complimentary variety of little dishes, collectively called Banchan, are placed on the table. These are refilled without added cost and usually quite tasty and a nice way to start the evening without ordering additional snacks.

We ordered one of my favourites, Budae Jigae, a Korean dish with a history, which I’m sure you’ll find quite interesting. The recipe varies from cook to cook and restaurant to restaurant, though the elements remain quite similar. This one contained chicken, smoked pork sausages, sliced pork spam, noodles, kimchi, spring onions, sliced tofu and vegetables, the lot immersed in a spicy broth. It was placed in a large pan on our table, atop a portable stove, and the noodles cooked in front of us. Each of us was also served with a portion of hot, steaming sticky rice.

We also asked for a large portion of fried chicken, which even though an ordinary dish otherwise, was quite a bit more delicious than other versions I’ve tasted. These were accompanied by beer and Soju.

If you’re in Greater NOIDA, where there is a severe dearth of quality restaurants, Shimter is a great option.

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Reviews

PappaRoti: Quite Avoidable

We visited PappaRoti in DLF Mall of India in Sector 18, NOIDA. The restaurant was empty at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon in a mall though the interiors were well done, clean and comfortable. We started with coffee and light eats, proceeding to a light lunch after our meeting was done.

The Classic Bun (INR 195++) is excellent.

The staff are warm, friendly, untrained, ineffective and do not understand hygiene. The manager doesn’t appear to prioritise hygiene either.

Our waiter sneezed into his hands, in front of us and the manager, rubbed them against each other, then proceeded to handle food, cutlery and credit card machine. I’m afraid that makes it my last visit. Rule of thumb is, it’s probably much worse in a private area, that which is being done in a public area. For instance, if the restrooms are unclean, the kitchen is likely worse.

Our waiter also cleared our table, including unfinished beverages. Denied doing so on being informed.

The inside of the Classic Bun (INR 195++) is mostly hollow and is a treat.

The classic bun (INR 195++) is awesome and must be tried once. It’s buttery, crisp, soft, warm, comforting and ridiculously delicious all at once, not to mention the flavours of coffee and caramel lurking in the background.

It’s uniqueness lies in its excellent crust and the very hollow insides, much like a Pizza Express dough ball. Our coffee (Black, INR 145++) was average.

The Chicken Keema Chow (INR 525) was disappointing.

We tried the Chicken Keema Chow (INR 525++). It was essentially half a loaf of bread, 4-5 tablespoons of chicken keema and perhaps 6 potato wedges. The chicken keema was peppery, I could discern some salt and that was it for most part. The bread wasn’t too fresh either, and had begun drying around the edges and the insides – none of the joy that one would expect from the crust of a recently baked loaf of bread.

The rest of the menu comprised the usual suspects of dal makhani, butter chicken and biryanis among others, none of which we tried.

The interiors at PappaRoti are well done and inviting.

I spoke to a couple seated at an adjoining table, who had ordered two portions of Chili Chicken Gravy with Veg Hakka Noodles (INR 399++). Surprisingly, their identical orders were delivered separately, with perhaps a 10 minute gap between each. They didn’t like their food much, nor the service. What I saw of the portions were quite small – barely a few mouthfuls of chicken and noodles.

PappaRoti is unreasonably expensive, fails to properly deliver food, hygiene and service (they levy a 10% service charge) and is best avoided until they’re able to figure things out.

(PL::12m)

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Reviews

Lunches are Back at Singh Sahib

Singh Sahib is a Punjabi restaurant at the Eros Hotel, Nehru Place, New Delhi that dishes out food from pre-partition Punjab, a culturally richer and more diverse version of the state we know today, much larger as it was then from multiple perspectives. It is one of the few restaurants I’ve seen that I can confidently say differentiates itself from the thousands of other similar restaurants, almost purely through culinary means.

What sets Singh Sahib apart is its use of spices, the likes of which I haven’t seen in many commercial kitchens, and it’s always a pleasure to revisit this restaurant, which Indu and I did for lunch this past weekend.

We did indulge ourselves a bit during lunch; starters, followed by dal and roti, and found the food mostly unchanged, and definitely in a good way. Now that lunches are 50% of the regular menu price, this would be a great time for you too to visit this restaurant and try some of their very different fare.

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Little Saigon: Disappointing

Remember Blue Ginger? It was a disaster that claimed to serve Vietnamese food, while actually dishing out food that was somewhat reminiscent of Vietnam, in the usual 5-star tradition of trying to please everyone. After it (thankfully) shut down, the chef there opened up Little Saigon, in Hauz Khas market about 2 years ago. I’ve wanted to visit ever since, but never got around to it.

We visited last weekend and aren’t likely to visit again, nor recommend it to you.

Food

Veg Noodle Salad (255). Excellent. Though they assumed that non-vegetarians won’t order a vegetable salad and had already added soya sauce to it, instead of the fish sauce I would have liked.

Chicken Pho (300). Below Average. Came in a borosil bowl, very weak stock with the abundance of cloves within overpowering everything else. Included rice noodles, vegetables and a meagre amount of shredded, boiled chicken without flavour.

Banh Mi (485). Absolute rubbish. The chef recommended this and I should have checked the price before ordering. While the bread was excellent (amazing, really – soft inside, beautifully crusty outside), this wasn’t anything like the Banh Mi one expects. There was literally a tablespoon or so of vegetable filling in a 5 inch baguette. with perhaps a teaspoon or two of over salted pork. Quite a rip off, when one considers the Subway a few steps away would have delivered far more value and flavour in far less. Yes, I’m comparing a Subway to a restaurant – that’s how bad it was.

Banh Mi: The baguette was excellent, though the whole was over priced and under whelming. This was the chef’s recommendation.

Roast Pork Belly (540). Low quality and inedible. If I’m to pay 540 rupees in a 14 cover restaurant for a portion of pork belly, I’d like better quality or better cooking please. We were served over-salted, flabby, unpressed pork belly with nothing to redeem it.

The roast pork belly was flabby, over-salted, over priced and close to inedible.

Sticky Rice (80). Good, but a tiny portion. The rice was ordered to accompany the pork and it was nice, though about 3 tablespoons in all.

Service

The lone waiter was on his phone most of the time, looking up to answer any questions (on the second or third try) and then going back to his phone. He didn’t have much English or Hindi, ignoring anything he didn’t understand, returning to his phone when in doubt.

The chef/owner was condescending, disruptive and uncooperative to the point of rudeness. She objected to everything including the order, which I had to finally insist upon. There may have been language/communication issues behind this. It is also possible she was fed-up of customers complaining after order delivery.

Every dish came separately and not as ordered, effectively ruining the meal.

I didn’t leave a tip, a departure from my usual practice of 15%.

Interiors

14 covers with no thought towards ergonomics, comfort, utility or indeed anything other than cramming 14 covers in there.

Give me a small, cramped restaurant with horrible service, an overpriced menu, a rude chef and great food and I’ll kiss his/her hands and gratefully eat whatever they slam upon my table.

Little Saigon serves food that’s not only nothing close to what it is supposed to represent, but is badly cooked too, along with severely deficient service, grumpy attitudes, cramped interiors and an overpriced menu. I suggest staying away or if you’ve been to Vietnam, try their menu once. It’ll be cheaper than stand up comedy for the family.

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Reviews Travel

Weekend at Hill Fort Kesroli, Alwar, Rajasthan

Hill Fort Kesroli is a quaint resort built into a 14th century fort in Alwar district, Rajasthan, about 4 hours driving from most locations in the NCR. Indu, Cherie and I visited the property as part of an offsite trip organised by her company. Below is a log of what happened there. The route is unremarkable – Google Maps will quickly, accurately and unerringly take you straight to the front door of the property.

The fort, pool and stage come together quite well in the evenings.

Immediate Attention

The moment we pulled into the (rather limited) parking lot, two kurta clad men materialised – one to confirm our reservations and the other to pick up our bags. I suggest letting the man do the heavy lifting – the path to the reception desk is steep. The picturesque nature of the property begins right here and you might just find yourself whipping out a camera.

Quick Check-in

The reception area is a small room just off the main lawn. Checking in was quick, involving the sharing of photo identification and filling in our details in a large register. All rooms are non-smoking, and the rooms have names, not numbers. Ours was named “Narendra”. 

Quaint Routes & Gardens

Being built on a hill, the routes to and from different areas of the property can be all or any of unexpected, steep, picturesque, creepy, cute and confusing. It all adds to the atmosphere of Hill Fort Kesroli – who needs a view, when the route from your room to the pool makes you click 5 photos?! Having said that, there is a nice rural view of the adjoining village and fields. 

Keep the possibility of steep climbs within the property in mind. If your group has any elderly members or those with knee, breath, heart issues, you may want to discuss the rooms and their location before arriving.

Unique Rooms

Having been built as a fort and re-purposed as a resort, the rooms at Hill Fort Kesroli are all different shapes and sizes, just like us. Consequently, the placement of furniture and in-room amenities vary, in addition to differences in design, fabrics, furniture, layout, colours and more.  Speaking for myself, old and quaint is welcome, though dysfunctional isn’t. While being varied, unique, comfortable and pretty, the rooms are also defective in places, such as stuck windows, wobbly furniture, misaligned tabletops etc., which some may perceive as part of the whole quaint and time-worn theme, and some may not. I don’t.

Cheerful Staff & Fast Internet

The staff members we met came with cheerful countenances, helpful attitudes and ready smiles. In addition, I had full cellular reception in our room, fast 4G Internet access plus very acceptable in-room WiFi Internet Access. In fact, the WiFi appeared considerably faster than most properties I’ve visited, rural and urban. If you’re looking for a change of scene while plugging away at your laptop for work, this property may be a good choice.

High Tea @ 5pm

Each day, high tea is served on a section of the lawns, which you’re free to pick up and roam about or plonk yourself wherever you like. Featuring a selection of teas, a coffee plus some simple eats like pakodas, biscuits and tea cakes, high tea at Hill Fort Kesroli is a good time to catch up with others members of your group. High tea is laid out in the open though and be warned, it can get hot and the number of flies can be pesky. There’s also a resident cat who struts around dripping disdain, but will happily eat any tea cakes offered to her.

Cultural Show at 7pm

The stage next to the pool hosts a fairly lively cultural show each evening, comprising traditional Rajasthani dance forms and singing. If you’ve seen similar acts before, you aren’t likely to be enthralled though this is a great time to unwind with a drink or two before dinner. Definitely feels nice being showered with rose petals. Smells good too. You can also dance with the artistes if you like, at the end of their regular routine.

Excellent Food

Most resort and similar locations I’ve visited have awful food and they get away with it mostly due to their location. Hill Fort Kesroli doesn’t offer room service, doesn’t have televisions in rooms and may have rough surfaces all around, but they certainly have paid attention to bringing in someone competent in the kitchen. While there were of course places of personal disagreement with flavours etc., there’s no denying the thought and the effort put into ensuring the food is enticing. Both dinner and breakfast were well spread out, presented a number of options in vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Indian and western flavours, all of which were highly acceptable to say the least and even excellent in some cases. When you visit this property, I don’t think food will be one of your concerns.

A view of the pool and the fort. 

Miscellanea

The booze is reasonably priced though there may be inventory issues at times (its location could be a reason), the pool is well maintained and you’ll need a swimming costume, bicycles are available if you want to explore to surrounding areas, the reception has a collection of books likely left behind by previous residents… and the buffet has bacon. 

The pool looks serene, has separate areas for children, laps and an area with water jets. On its left is the fort and on the right, fields and hills.

We drove from Greater NOIDA to Hill Fort Kesroli via Dhaula Kuan, Gurgaon, Manesar and Bhiwadi. On the way back, we drove from the property to Bhiwadi and from Bhiwadi, took the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, which was what we ought to have done on the outward trip too. The expressway is well maintained, has low traffic and completely insulated us from the maddening traffic we certainly would have encountered all the way from Bhiwadi to Ashram.

Eastern Peripheral Expressway. 

Conclusion

Hill Fort Kesroli is a great choice for a weekend getaway, a change of pace and scene for work or a venue for a family or work gathering. 

This trip was privately funded and this review written without the knowledge of the property or its management. I’m being a little impatient with this post, being my first post after ‘reclaiming’ my blog. I’ll update the photos as they’re available from different sources, including Cherie, who took photos of the rooms and more of the property, while I focused on the cultural show.

Photos by Cherie and Sid Khullar.

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Meat Cooked in Pure Ghee!

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Reviews

Maggi Noodles – Masalas of India

Maggi Noodles’ star has been low ever since it faced a government ban. Since being allowed back into the market, given the number of new options and alternatives available plus the shedding of the ‘maggi habit’ by some people, Maggi Noodles has been trying hard to re-enter superstar mode.

Going by the halfhearted and feeble attempts to lure the Indian consumer, I can’t see them coming back soon and certainly not in the same manner. Every variant introduced in recent memory has been lacklustre and nowhere close to the promise made by the brand on the product’s packaging. It’s not that Nestle doesn’t have the talent. They do. There is however one top manager somewhere in the hierarchy, who has a bad case of ants in his/her pants. Pushing barely ready formulations out into the market is only going to damage their reputation further, with consumers shying away from trying new variants due to their experiences with previous purchases.

Cherie and I tried three Maggi Noodles variants we hadn’t tried before – Maggi Noodles – Masalas of India – Bengali Jhaal, Super Chennai and Mumbaiya Chatak. There’s a fourth – Amritsari Achari, which we didn’t try and were told by viewers it’s much better than those we did try. All three that we did try barely fulfilled the brand promise, were somewhat reminiscent of the flavours described on the packet, but nowhere close to fulfilling expectations brought on by the over the top marketing as is to be expected these days. All of them had but one major flavour coming through – green chillies (Bengal), sourness (Chennai) and a vague mishmash from the Mumbaiya variant. Having said that, the Mumbaiya variant was closest to meeting the brand’s promises, with the other two being miles away.

For 300+ calories per serving (40 minutes of hard walking), I suggest you demand more.

Brand/ManufacturerNestle/Maggi
ProductMaggi Noodles - Masalas of India
Container size70g
PriceINR 120 (pack of 6, on Amazon)
Serving size70g
Pack size70g
Calories per serving300 - 330 (across variants)
Calories per container300 - 330 (across variants)
Ease of useVery easy
TasteNot Acceptable
Visual appealHigh
Sodium content per serving800+ mg
Sodium content per container800+ mg
Significant source ofCalories
Recommended forEmergencies, camping, picnics etc.

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Chef’s Basket – Pasta Box – Cheesy Alfredo

There are quite a few students and bachelors living in the same area as we do, and local businesses reflect this in the composition of their shelves and items on their menus and in their price levels.

I’ve been seeing quite a few ready to eat and ready to cook products appearing in grocery stores, one of them being Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket, priced at what appears to be a reasonable INR 98 at Amazon, down from the regular INR 99. Be sure to keep that money aside for a rainy day, okay?

Let’s see how the product does.

PASS: Packaging, Portion and Storage

The ingredients for Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket are neatly packaged separately.

Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket comes in a Chinese takeaway style cardboard box, with the herb mix, pasta, Alfredo sauce, sea salt and chilli flakes in separate packs. All the packs appear designed to be used without cutting tools like scissors etc, and there’s enough of every ingredient as would normally be required.

It’s easy and convenient to store and makes a standard portion that’s enough for a regular person with a regular appetite. In fact, looking at the box, I’m now thinking I should have served it in the outer cardboard pack! Might have been interesting.

PASS: Preparation

Following the included instructions results in a perfectly cooked batch of pasta, likely how it was intended to be consumed.

Cooking with Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket is easy. The instructions printed on the packaging are accurate and if followed, will result in how the product was intended to be consumed. I followed the instructions on the pack and served the result for Cherie’s lunch. As you can see, it looked great!

FAIL: Texture & Flavours

The product has very little flavour as a whole.

It would be an understatement to say that Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket is devoid of all taste. The main flavour component, the sauce, is smooth and creamy and that’s that. It has no flavour, doesn’t appear to have any cheese at all and adds no taste value to the dish. Apart from the pasta, the only textural element is the sea salt, which is temporary. In any case, we don’t expect a pasta dish to have texture separate from the pasta, though we would like flavour.

FAIL: Health & Nutrition

Going by the printed nutritional information and by taste, the product appears neither healthy nor tasty.

Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket contains a total of 520 calories, not that their packaging makes it easy to count, what with the calories given for a hundred grams each and odd amounts of ingredients. In case you’re curious, the pasta has 327 calories, the seasoning, 2 calories and the sauce, 191 calories. To put that into perspective, it’ll take a 60 kilo person, 3.27 hours of walking at about 3.2 kmph (slow) to burn them off.

The product also contains about 710mg of sodium or about 38% of your daily recommended intake, apart from which there do not appear to be any other nutritional aspects, negative or positive – in my opinion, neither here nor there.

FAIL: Conclusion

I’m happy to consume a product if it’s tasty, even if it’s not as healthy as one might want it to be. I’m happy to consume a product if it’s healthy, even if it’s not as tasty as one might want it to be. Pasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo, by Chef’s Basket doesn’t appear to fall into any of those categories, being devoid of both taste and nutrition. I suggest avoiding it until they fix the sauce, after which it might actually become a welcome respite from the usual.

Brand/ManufacturerChef's Basket
ProductPasta Box: Cheesy Alfredo
Container size237g (total)
PriceINR 98 (on Amazon)
Serving size237g
Pack size90g pasta + 140g sauce + 6g sea salt + .8g seasoning + 1g chilli flakes
Calories per serving520
Calories per container520
Ease of useVery easy
TasteNot Acceptable
Visual appealHigh
Sodium content per serving710mg
Sodium content per container710mg
Significant source ofCalories
Recommended forEmergencies, camping, picnics etc.

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Kenny Roger’s Roasters: Much Ado About Absolutely Nothing

Wandering about Gardens Galleria mall, alongside Great India Place opposite sector 18 NOIDA, we saw these large ads for Kenny Rogers Roasters. The ads showed these large, plump, roasted chickens sitting alongside boats of (probably) flavourful gravy and colourful and (probably) fresh and delicious salads. Oh my! We couldn’t wait to visit on a Sunday and have a roast chicken meal together. After all, the perfectly roasted chicken is such a rare creature. Rarer than we thought.

On our first visit to Kenny Rogers Roasters in NOIDA, we asked for Kenny’s Wholesome Meal, enticingly photographed as plump, juicy, roasted birds with bowls of tempting sides and muffins and what have you. This was to take 45 minutes, which even though quite unreasonable for a restaurant that does just that – roast chicken – we accepted and returned only to find a dry, scrawny bird that was overdone a good 10 minutes in the past. It looked  nothing like the pictures and wasn’t even a whole chicken as shown in the ads. Our sides were uninspiring and the muffins were dry. Nonetheless, knowing the restaurant had just opened and may have teething troubles, I resolved to visit again, later. After all, I’m sure they knew they were delivering a substandard product and given that the outlet was a franchise of an international brand, monitoring mechanisms must be in place. I left detailed feedback and looked forward to my next visit.

The pasta was under cooked (not al dente) and the sauce came from a packet. Inedible.

We visited again in a few months, this time splitting our lunch order into a bowl of soup, a couple of quarter chicken meals, some pasta, some muffins and some sides. The soup was prepared using a premix, their ‘ghost chilli’ dip was a farce as they hadn’t used naga mirchas, the mashed potatoes came from dehydrated potatoes and the chicken, as before, was overdone, dry and an absolute disaster. The pasta too was made using pre-mixed ingredients and fell just short of being inedible. The gravy was made using pre-mixes as well.

Basically, apart from the birds, there’s nothing fresh made at  Kenny Rogers Roasters – everything comes from packets.

Speaking with the manager and confirming my observations about the premixes and dehydrated potatoes, I asked if by any chance they were using Indian birds with original cooking times and temperatures. I was sure the answer would be resounding denial. After all, that’s localisation 101 – tweak the settings specified in the standard operating procedure using local produce until the resultant output meets the brand promise. Nope, not the experts at Kenny Rogers Roasters. The manager confirmed they’re (stupid enough to be) using a cooking process designed for large, plump birds, on our local, skinny hens, without any localisation! But, let me not be unfair. The experts probably spent a long time studying the local environment before ‘localising’ the Kenny Rogers Roasters menu with… paneer!

This is the grossly overcooked chicken that Kenny Rogers tries to peddle to its customers. Click the image below to see what they promise.

This is what they promise. See the image above to see what they deliver.
(image from Zomato)

We exist at a point in time today, when the customer literally has hundreds of options to choose from, with dozens of venues offerings specials at any given day of the week and perhaps double that on weekends and where most customers have exposure to best of breed products and for most part, know what they want. Why oh why would you want to screw with your brand by taking the customer for granted? Gone are the days when canned food was considered special and pre-mixes made us feel ‘international’. No sir, we want real soup made with real stock. We want real potatoes not the powdery mass that tastes like a mouthful of moist sawdust. If you’re saying you use bhoot jholokia, be honest and actually use the stuff. Yes, we can make out you’re using the wrong chilli.

But most of all, when a customer has visited twice and has had a bad experience both times, and has categorically told you so, and left a bunch of food untouched, don’t be a chump and bill the poor bugger. Offer a discount, throw something complimentary into the pot, do something. The folks at Kenny Rogers Roasters obviously believe their customers ought to do the adapting bit. Not only did we not see even a semblance of regret, freebies being a mile away, I had to specifically ask them not to bill me for the bowl of soup I had discarded after 2 – 3 bites.

This is supposed to be mashed potatoes and gravy. The potatoes and the gravy, both come from a packet and on the whole, taste disgusting.

Given how most restaurants and restaurateurs are raising the bar these days, one rarely encounters bad food; just food that one doesn’t like. Kenny Rogers Roasters and their management however appear to believe they’re operating a couple of decades ago when businesses called the shots and consumers had no choice but to toe the line and accept whatever substandard crap was dished out by businesses and brands. They have consciously chosen to try and mislead customers with grossly inaccurate ads and in return delivering a product that falls woefully short of even being acceptable. Times have changed guys, really. You’ll either need to pull up your socks or get ready to pull the plug in a short while.

Unless you like seriously inferior food, I suggest avoiding Kenny Rogers Roasters and visiting any other place in town or even buy and cook frozen stuff. It is likely to be better.