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Review: Al Kabeer Spring Rolls

[Rating:2/5] We get this brand of frozen foods called ‘Al Kabeer’. While the rest of their range seems fine, their frozen spring rolls are simply awful – as you can see below – this is what you get when you fry the rolls as per instructions on the pack. If 2 out of 6 rolls are destroyed as these were, it simply doesn’t make sense to buy now, does it?

Al Kabeer Spring Rolls
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Review: The Host

[Rating:1/5] An extended coffee in Connought Place, New Delhi led to dinner today – Saturday night. All decent places seemed full, so we decided to try ‘The Host’. The experience started well, with a decadent, but pleasant enough ambiance and a polite waiter. It went well when we received our beer, which was just right [temperature].

Alas, it all came to naught when our dinner arrived. We had ordered dahiwala mutton, chicken cooked in curry with almonds, yellow dal and dahi bhalla with a butter naans and tandoori rotis. The dahiwala mutton was a normal mutton curry mixed with curd. You could still see the white specks where someone had simply added a spoon or so of yoghurt and hurriedly stirred it in. The chicken was really shredded boiled chicken stirred into the same curry as the mutton with a piece of burfi and almond slivers sprinkled over it. The yellow dal had no flavour. The rotis were fine and so were the dahi bhalle.

Insult atop injury were the teeny weeny portions. None of the dishes were more than a cup in quantity.

It is apparently about 28 years old and owned by a Manjeet Singh Kohli. Mr. Kohli – if you’re listening – your food is in urgent need of a total overhaul. But I guess Mr. Kohli probably doesn’t care. He probably has unsuspecting tourists wandering in all the time, who don’t know any better and you really can’t go wrong with any decent location in Connought Place.

All in all, make sure you *never* wander into F-8, Inner Circle, Connought Place, New Delhi – even if you can’t find any other.

Rating: 1/5 | Meal for Two: INR 500 | Alcohol: Served

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Review: Oriental Octopus

[Rating:3/5] Naheed and I popped over for a quick lunch to the Oriental Octopus, Sector 16, NOIDA. Its in the Savoy Suites, which is connected to McDonalds (structurally).

We started with a Tom Kha soup, which was subtly flavored with ginger, lemon grass and green chilli. Nice. Next in line were dim sums, stuffed with black mushrooms and what the menu described as ‘Chinese Greens’. Nice again. Finally, we settled for the ‘Set Lunch’ which comes with rice or noodles, one veg or one non-vegetarian curry, some sautéd vegetables and a spring roll. The curry was *hot*. Only negative was that the noodles were quite common in appearance and flavor.

Lunch took us exactly an hour and was good.

Meal for two: About 1000 | Rating 7/10

– Sid

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Review: Never Ever Nirulas

[Rating:2/5] I have always had a very deep personal attachment to Nirulas. This was where I tasted my first Banana Split and probably had my first taste of Indianised fast food. I say ‘had’, because over the last five years or so, the quality of the chain has been descending to never before depths in just about every aspect of its operations. If its this bad, why do I go to Nirulas, you ask. Like I said, I have a deep personal attachment. Today, I end up going there once in six months, only to see if someone has taken notice of things and brought a great chain back to where it should be.

In order to ascertain this feeling I tried three different outlets this time:

  1. Potpourri, Connought Place [new location]
  2. Nirulas [fast food], NOIDA
  3. Nirulas [fast food], Panipat

In addition, we also observed hygiene practices, delivery statistics and personnel. I’m sad to say Nirulas fared abysmally on all fronts.

Lets start with Potpourri, Connought Place. The front staff were welcoming and friendly. Most waiters and other support staff however, were surly, non communicative and just stopped shy of being downright rude. The salad bar was just the same as its always been. NO change in the style of preparation or the quality. There was one additional soup. The breads were hard as rocks. The ‘chicken’ soup lacked chicken. The deserts were heavy and over sweetened. The salads themselves were without imagination and none inspired a second helping.

On to Nirulas, NOIDA. This is probably the only Nirulas I’ve seen, which has *never* been up to scratch. I have seen cooks in the background blowing their noses into their hands and then continue cooking whatever it was they were cooking. The burgers are nearly always crumbling to pieces, with the insides coming apart at the first bite. The Mutton Mahaburger, which was (and probably still) only available at Nirulas, is sadly neglected, with lower than ever quality standards. The deliveries from this unit are on average 50 – 60% late, some taking up to double the time quoted and reaching stone cold. When questioned personnel grudgingly offer a 10% discount. Sit in dining is another excruciating experience, with food nearly always late and when it does come it is uneatable. Rock hard paranthas, cold dals, disintegrating burgers, watery pizzas et al.

Nirulas Panipat. Order for Chicken Fillet burger filled in as a ‘French Flip’ burger. Tandoori platters come with smashed-beyond-recognition shammi kebabs and mutilated seekh kebabs. The chicken is raw, red and bleeding on the inside. The manager did respond positively to my returning the food and insisted on replacing it and refunding the order.

The ice creams and shakes however remain wonderful at all outlets and I have never once had a complaint on this front.

Conclusion: Visit ONLY for ice creams and shakes.

– Sid

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Pasto – Second Visit [Closed]

[Rating:4/5] We paid a second visit to Pasto [sector 18, NOIDA] this past Friday. As with the previous visit, this one was worth the time and money spent.

We started with a Minestrone Soup [weak flavor] and a Velvety Prawn Bisque [good flavor, could be a bit thicker, slightly over cooked prawns, lots of prawns]. This was followed by small platters of Caesar Salad [good] and Meatballs [very tough], accompanied by Lemonade [salty!!] and a Lemon Cello [good].

The main course was ham wrapped in chicken with oregano sauce [good, chicken could be more tender], fillet of sole in a tangy tomato cruda [good] and grilled vegetables on a crisp potato base [base wasn’t as crisp as the name, but good nonetheless].
Desert was Tiramisu [good].

All in all, a good experience, with attentive staff and great ambience.

Rating: 8/10 | Meal for Two: 2000 [includes all taxes and service charge of 10%]

– Sid

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TGI Fridays, Connaught Place

We decided to have a boys lunch out, so the father, brother and me planned to meet up at TGI Fridays, Connought Place.

First off, the music wasn’t at loud as I thought it would be, which is good. The artifacts style of decor I learnt, it on its way out – sad.

Anyhow, lets come to the food. The chicken wings were served with a large portion of sour cream with vegetables, a few sticks of celery [which could be better] and a little dipping bowl of a vinegary dip. The Nachos with cheese, sour cream, chicken and guacamole came in a huge mountain format. It was nice, but nothing to write home about. Out of all we ate, this was something I’ll probably never order again. Demolished two pitchers of beer. Ordered a rack of ribs and lemon chicken. The ribs were served pre-cut with onion rings [baaaad] and a salad of sorts [baaaad], but in themselves they were wonderfully flavoured and tender. The lemon chicken was a single breast sliced in two, served with a portion of green beans with angel hair pasta.

All in all, a nice experience. The service isn’t top quality though. If the staff could resist the temptation to head to the entry counter and begin yakking, they could probably notice beckoning glances and gestures a lot quicker.

Rating: 2.5/5 | Meal for two: 2000

Sid

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Nirulas No More

[Rating:2/5] We decided to pop over to Nirulas in Sector 2 NOIDA on Friday evening. We have gradually been getting more and more disillusioned with the quality of *every* thing at Nirulas lately, but for ‘old times sake’ always give it another chance every once in 6 months or so. While the quality of service has improved perceptibly, the quality of the food and the quality of the people [human resources] remains at dismally low levels.

The mutton mahaburger [which is unique to Nirulas] was sloppily put together, had chopped onions hastily stuffed into it instead of sliced onions, no slices of tomato as is usual, the bun was falling apart and it tasted like moist saw dust.

The non vegetarian deluxe thali comprised a dal makhani, kadi, butter chicken, dahi bhalla, some salad and a lacchha parantha. Nothing could be eaten! The dal and the chicken were inedible as the gravy wasn’t cooked through and tasted of raw spices, the kadi was bland and didn’t taste anything like I’ve eaten before. I didn’t bother to taste the Dahi Bhalla as by then I had signalled the chap who clears the plates to please please take this away. Did I mention the Parantha? It was rock hard, piping hot with traces of oil on it. Visually, it looked great. Try to eat it and you’ll gag. Here’s what these idiots do. They make the parantha and keep it in a hot location, where it waits till someone orders it. Then they brush it with some oil and serve it to the customer. The problem with my parantha was that it had been made quite some time earlier, and had hardened and dried out waiting for a customer. Since the people they hire are of the lowest possible grade, they really didn’t care and went ahead and served it anyway.

The corn pizza was watery. Whats watery you ask? Watery is when you put frozen corn right from the freezer into the pizza and then top it with cheese. So when it comes out and you bite into it there’s a good amount of water on the surface of the pizza below the cheese.

Anyway, at least the wife was happy with her lime ice cream soda and the daughter delighted with two scoops of chocolate chip ice cream.

Rating: 1/5 | Meal for two: 300

Sid

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Pasto – Italian Kitchen [Closed]

Pasto is a reinvention of Masala Magic – a very drastic and total transmogrification actually.

Looking for a bite after treating myself to a new phone (Nokia E62) we decided to finally try Pasto. On all earlier occasions I have avoided the place thinking it would probably serve different renditions of the cliched and ubiquitous ‘pasta with cheese’. Whatever I may have thought, nothing, I repeat, nothing could have prepared me for the experience that lay ahead.

The decor has been changed since Masala Magic. It is still minimalistic and nothing too fancy, but looks good at the same time. Still around 30 covers in the area I was seated. Chilli flakes, mixed herbs and a combo container of olive oil and balsamic vinegar at every table.

The owner was here again (I like the way he can be found at his restaurant – unlike most others) and guided us through the menu. He was also nice enough to treat my daughter to a bowl of penne in a cheese sauce. The menu was a single page, with 4 separate sections (or was it 3). I *love* small menus since in my experience they turn out to be backed by good food and this was no exception.

Anyway, here’s what we ate – Chicken Stuffed with Ham, Tuna in a creamy sauce and Herb encrusted Grilled Chicken. Each dish had a distinct taste and and was quite good. The chicken was actually slices of breast stuffed rolled with ham, sautéed or grilled, with some mixed vegetables (quite nicely cut I must say) and topped with a delicate sauce. It was served with a mini helping of spaghetti and two slices of crisp bread with garlic butter. Beautiful to look at and even better to eat. I didn’t get to eat the wife’s tuna, which she devoured, all the while complaining that the portion was too large. My mother in law though couldn’t manage to finish the large portion of herb encrusted chicken. I couldn’t make out the composition of the crust… well actually, I was too busy making sounds of appreciation and chewing the chicken slathered with generous portions of the accompanying sauce of sun dried tomatoes. My daughter too gave up and handed her pasta to me, which I proceed to consume with the same gusto. Here too, the cheese sauce was very delicately flavored (basil?) and an absolute delight.

Did I mention the bread basket with home baked, warm bread and herb butter served whilst our order was being processed?

Pasto certainly doesn’t figure in the economical range of restaurants anymore (unlike Masala Magic) and my eyebrows did go up a tad when I saw the prices, but after the meal I happy signed the card voucher and also added a little something for the excellent service. It is so nice to hear words like ‘balsamic vinegar’ coming from a person waiting on you in a restaurant rather than the grunts and monosyllabic replies to simple questions.

Meal for two: INR 700 – 1000
Rating: 9/10

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Masala Magic

[Rating:3.5/5] (This place has been changed to serve Italian food)

Every once in a while you come across a place that is truly a pleasure to be at. This time it’s Masala Magic.

We were looking for a quick bite at Yo China, the wife had to visit a client and the child was cranky and the husband (me) had to get back to work after buying a new UPS. Looking up around for the familiar yellow billboard, we spotted another sign – ‘Masala Magic, Goan Chettinad and Punjabi’. Now that was one hell of a combination! The adventurer in me sufficiently aroused, we decided to push our luck with another new restaurant. The entrace could have been a little less camouflaged.

Entering, you find a cosy little room (30 covers) with really thoughtful decor and best of all, appropriate music. Here it was guitar based stuff. Since I don’t follow music groups or types much, all I know, is that it matched my mood and the mood of the place.

The menu wasn’t extensive but it was enough. You have to see it to understand what I mean. Some places believe the more items they stuff their menu with, the more $$$ they earn. I’m not sure thats true, since I’ve only seen one place where the menu was chock full and each item was good – Nirose, Jaipur.

We ordered Pork Sorpotel, Nilgiri Vegetable Korma and Rice with tall glasses of chilled peach ice tea. Everything was good and I think I could daresay… homemade. We had a nice time. The service was outstanding, the prices reasonable and the ambience all one could ask for.

I will definitely be going again and would recommend it anyday.

Meal for two: 500
Rating: 8/10
[1 less point for selling bottled water above MRP. While the (very polite and well spoken) owner had a point, I still believe the law is the law and if you’re not adding any value, sell at MRP. Else, build it into the price of the meal and make it seem complimentary]

-sid