Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sagan Nu Patru - Parsi Food Festival – Jamva Chalo Ji!

As much as I love trying out new cuisines, flavours and textures, at the end of the day, I’m a true blue Bawi. I love my Parsi Bhonu (Bhonu / food). 

When I was told that Conrad-Pune, under the confident new wings of Chef Pavan Kumar Chennum, was planning to host a Parsi food festival I was elated. Conrad flew in a very experienced chef from Abu Dhabi, Chef Anahita Gustaspi, to curate the menu and conduct the festival.

Parsi food for festive occasions is a sit-down affair, set up over long tables where the entire community eats together. ‘Sagan’ loosely translates to ‘celebration’ or ‘auspicious/festive occasion’; while Patru literally means leaf which in this case points to the banana leaf on which the food is served. This Parsi food festival hence is very aptly named, ‘Sagan Nu Patru’.

They began service with Saria and 2 varieties of Parsi achaar/pickle. The Gajar Mewa nu Achaar; a carrot-dry-fruit pickle & the Gour Keiri nu Achaar; a Jaggery-Raw Mango pickle. 

Saria are typical ‘Parsi poppadums’ and a typical meal for an auspicious occasion begins with this. While the Gajar Mewa nu Achaar borders on spicy, the Gaur Keiri nu Achaar is sweet and sour with a hint of spice. The pickles pair perfectly with Saria or just plain rotli /chapatti.

Our drink for the evening was a deliciously refreshing Rose Sherbet. The dry rose petals for this sherbet were brought down by Chef Anahita from Abu Dhabi and the sherbet is exactly as the one made at Irani/Parsi homes during Navroze; so different and so much better than the one sold commercially. I gave my glass of water a miss and polished off nearly 5 glasses of sherbet through the evening. 

They also served us the legendary Raspberry Soda from Ardeshir’s; a drink that is very nostalgic for Parsi’s as it is usually served at most festive dos.

The first platter served was Parsi Starters: Salli par Edu (potato straws cooked with an egg on top), Marghi Na Farcha (Chicken fried the Parsi way), Kheema na Cutless (Lamb cutlets, perfectly marinated and fried in typical Bawa style), Khara Papeta (potatoes cooked with cumin and onion) and Tarlela Motta Vangena (Large roundels of pan-seared eggplant).

The Margi na Farcha were perfectly spiced and the Khara Papeta felt so like ‘home’ that it warmed the cockles of my Bawi heart. As for the Salli par edu, it was just as it should be. I will say, though, I would have preferred a runny yolk on my salli. They, of course, had to play it safe because quite a many people grimace at the sight of a runny egg. I did give the Tarlela Motta Vangena a miss because the carnivore in me cannot handle eggplant, but the others at the table relished it so if you are a fan of the vegetable, you will love it. The starter that totally blew me away was the Kheema na Cutless. They were perfect in every sense of the word! The cutless/cutlets were supreme!

The platter of mains consisted of: Patra ni Macchi (Fish coated with coconut and mint chutney, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed), Saas Kolmi (a delicate flavoured sauce made from rice flour, garlic, green chilies, coriander leaves, vinegar and prawns). Salli Gosh (mutton cooked with ground spices to a fabulous succulent texture and served with crisp potato straws) was so yummm! They also served us Ras Papeta Murghi which is home-style gravy of chicken potatoes and peas and Masala ni Daar which is lentils cooked with vegetables with a typical spice mix that lends it a superb flavour. The Iranian influence in the meal shone through with Oush-e-brenj (a one pot rice, lentils and dill flavoured dish) and Berry Pulao (saffron and rose flavoured rice with a sprinkling of barberries).

Of the mains, every dish was cooked exactly the way it is supposed to be cooked. I could find absolutely no fault with regard to flavour in any of the other dishes. The green chutney for the Patra ni Macchi was delish and the fish was steamed to flaky perfection! 

The saas was very flavourful and the prawns were spot on in texture. The only thing I would prefer changed is for the sauce/saas to be a tad thicker. The aroma of the Berry Pulao hit our olfactory organs as soon as the bowl was brought to the table. The fragrance of saffron and rose and the intermittent hit of tangy barberries and the fabulous quality of rice used, made this a stellar dish! Each morsel was heavenly.

While I sat sipping on that cool Rose Sherbet (I could not get enough of it) they brought us our dessert platter. The desserts served were, Sagan Ni Sev ne Mithoo Dahi (Parsi style sevai which is usually served with creamy sweetened dahi), Daar ni Pori (Dal/lentil sweetened and thickened, sprinkled with dry fruits and ensconced in a flaky pastry) and the quintessential Lagan nu Custard.

The lagan nu Custard was superb in taste, absolutely no complaints there but ideally, after such a heavy meal I would have preferred the light variety of Lagan nu Custard (without the khoya, the smooth textured one). I’m not a big fan of dahi hence I gave that a miss but I made up for missing out on it by requesting a second helping of the Sagan ni Sev. Light and fragrant, it was sublime! The daar ni pori was also excellent. Making daar ni pori is an art. Chef Anahita truly needs to be applauded for this effort. Not many get it right and having had the ones made by my maternal Grandma, I do know which ones are ‘right’. This one was definitely done ‘right’!

This was one of the best Patra nu Bhonu (food served on a leaf) I’ve had in a long, long time. Anahita was very friendly and came around to discuss the food, ask for feedback and spin magic with her unique Bawi humour. I saw her do the same at other tables too. It feels wonderful when the chef comes over to interact with their patrons.

Most people have rarely eaten Parsi food, they’ve merely heard wonderful things about Parsi Bhonu. Those who have eaten ‘lagan/sagan nu bhonu’ at festive bawa dos crave it time and again. This is a chance for all of you to experience Parsi food at its every best. Take it from this Bawi, Parsi cuisine does not get any better than this!! The meal is priced at INR 1550 + taxes and all dishes are served in unlimited quantities; eat to your heart’s content. Am I going back to this festival for round two? You bet I am! :P Pssssttt! If I get the chance I just may do a round three. *greedy me* ;)

Jamva Chalo Ji! 

What: Sagan nu Patru (Parsi Food Festival) 
Where: Zeera, Conrad-Pune, Mangaldas Road, Pune
When: Until March 24, 2018.
Timings: 7 PM onwards (dinner only) BUT… The festival will be on for LUNCH and DINNER on Navroze (March 21, 2018)

For reservations call: 020 71966623
Videos... Watch!!

Some more photographs from my second visit to the 'Sagan Nu Patru' Parsi Food Festival.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Hop in to Hop-In – It’s Good!

This was my first time at Hop-In, the newly opened restaurant at Kalyani Nagar (they were located at Viman Nagar earlier). The invite for a tasting was extended to me via Team #FoodProwl. Hop-In is a cute, quaintly decorated restaurant. They have board games and Jenga available for their patrons which clearly indicates that they would be happy to have customers enjoy their meal and leisurely hang around for a while.

They served us a variety of mocktails at the tasting event. I did not like the flavour of a couple of them but most were well made. The one I liked best was the one that was quite similar to the fresh lime soda (I am unable to recollect the name). At the time, when we visited them, they hadn’t received their liquor license but they have now acquired one hence cocktails are also being served. 

The appetizers they served us were Hop-In Fries, Dhokla Pakoda, Tandoori Lollypops, Jalapeno Poppers, Fish Fingers, Chicken Banjara Kebab, Chili Garlic Paneer, Black Pepper Prawns, Costal Fry Chicken, Hop-In Egg Surprise and Corn Cheese Potato Dumplings.

The Hop-in Fries were superb! The spice powder sprinkled on them took them to a new high. 

The chicken for the lollypops, the banjara kebab and the coastal fry was cooked perfectly and each was delicious in its own way. 

The Corn Cheese Potato Dumplings and the Jalapeno Poppers where cheesy and yum! 

The Fish Fingers too were very nicely done. 

The one starter, though, that completely blew me away was the Dhokla Pakoda. This baby is to be tried to be believed. We were so impressed with the flavour that we requested for more.

Most of the starters were very nicely made but two of them did not work for me. The Black Pepper Prawns had been cooked in a wine sauce that simply ruined the pepper-prawn combination. 

They had been frying starters for quite a while and the Hop In Egg Surprise was the last starter served. Perhaps that was the reason why the dish emanated the smell of over-used oil; kinda like the type you get when standing at a bhajiya or a batata wada stand. Ideally, after having fried so much food the chef should have replaced the oil with a fresh batch. Had he done that, the starter would have tasted quite nice.

They served us three tasty pizzas: Americian Barbeque Pizza, Arabic Spicy Pizza and the Cheese Garlic Olive Pizza. 

The American Barbeque was the best of the three. 

Our main course was a Khowsuey Curry, Kheema Pau and the Upside Down Bowl. I had a bite of each to give them a try and all three were flavourful and well made. 

The Kheema Pau was made with chicken mince and though I would have preferred it with mutton mince, it was the dish I liked best.

Hop-In serves bar bites. They have a large selection of starters and tandoori dishes (veg and non-veg), burgers, pizzas, mocktails, cocktails and a good variety of mains. They have yet to introduce desserts on their menu but we were told it would be done soon. All in all, this an excellent place to spend some fun time with friends and family. The vibe is warm, the servers are friendly and the food is good!

Address: Unit 1, Panache, Opposite Archway Society, Kalyani Nagar, Pune
Phone: 020 71967357

A few more photographs: