Lombardy Food Festival - tasting Lombardy @ HRC


The 4th largest region in Italy and its capital is Milan - home of fashion, food, finance and entertainment. This is Lombardy, hometown of the very genial chef-de-cuisine, Chef Mauro Ferrari of Hyatt Regency Chennai. Invited to savour some of Lombardy's specialties at Focaccia, a bit of reading beforehand revealed that Lombardy is well known for risotto, polenta, various meats and butter. Also cheeses like Gorgonzola, mascarpone and dried fruit like raisins and candied peel. Not tomato, though.

We started the meal with a very pleasant Allegrini Valpolicella, a fruity wine that was the colour of dark cherry and had a temperament to match. It went very well with all the courses that were served.

Insalata de pere e Gorgonzola

Our very first course, a pear and Gorgonzola salad was an explosion of flavours that featured Gorgonzola cheese and pear sticks. Beautifully plated, acidity from the drizzle of balsamic vinegar and the sweet and sour crispness of pear did tone down the strong taste of the cheese and is a classic pairing. Plumped up raisins added a lovely finish to the dish.

Milanese di pesca in carpione leggero

Fish in Lombardy is the freshwater kind, we had crumb coated and fried perch. A carpione marinade of pickled carrot and onions was placed on it, infusing the fish with a subtle tangy flavour and moistening the crumb coat. More raisins added delightful sweetness. Served on a bed of lettuce which did nothing much for the dish, it was finished with a drizzle of the freshest extra virgin olive oil.

Bigne con fonduta e tartufo

Polenta fritters with cheese fondue was simply exquisite. Shavings of black truffle lent a dark earthiness, enhancing the umami taste of both fungus and cheese.

Tagliatelle con funghi e tartufo nero

Can anything taste better that home made pasta? Chef Mauro's yellow tagliatelli was springy, cooked to al dente perfection. Lashings of oil, butter and generosity of black truffle shavings took it to another level and it was another exquisite presentation.  

Conchiglie or shell pasta with sage and vegetables

Risotto con il persico

A slice of fried perch atop a bed of lemon risotto and balanced on it a sprig of fried sage; while the fish was delicious, the risotto was a bit of a let down as it lacked depth, the only combination that didn't quite work that night.    


The star of the evening was without a doubt the meatballs with red onion and cheese fondue. Mondeghilli is supposedly a peasant dish - lucky peasants! Crisp outside, slightly pink meat in the middle, served on a bed of onion jam and topped with cheese fondue, the sheer chemistry of flavours was mind boggling.

Apple pie; poached pear; amaretti with mascarpone

A trio of desserts comprising a slice of apple pie, poached pear and amaretti biscuits with mascarpone cheese brought the meal to the end. There are apple pies and apple pies but Chef Mauro's version with custard and apple slices was superb.

Chef Mauro

Some exotic and not so exotic ingredients, mastery of technique and beautiful presentation - that's what the Lombardy Food Festival is about. We were given a choice of main courses so it will be a good idea to ask Chef Mauro for his recommendation. A meal for 2, without alcohol would be around 3500/++.  

The Lombardy Food Festival is on till Sunday October 23rd, 2016.

Hyatt Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai.

Do call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations.

Fine chocolates by Hamsa Handmade


Hamsa, the fine dining restaurant at Adyar, was the venue for the recent launch of a brand new product - artisanal chocolates.

A tasting and appreciation session was organised for a group of us bloggers in the plush settings of the restaurant and the session was conducted by L.Nitin Chordia of Cocoatrait. Nitin is India's only certified chocolate taster; I have attended some of his chocolate lectures and marvel at the way his passion for theobroma cacao rubs off onto his listeners with each telling. Hamsa Handmade has been curated by Cocoatrait.

Good chocolate is a mixture of cocoa solids, cocoa butter (not vegetable oil), sugar and milk, as in the case of milk and white chocolate. Nuts, dried fruit and flavourings are optional.

Seven chocolates were being introduced, but before that, Nitin took us through the regions where cacao is grown and the delicious process by which a cacao pod is transformed into the end product - either a bar of chocolate or cocoa powder.

Artisanal chocolates by Hamsa Handmade

Our first tasting was a single origin 65%  plain bar made from beans grown in Venezuela. We were instructed to place the piece of chocolate on the tongue and to allow it to melt without biting it. As it melted, we were asked to list out what we could taste... bitterness, fruitiness, acidity.

A sip of water was necessary to cleanse the palate before tasting the next bar. A single origin 64% bar from Madagascar topped with Canadian cranberries and Himalayan pink salt, it had bitterness from the cacao, slight tartness from the berries but everything was perfectly balanced by the sprinkle of salt.

Dark milk was what we were given to taste next. With 55% cacao content, it was a mix of South American and African beans and topped with pieces of roasted American pistachios. This one is definitely for nut lovers as the pistachios were beautifully roasted and generously scattered over the top.  American blueberries and cashewnuts from Mangalore topped a 53% bar, again a South American/ African blend. If dark chocolate is not your cup of tea and you find  regular milk chocolate too milky, both the 55% and 53% dark milk will be better choices. These bars have the characteristic acidity, fruitiness and bitterness of dark chocolate but are more palatable.

Tasting chocolates: dark 65%; 64%; dark milk 55%; 53%; milk 38% with roasted almonds and hazelnuts 

Two milk chocolates to taste - a 38% blend of African beans topped with roasted American almonds. A sprinkle of rock salt was perfect to cut down on the sweetness and the almonds were a delightful addition though I did find the chocolate was a little grainy. The other 38% bar from the same region, was smoother on the palate and had Turkish hazelnuts as topping. I could taste just a hint of coffee and Nitin explained that it was due to the roasting of the hazelnut.

White chocolate infused with Spanish saffron 

There's nothing that I like better than a bar of white chocolate and that's because I'm not a chocolate snob. This creamy white bar was filled with the aroma of Spanish saffron, strands of saffron decorated the top and the combination of flavours was smooth and sophisticated.

We also learnt that chocolates should be stored in a cool place like a bedroom cupboard and not in the fridge. A good chocolate has to be enjoyed at room temperature, allowed to melt slowly on the tongue.

As of now, these chocolate bars are available at Hamsa and are priced between Rs. 200 - 300/-

A cup of masala tea and spicy chilli bhajjis - the perfect end to the tasting session

40, B. Ramachandra Adithanar Road
Gandhinagar, Adyar 600020.
044 24459999

Dawat E Lucknow @ Park Hyatt Chennai


The galouti kebab was finally in front of us. Hot off the tawa, the light pink lamb patty had a slightly reddish, crisp crust. A fork was all that was needed to tease apart a small piece and it melted in the mouth. Chef Rehman had incorporated quite a number of other ingredients into it (the list can go up to way over 100, I learnt) but as he explained, the hallmark of a good Lucknowi dish is the right balance of ingredients. Well, none of us were toothless that night and it was the clearly the winning dish of the evening.

Chef Rehman

Chef Rehman is descended from a family of khansamas; with more than 15 years of experience, no cooking school has taught this knowledgeable chef the nuances and intricacies of royal Awadhi cuisine. He and his partner run Kitchenett-E-Awadh, specialising in Kashmiri, Rampuri, Hyderabadi, Awadhi and North-West Frontier cuisines. He is also developing an entirely vegetarian menu to show that this cuisine, while maintaining its authenticity, need not necessarily be a meat-based one. His clientele includes industrialists and Bollywood stars, yet he was humble enough to ask us for feedback about the food at the end of the meal.

At the 10 day Dawaat E Lucknow festival at Park Hyatt Chennai, the chef is showcasing some of the best recipes in his repertoire. We were invited for a tasting session and I quite liked the menu he had prepared for us - varied yet not heavy.

Chowk ki tikki

Paneer peeli mirch tikka

Chowk ki-tikki was a potato patty stuffed with green pea masala. The grated potato added texture, along with shah jeera and desiccated coconut, quite a change from the usual mashed tuber covering. A bit of mint chutney was all it needed to elevate it to the next level. Paneer peeli mirch tikka was a yellow fellow. The cottage cheese squares were soft, slightly charred around the edges which gave it a smoky aftertaste and there were bits of heat from the yellow chilli powder.

Murgh tikka mirza hasnu

Murgh tikka mirza hasnu comprised of super tender pieces of chicken marinated in a number of spices and ingredients and grilled to perfection, yet the meat was moist. What was amazing was that again, no one ingredient stood out, rather they blended together perfectly.

Roti; lagan ka murgh; steamed rice; nawabi paneer kurma

Our main course was lagan ka murgh and nawabi paneer kurma. While the latter was ordinary, a little too tangy for me, the chicken was simply delightful. The meat was tender and the gravy had been thickened with cashewnut paste. Flecks of green from fenugreek leaves only added to the beautiful blend of spices and pastes and the comforting flavour of ghee was soul satisfying. Perhaps this is blasphemy but I would have loved it even more if the meat was boneless. Plain steamed rice and tandoori rotis were the accompaniments.


Dessert was chukander-e-afroz, otherwise known as beetroot halwa. Served warm, I liked that the beetroot had not been cooked to death; it still had plenty of bite and the chunks of pistachios and desiccated coconut added body to an otherwise simple dish.

Dawat E Lucknow is on from 14th to 23rd October at The Dining Room, Park Hyatt Chennai. Lunch buffet is priced at 1250/++, dinner buffet at 1450/++ where guests can have the experience of dining like the royals. A la carte is also on offer.

For reservations, do call 044 71771234/ 044 7177 1305.

Park Hyatt Chennai
39, Velachery Main Road (near Raj Bhavan)
Chennai 600032.

Galouti kebab

Salut Sudaka!


What a great find! Sudaka is situated at The Legends hotel on North Boag Road. The lobby was quiet and we wondered if we were at the right place. Took the lift to the first floor and walked into the South American restobar that was pretty full but managed to find seats near the bar, quite an accomplishment for a Friday night. Sudaka sizzles with energy, the bar is bathed in fluorescent purple glow, the music is loud enough to dissuade conversation and it's embarrassing when the volume drops suddenly and our conversation is loud enough to be heard by everyone within earshot. But it's ok because it happens to almost everyone there! The welcome was warm and menus featuring a range of food from the southern continent and some international favourites were handed over.

Pink Fantasy; Daikiri No.3
Paradise Bay

My niece and I were in luck - it was Ladies' Night. From 8 -10 pm, select cocktails are on the house provided you walk up to the bar and order them. But the rider is that you can only order those that have vodka or white rum as the base. No problem as the cocktail menu has plenty of choices. We ordered Paradise Bay, Daikiri No. 3 and Pink Fantasy. Barmaid, the lady bartender did a great job and those drinks were really really good. Of course, men and non-cocktail drinkers will be spoilt for choice with the range of spirits on offer.

The Olympics was happening at Rio; on Sudaka's screen, a badminton final was going on and the crowd was glued to the game. The walls of the restaurant had cutouts of the region's most popular sport. Once the match was over, the DJ console came to life.

Ecuadorian Night

We were hungry and ordered plate of Ecuadorian Night (225/). Service was quick and soon we were served a dish of chicken cubes slathered in homemade bbq sauce, potato wedges and a perfectly fried egg on top. The meat was quite spicy, some of the chilli heat was raw. My niece asked for the egg to be cooked all the way through and the staff was quite happy  to do it.

Beef taouk
Garlic bread

A second starter was Beef Taouk (285/), skewered beef and olives, served with tzatziki. The meat was absolutely tender though the salty olives didn't quite go with the tangy dip. In fact, it was a better match with the chicken. We also ordered a plate of garlic bread (188/). The slices were large and buttery but the flavour of garlic bordered on a shade of raw.

Panque' Che

We skipped a main course and from the dessert section, Panque' Che (255/) looked interesting. It was a large pancake filled with homemade caramel sauce. Brown sugar was sprinkled over the top and the chef brought it to our table and pressed a heated ladle over the top of the roll to allow the sugar to caramelise - bit of theatre there! Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was divine, the aroma of burnt sugar and the ensuing smoke enveloped us, its warmth was very comforting.

I simply need to go back to explore more of this cuisine. However, the charm of the place, excellent service and the ambiance are plus points. Our bill came to about 1100/ as the drinks were free but do expect to pay about 1600/++ for a meal for 2 without alcohol on other days. They also have some interesting meal combos.

37, North Boag Road, T' Nagar
Chennai 600017.




In Hindu mythology, Hamsa is depicted as the vahana or vehicle that transports Goddess Saraswati. This beautiful bird, described as a swan, is a symbol of purity and grace. It is also a popular motif in Indian art, literature and on textiles.

Art installations

Hamsa is a newly-opened vegetarian restaurant at Gandhinagar, Adyar. Once you're inside the foyer, everything seems surreal. The reception area has white cages that hang from the ceiling. In the cages are flowers and under them a pool of water that has bronze lotus blooms, a symbolic representation of global warming and rising water levels. Each of the walls is textured with motifs. It's the super silent ultra tech lift that takes you to the restaurant situated on the 1st floor that snaps you out of your reverie...

Silver garden

I was met by a friend who took me up to the Private Dining Room on the 2nd floor. Silver peacocks on silver doors open into the "Silver Garden" whose walls are lined with 16 silver panels. The panels form a pattern of flowing plants, flowers and birds. In the centre is a large table and there are chairs around it. The reflection of the silver panels falls on the table, casting a strange brightness around the room. Truly a sight to behold.

We come back to the restaurant, admiring the 108 bronze bells, the intricately carved jaalis on sandstone, the pattern inspired by Mughul architecture and a zari and bead glycine tree that spreads its branches across the wall. Nithin Kalkiraju, the owner tells me that it took 3 years to get Hamsa ready. And no wonder - the dim lighting, textures on the walls and the artfully laid out tables are opulent yet classy. Every element in the room is symbolic in one way or the other.  

Images of Hamsa

Images of Hamsa are everywhere - from the silver artifact that sits at the entrance to the restaurant to the tiny one that is perched on top of the bell-shaped filigree sweet box with a hinged lid. There's a box at each of the 48 place settings. Inside is a saffron rasagolla and a single petal of a red rose rests against the rounded contour of the sweet.



We were served panchamritham as a welcome drink. Made of 5 ingredients, including banana, I declined mine and so was served a delicious thandai instead.

Paneer saunfiya

Makkai muthia chaat

Leaf enclosed paneer!

Paneer saunfiya; kache kele aur anar tikki; cheese kurkure

The menu for the blogger's meet started with 4 appetisers. My favourites were paneer saunfiya - cottage cheese triangles that held a fennel-based masala, delicious makkai muthia chaat and a crisp pastry covered gooey cheese-filled kurkuri. Kache kele aur anar ki tikki - (green banana and pomegranate tikki) was quite pasty and it's a texture that could grow on you. Leaf enclosed paneer was a slab of paneer coated with an onion and tomato masala and then baked. All the paneer is made in-house.

Mains - kamal kakdi kofteh; Delhiwal hara turai; Bhagirathi meher paneer; urlai roast

For mains, we had Bhagirathi meher paneer, creamy paneer in a creamy gravy. This one was so rich and smooth that it was difficult to differentiate where the gravy ended and the paneer began. Delhiwal hara turai was a hollowed length of gourd stuffed with spices and cooked in a coriander gravy, I would have liked the gourd to have been cooked a little more. Chettinad-style roast baby potatoes simply stole the show but the one I loved the most was kamal kakdi kofteh, one of Hamsa's signature dishes. The koftehs were made with lotus stems, chopped nuts provided texture. The gravy was reminiscent of a well made paneer butter masala, and is best had with the selection of deliciously soft Indian breads.

Kamal kakdi kofteh
Alu anardhana paratha; Amritsari kulcha


Anar aur hari meeri ka chawal

Anar aur hari meeri ka chawal - pomegranate and green peppercorn rice was a visual delight not just for the eyes but also for the palate. The fragrant rice was topped with golden fried shallots, pomegranate arils, cashewnuts and pistachios and it tasted fabulous, though the rice was a little overcooked. Tiny green peppercorns provided heat which the pomegranate immediately cooled down. It was served with a simple raita.  

Anjeer aur adrak halwa; amrud phirni

Anjeer aur adrak halwa is a dark halwa full of the crunch of fig seeds and warmth from ginger which made it an instant favourite. The second dessert was pretty pink amrud phirni, a phirni made of guava and topped with slivers of almonds. Guava is not a fruit I particularly like in a dessert; the phirni itself was creamy but the flavour of the fruit was a tad overpowering.

The menu at Hamsa is predominantly North Indian - from Varanasi, Lucknow, Delhi and Kolkata but there are some South Indian favourites as well.

Vegetarian and fine dining? Hamsa seems to have aced it. A meal for 2 would cost about 1800/++.    

40, B. Ramachandra Adithanar Road
Gandhinagar, Adyar 600020.
044 24459999

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