Friday, September 23, 2011

Restaurant Review - Fusion 9

Pin It
I remember my first dinner at Fusion 9. They had just opened then, and I remember thinking back then that I loved the look of the place, and the ambiance was just lovely.

When the food arrived, I remember how delicious the appetizers were - and I remember a small discussion I had with the maitre d' about the how there was no asparagus in my goat cheese and asparagus salad. The asparagus turned up on a little plate from the kitchen before the end of the appetizer course and all was well with the world. And then the entrees arrived. They were tasty, but didn't quite live up to the appetizer course. Slightly disappointed, I knew that everything would be okay once the desserts arrived. And boy, was I wrong! The desserts - every single one of them - were really, really bad. And I remember writing my feedback on their feedback card, and then watching as a small group of chefs gathered around it in the kitchen (they have a live kitchen), and read my comments card with disappointed looks and turned to look at me ever so often. I felt bad about it, but hey - you gotta call a spade a spade!

Last week, when I was invited by Chennai Food Guide to review Fusion 9, I really did look forward to it. I was sure that this time around, my experience would be very different. Hmmmm.
We were seated in a tastefully decorated private room. The walls and ceiling were embellished in gold, and there were some pretty lamps and candlesticks. The overall effect was lovely. The only jarring thing, IMHO, was the television. Personally, I don't like the idea of televisions in a restaurant, but I understand that some people might. What bothered me more than that was the choice of programming. They had TLC playing, which was bearable, as long as there were cooking shows on. But, when it was time for some travel programming, I felt I wasn't quite comfortable eating in a fine-dining setting, while watching bare-bodied men tackling each other and wrestling in streams of tomato juice on the streets of Spain. I don't know if it bothered any of the other diners. I have been called fussy.

Okay, I've rambled on enough. I'll be quick. We ordered. The food arrived. We dug in. Here are some of the appetizers.
What I ordered, the sushi (smoked salmon, tuna and crab sticks), was average. I was a little disappointed with the fillings. I honestly did not expect the tuna to be cooked.
The best appetizer, in my opinion, was the Iranian Joojeh kabab. I am not sure if that's really a dish from Iran, but it tasted pretty darn good. Juicy, flavorful morsels of chicken with a yummy sauce drizzled over the top. It was memorable. The Guloti Kababs were also quite tasty.

The Pepper chilli chicken fell short for me. It was tasty. But with pepper and chilli in the title, I expected a little heat. Nope. None whatsoever.

The Mezze platter was also okay. The tzatziki was quite yummy, but I wasn't overly impressed with the baba ganoush, the hummus or the falafels.

They also passed around some dimsum, which I was told was made with Japanese flavors. To my untrained palate, all I could taste was ginger, ginger and some more ginger. Not a fan!

The vegetarians at the table seemed to enjoy the funnily-named, Bang bang mushrooms, and the paneer kababs. I think the mushrooms were the favorite.

We also ordered a salad called the Pink Plate - salad leaves with smoked salmon, jumbo prawns and pink pepper corns. The best part of the pink plate was the smoked salmon. I've always been a smoked salmon fan. The prawns were well cooked, but lacked seasoning.

The company and conversation around the table was so good, that by the time we got done with our appetizers, I realized it was time for me to leave! How disappointing. I wish I had kept track of time, so I could have ordered my entree ahead of time. But I couldn't leave without dessert, now could I? I would have never forgiven myself. Also, I was keen on seeing if they would redeem themselves after the terrible desserts from my first time there.

I ordered the tiramisu and another reviewer (she had to leave too) ordered the baked cheesecake with a compote of forest berries.
The tiramisu was below average. The sponge was sorta dry and the creamy mascarpone lacked flavor.
 While the cheesecake tasted fine, I couldn't get over the taste of milk powder. It tasted really, really milky.

Even though I left early, I did hear from the other reviewers who got to eat main courses, and the consensus was that everything was okay. Favorites seem to be the Tenderloin steak and the Arabian platter for the meat eaters, and the Parmesan risottos & the Swiss potato for the vegetarians. The other desserts were also disappointing from what I heard - except the good ol' brownie and ice cream.

Overall, the place has good looks, some average-to-good starters and mains and below-average desserts. Thanks to Chennai Food Guide for organizing this review!

P.S. - Sorry about the sucky pictures! The lighting was so bad in the private dining room. This was the best this amateur could do. I really need to work harder on improving my photography. To do list: 1) Find house 2) Improve photography.

P. P.S. - The house-hunting continues. Will keep y'all posted! Thanks for everything!
Pin It

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rocky Road Ice Cream (Eggless)

Pin It
I love my ice cream maker, and I've been wanting to make ice cream for such  a long time now. My last flavor, the Loaded Caramel Ice Cream was such a big hit. Unfortunately, for some reason, my favorite brand of whipping cream was off the shelves for over a month! Imagine my disappointment. When it finally came back, I decided to try something new, and this was the first thing I made. It was really yummy!
When it comes to ice cream flavors, my husband and I are very different. My favorite flavors are dark chocolate and caramel, and his favorite flavor is vanilla. Every time I ask him, "What flavor do you think I should make?", he almost always responds "Vanilla!" So strange because he loves dark chocolate, and dark chocolate cake. But when it comes to ice cream, it just cannot be dark! It was obviously time for a compromise. Light chocolate ice cream it would have to be.
I used a lot more walnuts than needed, but I guess that's just the way we like it. My husband and I love walnuts! You could reduce the amount of walnuts in the recipe. 

Rocky Road Ice Cream
Adapted from

1 (400g) can condensed milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup drinking chocolate/powdered hot chocolate mix
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup full-fat, milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 - 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used only 1/4 cup)

1. Combine the condensed milk, cocoa powder and drinking chocolate and stir well to combine.
2. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
3. Take it off the heat, and stir in the cream and milk and mix well.
4. When the mixture has cooled, refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled.
5. Freeze in your ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's direction.
6. When the ice cream has reached the soft-serve stage, stop the machine, and stir in the walnuts, marshmallows and chocolate chips.
7. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

To make this ice cream without an ice cream maker, you can read David Lebovitz's instructions here.

I love how easy this was to make. There is no custard to be made, and the actual cooking time was just 5 minutes. And the fact that it is eggless makes it less rich, and with all those walnuts and chocolate chips, it might have been too rich to have an egg-based custard. The flavor of the toasted walnuts was brilliant with the chocolate, and of course the marshmallows and chocolate chips make this ice cream really rocky, and really delicious!
On a personal note, the hunt continues. We have one month to finalize a place to live, and I am praying and looking harder than ever. We came to close to settling on one place, but I am glad we didn't because we were not completely satisfied. No point in settling for less than what you want, right? So we're waiting and trusting God to take us to the right place.

Thanks again to all those who emailed me and left comments with your wishes, prayers and good thoughts! I am grateful to be part of such a wonderful community!
Pin It

Monday, September 12, 2011

Restaurant Review - Crimson Chakra

Pin It
Cornucopia was my favorite restaurant at one point in my life. Anytime anyone suggested eating out, I would immediately say "Let's go to Cornucopia!". Most of my friends and family liked the place too, but none were as enthusiastic as I was. No matter what I ordered from their menu, it never failed to please! I have so many fond memories of that place.

When Cornucopia moved to Adyar and merged with Crimson Chakra, I must admit I was a little disappointed at first. I loved that old building with the paint peeling off the walls and the cracks in the ceiling. I missed it. But after one visit to Crimson Chakra, I got over my disappointment very quickly. I loved everything about the place - the building, the decor, the table in the pool (though I haven't had a chance to eat at that table yet!), and most importantly, the food!

Last week, I was invited by Chennai Food Guide to sample & review Crimson Chakra's new Indian dishes, and I was only too pleased to accept. I have tasted almost everything on Cornucopia's menu, and I was looking forward to trying Crimson Chakra's offerings.

We were first hit by a amazing array of starters. There must have been at least 10, I think, and I loved most of them. There were vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and I sampled each and every one of them. My favorites were
the Vietnamese Basa with the South Indian spices,
and the very spicy and fiery Andhra Chicken, which had peanuts which I loved! Among the vegetarian starters, I liked the crunchy baby corn, and the stuffed potato. The only starter that disappointed me was the Paneer Tikka which lacked a lot of flavor.

After I had gorged on the starters, I realized I didn't have much room for a main course. I managed to find some, of course. We had a Fish curry, a Chicken Curry and a Aatu kaal (paya) stew with Idiappams (string hoppers) and regular appams. Everything was really nice, and I especially liked the paya even though it was very salty.
But, the highlight among the main courses, and I think the savory dish of the evening for me, was the smoked rice! Wow... This dish really catches you off guard.
 It looked deceptively like a bowl of biriyani, and then you taste it and the smoked flavor hits you. It is really something unique and very, very special. There was a Chicken and a vegetable version, and while I tasted only the vegetarian one, I have no doubt that the Chicken one was just as good, if not better.

Then came the desserts. Man oh man! If you know me even a little, you know how I feel about desserts, and Crimson Chakra did not disappoint! There were three desserts that evening. I was very disappointed with the Mud Pie. I would suggest changing the name of the dish, because anyone who has eaten a real mud pie before, and expects that oozey, gooey, dark, chocolatey pie is sure to complain! I remember ordering this and complaining to my waiter.

But that night at the review, I couldn't care less. The other two desserts blew me away. I honestly cannot say which one I liked better that point.
The Mango Cheesecake (sorry about the shaky picture!) was as tart as it was sweet, and that was my favorite part. I've eaten so many overly sweet cheesecakes in my life, and this one was really, really good!

And that Elaneer (Tender Coconut) Souffle! I think I could eat my weight in that souffle (and that would be a LOT of souffle!).
This deceptively simple, and innocent looking bowl was so, SO yummy & flavorful, and will be without doubt my dessert of choice every time I visit Crimson Chakra. The only thing that can be done to improve the souffle would be to change the presentation. It was a very amateur presentation, IMHO, and a little more finesse in plating would perfect the whole sublime experience of eating this dish!

Since I was nursing a cold then, I accepted the restaurateur's recommended hot tea with mint and lemon grass, and it was very nice. But without doubt, the unanimous best beverage of the evening was the Iced Tea, which I think is the best I've had in a long, long time. Next time I'll be ordering that one - cold or no cold!

I am very grateful to Nikhil of Crimson Chakra for having us over, and after the review, I still love, love, love the food there. I would recommend it heartily! And if you are looking for a romantic night out, Crimson Chakra has a candle room where you and your sweetheart can dine in a private room, surrounded by a LOT of candles, eat an unlimited amount of anything on the menu, and have a private waiter who would come only when called.

Call Crimson Chakra at (044) 4211 5664 for more details and to reserve their Candle Room or Water Table. I know I want to!
Pin It

Saturday, September 10, 2011

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Pin It
I know I promised I would share a recipe this week, and I nearly didn't! But here it is :)

If a recipe has the words 'gooey' and 'butter' in the title, you can be sure I've bookmarked it. This one has been bookmarked forever, and I finally got around to making it a couple of weeks ago.
If you haven't heard of a St. Louis Gooey Butter cake, you can read more about it here. Well, as you might know there are two variants - a yellow cake variant (usually a box mix), and a yeast coffee cake variant. No prizes for guessing which one I picked. If you know me, and my blog, you know I love working with yeast and so that's the route I took.

This recipe seems to be a very popular one from the New York Times, and I didn't make too many changes.
I was a little scared, I must admit, of all the butter in this cake. But I realized this is a wonderful cake to share. So after a few pieces were shared with friends, I found I ate only 3 pieces myself. That's not too bad, is it?

St Louis Gooey Butter Cake
Adapted from the New York Times recipe
For the Yeast Coffee Cake:
3 tbsp milk, at room temperature
2 tbsp warm water
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
For the topping:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
2 tbsp water
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling.

1. In a small bowl, combine the milk with the warm water. Stir in the yeast and set aside for about 10 minutes. The mixture should now be frothy and creamy.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl & add the egg. Beat until thoroughly incorporated.
4. Add the flour and yeast mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Make sure to scrape down the sides well between additions.
5. Beat the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
6. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 3 inches deep.
7. Cover dish with plastic wrap set in a warm place to rise until doubled. It took about 2 hours.
8. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
9. In a small bowl, mix the honey with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla.
10. Cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy.
11. Scrape down the sides of the bowl & add the egg. Beat until thoroughly incorporated.
12. Add the flour and honey mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Make sure to scrape down the sides well between additions.
13. Place large dollops of the topping mixture on top of the dough in the pan. Spread with a spatula and bake for about 40-45 minutes.
14. When done, the cake will be golden brown and slightly crunchy on top, but liquid and gooey beneath it. 15. Allow to cool before sprinkling will powdered sugar. Serve warm.

I loved, loved, LOVED that crunchy-topped, gooey topping. That was seriously the best part. The coffee cake was nice too, barely sweet, - which was perfect with that sweet, gooey topping - but I found it a little dry. I don't know if it was something I did wrong, but this small 'fault' will not stop me from making this cake again. The textures and flavor were just amazing. Next time, I am going to try to infuse some spices into this cake. I think cinnamon and nutmeg would work brilliantly!
This cake reminded me a lot of lemon bars. The gooey part has a similar texture and mouth-feel, without that lemony zing. So after I make that spice variant, maybe a lemon variant? :)

I found it tasted even yummier the next day. It's not a good idea to eat this cold, but after a few spins in the microwave, it tastes even better than it did fresh.
On a personal note - nothing to report so far about the house hunt. I will be sure to keep y'all posted. Thanks for all the support, messages, comments, emails and prayers!

P.S. - I got the chance to review another wonderful restaurant this week. Look out for the review in a couple of days!
Pin It

Monday, September 5, 2011

Restaurant Review - Donut House

Pin It
I am sad to report I haven't been cooking much. And I've been taking photographs even less. Unless you count pictures of empty apartments I've been clicking to come home and show my busy husband. We've seen some houses we love, many we hated, and even came close to settling for one that was convenient but not that great. But nothing clicked, and we're still looking. Thanks to all those who sent emails, left comments and sent me wishes and prayers. I am grateful for every single one of you! I can't wait to get back into the blogging routine, but I expect that won't happen for a few more months. I miss you all, and your lovely blogs SO much. Just can't wait to get back to it.

Our wedding anniversary was on the 3rd of September. It was another day of house hunting and the usual madness. No time to celebrate. I hope we get a chance to do something special later this week. I did bake my husband's favorite cake, but didn't have time to get pictures. Sigh! I promise to put up a recipe post this week. Honest! 

I did get to do something fun this week - another restaurant review! Well, not really a restaurant, it was a donut/coffee shop, but it was nice to meet with fellow foodies, unwind & chat about everything food related over some yummies, and have a few laughs. I really enjoyed it!

We got to review Donut House. I am a huge fan of doughnuts! If you have read the doughnut posts on my blog, you know I generally make my own doughnuts. The reason for that is simple - no outlet in our city has never impressed me with its doughnut offerings. I know my fellow doughnut afficianados will agree. 

To be very honest, this was not the first time I sampled a Donut House doughnut. You see, someone brought me a doggie bag from Donut House a few months ago, and it just confirmed to me that I was right. Doughnuts in our city are really bad. And so, when I was invited to do this review, I knew that I was going to hate the place. I decided that my review would be quite unkind.

I am so glad I get to eat my words, and their doughnuts!
I obviously didn't sample every single doughnut they made, but I would like to mention my favorites, and the ones that didn't work for me.

My top two were The Italian Herb, the only savory doughnut on the menu, 
and this one with a coffee glaze and roasted almond.
The cheesy savory doughnut was a welcome change from the sugar overload, and my only suggestion to improve it would be to use better quality cheese. And the slight bitter notes from the toasted almonds in the coffee almond doughnut were just the perfect topping for me! I could eat a whole box full of these two doughnuts.

The other ones I liked were the classic sugar dusted doughnut, and the cinnamon sugar dusted one.
If you know me, you know I am not a huge fan of chocolate, and I found every chocolate one I sampled to be too sweet, but the one called "The Alien" seemed to be a favorite among the others. I guess my sweet tooth isn't sweet enough.

I thought the Blueberry filled doughnut was way too sweet as well, but the one with the Strawberry filling was excellent. I am not generally fond of anything strawberry flavored (I adore fresh strawberries, though!), and I was surprised that I liked this very much.

The plain custard filled doughnut was nice enough, but the same thing with a chocolate coating was too sweet for me. (Gosh! I must sound like a chocolate hater!!! I'm not. Really.)
Apart from the wide spread of doughnuts we also sampled sandwiches, oatmeal porridge (it was a late breakfast/early lunch for some of the reviewers), and some hot and cold beverages.

The sandwiches feedback ranged from 'average' to 'disappointing' from what I overheard. I didn't taste any of them because they didn't look appealing to me.
I loved the color of this drink, but after one sip, I changed my mind. It was some watermelon based thing, and did not taste pretty. It was pretty awful. Do not get this drink!
The live kitchen was nice to watch, and I loved watching the doughnuts being fried and glazed. 
Overall, I think Donut House is doing a good job in a city that doesn't have many decent doughnut options. I don't know why I got that bad batch a few months ago, but I can only hope the quality that I tasted at the review remains consistent. 

See you all later this week with a recipe post! Thanks again for being such a great support! Hugs!!!
Pin It
Real Time Web Analytics