Restaurant Review Project 13- Isfahani

This was our first time eating Persian food. Since the time the new Isfahani outlet opened at the “Khaau Gali” – American Alley (Juffair), it was pretty clear that this exotic looking restaurant had to be tried. It is difficult to miss Isfanani with it’s trademark indigo and white tiled exterior.

Since the situation in Bahrain wasn’t the most ideal, we decided to try Isfahani because it was right behind our home. At 5 minute walking distance, this is a place I have to go back again and agian. It is very light on the wallet and a cordial staff makes this a ‘go-to’ place for a quick bite or even an extended dinner.
I am very proud to annouce that Isfahani has been “Sliced” !!!

The first thing that came to our notice was that the menu was very sparse but looked intriguing, nevertheless. There was not a soul in sight except the ones in server uniforms. It was obvious that the recent disturbance had taken it’s toll on these restaurants. But it ensured we got all the attention and were given V.V.V.I.P treatment.

So when we were given the menu cards, I got more interested in the trivia about Persian food, therein. Persian food, according to Isfahani, follows three basic rules:
1) Do not concentrate on just one particular flavour. Food should balance all the flavours of sweet, savoury, sour and spicy ( 4S’s)
2) Dried fruits, nuts and raisins should not be just reserved for the dessert, it should be a big part of the other courses as well
3) Everything that is edible should be eaten. Example, Not only are grapes/raisins used in the food but Persian food makes extensive use of their leaves too.

That was a good sneak preview into what was in store for us. As soon as we ordered the main course, we were presented with complimentary lamb soup with herbs and lemon. Aah! What a delight. Fresh and full of flavour it stayed on the taste buds long after each spoonfull. The herbs provided the seasoning that was balanced by the tangy twist of the lemon.

Soon after the salad arrived and it was a beautiful sight. It had generous helpings of diced tomatoes, olives, black grapes, golden raisins, iceberg lettuce, cucumber and shredded Iranian cheese ( Tabrizi). This stunning salad was delish particularly because of the golden raisins and the cheese. It was quite filling too.

Then came the grilled delight with very soft roti-like ‘nan’ bread. We had ordered a grilled chicken marinated with local herbs and seasonings. They called it the Jujeb Kofta. Absolutely delectable. I could vouch for it being the best grilled chicken I have had the opportunity to sample in a long long time ( have I said this before?). Well, the fact is, it was simply to-die-for kind of a chicken grill and the portion was too huge for both ( Amit & I) to finish. It was wise to not order a second main course.

In between, I was tempted to down a glass of mint buttermilk which was called Dugh.

Even though we were full to the point of popping out a button, we dared to ask for the dessert menu. They offered the regular set of custards, fruits, brownie with ice cream but my eyes stopped at the mention of Iranian Icecream or Bastani. It was a milk dessert served like a pudding ( thicker than a pudding but softer than an ice cream) flavoured with saffron and pistachio. Gorgeous! In my opinion, when you have a sweet tooth, you automatically make room for desserts.

Gosh! after this, I will have to go through a week of detox.

A double thumbs up for Isfahani! As a first timer, I was blown away by the explosion of the subtle taste, flavour and presentation. Also, the staff was excellent as they helped us find out way through the menu. They even took care of Mimi while we digged in. The good news it’s right behind where I live. I couldn’t ask for more!!

A meal for two came for 7 BD. More than reasonable, if you ask me.
Verdict:- Food – 4.5/5 ( I am tempted to give a 5. Really)
Ambience – 4/5
Service 4.5/5
Overall -4.5/5
Who said, 13 was unlucky? My 13th restaurant has been reviewd… rather SLICED!!!

Majority of the people voted in the favour of using “XYZ has been Sliced” quote. Thank you all for voting!

My Blog Completes its First Year

Happy Birthday,  Blog!

Since we both are obsessed with  Chocolate–Chocolate Bunnies for both of us!! You shouldn’t have eaten the bunny’s butt! Ouch!

Ahem! Now I think, I must finish this bizarre monologue with my blog.

So it is the big day. A year completed and so much as changed. For the better.

It’s quite a possibility that this blog has become my alter ego, the one that encourages, chides, feels joyous, jealous and myriad of emotions that I feel.

I tried to think of different things that I could write for this special post. Juggled a few ideas but they would have looked all too made up. Not true to the spirit of this blog. This was a spontaneous blog and all the posts have been so.  It would not be wrong to say that my hands that typed away on the keypad gave way to my thoughts. My hand guided by my heart. Sometimes when I made myself write something because a lot of time had passed by without a single post, it did not go beyond a few measly lines before I discarded the whole post.

This morning, I wished a few friends of mine who had their birthdays on this very same day. I traced back to a time when we had been together while celebrating this wonderful day in their lives. Today, we live in different parts of the world, not knowing if we would ever get to meet each other again. We have families now and are at different stages of our married lives. I felt sad whilst feeling happy all the same. Why do we celebrate these wonderful milestones in our life. A year older, a year completed – time is of essence here. What it allows for is, time to reflect and understand what has changed for better or for worse. It allows for us to understand the lessons taught, the lessons learned. Going back in time -that is what these special days provide us.

When I started blogging last year,  it acted as a vent to my feelings. Feelings of happiness, sadness, utter confusion, anger, frustration and peace. Earlier, I hadn’t known myself to write anything other than emails ( personal and professional) and essays whilst in school. But this space was my space where people were allowed only when I wanted them in. I could do as I pleased. Write, erase, publish, not publish. Such freedom to express with no strings attached! Isn’t this the kind of relationship, we all crave for, secretly? The blog has been there for me whenever I wanted it to be and gave me comfort when I craved it. It was a one-sided relationship until recognition started pouring in, my blog too got the attention it deserved. I felt happy that a lot of people found some use of this conduit of my thoughts, found comfort and felt like they were a part of my life.

Blog metamorphosed from being a thought outlet, to journalling my travel experiences, my life here in Bahrain, my daughter’s growing years and now my food experiences. It seems like a live being – this blog- growing, shaping, reshaping, learning and unlearning. The potential that it shows is immense and immeasurable. It can grow on to become anything that it likes- much like us. The only ingredients it needs is motivation and big dreams.

This blog wouldn’t be in existence, if it were not for the support of my adorable husband, Amit and my ever inspiring daughter, Anumita. Also, the contribution from my friends and family ( my parents and brother especially) in the form of comments and lovely feedback cannot be discounted. After all even joy needs validation. That kind of validation was provided by all those who read my blog. Thank you all!

‘Slice of my Lyfe‘ gave me the comfort that I needed and so on this special anniversary I am looking to bake something that renders similar comfort and warmth. Nothing fits the bill like a loaf of home-made Whole Wheat Bread. If this comes out successful, it would be my first foray into bread making- an art dreaded even by the best in the business.

 

Amen

 

 

Somebody's already picking at it
Care for a slice or two with butter?

So the Verdict is out. The bread was a moderate success. Not as airy and light as I would have liked it to be. If it were not for this blog, I wouldn’t even have dreamt of baking my own bread.  So like I said before, possibilities are endless. For the recipe you can hop over to this bread maker’s blog.

 

On the final note, all I want to prevail upon is that writing is what helps to clear a cluttered mind, forces you to think, to come up with ways to make a difference in your life and touching others’ as well. It would be wonderful if each one of you who is reading this post should start writing. We would know each other so much better. Nothing else lets us catch up on what the other is doing, like a post from one’s life!

 

 

 

 

A Disturbed Week

I didn’t know that I would write my weekly update so soon. Usually I take my time.

It hasn’t been one of the fairy-airy weeks here in Bahrain. Plenty has changed.

The climate. The mood. The temperament.

Let me begin from the time when I had to explain to people, where I was moving to, when it was difficult for me to clearly point out where Bahrain is in the map of the world and when it seemed like the laid-back place to raise your family.

It has been 9 months living here. I have my own opinion about how much I like this place. But personal views apart, I know it is a lovely place for people who would love a smooth life. It is a community that is modern in its own right while being firmly attached to its culture. They are more tolerant than any other community that I have lived amongst and they love children. That is how I have come to understand the people of this country. I am most impressed with the women who are well spoken and know their stuff.

Winds of Change have been knocking for a while now. Literally. The climate in the past 9 months has been radical. I think, nature senses a revolution before it takes root in people’s minds. It has been windy ( no surprise), dusty( no surprise, again), but it has rained, rained for days ( thats really surprising). The cold wave has hung around more than it has ever in the history of this country. There were signs, I feel. Not all was alright. Continue reading A Disturbed Week

Epitome of a Week

A high octane week.

Much like the last.

After this, I am going to take a breather.

Sunday, like I have mentioned time and again is the first day of week, here in Bahrain. I had a Writer’s Club meeting to go to. It was the first of it’s kind in Bahrain. This was hosted by one of UK’s leading authors Robin Barratt. He now lives permanently in Bahrain. So he has spear headed this movement to gather all the established and aspiring writers/ poets/bloggers to come and share ideas, conduct and participate in work shops etc. It was an honour to meet so many authors, childrens’ book authors, a professional chef who has written 12 best selling books and many like me too who aspire to get something published. From my perspective, I was more interested in just learning and interacting, so I went.

It was hosted in one of the leading hotel conference rooms and there was an whiff of erudition in the air. I felt absolutely like a fish out of water. Anyways, I sat there, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the evening to roll. More and more people poured in and I was amazed as to there were so many expats – Americans, English, Australians, Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis- who shared the singular passion of the written word. There were publishers of successful magazines (Bahrain) and some coffee table book publishers too.

Just took down some notes. In order to get your book published the basics that you HAVE to have in place;

1. A good one- two page synopsis of your story
2. A strong bio about self
3. First 3 chapters – Perfect Chapters. – though there was a debate about this being different for Fiction and non Fiction. Fiction demands the whole book material to be ready and sent at one go.

So the evening progressed and the writing project for the next month’s meeting was decided as “Pearls”. So the part of the Club agenda would be get people to write ( absolutely optional). So in the next month meeting the best script/draft on “Pearls” would be read and marked for publication. At the end of the year all such interesting write ups would be collected and published as a short story collection under BWC (Bahrain Writers’ Club). So I think its a good opportunity and I will try my best that my story would get selected for this.

I also met up with some magazine editors – FACT Magazine Bahrain- is the leading magazine here and quite happening one too. I had written to them earlier attaching a sample of my restaurant review but nobody responded. But this time, I had him cornered and he agreed to take a look at it for sure. I asked him to me some constructive feedback to improve incase it isn’t worth publishing. I am yet to hear from him! Hmmmpppfff.

This was where I met Aaron – the professional pastry chef and the related you can read here

So that is how my evening turned from being skeptical to out right amazing.

Every atom of my being was buzzing for the next couple of days. Isn’t it normal to feel like this? After days of nothing happening, suddenly there was so much to do. I had a lot on mind including searching for job, wherein I haven’t made any breakthrough. I didn’t realized as the week just rolled on.

I had a dinner to plan for and I hadn’t done anything yet. I had too many things going on in the background. In between I even baked some chai spice cupcakes and cakes.

Meanwhile, Vanessa Kimbell has mentioned me on her blog for having tested her Cookies. Thank you Vanessa!

http://writingacookerybook.blogspot.com/2010/10/testers-who-blog.html

Now jumping straight to the Dinner plan. I had planned an Italian – Continental fare and again it was the first time I was trying most of the stuff.

I had planned for the Classic Macaroni and Cheese, Vegetarian Pizza, home made parsley hummus with cream crackers, vegetable pulao and Gujarati Kadhi. For dessert, I made a no bake, eggless Strawberry Cheese cake with white chocolate sauce. Since I had to plan for strict vegetarians – Brahmins, it was a challenge, especially for the dessert. Without egg, it was practically impossible. Or so I thought. But I found this amazing Strawberry Cheese cake recipe which required no eggs and didn’t need any baking too, I jumped at it.  I was pretty confident about the macaroni and cheese but was anxious about the Pizza. I haven’t ever made a pizza before and to bake it from scratch was something I desired to attempt for a long time.  So this was my chance.

Parsley Hummus
Strawberry Cheesecake

The Dinner happened and most of things turned out as planned except that the Pizza had too thick a base and mac n cheese was tad dry. All feedback has been duly noted to be worked upon at the next given opportunity. Cheese cake was the toast of the evening! Yipee. It had set perfectly and with the white chocolate sauce it was simply yum. I am sure Gayathri would agree. So yes, it was my friend Gayathri and her family, whom I had invited over for dinner.

Mac and Cheese
pizza n pulao

By the end of it all, I was extremely tired and wanted to put up my feet and rest. The next day, I woke up at 11 a.m. !!! Wonder what professional chefs go through after each evening of gruelling cooking sessions. I decided that the next week I would keep event free. Little did I know that this tiny country was brewing a revolution. More about this in my next weekly update.

Here’s a piece of the lovely cheesecake with some white chocolate sauce for all of you!

Happy Valentines!!

Restaurant Review Project 12- Thailand & A Poll

Yay!

I am half way already into my 24  restaurants for Restaurant Review Project.

And Phew!

A whole lot of food consumed, savoured, talked  and written about on my blog. I remember every one of the trysts very distinctively. It may not be the food alone. The company of friends and family was what made it all so beautiful and memorable. Thank you , Amit, Namit and lovely daughter Mimi. There have been days, when none of us were really in the mood to eat out, yet they accompanied me because they knew this was important to me. *wipes a tear rolling down*

Now for the review:

It had been a while that we hadn’t visited any South East Asian restaurant. Thai food was one of my favourites but this was before I tried Japanese. I was enchanted. But for old times sake and to revive some lovely memories of having visited Thailand for our honeymoon, we decided to sample some Thai food at “Thailand”  at block 338, Adliya.

Same night, there was a market place being set up too. A market place selling, store-bought items at even higher a price. Well there we some boutique patissiere selling stunning macaroons and some lovely photographs. If I had a home of my own here, I would have most definitely bought one.

So Thailand – the restaurant, has an impressive exterior.

When we stepped in, we were greeted by a life-size wooden statue of a Thai lady and I almost exclaimed ” Hi there!”. Inside the whole placed was completely bamboo-ed and gave the feel of being rustic. The chairs and tables were all cane and not really comfortable. They had separate seating area for non-smokers. I like that. The initial impression was that of a lazy, relaxed place which might serve good food. There was a lavish bar right in front of us and a glass case full of artefacts from Thailand and a full length ( breadthwise) frame of all the possible Monarchs in the world sitting in single row. That photo made quite an impression on my mind. A few steps away from the entrance they had a small fountain with a few beautiful but scared fish. Too many things in a small place but t ‘was nice as it gave me the feeling of being inside one of the restaurants in Goa.

Sweet looking waitress quickly gave us the food and beverage menu. At the first glance, it seemed pretty balanced. A whole section dedicated to vegetarian food and the selection looked pretty good.
Amit ordered his beer and the rest of us settled for the humble still water. Food was quickly ordered – starter & main course.

Starters came in first – Som Tam ( Papaya salad) and fries ( Customary. For my daughter)

Som Tam

Meanwhile we got around entertaining my daughter who was getting increasingly restless. That’s when we started looking at our watch every now and then. The relaxed dinner was soon turning into when-will-they-bring-the-d**n-thing-so-that-we-can-stuff-and-go. Finally after waiting for good 30 minutes or more, food did arrive and it looked good.

I had ordered some stir fried chicken in basil and chilli while Amit had a stir fried chicken in Cashew with steamed rice.

Stir fry chicken with basil and chilli
Stir fry chicken with chashew

Both of these were good, the chicken was tender and full of flavour but they had upped the heat a few notches than what we would have liked. Amit was in a miserable state after a few spoonfuls. But I enjoyed the fiery plate and helped myself from Amit’s as well. It had been days, that I have had the opportunity to really test my taste buds to this extent. But that apart, I felt, for others’ sake, they could have done with a little less chilly. Amit’s was supposed to be sweet and savory since it called for cashew to flavour the gravy. But it wasn’t so, for that alone, I felt, maybe they didn’t get it right, inspite of the time they took to serve us.

Namit had ordered Thai Fat Noodles with lots of sprouts and vegetables. He seemed to enjoy it as he finished off the whole thing.

Thai Fat Noodles

After we finished our grub, I felt a strong craving to have something sweet. So we perused through the menu for something delectable, delicious and sinful. None of these adjectives were done justice by the very dowdy looking desserts in the menu. So we took off after paying the bill. A meal for 3 + fries for my baby + 1 beer came to about 11 BD.

When I headed out, I found a stall (at the marketplace) selling macaroons, just wrapping up for the day. I rushed to them with the request of a single macaroon and the kind lady at the stall obliged by giving me one ( rose flavoured & yum) free of cost. Who says there are no free meals?? I just had my very first macaroon ever, free and it was wonderful. Free meals taste better, anyday.

So now for the verdict:
It was a forgettable meal except my tongue was still tingling with the raw taste of chilli. I enjoyed it till the moment I was having it. It did not stay and while I am penning this down, I had to try hard to recapture what I felt when we sat there at Thailand.
Definitely, did not bring back the lovely honeymoon memories from Thailand and I am sure, my husband would agree too.

Food – 3/5
Ambience – 3/5
Service 2.5/5
Overall 3/5

Now for the news! While we were waiting for our food to be served, my husband & my friend Namit came up with this idea, that I should start branding my visits to these places. I was perplexed as to what they were talking about. How can I brand my visit? Does it mean I have to print my visiting cards saying ” Anita Menon- Blogger+ Restaurant Reviewer who doesn’t eat anything apart from chicken and fish? Apparently that is not what they had in mind. They wanted me to just refer to it in my blog. Example : “Thailand has been SLICED” – Meaning – We have visited Thailand and the review has been done. That sort of thing sounded fun. But I need other opinions about whether I should go about remarking “So-and-so restaurant has been SLICED!!!”. It wouldn’t mean a thing to anybody, but for fun sake should I go ahead or would it look too ‘wannabe’.
[polldaddy poll=4563242]

Thanks a lot for participating!!!