Tag Archives: Italian

Restaurant Review : Cafe Venissa at the Ritz Carlton, Bahrain

DSC_0019Do you want to enjoy a piece of Venice in the heart of Bahrain?

Here’s your chance to step into the elegant Venetian set up called Cafe Venissa at the Ritz Carlton. The inspiration for Cafe Venissa stems from the famous Italian coffee shop, Caffe Florian, which is the oldest coffee house in Europe. I had the opportunity to experience this last week, thanks to the invite from the Ritz Carlton. 

 

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The interiors and the decor are striking but then it is the Ritz Carlton that we are talking about. I wouldn’t expect anything less. The day we visited Cafe Venissa, it was particularly gloomy with overcast skies and a slight nip in the air. But it felt so perfect a time to enjoy some high tea type delights at Cafe Venissa.

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Upon entering the cafe, it felt like we stepped into a time and space far away from the one we were coming from. The walls of the cafe are flanked by renaissance -esque paintings, furniture is opulent and there is an atmosphere of elegance all around. We were carefully seated by the window which over looks the Ritz Carlton’s pool side.  Once seated, we were given the menu and a detailed explanation about the concept that was Cafe Venissa. The menu is not very extensive which I appreciate as it tends to get confusing. I expected the staff to help me choose which they did with great expertise. 

What you see here is the warm and inviting Cafe del Doge which is a delightful concoction of coffee, gianduja, cream and hazelnut. Just perfect for a chilly winter afternoon. I carried bits of chocolate in it which gave it an interesting bite. I could have done without the whipped cream but once in a while, I suppose it is fine.

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Someone was very happy with the hot chocolate and the marshmallows in it! 🙂 She even asked for extra helpings of marshmallows. Cafe Venissa has several menu options for children to explore and enjoy.

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It is not only the hot drinks that caught our interest. We were enthusiastic to try something cool as well. We opted for the Frozen Venissa. The frozen Venissa is a cold coffee cream with whipped cream. To me it felt like any other cold coffee with way too much whipped cream for my liking. 

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By this time, we were feeling quite ravenous and thought it was the right time to order for a few light bites.  As guided by the Marketing and communications coordinator, Carolina, we ordered for the Cafe Venissa’s signature salad – Insalata Venissa.  A refreshing bit-sized morsels of mozzarella, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, bresaola  ( air dried, salted beef) and very flavoursome, perfectly poached shrimps. The salad carries a light olive oil dressing and is a good sized portion for two. I can’t comment on the beef as I do not eat beef but my fellow diner was very happy sampling the bresaola. 

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The other recommended dish from the menu was the Salmon and spinach quiche. This was the highlight of our visit to Cafe Venissa. I know for a fact that so many fantastic restaurants get the simple and the basic quiche so wrong. Either it is too egg-y or too dough-y or quite heavy. There are very few places in Bahrain that know how to make the quiche taste really good. Cafe Venissa is definitely one of them! I am allergic salmon so I had to keep that aside and try the quiche which was absolutely delicious. We finished all the four quiche pieces in a jiffy!

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By the time we reached our final course, the  day light was gone and the pictures began to get really blurry 🙁 I am particularly sad because the dessert – the colours, the texture, the composition, the presentation and not to mention the taste- was fabulous and my pictures do not do justice to this perfection of a dessert duo – Lemon meringue tart and raspberry sorbet. The flavours were fresh, tingly on the tongue and oh-so light! Highly recommended!

By the time we finished our food and drinks, we thought it better to skip dinner. Completely sated and delighted by the service given to us, I resolved about returning to the cafe very soon with friends. 

From November 27 until December 8, the spotlight will be on the renowned band Caffe Concerto Strauss that will fill up the cafe with their enchanting, live music. Caffe Concerto Strauss is the original band of Caffe Florian and will be specially flying in to round up the unforgettable experience of the guests. Guests that would like to be part of this extravaganza can visit Cafe Venissa from November 3 to December 31, daily from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. For more information, and for reservations at Cafe Venissa, please call +973 1758 6499 or email rc.bahrz.restaurant.reservations@ritzcarlton.com.

Enjoy the weather in Bahrain and a true Venetian experience, a specially crafted menu and Ritz Carlton’s elevated service at Cafe Venissa. You will be surprised at how much you will want to go back after experiencing it once. 

{Restaurant Review} Ninos Restaurant, Seef

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You walk into Nino’s restaurant in Seef’s Aali Mall, in the afternoon, you will be greeted with a scene of busy office – going lunch goers hurriedly yet enjoyably having their lunch. The servers at Nino skillfully glide through the aisles between the tables with guests, juggling plates of piping hot food and colourful drinks. It is a typical scene at any restaurant, you would say. But to me, there was this sense of harmony, in every bit of activity that went on while my food review exercise progressed. Perhaps the only awkward spot would have been me and the commissioned photographer who unsuccessfully tried to get one shot of me without my mouth full of food. 

The restaurant review at Ninos was a planned one with Obai & Hill and the O Talent group of lovely people. A planned review is a misnomer. Food, as we all know, attaches to itself that element of discovery and surprise. Even if you have been to a restaurant many times or if it is your first time, the food and the overall experience can always be something you not have expected.  I have been to Ninos several times before this and each time I rapidly jumped the menu to order something from their ‘weight watchers’ section (with a side of my favourite fries)

This was my opportunity to sample Nino’s best and see if they stood up to their promise. Nino’s serves Japanese and Italian crowd-pleasing dishes to its patrons. To some, this may come across as grossly mismatched but I do not mind ordering a platter of mixed Maki and edemame with Italian favourites at the same time. Good food, after all, is good food. 

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Chipotle chicken and avocado sliders

The Restaurant Manager, Mr. Amit was very gracious and excitedly explained about the food served at Ninos. His passion for his work and food shone through the entire conversation, as he explained ingredients, methods of cooking and other finer details. 

First came the soup – Zuppa de Funghi – a mushroom soup enriched with herbs and cream. A soul-satisfying soup that will fill you up with warmth, spoon by spoon. I thoroughly enjoyed this soup and I must warn you that all the portions at Ninos are American-style – HUGE.

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Chicken avocado salad

 The Avocado and chicken salad was the next dish served as a side, which in my opinion, could very well be the main. Thinly sliced chicken breast, avocado, mixed lettuce, pomegranate, toasted pine nuts tossed with Chicken jus – white vinaigrette. I enjoyed the mildly seasoned chicken and the slight bite from the avocado and the pine nuts. Felt that this salad came together beautifully with the dressing. ( Highly recommended)

As the review progressed, I was also served a rejuvenating cold drink which is Nino’s specialty. I must tell you, it is just the kind of drink that I needed to awaken all my senses. A tangy, sweet, peppery lemonade that was laced with the flavours of ginger cordial, coriander, mint, lemon, lemon grass and cranberry juice. This is called the Igano ( not in the picture).  This is a must-have because it isn’t a drink like any other. 

If bite-sized meal is your thing, then the next on the list to- order should be the chipotle chicken and avocado sliders. This is why I like Ninos. There is avocado in every other dish and avocados make everything taste amazing! These bite-size wonders are flavour bombs and quite filling. 

Just when I thought, this is where I should really end my meal, I was served a platter of food from heaven. All bite -sized morsels, deep fried, filled with cheese and served piping hot, have the power to heal all your emotional problems. Every bite was a warning that I did not heed because during such times in your life, you just ought to follow your heart. The deep fried morsels were Fritto funghi – crumbed white mushrooms, filled with chicken fontina, parmesan and herbs and Chicken Tenders- crumbed chicken breast tenders served with parmesan dip

A platter of Fritto funghi, chicken tenders and other such divine deep fried morsels
A platter of Fritto funghi, chicken tenders and other such divine deep fried morsels

 To me, Nino restaurant represents quality, fantastic tasting, tummy-warming food served consistently and not to mention there is something for everyone at Ninos. If you come here with your family, there wouldn’t be question about whether any one of you might not get what you are craving to eat. Nino’s caters to all palettes, continental cuisine -wise and Asian cuisine-wise too. 

That is why I did not find it out of place to have a sumptuous crab and prawn Maki admidst my Italian fare.

Nino’s just makes it work!

In the end, when I was doubly sure, that dessert was simply not an option, I was presented with a warm date bread pudding with ice cream  ( not in the picture). In between some curses and swears, I savoured my date bread pudding, not minding that I was bursting at the seams. 

For this divine date bread pudding alone, I would urge you to go to Nino’s and while you are enjoying it mark my words –

Happiness is … a warm date bread pudding from Ninos.

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Nino’s also does home deliveries so make sure you order-in on a hectic week day and enjoy the awesome food from Nino’s from the comfort of your home

Location: Seef, Aali Mall

Tel: 17 566 555

Times: Open daily 11am-midnight

Price: BD 10-25 / person

This review was sponsored but all the views expressed are mine

 

The best of both worlds – Rose and Cardamom Pannacotta with Pistachio Rabri

Don’t we wish, that we should have it all; true love, fame, happiness, peace of mind, money and everlasting friendships. But it is difficult and probably impossible to have it all. This is primarily because our logical minds refuse to accept contradictions. If you have plenty of money, you are busy making money and hence you don’t have time to nurture your relationships. Likewise if you have peace of mind, most likely you are only moderately well -off and not stinking rich. 

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If I have to believe what I shared in this poster above, I would be trying to break – free from all the conditioning that has happened for the past 34 years.  This undoing of notions and habits is a difficult job since we all have been made to believe that though contradictions exist, we must not condone them. Somewhere in our heads, contradictions are considered  ‘wrong’ and not a part of normal course of things. But funnily, contradictions exist everywhere in life, in nature and is the very essence of the universe we live in. Yet we fight against it. 

 But as I grow older, I have started to believe in contradictions and have begun to accept it as a way of life. I have also begun to believe that even if it may not be possible to have it all, contradictory or not, it is quite possible to have the best of different worlds. 

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Lately I have been thinking about the different ways in which I have allowed contradictions to seep into my life and how they have naturally turned into the “best of different worlds”. 

– I wanted to work with more freedom and flexibility but being in a corporate profile didn’t allow that. I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, but the fast-paced consulting life left me with no time at all. Somehow, life just beautifully unfolded and now I enjoy the best of both worlds – that of being an entrepreneur (flexibility and freedom) and working from home so that I can be with my daughter all the time. 

– Being a South Indian ( I come from Kerala) and being married to  North India had always posed many challenges, culturally. Over time, I have understood that focusing on dissimilarities can only aggravate the divide. I’d rather focus on grasping the best of both worlds and offer them to my daughter, who is yet to comprehend the difference and similarities 

– Since childhood I have been educated about which contradictory food to avoid. Don’t have milk and onions together, don’t have acidic stuff with milk and so on. But I have inadvertently had these contradictory foods and nothing has happened. In fact, I quite enjoy my onion soup with some milk that allows me to skip cheese.

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I was compelled to think about contradictions and the important role they place in helping us grow when I made this gorgeously flavoured Rose and Cardamom Pannacotta with Pistachio Rabri. Rose and cardamom flavours pair excellently with the Italian cream dessert. Topped with pistachio rabri ( condensed milk), the pannacotta is a perfect example of how opposites become fuse well when we bring together the best of both worlds. Indian flavour and an Italian dessert come together to create a culinary fusion that successfully brings the best of both worlds together in this dreamy combination.

I made this show stopper of a dessert at the Diwali party where I had my close friends over. We had the most exquisite time over food and rose and cardamom pannacotta.

The leftover rabri, I froze in popsicle and kulfi moulds to have later.

Contradictions exists and to accept them is to keep growing like the poet Whitman has so eloquently stated. Contradictions can become beautiful fusions and fusions are nothing but the best of different worlds that come together. And we all have to agree, there is nothing more beautiful or harmonious than that.

Mango Cheese Cake
Serves 12
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups digestive biscuits, crushed into crumbs
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  4. 4 large ripe mangoes, cubed and pureed
  5. 685 gm packages cream cheese, softened
  6. 1 1/4 cups sugar
  7. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  8. 4 large eggs
Instructions
  1. 1. Stir together the digestive biscuits crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl; press into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325º/ 162.7 C for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool
  2. Puree the mangoes in a blender. With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and vanilla essence until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, mixing it well and finally stir in the mango puree.
  3. Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake at 325º / 165 C for 1 hour and 25 minutes. After the alloted time, test if the cheese cake is cooked in the center. If find it is still a bit raw, allow the cheese cake to continue baking in the heat of the oven after you switched off the oven for atleast another 10-15 minutes.
  4. Cool in pan on a wire rack 1 hour.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
Sliceofmylyfe - a Food blog based in Bahrain http://www.sliceofmylyfe.com/

{Restaurant Review} Vapiano – fresh and delicious

What do they say about never saying never?

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Insalata di arance e noci

Well, I experienced it myself very recently. Vapiano in Bahrain City Center always looked promising but the previous two dining experiences at Vapiano were sub-par and less than delightful that I was quite sure I wouldn’t want to try them again. But with a little coaxing from Obai & Hill’s Zainab, I thought about giving Vapiano’s summer, fresh menu a try with a disclaimer that if I didn’t like it (again), I would refrain from doing a review on my blog.

On the scheduled day, my family and I stepped into Vapiano to sample their new menu. We were ushered in by a very friendly server who then educated us about all the new dishes and desserts. On her recommendations we settled for 1 starter, 2 main courses, 1 salad and a dessert. All this was to be accompanied by freshly squeezed orange.  For the starters we ordered the Caprese  that had cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzerella on the bed of basil and rocket leaves. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the rocket peppery as its supposed to be – all fresh and crunchy.

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Caprese

This was just the right antipasti to whet our appetite for the remaining courses to come. The hubby had ordered Estiva – a tender chicken breast pasta drenched in semi- dried tomato sauce, with a mild kick of ginger, mint and rocket . We specially asked our server to request the chef to cook the pasta a bit more than the “Vapiano” al dente. As per our request, the pasta was just perfectly done with succulent chicken pieces and  flavoursome tomato sauce and herbs.

Estiva with conchiglie
Estiva with conchiglie

My daughter who is notorious for shunning restaurant food was content with her bread and butter. She particularly enjoyed the fresh orange juice with her simple grub. As for me, I had ordered a barbecued chicken pizza which was sumptuous to say the least. It was quite a large portion unexpectedly and so we had the rest of it in a take away bag.

barbecued chicken pizza
barbecued chicken pizza

All the wonderful food was balanced by a very citrus-y , sunshine salad adorned by pistachio called the insalata di arance e noci. To my mind, it feels like summer on my plate with juicy orange fillets, pistachios, lamb’s lettuce and chicory. The flavours were heightened by a very light walnut and orange dressing. This was the highlight of my meal at Vapiano and it would be something that I would keep going back to Vapiano for many times over.

Insalata di Arance e noci
Insalata di Arance e noci

The close of the meal was marked by the unavoidable chocolate dessert called the Cioccolata e espresso which is Vapiano’s own homestyle chocolate espresso mousse, cantuccini (literally translates as coffee bread or popularly known as biscotti)  refined with grape juice and sweet amarena cherries.

Cioccolata e espresso
Cioccolata e espresso

Feeling happily sedated after such a wholesome meal, we thanked our hostess for the day and returned home with the lingering memories of the summer food at Vapiano. Thank you Vapiano for a wonderful experience that was so fresh and delicious that I don’t think I can have enough of it this summer!!.

 *This is a sponsored post but the opinions expressed all solely mine.

Judging a Masterchef competition + Flourless Chocolate Orange cake

An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.

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It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.

The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task.  But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.

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The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.

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It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:

1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in  lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc

2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo

3) Pumpkin rissotto

4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon

photo (3)The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.

The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.

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All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.

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And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.

COC5I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.

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