Review – Lavaash By Saby – An Armenian – Bangla Culinary Affair To Remember


I had heard a lot about Lavaash by Saby from my son and was craving to go there since some time. Though I have had authentic West Bengali cuisine I did not know about the Armenian influences on the cuisine in certain parts of Bengal especially Asansol, a small coal miners’ town near Kolkata, where the Armenians came some 200 years ago. It is the place where Chef-Owner  Sabyasachi Gorai grew up. Lavaash is a slice of his childhood.

Somehow, unlike all other times I did not do any online research about the restaurant. I went there with an open mind last Saturday for a informal dinner with family and friends. I think that worked in my favor. The Mehrauli area is one of my favorites because of its pristine  greenery, heritage buildings, monuments and some fine eating joints but Lavaash took me to another world. I was simply awestruck by the sheer beauty of the place.

Located in a heritage building shaded by an ancient Neem tree the place takes your breath away at first glance even at night.  Ambavatta 1 also has another restaurant En and the coveted Manish Malhotra Store at ground floor.

Even without tasting the food I made a mental note to come back here during daytime just for the view. Apart from the location the other plus points are ample parking and quiet. Far from the madding crowd one can just sit and relax for hours here. I thought of hundreds of chirping birds and colorful flowers lay asleep as we marveled at the magnificent Qutub Minar from the terrace.

As we took a tour of the place and gorged on the delicious food we were told about the culinary history of the Armenians in Bengal and how Chef Saby  thought of preserving the dying legacy of that specific cuisine. Never have I been so impressed by the passion and research done to revive a cuisine and bring it out to those who appreciate good food.  A look at the creatively designed menu will tell you how deep the roots go.  It is interesting to see how Chef Sabyasachi has pieced together the history of a particular community through their food. A perfect bond of two cuisines so different and yet so similar.  It makes you nostalgic about a place  never visited.

The decor of Lavaash is subtle and aesthetically very pleasing to the eyes. Eight peacocks intricately laser carved on wood form the name Lavaash.  The main doors are painted with pomegranate trees. If you know a little history you’ll know why.

The use of blue and white is perfectly balanced and nothing is jarring to the eyes. One can see the Armenian motifs that adorn the restaurant making it a piece of history. That instantly sets the mood for what is in store.  The hand painted glass windows,  huge arched windows, the hanging blue metallic partition with peacock carved into it, the Armenian and Iranian tiles on the wall, the rustic mud texture of the walls and the gorgeous floral Kantha work on the upholstery, the hand painted lampshades and the retro music in the background  will make you fall in love with the place.  The colorful little parrots hanging from the big chandelier in the main dining area and the lovely owls sitting outside the glass windows looking at the balcony dinning space looked so pretty that you have to see them to believe.  It is the prettiest restaurant I have visited so far.

Our table was reserved in the picturesque outdoor seating area (the balcony delicately shaded by the Neem tree)  where the almost full moon added to the charm of the evening .

I met Megha Kohli, the youngest female head chef in India and the face behind Lavaash. I was told that Megha  did a lot of research about the Bengali cuisine and is one of the people behind making Chef Saby’s dream come true.

The young Chef is so full of life and her face lights up the moment you recognize a local ingredient  and appreciate its delicate use in the dishes. She explained  about the food and its history to us and how local produce that is intrinsic to Bengali cuisine is paired delicately  to make the dishes at the restaurant. Incidentally she is the one who designed the menu for Lavaash and put the recipes together. A true labor of love and commitment.

The menu is divided in two parts – authentic Armenian dishes and Bengali dishes with Armenian influence. Each dish is beautifully described.

It was a delight to find the aromatic short grained Gobindobhog rice, kasundi and the fragrant Gondhoraj Lemon  as part of the ingredients used. The use of local and indigenous ingredients is the winning point of this place.

We were spoiled for choices but settled for  Crisp Lavaash chips with dips, Iranian Lamb Koobideh, melt-in-the-mouth lamb kebabs cooked on charcoal and served on soft traditional lavaash made in the traditional Tonir, and Jewish hot and sour Panir skewer  as starters with the excellent pomegranate white Wine  Sangria with cherries and green apple, Rum, whiskey, virgin apple mohito, whiskey sour and a few other beverages.

As it was the Holi weekend we got the Thandai Vodka Shots on the house. They were unbeatable.

The dips were out of the world especially the whole white bean humus spiked with garlic and the chili dip. The Armenian mezze Platter with crisp Lavaash chips and four traditional dips was a great start to an unforgettable meal.

The koobideh, unlike the traditional kebabs, were mildly spiced and served with green coriander chutney ( In Armenian cuisine coriander is used rather than mint for chutneys), the indispensable kasundi (Bengali mustard sauce) and a dash of Gondhoraj lemon. The dish was bursting with flavors. The Lavaash bread which is like a roomali roti but definitely better in texture and taste is the oldest bread known to mankind. It is from this the restaurant gets its name.

The Jewish hot and sour panir skewer was a revelation. The tangy tamarind glaze with chili and pomegranate  made  the soft, char grilled panir a treat. I am not a ‘paneer’ lover but this was something else.

I had the Roast Garlic and Jalapeno Chicken for the first time and found it mouth-watering. Simple and flavorful.

In the mains we ordered  Mushroom Manti, an Armenian style ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and served with spiced tomato chutney and Kalinmpong cheese (Indian version of gauda cheese). The chutney was a perfect alternative to the more popular salsa. I loved its texture and taste.

It was so refreshing to see the use of especially crafted earthenware for the dishes.  An excellent attempt at traditional, ethnic dining experience. Clay-pot cooking is part of the traditional everyday Bangla  and Armenian cooking.

We also ordered Lavaash fish, wrapped and baked in a soft lavaash bread. The betki was melt in the mouth and the flavors reminded me of a typically Bengali household kitchen.

Two portions of Gobindobhog rice with dollops of butter and a slice of Gondhoraj lemons were a treat. It had been ages since I had eaten this aromatic rice cooked to perfection.

Another star of the meal was the fabulous Matnaksh Claypot Bread. Soft and flavorful this was truly addictive.  Baked and served hot in a clay pot on dry Sal leaves this Armenian farmer’s  leavened bread was sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and chironji (onion seeds). A accompaniment to lap up the awesome gravy of the Spicy Chicken in Georgian walnut sauce. Nothing compares to this freshly baked bread. Nothing at all.

This chicken dish was amazing. The succulent boneless chicken in the nutty tomato gravy tossed with roasted walnuts was something I hadn’t eaten before.

After gorging on this decadent food I eagerly awaited the desserts. My son had raved about their Dark Chocolate and Old Monk Mousse and I was dying to have it. It came in a clay pot and I fell in love with the first bite.  It was a match made in heaven. You need to try this to experience the bliss it is.

The Orange pound cake served with palm jaggery syrup and Nolen Gur Ice cream was another dessert I loved. Being a huge fan of palm jaggery this combination was out of the world. The moist, dense cake was so well balanced in sweetness. The tart caramelized orange slice cutting through the nolen gur ice cream made it finger licking good.

We were through with the meal but I was still craving for more. I told Chef Megha that we will be back soon. There was still so much to relish from the exquisitely well executed menu especially the Armenian cheese platter which you won’t get anywhere else. Another positive point about the place is the extensive vegetarian dishes in the menu. I have not seen so much variety elsewhere in Delhi. Sumptuous too.

I loved the warmth with which the staff served us. The service was quick and Chef Megha was the perfect hostess. It was such a joy to be there experiencing a world beyond the mundane.

The experience of eating at Lavaash was a beautiful historical, cultural journey through food. A Brilliant effort in preserving a culinary culture lost in time.

I am already planning my next visit and this time during the day.

When are you heading to Lavaash?

Note- 

When you are busy licking your fingers you forget about taking photographs and then source them from the Chef and post them with permission. You should also focus on the food and the ambiance. 🙂

This is not a paid review. 

Overall rating – 4.5/5 

Location – H-5/1, Ambawatta One, Kalkadass Marg,

Mehrauli, New Delhi.

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Taste Of Banaras At ThreeSixtyOne|The Oberoi Gurgaon


I am a big supporter of revival of regional, traditional cuisine and the use of indigenous ingredients in daily meals. When I came to know about Banaras Ka Khana Showcase at ThreeSixtyOne, The Oberoi Gurgaon, curated by Chef Ravitej Nath along with a dear friend, food consultant and writer Sangeeta Khanna, I did not want to miss this opportunity to taste the flavours of the temple town cuisine. My mother was born and brought up there and we decided to bring to her a part of her childhood and youth as a pre-birthday gift. She turns 84 on 31st March.Exif_JPEG_420

They say, when you strongly desire something the universe conspires to bring it to you. A contest won me ‘complimentary meal for two’ making the whole experience even more exciting.

Our Holi inspired Dinner began with Panchamrit which is offered to the devotees at Hindu temples as a blessing from the Gods. It is also used in many religeous rituals. The whiff of tulsi (Holi Basil) and the correct sweetness of milk and honey in the drink was a perfect beginning to what was going to be an unforgettable experience.  We forgot to take the picture of Panchamrit.

The street food or chaats of Banaras in the Chef’s tasting menu left us longing for more. As we dug into Tamatar ki chaat, Chivda matar, chenna ka dahi vada and sumptuous aaloo tikki accompanied with traditional aaloo papad and the four chutneys the first thing that came to mind was the  hot, sour, savoury notes of each dish perfectly balancing each other. Nothing was too overwhelming. Wadiyon ki chatney was an instant hit.

The sublime flavours enhanced the pleasure of eating. Ma promptly gave her seal of approval as she remembered her childhood spent in the lanes of the holy city exploring these very delicacies except the tamatar chaat.

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Sangeeta later told us how the flavours of Gujrat have influenced the local cuisine and why. No wonder the tamatar chaat made me think of a similar dish sev tamatar.ki sabzi. It is amazing to see how the food has interconnections with so many parts of India and not just the city of Varanasi itself.

I loved Harad ki papdi, fara, bajka, bhapouri and bhabra too. We make Bajka at home and call it Lobra. Long time ago in Banaras, Harad ka golgappa was served  to digest all the fantastic chaat that the chaat bhandars fed you and this Harad ki papdi was a perfect revival of that. Excellent in taste and texture.

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The khus ka sherbat, aam panna were delicious but the thandai with special hand crafted portion and pan cocktail made with fresh pan leaves and lemon won my heart. Nowhere can one find something so fantastic. Both the drinks were simply out of the world.

The chefs had divided street food and main course in two distinct segments and the drinks served with them complimented the food perfectly.

We loved the street food totally. My son had never tasted the Banaras cuisine so it was a  unique experience for him. He loved the moong beans filled aaloo tiki and chene ka dahi vada.

I knew that the banaras ki thali was going to be a big sumptuous affair so we lingered with the pan mocktail reminiscing about the city and its culture.

We got both non vegetarian and vegetarian thalis in main course.

The Vegetarian Thali 

The Breads 

I had the vegetarian Thali and was bowled over by matar ka nimona (crushed green peas cooked with ginger and coriander) , Gular ka chokha, aaloo chokha and kaddu ki sabzi. It was very much the ghar ka khana. Each dish balancing the taste of the other. I found the flat breads a bit hard and one of the littis was under-cooked but the rest of amazing.  The khade masale ka pulav, made with short grain aromatic rice called Zeerabutti, had such a sublime flavour it really blew my mind.

I was surprised to see mom relishing the meal with such gusto as she is a very small eater. The khoya, matar, makhane ki sabzi was a delight. I had never tasted it before but my ma gave it 10/10 in taste. She found it as authentic as it could be. The tempered moong daal was just as we make at home. Delicious, to say the least.  Again, I found that the pairing of dishes was done in such a way that the tastes do not overwhelm each other.

The non -veg thali

Non Vegetarian Thali

The non veg thali had sookha jheenga (dried shrimps), motton kalia and sadi litti among other things and my son loved the shrimps and the river sol in mustard gravy.

I would love to go on about each dish but the festival is still on till 26th March at ThreeSixtyOne, The Oberoi Gurgaon and if you are in or around Delhi/NCR, you MUST visit and indulge in the Rivayat of Banaras.

Meals that are prepared and served with love are the best. We could see how Sangeeta had put her heart and soul in each preparation, going out of the way to procure the finest ingredients to create the original banarasi khana. Hats off to the F&B team of Chef Manish Sharma, Chef Ravitej Nath who recreated this fabulous along with Sangeeta

Now it was time for desserts and conversations with our gracious hostess.

 

As you can see mom had a lovely time reminiscing about Banaras with Sangeeta. They talked about traditions, city heritage, old houses, chawks and gaiyan, old eateries, their childhood and of course the delectable food. I was happy to see my mom enjoying every bit of the experience.

Malaiyyo, a specialty of Banaras, stole the show. Frothy, light as air and delicately tasteful,  it brought back a surge of nostalgia. Ma told that they would get up early morning before sunrise in winter to eat this delicacy which was then served in earthen pot the size of a small diwali diya. We loved the food and we loved the stories.

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The Desserts

Biranji Kheer

Biranji Kheer

The naturally tulsi scented Sankatmochan laddoos and Sri ram Bhandar’s lal peda (especially flown in from Banaras) were out of the world. I enjoyed the hare chane ki barfi which was new for me and the Biranji kheer was a delight. I make it at home but this was ethereal. Adi was bowled over by Malaiyyo.

Three generations in love with the vibrant food and Banaras came home with fondest memories, blissful dinning experience, unconditional love and a bagful of goodies.

I want to congratulate everyone who is part of Rivayat- Indian Culinary Conclave  and Banaras ka khana fest. You have kept the spirit and soul of the cuisine intact. Well done.

Special thanks for the warmth of hospitality by The Oberoi Gurgaon Staff. Thank you Mallika Gowda for your understanding and care.

Those who wish to know more about the dishes that were served here  or want to try making some of them at home, do visit Sangeeta’s blog Banaras ka Khana .

Review – Vintage 31 Bistro & Café By Navya


Like a true food lover I keep exploring  different food hubs. In the last few months I have been to some reasonably good places and I will talk about them in a different post.

This post is specially about Vintage 31, Bistro & Café By Navya. I visited the café in June this year. I was out on a food hunt and was craving for something continental which was good and reasonably priced.  My son suggested we visit Vintage 31 in Meharchand Market.

The beautiful interiors of Vintage31

The beautiful interiors of Vintage 31

Two important things that pleased me about the place – availability of parking space right outside it and the quiet calm that greeted me when I  entered.

Most of the dining experiences are ruined by the lack of these two. I won’t call it homely because for me it seemed like a place where I could get away from home.  But, It certainly has a warmth one seeks in a home. The first thing I said was, “what a pretty place.”

Vintage style wooden furniture, pastel floral motifs on walls, a wooden staircase, a nice terrace with plants all around, a big bay window and comfortable statement chairs.. the place seemed perfect to relax with a cup of coffee or tea or to simply enjoy a quiet meal. No loud music, no noisy people. The ambiance and the decor makes the café  brim with warmth. I noticed a display rack with books and  wondered if one could come and do some peaceful writing here.  Spread on two floors the outlet has just 45+ covers. The staff is alert, soft-spoken and hospitable without being intrusive so you get personalized service too.

The plush Hot pink statement chairs near the bay window/ Perfect place to relax.

The plush hot pint statement chairs near the bay window / Perfect place to relax.

The terrace sitting at Vintage 31

The terrace sitting at Vintage 31

Vintage 31 has a fairly versatile menu which is not extensive but caters to all age groups. It is an interesting mix of  European, American and Mediterranean cuisine.  Vintage Stuffed Chicken, Fiery Chicken and Fish in Mustard Sauce are a few of their classic signature dishes and they also serve a range of desserts and beverages including  Virgin Mojitos and Virgin Sangrias.  We settled for Mezze Platter, Grilled Chicken in Tangy Sauce, Virgin Mojito and Blueberry Cheesecake.

Portioning is another issue with restaurants. You seldom get something worth the amount you shell out. The portions here were good and the dishes were good value for money. Hummus was smooth and paired well with the pita, the falafel was just fine.

Mezze Platter.

Mezze Platter.

The perfectly grilled chicken tasted good with the tangy sauce.

Chicken In Tangy Sauce

The Mojitos were refreshing but the dessert was the best part of the meal.

Blueberry Cheesecake

It was overall a good first time lunch experience and we promptly did a check in on FB as we do with all the good places we go to. We decided to come back some other time and try more things.

On the second visit I had their Couscous Salad, Vegetarian Wrap and Caramel Custard which made a nice meal.

Cous Cous Salad

Cous Cous Salad

Vegetarian wraps

Vegetarian wraps

Delicious Caramel Custard or Crème caramel

Delicious Caramel Custard or Crème caramel

A few days later, a common friend who had seen our Facebook  check in, introduced me to Vimi Singh, the owner of Vintage 31. The connect was instant  and after a couple of interactions we decided to meet in person.

The opportunity came when I visited the café for a book launch in September. It was there I met Vimi for the first time. She told me how she and her husband K.D. Singh, a retired fighter pilot from the Indian air force, combined her expertise as an interior designer and his love for food to create the café. We talked more about their dream of making Vintage 31 a hub for creative events etc. I asked her why she chose an English Theme and she said they wanted it to be a cozy and quiet place where people could come and relax, enjoy the country music and have delicious meals or just a cup of their splendid tea and cookies.

At the Book Launch with Vimi Singh, the owner of the Cafe and friends.

At the Book Launch with Vimi Singh, the owner of the Cafe and friends.

Since then I have been to the café twice and enjoyed the warmth of their hospitality. Let me tell you this is not an empty praise. You must go there to experience it yourself.

The café also recently completed a year and was responsible for some of the best delicacies served at the Kumaun Literature Festival as they came together as restaurant partners for the event. While I might have missed this opportunity, many I know raved about the perfectly cooked and delicious food.

In September the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride by Delhi Biker group Royal Mavericks was flagged off from Vintage café, the coolest of 400 bikers from the Royal Enfield Rider’s community graced Vintage 31.

The café doesn’t serve alcohol as of now but who knows they may soon have some fabulous cocktails  and finest beers along with Sheesha. I just hope the place retains its quiet charm. The terrace will be open for a meal under the sunny winter sky.  They are just one year old and rearing to go. I love the single-minded passion with which the couple works around even the minutest of details.

I found a few more interesting facets of Vimi  on our next meeting. Her passion for driving ( she is a rally driver) and her ability of mentoring youngsters. I know I am supposed to review the café but it is the person behind the place that gives the place a soul.

She also has a beautiful home accessory store called Navya next to the café. It too has an English Theme and looks like an extension of the café itself. They have an eclectic collection of accessories from all over the world. Many of which have been handpicked on personal travels.

So, if you are looking for a quaint place far from the madding crowd which is easy on your pocket, serves good meals and is centrally located then do pay a visit to Vintage 31 Bistro & Café. The café offers free WiFi too. Just ask the staff for the password.

The place is open for book readings, poetry sessions and other events. If you have any interesting event ideas/ feedback to share with Vimi, connect on Vintage 31 Bistro & Cafe FB Page.

Cuisine – European ,Mediterranean, American

Food Rating 4/5 | Ambiance – 5/5 | Service – 4/5 | Overall 4/5

Meal for two – 1,500 Approximately

Alcohol – No | Credit Card – Yes

Address – 31, Meharchand Market,Lodhi Colony, New Delhi.

Timing – 11 AM to 11 PM

Disclaimer – This is not a paid review and I wasn’t offered free meals  for reviewing.  I will be putting up more restaurant reviews as we explore new places. Stay Tuned.