Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Eve at Bombay Gym

Originally uploaded by lools.

Despite being quite under the weather for a few days now (all the NRIs seem to have caught a bug), I saved some energy for the New Year's eve gala at the Bombay Gymkhana lawns last night. No, the party was not cancelled and Bombay Gym actually managed to raise a whole lot of money for the tsunami victims by setting up a donation counter on site making it easier for us to give to the victims of the tragedy that has struck South East Asia.

From the minute we landed in Bombay, we'd been hearing about how difficult it was to get tickets to this party which has become quite the talk of the town. Being longtime members of this club, we thought it would be a breeze and were actually quite surprised how difficult it was. Tickets were sold out an entire month earlier. Not to be outdone, H managed to get us a whole bunch of tickets thanks to his wheeling and dealing ways.

The dinner and dance event was attended by over 2500 mostly South Bombayites. The open air atmosphere of the cricket lawns adjoining the club was so nice. Imagine being stuck inside a smoky and crowded restaurant jostling for space. I loved dancing to all my favourite songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Thanks heavens there wasn't too much of techno-trance to deal with!

The food selection was spectacular - there were Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Italian and Chinese tents set-up. Having an upset stomatch, I went light and had the Italian chef toss up penne with garlic, black and green olives in some red and white sauce! it was delicious. My friends commented that the onion kulchas in the Indian section were to die for. H was quite impressed with his falafel roll. What I was most fascinated by was how at ease all the members were ordering these foreign foods. Clearly, the level of familiarity that Indians have with international cuisines has risen dramatically in the past couple of years.

For me, the best part of being at Bombay Gym was the opportunity to bump into very old friends and acquaintances. I exchanged numbers with an architect who sat next to me in 7th grade, an investment banker who I played badminton with in 11th grade and a ex-colleague from O&M who is now in Singapore running her own design firm!

If you happen to be passing through Bombay next December, make sure you get passes for the Bombay Gym event. It's the best value for money on New Year's Eve in terms of food and drink.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A lovely Indian wedding

Originally uploaded by lools.

We were busy all last week attending my brother-in-law's wedding. Pictured above is the beautiful couple on their wedding day at the official Hindu ceremony.

The bride had her childhood dream fulfilled by getting married in her parent's home, Raut House, which is considered a heritage home in Bombay. It was built at the turn of the century and has been preserved beautifully. The architectural style is considered vernacular meaning it was not designed by certified architects at the time. Maithali, the bride, is an architect herself and had gone all out to restore the house to all its traditional glory.

It reminded me of some of the lucky folks in Manhattan who have beautiful houses in the West Village or the Upper West side in the middle of the teeming metropolis. What a luxury to have your own private oasis in the midst of all the urban chaos. It certainly felt surreal to be in Mathali's house and hear the birds chirping on trees instead of the loud honks from the public buses and the screeching of cars about to have accidents.

The actualy ceremony itself was an abridged version of the usual rites and rituals. Within an hour the deal was done and we were all toasting the newly married couple. As I write this, they're on their way by train to Rajasthan for their honeymoon in Neemraana, an ancient fortress.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

From Manhattan to Bombay!

Originally uploaded by lools.

Are you tired as yet of seeing "Tapas y mas" every time you log on to my blog? So sorry for not posting for more than two weeks! I am currently in Bombay (Mumbai) on vacation and had every intention of sharing my experiences here and comparing and contrasting with Manhattan on a daily basis. But the internet connection at my home is painstakingly slow and I run out of patience every time. I'll do my best however to post as often as I can as I will be here for a while.

First off, I've seen more New Yorkers in Bombay than Bombayites. Of course, this is not entirely true but it certainly feels that way. Everywhere we go out in South Bombay - from the shopping arcade at The Oberoi to the pani puri stall at Kailash Parbhat to chi chi Indigo and of course, Bombay Gymkahana - we seem to be bumping into our desi friends from Manhattan. I guess we're all homesick and dying to relive our favourite experiences from the minute we land. It definitely feels like many truckloads of NRIs (Non resident Indians) have descended on the city.

Stay tuned folks, I'll be posting regularly from Bombay...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Tapas y mas

Originally uploaded by lools.

If you're looking for the best sangria in town, look no further than Pipa, Manhattan's best tapas joint located in the Flatiron/Gramercy Park neighbourhood. Pipa serves different types of red wine, white wine and even champagne sangria. It's the perfect spot to catch up with your mate after work and let the fruits soaked in brandy destress you.

Pipa is Spanish slang for "to have a good time" and it's pretty much guaranteed that you're in for a great experience at this restaurant. How nice that the restaurant actually lives up to the promise of its name!

Pipa is good for dining out with a large group of friends as well as for a romantic night out. Somehow this warehouse turned fine dining establishment manages to appeal to both ocasions. The ambience is dark, musty and wonderfully romantic. You wade through thick, velvety curtains before entering. The antique wood tables and larger than life sized chandeliers create somewhat of an opulent and mysterious atmosphere.

The menu is pretty inventive for a typically Spanish tapas rstaurant. I guess the Spaniards are now overtaking the French and are the masters of noveau cuisine. Indulge in Pipesque dishes like Cocas (a kind of pizza-tortilla hybrid laden with delicacies like porcini mushrooms, Serrano ham, garlicky clams and smoky bacon) and Piggy Back Dates (dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon & Cabrales vinaigrette).

Actually, the very basic combo plate of roasted peppers, goat cheese, grilled onions and black olive tapenade with plenty of fresh bread is my favourite. That and a few glasses of sangria equals bliss for me every time.

38 E. 19th St.
Broadway & Park Ave. S.
New York, NY 10003

Sunday, December 12, 2004

McNulty's Tea & Coffee Company

Originally uploaded by lools.

Walking into McNulty's in the West Village is like experiencing a bit of early 19th century America. This Manhattan purveyor of the finest coffees and teas from around the world has apparently changed little since it was established in 1895.

The sacks and chests create a wonderful old world charm and aromas of different coffees and teas really excite the senses. Even the shopkeepers are grey-haired and seem like they belong to another century!

Being a tea lover who likes to consume many different varieties of tea, I focused on McNulty's impressive selection of black, white, green and oolong teas. The gentleman who helped me decide on a few black teas enticed me with the Assam from India (I decided to get this from Bombay in a few weeks) and the Lapsang Souchong from China (I didn't like the smokiness) before I settled on Nectar (McNulty's version of Earl Grey) and Almond black tea. Perhaps next time I'll be more adventurous and try out exotic herbal teas like Chinese Hibiscus and Licorice Root.

For the sophisticated English tea drinker, McNulty's also carries tea from Jacksons of Picacadilly, Twinings of London and Barry's of Ireland among others.

You can take a virtual tour of McNulty's online and check out their catalogue as well. Unfortunately, they haven't yet caught up with the times so their website is not e-commerce enabled.

109 Christopher St
Between Bleecker and Hudson Street
Phone: (212) 242-5351

Snacking at Salt Bar

Have you ever found yourself nibbling on extra olives and cherries from the bar counter? At Salt Bar in the Lower East Side, you can even nibble on dishes like baked brie and beef Wellington while you enjoy that glass of wine or hibiscus tea martini!

Right next door to Sachi's on Clinton, Salt Bar is a terrific spot to hang out and chill with friends all night long in a very cozy atmosphere. No more than 400 square feet, the place is packed with several communal style tables, an L-shaped bar overlooking the L-strip kitchen and a four stooled bar along the front window. There's an impressive wine list and lots of great snacks to choose from. Salt Bar has a champagne from Italy called Ombra that was spectacular. The tomato soup is delicious as is the baked brie. It's truly amazing how all the cooking and serving is done in this one little square room.

Salt Bar wasn't too noisy but had the requisite energy and buzz to make this a happening spot for young professionals. We're definitely going to make this a regular hangout!

29A Clinton St
Between Rivington and Stanton
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 979-8471

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sachi's on Clinton

Originally uploaded by lools.

As exquisite, elegant and intriguing as a fine Japanese painting, Sachi's on Clinton in the Lower East Side is the perfect pick for a mellow, romantic night out in Manhattan.

At Sachi's, the traditional and the modern blend harmoniously. The dark brown hardwood floors, red walls, stark white ceramic dinner ware and the quintessentially Japanese service create the unique Sachi's experience.

Sake, soba, sushi and skewers are all on the menu at Sachi's. In fact, they even have the reputation of being one of the best sake bars in town. Not wanting to drink sake straight up, I ordered the Kyoto Affair, a sake and lychee cocktail. Every sip was deliciously naughty.

We ordered plenty of appetizers and sushi rolls. Our waitress figured out the best sequence in which to bring the dishes. She served us no more than one at a time in steady succession. We started with a sesame infused tofu which, as Harsha pointed out, was like caramel custard with a spicy soy sauce. To me, it was a little heaven of texture and flavour that I thoroughly relished. The tomato and mozarella skewer was also delicious - it was lightly fried like a tempura but was nice and gooey when you bit in. The miso soup had a nice and rich smokey flavour with tiny, slippery mushroom buttons and bits of tofu.

The sushi rolls were outstanding. Sachi's just hired the sushi chef who used to work at the Sony Corporation kitchen in Tokyo and I'm told that his slicing of fish and rolling of sushi is close to perfection. Even my cucumber rolls and plum rolls were unlike the ones I've had in other restaurants. The rice is rolled in a light sesame seed which adds a nice nuttiness to the roll!

Dessert was green tea icecream and a cup of green tea. Very calming and a perfect mouth cleansing after the soy intake throughout the meal.

My only regret is that I forgot to check out the lush Japanese garden at the back of the restaurant, beyond the sushi bar. I'm definitely coming back for lunch so I can enjoy the garden on a gorgeous sunny day.

Sachi's on Clinton
25 Clinton St.
at E. Houston St. 212-253-2900

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Kate's Paperie in SoHo

Originally uploaded by lools.

Have you noticed how insignificant an actual gift becomes when it is exquisitely wrapped? Presentation pays! Maybe I'm a branding nut, but I firmly believe that packaging makes all the difference in the world. . .

I'm getting ready to leave for Bombay in the next couple of weeks. I've bought gifts for my family and friends but I want to pack each gift in a special way as well. So I went to Kate's Paperie in SoHo this weekend to buy some wrapping paper and ribbons for my unique creations.

Kate's is heaven for those who appreciate paper. You walk into the store and you're imemdiately blown away by the striking interiors and the beautiful assortment of products. They have more than 4000 papers from over 40 countries in the world. I found a striking red handmade paper with gold embossed elephant-shapes all over. Thanks to my sister, Maya, I've developed a fondness for elephants as well!

The shop is a visual delight and truly magical. What's more, they have so many unusual gifts and other thingamajigs that I always find something nifty every time I go. This time I found a lovely handmade card- making instruction kit which came with ten different types of paper and designs. I can't wait to surprise my friend with it!

561 Broadway
(between Prince and Spring Streets)
New York, NY 10012

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Trendy & Tasty Mexican

Originally uploaded by lools.

Over one hundred tequilas to choose from,highly creative menu items and the best freshly made guacamole in town. An unbeatable combination for a nice Mexican night out in Manhattan.

Folks, head to Dos Caminos everytime you're in the mood for margaritas and some people watching. The restaurant is rated among the ten best in New York City by the World Press. The place is usually packed on weeknights with young professionals all out to have a fun time with colleagues. Despite the huge dining room, there's a cozy feeeling created by the dim lights and the warm hues. While you wait to be seated, try the prickly pear margarita and order a serving of some guacamole and chips. The chips are brought in a small basket and are still warm from being freshly made. Guacamole is custom made depending on how spicy you want it. I love being entertained just bit while dining and Dos Caminos' personalized guacamole preparation is quite something to watch. And the guac is absolutely delicious. Go easy as you may fill up even before appetizers!

The menu looked very interesting though I have to admit that the veggie options are quite limited. My farmer's market vegetable quesadilla was just heavenly - it had roasted peppers, eggplant and other complex flavours. If I hadn't gone overboard on the chips, I would have definitely tried the sides of which there were enticing options for vegetarians including grilled corn and fried plantain.

A bit on the expensive side but if you stick to a margarita, some guacamole and an entree, it's actually not too much of a splurge.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Dos Caminos, 373 Park Avenue South, between 26th and 27th Streets (212-294-1000)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lucky Cheng's Sucks

I had my first really terrible experience at a Manhattan restaurant on Friday night. Having been asked by my husband on Thursday evening to book a table for six for dinner on Friday night, I scrambled for reservations on Open Table. We were in the mood for a fun and festive Pan-Asian experience so opted for Lucky Cheng's in the lower east side. It advertises itself as the "drag queen capital of the world" so I thought it'd be fun to check out!

When we arrived, we seemed to be the only group of couples amongst large bachelorette parties. That should have given us a hint about the kind of crowd this place attracts. The atmosphere was definitely festive with large red lanterns hanging from the ceilings. A gorgeous waiter(ess) greeted us and directed us to a table at the far end of the restaurant, a little away from the main stage where all the raunchy action was unfolding. Drag queens, dressed to the nines in the most colourful and outrageous outfits, were shaking their booties and totally embarassing the guests by their wild moves. We laughed and soaked in the atmosphere thinking we were in for a fun night.

Unfortunately it was all downhill from there on. The cocktails with fancy names like "Joselyn's Lucious Lips" promised far more than they delivered. The food was sub-standard (should've checked Zagat) and not upto the mark at all. We had to scream to have a semblance of a conversation. The only saving grace was our gorgeous waitress whose enhancements we were all admiring, wondering how in the world a guy could be so endowed ;)

I did some research on the net on Saturday and found that Lucky Cheng's had sued Zagat's because the guidebook gave the restaurant a 9 out of 30 for the quality of the food! Only in American does such a thing happen.. Apparently, LC has really suffered business since its poor scoring in Zagat's Guide. Well, no matter how fun the experience can be, people will never flock to restaurants where the food sucks. Right now, LC is thriving on innocent tourists, bachelorette parties and newbies like us who don't know better.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Unwinding in candlelight

Originally uploaded by lools.

I frequently find myself turning off the lights at home in the evenings and turning on the candles I have in every room. I immediately feel uplifted a few notches and transported far away from all the urban stress that Manhattan generates in me all day. I love the calming and soothing effect of candlelight and amazed at the tenderness it always evokes.

This is the season for giving and if your friends live in tiny apartments like mine, candles could be the perfect gift that they'd appreciate. Candles come in all shapes, sizes and special secnts these days so you'll have no shortage of options. I especially enjoy the aromatherapy scents that are wonderfully relaxing. I picked up a Eucalyptus-scented candle jar from Bath & Body Works that I just adore. The Body Shop has a cranberry scent that is pretty potent if you're in the mood to be overpowered. You should also check out Illuminations for a terrific variety of gifts that you can buy online.