Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bizou morphs into Coco 500


Tim and I were looking for a place to have dinner together on Tuesday night. I remembered an old favourite, Bizou, that Radhika and Sunil had taken me to when I lived in San Francisco. We spent five minutes walking up and down 4th street not being able to find the restaurant. We decided to walk into this restaurant at the same place where I swore Bizou had been located. Little did we realize that we were at the grand opening of Coco 500, Chef Loretta Keller's reincarnation of what was previously a French bistro.

Coco 500 specializes in small plates inspired by local produce and Mediterranean flavours. I loved the teak wood tables which added a real warmth to the place. The menu is very innovative on top of being vegetarian friendly and includes a host of assorted starters, salads, pastas, flat-bread pizzas and vegetable sides.

We started with tender green beans that were lightly fried. They came with a spicy, mustard dipping sauce:

This was followed by four ravioli pillows swaddled in a fresh, green sauce made from fava beans and peas that are in season now topped with a few lavender flowers:

We then nibbled on some greens that were perfectly dressed in a champagne vinaigrette and tossed with toasted almonds:

Main course was rocket and red pepper pizza with feta which you'll love if you like the sharp taste of rocket:

We also couldn't resist tasting the side of mushrooms that had been slow-cooked to coax out the robust flavours:

Finally, we gave in to some sweet indulgence as the coco bar looked too good to pass up:

500 Brannan Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Slanted Door

The Slanted Door is one of my favourite restaurants in San Francisco. Almost every time I visit the city, I make it a point to at least have a drink and a few appetizers at this upscale, Vietnamese place that has spectacular views of the Bay Bridge.

I was lucky to get dinner reservations last night. A group of us from work headed over for an early dinner at the restaurant. We walked to the Ferry Building from our office that is located along the Embarcadero. I love the renovations done to the building and the wide variety of food and wine shops including Sur Le Table. The Slanted Door is now much bigger and more contemporary in design than its previous location in the Mission. Despite more space, it's still very difficult to get reservations on any day for any meal!

The food here is so good that you can't really go wrong on any item. I suggest ordering a few bottles of riesling to keep you going throughout the meal - they have a lovely selection of wines to choose from. The dishes are meant to be enjoyed family-style so get a couple of items per person and you'll be set. I'd recommend these delicious small-plates for vegetarians:

- Vegetarian spring rolls with tofu, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage and mint (comes with a spicy peanut sauce)
- Grapefruit and jicama salad with candied pecans (I love the grapefruit and candied pecans combo)
- Green papaya salad with rau ram and roasted peanuts (spicy!)
- Lemongrass tofu with fresh shiitake mushrooms, onions and chili sauce
- Spicy japanese eggplant with green onions and coconut milk
- Wild French asparagus with black trumpet musrooms

Make sure to order a few bowls of steaming jasmine rice as well. There are lots of tempting dessert options, but I usually stick with the seasonal sorbet trio which never disappoints. Last night, I had grapefruit, watermelon and blackberry sorbet. Best way to end the meal is by sipping a small cup of herbal like Jade Spring or Drum Mountain.

1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco

Monday, June 27, 2005

The best tiramisu in San Francisco

It's so lovely to be in the Bay Area. Driving up the 280, from the South Bay to San Francisco, on an absolutely gorgeous day makes me miss my Cabriolet oh so much. I had to sell my car when we moved to Manhattan last year. Being in California always reminds me of those sunny days when I had the top down all the way to work, despite the bad hair day that inevitably followed the morning commute.

I had an early dinner tonight with some close friends at Steps of Rome in North Beach. I usually don't like this touristy part of the city, but the traffic situation was out of control because of the gay parade so we didn't venture to parts of town (Haight Ashbury) that would have taken longer to get to.

Steps of Rome is a casual Italian trattoria that was voted Best Italian in 2004 for San Francisco. The most memorable part of my meal tonight was tiramisu - it was by far tastier than the ones I've had in many other places in the world. It was just the right level of moistness - not too gooey or too dry. The sweetness was perfect as well. As was the creaminess. And the freshness. What can I say? If you are ever in San Francisco, you have to stop by Steps of Rome and taste their tiramisu. It's like finding a bit of heaven on earth.

348 Columbus Ave, San Francisco

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Radio Mexico

You know how much I love Mexican food and can't ever pass up an opportunity to eat at a Mexican restaurant. GG was in town today. He was staying near South Street Seaport, close to Ground Zero so H and I decided to meet him at Radio Mexico. I had heard about this place from Shivani who is my walking-talking version of Zagat's.

You feel transported to a cantina in Ensenada or Guadalajara at Radio Mexico. A large bar with lots of different tequilas is the star attraction. If you get here between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, you can enjoy special frozen margaritas and play a few rounds of pool at the back of the restaurant. The only thing you can't really do is speak Spanish to the staff.

The food here was delicious. I didn't particularly care for the salsa but the guacamole with chipotle sauce was just delicious:

We also ordered stuffed jalapenos as an appetizer. The herbed cheese stuffing really set off the flavour of the grilled jalapenos:

GG loved his vegetable fajita:

And H hogged his chipotle burger that came with yummy fries:

I stuck to a simple, chopped salad as I had wolfed down a big fat Watsonville burrito at Uncle Moe's for lunch yesterday:

Radio Mexico
259 Front Street

Jazz at Jules


Today's a perfect day for brunch at Cafe Jules, a delightful French bistro in the Lower East Side. Sip on a mimosa at the bar and enjoy the live jazz while you wait to be seated. Even though you may have to wait for half an hour, it's easy to just chill out and soak up the festive atmosphere. Brunch options include typical French fare like Le Croque Monsieur, Le Steak Frites, Les Moules Frites and La Soupe a L'Oignon. When I brunched at Jules a few weeks back, I thoroughly enjoyed my spinach and goat cheese omelette made from fresh organic eggs. It came with Prince Edward Island potato homefries and baby greens.

65 Saint Marks Pl
Btw 1st and 2nd Ave

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bok choy for less than a buck!

We were wandering around in Chinatown last weekend looking for some ceramic serving plates with unusual patterns. I love entertaining at home but am currently a bit dissatisfied with my dinnerware. A friend mentioned that the ceramic shops in Chinatown would be the perfect place for me to shop.

The problem is that she never told me where exactly these shops are located. I thought it would be as simple as asking around but little did I realize that no one - I mean NO ONE - in Chinatown speaks English! That adds a lovely authenticity to the place but is not exactly fun when you're trying to get directions! With one hand pinching my nose (you can't escape the deadly smell of raw seafood in Chinatown), I went from shop to shop trying to find a place that sold kitchen stuff. Two hours and many broken-English conversations later, still no luck. Very frustrating. Harsha kept reminding me that we should have just gone to Crate & Barrel which didn't exactly make me feel better.

The upside of it all was that I came across a middle-aged Chinese lady who was selling all kinds of green vegetables at throw away prices. She kept smiling at me and I couldn't resist buying something from her. I scanned her swath of greens including spring onions, spinach, caulifower and cabbage, and settled on the bok choy. They looked so ready for a nice soy and chili bath. I bought a whole pound for, hold your breath, 60 cents.

I like my bok choy as a side with Thai curry and rice. I get a wok heated till it's really hot, throw in a few drops of sesame oil. I give it a few twirls and then add a little bit of freshly chopped garlic and ginger and shake it up a bit. Then I add four liquids in no particular proportions, just enough to create a tasty and very spicy sauce for the bok choy to be lightly coated in - soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice vinegar and chili garlic sauce. Finally, I add the washed and cleaned bok choy. Sautee for a few minutes and I'm done:

I love the slight sweetness and crunchiness of the bok choy with the spice explosion from the soy and chili.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


My favourite Indian restaurants in Manhattan are Chennai Garden and Chinese Mirch. Now I have to add Amma to the list and I'll have to take my parents there whenever they come visit me from Bombay. Located in Midtown East, Amma is a class act as far as Indian restaurants are concerned. The ambience is sophisticated, the service impeccable and the food truly outstanding.

I had dinner last night with a friend visiting from San Francisco. The candle lighting, orange walls and tiny space created a cozy atmosphere that was perfect for a mellow night out when you want to chat more than check out the scene. Chris had been to Amma twice before and so the service we got from Prem, the restaurant manager, was extra special. Prem is a burly chap with oodles of enthusiasm and impressive knowledge about Indian food and wine pairings. He really knew his wine and had a ready recommendation as the perfect pairing for every dish we asked about.

Chris and I shared a bhel puri (of course!) as an appetizer. It was a good blend of crispiness, spiciness, sweetness and tartness from the sev, onions, potatos and the various chutneys. But I have to say that Chennai Garden still holds (for me) the title of best bhel in Manhattan.

I ordered the jackfruit biryani and bhindi ka raita (crispy okra and yogurt salad). Chris opted for the farm raised basil chicken with tomato chutney and lemon rice. We decided to share gobi manchurian which is garlic marinated cauliflower coooked the Indo-Chinese way.

My mouth was literally watering when my plate of steaming, aromatic rice and vegetables arrived along with the yogurt-based side dish. Prem recommended the Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2002 (Alto Adige, Italy) which he felt paired well with the biryani. Between sips of the Pinot Grigio and bites of biryani, I went to heaven and back a few times. I've never really experienced such a fabulous wine and food pairing (I'm vegetarian after all) which is perhaps why I enjoyed the meal so much.

Since it was a regular weekday night, I didn't want to overeat. I'm definitely coming back with Harsha for the vegetarian tasting menu with wine pairing. It looks totally divine:

Bombay Bhel Puri
rice puffs, cilantro, red onions, mint and tamarind chutneys, potatoes
Crispy Fried Spinach
mung beans, potatoes, onions, tamarind and mint chutneys
Pea Stuffed Samosa & Stuffed Mushroom
ginger-cilantro peas in pastry, cheese-chile stuffed mushrooms
Idly Upma
rice and bean dumplings, curry leaves and mustard seeds
Manchurian Cauliflower
garlic marinated cauliflower, Indo-Chinese style
Crispy Okra
red onions, tomatoes, chaat masala
Laukee Ke Kofte
zucchini dumplings, aromatic tomato gravy
Jackfruit (kathal) Biryaani
cauliflower,potatoes, whole spices
Bhindi Ka Raita
crispy okra and yogurt salad
Mango Cheesecake
Kulfi (Indian ice cream) with Citrus Soup

246 East 51st Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
New York, NY 10022
Tel: 212-644-8330

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Chocolate & Zucchini comes to Manhattan

I went to Otto at 5 p.m. this evening to meet the famous Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini fame. She is a 25-year old, Paris-based, food blogger who has become somewhat of a celebrity in the food blogging world. Her food writing and photography has such a distinctive voice and style that she has won over foodies the world over. Her popularity has increased stateside after NPR started syndicating her column.

I had read on C&Z a few weeks back that Clotilde (eighth from left in the photo) and her boyfriend, Maxxence, were going to be in Manhattan. They had organized a get-together at Otto's enoteca so that fellow bloggers and C&Z fans could mingle over Italian wine and antipasti nibbles. Clotilde and Max arrived after a few of us had already gotten an amicable, food-centric conversation going.

Clotilde was definitely the center of attraction from the moment she arrived. Tall and striking, she seems tres sophisticated and as charming in person as in her blog. Luckily, I got to speak to her at the very beginning so did not have to stand around, waiting for the right opportunity. We chatted about her time in the Bay Area, digital photography and my stint in France. Max was very friendly as well and I got to practice my French with him. I found out that he's the technical brain behind C&Z as they house the servers in their apartment in Mont Martre!

Once I had met Clotilde, I was eager to meet the others. The big bonus of this event was talking with other New York bloggers and foodies. I spent the most time chatting with Samantha and Adam who were both very warm and personable:


I was also glad to have met Josh and David who I spoke to briefly. David was particularly generous and bought everyone a bottle of wine and some white bean bruschetta. I thought that was a very nice gesture, especially since we were all strangers. I was most impressed by Jessica who had made macaroons with chocolate-chip filling for everyone.

I look forward to meeting and getting to know all the New York bloggers. Please let me know if you're interested in coming to a potluck - I'm happy to organize and host. Leave a comment here or email me at with the subject: NYC Bloggers Potluck.

Aachar Paneer Kati Roll

H and I walked all the way from Chelsea to the West Village for lunch today. Not feeling particularly hungry, we stopped at our friend, Payal's, Kati Roll Company, for a light meal.

KRC serves just one dish, the kati roll, which you can order with different fillings. It's nothing but a lightly fried paratha wrapped with marinated grilled veggies, paneer and meats. There were two vegetarian choices - aaloo masala (spicy potato) and aachar panner (pickled cottage cheese).

I ordered an aachar paneer from the self-service counter and also helped myself to a mango juice from the fridge. My kati roll filling was packed with grilled pickled paneer, peppers and onions with a generous heaping of finely chopped green chilis. The portion size was just perfect for lunch. My meal cost less than $5. Wow! No wonder street food is so "in" these days - it's so tasty while being easy on the budget.

99 MacDougal St. (West Village)
between Bleecker St. and Minetta Ln.

PS - Kati rolls taste especially delicious at 3 a.m. in the morning after a long night of bar-hopping. KRC stays open till 4 a.m. so you know where to find yummy food when you are next painting the town red.

Portobello Mushroom Blue Cheese Burgers

Emeril Lagasse was my favourite celebrity chef when I first started watching Food TV almost five years ago. I had just gotten married and moved to the Bay Area from Bombay. Never having cooked in India, I had to learn everything from scratch, including boiling water! So I was endlessly fascinated by the TV channel that was entirely devoted to food and cooking.

I watched hours and hours of Food TV in an attempt to learn cooking. While Emeril's recipes were a bit complicated, I used to enjoy just watching him in action - his flamboyance was irritatingly charming. But I soon got a tired of his predictable phrases like "kick it up a notch" and "bam!"

I'm not a huge Emeril fan these days but I have to say that one of my all-time best dishes is from a recipe I got from Emeril. I have never failed to get compliments for my cooking when I make these burgers. Harsha absolutely loves them because he is a big portobello and blue cheese fan.

Aditya and Shlok came over last night. Being single, tewenty-something Investment Banker-types living in Manhattan, any home cooked food for them is manna. They wolfed down the burgers and oven-cooked parmesan fries while appreciating and complimenting me the entire time. I need to have them over more often!

Here's Emeril's recipe for Portobello Mushroom Blue Cheese Burgers with Lemon Aioli and Bitter Greens:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 large fresh portobello mushrooms, wiped clean and stems removed
4 thick Vidalia onion slices
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Gorgonzola, thinly sliced
4 large whole wheat hamburger buns or large kaiser rolls
Lemon Aioli, recipe follows
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and dried, stems removed

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, and rosemary. Place the mushrooms in a large re-sealable plastic bag, or a baking dish, and cover with the marinade. Marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
Prepare the grill.
Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and pat dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper, and place gill sides-down on the grill. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn. Arrange the cheese and onion slices on the gills of each mushroom and continue to cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Open the rolls and lightly toast on the grill, insides down.
Place 1 grilled mushroom inside each bun and garnish each, to taste, with aioli. Divide the watercress among the 4 buns and serve immediately.

Lemon Aioli:
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

With the back of a knife, mince the garlic, then crush. Gradually work the salt into the crushed garlic to make a paste. Place in a bowl. Whisk the eggs and lemon juice with the garlic paste and incorporate. Add the cayenne. Slowly whisk in the oil, a little at a time, until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture emulsifies. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
(Use within 24 hours.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

In a mood for Vietnamese

Vietnamese food is hot in my books these days. I can't seem to let go my desire for spicy foods despite the soaring temperatures in Manhattan. I've found that summer rolls with spicy peanut dipping sauce, noodles in vegetarian broth, grilled vegetables wih soy-chili dressing and many other Vietnamese dishes are nice and light for the summer while having just the perfect amount of spice to excite my taste buds.

Two restaurants that I've recently discovered are:

37 Union Sq W
Btwn 16th & 17th St

Bao Noodles
391 2nd Avenue
(212) 725-7770

Republic is a trendy Pan-Asian spot that has lots of options for vegetarians. The restaurant can be very noisy despite the high ceilings. It's usually packed at all hours but the open seating plan allows for a quick turn of tables so you never have to wait more than ten minutes. I usually get their veggie broth soup with noodles, different types of tofu, spinach and mushrooms. Their grilled eggplant dish is also delicious.

Bao Noodles is neighbourhood kinda place, perfect when you're in a mellow mood and just want some good food and nothing more. The flickering candles, thick wood tables (like those at a park) and hand-painted murals create a cozy atmosphere. I loved the vegetable spring rolls which had a nice kick from green chilis. My main dish was lemongrass tofu with noodles which was also yummy.

Other Vietnamese restaurants I'm looking forward to checking out this summer are Saigon Grill and Monsoon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Central Park West

Although I've lived in Manhattan for almost a year now, I haven't really taken advantage of everything that Central Park has to offer. Yesterday evening, I took the subway to 72nd street in the Upper West Side and then walked a few avenues to the park entrance on 72nd and Central Park West. I'm running the JPMorganChase Corporate Challenge next week. It's a 3.5 mile course through the park and being a first-time long-distance runner, I dilligently attended the practice run despite the 95 degree heat.

The park is definitely the shining jewel in Manhattan's crown. Once you're inside and absorbed by nature, you can totally forget about the urban grind until a fire engine's screeching reminds you that no place in the city is shielded from that deafening siren. That aside, Central Park is a dream for fitness enthusiasts, romantic couples, families to name a few. There's something for everyone from the jogging trails to the picnic meadows. I'm going to start coming here more often!

The Upper West Side seems to be a nice balance between the edginess/cool factor of downtown and the sophistication of the Upper West Side. Here you won't find investment banking millionaires and corporate tycoons but you may bump into Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams or Helen Hunt and plenty of directors, musicians and ad folks to name a few. I noticed lots of pre-war buildings and walk-up brownstones which gives the neighbourhood a certain grandeur without any pretentions. No guesses for where I'd like to live if we choose to settle down in Manhattan!

Monday, June 13, 2005

The outdoors, indoors

I miss my little Hibachi grill. Gone are the days of gorgeous Californian weather, barbecues galore and lounging on the deck till sunset. Living on the 28th floor of a typical Manhattan apartment building with no balcony to boast, I can barely get excited about grilling. But my grill pan has improved my life a little bit. Whether it's 90 degrees and sweltry or cool and perfectly calm, I count on my new best friend in the kitchen for grilled vegetable skewers, portobello mushroom burgers and a host of other barbeque delights. The only problem was that I set off the alarm bell whenever I turned the grill pan on. I've finally learnt how to keep the fire alarm in check by opening all the windows and my front door as well.

I ordered a pack of pre-made vegetable skewers from Fresh Direct a few days back. Usually, I like the to assemble the veggies myself but given the price of peppers these days, the prepared version was actually better value for money. And it came seasoned with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. It went from fridge to heated grill pan and voila, ten minutes later, grilled veggies were ready to be relished.

I also made a side using cooked brown rice, papaya, pitted black olives, red wine vinegar, EVOO, roasted slivered almonds, sea salt and freshly ground pepper served on a bed of lettuce with papaya wedges as garnish. Raghav came over for brunch. I was totally surprised that this hard core Delhiwala who likes his chickenmutton actually appreciated the vegetarian meal. It was nice catching up with him and enjoying a barbeque meal in the comfort of air conditioning!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

When you've got it, flaunt it!

Picture 4

That's my favourite line from the Broadway hit musical, The Producers to which I got a free ticket on Tuesday night. My sister-in-law had bought tickets for her family who was visiting from Bombay and were really keen on a Broadway show but she couldn't make it on the day of the musical because of work. So lucky me, I experienced theatre without going through any of the hassle associated with securing a ticket, researching the shows etc.

The only other show I've seen is Bombay Dreams so Broadway is still all new to me. In both shows, it took me at least 30 minutes to start appreciating the show and the experience itself. My first reaction seems to be one of disgust because of the melodrama, the loudness and the crassness of it all. But then when I suspend judgement and just start enjoying the spectacle, I have a really good time.

The Producers is a delightful tale of a once-famous Broadway producer who discovers through his accountant that he can actually make money by producing flops. So he and his accountant set out to find the worst story line and the worst actors to create a show which they are sure will be a mega loss. But as it turns out, their show (a riff on Hitler with a big cast of gay characters) turns out to be very successful. There's a lot more to this but that's the jist of The Producers for those wanting to see it. The acting was superb as evidenced by the long list of Tony awards that the show has won. The creativity and imagination that goes into producing such musicals is truly astounding.

My favourite character in the show is Ulla who the producer and his accountant ("the producers") hire as their secretary to help them produce their flop. She does a lovely Swedish accent that is so endearing. And she has a body and voice that had all the men AND women in the show drooling after!

Now that I've begun to enjoy Broadway, expect more musical reviews that go further than the basic story line :)

St. James Theatre
246 W. 44th Street
btw Broadway and 8th

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

London apres 11 p.m.

One aspect of London nightlife --especially if you're used to Manhattan's -- that is highly annoying is that bars close at 11 p.m. sharp. So if you attempt to eat dinner at home and then step out, you have to scurry to get to the happening places before you are denied entry.I guess the Brits start drinking right after work at 6 p.m. so the pubs need to shut at a reasonable hour to control the number of drunkards on the roads!

Last Friday night, Darshini and I reached this bar called Collection in Knightsbridge at around 10:55 p.m. and just managed to sneak in. My friend, Tiese, was running late and I thought I could flash a big smile at the bouncer and get her in. But unfortunately we had to chuck our drinks which we'd just ordered and leave when Tiese showed up around 11:15 because she was barred from entering. Needless to say I was cursing London and singing praises of Manhhattan the rest of the night.

On Saturday night, however, we were pleasantly surprised when Rutton told us that we did not have to rush through dinner (at a trendy Japanese place in SoHo called Roka). He had an annual membership to this exclusive club called Milk & Honey and that he could get us in. Cool!

I was expecting a stuffy atmosphere and an arrogant crowd but what Milk & Honey' was actually cozy and oozing a lot of warmth and the young professionals there seemed modest and easy-going. We had a nice table reserved for us and we all sat around, chatted and had a wonderful time. Our group being diverse, we had a fun and interesting conversation indeed. We talked about everything from horrible airplane trips to how Italian men like their women. Amongst us we were a Gujrati, a Parsi, an Italian, a Turk, a Spaniard, a Brit and a Tamilian. I only wish I had been able to whip up one of those jokes that made fun of each of us!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Double Decker

My favourite chocolate while I was growing up was the Double Decker made by Cadbury's. Memories of childhood came flooding back to me when I was in London last week and saw the Double Decker buses everywhere. Made me crave those absolutely delicious chocolate nougat sandwiches that my parents treated me to when I was good!

I found London to be a charming city with an edge. A nice combination of the the best of San Francisco and Manhattan. As beautiful and clean as San Francisco and as cosmopolitan and vibrant as Manhattan. There's a certain old world, deeply rooted feeling that you get in London that is missing in the U.S. cities. Though I visited all the tourist spots like Piccadilly and Leicester Square, I also got to explore smaller neighbourhoods like West Hampstead, Swiss Cottage and St. John's Wood. I experienced the busiest spots in the city and felt the energy in the air and also took in the calm and peace offered by the quieter parts of town. I'd certainly add London to the list of places I'd love to live in which now includes San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong, Dubai and Bombay.