Friday, January 9, 2015

The Top Flavours of 2014

Now that the Christmas cooking madness is behind us, I've had a bit of time to sit down and think about all the lovely experiences I had when eating out last year. I have a lot of old favourites that I can go on and on about, but instead, let's talk about some new discoveries. I thought back to all the 'aha' moments from last year, when a new dish and an amazing flavour surprised, and then became an instant favourite. If only I could take all of those favourite dishes and put them together in one place, here's what my ideal meal of 2014 would look like.

Soup
Mushroom Tea at Masala Library: I went to Masala Library expected to be blown away and possibly because of that, the actual experience came out as just above average. But some dishes stood out; the most quirky of them being this mushroom soup. First you get served an empty tea cup to which the servers add dried mushrooms (looks like tea leaves) and white truffle oil powder (looks like creamer). The mushroom consommé is then poured over to complete a soup with a rich, intense flavour.

Moving on to appetizers
Dosa at MTR, Bangalore: In one of my trips to Bangalore last year, I discovered the original MTR in Lalbaug. It's nothing fancy, there aren't even any menus and the place still gets a queue several miles long every meal time. I had a bit of a language barrier but once I explained that I wanted a plain dosa (and not the standard masala dosa stuffed with potatoes), there came a crepe rich with ghee and a chutney that was a perfect match. No sambar gets served with dosa here so you might have to also order an idli sambar.

Rosemary Truffle Fries at Woodside Inn: This place is an old Bombay institution but I only discovered their paper cone full of these fabulous fries this year.

And to drink
Butterscotch Macadamia Shake at Jamjar Diner: This cute little diner in Versova has so many good food options and an ambience that will make you smile. They also serve all drinks in jam jars, and this milkshake filled with caramel notes is the best jar of all.

I couldn't decide between the top picks for the main course so you get two choices.

Khowsuey at Busago: I first tasted khowsuey a few years back but I only became truly aware of this Burmese curry this year. I actually had two fanstastic khowsuey experiences in 2014 but I am going to put Busago ahead of Burma Burma, just because the latter is so hard to get into. Busago also delivers their khowsuey, complete with all the crispy toppings, so that's just an added bonus.

Dal Khichdi at Spare Kitchen: Both times I've been there, I look at all the options in Spare Kitchen - the curries, pastas, baked dishes, pizzas - and then order dal khichdi. Soupy, buttery and full of vegetables, this has to be one of the best comfort foods in this world. And although it's not a restaurant, I am going to recommend that you pair the khichdi with Dahivada from Annapurna. If you have lived in Bombay for any length of time, you must be already aware of Gujarati snack shops that sell khakhras and other random snacks. Annapurna on Bandra's 16th Road has the added advantage of an in-house kitchen where they make these 'healthy for you' steamed dahivadas. I am bit of a dahivada nazi and Annapurna's version hits all the right spots - the dumplings aren't too soft or too hard or too watery, the curd is just the right amount of sweet and spicy and they even get the yogurt to dumpling ratio right.

Time now for Dessert and there were two clear winners:

Millefeuille at La Folie: Crunchy layers of pastry interspersed with flavourful cream, it's the classic French dessert at its best.

Paan Kulfi at Pali Bhavan: It's been months and none of my dining partners can stop talking about this dessert. Pali Bhavan's paan flavoured kulfi comes wrapped in betel leaves, so you can hold up the tiny triangles like a real paan. It's unique, refreshing and the perfect end to a meal.

But as a bonus, let's talk about a brunch dish that's been on my mind a lot this year. Ellipsis makes its french toast by dipping brioche bread in pancake batter. This pancake-French Toast hybrid comes with enough maple syrup to drown the bread in. But I hesitate to put it on my top list because of how expensive it is. No matter how good, you will end up being amazed, instead, at how much you paid for what was essentially one slice of bread. So I am going to try and recreate this one at home. The rest of the meal - go out and enjoy!

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