Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Do Piaza in Aundh

Do Piaza in Aundh
(food review – Seasons, Aundh, Pune)
Vikram Karve

Last Saturday I was invited for a party in the new Seasons Hotel at Aundh in Pune. It was a cozy get-together in the lovely banquet hall on the first floor, and as we headed for the buffet table I was delighted to find Gosht (Mutton) Do Piaza on the menu.

If you want a first impression of a restaurant that serves Mughlai cuisine order a “Do Piaza” and it will give you an idea of the standard of Mughlai food you can expect there. Indeed Do Piaza may be considered the benchmark to assess and evaluate a Mughlai restaurant.

Do Piaza means “two onions’ or rather double onions. Legend has it that this delicious dish was invented by Mullah Do-Piaza the renowned and celebrated cook at the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court. One of the Navratnas (nine jewels), it is said he could conjure up culinary delights using only two onions, and cooked in that particular style is called Gosht Do Piaza.

Water is not used at all when cooking a Do Piaza. Onions are used twice – hence the name “Do” or “Two” Piaza.

First marinate the Gosht or meat (Mutton or Chicken, though a true Do Piaza is of Mutton) thoroughly in spices and curds.

The marinated meat is then liberally layered with onion rings, the vessel covered with a tight lid, and the meat allowed to cook in its own juices and those released by the onions on a slow fire, till the onions are reduced to pulp. ( the“first’ piaza).

In another pan, fry sliced onions (the “second” piaza) till crisp brown with ginger, garlic, bay leaf and add tomatoes, stir, and when reduced to a pulp, add the cooked meat in onion rings from the first pot, and stir fry till well browned and the gravy thick, squeeze a lemon, garnish with coriander and your Gosht Do Piaza is ready. Remember, don’t add water at any stage or you will ruin the dish.

Now back to the Gosht Do Piaza I ate at Seasons. It looked good – nicely browned generous pieces of succulent mutton, in translucent juicy onion rings in a scrumptious gravy. It smelt good too – the mouthwatering aroma wafting towards me. It tasted even better – absolutely delicious, not spicy hot, the unique sweetish zest of onions discernible, as the heavenly medley of flavors and fragrances synergized inside me. Relished with soft tandoori roti, it was sheer bliss.

The other dishes were good too. Especially the grilled fish in lemon sauce and mint potatoes, the paneer masala and the Dum Aloo. (The dessert comprising Gulab Jamuns and whipped cream was out of place – a kulfi or falooda would have been ideal after the do piaza).

I shall always cherish the cozy evening and memorable dinner in excellent company and wonderful ambience. The delectable juicy taste of the superb Gosht Do Piaza will linger within me for a long long time and my mouth will always water in anticipation every time I pass by the Seasons Hotel on my evening walks in Aundh.



Friday, August 25, 2006

Food walk - Kerala Cuisine in the heart of Mumbai


(Food review by Vikram Karve)

If you happen to be in Fort area of Mumbai, are famished and hungry for a sumptuous lunch, and in a mood for Kerala cuisine, try Fountain Plaza. There a number of eateries who derive their names from the erstwhile Flora Fountain (now Hutatma Chowk) and I’m not referring to the more famous Fountain Restaurant opposite HSBC Bank which is a Sizzler and Steak place, or Fountain Inn, the Mangalorean seafood eatery in Nanabhai Lane. I am referring to Hotel Fountain Plaza, on RD Street off DN Road, near Handloom House next to Eastern Watch Company, my favorite Kerala Cuisine restaurant in south Mumbai.

There is plenty to choose from – Fish, Chicken and Mutton, not much a choice for vegetarians, except in the snacks department, which you can try at “Tiffin Time” in the evenings.

To start off, I like the Fish Curry in white coconut gravy with Malabari Paratha (Parota) with a fried Pomfret on the side. I pop a piece of the succulent fish on my tongue, followed by a generously soaked portion of the soft paratha in the delicious rich gravy, close my eyes, and press the juicy food between my tongue and palate. Never bite, just press the tongue upwards against your palate and savor the heavenly taste as the fish disintegrates releasing the delicious juices and spicy flavor.

Next I order a Chicken Korma ( the Chicken Stew is good too) with Appams and then have my favorite Malabari style Mutton Biryani.

There are a large number of dishes on the menu including Chinese and “Mughlai”, but at Fountain Plaza it’s better to focus on Kerala Cuisine.

If you are heading home in the evening, stop by for tiffin, and enjoy an evening ‘banana based’ snack like banana roast, banana fry, banana bonda etc which are the specialty of the place with a cup of tea or coffee.

I like Fountain Plaza. A no-nonsense Spartan eatery. Mouthwatering food. Nourishing snacks. Lip smacking gravies. Satiating meals. Value For Money eating.

Next time you are in Fort, Mumbai, give the place a try, and let me know if you liked it.