Park Hyatt Hyderabad Unveils New Menus at Its Restaurants

After the last two dark  years for the F&B industry, things have finally started to look up. The diners have started returning to the restaurants in large numbers. We have all missed the dine-in experiences for a significant period and look forward to some exciting fares in the ensuing days.

Park Hyatt Hyderabad has really geared up to provide their guests the top-of-the class experiences for the last few years. Among the new initiatives taken post-pandemic are the revamped menu in two of the restaurants – Rika, serving oriental fare and Treforni, the Italian restaurant which is one of my most favourite places in the city.

Rika, the Pan-Asian fine dine restaurant has augmented its offerings through a new and expanded Chinese menu. This is apart from the signature oriental dishes which are already very popular. 

Chef Yozuo Han from China House at Grand Hyatt Mumbai in collaboration with Chef Krishna Rana at Rika has curated the new menu items offering about thirty delicacies. The menu has a special emphasis on authentic Chinese dishes with a little bias towards Szechuan food.

I had the opportunity to taste quite a few of the newly introduced dishes. Duck Breast with Red Green Bell Pepper was something that was extraordinary. Quick Fried Prawns Tossed in Sauce, Szechuan style Fried Fish, Mushroom laden Moon Fan Rice and Claypot Vegetarian Crispy Noodles were some other dishes I loved. Among the varieties of Dimsums served, Crystal Spicy as well as Edamame and Wasabi ones stood out. As usual, Rika has maintained its highest standards in its new menu.The food is quite different from the Indo-Chinese that is available 

Deviating a bit from the new menu, Rika is also known for its signature cocktails. Five Elements, a cocktail with Jack Daniels, vermouth and bitters is something I can wholeheartedly recommend. 

Another jewel in Park Hyatt Hyderabad’s crown is Treforni its Italian restaurant. Though the city has a handful of Italian restaurants even in the fine dine space, Treforni has always been known as a place which serves traditional food from different regions of Italy. However, this time it has come in with a new menu where a little contemporary touch is added to the traditional dishes especially in presentation.

Chef Daniele Macioce, Chef de Cuisine at the restaurant along with Executive Chef Hameed Farook are the main architects behind this menu. One highlight is the introduction of Pinsa, a handmade soft and light Rome style pizza with truffle shavings sprinkled at the table itself. Rigatoni Cacio E Pepe is augmented by Vodka flambing. Food enthusiasts love table theatrics, and many of the dishes demonstrate interesting work in this area.

My top dish from the new menu is Stinco Di Agnello (Slow cooked lamb shanks served with risotto), which scored both in presentation and taste. Cannelloni Di Parmigiano, where the pasta is stuffed with ricotta on a bed of parmesan is another dish that is not to be missed. The Bottoni iwas delightfully presented. Desserts include among others big chunks of Tiramisu as well as Crostata Di Arance (Orange Tart with chocolate and sorbet).



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A Glimpse of West Sikkim: Pelling and Kaluk

I had made close to half a dozen trips to Sikkim already and visited locations like Gangtok and surrounding places, Silk Route and Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim. But one area that I somehow missed out was West Sikkim. I had seen the Lord Shiva statue of Namchi at a distance from the Darjeeling region during the last trip in March 2021 and decided to visit it the next time. A group of traveler friends got together to make an itinerary to make the trip in March 2022 . Our focus was Pelling, a town from where one can get a terrific view of Mount Kanchenjunga.

The Kanchenjunga Range is the main attraction of West Sikkim

Pelling is a long drive of 5-6 hours from Bagdogra airport. En route we stopped at Abhinay Restaurant before Tista Bazar for lunch. The standard location for Nepali and Bengali thalis, I feel their food is losing charm over the years, though it remains a hot favourite of local drivers.

Retreat Crassula Ovata (Top) and Sunrise from Pelling Helipad

We reached Pelling, located at a height of 600 feet, quite late in the evening after a brief halt at Jorethang. Though it was a steep climb, the roads in this part of Sikkim are excellent alleviating the pain of a long car ride. The hotel where we were booked into was right on top of the town, Retreat Crassula Ovata near the helipad in Upper Sikkim.

View from hotel room (Top). You get good momos everywhere in West Sikkim

The next three days were a blast for many reasons. The topmost was of course the rooms. The hotel has four rooms in each floor, and three of them open up to a grand view of Kanchenjunga. You can see the peaks right from your beds, and the balcony offers an even better view. The helipad which is just three minutes of walk is a destination for sunrise, where you can see the mesmerizing view of sun on one side and its rays lighting up the Kanchenjunga peaks on the other. The sunrise scene kept of reminding me of Tiger Hill, where you get similar views.

Our Group

While we were tempted to stay put in our hotel just gazing at the mountains from our rooms, we also decided to go to some sightseeing “points” during our stay. Ravangla and Namchi are two towns in South Sikkim that we travelled to, and what struck me were the huge statues almost everyplace we went, Lord Buddha at Buddha Park Ravangla, Lord Shiva at Namchi Chardham, Guru Padmasambhava at Sandrupse Hills and Chenrezig at Pelling Top.

Namchi Chardham Temple

My favourite places however were the Kanchenjunga Falls and Pelling Skywalk (from where you get the best view of the Kanchenjunga range). We also came across a cute looking Treehouse Cafe on the way to Ravangla.

Thukpa at Crassula restaurant in Lower Pelling

The food at the hotel was always sumptuous and warm. Dinner and breakfast were part of the deal, and we used to wait to taste the dishes every night. Lunch usually was grabbing a quick momo here and there. On the last day, we had lunch at a restaurant in Lower Pelling run by the same management, where the thukpa here was quite good. 

One quick advice, if you are planning to book at Retreat Crassula Ovata, you have to do it much in advance, the hotel sees huge demand and is always full.

Rangit River

After Pelling, the group split, with the others proceeding to Darjeeling whereas we planned to visit Kaluk, a small hamlet 40 kms away. En route my wife went for a paragliding experience while I gazed up from the valleys. The journey was perhaps the most scenic of the trip, crossing a picturesque valley, a deep forest, Changey Falls and the town of Dentam. We had some excellent momos at a whole in the wall place on the way.

The Sleepy village of Kaluk

The twin villages of Kaluk and Rinchenpong, located at a height of 5600 ft, is starkly different from Pelling. With only around 1500 inhabitants, it is a pristine location with a clear view of the mountains all around. Our stay here was at Mandarin Village Resort, with around twenty rooms spread over a number of cottages. A plantation of organic crops like oranges, lemon and mushrooms, as well as a myriad of flowers are right inside the resort.

Our cottage in Mandarin Village Resort

Our cottage room opened up to a clear view of the mountain range with Mount Kanchenjunga right at the middle. The view could be enjoyed from our room, balcony as well as the open-air part of the restaurant. Also and you could trudge down to a view point to get a great view of mountains as well as the valley below. It is like spending couple of days totally in the nature. 

The restaurant provides a nice view of the mountain range

From the resort we climbed up to the main road (a stiff climb, but taxis are also available) and tooke a walk to the market. The small village of Kaluk-Rinchenpong is scenic at every corner. The place looked organized with a neat secondary school, but did not have too many shops (even no tea shops). Interesting notices all around from the government – The Sikkim government is quite proactive in areas like education, healthcare and human rights. We were told that most of the foodgrains etc come from towns like Jorthang and Namchi. If you are interested, you can visit Uttarey, a village at a couple of hours distance to see the Rhododendron sanctuary at Barse. Another popular place is Singshore Suspension Bridge, the highest bridge in Sikkim. 

View at sunrise from room (top). The restaurant is at an excellent location too

The best meals on this trip came courtesy the chef at Mandarin Village Resort at Kaluk. The young man was very enterprising and took the pains to source ingredients for making local dishes. The vegetarian Sikkimese thali he put together had the local basti rice, a dal which is a smaller version of lobia, Gundruk (a fermented saag) soup, Sikkimese Alu Dam and a local green leafy veg called Duku. The absolutely ravishing food had a salad with onions and gundruk, which literally "flew my sleep" and I used to hijack some of it to the room to relish as a side to drinks. 

Sikkimese Thali (Top) and Chicken cooked with Rai Saag

Another day he made us some exquisite local khichdi with the same basti rice and some very flavourful ghee (from his explanation I gathered that it is made Bilona style). Among the non-veg food I tasted, a chicken dish cooked with rai saag that was a perfect foil to hot chapathis.

Sikkimese style Khichdi

The two days spent here was idyllic, just enjoying the sun and the view and greenery around. A perfect place to laze around in the countryside where you get the true feel of Sikkim. While descending down towards Siliguri (a five hour journey), one thought that it was surprising that couple of days can make you so attached to a place. 

Locations:

Pelling: Retreat Crassula Ovata, Near Helipad, Upper Pelling, Sikkim 737113. Phone Number 95939 80537. Website: https://retreatcrassula.com/

Kaluk: Mandarin Village Resort, Kaluk Bazar, Kaluk-Rinchenpong Road, Sikkim. Phone Number 9733092230. Website: www.mandarinvillageresort.in

If you need to hire a car, we had a very enterprising driver Mr Rabin (83272 35892) driving us around. He can pick you up from Bagdogra airport on advance intimation.

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Nolen Gur: The Favourite Date Palm Jaggery of Bengal

I do not have much of a sweet tooth, and being a Bengali this has often led to a bit of ridicule from friends and family. A few of my favourites though are Jilipi (the jalebi from Bengal), Mishti Doi and Lyangcha. But on top of my charts is always the winter delicacy that you yearn for, the sweets and desserts prepared from palm date jaggery or Nolen Gur as it is known as.

Nolen Gur

The word “Nolen” means new, as the flavour of the jaggery is at its peak when it is prepared fresh during the winter months. Many districts of rural West Bengal claim to produce the best Khejur Gur (the sugarcane version called Bheli or Akhi gur is mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra). In fact some individual villages are known for the quality of their gur.

Patali Gur
Patali Gur

In December last year, I was at Santiniketan, and my little knowledge of how gur is prepared got augmented at a field off Phuldanga. Date trees lined up on one side of the field, while on the road, enthusiasts were enjoying the first output from the earthen pitchers carefully downloaded from the trees during dawn – the date juice or Khejurer Ras which is so so refreshing. It is another matter that as the day progresses this same juice left in the pitcher ferments and by noon becomes a potent alcohol to put you on a high. Just next to the person selling the ras (or juice) was a squarish earthen stove fueled by wood, where the ras was being boiled in a metal tray and gradually condensed into nolen gur. 

Date Palm Tree

                                                                        

The preparation of gur is an elaborate process. The people who are in the profession of preparing the gur go by the name of “Shiuli” in Bengal. The work of a shiuli is very tough. In the wintry evenings they climb the date tree, and place an earthen pitcher just below the branches. A gash is made on the tree to enable the sap to flow and collect in the pitcher. Then again in the wee hours of the morning, it is a climb up the dew moist slippery tree to collect the pitcher and carefully bring it down. The process of making the date jaggery starts from there. The sap condenses into liquid nolen gur on a wooden fire, and some part of that is further made into hard Patali (or hard chunks). 

Nolen Gur stall

                                                                            

Many Bengali households buy large quantities in winter to last a few months where they can use these for their many desserts like payesh, patisapta, and sandesh. However, the gur progressively loses its flavour over time and very few varieties retain much of it even after a year. There is another version of date jaggery known as “Jiren Gur” where the sap is collected from the tree after a gap (or rest) for a few days.

The gur made in the villages is sold in the local markets, and some of the better ones make their way to the wholesalers in district towns and cities. In North Kolkata there are large wholesalers (known in Bengal as “gurer arat”) where you can find the finest nolen and patali from different districts of Bengal. Some of them also supply these to large customers like sweet shops all over India and even parts of the world.

Srimanta Gurer Arat, a 200 year old wholesale outlet in Sovabazar

Couple of years back, my blogger friend Indrajit Lahiri had taken me to a 200-year old shop in Shovabazar Gur Patti known as Srimantar Gurer Arat where I was privy to getting educated about different varieties of gur and their favours.  The shop gets different varieties of gur from all over Bengal and supplies to clients in India and abroad (including Hyderabad’s own Delhi Mithaiwala and Dadus). They had invited Indrajit for a briefing on an overview of their trade and I had tagged along. Subrata Mitra, a young food lover who organized this visit, was also with us.

The knowledge that we could acquire about the various types of Nolen gur from many districts of Bengal was simply phenomenal (though it must only be tip of an iceberg). The best nolen gur as per the current owner Mr Tanmay Bera (great grandson of Late Srinath Chandra Bera who founded the shop) is not from Joynagar in South 24-Parganas as we all know, but from Majhdia near Krishnanagar and from Gede close to Bangladesh border. We were also told that more dark the colour in the gur, better is the quality, and the best patali gur these days are from Jalangi in Murshidabad. 

The smaller cup shaped patali gur is called Muchi Patali whereas the thali shaped ones are called Thala Patali. There is also tinned patali gur. It seems the best sweet shops use nolen gur to make their sweets, whereas the more economical ones use a mix of nolen and patali. I have never seen so much gur in my life, stacked up by their origin location, density and quality. As per them, there is often adulteration with sugar which makes the patali harder. Good patali will be of a soft texture.

Indrajit has captured the details in a nice video. You can watch it here for much more detailed information. 

                                                                           

Newer interesting packaging of nolen gur are making it more user-friendly. Biswa Bangla, the West Bengal government initiative and some private suppliers now supply small quantities in user-friendly tubes, where you can just push out the gur with an ease.

Nolen Gur Wholesaler
With the owners of Srimanta Gurer Arat

The use of nolen gur is not just restricted to traditional Bengali sweets. There are many innovative and experimental recipes where the gur is used in preparing a whole range of food, including even cocktails and ice creams. More about it in another post in the near future. 

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Four Cloud Kitchens to Order Food From in Hyderabad

The Cloud Kitchen concept has matured over time, and now you have many entrepreneurs adopting this model for food and beverages. Here in Hyderabad, we have quite a few delivery only setups, some with ultra-modern facilities, giving us a chance to experience diverse cuisines. Cloud kitchen and home chefs are subjects very close to my heart, as I believe less capital intensive models of food business can lead to a whole crop of successful small entrepreneurs and self-employed persons. As I keep on tracking the cloud kitchen scene in the city, here are a few that caught my eyes in recent times.

Delivered Dishes from Arancini

Food from Telangana kitchens have always been a matter of much debate. I find a lot of pundits claiming that the differences between Telangana and Andhra food are minimal. However, others rightly opine that Telangana cuisine itself is diverse with lots of difference even between foods of different districts. More about that possibly in a different post. Here I want to talk about Telangana Vindu (Call 9494024345) , a cloud kitchen in Begumpet offering traditional food from Karimnagar in particular.

Food From Telangana Vindu

The person behind this kitchen, Malathi Rao is from Karimnagar, and she uses her home recipes to rustle up some really tasty stuff. The Karimnagar style Mutton Curry is spicy (You can ask her to play down the chillies, but I prefer it this way) but there was a nice santolan (balance) in the masalas, and this went famously with some flavour rich Bagara Rice she prepared. The Gudla Pulusu (egg curry) was par for the course, and the slightly dry Kheema (with kalejis and nalli) was unputdownable. Really enjoyed the meal, as well as the traditional presentation in earthenware and saal leaves.


Gudla Pulusu (Top) and Kheema

They also do Natu Kodi, Jonna Rote, Fish and Prawns. Will try more dishes from their stable soon. Good to see local cloud kitchens offering Telangana food, as most of the restaurants shy away from doing it.

Grilled Chicken in Pepper Sauce (Arancini)

There are not too many cloud kitchen dishing out continental fare, and Arancini (Call 7702461100) steps in to fill that gap in the market. The new European cloud kitchen is part of Jus'Gourmet, who are known for their other brands The Indiway and Penang. The stuff they do is extremely interesting. Grilled Chicken in Pepper Sauce (served with mashed potatoes) is the dish which I would wholeheartedly recommend, both as the chicken was finished to the correct texture and the sauce tasted rich and nice.

House Special Pizza (Top) and Blueberry Cheesecake

D Chopra Salad (strange name but the mixed veg salad is very fresh and tasty) with an array of vegetables in it. Blueberry Cheesecake, Sourdough House Special Pizza, Chicken Hot Dog and Lasagne were all very very impressive. If you have a sweet tooth go for their Walnut Brownie. They have quite a diverse menu to choose from, and from the crop I tasted I feel they will do a good job in most of them.

Being in Hyderabad, how can we have cloud kitchens not offering biryani as the signature dish? Love with Biryani introduces a good choice in biryanis, Andhra Pulavs (which are also called biryanis in this city) and other dishes that can be ordered from your homes all over Hyderabad. 

Chicken Dum Biryani

In the preview pack they sent across, the packaging is one of the best I have seen from delivery-only brands. Prawn Ghee Roast Biryani was the one I liked the best among the three biryanis sent, the others being Chicken Dum Biryani and Gongura Mamsam Biryani. Another dish I would recommend from them is Kachi Mirchi Ka Murgh. They also do kababs, Peshawari Murgh, the one I sampled was par for the course.

Kali Mirch Ka Murgh (Top) and Peshawri Murgh

If you are a fan of grilled chicken, look no further. Nitrogrill (Call 8008968272) at Somajiguda is offering some real tender and juicy Nitro Grilled Chicken based on their original recipe, and augmented by the outstanding flavours of their two proprietary sauces - Nitro Sauce and Cheesy Sauce. You can opt for sides such as Saffron Rice, Coleslaw and Large Fries to make it a complete meal. A highlight of the dishes is the very little amount of oil used for their preparation. Again here, both the quality of the chicken and sauce were praiseworthy.

Nitro Grill Chicken

The cloud kitchen has its own site nitrogrill.in from where the dishes can be ordered. The stuff comes in neat biodegradable packaging which is microwaveable. They also offer some delicious Chocolate Mousse which can be ordered alongside.

Chocolate Mousse


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