Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Street Food Festival at Dining Room, Park Hyatt

I had a chance to visit the Dining Room at Park Hyatt yet again, but this time sporting a completely new avatar. They were hosting the street food of the world festival and had put together a menu of some of the Asian favorites.

The day we visited, the festival highlighted street food dishes from India (Mumbai & Goa), Tibet, Thai and Indonesia. Unlike my earlier experiences at multiple street food festivals, this one kept the flavors authentic and the food ended up being lip smacking.

I loved the thickness and consistency of the Laksa soup (loaded with chicken and prawns) and the banana roti's (easily joined the league of my favourite banana based desserts with Banoffee pie being its only comparable peer). The Indian street food on the other hand did complete justice and felt as close as their counterparts in Mumbai/Goa.

A Glimpse at the offerings from the Street Food Counters

And, here are the highlights from their regular buffet spread

Their regular buffet spread had a decent spread, but nailed most of the dishes. Here I loved the methi malai murgh, potato au gratin and the narghisi kofta biryani. 

The festival promotional menu was priced at INR 1600 per person excluding taxes. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trident, Udaipur

We stayed here on the last day of our trip to Udaipur. After having decided not to over spend on palace hotels, this was our attempt to experience a lake-side, yet relatively affordable luxury stay. (I am sure that's a lot of oxymorons together)

Hotel Category - Five Star
Location - Udaipur
The Oberoi Group (of which Trident is a part) is known for endearing hospitality and this was evident not only from the care and affection extended by the front office staff, but also the pleasant surprise they had waiting for us when we entered the room after a small site seeing; they took the cue from our discussion during checkin when we mentioned we were here as part of our honeymoon and had the room decorated with baloons and a heart shaped creating using bath towels, To top that, they had a delectable chocolate cake ready to be sliced. 

Mr. Mahi from the front office, his deputy and the F&B manager require special mention for making our stay a very comfortable one. They also extended their support in suggesting places to visit and restaurants to try in the city during our stay here. 

Room and Facilities
It's a large commercial hotel with over 137 rooms. What this also means is, there are going to be a lot of people buzzing around and this hotel might not be the best option if you are looking for a quaint and private space. 

Our room had a brilliant lake view, but when I look back I tend to think wasn't the lake a distant mile away from the room? Is that worth the premium I paid? Also, the room was compact sized and comparable to a business class hotel you find in Tier I cities. 

For the positives, the room had flawless hygiene and had good quality bathroom essentials. 

The hotel shares its compound with the ultra premium Oberoi Udai Vilas and is easily accessible when in the city limits. 

We had only their buffet breakfast and it was easily the best breakfast we had during the trip. While there may have been a few failed dishes, the lavish spread made up for it. 

On a summary note, the hotel has everything going in it's favor if you are looking for a commercial/quasi business class hotel. While the same may not be the recommendation if you are in the city for a holiday, their outstanding hospitality is BIG enough reason to revisit. 

P.S - used my Citibank premiermiles credit card points to part fund the room booking cost. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Best Places in Chennai to Have Dal Makhani

If you are you a fan of rich and sinful Dal Makhani (mixed lentil curry), here are the best places in Chennai to have it.

1. Peshawari, ITC Grand Chola

The dish is called 'Dal Bukhara' at Peshawari, which is the flagship restaurant of the ITC Group. While this might be an expensive affair, the creamy and rich flavor sets it apart. 

Pricing - Very Expensive - INR 795 per portion

Other Dishes to Try:
They have a brief menu and almost every dish is spot on. While their kebabs are succulent and a treat to your palate, the main course is equally good. 

2. The Great Kebab Factory, Radisson

The restaurant operates on a sit down buffet model and the dal makhani is a part of this course.

Pricing - Very Expensive 

Other Dishes to Try:
Big fan of their lamb galouti kebab; it is easily among the best places to have it. Not the place to overdo the starters as their main course and desserts are equally good. 

3. Zaica

This is the restaurant that introduced me to the world of Dal Makhani. The dish is called 'Dal Peshawari' and is a signature dish of the restaurant. I have always had it as a part of their sit down buffet, but they also have an a la carte menu. 

Pricing - Moderate - INR 230 per portion

Other dishes to Try:
Their sit down buffet is a great value for money and I love the veg kebabs that are served as part of it. Their desserts include hot jalebis and jamuns which are reasonably good. 

4. Pakwan

The dish is called 'Dal Pakwan' at this newly opened vegetarian restaurant. 

Pricing - Moderate - INR 230 per portion

Other Dishes to Try:
They have an extensive menu which includes a lot of fusion food. My personal favourites are: palak kurkure chat, paneer dum anari (starter), kekhsan (main course) and shahi tukda (dessert). 

5. Salt

A restaurant that I frequent for a few of their other delectable dishes but end up ordering the dal makhani almost every time. Their dal makhani goes by the name 'House Black Dal'

Pricing - Moderate - INR 265 per portion

Other Dishes to Try: 
When describing the food at salt, I would always start with the dessert first. My staple order here is their Elaneer Payasam which is the best you would find in budget restaurants across the city (I am told Southern Spice at Taj is another good place to have it, but yet to try given the luxury factor). Egg biriyani is another staple order; while I don't order egg biriyani usually at restaurants, Salt is one place I would recommend trying if you ever want to (even-though recently it hasn't been inconsistent). 

This is my top five, lets hear your views and recommendations in the comments section.

P.s - Few of the images were taken from google and others are from my visits to these restaurants. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ramada Resort & Spa, Udaipur

We stayed here on our first day in Udaipur. We chose this hotel based on the pricing and pictures/reviews on Tripadvisor. On arrival, we were given an option to choose for a room upgrade to the premium category for INR. 1500 - which we were happy to opt for. 

Hotel Category - 5 Star (Resort)
Location - Udaipur


This is a hill-side property located at Rampura Circle. While I may not be the best judge for commenting on the locality, the hotel is ticked away from the busy lake-side localities - which are preferred locations to stay for tourists. 

Room & Facilities 
It was a twin room designed in a ground plus one model; we occupied the one on the ground floor. The room was reasonably large sized (something that might be otherwise rare in a crowded travel city like Udaipur) and had a great visual appeal - could not decide whether it looked better in day or night. 

But that said, the hotel maintenance was below par. Our issues ranged included: broken bathroom flush, dis-functional telephone (this is a big no for a property where the lobby is a kilometer from the room), stained bathtubs, etc. 

Their other facilities included spa, swimming pool, few indoor games, a fully functional pub, etc. Specifically referring to the pool facility, they have two options - one central pool accessible to all customers and other being a private one which had a paid entry. 

Our dining here was restricted to the complimentary breakfast. The spread was decent and food just above average, 

The service was patchy. While they attended to most requests instantly, our efforts to get the telephone fixed went unanswered - despite informing twice. 

On a summary note, this is a good resort if you are looking to spend time with family and relax. That said, they need to maintain the place better; which is an essential for five star properties. 

My rating for the hotel is 6/10. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Essentials for a Luxury Vacation to the City of Lakes - Udaipur

If you are planning your travel to Udaipur there are several questions you would like to ask yourself. To make your job simple here are some struggles I went through in making the plans:

1. How many days?
Well, everybody you speak to or every place you research would tell you that you don't need more than 3 or 4 days to fully cover Udaipur. 

While that might make sense if your target is only to cover the city, visiting nearby places of interest (Ranakpur, Kumbalgarh, Mount Abu and Chittorgarh) could make your trip a longer one.

An ideal vacation would be for 3 to 4 days if you are looking to get a comprehensive feel of the city and its culture and a day or two each for all nearby places of interest. 

2. Where to stay? 
The biggest question one needs to answer is the kind of vacation they plan to have. Especially given that Udaipur has some of the country's most premium hotels - it might be worth considering them:

Ultra Luxury Hotels (priced INR 40-60k per day range)
a. Oberoi Udai Vilas
b. Taj Lake Palace - Heritage hotel located in the middle of Lake Pichola; there are no options to even dine here unless your staying with them)
c. Leela Palace 

Other Luxury Hotels (priced in INR 10-25k per day range)
a. Trident (part of Oberoi group)
b. Fateh Prakash Palace
c. Lakeend
d. Lalit Lakshmi Vilas
e. Shiv Niwas Palace

Other Hotels - Just search on trip advisor and you would find a decent number of options across all price segments. Interestingly, the city has palace styled hotels in all price segments.

3. How to get here?
For travelers from Chennai - it is likely that you would have to stop over at Mumbai/Delhi if you chose to fly.

Not discussing train routes here as I am no authority on the same.

In my next few posts, would talk about my experiences - hotel stays, places visited and dining sessions; stay tuned for more