Din Tai Fung. A Hong Kong institution

We are a complicated family.

Food-wise, that is.

Husband is a carnivore who is allergic to seafood.

Daughter is vegetarian.

I am a piscatarian.

Thank God for our omnivorous son.

So finding a restaurant that suits us all is not always the proverbial piece of cake.

With this in mind, my review of Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay may well seem to be of the “on the one hand…while on the other hand…” variety.

Everyone we spoke to recommended Din Tai Fung with great enthusiasm, and as a dining experience it was fabulous.  Hardly surprising, given that the Causeway Bay branch of this famous chain gained a Michelin star a few years ago.

The original Din Tai Fung started in Taiwan, specialising in xiaolongbao (small steamed buns) and now runs to many restaurants all over the world.

Situated in a nondescript office block in busy Causeway Bay, you cannot make a reservation for this cafeteria-looking place, so you wait outside with crowds of diners. Watching what goes on in the glass-walled kitchen helps pass the time :


The menu (with photos of the food) is brought to you, as well as an order pad, and you write down the number and quantities of the dishes you want.



The staff who co-ordinate this waiting and ordering outside the restaurant all speak good English and explain the process and the menu to you.  Our waitress was charming, and came back to tell us that many of the greens that we 2 veggies had ordered were cooked in a meat based stock, so should she order them without sauce for us.  Yes, of course, we said, which was fine for our principles, but – the truth be told – made for pretty dull eating.

We didn’t have to wait too long, and once inside, the staff couldn’t have been nicer, and though the service is brisk and efficient, with the food coming out promptly, I never felt that we were being hurried along.



So, the food.

The meat-eaters loved their choice, though they both said with hindsight that they would not order the drunken chicken next time :


Drunken chicken, above, and the trademark xiaolongbao, below.  The pork ones were voted the best.


We had vegetarian dumplings which were OK, but nothing to write home about, to be honest :


I found them a tad too large to eat comfortably, which meant the mushroom filling fell out…or perhaps I am just a messy eater and/or inept with chopsticks.

Now for the greens…nice, especially the preserved vegetables (below) which were delicious, but overall nothing but greens was a bit samey and unexciting as our meal.  These greens are plainly meant to accompany, not serve as the main event, which is fair enough.



So ?

As I said at the outset, it was a case of “on the one hand, but…” in as much as the whole experience was great, and the meat eaters loved their food.  But as a vegetarian, I would have to say, sorry, no.



Yak cheese heaven in Leh

We had been told that Gesmo’s is THE place in Leh for yak cheese, so 9 of us duly headed there for dinner one night.
Gesmo’s is one of those brilliant, typical hill-country places, serving casual food and selling bread and amazing looking pastries, and filled with an eclectic mix of clients – read young vaguely-hippy foreigners galore, and a few Indians (our party) – and with great fast, efficient service.
Within seconds of our arrival, on a busy July evening, 2 French guests had been seamlessly moved from one table to another, the back door had been closed to make more space, and 2 large tables pushed together to accommodate our group.

Our young Ladakhi waiter was one of the most polished I have met anywhere, with flawless English and a nice line in gentle put-me-downs.



The yak cheese pizzas were delicious, large, very filling, but (if I am being 100% honest) I wouldn’t have known it was yak cheese – as in there was no distinctive taste other than nice, tangy cheese.


The thukpa was declared delicious –  and again, look at the generous serving :


And this (Israeli?) dish – below – that hubby dearest and another friend ate was apparently good but oh-so-filling, they said.  You really cannot complain about portion sizes at Gesmo:




Nice casual, relaxed place.

And they also sell yak cheese, as well as serving it in all its avatars, so all in all –  Gesmo is pretty much yak cheese heaven.


We paid our own bill (Rs2000 for 9…not bad)

I didn’t tell them I blogged or reviewed restaurants.


A good shopping & eating combo in Leh, India

I mentioned in a review posted earlier today of a restaurant called “Bon Appétit” in Ladakh’s capital Leh, that this little city’s eating and shopping profile has changed hugely over the 4 years since my previous visit.

Another great discovery on my trip earlier this month was the Open Hand Espresso Bar & Bistro.  In fact, this was a double discovery because once I had ooh-ed and aah-ed myself silly in Open Hand, I then discovered that there are outlets in Delhi, where I live, and that as a concept, Open Hand has been around since 1999.

Travel really does broaden the mind, in more ways than one…

So, we went for lunch at Open Hand, 6 of us, and the food met with everyone’s satisfaction.

So, food first (and curiously, I can’t find our bill, so forgive me in advance for this).  Rather foolishly, I didn’t choose a salad -mainly because I felt like soup, which was delish, so no complaints there –  but these salads looked perfect.  I helped myself to the feta from hubby’s salad, and it was as creamy as you could wish.

So, big thumbs up for fresh, crisp salads and creamy feta cheese at 3500 meters – Leh, you really are astonishing.




Gita had this veg fried rice dish (below) which she said was OK, but not rave-worthy:


My veg soup (below) was, as I said, delicious, filling, and just what the doctor ordered – though if I am allowed a quibble, I would’ve expected better bread than sliced white.


I was in need of a caffeine fix, and this espresso milk shake did the trick


Now, not only is Open Hand a café, complete with loungers in the sun, and ‘firangs” a-plenty checking their email and sipping coffee, it is also a fair trade kind of shop, which I enjoyed pottering around :



You can shop from all over India…




…or closer to home, from the Himalayas…


and you can support any number of good causes


This was a clean, relaxing place to spend a few hours.

Good food.

Wifi (though s-l-o-w, but hey, it was free) and a nice vibe.

We paid our own bill, and I did not tell the staff that I write reviews and run 3 blogs.

Next time, I will head there for breakfast and coffee, though 2 of our party tried that one day, just as a coach party of the ubiquitous Leh summer visitor foreigners rocked up.  Apparently the Open Hand staff were very sweet and told our friends that it would probably be better if they tried elsewhere, since there was bound to be a long wait otherwise –  a refreshingly honest approach.


Recommended restaurant in Leh? Bon Appetit

My recent trip to Ladakh was a delight on so many fronts.

Not only is this a super fabulous part of the world, with heavenly landscapes and lovely people, Ladakh will now forever be the place where I climbed my first “proper” mountain.
I was last in Ladakh in 2009, also on a trekking trip but boy, have things changed in 4 years. Not so much in the mountains and villages, to be honest, but in Leh, the capital, the changes are amazing. There are many more hotels, shops, internet cafes, and eating places than 4 years ago (many more cars, too, inevitably) but the great thing this time was that we actively ate well, as opposed to just eating. If you get my meaning.

One of the highlights of my time in Leh, on the eating front, was lunch at the appropriately named “Bon Appetit”.

It was a revelation.


Gorgeous location, with views to die for.




Lovely open airy spaces, both indoors and out.





Great service. And the food…

My dears, the food.



Perfectly al dente pasta –  my spot on choice for lunch (below) – loved the clover garnish.


Delicious rocket salad.


Equally deliciously presented and tasting pizzas.

Great cold coffee.


We were a party of 6, and everyone declared their meal/beverage to be a winner


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Below is the outdoor tandoori & kebab area, as well as the pretty aromatic herb garden through which you access the restaurant, which seemed much more Provençal than Ladakhi.  But gorgeous nonetheless.



 Personally and enthusiastically recommended.

We paid our bill, and I did not tell anyone at the restaurant that I blog and review.

The Potbelly restaurant in Delhi’s Shahpurjat village

If you haven’t already been to Shahpurjat, one of Delhi’s many urban villages, you need to do so pretty pronto, for this is a village that is changing rapidly, before one’s very eyes.

From being pretty unknown and off the beaten track just a few years ago, it is now buzzing with activity and (rather sadly) demolition crews, eagerly ripping down quaint old structures to squeeze in yet another boutique.

There is a perfect way of seeing this village, by taking a guided tour – check out my review of one such walking tour in this blog.

There are shops, boutiques and eateries galore in Shahpurjat, but by far the best food I have had so far in the village was on a recent trip to the cutely named “The Potbelly” with my friend Sonam Dubal.

You need to ask directions the first time you go, for The Potbelly is squeezed into a narrow building and up many flights of stairs, but when you get there –  what a treat.

A lovely treetop perspective of the village:


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It is a pretty, light, airy little eatery with almost a beach-y feel to it (if that makes any sense in Delhi):

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Now for the main event, the food.

Whilst we chose our lunch, we demolished the attractively presented pakora basket:

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It’s always fun discovering dishes you don’t know, and this Bihari-based menu had plenty of those.

Sonam had the chicken stew which he pronounced delicious :

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I had the Ranchi ka pulao (I’m veg) and it was great.  A completely different taste to a “normal” pulao and I loved the presentation:

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Totally unpretentious with sweet staff.


We paid our own bill and I did not tell the staff that I write reviews.











Thirty-Nine, Hauz Khas Village

On the recommendation of our children who both work in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village – known as HKV to the cognoscenti –  I went to the cryptically named Thirty-Nine for lunch recently with my friend Asha Framji.

We were the only 2 people eating there, one hot summer lunchtime, though I am told it is packed in the evenings. I can well believe it, since it is a great location, beautifully designed and done up, and with sweet service.  Our waiter was a tad vague, but I suspect he was shiny new on the job, but he couldn’t have been sweeter.

The restaurant is roomy, and is spread over 2 floors, and has the feel of an Olde Worlde English club.  And it works in a cute way.

Comfortable leather settees, with a suitably distressed appearance.

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Rugs, throw, fake fireplace and lots of olde worlde looking artefacts, but it all manages not to look kitschy:

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And now for the main event, the food.

Salsa dip to start while we decided what to order:

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Asha had mulligatawny soup, which she pronounced very good

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and a grilled cheese and tomato stack which she was less impressed by.  Said it was all a bit bland and ordinary, but we did demolish the French fries between us :

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My sun dried tomato and artichoke salad was excellent and the asparagus were cooked perfectly.  Al dente, and so crisp and delicious :

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So far all good.

The only snafu was when Asha took the lift down, while I went to the bathrooms (nice and clean) –  the lift jammed, and there was no mobile signal in it.  Luckily since it has glass doors, someone spotted her mid-floors and helped her out.

That needs to be dealt with.

So, as I then walked down in the absence of a lift, guess what I spotted?  This sign at the bottom of the stairs, which explained everything about the décor :

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But we had already figured it all out, pretty much.

Prices were reasonable, especially for HKV.


Cute place.


Where to have a round-the-world breakfast in Delhi?

In Baywatch in the WelcomHotel Sheraton, New Delhi, that’s where.

Located in Saket, right near the malls, the ground floor coffee shop of this business hotel is currently offering the world on your breakfast plate.  I was invited to experience this buffet along with a fellow blogger, traveling companion and young friend, Charis, who runs an excellent food-centric blog.

A leisurely 2 hour breakfast, much of it in the company of the charming, knowledgeable chef Neha, was a great way to ease into the weekend.

Being a complete caffeine addict I stuck –  somewhat unadventurously, I admit it – to coffee, and had a very acceptable cappuccino :

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Charis, however, got into the spirit of things and had a cup of “cutting chai”:

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Love love love the coloured glasses.  So much prettier than the usual clear (and probably smeary version) you see in the street.


Our round the world over breakfast tour started in Japan, and we were treated to miso soup, grilled salted fish, sticky rice and a delicate Japanese omelette :

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I enjoyed this selection, though the fish was perhaps a weeny bit dry, but the miso soup was delicious.  Felt odd having soup for breakfast, but this was not meant to be a conventional breakfast, now, was it?

The next stop was Sri Lanka, with dodol and beef curry.  I skipped this, since I do not eat meat.  Correction, I skipped this, and then shamelessly shared Charis’s gravy –  the sauce of the curry was utterly, utterly divine.  Since my not eating meat is nothing to do with religion, I had no hesitation in depriving my companion of the sauce. It was too good.  Probably my favourite thing on the menu, if the truth be known :

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There was a piquancy and peppiness in the sauce that was fabulous.  On a personal level, it showed me how far I have wandered from my own cultural roots that I could find a spicy curry so delicious for breakfast.

From Sri Lanka we moved onto China, and were served delightful un-stodgy “bao” :

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I have eaten many a “bao” or steamed dumpling, over many years of traveling in China, and these were some of the nest I have ever eaten.

Firstly, they were small and bite-sized, as opposed to the usual large, difficult-to-manoeuvre ones I have eaten in the past.  Also, they were less stodgy tasting – perhaps a factor of their smaller size.  And because they were small, the filling didn’t fall inelegantly out.

Charis had pork bao and I had vegetable, and mine were delicious.  The accompanying bean sauce was seriously fab.  And, for the first time ever, I liked congee.

So all in all, an eye-opener.

The bean sauce (below):

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And the congee:

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From China, we flitted over to Spain, for a tasting of Spanish tortilla :

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These were generously filled with olives and tomatoes and peppers, and were tasty.

We stayed with the Latin tradition, and next tasted Mexican “chilaquiles” –  salsa poured over  crisp tortilla triangles, and the whole topped with cheese and a fried egg :

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An interesting mix, and the crispness of the tortillas was unexpected and nice.  I had imagined they would go soggy with the cooking and the egg, but no.

England and Lebanon were next on the menu, both offering sweets.

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I am not a sweet eater at all –  well, I used to be, hugely so, until the need to trim the flab became pressing and so for –  what? –  some 3 or 4 years now I haven’t tasted a pudding or a cake.

Not even birthday cake.

So I surprised myself by taking a bite of the Lebanese “kunafa” which tasted baclava-ish.  Nuts, honey, raisins and topped with a rather crunchy shredded wheat.  Nice, but not my cup of tea.  Ditto the carrot cake .

I had no space left to even think of seconds, but had I done so, it would have been for the Sri Lankan curry sauce.  Too good.


World breakfast is part of the regular breakfast buffet and is on a rotational basis, with a different country being showcased on a different day.

Timings- 6:30am- 10:30am
Price- Rs 850 plus taxes

Delicious, good food, and it makes you think beyond your usual cultural limits, which is fun.

Where should I stay in Siracusa in Sicily?

First time visitors and therefore unfamiliar with Sicily, and faced with a slew of similar looking hotels on the many internet sites we browsed, we were more than a little spoiled for choice, and ended up getting thoroughly confused.

One hotel, however, stood out from the bunch.  Because it is a convent.

And so we took the plunge and discovered the wonderful, unbelievably charming “Domus Marae.”

With a brilliant location right on the sea, charming gentle staff, on-street parking, a lift, lovely rooms and – oh joy of joys –  an “in house” chapel, this delightful hotel was a true find.

We opted for B & B, and most mornings the local bishop had his breakfast at his own little corner table, adding to the distinctly different feel to the place.

There was a delightful sense of peace and serenity about the “Domus Marae”, in large part induced by the classical music gently playing in the background.

Personally and highly recommended.

The entrance :


The view from our room.




The delightful “in-house” chapel:


The breakfast room



Night view of the annexe, just across the tiny cobbled street.  This is literally a stone’s throw away.



The entrance to the pretty Domus Marae at night :



I admit to being enchanted by the chapel, and would push open the unlocked door and just go and sit there, all alone amidst such gilded splendour.

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Contact details below.



Edward’s in Delhi’s HKV

Despite being a tad underwhelmed by Edward’s when I went there for lunch in March, I re-visited it last week for lunch with the same friend as last time, Asha Framji, as well as with our friend Sonam Dubal, whose first visit it was.

Sonam loved it, and I certainly liked it better a second time round, partly because the service was so much better, and way more efficient than the last time.

No major (read obvious) changes in 2 months, with the same cute décor, though it was certainly busier – oh, wait, yes, one noticeable thing – they have seriously nice take-away bags.  As in very smart and eye catching.

Sonam had the Caesar salad which he said was very good :

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Asha and I shared the brie salad and the pasta, and both were generous portions and very good.

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I am veg, so didn’t eat the ham (somehow missed it on the menu, as I would then have chosen differently) and neither did Asha, as she said it was a tad on the salty side, but the rest of the salad was excellent:

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I had the ginger ale, which was delicious and I loved the quirky glass.


So, better meal and therefore a better “feel” than my earlier visit.

But I still think it’s pricey…


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Last Mughal Festival at Baywatch, WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi.

I was asked to go and try the latest food promotion at the WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi, and since I had no idea whatsoever as to what the last Mughal emperor would have eaten, I was obviously intrigued.


The information we were given sounded even more intriguing :

“The last Mughal emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, reigned from 1837 to 1858. His table had Turkish, Persian, Afghan, and Indian flavors of different regions and also some of the European confectionaries. Bahadur Shah’s table was rich with food made with dry fruits and aromatic with different herbs, roots, flowers and leaves. There was also use of betel, maple leave, orange rind, orange blossoms, jasmine flowers, rose petals, edible camphor, khas ki jad, pomegranate juice besides saffron, mint, coriander, basil and fennel.”




The buffet for the Last Mughal festival was set out a little separately from the regular buffet, and the dishes had different labels, in red with a crown (obviously) but I am not honestly sure how much the regular hotel guest would’ve been able to differentiate the special food (as it were) from the regular buffet.  Sad, when so much research goes into the planning of these food festivals.

I do not eat meat, so my comments on the food will be limited to the vegetarian fare on offer, as well as the fish.  My dinner companions were all omnivores.  They were all also intimidatingly knowledgeable about food and cooking, and very experienced food writers so I kept v-e-r-y quiet over dinner…

Overall, I enjoyed the food, which was very different from anything I had ever tasted before.  Logical, since these were recipes from the Mughal era, according to the charming chef who joined us for a chat at the end of dinner.

I think I shall start with my favourite thing of all from the buffet, Bharta Telai :


And here it is, and it was truly delicious.  2nd-huge-helpingly-delicious :


It’s at moments like this that I realise the food photography really is an art in itself…so you are going to have to trust me when I say that the bharta telai was excellent.

There was only one fish fish on the menu, Mahi Badam Qaliya, which was nice, but I found the texture a wee bit odd but it was good overall, with a nice almondy surprise inside :



Another dish which I liked, though I found the texture a little reminiscent of dhokla, was Tursh-e-Paneer:



Another dish I took seconds of was Subz Haleem. And once again, you are going to have to trust me here, since the photo doesn’t for a moment capture the great taste :




Loved the presentation of the 3 different raitas :




My dinner companions declared this chicken dish to be excellent :



Since I don’t eat pudding, I have to let my fellow diners do the talking,  The phirni was “delicious”, “excellent”, and “sooo good”, so there you go :



And of the mithai, the fudge-y one on the top plate (below) was the favourite :


Verdict ?

Enjoyable and what I especially enjoyed was the chance to eat completely different food.

Dinner buffet at INR 1750 plus taxes, till 21st April.