As it happened, we celebrated Valentine’s Day at Azok (Oakwood Premiere, Juhu) and it just happened to be Restaurant Week (hurray!). From the reviews and pictures I has seen, it looked absolutely picturesque and romantic, set on the terrace overlooking the ocean. But alas, when we got there for a 10: 30 pm reservation, the terrace was still occupied by a ‘sundowner’ party. Ironic, I know. Anyhow, we were seated in an observatory which was thumping with music from our neighbours. Plodding along with the meal, I must admit the food was exemplary. I can see why Vineet Bhatia was awarded the Michelin stars. We started with golgappa shots as the amusebouche, compliments of the chef. Followed by a pea soup, with smoked mushroom tikka, which was surprisingly delicious. Appetizers included kebabs and tikkas (wok tossed chili garlic paneer and kurmuri methi palak tikki with masala hummus, and for mains I had lovely tandoori broccoli with rajma and couscous. Finished with a decadent chocolate paan! Great meal, awful ambience and ok service. But then again, it’s always the food that’s most important! The regular menu, which we peeked at to determine just how fast we had to return, was very well priced and vast enough for any veggie to pig out. Promising.

On the other hand, SS and I joined my parents for a mid week dinner at Ziya, at the Oberoi. Ziya, the Indian specialty restaurant under the direction of the two Michelin starred Chef Vineet Bhatia, boasting a distinctive dining experience. The crowning glory of this restaurant is its fine food and intense flavours. It’s not easy to get that combination. Having eaten at Azok and Benares (Atul Kochhar, London), I could guess the menu and service style. Apparently, the restaurant has undergone some tweaks to make it more friendly to the not-so-discerning palate. But the food was dumbfounding! The most glorious starters I have ever eaten, outstanding mushroom, kebabs and potatoes. It was sheer gluttony to have even attacked the mains, but they unbelievably outdid the starters. Sheer luxury on a plate. Everything looked so delicate but tasted so authentic and rich. The best of the mains was the paneer wrapped in phyllo, and the puff pastry topped biryani. Picture a paneer roll, but wrapped in delicate crunchy nearly transparent phyllo and the best biryani I have ever eaten, the spices and aromas pouring out as soon as you break open the pastry covering. The accompaniments – dal, rotis (including a blue cheese one!) and raita were absolutely unnecessary, the mains are amazingly self sufficient (then again, food isn’t need based, its want based for me!).

Give it a go, the ambience was much better although huge number of business guests dotted around us. I think I am definitely going to return to Ziya, the sooner the better! I’m hungry for biryani now! hehe

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