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With Chefs nowadays willing to experiment a lot more than earlier, the many other regional cuisines of India are now getting their due. I’ve always been an exponent of the richness of Odia cuisine and extolled of it’s many nuances. But sadly the Odia food was always relegated within the borders.

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You’d find Odia chefs all over India in literally every kitchen, yet they’d be cooking everything else other than their own food. For a cuisine which has been always compared and termed similar to Bengali, it’s great to see chefs finally it’s due.

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And I must say Chef Amit Dash has done one fabulous job. It isn’t just the regular dishes which were already known like the Pakhala and Chenna Poda which made it to the buffet but also the ones from Western and Southern Odisha too. He has done his research by bringing in such richness of food heritage to a food festival.

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I was very happy to see the Pakhala Live Counter. I was pleasantly surprised when there was a comment that it’s a poor man’s food. The Pakhala is a meal in itself, a one bowl meal of sorts. Much like the Ramens, Thukpas and the likes, the Pakhala packs itself in a single bowl. The accompaniments do a great job to enhance the taste but aren’t specifically necessary. That’s the beauty of the fermented rice dish.

The other dish which completely stunned me at the buffet was Mudi Mangsho, a typical wedding/tribal dish from Balasore. In originality the puffed rice is tossed over with fresh produce and mutton kassa of sorts to make a beautiful and enticing dish. It’s like Jhalmudi (Bhelpuri) had a non-vegetarian cousin.

The main course paid homage to the rich non-vegetarian heritage of the state while also showcasing it’s temple food. Many of Odia food have their origins from the numerous temples which dot the state. The Jaganath Temple, Puri has been instrumental in changing the desserts in India. The Dalma was there and so was the Kanika. But my happiness was unmatched when it comes to the Chilika Crabs.

My grandmom was born in and around Chilika, so whenever we had relatives visiting. There would be a huge basket of fresh crabs which came alongside them. Chilika Crabs for me literally define the term ‘Foodgasm’. And Chef Amit Dash cooked it perfectly. Happy was I breaking away at the claws and mixing along the runny gravy with plain white rice.

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Does the Odia Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton do a great job at showcasing the food of Odisha? It’ll be a resounding Yes from my end. With Chef Amit Dash at the helm it couldn’t have been any better. And also did I mention the dessert section is just huge.

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The Odia Food Festival is part of the buffet at Feast, Sheraton Hyderabad.

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Mumbai is my home, a city very close to my heart. My childhood was spent gorging on delicacies sent over by our neighbors. So Maharashtrian dishes were ones with which I started my food journey. These are the flavors I identify myself with.

With an invite to the Maharashtrian Food Festival at Hyatt Gachibowli, I was ecstatic. This is one of the many cuisines that you don’t get to relish so often in Hyderabad. With Chef Santosh visiting from Hyatt Pune, the flavors had to be authentic. We first started off with the dry chutney that Chef Santosh had brought along with him for the festival. Maharashtrain Cuisine is as much about the chutney on the side as the main dish itself. They hold a great deal of influence and the chutneys featured Shengadana,Til, Karlachi, Jawas and Medhkut. There were also the Bombil Chutney made with dried Bombay Duck fish which was delicious. 

Chutneys

After all it was a Maharashtrian Food Festival and the unofficial national street food of Mumbai had to feature prominently. Vada Pav is one snack I absolutely adore. The one made in Hyatt Gachibowli had all the ingredients of a Mumbai-style Vada Pav. Coriander Green Chutney, Tamarind Garlic Chutney and a sprinkle of the dry peanut garlic chutney…this was Vada Pav at it’s best. Vada Pav as a snack is very commonly available but no one in the city of Hyderabad come close to making the original.

Vada Pav

The other snack among the starters were the Kothimbir Vadi. The Kothimbir Vadi is made with Coriander and Chickpea flour which are then steamed first. Once set, the vadis are then deep fried and served piping hot. These are insanely addictive to pop-in as a snack.

Appetizers

We then moved on to the appetizers of Chicken Sukka which was a Malvani style of dry chicken and is a hot and spicy preparation which can be had both as a starter and along with the main course. As we gradually made our way to the main course, I headed towards the Kolhapuri Chicken Counter. Kolhapuri food by itself is really spicy and packs a punch. Thankfully Chef Santosh had dialled down on the spiciness quotient although it still had the lovely color from the red chilies.

The other dish which deserves special mention from the Maharashtrian Food Festival was the Puneri Dal. A very simple preparation of lentils, this was simply superb along with the combination of Batata chi Bhaji and Jowar Bhakri which was being served on order. The other dishes among the buffet included Malvani macchi curry, kolambi pulao, masala bhat and bharli vangi on the night we were at Hyatt Gachibowli.

We ended our dinner with fresh Shrikhand, Malai Pedha among other Indian desserts which had been displayed. The Maharastrian Food Festival is on at Collage in Hyatt Gachibowli as part of their regular buffet. The dishes will be rotated on a daily basis both for lunch and dinner.

Gulab Jamuns

Boondi Ladoo

 

The Festival is on at their restaurant Collage with different menu for lunch and dinner between 24th April – 3 May, 2017. Priced at 1250 AI for Lunch and 1400 AI Dinner

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Bengali cuisine is one that is very close to our heart. I’ve spent many a weekends having a perfectly cooked Bengali lunch and turning over in my bed for an afternoon siesta.It’s filling,it’s tasty and moreover it’s absolutely satisfying.

Taj Krishna is hosting a Bengali Food Festival with Chef Santu from Kolkata. We couldn’t wait to get to try out the dishes on offer. Between the two of us we had each a vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali. With the summer heat, the Aam Porar Shorbort and Beetnoon Gandaraj Lebu Jol provided the much needed refresh. I especially liked the Gandaraj lebu drink which wasn’t overtly sweet too.

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Among the appetizers the best of Bengali street food was served. And that includes your Aloo Chop, Postor Bora, Mochhar Chop from the vegetarian side and the non-vegetarian thali featured Bengali Style Masala Fish Fry, Murgir Chop. All of these were served with fresh kasundi (mustard). The Murgir Chop was truly delicious with the kasundi.

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It was time to shift to the main course. Served in quite an elegant thali, all of the dishes had been neatly arranged. The afternoon we were the vegetarian thali featured Palangshaager chorchori which is fresh spinach cooked with pumpkin and tempered with the panch phoron spices. There was also the Dhokar Dalna and Gote Rosun ar Bhaja Masala diye Aloor Dum. The Aloor Dum went amazing with a side of ajwaini luchis.

Shifting focus to the non-vegetarian side of the tali were the Chingri Malai Curry (Prawns cooked in coconut cream), a Beckti Paturi which is fish smeared with mustard paste and steamed in a banana leaf. The highlight for me among all of the non vegetarian gravies was the Nakel Kancha-Lonka diye Murgir Mangsho. Even though made with green chilies, it wasn’t overtly spicy and the flavors were just wonderful. Having a bit of the Ghee Bhaat (Rice with Ghee), Bhaja Moong Dal and Murgir Mangsho is all I could have settled for.

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Bengali food is incomplete with having the sweets. So ending off the meal on a sweet note were the Mishti Doi, Nolen Gur Rosogula and Sandesh.

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The Bengali Food Festival is on at Taj Krishna in Fridaus. There is a thali option and also patrons order dishes on a-la-carte.

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Firstly, let me state that Punjab Grill in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad is a beautiful property. It’s a packed a bit more than usual on both ends of their seating. But I still have a feeling that they are still exploring the restaurant space to make it so much better. The Punjab Grills across India and abroad had taken a trip to rural Punjab, bringing back with them rustic and lesser known dishes to serve to their patrons.

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The trip culminated with a beautiful menu titled “Rangla Punjab” which is currently being hosted at the Hyderabad outlet. For the night we started off with the tangy popular Punjabi drink “Kali Gajar ki Kanji”. The Kanji is served in a clay cup with dark carrots. The first sip is going to give away your expression when hit with the mustard and hing (Asafoetida) but slowly grows on you.

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Gradually moving on to the starters were the Tikki Choley. Must say after moving away from Delhi this was the first instance after so long that I relished the kala chole with super soft tikkis below. Garnished on top with julienned radishes this was delicious with the mint and coriander chutney. Most of the dishes at Rangla Punjab is served with radish on the strips bringing back the whole feel of Punjab.

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The Mutton Tawa Tikke is tossed mutton cubes in aromatic spices. With a drink beside you, this along with the Chargha Murgh is the perfect accompaniment. If you’re the kind of person who loves fried food, the Chargha Murgh is the answer to every fried chicken craving. The Mutton Champa which arrived next at our table is a countrified mutton keema made into sheets.

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The stars among the Rangla Punjab were in the main courses. Keema Karela and Atta Chicken were just fabulous. I have memories of my grandmother making keema bitter gourds on special occasions and the Keema Karela rightfully reminded me of that. Only difference being the meat was served on an open-faced bitter gourd giving a polished feel to a simple dish.

If you were to visit Kotkapur in Punjab, you’d see people carrying back parcels of Atta Chicken back to long distances of Chandigarh and Delhi. The “Kotkapure da Atta Chicken” takes inspiration from there and is the star of the Rangla Punjab menu. Now imagine first a whole chicken marinated for quite a duration in Punjabi spices with almonds and black pepper. The marinated chicken is then tightly wrapped in a muslin cloth and then sealed inside dough to be cooked in a tandoor. The juices of the chicken remain tightly sealed shut until the outer covering is broken. The moment the chef cut open the dough a whiff of the beautiful aroma hit me and the Atta Chicken goes beautifully alongside some butter naans.

The night ended with desserts which you’d find across the streets of Punjab. I liked the fresh fruits with cream for the fact that it wasn’t overtly sweet. The Gud Ka Halwa was bit of a downer though with the dessert holding back on the lovely flavors of the jaggery.

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Should you check out the Rangla Punjab Food Festival at Punjab Grill? Most definitely Yes. It showcases true Punjabi food with the flavors it’s meant to be.

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Lasagne, Ravioli, Pasta are gastronomical one dish meals. Everybody loves lasagna. Whether it’s veggie, meat filled, or stuffed with eggplant, you know you’re getting the delicious combination of tomato sauce, cheese, and pasta. Tuscany at Trident have recently started their Delizioso Lasagna festival. Chef Manik and team have taken on inspirations to bring out a different take on the lasagna. The soulful one pot meal was transferred from its humble elements to give it a restaurant level Trident-twist. For the invite, we were given six different dishes to try. Each more unique than the other.

To start with, we had the Bolognaise and Roast vegetables from “The World of Classics” section. Usually the Bolognaise that I have had in Italy is layers of pasta with beef ragout layered within lasagna sheets. We were served a similar version with tenderloin cooked with parmesan and rosemary. I loved the meaty flavor of the Bolognaise. Roast vegetables with the basil is also a lovely dish from the classic section. These can be perfect comforting meals along with a glass of wine.  For the vegetarian, the other worth dish was also worth trying is the Spinach and Ricotta with a slight hint of nutmeg. The layering with Parmesan sauce adds the perfect harmony to the lasagna.

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We moved around to the next section which was “Around the world”. The Timballo is a baked pasta/rice and veg/meat version of the lasagna. The mushroom lasagna that we were served had a rich flavor of the mushroom and Parmesan cheese sauce. The rice mixed actually fills you up. A generous portion of the cheese sauce on top makes this dish heavenly. Pastelon, a Caribbean take on the lasagna hasn’t been on top of my list. The plantains can overpower the taste of the dish on the sweeter side although can be beautifully made with beef or red meat. The chicken, raisin, plaintain combination didn’t do much for our palate but this is definitely a unique dish worth trying.

As we coursed through the menu, the Chef’s take on the Lasagna or the Trident twist followed. The Chefs have worked with different flavors for this section and we loved both the dishes served. The Crisp and Fresh was more like the deconstructed version. Fried pasta sheets served with fresh Roma tomatoes, saffron cheese sauce and a drizzle of pesto was the perfect combination. The flavor of the lasagna could be felt with every bite. Our second favorite of the day was the open faced sous vide pork belly. The pork had been cooked beautifully.

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The Delizioso Lasagna is a unique fest centered around on one of the classiest dishes of Italian cuisine. It’s an amazing effort by the Chefs at Trident Hyderabad to be showcasing on all flavors centered around a single dish.

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Note: The portion sizes in the pictures are of a set tasting menu. The proportions served on order are of much larger size.

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It was just a couple of months back that I was working closely with Chef Rakesh and Chef Srikanth of Kangan, Westin Raheja Mindspace for an article about the secrets of the Tandoor. The article was to be published in the Premier Starwood Online Magazine Momentum Travel. It was then that I was totally intrigued with the immense knowledge that Chef Rakesh had to share. You come across people in the hospitality industry who teach their trade and then there is the second kind. The kind of Chef who live and breathe their passion of food and Chef Rakesh belonged to this latter kind. More about the Secrets of the Tandoor can be read in the attached hyperlink.

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With an invite for the Nawabs and Nizams festival, I was quite excited to catch up with the astounding dishes that the Chefs at Kangan were to put up. Starting with a marvelous soup of Shorba-e-Barkhus which had tinge of spiciness and refreshing aroma of mint in the lamb trotter soup. It was the Starters which were the highlights.

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There were the succulent Kakori Kebabs which were so soft that they literally melted in the mouth. I quite liked that they’d kept with the tradition of serving the Kakori Kebabs with the Sheermals on the side as was the norm during the times. The Murgh Angare Tikka came along with a beautiful marination of the chicken on skewers in a whole lot of spices with bay leaves,mace, fenugreek leaves and chilies among others.

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The one dish which quite left me puzzled and quite new too have experienced was the Ande ki Nazakat. It wasn’t just your usual eggs but egg whites which had been beaten, frozen and then cut into cubes. These cubes of eggs were then marinated in Indian Spices and then cooked in the tandoor.I can so imagine how hard it’d be to work a tandoor in such a case when cooking a egg in it. With the temperatures of the Tandoor reaching quite high, it takes a master to gauge the perfect cooking time o the eggs which would be just about a couple of minutes. In the end when served at our tables, it’s resemble more as cubes of Paneer than eggs.

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The Tawa Machli which was served on our plates next had a bit of tanginess of lemon juice beautifully accentuated with a crush of curry leaves and spices. Among the vegetarian starters was the Hara Channa Aur Shakarkhand ki Tikki made of green chickpeas and sweet potatoes. The Mushroom Galawati rounded off our appetizers for the night as we took a short break for the main course.

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A while had passed and over some lovely conversations across the table, it was time for the main course. The Phaldari Kofta was a raw banana dumpling dish bringing with it the perfect balance in the gravy with sweetness from the cashews and sourness from the yogurt. It went well with the Naans served on the table. Also unique to the festival was the Dum ki Dhuli, which was white gram dal tempered with an exquisite aroma of onions and garlic.

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Nawabs & Nizams, Kangan (14)

My favorite among the main course was the Gosht Badami which had been cooked in dum in a pot. The lamb morsels were so tender and soon as our server opened up the lid, out wafted a smoke resplendent of cloves. Also among the main courses for the night were some beautiful dishes like the Murgh Rizala, Bater Mussalam and Dum Aloo Bharwan.

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Considering that the festival was showcasing both the best of Awadh and Hyderabad, the difference between the two princely states Biryani was a must. So along came the Awadhi Style Murgh Biryani and the Nizami Mutton Biryani. Talk about favoritism but I’m mostly inclined to the Nizami Style of Biryani than the Lucknowi version of the Biryani.

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The night ended with a platter of splendid desserts. The Shahi Khubani Tukda was an unique attempt at bridging the gap between Awadh and Hyderabad with the sandwiching of the Shahi Tukda and Khubani ka Meetha. The apricots had been made into a compote placed between sweetened bread and topped off generously with reduced milk. The Yaquti was my favorite among the desserts which was a pudding made with white lentils.

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The Nawabs and Nizams Food Festival is on till 28th January 2017 at Kangan, Westin Hyderabad Raheja Mindspace for dinners.

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There was a time when food focused on flavors rather than each chef throwing in their Masala mix when it came to Indian food. A time which focused on the food rather than the fancy plating on shiny new gadgets. With Rivaayat now it’s third edition,it was time to bring back soul food. I’ve been a big fan of the Rivaayat food festival that Trident Hyderabad hosts every year. The reviews of 2016 and 2015 editions can be read in the attached links.

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For our readers who’ve visited Kanak during the Rivaayat festival would be pleased to know that most of the appreciated dished do continue to feature on the menu. But the ones we’ll take a look around in this post is of new dishes introduced.

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We started off our dinner with the Khumb ki Galavat which had been beautifully done. I swear it’d be difficult not to appreciate a Galawati Kebab made of Mushrooms when they can be on the same par with the non-vegetarian version. The Aloo Kachalu had tempered potatoes and colocasia (arbi) with sweet and tangy chutney.

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Now the time was to delve into the non-vegetarian starters with the Khatti Kairi ka Rampuri Jhinga and Lagan ki Boti. The cooking of the prawns owe their recipes back to Rampur where the marination was both with yogurt and raw mango.You’d think that a mix of yogurt and raw mango would increase the sourness of the prawns but not so. In fact they’d been so perfectly balanced that you’d get only a bit of the sourness at the back of the palate.

The new Rivaayat menu has put a bit more of a focus on new dishes in this edition with the introduction of the Lagan ki Boti. Truly loved the tempering of the spices along with the onions until dark brown. So along with the hint of sweetness of the onions you get delectable chunks of meat to savor on.

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The main course was elaborate with our table featuring quite a dishes from the North and Eastern sides of India. Trust me when I say that if you do miss your home dal and want to savor some of it, cooked exactly how it’s done in most North Indian homes. Then head over to Kanak in Trident Hyderabad. It’s the no-frills, dialed down in spices and perfectly awesome with Puran Singh ke Dhaba wali Chicken Curry and Rice.

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Considering that it’s still winters in some parts of the country yet, so time for Makai Roti with Sarson ka Saag. The Sarson ka saag was absolutely brilliant with another simplistic and yet rustic Baingan ka Bharta.

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The dinner ended with a truly content meal and desserts to look forward to. In the dessert section we tried the Dry Fruit Halwa and Gulab Phirnee with the phirnee being a favorite of mine among the two.

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The new edition of Rivayaat is on in the evenings at Kanak from January 15th to 25th 2017 for dinners. It’s Indian traditional cuisine that you’d not want to miss.

 

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I still remember my walk through the street of Naples, Milan and countryside of Italy as I backpacked through the country. From the gorgeous houses, the lingering smell of cheese and pasta, pizza in the air, the way the locals made me feel comfortable in a new country. The Special Italian Food Menu at Prego brought back a lot of those memories.

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At helm of the newly introduced dishes was Chef Roberto Boggio, with a handcrafted menu so unique it had us wanting more. Chef Roberto is part of the Le Meridian, Pune and a quick chat with him, you’ll know of his passion as he talks about his home-cuisine.

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We started our meal with the Tartara Di Asparagi Con Salsa Di Taleggio. Think of the Tartara as a healthy pudding of Asparagus with a feel good subtle after-taste as it goes down smoothly with each bite. It’s topped off with Taleggio Cheese sauce rounding off all of it’s deliciousness in a bowl.

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A lot of the dishes as part of the promotion bring with it an underlying theme of Winter.  The Minestrone Soup is a classic which I absolutely hate having been tinkered with. All Chef Roberto had to do instead was brush off some Pesto and it did wonders to the classic dish. Don’t miss to try the Minestrone Soup Ala Genovese. 

When I usually go along with a group of friends and they’re in the mood for “Italian”, It’s only fair enough to say that Pasta and Pizza favor prominently among the top choice of answers. If the French finessed the food, the Italians gave us PIZZA. We have them to thankful for the single best dish to have been created for man. Served on the table was the Double Wafer Marinara Pizza with beautiful seafood toppings of squids, tuna, crab, prawns, pesto and tomato sauce.

The Pasta course of the Menu by Chef Roberto Boggio turned out to be my favorite. While the Sundried Pomodoro Ravioli was stunning with filling of sundried tomatoes and topped with four cheese sauce, it was the Agnolotti Alla Monferrina which was a stunner. Much like most countries, the food of Italy too differs with it’s region. Going along with his heritage, Chef Roberto does a gorgeous Monferrina style (Northern Italy – Piedmont style) of Agnolotti. The Agnolotti comes wrapped in a towel, just so that it doesn’t dry up and keep it moist.

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For the main course, I settled for the La Cotoletta Impanata which was crumb fried chicken served with a side of salad and rosemary potatoes. This was a welcome change to the heavy cheesy (Not that I was complaining…) afternoon. It was right after the main course when I look back to see Chef peering over my shoulders. Why do you ask? Just so that I scoop up my Tiramisu than concentrating on the multiple photos I had been instagramming. The Tiramisu was perfect and the Pannacotta a wobbly piece of heaven.

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The Cucina Italian is on at Prego, Westin Hyderabad Mindspace till the 29th of October 2016.

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Enter a world of seafood through the aquamarine doors of The Square every Friday night at the Novotel Airport. Yeah, I was enthralled seeing the variety of seafood on display as I took a quick walk round the buffet spread. I quite liked the fact each sea-food preparation came in different cuisines rather than sticking to one particular one. So you could get to choose from Chinese, Continental, Mangalorean, Goan, Bengali, Thai and lots more.

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Going with the Friday night’s theme, we started off with the Sea Food Chowder soup which had a lovely taste of the sea, packing in loads of flavor from the clams and I could distinguish the aromas of the spices distinctly. The starters included Hunan Fish and also Mutton Seekh Kebabs, Rajma Galouti and Croquettes on the night we visited for dinner at The Square.

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There is huge Live Grill stationed out where you can give your choices of marinated fish or grills or fry. I specially loved the Chettinad Marinated Grilled Rohu and Mangalorean King Fish. And of course there were the crumb fried squids and prawns which make for a great accompaniment for a drink at hand.

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Seafood Festival - Novotel Airport (3)

Even though the main courses along the buffet are vast, the seafood here is quite highlighted. The Goan Crab Curry was perfect with simple plain rice. There a little break from the regular buffet on the Friday night with the Prawns Biryani taking centerpiece instead of the regular meat.

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If you do get a chance, leave a bit of appetite for the lovely chai that Novotel makes at the far end of the counter. I’ve not been much a tea-person but the Masala Chai at The Square is quite comforting.

The Seafood Festival is set every Friday Night at The Square, Novotel Airport and is part of the regular buffet among other items.

Seafood Festival - Novotel Airport (2)

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Copious amounts of beer, spirit of camaraderie and bonhomie, schnitzels, sausages and German recipes. Oktoberfest celebrations are here in town. Oktoberfest started in 1810 on the occasion of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s wedding and has since been a 16-day celebration in the town of Munich.

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Altitude at Marriott Convention Center is hosting an Oktoberfest celebrations in the city with a whole range of German sausages, selection of beers and German dishes. With a live-band performance, it’s like a bit of merry-making from Bavaria to Hyderabad.

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O’Zapft is

We got to sample a few of the brilliant Beer Cocktails and dishes at Altitude. Even though I’ve not been much of a Beer Cocktail guy and mostly enjoy my Beer as is, the Get Me Fresh was the refreshing cocktails that I liked quite a bit. A beer pot with tequila, vodka, rum, gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, syrup, fruits and bottled beer. This is one of those Beer pots you sit down with your mates around to drink along.

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The Suppens (soups) of the night were near brilliant. There was a Beer and Cheddar Soup and the other being a Bavarian Style Onion Soup with Thyme. Beer Battered Onion Rings, Sausage stuffed Jalapenos and Fried Potatoes with Poached Egg featured prominently among the Appetizers. The chefs at Marriott have taken the underlying theme of beer really serious with infusion in most of their Oktoberfest dishes.

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After all what’s German celebrations with the well-known German Sausages. Pork Curlies, Bratwursts, Nuremberger Sausages, Weisswurts, Pork Wursts and lots have been specially stocked for the Oktoberfest celebrations at Marriott.

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Now moving on to the specialties that Altitude has come up in the spirit of Oktoberfest. I especially loved the Mushroom Pot done up beautifully in herb cream sauce with bread dumplings and the Beef Schnitzel.

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Ending on a high note were the purely decadent desserts. An absolute, heavenly Beer Caramel Ice-Cream made in-house and the Black Forest Cheese Cake.

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It is time to say Prost!! at Altitude to ring in the Oktoberfest.

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