Updated this week
Everyone seems to be trying new formulas to make eating out more exciting. Going to dinner today is as much about the experience as the food. And I must say I am jumping on the bandwagon myself. As long as food is cooked with honesty and integrity, who cares if it is award winning or not? Let's face it, most of us today go out to have a good time, de-stress and catch up with friends and family. How many of us are actually dissecting or critiquing a dish? We either like it or we don't. So, I was pleasantly surprised by the new restaurant Punchin at the Citrus Business Hotel in Pimpri. First of all getting to Pimpri was a mind block but once we were on that fabulous new road past Khadki station, it took no time at all to reach. Citrus is slightly set back from the main road but very visible. Punchin is right off the lobby. As you enter, you are hit with a riot of colour and memorabilia -a vintage Enfield bike, decor which looks like a fashionable dhaaba -it's wacky and wonderful and it works. A lot of thought has gone into every detail from the menu on tambourines (a nod to the Punjabi love of music and dancing) to the feedback form which is the funniest I have ever seen.
The food has two cuisines -Indianised Chinese (chilli chicken, veg manchurian, honey chilli potatoes, chop suey and so on) and Punjabi (tandoori items, dal makhani, Amritsari machi, pindi chole). Then there are the fusions, paneer makhani with Chinese noodles. `Ugh', you might say if you are a purist, so did I at first.You know what, I swallow all my preconceived notions about mixes and borrowings, and humbly submit that it not only works, it is a strange but delicious combination! We ploughed through many tasty starters, both Chinese and Punjabi, a mouthwatering kali mirch chicken tikka, tri pepper fish, chunky nuggets of saffron paneer tikka, chilli chicken, chatpati arbi -in between you are served palate teasers, cleansers and chasers -chaat and veg Chilli (non-alcoholic) and non-veg (alcoholic) test tubes of drinks, chaat, boondi and cream in tiny chai glasses at the end, memorable chutneys and pickles. Did I mention the cocktails created by the restaurant? Non-veg tikka tail, a Punjabi version of Long Island Ice tea with rum as the undertone, plenty of chaat masala, served in a tall medical beaker and garnished with a piece of tandoori chicken! Amazing! We also loved the currioshka, their take on the caipiroshka with spices and the cucumber cooler. The watermelon mojito is more like a Bloody Mary with watermelon juice replacing tomato juice but you have to say `hats off' for ingenuity. If I have any criticism, it would be the amount of chaat masala, `chapata' and kala namak on a lot of the Punjabi items -but that's a personal take. Punchin is a great place for a family evening out and friends getting together for a few drinks and some great starters. Highly recommend it to anyone living in the Pimpri Chinchwad area and not too far really from Aundh Baner either.
Plus and Minus: Quite far for most people but quite an ingenious take on `Chinese Indian fusion'.
Critic reviews are anonymous and all bills are paid by them.
Updated last week
The Baner area as we all know has certainly grown in the last couple of years with major restaurant chains, the IT business and a significant residential population. One area which I hadn't explored is the Baner Pashan link road which begins at the left turn before the Symantec building. About a kilometre down is Regent Plaza and right opposite that a number of small eateries. Amongst these is Chutney Sauce Murabba or CSM as it is called by locals. Owned and run by an ex-chartered accountant, Dinesh Maheshwari, it is a tiny space with about eight tables, no indoor seating and no AC. A lot of his business is take away and home delivery. What CSM doesn't have is good signage so you'll have to look out for the red neon letters which are on the inside above the service counter.
What CSM lacks in outer trappings, it makes up for in food. I am happy to see someone serving good, fast traditional dishes as opposed to fast junk, burgers and hot dogs which are neither a part of our culture nor healthy. Dinesh serves an interesting variety of curry-rice options, Indianised pizzas, parathas and burritos and the most stunning variety of home-made chutneys, sauces and murabbas, served with each dish and on the table in little chai glasses on request. Most are made by his mother and others sourced from family and friends.
Intriguing and delicious. The sweet limboo, mango, apple, date, Marwari ker sangri, pineapple, classic coriander, mint, amla... I counted 13 in all! The curry rice options seem to be really popular. Both the chicken and veg were delicious.The veg called Mom's recipe, actually Dinesh's mother's recipe, is hearty and comforting; a Marwari style preparation with a light dahi curry studded with vadi around a mound of soft vegetable pullau, served with achar and papad churri. I also liked the Curritos, an Indian version of the Mexican dish burritos stuffed with curried rice, onion, cucumber and capsicum and wrapped in a roomali roti. They also do a chicken one called kukad. Another winner is the paneer tikka pizza on a crispy home-made base topped with jalapeno green chilli and mozzarella. The chef's special dish is an unlikely combination of chicken breast stuffed with cheese on a bed of mashed potato. According to Dinesh, this is to cater to the foreign clientele in the area. CSM does a weekend breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday where they serve a variety of egg preparations, a couscous alternative to dalia and a variety of parathas. They serve a good iced tea, coffee and masala Thumbs Up. I'm sure this would be hugely popular in the area if they knew about it. Prices are very reasonable, but the service not quite as snappy as it could be. CSM delivers in a five km radius. A fantastic, reasonably priced option for tasty home-style food in the Baner area.
Plus And Minus: A bit basic to sit and have dinner but great for take-out.
Critic reviews are anonymous and all bills are paid by them.