Posts Tagged With: baroda vadodara blog

Salsa Habanero, Vadodara

M wanted to take me to this place since a long time. She was all praise for this joint, which has been started by a sweet NRI couple. Whether she loved the setting more or the concept or the food wasn’t known till I went there this Saturday evening.

This food joint, open in evenings only on weekends, is located in a quiet section of Samta Road. A small, clean enclosure has been created in the front side of the proprietor’s bungalow. You can wait on the single bench there and gaze at the handmade posters or lovingly written messages displayed all around.

They have a small menu of only vegetarian dishes but for once I was not disappointed. I can safely say that I did not know how Mexican tasted like because all my previous experiences with this cuisine have been disappointing. So I was quite open to what Salsa Habanero was going to offer to me.

M selected Quesadillas and a Burrito for me. After taking my first bite into the Quesadillas, I knew I had hit home. It was heavenly. Homemade kind of heavenly. And more importantly wholesome, healthy and light. No wonder, I was never able to appreciate the so-called Mexican food served in restaurants in Baroda. That probably was not Mexican.

The Burrito was huge. So much that I kept it aside for breakfast for next day and had half of it for lunch.

I am excited about trying out more of their dishes. I just wish I had more time in Baroda.

This establishment has been started clearly out of passion and not for commercial purposes. No wonder, the result is exceptional.

If you are in Baroda and are craving for Mexican food, look no more. Head straight to Salsa Habanero.

More details on their website.

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Categories: Restaurant Reviews, Travel, Vadodara | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

Danny’s Coffee….. Now in Baroda !!

I vaguely remember M telling me last week about the newly opened Danny’s coffee shop on Jetalpur Road. Harried because of work pressure, I did not think about it because I really did not have energy for food adventures. I cajoled myself out on this hot windy Sunday morning to check out an exhibition on Jetalpur Road and M reminded me of Danny’s once I mentioned that I was hungry. She suspected that it was the same coffee joint we’d visited to in Ahmedabad. I pooh-poohed her notion saying – No way. That coffee shop was some shady joint famous only because it was a favourite of college kids (and subsequently due to the famous cold coffee). Not happening here!

The moment we stepped in and took in the plastic chairs and tables and the rough looking men, I got a feeling that she was right.

We ignored the sandwiches and other snacks on the menu and straightaway ordered for cold coffees. The moment of recognition was simultaneous – I read the text ‘Danny’s Coffee, Ahmedabad’ on the plastic cup and M felt it in the taste. It is indeed the same one.

We were too engrossed in our talks and did not notice things other than the bright graffiti on the wall behind and the cigarette smoke. We ultimately had 2 glasses each.

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I admit that though the cold coffee was good it wasn’t as yummy as it had been in Ahmedabad.

Nevertheless, Danny’s is a welcome addition to Baroda’s food line. I’d like to bring more friends here and introduce them to Danny’s Coffee.

This tiny shop is located at the back of the complex beside Pizza Inn (and Bathworld) on Jetalpur Road. It is open from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.

Though I did enjoy having cold coffee on a windy Sunday noon in this empty, barely furnished joint, I’d like to see it swarming with college and school kids soon.

PS: Who wouldn’t love this wall art. Pictures added later on after a second visit in Aug 2012.

Categories: Gujarat Diaries, Vadodara | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Live… It is–Restaurant Review

Baroda is blessed with its second sports bar. Rather, a music+sports bar. Now, sports don’t interest me but music and food definitely do. When my good friend told me about this new joint that had opened very recently (20 days earlier, we came to know later), I decided to ignore the heat and jetlag and jumped at the opportunity.

The place is located in Shreeram Shalini Mall on the ground floor. The interiors are done up in industry style with open red bricks wall, colourful walls and music related graffiti. Suits me. This airy space has comfortable chairs and 2 cosy black sofas with colourful cushions placed by the huge windows which looked so comfortable that I’m sure those who occupy it would never want to leave it. The huge screen upholstered on one of the walls played the currently ongoing IPL match. The music played at an optimal volume level was pleasing (I kept Shazam-ing to get to know the songs though I could have just asked the friendly owner). The music definitely held my interest.

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The one A-3 size page menu does not have many main course dishes though they have lots of vegetarian starters and mocktails. To begin with, the place has non vegetarian food which itself wins my vote. They have few dishes to begin with and I’m sure they will expand soon. We ordered for Mojito and Berry Cooler priced at around Rs. 89 each. The quantity was sufficient – just right for one person. I usually fear the huge heavy glasses restaurants often serve mocktails in. I mean, I just cannot consume a barrel full of soda, please. So, this was just right. For the food, we chose Garden Salad and Chicken Parma with Cheese and Fries. The chicken dish costed around Rs. 300.

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When the food came, I was almost scared of the quantity – there was this huge piece of chicken on a huge pan and it was covered in cheese and surrounded by fries. Despite not having eaten since 3 am (or whatever the time was when I was mid-air between Singapore and India), there was no way I could have finished this. But well, once I dug a fork into it, I couldn’t stop. The food was good. The fries were warm and melt-in-mouth types and the chicken was deliciously crispy and succulent. I must say that though I do not enjoy crispy food items (I have to instruct restaurant guys to get for me a soft tandoori roti, missi roti or dosa), I did enjoy this one. After a tiring journey, this was just the comfort meal I needed.

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I do not like vegetables much, especially in their raw form, and so wasn’t keen on tasting the salad but when I did, it had my approval too. The initial quantity served was less and when my friend pointed it out, the owner brought another portion without request. This was a nice gesture and did contribute towards building goodwill which probably was his intent. Whether such gestures will continue in future, only time will tell.

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All this costed us Rs. 600 approx. Worth going once in a while.

This is a place to go when you are feeling happy, cheery and charged up. Only then you can enjoy the music and the exciting vibes that this place generates. The airy windows will only fuel your energy more.

Go there for the food. If not that, go for the music. If not, you can always go there for sports.

Categories: Gujarat Diaries, Restaurant Reviews, Vadodara | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Leaving Singapore

The airport is crowded. People do not know what those lines are and where they are supposed to stand. The illiterate crowd, that has come back after earning some money abroad, is adding to the confusion. The limited airport staff is either desperately trying to control the crowd or sternly; neither is yielding any results. People are expected to screen their baggage, for reasons that still remain mysterious, at every corner with no one to assist in putting the bags on the noisy belts. The only person who helps in loading baggage is the bus conductor (the bus that takes people to the domestic airport) but not without asking for bakshish (reward / money).

Welcome to India.

Not a very grand welcome in India. Not that we were expecting anything better but this was too bad.

It took us one hour and 45 minutes to finally reach domestic airport. From the time we landed till boarding the next domestic flight 3 hours later, our bags had been screened atleast 5 times. After coming back from a place where number of free seats in the buses are updated using sensors and displayed; the buses’ wherabouts can be tracked by locals; airports are hassle free and MRT maps / routes are water clear, this was a sickening experience. Mum commented to me warily – If any outsider comes to India, he will go mad, to which another tired passenger commented – Yes, I agree.

The stark difference between India and aboard was very apparent. On Singapore airport, we saw the airport staff, including elderly ones, continuously working – taking away trolleys, cleaning the travellators, etc while on Indian airports, groups of people – cleaners and airway staffs – were chatting away to glory or just sitting. Singaporean stores rendered change without complaining – for a SGD 4.35 you give them a SGD 10 note; they’ll give you back the change. But Indian restaurants will ask you for 35 cents.

Our bad experience with India started even before we reached India. It began at the Indian restaurant (Anand Bhavan) at Changi airport where Mum wished to have Indian food. The place was full of noisy, unruly Indians. I managed to grab a table while my sister went to stand in line to pay and get the token. The Manager very rudely shooed me away saying – You cannot come and sit just like that. First bring the token. Did he say that because there was no male with us to fear of? Did he say that because I did not belong to his community? Or did he say that because I was an Indian?

I did my bit by boycotting his restaurant and had a fantastic Egg Chicken Sausage Cheese Burger at Starbucks. I wish I could have convinced by family to do the same. We are also to be blamed for accepting sub-standard / degrading treatment.

One of the problems with Indians is, apart from their chalta hai attitude, they don’t take fellow Indians seriously. I am sure had a Singaporean or American taken up a table without a token, the Manager would have politely asked him to get a token first or just allowed him to sit. But because it was an Indian (woman), he didn’t really give a damn.

I am often reprimanded for talking against Indians a lot but I can’t help it; they let me down too often.

Anyway, the last 2 days in Singapore were spent without an agenda really. We tried buying the remaining essentials that were on the list (particularly from their department stores Fairprice, Coldstorage & Watsons); home and personal care products, basically. We visited my sister’s house and helped her with her shopping too (she hates shopping and has to be cajoled to the limit of getting frustrated). Department stores are usually one of my favourite places. I love the glossy shampoo bottles, colourful squash bottles and yummy looking frozen food. And if you look at department stores abroad, they can make anyone like me go weak in the knees. I unfortunately have overflowing cupboards and shelves at the moment and though I WANT many things, I don’t NEED anything. So, I have decided to exercise lot of self control throughout the year and purchase everything from ketchup to shoes in my next trip abroad (which I expect will be after a year, mostly).

We also had a very interesting drink called Bubble Tea. Koi is the famous brand here; unabashedly proved by the long queues outside it at any given point of time. We ordered for the basic Milk Tea, which is actually lot of milk and little tea flavour. We had it with 70% sugar. It contains huge soya balls that can be sucked easily with the thick straw. At first, it feels funny. We couldn’t stop giggling. But then, it is actually fun. The fun of having this drink is with friends on a leisurely weekend. I will attack it next time too, for sure!

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While roaming around the wide roads of Singapore the last 2 days, by bus, I could co-relate the places to those I have lived in before. Where my sister stays, Clementi (a residential area), is like Hiranandani of Mumbai. Shenton Way (that houses big names like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, DBS and Deloitte) is the Nariman Point of Mumbai. And Vivocity Mall is the Inorbit of Mumbai.

Outside Capital Tower, Shenton Way

Bugis Junction

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Inside Esplanade Theatres

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On way to Shenton Way

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A glimpe of Raffles Hotel from the bus

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I was pretty depressed on Friday night, knowing that Saturday would be my last day in Singapore – the end of my yet another glorious travelling expedition without knowing when it would happen again. Saturday morning raised my enthusiasm again; I decided to enjoy my last day here but I still picked up my last breakfast from Toastbox at Bugis Junction dolefully.

It’s just been a day since I came back and I am raring to go to a random place again.

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Marina Bay Sands–The Glory of Singapore

On the bright Friday afternoon, we went to Somerset to check out a couple of stores and then visited Vivocity, where we walked along the Sentosa Walk. The walk and the travellators were totally deserted. It was quite sunny and hot and no wonder no one wanted to walk along these at that point of time. Nonetheless, the way was beautiful and I enjoyed the walking. I am sure come evening the water facing restaurants will be jam packed with shoppers and localites celebrating the beginning of the weekend.

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We took the bus from Vivocity to MBS. Because of the heavy traffic, we reached MBS when it was dark (so much for our plans of watching the sunset there).

When you stand opposite MBS, you will feel small. MBS is not only huge in its dimensions, it also comes across as an intimidating, majestic structure (that can eat you up any time?). MBS, which is basically a resort hotel having more than 2500 rooms, is made up of 3 towers. Outsiders are allowed entry on Tower 3 deck (known as Skypark) through a SGD 20 ticket. The major highlight of the rooftop is actually the infinity pool. Alas, I turned out to be the only unfortunate person in my family not to see it (the rest of my family has seen it before). A few months back, people were allowed to see the amazingly made infinity pool. But the guests complained of visitors staring at them and invading their privacy. Now, they allow a 15 minutes conducted tour to the pool in batches for which you have to book online a day before! So, I missed it this time. Another item on the To-See list for the next Singapore trip.

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The lift takes you up to the 56th floor in a few seconds. You will find vacuum developing in your ears as you reach height. When you come out onto the deck and are engulfed by the magnificent view, you will quite forget everything else.

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The lights of the high-rises, landmarks, the golf course and the flyer (which incidentally looks very tiny from here) and ships in the ocean beyond dazzle up at you from down there. You can also see the Supertrees that are in the process of completion. Undoubtedly, this place has to be visited at night.

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There are no places to sit there; so you can just sit on the floor. And, oh yes, it’s better to carry your own food there because the tiny shop up there is very expensive. So we had the pleasure of having a Chocolate Cupcake from Awfully chocolate at that heavenly (well, almost) height.

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I was told that it is quite windy up there but on this day there wasn’t much breeze. It was pleasant all the same.

On the opposite side of the road, is The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. This mall is full of designer shops llike Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Coach, etc and celebrity restaurants. This also houses the well known, huge casino and which is why Sis had advised me to be very careful of my things – theft and snatching is common here. A canal runs through the mall till the hotel on the opposite end for guests and shoppers. Gondola style boats are used to take people to & fro.

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Tired after lots of walking, we had dinner at the noisy food court, which was the only bad food experience I had! I bravely ordered for Chicken Bao dimsum (I quite like dimsums) but I could hardly swallow it! The filling was sweet and the cover was thick and sticky.

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We briefly had a look at the Arts & Science Museum from outside and walked a bit on the Helix Bridge.

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I felt remorse when we were departing from MBS. I did realize that this was THE last thing I was doing in Singapore. My trip was ending. The next day late night we were leaving back for India. So the day will only comprise of last minute shopping and packing. I was finishing my third trip to Singapore. Am I bored of it? Do I still have things to see / do here? Hell, I do! I haven’t tried Breadtalk yet. I haven’t shopped like I do usually. I want to try the Spicy Chicken Steak at Pizza Hut. Won’t I want to come back?

Can already la.

Categories: Photography, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Whole New World

As a teenager, I was always fascinated by Raageshwari in the video of her song ‘Duniya’ where she goes travelling on her own to Maldives, shops for clothes and most interestingly, wears them immediately! That was something I’ve always wanted to do! And believe me, I feel as excited today, when I am doing that, as my old teenager self! We discovered a shopping heaven right behind our hotel. It is known as the Bugis Street. Duplicates of all latest shoes, bags, jewellery and clothes are available at cheaper prices. So after looking at all those Topshop pleated skirts dejectedly (because nothing was below SGD 35), I found similar ones in the many narrow lanes of this maze. But, beware of the quality! A shopaholic like me, who has shopped everywhere from India to aboard, malls to streets, should better know this. The quality of such places is highly questionable. And sure enough, the pleated skirts either did not have enough pleats or were of cheap cloth. Nonetheless, I managed to find something decent. It is absolute fun wearing local fashion.

Being a tourist is so cool. You can wear whatever you like. Eat whatever you want. Be whatever you want to be. Because whatever you do, you will always be different from others; it is a totally acceptable fact. You have all the right to make mistakes, look confused and doubtful.

Having had breakfast at Toastbox for 3 consecutive days, I decided to have breakfast at different places every day. So one day it was McDonalds and one day Mos Burgers (a Japanese joint. The coffee shake was brilliant and so so heavy). Most of the times, I go out on my own in the morning, have my breakfast at Bugis Junction, pack some food for Mum and/or Sis and come back to the hotel after loitering around a bit. I enjoy these me-times. These times when I am left free on my own is a breather for me. I walk at my own pace, take new lanes and click photos on the way. Now that’s what a traveller should do.

The way to Bugis junction from our hotel is now a road walked on several times. We get out of the hotel, walk across a Chinese area (the first thing you will notice about this area is the soothing Chinese chants playing in a shop. The chants have an extremely soothing effect) which has a famous Chinese temple and a Hindu temple too. Surrounding the 2 temples are traditional Chinese shops selling souvenirs, gift items and cheap clothing. Then comes a hawker street where a full meal can be had in SGD 5 (our cabbie had told us). You wouldn’t want to have that food even for free because the traditional Asian food is not something we can easily consume; the odour itself is unbearable. Too much for the weak Indian heart. The only noticeable thing here is even though this particular patch is crowded, local and old fashioned, it is clean. The area around the enclosure of food area is clean too. No rubbish, no leftovers. Then comes the street shopping area which is a kind of a dangerous area, actually. Lot of mean, messy things go on inside and not just the goody-goody clothes and shoes shopping. You can feel an uncanny presence of a force that compels you to be alert while inside. So best to go there in the afternoon and not focus on anything except the pretty shoes and clothes. I did venture into it alone to shop and explore and on the face of it, it was all sweet. I wouldn’t even want to scrape further.

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Coming back to food – because that is my sole interest after fashion. Singapore is food heaven too. Every attractive food joint I see, I am tempted to try atleast one little thing there, just to get a feel of the place; just for the experience. I had banana cake and chicken ham bun at Barcook Bakery which is another bakery I have discovered here (I sneaked there during one of my me-times). They have all kinds of buns (sweet, meat, fruit). And this particular one I tried was so fresh, even though I bought it at around 4 pm, sweet and soft. In fact, almost everything that I have tried here has worked for me – Chocoloco Donut at J.Co, Chicken Ranch pizza at Saprino’s, Chicken Burger at Mos Burgers, Hash Brown at McD, Molten chocolate cake at Starbucks, Ice Kachang at Ion Mall, Chocolate Stack at Awfully chocolate, Grilled chicken and rice at Nando’s. This leads me into a constant confusion – to repeat what I’ve loved or keep trying new things?

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Apart from Chinatown, we have only been visiting malls in all our available time.

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Each MRT station opens into a mall. And not just any randomly made mall. All malls are well made and have big brands. My knowledge of fashion brands has drastically improved because I have been seeing the same brands again and again in different malls; so their names AND patterns had to get grilled into my mind. Though Ion Mall at Orchard and the stores at Somerset are undoubtedly top class, they are also expensive and common. I liked the malls at Tampinies and Jurong Point more. They have a mix of big and small names (of food, stationery, apparel, shoes – everything) such that you can decide your space and scope. They have brilliant food joints too.

Singapore is full of manmade wonders and they have done a brilliant job at it. I am beginning to agree with Sis’s point that Singaporeans have not much to do here except malls – shopping and food. I have always looked at the crowd and wondered that if all they do is dress up and roam around in malls, when do they work, if they ever do? I have concluded that that is all they can do here. As locals, they are not going to visit night Safari or Sentosa or the flyer. Even if they do, they’d do it once in 2 years. In such a small country, which comprises of only one city practically, what new can happen? They may be visiting night clubs. How many would be there in this tiny space? And that’s why they spend their weekends and holidays going to Hongkong, Malaysia and other nearby countries, I am told.

Tomorrow, we will be visiting an important landmark of Singapore – the 57 storeyed Marina Bay Sands.

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You’re Beautiful

It is the second day when I stand in front of stern-looking Selina at Toastbox reciting my order of coffee, Milo, eggs, bread and banana cake. Ho’ Milo, But’ar Toast, she repeats after me. And after confirming, says, Can Already La, meaning ‘ok’. It has become our staple breakfast and I look forward to it every day. I do not feel very brave venturing into their Asian dishes or the crab toast; I am quite content with eggs and bread. I just cannot decide, Milo is better or coffee. Yesterday I had Milo which is a popular morning hot drink for office goers and students. Today, I try the coffee with milk. I wonder how much milk is in it because the coffee looks so dark. After the first 2 sips, when you may find it to be bitter, the coffee is yummy and you will not wish for the mug to empty. I am having 2 eggs for breakfast every time. I don’t know why I am perennially hungry here. Good for me that we have listed down many many things to try. So we had 5 small meals yesterday. We started with breakfast, then Ice Kachang at Ion Mall, followed by donuts, Indian lunch at Go India Express, juice at Marche and dinner at Muchos. We get tired walking around, window shopping (since you cannot really shop) and moving around these huge malls. So we need to sit down to talk and rest (Mum and Sis enjoy this the most) and where else can we do this but cafes and food joints?

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Most Singaporeans carry an umbrella around at all times because it can start raining anytime. If it doesn’t, you may need it for the strong heat. One moment there is prickly heat in the morning and just another it is raining. While we were shopping like crazy in the OG sale (right beside out hotel), it was pouring outside. Rains died away soon but clouds threatened to pour at any time the whole day.

Today’s lunch is at Fish & Co. they have a huge menu that has seafood and Veg items in it. The interiors are done up like a fisherman’s cabin. But what an expensive place it turns out to be! Each mocktail is for SGD 8.9 ! It is an unfortunate visit. Sis has tried the Veg pizza here before which she liked but they couldn’t serve it this time. They couldn’t serve many other drinks and dishes we want to order. We finally order Veg nachos which isn’t great; the sauces have been used very stingily. I, of course, manage to have a grand meal of Grilled white fish with peri-peri sauce (also available with coriander sauce), rice and mashed potatoes (you can select 2 out of several options of chips, stir-fry veggies, etc). It is quite good but the bill of SGD 57 shocks us.

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It is late afternoon by the time we reach Esplanade Theatres. The area is spacious, quiet and sparsely crowded. This theatre is located near water (that is why it is also called Esplanade Theatres By The Bay). It is a Sunday evening, the weather is pleasant and cool and so lots of locals and tourists have come down here to relax. We also join the crowd (if you can call it crowd) and take in the humid winds and occasional rain drops. From here we can see the famous Merlion structure, new Singapore Museum and Marina Bay Sands (MBS). This area is also lined up with restaurants. Right near the water, is a small stadium with a stage. Anyone can walk into the enclosure and sit on the stairs where budding, unknown artists and bands are allowed to perform. This time it was a band performing what they call traditional jazz. A walk over a bridge, after crossing Indonesian street singers sitting under the bridge, takes us to the Merlion which is heavily surrounded by tourists.

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When we come out of Starbucks, where we had sat for almost an hour, the crowds have almost vanished. Which is surprising again because it is Sunday evening. But then, maybe they’ve gone to more happening noisy places.

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We retrace our steps and go to an Indian restaurant, Mirchi, at the Esplanade Mall. The food turns out to be brilliant there! Huge quantities and delicious preparation. I have kind of accepted that I need to have Indian meal atleast once a day.

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We have got used to Singapore’s wide, clean roads, luxurious malls and the huge plethora of lovely food. Going back is going to be damn difficult.

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

22nd Parallel, Vadodara – Restaurant Review

Even after eating at 22nd Parallel 3 times before, I want to visit them again because there is still so much on the menu yet to be tried. I am actually mentally ticking off items on the menu every time I go there. 22nd Parallel is an authentic south Indian food restaurant (started by a family, my guess is) located in the lane beside Barista near Chakli Circle. The first impression of the joint may not be good. My friends from Bombay had their doubts about it when I had excitedly insisted on bringing them here. But I am sure they weren’t disappointed.

This tiny worn out joint is capable of giving you your most fulfilling, almost gratifying, food experiences ever. My favourite time to come here is on a Sunday morning or noon. When the Neer Dosa melts in your mouth or the spicy rasam idli tingles your senses, you will admit openly that the forgone Sunday sleep was totally worth the cause.

The Neer Dosa with Avial is an all time favourite and a must-have for all first time visitors. No need to mention Rasam perhaps as we non south Indians find a south Indian meal incomplete without this spicy drink. Try their Crispy Dosa (beware of the quantity), Masala Idli, Dahi Idli, Curd Rice, Lemon Rice, Tamarind Rice, Rava Dosa or Appams. If you are confused about what to order or what those complicated dishes mean, ask the friendly host (this little joint hardly feels commercial. It feels quite homely). He would patiently explain you and ask you how you want your coffee or idlis – steamed or fried. Strong or mild). The staff is also patient and friendly.

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My favourite so far has been the Masala Idli – idlis fried with onions, garlic, coconut and traditional south Indian spices. The Rava Dosa, of the melt-in-mouth sorts, was so good that you need not accompany it with sambhar or the plethora of red and white chutneys that they give. Incidentally, their red garlic chutney does a good job at flattering every dish it is coupled with. The Neer More (Masala Chaas) makes for a pleasing accessory to the meal. A good filling meal for 3 people can be done in Rs. 500 total.

I am sure Payasam would make an excellent finale to the meal but I always prefer coffee. I usually go in for the medium filter coffee. That’s when I shut myself from the world and go away to a dreamland of my own.

I must warn you that as of now the place is quite small and has around 6-7 tables only. You can expect some waiting during peak hours. It will be shifting to Jetalpur Road soon (near Oven Magick). Expect a grander place and higher prices there.

Will I stop going there if prices increase? Nah.

Categories: Restaurant Reviews, Vadodara | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Gujarat Utsav Shopping Festival (Vadodara)

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I haunt www.baroda.com regularly for events / happenings in the city. The heading ‘Gujarat Utsav Shopping Festival’ caught my attention a few days ago and M & I decided to check it out today. I had a hint that this would not be an authentic handicrafts exhibition and will be more on the commercial side. I was right.

On entering the exhibition, which was held at the Hockey Ground, I judged that it displayed modern commodities more than artistic / regional. The vast area at the entrance was full of wooden furniture like swings, chairs and show pieces. The first stall that I decided to get into was the book stall. It has a decent collection of second hand pirated books being sold at Rs. 80 – Rs 100 each. Fiction and nonfiction books in Hindi, Gujarati & English were available. I picked up 3 books that costed Rs. 80 each.

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Stalls selling clothes, cloth pieces, stone jewellery, metal jewellery, bags, scarves, ayurvedic products, bedsheets, shoes & carpets used up the entire area. The stall selling Lucknowi kurtis, cloth pieces and saris was interesting and not very expensive. M bought a pale mauve coloured georgette piece which was breathtaking and it costed Rs. 600 which I feel is totally worth it.

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Some other stalls selling cotton bed sheets, curtains and cloth pieces were good too though we didn’t venture into them.

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There were almost 5-6 stalls selling jewellery. Ah. I love them. Especially the earrings. The usual chunky stone and metal jewellery. These reminded me of Colaba Causeway. In most shops, the neckpieces ranged from Rs. 150 to Rs. 450 each; earrings from Rs. 20 to Rs. 60. One particular shop that I especially liked was a Jaipur Gems stall. It was a tad more expensive than others for the reason that his jewellery wasn’t made of stone but gems from Rajasthan. The earrings were marvellous so were the bracelets, anklets and neckpieces. These pieces had a very modern, runway sort of a look. My heart went out to so many pieces but I didn’t not buy on account of the excessive shopping that I have done in the last few years leading to shortage of space (and money). You must appreciate me for my grit. Me not buying any earrings at such a fair is next to impossible.

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The last row of the space was mostly empty. Either those spaces had not been filled or the occupiers vacated and had left. A cottage industry stall called Khadi & Village Commission Ltd. had interesting squashes in 6 different flavours. Apart from the usual Rose, Pineapple, Lemon, Badaam they also had Variyali (Sauf) and Masala Soda. The attendant gave little quantities to visitors to taste to help them decide. I was confused as it is between Masala Soda and Lemon, when I tasted Variyali mixed with milk, I got all the more confused. I chose Masala Soda in the end. All the squashes were a bit sweeter than we’d like but we can use chat masala to spice up the squash and ease the sweetness.

Ayurved store keepers call M and offer her weight loss medicines and offer me skin care ones. M rightly says – I am in a good mood right now and hence am not reacting else I would have slapped him. How dare he!

I had been starving since I’d left work and we hurried past the furniture and carpet stalls towards the small food area. We chose dhokla over bhel and lochu since it was light. Atleast we thought so but the server squashed our dreams by pouring oil on top of it. I couldn’t resist taking in a whiff of the rust coloured thick chutney he served with the dhoklas and it smelt deliciously of chillies and garlic. The dish was yummy and the chutney was too hot (and I realized later that the chutney could be doing absurd things to in my stomach) but we enjoyed.

We wound up the visit with meetha paan at Khan Pan Centre which was decorated in a very lavish way which was almost Bollywood-ish. The server (dressed in a uniform) dramatically juggled the various containers in air, spraying garnish on the paans. The paan contained some sweet watery substance which wasn’t very fun to chew!

Overall, a successful visit as I did find a few steals. Had I not shopped so much in the past, I would have spent much more today. Even though they may not have authentic handicrafts, it would be good to frequent such fairs because there are good chances of finding good deals here.

The exhibition timings are from 03:00 pm to 10:00 pm and will be on till 9th of April.

Categories: Gujarat Diaries, India, Photography, Travel, Vadodara | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Markets of Vadodara

Baroda’s four gates (Vadodara is also known as Baroda) – Paani Gate, Champaner, Geni Gate, Lehripura Darwaja, off the massive Sukhsagar Lake are a treasure of all kinds of craft, embroidery, stationery, cloth, hardware, utility and other wholesale items. I’ve walked on these roads after almost a decade. I remember coming here with my sister and parents when I was in school. That time, malls were unheard of. We had to visit these bazaars for everything that we needed.

From what I remember, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience for any of us (unless, anything was bought for me, I’d be miserable. I used to look at all the shops fascinated by all the things on display and dreamt of owning half of those things). We used to struggle to find car parking. The narrow roads were always crammed full by cattle sitting on the road, scattered 2-wheelers and chattering ladies. We used to wait impatiently in the car, watching cows, desperately waiting for Mother to come back after her shopping. She usually came back with a headache. Needless to say, we stopped visiting these narrow lanes after a while.

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Today, bazaars attract me. I love the colour, the food and the idea that pretty, unique things are waiting to be found by me. I’ve concluded that hidden treasures can be found here if you have the eye for spotting the right thing and are patient. Cloth that is being sold at dirt cheap rates, delicious food being made at ancestral legendary food stalls and tailors who can stitch anything for you compel you to think that malls and international brands have been looting you all this while.

And for those creative minds, whose mind is always bubbling with ideas, the bazaar is the place to be.

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Ever since I came to Baroda, I have wanted to revisit the bazaars that I hadn’t seen since school days. So I roped in a very good friend of mine, who is a localite and knows the area well (and is also very patient and supportive) to show me around. There are many craft and outfit ideas in my mind for which I wanted to explore the local markets. Knowing that Baroda is a culture hub, I was sure to find a good steal out there.

Even though we reached Mangal Bazaar (I met my friend opposite Nyay Mandir) at around 10:30 am, it was burning hot. We roamed around the labyrinth of narrow lanes (some dirty) to visit wholesale cloth, bags, craft, embroidery and hardware shops. The craft shops reminded me of my school days. I used to preserve each glittery paper, gift wrapper and set of beads like they were the last precious jewels available on earth (I still have all of them at my parents’ place, intact). I had been gifted bunch of translucent pink and yellow beads that glittered like diamonds; I treated them like real diamonds and have preserved them for over the last 15 years. The ribbons, the lace, the glitter paper and the sequins – discarded by some have been preserved by me to be used some day.

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The wholesale cloth shops are dangerous for a shopaholic like me. My eyes gleamed with ideas when I found that the lace cloth costs only Rs. 50 per meter. I am surely designing some outfits myself and getting them stitched. It would turn out to be much more economical and in the process, you get a pattern of your own liking.

A visit or trip to any place is not complete without food. The fact that I didn’t have time to have breakfast in the morning turned out to be a blessing in disguise. So we attack the bajiyas at Lala Kaka’s, sugarcane juice at a thela, Malai Lassi at Golvad ka naka & Ice cream cold drink at Samrat. I could then say that my trip has been successful.

These bazaars are actually the old areas of the city. You can spot the trademark architecture – wooden pillars, stone flooring, ornate balconies – all over. Because I like old architecture, I had a fantastic time clicking photos. This place had such an old, comforting feel around. It actually felt like home.

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We stumbled upon these old abandoned buildings that could have been workshops, commercial centres or residences some day. However beautiful and mysterious they looked, they also looked ignored. I wish we’d value them and maintain them for the sake of preserving their history for future generations. Another spot where I’d like to come back and spend more time.

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I started off with a lot of enthusiasm despite the heat. I had my optimism high. The heat finally overpowered me and I decided to head back home. I was tired but not beaten. I left with a very strong intent of coming back and exploring the bazaars more.

Categories: Gujarat Diaries, India, Photography, Travel, Vadodara | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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