Making Dining Out an Experience

Dining out has graduated from being fashionable to being commonplace in urban India. For social get-togethers or for a cosy night out with your loved ones, spending a memorable evening or twilight at one of the restaurants is not at all uncommon nowadays.  

If the dining out place has an exotic ambience and gives you a picturesque view of the surroundings, it adds to the pleasure, bliss and contentment of the eating out occasion. Then the dining out occasion can easily become a memorable experience for your friends and family. 

People love to visit those F&B outlets which serve not only different and exotic cuisines but also provide an unforgettable ambience, which help etch memories among guests. Ashok Malkani takes a look at some of these wonderful F&B outlets across the Indian food service industry.

There is no limit to the different ways people take their meals. They may have it in their bed or in a coffee shop or at a dhaba. Considering the diversity of settings when you are consuming your food, one might rightly ask, just how much does ambience influence the enjoyment of food? Does the atmosphere of an elegant restaurant enhance the pleasure of what is eaten there? Great Chefs and gourmands are all of the view that eating is both a physiological and a psychological act. Where one eats can be as important as what is eaten. The body responds in the most subtle of ways to the surroundings. 

Food is very important in a restaurant but many other things come into account in contributing towards the overall dining out experience, says a food connoisseur. It is no co-incidence that some of the highest-rated restaurants are also among the most beautiful.

And if you are celebrating a special occasion then you would definitely like to do it at a place that boasts of a superlative ambience. Besides this, if the restaurant provides a grand view of the surroundings, it would be like adding cream on the cake.  Overall, there can be no two opinions about the fact that the joy of good food and good company is enhanced by the ambience, décor and scenery around.

Let us talk about some of the wonderful eating out places, whose dining out experiences can inspire our food service industry in general.


Sky High

One of the places that can surely steal your heart away, as far as ambience and diversity of cuisine is concerned, is the Skky — hotel Ramada Powai Hotel and Convention Centre’s signature restrolounge and bar, which has been offering one of the first rooftop dining experiences in Mumbai.

As you enter this place, the lush greenery and water fountains can take your breath away. As you are led to a cosy table, and you regain your breath you are thrilled by yet another sight; that of the water fluently travelling along the channel at the back of the table, giving you the feeling of dining near a flowing river! 

Add to this the surrounding hills that whistle with cool breezes and the sheer expanse of open skies and twinkling stars above you and your night is definitely made!

As the restaurant’s Assistant Manager, Dheerendra, guided us to the table he came across as an epitome of politeness and courtesy. Here you are presented with a digital menu to make your selection from dishes galore.

As we were making our choice of the food, the bartender, Neelesh, concocted a Lemon Gingergrass Martini, comprising of gin, cointreu, lemon juice, gingergrass and vermouth with a garnishing of ginger slice. 

From the vast array of soups you could select the Tom Yam Koong (traditional Thai spiced soup with vegetables, tofu & straw mushrooms). Originating from Thailand & Laos, ‘tom ‘ literally means  the process of boiling &’yam’  refers to a spicy salad. Or you can go for Miso Soup (Japanese dashi stock with bonito flakes, soya bean paste, mirin, silken tofu , spring onions & wakame seaweed). Dheerendra informed that pure Miso paste though high in sodium, is an excellent source of dietary fibre, protein and minerals.

There are ten salad varieties for you to choose from. You also have a wide range of starters and main meal (vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian) selections that will make it difficult for you to choose only a few. There are 20 starters and 11 varieties of dim sums at the Skky. The main course (including noodles) is spread across 50 dishes.

One could try the Nasi Goreng (roasted chili tossed rice with prawns, chicken, spring onions; served with fried egg, grilled chicken skewers & prawn crackers). Considered to be the national dish of Indonesia, it literally means fried rice in Indonesia & Malaysia. It traces its origin from the Chinese fried rice. Phad Thai Shrimps (flat noodles tossed with Thai exotic vegetables, chili, tamarind, palm sugar  & peanuts) is another delectable option worth trying at Skky. This variant of noodle was brought to Thailand by Vietnamese traders. It is a staple food in Thailand now. 

Seafood Fried Rice (fried rice with egg yolk, scallions & XO) is another of the option at Skky which is worth trying.  Developed in 1980 in Hong Kong for Cantonese cuisine, XO literally means 'extra old cognac.'

From a list of 10 desserts if you think you should go for just one then I would suggest you to opt for Sitaphal  Rasmalai (a soft flat cottage cheese dumpling dipped in custard apple flavoured condensed milk) or Cherry Jubilee with Vanilla Ice-cream (black cherries flambéed with brandy on a frozen scoop of classic vanilla ice-cream).

These are a mere handful of delights from the wide range of delectable items on the menu, which runs on and on and offers the guests a wide gamut of F&B choices.

And you can enjoy all these delicacies in a perfect setting for a romantic evening, or for a celebration with family or office colleagues, with the vast sky as the roof.


The Aroma from Jyran

If you want to have the best of both worlds, open air ambience and the rich, luxurious setting in an enclosed space – Jyran, at the Sofitel Mumbai BKC, can be the ideal place for you to dine out.  Here one can have an enclosed space, created with an artistic sense of design, and as well as an open outdoor space where you can wine and dine under the moonlit sky with bright twinkling stars above, thereby affording an ethereal atmosphere. There are also shamianas in which one could ideally have a tete a tete with one’s adored one or have a family get-together.  

Situated on the fourth level, its interiors are done artistically and with the classy French touch. A richness of colours and subtle tones can soothe the eyes and other senses as one enters this imaginatively created arty place. Reds, yellows and greens are visible in and around the restaurant. The colours and elements blend well and are pleasing to the eyes.

The word Jyran has a Persian connect. Meaning, ‘lost love’, it also symbolises hope and new beginnings. The restaurant denotes the story of a small boy who once befriended an elephant and learnt valuable lessons of life from him. The structure of an elephant is thus prominently placed. It is set over the water feature and one is easily misled into imagining that it is walking on water.

The relaxed lounge-style of Jyran invites its guests to sink into the cushion-strewn seats as cocktails are mixed at the bar and mouthwatering aromas drift from the open kitchen. Jyran satiates the appetite of people who crave for different North Indian and Mughlai recipes paired up with an extensive collection of drinks. It is a place for connoisseurs of food and drink. The restaurant emanates rich flavours and culinary traditions of North-west frontiers, far in Mumbai. Lavishly furnished in a contemporary style, the relaxed lounge-style of Jyran induces you to unwind and enjoy.

The highlights of the beverage section include some heady champagne cocktails like French 75 (gin, lime juice, simple syrup and champagne; this was originally created at Harry’s Bar, Paris, in 1915) or Bastille (Passion Fruit Réduction, red wine, Ciroc Cherry Vodka, and champagne). If you prefer a Martini Magnifique, there are a number of them. One of them is Bon Bon (Bourbon Whisky, spices, pineapple juice, Maple Flambé). There is also a range of classics and signature cocktails at the restaurant. Succinctly, the comprehensive alcoholic beverage offerings at Jyran range from beer to cognac.

As far as serving food is concerned, Jyran presents a class of its own. The dishes from the kitchen are brought on a huge tray, which is set on a stand in front of your table. The food from this is served on your platter from this tray. This is something that is unique and rare.  

Farzana, the Manager of the restaurant, came across as courtesy personified, as she ensured that the guests received service par excellence.

The Chef de Cuisine of the restaurant at the time of our visit was Shamsher Ahmed, who is originally from Kanpur. He created delicacies from the North-West frontier province of the country. His gastronomic repertoire included an enticing selection of starters, which were apt with drinks.

If you are a non-vegetarian, at Jyran you must try the Afgani Tangdi Kebab (chicken drumstick marinated with red chillies, yoghurt and fresh cream) or Shahi Galawat ke Kebab. The vegetarians could try Paneer Khas (exotic cottage cheese chunks filled with mint chutney, cooked in clay oven) or Badam Kumbh Galouti Ulte Tawa ka Parathe

For the main course, Kadhai Jheenga Hara Masala (fresh prawns cooked with onion, tomato and roasted coriander, finished with spring onion)  and Raan Changezi  (an ineffably aromatic and succulent leg of kid lamb gently massaged with a compound of Mughlai spices, pot-roast braided and finished in tandoor), are worth many visits to the restaurant.

 For the vegetarians, highlights of the menu could be Paneer Lababdar (cottage cheese cooked in onion and tomato gravy) or Kofta Subz Bhara (vegetables and cottage cheese dumplings cooked in rich sauce of tomato, onion and cashew nut gravy).

There are Signature Set Menus besides the Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian Set Menus to ease your task of selecting the various courses at Jyran. 

The enjoyment of all these sumptuous fare can be enhanced by the outdoor and indoor settings of the restaurant.


Get Together at Bar 87

However, if you are in a mood to have a few drinks with friends under twinkling stars, Ramada Powai Hotel and Convention Centre can make that experience for you memorable with Bar 87. You have the option of merry making either in the enclosed space with a huge TV screen or you can do it under the starlit sky in the smoking area.

The courteous service and the signature cocktails make it worth your while to visit this place. The ambience with comfortable sofas is sure to meet the demands of the most fastidious. The Bar Manager, Dominic, came across as personification of courtesy.

If one wants to go for some of the best of signature cocktails at Bar 87 one could try the High 87 (Bacardi, Malibu, fresh pineapple juice blended with curacao and chunks of pineapple and finished with grenadine) or the Spicy Pomegranate and Gauva Margarita (tequila, pomegranate, jalapeno and guava juice blended with margarita mix). Among the wide range of bar’s classics one should make it a point to try Rob Roy with J.W. Black Label (Scotch, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters and maraschino cherry).

They also have some delectable snacks like Greek Liver Pate (corn fed chicken liver pate served on crisp bread and drizzled with balsamic glaze) and Chicken Kobab Roll (grilled pita stuffed with cured Spanish bacon and chicken minced skewers, served with mint mayonnaise).            


High on Hospitality

Get the bird’s eye view of Bangalore from High Ultra Lounge, an Asian bar and restaurant; lavishly spread over 10,000 square feet. Located on the 31st floor of the World Trade Center building at a height of 421 feet, it is the highest dining destination in South India. High Ultra Lounge exudes sensuous interiors. The foyers' most arresting feature is a sculpted fluid resin wall that flows into the entrance of 'High Mix'. Its futuristic aesthetics is awash in hues of magenta and purple light and is juxtaposed with warm contrasting walls of vertical slatted timber.

The venue is divided into HIGH Edge, HIGH Dine, HIGH Mix, HIGH View and HIGH LIVE – each offering a different view of the Garden City. Since the USP of High Ultra Lounge is its proximity to the sky and the very fashionable and chic ambience, they have concocted cocktails with fancy names like Constellation (vodka & gin with an infusion of elder flower), Moonlighting (a vodka-based cocktail with subtle flavours of ginger, lemon grass, rose & lychee) and Inception (whiskey with rosemary, vanilla, fresh pineapple and earl grey tea extracts).  Among the signature cocktails you could try the Amethyst Mist (vodka and Asian ginger, cascading to a crisp finish of raspberry & cranberry). It has luxuriant peach & jasmine foam.

Mohammed Khan, the Director of Food & Beverages at the outlet, claimed that they offered classic and comforting Pan Asian food with a slightly modern twist. If one is a non-vegetarian, one can try the spicy celery prawns (succulent deep-fried prawns tossed with celery and chilli) and Chicken Satay (marinated chicken skewers grilled to perfection, served with homemade spicy sour mayo and sweet chilli sauce with peanut) with the drinks. For the vegetarians, the must try are Asparagus with Wasabi Potatoes (jumbo Peruvian asparagus grilled and served on wasabi mashed potatoes) or Cottage Cheese Tomato Compote (grilled sliced cottage cheese glazed with sweet tomato compote). For the main course, you have a variety of rice and noodle dishes besides vegetarian & non-vegetarian dishes. Delightful desserts culminate the meal, along with fascinating Bangalore in the below for company!    


Delectable Italian Fare

Alfresco by Bene, at Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, is an open air dining outlet with focus on Italian cuisine. It is a casual dining extension of the award-winning Italian restaurant, Bene; which presents the ideal in-vironment to unwind while you sip through a selection of indigenous cocktails and enjoy the European small bites under the starlit skies.

The restaurant flaunts a casual and contemporary interior, with exposed brick walls, rustic furnishings and wooden furniture; coupled with a lot of green elements like potted plants in an outdoor setting, providing the perfect ambience to enjoy the Garden City’s salubrious climate. The café features upbeat, lively, both contemporary & retro music, which is ideal for millennials. The place also offers space for live band performances.

“Inspired by Italian classics, the menu at Alfresco by Bene consists of small tapas style presentation, wherein food is served in small portions, giving the guests the freedom to enjoy multiple choices on the menu,” affirmed Chef Alessandro Becchini, Italian Chef de Cuisine at Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway.

Some of the signature menu dishes here include Calamari Croccanti, Bene Tortilla — which is a classic egg preparation— Chicken morsels made with sweet paprika, and Prawns Aglio e olio. For the vegetarians, Alfresco by Bene offers a wide variety as well with signature offerings like Three-day-old Burrata served with vine ripened tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil & aged balsamic caviar, and Greek cheese & spinach cigars served with piquant chili dip among others.

 Alfresco Signature, the highlight of their cocktail menu, is a gin-based cocktail with refined pure elder flower abstract, where pristine lemon juice is carefully infused with cranberry juice. The beverage makes for a very relaxing concoction. Another popular cocktail, You Can’t Miss Me, is inspired by classics. It combines whisky and campari with delicately muddled celery stick and pineapple, making it a cold weather cocktail, which can be craved this season. 

The above few are only some of the wonderful places where dining can become an ethereal experience.

Overall, in almost all metropolitan cities of the country, there are now a number of places for dining with an enchanting setting. The uplifting ambience and décor and the extraordinary outside scenery together gives a sense of satisfaction and completeness to the experience of dining out.

Our food service industry should be more proactive and come out with more such interesting dining out destinations, where great food complements great ambience. This exercise can give a significant fillip to the industry’s revenues, in the near future. 

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