(Disclaimer: Well this one is going to be a rather long review firstly for the sheer number of dishes I need to elaborate on and secondly the experience that we had. Remember, patience is a virtue!)
212; well for those who don’t know the significance, 212 was the one of the shortest code given amongst the original 86 area codes by AT&T in 1947. Although it served for almost all the 5 boroughs of the New York City it was largely associated with Manhattan and even today call 212 and people would say Manhattan. So on that note let me take you to our mini Manhattan that happens to be situated on UG floor of Phoenix market city in Viman Nagar. Owned by Bellona Hospitality, this place is making quiet a buzz around and for the right reasons. Me and a bunch of other fellow bloggers were invited for a tasting session and boy o boy we were in for a night to remember. I have been to a lot on places, many tasting sessions as well but the day was specially marked for us in the calendar I guess for we had such an awesome experience…Yes experience as a whole I would say. Going out over a dinner is not just about the food being served but it’s an experience to cherish and we certainly did this one. Chef Paul Kinny and his team of workaholics had made it sure that they would make us drool all that night with their choicest dishes that they were planning to present to us. More on the dishes but let me step back a moment here and take you around the premises.
Ambience: Well it has made some good use of the allotted space. It has two areas the outer one which hosts arrays of approx. 7-8 tables and then there is this specially designed Shamiana thing which can accommodate around 8-9 people easily. They can have it booked for you for a special get together of friends or family. (pic below) The entire outside premises curves around a centralized fountain that Phoenix has put up. So in a way the people opting to sit in alfresco can also have a water body around to add in to the décor and experience. The inside is rather a well-lit colorful place, which has brought out different décor elements into one place. The décor is a mix of chart board, wooden upholstery and assorted color murals on wall panels sporting shades of blue, yellow and orange. Some of the sections also have a couple of paintings hung which helps soothe the environment. Amongst other they have used colored bottles, metal mugs, wooden and bone china pottery which kinda of creates a warm cozy environment. I even liked the twin orifice olive oil pot placed on each of the table alongside the two pots of chili flakes and mixed herbs/ oregano. They have also made some unique creation in the form of a fresco which makes use of old egg racks colored in three shades and then plastic ball used to make a giant 212 within.
Service: Well somehow that day we had the entire premise to our service and did get a top of the class service. Dishes were served in quick succession and the tables were always filled in with eye candy colors oozing out of the dishes spread across. People were busy taking pics and were just not having enough of it since the dishes were presented equally promising. The bar in charge was very polite and took good care of us with the assorted range of mock tails that were on the menu. They did have cocktails and spirits on the menu but since there license is pending they have not started serving that just yet. The drinks were very well served and were even customized at times to suit to respective palette tips.
Food: You guys must have often heard and read people or even me for that matter having mentioned that I was spoilt for choices but nothing came close to the grand spread we were in for that day. Hardly there has been a situation where you say that you were tired of eating but that day even the mighty zoman warriors were gasping and heaving from all the gourmet they were having from gobbling all the delectable dishes brought to them. After going through around 10-12 amazing starters which included crostini’s, Caesar salads, barbeque chicken wings, calamari rings, onion rings, watermelon feta cheese and many more, the chef announced to be serving mains now. For the first time I saw a startling surprise and awkward smile on few faces for they had to gear up and bring in an extra set of stomach to be prepared for the mains to be served up. Let’s have a walkthrough in a bit more detailed way shall we?
House Style Caesar’s Salad chicken: A healthy Caesar is always welcomed by veggies and non-veg people equally well. Decorated with garlic croutons and parmesan shavings this was made out of the freshest of romaine the market could offer. The freshness was so evident that it made me recall the refrigerator ad from whirlpool where in the couple is making crackling noises out of the veggies and fruits being diced and crumpled. The romaine that fresh certainly makes it a memorable start.
Spiced Arugula and Feta Salad: A very special hand-picked salad made of candied walnuts, crispy granny smith apples topped with citrus drizzle, this recipe was a hit amongst the health freaks. A healthy choice for sure it was also one of the most eye candy for the night for all the shutterbugs out there.
Watermelon feta Salad: This one is really dish of the season it seems. This one is swooping up quite a lot of people and certainly seems to be appealing to one and all. I have been eating all this week around places and this one is certainly making it to all the table tops. A beautiful use of feta and the mild dash of sweetness brought by the watermelon and sometimes adored by pineapple slices – this recipe is born to win hearts.
Mushroom Cappuccino: I like the mushrooms but this was one not something that suited my palette in particular. The soup was given a creamy foam texture and it was decent but not as good as the other variant.
Mexican Tomato & Bean Soup: Not a great fan of tomato soup but when I took a sip of this beauty a bit reluctantly, it was blissful. The soup tasted even better with the accompanying crunchy tortilla. The combo was just amazing. The shot was rich and creamy.
Beer Battered Onion Rings: This was very quick in drawing some attention. The rings were slightly oily and could have been dried before serving but taste wise it was a treat for sure. Both veggies and non-veg palette respected the servings. This was also accompanied by a chipotle barbeque dip. I was quiet inspired by the texture and taste of dip.
Crumbling Crostini: This came in two variants – a veg and a non-veg one. The non-veg won hands down certainly but then veg one with tomato and basil was promising none the less. Topped onto a very crispy and flaky puff the veggies / chicken shreds (roast chicken and with grainy mustard) were topped and adored with mild dressing.
Western Cigarillos: A Cigar made of bell peppers, jalapenos, cilantro and cheddar cheese threads wrapped in phyllo pastry. The dip that came along was yet again a decent company which enhanced the taste and dish as a whole but the dish scored a rather average score.
Pan seared Cottage Cheese: A rather simple preparation with chilies, garlic and cottage cheese but certainly a preferred one with the veggies. They were quiet pleased to see this one spread out.
Calamari Rings: If onion rings were for the veggie lovers, the non-veg fellas had these coming in to make it even and more. The preparation in lemon buttered batter which was used to toss the squid rings was simply made to perfection. I have had it on few occasions but this one was a home run.
Gambas Caliente: Yet another non veg recipe but with shrimps this time. The shrimps were tossed in a spicy and a rather glazed potion containing a lot of paprika. There are quite a few ways this is served but the dish was served with buns for us. A mild preparation rather helped us in refreshing our taste buds for the more surprises that they were going to experience.
Seared Chicken Skewers: A rather popular dish with the young crowd of Pune, the skewers are quick to grab your attention. They were served with piquant tomato chutney dip. The chicken skewers were a bit chewy. I could have used a bit more soft textured. The dressing however was very good. Ultimately after a few cross sections I inferred that the chicken used was not very suitable but the glaze was rightly made. So again no complaints here in that case.
Spicy House Special: This was one of the pizzas that came on to the plates. There were quite a few more that came up but this one as the name suggest was a veggie delight, and comprised of onion, capsicum, mushroom, American corn, jalapeno and chilies. Based in a thin crust, this was went quiet quickly down the gullet and raised quiet a brows.
All American Pizza: The non-vegetarian version of the pizza being served. This was topped with chicken. The pizza was a thin crust and by thin crust it was indeed thin crust. Very lite in weight and even the cheese that would go in as a result was very minimal. This was what could become a healthy version of pizza if you buy the concept that is.
There was yet another variant – the one with the pepperoni as toppings.
No Carb Spaghetti: Yet another customized variant by Chef Paul. This was a tricky one to grab by the fork. We had fun just trying to have a portion of it. It had grated long veggies, zucchini as well in small portions and swirling it around fork, cutting it and lifting the portion was being experimented. Me, well didn’t bother much. Had the entire content lifted in fork and munched on in one huge bite. It was decent taste wise.
Coffee BBQ rubbed pork spare ribs: Tried it for the first time so not really sure on the recipe but was amazed none the less. The ribs were well marinated and drenched just enough in the BBQ sauce. The sauce itself had a turn with coffee flavor induced in the sauce which gave it a slight bitter hint. Absolute delight I can say.
Barbeque Chicken: The recipe was the usual one of barbeque chicken wings but the surprise element was the white onion, green peppers and freshly grounded pepper used to give it some extreme flavors. The dish as a whole had few strong dominating flavors and yet the BBQ sauce glaze was felt in each morsel. The fresh pepper is always a delight but the proportion has to be realized with respect to the recipe which uses it. This one had used it so judiciously that the original recipe wasn’t overpowered one bit.
The starters were amazing and would get an average of 8.5 from me. (Few dishes would get a 9 but even the average would be a comfortable 8.5)
We were continuously hogging and hogging and were completely exasperated when the Chef Paul declared he is going to start getting mains. The bhukkads focused and brought in their extra set of stomachs to march further on the path to eternal trance.
Penne with Sundried Tomato Crème: A rather regular dish but made to perfection. The sun dried tomatoes used added in the extra punch. Of course there were broccoli, herbs and the beloved parmesan cheese to give the texture and the feel but the sun dried tomatoes worked the actual wonder. (A similar recipe that you get at Marrakesh is my personal favorite. It’s worth every penny.)
Chargrilled Chicken Breast: This was a star preparation in the mains. I had two servings of just this. I have developed an increasing fondness for use of freshly grounded pepper and this was made in black peppercorn jus sauce. Additionally the broccoli, carrots, tomato and the baby corn added the needful colors to plate it to perfection.
Cajun Spiced Shrimps: Cajun based recipes are always a hit, try at any barbeque nation outlet and you will find their Cajun spiced potatoes to be signature dish. It was no different here. The chef made the Cajun spiced shrimps so awesome that no sooner it came onto the table, people left other dishes and were quick to finish this one first. The mashed potatoes and beurre blanc sauce or the white butter sauce (French) made with reduction of white wine, vinegar and shallots were the best of accompaniments to ask for. The dish was presented equally well. Loved it.
Risotto Ai Funghi: As the name suggests, this one was a classic risotto based in mushroom and parmesan. This was topped with a basil drizzle. A decent dish to finish the mains.
The mains would score a decent 8.
We were still lost in the tropical paradise and the unending giggles and leg pulling session when the team started bringing in the most awaited part of the meal – the desserts. I’ll keep it simple forget the starters and mains I can drive 25 Km of traffic laden streets just to have a spoonful of their desserts. I usually hog on starters a lot, go lite on mains and taste or sometimes even skip on the desserts. Luckily I didn’t do that the other day and boy what a decision it was. The desserts had a fair line up of itself.
Triple Mudpie Cake: Not sure of the layering done here but the cake was for sure a unique blend of chocolates used to create a gooey nice moist choco avalanche. Sure to be on the minds of people who love their chocolate. I am more into white chocolate myself but loved this fair and square.
Tiramisu Cake: The perfect blend of coffee, Kahlua (Coffee flavored Mexican liquor) and Italian mascarpone cheese, this beast was sure to win the hearts. The aroma itself was so tempting that you didn’t bother to see it you would just reach out for your spoons or hands if spoon was a challenge to reach out for and so this beast a good time. Hands down winner of the night.
Carrot Cake: This was for the ones with rather a sweet tooth. Platted with caramel sauce lining and decked up with a tiny orange carrot made out of fondant this one was liked by most of them.
Warm Chocolate Lava Cake: This was another steal deal after Tiramisu that is. The choco lava cake was actually the first of its kind that I had which actually had the chocolate inside gushing out once the outer crust was scooped. The fizz was so evident and the liquid chocolate was simply divine. We liked it so much visually and taste wise that we asked a second serving for this one in particular.
You guys must be wondering I am making all positive remarks and not doing enough critical justice to the recipes, but that’s something so difficult owing to the fact that any dish scored an easy 8 or plus. With the kind of exposure I have had till date I could hardly criticize it. So either you need to be a real expert at a recipe or must have had a real out of the world recipe to rate these a low score.
Peach Cheese Cake: How can a dessert treat complete without a lovely cheese cake? Chef completed all the possible cravings of our taste buds with yet another promising recipe. A poached peach cheese cake and platted with a scoop of vanilla ice cream this was yet loved by guys and girls alike. Actually could have been a little more in demand with the ladies.
Crème Brulee: The trinity cream or burnt crème as it is known as; was another decent preparation that was one scoring in the category of contrasts. This was for the simple reason that the hard caramel which laid atop the rich custard base
The desserts would get a hands down 9.5 from me.
Unfortunately we had to close down for the evening and walk out at around 11:30 when the management had to shut for the night but our party spirit simply resisted to die out. We clicked some more pics with the fabulous team that made this evening so special and then took off. On a last note; can’t thank enough Team Carpe Diem – Minoti Makim, Carina Bhagchandani, Shivangi Shah, the restaurant’s management, Chef Paul and his team for throwing us such a warm, fun filled evening