Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pune - Foodie's Paradise

Despite my utter dissatisfaction with the Pune's traffic situation & it's citizens WRT the traffic situation, Pune does have quite a few things to be thankful for. The greenery in it's army areas, the tree-lined, shady roads, the old colonial homes.
What's that? You don't want to know what retirees enjoy? You want to know what a migrant yuppie moving to the city can look forward to?

Well, there's the food... Pune is literally the foodie's paradise!

There are no discos worth going to, the multiplexes & malls aren't anything to write home about, but the glut of restaurants that spoil you for choice... aah!

From the ubiquitous, humble Joshi & Rohit vadewale to the surprisingly unpretentious Arthur's Theme & Swiss Cheese Garden, from Sheesha Cafe (despite it's snobbish owner) serving Iranian fare, to the newly opened Litti Chokha (run by 4 very friendly software professionals, all under 30!) serving humble Bihari fare with pride. Litti Chokha is in Katraj, near BVP. The landmark is Care & Cure Girls Hostel.
Mind you, none of the fare can be called truly authentic, but like I said, Pune is the foodie's paradise, not the gastronome's!

Take Arthur's Theme in Koregaon Park for example. They've kept some basic French dishes on the menu, changed them a little to suit the Indian palate, and crammed the rest of the menu with regular Continental & Indian stuff. The least one would expect going to a French restaurant would be some nice wine, but their selection disappoints!
The ambience is nice, not overtly classy, but the type that a group of friends would enjoy a trifle more than a family.
It's not the kind of place you'd go to if you were looking for a quiet classy evening though.

Sheesha Cafe, at ABC Farms on the Koregaon Park-Mundhwa road, has something called the Chello-Burg Kabab (I hope I got the name right), which is essentially a meat dish with rice. It's laden with butter, which makes it great for the tongue but terrible for your arteries! A once in a year kind of calorie indulgence, but well worth it!
Make sure you try & get one of the corner seating areas instead of the tables in the centre. They're carpeted takhats, and you can put your feet up & relax.
Classier ambience wise than anything else I've visited in Pune. Plus they have Jazz festivals!

Anyone who wants a taste of Marwar (the part of Rajasthan that borders Gujarat), should go to Chokhi Dhani! It's a little outside the city; they had to since they require a lot of space to develop that mela atmosphere! Keep driving down past The Aga Khan palace until you start seeing signs for Chokhi Dhani.
To people who've never been to Rajasthan, the entire experience is amazing. To someone like me who hasn't been "home" in 9 years, it's a fairly close reminder of what life used to be like there!

There's Mainland China, an import from Bombay, but extremely popular! Looks like Chinese food is probably the most popular foreign cuisine in India!
Right next to it stands an Italian joint called La Dolce Vita, one I still have to sample.
And after that is Sigri with some of the most uninspiring fare in all of Pune. Give it a miss!
(All the three mentioned above are near Dhole Patil road, in a bylane off Pune Central)

Another place that has great food & some nice wine as well is Nawabs. Nawabs is above Aakar Furniture, on the Blue Nile-Inox road. Peppy music (fairly loud though), great kababs, the kind of place a bunch of migrant yuppies would feel home at!

Northern Frontier, opposite the Aga Khan Palace, apparently serves the best Mutton Roganjosh in the city. This is something I have yet to sample, and I will get back to you after authenticating this claim.

Another place that makes a mean Roganjosh is Chillies at Elysium (a little ahead of ABC Farms on the opposite side of the road)! Worth a try, just for that, although the place is essentially a party/shaadi hall these days!

I cannot close this post without mentioning what is now called Not Just Jazz by the Bay (very outdated website! It's located at ESQUARE). It's my favourite restaurant in Bombay, but the Pune one doesn't thrive the way the Bombay one does. I'm certain this has to do with the lifestyle choice differences that exist between the cities. The Bombay Jazz is packed on weekends & you have to pay to enter. In contrast the Pune one is barely hanging in there. It is badly in need of some patronage. Hopefully the yuppie migrant population is listening!

The reason Jazz suffers so in Pune are many. The Long Island Iced Tea of the Bombay joint is worth killing for. As is it's Macroni & Cheese! The Pune one serves a Long Island you wish you had made instead. And the worst feature of the restaurant is it's manager. A moustached man in a funny green suit, who has the worst manners of any customer service professional ever!

Go to Jazz by all means, but give him hell please!

AND... the latest eatery to open up in the city, jostling for space among the surplusage in Koregaon Park (just before Tequeela), differentiated purely by virtue of it's organic health food menu is Liquid! The young owner & his team whip up some great salads & fresh fruit juices that are a must for every health conscious foodie! No added sugar, no added water, just pure tasty fruit juice blends. My personal favourite is the one they call Ultimate Detox! And there's a Tuna salad for me! The vegetarians may want to try the Broc Doc. You may also want to sample some of the regular coolers.
Perfect way to beat the summer heat: Eat light, eat green! Go check it out & post your comments here as feedback!


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