October 10th is my mum’s birthday. Also Rekha (and/or) Amitabh Bachchan’s birthday. (The past thirty minutes were spent ravaging my father’s cupboard for what you see below. I knew I’d find it there.)
This was a little over fifteen years ago. I had terrible handwriting (it’s so much better now, really). I was a Bollywood kid (yeah, not much has changed since). And I loved my mom to bits (I’ve grown up and we’ve found what they call ‘the middle path’).
October 10th, this year, was a Monday. I was hungover from my Doolally orgy (or something of that sort) and had a long day at work. In mild bitching about work, I always end up having to get my code reviewed when I have a dinner plan. That makes me late for dinner, almost always. I guess that speaks volumes about my ability (rather, the lack of it) to write good code.
That said I’ll continue to what matters. Dinner. Whispering Bamboo is a restaurant inside the Taj Blue Diamond that serves Chinese and South East Asian cuisine. Yeah, alright, they call it Vivanta by Taj now. But everybody and their children in Pune grew up calling the posh building near the KP petrol pumps Blue Diamond, because that is what it was then. I have memories of breaking a wine glass at Blue D (as we fondly call it) when I was much much much younger.
11 Koregaon Road
Pune – 411 001
While the basic building (and other features that make it a hotel) has (have) remained the same, the restaurants have changed every few years.
I drove my little Alto up to the entrance and was promptly helped with by the valet staff. Call me terribly-caught-up-in-a-socio-economic-culture, but driving into a really fancy hotel lobby in a tiny car makes you feel awkward. It made me feel awkward. And yes, I refrain from #awkwardmoments tweets. My parents were at the bar, it’s called Easy (ok, wtf!), warming up to the birthday spirit.
Blue Diamond (oops, I mean Vivanta by Taj) has a patisserie that goes by Caramel. Oooh. Baker’s Basket in Pune. It started off years ago at Blue Diamond. I assume Caramel is the new-age name for what once used to be Baker’s Basket. There’s the bar, Easy. There’s a Cafe called Latitude. And then, there are two restaurants: Mystic Masala and Whispering Bamboo – not too difficult to figure what kind of cuisine is served at either, right? Besides, I already told you what the latter serves!
We walked into the warmth of yellow lights, chopsticks and orchids. Very basic, yet very pleasing.
A round of cocktails to ring in the birthday (albeit three hours before midnight), followed by soup. Sea food soup. The mother’s all time favourite. And we’ve come to love it more when the soup smells of the seafood. Now, that’s not entirely a nice thing as far as freshness goes, but what the hell. That’s when it actually feels like sea food soup. For the record, we insist on all other sea food odourless and as fresh as fresh can get. The Spicy Seafood Coriander Soup was perfect. Clear, fishy and with a yummy hint of lemon and coriander. Dad ordered the Chicken with Burnt Garlic Clear Soup. And Joey doesn’t share his food if he’s not too keen on tasting some of ours. I assume he liked it, else he would’ve said something to indicate he wasn’t happy.
For appetizers, we ordered a chicken dish (and I CAN NOT remember it’s name, I think it was the Cripsy Chicken Tai Chin) and the Sliced Fish Chilly Wild Pepper. The chicken was like any other good ‘Chinese’ chicken, thick, red base and full of flavour. The fish was a delight. The crushed pepper came through so well and blended amazingly with the other spices. And then, of course, a ton of spring onion was thrown in. Because we serve Chinese, yo! (below, the fish)
We went all out and ordered the Stir Fried Lobster with Black Pepper Sauce (priced at about Rs 300/- per 100 g of lobster), some Pan Fried Noodles and some Burnt Garlic Fried Rice. Apparently, burnt garlic was the theme of the evening. Ok. Joke.
The gravy that the lobster was served in was wayyyy too little for anything. Really. So we called for a basic schezwan gravy to fill in for what was lacking.
All in all, it was a good dinner. The service was alright – courteous check, time taken for food to arrive decent. The quality of the food was decent too. Nothing out of the ordinary. But yes, everything worth a birthday visit. I offered to pay the bill. But my father said I could pay some other time. Why would I object? He paid close to Rs 7500/-, for about six cocktails, two appetizers and the main course. That’s not too bad given that the hotel is among the top ten in the city.
(Oh, and as an anti climax, we ate dessert at Shiv Kailash. They serve the world’s best Kesar Kulfi Falooda and I’ll write about it at length some other day.)
And to end, because this is a birthday post, I think a picture of the birthday girl (err, mom) should most definitely be put up. Here’s a very very pretty picture of Ma from a couple of years ago.
Now, look here. I have to hunt for age old pictures because I’ve stopped taking pictures of family and friends. And I’m no even an amateur photographer!