Mainland China- Restaurant Review

I think it was watching the movie “102 Not Out” that sparked our interest in Mainland China. There’s a scene where the main characters all go to this fine-dining place to celebrate a milestone. It looked tempting. We’d never tried this before even though we’d passed by it so many times on our way to other restaurants. Being vegetarians, we, not exactly my husband and I, but a few members of my family,  refused to go on the grounds of it serving non-vegetarian food along with vegetarian, being smelly etc. etc. But one fine Sunday we decided to check it out. Everyone else took a safer route and went along with the restaurant we normally dine at. It was just Prasad and I. We called it a date. 🙂

First things first, there was no smell as we entered. It was quite empty at that hour. We were greeted by friendly staff and huge Chinese statues. The restaurant was done up beautifully. I walked around looking at the paintings and hangings on the wall. We went with the buffet. Vegetarian. There were separate tables for vegetarian and Non Vegetarian entrees.

The Eight Treasure Vegetable Soup was a comforting meal in itself. It felt like just what the doctor prescribed for a gloomy day. It perked us up immediately. We both went for another bowl each. And then came starters, one better than the other- vegetable Siumai, corn and mushroom dumpling, crispy vegetable herbal salt and potato hunan style. Even their appearances were a delight, especially the dumplings. I was tongue-tied at how delectable the crispy vegetables were. They were all so tasty just the way they were that I didn’t need to pair them with any of the many sauces that were placed alongside the snacks.

We were almost full by the time we were through with the appetizers. And then came the main course. I’m not a big fan of Chinese food anymore, thanks to Prasad, who has dampened my appetite for it by ordering some bad takeaways. But there, at Mainland China, I found myself taking a bite of everything and simply closing my eyes in pleasure. I was in Food Heaven! Now, back to the main course, the ginger and capsicum fried rice, the vegetable hakka noodles, the vegetable in Chinese parsley sauce, okra and tofu in hot chili mustard sauce, everything, even the stir-fried vegetables were lip-smackingly good! I’m not the adventurous type at buffets. I eat only the things I really feel like eating, but at China, I was trying everything.

The Sweet and Sour vegetable with Crisp noodles was a dessert in itself, but I had my eyes set on the Dessert spread. We were so full by this time that we had reserved space  just for one special sweet. But how could we not try the others? They looked so pretty and forlorn! 😦 Good-natured folks that we are, we decided to try them too. 🙂 The mousse, the chocolate biscuits, the Deep-fried milk, Uff! Everything tasted divine, but what left an indelible mark in our hearts and minds were the combination of crispy honey noodle with sesame topped with assorted ice creams and a generous pouring of hot chocolate sauce all over. I said to Prasad that I could cry out of sheer joy!

I felt so bad for the family of 3 seated beside us, none of them smiling, 2 of them immersed in their phones, pulling at their chicken legs as if it were just another meal and not a godsend. I asked Prasad if I were allowed to compliment the chef. He didn’t let me and I’m glad he did so. I would’ve surely embarrassed myself in my over-excited state! Yikes!

We stepped out of our routine, our comfort zone, the usual North Indian Buffet we go to,  and gave Mainland China a try… 🙂 It is quite pricey, but it is well worth checking out, at least once. Ha! But I’m sure you will not stop at once!

Thinespo – Eat and Go!

Thinespo has been on our radar for quite some time now. We’d been there once, to pick up our food and had almost decided to eat right there, outside, in the soft glow of pathway lights and under the awning of a clear night’s sky. But we had other plans. So we promised ourselves and the kids (Medha simply fell in love with the place!) that we’d go there again, maybe for breakfast?

“Thinespo”- a term in Telugu (a South Asian language) apparently means “Eat and Go”. But don’t just eat and go! Eat-Unwind-Savor-Pay-and then Go! Thinespo is a place to hang out with friends and family, let kids run about to their heart’s content, have a romantic dinner outdoors (like they show in the movies) and enjoy some great food too! Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

The Pizzas (Popeye Pizza and another one whose name I can’t recall)  we’d ordered were surprisingly thin but truly delicious! We fought over some leftover slices too, can you believe it? We didn’t even suffer from the bloated feeling we normally experience after we eat at the usual Pizza places. We simply HAD to dine there.


It was quite sunny when we made our way into this restaurant (It is easy to miss this place if you drive too fast). We sat on the patio while the kids hung outside, on the lawn (and sun-bathed!). The fans and the comfy chairs made extra sure that the sun didn’t cook us slowly. No… Really, It was pretty comfortable even on a sunny afternoon. You can choose to sit indoors too, though that’s not something I went there for. (Come on… there are a ton of restaurants for that and only a few that have outdoor dining area and serve great food too!)

We ordered a couple of omelets and burgers for us adults and Garlic Bread for the kids. They must have only just fired up their kitchen, because the place had that hungover look about it after the day before’s birthday party. At noon, the staff was still cleaning up the tables, but when the food did arrive, we just dug in right away! The Thinespo Fluffy Egg whites I ordered just drove us wild with its appearance and texture! We’d never seen Eggs cooked that way and wondered how the chef whipped up something so fluffy!

Thinespo Special Fluffy Egg white
Thinespo Special Fluffy Egg white

It felt as if I was spooning up a dollop of ice cream or something and tasted melt-in-your-mouth good! The Garlic Bread slices topped with vegetables and cheese were crispy and the kids gobbled them up pretty quickly. My mother-in-law (who doesn’t eat eggs) was delighted to dig into the Vintage Veg Burger (Ooh! So much veggies in this, she squealed with delight!). Even I found the delicate patty in my Thrilling Tiki Burger to be refreshingly different from what I’ve always eaten. There was a home-cooked feeling about everything we tasted.

Garlic Bread @Thinespo
Garlic Bread @Thinespo

I thought Egg Florentine stole the show with its varied textures in one single plate and delicate flavors of Eggs, Spinach and Bread. This will be the first thing I order the next time around!

Egg Florentine @Thinespo
Egg Florentine @Thinespo

Prasad was pretty bummed about not being served hashbrowns on the side, but I didn’t mind one bit. I thought the Florentine deserved to be on the plate all by herself, like a queen! Doesn’t she look pretty in the picture above?! 🙂

Anyway, we simply HAD to try the desserts. The Dessert stand was the first thing to greet us as we entered Thinespo and the cupcakes and pastries, casually displayed, looked too tempting to skip!

Desserts @Thinespo
Desserts @Thinespo

So we ordered a couple, one a chocolate ganache with fruity flavors and a red velvet cupcake for Medha, who simply wanted to try it because of its fancy name!

Red Velvet Cupcake
Red Velvet Cupcake

If Egg Florentine stole the show, it wasn’t a piece of cake (no pun intended) for her! The desserts put up a good fight for our appreciation too! Medha (who isn’t too fond of sugary treats, except candies!) just didn’t want to share a bite with any of us and the chocolate frosting on top of the slice of cake was unlike anything I’d tasted in India! We cleaned the plate in seconds! Mmmm… The whole experience just flooded me with fond memories of our breakfasts in the US.

Chocolate Heaven @Thinespo
Chocolate Heaven @Thinespo

We have finally found a good, no Great Breakfast (Lunch and Dinner too, but especially Breakfast!) place in our part of the World… Thank God!

With Love as Sweet and Decadent as an extra-chocolatey Chocolate Cake,


Rajdhani Restaurant

One of our favorite family pastimes (actually, this one tops our list of favorite pastimes!) is to dine at different restaurants every Sunday. We mostly go for a North Indian Lunch Buffet, but occasionally we do try other cuisines like Rajasthani or Gujarathi. Nothing beats the taste and variety of Food offered at the Rajdhani Restaurant in Banjara Hills, which serves both Rajasthani and Gujarathi delicacies on a Thali (or a platter).

The friendly staff here makes you feel at home; Until the meal is over and the bill arrives, one almost forgets that he is eating at a restaurant and not at a relative’s home. They abide by their slogan of “Atthithi Devo Bhava” (The guest is equivalent to God) and treat their customers so.


A smiling employee applies vermilion to your forehead at the door, another brings a traditional decanter filled with water and a bowl to help you wash hands right at the table, someone else comes to find out whether you wish to eat the Jain or Non-Jain version (The Jain cuisine is completely vegetarian and also excludes onions, potatoes, brinjals and garlic, according to Wikipedia). We picked the Non-Jain variety.

Welcoming guests with a tilak

Rajasthan, the word means “the Land of Kings” and its food with its generous use of Ghee (clarified butter) is fit to be served to the Royalty. Ghee is extensively used in the preparation of even the simplest of Dals, to the making of special desserts (apparently, they aren’t even called desserts in Rajasthan, as unlike the desserts which are served at the end of a meal, Rajasthani sweet dishes are served before, during and after the meal) like Malpua or Gulab Jamun. And that explains the reason why we walk around feeling full the rest of the day after having gorged on traditional Rajasthani food.

Where are my chapathis???

Rajdhani apparently has 72 different rotating menus with 22,464 delicacies from Gujarat and Rajasthan! Phew! But I go for their Dal baati churma, a dish that opened my eyes (and my palate) to the rich cuisine of Rajasthan, thanks to our friends, Vinay and Vandu. I first tasted this dish (or a combination of 3 dishes- Panchmel Dal, Boiled and baked balls of whole wheat flour called the Baati and a sweet powder of broken baati and jaggery called the Churma) at their housewarming ceremony, and I was hooked. Every chance I got, I asked them to prepare this delicacy.

Dal Baati Churma

Now, whenever we eat at a Rajdhani (I’ve tried and loved the one in Dubai too), I joyfully look back on the days spent in the US with our best buddies.

Food Food and more Food!

Coming back to the Rajdhani in Banjara Hills, the folks here take hospitality up a notch (did I mention that already? Well…). Like an aunt or grandma that adores you and can’t stop asking you to eat “just a little more”, here, the waiters smilingly do the same. Or, they ask you whether you want a bit more Ghee on the already rich-looking Khichdi (a preparation of Rice and Lentils) and pour some, if you show signs of yielding. One even suggested I slather a bit of butter and Jaggery on my tiny Bajra (pearl millet) Roti, roll it up and eat. And when I complimented on its taste, he slathered more butter and jaggery on another Roti to enjoy some more. I was too happy (or too dazed?)  to complain!

All of us took a nice long siesta at home afterwards, which did nothing to bring down the sluggish feeling we had. A walk around the neighborhood in the evening helped a bit.

I guess (and hope?!?!) there’s nothing wrong in indulging in some good food sometimes, right? After all how many lifetimes do we get! Yeah yeah… I see ya rolling eyes!

Enough said.

(By the way, the meal costed us about 350 Rupees per head)

A Night @ Eat Street

I love Eat Street. It has a bunch of eateries to suit every palate, from “Sultan’s Biryani and Kebabs”, that specializes in Mughlai cuisine,  to “Wok of the town” that serves Indo-Chinese food. And there is a Subway and a Pizza Hut too, which means, there’s something to eat for everyone.


But what attracts me to this place isn’t just the food, but the whole dining experience. It is an open-air food court and a Fair, beside the Hussain Sagar Lake.

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I always enjoy relaxing there with my family, a slice of Tandoori Paneer Pizza in hand, gazing at the opposite shoreline, all lit-up and dazzling, throwing colorful reflections on the lake. The cool breeze and the excited chatter around makes one forget that we are just a hop, skip and a jump from the bustling main road.


When we were last there, I took the opportunity of our visit to practice some Night Photography. At first I kept clicking pictures without paying much heed to the shutter speed, that is, the time it takes for the shutter to open and close to capture a picture. If it closes too fast, not enough light enters the camera, which means, pictures shot in the dark appear darker. By allowing the camera’s shutter to close slowly, more light can be allowed to enter.


Prasad suggested I needed to allow my camera to focus before pressing down the shutter release button, so that I reduced the shutter speed.


I tried that, and the pictures slightly improved in their quality, even though they still appeared grainy.

I dream of the day when I am taking pictures like a pro and using this post to show where I’m coming from!

P1100359I have read in photography websites and books, that a good photographer never uses the flash and makes do with whatever light is available, because using a flash adds an unnatural light to a picture. I get it, but sometimes I just don’t care about what the purists have to say! If breaking a rule means I get a good picture, then break a rule I will!

I did get some good pictures when I (Finally!) turned on the flash.

P1100376 P1100381By the way, I believe it is very VERY important to capture the everyday fleeting moments before they are lost, than to fret over the quality of the pictures or the minutiae of Photography!

Spice Garden


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We had thoroughly enjoyed the food and the ambience at the Spice Garden Restaurant on our  first visit and were going back for more.

Back in the US,  especially in Tucson, where we lived, there were pretty good Indian restaurants,  but they weren’t strictly vegetarian. That meant the restaurants paid more attention to the dishes containing meat, or so we used to feel. It always felt like we didn’t have enough variety and that when we paid for a buffet, we were covering the expenses for preparing non vegetarian food, which we didn’t even touch. In India it is so different. We have so many purely vegetarian restaurants to choose from, that serve banquets fit for a King, that we are spoilt for choice here!

Being a foodie family, that’s what we are found to be doing most weekends, trying new restaurants.

As I was saying, we went back to the Spice Garden once again, ’cause we LOVED it the first time around. This time too we weren’t disappointed.


We were served a welcome drink called Spice Green, which was, like the name suggests, Spicy and Green. We adults loved it but not the kids. When I asked the waiter what went into its making, he said something along the lines of “Sprite and Cough syrup”!

“I’m sorry, Cough syrup?”, I asked.

Again, he repeated something, very fast, that sounded like “Cough Syrup”. I don’t think it was Cough syrup, why would anyone put Cough syrup in a juice? At a fancy restaurant? Maybe I should have asked someone else for clarification. That didn’t occur to me then!


The soup was served. I chose Sweet Corn over Tomato soup. There were a good number of Salads to try.

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The starters were the real stars of the “show”! They were served at the table itself, hot and crispy. There were Cheese Balls, which surprisingly the kids didn’t like, but we did. And Paneer Tikka and Aloo 65, each appetizer tastier than the other.



I was busy trying to figure out the best way to capture their beauty with my camera, than focusing on finishing my plate, that I was soon served an ultimatum by my husband – Eat first or be abandoned!

Even though the mouth-watering starters filled up most of the space in my tummy, I decided to give the main course a try, as everyone else was raving about the dishes.


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The Kids loved the Pasta and Coriander Noodles. I loved the buttery Paneer Masala with Roti; Vegetable Do Pyaza was a pleasant surprise, since it didn’t look appealing, but tasted nice.

Even if I feel full, I can’t resist digging into a dessert. Kova Puri looked and tasted delicious, while Heera Jamun looked so cute like tiny marbles that I had to pop a couple into my mouth, even as my tummy began protesting because it couldn’t be stuffed anymore!



P1100245I didn’t TOUCH the Saffron Phirni, no, really, although it looked tempting and came in a clay bowl. I just thought it looked cute paired with a scoop of Butterscotch Ice cream.

I fed them to my dear husband! 🙂 (Psst…. The family dustbin!)

Price for the buffet – Rs. 299 (plus taxes)


Village – The soul of India

Trying new restaurants is one of my family’s favorite pastimes. That’s how we spend most, no, every Sunday. When the festival of Sankranthi presented us with a holiday, that’s what we decided to do.

Our plan was to eat at Jalpaan, a favorite dining place, but on a whim we entered the adjacent restaurant, Village – The soul of India, found the ambiance inviting and the pricing right. There wasn’t another soul inside apart from the staff (even at around 1pm), but our adventurous spirit pulled us to give the restaurant a try.


From the moment I walked inside, I began snapping pictures. The restaurant looked so festive, like I had come to a village fair, that I couldn’t help myself.



The dining area was divided into sections, each section representing a business (tailor, parlor) or a store (arrack, sweets) one can find in a village square. There was even a police station with pictures of “fugitives” (probably the staff) pasted on the wall.





While the others indulged in the starters brought right to the table by the staff dressed in traditional dhothi-kurtha and turban, and the kids munched on fresh fruit as they climbed up and down a deck, I walked around, mesmerized, clicking pictures, a silly smile plastered across my face. I was having a jolly good time just exploring the restaurant that I forgot why I was there in the first place, until one of the employees reminded me that the food would get cold if I didn’t eat right away!






The food, yes the food, there was such variety, that I felt full even before I finished gorging on the starters. It wasn’t specific to any region and had something to suit every palate, from Dhoklas to Hakka noodles, but only vegetarian, mind you.

I loved the taste of Gobhi Manchurian and Pudina Paratha with Sarson da Saag. The buttery texture of a rice flour concoction (i forgot what it is called), that resembled the ubiquitous Khichdi, sprinkled with a dash of red chilli powder, was so delicious, the thought of it still makes me drool!


Since we were still the only customers, we worried about what might happen to all that yummy food. But we didn’t have to brood any longer as other people began trickling in.


Now, I’m more into starters and desserts, so I skipped most of the main course to try the Gulab Jamun. It was so good, and so were the freshly prepared Jalebis.



Old, folksy, upbeat Hindi songs playing in the background made me feel like we were in a Bollywood set. We couldn’t resist swaying to some of the dance numbers.

A puppet show kept the kids enthralled.



And then it was time for a game of “musical chairs” and you know who won? Yup, yours truly….



There was to be a dance program as well, but we had errands to run, so I had to be dragged out!

We had a nice family outing and not just good food this afternoon for about 350 rupees (incl. Of taxes) per person at the “Village”. I will be going back again, soon. And not just because I won a voucher for free buffet for 2! 🙂