India to get its biggest casino soon………..

Mumbai, India

20140713_092810_Richtone(HDR)The Deltin group which operates hotels and off-shore casinos in Goa has come up with a 176 room property in the sleepy industrial town of Daman, a 3.5 hr drive from Mumbai. It will house a 60000 Sq ft live gaming casino making it the biggest on land in India.  I was invited for a weekend experience at the property which was organized by the Food Blogger Association of India. This 3 month old property which awaits to be classified as a   five-star gives you the luxury of space; and the casino vibe cascades right from the club and spade logos in the room, to the casino inspired wall art by Krsna Mehta in the corridors to the customized chandelier in the lobby. We were welcomed to the hotel with a glass of sparkling with raspberry caviar  and it all began then.

Rooms:

20140712_142911_Richtone(HDR)Extremely spacious and well-appointed with soft pillows, a semi- hard mattress (I do not like the sink-in type, this one was just perfect), a big flat screen television and chocolates by the bedside ensuring all that needed for some good night sleep. The Mini bar like in every hotel was an expensive proposition. The bathrooms were huge again with a massive bathtub; a shower cubicle,toiletries by Kama and a see through glass wall with vertical blinds again reinstating the calm and relaxed vibe of the place. The rooms are definitely worthy of a five-star.

Food and Beverage:

Vegas – The coffee shop

Situated right next to the Casino entrance and aptly called the Vegas; it serves buffets during each meal and also does an a la carte menu. The two lunches we had there were strictly average in terms of the quality and choice of food. The breakfast however met expectations with a very good spread; it surely covered up for lunch but a lot to be done before the buffets can be termed luxurious. The service during breakfast was a bit choppy too.

Whiskys – The bar

No imported liquor in Daman came as a shocker to me; however the beverage professional in me was extremely pleased to see the food and beverage team circumvent this roadblock to create substitutes. A Grand Marnier/triple sec made with infusing local brandy/vodka with orange peel and sweetened, a lot of whiskies infused with things like chilli, orange & cinnamon, coffee etc and vodkas with Indian spices, pineapple, raspberry etc. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm of the bar staff and they incessantly churned out cocktails using these infusions. The pre dinner tapas a mix of continental and Middle Eastern were made really well too.

deltin DamanEmperor – Tangra style Chinese

The cuisine emerges from Tangra a locale in Kolkata which comprise Chinatown, essentially Chinese cuisine adapted to local ingredients and the Bengali palate.  The food here was common place with heavily battered veggies and thick skin dimsums. The fellow non-vegetarians diners devoured their seafood though. The staff served our ‘loud’ group with good tact and patience.

Banquets:

20000 sq ft of function space of which a pillar less room of  8000 sq ft is getting them a lot wedding business. With the kind of facilities and the casino opening up, I clearly see this hotel becoming popular for corporate off-sites too.

Spa @thedeltinlife

Spa @thedeltinlife

Amenities

Swimming pool with a pool bar, well equipped gym, spa, gaming room with pool tables etc and yet to open salon and a shopping centre would offer you a decent to-do-list to tick. The 20 minute foot massage I had at the spa was definitely rejuvenating.

Lastly the casino is slated to open in October, Surat (122 kms away), traders, diamonds, chips, millions are some words trending in my mind. Look forward!

Cheers!

The Deltin, Daman

The Deltin, Daman

 

 

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Kumta Honnavar Express!

Uttar Kannada , Karnataka

I can’t tell you how exhilarated am I to showcase the coastal towns of Kumta and Honnavar which are a part of the Uttar Kannada district in Karnataka. Kumta is my native place and Honnavar next door have been the destinations for me every vacation since childhood, things have changed a lot since then in terms of infrastructure but the towns continue to be sleepy with very good quality of life. Anyways my agenda always is food and these two towns are known for its seafood devouring residents. People who have originated from here also have a nose for good fish, like my parents the exception being me who always scouts of veggie food. Anyways hope you enjoy the pictures.

Kumta 

The Devray’s  ( Canara cold drinks) handmade icecream is a must have and so is his Ellu neer ( Seasame and milk drink). I had them all but forgot to click  as I hogged the Rs 7 scoop of Chickoo and mango icecreams one after the other.  Hotel Shubhas near Gudgar Galli and Hotel Kini in the market  are very good for local snacks.  Lastly hotel Moonlight  is good for fish and veggie meals alike.

Backyard, coconut and fruit  farms

Backyard, coconut and fruit farms

 

 

The white version of Kokum kadii made with unripe fruit   at Devray's Canara coldrinks

The white version of Kokum kadii made with unripe fruit at Devray’s Canara coldrinks

Ambya Humane  a sweet, spicy and sour delicacy made with local mangoes, Jaggery and tempered with Mustard, chillies and Curry leaf

Ambya Humane a sweet, spicy and sour delicacy made with local mangoes, Jaggery and tempered with Mustard, chillies and Curry leaf

Hitta ot Khotte are  idlis steamed in jackfruit leaves.  Best accompaniment is jaggery sweetened and cardamom flavoured coconut milk

Hitta or Khotte are idlis steamed in jackfruit leaves. Best accompaniment is jaggery sweetened and cardamom flavoured coconut milk

Misal Bhaji ... Coconut , jaggery and chilli flavoured rice flakes/thin poha  doused with coconut gravy and topped  with thick sev and chilli peanuts

Misal Bhaji … Coconut , jaggery and chilli flavoured rice flakes/thin poha doused with coconut gravy and topped with thick sev and chilli peanuts

Patrade/ Aloo wadi  made from Colocasia leaves stuffed with a sweet and sour lentils and then rolled and steamed. Fiinally sliced and pan-fried with a semoliina crust

Patrade/ Aloo wadi made from Colocasia leaves stuffed with a sweet and sour lentils and then rolled and steamed. Fiinally sliced and pan-fried with a semoliina crust

Sour Mango pulp with salt and pepper being sun-dried  to make Ambya Sathee also called Aam papad

Sour Mango pulp with salt and pepper being sun-dried to make Ambya Sathee also called Aam papad

Ambya Sathee after being sundried

Ambya Sathee after being sundried

Kagal Beach in Kumta.... Untresspassed hence tranquil

Kagal Beach in Kumta…. Untresspassed hence tranquil

Honnavar

Sheetal coldrinks is go to place for their Gadbad, otherwise did not come across a destination eatery but for the Bhattara in Gunvante. There are  a lot of tiny restaurants and  mass  brands like Kamat’s and I bet you will find a lot of fish places if you look around, I did not!

A must have  pitstop on the national highway. Breakfast for 5 at Rs 200. Known for its Benne Dosas

A must have pitstop on the national highway. Breakfast for 5 at Rs 200. Known for its Benne Dosas

The owner of Bhattare in action

The owner of Bhattara in action

Sweet and leavened deep fried buns with a coconut gravy

Sweet and leavened deep fried buns with a coconut gravy

Buns....

Buns….

Benne Dosa  aka Butter dosa  at Gunvante, Honnnavar

Benne Dosa aka Butter dosa at Gunvante, Honnnavar

Kashay. A hot beverage made with Coriander seeds, fenugreek, Cumin and more.

Kashay. A hot beverage made with Coriander seeds, fenugreek, Cumin and more.

Free fish pedicure at Gunvante , Honnavar

Free fish pedicure at a Kund in Gunvante , Honnavar

Gadbad.. 3 scoops of handmade  with sugar soaked fruits and fried fruits.

Gadbad.. 3 scoops of handmade ice cream with sugar soaked fruits and dried fruits.

Ragi Neer... Made by grinding and cooking Nachni/ Finger Millet. The drink is sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with cardamom.  A very good coolant

Ragi Neer… Made by grinding and cooking Nachni/ Finger Millet. The drink is sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with cardamom. A very good coolant

 coal smoked  kokum kadi  made with fresh fruit

coal smoked kokum kadi made with fresh fruit

Mallika Mangoes.. taste reminiscent of Alphonso, Dusseri and Totapuri

Mallika Mangoes.. taste reminiscent of Alphonso, Dusseri and Totapuri

Panfried semolina crusted breadfruit

Kadgi Phodi- Panfried semolina crusted breadfruit

Kasarkod beach in Honnavar with clean shore and clear  waters

Kasarkod beach in Honnavar with clean shore and clear waters

Please add to the list in comments if you know more and better places 🙂

 

Things to do: Gwalior

Gwalior,India

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A wedding invite from a friend got me elated as the invitation read Gwalior, royalty was one thing I could associate with the city and hence had no second thoughts before I got my tickets done. As the date approached I was frantically looking up on the internet and appealing to friends on social media to direct me to places to eat as I found some cues on sightseeing destinations and also got to know about the musical history of the place but with no responses to eating out I thought to myself, does Gwalior have anything to it!!

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I reached Gwalior on a fine morning, there was chill in the air and there were food stalls outside the station displaying huge mounds of poha and ‘boiling’ chai.  After a quick glance we settled at a poha shop outside Agarwal sweet-shop, he quickly  dished out some poha and garnished it with chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander, sev and a black-salt forward masala ( which we later found as a popular condiment). The first spoon and I knew this was something I never had before, in a few minutes that we polished off two portions each of the same followed by adraki chai. (People who’ve had the poha from Indore may refute this, I will not comment till I do the honours)  My first gastronomic tryst with Gwalior was a big thumbs-up.

We haggled with a few auto guys before settling for one to ride us to our accommodation, we were staying with a local. After a quick shower and another round of tea at our host we set out hoping for an eventful day and landed up at the MP tourism office at hotel Tansen residency. I had read about an open air Gwalior Darshan mini-bus starting from there, we spotted the bus but they required a minimum of 8 people for the tour. We decided to explore the city on our own, is it not the best way to do it!!! In the process we figured out tempos “share autos” are the lifeline of the city, they were numbered from 1-10 or so and only ran on specific  routes with minimum fares starting from 5.  We used them all day and were pleasantly surprised with their connectivity, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

What to see:

Gwalior is a small and round city, you can cover everything in a day as traffic woes are non-existent and everything is less than 15 kms to reach and yes the tempos take you everywhere, almost.

Jaivilas Palace and Museum:

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Built in the 1870’s by the Scindias, one part of this palace has been opened to visitors and the remaining still houses the scions. Won’t express any views on its architecture as I do not understand head or tail about it, all I can say it is that this will take you back in times. If you are a historian or an architect you can spend hours  gathering info, but for commoners it is the sheer awe of the palace and selfies with monuments and antiques JIt was also very nice to know the life history of Late Mr Madhavrao Scindia  through memorabilia, right from his cricket kits to his Oxford degrees. Tickets are priced at Rs 60 and a similar sum for shooting pictures.  We finished our tour in less than 2 hours without a guide. One may take more if you use the services of a guide.

Gwalior fort:

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It is the centre of the city, and it accommodates almost all major monuments on the sightseeing to-do-list of Gwalior. Made in the 8th century  century old this fort houses the Gujri Mahal, Manmandir Palace, Saas bahu Mandir, Teli Mandir, a Gurudwara, the Scindia School a few more mahals  and a few kunds (water reservoir). The fort is open to visitors from 1000- 2000 hrs and has a few entrances. One is where is you take a vehicle to reach the top and the one we took was from ‘Kila gate’  a 20-25 minute uphill walk on a terraced road making the whole experience even more alive. (We found people jogging up and down on the stretch)

Gujri Mahal:

This is the first as you enter the Kila gate, made by the kings by one of his many  queens , this one hailed from the Gujar sect and hence the name. Will not take more than 15 minutes to see around for a commoner but will interest interested in sculptures

Manmandir palace:

Manmandir palace

Manmandir palace

Built in the 14th century by Man Singh Tomar this palace is an architectural marvel. You would love to be lost in the three floors of the mahal. And yes you will find a lot of guides as young as 12 years speaking impeccable English to take you around, would remind you of ‘slumdog millionaire’.

Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhod:

Bandi Chod Gurudwara

Bandi Chhod Gurudwara

It is the most recent place on the fort. Built in the memory of the heroics of the sikh Guru Hargobind Sigh. The guru was imprisoned in the Gwalior fort and later released by Emperor Jehangir, hence the name ‘Bandi chod- release of the prisoner’. You must visit for the tranquility and peace it offers.

Saas Bahu Mandir:

20140219_17314120140219_174637_Richtone(HDR)Why is it called so? Nobody had a clue. They are remains of once upon a time mandir, but it is the place to visit just before you end your visit to the fort. With unobtrusive views of the city , the clear sky and the silence in the air you will leave the place happy.

The fort also hosts a light and sound show post 1830 hrs   in an amphitheatre style arrangement near the Manmandir palace. Some guides who got friendly over refreshing glasses of lemon juice advised against it.

Scindia School

You will not be let in to this posh,19th century boarding school on the fort. With alumni including Salman Khan,Saman Khurshid ,Late Mr Madhavrao Scindia himself and many others, the guides had a lot of stories to tell. We saw a big group of students cycling, ‘Jo jeeta wahi Sikander’  was all I could think of.

Gwalior trade fair:

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Never ever have I seen such a fair which lasts 2 months from December to February on a huge expanse of land. It was extremely colourful , tiny eateries, to huge electronic showrooms to adventure rides to wares on cart.  A spectrum of colors, people and moods, It was fun!

Mall like in a Mela

Mall like in a Mela

What to eat:

You will struggle to find a lot of sit-sown restaurants which are at least ‘udipi’ like. All the action happens on the road here. After a point we were happy settling ourselves at a sweet meat shop for tea, a dilapidated decades old eatery for lunch and of course the poha has to come from thelas. You have to come here to realize the value of 10 Rs.

 

Poha

Poha

Poha:

We tried it at a few places. It is consistent in taste and price but the one we had first at the station was exceptional. We all know of the classic Jalebi-Poha combo in Indore, but it does not seem very popular here.

 

Bedai Sabzi:

Bedai

Bedai

Bedai is a puri made with a combination of flours and stuffed with dal, the texture and taste is reminiscent of the Malvani vadas and the sabzi is aloo in hing flavoured gravy.

 

Samosas, kachoris, methi, chilli and bread pakodas:

They are a staple here.  Served with chutney and sabzi if asked for.

 

Sev Bhaji

Sev Bhaji

 

Murmure laddoo

Murmure laddoo

Sev ki Sabzi:

Thick sev in a very spicy chilli and onion gravy with bajra rotis, a good winter bet.

Murmure ke ladoo:

Made of rice puffs and jaggery, you will find them many a place on carts

Gujjias and mava samosas:

Stuffed with dry coconut and mava/khoya, readily available, they are at their juiciest best.

Paani ke batashe/ Pani ki chaat/ Gol Gappa/ Pani Poori

Paani Batashe

Paani Batashe

One dish several names. You will find them in every 100 metres and they open shop at 10 in the morning. But 10, really? I found them strictly okay.

20140219_135506Mumbai Vada pav:

But for the pav, the wadas were very similar to ones back home. They are getting popular.

Khajla

Khajla

Khajla

Can be savoury or sweet,they made of  refined flour and Semolina, they are deep fried resulting in big bhatura size crispy shells.  Sweet ones come in milk or khoya variants. Did not enjoy them much

Kesariya Doodh:

It is a winter affair, simmering milk garnished with saffron and charoli nuts in flat kadhais are a common sight. Do relish some to end your dinner.

Plus:

  • Inexpensive
  • Can be covered in a day, no traffic
  • Tempos are a savior
  • I must appreciate about the city is the auto drivers will not fleece you , the rates they would quote end up ranging from 10-12 Rs kilometer which is fair by all means.
  • If you are in Gwalior, you are surrounded by a lot of getaways in the 150 kms range. Agra is around 130 kms.
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Minus

  • Lack of clean sit down eateries
  • Lack of infrastructure, roads, sanitation etc is tier  3 town like
  • Extreme Seasonal temperatures and heavy rains. I would love the chill though
  • You can cover the city in maximum 2 days and then you have nothing much. So plan accordingly

Go pack your bags now!!

Cheers!