Aangan Downtown Restaurant Review

Let me begin with this: I feel like I have found treasure near my house. Having been a part of a Facebook group ‘Eat Kochi Eat’, I kept seeing great reviews about Aangan Downtown Restaurant and had added it to my must visit eateries list. If you have read my earlier posts, you’ll know that I love making lists!

Last month was Amma’s birthday and since my sister wasn’t in town, we decided to give Amma a surprise dinner whenever my sister got back. We also had fund constraints. So eventually, even if it was late, we arranged for some cash and made a quick plan. I was entrusted with choosing the restaurant since I keep listing the eateries I want to visit. Besides, I am always crying about the mouth-watering posts in the FB group.

We reached Aangan Downtown which is at Palarivattom. It isn’t at the main road and hence not very visible. If you are someone who goes by first impressions, the moment you enter, you’ll love the place. The ambiance and the staff were very welcoming. They showed us to our table and suggested some of their specials.

I am enlisting the dishes we had for the ease of reading them:

  1. Soups – Have you ever felt that soup sort of decides your appetite? It is like a performance. If it starts well, it compensates for tiny flaws later on. But if starts bad, you really don’t look forward to anything that comes later.a) Cream of Vegetable Soup -Before I get onto this, I need to tell you about my Grandmother (Ammamma). She is an amazing cook! She is a tough critic and I rarely find her appreciating restaurant food. I guess you know where this is going. She absolutely loved the soup. Her exact words, if translated, would read, “I don’t think I have had a soup this delicious ever. It wasn’t spicy, but it sure was creamy with the right flavors!”
    There is a saying in Tamil, ‘Vasishtar Vayaala Brahmarishi nu Sonna‘. Vasishta is a sage and it is astounding when he mentions another sage in a good manner. (Dear Tamilians, I am really sorry for screwing up the explanation 😛 But you get it right?)b) Naadan Kozhi Soup –

    Naadan Kozhi Soup from Aangan Downtown Restaurant
    Naadan Kozhi Soup

    Which is Kerala chicken soup as prepared with the countryside flavor. Oh my! It was spicy in a good way with flavors that tickled our taste buds. It was quite watery with ample chunks of chicken. If you are looking for something thick and creamy, this one isn’t for you. But, I’d say the naadan kozhi soup is something you should never miss. 😀 By the end of it, I was eagerly waiting for everything we ordered.

  2. Starters – We ordered Chicken 65 and Gobi 65. Well, the choices were too many, we needed both Veg and Non veg and so settled for these. Again, they were really good. They were the kind of ’65’s you get in any good restaurant. No extra flavors.  Crispy Gobi and well seasoned chicken with lots of crispy curry leaves. I am a fan of curry leaves. When they happen to adorn something really delicious, I ensure that the plate is empty. So we did. 😀
  3. Main course –  Our expectations had reached sky high after the starters and the soup that we took a while to decide the main course. There were so many options, high expectation and too less space. If only we could borrow some tummy space from someone 😛
    After much deliberation, we landed on:a) Paneer Kizhi Biriyani for the beautiful lady aka Grandma :* – I did try a morsel and wasn’t very impressed mainly because I am not a fan of the tinge of sweet in normal dishes. Plus, it was a bit too bland for my taste.

    Paneer Kizhi Biriyani from Aangan Downtown
    Paneer Kizhi Biriyani

    b) American Chopsuey – It was served well with a fried egg on top. It was saucy and crispy and yum in the beginning. But as I mentioned earlier, the tinge of sweet began to over-power with each morsel. On the other hand, Mom just loved it! So, I’d say the dish was perfect, just changes with each person’s taste. 🙂

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    American Chopsuey

    c) Chicken Steak – Ooh lala! It was very soft, rich in flavour, steaming hot and with the right amount of vegetables on the side. It was a sure winner for the remaining three of us.

    Chicken Steak from Aangan Downtown
    Chicken Steak

Once we were done with our meals, when Ammamma was about to get up to wash her hands, the staff enquired if she needs a finger bowl. It was a very nice and thoughtful gesture. Not only were the staff friendly, but the owner too came up and had a little chat with us. Overall, a foodie-friendly place! 🙂

Summary:
Food – Too Good (4.9/5)
Ambience – Excellent (5/5)
Pricing – Our bill was Rs. 1200 for 4 which is very reasonable for Cochin standards, the food, the service and the amount we hogged.
Location – Palarivattom, Kochi (Click for the Location on Map)
Favorites – Both Soups and Steak

Aangan - Downtown Multicuisine Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Trip to Kuzhippilly Beach & Narikulam Tharavadu

100 Happy Days – Day 90

I had made a bucketlist 2016 when this year began and one of the elements in it was to make at least 5 trips this year. I don’t think the number went very well. But as unexpected as life could be, I found myself in a few immensely beautiful places a couple of days back – Kuzhippilly Beach, Narikulam Tharavadu and Nedungad Boat Jetty.

Writing professional exams could just wear you off big time. So, the five of us and a qualified CA decided to meet up, spend a night together and go on a trip the next day. Nothing fancy, somewhere in or around Kochi. After a night full of clicking pictures, non-stop chattering and barely few hours of sleep, we drowsily picked ourselves up and went for breakfast. Nothing else could shun your drowsiness better than food. So after the breakfast, we were on fire! We made our way to our first destination. The Kuzhippilly beach.

Lined with pine trees and rusted benches, this beach is more beautiful than the famous Cherai beach. Situated in the outskirts of Kochi, Kuzhippilly beach is around 4 kms (Source: Google Map) away from Cherai. For those who prefer less crowd and more shade, this place is the best option. With lots of tiny brown crabs (I think they are called Sand Crabs) running around and emerging from the sand, and the thatched roof Umbrellas, this is one of the most picturesque beaches near Kochi.

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Pine trees at the Beach

We spent about 2 hours in the waters, clicking pictures & walking amidst the shady pine trees. We found a beautiful shell and, after ensuring that the owner had deserted his home, my friend pocketed it.

When the thought of food started creeping into our heads, we made our way to destination number two, the highlight of the trip (Food always comes first) – Narikulam Tharavadu.

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A View enroute to Narikulam Tharavadu
Kerala - God's own country
Those white cranes were everywhere!

Tharavadu is generally an ancestral home in Kerala where people lived as a joint family. Nowadays, most of these families have split and live separately, but many of the ancestral homes remain. Situated near St. Augustine Church, Nedungad, Nayarambalam, is the Narikulam Tharavadu. Set amidst the lap of nature, with greenery all around and a canal behind it; they have preserved the house so well that, if you are a Keralite, a wave of nostalgia hits you the moment you enter the premises. Such houses are the true essence of Kerala.

Paul chettan gave us a very warm welcome and patiently explained everything about the place. He answered all our queries, showed us around and made us feel at home. As they went about preparing our food, we were left to explore the place.

One of the things that fascinated me was, the way they had managed waste and artifacts that were no longer in use. They had used dried seeds and parts of the palm tree to decorate the house. We even found two shoes outside with plants in them. They also had grown plants in an old, rusted Kindi (pitcher) and an Aattukallu (Wet Grinder). The base stone, Arakkallu from the grinding Apparatus was used as the base for the pitcher. They gave an aesthetic look, placed around the Nadumuttam (The central area with a meshed ceiling) and never for a second did they seem out of place.

The plant in the pitcher placed atop the base of the grinder. What you see behind is the Nadumuttam.
The plant in the pitcher placed atop the base of the grinder. What you see behind is the Nadumuttam.

My favorite part about these houses is the Nadumuttam. During the day, it is the source of natural light that gives a mellow glow to the surroundings and during the night, you can watch the stars. Don’t get me started on how it looks when it begins to rain. I can’t believe that these houses are dwindling with time!

A peek at the interiors of a typical tharavadu
A peek at the interiors of a typical tharavadu

We spent a lot of time outside, near the canal awed at the abundance of nature, clicking pictures and wondering why we never got to know about this place earlier. A photographer’s paradise, my friends simply couldn’t stop clicking pictures. Our grumbling tummies showed us the way to the dining table and now I’d call it a Foodie’s paradise too!

So we saw this irresistible spread on the table… Er… Isn’t the post getting a bit too lengthy? Besides, I am reminded of all the food we ate that day and I so need a break. I’ll be back with part 2 of this post; all the yummy food and a surprise thereafter. Heads up: The Food part is focused on the Non-vegetarians & it is going to be a bit heavy. So, ensure that you are filled up. If you wish to visit this Homestay, the details will be given in the next post – Narikulam Tharavadu and Nedungad Boat Jetty (Part II)🙂

Image courtesy for the first 3 pics – My dear friend Hrusheekesh Anilkumar

Grandma Tales – Of Food & Coffee

“Ranjini! It is time for food!”, my Ammamma (Grandma) would call out.

I’ll either have lots to write or lots to study. I’ll say okay and continue with my work. She’ll call again after a gap and again 3-4 times, until I go have food. The problem with my studies is that I just can’t abandon it midway and so it takes time for me to have food. Sometimes, even after 12 am and I wouldn’t have had my food.

She would come to my room and softly ask,

“Why haven’t you eaten yet? You’ll have to eat alone. Call me when you do.”

“I’ll eat Ma, I have got some more work to do. You sleep. I don’t need company.”

When I finally go to the kitchen, she’ll hear the sounds in the kitchen and come sit with me. Sometimes, if I persuade her, she goes to sleep. But mostly, she sits with me until I finish eating, ensures that I have my fill and only then does she return to her room. She wouldn’t call me or come to my room after that. Her hunger is satiated once I eat. Her heart is at peace.

Grandma-and-Food
Image courtesy: weheartit.com

There was a time when my sister and I used to study overnight for our exams. She had her boards and I had CA exams. One night, it was around 2 am. We were sitting in the dining room, preparing for our exams. Suddenly we heard music from Ammamma’s room. She was humming an old song.

Uthhara Swayamvaram kathakali kanuvan…

She always told me that it was her brother’s favorite song and that he used to sing it very well and so very often. This conversation repeats itself very frequently. And so, every time she listens to, or sings, this song, I know she misses her brother a lot. He passed away around twenty years back and she keeps reminiscing their childhood days.

That night, when I heard her sing, I knew she was missing him. My sister and I decided to go and sit with her for a while. She looked upset as expected. We spoke for some time and soon we were sitting in her room, studying. After a while,

“Do you want coffee?”

“No Ammamma. We chorused.”, we both are coffee lovers. And who wouldn’t want a cup of coffee while working or studying overnight? But we didn’t want to trouble her.

“It’s okay. I’ll make some. It won’t take much time.”

“No. We don’t want it.”

“You have been studying a lot. A cup wouldn’t hurt!”

We again denied it and then,

“If you say yes, I can also have some.”

Now, we were in a fix.

“I’ll make some”, she said and went to the kitchen.

In another fifteen minutes, the three of us were sipping hot black coffee and chatting at an unearthly hour, when half the world was asleep.

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Image courtesy: quotesgram.com

 

A Grandma, two grand-daughters and some black coffee ❤


You can read the stories about Ammamma under the Category ‘Grandma Tales’ which you’ll find on the right side of this page. (Scroll down! Scroll down!😀 ) If you don’t find it, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. If you love my ‘Grandma Tales’, again please leave a comment and I’ll be grinning ear to ear and replying!🙂

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Potatoes, Pickles & Grandma-Fairy dust

On some days, the moment I enter the gate of our apartments the aroma of food wafts in. Especially if it is lunch time. I can easily spot the Aroma from our kitchen because, well, I have known it for 27 years! My, until-then-quiet-&-happy stomach would start grumbling and the tap of my salivary gland would pop open.

My pace increases and I’ll ring the bell. When she opens the door, I’ll ask with excitement;

“What is on the stove? Is that Kaarakuttan?”

She’ll give a smile torn between astonishment, mischief & pride.

“Your nose is an evil thing!”

“It isn’t my nose! It is your gifted hands! I could get the smell from the gates!”

“Shut up! That must be from some other place.” she would pretend to not be affected by my compliments. 😛

I’d go straight to the kitchen, open the lid and inhale all the steam from the dish and Ammamma would smile, “Stop dipping your nose into the dish! Even your cousins have this habit.”

I’ll smile sheepishly and show my stomach the way to bliss 😀

*****

We always say,

“Ammamma should go for all these cookery shows & competitions and she’ll be first everywhere.”

On second thoughts, I’d say,

“No! I don’t want anyone judging her! No one has the right to. No one is good enough to judge her! She is the best and there is no need to prove it. I do not like anyone telling her the food she makes has flaws because the flaw is in their taste buds. Ammamma’s cooking is just perfect!”

 

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Ammamma’s Potato Curry

 

And that brings me to her Potato curry which is my all time favorite and tops my list. There are distant relatives who reminisce her potato curry and keep telling how yummy it was when they had it years back. She also makes this tangy Vendakka Pachhadi and Mulakoottal. I am a sucker for her Kaarakoottan; again so tangy and spicy that I finish almost half the quantity made for the entire family. Oh! And the avial! She makes cheera avial and the traditional Kerala Avial which I eat for lunch, snacks and dinner. Ya! She makes it in a pressure cooker up to the brim! She has spoilt our taste buds by cooking such yummy food that I just CANNOT have Vegan food from outside. There are always something so many things amiss when the Vegan food is made by someone else. And hence I restrict myself to Paneer in Vegan restaurants. Always a safe bet.

*****

Sometimes, I’ll be sitting with her and she’ll start narrating how certain dishes were made during ‘those days’. As she hops from one dish to another, she’ll describe the preparation of Lemon pickles. Listening to her description, my salivary glands salivate like broken taps!

“They soak these lemons in hot water so that the juice within loosens. They then dry all of them using a towel and make a cut through the centre in such a way that the pieces don’t fully detach. They grind Asafoetida, Fenugreek and dry red chillies; add salt and turmeric powder to the mixture. This mixture is then stuffed well inside these half cut lemons.”

“They then arrange these lemons inside huge Bharani (Ceramic jars used to store pickle). They arrange them tightly together. Now, they heat Gingelly oil and wait for it too cool down a bit. This is poured into the jar in such a way that the oil fully soaks the lemons. They seal the mouth of the jar using wax and leave it in the Garret for 10-15 days. Once in a while, someone would go up and stir the pickle.”

As I sit there imagining tantalising Lemons emerging from orangish-red pickle mixture dripping with oil, my tongue drowning in my saliva, she concludes;

“One tiny piece of this pickle would suffice for a meal!”

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Pickle in a Bharani. Image Courtesy: Framed Recipes

When the coffee we make do not come in par with hers, we’d say,

“Ammamma please tell us the last ingredient you use. You definitely do something else that you don’t tell us.”

“I don’t. This is all I do.”

And then, my sister & I discuss.

“Well, then we know what it is. It is her Kaipunyam (Similar to Gifted hands). It is as though there is this taste enhancer oozing from her palm.”

“I know! Maybe she just dips her finger inside the coffee, the taste enhancer enhances it.  That must be it! There is no other explanation!”

Yeah! There is no other explanation! 😀


You can read the stories about Ammamma under the Category ‘Grandma Tales’ which you’ll find on the right side of this page. (Scroll down! Scroll down!😀 ) If you don’t find it, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. If you love my ‘Grandma Tales’, again please leave a comment and I’ll be grinning ear to ear and replying!🙂

I am taking my alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

 

Chopstix, Thai & Chinese

My mom is very fond of Chinese cuisines. If given a choice, she always opts for Chinese restaurants to dine out; Chiyang, Malaya etc being her favorites. However, I am not very fond of Chinese food and so, like every mother on Earth, she lets me choose.

When my friend came home a few months back, we decided to try Chopstix – a restaurant at Palarivattom, Kochi. We like the place and the food and so I decided to bring Amma here some day. After months & months of waiting, we got the chance to visit Chopstix again.

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As we ascended the stairs to the restaurant on the first floor, a metal embossing of Budhha, placed on the stair walls, caught my eyes.

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The restaurant had one side made of glass, giving a view of the urban streets. Apart from the fact that you could know when the traffic at the signal nearby clears (which is very given the rush), it gave a retro ambience. I have always loved that part of the city. The area of Civil line road stretching from Palarivattom circle to the signal. It is almost always crowded due to the signal, but beautiful due to the abundance of greenery. When it is before or after the days, Man! Isn’t it beautiful? Watching it from the first floor, slurping on hot soup would be perfect!

As the name suggests, chopsticks were placed on every table with directions on how to hold them. Every inquisitive person who walks through that door would read the instructions and try to use them. So did we. Until the waiter arrived to take the order, we mastered the art of holding chopsticks and tried our best to make the two ends of each chopstick meet. That was easy. The tough part was picking things using them. My sister managed to lift a fork off the table using chopsticks. 😀

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Okay. One stick done, next done, Oops! How was the first?
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That’s the way Aha Aha! Or is it?

We ordered Manchow soup, Schezwan chopsuey and crab fried rice. The soup was thick, creamy and rich unlike in most of the places. If you like things spiced up, you must give manchow soup a try.

When we enquired about the chopsueys, they said American was sweet, Chinese was bland and Schezwan was spicy. However when they brought it, Schezwan was spicy but also sweet. It was alright since I liked the flavor. But if you can’t stand sweet in spicy food, you shouldn’t go for it because halfway through the meal, the sweetness begins to overpower everything else.

The crab fried rice tasted similar to normal veg fried rice with chunks of fried crab.  As we finished our food, we were on the lookout for drinks to order and Jasmin tea caught my attention. I wanted to give it a try, but was skeptical about the quantity of tea that would be given. It said a Jasmin tea pot was priced at Rs 90 and we weren’t sure if we would be able to drink it all.

Since they didn’t have much options for drinks, we decided to give it a try. With the first sip, I had mixed feelings. For one, the scent of fresh jasmine flowers was strong and it was queer tasting jasmine flavor after years of smelling it. I liked that part. But the fact that there was no sugar, made me uneasy. With a few more sips of hot jasmine tea, I began to like it and didn’t bother asking for sugar. The liquid was clear and watery with a slight tint of green.

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Jasmin Tea and Tea pot

The pot had tea for six. Since we are generally tea and coffee lovers, having two cups is no biggie. Besides the cups were super-cute and tiny with no handles. I wonder if it’s a Chinese thing. The restaurant closes at 3.30 PM but the staff were patient with us. Once the place was devoid of customers and it was ten to four, we realized that we were holding them back. We drank the tea quickly, apologized, thanked them and took our leave.

PS -If you are wondering where the images of food in the food review post are, we were busy hogging that the dishes were half empty before I realised that I had to take pictures. Hence the compensatory pictures were taken afterwards 😛

Chopstix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Day 7 – I’m The Chef

100 Happy Days – Day 7

Happiness is cooking and being told that the food was delicious! 😀

Today, we decided to prepare Chappati for lunch. It has been so long since I have had tomato curry. So I decided to prepare that for the side dish.

I love garlic and since the garlic paste was over, I chopped a whole lot of garlic and used in the curry.

While preparing the dough for chappatis, I also sprinkled some methi (fenugreek) leaves. That simply enhanced the taste. If you haven’t tried, do buy some Methi & mix with the dough. It brings a nice flavour. You even get dried Methi in packets.

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I have the habit of spreading some ghee on really hot chappati & eating. But since there was no ghee, I decided to put a cube of butter, see it melt in the chappati’s heat and then eat it. Woah! That was yumm. The butter’s salt added to the flavour.
Finally, when we sat to eat, my grandmother saw the curry and said, “Looks like that is going to be really tasty”. I was beginning to fly. For my grandmother is an awesome cook. She is the best. My friends and family simply love the food that she makes.

She began to eat. But did not say anything. Finally, when I asked her how it was, she said it was good. After sometime, she said it again on her own. Just now, while having dinner, she said “I liked today’s chappatis. They tasted so good. The curry was really good too”.

I was flying, flying high, soaring far and wide.

Cooking is so much fun. Specially if you are experimenting things. It is the permutation & combination that makes the difference. Finally, when you know it has turned out to be good, when people tell you how delicious it is, the happiness know no bounds.

I know many people who don’t like to cook. I agree that all aren’t the same but, knowing how to cook a couple of dishes is important for we don’t know what the future has in store for us. On another note, at least once in their lifetime, everyone must take it up as a challenge and cook one time’s meal. For the sake of the experience. You never know, you might just like the feeling. 🙂