Lavaash by Saby – a preview

2015 is Skeeter’s year to discover new food, chart culinary territories and eat the best grub on offer. In her quest for new food, she ended up sampling Armenian food with a Bengali twist presented by Chef Sabyasachi Gorai at a preview dinner at his restaurant Lavaash by Saby (Ambawatta Complex, Mehrauli).

Armenian-Bengali proximity

A chance discovery of an old grave picture led Chef Saby to reconnect with his childhood spent in Asansol (in West Bengal) that bore touches of Armeninan culture and food. Asansol was an Armenian colony some 200 years back. Chef Saby tells that the Asansol hood was named after Armenian families: Apkar Gardens, Agabeg bridge, Evelyn Lodge. More importantly, the Armenians gave to India, the tolmas, the tonir (tandoor, which is still widely used in India), the Lavash (an unleavened bread), paneer, curd among others. Chef Saby calls his offering the A-cuisine. Lavaash by Saby bears Armenian motifs across its interiors. Viplov Singh and Svabhu Kohli have given shape to the initial moodboard of the place made by Chef Megha Kohli and Chef Saby. Skeeter visited the restaurant at night, but is sure it looks dreamy and romantic during the day. With a beautifully done terrace dining space, Lavaash by Saby is bound to be a hotspot this winter.

Armenian grub

The food on offer is new, but not alien. You get the basic (yet most delicious) Claypot bread with a generous dollop of butter and scatter of chironji seeds. It is Saby’s version of Matnakash, an Armenian bread. It is called so, as the bakers fingermarks are imprinted on the bread before putting it in the oven. Along with this bread, you sample the most divine Pumpkin Manti (Armenian ravioli) cooked and served in a clay vessel and scattered with pine nuts. The outer wrapping has a soft, crusty rumali kind of texture and the filling of sweet pumpkin with walnuts, yoghurt sauce and cheese melts in the mouth. The use of nuts characterizes Armenian food which they use for texture as well as nutrition. Skeeter cannot wait to try the Mushroom Manti on her next visit.

Pumpkin Manti

Claypot bread

Baked Mochar Puff 

The baked Mochar Puff filled with a fragrant banana blossom and potato mash and served with a tomato relish is your everyday Bengali household grub revamped and how! This simple twist will leave the Bengali bhadralok craving for more.

Rice Tolma

The Rice Tolma (as opposed to the mideastern Dolma) are grape leaves stuffed with rice, peas, saffron, coriander, mint and melted butter.

Panir and spinach kofte 

Dumplings and stews also feature in Armenian cuisine. The Panir and spinach kofte at Lavaash by Saby are the most delicious version of cottage cheese Skeeter has sampled by a Bengali person. Soft, fluffy balls of cottage cheese with a well-seasoned spinach lining inside are a work of culinary art. Studded with nuts and served in a way that it remains hot, this dish is best eaten with another Bengali staple: fragrant gobindobhog rice with butter and gondhoraj lebu (a local lemon). Together, these two make a sublime combination.

Chef Megha Kohli
Chef Megha Kohli is ever smiling and suitably educates guests about Armenian food. Chef Saby’s sister, Sarbani, has helped him give the right Bengali touches to the food.

Ponchiki

The Ponchiki or square doughnuts filled with nutella are addictive. I recommend you sample them with some good coffee or the pomegranate tea that Lavaash by Saby has on offer.

An old fashioned chocolate mousse is just the right way to end your meal. Skeeter couldn’t keep her hands off this one. Sinful and indulgent!

The restaurant opens its doors to public next week. 

Navroze celebrations and community food at SodaBottleOpenerWala

Community food can be sampled at its best in the homes of people. The next best option is to have them at restaurants serving such food. Luckily enough, Delhi is the city of settlers, who have, among other things, brought along their food and culture. Enterprising as they are, these communities who have settled in Delhi share their food commercially. So we have the Parsi Anjuman, Rustom’s and the ever famous SodaBottleOpenerWala serving some Parsi fare, which would be otherwise inaccessible to us. 

While Reeta Skeeter spoke about the Soda Bottle Opener Wala Vada Pao here, she had earlier promised to share more details about this quirky Irani café. The nostalgia evoking SBOW always has Skeeter occupied on every visit. Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s would recall the wired telephones that hung from walls, the Ravalgons and Poppins, the bakery cookies, the old multi-purpose tin boxes, the toy train track which was the best gift you could get on a birthday; they have it all up and decorated in a rather fun way.

But it is the grub that will have you hooked. Skeeter would need yet another post to write about the regular menu offerings but for now one must sample the Navroze Thali that is on the menu till August 27, 2015. They have the vegetarian (Rs 700) and the non-vegetarian (Rs 800) versions. Skeety, of course tried the vegetarian one and here’s what she thought: The Vengna Nu Achaar, a tantalising eggplant pickle is something out of the box and so is the Ravviyyan, where minty chutney is sandwiched between two eggplant roundels. Eggplant is versatile and when you hop across regional menus you get such gems. The Doodhi Murabbo is a sweet bottle gourd relish with the flavours of aniseed and the crunch of the chironji standing out. Skeeter could not have enough of it and if SBOW starts bottling this one, it will disappear from shelves. That good, yeah! The Saria is the Parsi poppadum made from sago or sabudana and deep fried to add some texture to your meal. The Papeta Nu Kavab are made up of a mix of tangy/spicy vegetables and potatoes, mashed, coated and deep fried. They are more like smaller versions of cutlets or pattice but the filling is what distinguishes them. The Paneer Akuri is the vegetarian version of Akuri, a rather simple preparation that had Skeeter hooked. To add touches from Bharuch, some dried fruits are added. The Kora no Patio is a pumpkin sabzi that did nothing for Skeeter’s tastebuds but she had her fork digging into a saffron-laced, delectable Vegetable Pulao accompanied with Masala ni Daar, a classic Parsi preparation of lentils and vegetables. The Kachumbar (diced salad) and Rotli (Roti) featured on the thali too. Skeeter washed it down with Rustam Bantawala, a cocktail using raw mango as the base. It went well with the thali. Thanks to the recommendation of chef Anahita Dhondy, I was saved the trouble of choosing what to drink. 

End your meal with the Ravo (semolina milk pudding) and Falooda. The rose syrup laden falooda comes seated in a cutting glass and being true to the community food, SBOW hasn’t cut down on the sweetness to suit your taste. Skeeter loved it the way it was.  
The portion is generous, so it is advisable to fast for a few hours before you dig into this one.

Dimsum Fest at Pan Asian, Sheraton New Delhi

As Reeta Skeeter goes through the capital’s dimsum selection, she does a happy dance. There’s dimsum all around and Skeeter is hungry! Mr. Choy at Khan Market has been my go-to dimsum place for a while now and I wrote about it here. And when a dimsum fest came calling, it is natural that I was gluttonously inclined. The fest is on at Pan Asian restaurant at Sheraton Hotel, Saket. These are the categories one can choose from: Premium steamed, Teppanyaki, Gluten free, Organic, Steamed, Healthy Fitness, Pan grilled gyoza, Baked, Steamed, Poached, Soupy, Fried and Bao.


The Truffle edamame (Rs 425) from the premium category was the first one Skeeter tried and it was a delicately flavoured and well-made dimsum that hit the spot. Skeeter likes her Edamame beans straight from pod to mouth but this dimsum was definitely a good pick. One could dip it in either of the five condiments: Yuzu ponzu, black bean, spicy roasted chili sauce, onion and crispy chili lime or the chilli oil. But should you want to enjoy this dimsum and othes in their own right, you wouldn’t need to touch the condiments tray. A refreshing cucumber and kaffir lime cooler went well with this food. Skeeter could have it by the bucket. An Asian Bloody Mary should be your pick if you want to spike things a bit. Skeeter tried both and cannot recommend one over the other. 

Moving back to the grub, the Teppanyaki pick was Asparagus and Shiitake mushroom (Rs 425), steamed then flash fried on an iron griddle. Another gem from Chef Vaibhav Bhargava,  Executive Sous chef at Sheraton Hotel, this one exuded the meaty flavour and texture of shiitake that was blended with asparagus, and they made an appetising match. There is a surprise on the menu for the gluten intolerant. They can pick Rice paper stuffed with Chinese preserved vegetables (Rs 365). 


Truffle edamame

Fried dimsum with carrot and beans
The fried dimsum with carrot and beans (Rs 325) was almost like a spring roll and is more for those who who want, well, something deep fried. I’d give it a skip the next time and head straight for the Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao (Rs 325). At the same price as the former, this one’s better VFM. The Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao is a delicately kaffir-scented, teasingly spiced and multi textured dimsum that will transport you to Bangkok in one bite.

Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao



Hot and sour soupy dimsum

The Hot and sour soupy dimsum (Rs 325) made for some more delightful bites. They come neatly seated in soup spoons and though one should know what to expect, if you bite into half this dimsum, you’d be making a messy splash of it. Be warned! Having said that, Skeeter loves Hot n Sour soup and Pan Asian played this one well. They did a good job at controlling the temperature of the soup from kitchen to table. When Skeeter popped this one in her mouth, it didn’t scath her tongue and was warm enough to make her crave for a bowl of soup right then! 

Seven treasure mushroom dumpling

Skeeter would’ve ended this post on a sweeter note but she’s saved the best for the last. Skip dessert and end your meal with the seven treasure mushroom dumpling. This one comes seated in a deep dish and since Skeeter is a fungi fanatic, she was in for a treat. These amazingly textured dumplings come in a thin yellow wrapper stuffed with shredded Enoki, Shiitake, Black fungus, white fungus, Shimeji, button and string mushrooms. Besides, the presentation is beautiful as they come plated with some crispy mushrooms on top, a double treat! You dig your teeth into the soft, steamed dumpling and then you bite on some crispy mushroom. If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you have to order this one to believe what I just wrote. Chao! 

The festival is on from 10th to 31st August.
For address & regular menu click here