Pedal to the Plate

When the head of the well-known Chennai based TI Cycles, part of the Murugappa Group, approached Ashish Thadani, the CEO of TI Absolute Concepts, the meeting was nothing short of serendipitous. He wanted him to set up a restaurant/café along the lines of those found in Europe – where cycling and good food go hand in hand. Ashish has been a passionate cyclist for close to a decade. Thus was born Ciclo [Italian for cycle; pronounced Cheek-lo], a café serving global fusion cuisine.

The restaurant echoes the cycling theme from the outer façade itself. As you enter, a cycle placed against a wall leads to an area where some of the best known cycle brands of the world are on display; along with accessories, and the helpful staff are happy to show you around. For those who love these two wheel rides, they can be bought or hired by the hour or day. The café also provides maintenance and services for bikers, who can have a bite while their rides get fixed. Already successful in Chennai, Ciclo is all about promoting cycling. The cycle theme is everywhere – from the chains used as wall accents in the bar; to a stylised clock made with the same; wheels as part of chandeliers and the metal parts of cycles doubling up as the legs of the tables.

As for the food? A word of advice – go there when you are hungry. Seriously. The portions are quite generous and you can only do justice to what you order if you have worked up a good appetite. From the starters to the dessert, everything is enough for two people; and you don’t mind the prices that are slightly on the higher side, given the proportions.

The starters included Coconut fried Prawns with a mango jalapeno sauce; where the slightly spicy sauce balanced the neutral texture of the prawns; Lemon Butter Chilli Potato, which took the world’s most loved tuber to another level; and the Steamed Bao, stuffed with teriyaki mushrooms and kimchi, which was a great option for those who love their fungi. The scene stealer here was the Oven Dried Olive and Tomato Puff, served with Wasabi Mayo. The pungency of the wasabi pushed through the blandness of the mayo and laced the tomatoes and olives with a fiery aftertaste. It won my vote for the must-have entrée at Ciclo.

puff

Next to come was a Quinoa, Beetroot and Orange salad, which to my mind could do with a dressing that livens it up. I skipped the Tiger Burger, made with lamb and cheddar, but the general consensus on the table was that the meat was a bit too rare for Indian tastes. Then came the Ciclo Full house pizza – laden with colourful bell peppers, olives, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and jalapenos – a real treasure for vegetarians. And the best part? You don’t have to order a full pizza, you can order by the slice too. Ciclo has plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans, so it makes for a perfect place to go to, if you are an assorted bunch of gourmands.

salad

Mains included a Barley and Cottage Cheese Construct, strictly for health food lovers in my opinion. Being a junk food junkie, this dish did not quite excite my palate. But the Quinoa and Ragi Crèpe with leek and mushrooms, tomato cream and smoked scarmorza that everyone at the table loved, should be a mascot for fusion cuisine. Ragi, so inherently a part of the local diet, and quinoa and crepes, both western concepts, synergised perfectly in a medley of flavours and taste. If you love to experiment with your food, this is your go to dish.

ragi-crepe

The non-vegetarian mains included a Black Pepper and Chilli rubbed Grilled Chicken, with potato wedges and carrots; Grilled Kasundi Rawas – a delicious concoction of the Indian salmon, marinated in a mustard based marinade from West Bengal, and served with a parsley mash and zucchini puree; and Prawn stuffed Chicken, with a spinach mash and lemon butter sauce. The Grilled Chicken and the Kasundi Rawas overshadowed the prawn-chicken dish, which lost out due to its overall bland taste.

mustard-fish

Just when I thought I could not eat a morsel more, came the desserts. Baked Philadelphia Cheesecake, Crème Brulee and the divine Bailey’s Ice Cream Pancake. Ice cream infused with the liqueur, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and stuffed inside a pancake topped with a dribble of chocolate sauce – it has to be among the top ten desserts I have ever had. Though the cheesecake was tasty too, it paled in comparison to the pancake.

bailey-crepe

Ashish hopes that the café succeeds in promoting the cycling culture in Hyderabad; which is actually, quite active already. But, at the end of the ride, if you have a tempting breakfast or a delicious meal to look forward to at Ciclo, then it would be double the fun.

Ciclo Café, 801, Road No. 36, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. Phone: 040 2355 5511; 079959 91111 Open from 8 am to midnight.

Mad About Mushrooms

 

mushrooms

There are few ingredients, in my opinion, that can hold their own and stand out, even when mixed with several other, sometimes, even stronger, vegetables/meats/spices. Mushrooms, in all their varieties, fall in this category. Whether tossed into an Asian stir fry, pureed into a creamy soup; or mixed into an Indian curry with other vegetables; these versatile funghi impart their own personality to a dish, while not taking away from the overall taste experience.

Full marks then, to Executive Chef Manek Magotra, of The Trident Hotel, Hitech City, Hyderabad, for envisioning and creating Funghi Fiesta – a food festival centred around the magic of mushrooms. No, he did not use the magic variety which gives you a high; but the ones he did use were – Shiitake, Porcini, Oyster, Morel, Portobello, White Fungus and Button Mushrooms.

These versatile little funghi have always been a favourite of mine, from childhood, when we ate the Morel mushroom in a pulao; and a dried mushroom only available in the North of India, which we called dhingri, in a curry. These are now available for a king’s ransom, at over Rs 40,000 a kg. But, the more common ones thankfully, don’t cost as much, so one can still relish them.

We started the dinner with the appetiser – Chocolate and Crumb Fried Button Mushrooms, served with saffron cream, pepper coulis and Balsamic reduction – which set the mood for the rest of the evening.

starter mushroom

The chocolate coated one was created on the lines of Umami – described by Wikipedia as –  Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/), a savoury taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). A word from the Japanese –  Umami can be translated as a pleasant savoury taste. Coated with chocolate, with sea salt sprinkled on top, it was unusual. But the Crumb Fried Button Mushroom stole its thunder, if I had to compare them.

The Wild Mushroom Cappuccino, a frothy soup, had an extra edge to it with the espresso foam that had been blended in. I thought I was mistaken when I got the familiar whiff of coffee from the soup, but Chef explained that the espresso gave the soup a twist which has proven to be quite popular with guests. And rightly so, because it did taste different from the usual mushroom soup.

capuccino 1

Then came the Pizza, made with an Oriental crust, topped with seafood, white fungus, galangal and lemongrass.

mushroom pizza

The lemongrass and galangal flavours were extremely subtle, while the white fungus and the salmon dominated the dish. A pizza that was certainly different from those normally served at Tuscany, the Italian fine dining restaurant of The Trident Hotel, where  the festival is being held.

The two dishes that followed, to my mind, were the masterpieces of the festival. Definite must-haves in my book, the pasta was an outstanding Salmon Ravioli with dill cream, shiitake mushrooms and caper jus. The smokiness of the dill with the crunch of the shiitake mushroom were a perfect foil to the salmon filled ravioli. This mix of ingredients, certainly not a commonplace one, had created the piece de resistance of the festival.

ravioli

The Risotto: Given all that Italian cuisine has in its ouvre, a Risotto for me is the last option after the pastas, antipasti and pizzas on offer. In other words, not my first choice at an Italian meal. But here, the Portobello Risotto, made with sundried tomatoes and mascarpone cheese, besides the Portobello mushrooms, was delicious enough that, had I not been so full already, I might even have had a second helping. That is saying something, since I am not a big eater to start with. The flavours delicately underlined that of the mushrooms, and came together in a concoction that was surprisingly light.

A fitting end to the meal was the Chocolate Mud Pie, served with vanilla and truffle oil ice cream. Sinfully creamy on the palate, it more than matched the other dishes served earlier, in terms of taste and presentation.

chocolate mud pie

Note: There are several more options on the menu available as part of this promotion. The dishes mentioned here are the ones I tried.

The Fungi Fiesta Festival is on till the 28th of August at Tuscany, the Italian restaurant at The Trident Hotel. The restaurant is open only for dinner. For reservations, call: 91 40 6623 2323

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