My tastes are very singular and my idea of Health food is bizarre! And when someone asks me of Vegan food, I go berserk and I am forced to ask them to take a good look at me, impel their conscience and rethink of it, do I look like the keeper of that knowledge?
Well that’s what happened last week when Svetlana Savant of Carpe Diem wrote to me about an exclusive new menu tasting at 212 All Day Café & Bar where the humble Chef Paul Kinny brings to Pune a new menu brimming with wholesome comfort food! I was in two minds when I read Vegan and I thought to myself that large, naked, raw veggies are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter but then I just don’t want to be the guy to look back and think “I could’ve eaten that.”
So I agreed to the tasting as I feel I am living in a world where the food network actually delivers! And I am glad I did as there’s much more to the new menu at 212 Café & Bar than just Vegan and gluten free stuff.
The best part about the tasting was the brief interaction with Chef Paul Kinny where he explained to us of his incorporation of all the feedback from his patrons and how he introduced Asian, Mexican and more wholesome and nutritious options across the menu.
Some stellar wholesome additions include the No Carb Spaghetti which is made using spiralized veggies, Quinoa bowl with almonds and cranberries, Beetroot and Ricotta Ravioli and more!
We started off the tasting with Coconut and corn bisque soup which consisted of burnt garlic and cilantro. I don’t care what temperature it might be outside I could gulp down a bowl of this creamy, smoky corn delicacy anytime, thicker than any other soup but thinner than a stew and tasted heavenly!
Next on the table was a Caprese Salad!
Here’s a roll call for fitness freaks and health conscious mortals. Now, most of us know that Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella (ideally Buffalo mozzarella), tomatoes, and green basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil but Chef Paul gave it an interesting twist and used cheese mousse instead of mozzarella slices and oven roasted tomatoes, pesto and Balsamic! Trust me, I liked it!
Just when the carnivore in me was about to speak up chef sent us some Quinoa chicken strips with barbeque honey mustard sauce and I was delighted at the pleasant sight. Well for the unhealthy geeks like me who don’t know what Quinoa is, (I too, didn’t know until now) here’s a wiki fact – Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’ is a great wheat-free alternative to starchy grains! There are two types: red and creamy white. Both types are slightly bitter when cooked and open up to release little white curls (like a tail) as they soften.
We then tried one of my favorites from the new menu, the dark soy shrimps in wasabi slaw! While they could have served us the soy shrimps over a bowl of pasta or a bed of white rice, chef chose to dress them in wasabi accompanied with papaya salad.
Savory Baklava – One doesn’t tend to think of baklava in a savory way but this recipe of chef Paul is a winner in more ways than one. Made of kale, leek, potatoes and caramelized onions. Try it to believe it!
Time for some more prawns! Tea smoked shrimps, sounded fun to me but alas couldn’t wow me as I had already fallen in love with the soy shrimps, though this is a very healthy alternate which is gluten free and includes frisee, key lime, olive oil Himalayan pink salt and chia seeds, I passed on this one to the health freaks, while sipping on my melon boost – a mocktail made with pressed watermelon and mint.
As mentioned earlier 212 Café & Bar have introduced nutritious options which include Quinoa bowl salad which again is gluten free and has a varied mix of greens, cranberries, pomegranates, toasted almonds! The concept of bowl meals is pretty simple, you toss a bunch of ingredients into a specifically shaped dish, add a bit of finesse and poof! Well, healthy again!
We then tasted a couple of pizzas and all of them were phenomenal! Right from the Cajun spiced chicken pizza to the peri peri shrimp pizza! I have been praising the pie ever since I tried it first as a kid and when I tasted the thin crust pizzas at 212 Café & Bar I fell head over heels for them. Some exotic toppings like capers, chipotle, spiced pineapple green peppers, jalapeños, pine nuts make up for an awesome pizza! I am going back for some more!
Svetlana was hell bent on making me try the chili con carne which is nothing but nachos with minced buff meat, pesto, jalapeños and cilantro! I’d still prefer them without pesto!
Grilled Norwegian Salmon – For the love of Salmon, this is one dish that stood out and truly deserves accolades. Internationally influenced and highly recommended.
Well I feel the only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook. I waited and boy I got what I deserved, a perfect medium rare buffalo steak, chewy with the right amount of reduction and seasoned vegetables. Instant love! I only wish it was beef instead of buff, damn! Let’s just call it tenderloin! (Wink wink)