movie/play/book review


Neung Roi Review

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Recently I was invited by Radisson Blu plaza, Delhi, to try out Thai food at Neung Roi. I was actually supposed to try it exactly a year back when I had been invited to try out the spa experience. However the relaxing spa experience did not leave me any time for a leisurely 4-5 course lunch. So this year I went exclusively to try out the Thai food at Neung Roi. I really like Thai cuisine a lot and also make a lot of it myself. But then the stuff I make, mostly uses ready made pastes etc. So I was pretty excited to have “authentic” Thai home food prepared by Master Chef Yengai Suthiwaja.

Neung Roi means 100 in Thai and has been named after the 100oC East longitude, which runs through Thailand. Neung Roi is perhaps  the first Thai restaurant I have seen, that segregates its menu based on the major culinary regions. There are four major culinary regions listed – Isan, Lanna, South and the Central Plains. The menu has a preface that explains the specialty of each region. For example the Isan region has spicy flavours,  hot and salty dishes are from Lanna, seafood and fresh produce is from South, and mild, subtle and balanced flavours are from the Central Plains here. I like a menu that actually enlightens the consumer. It was only after a lifetime of eating Chinese or “Chindian” did I realise that Manchuria, Sichuan (misspelt as schezwan in India or even Sehejwan!), Hakka , Hunan, Shandong etc refer to various regions and hence different influences on Chinese food.

The ambience of the restaurant is very nice. Soothing tones, attractive lighting and spacious seats.

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So without much ado, here’s what all I tried from the iPad menu I was provided. Since I went alone for the review (instead of in a group), some of the portion sizes were customised for me and made smaller.

We started with something that was a mouth freshener sort of thing. It was made with a betel life like a paan but had typical Thai flavours like lemongrass, chili, peanuts etc.

Thai Paan

 

STARTERS & SALAD

Various starters and salad with small portions for me

Pla Phad Khing

Wok fried fish with black mushroom & crispy ginger. This was really tasty.

Gai Yang

Grilled chicken with coriander roots & roasted chilli sauce. The chicken tasted a bit chewy but that was because I realised that the skin was on. And although it felt and tasted like fried chicken, it had been grilled. It was flavourful.

Som Tum

Raw papaya salad with peanut, chilli & light soya sauce. The salad was light and refreshing and also used edamame beans – something I have never used myself while making this salad.

Chormuang

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Steamed Thai butterfly flower dumpling filled with vegetable

While going through the iPad menu my eyes stopped at “butterfly flower” and I was immediately curious about what this dish was. I wondered if it was made with something called “butterfly flower” or it looked like a “butterfly flower”. So I was told by the waiter that these are lavender coloured dumplings! Can you, dear reader, imagine anything like this? That piqued my curiosity even further and I ordered this dish. I must say it was quite a surprise when it came! Not only did it look spectacular, i tasted great. Later the chef met me and told me that the dough for the dumplings uses stock from dried purple flowers which give it this colour. And the filling was sweet potato, onions and peas!

SOUPS

Tom Yum Gai

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Spicy & sour chicken soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime & galangal. The soup was very flavourful and the individual flavours were distinctly standing out.

 

MAIN COURSE

Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai

Chicken green curry with Thai eggplant, basil, kaffir lime & coconut milk. The thai curry was quite tasty. I often make red and green curries at home and the wonderful new addition here was the crunchy Thai brinjal that looks more like capers.

Gai Kraprow

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Minced Chicken with long beans, hot basil & chilli. This was also quite tasty but perhaps best eaten with rice.

Pla Sam Rod

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Crisp fried fish in three flavor sauce. It was really tasty but felt more like a stand alone appetiser rather than a main course dish to be eaten as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Phad Thai Pak

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Flat rice noodle with bean sprout, chive, tamarind, chilli & peanut. I make rice noodles all the time at home. Nevertheless these were really tasty and actually had different flavours from the ones I am used to. Also, I’ve never used lemon juice on top of pad thai noodles! That was an interesting take.

 

DESSERT

Tub Tim Krob

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Water chestnut in coconut jasmine syrup. The water chestnuts had been soaked in a strawberry flavoured gelatinous syrup and resembled pomegranate seeds! It was quite tasty.

Kanom Tom

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Jaggery stuffed pandanus glutinous rice dumpling with coconut. This was the first time I had a sweet dumpling! That too with jaggery & coconut. It felt like I was eating an Indian sweet dish. But it is important to eat them while they are hot, else the jaggery solidifies a bit.

Fig & Honey Ice cream

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A non Thai dessert, but very tasty nevertheless.

 

After a very sumptuous meal I visited the washroom at Radisson Blu plaza and was completely floored by the gigantic drawing room that I entered in, which also happened to house toilets! So here are a few images of that lavish room too 🙂

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After this I met Master Chef Yengai Suthiwaja for some chit chat where I discussed various preparations and she also showed me the flower that gave those gorgeous dumplings their colour. It is a dried flower imported from Thailand for this very purpose.

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And here’s Master Chef Yengai Suthiwaja who I thanked for a hearty meal which was flavourful and also very interesting at the same time.

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Here are some more details of Neung Roi. Reservations are recommended.

Phone number

011 33105576

Address

Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi, National Highway 8, Near IGI Airport, Mahipalpur, New Delhi

Cost

Average Rs 3,000 for two people (approx.) VAT & service charges extra
 


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Bong connection

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In short, “Bong connection” is the wrong connection. Avoid it. Absolutely. Unless maybe you actually HAVE a bong connection and you might be able to relate to it (at least more than what I did). I wonder whatever made some tabloids give it good ratings. As luck would have it, instead of being able to get tickets for the movies we intended to watch (Harry potter or Die hard 4.0), my office team was able to procure tickets only for this unheard of movie which had supposedly been given good ratings by, who else, but Times of India.

To begin with, the whole hall (read the whole team) was very put off with the shoddy camera work which even in my nightmares, can not be attributed to a technical fault of the cinema hall. All we could see in the initial frames were chopped off images, some headless bodies cracking some jokes in Bengali, some faces with the portions above the eyes cut out of the frame, mouthing dialogues. 90% of the movie is in Bengali (with English subtitles) and 10% in English. Hell, no one had even set my expectations right about this :|. Most of the acting seemed very very made up and artificial. A tad too melodramatic at times. The script seems very predictable due to the same.

The story revolves around two parallel tracks. A bong guy settled in India (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) now wanting to explore US and another bong guy (Shayan Munshi who finally got some time off Jessica’s case hearings), born and brought up in New york wanting to explore Calcutta and his roots. Thrown in between, apart from a lot of bong dialogues, food and music, are some examples of bad and unnatural acting (Raima sen especially), underutilised actors (Victor bannerjee), a nymphet like starlet (Peeya Rai Choudhuri ), a lot of slipshod camera work and a lot of parallel tracks apart from the two that are already running. Somewhere or the other, as expected, these tracks intersect. (Is this the latest formula in Indian movies or what?)

Both these bongs are in search for something, which they probably find in certain ways and don’t find in larger ways and get back to where they came from. Do I sound confused? Well you know what to blame it on. Till the end we were trying to figure out what was the “point” that was being made. Midway in the movie, some of us from the team also tried to make a desperate “team attempt” to get into the audi where the Harry potter show was to be shown only to realise that it had been postponed for some school kids. The lure of a working AC and a comfy seat got us back to our own audi, alright.

The movie has its moments but they are too few and far apart. Some takes do come across as funny. Some scenes are evocative like the one with an outburst involving Shayan munshi and his extended family in India regarding the property immediately after the demise of his grand father. The sound track isn’t much to speak of. I liked only one song which was sung in a bar – “Maajhi re”. It was given a rock feel and music really has no language. Later I checked and realised why I just had to like that song in any case. It has been sung by Shaan.

Overall very avoidable fare. Out of hall, out of mind. Thankfully.


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Camera, action!

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Of late there have been some movies which have actually started “moving” ppl into action too. Though the term “movies” was coined to denote movement of characters on the screen like “talkies” denoted talking, it’s good to see that the movement and the impact can be felt outside the cinema hall too. Here I am not talking about a certain Vijay or a certain Gabbar or even a trademark wolfwhistle – “oye oye, oye o-o-wa” – things which are permanently etched into people’s memories due to the movies. I am talking about deeper impacts. When Black was released some ppl went ahead to say that watching it once would change you for life, one would walk out a better person. Well, that’s too tall a claim and may be true only for people who are so far removed from the normal world that they have no idea how a world of darkness and silence, looks or sounds like. It may hold good for people who have had a sheltered life with lady luck smiling down on them right from the day they were born. Anyhow, the kind of action I was talking about is more mass oriented and more prominent in two releases of this year – Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho Munna Bhai.

Both movies talk about freedom fighters and how the central characters in the script are really affected by them. Enough to implement their more than half a decade old principles in today’s world, for it seems today’s generation has forgotten the basis on which independent India managed to free herself. The same principles should ideally be sought in today’s world too. But most people think they are too outdated for today’s circumstances. Both movies manage to show us that it is not so and that by sticking to a line of thought one can indeed transform India. Both movies saw mass public action. With RDB it has become a trend to hold any protest at India gate by lighting candles. Whether it is a dharna for the RTI or a candle light vigil for Jessica Lal’s case. Maybe in emulating those actions it makes them feel heroic because it was the heroes (in the movies) who chose to tread that path. Ironically though it was real life heroes who went down that path in history, public trend failed to form on the basis of just that. With LRMB, again the main character chose to tread a path which has been assumed to fail before it even started. But towards the end we are shown how that is not the case and that patience and non-violence can actually work wonders with a feel good factor to boot. With LRMB, terms like “Gandhigiri” and “chemical locha” have entered our common vocabulary (google it and you shall believe). People have started sending get well soon cards and flowers to get any issues resolved like trying to get a liquor shop shift from in front of a prayer place.

But where both movies differ is the way to protest. While RDB promotes Sarfroshi, LRMB promotes non-violence. Two very opposite lines of thought. Nevertheless people choose wherever they fit, which is what matters eventually. At least an intention to make a positive difference.

A good moral at the end of the stories apart, one thing is very prominent in both movies. Both of them show the advent of radio broadcasting and the extent to which it penetrates our daily life. The video never killed the radio star. It’s an instant formula to spreading information. It’s a very strong tool if put in the right hands. That makes me wonder, observing as I have been, how many years before they show a movie where the same information dissemination is done via blogging.


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My name is Anthony Gonzalves

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Spoiler warning – plot revealed

Though Arshad Warsi kept uttering “My name is Anthony”, he may have wanted to utter “Mein Anthony Gonzalves nahi ban-na chahta” (I dont want to be Anthony Gonzalves) instead, as the first scene in the movie “Anthony Kaun hai“. Firstly he doesn’t even get to utter mouthfuls like “You see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity”. Plus there are people after his life because of the filmy name, which happens to belong to a journalist wanted by the local goon! He might as well have kept his name as Munnabhai. Talking of names, Arshad Warsi, is given a unique name “champ” (sounds like a dog), aka Champak Chaudhry, who lands up in one soup after another with the final soup being almost getting killed by a hitman. Like an innocent lamb, he unfolds his story to the hitman Master Madan (Sanjay Dutt) who has a propensity to shoot ppl as casually as swatting mosquitoes.

The story starts with a lot of twists in the tale. As filmy as it could get, I actually thought towards the end that Champ would be the real Anthony and would have been fibbing all this while to Madan. Champ is a local goon in love with a dame, but since there’s a love triangle here, Champ lands up in jail due to the efforts of his rival, just before he marries his lady love. In jail he meets another goon (Raghubir Yadav) who has a beautiful daughter and diamonds worth a gazzilion. Champ helps him out, falls for the daughter, gets the diamonds thru a series of twists and complications (including a change of ID aka Anthony) and just when he’s nearing his journey, he gets cornered by a hitman who listens to his story since he has nothing else to do, till he gets the supari to kill Anthony.

All in all the dialogues are quite entertaining (for eg. the dig on Air India), songs are REALLY bad (what can one expect from a-song-a-day-reshamiya), the dances are equally repelling, nubile nymphets showing skin are ample, Sanjay dutt and Mungeri Lal (Raghubir yadav) are wasted. It’s an out and out Arshad warsi movie. I like the way they have 2-3 styles of presenting the same shot. Anusha Dandekar can obviously not act. Minisha Lamba pouts and tries to look masoom in the whole movie. And yes, I like Sanjay Dutt’s car too. And Ravi Vaswani brings back the good old ‘Jaane bhee do yaaron’ memories. A good entertainer and yes, though you don’t need to leave your brain behind at home to find it funny, you can shut it off during the scenes where Raghubir Yadav does magic.


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By the moon and the stars and the sky

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The prominently evident flavour last weekend can be described in one word – spontaneous. After seeing a rather pathetic movie which finished at 1:15am and ended up giving me a headache instead of laughs, it was time to freshen up a little. I digress, but here’s a one word review of Malamaal weekly – “bakwaas”. This important event of “brevity in its real element” having been put aside, I shall now proceed to describe the wonderful spontaneity that ensued.
1. I wanted to see the sunrise in the hills since long now.
2. I have been to and lived in, various Jhumri tallaya corners of our country but never Rajasthan/Jaipur.
3. If I am awake that late, there’s no way I can get up by the time sunrise happens. Except if I never sleep to begin with.

Put 1, 2 and 3 together and you know what followed. After a quick “camera-jacket-sneakers-cassettes-water bottle” pickup, we were on the Jaipur highway by 2am. Well, practically I am on it every single day at least twice, but this time the destination was not yonders.

So off it was, with some breathtaking Kandisa in the middle of the night. Eerie moonlightI have said it earlier and I say it again. ‘Kaun chaday roz yeh sooraj, pawan kaun phoonke’ echoes just the sentiment I had at that time. The mesmerising moon followed us everywhere. It was almost full and there were no clouds. Everything was bathed in the full moon light. After the first toll check, small little hills began dotting the landscape. In the milky whiteness of the moonlight, all of them seemed even more pristine and untouched. Venus, shining brightSome attempts at taking the moon’s pictures got thwarted because of the sheer luminosity of it. I had been much more successful earlier the previous weekend while attending an Indian classical music concert in Nehru park, when the moon had bashfully peeped out from under the clouds. Kandisa soon gave way to Roxette. The darkness soon gave way to an eerie blue sky. At 4:30 am we stopped and had some adrak chai from a dhaba. All this, while Venus was shining brightly in the night sky. It’s a strange feeling, this exploring in the darkness business, while the world sleeps. It unites one with nature, just a little bit more, than what one would be in the daytime. It all seems to be one’s private haven, one’s private adventure, one’s private magic show. In the morning it would be there, but it would be for everyone. That is magical yes, but special – no.

Soon the milky whiteness of the night began giving way to orange hues in the eastern corners of the sky. The western corners were however unconcerned with whatever was happening on the opposite end and retained the same look. Lots of kilometers and trees went past. Finally we stopped again, just as the sky was beginning to glow a ripe golden. I tried a panoramic shot which I later stitched together. The most fabulous golden sunrise wasThe panoramic sunrise just *about* to take place along with a big moon against a blue sky, just about to vanish away like the cheshire cat’s smile. The ripple of clouds spread above the sun like a natural quilt, only enhanced the colours more. While I took a series of shots to create a panned panoramic shot, I could see the sunrise taking place in a different frame (than my camera’s) and the sun actually coming out from behind the hills as if golden butter floating its way to the top in a pan. The opposite end of the sky was of course still drowsy and birds lazily flew along, carrying wisps of brightness with them. The fabulous sunriseWith the glorious sunrise witnessed, we inched our way towards Jaipur.

On the outskirts of Jaipur is Amer fort, built atop a hill. Since we didn’t have much time to spare, we knew this would be the only “Jaipur” we would be able to see. So off we went spiralling up the hill with “Kuschel Rock” giving us company Shall we dance?over music. Never before had I realised that hills are so close to Delhi! This fact itself quite pleased me. The place was absolutely scenic and full of greenery as well as lots and lots and lots of peacocks. There were entire peacock families moving about calling out to each other. It reminded me of my childhood when my sister and I also used to go “Keyooon” along with the peacocks in ChandiMandir and they would reply back with equal enthusiasm. We spotted a lot of peacocks Stretching by the moon!dancing too. Soon we came to a clearing from where the splendid view of the valley below was visible. Wisps of cloud hung in the air over the town and over the palace in the middle of a lake. Typical Rajasthani stuff. We reached the gates of the Amer fort soon but there was nobody to greet us except the longtailed long..err.. langoors. They made quite a picture, perched on a tree against the fast vanishing moon. The fort would have opened at 9 am and we were already there before 7am. But with enough of happiness and smugness collected for one day, we set back towards Delhi.

I drove on the way back, with speeds between 120-140kmph. Glisten carefullyMore smugness followed. I promptly earned myself some ma-behen gaalis like “Michael Schumacher kee maa” and “Narain Karthikeyan kee behen”. But in the end, nobody can ignore true excellence and I got a compliment on my excellent driving skills when we landed in Gurgaon by 11:30 am and promptly went to 32nd milestone for a brunch. Surprisingly I wasn’t drowsy even after a night out and eventually slept after 36 hours. All in all, a great funfilled weekend which I shall always cherish for all times to come. But this wouldn’t have been the same without my friend who actually was spontaneous enough to get up and go all the way to Jaipur in the middle of the night, who was patient enough to stop and watch each time I felt the urge to click pictures, who let me drive his car, and who also listened to entirely my choice of music. For all this praise that I am showering on you, I am sure next time you would let me visit Chowki dhani and let me buy some nice mojris too :p.


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