Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Restaurant Review - Diva Piccola

I love Diva - I think the food is great, even though the restaurant is a bit out of our way and we therefore only manage to go there once or twice a year. So yesterday when my colleague and I decided to work out of Hauz Khas Village, trying out Diva Piccola was a natch.

It's on the main street of Hauz Khas Village, but one floor up, so to start with we struggled to find it. We had landed up there at 11:30 am, whereas the cafe opens only at 12 noon, so the first waiter to come up to us turned us away. We were almost out the door, when a second one bustled up and promptly asked us to sit, specifying that food could only be ordered after 12, but we could get something to drink.

Heaving a sigh of relief, we sat and began working away on our laptops - loads of work to get through, fortified with the delicious chocolate milkshare. The cafe has a relaxed ambience, nothing fancy, with comfortable leather-upholstered sofas and large windows letting in natural light, overlooking the main street of Hauz Khas Village. It's the kind of place that makes you feel like hanging out over a lazy lunch.

At noon precisely, the smiley waiter came up with the food menu. We decided to order a pizza (Ortolano - with aubergines and tomatoes) and a pasta ( angelhair with garlic and parsley). With our laptops spread out, our ubiquitous cellphones and the glasses of milkshake and water, the table was pretty packed. That's when the said waiter turned up with a suggestion that we could move to a larger table, by the window. We looked out onto the eclectic Hauz Khas scene as we rather quickly and greedily stuffed faces with the pizza - delicious, absolutely, super moist yet crisp - and the pasta which reminded me of vermicelli upma, and now has me thinking what else I could do with vermicelli a la pasta recipes. We finished off the meal with a cappucino each, to keep us awake through the client meeting to follow, and left, hugely satisfied.

Of course the food and the ambience were great. But what made the experience fabulous was the service - understanding of consumer's needs, flexible and oh-so-prompt, whether it was refilling our water glasses, clearing the table or bringing the bill. Truly outstanding.

Many Months later...

Have been a lazy, lazy blogger...but then you know that by now. However, thankfully I have not been a lazy, lazy cook. Here are some of the more interesting food innovations I've come up with over the past few months:

1. Pasta sauce inspired by Baingan ka bharta

I loove Baingan, or aubergines. And I love the way that my cook makes Baingan ka bharta - she slowcooks the onions until they become almost caramelized, and that gives the Bharta a wonderful sweetish taste that sings well with the taste of smoked Baingan. Anyway, as I was greedily scoffing it one evening at dinner, I thought - what better than to combine the earthy flavours of this with pasta? And thus, a culinary star was born.

I didn't want to over-tip the Indianness of flavours, so I steered away from the spice rack I would have beelined for, for a Bharta. I used freshly cut basil from my garden.

I thought the smoked baingan would look less attractive served over a pasta, so I diced it up finely and slow-cooked it in vegetable oil until it was melty-soft. The onions and tomatoes were also cut and cooked the same way. I added salt to taste, a dash of olive oil and a generous grating of parmesan, topped it off with the aforementioned basil and served it over farfalle. Delicious. But next time, I'm going to try it with smoked aubergine and see which ones lives up to my culinary dream better.

2. Cheesecake pie

Chubbocks read this recipe in a storybook and wanted to try it out. one of my objectives for this sumemr is to teach him to cook, so I thought this would be a good, easy one to start with. It was easy-peasy, looked professional and tasted fab - definitely a keeper for when I have guests over.

1 pack of Philadelphia cream cheese ( about 200 gms)
1 carton of lowfat cream ( 200 ml)
Honey to taste
Vanilla - 1 tsp
15 biscuits - depending on size. Use Digestives for better texture.
100 gms white butter, softened
About 20 strawberries, cut into halves, and assorted berries (canned will do)

Put the biscuits into a ziplock bag. Take your rolling pin out and bash them about - a great stressbuster too - but don't crush them too fine into powder. Add the softened butter and make it into a dough. Spread it out with your fingers to fit the bottom of a 9" diameter nonstick pie pan and park the pan into a cold fridge for a couple of hours, till the crust sets.

Meanwhile, put the cream cheese and the cream into a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and the honey and beat into a smooth paste, but be careful not to overdo it, else the cream will turn into butter!!! Spread it out on top of the crust and put it away to chill.

Just before serving, top with the cut strawberries and the mixed berries. Add a dash of finely cut basil if you like.

3. Eggs and beans

Yes, not your usual combo, right? But anyway, I have to eat a lot of eggs on my diet, and am always looking for ways to make it fun. So I thought I'd experiment with Szechuan green beans topped with Chinese fried eggs, and whaddaya know, it worked!

Szechuan green beans - Top and tail fresh green beans, stir fry until somewhat soft on high heat in sesame oil, along with diced onions and finely chopped green chillies. Add a dash of soy sauce when done.

Chinese eggs - Fry eggs on medium heat in a dash of sesame oil. Add finely chopped fiery green chillies and finely chopped coriander leaves while the egg is still cooking, adda  dash of soy and leave until the egg is firm.

Top beans with eggs. Enjoy!

4. Raita/ dip with aubergine chips

Tastes great with any pulao/ chips/ crudites...

Take a couple of small aubergines and slice them really, really thin ( 1 mm). Deep fry them in oil until firm - they taste delicious, BTW.

Beat a cup of homemade yoghurt with a couple of minced garlic cloves and salt to taste. Decorate with the fried aubergines just before serving.