I converted to non vegetarianism about a decade and a half ago, stated loving all nonveg food but my heart still lies with the vegetarian flavors. Actually my meat and fish recipe are always laced with vegetable and herb flavors, sometimes even fruit. See this fish with citrus fruits and mutton rogan josh with apricots or this basil infused minced chicken curry. For me it's always the vegetable portion of the meal that makes or breaks the deal, be it with meats or grains or other main ingredients of my plate.
But when we eat out and want good vegetarian food, the options are very limited and most places serve just run of-the-mill fare especially in Delhi. Vegetarian food would mean either chhole bhatoorey or Idli-dosa or gujrati or rajasthani thalis, all yummy on their own but if you want light and refreshing options you have to think hard. At least I haven't come across many places where you go for a vegetarian meal and keep dreaming about it for months later. One such memorable vegetarian rajasthani thali we had at Kingdom of Dreams, but that was a heavy meal that makes you to skip food the next day.
Think of a lighter refreshing meal and you wont find many options ironically. Let me tell you about one place that holds promise. A cafe where you find many tea infusions, smoothies, shakes and numerous meal options.
So when you decide to go to a cafe that serves only vegetarian food you might feel a bit hesitant but let me tell you this is one place where you would love every morsel you eat. The Pianoman art Cafe is a neat place that promises value for your time and money both. The cafe is located in the Basant Lok market, close to Godrej Nature's basket.
Artfully done interiors, hand painted walls in abstract and a musical ambiance even if the Pianoman (Arjun Sagar) is not playing jazz. The cafe has glass walls on three sides overlooking the Basant lok market and moods inside the cafe keep changing depending on how sunny or dark it is outside. You will be lucky if it rains when you are there.
Food and drinks are wonderful there. I can tell you after eating there a few times and that the menu is done by none other than Ruchira Hoon. You would be expecting awesome food if you have known the foodie Ruchira even for a second. European, Middle eastern and some American foods, an overall global appeal.
We at CaL blogger's table were there for a dinner and some of us carnivores were in for a surprise as a meal is incomplete without meat for most of them. Not me I tell you. I was upbeat as I had tasted the food and drinks at this quaint cafe a couple of times before.
There were three options in drinks. Mojito (non alcoholic), Paan smoothie and Chocolate hazelnut shake. My heart skipped a beat with the mention of a paan smoothie and though I knew a paan smoothie can kill me if done wrongly, you know I can't stand a wrongly done sweet drink or a dessert that too if it is aromatic. I took the risk and was rewarded pleasantly. This was 'the best' paan experiences I have had. One of the best smoothie too. Arvind had ordered the chocolate hazelnut shake and that was another rich and nutty smoothie reminding him of the nutella he loves so much.
But it was the paan smoothie that made me get a spoon and polish off the last bits in the bottom, flavorful, aromatic and pleasantly cooling and sweet, just like a meetha paan from Banaras.
Then came the soup and Arjun asked if someone has nut allergy as the star soup was a Pumpkin and peanut butter soup. He had a Cream of tomato and carrot soup as well on the menu especially set for us, in case someone wanted to avoid either pumpkin or nuts, we all unanimously wanted pumpkin and peanut butter. So promising and unusual it sounded. And it kept it's promise. A rich creamy soup redolent with salty peanut butter. This is going to be a regular in my kitchen for sure. With lightly toasted garlic bread, the soup was something you would love in a large serving. And their servings are really large, though we were tasting small cup sized servings as there was a vast menu planned for us.
The salad was incredibly refreshing green apple and fennel slivers with generous shavings of Parmesan. Crisp slices of apples soaked in juices of fennel bulb. Loved this salad with sprinkling of parsley and Parmesan. Completely my kind of salad.
Appetizers were stunning in appearance. Stuffed mushrooms in nyonya sauce, Mezze platter and Vegan sliders. Stuffed mushrooms were polished off instantly, chewy textured mushrooms with a sticky sauce that was so simple and yet flavorful. The vegan sliders were an interesting mix of walnuts and brown rice. Perfectly puffy pita bread that I like more with the hummus and an aubergine dip. You would love the moist tabbouleh and the pickled vegetables on the mezze paltter as well.
Perfect for nibbling when you are meeting a sweet lot f friends after a long time. We blogger friends had met really after a long time and the food was making it difficult to converse on subjects other than what was being served.
Ratatouille, Potato dauphinoise and Wild mushrooms risotto came one after the other.
My love for vegetables is known well, this ratatouille is something both Arvind and I loved. But the potato dauphinoise was something I knew Arvind would take second and third helpings. And he did. Perfectly creamy, cheesy potatoes done to perfection. Risotto with a mix of mushrooms was my favorite. The most creamy risotto with rich mushroom flavors I have had. Every morsel enjoyed.
But I could not relate this corn cake to the brown rice it was served with, the rice did nothing to the corn cakes, may be some stir fried bean sprouts would have been great I feel. Parul couldn't taste any lemongrass and galangal in corn cakes though, and probably Sid also found them flat tasting. To me the problem was with the rice.
Among the desserts I absolutely loved the Tiramisu. Deep coffee flavors, almost bitter and very lightly sweetened. Just the way I like my tiramisu. I know many people wont like a lightly sweet tiramisu, so be warned if you like your tiramisu really sweet. For me, sugar kills tiramisu.
This Sea salt caramel chocolate tart was another stunner. I do not like caramel much so a small bite of this rich tart was enough for me, the flavors lingered for quite a long time. This would be your pick if you like your desserts really sweet and caramel laced. Sea salt enhances everything in this tart.
You can see these happy faces after a vegetarian meal. This doesn't happen very often when this group of hardcore carnivores (only Rekha and Sushmita are vegetarians) loves a vegetarian meal and talks about it for days.
Mukta had come with her kids and the evening had become better than ever. Rituparna came after a long time. Himanshu and I sneaked in to the nearby shop called Osaba and bought a few ceramics. The way we connect with food bloggers over everything food and photography is something to be seen to be believed.
Charis and Sushmita cut a cake that was a nice crack pie done by Ruchira to celebrate their birthdays. Did I tell you Arjun Sagar played Jazz and Babak Moussavi showed us some wonderful card tricks as a bonus entertainment. They keep doing a few stand up comedy shows and such stuff over the weekends. I told you this place is worth your time as well.
I know I will be trying out the apple and fennel salad, the pumpkin and peanut butter soup and that corn cakes for sure. Oh and paan smoothie as well. Just let me me get hold of a nice paan wala :-)