Friday, 29 July, 2011

Restaurant Review: Nanking

Place: Nanking
Location: Parklane, Secunderabad
Cuisine: Chinese
Meal: Dinner

The other day, a friend of mine dropped by, and took me to Nanking. Ive heard quite a lot about this place (my best friend used to go gaga over this place), but visited it only once before. They have the main restaurant and an extension right next to each other, strangely, with separate kitchens. Both were packed for a weekday and we had to wait about 10 minutes to get a table at the Extension.

The vegetarian menu was not so long. Spring rolls, Egg rolls and Manchuria were the only veg starters they had. The non-vegetarian menu was quite long though. The prices seemed very reasonable for a place of such magnitude.

We ordered a vegetable Hot and Sour soup, Spring Rolls for myself and Chicken drumsticks for my friend. The soup was tasty and tangy. Spring rolls were good, but I've had better ones. 16 pieces was quite a lot. The rolls were out right away, but it took forever for the drumsticks. I was almost done with the rolls when they arrived. My friend loved them though. This guy owns a restaurant himself, and was telling me that it was quite impossible to serve 10 drumsticks for the given price.

Both of us were almost full with the starters, so we decided to go light on the main course. We ordered a vegetable American Chopsuey. I was having one after really long and loved it. The fried noodles were crunchy and the vegetables very well cooked. The quantity again was sumptuous.

Looks like I have a new favorite Chinese restaurant other than Chopsticks. For their prices and quantity, this place is a winner!! I saw the guy at the next table struggling to finish the fried rice he ordered. A nice family restaurant, and a bargain for my non-vegetarian friends. On the downside, the place was a little to loud. Also, the cutlery they used was quite old. The main restaurant has better interiors than the extension, but is cramped for space.

I would definitely recommend this place for anyone wanting to eat good Chinese food!!

Food: 8.5/10
Ambiance: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Meal for 2: Rs. 440/-

Dumbo's Verdict: 8.5/10

PS: I like Chinese food, but its not my favorite. I somehow prefer the 50 bucks road side bandi food over a restaurant when it comes to Chinese. That is why an 8.5 even though I listed it as my favorite.

Thursday, 28 July, 2011

Restaurant Review: Pizza Den

Place: Pizza Den
Location: Sindhi Colony, Behind Paradise
Cuisine: Vegetarian Pizzas and Ice-creams
Meal: Dinner

Ive been wanting to visit this place for a long time now. It used to be a small pizza shop near Secunderabad Club, but later moved to Sindhi Colony. Back then, it served about 12 really good vegetarian pizzas and ice-creams for very reasonable prices, but not anymore. Its not a restaurant, but a road side shop (you have to sit and eat on the road, or in your car).

So, today for dinner, I again drove about 8 kilometers to have their pizza. Ordered a Cream Cheese pizza. As the name suggests, it was a creamy cheesy pizza with onions and special seasoning as topping. 10 minutes of waiting and my pizza was ready. An 8", delicious looking pizza. It was creamy and cheesy, yes. The crust was really good too, and the pizza almost melt in my mouth. But for 100 bucks, I thought the pizza was really small. It dint fill my tummy!!

To stuff myself better, I ordered a Nutty Hot Chocolate ice-cream. It was good. Instead of the the base being vanilla ice-cream, it was chocolate. Vanilla would have tasted much better.

Overall, I should say I was not so happy about my long drive. Yes, the food was good, but I could get something similar right next to my house for maybe a lower price. Being an on road food place, they dint even have dust-bins around, and so all the paper plates and ice-cream cups were thrown right next to the shop.

I would suggest it for its variety of vegetarian pizzas though. If your driving by, you can probably pick up a pizza to eat in the car. But not worth a special visit, especially if you live far away.

Food: 8/10
Ambiance: 3/10
Service: NA
Meal for 1: Rs. 150/-

Dumbo's Verdict: 7/10

Wednesday, 27 July, 2011

Restaurant Review: Swati Tiffin Center

Place: Swati Tiffin Center
Location: Mehdipatnam, behind the bus stand.
Cuisine: Tiffins and Indian
Meal: Take-away

Again, a small tiffin center which came up with a restaurant at a later stage. This though, is not a place where in you would like to sit and have a meal. It used to be a decent place about about 6 years ago, but lack of maintenance makes it impossible for me to sit and have a meal here anymore.

The food though, is still impeccable. The Butter Naan here, to my knowledge, is the best you get in the city! As a kid, this was the closest place to my house where you got decent food. I used to throng this place very often for its Panner Butter Masala and Malai Kofta. Both of them are lip-smacking, and their Biryani is excellent too. Also, they are very reasonably priced.

The other day though, I decided to order something different, Kaju Panner Masala, along with the usual Butter Naan. And it was a decision I would not regret. I have a new favorite. It was delicious!! Unlike other places where they add Kaju just for the heck of adding it, the curry was full of Kaju, and Panner. A big box full of the curry helped me with lunch and dinner. It was not too spicy, creamy and perfectly cooked.

As mentioned, their Butter Naan is the best in the city. The way they make their Naan is very different. It is full of layers infused with butter in between, something like a parota. Each layer is very thin and perfectly baked. Because of it layers, one Naan is as good as having two.

Overall, for the price I paid, I had a delicious meal on a lazy afternoon, and also dinner for the night (No wonder I am putting on weight!!) I would also recommend their Vegetable Biryani. Unlike other places, they serve dum biryani with the curry stuffed in between the rice. If you passing by Mehdipatnam, pick up dinner for your self.

Food: 9/10
Ambiance: NA
Service: NA
Meal for 1: Rs. 140/-

Dumbo's Verdict: 9/10

Restaurant Review: Sandarshini

Place: Sandarshini
Location: Masab Tank, towards Banjara Hills Rd. No. 1
Cuisine: Indian
Meal: Lunch - Thali

Ive been visiting Sandarshini since when it opened about 10 years ago. It started off as a tiffin center, but slowly expended as a restaurant. They have a air-conditioned dine in over the tiffin center. Its not a hi-fi place, but one where you get decent vegetarian food for reasonable prices.

The other day while I was here for lunch, I ordered a North Indian Thali. Priced at Rs.120/-, I should say it was quite a meal. Ive had the thali here before, long time ago, and am impressed to say that that it was as good as it used to be.

They started off serving Tomato soup and papad. The soup was pretty decent, nothing great. Then came the thali: Butter Naan, Panner Butter Masala (PBM), Channa Masala, Mixed vegetable, Pulao, Rice, Dal, Rasam, Sambhar, Curd, Raitha and Gulab Jamoon. Quite a meal, isnt it?? And I was surprised to see the size of the Naan. It was humongous. I used to order extra roti on my previous visits, but this time, there was no need for that.


The taste of the three North Indian curries was really good. Naan was soft. The PBM was actually excellent. I was almost full by the time I finished the Naan. The Pulao though was disappointing. The Dal was good, Rasam and Sambar were alright. Gulab Jamoon was a little under cooked. They served Vanilla ice-cream when I was done with the meal. The Jamoon tasted much better with the ice-cream.

Overall, a sumptuous meal at a very reasonable price. Other dishes, especially their Masala dosa happens to be really good as well. If your looking for a good tummy filling meal without burning a hole in your pocket, this is the place.

Food: 8/10
Ambiance: 7.5/10
Service: 7/5/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 124/-

Dumbo's Verdict: 8/10

Tuesday, 26 July, 2011

Restaurant Review: Olives and Cheese

Place: Olives and Cheese
Location: Trimulgherry, a little further from RTA Office, Secunderabad
Cuisine: Italian
Meal: Dinner

Olives and Cheese is a new Italian restaurant in town. The place is small but yet bright. They serve a wide range of Soups, Antipasti, Breads, Pizzas, Pastas, Sandwiches and Salads, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. They have a small desert menu.


I read about this place on Burrp, listed as a cheap fare Italian restaurant, famous for its Pizzas. So here I was. Drove exactly 11 kilometer to taste their pizza. The place was not so full at 9 PM, so I seated myself in a corner. There was no music playing, probably because of the cricket match on TV. I ordered a Szechwan Mushroom Delight pizza. I dint want Capsicum on my pizza, so I asked them to replace it with Olives. Being named Olives and Cheese, they were out of olives. So I asked him to replace it with Baby corn. Unfortunately, they were out of Babycorn too. So finally settled in for Jalapenos. Unable to withstand the temptation, I also ordered a Fettuccine in Alfredo Sauce pasta.


I was hoping for the pizza to come out first, but it was the pasta. It was really cheesy and creamy, just the way I like it. They added Mushrooms, Zucchini and Onions to it. The portion was sumptuous. I was almost full, and was wondering why I ordered a pizza. Pretty good start I should say.


It took a while for the pizza to arrive. This gave me time to make space in my tummy. I asked for a thin crust, but they actually brought a regular crust, which was not so thick after all. It dint matter much cos the crust was really good. The cheese dint seem to be mozzarella, and therefore was breaking way in chunks. But still it was a decent pizza. It wasnt huge, about 8" in size. I liked the pasta better.


Overall, a pretty decent experience. Its no where close to Little Italy, Banjara Hills (one of my favorite restaurants in Hyderabad). But for its prices, its worth it. They started turning off the lights and closing down the place while I was in there, at 10:30 PM, which was a turn-off. Anyways, I would definitely go back to this place, even if its a long ride. I would also recommend it to you guys.

Food: 8.5/10
Ambiance: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 238/-

Dumbo's Verdict: 8/10

PS: Its ironical that this place opened just after I left to the US. Back then, I always used to hang out a lot on this road, and there was no good place except for Vacs and McD. Now I see that there are quite a few restaurants here.

Friday, 22 July, 2011

Movie Review: Delhi Belly

No, it dint take me 20 days to watch Delhi Belly. I watched it on the first day in Mumbai, but unfortunately in Hindi. Three weeks later, I finally get to watch it in the original Hinglish version, and here is my review!

Plot
Tashi (Imran Khan), Arup (Vir Das) and Nitin (Kunal Kapur) are three roommates living in a small, filthy apartment in Delhi. Tashi works as a journalist and Nitin is his photographer. Arup works as a cartoonist. Tashi's air-hostess girlfriend, Sonia (Shenaz Treasury), whom he is forced to marry in a month's time, requests him to deliver a package for a Russian. Tashi asks Nitin to deliver it for him, and Nitin relays it to Arup. Finally, it does not end up with the person it is supposed to, a gangster named Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz). The consequences form the rest of the story.

Actors Performance
Imran Khan does it, finally!! He proves that he can act, and makes sure he plays Tashi's character to perfection. Vir Das is excellent. He uses his stand-up comedian experience to the fullest. Kunal Kapur was superb in his role as Nitin. Its not so easy to create neat humor using fart jokes, while underplaying it. But he always gets it right and its never to gross. Shenaz Treasury is alright as the bitchy girlfriend. Poorna Jagannathan is good as Tashi's other interest. But the show stealers are Vijay Raaz and his sidekick. Vijay Raaz is superb as the gangster. The rest of the cast is alright. Aamir is at his usual best in the end credits.

Story-Screenplay-Direction
Have you guys seen Guy Ritchie's 1998 caper film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"?? If you answered yes, and if you are intelligent, then you should have known the story of Delhi Belly. It is very difficult to write the story and screenplay for a caper film. Lock, Stock was the first movie of its kind, and had nothing to live upto. After watching it, Ritchie's next film "Snatch" itself seemed too predictable. Its the way the genre is. But Akshat Verma (Story and probably Screenplay) does a very good job with the script. He infuses different sub stories into the main plot in a very effective manner, and also makes sure its stays Desi. There is not one dull moment in the film. Direction by first-timer Abhinay Deo (Game was actually his second film but released earlier) couldn't have been better. He sucks out fresh performances from every character. Making proper choices, he could be the next big thing in the industry.

Other Departments
Music by Ram Sampath is excellent. I don't think I need to talk about "D K Bose". Its so in my head that while watching the climax of ZNMD, I was singing this song aloud. The background score is effective, and it is made sure that all the songs of the album are there in the movie (My friend suggested that the bg was similar to Lock, Stock.. Hmmm). Dialogeos by Akshat Verma are mind blowing. The slang used by today's youth is all there. I've seen both the version of the movie, in Hindi and the original Hinglish. Dialogues in the original are much more witty than the Hindi one (Few of the literal translations into Hindi sound gross). Editing by Huzefa Lokhandwala is good. With a run time of 96 minutes, the film seemed perfect. Cinematography by Jason West is of top notch quality. Jim Furgele, Ronnie Screwvala and Kiran Rao should be really appreciated for having the guts to produce such a different film. But it is Aamir Khan who makes the film work. If it were not for him, Delhi Belly would never have made it so big. Enough said!!

Verdict
Made on a budget of 25 crores, the movie grossed 52 crores in the first 2 weeks. That speaks for how good the movie is. The plus points of the film are the cast and its awesome production values. Not to forget the publicity. The genre might make the movie a little too predictable, but it still keeps you glued to your seats. It is not a movie to be watched with your parents, but to my surprise, half the cinema-hall was filled with families watching along with their kids (both for the Hindi and Hinglish version). Overall, its the birth of new cinema in India, not to forget a writer, and a director. If you haven't already, go watch it, preferably the Hinglish version. Its a decision you mostly wont regret!!

Dumbo's Verdict: 9/10

Wednesday, 20 July, 2011

My Kitchen: Tomato Khichdi Rice Recipe

With 2 onions and 2 tomatoes available, I decided to make Dal Khichdi for lunch. But as I started cooking, thanks to my awesome cooking abilities, I ended up making Tomato Khichdi Rice, or something like that. Bottom line, it was yummy!!

Ingredients Required
2 Onions (diced), 2 Tomatoes (chopped), 1 cup rice (uncooked), 1 cup Toor Dal/Pigeon Pea, 1 packed Maggie Bhuna Masala (Green Packet), Coriander powder, Cumin powder, Chilli powder, Salt, Ghee/Clarified Butter, Cashew.

Procedure
Mix the dal and rice, wash, and keep aside. Heat a pressure cooker and add some ghee. Add the cashews. Add the onions and fry them till they are golden brown. Add the tomatoes and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes, till the oil separates. Then add the Bhuna Masala (optional) and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and dal, mix well. Add the cumin, coriander, chilli powder and salt to taste. Add 2 cups of water. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and let blow 5 whistles on medium flame. When done, garnish with cashew and chopped coriander.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

PS: Please let me know if something doesn't make sense :)

Movie Review: Shagird

On a lazy Wednesday afternoon, having nothing to do while eating awesome lunch I cooked for myself, I started to watch the Nana Patekar starer, Shagrid. Boy oh boy, it turned out to be so bad, that I stopped it midway through, and moreover deleted the file from my hard disk.

Hanumant Singh (Nana Patekar) is a corrupt cop working for Delhi Crime branch. Mohit Alawat (Mohit Kumar) is a new recruit into Hanumant's team full of corrupt cops, who prefer killing to arrest, so as to make money for themselves. Mohit is not comfortable with such behavior, tries to stand up to them but in vain. It is shown that he is someone who is always made fun of at every gathering. His secret crush, Varsha Mathur (Rimi), is a dumb journalist working for Aajtak, who on receiving a phone call from some stranger goes to interview a terrorist leader all alone, without informing anyone, to get kidnapped. The Home ministry now wants a reluctant Hanumant to solve the case.

Ive had enough by now. Even my appetite is dead. Ctrl+Shift+Del!!

God knows what the director (Tigmanshu Dhulia) was trying to do. The screenplay is so pathetic that I had real trouble following what was going on. Hanumant's house is under attack, and he's busy playing chor-police with his new recruit. And what's his reaction when he comes to know about it, nothing!! Music, or to say the background score by Abhishek Ray is awfully sad. Everything else about the movie is sad too. Nana Patekar disappoints!!

Why am I even reviewing this movie in the first place??

Dumbo's rating: 2/10 (for the hour I sat through!!)

Avoid it under all circumstances. If anyone is daring enough to sit though the entire movie, please feel free to complete my review!!

Sunday, 17 July, 2011

Movie Review: Nanna

Plot
Krishna (Vikram) is a mentally challenged guy working in a chocolate factory at Ooty. His wife expires while giving birth to their child Vennela (Sarah). Krishna and Vennala share a very close father-daughter relationship with both taking care of each other. Vennela is taken away by her grandfather when she is 5. Anuradha (Anushka) is a lawyer who helps fight the case for Krishna, and this forms rest of the story.

Actors Performance
After Kamal Haasan, if there is anyone else who can play such a challenging role, its Vikram. He is exceptionally good playing the mentally challenged father. He expressed a lot using his eyes for most of the movie. He should be really appreciated for taking up such a role. The showstopper though, was baby Sarah. She was brilliant as the daughter and even overshadowed Vikram in certain scenes. However, the screen presence of both Vikram and baby Sarah is minimal during the second half of the movie. Anushka is good as the lawyer, but I felt something lack in her performance. She was looking really good though. Amala Paul has a minor role and was adequate. Naseer has a meaty role and was good. The guy who played Anushka's assistant was really good.

Story-Screenplay-Direction
Its a simple story about the relationship between a mentally challenged father and a doting daughter, and the consequences when they are separated. Director Vijay, who also provided story and screenplay, had a good story at hand with and ensemble of really good artists, but was unable to deliver a complete package. While the first half of the movie was to establish the father daughter relationship, he tried to infuse unnecessary scenes and create humor. Krishna's friend doubting his wife for helping Krishna with Vennala seemed absurd. He did not make use of the main performers of the film by limiting screen space for both Vikram and baby Sarah in the second half. It seemed more of Anushka's film post interval. Also, there seemed to be quite a few loopholes in the script. However, he could generate awesome stuff from little Sarah. The screenplay seemed alright, but nothing great.

Other Departments
Music by G. V. Prakash Kumar is alright. Lyrics by Anantha Sriram are mediocre. I could not make sense of even one song in full. Dialogues by Shashak Vennelakanti are ok. Cinematography by Nirav Shah is really good. Its not an expensive film, and the producers made sure to get things right.

Verdict
Its a movie to be watched for Vikram and baby Sarah. Both of them are surely gonna top the highest awarding honors for the film. Sadly, there is not a strong story to hold up their awesome performance. A better script could have made Nanna create wonders at box office. Also, there is a lot of Tamil nativity in the film (no offence to my Tamil friends). Overall, Nanna is a decent film and can be watched for its performances.

Dumbo's Rating: 7/10

PS: I went for the movie along with my cousin, and we had quite an experience. We had tickets for Sunday's show and thought it was for Saturday, realized it almost 30 mins into the movie. Luckily we found exactly 2 empty seats in the packed theater. Once in a life time experience I say.

Friday, 15 July, 2011

Movie Review: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Edit)

Plot
Childhood buddies, Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), Imraan (Farhan Akthar) and Kabir (Abhay Deol) decide to go on an adventure road trip when either one of them gets engaged. Kabir gets engaged to Natasha (Kalki Koechlin), and Imraan plans a road trip to Spain, for his own personal reasons. Arjun is initially not interested because of his recent breakup, but then agrees to join. There, they meet Laila (Katrina Kaif), and together have an adventure of their lifetime.

Actors Performance
The three leading actors play tailor made characters and are excellent. Hrithik looks stunning and does a real good job, especially during the emotional scene. Abhay is good. But the real star for me was Farhan. He was excellent and his comic timing was perfect. Katrina was delicious to look at and did a good job as well. Kalki was perfect as the possessive girlfriend. Naseeruddin Shah plays a cameo and was adequate. And ya, the surprise package, Ms.Bagwathi was terrific!! :D

Story - Screenplay - Direction
From the trailers, I was hoping it to be something similar to "Dil Chahta Hai", but turned out to be very different. Its a feel good story with romance infused into it while not being an integral part of it. Direction by Zoya Akhtar is good. She seems to have improved from her first venture. Screenplay by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar is neat and effective. But the film seemed to be a little too long and draggy towards the end.

Other Departments
Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is very peppy and catchy. The background score by S-E-L and Tubby is really good. All songs are shot well. Hrithik excels while dancing for Senorita. He's so damn good, that you forget to watch the other two guys. Editing by Anand Subaya could have been better. Dialogues by Farhan Akhtar are witty. Cinematography by Carlos Catalan is awesome. The underwater shots and shots at San Fermin (Bull run) are incredible. Skydiving shots by Joe Jennings leave you breathless. Beauty of Spain is captured in every frame. If Harry Potter was graphic visual feast, this one is scenic feast. Productions values are superb. Credit to the art department for perfectly recreating the La Tomatina Tomato festival.

Verdict
The first half of the movie is really entertaining and witty. Post interval, the film seems to drag towards the end. Plus points are excellent performances by the lead actors, entertaining first half, and awesome cinematography. On the flip side, the movie is a little too long and draggy towards the end (almost 3 hours). Overall, its a good watch. It might be liked by the elderly more than the youth. A few might find it preachy and therefore dislike it. It all depends on your attitude towards life, cos you see, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara! Go watch it, its a feel good film.

Dumbo's Rating: 8.5/10

PS: I recently watched the movie again, this time with amma, and then forced dad to go watch the movie along with his friend. Everyone loved the movie. This friend of Dad, Chatla Sreeramulu garu, happens to be a high profiled gentleman with connections to the Telugu film industry (He trained Ram for Devadasu). He enjoyed the movie so much that he couldn't stop talking about it for the next two days!

Post the watch with amma:
Amma's Rating: 8/10

Edited after second and third watch :)

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Plot
Now that Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has the Elder wand, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) sets off his search for the remaining three Horcruxes with Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint). They end up at Hogwarts and the final battle begins. He then discovers that there is one more Horcrux to be destroyed and you know what happens next!! Well, if you don't, go watch the movie :)

Artists Performance
Every character seems to have improved with age. Daniel, Emma and Rupert come up with mature performances compared to their previous outings. They do look very odd as adults in the ending though. Alan Rickman (Snape) surprises you with his acting skills (watch the second movie to understand what I mean). All the other characters are all right. Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) overacts as usual while in her shoes.

Story - Screenplay - Direction
Having covered the first 25 chapters of the 36 chapter book in Part 1, I was honestly hoping that they would stick to the book. But instead, Steve Cloves (Screenplay) chose to cut it short, and moreover, modify it. The final battle between Harry and Voldemort is picturized very different from the book. There is no mention about Dumbledore's Secrets and Lies. Being titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, strangely there is not much discussed about the Deathly Hallows. They do not even disclose what the Third Hallow is. Director David Yates tried to infuse humor into scenes which were meant to be serious (I don't know if its intentional). He does a much better job compared to his last three films, but I believe he could have put in much more effort. They chose to convey a lot of the story through expressions which I don't think really worked. Overall, the effect was missing in the end.

Other Departments
Music by Alexandre Desplat is mediocre. It was sad to watch gripping scenes with such dull background score. Cinematography by Eduardo Serra is of top notch quality. Editing by Mark Day is pretty decent. The graphics stand out and it is a visual feast. The 3d effect was ok.

Verdict
Being the final chapter of the series, a lot is expected from this movie and it definitely lives upto its expectations. But a lot more could have been done with it according to me. The climax seemed to lack the punch required and left me wanting more. People who read the book might be a disappointed. Overall, its a better ending to the movie series than what I expected it to be. Go watch it whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not!

Dumbo's Rating: 8/10

PS: This being my first review, I know I sound kinda amateurish. I hope to improve on it soon. Next review on ZNMD coming by evening :)