Pa Pa Yah!

One of the perks of being “socially relevant” is that you end up knowing most of the other “socially relevant” in the city, country or planet, depending, but obviously, on the degree of  illustriousness that you have acquired. I am in no way blowing my own trumpet (though it sneakily may seem so), but am merely acknowledging my good fortune of having access to some the finest creators and their art in a slightly more direct way as opposed to, say, my access to them had I become an accountant (and a miserable one to top it all) if destiny had not played her hand in my life 30 years back.

Anyway, one such artist at work in India, and certainly one who’s painting a great montage on the culinary canvas of India is my friend, Zorawar Kalra. Now Zorawar is an interesting guy…I used to know his father, Jiggs Kalra, rather well years back, as we were the two turbaned guys who got featured in newspapers and television quite often; him, as the seasoned maestro of Indian cuisine and me, as the new kid of Indian fashion. I recall often seeing a young shy Zorawar in a ‘patka’ (an alternate headgear worn by members of the Sikh faith) with Jiggs then. Years later, with both of us having ditched our respective headgears, I bumped into him again recently as a strapping young man who had chosen to use his legacy and take it to a completely different level! His company today runs several restaurants, the best known amongst them being Farzi Cafe, Masala Library and Pa Pa Ya amongst others, and needless to say, they run them exceptionally well. (Trivia: incidentally, he could easily dub for Farhan Akhtar; its uncanny how similar they sound)

A few weeks back, my friends and I enjoyed an intimate evening of bonding and revelry in Pa Pa Ya in New Delhi; we were elated by the quality of the food (obviously the first pre-requisite for any good restaurant) as also by the energy abound in the space. A couple of days back, I visited Pa Pa Ya again, with family this time, and was delighted with the consistency that I experienced in both, the food and the service all over again (huge credit here also to Karanbir Singh Gulati, the GM)… the same flavours, the same warmth…to me, these two are the backbone of any good restaurant, and all those who’ve managed to maintain these well are bound only to succeed. The other thing that surprised me were the number of people in the restaurant (besides the ones waiting for a table); it is my belief that a fine dining restaurant that achieves this kind of patronage has a sure fire winner on its hands (though i wish they had some private dining areas for some of us who like a bit of privacy; the last time, we created one of our own in their sumptuous wine cellar). Pa Pa Ya also boasts of an architectural edge, one that only it enjoys, that of having the highest ceiling in India for a restaurant, and that sense of vertical scale indeed does add a unique dimension to the overall experience. Also, pay heed to the unique serving dishes and the presentation itself.

Finally, to me, what really matters most and in this case, certainly does manage to blow me away each time is the food! Its fresh, the flavours are exquisite and the fusion is unique without trying too hard.

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I would highly recommend a visit to all those who have already not sampled Pa Pa Ya, and since I’m not a ‘paid to sing paeans’ blog, I’m going to leave it to you to decide whether all that I’ve said holds true or not.

Zorawar, my dear friend, kudos to you for living the dream…both your father’s and your own… and do enjoy the ride, its only just started!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Weight or Watch. #WOW

WOW

Okay then…this is going to be a first, but I suppose it just needs to be done! Perhaps the most difficult obstacle that I’ve ever faced in my life has been my weight issue. All that excess has been a constant companion of mine since many decades, and though I’ve managed to get rid of some of it several times, the kilograms lost seemed to (like the proverbial bad pennies) possess a magical ability of coming right back! I think I’ve tried every possible diet in the world and can now write a thesis on how diets can never work unless there’s a radical shift in one’s own mindset for initiating and sustaining change. Not doing it for lack of motivation is an age old excuse… Worse, and God forbid, the onset of a medical condition where you just have to lose weight is avoidable… reaching out for seemingly easy and effective means such as Bariatric surgery are both un-natural and unsafe…so then where lies the answer?

As i said, it all begins with a shift in one’s mind-space first, and eventually, that positive shift needs to regulate what goes into one’s mouth…essentially, its all about the number of calories consumed. Typically, diets push fatties onto radical paths…. eat steamed vegetables, don’t eat ice-cream, eat an apple, don’t eat fries, eat wheat, don’t eat rice…i think you understand what i mean. But this is exactly what does not work for most people who’ve lived their life seemingly only to eat and have never really eaten to live. Deprive yourself the goodies and failure is imminent! A couple of years back, I think I cracked the formula wherein, you could eat whatever you wanted and whenever you wanted with just 2 caveats: (a) You halve the portions and (b) you enter everything you eat into the nifty little app called ‘My fitness pal’. What this app literally does is ask you some direct and basic questions and then works out the exact number of calories you should consume to reach your target. Thereafter, you simply have to record everything you eat or drink, and it keeps deducting the calories consumed and keeps showing you how many you have left to feast on. There are many other things it does but I’m going to let you discover those for yourself. Anyways, what you eventually end up with is a virtual dietician who lets you eat or drink anything under the planet without fear as along as you are honest about the quantities. I’ve tried this in the past and successfully managed to knock off 14 big ones (but gained back 10) so the art is in going on and on till you reach your goal…just don’t give up!

Every person with a weight issue has one favourite word: TOMORROW. This, in actuality is the tomorrow that never arrives. So I’ve decided that my word is going to be TODAY. Which also means that today is when it all begins for me and I decided that perhaps the best way for me to start this journey of honesty with myself is to put it out there in this public domain. Also, since putting their weight down can be downright embarrassing for most, I’m going to keep my tracker in percentages e.g. If today’s weight is a 100%, the posts that follow would be about how much % have I reduced it to, eventually reaching my target of weighing 70% of what I do today i.e. a drop of 30% of my body weight. Its not going to be easy, but if i’m disciplined enough and hang in there, i envisage between 14-16 months to achieve this healthily.

Lastly, you may be wondering as to why you should be subjected to this at all? Selfishly to be able to finally do something about my weight but also, this one is really for all those who have battled and lost to weight… I’m going to try and visually also show food art, which is delicious, healthy (not always) and looks pretty as well, and yet, helps you knock of the excess (a calorie count will be shared as well). I’ve always believed that Art exists everywhere, and this time around, I’m going to speak to you about my journey through visually appealing gourmet experiences (along with the % drop in my weight) which eventually and with time, i am hopeful may also inspire some others to join me in conquering their handicap and simply living a better and healthier life.

Wish me luck!

(BTW* Starting today also makes it really tough because I’ve just about sat down as the  host for an intimate dinner at this lovely new place in Delhi called PAPAYA and I’ve already consumed 50% of my calories allowed…Start tomorrow? Nah!)

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The Sixth Sense

Let’s talk about food.

Traditionally Taste is classified as one of the 5 senses, but for me personally, it takes on the mantle of the Sixth sense…The sixth sense is essentially another term for extra-sensory perception; and food for me is one of the best barometers of what to expect from the rest of the experience, be it in a restaurant, a cafe, an airline….you get the drift?

I have 3 wonderful stories to share, which perhaps will ably also elaborate my point…

Story 1: If one is to fly Business Class within India, you have 3 choices: Jet airways, Air India and Vistara. The first has been around for a while, has good connectivity but sad planes, the second is the oldest (besides being the national carrier), but unfortunately is not too good with punctuality and the third, the newest, has limited connectivity as of now (plus the uniforms suck!)… I personally refuse to fly Air India (too many comedies of error), I was a regular with Jet (still a platinum card member, I think) but have now gravitated towards Vistara. What made me switch? Proximity of the boarding gates to the baggage belts at Mumbai airport was one reason, but more importantly, and you may not believe it, the reason was…A Kulfi (an Indian ice cream) that they serve in flight! Surprisingly, on subsequent social evenings, I discovered that I was not the only one who fancied their delicacy and that indeed, this was one of the factors that many had connected with when it came to Vistara. Sometimes, no highly paid consultant will tell you about the little things that make a difference and listening to the customer can be a great alternative. Net result: I now fly only Vistara in India.

Story 2: This one was a journey of self discovery! I love good coffee, and though I’ve had several moments of coffee coups in my life, I ended up discovering the best coffee ever, existing right in my own backyard..literally! A butler at my flagship store in Delhi somehow figured out the perfect recipe for the perfect coffee! Don’t take my word for it… just visit our space in Delhi.. don’t buy anything if you don’t want to but try the coffee! Net result: I’m visiting my own store more often now.

Story 3: The Oberoi Gurgaon is a lovely hotel and one of my favourite haunts when I need to chill a bit in ‘Gurugram’. At 361, their coffee shop, they serve a particular kind of bread called the Flaky bread which is an absolute treat. I can assure you it’s a definite contributor to the girth but its worth every millimeter that you add on! Net result: The ambience and superb service aside, this lone bread has become one of my core reasons to make the hotel one of my favourite meeting spots.

Finally, while still on the Oberoi, I must make a personal recommendation. A few nights back, I had a chance to sample visiting Michelin star Chef Mario Paecke’s seven course tasting menu and what a treat it was! I’ve always been a bit of both, a hearty Punjabi (a posh one?) and a connoisseur of fine gourmet experiences (though slightly conservative in my approach to what goes into my mouth)… I’ve oscillated between the draw of the generous calorie-laden portions of desi food and the art of the elegant droppings of fine cuisine… I’ve debated constantly within myself about the simplicity of the classic Dal-Roti vs. the complexity of mysterious sauces and garnishes. Frankly, there’s magic in both, but on this particular night, the Oberoi with its ambience, its wines and Chef Mario’s talent and his artistic presentation had a fan in me. Many thanks Amitabh Rai for the experience.

If in Delhi, do visit and give yourself a treat!

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Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Jaypore

Whilst my erratic and ever changing schedule has bestowed upon me a degree of remorse for not being able to accept the generous invitation from Samir Andrea Kasliwal for his birthday celebrations and also the royal one from the Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur for Holi festivities at the palace, I am left with no option but to try and create peace within by reminiscing some sweet moments from the past.

From one of my recent trips to Jaipur (or Jaypore as it was known in British India), and before this memory gently ambles into the mind’s recesses, I thought it wise to share my joy on my very brief visit to Bar Palladio. This lovely space (not surprisingly run by a European), besides being an aesthete’s delight, was quite the gastronomic discovery, especially since one did not expect Jaipur to throw up anything like it. Much recommended to anyone visiting the Pink City… Go and enjoy the exotic embrace of the perfect shades of Turquoise, Teal and Indigo whilst sipping on a fine aperitif and savouring delectable Hors d’oeuvre. (Which I delightfully indulged in, courtesy the company and conversation of my dear friend and restaurateur extraordinaire, AD Singh).

Personally, I’ve always loved that wonderful twist that happens to the expected when expats set up something in India… the synergy of an alien mind fuses magically with the environment that only India can offer and, more often than not, throws up some wonderful hybrid experiences. The reverse also holds true, and unlike the past, where every immigrant fom Bangladesh and Nepal invariably opened a very sad, aesthetically deprived, agarbati smelling “authentic” Indian restaurant, today, one can find fine gastronomical experiences in various parts of the world run and owned by Indians.

I’ve always looked forward to such instances of osmosis…of food, of music, of soul… of love… to me, the coming together of beings, of cultures is extremely exciting and the byproducts of all such mating are generally exotic in nature. More of this spirit is required in the world today … the oneness of humanity, above race or religion has never been more relevant before.

Finally, a very Happy Holi to all of you ( for those of you who’re not aware, it’s the festival of colours in India and Nepal which signifies the triumph of good over evil and also heralds the onset of spring)… so bring in as much colour as you can in your life as well as in others lives. It really is a beautiful world full of beautiful souls… just look at all with different eyes and you’ll be amazed at the magic that you’ll be able to witness.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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