1. My top 40 Albums of 2013

    As with every year, I’ve listened to a lot of music. Also as with most years, I’ve decided to rank my favourite albums of 2013. Theres’s one leaked album and a bunch of other music, the kind that you can sing along to, dance to or write to - and everything in between. 

    40. Rhye - The Fall

    Rhye - The Fall

    39. Beyoncé - BEYONCÉ

    Beyoncé - Drunk in Love

    38. Burial - Rival Dealer

    Burial - Come Down to Us

    37. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

    Oneohtrix Point Never - Boring Angel

    36. Atoms for Peace - Amok

    Atoms for Peace - Ingenue

    35. Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return

    Toro Y Moi - Rose Quartz

    34. Washed Out – Paracosm

    Washed Out - It All Feels Alright

    33. Tim Hecker - Virgins

    Tim Hecker - Prism

    32. Classixx – Hanging Garden

    Classixx - All You’re Waiting For

    31. Various Artists - After Dark 2

    Glass Candy - Beautiful Object

    30. Kanye West – Yeezus

    Kanye West - Bound 2

    29. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

    Arcade Fire - Reflektor

    28. King Krule – 6 Feet to the Moon

    King Krule - Easy Easy

    27. Volcano Choir - Repave

    Volcano Choir - Byegone

    26. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

    Cut Copy - Free Your Mind

    25. DJ Koze – Amygdala

    DJ Koze - Nices Wölkchen

    24. Arctic Monkey – AM

    Arctic Monkeys - Why’d You Only Call Me When Your High?

    23. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe

    Blood Orange - Chamakay

    22. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual

    The Knife - A Tooth For An Eye

    21. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

    Daft Punk - Get Lucky

    20. Kurt Vile – Walkin On A Pretty Daze

    Kurt Vile - KV Crimes

    19.  Savages – Silence Yourself

    Savages - Husbands

    18. Julia Holter – Loud City Song

    Julia Holter - World

    17. Majical Cloudz - Impersonator

    Majical Cloudz - Childhood’s End

    16. Jon Hopkins - Immunity

    Jon Hopkins - Open Eye Signal

    15. Holden – The Inheritors

    Holden - Renata

    14. Deerhunter – Monomania

    Deerhunter - Monomania

    13. Forest Swords – Engravings

    Forest Swords - Thor’s Stone

    12. Dawn of MIDI - Dysnomia

    Dawn of MIDI - Dysnomia

    11. Haim – Days Are Gone

    Haim - Falling

    10. James Blake - Overgrown

    James Blake - Retrograde

    9. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

    Boards of Canada - Reach For The Dead

    8. Autre Nu Vuet – Anxiety

    Autre Nu Vuet - Play by Play

    7. Darkside - Psychic

    Darkside - Golden Arrow

    6. Disclosure - Settle

    Disclosure - Latch

    5. Jai Paul – Jai Paul (leak)

    Jai Paul - Jasmine

    4. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

    Fuck Buttons - Brainfreeze

    3. Youth Lagoon – Wonderous Bughouse

    Youth Lagoon - Mute

    2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

    The National - Graceless

    1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

    Vampire Weekend - Diane Young

  2. The Dichotomy

    Bombay 2013

  3. Through the Doors

    Manali 2013

  4. The Fruitseller

    Shimla 2013


  5. Dialect to screen

    Every city has a word. A word that might not have resonance or traction in any other place, but in the confines of its home city, is indispensable. In Singapore, it’s “lah”; in Delhi, “oye” and in Mumbai, it’s “boss” – used with multiple inflections, each with its own meaning. As a way to catch a stranger’s attention, perhaps, or as a way to express frustration or even to express specifics like “Come here”, “Don’t try to take advantage of me” and “What’s wrong?”

    Its many uses as well as other uniquely Mumbai colloquialisms have been captured in Griphin Official’s “Shit People Say in Mumbai”, a YouTube short inspired by a series of similar videos made around the world. The city’s consumerist (and the filmmakers’ sexist) attitude is evident when a girl tells her friend, “Dude, the Mango sale is on!” There’s celebrity-spotting by way of a telephone conversation (“Priyanka Chopra is sitting right next to me”), and a Mumbai darshan (“Okay, now that’s Amitabh’s house.”) Our island city’s fixation with geography is also hinted at.

    The great geographic divide is also the basis of the two competing memes, south Mumbai’s Obnoxious Townie Lemur and its frenemy, the Righteous Burbie Raccoon – both the critters have a Facebook page. The laughs are cheap and easy – usually playing up the cluelessness each has about the other side of the city – but they reflect the stark mental divide between the residents of the areas. Most Mumbaikars grow up on either side of, say, Worli – a concept migrants and expats first find alien. So it’s easier for “townies” to travel to Singapore (to shop at Forever 21) or the US (where they last caught Norah Jones playing) than to visit “Kandi Valley”, which is not as nice as Aamby Valley. The suburban raccoon has rejoinders for the cranky lemur, but does not spend too much time advancing the virtues of the great north.

    A few themes emerge from both the memes: a disdain for Delhi and the city’s transport network is an easy and obvious target. Mumbai’s small apartments elicit the excited “Hey, you have a bathtub!” in the video, while our primate friend scoffs at the notion of putting down Rs44,000 for a BlackBerry phone when a square foot of real estate in south Mumbai can be had for the same price. With their tongues firmly placed in their cheek, the memes serve as a collective, crowd-sourced documentation of the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. 

    This article first appeared in Time Out Mumbai


  6. Restaurant Review - Mamagoto

    The anticipation around the opening of Mamagoto has grown over the past 12 months. As with most things, Mumbaikars want what is just beyond their reach, and Mamagoto, the pan-Asian eatery that has its origins in Delhi’s Khan Market, was just that. So the city has been buzzing about the openings in quick succession of a first outlet at Ghatkopar’s R City Mall followed by another, the flagship, at Hill Road, Bandra. We choose to review the outlet at R City Mall.

    The quirky design that the eateries (there are four in NCR and now two in Mumbai) are known for is evident on walking into the restaurant. The colourful interiors, with prints of tigers, cherry blossoms and dragons, are a vivid contrast with the plain white walls of the mall outside. White-washed bicycle wheels form a divider while light shades are covered with circular coaster sized pieces of monochrome Asian-inspired art.

    The design carries over to the menu card which is colourful and suffers from being very busy with five symbols representing everything from “healthy eating” to “old favourites” and “mama recommends.” Being first-timers at Mamagoto we were surprised to find no mention of dim sum or sushi on the menu. It does feature tom yum soup, soggy (their description not ours) Thai style noodles and an assortment of woks and grills. Having walked in on a hot evening, we started with two mocktails, a kiwi and mint Collins and wasabi mary, both refreshingly chilled. The restaurant plans to start serving alcohol as soon as its liquor licence is approved.

    The starters we ordered were a mixed bag. The spicy fried calamari had too much batter and we couldn’t taste any of the squid under the brown and not very spicy skin. The dipping sauce we had to ask for marginally elevated the dish (by making the batter taste less like well, batter). Our fried spinach and tofu in miso sauce on the other hand was the best dish of the night, with the fresh silky tofu dissolving slowly in the mouth under a bed of crispy spinach and sweet, thick, brown miso glaze.

    The Robata grilled fish we ordered, for our main course, looked baked when it came to the table, the first of many ways the dish let us down. There was no smoky flavour that slow cooking over a coal fire would have imbibed and the bland fillet was not helped by the too sweet serving sauce it came with. We took solace in a hearty bowl of Penang curry which was a thick broth with just the right amount of coconut milk. The sticky rice accompanying it makes this a filling one-bowl meal.

    Our dessert was a choice between the chocolate brownie and mud cake as the rest of the options weren’t available. We immediately wished we had ordered the brownie after tasting a bite of what was basically a slice of chocolate cake with icing.

    We spoke to Rahul Khanna, one of the partners behind Mamagoto and south Mumbaikars shouldn’t despair. They plan to expand to Lower Parel within the year if the the two eateries do well.

    The funky interiors make this a great place to spend time after work, and a fully functioning bar will soon be another draw. Curiosity will sustain Mamagoto in the short term but, if it wants to thrive the restaurant will have to work on its food. After all, a trip to Delhi is no longer required to sample the restaurant’s offerings. 

    This review first appeared in Time Out Mumbai


  7. Restaurant Review - Trattoria

    Over dinner at Trattoria, talk turned to how on weekends, the Vivanta by Taj, President hosts drinkers descending on Wink, the bar alongside, for a night out; followed by revellers looking for a bite after the city’s entertainment options close for the night. Inevitably a pizza is ordered – it’s not messy, it tastes delicious and can be customised. The pizzas on almost every table we walked past to get to ours, are a nod to what most people order when dining out even on a Tuesday night.

    Tratts (as it is fondly called), the coffee shop at the aforementioned hotel has been open since 1982, and last November, underwent a renovation – which includes additions to the menu.The new interiors are supposed to remind us of a “rustic chic Italian home” (as the press release puts it), but we couldn’t help thinking we were dining in an airport lounge. The minimal earthy palette jars against the noise and spaciousness of the eatery. The projection screen showing IPL matches (thankfully on mute) was another misstep in our opinion. 

    We started with a cosmopolitan and mojito, both of which were potent yet tasty. After mulling over the extensive menu we started with a prawn cocktail and a salad of rucola, lettuce, parmesan, oranges and cucumber. The salad, with a generous drizzling of sweet balsamic glaze was light, cooling and could easily make a meal for someone with a small appetite. The prawns, served in a bowl and not the traditional glass, were piquant and zesty with a fair amount of the brandy-infused cocktail sauce.

    Service, a point of pride for the Taj group of hotels was so-so with us having to request a waiter to take our main course order, marring an otherwise hospitable meal. The lamb chops were slightly fatty but cooked well and paired with a refreshing light (and cheese-free) mushroom risotto subtly flavoured with herbs like mint and rosemary.

    Would a pizza, the weekend, late-night staple be as good on a weekday? It was. The Fiamma, a simple pie of onions and chilli flakes on a thin crust was crunchy and spicy. The cheese was evenly distributed and didn’t drift off all at once in the first bite.

    The chocolate mud pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was disappointing. The dessert sampler scored better. Of the four mini-desserts, the vanilla panna cotta was a triumph, while the orange crème brûlée and vanilla ice cream were avoidable: the former was too thick while the latter was served on limp brandy snaps. The tiramisu was too creamy and lacked any kick.

    Ultimately though, there’s a certain comfort level folks have with Tratts and that’s what keeps them coming back. The menu changes occasionally but not drastically enough, so old favourites rub shoulders with newer regional Italian dishes. At its core, the coffee shop remains the living room for a certain kind of south Mumbaikar.

    This review first appeared in Time Out Mumbai


  8. Restaurant Review - Royal Sindh

    It says a lot about Royal Sindh that even without a functioning air conditioner, the tiny, garagesized restaurant was packed. It also explains the overdose of beverages on our bill. The heat, which has permeated the city, luckily also made it to our satisfying order of aloo tikki that we started our meal with. The plump tikkis were full of big chunks of yellow potato and finely chopped green chillies under a fried, slightly oily skin.

    The bare walls with four wooden jharokas and abstract geometric prints didn’t add any atmosphere to the eatery, but who cares when the food is this good? The Sindhi kadi and sai bhaji we ordered were both accompanied by bowls overflowing with rice. The sai bhaji (a Sunday special here) was a lightly spiced combination of spinach and dal, though somewhat watery. Sadly the kadi, a dish we were all looking forward to underwhelmed, lacking the tart aftertaste it is known for. As one dining companion put it “It’s Sindhi kadi that would be served in a prison.” But it proved to be the singular blot on an otherwise excellent meal.

    It was the bhugga mutton though, which was the clear winner of the evening. Succulent pieces of melt-in-the-mouth meat and the mildly-spiced dish paired well with the thin round rotis we ordered. Service at the restaurant was slow but the staff are wellversed with the menu and take obvious pride in their work. To bookend our meal, we tried the chashni bread. Like most Sindhi food, it consisted of something fried – in this case bread – and was topped with sweet malai. The crunchy brown toast gives an interesting texture to a sickly sweet dessert. With four pieces to a plate, we left several uneaten, unable to stomach the sugariness.

    In its two months of existence, the restaurant has endeared itself to the area’s Sindhi community. A family of eight enjoyed their meal at the next table, while homedelivery orders were constantly being rushed out the door. The regional restaurant offers Sindhi grandmothers and mothers a chance to take the occasional night off and still enjoy a homecooked meal. Not to mention introducing the cuisine to a wider audience.

    This review first appeared in Time Out Mumbai


  9. Fourteen Candles

    In February this year, San Pellegrino unveiled its “Top 50 Restaurants in Asia”, causing a fair bit of chatter online owing to it being the first edition of this list. India had seven restaurants on the list; Wasabi by Morimoto (Mumbai) ranked at 20 while Colaba’s Indigo – the only restaurant from India not part of a hotel – was at 28.

    The inclusion of Indigo, housed in a colonial villa, tucked away in a Colaba by-lane is testament to its overall impact on the city’s dining landscape. When it opened in 1999, it was, in the words of its chef and owner Rahul Akerkar, “the first stand-alone of a particular quality.” At one time, being familiar with their lunch and dinner menu was de rigueur for the city’s elite. Today, Indigo’s star might have somewhat faded with the opening of restaurants like The Table, helmed by the innovative Alex Sanchez, just a short walk away.

    And yet it is Akerkar who is responsible for drawing the fine dine out of five-star hotels. As someone who in his own words had, “first mover advantage,” which made it easier by default to get started Akerkar has been able to shape both the restaurant and diners expectations over its 14 years, and prepare them for the variety of cuisines being served in the city today. Indigo, was and is all about fresh local ingredients, classic techniques and innovative flourishes.

    According to Akerkar,the profusion of expensive dining options in the city in contemporary times though isn’t a measure of the city’s love for food. As he recounted, “The people getting into an industry [now] are either restaurateurs or owners. They just copy or bring in an imported concept because it’s current and in the moment. In four to five months the original restaurant will have moved on with a new menu or a new chef. And then there’s an identity crisis or a quality crisis.” He also pointed out that, “In India there’s been no evolution [like there was in the Western world].”

    Akerkar conceded though that diners today have a lot more options and so restaurants must ensure they stay consistent and keep their identity. When asked about how he manages his staff, Akerkar admits that the chef turnover is high. “It’s hard and it’s good. It’s hard because you get new people but it’s also good because you get new people. Today starting levels are higher. Chefs have experience abroad and want to come back to India. They’ve worked in restaurants or in cruise ships so they have the work ethic.” As for Akerkar’s future plans for Indigo, he laughed when he said, “I have no idea where Indigo will be next year, so I can’t say anything about 14 years from now.”

    This article first appeared in Time Out Mumbai.


  10. Restaurant Review - Pallette

    Design blogs and magazines are filled with spaces with impossibly white walls, wood embellishments, shiny polished floors and just the right number of people to make the space look inhabited. When we walked into Pallette one Tuesday afternoon, that’s what we were reminded of. Located in Kamala City, the upscale canteen serves the office crowd in the area. We were taken in by the undulating wood ceiling, vaguely insect-looking white plastic chairs and walls with food quotes (a trend we’d like to see put to bed). The coolers filled with assorted aerated drinks were well stocked and provided some colour to the otherwise unadorned space.

    The food at Pallette is tucked away on left of the entrance. In theory, you’re supposed to pick up a tray and go down the line choosing to order pizzas, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, mains, desserts and drinks in that order. In practice, the toonarrow corridor is filled with officeworkers looking to skip the orderly line and jump to their desired category. We gave the made-toorder pizzas a miss, and got a chicken Hawaiian salad instead. The salad line-up also included seafood, lamb and bean sprout, cucumber and yogurt, beetroot and mixed vegetables, and pasta variant on the day we visited. The crunchy salad with green peppers, pineapple, and chicken made for a great quick bite and we almost licked our bowl clean.

    The sandwiches and wraps (both grilled) were also passed over in favour of the Thai green curry with fish and steamed rice from their hot meals selection. The chicken biryani, vegetable fried rice, sweet potato mash and lamb lasagne l ooked interesting but we were vindicated when we tried our curry and rice. The coconut milk didn’t overwhelm and the piquant curry was flavourful but mild. The large chunks of fish were fresh and evenly cooked. Both the salads and mains change with every meal so regular punters can vary their orders and even cuisines. The eatery was crowded with crisply dressed office staffers making the most of their lunch break. It’s a great place to go with co-workers since the portion sizes encourage sharing. The loud house music might be a welcome relief from spreadsheets and conference call, but was intrusive. Ultimately, with its generous portions and competence across a wide range of cuisines, Pallette should please those working in and around Kamala City. We’ve already been back, and we can safely say it’s a palate cleanser from the more conventional lunch options.

    This review first appeared in Time Out Mumbai