And now I feel like some Sem Som!

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Its a good time to be a foodie in Muscat! With all these great restaurants opening up, many cuisines are coming up and some bringing their own new twist to the mix…
Thats exactly what SemSom is to Lebanese food! The new twists on all the traditional foods make this place a must visit at least for its surprising new flavors…let alone the traditional yummies!DSC_0700

So lets start off with the first thing I had from there!
Jullab is a very unique drink, it has a sweet taste of rose but with a hint of date…I know, it sounds strange but this drink is very light and refreshing. Bonus…..you get to have the pistachios, pine nuts and raisins after you finish drinking, they become soft and soak up the flavor of the Jullab! (I must have had 4 of these!!!)

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Next on the menu was the famed Lebanese starters, the hummus trio and baba ghanouj.
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The traditional hummus is very flavorsome…. actually that’s where I heavily evaluate a Lebanese restaurant. If the hummus is dry or tasteless then its a major downer for me…..in this case, the hummus was so amazing I would consider bread and hummus for lunch! it was so smooth and creamy!
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Next up was the green hummus infused with olives…they did say Lebanese with a twist!
You could really feel the flavor of the olives, It does hit you by surprise as you don’t expect that much of a different flavor! aah very yummy!
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Ok seriously……I think everyone just wants to know about the pink hummus, well here you go! This is one thing that I will surely come here for over and over again! its infused with Zaatar (thyme) and sumac (a wonderful spice), and you can really feel the flavor of the zaatar! im a big fan of zaatar so having a creamy hummus with zaatar infused to it is perfect for me…its really making me hungry as i’m typing this 😦
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The baba ghanouj was also another flavor filled dish, but with the two hummus twists, it was the underdog of the starters, especially when you have the pink hummus next to it!
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One thing worth mentioning is the bread and olive oil! the bread comes fresh and HOT….its easy to get carried away and loose track of how much bread you consume as its VERY soft and it keeps coming.
The oil comes from Lebanon and it has a very different flavor from any olive oil I have tasted….make sure you add a drizzle to the hummus! if you want to really taste the flavors just dip some bread into the oil and you will see what I mean by “it tastes very different”….I’ll try convincing the wait staff to let me take some home! 😛
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The salads were up next!
Fatoush is my staple salad for lunch, so having one here with its new flavor was a much needed change! the sauce has a certain after taste that I liked and was not your typical recipe.
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I grew up having tabouleh…..when I was a kid, I use to have it as lunch or dinner, and it remains on the top of my favorite salad list! this was no exception, while i didn’t feel a wow factor, it tasted exactly what you would expect out of a good tabouleh.
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Next was another round of starters! (These Lebanese really know how to eat well!)

Laham Bil Ajeen (meat pastry) was brought to us and the smell was divine! after sniffing for a while we devoured it! my colleague Smitha who writes foodishly in love said “The pastry was soft, the meat succulent and packed with oodles of fresh-burst in your mouth flavours.”…I wouldn’t disagree!!!
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Next up was the Fish Kibbeh, this was my favorite starter!!! the crusting is made from borghul and fish, so you don’t get any of that fishy taste….instead, you are treated with a zesty light flavor and a rich after taste.
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The next platter was a mix of cheese, chicken and Lebanese style sausage all wrapped in a crispy coating!
The whole platter is a burst of flavors but the chicken stood out! big time!!! cheese lovers will love the raw taste of the cheese even though it is melted.
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The Kibbeh was ok….well compared to the rest of the dishes, this wouldn’t be on my top rated list….but as far as kibbeh’s go? this beats many places around!
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My initial response to the next dish was: Nop, noooo, Noop….NOOOOO.
I’m glad I changed my mind because oh boy this was a treat!!!
The chicken liver in pomegranate sauce looked appetizing but i’m not a fan of liver…
The first bite was a nice surprise, I absolutely loved the sauce and everything about this dish! it really shows that even an ingredient you hate can be made very well with the right chef…this opened my eyes to trying even more things that I wouldn’t normally order! By the end, I was just hogging the chicken livers :p
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Finally, the mains! after eating so much we all had to take a break, but then the mixed grill platter came and it was a free for all battle!
This is by far the best grill I have had in Muscat…..the chicken was so soft it could melt in your mouth. The seikh kabab was so full of rich flavors that my tongue was battling to identify them! but the big surprise was the beef cubes…..usually beef cubes are dry and over cooked but this shows you how they should be cooked! 
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After a break and some nice foodie conversations, desserts came!
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First up is the amareddine mehallabieh (apricot). The taste of this dish slowly builds up in your mouth and leaves you with a wonderful after taste! an amazing start but was dwarfed by the next two dishes!
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If you are looking for a traditional Lebanese sweet, then Mafrouket pistachio is the thing for you! Iv had one when I was in Lebanon and these guys brought that same taste!
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Next up was a chocolaty blast of chocolate ice cream osmalieh. The traditional Lebanese ingredients mixed with ice cream, pistachios and cream is the perfect thing for the chocolate lovers.
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My favorite though was the strawberry muhalabiya….the touch of orange blossom makes it so light, and it has a slight rose taste. its very refreshing and it goes so perfectly well with a Turkish coffee…..I see myself having one of these with a Turkish coffee on the balcony around winter here!
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After such a big meal, I wanted to draw up my favorites and put in a list of what I would recommend for a meal…..at this point, I have no idea and I just suggest you pick randomly! everything iv had was superb!
This place has become my favorite Lebanese restaurant, let alone the Lebanese ambiance that comes with it!
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A New Take on Golden Oryx

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I’ve always loved Chinese food! It was always a treat for my family to go for a meal and poorly attempt to eat with chopsticks!! Back then, the choices were limited …..and the one that you dressed up for was the Golden Oryx! It was one of those places that we all got excited to go to… and when we were invited, we felt like we had won something!

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Its been a while since I’ve been there……but this time I get a new treat! they recently introduced a Japanese menu which also happens to be one of my favorite cuisines!! We got welcomed by an awesome introduction to the new menu and a cheat sheet to remind us of all the dishes we were going to taste….and there were MANY of them!!! I won’t cover them all so ill just dive into my favorites!! DSC_0715 DSC_0714

We started off with the Edamame.
Already one of my favorite dishes, you couldn’t go wrong! and it didn’t. but there’s a twist! This Edamame wasn’t typically served……you get interesting condiments to go along! The chili paste, green tea salt and salty 7 blended spices were a very interesting addition to the salt typically served. My favorite was the chili paste but then the salty 7 spices were very unusual as well……needless to say, refills were ordered. DSC_0721 DSC_0720

The next dish I liked was the Peking Duck spring rolls… They were very well matched with the hoisin sauce but they needed to be just a little more tender….something I would gladly order again!

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But the big shocker for me was the tofu! I’m not a big fan of tofu unless its in miso soup….but I loved this! it had a very rich taste which wasn’t usual for what im use to from tofu. DSC_0723

The mushroom dim-sum’s were very earthy and flavorsome, I love the taste of mushrooms, especially the earthy flavored ones like Shiitake or Matsutake mushrooms…..The filling was just that, perfectly balanced and very raw! the parcels were a little thin but I liked them that way. DSC_0724

The Sashimi was next and I was pretty happy with it….little hint, they have two types of wassabi…..the first one we got wasn’t strong enough to my liking but the second one was perfect! The octopus sashimi was my favorite but the salmon wasn’t far behind.

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The best bits of the Japanese menu were definitely the sushi options that we tried  ! the three that REALLY stood our were cocktail roll, the three seasons roll and the negima roll (in order of photo from top to bottom) But the California roll (bottom photo)was my favorite! I think out of all the dishes this would be my second favorite.

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The Hunan chicken was also a highlight……after eating so many dishes, I would have assumed that liking anything would be difficult, however I kept trying to make some room for this. DSC_0749

My absolute favorite though was the szechuan chicken. everyone agreed that it was a favorite! its perfectly crunchy from the outside and soft on the inside! the flavors were just delicious. DSC_0747

The ups? Its a nice place to have a meal and a drink…..and the additions to the menu add flavor

The downs? The new menu has its kinks in using certain produce, while I liked the dishes that are on here, there are some that didn’t work…..but every single one of them was in the right direction. after talking to the chef, im sure he will work on our comments and get them to the same standard as my favorites.

What my meal from there would be like? Id start with the edamame, share a California roll and then get the Szechuan chicken with garlic rice for the main…..I haven’t tried the desserts yet but I can’t wait for the next time I do!

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For the love of food!

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The first time I went to Love at First Bite (L@FB), I remember my reaction…….This is not Oman! The creative concept i was surprised by is unique and I was very surprised that it was created by a passionate Omani entrepreneur! everything from the menu to the furnaiture was his brainchild.

The name just puts you onto the owners mindset! The satirical names of the dishes alone should make you try this place out……can you picture going on a first date and ordering “Marry Me”?

When you see themed restaurants, usually the experience isinteresting but the actual food isn’t the highlight……….that is certainly not the case with L@FB……the restaurant owner (Khalid) oversees the creation of the dishes himself and has his own inputs, so you feel that individual touch to each dish…how do I know?

Well……I was at the OpenMinds forum a while back, and someone recognized me from the Freezing Omanis, as I was talking to him and updating him on what iv been upto, Khalid walked by……he walked by at the same time that I was getting to talk about my food photography.

Khalid talked to me about doing some shots with his restaurant but these weren’t average food shots………..he wants the personality of his restaurant to come out in the themes…..and in doing that I saw how immersed he is in the love of his restaurants……….nothing less than perfect came out and I didn’t have to step into the kitchen once!

This was the nicest yet most difficult shoot I have done so far……….I spent a week just thinking of the concepts for each dish and a lot of will power to not eat everything I saw! and it got harder after I tried the food!!!

So lets dive into my favorite foods and images!

“I can’t make you love me” ……except if I offered you this heavenly sandwich……..the cheese and chicken are just a perfect match!

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“Deception” I tell you! ……this devilishly fresh asparagus soup tricks you into thinking its an ordinary soup but shows its true flavors at the first sip.

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“She Loves Me”…….you don’t have to take a gamble on whether you love this dish or not……the prawns are nicely battered and crispy while the sauce just adds that zing to it!

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“Lies”……This is definitely my favorite sandwich! the sauce mixes so well with the cheese and meat…..ok this is making me so hungry that im gonna go off to eat something now….

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WARNING…….the next photos aren’t for the faint hearted or anyone with a sweet tooth “Addiction”

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If you want something to share, “its complicated” will take the complication out of the equation!

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Or you can end the night with an “Affair”

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Well……….these are my top picks but its difficult to say as there are many more noteworthy dishes! the choices will just drive you “Bananas”

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All puns aside, this place has my attention……….and serving till 12 midnight makes this a perfect classy place to go to if you are out till late!

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Being a Motivational Speaker

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I really love doing motivational talks! there is something about being on stage that fires me up and gets me really excited!

I recently did a talk for the American Women’s Group….and I realized a few things on why I really enjoy it!

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For one, i’m talking about one of the best parts of my life! it was a long and hard year but the result was the Antarctic….and sharing the photos alone gets me very nostalgic and excited!

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Secondly, sometimes…..I see the change in people’s eyes, when I talk about plastic bags, the look of shock and immediate action just appears on people’s faces!

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Its always fun though……the experience of the freezer gives people something to talk about! and its a good escape from the heat!

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But you know? it wasn’t always like this……I remember the first time I had to present to an audience.

That was back at uni, and it was a class of 10 people……I was so nervous that I felt ill! I couldn’t stop shaking and I almost murmured all my words!

Then again, when I had left for Australia, I was a very shy introverted guy that was too shy to hold a conversation. It was troublesome for me being in a new place, not knowing anyone AND being introverted and shy…….so I got myself a job in a suit shop where I had to talk to strangers and strike up a conversation ALL the time! it wasn’t easy to start but then I started loving it!

As for motivational speaking? that just happened after I came back from Antarctica during my press conference…..that was the first time I stood in front of people to share my story and I guess that’s how it happened!

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Most of all, I love doing my talks at schools……In my opinion that’s what makes a change! young kids really are impressionable and when they hear why they should care, they start persuading their families!

If you ever have the time, please do come to one of my talks and tell me what you think!……and make sure you bring a jacket 😉

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Omani Petrolheaditis – Fueled by @Redbulloman

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Omanis have a certain passion for the road…..growing up here, the open road stirs up some passionate emotions.
We didn’t have an outlet to let that passion out back then…and when the automobile association opened up the go kart track it was busy like nothing else…but then it closed down for a while…During that time I had left Oman to Australia and I fueled my petrolheaditis fairly well! Maybe a little too well…..I use to race V8 cars and it was just my thing!

Oman however has a little different kind of motor sport love….Omanis seem to love drifting!  When F&F: Tokyo drift came out, the cinema was full for weeks!!!…..almost a decade since I left Oman, and now that iv been back, petrolheaditis has taken a hold on young Omanis! From photographers to karters and racers!

RedBull seem to be very aware of that…..because their drift event hit the right spot! It brought in talented Omanis to do what they love most….burn rubber and be awesome!

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The afternoon started with a few games of guessing objects, horribly moving a ring through a wire (i didn’t event try cuz im horrible at it) and most importantly…..soothing sounds of fearsome cars!

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Red Bull were awesome to give us our Polaroid photo before the event kicked off!

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When the drivers got off to their sideways start I was really impressed……the accuracy of those drivers was just amazing! I have been exposed a little to the world of drifting as a spectator and I can tell you that this is just amazing!

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Here’s the thing with drifting, its not what hooligans on the streets think they are doing……..no, drifting is actually very controlled. If you call your self a drifter you better know how to control your car through an obstacle course sideways, otherwise you are just someone who like burning rubber.

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But why use words when I have photos of sideway action!

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A Culture of Brave Foodies – ‫#‏عزومة_عمانية

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You know……iv been asked about my blog and how iv been blogging about food alot lately
Well if you disregard that im a food photographer….should you still be surprised? in short….No

Just think about our culture…….unlike many other countries, our culture doesn’t have the bar/club culture and in summer its insanely hot so there goes most of your camping and trekking activities. entertainment for many of us here means going out for a meal!

But its more than just that………..people are very passionate about it here. I mean VERY passionate.

Through my dealings with restaurateurs I quickly realized something……this isn’t just business to them, its a burning dream thats coming true, and their personalities will be clear and obvious in how their restaurants are run.

So recently Omran has organized an event to showcase local restaurant SME’s, it had a very beautiful name to it as well (#‏عزومة_عمانية) which means, An Omani Invitation..it has such a nice meaning in arabic full of hospitality and friendliness …….instantly I wanted to go, these guys are smart and passionate and if i can help out with a photo or two then hey, im all in!

I got there and I was IMPRESSED!

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I know a few restaurateurs, and they are very passionate but I always assumed that those are the people in my circle…..I was very pleasantly surprised that each one of the people I met is wildly passionate and invested in their restaurants. So much, that they spent the whole time serving the customers with pride flowing when they talk about their restaurants.

I was very impressed with 3 places in particular…..

The first one is Shuwa Express,

I love Shuwa, its one of my favorite Omani meals, and this new take on it is one of my favorite food related things that has ever happened!!! im not exaggerating……..I love the fact that its a sandwich with sauce and the same authentic spices of shuwa! innovation while keeping the traditional flavors. If you haven’t tried it then you are missing out and should get yourself to bareeq al shatti!

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The second Place was village food…..I absolutely love the arabic name, it means a lot…it means neighborhood food, and thats what’s so cool about it….the culture of growing up in your neighbourhood and that its your mini town with all your friends there…that brings nostalgia to many people who grew up here! The food he brings is what you want a catering company to provide! simple yet very tasty dishes……..burgers and rolls, sandwiches that look and taste fresh.

In an industry where many go fancy, this guy’s simple approach with a focus on taste and quality is what really brings it to the table…….if you are luck enough to speak to him then you will be really inspired by his passion!

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The third one was the big shocker for me………iv been at the Chado tea lounge in Oasis in al shatti (opposite bareeq al shatti) and I was always under the assumption that it is an international franchise that came to Oman.

I was shocked to know that its an Omani brand through and through…….the logo, the setting……the selection of teas!!!

The owner was telling us the story behind it and OH MY GOD this guy knows his stuff!!! he obviously loves what he does and against odds he is doing something amazing……

My thought now is that why are we not making this a big brand in Oman? this brand can be big and really grow……and one day, I see it going around the region being the place for tea lovers!

The private tea room in Oasis is amazing and it deserves a post on its own…..im still in shock as im writing this.  Just go to Chado and tell me that you didn’t think a big group made that happen!

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Im very lucky to know these entrepreneurs……just think about what they do, They fully invest their time and money into something they love.

Would you be able to quit your job in the next year and open up a business of your own? to not rely on your stable income and put all bets on a business you dream of having? well I know I can’t….not now at least.

So next time you go to a restaurant and think of posting your experience online, just think about it………….don’t use words like ‘pathetic’ and ‘disgusting’…..if you had a bad experience then say how you would want it to be better, and if you had a good experience then let them know! nothing will make a proud business owner feel better than knowing that their hard work is appreciated by the people that they made it for.

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For now, I must say……im feeling very proud to know such brave foodies.

A New Theme In Town

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What food speaks to you? everyone has their favorite cuisine….but for me, its a very complicated question.

I get asked what my favorite meal or cuisine is and while I can tell you right off the bat whats my favorite meal (the veal shoulder with red peppercorn cooked by Alfredo Russo), I can’t really get my head around what my favorite cuisine is……I often find myself cooking French or Italian, going out to eat Indian, Chinese or Nepalese…..so I really can’t tell.

One thing is certain though…….I sometimes have cravings for spicy food, and when I talk spicy…im thinking more like nuclear grade material going into the food. Naturally I then have to find an Indian restaurant and ask them for the spiciest thing on the menu.

Now, this creates a little issue. My partner is the opposite, what she considers spicy is usually on the lemon&herb scale for me…. The Best Western gave us a very good option! usually hotels cater their Indian food to accommodate the non spicer’s but have enough dishes to keep me satisfied, so when they announced the Indian theme night, I was happy!

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We started with the chef explaining pani puri to us, and i was very excited! earlier this year I had gone to Chennai in India, and that was one of my favorite things to eat there!

I wasn’t disappointed…apart from it being very tasty, you could also individualize your own mix to suit your palate! Definitely a good start!

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The salads were up next accompanied with a mango lassi……I loved the lassi, im a big fan of mangos and that was great!

The salad was as spicy as I would like it and the presentation was nice……there were also non spicy salads and they were great!

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Now for the mains……well thats where we had the splits…

The presentation was good and the varieties were good………the vegetarian options were good, especially the paneer which was really flavoursome!
the daal was nice with the papadums and the bread was fresh.

The issue came with the meats, they just didn’t cut it.
They lacked flavor and felt very masked……The fish was a little too oily and the meat was a little chewy.
I spoke to the chef and it is their first Indian theme night so as they are working out their formula. I could see this working well in the future, but it was a miss for this time.

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The deserts were really amazing!!

The gulab jamun was AMAZING but nothing compared to the ras malai….by far my favorite dish of the meal!!!
I wasn’t expecting this after the mains…….I was so surprised and delighted that I only took one photo.

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Verdict? While I enjoyed the salads and deserts, the mains could get some work.
The ambiance was nice and the wait staff were very friendly and interesting! they brought their own personalities…..I would gladly go there again, im sure with the effort they are putting they will be a new great spot for foodies! if nothing…im gonna go there for the pani puri and ras malai!

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