Cream Centre | Restaurant Review

Place: Cream Centre
Location: Road No. 36, Jubilee Hills 
Cuisine: Indian 
Meal: Dinner (with amma and dad)

After reading some good reviews about this place, I dropped in here with amma and dad on Sunday evening. I first came across Cream Center when I was in Bombay, but never got to try it for it always used to be super crowded, and usually had waiting time close to an hour. Unlike the Bombay place, the Hyderabad one wasn’t that crowded when we entered, and we were seated at a table for four in the center of the restaurant. The place had decent ambiance, nothing to talk home about.

Their menu is quite huge but I had already decided on what we were gonna have. We ordered a portion of Italian Herbed Chilli Cheese Toast, Channa and Batura, and Paneer Ka Baap Sizzler.

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The Chilli Cheese Toast was served in about 10 minutes, and looked very different from the pictures on their menu. The bread was over toasted, and was burnt in the corners. Though it tasted alright, I was actually disappointed for I could have made better toast at home. And ya, there was nothing Italian about it!

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The Channa and Batura are served separately here (on the menu). The Batura looked huge, was crispy and not so oily, while the Channa tasted pretty bland. They did go well together, but I would have preferred the Channa to be a bit more spicy.

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The Paneer Ka Baap Sizzler was quite a meal by itself. It had five large chunks of marinated paneer along with five pieces of grilled potato on white rice with cashew and barbeque sauce, served alongside cooked vegetables and potato wedges. The rice along with the sauces tasted pretty good for the sauces had a nice flavor. However, not all paneer pieces were fresh for a couple were chewy while others melt in mouth.

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For dessert, we had a single scoop of chocolate brownie sundae, and this turned out to be the best part of our meal. The brownie was fresh, and tasted yum along with the nuts and ice-cream.

Overall, a pretty average meal. Even their signature dish didn’t satisfy my taste buds. The service was a bit clumsy, and it seemed like the waiters need more training. The place too got loud after a while as there were two huge gatherings with kids running all over the place. On price front, everything is pretty exorbitant, and from my experience, they aren’t worth so much. Nevertheless, you might give this place a try once. They have a lunch buffet for 300 bucks (all-inclusive) which might be worth it, so I’d suggest you give that a try first.

Food: 6/10
Service: 7/10
Ambience: 6.5/10
Meal for 3: Rs. 1014/-

Verdict: 6.5/10

Mexican Grill Subs | Restaurant Review

Place: Mexican Grill Subs 
Location: Road No. 45, Jubilee Hills 
Cuisine: Sub/Pizza 
Meal: Dinner

I came across this place a couple of days ago while travelling on Road No. 45. A little curious, I checked out their Zomato page and discovered that they serve fat-free subs. Given that I’ve been trying to control my diet for the past few days, thought I’d give this one a try and rode up to the place. It’s a small joint, with just a couple of tables inside, and a couple outside facing the road. I was greeted politely when I entered, and offered a menu.

Though named Mexican Grill, I honestly didn’t find anything Mexican about the place, and neither is anything grilled (at least on vegetarian front). They had five choices (veg), and I opted for a six-inch Herb Chilli Patty on Parmesan Oregano bread. There was an option of having the veggies on a corn bread pizza base. The quantity of veggies put on the sub were decent, and the patty was similar to the Aloo Patty of Subway sans the oil. I asked the sub to be toasted with the veggies, and then for a little of all the sauces.

The only two tables inside being occupied, I opted for a takeaway. Though the sub remained hot by the time I reached home and took a bite, the bread had become very soggy (I’m hoping it would have been good had I eaten it there). Bread apart, taste wise, it was pretty good. The patty was tasty, and the veggies were crunchy. A bit of honey (one of their sauces) gave it a nice flavor.

It would be nice for these guys to have more vegetarian options on their menu, as well as incorporate Mexican style in some form (maybe offer baked Nachos or something). I would have also loved the sub to be grilled instead being toasted like at Subway or Quiznos. The price also might seem on the higher side if not opting for sub of the day. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my sub, and might come back to the place soon. It definitely is better than the Indian Subway!

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Ambience: 7/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 126/-

Verdict: 7.5/10

Chandamama Kathalu | Movie Review

CK

I’ve wasted two and half hours watching this dumb film. Not worth spending more time analysing it. In one line, it’s a badly scripted film with mediocre direction and pathetic screenplay. Only grace are decent acting and music.

Is it worth your time and money??: I don’t think so!! I’d actually ask you to stay away !

Worth mention: Nothing.

Acting: 6/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 4/10
Technical Aspects: 5/10

Verdict: 4.5/10

Flying Spaghetti Monster | Restaurant Review

Place: Flying Spaghetti Monster 
Location: Adj. Blue Cross, Road No. 35, Jubilee Hills
Cuisine: Italian
Meal: Dinner

For dinner on my birthday, I was contemplating between Little Italy and Flying Spaghetti Monster, and finally chose the latter. I’ve read quite a few good things about this place, especially about the restaurant in Vizag, so was kinda excited. It’s located right at the end of Road No. 35, right next to Blue Cross Hyderabad. Walking in, there was option of sitting in either indoor or outdoor dining sections. I sat outside, at a corner table right next to the indoor dining area. The interiors of the indoor section were well done, with high ceiling and bright lights, while the outdoor was more rustic, and had a romantic touch to it.

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These guys have a long menu, and it was quite a task to choose from. I was thinking of ordering a starter and a pizza, but the chief chef and owner, Ajay, who was taking my order suggested that it might be too much, and recommended just the pizza with a drink. I ordered the Sicilia Pizza (sun-dried tomatoes, mushroom, onion, mozzarella, basil and chili oil), and a Pina Colada.

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The Pina Colada was served almost right away and tasted very very good. It was creamy, just the way I like it, and not too sweet either.

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In about 10-15 minutes, the pizza was served. It looked very colorful and was loaded with veggies. Taste wise, it was again very palatable. I loved the thin crust, and the onions and mushrooms, along with the tomatoes were giving it great flavor. I’ve been craving for some good pizza since I was in Singapore, and I finally got some. The size was pretty decent, and I was glad I hadn’t ordered a starter.

After a good meal so far, I was now yearning for an awesome dessert. While Ajay suggested the Chocolate Bomb, I was in no mood for chocolate, and so zeroed in on the Blueberry Cheesecake.DSC_0397

And boy oh boy, am glad that I did for I absolutely loved it. It was creamy, yet so light that it just melt in my mouth. Again, not too sweet, and the crust was baked perfectly. It was so good that I had an after taste for close to an hour after reaching home. Definitely the best cheesecake I’ve had in recent times (and better than the one I had at The Cheesecake Factory in Dubai a few months ago).

Overall, a perfect end to my birthday, and I walked out with a happy tummy. While the meal was heavy on the pocket, the ambiance, service and especially the food made up for it. The service was pretty neat and I loved the fact that the owner/chef himself was attending to the customers. The place was very well done, but I’m not sure if it has the appeal during day time.  It would have also been nice to have some music at the outdoor dining area. Nevertheless, I’m definitely coming back to this place soon, and suggest you try it as well.

Food: 9.5/10
Service: 9/10
Ambience: 9/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 945/-

Verdict: 9.5/10

Shanbhag | Restaurant Review

Place: Shanbhag 
Location: Basheerbagh, under the flyover 
Cuisine: Indian 
Meal: Lunch

On my birthday, I was confused on where to go for lunch. I wasn’t really hungry, so the initial plans of going for a buffet were ditched. I wanted to have something yum, and that’s when I zeroed on my first favourite restaurant in town, the food I’ve been hogging from probably my first birthday!

I didn’t even have to look at the menu for I exactly knew what I wanted: Malai Kofta, Butter Naan and the amazingly yummy Ghee Rice.

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The food was served in about 10 minutes. I thought the Malai Kofta quantity was reduced for it was served in a smaller bowl. But I didn’t care for it tasted delicious. Unlike most other places which use paneer to make the kofta, Shanbhag still goes the old way using mashed lauki and other vegetables. The gravy was thick, and a little too spicy than usual, but tasted great with the awesome Butter Naan. Their Butter Naan is the best in town!

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Apart from the Naan, these guys also serve the best Ghee Rice in town, and today was no different. With tons of cashew nuts, it was simple yet yummy. However, I was a little disappointed for the gravy served along was too thin than usual, and lacked the authentic taste.

Overall, a palatable meal. Service was quick, and the ambiance has been the same for almost 20 years now. Though the quantity served has reduced, I still had enough leftovers for another meal. Their prices have increased over time, but I think they are still worth every penny. Go hog!

Food: 9/10
Ambiance: 8/10
Service: 8.5/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 282/-

Verdict: 9/10

2 States | Movie Review

2 States

When I first read the book 2 States: The Story of My Marriage, in 2009, I thought it was decent, though it went a bit overboard at times. Come 2014, like any other Chetan Bhagat book, the movie is made, and this time around, I thought it went overboard in a different way, leaving out some of the niceties, nuances and struggles showcased in the book.

Adapted for screen by first time director Abhishek Verman, the movie kicks off well – with both our protagonists Krish and Ananya meeting at IIM-A, becoming friends, moving in together, and later, wanting to get married. The first half of the film is joyful and entertaining, but the second half seemed long and boring. It all seemed like a fairy tale, without any real challenges in the end. Except for one scene in which Krish is served food on Banana leaf, the cultural differences were not presented. It was just “He’s Punjabi, so don’t marry him” and vice-versa, with no real conflict point established. I also didn’t like the way the story was narrated at a psychiatrist for it did not add anything to the film. While direction is decent, screenplay, especially in the second half could have been better.

Arjun and Alia shine in their roles, and have matured as actors when compared to their debut films. However, not once did Alia look like a Tamil Brahmin. Revathi is simple as Ananya’s mom. Amrita Singh has a meaty role and she did justice to the T. Ronit Roy is pretty good.

I didn’t realize that the music was by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy until the end credits, for it sounded very different from their usual. It was refreshing. Editing by Namrata Rao is alright, while cinematography by Binod Pradhan is decent. I’m bored watching the grand sets in all the Dharma movies. Right from the hostel rooms at IIM-A to the houses Krish and Ananya live in, and the wedding, everything is so majestic and full of money! When will Karan Johar realize that middle class people don’t live like that??

Is it worth your time and money??: I really enjoyed the first half but cringed a bit in the second because it all seemed too easy. While the story could have been more powerful, the cast delivers with fine performances to make the film work. Overall, just a decent watch. 

Worth mention: Nothing!

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8/10
Technical Aspects: 7/10

Verdict: 7/10

Fusion Flavorz | Restaurant Review

Place: Fusion Flavorz 
Location: Almond House Building, Road No. 12, Banjara Hills 
Cuisine: Chaat, Indian & Chinese 
Meal: Lunch

After reading some raving reviews about the Nawabi Dosa you get at this place, here I was on a Saturday afternoon for lunch. It was quite difficult to find the place, for the address mentioned it to be behind Jagannath Temple on Road No. 12, but it was almost a kilometer away from the temple, tucked inside the Almond House Building. The entrance I walked in from seemed like the back door, and was quite shabby. For an open-air restaurant, the ambiance was alright. There were a couple of huts with cane furnished tables with wall mounted fans. I sat at a table for two right in the front, and observed that the other tables and sofas were quite dusty. Me apart, there was just one other table occupied on a Saturday afternoon.

The menu handed out to be was shabby and in a disastrous state, with pages ripped, cellophane tape hanging out in the corners. Having gone through the menu on Zomato, I ordered for the Special Fusion Combo which served a Soup, Crispy Pops, Aloo Tikki, BBQ Sticks and choice of Nawabi Dosa, Noodles or Fried Rice. I asked for Sweet Corn Soup and Nawabi Dosa.

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The soup was served in less than 10 minutes. It looked quite colourful and was tasty. It felt nice to have a good Sweet Corn Soup after a long time.

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Before I finished my soup, the rest of the meal was served. From first look, I was quite appalled by the quantity served and thought it was too less. There was one Aloo Tikki, five pops, and one piece each of six vegetables (Onion, Tomato, Mushroom, Zucchini, Paneer and Capsicum) on the BBQ stick (though they mentioned plural in the menu), and of course the Dosa. There were no chutneys and sauces served until I asked for them. And neither was water served till I asked for it at the end of the meal.

Taste wise, the Tikki and the Pops were decent, and went well along with the spicy Imli chutney/sauce. The BBQ vegetables were below par. I was hoping for the Dosa to negate the BBQ experience, but I was in for disappointment. The Dosa coated with Kaju and Suji Rawa paste on the inside seemed undercooked and lacked salt. The chutneys and the yum sambar served along helped me gulp it down, but otherwise, it was quite a disaster. It was probably because of my high expectations that I felt more disappointed with it.

Overall, a not so great meal. I told the guy about the lack of salt, and he confirmed the same with the kitchen. Service wise, I would have liked them to be more proactive. Though the place is well made, it needs better maintenance, and on price front, I thought quantity of food served could be improved.

Hoping for a yummy meal, I was actually quite disappointed.

Food: 7/10
Service: 5/10
Ambience: 6/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 231/-

Verdict: 6/10

Crystal Restaurant | Restaurant Review

Place: Crystal Restaurant and Bar 
Location: RTC Cross Roads 
Cuisine: Indian 
Meal: Takeaway

I’ve tasted Veg. Biryani at quite a few places in Hyderabad but there are very few joints I’d return to just for the Biryani. Crystal happens to be one of them. While I’ve visited the vegetarian restaurant on the first floor a couple of times, it was not until we ordered a takeaway one day that we realized that the kitchens for the vegetarian restaurant and the takeaway counter are different, and the food at the takeaway counter is much better than the restaurant. Unsurprisingly, the takeaway counter is always packed in the evenings.

On this particular evening, here I was to pick up some Biryani, Kaju Paneer Masala and a Masala Kulcha. In about 10 minutes, my order was ready and I was on my way home.

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The Kaju Masala curry turned out to be rich and tasty, with lots of cashew nuts and fresh paneer. I would have preferred the gravy to be more spicy, but no qualms. The Masala Kulcha looked dry, but was actually pretty tasty.

The Veg. Biryani was a no frill affair – simple yet flavourful. It had chunks of well cooked vegetables, was light and aromatic. It’s tough to pick a favorite between this and the Handi Biryani you get at Dwaraka. I guess both are yum in their own way.

The quantity of both the items was sumptuous, and for the price I paid, it was quite a meal (They actually served as two meals). If you’re a vegetarian, I’d suggest you try their Biryani for sure.

Food: 8.5/10
Service: NA
Ambience: NA
Meal for 1: Rs. 350/-

Verdict: 8.5/10

Legend | Movie Review

Legend

Before it is taken off theaters due to elections, I ventured out to watch the “Lion Roar”. And roar he did. I’ve never been a far of Balakrishna, and mostly find it disgusting when he romances girls younger than his daughters. But if I choose to ignore that, Legend is actually a decent film.

Boyapati Srinu likes his movies being grand, and he made sure this film is no less. He knows the pulse of the masses and Balayya’s strengths, and therefore was able to pull off a loud yet watchable movie. Direction is neat, and I thought the screenplay was very good. However, the second half could have been short and crisp. Dialogues by M. Ratnam are a definite plus point to the film.

On acting front, Balakrishna is perfect as Jai Dev. Except for the fact that he wears his watch over his shirt sleeve, there’s no false note in his acting. However, he either needs to stop romancing young girls, or lose tons of weight to make sure that he doesn’t look like their dad. Both Radhika Apte and Sonal Chauhan are decent, while the rest are alright. The ‘Nanamma’ character could have been cast better though. Though its Balayya’s movie, the undoubted star turns out to be Jagapathi Babu. His antics and body language as the antagonist are just brilliant. Big thanks to Srinu for showcasing this side of Jagapathi Babu.

On technical front, while music by Devi Sri Prasad is mediocre, editing is neat and cinematography is pretty good. Production values are excellent, for the richness of the sets and locations could be seen on-screen.

Is it worth your time and money??: If you can sit through loud movies, and can stand Balayya, then yes. The first half is entertaining and short, while the second half is full of violence and at times, a drag. Plus points are brilliant acting by Jagapathi Babu and strong dialogues. Overall, a decent film.

Worth mention: Balayya’s dialogue targeting Chiranjeevi in the climax.

Acting: 7.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 7/10

Race Gurram | Movie Review

Race Gurram

Right from the word go, I was cursing myself for coming to watch this movie. The family sentiment seemed contrived, acting too loud, romance illogical, and the list goes on. But surprisingly, after almost 3 hours, I left the theater satisfied (how is that even possible?).

Scripted and directed by Surender Reddy, Race Gurram starts off just like any other commercial Telugu movie, with phony sequences and loud acting. Entire first half continues on the same path, where it is established that our hero, Lucky has irreparable issues with his cop brother, Ram. The reasons for this hatred between them seemed so stupid that even their parents can’t help. While these guys are fighting, in comes our (can’t even lip sync) villain, who wishes to kill Ram. And the rest of the story, or second half, is about how Lucky gets involved in between. Luckily for us, this is when the movie gets interesting. While the first half seemed dull with mediocre screenplay, Surender manages to pull half the later half exceedingly well. The overall direction though could have been much better.

On acting front, it’s more or less a cake walk for Arjun. His body language is superb, and he performs with ease. In my opinion, he is talented to take up further challenging roles than the ones he’s essaying at the moment. Shruthi looks gorgeous in her “heroine” appearance (a couple of scenes and all songs). Shaam seemed alright while Ravi Kishan was over the moon loud, and irritating to an extent. The fact that there is no lip sync for both these characters even in close up shots was sad. The rest of the casting is alright, but acting wise, everyone was below par. Nevertheless, one man, in his brief appearance towards the climax, makes you forget the mediocre acting and every loophole thus far in the film. Brahmi a.k.a Kill Bill Pandey, take a bow! After a long long time, it was great to watch Brahmanandam in a strong role. He is absolutely entertaining.

Though almost every songs barges in for no reason, music by Thaman is pretty neat. I liked ‘Cinema Choopista’ and ‘Down Down Duppa’, the latter especially for the choreography and picturization. Background score was decent. Editing by Gowtham Raju is alright, while cinematography by Manoj Paramahamsa is of top-notch quality. Production values are excellent.

Is it worth your time and money??: If it weren’t for Kill Bill Pandey, I probably would have said NO. Except for Arjun, I thought everyone else including the senior actors acted miserably. Add to that the pretentious characterizations. Nevertheless, the screenplay in the second half, Bunny’s strong screen presence and Bramhi come to the rescue, and you walk out of the theater satisfied (like I did). So just for that, you can give it a watch.

Worth mention: Every frame with Kill Bill Pandey!

Acting: 6.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 6/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 7/10