Maya | Mexican | Shanghai

Just added a blog about Maya, an incredible Mexican/ Chinese fusion restaurant in Shanghai in my more current blog – more veggie places to eat in Shanghai are covered here

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Moving my blog

I am moving my blog to – you will hence forth see my posts from there.

Categories: Uncategorized

Entrepreneurship in our bloods + Asia

December 30, 2010 1 comment

As I follow fellow entrepreneurs, blogs, twitter, vcs, angel investors, etc, there is a general reverence and veneration towards the spirit of entrepreneurship. Yes, it takes guts to leave the jaws of comfort & start something of your own. It takes tenacity and willingness to adapt, to be successful. While the investing community has good reasons and have created several forums to incubate and to egg on, those that take this step, I wonder why there is such a barrier to taking risks for a proportional reward.

Especially when entrepreneurship is in our blood and habit, until recently. For a minute, if you think back about what we have learned in our history lessons, we know man has evolved as a hunter  and gatherer. Which means, there wasn’t always the guarantee of a square meal or dessert. Over time, we have created societies, settlements, cordoned off plots, perfected agri practices to ensure a reasonable guarantee of food, safety and comfort. Even till recently, the main occupation of many was indeed agriculture. While man has gone on a quest for assurance of comfort by honing best practices, the promise of safety & comfort in the last century (in developed economies) has likely veered us off what we know best – to take risks and be rewarded accordingly. If Darwin is to be believed (despite what he said being applicable to survival of the fittest species), those that will remain are indeed those that can adapted, take risks & fight to survive.

As we look at the world economies, while we look at developed economies such as the US, there certainly seems to be a natural attraction towards jobs that provide the promised of comfort. Whereas, In the Asian countries, the huge population density has imbibed in it a sense of hustle that is just plain visible. You can see it in the railway station queuing up to buy tickets or at the local bank waiting your turn for a transaction. You will see people trying to cut the lines, get to the counter, edge in front of you with the elbow & what not – What the western world would see and curse as disorganization, is really truly a sense and deep seated habit of hustling. No one terms it that. But, if you closely look at the hunger in these markets, you will see the desire to succeed coupled with the recognition that only hustling will deliver a competitive advantage, behind every effort. The resigned & plentiful drop off like dead flies at the first sign of adversity. Be it getting a ticket on the train, the food ahead of others in the counter or securing business for their company.

That and the fact that, these economies have a decade’s experience in solving global problems gives them confidence that they can create solutions that will solve problems locally while creating value on global scales. While I may be over optimistic in Asia dominating the thinking in the next few decades & discarding the other factors that weigh in favorably for the west, I can see India turning in to an Innovation hub, while china is gearing to produce a dozen new wal-marts. It’s going to be an interesting decade. Meanwhile, prepare to hustle or be hustled.

Bangalore food street

November 28, 2010 1 comment

Food Street, Bangalore

I visited the “food street” in my childhood when I stayed with my Aunt & Uncle in Basavangudi near Lal Bagh in Bangalore. They were foodies too, like almost all bangalorians and had taken me there in a one late night jaunt. The street was famous for opening shop at 11 PM & going on till the early hours of the AM. Some things have changed or my memory doesn’t serve me right – now, you can find a good variety of things there, fresh, made to order & relatively very less expensive.

With my new found freedom, in the form of Vishwa’s bike and google maps on the iphone, Charan & I decided to

VB Bakery, V V Puram

VB Bakery location

venture to this almost mythical place that I have been raving about. Charan learned from friends that the “food street” does exist in Bangalore and is in V V Puram. We searched on google & found out about VB Bakery and its fame for freshly baked goods. VB Bakery is right at one end of food street – folks in Basavangudi will point you there with a smile, knowing you are new & wishing the bliss of eating here. We parked our bike in front of VB Bakery. By the way, the google maps service was incredible & guided us well – despite many roundabouts being a bit confusing.

Simla Mirchi Bajji

We arrived at the place by about 6:45 PM. The place was just beginning to stir – there was a gentle crowd in front of the shops. We walked up & down the now very small stretch (my memory was of a mile of shops lining both sides of the road serving hot freshly cooked food). We decided we were going to start with the simla mirchi (green peppers) bajjis at the other end of the road. The entire pepper is battered & fried just right – the man cuts it in to quarters – garnishes it with onions, carrots & some lime – taste suggests bliss!!

Akki Roti

I then wanted to try an akki roti – the process of making the roti & frying it was far more fascinating than the end product itself. The chutneys were spicy enough to churn my stomach, but not stop the mouth from consuming them – the highlight of this dish were the two chutneys on the side.

We decided to try something north indian – the paratha stall was being manned by two kids, one of who was beginning to expertly make fulka chappathis. We weren’t sure if we should trust kids with our gastronomical pleasures and decided to move on. We moved away from the standard chat stalls, gobi manchurian stall etc. We went to another man who was serving kachoris and got ourself one. Again, the chutneys & the mirchis (peppers) stuffed with spices were just fantastic.

paper roast

I then decided it was time to succumb to some dosas – I didn’t want a masala dosa & hence, ordered a paper roast. Again, watching the man pour the warmed ghee straight from the packet on to the dosa makes you wonder how fat you are going to get. Charan dissuaded me from adding extra butter. So, the paper roast was done to perfection – however, it turned out that wasn’t my favorite after all. I hadn’t thought about the consumption process & how unweildy the dosas were going to get. I’d suggest doing the traditional masala dosas in the streets of bangalore.

It’s now time to taste the sweets – jilebi wala, here we come. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one who had rabdi as well – however, there was another store that sold rabdi – so, we did the jilebi & rabdi bit. We then, got a masala pepsi in a store at the other end which claimed it sold “Butter Gulkand”. I must tell you, having had these “masala pepsi” drinks before, I am not a big fan of these!! however, this one was absolutely fantastic!! we quickly gulped that down!! got a parcel of the gulkand, which comes with a small fruit salad as well – the gulkand turned out to be very very very good, with real rose petals & what definitely tasted like honey!!

We walked back, picked up some “dum root halwa”, which is unbelievably heavenly and some khara biscuits in conclusion of our extravaganza and biked back home really quickly. Total damage to packet was Rs. 205!! (approx USD 5). This is cheap, even by Bangalore standards – we will absolutely return to Food Street – despite how small it has become!!

Day 2 of Hawaii – Big Island!

November 7, 2010 2 comments

Hmm.. we landed at Big Island groggy, jet lagged, tired and sleepy at the Hilo airport at 9:00 PM on Day 1… And we had a 4 hour drive to look forward to reach our resort.. And just to make sure we did not have the slightest notion of enjoying the drive, we were warned by the scary-yet-helpful-Avis-lady as to how winding/tricky/teachorous/the roads were… And it was imperative we stay awake since we were unfamiliar to the area/roads.. yup, that’s why we needed to stay awake!

The giving soul that I am, I engaged Krishna, the driver, in a conversation hoping to keep him awake long enough to reach our destination alive. Apparently the conversation was far from scintillating since I was apparently giggling, snapping, snoring, babbling, echoing the GPS in various accents and sometimes just staring at him.. whatever!

Anyway, we reached the Outrigger Keauhou Resort close to 1 PM and thought we heard some ocean-y sounds. But priority people.. check-in and sleeeeeeeeeeep.

And we woke up to this.. a glorious, sunny day… perfect for the beach! We headed down to the continental breakfast lounge and filled up on the usual veggie suspects.. pancakes, toast etc. But the fresh fruit is something else! I am a fruit-hater  (yes, we exist) but I couldn’t stop gorging on the pineapple.

Then, we moved onto a presentation by an “Expedia local expert” who gives us the insider info about the local must-sees. Apparently this presentation happens on most resorts in this area. This is something I would recommend.. they do give you enough gyaan to plan an itinerary. But the emphasis is on signing up on one of their many organized tours.

Anyhoo, our next stop was at the Outrigger beach. Apparently this resort is one of the few on this part of the island which has its own beach. Well… this beach is not of the soft-sandy-clear variety. It is rocky, full of stones and impossible to wade through. But apprently that’s what makes it perfect for snorkelling!! There were scores of snorkellers in this really small 30 feet stretch of sand.

Krishna immediately rented some equipment from an extremely drunk and extremely happy man and paddled off to see him some fish. Unable to willingly put my head underwater “to see some fish” I declined and instead chose to gingerly step over rocks, wade in the water and just enjoy the view… Till a turtle emerged on a rock a few feet away from me.. I just stared mesmerized and a little scared. And then, through the super clear waters I saw another turtle and multiple schools of fish. Kish emerged beaming ecstatically from seeing “an entire mini ecosystem underwater”. Apparently, I wasn’t seeing even 10% of what he’s seeing. But I was shivering at this point and we headed back to the resort to embark on our next activity – a culture tour of the resort (C’mon, you know you want to know more…)

This resort resides on a heritage site and so, they have Hawaiian guides from the heritage center offering a 2 hour free culture tour. This includes a leh-making class, offering it with a chant to the Higher Spirit, an explanation of the fish ponds which draws in the first, a first hand experience of the erstwhile Hawaiian Olympics and culminates in the planting of saplings – a gesture to preserve the ecosystem. Interesting, informative and fun when the games were on! 🙂 This resort has a bunch of arts ‘n crafts classes on the weekdays – leh making, hula dancing – all free!

Alright, seeing that we skipped lunch, away and onwards to dinner then..  the person at the concierge desk recommended Hilton Waikoloa Village – “It is the adult disneyland of Hawaii… they have indoor gardens filled with exotic plants, birds and animals, dolphin shows, indoor canals with boat tours. I actually made quite a bit of money selling fully grown coconut trees at $1000 apiece to the resort developers… Its not geniune Hawaiian by any means but an entertaining evening for sure. And it has a beach perfect for viewing the sunset”.. We were sold!

We were late… Well, I was late! And by the time we were out, the sun was already setting and we were about 30 minutes from the Hilton. But just then, we spied the sign to the Veteran’s cemetery/also the landmark to the Kua Bay Beach Park – one of the best beaches ever as per the Expedia guide. We drove in and man, were the sights beautiful… It finally hit us.. we were actually in Hawaii 🙂

Alright then, off to the Hilton. Ok, first impressions – it is HUGE! They actually have a train inside to transport people through the resort. The resort is extravagant, luxurious and completely artificial. You can get day passes to use the many luxurious pools. You can avail the beach facilities, apparently the beach here is pretty nice, however the parking for the beach fills up really soon. And you can also indulge in shopping, dolphin watching, dine in one of the 7-8 restaurants all within the cosy air conditioned enclaves of the the resort. In other words, you can spend your complete vacation here without setting a foot outside.

Right then.. dinner for us. After consulting with the extremely friendly lady at the concierge we opted for the “kamuela provision company” restaurant. There were no vegetarian options on the menu but we were told that the chef could make some of the options vegetarian on request.

The Verdict:

  • Setting is just spectacular, its right by the ocean and its super romantic with all the candlelit tables. Just aaaahhhhhh!
  • Food was extremely passable – our pesto was made of sweet potato, too sweet for our palates. Onion rings were greasy and lukewarm. Don’t remember the other order.
  • Service – I want to say good. But he did forget to make my pesto vegetarian and I realized the mistake only after a couple of bites. But he was extremely apologetic and offered us free dessert which we declined.

All in all, a very pleasant, relaxed dinner to cap off a great day. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

** Umm.. if this post sounds girly, its coz Krishna’s wife as a guest writer (ahem!) has posted this **

Element fresh – Shanghai

Element fresh ( is an expat friendly place in multiple locations in the major centres of Shanghai (Super Brand Mall, Jinqiao, Xujiahui, Nanjing Road etc) which features a set of continental cuisine and also some “asian sets” for the weary traveler. The food quality is great with very friendly service in English and Chines. Their fresh juices and smoothies are fantastic.

They do have a few vegetarian options – my favorite are the “egg plant sandwich” featured below as well as their vietnamese shrimp noodles (without the shrimp & replaced with tofu) with extra crispy fried onions and peanuts – ask for their spicy chinese sauce on the side as well. The eggplant sandwich has melted cheese, which tastes excellent in the fresh tasting bread – only downside is that they don’t offer fries (element fresh, right?)

The pumpkin soup there is vegetarian – you can ask for that in the asian set as well; their side salads are sumptuous and not just filled with the random lettuce leaves (I ask for their blue ginger vinaigrette as the dressing). Their pasta is reasonably tasty – nothing to write home about.

All in all, Element fresh is an excellent western comfort food alternative with some veggie options.

Slice Deli – Shanghai

Slice Deli is an upscale expat focused place, one of the two locations of which is near the Biyun road Carrefour store and right next to the expat school playground in Pudong Shanghai. Location & menus are at:

The sterile ambience is sort of inviting – the food is reasonably tasty and of shanghai price – meaning, this will likely be equivalent to what you’d pay in a nice restaurant in the states or the UK –

While vegetarian fare is limited, the options presented are indeed decent – the 12″ pizzas are sumptuous (recommend not trying the pumpkin pizza, despite how exotic as it sounds).

The vegetarian panini sandwich featured below, tastes exactly like it looks – excellent. So, all in all, it works out – they have a little store that sells stuff there as well that you can take back with you.