02 May 2016

The California Boulevard

As Gurgaon's InterNation's ambassador I get to plan fun events and culinary adventures for our members each month. I like to keep it fresh and try to find a new spot to host my monthly events so I usually identify a new place or take suggestions from members then approach the manager/owner about our organization and mission. Now that I've been doing it for almost a year I sometimes get invitations from some restaurants that want to work with us. Yesterday was one such day. A friend who is a new activity group consul for InterNations and has a background working with restaurants in the area wanted to meet with The California Boulevard and combine forces to host a duel activity group dinner. I am fully aware that because of the special treatment I received when dining with the PR head and having the chef prepare us some of his favorites I had a very different dining experience than most. Full disclosure, I did not pay for my meal, and I am hosting a future event at their location, but they also did not ask me to write this. I miss writing and this just happens to be the most recent place I've visited and had a sit-down meal rather than just an array of appetizers. Also, I have attended a previous event at this location and paid at that time.

I visited The California Boulevard's Gurgaon location in Sector 29. It is known for its fine dining and Hollywood-inspired theme ambiance. It prides itself on the California "experience" and making fine dining available for all. And it appears that is something they are achieving, for a Sunday afternoon, there were a surprising number of guests in the restaurant.

The servers were well-trained in being available, but not hovering. The meal commenced with a waiter putting a silver bowl with a small white square in front of me. He then poured water over it and voila! I had a small wet wipe for my hands. It was a much nicer presentation than a finger bowl with nothing to dry your hands on. Not a novel concept, but something different from most restaurants I have eaten at in India. While our hostess ordered a variety of bitings for us, I did get a chance to look at the menu and was quite impressed by the selection which is apparently going to grow in the next few weeks with a new menu being launched. One thing I didn't get to try, but will definitely order next time is their cheese fondue. I love fondue (who doesn't love a pot of molten cheese?!) and didn't even know that there was a restaurant offering that option in Gurgaon.

We started with their version of a Dilli ki Chaat nibbler. I'm used to it looking like this:

Photo credit
But theirs was a light and airy appetizer that you could eat several and still feel like you have room for your main course. It was a great start to the meal and fun twist on a traditional Indian snack.

Crunchy spinach leaves with yogurt, tamarind, and mint chutney
Next came their inventive "Indian sushi". Apparently many vegetarian Indians don't try traditional sushi (they also have several traditional vegetarian and seafood sushi rolls) so sushi paneer was TCB's way to introduce them to the concept using familiar flavors. It was seriously my favorite thing that I tried. Their in-house specialty jellies were divine. I particularly like the garlicky one, the third one to the right in the photo. It gave the roll just that extra punch.
Cottage cheese roll stuffed with cheesy mushrooms, cilantro, ginger, and mint
Ganderi kebab was a close second to the sushi paneer. Grilling the chicken on the sugarcane stick gave the chicken a hint of the sugarcane flavor and I love the combination of these three dips together and the presentation.
Punjabi-inspired minced chicken kebab on a sugarcane stick with yogurt, tamarind, and mint chutney dipping sauces
By the time the chef sent these babies out I was almost too stuffed to try them although I'm glad I did though. While many spring rolls end up being thick with too much pastry or overcooked, these were thin and crispy.

Thai-inspired prawn spring roll stuffed with prawns, glass noodles, shitake mushrooms, peppers, and carrots
I didn't get photos of everything, but we also had Caribbean jerk chicken and beer battered fish. The beer battered fish was a river sole with a light crispy batter with a hint of the beer and a beautiful light brown finish. I'm obsessed with dips and really liked their homemade tartar sauce. After all this came dessert. I had to roll myself out of here by the end of the meal I was so stuffed, but could not stop eating all the deliciousness that just kept appearing in front of me. I am actually not a big dessert person, but I was blown away by the options. I requested crème brûlée as that is typically my go to dessert as it's not too sweet, but our hostess also had them bring out the chef's special, TCB kulfi gazzak, and a chocolate bomb. The menu modestly calls the chocolate bomb a warm brownie served with vanilla ice cream, which does not begin to explain the experience behind the dish. I had only seen this prepared on MasterChef and was excited to try it. It was definitely a strong sweet dish, but if you love sweets this is definitely the dish for you. The kulfi gazzak was also nice with a milder flavor and for once I actually appreciated the kulfi flavor with the chocolate. I was also pleasantly surprised by the coffee crème brûlée. While I love coffee, I don't typically like coffee-flavored things.
By drizzling caramel over the chocolate sphere it shatters outward to reveal more chocolatey goodness
The waiter used the blow torch to melt the outer chocolate layer to reveal the kulfi ice cream within
A trio of (L-R vanilla, blueberry, and coffee flavored custards) crème brûlées caramelized with a blow torch at the table
The lunch was amazing and I would 100% recommend this place for a nice lunch or dinner. Prices aren't exorbitant considering the quality of food, and everything I had was truly delicious. I can't wait to host our fine dining fusion dinner with specialty cocktail pairings here later this month!

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