Showing posts with label biryani. Show all posts
Showing posts with label biryani. Show all posts

Chefs Plate meal kit delivery 2021

Lately, I’ve been trying various meal kit companies to get my dinner cooking mojo back. I’ve used Chefs Plate many times in the past and then I stopped. A recent 40% off promotion they sent me to encourage me to “come back” was enticing and allowed me to try their service again.

Meal Choices and Pricing

While Chefs Plate seemed to be the industry leader when I first did my roundup in 2016, it’s current crop of competitors are more professionally run and have great menu offerings. Chefs Plate presents 19 options each week, but I found it was difficult to find three things I wanted most of the time. To be fair, it’s because I’m a flexitarian and during the week I don’t eat meat. While they offer about four vegetarian menus each week, which is a good percentage from the 19, they never sound overly exciting.

Still, I appreciate Chefs Plate’s simple and affordable pricing where most choices are the standard $10 per serving (assuming 3 meals per week for 2 people) or $60 a box. There are a few “15-minute meal” selections that are an extra $2.99 a serving, which offers pre-chopped ingredients but are still not a 15-minute affair. Out of all the delivery companies, Chefs Plate is one of the most affordable and they don’t skimp on portions as well.

Customer Service and Ordering

The website is very easy to navigate and skipping weeks is a breeze. With recipes posted for the next five weeks, organizing meals for the month is easy and they even make it painless to permanently deactivate a plan with a click of the button instead of having to call in.

For my area in Toronto, they provide delivery five days during the week (every day except Friday and Saturday), which is about one day less than competitors. I guess it makes sense as most people typically don’t order the kits for the weekend as much.

Ease of Cooking

Most recipes require at least two tools and many increase to three like the roasted veggie and ricotta pasta bake. Pasta bake… you would think this would be a quick and easy meal – boil pasta and use pot for sauce, then transfer into a baking dish – yet the recipe calls for four items: a large pot for boiling pasta, a smaller pot for making the sauce, a sheet pan for roasting the vegetables, and then the baking dish for ultimately combining all the items and finishing it in the oven. If you don’t like dishes, skip the pasta bake.

Not everything is so tool intensive. The Turkish beef kofta over herbed tabbouleh was quick and easy where you add a spice mixture to the beef, roll them into ovals, and bake on a sheet pan. Another pan is used for the peppers, which really wasn’t necessary as they could be lined around the kofta, so you can always look for opportunities to cut down on washing. While everything was in the oven, to finish off the recipe I made tabbouleh, a simple process of boiling bulgur wheat and combining with herbs, vegetables, and seasoning.

To keep things cool during the summer months, they’re the only company that removes the dairy products from the paper bags and keeps them with the meat by the ice packs. If the kits are sitting out on the doorstep this is a great option to keep things fresh longer, but does mean that the ingredients aren’t part of the main bundle so when you’re grabbing things out of the fridge to prepare the meal it takes more time to ensure you have everything.

The Taste Test

While the recipe names don’t sound the most exciting, Chefs Plate’s meals turned out delicious.

The Turkish beef kofta was packed with lovely Mediterranean flavours and the meat ball (already seasoned) was enhanced further with a garlic mayo. Even the tabbouleh gets a facelift above the traditional parsley mixture by also incorporating feta and roasted peppers, creating a salad that you could even eat on its own.

It’s surprisingly easy to make the curried turkey & biriyani-style rice, combining everything for such an amazing depth of flavour. Already there’s the spiced chicken and rice, but add stir fried aromatics, a curry sauce, and herbed raita and the rice bowl was fantastic.

Even their pasta dishes aren’t boring. The roasted veggie & ricotta pasta bake doesn’t sound overly stimulating but once the mushroom, sweet peppers, and plethora of cheese get mixed together it became a dish that had us going back for seconds. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican street corn linguine, which combines pasta, fresh corn kernels and cheese in a poblano pepper sauce that is absolutely delicious. These were a couple of the vegetarian dishes that were a huge hit.

Environmental Factors

It was nice to see that the bag used for the main package was still made from paper, but individual ingredients still create a lot of waste. I’d like to see them start to move towards more fulsome pasta sauces – instead of sending tomato paste, tomato sauce base, and crushed tomatoes – so that things arrive in one package instead of three to cut down on waste.

What I liked most was their ice packs: it’s simply water and not that weird gel that is gross and difficult to dispose. Why companies use the weird gel is beyond me, the water ice packs work just fine.

Conclusion

There’s a reason Chefs Plate has been able to survive for so long when the other meal kit companies I reviewed in 2016 have since been shuttered. They’re not flashy with pictures and don’t have elaborate sounding dishes, but when you do settle on three items the recipes are surprisingly delicious.

If the above has intrigued you, sign up and try a week for yourself. Chefs Plate is offering Gastro World readers $40 to go towards their first order for new customers. Just click on this special referral link to go to their website.

Also check out the larger post for my comparison of other meal kit delivery companies. 


How To Find Them


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The Copper Chimney (Toronto) for delivery


Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

On walks around the neighbourhood, we’ve seen The Copper Chimney on many occasions. It’s an Indian restaurant I vaguely recall reading about in the Toronto Star, when Amy Pataki noted it’s an above average choice in Toronto.

“One day we’ll try it.” I’ve always thought, and that one day finally came following a dinner elsewhere in the neighbourhood. As we were walking towards the patio of that restaurant, the air was filled with the most heavenly aroma of spices. We remembered that intoxicating smell and ordered delivery the very next day.

Fried appetizers like the mixed vegetable pakora ($5.50) are terrible for delivery. Pakoras I’ve had in the past have been fluffy fritters studded with shredded vegetables, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Copper Chimney’s are dry like food court falafel that have been left on the warmer all day. It’s such a shame, as I can see the large pieces of onions and carrots in the batter. It’s just so overdone (or perhaps fried during lunch and merely re-heated for dinner) that I had to wash it down with a drink.

To lower food waste, I salvaged the pakoras for brunch. Similar to making pot stickers, I put a cold pakora into a heated frying pan with some oil and water. Place a lid on it to allow the water to steam into the pakora and when the patty gets hot, remove the lid allowing the remaining water to evaporate and a crust to develop on the pakora again.

While it’s still a little dry, the finished patty is a lot better than before. In fact, I could decipher other vegetables used in the recipe: cauliflower, eggplant, and bits of a root vegetable. The individual spices also shine through more. If only the pakoras were fluffier and less cooked, I could see these being amazing.

Another overcooked dish was the lucknowi reshmi kebab ($14). Maybe tandoori is something that must be eaten at the restaurant, as Pataki’s review mentioned it being moist and delicious. What arrived at our house was covered in a tasty spice mixture (like a slightly spicy saffron), but so dry that it’s like eating cubes of chicken breast that has been reheated in a microwave and then cooled down again. Another gulp of drink to get this down.

The best part of the dish was the creamed coriander and mint chutney dipping sauce. It’s such a great refreshing bright yoghurt sauce that I tried it with everything in the meal. If you don’t get the kebab, it’s even worth ordering the condiment solely to put on other items.

Finally, the meal improved when I turned my attention to the saag paneer ($12), the spinach and onion puree so fresh and vibrant tasting, unlike so many other places where it’s rendered to a dark mush. Large cubes of soft Indian cheese are mixed throughout, these were thankfully left neutral and remained moist.

The saag goes wonderfully with basmati rice ($4) or garlic naan ($3.50), both sides arrive in huge portions (the naan two times larger than ones found in other restaurants). I just wished we ordered more curries to go with the grains.

Instead, I had to try their shrimp biryani ($17) and wasn’t disappointed. Despite it looking like another order of basmati when we opened the lid, get through the first layer and you’re greeted with a lovely fragrant rice that’s filled with flavours and a kick of heat that had me reaching for the raita. Here the shrimp were cooked nicely, still plump and tender despite trying this dish last.

In the end, I debated what mark to give The Copper Chimney as how well the dishes were prepared is so drastically different. If I had skipped the pakora and kebab and stuck with saucy curries, the experience would have been much better.

During this time where some restaurants are solely relying on takeout and delivery, I suggest trimming down menus to only include dishes that travel well. Not only will it simplify operations, but also ensures what makes it into a customer’s home are quality items you want associated with your restaurant. Stale pakoras and chicken jerky? Probably not something The Copper Chimney wants on their menu.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2050 Avenue Road
 Delivery: Uber and Doordash
Referral Discount Codes
 Support the blog by using my referral code
 UberEats: use eats-ju6ta to get $5 off a $15 order 
 DoorDash: click link to get $20 off

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!


Is That It? I Want More!

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India Palace (Dubai)


Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel sorry for people who travel with me. Visiting another city means an opportunity to try new restaurants, indulge in other cuisines, and taste something different from what we have at home. So, while visiting Dubai, I had three requests to try Emirati cuisine, local Indian food, and non-fancy shawarma.

After a couple of days of ‘friendly’ reminders, an opportunity finally presented itself to have Indian food in a residential neighbourhood. We would be visiting a friend of my travel companion (“M”) and after begging for something Indian, she suggested Indian Palace: the restaurant has an extensive menu, it’s delicious, and it’s ‘safe’ for our foreign stomachs.

Set in a strip plaza, off a highway, the large flashing signs and ample parking spots brought me to an area of Dubai that already felt homier. Things weren’t opulent and glitzy. Don’t go expecting valet services, although you can still get a car wash from proprietors lugging buckets.

M wasn’t kidding when she said there’s a lot of choice at Indian Palace… it took forever to get through the menu and settle on four dishes. We decided to start with the tandoori lal jhinga (AED69) or a skillet of grilled shrimp marinated with herbs and tandoori masala. It’s a simple but tasty dish, although I would have liked more of the kashmiri chillies, noted on the menu, for something spicier.


The dum ka zafrani murgh (AED42) had more pizazz. Pieces of chicken were cooked with a saffron almond sauce in a sealed pot. The nuts were finely ground, so it adds a creaminess to the gravy as well as a light nuttiness. It’s a dish in the same vein as butter chicken, but without the tomato sauce and heaviness, so you don’t feel bad having seconds and thirds.


I could have an entire order of the murgh biryani dum wala (AED44) to myself. At Indian Palace, they cook the rice in a vessel covered with bread, creating a dome that seals in juices so the biryani is moister and remains hotter than normal. It’s aromatic and flavourful, two things I was craving that evening, so this dish fully satisfied.


The biryani had everything the dal tadka (AED22) lacked. The lentils may have incorporated a bit of cumin and garlic, but otherwise was flat and boring, hardly adding a dent of taste to the rice or naan.


For dessert, the shahi tukda (AED19) was a nice change from the typical sugary choices. To clarify, the rabdi (a saffron and rose water syrup) the rectangles of dense bread sat in was, of course, sweet. However, the sweetness was controlled, and the slivers of pistachios added a nice savoury crunch.


At the end, the meal starts and ends the same way: with a golden vessel filled with things to taste and try. In the beginning, it’s filled with chutneys and pickles to smear onto crispy papadum. To end, it’s filled with licoricey seeds, sugar, and fenugreek to calm the stomach and promote digestion. Finally, the tastes of India I hoped to experience was at last checked off the list.  


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: Al Garhoud, Near Le Meridien Fairway

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

TYC by Sanjeev Kapoor (Toronto)

TYC by Sanjeev Kapoor

TYC or The Yellow Chilli is the sole Canadian outpost of a chain that amalgamates a variety of Indian dishes from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s journey across India. In reviewing the restaurant’s website, it publicizes their aim to serve food in a hygienic atmosphere. I don’t know what to think of this… shouldn’t this be the minimal standard of any establishment? I’d hope all restaurants want to be hygienic and it’s not something exemplary to highlight like a mission statement. Yet, while waiting for my friends to arrive, I noticed the neighbouring table’s banquette was marked with muddy shoeprints and within minutes a waitress arrives apologizing (despite it not being my table) and cleans off the offending marks.  


With my love for samosas, I had to try the starter and TYC has three to choose from: vegetarian, chicken, or mutton. The aloo makai samosa ($6) was filled with potato and corn (according to the menu). In reality, I couldn’t decipher the corn amongst the mashed potato filling, which lacked texture and interest. Moreover, it wasn’t even accompanied by sauces, despite not being overly flavourful. Luckily, we stopped the waitress from taking away the tamarind and creamy dill sauce served with the complimentary crispy papadum to use with the appetizer. I’d rather have the vegetable samosas from Samosa King any day.


One of their best sellers is the lalla mussa dal ($13), a dish of black lentils slow cooked over 36 hours to get to that melting consistency. Interestingly, their website also boasts about their use of state-of-the-art equipment – I guess they haven’t started using the Insta-pot yet. Nonetheless, the dish is very hearty and with the long cooking period, the pulse turns into a silky creamy concoction that was delicious by itself or sandwiched in naan.


Butter chicken ($17) has never been a dish I’m overly fond of and TYC reminds me why: the tomato sauce is way too sweet, the chunks of chicken not overly tender, and the “butter” sauce heavy but not in a heavenly way. After a spoonful, I stuck to the fish tikka masala ($23) where the tomato sauce has a nice tangy kick and the tandoor cooked fish left flaky and tender.


Just stay away from the butter chicken, if you want butter have their butter naan ($3.95; two pieces pictured) instead. The bread is hot, soft and chewy, and glistens with the ingredient.


The spiciest dish of the evening was the murgh noormahal biryani ($15) – thankfully, they brought out raita to accompany the rice, I certainly had my fair share of the cooling yoghurt. The biryani was peppered with spices where the heat slowly builds and permeates the taste buds to a delicious finish. I’d just leave out the fried onions – presumably crispy if eaten right away but over time becomes chewy and hard against the moist grains of rice.


So why a yellow chilli? The menu’s cover letter from Sanjeev explains this, “Years ago, on the streets of Meerut, my mother’s hometown, I bumped into a yellow chilli … with one bite … an idea was born. My restaurant, The Yellow Chilli, came into being.” Since then, the chain has grown to about 100 outlets and its foray into Canada. I had high expectations: while some dishes were good, none were outstanding and hardly the delicious journey I’d expect for an Indian chain.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 55 Eglinton Avenue East

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


TYC - by Sanjeev Kapoor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato