Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Restaurant Review – Deccan Rendezvous

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 30, 2008


[NOTE ADDED ON DECEMBER 22, 2009 — Deccan Rendezvous has a holiday special menu (in addition to their regular menu) starting today through December 31st. This menu features traditional Christmas/Thanksgiving items such as Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Cranberry Sauce. Tried it today. Pretty good! Had tried this same menu during 2008 Christmas as well…]


I am passionate about good food and always on the lookout for a great new restaurant. However, I try to maintain a small list of regular restaurants that I like to frequent. Over the years, this list has included a few places in Pune as well as in Dallas (where I spent over 10 years…). Vaishali has been a perennial favorite and Clay-Pit in Dallas is pretty amazing as well. In my view, along with great food these places also demonstrate the following impressive qualities: consistency, service and specialization.


Let me elaborate further. I hate change when it comes to my favorite dish! I want it to taste the exact same, month after month, year after year. Take for example, Vaishali’s Idli-Vada Sambar. Some people might call this expectation boring, but for me this is very important. When it comes to service, the usual attentiveness and efficiency are to be expected; however that extra special personalization touch is key. I believe in having a small list of restaurants primarily for this reason. I like to go places where I know the serving staff by name, where I can get to know the manager/chef/owner personally, and where I can provide direct inputs towards continuous improvement. Specialization is also very important. The restaurant should do a perfect job of achieving ‘world class’ in a certain segment of their menu.


Ok, now that I have specified the criteria for my ‘all-time favorite list’, I would like to introduce a new addition, that excels in many of the above criteria – ‘Deccan Rendezvous’, located at the corner of Apte Road and Ghole Road in Pune.


Even though I am a big fan of good North Indian food, it was my quest for nice Non-Indian food choices that really got me here the first time. Coming to Pune after a long stay in US, I used to miss the eclectic multi-national cuisine. Especially Thai and Italian food. Also, living in the Deccan Gymkhana area, I wanted to find something close by, instead of spending 45-60 min in a traffic jam to head to Koregaon Park. Deccan Rendezvous addressed both these constraints. Its multi-cuisine restaurant ‘Glass Window’ offers North-Indian, Italian, South-East Asian, European and other world cuisines.


The appetizer section is interesting with diverse choices ranging from Middle-Eastern to Caribbean selections. Traditional Indian choices are also available. The Jalapeno Cheese Poppers are awesome. ‘Lebanese Maza Platter’ is quite popular, but the Hummus has some room for improvement. The Tomato Mozzarella is an excellent choice amongst the Salads.


Deccan Rendezvous has a decent collection of international Cocktails and Spirits. Many of the usual favorites are very good, but the Mojito and the Margarita need some tweaking. The adjoining ‘Soul Purpose’ bar has a subtle ambience and is amongst the better lounge bars I have been to in India. Most of the other lounge bars, I find too loud for my tastes.


Chef Anand and his team have done an excellent job as far as the various Pasta dishes are concerned. Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce is my personal favorite. The Thai menu is a little limited, but the Red, Green and Panang curries are really good. The Indonesian Nasi Goreng is nice as well. The European dishes are ok, but definitely not Deccan Rendezvous’ strong point. The English classic, Fried Fish & Chips needs some improvement. The North Indian selection is impressive. The Kababs are great and so are the various gravy dishes. The Nans and Parathas are perfectly done. ‘Chicken Tikka Akbari’ and ‘Dal Gilafi’ are my favorites in this category.


The only cuisine that is not up to mark is Mexican. Frankly, I have tried many fancy restaurants in Pune and have still come back disappointed in my quest for good Mexican, Tex-Mex or Cajun food. Many places claim to serve this cuisine, but the taste is no where near (Deccan Rendezvous included) what I have been accustomed to in Texas.


No good meal is complete without a dessert and Deccan Rendezvous excels in this area. The selection is extensive and extremely well done. I guess extending the ‘Baker’s Basket’ heritage (Baker’s Basket – the famous bakery store chain in Pune, and Deccan Rendezvous are part of the same parent company), one can see why this is their forte. I am a big fan of Chocolate desserts and ‘Chocolate Mousse’ and ‘Fudge Brownie with Chocolate Sauce’ are my top picks here.


The service at Deccan Rendezvous is excellent. The serving staff is courteous and attentive. Though a little stretched for space, the restaurant is very comfortable. The décor is simple and modern. On weekend nights, you will find excellent live music here. I understand that there are plans afoot to expand the seating area. That will be extremely helpful. Reservations are recommended; especially on weekend evenings.


To summarize, Deccan Rendezvous offers a great choice if you are looking for a nice multi-cuisine restaurant in the heart of Deccan Gymkhana area. Click here, for the exact location of the hotel (courtesy:



Hotel Website:

Address: Apte Road, Shivajinagar, Pune 411004

Directions (courtesy sadakmap):

Contact: 020 2561 2345

Spice Island – Restaurant Review

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 10, 2008


Looks like my search for a great Thai place in Pune is finally over! This past week, I got a chance to visit Hotel Le Meridien’s ‘Spice Island’ restaurant. It specializes in Chinese and Thai cuisine.


As you enter the restaurant, you notice an exquisite setting and ambiance. I cannot think of many restaurants in Pune with this level of table spacing and sitting comfort & privacy. The decor is nice and simple. It was natural to compare the Spice Island with ‘Whispering Bamboo’ (A similar restaurant in Hotel Taj Blue Diamond). Spice Island clearly beats its chief rival as far as all these initial preference criteria are concerned.


The wine list is pretty decent and so is the bar selection. The main menu provides a good selection of the standard as well as the hard to find Chinese and Thai dishes. For appetizers, we tried the Chicken Satays and Fried Vegetable Wontons. The Satays were excellent; the best I have had in Pune. The Wontons were average.


As we discussed the main course and browsed further through the menu, an interesting fact appealed to us. Many of the popular dishes are available in ‘Half Order’ sizes. The half order portions are also pretty decent. They are priced at about 60% of the regular dishes. This is very convenient when you are dining in a small group and still want to sample multiple different choices.


For dinner, we ordered the Green Curry Vegetables and Kung Pao Chicken. The Green Curry was perfect. The right consistency, the right spice level…just perfect. Ditto as far as the Kung Pao Chicken was concerned. I would highly recommend both these dishes. Both these preparations reminded me of the great Thai and Chinese food I was used to, in good US restaurants.


The service was discrete and attentive. Oh…and did I mention the great live music?! When we were having our dinner, a couple of American Software Executives were really enjoying the band’s performance and kept providing a series of good song requests – popular songs, primarily in the soft rock and country music genres.


A dinner for two at the Spice Island would run into Rs. 1000 – Rs. 1500, without drinks. It is a little pricey, but in my opinion totally worth it. We had a great experience. The only place I would compare this with would be the aforementioned Whispering Bamboo, which is comparable on food, but scores lower on sitting ambiance and price. I would highly recommend Spice Island for anyone wanting to try out excellent Thai and Chinese cuisine in Pune.


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Restaurant Review – Vaishali (written in 1994)

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 7, 2008

The first ever internet homepage for Pune was setup in 1994. I had written a brief review of my favorite restaurant, Hotel Vaishali on FC Road back then. I am reproducing that review here on my blog.

It’s interesting to note how the price of one of the most popular dishes at Vaishali – ‘Idli-Wada Sambar’, has changed over the period. In the 93-94 time frame, it was around Rs. 5. Today, it is nearer to Rs. 20. Over the past 13 years I was living in the US. During each of my yearly India trips, a visit to Vaishali was a must! I used to routinely compare the price of this Idli-Wada Sambar dish against by Rs. 5 benchmark. In a way, it was my extreme rough inflation indicator -:)



I am sure that any person who has ever visited Pune must have atleast heard of Vaishali, if not visited it. Whenever you pass by the FC Road, an enchanting aroma of Sambar will literally draw you towards this place!

What started of as Madras Cafe back in the 1950s has today become one of the most popular restaurants in Pune. Infact Vaishali got its present name in the late 1960s. More than two generations of college students have made this place their ‘adda’ or meeting place. Infact during the day time, Vaishali resembles a college canteen.

Vaishali predominantly serves South Indian snacks with some exceptions such as the extremely popular SPDP (shev potato dahi puri) and the Veg. burger. One could start of with an order of idli-vada sambar (my favourite) and wait for the Masala dosa or Tomato Uttappa.(remember to order this along with the first order to reduce idle time!). The third dish could either be a SPDP or any of the remaining snack dishes in the menu! Yes, in Vaishali, you should make it a point to try atleast 3 dishes! No snack in Vaishali is complete without a hot cup of filter coffee though you may also like to try cold coffee or a lassi. Apart from this you also have a choice of standard beverages and ice-creams.

So, whenever you are planning to visit Pune, do make it a point to visit Vaishali. However, be prepared to wait for atleast 15-20 minutes before finding a place to sit (especially in the evenings). I am sure that your patience shall be rewarded!


Update on February 5, 2011

Recently, came across a very good interview with Jagannath Shetty, owner of Vaishali in  Punekar. Here is the link:

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