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Pune in western India has a dining scene to rival many international cities, offering diners plenty of pan-Asian and world-fusion cuisine, as well as traditional maharashta dishes and Pune’s most famous culinary experience, the ‘sizzler’ restaurant. Here are 10 of the best places to find a truly tasty meal.
Offering pan-Asian cuisine, Baan Tao in the Hyatt Hotel is particularly loved for Chinese and Thai food, cooked to perfection by one of the best Thai chefs in town. Particularly recommended are the crunchy papaya salad and the sweet tamarind-cooked fish. The dining areas are also themed into a peaceful tea lounge with a gentle waterfall, Thai pavilions around tranquil oases, and intimate Chinese pavilions for romantic hideaways.Every Thursday the restaurant transforms into an Asian street food festival, where guests can sample delights such as dim sum parcels and shabu shabu Japanese hot pots.
Sizzlers are a breed of restaurant unique to Pune, offering beef, fish and vegetables cooked on hot iron griddles and served with various sauces and spices. Of all the sizzlers in town, the small family-owned Parsi community restaurants are favorites and, among these, Bounty’s is the best-loved. Service is brisk but efficient and décor is best described as functional. The food, however, more than redeems the joint. While their versions of beef sizzlers (cordon bleu and steak) are the specialities, the chicken options come particularly recommended.
One of the most celebrated dining destinations in the city,Malaka Spice is bursting with innovation and creativity. Many of the fresh and unusual menu options are stamped with one of two distinctions: ‘A Chef Cheeru Original’, a unique fusion dish designed by celebrity Chef Cheeru; and ‘Inspired not Imitated’, a traditional dish that has been modernised with Chef Cheeru’s signature twist. The range on offer is equally as exciting, with a ‘street food’ area serving favorites such as vegetable and meat satay. More intricate Asian-fusion dishes from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma are served in the expansive dining room and al fresco areas. The complex also houses an art gallery that has represented over 200 artists, and hosts a caricature artist who sketches portraits as guests enjoy their meal.
A new take on traditional sizzlers, Paprika Hot Rocks invites guests to cook their own food at their table, on hot volcanic rocks. Though this ‘concept cooking’ restaurant risks reducing its service to a mere gimmick, it in fact successfully delivers a sophisticated and exciting experience, completed by tasteful décor, low lighting and artisan bamboo furniture. The menu is a Mediterranean and Lebanese fusion, offering mezze platters, fresh breads and vegetable antipasti to start. The smoking dishes really take pride of place as the mains, served with tasty sides to complement the spiced grilled meats. Fresh fruits and homemade chocolates are also provided between courses and after the main is finished.
It’s easy to understand why Sen5es is so popular with the expat community, since it specializes in high quality world cuisine, served up in a comfortable and modern setting. Open kitchens overlook the wide dining room, gleaming wooden floors and glass panels reflect the decorative fires lit as evening descends. Among the favourite dishes are the hearty rustic tomato and basil soup, the deliciously fresh caesar salad (a rarity anywhere in India), lightly battered fish and chips, and the juicy American T-bone steak. The patrons are smartly dressed and the atmosphere elegant and indulgent, with an array of over 100 alcoholic beverages, including top quality wine and cocktails.
Fish Curry Rice does exactly what the name implies, and then some. Relatively new on the scene, it quickly gained a reputation for its variety and quality of perfectly fresh, Maharasha style seafood. Unsurprisingly then, the restaurant is almost always packed out, with guests delighting in such traditional coastal dishes as tisrey (baby clams), bangda (mackerel), and an exhaustive range of masala fish curries and fries. All the passion and heart here has gone straight into the food; the setting and atmosphere is clean and simple but you won’t find the experience lacking by any means, as the regular guests will testify.
This upscale Italian is renowned as one of the most authentic in the city, serving contemporary Italian cuisine including wood-fired pizzas, oven-baked lasagne, mix-and-match pastas with varieties of fresh sauces, and succulent meat dishes. Based in the sophisticated Westin Hotel, Prego’s service and décor are well presented as you’d expect from an international hotel chain.
Paasha is worth mention for its rooftop views alone, which are nothing short of spectacular. While the balcony dining area provides panoramas of the city, the interior décor has magnificent chandeliers and an abundance of glass and mirrors creating a sparkling reflective ambience. Visitors have been known to spend long evenings here enjoying cocktails against a background of easy-listening live music. And this is all of course, without mentioning the food, which includes some of the best northern Indian kebabs, daals and curries in Pune.
Proud to have realised the first ‘interactive open kitchen’, Harajuku Japanese restaurant in the O Hotel offers guests sushi, sashimi and teppenyaki counters. The food is outstanding, from the sushi rolls to the lunchtime bento boxes, containing an aromatic cooked main accompanied by tempura, Japanese salad, six sushi rolls, and a sweet dessert. The only exclusively Japanese restaurant in Pune, the restaurant is decked out to provide the most elegant and unique experience, with bold red walls, plush upholstery, and chandeliers, all complimenting food that competes with any sushi bar around the world.
Confusingly named as a hotel, as many Indian restaurants are apt to do, Vaishali is basic food joint standing in welcome contrast to the expensive hotel restaurants in the city. The humble traditional South Indian dining spot is no less loved than the more sophisticated options, and is in fact a particular favorite with the thriving student community. Vaishali delights with the very best dosas, idlis and uttapams cooked by the experienced staff. The restaurant won’t take reservations, and yet is somehow always brimming with those lucky enough to arrive in perfect time to grab a table, including local celebrities who have made this their favourite daytime haunt.