blue-city-jodhpurJodhpur is to New Delhi as Boston is to New York City.  Compared to New Delhi’s 22 million people, Jodhpur’s 1.3 mil seems downright quaint.  The traffic is calmer, the streets less crowded.  It’s often called the Sun City for its sunny climate (and a record high of 129 degrees Fahrenheit in May!) or the Blue City, because they were jealous of the Pink City and decided to paint a large number of their buildings blue.  Just kidding – they too painted their buildings for a royal visit.  You’ll see a lot of signage for military forces – Army, Air Force, Border Security, etc.  Its prime location and extra space makes it a perfect headquarters.

Below you’ll find:

  • Village Tour
  • City Sightseeing
  • Restaurant Reviews
  • Hotel Review

Village Tour

Village Tour
They were gracious enough to share the road with us

We took a package tour that promised to show us “village life.”  Not quite equivalent to a trip to Old Town Williamsburg or Plymouth Plantation, this tour was more like if you went to an American suburb in the 1950’s.  Our stops did not represent a far-distant past, but they were most certainly hiding away any modern conveniences like cell phones.  I’d say it was fun; but if I was a tour guide, I might design this excursion differently.

Pottery Stop

We visited the home of a master potter.  His family all worked there, but clearly deferred to the master of the house.  They created fun trinkets for tourists, including small authentic oil lamps. But another large part of their inventory was clay water containers that keep water cool even in the boiling Rajasthan climate.

Farming Stop

This stop was at a local Bishnoi farmer’s home.  He must be the jolliest man in all of India.  He has clearly been welcoming tourists to his farm for years and loved every second of the attention.  We has left out three piles of different kinds of grain so we could touch and taste.  The Bishnoi are a religious group in this geographic area who follow 29 tenets, many of which emphasize protecting the environment, especially trees and livestock.  In 1730, 363 men, women and children were killed protecting trees, hugging them to prevent the king’s men from cutting them down.

While the women of his family lounged in the shade of their small home, the farmer lead us to a shaded space meant to welcome visitors.  There he demonstrated the local custom of making opium tea for guests.  It sounds exciting and risqué, but honestly is tasted disgusting – like dirty water and no, I did not feel any different.  

Next he demonstrated how to wrap a Rajasthani turban – a red or red/yellow/green fabric strip that shaded their heads or could be unraveled for all sorts of emergency or everyday uses, like tying things.  I really didn’t mind that his operation wasn’t 100% authentic.  Clearly, he got a small stipend for welcoming people and putting on these demonstrations, and he did it with joy – a win-win.

Weaving Stop

WeaverA clean, orderly man sat beneath a canopy and knotted a rug while listening to the radio.  His impeccable English and good quality glasses hinted that he must not really spend his days tying rugs, but we tried our hardest to push that out of our minds.  We’re pretty sure the man he introduced as his son holding his granddaughter was just a worker.  I mean, they had an outhouse with an English toilet in it on the other side of their field… but that’s OK…  You just hope that the men and women who do tie those rugs daily get their cut of the rugs he sells as an “authentic Rajasthani weaver.”  Because no matter what system they set up, these rugs were being woven by hand by real people.  No “Made in India” sticker necessary.  Why am I over explaining this?  Because I caved IMG_5781and bought one.  Sure, I brought the price down from $450 to $300, but I probably could have pushed for $250.  I mean, he has a credit card machine.  When I saw the sea foam rug, I couldn’t resist.  Everything else in India is bright and bold or a rich rust and brown.  This rug is now in daily use at the foot of my bed.

Wildlife preserve

Our last stop was a wildlife preserve.

Evening with Camels

Osian Camel Safari

The evening camp excursion is a popular one in many desert tourist destinations around the world.  I went on one in Dubai as well.  It includes a performance with traditional dancers and musicians, drinks, a meal and a camel ride.  For me this falls into the category of “not necessary, but better than staying at the hotel.”  I preferred the one in Dubai because it included henna.  This one felt a tad lackluster because there were few people there.  If any of my fellow travelers comment below, I’ll include their thoughts.

City Sightseeing

Jodhpur Fort / Mehrangarh Fort

Because this fort is one of the only non-government kept forts, it has a few unique feature.  What makes this fort different:

  • Extensive museum collection
  • Best gift shop BY FAR
  • Some unique aspects like the widow’s wall
  • The view!

This fort was built-in 1460 and towers above the blue city.  Still privately owned by the royal family, this fort has been used in many movies and requires constant fundraising.  The fort and its 7 gates were built for battle.  As you walk through the imposing main entrance –  the Iron Gate –  you will see metal handprints sunk into the wall.  They represent the royal wives who committed suicide on their husband’s funeral pyre, a tradition known as sati.  Morbid and heartbreaking, it is good to know that the British outlawed the practice in 1867 and the last recorded sati in Jodhpur was 1953.  Unfortunately, the Indian government did not pass a Sati Prevention Act until 1987.

I had a blast in the museum gift shop.  Reasonable prices were fixed and clearly marked.  They had a large selection of hand-printed “old” documents. The quotations are because I’m not sure how old or authentic the paper was, but the paintings are exquisite.  I bought adorable cards with hand painted auto rickshaws and parchment bookmarks with painted elephants and horses for 100Rs each ($1.50).  There were books, purses, jewelry and more.  All proceeds go to keeping the fort maintained.

The Hermit’s Curse

I absolutely love a good story, and curse-stories are some of the best.  When Rao JJodhpur curseodha, the chief of the Rathore Clan, needed to establish his dominance after traveling 15 years in the desert, he knew he had to build a fort.  The current location was the most strategically advantageous, but a local hermit was furious that he would be displaced.  He cursed the king and the fort, saying that it would never have water.  Rao Jodha believe the hermit had the power but could not stop his plans.  So he built a temple near the hermit’s prayer spot.  But at the time, it also seemed necessary for a human sacrifice.  A local man Rajiya Bambi offered himself to be entombed in the wall – alive.  In return the royal family promised to take care of his descendants.  To this day, the family lives on the property bestowed by Rao Jodha.  To the right is his headstone along the fort’s wall.

Jaswant Thada

Jaswant-Thada-JodhpurThis mausoleum built in 1899 is covered with intricate carvings.   It gleams white in the sun and is surrounded by impeccable landscaping.  I could have sat there for hours if we didn’t need to get my aunt, sister and BIL to the airport.  There is an extra charge for cameras so we opted not to bring.  This photo doesn’t do it justice.

Umaid  Bhawan Palace

This palace, completed in 1943, was the last palace built-in India.  It was constructed to employ thousands of people during a famine.  Owned by a royal family, it is one of the largest private residences in the world.  You can visit a relatively small but interesting museum that focuses on the 20th century, but the majority of the palace is run by the Taj Hotel.  There’s a significant fee to go into the hotel if you are not a guest. The museum includes models of the hotel and photos of the portions you can’t walk through, as well as many gifts given to the family throughout their reign including rare jewelry boxes, pottery, clocks, art deco paintings and more.  I liked it particularly because you get to see the recent past, including photos and paintings of the family in recent years.

The Jodhpur Jinx

4a3c39136438037a8501c4eeae21f25dThis is a story straight out of a movie.  I would love it, if it didn’t actually involve real life tragedy.  As it was told to me, the hermit who cursed the fort also cursed the Maharaja’s family, but online it seems that most think it is a simply an unfortunate jinx.  The jinx: a Maharaja will never live to see his grandson.  Shockingly this has proven true for 5 generations.  The jinx began in 1895 when Rao Jaswant Sing II died while his eldest son was only a child. That son died at 21 and his heir at 20.  Maharaja Umaid Singh lived to see his granddaughters, but his son died in a tragic plane crash at the age of 29.  The jinx almost continued when young Shivraj Sing nearly died in a polo accident.  However, he was able to partially recover and his family welcomed a son this November (2015)!   The last Maharaja of Jodhpur Gaj Singh met his grandson, breaking the jinx. At least it has a happy ending!

Restaurant reviews

Lunch – On the rock

National Highway 65, Ajit Colony

The guide brought us to a relaxing lunch at a mid-priced restaurant called On the Rocks.  The ambiance is its strong point as you’re nestled away under a large tree in an enclosed patio.  The menu includes Indian, Italian and Chinese a la carte.  The price adds up, but the quality is good.

 Dinner – Indique

Hotel Pal Haveli | Near Clock Tower, Gulab Sagar

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 10.52.53 AM

Indique is the open air terrace restaurant at the Pal Haveli Hotel, the converted former residence of a wealthy local family.  There’s a beautiful view of the lit -up city and clock tower.  I don’t have many pictures because we arrived when it was dark (I stole this one sorry!).  This was possibly the first and only time my family got to experience auto-rickshaws – and so glad they did!  Warning: you have to walk up a few flights of steep stairs.  The ambiance was charming and romantic, though I do suggest you bring a jacket just in case.  We had thalis with a choice of veg or non-veg.  It was delicious!  Every dish was fantastic.  I knew immediately that this would be a food highlight of the trip.

Lunch – Winds

Near Ncc BhawanJodhpur, India

A nice local restaurant under tent on a lawn, tucked away from the street.  They’re clearly used to foreigners.  Trip Advisor reviews say the locals recommend it.  We only found it because out guide knew of it.

Winds Restaurant


Park Plaza Jodhpur

park plaza suite

This mid-level price hotel was a perfect choice.  The rooms were large and clean.  We were given one suite with a large seating area.  The breakfast in the morning was a large spread with manned egg station.  And we had dinner there one night as well, which was also delicious.  There’s even a roof-top bar that is trying very hard but doesn’t quite hit the mark with ambiance and drink prices. In general, this is a very safe choice for foreigners.  If you’re back-packing through India, this is not where you’d stay.  If you’re traveling with parents, this is perfect.


Exports – Maharaja Art & Craft

13th Mile Stine, Near Nissan Show Room, Pali Road, Jodhpur | +91 – 98280 – 82100

This was sold to us as an “export house,” which we thought would mean name-brand items.  But what they meant was they ship out the traditional Indian crafts and textiles to American corporations like Pottery Barn and some bed covers to European designers.  As before, the man laid out his many options, including pashmina shawls.  He had the air of honesty, and truthfully, he had the best prices so far.  He wouldn’t go too low, because it wasn’t in his interest – he was a wholesaler primarily.  We bought shawls for gifts, including a thank you pashmina for all my mom’s help with the wedding.  If you wanted to do all your textile and handicraft shopping in one go, I’d suggest this place.  But don’t expect a Louis Vuitton outlet.



Oh, Jaipur. The Pink City.

Jaipur holds a special place close to my heart (Coincidence, it’s called the Pink City?).  I’ve been to India three times.  Each time I’ve gone to Jaipur, and each time I’ve appreciated it more.  First, this is the city closest to Udayan, the home for street children where I spent 5 weeks in 2006. I flew to India by myself as a 19 year old girl to experience a different culture and help other people.  But let’s be blunt — While I taught English, Drama and Painting, it was really I who learned a life’s worth of lessons.  I gave them the love that I could, and I hope it helped.  But the perspective and resilience I witnessed on the trip changed me for life.  I plead to whoever wants to volunteer in another country – stay for a significant amount of time for a greater chance at making an impact, as well as experiencing more immersion.

But back on topic!

Founded in 1727, Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan.  It is called the Pink City, because the entire city was painted pink, the color of hospitality, for a visit by the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in the 1800’s.  The population has maintained the practice ever since, which may be one of the contributing factors to making the city one of the most visited by foreign tourists.  In some ways it has resisted modernization and therefore is a bit more charming than New Delhi.  But with close to 7 million people, it’s still on the crowded side.

Public works… no orange cones here

Clothing Store

clothing shopOn Day 4 we arrived in the evening.  One of our goals on the trip was to get some clothes tailored.  This was under the guise of having Indian clothes to wear at future events, but let’s be honest – they’d essentially be souvenirs.  And why not!  I highly recommend you engage a tailor for a salwar or even a man’s button up shirt.  Just make sure they have enough time to make it and deliver it to your hotel (24 hours preferred).  If you want a sari, I suggest using the time for this, because unless you want a stretchy, one-size-fits-all blouse, you’ll need it sewn (blouse material is included in price of sari).  Warning: They will take every bolt of cloth off the shelves to lay out in front of you.  You will feel awkward and guilty as you know someone will have to fold it all again.  But there’s little you can do.  It’s how they like to do it.  Just be clear with what you want.  And try not to get frustrated when you say “blue” and they show you red, green, and black.  It’s not a language barrier thing, it’s their theory that they’ll magically inspire you to want all of them.

Having eaten Indian food for several days, that night we took a break with an Italian restaurant.  To our confusion, despite looking like an Olive Garden type chain, they were out of half the things on the menu.  I’ll never take endless pasta for granted again!


Hotel Mansingh | Sansar Chandra Road | MI Road, Jaipur 302001, India

A large step up from the Hotel Mansingh in Agra, this hotel was clean and spacious with greater sense of grandeur.  The quality of breakfast was measurably better and included a manned egg station.

Concierge Doctors!

After all my worrying about my family getting sick, it was I who ended up needing to check in with a doctor.  I’d experienced stomach issues on a previous trip; a case in which the prescription diarrhea pill did the trick.  However, a trip to the bathroom the morning of our only full day in Jaipur seemed a tad different.  Asking the front desk for the best local urgent care facility or doctor, they offered to call a concierge doctor.  About 30 minutes later, a well dressed, middle-aged woman arrived with a leather briefcase.  Up in our room I described my symptoms.  Accustomed to travelers like me, she didn’t seem the least bit alarmed.  Out of her magical leather briefcase, she produced dozens and dozens of different colored pills.  I had to start writing the dosages and timings down and pleaded with my husband (who has a much better memory) to try to catch it all.  There were medications to every symptom and then medications to deal with the side effects of the medications.  She drew up the bill and I think her visit plus the medications came out to about $22.  I don’t even want to think about how much red tape and cash I’d have to go through to get the equivalent service and medications in America.  I popped some pills and grabbed an auto rickshaw to meet up with my family.  India may have been the source of my ailments, but she also made the solution just as quick.  We’ll get into the consequences of over medication, particularly antibiotics, another day…


Amer Fort

An encapsulation of Jaipur’s history, this amber sandstone and marble fort is built above its water source, the Maota Lake.  More palace than fort, this site had a huge impact on me on my first trip.  It was unfortunate that I missed it, but at least my family got to go.  As many guide books will mention, you can choose an elephant ride or jeep ride up the long stone path to the gates.  Inside, the opulent rooms will bring palace life alive in your imagination.  Like most forts, it also has a public and private audience hall, plus a mirrored room.  A personal favorite is the peacock mosaic artwork.  Watch out for the number of hawkers that will be there since it’s such a hot tourist spot. You may need a guide to appreciate all of the history, but make sure you can understand them before you hire them!  Also, some say this could take a day.  I think 2-3 hour works.

Jantar Mantar

I’ll talk about it because I should.  But I’ll be honest, I’m not a science/math girl, so I’ve never been particularly intrigued despite how advanced this yard full of astronomical instruments was at the time it was built.  Plus, I was so miserable from the heat and my stomach issue, that I could only stand for 5 minutes before my poor husband took me back to the air conditioning in the waiting tour van.  This Rajput-built UNESCO World Heritage site is the home of the world’s largest sun dial.  The stone monuments allow the viewer to see astronomical movements with the naked eye.  It’s impressive… don’t listen to me…you should go see it.


City Palace

city palaceThis is another impressive, famous site; but when you’re starving, and you’ve already seen a gorgeous, massive palace/fort that morning, it’s not a sin to pass up.  Since the majority of the palace is still a royal residence, you may only walk around a museum set up within several of the rooms.  You should do it if you trip to India is short. Why not? It’s literally across the street from Jantar Mantar.  But with 5 more cities to go, we were hungry and we were feeling cheap – so we passed this time around.

Birla Mandir

Mandir = Temple

Birla = The wealthy family who has been building temples throughout India for the past 80 years.

We hit up this temple on our way out of town.  We had hoped to visit Pushkar that day, but the guide alerted us to the fact that it was a religious holiday, and therefore would be so crowded that it would ruin the entire experience (the city is a main pilgrimage site).  Instead, we decided to spend some time here and arrive in Jodhpur a bit early.

This gleaming white temple is modern and active.  In Hindu fashion, you will see carvings of the world’s great religious teachers and figure, not just Hinduism’s. You’ll leave your shoes with an attendant and walk on the cold white marble in your bare feet. If you want to donate a bit, you can walk around the idol clockwise.  The carvings on the wall depict popular Hindu stories.  A moment that sticks out from this stop was when some young Indian men told my husband to take a hike so they could have a photos with us all.  At this point, we were used to the celebrity status, but I had decided that if they want a photo of me, my husband was going to be in it too.

Since we’d be in the van for hours, I suggested we check out the local temple nearby dedicated to a different deity. Locals take off their shoes walk in through one of the lines, receive a blessing and leave.  Some buy sweets to have offered in the temple.


McDonald'sSeeking another break from the norm and a fun exercise in globalisation, we ate at McDonald’s.  With Hinduism’s worship of cows prevalent in the culture, there is no beef burger served.  Beef is so rare in India, that I suggest never eating it because you don’t know where it came from or how long it’s been there.  I had some bland Mcnuggets for my stomach, but the McSpicy Paneer was a big hit in my group.  If you look around, you’ll see that McDonald’s is a regular restaurant for middle class families without the negative connotations that Americans put on fast food these days.

Camera Shop

IMG_0065A short anecdote.  My dad needed a camera battery.  If you know my dad, a camera on a trip is not just an accessory, it’s an extension of his arm.  We tried to think of all sorts of things to solve the problem, including using Amazon to ship something in country to a future destination.  But the answer was right in front of us – our guide, Sanjay.  Between sightseeing and shopping stops, he pulls the 9 passenger van into what some might call an alley.  To the left and right were closet-sized shops overflowing with gadgets and tech-type things.  Apparently, this was the neighborhood to get all things camera.  Sanjay, my dad and the guys left the van to look.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details, but in entailed every shop owner swearing they had the battery.  One finally produced the goods.

DSCN1493In the meantime, the ladies are in the van watching the scenery.  The driver stood guard by our van.  Across the street there was a woman selling oil from a vat.  Behind a colorful door was a mother and her children.  She would occasionally come out to wash dishes in a bowl of water, spilling the dirty water onto the street.  Monkeys darted in and out of the scene as easily and unremarkably as would cats.  We bolted from our seats when we saw an elephant lumbering down the extremely narrow street.  He just meanders past us.  All of us just laughed at the absurdity if it all. My dad was haggling in camera alley as monkey and elephants meandered by.  Welcome to India.

Jewelry Stop – Shopping!

If you are on a tour, you will be brought to a jewelry store to be “taught” about Jaipur’s famous industry.  The lesson consists of showing how semi-precious stones are ground down and polish.  Then the real fun begins in their showroom… As long as you know going in that you’ll be plied with drinks and salesmen will follow you around, it won’t be so horrible.  We found the prices to be fairly comparable to the U.S., but if you’re looking for something with significance, at least you can tell people where you got it.


I’ll wrap it up with restating my undying love for Jaipur, and these amusing photos of a whole family on one motorcycle and a turban shop.




Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

You’ve survived the crowds to see one of the wonders of the world (the Taj in Agra), now it’s time to rest your weary feet at a desert Oasis.  For us, that oasis was The Pugmark adjacent to Ranthambore National Park.  But don’t get too comfy, because you’re there for only one reason – to see the tigers!

Tiger Ranthombore

I asked my MIL what two words she would use to describe the Hotel and National Park.  She said:

“Peaceful. Peaceful even though a tiger was within reaching distance.” – My MIL


The NAtional PArk

First deemed a game reserve in 1955, then the home of Project Tiger in 1973, the area became a national park in 1980.  The park may be known for its tigers, (they currently claim a population of 62), but they also have a wide variety of other wildlife including: leopardnilgaiwild boarsambarhyenasloth bearsouthern plains gray langurrhesus macaque and chital. If you visit, remember that every trek is different depending on the weather, the season or simply whether or not the animals feel like getting up in the morning.

Our Safari experience

Jeep Ride
Me holding on for dear life

Before we even arrived, two open air jeeps were arranged to drive us around. (Though I believe the hotel can also help you with this once you’re there).  The morning of, we woke up at 6am for an early sunrise drive.  I forget if this was because it was the best for cooler weather or because it was when the tigers are most active.  Either way, we happily hopped in and drove about 5 minutes to the entrance of the reserve.  As we drove fast, slow, then fast again, our guide used a walkie talkie to discuss with other park rangers/guides if a tiger had been spotted.  Once word that one of the majestic cats had been seen, it was a mad rush to get there and jockey for a good line-of-sight among the 15 other jeeps and trucks brimming with tourists.  This ride felt more like the Indiana Jones ride at Disney than anything I have ever experienced.  At the time, I didn’t admit to my family that this was actually my favorite part, not the tigers.

Tiger Ranthambore
The initial sighting. Can you spot her?

After sitting around a lake and I embarrassingly mistook a bunch of leaves across the way for a tiger, we bounded off to another location and spotted one.  She seemed to be lazily sitting enjoying the day.  But after a moment, we all realized there was a deer-like animal grazing nearby.  Over the next hour or two, we watched her stalk her prey by taking a few steps forward then sitting again… two steps forward then sitting again…. all downwind of the deer.   Shockingly, the deer did not see her… that’s how slow she was moving!  The guide said that this works for the tiger about 1 out of 10 times, but that it is OK. That ratio is built into their diet.  Oddly enough, both animals seemed so used to the jeeps (and the jeeps remained far enough away) that we didn’t seem to factor into their process.

Ranthambore National Park
Got bored waiting… so we decided to play with some birds.


At some point another deer saw the tiger and alerted their friend.  The deer bound off into the grass and our tiger decided to stroll elsewhere.  We thought the trip was over, but the jeeps sprung into action and found their way to a road that crossed her anticipated path.  We saw her take a little bath, spray some trees (you think a house cat can spray?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!) and mosey through the line of jeeps.  We were a few feet away!  She strutted her stuff and could not care less that we existed.  This was both fascinating and disconcerting.  The environmentalist in me was nagging at me, and I hoped to goodness that the safaris contribute money and interest in preserving their habitat.  I hope that the safaris are the lesser of two evils; the other evil being poachers and selfish land development.  For every human that wants to create an untouched reserve, there is a human willing to exploit it.


Jeep Ranthambore
It will be dusty!

What to wear:  I would be a horrible travel blogger if I didn’t warn you on what to wear.  If you go out before sunrise it will be very cold, though it will heat up quickly.  Also, it’s extremely dusty – everything you wear will have a thin layer of dust on it when you return.  I also suggest bringing a scarf to cover your mouth if you think the dust will bother you.  Lastly, make sure your hair is pulled back; you’re driving fast, and it’ll get in your face.


Methi PohaWe were back at the hotel by 9 or 10 am for a very thorough breakfast buffet.  It was my favorite breakfast buffet of the trip, because instead of doing a half-hearted attempt at American food, they embraced Indian food while having toast and hard boiled eggs for variety.  Poha is a great cross-over Indian dish for breakfast – hearty but not “strange”.

This all brings me back to the hotel…

Hotel: The Pugmark

Village Khilchipur | Ranthambhore RoadSawai Madhopur 322001, India

Our little oasis.  Clean, spacious rooms open up onto a center strip of trees, flowers and adorable sitting areas.  We didn’t have enough time, but there was a beautiful blue pool.  The staff was polite and efficient.  Meals were served buffet style in a large room.  Alcoholic drinks were offered, but with a glass of wine clocking in at $13, we stuck with the 650ml Kingfisher for 400Rs ($6.50) split among 2-4 people.  Honestly, we were sad that we couldn’t spend another day there just to relax.

We left by noon to reach our next destination – Jaipur- a city very close to my heart.


Sushi Yasaka: Sushi-Palooka 2016

Sushi Yasaka


251 W 72nd St
New York, NY 10023
b/t Broadway & West 72nd St 
Upper West Side

A medium sized restaurant buzzing with activity.  And that’s no surprise with a $45 for 12 piece omakase.  As my friend mentioned, it’s a 1/3 the price without being 1/3 the quality.  In fact, from my novice POV, I felt they were more creative than Kura with interesting toppings.  Take a look!

Yellowtail, Red Snapper, Scallop

Yellowtail, Red Snapper with Kelp & Torched scallop w/ yuzu pepper

  • At this point, I just want them to torch everything!  Adds flavor and texture!

Shrimp, Horse Mackerel, Tuna

Lemony cold shrimp w/ dry and crispy head

  • This was a favorite.  The cool temperature and zing of lemon was a welcome surprise

Japanese horse mackerel w/ scallions

Marinated Bluefin Tuna

  • I won’t lie, the marinade gave it a tasty kick!

Fatty Tuna, Mackerel, King Salmon

Chew toro medium fatty tuna

Japanese mackerel

King Salmon with Acura

  • Now this is a dream come tre


Uni, Fatty Tuna, EEl

Maine Uni, Seared Fatty Tuna & Eel

  • I won’t lie.  At this point I am oddly full and could have gone without the eel.  But as always, the fatty tuna is the treat of the Omakase


Two Omakases.  Two very different prices.  Both delicious.

I returned home satisfied and feeling much more educated about the flavors and etiquette of sushi.  I have enough memories that I feel I can reminisce about the delicious pieces without having to run out and plop down a chunk of money every week.  Average sushi will get me through until I feel I need another indulgent omakase.

My last note is that I suggest you go with good company to fill out the time and share your experiences.  Thanks Uni Diaries 🙂  But also, don’t be afraid to ask the chef about what you’re eating.

Kura: Sushi-palooza 2016

Sushi in NYC

As a part of my job, I was browsing the internet for telegenic chefs.  Time and time again I came across beautifully shot, mouthwatering videos on sushi and the chefs who create it.  The chefs themselves didn’t fit the bill for what I needed, but my understanding and appreciation for sushi grew exponentially.  Then Netflix’s I’ll Have What Phil’s Having‘s Tokyo episode pushed me over the edge.  I needed lovingly crafted, top notch sushi, and I needed it NOW.  Luckily, I’m friends with the amazing writer/food blogger of The Uni Diaries.  A quick text put into motion my Sushi-palooza weekend.  The goal: Have real omakase experiences – one well-known place (even if the price tag reflected it) and one lesser known, reasonably priced restaurant.

Sushi chef

Omakase: Term equivalent to “Chef’s Choice.”   You choose the number of pieces you want to pay for and the chef presents them to you from lightest to heaviest dish.

Kura Restaurant

130 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

This restaurant was chosen by my lovely guide.  This small, true hole-in-the-wall, 12(ish)-seater restaurant is famous because of the jolly, experienced Norihiro Ishizuka.  Just read the beginning of this review from the NY Times:

Norihiro Ishizuka“At the sushi counter at Kura, there is no sentinel in white; no silent, coolly appraising overlord. Norihiro Ishizuka, 70, stands alone, wearing not a crisp chef’s coat but a samue, traditionally a monk’s work robe, that slouches at his waist like a dressing gown.  He has a benevolent and slightly rakish air, with his faint pencil mustache and white-gray hair peeking out of the bottom of his cap. He nods and grins, already halfway to a laugh, and the meal has not yet begun.”


We sat for a 9:45 pm Friday res (the only time available when we looked a week before).  After ordering a carafe of sake, I was ready to go… Clueless and excited, I just waited for the experience to happen.

Salmon Roe, Yam & TunA, squid

I love roe, and it was great safe start.

The grated yam over marinated tuna was sooo delicious.  So much flavor – smoky and rustic.

Plowed through the squid, but not terribly memorable.

Scallops, Fatty Tuna & Snapper

The sea scallops were a silky delight.

This fatty tuna was the first proof that I was at a new level of sushi.  The average sushi eater is used to tuna, but fatty tuna is a whole new thing… a very melt-in-your-mouth bite.

King Salmon, Amberjack & Mackerel

These were all smooth and delicious.  I was thanking the ocean for its bounty with every bite.  The seared mackerel had a crunch and salt that I appreciated after the more subtle salmon and amberjack.

Ark Shell Clam, Shrimp, Live Octopus

The baby shrimp was a visual thrill.  This was certainly something I wouldn’t be able to get just anywhere.

After slicing the octopus, the Chef tapped each piece to prove it was still alive; the white pieces seized up at his touch.

Mentis Shrimp, Tuna & Eel

These three gave a nice range of texture, the ocean eel being a favorite.


The uni courses had arrived!  My fellow eater knew exactly what was coming, calling out the Santa Barbara uni vs the Japanese Hokkaido Uni.  Uni is from sea urchin, and many sushi fans have a love/hate reaction to uni’s distinct taste.  If you lose the taste of the ocean, you’ll love uni.  A fan of oysters’ salty-flavor, I’m now a fan of uni’s concentrated burst of ocean.

Fattiest Torched Tuna

The fattiest torched tuna was the crown jewel.  I literally woke thinking about it.  We ordered an additional bite after it was all over, and my friend was in chock that it was even better than the first time around.  What a treat!  This may be what spoils other sushi for me for good.  Mushroom soup finished out the meal.

The overall take way is that omakase is a unique, elevated experience, but with the price coming in at $135 for 18 pieces, it’s a treat.  A bucket list item, every penny was worth it.  Thanks to my friend’s dedication to sushi photography, I won’t forget a single course.  The plan for tonight is Sushi Yasaka, a cheaper omakase experience.  The goal is to compare the two to get an idea of the spectrum.    Looking forward to it!

Bollywood Reviews: Chennai Express & Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Source: Chennai Speakers
Source: Chennai Speakers

Chennai mapBefore I even start the reviews, I want to draw people’s attention to the beautiful, resilient city of Chennai.  In November, the city experienced the worst flooding it’s seen in a century, killing 400 people, displacing 1,800,000 and causing up to $15 billion in damage.  Devastating doesn’t begin to describe it.  The city had been on our family itinerary, but the rain made us change course.  For me, my first visit is only delayed, not really cancelled; I can’t wait to visit on my next trip to India.  If you’d like to help, googling “Chennai Relief” or “Chennai Floods” will take you to many organizations helping provide relief.  Unfortunately, I’m not informed enough to send you to the one with the best track record.  The people of India have also risen to the challenge of helping, as seen even among children: check out this app designed by a 10 year old!

I wanted to get that out there because one of my reviews is Chennai Express, and I don’t like to hold back…

Bollywood Reviews

I love Om Shanti Om!
I love Om Shanti Om!

First things first – I was a film major in college.  I worked in Hollywood for 4 years, and I still work in media.  I love film themes and screenplay structure, and I can get pretty annoying analyzing it on the way out of the movie theater.  But I don’t think I’m TOO snobby.  I think film should be made for an audience… and so does Bollywood!  Bollywood is a love/hate thing for me – the overacting is difficult to swallow, plus the lack of subtlety makes me roll my eyes.  But those colors!  That music!  The dance moves!  In general, I love the Rom Coms more than Action or Drama because it’s they don’t take themselves so seriously. Also – reminder to readers, currently, I have to watch all these films with English subtitles, so there may occasionally be something lost in translation.  Anyway, let’s get to it.

The Topline Reviews:

BAJRANGI BHAIJANN – Slo Mo overload, but ya, I cried.

CHENNAI EXPRESS – Least redeemable romantic lead of the the year, but I love the South!



Chennai-Express-New-PosterQuick Summary: Rahul is a 40 year old bachelor who is tasked with spreading his grandfather’s ashes in the Ganges in Tamil Nadu.  Instead, he wants to go on vacation with his friends in Goa to meet ladies (classy guy, right?).  In the process of tricking his grandmother, he helps a beautiful South Indian woman board the train – Meena – then four large, scary men.  Through some altered Hindi songs, she communicates that the four Tamil-speaking men are kidnappers.  She was trying to escape a forced marriage arranged by her father, a crime boss in Tamil Nadu.  Through a series of mishaps and failed escape attempts, they end up in her village where she claims Rahul is her fiance.  The rest of the movie continues with Rahul nagging Meena to help him escape the situation she put him in…  I’ll leave it at that.


Chennai Express 2Review:  You might know how this is going to go, because I didn’t hide my distain much in that review.  Rahul is the least likable romantic lead I have ever had the displeasure of watching.  He literally whines or cowers or nags 80% of his scenes.  SPOILER (but not really): She falls for him very quickly, when he’s acting like a good husband, not because of how he actually is good husband material.  Ugh.  He starts unlikable and stays that way until the very end when he decides to come back for the gorgeous, generous, sweet, spunky woman who’s madly in love with him for unknown reasons.  I seriously don’t know what the writers were thinking.  The fact that it’s SRK is the only reason you can stomach the character, and the creators shouldn’t rely on that!  And don’t get me started on the ridiculous hand-to-hand combat at the end.  I thought Hollywood’s fights were unrealistic.  They don’t even explain how Rahul 1) knows how to fight 2) can physically survive even one punch from the giant he’s fighting.  Maybe it’s the magic of love. gag.

Are there redeeming factors?  Sure.  I love the settings, clothing and music.  The bright infusion of South Indian culture is a real treat, and I can’t wait to watch more South India-based films because of it.  Deepika Padukone as Meena is delightful.  It’s not her fault that the writers were so bad at pacing her love storyline.

Also… why did he not just postpone the Goa trip?  Or shocker, go to Tamil Nadu after a week in Goa.  Simple solutions that prevent him, a 40 year old man, from lying to the grandmother who raised him.  Jeez.

Bajrangi BhaijaAn

bajrangi-bhaijaanQuick Summary: An adorable Pakistani girl is brought to the shrine of a Sufi saint in India to cure her inability to speak.  She is separated from her mother on their train ride back, and without the right papers, her mother isn’t able to go back and find her.  Lost in a city, she is found by a gentle-hearted devotee of Hanuman,a wrestling enthusiast named Pawan, aka Bajrangi.  He names her Munni. When his last resort to get her home turns out to be a very evil man, Bajrangi rescues her and commits to taking care of her.  While staying with his father’s friend, Bajrangi falls in love with his daughter Rasika (played by Kareena Kapoor).  She chooses Bajrangi over another suitor, and her father declares that Bajrangi must have a home and job in X months or he will not be able to marry her.  The main storyline of the film is sparked when the father kicks Munni out when it’s discovered she’s from Pakistan.  The loyal, optimistic Bajrangi swears to return Munni to her family even though he doesn’t have a passport or visa – a very dangerous proposition.  And so the adventure begins.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan 2Review: This film is as unsubtle as you can get about religious tolerance, and creates a fairly one dimensional character in the strong, honest, cheerful, dedicated Bajrangi.  But it’s all forgiven because Bajrangi is truly the hero everyone wants in their life.  Though not overly intelligent, he embodies all the goodness of humanity.  Playing surrogate older brother to innocent, young Munni, you just want to go give him a hug.  This feeling is what gets people of all kinds to help him in his quest.  The social media component that highlights his selflessness to spur his release from jail is actually quite realistic in today’s world.  A well-edited, heart-wrenching video can stir the masses, even if they only have a short attention span.  I appreciate that the love story remains 10% of the film, while the quest to return Munni takes up 90%.

My last complaint is the slo-mo.  We get it, you’re pulling at our heart string, but I prefer when it’s used as the cherry on top.  Used the right moment, it almost feels natural.  Repeat use makes it feel like a tool.

As I said in the topline review, my cynical heart couldn’t resist the swelling of the music and the slo mo of young Munni running towards her hero.  You knew it was coming… but you cry anyway.


If it’s Chennai Express vs. Bajrangi Bhaijaan, it’s Bajrangi all the way.

Product Reviews: Indian Food

Product #1: Giant’s Frozen Chana Masala

Price: Approx. $4

Giant's Chana Masala
Giant’s Chana Masala

Review: It is what it is.  A cheap, mild-tasting vegetarian dish, it can be an easy lunch to bring to work.  Make sure you microwave long enough to prevent it from being more watery than it has to be.  It’s not the amazing Indian food you may be used to, but homemade Indian food is time-consuming and restaurant-made food can get expensive.  Here’s a passable budget alternative.  Enjoy?

Props to Giant brand for tackling:


Product #2: Bookbinder’s Spicy Sriracha Sauce

Price: Approx. $3

Bookbinder's Sriracha Sauce
Bookbinder’s Sriracha Sauce

Review: I know, it’s not Indian.  Sriracha sauce is originally from Thailand.  But my Husband is always looking for a way to spice up his food, and Sriracha is often the way to do it.  This creamy sauce is more like a spicy mayonnaise than a clear hot sauce.  I used it on a bun-less burger for my first test.  It certainly gave it a kick, but didn’t leave me running to the sink to stick my tongue under the faucet.  I’d say it’s a good condiment for a mixed spice-level household.


Product #3: Patak’s Butter Chicken simmer sauce

Price: $6 – $11 depending on where you buy

Patak's Butter Chicken Meal
Patak’s Butter Chicken Meal

Review: gives it 2 stars for a reason.  I was disappointed for the price I paid (around $8).  Indian curries are rich and complex.  This butter chicken sauce was missing the butter, cream and complexity.  It was thin and heavy on the tomato paste, basically a tomato soup.  If I served this to my MIL, I’d be kicked out of the family.  The only possibility of redemption is if this sauce is not used as the only ingredient besides chicken and rice (as the jar suggests).  It would have to be the base for other vegetables, spices and herbs – as one reviewers suggests: “begs you to add more ingredients like onions, garlic, peppers,tomatoes, thyme, turmeric, paprika, cilantro, etc.”  But honestly, if I’m paying $8 for a sauce (and using the entire jar…) it should be the end all, be all.  Next time, I’ll be trying it from scratch.  Couldn’t be too much worse than this.

I followed the instructions to the tee, even “authentic results on the Mahatma Basmati rice”.  So here’s the pics:

Butter Chicken Directions

Rie Instructions



MASTER OF NONEMaster of None

Where can you find it?  NETFLIX (10 episodes)

Created By: Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang

Prod Co: 3 Art Entertainment, Universal Television

Recommendation: WATCH IT!


Master of None is a scripted comedy in which Dev (played by Aziz Ansari) tries to make it as an actor in NYC.  Doesn’t sound too ground breaking right?  Critics, audiences and I disagree.  The genius of the series comes from Aziz’s portrayal of Dev, as well as the humor and themes that revolve around racism, sexism and the experience of a 1st generation American.

While sometimes the situations and dialogue are frustratingly on-the-nose (aka unsubtle & direct), it ultimately always ends up charming.  One episode that encapsulates that dynamic perfectly is Episode 2 “Parents.”  The episode clunkily jumps right into: “Gee, I don’t know much about or appreciate what my parents went through to get me where I am today.  I should spend more time with them.”  But it moves past being a sentimental PSA to feel raw and authentic because Aziz chose to cast his own parents Fatima and Shoukath Ansari as Dev’s aziz-ansari-parents-netflixparents.  It’s best to watch it to see what I mean.  As more and more people have watched the episode, Shoukath has gathered quite a following.  He stole the show from Aziz when they appeared on Colbert together.  And hearts melted when Aziz announced on Instagram that he burst into tears after his father said he appreciated being on the show because it helped him spend more time with his son.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to the show.  What I call stiff and on-the-nose, other reviewers call “candid” and “journalistic.”  It’s possible that my bar is a bit high because of my familiarity with these topics.  Whether it is fiction (like The Namesake) or non-fiction writing, blogs, movies or even my own observations among friends and family, the identity struggles and experiences of first generation Indians is something I’ve explored.  What Aziz is saying simply sounds too familiar to feel ground-breaking to me.  Note: I’m not saying I’ve experienced these things, but observed/read/watched quite a bit at this point.

Despite all of this, I watched all 10 episodes in a weekend and you should too.

masters_of_none2One thing that rang so true – it struck right to my core- was the relationship between Dev and Rachel, a Caucasian music promoter who Dev has a year-long relationship with (in the course of a few episodes).  I was so appreciative that there was no glaring scene of racism or a goofy scene where Rachel eats something too spicy – oh no!!!  The only difference besides their relationship and a non-multi-cultural relationship was a few subtle jokes.  Even the main twist familiar to most narratives about Immigrant/White relationships – the “You haven’t told my parents about me!” twist – wasn’t too over-dramatic.  It barely lasted an episode, and I was happy for it.  I was a “secret girlfriend” TWICE.  In one case, it ended before we told his parents.  The second time, the reveal turned out well.  (Honestly, I’ve found that parents’ universal desire to see their children married and producing grand-babies overrides a lot of cultural issues…)  Also, check out Ravi Patel’s Documentary Meet The Patels for another example of media tackling this topic.

MAster of None RachelTo top it off, the relationship dynamics spoke much more to our generation’s feelings about love and dating than intercultural dating.  When they have a stand-off in a later episode about how “sure” they feel about each other, and how “sure” you’re supposed to be to stay with them, I felt the writers had reached directly into my brain and put it on the screen.  I won’t spoil anything, but the last episode was literally cathartic as I related it to my own experiences.

All this led me to wonder how a first generation Indian American might feel about it.  So I asked a close friend (a bridesmaid in fact), who is also single, dating and in the entertainment industry, how she felt about the series… and there’s not much to report.  She stopped after the first episode, because she didn’t quite get the humor and didn’t know where the story was going.  She promises to watch a few more episodes and get back to me.  But the conversation did bring up an interesting point.  While it’s great that there are tv shows breaking tired Indian stereotypes, she thinks you can also go too far.  She said something similar to: “If they seem too white-washed, it’s just not real.  If you have Indian immigrant parents, then it’s in your DNA.  Sure, you don’t walk around wearing salwar suits, but you still do cultural things.”  Specifically, she pointed out The Mindy Project, which frustrated her and and some of her friends.  It’s not until Season 3 that you even know or see that she has Indian parents. She thinks Mindy’s character is just too whitewashed for her to buy it.  I have a feeling that if she watches a few more episodes of Master of None, she won’t have the same complaint.

Hmmm… all very interesting.  I’ve got a few more reviews on their way that aren’t so on-the-nose for the blog: Chennai Express & Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

If you have any suggestions for tv & movies email me at