San Qi, Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai
San Qi, pronounced “san chi”, is best described as a spacious dining area over two floors, with exclusive counters dedicated to three cuisines: Japanese, Cantonese and Indian. You could technically call San Qi a food court but the food on offer is simply too high quality to use that moniker.
The top floor caters exclusively to Japanese cuisine, while the ground floor serves food from both the Indian and Cantonese counters. Currently, food is not served across floors.
The good stuff
The wife and I kicked off proceedings at the sushi bar on the first floor. The Japanese floor also offers a selection of tempura and a crackling robatayaki (Japanese grill). I have been a committed sushi buff for some two years now and jumped at the chance to partake of some of Chef Kato Toshikazu’s best sushi creations.
Size matters: (left) Occupying two levels, San Qi at Four Seasons serves three cuisines; the Fitness First gym covers 18,000 sq. ft.
We asked for two sushi platters each, including a vegetarian spread for the missus. The food arrived looking spectacular on shiny little rectangular stone slabs with dabs of wasabi and generous slivers of fresh pickled ginger. We were both served separate carafes of soya sauce — mine had tuna flavouring to complement the seafood.
The vegetarian platter was innovative if not exactly flavourful. The humus rolls were interesting and the missus particularly enjoyed the cucumber and plum maki rolls and tomato mozzarella sushi. The spinach sushi had a rich vegetal taste and texture that came just short of overwhelming the palate. Two sips of hojicha (Japanese tea), however, freshened the mouth immediately.
The non-vegetarian platter, on the other hand, was every bit as spectacular as Chef Kato said it would be. The tuna maki rolls were exquisitely crunchy, thanks to a light dusting of sesame seeds. The thick slivers of raw fatty tuna dipped in tuna soya sauce were warm and subtle in taste. Perfect for people looking to experiment with the cuisine but lacking the strong nose for fish.
The absolute highlight was the raw clam flesh, or mirugai, that had been freshly flown in from Tokyo that morning. Each bite exploded with the flavour of the sea. Close your eyes and you could literally feel the sea beneath your feet and smell the salt in the air. I took little nibbles, like a child with a chocolate bar, so that it would last forever.
Later, downstairs, the Cantonese Pork Starter blew us away. The starter comes with equal portions of honey roast and black pepper pork. The black pepper pork was average and a little too gamey for my taste. But the honey pork roast alone will keep me going back to San Qi. Somehow the chef had managed to infuse the pork with a strong, smoky honey flavour that was both sweet and spicy. Throwing dignity to the winds, I spooned all the sauce off the plate when I ran out of pork.
The vegetarian starters produced no moments of epiphany, but the crisp fried mushrooms with wasabi mayo will go well with drinks and chatter.
We wrapped things up with portions of daal makhani and roti—no better way to judge the Indian spread, if you ask me.
The chocolate fondant and the mango sorbet for dessert were top-notch—both were full of flavour and fresh.
The vegetarian spread on both floors is a valiant effort but still lags the non-vegetarian offerings by some distance. Hopefully San Qi will refine things over time.
The gentlemen at Moti Mahal, by the way, have nothing to fear from the daal makhani. Of the three cuisines on offer, the Indian was the weakest.
San Qi also needs to invest in a new music collection. The current mix CD did no justice to an otherwise great experience overall, which we will look to repeat.
The sushi platter will set you back by Rs1,300. Downstairs, a meal for two with a mix of Cantonese and Indian starters, main course and dessert will come for about Rs3,000 without alcohol. A pint of beer costs Rs300 (taxes and 5% service charge extra).
Fitness First, Mega Mall, Andheri West, Mumbai
Being fitness conscious, I’ve done the rounds of gyms in every corner of this city. And, I confess, I dislike most of them. Nor am I a big fan of gym workouts in general — the same old music, the equipment, and the cold, sweaty atmosphere make most gyms boring and uninspiring.
So, when I heard about Fitness First — touted as the “largest health club operator in the world” — I wasn’t particularly excited. Anyone can do large; all you need is money. But can you do better and different? I stepped into Fitness First in search of an answer to that question.
The good stuff
Large it is — about 18,000 sq. feet, I was told. With 25 treadmills, 30 spinning cycles, 500 lockers, many purple walls and blue lights, it’s definitely a surprise. The equipment is some of the best available, and there’s a separate spinning studio and yet another studio for various workouts, where they teach yoga, aerobics and dance. They also have specially designed group exercise programs including one that combines self-defense disciplines such as karate, boxing and taekwondo.
Members can choose any of these or the regular gym workouts. So, at least, boredom is eliminated. Also, they don’t charge extra for personal trainers — personal attention and a diet plan from the instructors come with the package.
Members are issued with a personal identification card that they can swipe at the entrance and come to the gym any time of the day, as many times as they want.
“We’re not a gym, we’re a health club,” Marcus Ballyn, operations project support manager, tells me. What that means is that besides working out here, you can hang out over a cup of coffee. There’s a separate area laid out with tables and chairs, equipped with tea, coffee and soft drink dispensers, and stocked with the latest magazines and newspapers. And — hold your breath — there’s a DVD collection too.
Fitness First will soon be opening in New Delhi, Bangalore and other cities.
The space is so big, it’s overwhelming. I’m always on the lookout for personal shopping and dining spaces; shopping malls and food courts put me off. So, you can imagine what this place, which looks something like a fitness mall (with way too many sweaty people around) did to me. The most shocking part: What’s an aerated drinks dispenser doing in a health club?
If you’re used to having a trainer breathing down your neck to make sure you complete your 50 crunches, this is not the place for you. Fifteen trainers working with so many members may not be your idea of personal training.
A monthly membership for Rs3,000 includes everything — the workouts, the DVDs and the drinks. The yearly memberships are slightly discounted.