Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Trophy, YMCA International Center, Ahmedabad

It’s been almost two years in Ahmedabad now, and off-late, there have opened up places that are trying their best to come up to metropolitan standards. It was a Saturday, the eat-out day, and I was browsing online for a place we haven’t been to before. I came across The Trophy at YMCA International Center. It is located a little farther away from the main city, located on SG Highway, inside the YMCA International Center. Anyways, I called up The Trophy and asked for a reservation. I was told that if a table is vacant when I arrived, it will be given to me, but they don’t take reservations.

Now, this is another peculiar feature in Gujarat. First, you won’t get a reservation at 99% of the places, from starred hotels to roadside eateries, because keeping a table vacant for someone who telephoned would cost the restaurant the money it would have otherwise made had it not taken the reservation!Standards can go to hell; it’s the money that counts! This attitude can be seen more on the weekends. And even if the guy on the other side does book you a table, you will have to invariably wait for it on arriving at the place!

The trophy is located in the YMCA International Center building, with valets available to take care of your car. A flight of stairs to the first floor takes you to the restaurant. It was a Saturday, and as a ritual, there are virtually no eating joints where you don’t have to wait to eat. This is one state where people are ready to wait for as long as 2 hours at a stretch to eat at some of the worst places! Yes, and I'm not exaggerating! We were greeted by a large crowd waiting for their tables. I located the lady I had spoken over the phone with, and politely asked her to get me a table ASAP. Must have been my lucky day, we got one within 10 minutes!

The ambiance is one of the best I've seen in Ahmedabad’s restaurants. The area is large, but not huge, with about 35 covers (my guess), spread evenly. The owners seem to be die-hard cricket fans, as cricket posters, sports quotes, equipment and memorabilia can be seen hanging or pasted around the walls and the ceiling. A bit overdone perhaps, but not obstructive. A full-size statue of Sachin Tendulkar stands right at the entrance that his fans might rejoice. A bar is located in a corner, though no alcohol is served. It was the IPL season, and the restaurant has installed about 25-odd televisions, in a way that every diner sitting inside can have the view of at least one of them. Thoughtful! 

The menu designs also seem to have been carefully thought over.  It is large, nicely laid out and an even mix of Indian,Continental, Italian and Chinese. Every page contains pictures of famous sportspersons, along with the fare, which makes it an interesting read.  When we asked about the number of chefs, we were told there were just two. The warning bells started ringing. I cannot possibly imagine two people, however competent they might be, being able to churn up so many different cuisines perfectly, and at such pace! Whatever, we let fate decide the course of our evening. For starters, we ordered Stir Fried Chicken in Hunan Sauce (275); Fish Fingers with Tartar Sauce (285) and a Hot & Sour Soup (165). As the food arrived and we took the first bite, the bells stopped ringing, and a sweet, warm feeling took us over.

The Stir Fried Chicken in Hunan sauce was one of THE best dishes I've tasted in Ahmedabad till date! Delightfully crunchy and juicy chicken, delicately flavoured with star anise; a hint of black pepper, soya and chilly; the balance was perfect! This just bowled us over! Fish Fingers were good too. Though nicely crisp on the outside, the fish itself was a tad overcooked. The soup, however, had an overdose of cornflour and therefore was very thick- not the way I like. Moreover, the ‘hot’ and ‘sour’ elements were subdued; I would've expected it to have a sharper flavor. Main course was ordered and consisted of The Ultimate Non-Veg Skillet (325); Mexican Hot-Pot Rice (395); Vegetarian Thai Green Curry with Steamed Rice (350). Drinks comprised a Coconut Mojito and a regular Mojito (125 each).

The Ultimate Non-Veg Skillet was chicken chunks, chicken sausage, mushrooms, baby potatoes and baby corn, topped with pepper sauce, cheese and a fried egg, arranged in a frying pan. Nice touch of showmanship! Personally, I think the elements individually sounded good, but when combined, they didn’t give the desired effect. The pepper sauce was not really gelling with the rest of the components; had too much of pepper and the sauce itself was a bit too thick for my liking. But the meats were well cooked and retained the bite till the end. The Mexican Hot Pot Rice came to us in an earthen pot, with tortillas and soup sticks standing up around it. Looked nice! The dish contained rice, vegetables and stray pieces of meat in the same gravy as the Non-Veg Skillet, so the taste was altogether the same.

The Thai Curry was a complete let-down; the curry had a super-overpowering amount of lemongrass in it. Thai curry is something that has to have a perfect balance of the prominent ingredients-, lemongrass, kaffir lime and a hint of basil. But this curry was completely unpalatable! We had to send it back.  Absolutely not recommended.       

The drinks- the mojito was nice, with all the ingredients coming together, but the coconut version didn’t have any ‘coconut’ whatsoever! Both drinks looked alike, tasted alike. I should’ve better had a soft drink perhaps.

Being in Gujarat, I've learnt a lesson. Never judge a restaurant by the number of people sitting inside, and the long lines of the ones waiting. People would go to the worst places and be willing to wait to eat. If you know your food, this is certainly not a criterion. Anyhow, looking at their menu, the Trophy does look promising. Barring a few dishes, they seem to churn up a decent fare. They however, need to work on their drinks.

My next visit will happen soon, and this time it would be a different set of dishes. Hope it will go up a notch in the impressions..

Ed: Edited version first published on