April Rain multi-cuisine restaurant is tucked away in the Centriole Mall on ITI Road in Aundh. The area is bustling with a lot of new development with the real estate explosion in the Aundh/ Baner area, and this once quiet internal road now boasts many brand name stores like Crossword and Starbucks.
Owner and Master Chef Milind Sovani is an award winning celebrity chef known for modern and contemporary cuisine. So when I was invited to April Rain for a food tasting, I jumped at the chance. K, in my mind at least!
The visit was planned and coordinated efficiently by Reshu, April Rain’s marketing head. I set off for Aundh amidst a light drizzle and super heavy traffic. Seriously, who needs sky diving when you can brave Pune traffic? And there is no parachute here! The restaurant was pretty easy to find and there was basement parking which is a blessing. Senior citizens and couch potatoes will be glad to note that there is a working elevator from the parking area to the restaurant level.
After being welcomed by gracious hostess Sonam and Reshu, we settled down to an afternoon of culinary delight. April Rain has a well stocked bar with seating in the bar area, another seating area two steps up, and one more on the second floor. Outdoor seating is also available, which is actually within the mall and covered, but has a more casual feel. Ambience at April Rain is soothing and it will immediately make you forget the outside world. I loved the soft lighting and wood accents.
The drinks menu was huge with a nice selection of cocktails and mocktails. They stock everything from local whisky like Signature to single malts like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, and even Talisker from the Isle of Skye. Bourbon fans will get their Jack Daniels hit and vodka lovers will get their Grey Goose. The wine selection includes labels like the Australian Jacob’s Creek, Seagram’s Nine Hills, Yellow Tail and Sula.
I tried the Sangria, a combination of red wine, orange juice, brandy & diced fruits which had a nice balance of flavors – neither too dry nor too sweet. People who like port wine will love the sangria. The Cosmo martini or Cosmopolitan was generous and potent and quite smooth, but slightly sweeter than I prefer it. Angel’s Treat was a fantastic fizzy mocktail made with pomegranate, passion fruit & lime juice, topped up with sparkling citrus .
Minty Shikanji, fresh limes muddled with mint & topped up with lemonade, was lemony and fresh tasting, very much like a virgin mojito – perfect for lunch or warm weather, or with heavy food.
April Rain has a huge menu with different cuisines featured on it. I was spoiled for choice but certainly could not taste everything. A round of appetizers began with filo wrapped cheese sticks. Before I say more, I would like to say that I had seen some pictures of April Rain’s food online before I went there, and I had been impressed with the plating and presentation. But the photos could not compare with the real thing.
Chef Milind is very particular about the aesthetics of his food, and takes pride in presenting his creations in a pretty way per global standards.
Filo is the thin pastry (‘samosa patti’) that is used to make desserts like Baklava. The Filo made a thin and crunchy shell and a further coating of what seemed to be vermicelli or thin rice noodles added to the crispiness. The oregano flavor was strong and the dipping sauce just adequate, both in taste and quantity.
Executive Chef Janwalkar ushered in a sampler of more vegetarian appetizers. The Multani Paneer Tikka, although red, was mildly spiced and melted in the mouth. No wonder since they make their own fresh paneer in house! Tandoori Broccoli was creamy and spicy with a perfect marinade. The broccoli retained its green color and was tender crisp with a slight bite to it – no mean feat, let me tell you. Broccoli is still quite new in the Indian market and can be an acquired taste. While I love my broccoli steamed or raw (yes), the Tandoori marination is a good way to introduce people to this cruciferous vegetable using familiar flavors.
Til ke Aloo was a work of art. It’s a potato stuffed with potatoes and cheese, but you won’t know where the skin stops and the stuffing begins. Spice lovers will like this dish that lulls you with its creamy texture but shocks you with its hot flavors. The crispy cheese stuffed mushrooms were perfectly seasoned and something I can probably eat a dozen of.
The Pièce de résistance was brought in by the servers – Mumbai’s Fab Martini with Herbed Crostini – Chef Milind’s twist on our very own Pav Bhaji. Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for this. First of all, everything looks good served in a cocktail glass, and second of all, everything tastes good in a cocktail glass! This presentation is so perfect for parties or events. All you gotta do is hold the stem of the glass and then eat the crostini at your pace. The actual Bhaji itself was a sublime preparation. One bite took me back to my childhood, perhaps the time when Pav Bhaji was new on the scene and going out for a street side dinner of Pav Bhaji a highlight in my junior high life. Creamy and buttery with the right level of spices, there were fresh chopped vegetables in the sauce giving a great contrast. The crostini or ‘Pav’ itself was toasted perfectly and loaded with garlic and butter.
If you had to choose one appetizer at April Rain, this should be it!
Homemade nachos with refried beans, cheese and salsa provide a taste of Mexican food. The salsa was fresh with just a touch of chili and had a good balance. Lemon Coriander soup was tangy with fresh crispy vegetables and a clear broth. Other dishes I would have liked to taste were the Feta and Madras Onion stuffed mushroom caps and Paneer Anardana Tikka. But it was time to move to the Mains.
I couldn’t resist tasting the Caesar salad though. The salad had a creamy dressing with fresh croutons. I would have loved to have some Parmesan shavings on the Caesar salad with maybe a slightly stronger Dijon flavor. And I miss the crunchy Romaine I am used to – for some reason neither the iceberg nor the Romaine grown locally has a snap or crunch to it.
April Rain has an extensive Indian section for vegetarians. This is good news for vegetarians because the vegetarian menu has many options that are not just an extension of their non-veg counterparts. The menu is clearly a chef’s menu and features dishes that are close to his heart.
I tried the Bangkok Green Curry with rice which was mildly spiced and fresh. There was thankfully no fish sauce or shrimp in it since their Thai curry Paste is made fresh on the premises.
Knowing my preference for mildly spiced food, Sonam recommended the Cottage Cheese and Bell pepper Dundee with classic cream curry sauce and herb buttered rice. This is another dish I simply loved. The presentation was pleasing and the dish had all the elements – protein from paneer, starch from the herbed buttered rice and some steamed veggies on the side. The creamy curry sauce was perfectly spiced and seasoned and the whole dish fit my idea of comfort food. Or ‘stick to your ribs’ food!
I couldn’t resist trying something Italian and chose the spinach and corn ravioli. The ravioli at April Rain is another must try dish. Generously stuffed and robust, the ravioli had the expected bite to it. A creamy cheese sauce with loads of garlic provided a perfect complement. An assortment of breads was provided with the ravioli but by this time, I was too stuffed and wanted room for dessert.
Good food tastes better amidst lively conversation, and we had plenty of it in the company of Chef Milind Sovani. Bursting with energy, Chef Milind has a captivating aura and his passion for his work is evident. The chef shared interesting anecdotes about his long career working at elite restaurants like the Juhu Centaur, hobnobbing with the glitterati. Chef Milind delights in taking lesser known cuisine from the hinterland of India and showcasing it in a stylish manner. He is also an expert in South East Asian cusine, and his new restaurant at the PYC Club features a lot of Asian dishes like Burmese Khao Suey, Indonesian Nasi Goreng, Pad Thai etc.
Based on the chef’s recommendation, we tried the Blueberry lemon cheesecake. Made with a traditional cracker or biscuit crust with mascarpone cheese and cream and a blueberry coulis, the cheesecake was bursting with blueberry flavor. It did not do the ‘gelatine jiggle’ which is a big plus in my book. I only wish it was a traditional New York style baked cheesecake with the same taste! Chikki ice cream was another sweet treat. Their chikki or peanut-cashew brittle is made fresh in house.
All the appetizers were great and I loved the cottage cheese bell pepper Dundee with cream sauce. Spinach Ravioli was a winner, and so were the desserts. I didn’t even skim the surface as far as the menu goes. I would have loved to taste the Awadhi Paneer, Punjabi Kadhi Pakodi, Harra Subz , Subzi Biryani, Pasta in Vodka sauce, pesto and so much more.
I cannot comment much on the portion size because I requested smaller portions for the tasting. But the service was exemplary. The wait staff was courteous and knowledgeable. Plates were removed efficiently without having to ask, cutlery was replaced promptly. There was a lot of attention to detail. Like the bread basket appeared along with the ravioli without having to ask for it!
Summing up, I think April Rain is a place where you can enjoy a gourmet meal with your family, and everyone from kids to grandparents will find something to their liking. The food is made fresh, presented beautifully and has an exotic element at a reasonable price point. There is an extensive vegetarian selection in addition to the non-vegetarian one. And the menu is so vast you will not exhaust it even after a few visits.
So head over to Aundh and April Rain restaurant to try Master Chef Milind Sovani’s delectable creations. And if you happen to be a PYC Club member, you can sample them at Deccan too.
Contact Information –
Ground Floor, Centriole Mall, Near Ozone Mall, ITI Road, Aundh, Pune, Maharashtra-411007
Phone No: 088 05 310001
Website – http://aprilrain.in
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/AprilRainResto