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Airlines in the USA – My Rating July 12, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Aviation, Review, USA , add a comment

American Airlines, Delta, Continental, Jet Blue, Southwest, Northwest, US Airways and Alaskan are the airlines I had a chance to fly with over the last year and half of active travelling within US. My experience iwth Delta has prompted me to write this post. Of course I would mention the details later, but Delta is the worst airline to travel with, as per my experience.  Here we go:

My reserach for this post led me to this news item http://www.forbes.com/2007/09/26/airlines-performance-faa-biz-logistics-cx_rm_tvr_0927worstairlines.html

Of course I can’t be as objective and elaborate as The Forbes researched document on The America’s Worst Airlines, so I would rather insert a disclaimer – Please see this post as a blog based on personal experience and nothing more.

Simar’s Hall of Fame – Overall Rank
Southwest 1
Jet Blue 2
American Airlines 3
Alaskan Airlines 4
Continental 5
Northwest 6
American Eagle 7
Delta 8

 More to come…

Amber India at Santana Row – A Review July 9, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Bay Area, Food, India, Review , 1 comment so far

I have mentioned Amber India several times in my reviews about Indian restaurants in Bay Area, however i never got to doing a detailed review of Amber. Amber is a brand name for Indian food on one side and to many Indians it is not an Indian food restaurant at all. Yours truly being one of the many who never choose Amber for Indian food. With my (negative) bias put aside, I initiate my full review of Amber:

Date: July 6, 2008

Time: 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Address:  377 Santana Row, Ste 1140

City: San Jose, CA 95128, USA 

Tel: # ( 408 ) 248 5400

Restaurant Name: Amber India (Everyone pronounces it as Amber (the color), but to an Indian it is Amber (pronounced as Um ber – meaning Sky). The roof decoration with a star lit night sky puts the intent of the owners clearly and literally.

Location & Address: On Santana Row, San Jose. My rating: 10/10. You just can’t beat it. Ample parking too.

Food/ Menu: Indian and/or Americanized Indian/ Multi cuisine. My rating 4/10 very confusing, unstructured and lacking character. If Pindi Channa and Karavali Shrimps are in the same menu something has to be horribly wrong. Pindi Channa is supposed to be a take off on White Garbanzo or Chick Peas which are native to RawalPindi region of Punjab (the part of Punjab in Pakistan). http://www.mapsofworld.com/pakistan/pakistan-political-map.html   In the state of Punjab/ Pakistan. Rawalpindi is popularly known as Pindi. My mother was born and brought up in Pindi, I know my Pindi Channa – Pindi choley – or Chitey Choley as it is called in pindieven today. So if you go to Rawalpindi ask for Chitey Choley and not Pindi Channa. Karavali Shrimps are a take off on the Canara region of the state of Karnataka in southern India. Canara region comprises of the three coastal districts of Karnataka (Between Goa and Kerala on the western coastline of India). http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/karnataka/karnataka.htm food from Uttar Kannad, Shimoga and Dakshin Kannad is commonly referred to as Coastal Kanada food or Coasatal Karantaka food, or Karavali or Canara food or Mangalorian cuisine. Karavali style of cuisine has influence of both Goan and Kerala style of cooking and has liberal coconut flavor to everything. I very strongly feel that putting these two distinct signature items from their respective regions on a single menu in the city of San Jose in California, is more of opportunism than culinary challenge.

Pindi Channas were not Pindi Channas because the Garbanzo beans are little different than Indian Chick Peas and they were not soaked overnight in milk and water or even only water, or kept under moist muslin cloth for two days. Pindi Channas need to be slightly white in color as a dish not jet black what we got on our table.

Karavali Shrimps were not Karavali Shrimps. Amber India’s website claims Karavli Shrimps to be “Our signature recipe of stir-fried shrimps flavored with curry leaves and black pepper”,  curry leaves fine, black pepper fine but what is paste made of onions, tomatoes, and practically every Indian masala doing out there. That’s not what the description reads. At least I couldn’t find the coastal kanadatouch in the paste or in the shrimps, it was spicy with little more than usual salt. I remember the flavor of paste but not that of the shrimps. Curry leaves and black pepper should have highlighted the flavor  of very fine quality of shrimps which were used, but it just didn’t. On our table was an (by heritage) Irish/American, a  Malayali, a Bengali and a Punjabi. The Irish/ American couldn’t finish even the one piece he had taken, the Bengali and the Malayali choose not to take second helping, the Punjabi on the table of course had the second helping (after scrubbing the paste).

Ambiance: Excellent. The best for any Indian restaurant in the bay area. My rating 10/10.

Format: A la carte, full service. my rating 10/10

Drinks:Mango Lassi, Lemonade, Heineken – No issues. My rating 8/10.

Appetizers: Karavali ShrimpsExplained in food 3/10, if your guest just leaves it after eating one morsel, it just can’t be more than that. My 2 cents, if you are by heritage Indian go infor it, otherwise best avoided. Goan Steamed Mussels: They were in Goan gravy, they were steamed and they were fine mussels. My rating 9/10. I just loved them. Tandoori Appetizer Platter: Shrimps were good, Chciken (I am told was) excellent, Lamb (I am told was) horrible. My rating 6/10

Main Course: Mint Salmon Tikka: From no angle an Indian dish, except for the tikka word in its name. OK taste 4/10.

 Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani – was good, but I am told Tandoori Oven in downtown San Jose makes it better 7/10.

Bombay Fish Masala – Sea Bass in tomato & onion thick Garvy, very tasty and well cooked, my rating if you don’t look at authenticity as an Indian cuisine 10/10. 

Pindi Channa – I didn’t like it at all. Was left on the table too. Rajjot on Wolfe Road is my best choice. My rating 1/10.

Breads: Lacha parantha, Garlic naan. My rating 6/10.

Dessert: Gulab Jamuns were very nice. As they were not stuffed, I would say my rating is 9/10.

Interior: Nice and functional – My rating 8/10.

Tables: Comfortable 8/10

Cooling: About 75 (F) could be lower. 8/10

Rates: At about 15% to 20% lower this place would have been a good value for money. My rating 6/10.

Why go:Ambiance; Location; Americanized Indian Food, Something for everyone

Why Think Twice: If you want to eat what you love and you know how it should be made and how it should taste. Names and preparations can be misleading and authentic Indian food lovers may just avoid.

M&M’s World – A Review of the Flagship Store June 8, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Marketing, Review, Uncategorized , 2comments

At 11:30 PM walking on 7th Avenue my daughter Avval playfully asked me to take her to M&M, M&M to me was only those colored Dime size or smaller chocolates, what were clothes doing out there, a peep inside and we decided to make it one of our must see destinations for tomorrow.

There is a lot said about brand extensions, but this flavor of brand extension I had never seen and had no clue. When we landed up at M&M’s World - Flagship Store at 1600 Broadway New York, NY 10019 there, three of us had three distinct objectives, Avval to spend her pocket money, Mini to buy gifts, and self to understand the business logic behind all this. To me M&M had always been a Fun Chocolate Brand, essentially aimed at kids; it had effective last minute purchase strategyacrossthe world airports; it had a smiley with legs and boots as its brand ambassador; it was a company which had pursued its China manufacturing strategy aggressively to develop a range of packaging for its chocolates.

One visit to the M&M’s World store and I have started looking at the whole concept of chocolate retailing differently.

Some Observations:

  1. In New York; In Manhattan; On Broadway
  2. Three side open
  3. Three levels
  4. Decent size mouth but huge belly. The ground floor is the smallest, IInd Floor is the biggest, third floor is also decent in size.
  5. Washrooms are on third floor.
  6. Chocolate walls on IInd floor.
  7. Impulse buying; Impulse buying and Impulse buying.
  8. “We know how to loosen your purse strings.” Money upfront approach to business.
  9. It is a destination.
  10. No samples.
  11. No one checks you if you taste from the wall.
  12. We are a destination, 10 – 12 strategic placed photo opportunities.
  13. If Disney has, we have.
  14. Of course they know Hershey’s is next door, and they need to hold to parents.
  15. Deal corners for parents to “balance out”.
  16. No M&M employee should be without a product ever, displaying utility.
  17. Buy and close approach to selling, strategically located check outs.
  18. Ground floor has some of all.
  19. A child is encouraged to have “everything M” footwear, clothes, linen, cutlery, crockery.
  20. The huge Neon Poster wall outside ensures that everyone watches the commercial fully at least once.

 

 

Goodbye Christmas Carnivals Website! May 31, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Christmas, Internet, portals, Review, websites , add a comment

Way back in 1999, I was not taken seriously on my attempts to develop a Christmas site. What does a “Sardar” (Sikh) know about Christmas, and what are his credentials. Of course I knew just a little better than nothing about Christmas and had never been to a Church except as a tourist, so I had no credentials, per se.  I knew something about sites, and that got me going. Nine years of profitable ownership later, http://www.christmascarnivals.com is sold. Sold to Side Show Ventures, I am sure Jimmy Sutton  would be a far better owner-manager to my absentee landlord approach. 

Jim, congratulations on your acquiring Christmas Carnivals, it is a good site which offers lot of information on Christmas. It has been very close to my heart , and I would add a lot about the site to this post in next few days.

Let us have a farewell Q & A.

Q: What was the need to design and develop  a website for Christmas? 

A: I don’t need to develop websites, and surely not for a living. To me developing a website is picking up a canvas and letting it known as a painting. On a more serious note, way back in 1999 there were many sites on Christmas, but there was a need for the site on Christmas. Christmas Carnivals was developed to cover that niche. Christmas Carnivals was also developed as a spoke, to the hub and spoke model of  http://www.dgreetings.com. DGreetings, at that time had no significant section on Christmas and Christmas Carnivals acted as a spoke. It was you scratch my back, I scratch yours.  Having said that, Christmas Carnivals is very close to my heart, and would remain so. Every year, the site had a new look and a new treatment, we kept on changing the site

 More to come…

 

Book Expo America 2008 L.A. – A Review May 30, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Books, Review, Uncategorized , add a comment

There are authors, there are books, and then there is me. I must be the third most seen and noticed in this largely “white American” show.  So what is this turban doing amongst all this? MapXL Inc, the holding arm of Compare infobase for mapping business in the US decided to participate in this Book Expo; Mani felt that my being “Local” could be of “help.” I would wait for the verdict.

I drove south from San Jose on I-5 and covered the distance in 6 hours with three breaks. The journey was fine, and the Garmin Nuvi knew where I had to go, exactly.

  1. Pre arrangements and communications – 9/10
  2. Official hotel selection – 9/10
  3. Website: 9/10
  4. Shuttle service to the venue 10/10
  5. Information in rooms: 0/10
  6. Exhibition venue and guidance: 6/10 – technlogy is absent, signage is inadequate, the exhibition – it looks like hasn’t grown.
  7. Cooling: 8/10, Could have been a bit cooler
  8. Particpants :10/10 you name it and the publisher is there
  9. Authors: 9/10 Very Good book signing activity
  10. Walking area: 9/10 Plenty
  11. Food: 9/10 Plenty
  12. Restrooms: 4/10 -No good

After checking with a few regulars, I conclude there is a significant recession rub-off. High gas prices have also contributed in lesser footfalls.

I am glad we had prefixed appointments before coming here.

 

Coffee Company – Pleasanton, CA May 28, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Coffee, Food, Review , add a comment

Thank you GPS. I was driving back from Sacramento to San Jose with Mini and Mishti and we needed to go to restroom and some coffee. I didn’t want to go to Starbucks. All Food option on my GPS had the first listing as Coffee Co., my first thought was maybe Starbucks has not paid to Garmin for branding so they have just mentioned as Coffee Company, I was wrong. This is not Starbucks and it is Coffee Company, which serves Coffee with coffee. LoL.

Where? Coffee Company, 5424 Sunol Blvd. #7, Pleasanton, CA. (925) 462 5567

What we had? House Blend, Coffee with Coffee, Caffe Latte – House Blend, Apple Juice (bought out product),  Blueberry Bran and Walnut Banana Cake

How was it? Great, Fabulous, Outstanding

Ambiance & Decor: Has a distinct feel and the soul of the shop reflects. Place to go for a leisurely cup of coffee with your loved ones.

When to go? When you want coffee and not Starbucks.Cakes were good, you actually eat the cake and not the sugar… LoL..

Service: Very personalized and very warm. You just don’t want to leave.

 

Fresh: Absolutely fresh coffee and freshly baked cakes/ muffins.

Do we recommend? Yes. You must go if you are in Pleasanton and what you need is a cup of coffee.

When not to go?  If In hurry, this place may not work well. If you want a process based, factory experience of having Coffee, this would not work  atall.

Recommended for: Those who want to have a leisurely cup of coffee over a chat.

More to come…

 

Indian Restaurants in Bay Area May 25, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review , add a comment

Today Mini & seltf invited our fiends over for a Dinner. It was tough to choose from the seven eating places which are always talked about – Rajjot, Amber, Shagun, Dasaprakash, Tandoori Oven, Sarvana Bhawan and Udipi. My selection process worked like this:

Rajjot – Great food, but you just can’t take anyone there, it remains the most famous hole in a wall.

Amber – Continues to be the best brand for Indian food, with nothing authentic Indian about it – American Indian is the closest you can put it.

Shagun – Great ambiance, unpredictable food quality – too risky.

Sarvana Bhawan – I’ve not been there but drilling down revealed major service time issues.

Udipi – Becomes too noisy, doesn’t represent India in true light.

Tandoori Oven – No table orders, place order at the counter takes formal dinning pleasure away.

Dasaprakash – Best choice scenario. By course serving would have been a better format, but they are not staffed adequately for that so they get everything together.

Thanks Romit for introducing me to Dasaprakash and encouraging me to try them even on a weekend. Dasaprakash I conclude, is the best case scenario despite the fact that it has no drinks and no meat. 

More to come…

Retirement Planning For Your Future Years May 23, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Retirement Planning, Review , 1 comment so far

How should one react when someone who is in his early forties boisterously announces his retirement from the “rat race?”

 

How should one react when at forty he predicts his early retirement would ensure that he lives beyond 120 years – giving him 80 years of future life to live and enjoy?

 

This got me thinking towards what my retirement plans were and honest to goodness answer was – Nothing. I haven’t had the mind space to think about it at all. To me, retirement planning comes as a very different animal when compared to investment planning and planning your kids’ future. To me, it is preparing yourself for the sunset days.

 

I called back my friend after a week to educate myself. Here is the question and answer session which lasted for over two hours:

 

Dialogue between Me & My Friend:

 

Me: Do you think you have reached the correct retirement age or is it a knee jerk reaction to the miseries at work?

 

My Friend: It is a reaction to miseries of life, my life. For eighteen years I have lived only for someone else. Retiring early gives me reasons to live for myself too. As far as the correct retirement age is concerned – I know it has arrived for me. However, I don’t know if it is the same for you. I think my two hours would translate to more monetary benefits than my nine to never ending job did.

 

Me: Are you confident that you will be able to maintain and grow your living standard post retirement?

 

My Friend: I never lacked confidence but I always had it at stake. Today, my confidence is a free bird. To me it is important to have the confidence that I will enjoy my sunset years and live it to the fullest. Because enjoying a second life is a big challenge in itself to many of our peer group. Living standard and life style are very subjective and geography dependent. So, I have defined their boundaries and set my own living standards.

 

Me: Would your investments be able to provide hedge against exceptional inflation and money market crisis? Your fortune may be wiped out due to unforeseen circumstances, you don’t have hundreds of millions, your savings as per you are are modest, how’s your `what if analysis’? What all does it budget for?

 

My Friend: The word unforeseen is self explanatory, yes you are right exceptional money market crisis and inflation may threaten my existence, however they would threaten it either way whether I am working or not. I would have mind-space when that happens and my being retired would surely give me a better window to correct things and my reaction would be faster than those who would be in midst of the crisis.I have done some what of geographic hedging, some currency hedging and some investment in bullion and real estate. Yes, it is a conscious hedging, things may go wrong still, and I know that.  

 

 

Me: What do you think are the options for your future years? Would you really be able to relax and keep yourself busy?

 

My Friend: I am not throwing away my organized living habits, I am just rejigging my priorities. My options are mixed bag of personal/ social and commercial activities. From 80% commercial life, I am down to 20% commercial. I have time for my dentist sessions and my ophthalmologist. I can actually spend twenty minutes on my much needed eye exercises. Less stress has improved my driving, bringing down the probability of any serious accident. For the first time I have time to spend on causes which have always been close to me, I am glad, I am actually going beyond the lip service.

 

Me: You know, our company has been working with a very `young’ man who drives fast red cars, his project is all about retirement and beyond, http://www.futureyears.com is coming up as the most challenging project. Being there done that always adds a new dimension to the project, Jim Sutton is doing exactly that with Future Years. Jim has had a great first life and now is working for an equally exciting second life. I must also check with him his personal views about life after retirement.

 

My Friend: Yes, that would be exciting to know.

 

My Friend: What all does FutureYears.com cover and which geography does it address too.

 

Me: As per Karin, Jim’s partner in this venture, Future Years covers all that you  need to know to enjoy your golden years. If I recall correctly, Future Years covers travel; health; finances; insurance; conducive and healthy locales to retire too and a whole lot of other things. I am told, Wikipedia.org also has a rich section on retirement planning.

 

My friend: What about careers and post retirement job information on the internet. 

 

Me: There should be a lot of information on the internet, in specific, I am sure  about http://www.futureyears.com - the site has quite a few sections dedicated  to post retirement career options, if only you wish so. LoL. On a lighter side, I remember a section on active travel and cruises.

 

This session with my friend, and subsequent discussions with Jim & Karin  convinced me that it is never too early to plan for your retirement. Your future is secure the day you start doing retirement planning, so that way, sooner the better.

 

 

Fujiya Chinese and Japanese Restaurant – Review May 20, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Food, Review, Uncategorized , add a comment

February 26,  1985 was my first time at Fujiya and yesterday was the last.

Date: May 19, 2008

Time: 8:45 pm to 10:20 pm

City: New Delhi

Address: Community Centre, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri

Country: India

Restaurant: Fujiya Chinese & Japanese

Occasion: Invite from a cousin

Location: Next to Carmel Convent School, Malcha Marg, New Delhi 110026

Drinks: Coke – No Issues; Fresh Lime Soda – You just can’t make it better.

Format – Comfortable sitting, table service.

Starters: Golden Fried Jumbo Prawns – Their Jumbos are really Jumbos, served four pieces, thy are just superb; Chicken Drum Sticks – 8 pieces 2 kids, nothing left, one didn’t have to tell the kids to clean the bones, all done all set; Button Mushrooms – very good. Dry Chili Chicken – They don’t have it as menu item in starters, but they provide on request – very good.

Main Course: Veg Hakka Noodles – They are Chinese and not Punjabi in taste; American Chopsuey – It is crispy with right portion of vegetables and sauce which doesn’t make it soggy till very end. Portions are good; Whole Red Snapper – Red Snapper is one of my favorites and the way serve with thick gravy and vegetables, it is just awesome.

Water: Buying bottled water recommended, they have Catch Brand, which is among the best.

Locational Access: Very good.

Parking: Ample parking available bang outside the door, lunch time parking could be tough.

Ambiance: Simple and functional.

Interior: Just fine for this price range, could be better.

Tables: Functional, Clean hot plates.

Cooling: Excellent

Acoustics:  Very good acoustics, doesn’t become noisy. 

Staff Attitude: Caring and excellent to regulars.

Service: Quick and courteous.

Washroom: Not up-to the mark, but clean nevertheless.

Rates: About Rs 600.00/ $15 per-head. 

Why Go: Food, Reputation, Rates, Central Delhi Location, Authentic

Why Think Twice: Interiors

Barbeque Nation Restaurant – A Review May 18, 2008

Posted by simarprit in : Barbecue, City, Food, Review , 5comments

Date: May 18, 2008

Time: 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm

City: New Delhi (Janak Puri Outlet)

Address: B-1/ 623 Janakpuri, (Near District Center)

Country: India

Restaurant: Barbeque Nation; Owners: Barbeque Nation Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

Occasion: Sunday evening Family Dinner

Location: Bang opposite District Center Janakpuri on Shivaji Marg/ Najafgarh Road.

Map: http://www.mapsofindia.com/delhi/block-b-jankpuri.html

Drinks: Masala Cola – No issues ; Pistachio Twirl – No issues

Format – One Price buffet spread, no drinks included. Barbecue on the table.

Starters: 5 Veg and 5 Non Veg Starters – Served on the table – Directly to plates or on skewers kept on Charcoal Grill placed in the hollow center of the table:

Vegetarian Starters: Hara Seekh Kabab - totally avoidable; Mushrooms on skewers – OK; Thai Grilled Vegetables – very good; Uncut Sauteed Potatoes on skewers - very good;  Paneer Tikka - trash, poor quality of Cottage Cheese followed up with extremely poor marination. 

Non Vegetarian Starters: Chicken Kabab on skewers – OK; Mutton Seekh Kabab – all chilli no taste; Chicken Boneless tandori – Good; Fish Fry – very good; Prawns on skewers- very good.

Salads: Standard unexciting spread with an exception of Corn Salad. 

Main Course Buffet (Non Veg Menu) Spread: Standard Upper Middle Class North Indian Shaadi Spread, looks like a roll call. 1 chicken dish (Chicken Tikka Masala) – Good; Mutton Biryani – Good; 1 mutton dish (Rogan Josh) – Good, 1 fish (Lemon Sauce) – Rubbish and hopeless and above all it was stale and real bad – had to be vomited out instantly and still live with chances of food poisoning for several hours. 

Main Course Buffet (Vegetarian Menu) Spread: Dum Daal – Regular OK; Veg Manchurian – OK; Paneer Dish – Horrible, they have a problem with their quality of Paneer; Mushroom dish – Good. Veg Biryani – Very Good; Roti & Naan – Good.

Deserts: Fresh Fruits – OK, Gulab Jamun – good; Ice cream with sauces very good.

Water: Kinley bottled water served as part of the buffet.

Locational Access: Very good.

Parking: Valet support.

Ambiance: Very good.

Interior: Excellent for this price range.

Tables: Very Good, Plates need to be wiped once brought on the table.

Cooling: Not correct tonnage. Becomes too hot, with live grill.

Acoustics & Music: Acoustics bad, becomes very noisy, Music could be far better. 

Staff Attitude: Indifferent

Service: Very Fast but totally Unpersonalized

Washroom: Insufficient numbers and not very clean

Rates: Reasonable (at 500 + drinks in May 2008 )

Why Go: Ambiance; Location; Concept; Starters

Why Think Twice: Main Course unexciting menu; Indifferent staff and unpersonalized service; Process flawed – stale fish landed on the table, I noticed – Fish was withdrawn from the buffet for rest of our stay. Thank God.

More to come…