Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Grand Feast in ECR - Maplai

The food scene in East Coast Road, Chennai just got a face-lift thanks to a series of cafes and restaurants setting up shop here. The latest addition to this is the well known "Maplai" restaurant . After getting rave reviews of their first branch in Nungambakkam, they have now confidently expanded to ECR. This should definitely be included in one of ECR Top Restaurants.

Luckily I was invited to a food bloggers meet to try out their super speciality "Maplai Virundhu" on the house. "Maplai" literally translates to Bridegroom in a wedding. Hence the meal technically stands for a grand feast that is usually served as a part of the hosting ceremony for the new family. So you might probably imagined how the meal served here turned out to be.

Maplai Virundhu Menu

Staying true to its name, the menu had an enormous variety of dishes right from a delicious soup, 8 types of veg starters, 6 non-veg starters, 3 rice varieties, 8 types of gravies, 10 types of breads and 6 starters.

Quite thankfully, they have this meal served on the table than the standard buffet fare you find in most hotels. Without a doubt, it was a fabulous meal and definitely one of the best I've had in recent times. The lunch started with a thick Tomato Soup and then came 8 irrestible dips in various colours along wiht freshly fried Vadaams ( a South indian version of Paapads). The Dips included Mint, Avaka Mayo, Chilli & Garlic and a few other variants. They should have probably added a disclaimer, that this could be super addicitive and you cant resist eating them.


Coming to the most favourite part of my meal, I give extreme importance while choosing a buffet. Despite being a vegetarian, I was given around 8 choices (most of them cooked in Andhra style)  which included grilled pineapple, bashed potatoes, Tandoori Vegetables, crispy fried Okras (LadiesFinger), Guntur Corn and ending with Paneer Tikkas . The starters were not anywhere similar to what you get you in typical "Barbeque" joints but rather had a distinct flavour , cooked in a Southern style which was super refreshing.

Main Course 

Having been given an interesting foray in starters, the main course also followed suit to have a completely revamped menu. Main course included 3 types of rice and 10 types of "South Indian" breads. This included Ghee Rice, "Thalassery Biryani" and Curd Rice. The Thalassery Biryani in particular was one of the highlights of my meal . The rice coupled with the curry layer beneath turned out to be the best I've had . My craving for "Veg" Biryani has suddenly shot up post this.

The South Indian breads included : Malabar barotta, Appam, Idiyappam , Coin Parotta, Kal Dosai, Paniyaram, Wheat Parotta and the likes (All served on request) and not the usual Tandoori Rotis and Naans.


A grand feast certainly contains a  dessert that should ideally a notch above what was servd earlier. The guys at "Maplai" ensured just that with a delightful mix of 6 types of desserts. These included :
Sheer Kuruma(Vermicilli Payasam), Paan Ice Cream, Kubaani Ka Meetha, Pudding made out of coconut milk, Fried Bread soaked in Masala Milk and Tapioca Phirni .

This is certainly one meal that you should experience atleast once.

Maplai Restaurant in ECR is located near to the Neelangarai station and quite easily identifiable from the road.

Maplai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 14, 2017

Under Construction Plug-In

So the first time I encountered this Wordpress plugin , I mistook it to be something under development. Only to later realize it was an app to build a temporary under construction process and hence the name for this coming soon page plugin.

coming soon page plugin

Having said that, this can be an incredibly useful plugin which makes a huge difference in terms of professionalism and retaining visitors to you site . Despite buying a hosting and domain plan, there's still a lot of work left in building the site, adding content, designing a template etc.

During the process, you may have felt the need to inform a set of audience that this is your domain. As expected the traffic might flow through , and they'll thrown with a bad error page ( probably a 404) or an incorrect URL page or worst case doesn't open at all.

Designing Temporary Pages

Retaining every person who comes through your site is key in engagement and increasing the organic traffic percentage. In software development mode, this is called "Test/Sandbox" environment and a "Live/Production" environment. In a website, you may not have such facilities or advanced features to create two parallel environments. So until you require the site with actual content to go "Live", you require a temporary "Under Construction" or better "Coming Soon" page.

Designing a temporary page should be very important to attract audience ,make them remember to come back once the site is live. You should also have some  social media handles in the page which can help them stay connected to your website. In a normal blog editor all you can do is add a page full of text and a couple of images. This may not really appeal and may look very unprofessional or amateur.

To solve this and make the job much simpler (of course save on hiring expensive web designers), you have a free WordPress plugin called Under Construction.

So what should you do to get this?
  • Download the plugin here
  • Activate in the plugins panel in your WP Dashboard.
  • Configure the settings,social media links etc
  • Choose one among the 100's of page designs which you find here :
  • You are Done!

coming soon page designs

Advantages of using Coming soon page plugin :

  • Its super easy to use and loads pretty fast.
  • It's FREE !!
  • Updated designs are available every month.
  • Provides support for all caching plugins.
  • Highly optimized for SEO.
  • Social media integration with the page.
  • Google Analytics tracking of views support.

If you still have doubts, you can probably check their video here

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Aggregator of Decors - A Curated Collection by Home Canvas

One of the biggest challenges you face while buying something is you don't know where to look. Be it online or offline, you may have several stores specializing in that product and it can be always a tough choice to check everything. A recent trend to fix this issue is to identify a "curated collection".

A curated collection is a selected list of the top selling and most preferred products in that category across different websites, categories and designs. An expert in the field or through popular votes, the best items are carefully hand picked from thousands of varieties across a multitude of sites.

Your job becomes far easier and quicker to buy a couple of these from a much refined list. This has been pretty much the need of the hour and many sites have sprung up to address the issue. However most sites only deal with electronics, technology or fashion.

The market of Home Decors, Furniture , Interiors and Furnishings is a relatively new entrant to online space compared to others. However the choices offered online are excellent and far cheaper than local stores. You can get beautiful designs from different parts of the country , all in a single page.

Until now, furniture shopping was plainly restricted to selecting something that was available in a mini catalogue book in the store. You were quite literally forced to get something , just because nothing else was available. Home Canvas seems to address just that. A discovery platform , as they call it, they have experts who curate stores, suppliers to find the most perfect furniture products. This ranges from style, material and price to choose the best of decors for your house.

So if you are planning to do a home makeover or even styling a new home, you can simply choose from one of the furniture collections, Home Canvas has put up. One thing's for sure. The products you see , you couldn't have possibly come across most of them.

Be it that Bohemiam vase or the textured glass jars or the beautiful golden mirror,  you can find them all in Home Canvas.

From what I saw , Home Canvas is displaying the curated collections from different websites including Chumbak, Zufolo, Wooden Street, FabFurnish, Gulmohar Lane, HOF India and 100's of other sites. I myself discovered some of these sites only because of them.

My favourite Collections included :

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Top Laptops under 60000 Rs

Buying laptops can be very tricky. Without much knowledge into the world of processors, memory, storage etc, you'll be inundated with hundreds of models from something as low as 25,000 to as high as 1.5 Lakhs.  Additionally each brand comes with different specs at similar prices and narrowing it down to a few things can be super difficult, esp if you are looking for some top laptops under 60000 rs.

Some of the top choices include HP Laptops, Dell, Lenovo, Apple and Acer. Even Microsoft came into this field with their kickass Surface Laptop. I bought myself a laptop, nearly after a month of research and it was a major ordeal. I have literaly come to memorize the model names and the configurations after tons of comparisons. In order to save you the trouble, I have put together 5 laptops in different price ranges which could be a great buy.

Laptops under 35,000 INR

Configuration you could get is as follows
  • Intel I3 process ( or an equivalent AMD A8 processor )
  • RAM: 4GB RAM
  • OS : with or without Win 10
  • Graphic Card : Integrated graphics Card or 2GB AMD Graphics card
  • Storage : 1 TB
Best options include :

HP Core i3 5th Gen 14- ac153TX Notebook

Dell Inspiron Core i3 6th Gen 3467 Notebook 

Laptops under 40,000 INR

Configuration you could get is as follows
  • Intel i3 or i5 processor ( or an equivalent AMD A8 processor )
  • RAM: 4GB / 8GB RAM
  • OS : with or without Win 10
  • Graphic Card : 2GB AMD Radeon Graphics Card
  • Storage : 1 TB
 Best options include :

1. HP 15-AY513TX

2. Lenovo Ideapad 300 80Q700UEIN

Laptops under 50,000 INR

Configuration you could get is as follows
  • Intel i5 processor 
  • RAM: 8GB RAM
  • OS : with or without Win 10
  • Graphic Card : 2GB AMD Radeon Graphics Card
  • Storage : 1 TB
Best options include :
  • HP Core i5 6th Gen 15-AY507TX Notebook 

Top Laptops under 60,000 INR

Configuration you could get is as follows
  • Intel i5 or i7 processor 
  • RAM: 8GB RAM
  • OS : Win 10
  • Graphic Card : 2GB AMD Radeon M430 or NVIDA Geforce 840X Graphics Card
  • Storage : 1 TB
Best options include :

Dell Insprion Core i7 7th Gen - 3567 Notebook

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Overcoming Darkness - Dialogues in Dark : An Experential Activtiy

Darkness has different meanings. It can be a state of life with just an absence of light. Or rather a negative force that may be pointing towards you. Much worse, this darkness rising may be a cloud of bad memories that are preventing you to move on, nor letting you live in the present as well.

darkness rising 2017

Being in the dark is not equal to living in darkness. The first refers to a state of ignorance and evil, while the latter is merely living unguided by light.We haver never really understood how our brain may function when it's not provided with complete info. A full visual aid from the eyes makes it possible to move, calculate the next steps and proceed with the navigation. What if this sensory information is suddenly turned off?  A small power cut at home and you find yourself struggling to move ahead. You have lived there for several years and yet you tend to grapple. This may not even be 100% dark. You always have a dim streak of moonlight, giving you that extra bit of help you need to move ahead.

This is not quite the same as moving ahead with eyes closed. When you close your eyes, you shut off all kinds of illumination and you need to now activate a different sensory perception for any kind of activity. Your hands feel the object ahead of you, it's what it might be. You might want to either hold it to move ahead or even push it aside. It just gets a whole lot difficult, when its in an area that you have never been used to.

Ever wondered, what goes on inside a visually disabled person? How is their world different from ours? What guides them and how do they survive in a state of permanent darkness? Managing their way even through busy roads, avoiding manholes and going back home with a little help can truly be a commendable thing.

dialogues in dark experience

Dialogues in the Dark - An experiential Activity

Dialogue in the Dark aims to bring out just that. You enter  a state of complete darkness or 'pitch dark' as you may colloquially call it. It is so dark that you may initially find a little strain on the eye. Of course it all lasts for just 2 minutes. Once you are past that , the brain gets to accept and adjusts based on your surroundings. A visually challenged person takes you around the floor, that has several activities lined up in front of you. Be it crossing a dangling bridge or playing blind cricket or even trying to eat a mini lunch, this is an experience you should definitely try out. There are other interesting activities as well ,which I would let you discover than me describing it.

Dialogues in the dark experience

Food in the Dark Experience

Coming to the food, it's not often you may have eaten in complete darkness. Of course most restaurants have dim lighting , providing a "candle light" experience. But eating something in complete darkness can be a whole different ballgame. In front of you is placed a hot tiffin carrier, which you get to dismantle, identify the food items and relish them purely based on taste. I was served with a Haryali Paneer Tikka, Gobi 65, Roti and Kashmiri Pulao. The food was great and probably the first time I actually got to feel the real taste, without the imagery shrouding it.

Having food in the dark experience

Experience the Darkness Rising

This is a very unique experience and it definitely can be an eye opener for a lot of you. Visually you may have been enticed to a lot of things in life. But for the first time, you are now treated to a delightful experience which you actually get to feel from inside.Naturally given the darkness, don't expect any pictures . Additionally, you are not allowed to carry your electronic devices including mobile phones inside or any light emitting devices to retain the darkness.

overcoming darkness rising experience

I was invited to a bloggers meet by Dialogues in Dark through Chennai Bloggers Club and has definitely given me a memorable, unforgettable experience and hence my above review.

Location of Dialogue in Dark : The restaurant is located at the 3rd floor of Express Avenue Mall, Chennai (opposite to Escape Cinemas). The walking experience is rouhgly 45 minutes while the dining is another 50 minutes.  Dialogue in the Dark has been present worldwide in 43 countries in 130 cities visited by 10 million visitors. In India, Dialogue in the Dark is present in Hyderabad, Bangalore & Chennai.

Dialogue In The Dark Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato