Ramadan Feast 2014 @Barah Handi & Minara Masjid in Mumbai

20 days into the Holy month of Ramadan, and we finally went for our annual food pilgrimage to Barrah Handi and Minara Masjid in South Mumbai. It has been 8 Ramadans in Mumbai now, and I am proud to say that I have been there every year without fail. And while Ramadan signifies abstinence for the faithfuls, I have to admit, its indulgence me. Over the years we have managed to rub off this indulgence amongst most of our non-veg friends, and so, last evening, eleven of us landed at Crawford Market at 9 in the night, cursing that the next day was a Monday!

Go to Barah Handi first. And so, without much ado, we headed right from Crawford Market, towards J J Flyover and went in through the last lane on the left. You cannot miss the brightly lit tent of the best ‘Barah Handi (12 Vessels)’ restaurant in Mumbai. It is just after the mosque, and have proper seating arrangements. We were surprised that they did a very good job with the rain cover too this year. Unless you land there by 8.30 pm, it will take you some time before you get a table.

The speciality here is the iconic ‘12 Handi’ dish (a little bland honestly) which is an amazing concoction of 12 gravies mixed together and served in a small plate-bowl. I don’t think they use any water in the cooking and every dish here is covered with litres of oil/animal fat. We absolutely love the Nalli Nihari here which has the tastiest gravy, followed by ‘Pichoda’ (backbone) which is the tenderest of meat falling off the bones. Paya is available for Mutton lovers as the former dishes is all ‘bada’ or beef. They serve it with a huge round roti.

Also order grilled chicken here, which they bring from their other outlet just a few metres away at the end of the road. Choose from the Red, Green & White Chicken options. The green one is by far their most popular — one of the juiciest, tastiest barbequed chicken you will ever have – guaranteed.

Now head for Minara Masjid: Follow the road to the first right turn and go out to the Md. Ali Road – underneath the flyover, and walk down to Minara Masjid which is about 10 mins away. The road is crowded and very dirty, so you may be better off being dropped off there (no parking or waiting allowed). Enter though the barricade into a sea of people, shoving … pushing … and eating in equal enthusiasm.

On the right you will have the best sweet shops and on the left, rows of tents with barbeque meats of all kinds. Walk to the middle preferably to avoid the rush and start off with the famous Chota Kebabs in Hindustan Hotel. At Rs. 20 a dozen, you have people queuing for this delicacy whose making is as much a delight to watch as eating it.

A little ahead is the celebrity famous Chinese n Grills. You must and I insist, must have the Mutton Chaap here, their Ramadan special. We had friends almost lick the plate and order repeats till we could not have any more. Nalli Nihari and Gurda Bheja fry (Brains and kidneys) are another two must have here with the roomali rotis. The restaurants nearby serve all kinds of Baida Roti (stuffed bread, fried), dozens of kebabs / tikkas of all kinds and colors, Teetar (Quail) tandoori and what not. Ideally go with a group so that you can order a mix and share.

Desserts at Suleiman: The finale of Part I has to be the amazing deserts at the iconic Suleiman Mithaiwala. We call it ‘Death by Malpua’ – a 5 /10 egg ‘sweet omlette’ deep fried and served with Rabdi which can give a marathoner a heart attack. It’s well … lip smackingly good sadly and you cannot resist having more than that one guilty bite. The next must have here is the Firni (rice pudding).

And finally, make sure you have located the first pharmacy, and gulp down a few gelusils or Pudin_hara. Better still, take a strip along with you!!!

Burrppppppppppppp

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Pizza Express Comes To Powai, Mumbai

Powai has a new Pizza joint. Pizza Express. In the same place where there is Papa Johns and Dominos. Pizza Hut is a few meters away. Power to people, I say. Power to choose.

Apparently they had been doing very well in their other chains around the city, and despite setting up shop in Saki Naka a few months ago, they came to Powai now. Surely, they would have felt that there is good demand to sustain the Hiranandani rentals. Well, the Powai’s joint is their sixth.

Last evening was their launch party, where they invited a lot of people over drinks and pizzas. And did their bit to tell Powai that they had arrived with a Mob Dance in the promenades of Hiranandani Gardens’ High Street.

Liquor license had been given to them only for yesterday. The staff confirmed that they were expecting the final license to come by end August.

Was happy to find their breads very tasty. They had mini versions of Garlic Breads and other breads over some light topping. Freshly baked, they made for the perfect starters with the rains pouring down outside. Mini Pizzas came in next, again, with various toppings – Margaritas, Tandoori Chicken, homemade Pesto sauce, Mushrooms and Rocket Leaves. Liked all of them, although, the base sauce was a little too spicy. They told us that they import the base Tomato sauce for all of their chains in order to maintain parity with the original taste. Ended the evening with mini Chocolate Pastries and Cheesecakes.

Very friendly staff. Didn’t look one bit overwhelmed tending to the huge crowd. And gladly told us about the ‘Striped’ Chefs who undergo rigorous training to churn out the breads we so loved. Danced with doughs too.

A large place with good décor and seating, hope Pizza Express doesn’t end up being another joint for Kids’ birthday parties.

Wishing them the best. Hope Pizza Express delivers us from those atrocious pizzas that had no creativity on them!

Pizza Express opens in Powai today onwards — 17th July 2014. A complete review  of the restaurant in some time…..

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Restaurant Review: Chendebji Resort in Chendebji, Bhutan

You come to Chendebji on your way to Bumthang or Gangtey. We are driving from Punakha to Bumthang and arrived at Chendebji around 2 pm in the afternoon, famished. Sonam, our guide, took us to Chendebji Resorts for lunch. He had asked us about our lunch preference in the morning itself, and so, by the time we reached the restaurant, our lunch was waiting for us.

How is Chendebji Resort in Chendebji, Bhutan? Very spacious and very clean. It being a lunch stop for us, we headed straight for the washrooms first and were happy to find both clean and well-maintained.

A 2-min walk from the Chendebji Chorten, the resort is by the river against the green hills of Chendebji. While at the restaurant, you can’t miss the roar of the river and will fight back temptation to go down to check it out…

The dining room is a large hall with provisions for seating of around 50 people. The two lady staff were extremely gracious and helped us with coffee and hot water when requested.

Before you enter the restaurant, you pass through another large hall housing artefacts and handicrafts of Bhutan made by local artisans. There were Kiras, Ghos, paintings, antiques, thangkas – but we found them to be exorbitantly priced. Good collection though!

How is the food at Chendebji Resort in Chendebji, Bhutan? Sonam had ordered Pork Momos, Chicken Curry and Red rice on our behalf and we devoured them. We had requested the Chicken Curry to be made in Bhutanese style. One of the tastiest meals in our entire trip!!

The menu card did say that they make Indian, Nepalese, Continental and Chinese food too. But we stuck to Bhutanese. When in Bhutan, eat what the Bhutanese eat, being our motto.

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Final Word on Chendebji Resort in Chendebji, Bhutan:  Perfect stopover for that lunch or tea when on your way to Bumthang, Gangtey or Trongsa. Apparently they have rooms for lodging too. Can’t comment on those as we didn’t stay there.

 

Restaurant Review: Pali Village Café in Pali Hill, Mumbai

The last time we went to Pali Village Café was on Christmas Eve in 2011. And had loved the place. Excellent ambience and good food made it the perfect reason to cheer about. Went there last Saturday for lunch, with the hangover of that evening. And came out majorly disappointed. Find out why…

Ambience & Service at Pali Village Café in Pali Hill, Bandra: Theirs is old-fashioned, chic, classy yet informal setting. Which is what enamours everybody who comes here to dine. Well spread out, they service out of two floors – ground and mezzanine. As I said, old-world charm and chic is how the Pali Village Café is…you will like it as soon as you see it.

What shocked us beyond words is their poor service! No, they weren’t bad at all when we had last visited them. But this Saturday, when we reached the Café around 1pm for lunch, they didn’t give us the bread basket until 30 minutes had passed and we had reminded them about it. They didn’t even bother to come for the order before 20 minutes. It was only when I asked them if we should go some place else, that 3 from the team came to take our orders!!!! And mind you, the restaurant wasn’t even full. And there were enough staff to cater to the place. Or so it appeared. We had been to Smoke House Deli only the previous week and had been pampered by personalised service. Pali Hill Café was a far cry, although just a few houses ahead of Smoke House Deli in the same hill of Pali!

Food at Pali Village Café in Pali Hill, Bandra: Now that our enchantment with the place was cruelly washed out by the callous service of the staff, we decided to stick to just the food. No drinks. No desserts. There are enough and more in Bandra/Pali Hill who service with a smile. We decided to have our desserts from some other place.

And hence, only ordered – a plate of Lamb Kibbeh, Chicken & Scallion Risotto, and Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks. The Lamb Kibbeh had machined-minced meat and lacked flavour and the lingering taste. The Risotto was very well made though. Lamb Shanks had the perfect juice although not very tender lamb. We like it nonetheless. The servings of their mains is very good and is easily more that what a person with an average person can eat.

Final Word on at Pali Village Café in Pali Hill, Bandra: It amazes me to think how a Café in Pali Hill can afford to be bad in service. Pali Hill/Bandra, after all, are the Mecca of food in Mumbai, and perhaps have one of the highest density of restaurants per person in not only Mumbai, but also India.

Hence, no forgiving bad service. Pali Village Café, you lost a client in us!

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Coffee-Shop Review: Gloria Jean’s Coffees in Powai, Mumbai

It was pouring last night but had a meeting that couldn’t be postponed. Gloria Jean’s was our choice of ‘meeting’ venue. Now, at 9.30 in the night, we struggled to find a ‘corner’ that would have a plug-in point for the laptop and would be reasonable away from the other patrons who had gathered there! And the scene was same until 10.30 pm. We had forgotten it was Friday night!!!
We were probably the only ones working and into deep/serious discussions!

My friends ordered Latte. I am not a coffee person. And at that hour, didn’t want to have tea either. Checked the snacks counter for some light desserts but they had only some heavy-duty chocolate pastries and cheesecake. No Black Forest :-(. Settled for a Chocolate Tuxedo reluctantly. Found it too too chocolate-filled…and not soft at all….

No Wifi (my biggest lament). And the speed of my dongel was bad. Made me wish we had the window seats. 

Not a bad place for meeting friends or a meeting though. One corner of the wall had some interesting chits — poems, comments etc. A good way to engage your patrons and stay connected.

Largely, Gloria Jeans is that regular coffee shop in Powai — not bad, not great either…..but you don’t mind…. 

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2014’s Ramadan Feast in Bangalore (Mosque Road in Frazer Town)

Listen, I had promised last year that I’d be back to the Mosque Road in Frazer Town in Bangalore for the Ramadan Feast. Wouldn’t it be a sin of the highest proportions then, if the Foodie didn’t keep his Food-promise?

Knowing that a friend from Mumbai was in Bangalore too, I called him and he promised to join me for Mosque Road raid in the evening with his colleague.  Mosque Road is still the ‘Meating place’ i remembered from last year and perhaps, bigger, this year!! Despite the ‘Rainy Tuesday evening’, the place was jam packed …  Kebabs of all types, Haleem & Biryani joints  vied for our taste-buds and stomach. But, seasoned by now, we wanted the ‘different’ stuff.  And so started our odyssey with:

  • The Brain Puff at Albert Bakery, a speciality of this area during Ramadan. They replace meat with Brain Fry and is easily one of the tastiest puffs I have ever had. We wished we could eat a few more, but then had to reserve room in the stomach. Let this be the ‘appertif’, we agreed!!
  • Next, we eyed the Afghani & Hyderabadi Tikkas (both beef) at one staff. And were satisfied with the succulent, melt in the mouth variety.
  • Now time for the local speciality – camel meat! Directed to the roadside stalls, we found Camel Meat aplenty — tikkas, kebabs, bhuna (fried) etc. The Sheekhs were absolutely awesome – strong flavor yet juicy and soft.
  • Next round was Paththar Kebabs (beef fillets grilled over hot stones) followed by ‘Teetar’ (Quails) and Veal Tikkas (deep fried) – every item unique and delicious.
  • Next stop – Beef & Chicken Samosas – the former a disappointment as it was served cold.
  • Across the road at the bigger, permanent outlet called Charminar, we sauntered for the Mutton Sheekh, Lemon Chicken Kebab & Prawn Tikkas. The prawn was simply outstanding with a strong tandoori flavour; the Mutton Tikka, a little dry but amazing taste none the less.
  • This was followed by their Jalebis and some of us had the special ‘Suleiman Chai’ which is nothing but the local name for lemon tea.

Even after all these, Shubho, my friend from Mumbai, was still hungry (!!). Guess, it was the experience that still hungered!  We went back in search of Chicken Paththar Kebab but found only mint-flavoured Beef ones. Gobbled whatever we got.

And finally, it was time for the customary Phirni, without which any Iftar Feast is incomplete!

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Tips for 2014’s Ramadan Feast in Bangalore (Mosque Road in Frazer Town): A must visit if you are in Bangalore this month:

  • Every item costs between Rs. 50-100 — it’s light on the pocket but heavy on the stomach.
  • For the best experience, go in a group so that you can taste everything – else you will be cursing your appetite for letting you down!!
  • Follow this up with a coke and a couple of antacids, in order to ease the ‘morning after’
  •  Take an auto/cab to Frazer Town. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to drive after a meal there!

We left in order to catch some sleep before Argentina met Netherlands a few thousand kilometres away in another part of the planet. But not before promising yet again — Next Year too to Mosque Road in Frazer Town, Bangalore during Ramadan !!! And every year ever after!!

Amen

Check our FB page for more photographs from Mosque Road – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.815092245176054.1073741872.614194985265782&type=1

Restaurant Review: Out Of The Blue in Powai, Mumbai

Once upon a time, when we were relatively new in Mumbai, we’d frequent Out Of The Blue in Bandra quite frequently. That was about 6-7 years ago. Mumbai’s restaurant landscape has changed greatly since then – there are newer joints, big and small, offering a whole lot of new dishes. And so, our loyalties shifted to the Delis and the Cafes. Out Of The Blue opened shop in Powai sometime back, but we always preferred the LPQs, Mia Cucinas…until last Sunday evening, Jayant made a good case for OOTB, saying that we should go there for old time’s sake…And so, OOTB is was for Sunday dinner!

Ambience @Out Of The Blue, Powai: They have a big place there, divided into two sections. Spacious, must be well-lighted during the daytime, for there are large French windows. It is dimly lit in the evenings though. Good décor. Nice cheerful place. And it being the tennis and football season, they have two large screens to entice the lover of the ball…

And that’s where the enchantment ended…

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Food @Out Of The Blue, Powai: We ordered Pinacolada and Draught Beer with their Crispy Chicken Nuggets. I mentioned to the guy taking the drinks order that I like my Pinacolada with somewhat 20ml rum instead of the customary 30ml. What he brought to me was a drink that was very strong, and very weak on the accompanying flavours of coconut milk and pineapple juice. I hated it. Crispy Chicken was very good and we devoured it all. Only wish they had a better sauce/dip instead of the staid tomato ketchup.

Main course was Gnocchi in Pesto Sauce, Four Meat Penne and Spaghetti Bolognese. Am very discerning when it comes to the taste and quality of a Gnocchi, and must say that what they make in OOTB is very good. Not much flour. You can clearly tell the potatoes. I like it that way. They Pesto sauce was very average though.

Jayanta grumbled that his Four Meat Penne was spicy and low on meat. Why! He had wanted to order Lamb and then Pork, only to be politely told that both were not in stock! Hello? Sunday evening, and you don’t stock properly for your guests??

The Spaghetti Bolognese which my daughter and Mother-in-Law shared, found the tomato sauce to be too sour.

Wish somebody told the cook that ‘too much’ of any ingredient is not Italian food. That ‘too much’ kills the flavours. This is not Laal Maas or the Raras of the world. Sublime is the key for European dishes. Unless of course, you want to go desi in a way that will cater to the taste-buds of those outrageous spice-hungry diners such as the Manchurian-Dosa lovers!!!

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Final Word on Out Of The Blue, Powai: Quite sure we will not go back. The food isn’t good enough. Plus, the staff is rather impersonal. They didn’t even bother to ask Jayant if he wanted another round of Beer. We had to remind them twice for a plate for my daughter. Alright everybody was glued to how Federer and Djokovic were tossing the ball in the court. But that’s no excuse for an impersonal service. Come to think of it, I don’t care for the type of service only when I eat in the streets.

Guess then, Out of The Blue in Powai is good for kids’ birthday parties or those Kitty Parties. Another Pizza Hut/Papa Johns in the making?

Restaurant Review: Smoke House Deli in Bandra, Mumbai

Ah……where in Mumbai do you go when you want to have a leisurely lunch in a classy setting? Our choice last Saturday was Smoke House Deli in Bandra.

Located right at the end of the KFC street in Bandra,Smoke House Deli wasn’t difficult to find, except that we were very hungry by the time we reached there and were almost begging for quick service.

And so, first, about the food at Smoke House Deli — we hurriedly ordered a plate of sea-food fries over Red Sangria, White Wine and Sweet Lime Soda. Devoured them when they arrived. My 6-yr old loved the prawn fritters. For the mains, we went for Smoked Lamb Shanks for myself, Wild Mushroom Risotto for the daughter and Mother-in-law, Honey Orange Glazed Pork Ribs for Jayanta. The Risotto was Yumm!!!! Jayant loved the pork dish too and kept raving about the sauce all through. I was delighted with my plate of lamb……they were so tender and so perfectly cooked!! The sauce however lacked taste and was quite bland. Wish they had served it with Prune Jus or something similar. Pity that such a tender made lamb was found lacking in its sauce.

Desserts was a combination of Philly Cheesecake with Plum Sauce and Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice-Cream. Plum sauce was a little too sour. But rest, were a perfect end to an otherwise good meal.

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Ambience @ Smoke House Deli, Bandra: Famished or not, you can’t help notice the well-done interiors of Smoke House Deli. It is so charming. The Bandra one is in a perfect Bandra setting – with creepers in its walls and entrance, a handful of beautiful pieces of furniture from years gone by, lace curtains that allows the sun to stream in, lacy lamp shades, lovely linen for the tables and chairs, and thoughtfully designed wall-papers……We made up our mind to come here for breakfast someday…Smoke House Deli in Bandra has that perfect setting for an English breakfast!

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Final word for Smoke House Deli, Bandra: A must-go and must-eat! Go. Relish!

Eatery Review: Cafe Boda in Powai

Bongs in Mumbai have been upset since the time Arselan shut shop in Mumbai. After all, no other joint serves as good Bengali Biryani as Arselan did — neither Calcutta Club not Bhojohori Manna nor Bijoli Grill.

And so, when sometime back Cafe Boda opened shop in Powai, we were somewhat curious. A number of our friends too had been speaking about it. And so, this weekend, when I was loathe to cook, we called Cafe Boda for the home delivery of their Biryani.

What came home were 2 small dabbas for INR 628 (!!!). The quantity of food per dabba is such that a person with a good appetite will not be satiated. It had the customary potato, mutton pieces and boiled egg, and the taste was good too. Reminded us of the initial Hangla days. Nothing like Arselan though. And to be priced at 300+ for that quantity is criminal. Why, even Kakori House gives more Biryani for that amount.

We were thoroughly aghast! Over-Priced for the quantity they give. Cafe Boda, this is not how you will make loyal patrons in Powai!

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Drive from Punakha to Bumthang, Bhutan

Punakha to Bumthang is a little more than 200 Kms and takes a total of about 8-9 hours, considering you are driving in the hills. Once of the most picturesque drives, cutting past charming hamlets, serene farmlands, hours and hours of deep forests and valleys, hills filled with Rhododendrons of every hue, the drive to Bumthang is long but you wouldn’t want it to end.

Enroute Bumthang, you need to pass to 2 famous Passes – the Pele La and the Yutong La — and the beautiful Trongsa Valley that has the longest Dzong in all of Bhutan, the Trongsa Dzong. Since we had started very late from our hotel (Punatshangchhu Cottages) in Wangdue, we couldn’t go to the Trongsa Dzong on our way to Bumthang. Sonam, our guide, re-scheduled it to the next day.

Drive from Wangdue to Pele La: From Wangdue, the drive is by the side of bare hills on the left side and the Dang Chhu river on the right side. In about 45 minutes, you will reach Chhuzomsa, the confluence of the Dang Chhu and the Pe Chuu. Once you cross over the bridge, the road is undergoing widening work, and hence, the drive can be quite dusty for about an hour uphill. There is no road block here though unlike the Thimpu-Punakha drive. And when there are fewer cars, the dust is not much of a problem. The problem starts when the cavalcade of army trucks pass by. On our way back, we encountered a few jams owing to rock cutting, which held us up for 30-45 minutes. But once the widening work gets over, it’s smooth and nice drive all over again. On a clear day, you can see the Himalayan ranges of Jhomolhari, Jichu Drakye and Kang Bum.  There are these beautiful hamlets where you find women spinning yarns on their porches, older men idling their time and children frolicking around.

Stop by Pele La: Pele La stands grand at 3420 meters with the customary Chorten (Stupa) and long colourful flags covering the hilltops. There are 4 stalls too there selling handicrafts straight from the villages. Exorbitant rates though, and although I took fancy to a Yak-wool cap, I left it there.

Stop by Chendebji Chorten:  From the Pele La, you drive down the hills covered with red, pink, yellow Rhododendrons for about 30 minutes, admiring the beautiful landscape around you, the little hamlets dotting the valleys, the crystal clear rivers, to reach Chendbji Chorten, a famous Stupa. The Stupa appears almost from nowhere, one turn in the valley and you are there. Against the majestic green and blue hills, Chendbji Chorten, stands tall in the valley to tell a tale of the triumph over evil and its burial in its soil. A 20-minute stop-over will ensure you have heard the story and taken the photographs and admired the beauty and serenity of the place.

Time for Lunch at Chendebji Resort: We were starving by the time we arrived at the restaurant of the Chendebji Resort. Sonam had the good mind to have ordered in advance. And hence, we devoured the food in a jiffy. And headed straight for Trongsa and beyond.

Drive from Chendebji to Yutong La via Trongsa: It was mid-afternoon by the time we left Chendebji, and our driver was determined to make it to the Yutong La as soon as he could. We reached Trongsa Valley in about 2 and a half hours, took a few photographs from the hill that faced the Tronga Dzong, drove past the Trongsa town towards Yutong La. Five minutes before the Pass though, we entered what I called, the Yak country – it was yaks yaks and yaks everywhere in that hillock. You definitely want to stop and take a few pictures here. Yutong La is almost walking from here. We didn’t walk though, for, by now it was very cold and foggy with slight drizzle.

Stop by Yutong La: Yutong La is at 3425 m, again, marked by a Chorten and the flags. Despite being very cold, we hopped out of our car for the photographs. Glad we did – the place looked eerie in the fog and the reduced light of the evening. We hopped back immediately after though. It was already very late by now and still had about an hour’s drive left for Bumthang.

Drive from Yutong La to Bumthang:  It was Rhododendrons in the trees and bright lilac and yellow-coloured wild flowers in the grasses everywhere on our way from Yutong La to Bumthang. In about half an hour from the Pass, we entered the Chume Valley — oh what a beautiful little village – green everywhere. A desperate desire to walk through the village was killed by the realisation that it was almost dusk and would soon be dark. Karma, our driver promised us that he would stop by on our way back from Bumthang. We prayed that it would be a good and bright morning. And with that, we reached Bumthang, tired and hungry, anxious to hit the bed quickly so that we could hop out first thing in the morning to see Bumthang.

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Memoirs of a warring couple who agree only on travel and food

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