A Cafe with Heart

A while ago, I visited a lovely little cafe in Koramangala, which is actually the coming together of three different brands, Mitti Cafe | Enerjuvate | Oak + Hill Coffee, each with a different offering but an altogether shared ethos. Enerjuvate is the food, Oak + Hill, as the name gives away, is the coffee, and Mitti Cafe is the staff.

Mitti is about inclusivity, with all their people being differently abled, across physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities. So, the cafe is staffed by these folks, a cheery bunch who will surely put a smile on your face as they go about the business of taking orders, serving and clearing up.

In terms of the food and drink, Enerjuvate (which I had frequented in its previous iteration in Jayanagar, and which has since reopened on KR Road in this new format with Mitti and Oak + HIll) focuses on healthy, vegetarian offerings – and yes, the devout non-vegetarian that I am has and will again, visit, because the food’s delicious! My favorites are the multigrain pizzas which are a must-order, the sabudana khichdi, and the Buddha bowl and the hummus and pita platter. Oh, and if you love chaat like me, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the ragi cracker base Aloo and Dahi Paapri chaats – crunchy and flavorful.

Oak + Hill is the result of one man’s passion, who brings a variety of specialty hot and chilled, regular and flavored coffees with the beans sourced from his family’s estates in Chikmagalur and Coorg. As a sometimes coffee drinker, who likes flavored coffees only, the citrusy cold brew with tonic was my pick – the perfect pick me up on a summer day.

Here’s a look at all the food and drink I enjoyed…

The day I visited, the staff had been gathered from the different locations for a shoot with Better India and I thus got the chance to get a photograph with most of the team. It was lovely meeting and interacting with them, and with Alina (Mitt founder) and Wilfred (whose brainchild is Oak + Hill) though I missed Darshana (the main lady behind Enerjuvate).

Sunday Brunch at JW Marriott: A Soothing Affair

I am an avid bruncher – everything about a weekend afternoon meal that stretches for hours, is lazy yet luxurious, and where a wide variety of food and drink are available, speak to me – it’s soothing, happy, and everything good about the weekend. My latest Sunday brunch sojourn was at the JW Marriott’s JW Kitchen. A themed affair, this is a Monsoon Sunday Brunch, with a vast menu of curated dishes that appeal during the cool rainy months. You know, pakodas, chaats and jalebi, hot-off-the-grills meats and veggies, kebabs, freshly tossed pastas and a whole lot more. Because aside from the monsoon specials, there is a whole slew of dishes and counters to whet your appetite and satisfy even the pickiest eater! The brunch offerings encompass the restaurant as well as the outdoor section – and there is a big play area for kids, as well as a separate menu for them. Live counters rotate, and each specialty restaurant of the hotel sets up shop one week – it was Spice Terrace when we visited – and showcases a couple of dishes from their menu. The stuffed chicken kebab was superb!

After walking around and getting a tour of the offerings, I started off with an order of Malaysian Roti Jala and Goan Ros Omelette Poi. Both these were spectacular, and had I not run out of space by the meal’s end, I would gladly have ended with these, too! The silky Malay curry, along with the crisp honeycomb style roti, and the delicious Goan masala ros elevated the humble omelette to another level. The drinks options were plentiful, with a bar set up outdoors and another indoors. We began with a glass of sparkling and then I decided to stick with wine, enjoying a smooth red wine sangria while my dining companion tried out a couple of cocktails. We then enjoyed a round of freshly grilled meat from the BBQ station including fish, pork, prawns and chicken.

Although I was too busy eating to take pictures of each and everything I ate from the various counters, indoors and out, I definitely remember them! There was a nice mezze spread with hummus and various other Middle Eastern dips, a salad counter where one of the chefs s making Caesar’s salad to order, a variety of cold cuts and picked and grilled veggies, and of course, extensive mains, including Indian and Continental. We absolutely loved the honey glazed ham, and there was also an interesting ham/spam cutlet with peas and mash. There was a good spread of desserts of course, and between us we sampled a fair number of gateau, mousse, cake, pudding (the hot chocolate pudding was very rich and delicious) and more. I had to end with hot jalebis from the live counter, and had really run out of space for any more, of anything, and we called it, after a solid two hours of gorging, while enjoying the gorgeous, windy Bangalore weather. The special Monsoon Sunday brunch will be available for a couple months, and it is a wonderful way to spend one’s Sunday. The attentive, warm service was a definite plus!

Monsoon Brunch at JW Kitchen (10)

Details: JW Kitchen, JW Marriott Hotel, Vittal Mallya Rd; Sunday Brunch; INR 2450 plus taxes/INR 3400 plus taxes for non-alcoholic/alcoholic options.

Sushi Unrolled at The Fatty Bao

The Fatty Bao has brought us eighteen days, fourteen varieties, and some new flavor combos, textures, and tastes of sushi. This is sushi like you’ve never seen it before thanks to the ‘Sushi Unrolled’ food festival that has taken the traditional roll and unraveled it to reveal hitherto unknown depths (sushi as taco, sushi as pizza, sushi as sandwich, sushi as pita). This is not the delicate sushi one usually gets, either. These are heartier portions and pieces, and in shapes and dimensions that don’t require or actually, allow, for a pair of chopsticks to be pressed into service. Using one’s fingers would really be the best, so you can pick up that slice of tuna sushi pizza, or the sushi pita pocket, and pop it into your mouth! And of course, there’s the delectable Edamame and Fatty’s range of cocktails to go along with the meal.

The fest, which started a few days ago at Fatty outlets in Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata, runs through the 8th of April, which means you have two full weeks to visit (and revisit) the special menu. And now, here’s a look at some of the delights…talking about my favs here, but there were more like the Smoked Mackerel Compound Sandwich and yes, sushi rolls like the Spicy Tempura Fried Prawns, that we tried.

The Liberal Tobimayo Pita Pocket Sushi & The Progressive Vegetarian Pita Pocket The tuna pita pocket was my favorite dish from the ‘Sushi Unrolled’ menu – a must try!

Cross Bred Tuna Pizza
I was excited to see a cold pizza aka sushi pizza, and enjoyed the flavors and textures. It had a crispy sushi rice cracker base (although we felt it tasted more of other grains) and was liberally topped with tuna, cream cheese mayo, jalapenos, tobiko, capers, and mustard cress. There’s a veg version too.
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Cross Bred Salmon Taco
Fancy a sushi taco anyone? Not words I ever thought I would be writing, that’s for sure! I really enjoyed the crispy shell with sushi fillings. Crunchy outside with a nice tangy filling of Sriracha mayo, spicy salmon, avocado, yuzu and tobiko. There’s also a vegetarian version, and a fried fish one (that sounds pretty darn close to a Baja Fish Taco with an Asian twist!).
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We, being a largish table, also got a tasty peek into a couple of dishes off their new menu, including a brilliant Cold Green Tea Noodle Salad and the always delightful Fatty Bao desserts, which never disappoint! A special shout out to the Wild Apricot Salad dessert, which had that combo of tart and sweet that makes my tastebuds happy. The festival offerings are priced between INR 395 and INR 645, and the portions are good for sharing. A meal for two will run around INR 2000 plus taxes.

Shizusan Shophouse and Bar – eat, drink and be merry!

Whitefield is far, really far, from Jayanagar. But in keeping with my personal mantra of  ‘will travel for good food’ there are times when Whitefield becomes appealing. Shizusan Shophouse and Bar, located in Phoenix Market City is one of those instances. A Pan Asian eatery with a vibrant, colorful decor (in keeping with the Shophouse in its name), indoor and outdoor seating, and a vast menu of dishes from all across Asia, as well as interesting cocktails, this is a must-visit. The dishes are all beautiful to look at, many paying homage to classic Asian fare, with a twist to make it Shizusan’s own.
One Sunday a couple months ago, the food family planned a combined afternoon of merrymaking and eating, and it turned into a delightful and boisterous time of much food and drink and fun. Here’s a pictorial journey of our meal, which was indeed vast, and more than even our group of 6 could consume! And to think we probably ended up tasting less than half the menu!

Some of what we drank
The drinks menu, like all the other sections, holds a lot of offerings, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, including a selection of Asian beers and Japanese whisky. Asian favorites like Iced Teh Tahrik, Iced Vietnamese Coffee, and Iced Milo Milkshake make an appearance, as well as hot and cold Asian teas. The cocktails are eclectic and will require revisiting!
Left: GinSing in the tall glass; Sriracha Blush with black salt rim.
Right: Cocky Rooster, was my drink of the day. A twist on a classic Bloody Mary, with serious spice and potency!

Starting Right
We began with sensational Edamame (with two different toppings of Himalayan Pink Salt and Shichimi or Garlic and Sriracha) and Dimsum including Prawn and Chives, Moneybags, Edamame Petit Pois, Poached Chicken Dumplings, and Crystal Vegetables.

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Sushi-Time!
We happened to visit, coincidentally, on World Sushi Day. And what a pretty array of sushi (L: Rainbow Maki; R: Nigiri) it was! However, we found the taste didn’t quite match up, but sushi not being the easiest find in Bangalore, these will do the job.

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Some Standouts

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Above: Black Pepper Lobster with roasted garlic, spring onions, mushrooms, peppercorns.
Below: Mussels in a lemongrass and coconut cream – heaven! And zesty Salt and Pepper Calamari with a fab aji amarillo chilli dip.

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The Mains
Although getting rather stuffed at this point we couldn’t but order a few different dishes off the mains. In addition to what was pictured above, we also tried some Satays and a crisp and light Asian Watermelon Salad with diced melon, radish, Feta cheese, and almond and mint in a soy-chilli-garlic dressing.
The minced Chicken Kaprow (left) took me back to eating in Bangkok, and you definitely shouldn’t miss out on the Kung Pao Calamari if you like squid. The Green Beans and Mushrooms were really good too, and while it mayn’t seem like it from this post, there are tons of vegetarian options, as well as noodles and rice items to choose from.

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Kung Pao Calamari – a must order

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Sweet Ending
There was no way we would end the meal without trying a couple of the signature desserts, and since we were a large enough group, a couple bites each and we did justice to them. Vietnamese Banh Chuoi Nuong, a chocolate and banana cake, and the Tender Coconut Cheesecake were both hits, and there were so many more I would have liked to try! This was truly one of those memorable and comforting meals filled with goodness from across South East Asia…

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Details: Shizusan Shophouse and Bar, Phoenix Market City; Whitefield; INR 2500++ for a meal for two

For the Love of Big Brewsky

I have a secret – I’ve developed quite a crush, one that has made me grab every opportunity to be with said crush – to the tune of four visits in one month! I’ve battled cabs and traffic and distance to be close to my new favorite, and indeed, even now am plotting ways to return. And no, this is no human love interest, but a place. Big Brewsky had been on my radar for well over two years now, but its location on Sarjapur Road meant that a trip from Jayanagar just never happened. Until a couple of months ago – and then the spell was cast!

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The space itself is the perfect foundation – the lighting is amazing and I really don’t think there can be a bad picture taken there in the daytime; the Koi Pond with numerous fish swimming about dominates the central part, like an old fashioned home where the courtyard is open to the sky in the center; there is an imposing three storey building where all the eating, drinking and partying happens; a special area set apart and again, off the ground, for a DJ or live band; a garden area which makes for a cozy private party; bars on more than one floor, and just an all-round expansive feeling. Plus it has some well-known and old hands in the F&B industry in charge of the place now – so you’re assured of being in good hands.

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My first visit was by invite, to check out the new menu the brewpub has launched, bringing in Chef Saby Gorai to plan and implement the overhauling. Chef Saby’s fame precedes him – he has restaurants in Pune and Delhi and after having met him a couple times now, it is safe to say his food and his charm are both swoon-worthy! The next trip was for their Sunday brunch, since a dear friend’s band was playing. And then one just-like-that visit happened. And the last one was the epic party they had to celebrate the new menu launch. Details of that evening remain a tad fuzzy, shall we say? 😉

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Sunday brunch, by the way, is an expansive feast set across two floors, including chaats, grills, pizzas, biryani, and with an entire car of desserts (that hacked off teal blue ambassador does serve a purpose!) and there are options for food only, food+beer, and food+cocktails, which makes it a really good deal and a good way to spend your Sunday afternoon – live music, DJ spinning tunes, loads of good food and drink, all in a very convivial atmosphere!

In addition to Saby, who flies in quite often to check on things, they have a brilliant man behind the bar, Karthik Kumar, who is weaving magic with his innovative cocktails, including using Kashmiri Kahwa! Must try that, along with The Great Pretender, which is a potent purple drink featuring tequila, tropical juice, egg white, and a homemade purple syrup that gives it the color; the gin based Pink Orchard; The Yellow Jacket with Bourbon and a turmeric syrup made in-house; and if Karthik has the popsicles in place, then the beer cocktails with a stout or blonde and a corresponding cola or orange popsicle in them are perfect for a hot summer day. My only kvetch is that the beers need some work, and I am looking forward to their pulling their socks up in this respect – the 3-4 beers I tried on my various visits were all kinda blah.

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One thing that really blew our minds was the sushi – better than what is served at some of the city’s Asian restaurants, even, rolled just so, and we couldn’t get enough. The Avocado Maki Roll, Vegetable Black Rice California Roll, Non-Veg California Roll with Salmon Roe and Tuna, and the Tempura Prawn Roll were what we had on that first visit and even though the Sunday brunch doesn’t have so many, if you’re there for it, don’t pass up on whatever sushi is on offer. The Shine Crystal Dumplings, vegetarian, taste as good as they look and are also a great inclusion amongst the Asian fare – delicate translucent wrapping without and crunchy veggies within.

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The Stir Fried Beef Chilli, Iranian Seekh Kebab, and Hot Black Prawns are all quite delish and pair perfectly with a cold one. Then there’s this absolutely brilliant, flavorful African spiced chicken, the name eludes me but its a must order! There are also salads, pizzas, pastas, mains including a bacon wrapped chicken, and more to choose from. If you’re a Risotto and Mushroom fan like moi, then the Black Rice Mushroom Risotto will also make your repeat order list – mushroom pate, truffle essence, parmesan cheese – need I say more?

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Desserts are good too – so if you can find the space, order the Asura’s Devil Chocolate Mud Cake with its rich center and gooey topping of cream cheese frosting, or the Chocolate Fondant, a lava cake with vanilla ice cream accompaniment. It is quite an expansive menu for a brewpub and we as a group had nothing against anything we ate, so there!

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With Karthik Kumar and Saby Gorai

Details: The Big Brewsky, Sarjapur Road. INR 2000 plus taxes for a meal for two, including drinks. Sunday brunch packages start at under 1k a head all inclusive, and go up to INR 1600 (depending on the drinks package).

The Big Fat Mango Harvest at Fatty

A whole month since I posted – oh dear! Time to make amends, and I can’t think of a better way to than writing about The Fatty Bao’s on-going Big Fat Mango Harvest festival, featuring both mango laced cocktails and delicious mango infused food, including, but of course, sushi! The festival menu from Chef Prashanth is on until the 28th of this month, and I am plotting to make it back there so I can have another go at my favorites from the menu. I like but don’t love mango by itself – you won’t find me eating mango after mango during the season. But I do love the flavor of mango and an Asian menu like this, which incorporates both green and ripe mango into dishes and drinks, is right up my street.

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The Sushi was, but of course, the first offering of the afternoon. Mango and Avocado Sushi was a delightful flavor combo and Fatty’s sushi is always perfectly rolled. What came next was a fantastic summery, ceviche-esque Green Mango and Prawn Salad, with green mango and a tender coconut gel acting as the base on which perfectly poached prawns, cilantro and a black sesame brittle were artfully arranged. This was so good that we asked for a second round at the table, knowing full well there was a lot more food to come.

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Pork lovers – the Stir-Fried Pork Tenderloin with mango, chillies, and peppers is a delicious mouthful, particularly with a mango-licious cocktail to wash it down. The Sriracha Glazed Chicken Wings are another great finger (and finger licking good) food that pairs well with a mango cocktail. Of the drinks, the one that I loved was the Smokey Joe, which pairs whiskey, Lapsang souchong tea, and smoked raw mango. The combination of the smoky flavors of the tea and whiskey worked oh so well. The Asian Beet, with gin, mango pulp, beetroot juice and lemongrass was the drink I started the afternoon with, and the other popular ones at our table were the vodka, raw mango, dill leaves, mango syrup and lime concoction named By the Bay, and the Hula Coolah, also vodka based.

IMG_20170513_145436The next dish was another stunner – a tray appeared bearing Thai Mango and Seafood Curry with Jasmine Rice – squid, fish, prawn in a silky coconut gravy and the accompaniments of peanuts, rice crackers, fried onions on the side in little bowls so you can doctor the dish to suit your taste. This is a must order, and pair it with the Smokey Joe for a real party of flavors on the palate! Fatty’s desserts are always art on a plate, and this time was no exception – the two mango desserts were outstanding. Order both the Mango Pannacotta and the Mango and Yuzu Meringue and share with your mates. The latter is served in a scooped out half of a mango’s skin, with a collection of mango bites (someone had fun with the melon baller/scooper in the kitchen!) and some tart raspberry jelly – you’re unlikely to stop until the mango skin is staring back up at you! The rectangle set Pannacotta, with basil seeds, mango, caramel is prettier to look at but my vote goes to the Meringue this time. Fatty’s festival is on for a full week more, so get thee to my favorite of all the mango festivals of the summer 2017 lineup!

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Sunday Brunch at The Hilton Bangalore

By now it is an established fact that I love Sunday brunching. Everything about it, from the late start, to the cocktails and of course, the food, which includes various cuisines and invariably an array of decadent desserts. Well then, that being my criteria for a good Sunday brunch offering and happy Sunday, the newly launched Sunday brunch at The Hilton Bangalore, Embassy GolfLinks, has checks in all the boxes, and then two additionally checked boxes too: live music and song with a mellow and quite melodious band, and pool-time for those thus inclined. Oh, and for parents – there’s a separate indoor entertainment area for the kids, and food for them too. So, you can enjoy your boozy brunch secure in the knowledge that they’re well taken care of.

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Spread across not one, but two of their restaurants, Salt Grill (the poolside venue) and the indoor Ministry of Food, this is one massive spread, and we probably only touched on around half the dishes during our visit. The bar was set up outside, and the bartenders were willing to make pretty much anything one ordered, as well as customize to suit individual tastes. We started with Cosmo and Mojito for round one, then it was party time and lots of made-to-ordering happened. The service was a little slow, though the bartenders were super nice, but there were so many people and the drink orders were pouring in (yes pun intended). A shout-out to whoever on the team came up with the idea of the Jello shots – these were passed around throughout the afternoon, and were fun and quite differently served in the rind of a watermelon – and they were quite strong too!

img_20170122_144559img_20170122_144531A range of Indian starters was brought to the table from inside, and there was plenty of both veg and non-veg options. The counter with cheese, bread and crackers, dry fruit and nuts had a lovely range of cheeses that we went back to a second time. Cold cuts and salads were aplenty, and the Chaat Counter was doing brisk business. I  liked the Watermelon Gazpacho served in test tubes and there was also a counter (indoors) of Middle Eastern dips including hummus, labneh and more. These items were all kept cool on ice, which meant that they remained fresh and creamy through the afternoon. The grill section had meats with gravies and veggies, including some great roast chicken and grilled pork, but more than the meats, the star was the Quiches, which were fantastic.

There was a live pasta counter as well as a Khow Suey one – both good. There were many options for Indian and Asian mains, but we were way too full to indulge (and keeping some space for the tempting desserts), so we restricted ourselves to the flavorful Biryani, though the different Parathas being made looked rather tempting! The desserts were numerous (take a look at the slideshow below to see the range!), and apart from the range of pastries, mousses, and more, there was also a Jalebi and Rabdi counter, and a Nitrogen ice-cream one! We were there at the launch of the brunch, and it was clear to us all that Hilton EGL has a winner on its hands. So here’s to many more brunches, and remember to pack your swimsuit!

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Details: Sunday Brunch; Hilton Embassy GolfLinks
Pricing: Alcoholic Brunch INR 1999 plus taxes; Non-alcoholic Brunch INR 1499 plus taxes; Kids Brunch (5-12) INR 749 plus taxes

Fatty Bao’s year-ending Night Market Festival

It’s that most wonderful time of the year – when the best and worst of lists of the year that was make an appearance, when malls, hotels, and restaurants are getting into the festive spirit, and everyone’s wanting to end things on a high note. Well, 2016, many say, has been a “worse” rather than “good” year. But there are still things we can do to keep happy, and amongst my set of friends, food ranks high on our happy-making experiences. Fatty Bao’s year-ending Night Market food festival falls firmly in this category, and they have really outdone themselves in creating a delicious, colorful, and enchanting experience for diners. Sticking mostly to finger and bite sized foods, like you’d see in an Asian night market, and with the Root to Fruit cocktail menu at hand (something Fatty launched recently) as accompaniment, there’s really no going wrong here.

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The all vegetarian Temari Sushi platter, served in mini skillets was the first dish on the table – the sushi had been rolled into golf sized balls and and had different seasonal vegetables. With some soy and wasabi on the side, these made for a delectable mouthful. Tuna Oshizushi was pressed sushi with soy caviar, and the non-veg offering. The grills and skewers that followed covered quite a range, from the Fried Stinky Tofu with a nice chilly sauce and tapioca crisps, to the Mindanao Beef Skewers, a Filipino Muslim style dish. From Thailand (home to some of the best street food!) there was Mu Ping, pork tenderloin that had been marinated and grilled, and which was accompanied by raw papaya salad. The two dishes that were the stars for me though, were the Firecracker Chicken Wings and the Grilled Quail Eggs. Really, you may be thinking, those sound quite pedestrian for a night market menu! But not when Chef Prashanth has had a go at them! The quail eggs were beautifully grilled and that Sambal Oelek sauce just upped the taste factor. The ubiquitous chicken wings were stuffed, you see, with basil jasmine rice and basted with a lovely sauce that echoes the flavors of the region. How’s that for interesting and a one-pot meal?

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Firecracker Chicken Wings

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Grilled Quail Eggs with Sambal Oelek

The Kushikatsu Seafood Platter that we had had skewers of fish, shrimp, squid rings and oysters – all done to perfection, and I especially loved the oysters. For dessert, we got rather un-street looking and very gorgeous plates, one being the Tokyo Banana, a light sponge cake, banana custard and caramelized banana ice cream – a little ode to fried ice cream was in there. And even though that sounds like a lot of banana, it was actually light and crisp flavors and quite delicious! The other platter, Lokot Lokot, looked like a piece of art and tasted as good – crispy rice threads encased a Jaggery Custard and mini macaroons and a couple of different sauces also dotted the plate. Just the way to end the meal!

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The Root to Fruit cocktails, which essentially bring as much of the fruit and herbs to the proceedings as is possible, had a range of exotic looking and potent drinks. Over the course of the evening, everyone loved every cocktail they ordered – now how often does that happen? I started with a particularly potent concoction, the Sesame Street, which had  roasted-sesame infused whiskey, Earl Grey bitters, sesame syrup and a sesame and honey coated cracker topped the glass tumbler, making for a cool picture. Deciding to stick to whiskey, my second cocktail was the K-Pop, featuring Earl Grey bitters, wasabi syrup, and popcorn-infused whiskey, served with a small wooden platter of popcorn kernels, that covered the tumbler. I of course tried some of the others’ drinks, like the Mi-So-Happy which lived up to its name, a concoction of miso mustard, ginger and lime, with a vodka base, and the Forbidden Fruit, a dark pink looking mix of tequila, plum puree, grapefruit ginger syrup, lime and soda.

Make the time and head to this fest that showcases grills and delicacies from night markets across East Asia – all with some gentrification and that indomitable twist that marks everything Fatty does. So maybe your boss didn’t sanction your leave and your plans of traveling in Asia fell flat, or maybe demonetization did it instead – at least you can go enjoy the Night Market that’s on through the 1st of January, 2017, and experience the food. And then of course, start planning for the jaunt through East Asia again – I sure am!

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