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!

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

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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.

The Obento Experience at Edo

A meal at Edo, ITC Gardenia’s signature Japanese restaurant is a feast in the truest form – a feast of the senses. From the beautiful setting, to the delicately balanced and layered food, dining at Edo is always a pleasure. And now, rather than waiting for dinner time to head there, Edo has opened its doors for lunch as well. You can get a la carte dishes, but what’s the inviting new thing is their Obento (Bento Box) lunches.

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An Obento meal, traditionally, is served in a lacquer box with partitions for different dishes, and portioned for a single diner. In other words, you get to enjoy a multi-course meal in one go, with everything presented together. I like this for a number of reasons. For one, I can eat my meal at my own pace. Secondly, I can eat the dishes in my order of preference – like you know, saving the Prawn Tempura for last, even though it technically is a starter item. Third, you get to experience a range of items at one time, and you get to be surprised by what Chef Kamlesh and his staff are up to in the kitchen. Fourth, when I have everything laid out in front of me at the same time, the meal is sure to go faster. And this, actually, is one of the reasons for a Bento meal – Edo wants you to be able to enjoy their food and ambience even if it is for a quick Obento luncheon rather than a more elaborate and leisurely dinner service.

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The Obento is available in both veg and non-veg, and can be customized to suit a diner’s particular likes and dislikes or dietary needs. So if you’re allergic to something, ask for a substitute. While waiting on our Obentos to make their appearance, we were treated to the fun that is a Sake Bomb. A small cup of Sake is placed atop chopsticks that are strategically arranged on a glass of beer. Now, in unison, everyone counts to three in Japanese: Ichi, Ni, San – and then bangs their fists on the table. Splash and pop – in goes the Sake cup into the beer glass, and then it is time to down the lot in one go!

With Sake coating our insides, and much laughter and story exchange happening, once the Obento trays appeared, loaded with a multitude of deliciousness, silence descended on the table, the kind that a great meal demands. And now for the burning question- what was our Obento luncheon? Rather than the boxes, this Obento meal is served on a large tray, with small trays and bowls of the various dishes. An up-scaled Bento Box, if you will. And the dishes are presented/meant to be partaken of in a certain order, though of course, one can do what they like. First up: pickled vegetables – Oshinko; the appetizer – Zensai – a delectable crab salad; Sushi and Sashimi – fresh and beautiful Tuna and Salmon.

Now was the moment for Miso Soup, but I decided to wait on pouring it out of the cute kettle it was in for a little longer – after all, there are few tastes more pleasurable than a perfect Miso – which I know from past experience, Edo’s is! I also reserved the salty egg custard, called Chawanmushi, for later. Instead I ate the beautiful Tempura of prawns and zucchini blossom (well, I saved one of the prawn ones for last), and then went for the Robatayaki or live grill, which featured a skewer of chicken and a beautifully cooked and sauced piece of fish underneath.

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Now, I dove into the Miso soup – the entire experience, from pouring it out and smelling it, to then partaking of it, with the morsels of seaweed and tiny cubes of tofu, was perfection. Chef had served a bowl of Udon noodles for the main course, and this was the one dish I felt didn’t go with the rest, so I stopped after a couple of bites and dove, with relish, into my Chawanmushi – this one had a piece of fish cake and some edamame atop, and prawn and chicken at the bottom of the bowl it was set it, adding some texture and flavor as I dug my spoon further in.  This dish is a definite acquired taste, and some found it better with some soy sauce added, but I for one, just love it the way it is.

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We of course ended on green tea and dessert (Mizugashi) – which didn’t come as part of the Obento tray, but later on. The fantastic Matcha (green tea) ice cream was served on a caramelized sesame infused cups that were crunchy and sweet – a perfect foil for the delicate ice cream. I happily ate my own portion and stole the half left by my not-blessed-with-a-sweet-tooth friend. A fitting cap to an altogether lovely meal! The meal, though planned for lunch time, will also be created for anyone who would like it as their dinner.

Details: Edo, ITC Gardenia; Obento Luncheon available between 12.30-2.45pm; INR 2250 plus taxes for non veg, and INR 2000 plus taxes for veg.

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A festival of Sushi at Zen, The Leela Palace

Sushi? Anytime! A sushi festival, with over 25 types of sushi on offer? Oh yes please! Zen, at The Leela Palace, just started the From the Land of the Rising Sun promotion, and a bunch of us were invited to a preview to check out the offerings. Chef Panchai, the man behind the festival, has put together an extensive feast of rolls, from his favorites to the most popular ones at Zen. We ate so many varieties that day, there’s no way I can do justice and name them all. So, sharing some photos of what we ate and naming a few favorites from the afternoon. The festival is on until the 21st of March and the special menu will be available for both lunch and dinner.

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First on the table was this light and crisp daikon, carrot, cabbage shreds salad. The toasted sesame and garlic slices made this a delectable start!

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Many oohs and aahs greeted the appearance of this Sashimi platter. Gorgeous presentation, but we felt the slices were on the thicker side. But the freshness and range of the seafood – Octopus, Habachi, Tuna, Salmon, Scallops – was impressive

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This Ebi Tempura roll, with tempura battered prawns giving it a crisp center and the outer covering offering softness, along with the flying fish roe on top adding even more texture, was a delight. The soy and Yuzu sauce offered beautiful flavors

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Probably the biggest hit of the afternoon, this Spicy Crispy Avocado roll had us all going back for seconds – so vegetarians, here’s the sushi to order!

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Salmon roll, with Salmon roe

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Seared Tuna and Salmon roll was gorgeous – flavor and looks wise!

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On the left was another much favored roll that day, the Unagi Ninniku roll, and why not, with its combination of freshwater eel, avocado, and a generous topping of crisp garlic! Definitely order this one! On the right was another lovely vegetarian sushi, a maki roll of braised Shiitake mushrooms and avocado – the crisp seaweed wrapping contrasted well with the soft avocado and meaty Shiitake textures

Chef Gary Mehigan’s 7 Culinary Wonders

What does one do when one gets an invite to partake of a 7 course dinner conceptualized, curated, and cooked by Gary Mehigan, MasterChef Australia judge and restaurateur? Well, one says yes with alacrity! Grab the friend for whom meeting Gary is akin to meeting Amitabh Bachchan for a Bollywood fan (his own words!), get ready and head over to The Ritz Carlton Bangalore in anticipation of a great meal and an exciting Thursday evening.

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The one off event was the launch in India of the CEO Series 2016, presented by American Express in association with BMW and Etihad Airways. Held across three cities – Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi, we in Bangalore were the first on the list. In attendance were well-known CEOs including Nandan Nilekani and Chetan Maini, a few of us from the food blogging community, and other influencers. The premise of the event was to bring together folks from technology, media, business, and finance, and have them interact over a sit down dinner presided over by a favorite celebrity chef, Gary Mehigan.

_vds6008Chef Gary created the Seven Wonders of the World Menu inspired by his travels and focused on seven different countries, and even though we traversed India, Peru, Italy and more, the meal came together like a pitch perfect song – there was not one discordant note to be found. I am honestly not one to be bowled over by someone’s celebrity status, but I sure was bowled over by this man and this meal! It was a spectacular dinner, one none of us in attendance will likely forget in a hurry, with every course making an impression.

dish-inspired-by-peruWe started in Peru, with Scorched Salmon, caramelized miso mayonnaise, ceviche pickles, edamame. The salmon was out of this world, and so was the miso mayo. Peruvian cuisine has influences of Japanese alongside its South American roots, which made the ceviche and salmon dish a beautiful representation of the food culture. Staying that side of the world, the soup course was a gorgeous Brazilian Moqueca, a fish soup that literally brought the aroma and taste of the ocean to the table.

For our third dish of the evening, Chef took us to Jordan – and I think a lot of folks who were there that night would agree, this dish was the Dish of the Day, though that itself is like picking a first among equals! Compressed Watermelon, that was served as a block, had been infused with spices, citrus and a touch of rose, and served with Jordanian almonds and labneh. The latter two ingredients added some interesting crunchiness and softness to the textures, and the flavor of rose and watermelon worked oh-s0-well!

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Now there just had to be an India inspiration on the menu, and this was the Butter roasted cauliflower, a deceptively simple sounding and looking dish that had a depth of flavor. The addition of green fennel seeds and golden raisins gave this a slightly sweet taste, the lovely crunch of the thinly sliced cauliflower on a bed of mash cauliflower worked brilliantly. I also liked the way Chef set up the courses – two seafood, two veg, followed by two non-veg. The Glenlevit Founder’s Reserve was served with this dish, and smooth and just that little bit fiery it was.

Chicken from China was the next to appear, and he elevated a simple White cooked chicken into a gourmet dish. Served with garnishes of spring onion, celery, ginger jelly, and black sesame, and seasoned with soy sauce, ginger and garlic, this was comfort food at the highest level. Our second meat course was Slow cooked lamb, served in a tagine. Shoulder of lamb, toasted grains, daal and pine nuts and kohlrabi made this dish exotic and familiar all in the same mouthful. The lamb had been slow cooked for 14 hours and was suitably tender and delicious. Chef mentioned that biryani was an inspiration for the dish, and it certainly was a one pot wonder! Glenlevit 15 was the scotch to accompany this course.

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Conco d’Oro, the Italian dessert, was what we finished with. Given the reference to gold in the name, Chef had used edible gold leaf atop each of the meringues, turning them “golden”. I love all things citrus-y, and especially after a big meal, this dessert of lemon curd and olive oil semi freddo with an orange syrup and both candied and fresh citrus, was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal, and the glass of Jacob’s Creek Sparkling brought it all together beautifully.

Unlike when I met and watched Gary in action during his last visit to Bangalore a few months ago, he was visibly more relaxed, enjoying himself and having fun. We were seated close to the kitchen entrance and he would keep popping his head out to check on the proceedings, as well as interacting with the diners. He offered to pose for photographs, and went a step further, taking people’s phones and orchestrating selfies! I came away from the event marveling at the food, the Chef, and what a fun evening it was…

Fatty Turns Two: Fatty Travel Tales are on!

It’s The Fatty Bao’s 2nd birthday, and they are celebrating the milestone with a special festival, the Fatty Travel Tales menu that traverses ten East and South East Asian countries. Starting today, August 11, and running until the 28th, the special menu of cocktails, appetizers, mains and desserts will be available. There’s also a chance to win tickets from Tiger Airways, to do a spot of Asia exploring yourself!

DSCN0878 (2)Of the cocktails, my favorites were the potent (whiskey + Lapsang Souchang tea infused vodka made for quite the smokey drink) Master Po and the smoother Silk Route (vodka, lime juice, jamun, and the glass rimmed with black salt). There are a total of six special cocktails, each at INR 400.

DSCN0884 (2)We were a group of four, and thus managed to taste pretty much every item on the Travel Tales menu. I’m going to let the photographs do the talking  – suffice it to say, you won’t be short choices, or countries, from Indonesia to Hong Kong to Vietnam, Cambodia Singapore, and Korea. Each dish on the menu has the country’s flag alongside it – a nice touch.

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Bicol Express: Pork stew with garlic fried rice

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Dish of the Day: Cheung Fung – rice dumplings in a lovely yellow curry

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Raindrop Cake – prettiness!

Details: August 11 – 28; The Fatty Bao, Indiranagar; INR 2500 plus taxes for two people