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).

The Rise of Experiential Dining

Funny, how sometimes work and hobbies end up going hand in hand. Just recently at work, I wrote about the rise of experiential dining and the trend of adding zing to the dining experience. And then last week, I attended a multi-course meal that two of our city’s passionate chefs, Kanishka Sharma (founder of The Tenth Muse culinary experience) and Pallavi Mehta, had put together based on their personal life experiences and with local ingredients and influences in every dish. Part of an on-going series (of a monthly sit down wine and dine, The Courtyard Food Project) at the lovely space on Double Road, The Courtyard, which serves as an al fresco restaurant and dining space for events such as supper club dinners and dining experiences as well as a community space with performances, on arrival I was greeted by a beautifully set table and a glass of Svami Tonic Water.

 

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These dinners bring together a diverse set of people, who share an interest in experiencing an intimate menu created especially around a theme. NAVU, which means ‘us’ in Kannada, was the name and context for our meal last week. This meant we heard Kanishka and Pallavi’s reasoning for creating a specific dish as well as felt local influences in the dishes, while their storytelling gave us a glimpse into their lives too. Kanishka talked about how a neighbor when she was growing up, would always ask if she drank tiger’s milk, since she was a fearless kid, and this translated into our appetizer course with coconut milk (Ice apple or Ceviche with coconut tigre de leche). And then there was Pallavi’s reminiscence of being the new member of a mainly Bengali staffed kitchen, and their reaction to her throwing out prawn heads rather than using them in her cooking, which led to her serving up the chutney made with prawn head.

 

We actually began the meal with a tangy Rasam and deconstructed Sabudana Vada. This was followed by the Tigre de leches appetizer and then a raw mango rice with mango salsa, topped by a fried papad. The next course was the prawn pickle and head chutney served on an amazing rice cracker that made me think of the rice apalam/papad I would eat as a kid in Chennai. This was one of my two favorite dishes of the night. And then came the other stellar dish, a beautifully cooked and seasoned pork chop served with sauteed local greens – this dish also incorporated 100% Karnataka single origin chocolate. Of course there were veg versions of both dishes, with veggies replacing the prawn and meat.

 

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And then it was time for dessert, which came in two rounds, the first being a jackfruit cremeux with fried cheese on top and black rice kheer topped with puffed black rice. I have never warmed to jackfruit, so left that one after a bite, but the gusto with which another diner accepted my offer of it, proved its appeal! And then out came a caramelized roselle flower and chocolate truffle made from Naviluna chocolate (formerly Earth Loaf – with their little factory space in Mysore). Our entire meal was accompanied by the always delightful wines from Big Banyan Wines. I loved all the local touches, from the chocolate to the wine, and it was a pleasure to spend an evening with a new set of folks. Just proved to me yet again, that a good meal is a great way to get people together, laughing, talking and relishing! Something that the team at The Courtyard and Kanishka have been doing successfully for some months – I met some folks who were on their third such dinners.

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Bombay Brasserie comes to Town

As a teenager, on a visit to Bombay, my parents and I were taken to a restaurant called Bombay Brasserie, and I recall it being upscale and with good food. So, when I heard that an eatery of the same name was opening in Bangalore, I wondered, “any relation”? Turns out yes, the Bombay Brasserie that resides in a beautiful old bungalow on Indiranagar’s 12th Main, is, indeed, a revamped outlet of the same Bombay chain, though that city no longer has one. Now, Indiranagar is absolutely the place to open a restaurant in Bangalore, and what with 100 Ft. road having reached saturation, 12th Main has taken over as the go-to real estate.

The entrance, as with the interiors is all white and blues, with accents in bright colors including flowering pots and vivid mosaic flooring. Seating is both indoors and outdoors, and since we were there on a sunny and beautiful January afternoon, we chose to sit outside. A good decision, since it made for great photographs, and was the perfect setting for a ladies who lunch moment. Nothing like good food, cocktails, and a pretty setting to make for two very happy ladies! Like the menu, the table too was in hues of orange and blue. This is one place which I would recommend visiting in the daytime just so you can appreciate the beauty and brightness of the decor and the space.

We started the afternoon off with the establishment’s signature Pauwa (quarter) cocktails, with the drink presented in a cool looking 180ml bottle with a tag announcing its name, and a big glass tumbler to pour it into. I knew even before I visited what my first drink would be, having spied pictures of the Nagpuri Santra, a concoction of orange and citrus, and immediately wanting one! It was citrusy and refreshing and a good way to start the proceedings. My dining companion ordered the Janta Bar, a spicy drink with whisky, coke, chili and chaat masala, and she loved it.

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Each Pauwa cocktail is accompanied by a serving of ‘chakna’, aka snack food, adding to the feel of ordering a quarter and some snacks at the local bar! In much more rarefied surroundings, of course. I liked both the peanut masala and the black channa that came with our drinks. Next time I visit I will order the Memsaab’s favourite pink gin, a potent and lovely drink that I tasted after my friend ordered it as her second, while I sipped on the special Hot Toddy the bartender whipped up for sniffling me, who was nursing quite a cold.

This was one of the times when I wished we were a larger party, since the BB menu is vast and between the two of us, we tried just a fraction of the dishes. BB, by the way, sources some ingredients from their place of origin, like aam papad from Amritsar. Thus, from the ‘Bites’ section of the menu we started off with the Aam Papad Paneer, which is sure to be a hit with many, especially accompanied by a cocktail. From the smalls came the Marathi Jhinga Mirch, which caught my attention thanks to the mention of mirch ka thecha (a chunky chutney I was introduced to while living in Nagpur) peanut, green chilli chutney, and grated coconut. The prawns were perfectly cooked and crunchy, and the bed of coarsely ground peanuts and the chilli thecha gave the dish both texture and fire.

The Chili Cheese Kulcha I will likely order on every visit to BB – small kulchas stuffed with melted chilli cheese – its cheese in a kulcha, what could be wrong with that?! The Naga Ghost Pepper Wings were something my companion, who loves her some madly spicy chilies, like the Bhoot Jhalokia that was in these wings, just had to order. I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage more than a bite, but these were mercifully not the burn a hole in your tongue level of spice, but manageable and very well balanced.

Kashmir Naan Kebab (Hot Plates and Street Grills) is minced lamb fashioned into a long kebab, served with saffron brushed and Kebab Chini aka Java Pepper encrusted naan, served with Doon Chetin, a Kashmiri yogurt dip that had walnuts in it. I really loved this dish, from the presentation to the beautifully cooked tender meat, and that delectable dip. After this we only had space for one more, and so regretfully skipping over the Mains, we went with the manager’s recommendation of Mario’s Mango prawn and Coconut Rice (Paired Curries section). A coconuty red prawn curry that was served with a leaf packet of coconut milk rice, this dish was a bit too much of coconut for us.

It was now time for dessert, and we were each very clear on what appealed to us. Amritsari Kulfi, which was a triple threat of Kulfi topped with rose flavored Falooda, in a sea of Badami Phirni, was her choice, and as I am not a Kulfi fan usually, I didn’t expect to like it. But oh, this was a mild and non cardamom infused Kulfi, and the additions of the Phirni (not too sweet or thick) and the Falooda meant that I dug my spoon in a few times. The presentation, with a little molecular gastronomy, only added to the charm. My choice was the Bombay Ice Cream Sandwich, which takes our childhood favorite biscuits of Parle G, Bourbon, and Jim Jam, and replaces their cream centers with ice cream! Presented on a black slate with sprinkles, Gems and Jujubes strewn across, and the whole dusted with icing sugar, this dessert was playful, colorful, and delightful for the eyes and tongue!

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Now, both us gals are tea addicts, so the fact that Bombay Brasserie has a special High Chai menu made us happy, but given the big lunch we’d just eaten, we contented ourselves with ordering just Chai, after promising we’d return for the snacks on that section of the menu. Charminar Chai – like a Suleimani, with brewed tea + spices + lemon, was my friend’s choice, and I went for the Chandni Chowk Chai – a Cardamom tea that was sweet and strong. The teas were served in cutting chai glasses placed in adorable drawers, with biscuits/rusk accompanying them. A lovely way to end the meal! I am already conspiring to go back to Bombay Brasserie – anyone wants to join me?

Details: Bombay Brasserie; INR 2300 plus taxes for two people