Old School Chinese at Mahjong Room

ITC WelcomHotel recently opened a specialty Chinese restaurant called Mahjong Room, and a lunch there a couple weeks ago made for a delightful afternoon, what with the pretty interiors, the fun company, and the old school Chinese offerings. With an eeye to reminding us of childhood Chinese dining, Mahjong takes the old favorites out for a spin and adds some new touches, in a fine dine ambience. The Chefs and team have taken pains to bring an amalgam of Chinese dishes from regions known for their spicier food, like Sichuan and Hunan, and Canton, to suit the Indian palate. Literally every one of us at the table was moved to reminisce about going out to eat to a nice Chinese restaurant with parents and family!

Now as anyone who knows me, or reads the blog knows, I have a particular soft spot for Chinese cuisine – it is my comfort food, more so than Indian. In fact, my “Swiggy Memories” mail pointed out that it was wonton soup and noodles that featured rather heavily and very regularly, in my order list! So having a new restaurant that pays homage to the meals of our youth alongside offering comfort and staple flavors, is definitely on my winning list!

We began our meal a delightful, old school Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup, along with Crunchy Corn Kernals served in a edible cup, Crispy Lotus Stem with Sesame, Golden Fried Prawns (my absolute childhood fav!!) and Sichuan Chilli Pepper Chicken. This was followed by dimsum – an outstanding Chicken and Onion Sui Mai and Shrimp Har Gao. We also ordered some of the restaurant’s signature cocktails and were served a Butterfly Pea tea (that cool blue liquid that turns purple when you add some lemon!) along with our meal. Needless to say some amount of fullness was already being felt, and our mains had not even made an appearance!

Now the mains is where Mahjong Room’s food really shines – whether it was the vegetarian offerings of Ma Po Tofu with Black Bean and Chili Flakes and the Double Fried Beans with Mushrooms and Pickled Chilies – two dishes we would have all liked to continue dabbing our forks into if only space had allowed; or the Cantonese Lamb, Hot and Spicy Hunan Prawns and brilliant Gong Bao Chicken Dry Chili with Cashews. I know I will be heading back there so I can order just the beans and mushroom dish and the chicken with a side of their Lotus Leaf Wrapped Jasmine rice, and enjoy them fully!

Now whatever else you do or don’t do, you absolutely must leave ample space for dessert. Alongside the typical offerings of darsan and ice cream, date pancakes and all, Mahjong Room has a few boozy sundaes (but they are also available sans the alcohol) that are heavenly. The Hot Chocolate Cookie over Fudge was good, but it was the tart and coconutty, tropical paradise evoking Passion Coconut Lime Shortcake (tender coconut and passion fruit ice creams, sour lime drizzle, dry apricot compote) that elicited a series of oohs and aahs and the clashing of dessert spoons. The addition of a coconut liquor was rather literally the icing on the cake! Come to think of it, I might even just head back for some Butterfly Pea tea and dessert, next time I’m in that area!

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Details: Mahjong Room is open for lunch and dinner, and a meal for two will set you back around INR 2000 plus taxes. They offer both set and a la carte menus.

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.

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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Dining at the Dhaba

Dhaba by Claridges is far from the dhabas you see on highways, for it is not a simple or rustic space, but it does give you an expansive menu of Punjabi cuisine, and is known for its specialty dishes like Balti Meat, Tiffin Chicken, and Kanastree Baingan, and a range of interesting cocktails. Residents and visitors to Delhi have long been familiar with the brand, ensconced in The Claridges Hotel, putting a fine dine stamp on dhaba fare. After nearly three decades in existence and with multiple outlets in the NCR area, the brand has spread its wings and taken flight to other Indian cities, including Chennai and Bengaluru in the South.

The Bangalore establishment is a small one, with around 40 covers, but with a  bright and colorful decor, defined by hand-painted walls of quirky images. The staff have gamely learned the dance moves to a few Bollywood songs, and perform them at intervals with great enthusiasm and dedication. Check out the video of them dancing at Dhaba! If you don’t find them performing during your meal, do ask and they will gladly put on a show for you! What makes this equal parts adorable and cool is that it is the staff in its entirety, from manager, to waitstaff, to hostesses, to chefs!

Food is served and plated on shining copper and stainless steel ware, giving it that ghar-ka-khana feel. This is rich, cream and butter laden fare, unapologetic in its excesses. So, keep that in mind when planning a meal there – we ended up in a food coma for the rest of our Saturday! And yes, in the name of tasting we clearly ate more than the norm. There are options a-plenty for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diners, and make sure you leave room for dessert! And start with a cocktail – the Paan Mojito, Toofan, and Imli Bai were my personal favorites, though the Gulaabo and Basanti were also nice. A little tip – order the Ganne ka Saaras, a lovely and refreshing mock sugarcane mocktail (and by that I mean it tastes and looks like sugarcane juice but actually isn’t!), and then if you want it spiked, get a shot of vodka on the side and voila – you’re all set, especially in the summertime!

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Now for the food – start with the Dhaba Prawn, seriously giant prawns marinated and grilled in their special dhaba masala. You need a fork and knife and a dining companion to get through a plate of these! The other must-order from the starters is the Galouti Kebab – yes, they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Vegetarians will enjoy the Dhaba Paneer Tikka or the Veg Galouti. The Amritsari Fish on the menu didn’t do anything for me – I expect a strong hit of Ajwain (carom/caraway) and flakiness when I think of an Amritsari Fish, but this one was heavy on the batter and low on the ajwain.

From the tandoor, the obvious choice is the Tandoori Dhaba Raan, for which, at present, the lamb is being flown in from Jaipur because the brand wants to maintain the quality and standard that has made the dish eponymous with Dhaba by Claridges. This dish too, meets all the drool-worthy and cliched thoughts you can muster, like fall off the bone and melt in your mouth. Cooked for many hours and spiced and presented just-so, again you will need a couple of dining companions at least, to do justice to this. From the Patila section, you will do well with any of these: Chitta Butter Chicken which has a yogurt and Kasoori methi gravy, the Tiffin Chicken served in – you guessed in – a tiffin carrier (which makes it worth ordering for the fun factor), or the Balti Meat (served in a mini bucket), one of their signature items. Get a Dal Dhaba (their version of the Maa ki Dal, the quintessential black lentil dish) and any of the Parathas or Naans (the Missi Tandoori Paratha stood out for me), and you have yourself a sumptuous meal.

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I did say to save space for dessert, right? Well you will be spoilt for choice, between the Tilla Kulfi, Matka Kulfi, Gulab Jamun (North Indian style), Rabri, Phirni, Rasmalai, and Badam Halwa – the last is a combination of moong dal and badam, and quite yum. A meal at Dhaba is both a rich and elaborate affair, and not light on one’s pocket, either. But it is to be experienced, both for its long standing fame, and for the ambiance and the show the staff put on!

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Details: Dhaba by Claridges; 12th Main Road, Indiranagar; INR 2500 plus taxes for a meal for two

The new dishes at Smoke House Deli

When an invitation landed in my inbox a couple of weeks ago, to a special Chef’s Table at Smoke House Deli where they would be showcasing dishes off their new menu, I paused a moment. The memory of the last such new menu party at SHD was still fresh in my mind – where had the two years since that event, flown by?! Prepared for an afternoon of food and drink, I thus presented myself at the SHD on Lavelle Road, and awaited Chef Saurabh Arora’s line-up from the 35 new dishes on the menu. Seated in the courtyard section outdoors, we were a big group, which turned out to be rather useful when it came to sharing all that food!

Our afternoon began with a specially-made-for-us, off menu cocktail of Martini Rosso, orange juice and bitters, which had a sweet and smooth finish and potency too. The first appetizer was Crunchy Mozzarella Fritters, cheese on the inside surrounded by a noodle-like crunchy exterior – tasted cheesy (in a good way) and was not overpowering in flavor, making it a go-to with any drink. I also enjoyed the Prawn Fritters + Spiced Mayo, which managed to keep their crispiness and crunchiness in terms of both the batter cover and the prawns within. Not so much to my taste was the Panko Crusted Kashmiri Chilli + Cottage Cheese, Corn Flat Bread – too mushy in texture. The standout of the appetizer course was definitely the Smoked Black Pepper Chicken, skewers of juicy and well-marinated chicken with a kick from the pepper.

The SHD Tomato + Bocconcini Salad, Queen Olives, Pesto Vinaigrette is a great addition to the new menu, especially for olive lovers. The Spanish Queen Olives are almost the size of a fruit with less pungency than the usual green olives. There was Boccocini – egg-sized Mozzarella – as well as crisp greens and I will definitely be ordering this on my next visit. I contented myself with just a couple of spoons of the Roasted Sweet Corn Soup + Sour Cream; Truffle Oil because I wanted to keep space for the pasta and mains that were coming up, especially since there were two Risottos to sample. I love me some Risotto, and neither the Pepper Crusted Chicken + Rosemary nor the Slow Roasted Cauliflower + Mascarpone disappointed. However, it was the Potato Gnocchi + 3 Cheese Sauce, Roasted Vegetables that delivered the knockout punch of the course. Three cheeses, Parmesan, English Cheddar, and Emmental were pressed into service, and cheese crisps on top completed the serving. Am quite happy to be vegetarian when presented with such a dish!

Of the five mains served, I literally took a single bite of each, and then dug into the Half Roast Rosemary Chicken, Wild Mushroom AOP as that was my favorite. With some lettuce on the side and delicious mushrooms and a poached egg that added depth to the already lovely flavors of the dish, I would happily have licked the wooden bowl in came in, clean. Slow Braised Belgian Pork Spare Ribs + Apple Slaw and Pan Grilled Fresh Bhetki + Jalapeno Corn Sauce were the other two non-veg offerings – and the Bhetki sure had fans at the table, but it’s just too strong a fish for my palate. The two veg offerings didn’t make much of an impression: Three way Polenta cake + Bean & Chickpeas Stew, and Roasted Vegetables + Red Cheddar Melt. Utilizing different alcohols infused in-house (with Dill, Kaffir Lime, Star Anise – respectively), the three cocktails from the new menu we enjoyed went well with our food. Sadly, I don’t have the names on hand, but the Kaffir Lime infused one was the definite winner of the three!

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SHD is known for its mouth-watering desserts, and this time was no exception. We loved three of the four we ate, and the other (Lemon Tart + Orange Mascarpone Cream) just needed some tweaking so that the lemon and citrus flavors came out, as we told Chef. Milk Cake + Toasted Hazelnuts looked gorgeous and tasted so too – in fact it was a toss-up between this and the White Chocolate + Lemon Molten Cake, the latter had spot on lemony goodness that literally oozed out of the cake once it was cut. The Prune Crumble Tart + Dark Chocolate Mousse was rich and I stopped after a couple of bites, mostly because the Lemon Molten Cake was beckoning! I’ll be heading back to SHD soon to enjoy my favorites from the new menu…maybe the salad and then dessert to maintain some “balance”!

Details: Smoke House Deli, Lavelle Road & Indiranagar; INR 2000 plus taxes for two with drinks.

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

Celebrate Chinese New Year at Ginseng (Hotel Royal Orchid)

Gong hei fat choy! Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese Zodiac works on a Lunar calendar, and each year is represented by an animal, repeated every twelve years. Tomorrow, January 28th heralds the start of the Year of the Rooster. And some of the fine dine Chinese restaurants in Bangalore are creating special menus to celebrate, and the first one I got to experience is the festival menu at Ginseng, the Pan Asian restaurant at The Hotel Royal Orchid Hotel, which runs for just the week, ending Saturday, January 28th.

The menu is a compilation of Chef Neeraj’s favorite dishes and was quite expansive, considering the duration of the festival! There was plenty to choose from for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. While everyone who knows me knows that I am a dedicated carnivore, this is one of those occasions when the seconds I went back for all ended up being the veg dishes. The Crispy Waterchestnut Honey Mustard was unusual and it’s not often that one gets waterchestnuts on the menu here, so that was a total winner, as was the Stir Fried Chinese Greens with Burnt Garlic. A special shout-out to the man behind the bar – the cocktails we ordered (from the regular menu) were all really good, well-balanced, and with nice flavors. The fortune cookies we ended the meal on was a nice touch, and again, something that’s rare to find locally. And now, here are the photos from the lovely meal we enjoyed a couple of nights ago.

Now at the Pavilions (Raj Pavilion New Menu)

Au revoir, 2016 – it’s was an all over the place year, but as always, dining experiences stood out and made for some very satisfying and good times with my food-loving, food-blogging gang. The time has come to end the year, my first as an independent food blogger, and this post on the new menu launch at ITC Windsor’s Raj Pavilion is a fitting end to a(nother) year of good food. One, it brought together the madcap group; two, it was an interesting and delectable lunch; three, it allowed us to wallow in the luxurious old world charm of ITC Windsor, and all that lovely glass at the Raj Pavilion. Which, by the way made for some lovely photographs, with the natural light streaming in from the side and overhead.

 

In keeping with their mandate of “responsible luxury”, the menu gives diners information on the danger level of the fish so they can make informed choices, alongside having symbols against the different dishes that mark them as locally sourced, gluten free, containing nuts/pork, etc. Did you know that ITCs serve water that’s zero mile and purified in-house? Just another way they do their bit to reduce carbon footprint. #TrendingAtPavilion was the hashtag of the day, as this luncheon was not a solitary affair, but held across multiple ITC Pavilions all over the country, with bloggers and food writers participating and posting on their social media.

As we waited for the new menu to be brought forth, we were served Pulled Lamb Cornettos and Tomato and Feta Wonton Cups along with two mocktails. The first dish to make an appearance was the Burrata with Anise-poached Pears, and what a grand start this was! Father Michael (Vallombrosa Cheese Shop), a local priest who is known in food circles for his fantastic cheese making, was the source of the Buratta. The anise spicing on the pears was judicious and in combination with the creamy cheese and the bread and salad greens on the side, it was a great set of flavors. Next up was another cheese starrer, Molten Brie with Pretzel Crusts, accompanied by roasted beets and a green apple chutney that had some heat to it – this dish had a number of elements, but they all came together wonderfully.

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The next dish was a seemingly simple Shrimp Cocktail, but elevated to unusual with a Curry Leaf and Kokum Mayo, which gave it an interesting color and most delicious and unexpected taste – the boiled eggs on the side added a certain something too. Soups were next, and both the Singaporean Laksa and the Mushroom and Barley were packed with great flavor. The mushroom soup is one I would want to reach for on a cool winter day, and the injection of celery and leek that came in a little plastic tube was a fun element. The Laksa won more favor at the table, with its shrimp, chicken, fish , noodles, boiled egg, tofu, and coconutty broth.

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Next up, mains – four dishes were presented and shared by the group. From the local love section there was Bisibele Bath, which was served with half a dozen sides including expected ones like boondi and pachadi, and more unusual ones like Parmesan cheese and dried carrot shavings. The dish was appreciated by everyone, especially the unique cheese topping. Personally, Bisebele Bath is not something I like, so after a tiny taste, I moved on. The other and biggest hit of the mains was the Slow Cooked Mushroom and White Bean Soup, with crusty bread and garlicy broccoli on the side – again, this was a soul satisfying soup for a winter’s night.

The other two mains, unfortunately, didn’t translate well to the plate. The Gratinated Meatballs in a Makhani sauce with cheese was actually lovely – didn’t expect to like Indianized meatballs but it worked. However, the accompanying spaghetti had been tossed in curry leaves and that marred the overall taste – somehow, the curry leaves in a pasta dish just didn’t resonate with any of us. The Lamb Rib and Broad Bean Tagine, served with couscous and stewed apricots, was actually the most anticipated dish of the main course, and its presentation in a Tagine was flawless, as was the couscous. Unfortunately the lamb and stew itself was altogether over spiced, and the overpowering cinnamon taste made it difficult to eat. We of course passed our feedback on to the kitchen and Chef, and I am sure that there will be a lot more care in the making of this hereafter.

The piece de resistance of the meal was the desserts, courtesy ITC’s pastry chef, Chef Alrich. I am a cheesecake lover, through and through, so the fact that I took just a couple bites of the beautiful cheesecake that came to the table and concentrated on the other two offerings should give you an idea of just how good those desserts were! Milk Chocolate Parfait with Darjeeling Tea Namelaka and Raspberry sorbet was beautifully plated and presented, and the finishing touch of a rich chocolate sauce poured at the table. I actually went back on New Year’s eve for lunch to Raj Pavilion, just so I could order and once again savor this dessert. From the halved hazelnuts to that decadently delicious chocolate sauce, the tart raspberry sorbet and the parfait – this was all kinds of awesome!

The Pavilion Chocolate Fudge with Jaggery Caramel Sauce was equally wondrous and wonderful – and we shamelessly took our spoons and dug into the tureen which held the sauce, unwilling to leave a single drop! We ended our meal thus in dessert bliss, and then spent a few enjoyable minutes takin in the beautifully decorated lobby, complete with working model train amidst the Xmas decorations.

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