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

Stomping & Sipping Sunday Scenes

A self-confessed Sunday bruncher, I am. Food, drink, merriment, leisurely pace – all the good things in life. And when one has worked hard through the week, there is a justifiable feeling of needing to take it easy and indulge a little, come Sunday. And what can make a Sunday brunch even nicer? How about flowing bubbly (pink and white) and a li’l grape stomping, as well as a live band playing Latin tunes and knocking it out of the park? This then, was the scene this past Sunday at Sheraton Grand Bangalore, with a spread that encompassed both, Bene and Persian Terrace, the hotel’s signature Italian and Persian restaurants. The weather too, is just right for al fresco dining and getting into a tub of grapes to squish them into submission – err, liquid, I mean.

IMG_20170611_140315IMG_20170611_135043The afternoon’s wine partner was Grover Zampa Vineyards, and featured both their sparkling wines, Zampa Soiree Brut Rosé and Zampa Soiree Brut. Light, crisp, dry and everything I desire for an afternoon of feasting and relaxation. The unanimous verdict from the group was that we preferred the Italian offerings to the Persian ones – a range of spicy kebabs and grills from the latter were nice, but it was, perhaps not surprisingly, the pasta, pizza, antipasti, breads and desserts from Bene that won our favor. A surprise visit from popular RJ, Nathan, who cracked jokes and made balloon animals and crowns and swords and shields and what not for kids and grownups alike, started the afternoon off nicely, with laughs and silliness.

IMG_20170611_140352IMG_20170611_140418Cold salads, seafood, cured meats, a delectable selection of fresh baked breads, and a pasta station where you had a choice of sauces, toppings, and pastas, tossed fresh and hot, were the order of the day. I tried a ravioli in white sauce that had a gorgonzola cheese filling and was delicious! A rustic specialty pasta called Cavatelli was also being prepared that day. Having gorged on the breads (especially that fantastic Focaccia!) and antipasti, I did little more than nibble on mains, and then headed for the table groaning under the weight of desserts. Gateaux, puddings, cream puffs, tarts, mousses, and more greeted me. There was also a Double Espresso ice cream that had a strong hit of coffee and was quite popular. For me, though, the dessert of the day was the cream puffs – airy and light, with a lightly flavored (caramel, hazelnut?) center as well as a generous whipped cream topping. I ate decidedly more of these than I should have, but then hey, what else is Sunday brunch for, if not a good reason to indulge!

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While this event was a one-off (and a good value at INR 2000 all-inclusive), Bene does have a Sunday brunch usually, named Grandmother’s Table, by Chef Giuseppe Lioce, Italian Head Chef for the hotel. All in all a lovely afternoon of stomping, chomping, and imbibing, and we ended by heading over to the props table and taking a bunch of photos with hats, masks, and more.

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Brunch at the New Radisson Blu Atria

We all love Sunday brunch, don’t we? Sunday being, for many, the only day of rest in the week, the idea of waking late, then heading out to a long, leisurely, luscious brunch, has quite an appeal. I’ve always been a Sunday bruncher – it was something my mother instituted at home when I was growing up, and living in the U.S, Sunday brunch for Mother’s Day and the like was a given. Over the last couple of years, almost all the hotels in the city have started serving up Sunday brunches – some extravagant, some elegant, all enjoyable. One of the latest additions to the scene is at the Radisson Blue Atria Bengaluru. The old Atria Hotel has had a facelift and a brand makeover, and now under the Radisson Blu label, has launched a lovely Sunday brunch, which can be enjoyed poolside or indoors in the restaurant’s air conditioned comfort (which is what we opted for on a sweltering May afternoon). Oh, and a dip in the pool is part of the package, so make sure to carry your swimwear!

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The live grills counter and a bar counter were set up outside – it’s an IMFL beverage package at INR 1950 plus taxes, which means you can drink and eat to your heart’s content – now that’s a nice way to spend Sunday afternoon! There was a nice spread, with Indian, Asian, Continental, and Mediterranean offerings across the salads, appetizers, and mains. What we were impressed with was the range of salads, the live grill counter, and the meats. The Papdi Chaat and Pani Puri (I liked the way it was served to the table) went down well – we all being chaat people. There was also Pav counter with both veg and non-veg, and dim sum and tacos, as also a pasta station and kebab corner.

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I always pile my plate with the fancy salads at buffets, and this time was no exception. The Prawn salad with tomato salsa, Pesto rubbed fish  with orange segments, Seared tenderloin salad with wild mushroom, roasted shallots and Dijon mustard, and the Tuscan pork and bean salad were all nice flavor combinations and made a good chilled start to the meal on the hot day. There were the Middle Eastern dips of Baba Ghanoush and Hummus and Tabbouleh salad too – but we couldn’t find pita bread to go with it, and made do with the fresh breads from the bread counter which was quite nice. There were also Oysters served on the half shell, which were dressed with onions, lemon juice, and cilantro, and we went for a couple of rounds of these – fresh, beautiful, and definitely a treat!

From the live grills, we loved the prawns which were large and fresh and simply prepared with a spice rub, letting the shellfish speak for itself. The Olive and Pepper Lamb Chops were also a big hit – perfectly cooked and again, with balanced spicing that did not overwhelm the meat. There was also a Mustard Marinated Fish, and Pesto Chicken. The Barbecue Pork Belly from the carving station was another item we went back for seconds off – the jus, the pork belly with the soft fat and the crackling skin – so good! There was also a selection of fairly typical mains – paneer, fish and chicken curries, biryani, dal makhani and more for those wanting Indian food, and Thai green curry chicken, an Oriental fish prep, veggies, fried rice, and noodles for those wanting Asian.

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Such was the heat of the day that we stuck to beers and fresh juices, but were told they have some nice cocktails – next time! Dessert was not as vast as one sees in buffets, but everything was nicely put together, with around 8 pastries/puddings/mousses, and half a dozen Indian sweets including Kulfi, Sandesh, Ladoo, and Moong dal halwa. There was also ice cream and fresh fruits. I chose to end with the live banana fosters counter – there were various toppings and sauces to choose from and it was a good ending to the meal. Pancakes and waffles were also being made to order. I noticed a kids section with items more in tune to little appetites, like burgers, fries and smileys. All in all, a very pleasant experience at a good price point, and everyone’s sure to find stuff to their liking.

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).

Expanding my horizons – Of a coffee tasting with The Flying Squirrel Coffee

As I get older, it is becoming increasingly important to me that I don’t get stuck in my ways, or too settled. To this end, I try to grab every chance to learn or try something new, and not shy away from things outside my personal comfort zone. Quite bad enough that my hot shower and first cup of black tea have become sacrosanct, and I will not leave the house without the former, even if it makes me late. I would rather not get entrenched in other ways, and especially, not be closed to trying things. And well, that cuppa is part wake up ritual and part addiction. But it has to be a cup of tea, never coffee, unlike so many folks who can’t start their morning right without some.

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This mantra is what saw me, a couple of Saturdays ago, at The Flying Squirrel Micro-Roastery  and Cafe in Koramangala, participating in an experiential session where a group of bloggers and writers were taken through the coffee making process, the various beans and brews The Flying Squirrel Coffee offers, and of course, tastings! In case you’re wondering what makes this in any way an out of the box experience, it is for the simple reason that I stay far away from coffee – the smell bugs me, and I don’t even enjoy desserts with coffee, much less actually drink the stuff. But this was a chance to learn more and explore the world of micro-roasteries, where artisanal coffee is produced in small batches, and offers a freshness and flavor quality that is way different from mass produced brands. The Flying Squirrel Cafe is a very recent and lovely addition to the Koramangala cafe scene, but their 7 types of gourmet coffees have been available for the last three or four years, through their website and at stalls I’ve come across at markets and events in Bangalore, and today retails in multiple cities across the country.

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They have their roasting machine up front and center so customers can see the process first hand, and they also have on display their coffee beans and plants – very cool, especially for someone like me who despite being in Karnataka for five years and counting, has not yet made a trip to Coorg or experienced the coffee estates there. And indeed that is where TFSC comes from too, with Ashish D’Abreo and Tej Thammaiah, two of the founders, being experienced coffee aficionados. They led us on a tasting and making session of one of their special offerings, a cold brew coffee. And this is the one, actually, the only coffee, I drank and enjoyed, and have even brewed up at home as per their instructions. It is so perfectly refreshing for this hot summer, and I find a small glass (liberally dosed with condensed milk and milk) makes my day happier. And since I am not brewing it hot, I don’t find the smell overwhelming either, and the process of cold brewing makes for a sweeter and less pungent brew, so its a win-win!

The coffees come from Arabica and Robusta beans, which each have their own distinctive flavor palate, and length of growth as well (7 months before Arabica can be harvested; 9 months for the Robusta). The coffee is handpicked, duly inspected, and then sent through a variety of processes like pulping, fermentation, washing, sun-drying, and I learned that each choice will make for a different flavor profile (sweet, fruity, acidic, bitter) – fascinating! And that’s also why this is not the strong filter coffee that my grandparents brewed every morning that had me wrinkling my nose given the strong aroma, but a veritable bouquet of flavors and scents from the specialized treatments of the beans. For example, the cold brew that I, and indeed, most of our group took a shine to, is a blend of Honey Sun Dried Arabica and Arabica Peaberry and other beans, and had been roasted in such a way that it delays caramelization of the inherent sugars so they are released at the end – now that explains my affinity for it! Its lighter and sweeter than the average coffee and the resulting aroma, while roasty and rich, is not one I minded.

We tried a few more coffees, including the Nitro, another cold brewed coffee, which had liquid nitrogen added, something that is all the rage these days, be it in coffee or in beer, as it kicks up the flavors a few notches. Not for me, for that very reason! I also tried TFSC’s Vietnamese Iced Coffee, but found it too strong for my taste and added more condensed milk than was likely appropriate and definitely horrified some of the staunch coffee drinkers at the table. I found it interesting that I still couldn’t warm up to coffee in dessert – I usually avoid tiramisu or cheesecake with coffee, and after trying the Parama Infused Creme Brulee here, I realized that my heart belongs only to that one cold brew! Speaking of dessert, you should head to The Flying Squirrel Micro-Roastery and Cafe for a lot more than just their coffee. The desserts were really good! The Salted Caramel Cheesecake that comes with popcorn topping, the Chocolate Overload Cheesecake with Kit Kat and malted chocolate balls, or the truly zinging Old Monk and Coke Cheesecake, which had cola jelly – you must try them!

I also quite enjoyed the lunch we had, and given the size of our group, we managed to try almost all their offerings. So whether it is pasta, mains, a sandwich, or a salad, you will get a lovely meal here. They also serve breakfast all day, and I plan to check out those offerings on my next visit. The place gets quite packed and can be noisy, so it may not be the right venue for a meeting or to get work done, but whether it is coffee your heart beats faster for, or good dessert, this place is sure to leave you happy and content.

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

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

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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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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