Sea Rock: A Golden Oldie

I have developed quite the love for Mangalorean food over the last few years. This was a cuisine I had never tried until moving to Bangalore, and my first introduction was via the delectable neer dosa. A Mangalorean best friend, visits to Mangalore, and a growing appreciation of seafood means that today, this cuisine is one of my go-to choices when I want Indian food. I have eaten home style Mangalorean as well as at a range of restaurants across the city, and a good neer dosa and ghee roast make me a very contented gal.

My new favored spot in town is a golden oldie, if you will – Sea Rock, which bills itself as a family restaurant and bar. The restaurant has changed venue a few times in the thirty plus years of its existence, and has undergone transformations. But one thing it has always been known for, is its great seafood, especially Mangalore preps. And I have friends who have eaten here as kids and now are rediscovering its goodness as adults. The menu shows Chinese, North and South Indian dishes in addition to the Mangalorean delicacies, but those in the know come here especially for the seafood, and indeed, the regulars don’t even bother to glance at a menu, just reeling off their favorites. As will I, in the future!

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Clams Sukka

The choices are many, from shellfish to fish to chicken and mutton, as well as plenty for vegetarian diners. But, well, seafood is really what you should be ordering, unless you don’t eat it! The Mangalore Sukka Marwai (clams) is what I would recommend starting off with for the shellfish lovers. Sukka, which features grated coconut in addition to a blend of spices, is a very Mangy, very delicious preparation! Follow this up with the Squid (Bondas) Masala Fry, or if you’re not into squid, try another fish, but definitely do NOT miss out on the Masala Fry at Sea Rock. Silken, coconutty (thanks to being fried up in coconut oil), and just a little spicy – this will, if you’re anything like me, induce yummy sounds from within.

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Masala Fry Squid

Now, the larger the group you’re with, the more you can order, and since I’ve been with 6 or so people each time, we have been lavish. For the fish fans, Pomfret (Maanji) in Tandoori masala and Anjal (Seer Fish) Tawa Fry will leave you very happy. And for the hardcore fish fans, both the Rava Fry for Kane (Lady Fish) and Silver Fish are great. The Silver Fish, which can be crunched up whole, bones and all, goes really well with beer, and after the fiery masala dishes, it is both taste and texture wise, a change of scene. I can personally eat a half a dozen of these babies easily, and devour an entire slice of Anjal as well, and more of Pomfret than I usually eat, because well, those masalas! I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

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Anjal Masala Fry

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Pomfret Tandoori Masala

If you’ve left space for main course, then Mangalorean staples like Kori Rotti, Chicken or Fish Pullimunchi, Mangalore Fish Curry, Gassi, Sukka, Ghee Roast et all await. Kori Rotti, which is country chicken curry with a crisp papad-like roti accompanying it, is usually a must-order, as there will always be that one soul at the table who has heart emojis when they hear the name! For me however, there is only one thing that will make the meal complete, as I said right at the beginning – Ghee Roast! Sea Rock does a killer Prawn Ghee Roast, a portion of which I am one day going to order and refuse to share! That, along with a plate or two of neer dosa, and happiness has been achieved.

Sea Rock tends to get quite packed on weekdays for lunch especially, as a lot of people from the high courts and other offices nearby come to eat there. But the service will be impeccable, however busy they are, and the beer chilled. And of course, a more family crowd will be seen on weekends. A lovely meal in old school surroundings and service are what await, and a very full belly!

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Kane Rava Fry

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Silver Fish Fry

Details: Sea Rock, Seshadripuram (Above Shivananda Stores); Open for Lunch and Dinner; INR 1000 plus taxes for a meal for two.

Onam Sadya at ITC Gardenia

Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival is a ten day long celebration and also marks the start of the new year for Hindu Malayalis, and is usually celebrated by all the people from the state. The grand feast, that is prepared on the final day of Onam, called Thiruonam, is Onasadya. The Onasadya is an integral part of the celebrations, an elaborate meal served on a banana leaf, with certain specific dishes and sides, from salt to sweet, and numbering at least nine to even fifteen or more dishes. From banana chips and a banana (pazham), to puli inji (sweet and sour pickle side), pacchadi (a version of raita) and paripu (dal), with a host of delicious vegetarian dishes, some gravy, some dry, an Onam Sadya meal is a real treat.

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Over the last couple years I have been lucky enough to be part of a close friend’s annual Onam potluck celebrations. This year, I was also invited to an exclusive preview of ITC Hotel’s Onasadya, which is being served in Bangalore at ITC Gardenia’s Cubbon Pavilion restaurant. This special #GrandOnamCelebrations Onasadya will be available across India, at ITC properties, for lunch, on Monday September 4th, which is the day Onam falls on this year. The feast will be served as a Thali, priced at INR 1550 plus taxes. On Sunday the 3rd, some of these Sadya dishes will be a part of the ITC Pavilion restaurants’ daytime Sunday buffet spread.

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Expect the decorations and festivities to be on from Sunday, providing diners with a chance to try some traditional Kerala vegetarian fare, including Olan (ash gourd and red beans in coconut milk); Thoran (a dry prep with coconut, this version is with beetroot); Avial (thick gravy of Kerala veggies); and my personal favorite, Erissery (pumpkin and red beans in a coconut gravy). Kerala red rice, Kerala Sambar, and Moru curry, (a tempered yogurt based thin gravy that has mustard and curry leaf and is quite tangy), are other dishes you’ll be served as part of the feast. The meal will end with traditional desserts that are part of a Sadya – a variety of payasams. In this case, enjoy Elaneer Payasam (tender coconut dessert that is light and delicious), and Adai Pradaman (a thick prep of rice, jaggery and coconut milk.

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Enjoy Regional Specialties of Thai Cuisine at Siam Trading Company

My introduction to Thai food was as a teenager, and over the years, it has grown to become one of my most favored cuisines, helped in no small part by having a Thai roommate and best friend for four years of college, during which we ate at Thai restaurants and I also got to enjoy home cooking and goodies from Thailand, which she brought back every fall. During my time on the west coast, I had about half a dozen Thai restaurants within a few miles of my place, and would pick which of them to eat at, depending on whether I was in the mood for Larb, Pad Thai, a Thai curry, or a Thai basil stir fry. Fast forward a decade, and I found myself back in the homeland, and made my first of many trips to Bangkok to visit the friend and her family, and got introduced to even more of the cuisine!

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Bangalore has some restaurants that serve good Thai food, many of which have Thai dishes amongst a Pan-Asian selection. But a place dedicated to Thai food, with an owner-Chef at the helm who has traveled extensively across Thailand, and brought back memories, recipes, and techniques – well, that’s definitely a treat, as a recent meal at Siam Trading Company proved! Chef Thashvin Muckatira (Holy Cow Hospitality) has his finger in many pies, but Siam is, I would say, the cherry on top. A curated meal (by Ruth of Bangalore’s Restaurants) that led a select group of bloggers and foodies through specialties from Thailand, is one that we will continue to savor and talk about for some time. This was a meal for non-vegetarians, though the restaurant has enough to keep veg diners happy too.

We began the proceedings with Grey Goose cocktails, and I found the Grey Goose Le Fizz to be my favorite, and that was my accompaniment for the meal. A Som Tum salad live counter had us grabbing plates of the tangy green papaya salad with shrimp as we waited to sit down to lunch. The first course was Beef and Rambutan Soup, and Chilled Mushroom & Young Coconut Soup, both of which were flavorful and fragrant delights. Carambola & Prawn Salad, featuring starfruit and grilled prawn in a spicy and sour dressing was next, and I doubt you’ll see this on any other menu in town. Then came Basil Prawns served with peanut sauce and Pandan wrapped Chicken, with banana leaf substituting for the difficult to source Pandan. Didn’t in any way harm the flavor, and both dishes were polished off in no time.

Things were beginning to get more exciting, with Steamed Lotus Stem garnished with whole cloves of garlic and Chinese wine, as well as a fabulous Sour Beef which had been fermented in-house, making an appearance. Spicy, sour, and again with garlic cloves, this one was hard to stop eating! Homemade pork sausage was something I was looking forward to, having eaten this Northeastern Thai prep (known as Naem) for breakfast and in fried rice and even carting back a couple pounds of it on one of my trips…this version, while nice, especially given its rarity, did not have the tang and spice blast I was expecting. But the fact that Chef is curing and prepping it right in the kitchen is quite something!

Crispy Fish with Mango Salad was next, and the delicate raw mango and talapia flavors were balanced so well. The next dish had the distinction of shutting us all up, and also had us asking for seconds: Grilled Pork Neck with a spicy lime dressing. Already quite full, we still made space for the Dry Noodles with Pork and Prawns (I loved this dish and the pork fat infused flavors with the shiitake mushrooms and greens adding dimension) and the Chiang Mai Chicken Curry and Sticky Rice (also known as Burmese curry, this one was heavy on the spices and a perfect main course). The meal ended with two popular Thai desserts – Sticky Rice with Mango and Rubies (Tum Tim Krob in Thai) which is water chestnuts in sweetened coconut milk. Unfortunately, neither of the desserts lived up to past experience or the expectation based on the rest of the meal. But desserts aside, this was a spectacular meal of epic proportions and made me yearn for another trip to Thailand!

The Buns and Sours Pop-Up

The Apple catchphrase ‘there’s an app for that’ popped into my mind when I realized that these days, there’s a day for everything. You know, not just the biggies like father’s day or teacher’s day, now there’s a day for sports journalists, and hopping on the bandwagon, are days for food – and as a food writer, how can I not celebrate food days, I ask you?! Did you know, yesterday was Whiskey Sour Day, and tomorrow is Burger Day? Neither did I! But the folks over at The Hilton, EGL, decided to combine the two and create a special buns and sours menu for a three day pop-up at their Salt Grill restaurant.

Available the 25th to 27th of August, I checked out the preview a couple days ago, and came away very happy. For one, the price point is great – the burgers are INR 799 plus taxes, and the Whiskey Sours are INR 599 plus taxes. My suggestion is to go for the combo, which gives you one of each of your choice (there are 5 sours and 5 burgers on the menu) for INR 999 plus taxes. The Whiskey Sours range from The Classic, made with Jim Beam, egg white, sweet and sour, to country-inspired, like the spice-infused, Paul John Bold concoction, Made in India and the Irish Cider featuring Irish Whiskey, Peach Schnapps, Angostura Bitters, and sweet and sour (my fav. from this menu). My second fav. from the lot was the Tuscan Smash, which had JD, Sangiovese, sweet and sour and grape mist.

I was delighted to find two red meat (buffalo) burgers on offer – the Panko Crumbed Verde Burger with the patty, blue cheese, onion jam, streaky bacon, Verde sauce, served betwixt a ciabatta bun, alongside the Thai Cobb Burger, which had avocado, caramelized onion, peanut sauce in a multi-grain bun. For people like me who want their burger to not be chicken or lamb or fish, finding not one, but two of these beauties was a great thing, especially since they also turned out to be the best of the five on offer! For the vegetarians, there is a Tofu Teriyaki Burger, and they will do a veg patty on request as well. The chicken option was the Black Burger, served – you guessed it – in a black sesame bun, with Cajun spiced chicken, roasted peppers, Glenlevit and fig marmalade. This was my second fav. of the evening. My fellow blogger loved the Tempura Fillet Fish Burger. There were three kinds of fries that came as accompaniments, as well. Oh, and the mustard and ketchup were in those little glass jars/bottles, in individual servings.

We rounded out the meal with the soon to be launched new menu’s decadent desserts, which I will have to go back for separately, to be able to do proper justice to, as well as petit-fours. Kudos to Chef Deb, who’s new in town, for this lovely little pop-up. It’s only on until tomorrow night, so do head over and enjoy the food, drink, and ambience of The Salt Grill’s outdoor setting. And a quick note, some of the pics are of the tasting portion sized burgers, since we were eating ’em all.

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).

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

A wedding feast fest at SodabottleOpenerWala

SodaBottleOpenerWala, hereafter to be called SBOW in this post, just completed three years as an entity, and two years in its Bangalore home on Lavelle Road. I always love hanging out there, with the quirky decor, diner style checkered table cloths, and Bollywood music playing, and of course, the toy train making its way sedately on its track overhead. Lagan nu Bhonu, Parsi Wedding Feast, a thali meal featuring the specialties and delicacies one would find at a Parsi wedding, are how they’ve chosen to commemorate the occasion. I managed to catch the festival at the tail end (the special Thalis are available until Saturday, February 25th, at both lunch and dinner) and my dining companion and I quite loved the non-veg Thali.

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Presented on a beautiful metal work thali, with two copper-colored katoris holding gravies, and the other items presented on the leaf atop the thali, this was a deceptively simple looking meal. I thought it would be easy to polish off, but rather ran out of steam around three-fourths of the way in. My friend on the other hand, did an excellent job of presenting a clean leaf! Our meal began with the Pallonji Raspberry Soda, made in-house, with a tangy raspberry crush and soda. Just what was needed after the ride to the restaurant in the burgeoning Bangalore summer! Apparently earlier iterations of this drink tended on the sweet side, but it was our lucky day, for this version was tart and I loved it.

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And now for what we ate. The plated thali comes with two pickles, an aubergine one – Vegna nu Achar, which was more dip than pickle, and the sweeter, Chunda-like one, the Lagan nu Achar, as well as Kachumbar salad. Parsi fare has its share of fried foods, and this thali has Chutney Eeda na Pattice, which had boiled egg, potatoes and some greens, Macchi no Cutlet – double cooked Rawa fish minced and delicately spiced, and one of the favorite dishes of the meal for us, and also Saria Papad. The Masala ni Daar was quite rich and I contented myself with some bites along with the rotis, and spent the rest of the time on the delicious and my top dish of the day, Gos No Sas, a beautiful white mutton gravy dish, with egg white making for a thick gravy, and tender boneless mutton pieces. The Chicken Pulao was flavorful and a good way to close out the mains.

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The proof of the pudding: a clean plate!

Dessert was two, and in mercifully small portions. There was a Strawberry Custer served in a stainless steel bowl that was reminiscent of something you would have loved as a kid, though the two adults in question quite enjoyed it too! The Plum Cake with Brandy Sauce, by contrast, was a very grown-up dessert, both in terms of presentation (served in a shot glass) and flavor (quite a kick in that Brandy Sauce!). We lapped up both in short order, and then ended our meal with Irani Chai, a strong milk tea that I always order when at SBOW. Now, if you get the chance over the next couple of days, do head over and enjoy the feast fit for a wedding!

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Details: SodaBottleOpenerWala, Lavelle Road; Lagan nu Bhonu Thali available for lunch and dinner; INR 650 plus taxes (non-veg) and INR 550 plus taxes (veg).

A meal to remember at Memories of China (Vivanta by Taj)

There was a good run of Chinese New Year food festivals to bring in the Year of the Rooster in Bangalore this year, and I managed to catch three or four over the course of the 15-day long celebrations. Memories of China, Vivanta by Taj, M.G Road’s signature Chinese restaurant, helmed by Chef William Tong, was the grand finale to my CNY celebrations. Chef had curated a menu of special dishes, including a few from his main menu, and for that I am very thankful, since I can get my favorites even after the festival’s done! Memories of China has been in existence for a really long time, and it is heartening to see a place not just maintain its standards or rest on its laurels, but continue to deliver fantastic (and dare I say it, “authentic”) food and a wonderful dining experience. Now, without further ado: here are the dishes we tried at the CNY festival.

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Fried Prawn coated with Wasabi and Mayo and topped with Caviar! Now that’s how you kick off a celebratory meal!

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Haricots Vert with crushed Yellow Bean (Douchi): I could have kept eating this all night – crispy, tangy, and delicious!

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Shiitake Mushrooms with Bok Choy – the latter was cooked beautifully and retained its crunch, and the mushrooms were the perfect companion – not overpowering the delicate flavor of the bok choy.

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Singing Chicken – a sizzling chicken dish with dried red chillies, mushrooms, squash and more.

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Traditional Lamb Belly served in a clay pot – strong flavors and tender meat.

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Our Dish of the Night: Stir Fried Sliced Fish with Egg white. This really was something else, flavor wise! Egg white with Grouper fish and then finished with chillies – a new combination and a deadly one!

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A perennial favorite: Burnt Garlic Fried Rice. The portion was large enough for feed five of us!

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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