Sunday, December 28, 2008

F&B - The Garden Cafe

It's been so long since I wrote about any place I'd been that typing itself is now feeling like such a tough chore! And add to that the fact that I visited the Garden Cafe on Christmas day last year (exactly a month since I'm writing this), I've forgotten most of the details. However, the fact that I'm writing this should suffice to indicate that the place is either worth visiting coz it's a treat, or it's an absolute disaster (for this it's the former).

The Garden Cafe is the new avataar of Bouquet, which is what it used to be called before I guess. Now with the daily 'buffet', they have made things really interesting. I used buffet in quotes and said interesting simply because at Rs. 360, you get to eat all the items on their menu (and trust me, there are a lot of dishes) - from soups to appetisers, from sandwiches to pasta to classic continental fare, this place gives you absolute value for money - a setup to put you at ease, great ambiance, excellent service, and amazing, lip-smacking, finger-lickin food.

As I mentioned, I had visited this place on Christmas day with my brother (who was in the midst of his Christmas vacation/study holidays). And since this was a while ago, this post will only have the names of dishes we had, and not the usual long drawn out story with the pictures.

I think this was called Pacific Blue (something with Blue Curacao)

A mango mocktail my brother had

Chicken Satay

One of the best prawn dishes I've had - with garlic, ginger and soy sauce

Chicken Tikka

Christmas special - Scallops on mashed potatoes and leek

Pasta fusili for the brother

A classic BLT sandwich

BLT again

Chocolate & almond tart

Lemon Meringue

Cinnamon something

Like I said, I just remember pigging out, and since my brother isn't that great an eater, I allowed him to have what he wanted, and gorged my way through lunch.

Food: Fantastic
$$$: Complete value for money (I think the buffet has now increased to 375)
Service: Good
Verdict: Must visit. In my opinion, the best sit-down buffet for a multi-cuisine meal anywhere in Bangalore (all things considered)

F&B - The Garden Cafe, Papanna Street (off St. Marks Road), before Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore. Phone: 40333888

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rogue Elephant...redux

Actually, threedux (this is the third time I'm going there, and haven't written about second time). A bright, sunny afternoon, and Mr VP and I headed out to Rogue Elephant, and just as before, we learnt something new from the owner Anand there. Although we reached well past noon, he greeted us with a "Good morning!", and when Mr VP responded "Good Afternoon", he replied, "Oh, but it's never afternoon until the customer has eaten lunch!". I'll need to remember that line.

We started off with what we've almost always had, a lime juice, the fig salad and the just like crab meat, same as what we had when we went there the first time. However, for the main course, I decided to go veg and tried the Moroccon vegetable stew with cous cous.

Mr VP ordered the King fish medallions with a Putanesca sauce. And then, Anand gave us an instance of how when he was working at a hotel in London, and was manning the trolley while serving a roast chicken, he moved up to the table of the lady who had ordered it and began carving the chicken and asked her "Would the lady like some stuffing?". ROTFLOL. 'Whack', the head chef apparently slapped him across his head and said, "You idiot, you never ask a lady if she wants some stuffing!".

Once the main course was done, as usual Mr VP seemed full and so I decided to have the strawberry pannacotta for dessert. This tasted good, and since I love strawberries, this was doubly good.

A nice, fat belly, and back I headed to work, and back to planning the office team trip we had planned for (more about it in the other blog as soon as I get down from the high of that trip).

Rogue Elephant, 119, Ambara Complex, Annasamy Mudaliar Road, Ulsoor Lake, Adjacent to Foto Flash, Bangalore.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I baked a pizza from scratch!

That's right, I finally made the time to bake a pizza, right from making the dough for the base to baking it in the oven...oh, and lest I forget, it tasted good too! It's been a couple of months now since we got a new microwave oven with convection capabilities too, and so finally I decided that it was time I ventured into baking food using an oven and using the preheating capabilities in an oven, and what better dish to start off with than a pizza.

1 cup flour (maida)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
6-8 tbsp warm water

Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowler, add the sugar and the warm water and dissolve the sugar and add the yeast into the water and stir a little and leave it in a warm place for about 5-10 minutes or until you see froth on top of the water, which indicates the yeast has dissolved (or is dissolving). Make a well in the flour and mix the water with the dissolved yeast and start mixing them. Add the olive oil and continue mixing to form the dough. Add a little more water and/or flour if needed until you have a smooth consistency. Form a ball and cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or so, or until the dough doubles in size (by the action of the yeast).

After the dough has doubled in size, knead it with your knuckles and "knock the air out of it". Knead into a smooth ball, and then roll it out. I didn't toss it up like you see on TV (come on, this is my first time!), but maybe the next time I will. Drizzle a little olive oil on top or smear a little butter and then add whatever sauce you have - a thin layer should do.

I had some chicken sausages at home and so I chopped them into little pieces and distributed them around the base of the pizza, along with a few shavings of onions.

Add as much cheese you want, and usually stick to Mozzarella. Preheat the oven at 250 degrees centigrade and then bake the pizza in it for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. I baked it at a slightly lower temperature since it was my first time and hence you'll notice that the crusts haven't browned as you'd have expected them to have.

If you have it, use it! That's a principle I usually follow while cooking, and since I had a few strawberries, I sliced a few and tossed them along with a few mint leaves.

Sllurrrp! I should seriously consider switching careers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Via Milano

Finally I got to go to this place that I've heard so much about, and it turned out to be as good as it was was made out to be if not better. As far as comparisons go, I think this place edges out Fiorano as a better venue for Italian food (I haven't been to I.T.alia, and since Little Italy is pure veg, Via Milano scores over the place hands down, even in terms of ambience, service and decor). The place is really nice and the furniture is perfect for an evening of pure Italian magic, with nice dark wooden furniture and white sofas, which is where Mr VP, Ms WeightConcious, Mr Saucy and I were seated. Every staff member here is cheerful and even if they're pretending, it's a pretty convincing act.

Once you're seated, they place a bread basket on your table and along with 3 dips: mayonnaise, basil pesto (obviously with olive oil) and diced tomatoes (usually found on a bruschetta). Along with this came 3 test tubes filled with olive oil, something, and balsamic vinegar.

When it came to ordering the drinks, it was again a case of my mind randomly deciding not to have alcohol tonight, although in past there have been instance when I've had a drink and driven back (like when we went to TGIF). Mr VP too wasn't having any booze, so we were the teetotalers tonight, while Ms WeightConcious and Mr Saucy were going to be the tipplers. The only wine available that night for drinking (glass, not the entire bottle) was a South African red wine, Two Ocean Pinotage, and that's what Ms WeightConcious had.

Whenever I have a cocktail or a mocktail, especially one I've never tried before, I always hope and secretly pray that it's never too fancy looking, or too feminine looking, but almost always I've ended up with something that exactly matched the criteria I'm avoiding, and this time was no different when my order, a Tahitian Breeze arrived.

Mr VP stuck to his tried and tested drink of a Virgin Mary (right) while Mr Saucy had a Christoffel Beer (left).

For appetisers, we ordered a Smoked Chicken salad, and I think there was more salad than smoked chicken in it, but I guess that's how things usually are when you attach the word salad to anything else. It tasted good, and the dressing was apt.

The other appetiser we had was something that sounded really funky, was a let down when it came, and the taste was, well I'll get to that, hang on. It was called platter of Parma Ham with Melon, and I expected different cuts of ham, but it turned out to be just one type, but it tasted, although I don't know what the melon was supposed to do - it neither enhanced the taste of the ham, nor did it complement it. The ham tasted good on it's own.

For our main course, I wanted one of the dishes to be a pizza and everyone agreed. Ms WeightConcious ordered a beef lasagna, and this was different in the sense that the meat inside wasn't the usual minced type, but thin slices of beef that were cooked perfectly and slid in between layers of lasagna sheets. The secret sauce drizzled around it was fantastic.

Mr VP wasn't sure what to order, and so I randomly looked into the pasta section and with the help of our friendly waiter, selected a chicken tortelloni, which came in a white sauce.

The pizza ordered was a Prosciutto E Annanas, which was Prosciutto and pineapples with mozzarella cheese. The thin crust was yummy, and I dare say it was better than the pizzas I've had at Little Italy, which until now were the best I've had in Bangalore.

Mr Saucy ordered a Lamb loin, and the presentation of the dish was probably the best of the lot. Again, as with the lasagna, the secret sauce around it was excellent.

We were pretty darn full by the time we finished the last morsels of our main course, and so decided to settle for only two desserts. I ordered a Lemon Meringue with strawberries, and I think this was the best I've had among desserts in quite a while. The tangy lemony twang was perfect and the lil sprig of lemon grass on top was pretty creative (but then again, I think it's an obvious addendum).

Mr Saucy ordered a tiramisu, and according to him, this one was one of the better ones he's had. I like the tiramisu too, but then again, I haven't yet had one that's tasted bad :)

After a dinner that was quite obviously one of the best I've I had, and where conversations moved from arranged marriages and love marriages to the problems faced today and the decisions that we need to take, we finally headed home. I know it won't be too soon before I come back to Via Milano again, but I can't wait for the second visit, and hopefully it'll be soon.

Food: Vary good.
$$$: Expensive.
Service: Pretty good.
Verdict: If you love Italian, this place should be on your list.

Via Milano, Asha Plaza, Above Reebok showroom, 80 Ft Road-100 Ft Road junction, Adjacent to Sony World, Koramangala 4th block, Bangalore. Phone: 41309997, 41309994

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Copper Chimney

After a tumultuous 3 days from Wednesday night to early Saturday morning, Mr VP and I decided to go out for lunch to Copper Chimney, a Mughlai restaurant on the 5th floor of Bangalore Central. Inevitably, we got around to talking about the attacks in Mumbai, and about the government is never pro-active but always reactive towards incidents. But that's for the other blog, Shetty's Take, not here. But trust me, even writing this seems like a Herculean effort right now, and I don't think this will be the best piece penned down by me (or typed out, whatever).

As soon as we entered the place, I liked it. Nothing spectacular, but just the fact that the bar looked nice, and the furniture looked strong, and everything around us was spic and span made me feel good about this place. And the fact that they allowed the two of us to sit at a table for 6 was even better!

We always wanted to try out the biryani at this place, and so decided to go easy with the rest of the food. We started off with a chicken soup, which wasn't a creamy variety and tasted pretty good. It wasn't too thick or too thin, and that made Mr VP happy, since he doesn't like creamy soups, or ones that are too watery or too thick.

We followed up the soup with a plate of achari murgh tikka, which was perfect - just the right amount of spiciness to whet the appetite and prepare us for the biryani.

The dum biryani was something very different. For one, it's fragrance was wonderful. What's more, it wasn't too sticky or greasy, and after eating it we didn't feel unnecessarily full, as usually most places add a bit (quite a bit) of soda to rice items and that tends to fill you up pretty fast. Although not too full, we decided to skip the breads and go for dessert, although I'd heard that the taftan, a kind of naan bread, was supposed to be wonderful here.

For dessert, I ordered something called a Muzaffar, which was something like a rabdi, with some crispy thingies sprinkled on top (that they could have skipped, because it didn't feel too good in the mouth). Otherwise, this was a very nice dish and I quite liked the taste.

Mr VP ordered a malai firni, and I kept eying his dish until finally he said "I can't finish it" and I gobbled it up with glee. It was really good, and the first time I'd had it.

I think I'm going to visit this place again sometime, although it would be in more pleasant times (hopefully).

Food: Good (one of the better north Indian dining places)
$$$: Moderately expensive
Service: Decent
Verdict: Visit if in the vicinity

Copper Chimney, Bangalore Central, near Mayo Hall, Bangalore. Phone: 66111800, 66111900

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Café Y

This little café tucked away off Hosur road near Bangalore Military School (on the side road near Prestige Elgin) is one of the few treasure troves of Bangalore. It so happened that the traffic around Langford Town/Shantinagar was pretty heavy, and I remembered that Café Y is supposed to be around here someplace, and so I decided to park and look for the place and hop in for an early dinner. Although this place is on a street that's pretty heavy when it comes to traffic during peak hours, it's interiors and decor and more importantly the colours used inside certainly transport you to Enid Blyton's's almost akin to a toy house, like Noddy's, with bright colours like yellow and orange.

The menu primarily comprises of European, especially Italian, with a good variety of choices for both vegetarians and the meat eaters. There are soups and salads, sizzlers and pastas, and a section for kiddies. They also have a separate menu card for Chinese, which I didn't try. I started off with a minestrone soup,

which was good. But the stand out feature here was the accompaniment of two pieces of bread in a basket and some small cubes of butter in a small tray covered with a lid! This was a first for me anywhere, so I was pleasantly surprised, and tucked away into the soup, and polished it off with the bread and butter.

For my main course, I didn't want to try anything meaty, and so settled for something that I thought wouldn't be too large - a veg lasagna.

Boy, was I wrong! Once the lasagna arrived and I started digging into it, not only did it taste heavenly, I also realised that there was quite a bit to finish! I had a good book with me and so I ate leisurely, while the staff were content watching Tom & Jerry as there weren't any other customers at quarter past 7. By the time I finished my lasagna, I didn't think I had any space left for dessert, but I had seen a blueberry cheesecake on the menu, and so just had to have one - so a blueberry cheesecake it was.

The portion served was large, and I don't think I've ever had a cheesecake that's tasted this good in a long time. At 100 bucks for a cheesecake, this one is well worth the money, although I'm certain I've had similar cheesecakes at cake shops for slightly less. Nevertheless, this place is really nice and perfect if you don't want to end up shelling out more than 500 bucks for a complete meal similar to what I ate. The ambiance inside is nice, and although they do have a couple of tables outside, I'm not too sure if people would fancy those at night with vehicles zipping outside the compound (but I could be wrong).

Food: Pretty good
$$$: Not very expensive - in a group, you'd shell out around 300-400 for a complete meal.
Service: Decent
Verdict: If in the area, do visit for some nice Conti food.

Café Y, 2/2, Langford Road - Eagle St intersection, Langford Town, opp. Prestige Elgin, Bangalore

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fiorano Ristorante

This Italian restaurant, named after the municipality in the northern part of Italy (south-west of Modena), in Koramangala promises and delivers authentic Italian fare, and how! From the outside, Fiorano looks like a winner...just the kinda place that could sweep you off your feet, let alone the imaginary date you plan to bring some other time. But once we stepped in, I felt a bit deflated. The walls were all white and there was nothing on 'em...not one painting, not a single piece of...anything. I'm not sure if they were under partial renovation or what, but the wall on the far side of the restaurant had patches of cement all along. I'm never a big critic of ambiance - or me as long as it's a clean place I'm good, but even I had to mention this.

Mr VP, Ms WeightConscious and a friend of hers, let's call her Ms LiberalBong for the time being, headed towards this place on a rain soaked Sunday night (when India were playing England at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, and most of the city was glued to their TV sets). After making ourselves comfy, we ordered our respective poisons from the drinks menu. And so it was a glass of Grover La Reserve (red wine), a Pina Colada, a Kiwi Martini and a Green Apple Martini that we settled for. Actually, Ms LiberalBong wanted to have an Baileys Irish Cream, but that wasn't available so she settled for a Pina Colada (I apologise for not taking snaps, I forgot). Since we were at a coffee shop before we came here, we settled for only one appetiser - a Crostini Misti, which was little crostinis with toppings of salmon, prosciutto, and chicken. While the others found it oily, I loved it! Mr VP also said that there was something in it that his stomach didn't agree with, but I guess there was an uneasy truce signed between the two parties.

For our main course, we stuck to pasta: Penne, spaghetti and fettuccine. We had two dishes with Penne: Penne al Amatriciana

and Penne Mushroom & Cream.

While the former was a dish with garlic, Parma ham and tomato, the latter was a cheesy, creamy sauce with mushrooms. Both were good, but the Parma ham was a super hit with all my friends. The spaghetti dish ordered was a Spaghetti Alla Carbonara,

which was spaghetti with eggs and ham, and lastly, the fettuccine was a Fettuccine Alla Siciliana,

which had a bologna-type sauce. All the dishes tasted heavenly, but again, there was a complaint - this time Ms LiberalBong, who thought the spaghetti was a little too oily for her liking.

All in all, I enjoyed the meal thoroughly, although I think I'm echoing only my sentiments and not a collective opinion. On a rain-soaked night when India won the ongoing ODI series against the visiting Englishmen 4-0 with 3 more dead rubber games remaining, 'twas a nice meal to finish off a nice, rainy weekend.

Food: Very good
$$$: Expensive (around 600-800 per head)
Service: Pretty good
Verdict: If you like Italian food, you'll like this place (also see review on Via Milano)

Fiorano Ristorante, 63 5thA Block, 100 Feet Road, next to Sukh Sagar, Koramangala, Bangalore. Phone: 25534231

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Ugly Duckling

I'd heard a lot about this new place on Millers Road, and was quite intrigued by it's name and the fact that it served Greek and European cuisine piqued my curiosity enough to make me want to try it out. The restaurant is owned by an Indian and a Danish national, and it's named after Hans Christen Andersen's famous story, because both owners are big fans of the author. Visiting this place was also a first of sorts, not only in terms of the cuisine, but also because I got to meet a new friend, whom I shall christen Ms SpunkyFunk.

The interiors of this place are pretty decent, and the wall is full of paintings which I thought gave the sense that they were trying hard to establish a European connections, while Ms SpunkyFunk thought it was, well, for lack of a better term, pointless! And although we did not see a single picture or showpiece of a duckling (let alone ugly), there were several frogs with different instruments, which Ms SpunkyFunk loved and wanted to take home.

And so on to the food. We both ordered a round of iced teas

and for appetizers, Ms SpunkyFunk ordered an egg mimosa,

which was very similar to deviled eggs, and the only thing I didn't like too much about it was that it had raw onions (I prefer them caramelised). I ordered a fish croquet, which was crumb fried and served with a dip.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Ms SpunkyFunk is a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so I had to eat the fish on my own (I wasn't complaining).

For our main course, Ms SpunkyFunk ordered an aubergine moussaka,

which she said wasn't quite the way a moussaka was supposed to be. Well, she's travelled all over Europe, and was quite right in her assertion that a moussaka ought to have a slightly more runny gravy of cheese. I had a Prawn Souvlaki, which consisted of skewered prawns with a bed of rice along with a spicy marinara, and it tasted pretty good.

I did, however, have an issue with the skewered prawns - they were skewered with tooth picks, and I had a bloody hard time getting them off using just the forks, and so had to use my fingers and get them a little messy.

For dessert, despite my initial apprehensions, Ms SpunkyFunk talked me into having a Ferrero Rocher wedge, which turned out to be really very nice,

sinfully chocolaty, while she had a passion fruit gelato sorbet,

sorbets being her favourite form of dessert anywhere, even over ice cream! The sorbet tasted amazing, and is something I'm going to have for certain the next time I come here. Sunday was a cloudy day, just the kind of day I like - no sun, slight drizzle and a little nip in the air. Add to that a nice lunch with a beautiful and extremely chatty person - sweet!

Food: Good
$$$: Moderately expensive
Service: Could have been better
Verdict: Can certainly try once

The Ugly Duckling, 71, 5th Floor, Sona Towers, Millers Road, Benson Town, Bangalore. Phone: 22375982

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