Friday, August 29, 2008

Ginseng

Gin·seng -noun [jin-seng]: any of several plants of the genus Panax, esp. P. pseudoginseng, of eastern Asia, or P. qinquefolius, of North America, having an aromatic root used medicinally.





Gin·seng -noun [jin-seng]: The Oriental cuisine restaurant in Bangalore, part of the Royal Orchid group of hotels.


Birthdays are always nice, and birthday lunches or dinners are even better, especially when someone else is footing the tab. A couple of folks in my team took the team out for lunch to celebrate their birthday, and after narrowing down 3 places, Ginseng was chosen. I'd have loved to have gone the a la carte way (don't I always), but going on a weekday from work always has a few restrictions, and time certainly is one of them. So the buffet it was, which isn't half as bad as I'd be making it out to be right now, but I'd still take the a la carte anyday :)

We started off with the soup of the day, which was a mixed vegetable sweet and sour soup, which all of us agreed was simply amazing. The few who felt a little disappointed that there was just one soup were soon all smiles.

The appetizer spread was pretty decent: starting from the 12 o'clock position and going clockwise, we have some chicken, followed by pomelo fruit, then some pineapple, followed by some very lovely kimchi, wafer fried in prawn oil and finally deviled egg.

For those of you unaware of what a Pomelo is, this is what it looks like.

The spread for the main course was a delight, but sadly some of the food didn't live up to my expectations :( This time, starting from the 11 o'clock position (clockwise), we have stir fried French beans, followed by Thai chicken curry, and some mutton dish whose name I can't recollect now. Then we have the Thai chicken fry (which resembled gobi manchurian), and some fried water chestnuts. And in the middle is some fish, again whose name escaped from my head. The chicken fry (red one, 6 o'clock) wasn't very nice and was a little rubbery coz of the batter it was cooked in, and the mutton didn't seem to have been cooked recently and felt cold and didn't have any 'juice' in it. The rest of the dishes were good, and lived up to the expectations that I had been told to expect at Ginseng.

The dim sums were heavenly. Biting into them, they would almost melt in your mouth. The sesame seed sauce and the pepper sauce as accompaniments were perfect. Nothing to write home about the hakka noodles and the veg fried rice, except that they weren't bad.

And onto the desserts! By now if you've been reading my posts, you'd know that this is the part I love the most. 12 o'clock Kiwi cheese cake, chocolate cake with walnuts, Strawberry cheese cake, something I have no idea about but was filled with Mascarpone cheese, a coconut roll with cream (which oozed oil and tasted horrible), a pastry of some kind and a classic Tiramisu. The glasses in the middle had different souffles in them which were amazing to look at and taste.

After all that I had heard about Ginseng, I'll have to say that although overall I was very happy with the place, especially the ambiance inside and the decor and settings, I was hoping against hope that all the buffet dishes would have been up to the mark and would not leave me disappointed. Well, maybe the next time I come, I'll have to go a la carte and hope for the best.

Ginseng, The Royal Orchid, 1, Golf Avenue, Old Airport Road, Bangalore.

Punjabi Rasoi

The most vocal of dancing girls from our group of 20 who joined GXS on the same day has put in her papers, and what's more, Monday is her last day!!! So a few remnants of the original 20 decided to step out close by for a quick lunch. Since we work in different teams, and in different buildings, we don't get to meet up as often as we'd like, and it's usually during such times that we meet up.

Since it was going to be a quick affair, and since the place is fairly quick when it comes to serving the food, we ordered a plate of tangdi kabab (sorry for the blurry image, it's 4 chicken legs marinated in a mixture of curd, corriander paste, chillies),
and a plate of gobi (cauliflower) fry.
Both starters were good, and the chicken was particularly juicy, which was such a relief, because it can easily be over cooked in an over-enthusiastic wave.

For main course, the usual Punjabi fare: rotis and curry. We had lachcha paranthas and phulkas, along with a mutton curry (roghan josh),

and those who eat the food of the holy Indian cows ordered a bhindi masala (lady's finger or okra).

The mutton was tender and the spices were just right for the palate, while the okra was done well and again, not over-powering. There feelings are always a little morose when someone from your group decides to call it a day and move on to a new company, for a better opportunity in this enormous rat race that we techies are part of. And for any American reading this, no pal, I didn't steal your job. I got the job 'coz I'm good at what I do, and the fact that I'm not paid as much as you would have been paid for the same job isn't something that's in my control, so don't even bother going down that path. Anyways, it's food I discuss here, not politics, which I do in my other blog, so let's bring this to a close.

Food: Decent
:$$$: Value for money
Service: Can vary depending on the crowd
Verdict: Not expensive, so if in the vicinity, hop in.

Punjabi Rasoi, #152/1, 2nd Main, Near Juice Junction & Just Bake, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 23339171, 23338064

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Egg Factory


This place is tucked away in a small lane opposite the main branch of State Bank of India on St. Mark's Road, in a building called White house. The settings are wonderful: it's got a robust look, not flashy, almost rustic, but very comfortable, with a great view of the beauty of old Bangalore on St. Mark's Road. Here is a snap of the view from where we were sitting. The owner, Mr Yogesh, came and joined us for lunch and had a chat with us. As the name suggests, the prime ingredient in almost all dishes is egg, and there's no other meat on offer. To some, this may seem a little disappointing, but I have no idea why it should be. As Mr Yogesh said, if they wanted the other accompaniments like ham and/or bacon (which typically go well with eggs, the classic English breakfast), there are a lot of other joints for that, and also, serving only eggs gives the place a sort of exclusivity that the others don't enjoy, sort of a USP that is unique by all standards. And surely, skipping meat and substituting it with eggs, once in a while, shouldn't be that big an issue. They also whip up dishes without the yolks upon request, and have an extremely fancy list of dishes.

Onto the food, and we had decided to eat as much as we could and get the best this place had to offer. We started off with the tomato & mozzarella crostini

and the mushroom pepper crostini.

While Mr P thought the mushroom pepper was the better of the two, I'm a sucker for cheese and mushrooms, so I had to give equal points for both, and both scored very high. Mr VP, as usual, couldn't make up his mind which one was better and was the undecided voter in this survey (there are always a few of these undecided chaps in every poll).

We then moved on to omelettes. Apologies for the delay in clicking the pictures; we were having a very nice conversation with Mr. Yogesh and so I remembered only when we were half done with the omelettes. Mr P had an Irish omelette, which had onions, chives and lemon juice (sorry for the late click, but Mr P had devoured most of it before I realised I had to click),

Mr VP had a Spanish omelette which had kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers-basically, the works,

and I settled for the broccoli and mushroom omelette.

All the omelettes came with slices of toasted bread and with butter and jam separately. We'd already wolfed down the toasted bread with half the omelettes before I remembered to click away, but I can say with full authority that the omelettes are big and not a cheap excuse for an omelette. The toasted bread and butter & jam teleported me back to the days when I was a child and would make my triple decker egg sandwich after reading of Jughead's exploits in Archie comics. All the omelettes tasted good (they'd better have, coz if you can screw up an omelette, then you shouldn't be running a kitchen, let alone a restaurant!).

And away we marched towards the next meal. We were trying to sample one from each section (and there were plenty of sections). We ordered a garden frittata (Mr Yogesh's recommendation),

a piperade 6 inch sub, which had egg and mushrooms with the usual stuffings of onions , lettuce, etc.,

and two rice curry combos: the spicy onion egg curry,

and a son-in-law curry (a Thai dish with golden boiled egg and tamarind with roasted peanut sauce) [sorry, but the picture seems to have vanished from my phone]. The use of tamarind was a little aggressive, but not to the point where you couldn't eat it. My only regret is that we didn't cancel one of the rice dishes for a pasta dish (especially since there was a line in the menu that read: Italian pasta at Indian prices :) ). Nevertheless, the food we had was amazing and if the staff at the Egg Factory promised satisfaction, they delivered it on all counts, and how! We made sure we left a little room for dessert, and had a poor Knights of Windsor, which was bread with raisins, fried with butter and jaggery and sprinkled with cherry shavings, served as a sizzler,

and a regular caramel custard because the other dessert we wanted to have(a strawberry filled omelette soufflé) wasn't available.

After the meal, the only thing running through my head was why didn't I live close to St. Mark's Road. The Egg Factory is an amazing place for those who can manage to put an egg down their throats without worrying about the holy repercussions. Credit cards aren't accepted right now and Mr Yogesh informed us that it was because the companies that lend the machines to swipe have become a bit strict and expect you to have stayed in business for about 6 months before they issue a machine, so for the time being, cash rules, although they do accept the Sodexho food coupons as well (which to me is a boon).

And did I mention that the best thing about this place is that it's an all day diner (from 8 AM to 10 PM), so even if you're hungry at say 5 PM around Lavelle Road or St. Marks' Road, and most other restaurants are closed, this place would be open, and you go in and tuck away into one of the desserts or wraps or subs, if not an omelette, or all of the mentioned. A nice walk in the nearby park or on Lavelle Road would help after the meal, as it did for us.

Food: Superb
$$$: Complete value for money
Service: Decent, prompt
Verdict: My favourite place in Bangalore! That should be all you need to hear.

The Egg Factory, 29, White House, Ground Floor, Behind Dewar's Wine shop, Opposite State Bank of India Head Office, St. Mark's Road, Bangalore - 01.

Toscano


When I read a couple of reviews for this place, I thought this place would be give places like Bangalore Bistro and Sunny's a run for their money. But alas! This wasn't to be. At least, not yet. I went to this place on Saturday with a friend of mine and I've learnt a lesson: don't order dishes other than pasta here (for the main course), the quantity may dampen your spirits! But if you're the kind who doesn't mind a few things out of place, and can melt with the settings here, which are like any European cafe on the curb, with the cobbled curbs and chairs and tables lined up around the side walk, this place is a wonderful spot to be at.




Sadly, when we got there, we weren't attended to. We waited a full 2 or more minutes, standing and scanning the place for empty seats, before asking a waiter if we could occupy a table that was empty. Ok, weekend, they were a bit busy, but if you wanna be the best, act like the best. The complementary bread and dip was very fresh and was perfect. I ordered the mixed salad, while my friend had the soup of the day (spinach & garlic). While the soup was good (nothing special, but it tasted good), the mixed salad left me with mixed feelings. It was a little too green for my liking (I know, salad, but what the heck), and when the menu said it had goat cheese, I thought there would be more than just one 1 inch piece (see the top of the snap below left - the little whitish piece on top is the goat cheese, and that's all there was)! But no, that's all there was.

This place has a Rs 325 buffet that allows you to choose a started and a main course, and a Rs 400 buffet that allows you to select a starter, a main course and a dessert. We chose the latter. For main course, I had the roasted tenderloin,

while my friend had the chef's special pepper steak.

Now, I've watched a lot of Top Chef on AXN and know fine dining food portions when I see it. Although the dishes tasted very good (the tenderloin was tender and juicy and tasted amazing, while the pepper steak was, at best, quite good) the portions served were so small, my face shrunk to the size of the piece of meat served. I was disappointed that the tenderloin I ordered was the size of an ice hockey puck (give or take a little), and the steak my friend ordered looked a little deflated. We were forced to order another dish, which we shared. We ordered a pasta, a tagliatelle with chicken, mushrooms, olives and asparagus.

This not only had quality, it had quantity too. Hurray!!! Hence, order pasta if you want to be 'full', while those happy with a light lunch can settle for the non pasta dishes. Another slightly dissappointing thing was that the waiter never came on his own to fill our glasses with water; we had to specifically call him. Again, maybe 'coz the place was crowded and they were busy, but come on, that can't be an excuse.

Onto the desserts, and the mango pannacotta that I had was heavenly,

while the chocolate kahlua mousse my friend had was fabulous.

Both the desserts had fabulous presentations and we were almost heartbroken to put our forks into the dish and spoil their looks. Again, they tasted great. The pannacotta's mango flavour with the strawberry (my favourite combo) below was terrific, and the mousse had a slight 'kick' to it.

All in all, a nice birthday lunch with my friend Her Highness Energy (her initials are NRG, hence Energy, and it was her birthday, not mine).

Food: Nice
$$$: Moderately expensive, around 400-500 per head
Service: Decent
Verdict: I'd like the portions to have been a little bigger, especially the meat dishes. Pastas were decently sized. Presentation topped the charts.

Toscano, The Collection - UB City, Level II, Concord Block, 24, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41738800

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Finally, I won something


Surprise-o-surprise!!! I was asked to do the reviews that I do here (if you can call 'em reviews) on Burrp and my review for Bistro won me a prize - movie tickets it says (see the right hand side of the image, highlighted in red). Neato! Now I just hope that there are some decent movies running when I plan to go; my fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dedication time

I'm not sure how to do this, but felt the need to. The main reason for me to start a food blog, separating it from the politically strident yet liberal views expressed in my regular blog, was because I was inspired by someone else's food blog (since there are so many now, maybe a food blog ought to be called a flog or something like that). And I must say that after reading it and going through all the places she'd been to in New York (yes, it's a she from NY) and everything she'd eaten (I was initially more interested in the food so I could try to make it at home), I just knew that I had to start a separate blog for my gastronomical entries. How I arrived at the name is a different story for a different time.

My blog was inspired by a blog titled Mona's Apple, which is by far the best food blog I've come across. And although it's all about places in New York City and about cuisines for which I rarely get ingredients here in Bangalore, it's great, and it's what inspired me. Mona, thank you so much, and keep visiting new places.

P.S: Mona, I envy you for being spoilt for choice with all the eat outs and cuisines available in New York :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bangalore Bistro

The first time I had heard of this place was when it used to be located on Cunningham Road. And after it 'moved', I hadn't a clue as to where it went. But then, after about 6 years, I heard that it's on Brigade Road. Brigade Road?!?!?! That sent me into a tizzy as I'm pretty well aware of what's there on Brigade Road and what's not, and the mystery was further compounded when I read that it was located after Eva Mall near St. Joseph's Commerce College. That's it, I was now eager to go to this place just for the heck of seeing where it was.

And so before I decided to 'pay them a visit', I checked up on the net and came across their website, and was impressed by the layout and the content. When I came across the menu, there was only one thing that ran through my mind: either this place is an undiscovered gem of a restaurant serving classic Mediterranean and Italian food, or it's another wannabe in a long list of wannabes. After calling them and finding out where exactly it was on Brigade Road (it's on the 3rd floor of the building soon after Joseph's Commerce college, in the same building as South Indian Bank), I made plans to go there on Saturday night.

Mr P and Mr VP joined me there. Mr P was held up a little due to the infamous Bangalore traffic, so while Mr VP and I waited, we were extremely impressed with the setup. Bistro has an open roof top seating arrangement as well as indoor seating. We started off the evening with Virgin Mary's (yeah, yeah, I know, Saturday night and no alcohol? Well, we're responsible citizens and don't drive after drinking). We started off by sitting outside, high above the noisy Brigade Road traffic with a view of St. Patrick's church sipping on our Mary's and without a doubt, the Virgin Mary's here are the best we've had anywhere so far. It's tangy, it's sweet, it's a lil spicy, and also salty with the salt around the rim of the glass. It's a drink that'll get all the taste buds in your mouth into action in a subtle way and prepares your palate for the evening.
(The colour may seem off because I used the flash on my phone camera)

It was a pretty chilly night, and after switching seats from the open to the inside, we knew a soup would do wonders, and so we had a Mexican veg soup, and specifically asked them to make it moderately spicy. The best part about the Bistro is that on the menu, there are no selection of soups available, and under the heading Soups is a line that says "We would be glad to cook up anything for you". How confident is that!

The china used here is of top quality and extremely well thought of, and the soup was served in a wonderful dish, and not some run down bowl. Along with the soup, without too much deliberation, we settled for the Bruchetta platter and a Caroza (which is Italian bread sandwiched with pesto and buffalo mozzarella).

The Bruchetta platter had an excellent assortment of toppings for the Bruchetta, which included olives, mushrooms and cheese, tomatoes and cheese, and one with some green paste which I'm not too sure of (which tasted good). The photos were taken after we took a couple of the Bruchettas and a Caroza because they were so appealing that I forgot to click away as soon as they arrived at the table. The caroza tasted great. The mozzarella gave a very slight salty taste which complemented the taste provided by the pesto. Although Mr VP couldn't taste the mozzarella, there weren't any complaints from Mr P or from me.

For our main course, I ordered a Paella Matador, which is a Spanish dish consisting of green mussels, prawns, squid rings and fish with long grain rice, herbs and saffron. Ask any good chef and they'll tell you that eating involves four of the five senses, and the sense of sight is as important in relishing your meal as are the senses of taste, smell and touch. When the waiter brought the dish, I realised that we had probably hit the jackpot with this place. The presentation was very nice, and I have to say it's one of the better presented dishes I have had. Also, the quantity was a lot, and if I have to say that it was a lot, then trust me, it was a lot, irrespective of whether or not we had a Virgin Mary, the soup, bruchettas and the caroza.

Mr VP ordered the BBQ veal chops. I had never tasted veal before and I have to say the veal served here was very tender and juicy. Also, the barbecue sauce used wasn't the American barbecue sauce, but and Indian one which tastes much better than the American one (so says Mr VP, and I'll take his word on that...he is any expert on such matters).

Mr P ordered a mock meat steak, which was a soy based steak. I think this was the only 'disappointment' of sorts in the evening because although the steak tasted good, Mr P was a little disappointed that the steak was more like a big cutlet with soy and other vegetables ground in! But hey, when you're a vegetarian, you can't crib about your food not being like this or like that especially if it's trying to imitate meat (I don't think Mr P would take too kindly to that). But I'd like to add that Mr P didn't 'complain' as such and ate his food like a good boy :)

All in all, if I have to rate this place against some of the other joints serving Mediterranean and/or Italian cuisine, I'd have to say that this place comes up tops. In quality (and quantity), ambiance, decor, and taste of food, this places matched Sunny's (Vittal Mallya Road), and where it probably beats Sunny's is on pricing (they're probably the same, but psychologically this place just felt better). I won't say that it's low cost, but it's the average fare for any restaurant in Bangalore that serves up food of this quality. The staff were friendly and weren't the bossy, uptight type, and won't unnecessarily bother you with too many questions, but at the same time won't forget about you until called for. That fact that they're a chilled out bunch was exemplified when a large group trooped in with half a dozen kids around the ages of 5 and 6. While the older people got down to sitting and talking (adult stuff, I assume), the kids were running all over the place making quite a racket, and they weren't once reprimanded by the adults or the staff (much to our..., well, what should I say, it would be unfair to get upset at them...they're kids after all). But one thing I'm sure of is that we've definitely decided to visit Bistro again, and I'm eagerly waiting for the second trip.

Food: Very good.
$$$: Moderately expensive, around 400-600 per head depending on what you have.
Service: Very good.
Verdict: Must visit if you like continental and Mediterranean food.

Bangalore Bistro, 74, 3rd Floor, Sumera Towers, After Eva Mall, Opposite St. Patrick's Church, Brigade Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41131616, 25571616

Oye Shaava

Balle balle! That's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a sound byte as Oye Shaava. Located above Saigon on Church Street, and below Oye Amritsar (both are owned by the same person and serve similar food, the other difference being in the music being belted out :) ). I visited the place on Friday for lunch along with a group of friends from work to celebrate our 3rd anniversary at our current work place (20 of us joined together, now there are 9).

The place looked pretty good and the setup was nice. The waiters were dressed in black with a make-believe turban (which wouldn't have fooled anyone), but at least they were friendly and didn't mind the excessive photogrpahs being taken and the constant loud chattering and laughing that emanated from our table. The chairs could have been a little more comfy, but otherwise there weren't too many complaints about the place.

Although I was keen to go the a la carte way, I was voted out 8-1 for the sit down buffet. I must confess I'm not a big fan of buffets all the time at every place because the food at a buffet will always score a little less when compared to the food ordered off the menu. Nevertheless, a Rs. 250/- per head buffet with 3 veg and 3 non veg starters (unlimited) followed by a main course meal consisting of rotis & naans, a veg and a non veg curry, dal, and rice followed by fruit salad and a sweet (jalebi) did sound value for money. We did, however, order a couple of starters from the menu: a pahalwani dhabe de maahi tikke (which was the restaurant's special fish preparation), and a bawazani paneer de tikke (another restaurant special with cottage cheese).

The extra starters that we ordered were excellent, while the starters that came as part of the buffet were very good too. We had a cauliflower fry, a mini veg roll and some kind of cutlet in the veg starters and had a mutton sheekh kabab, a chicken starter and a fried fish. All six were very good, and if it came down to a contest, the cauliflower would win, closely followed by the chicken. We also had a few drinks (not the alcoholic type): jal jeeras, shikanjvis, lassis and lime sodas.

By the time we were done with the starters, most of us were almost full and were moaning at the thought of having the main course now. But once the dal and the curries were served, everyone had at least one roti or naan, and a few even managed to make room for a little rice :)

After that it was time for the fruit salad (more like apple & papaya salad) along with fresh, hot jalebis. Special mention here, the jalebis were small, hot and crisp, exactly the way I like them, so all in all, a good meal, although I think I'd like to go back there sometime and try the food off the menu and not a pre-selected one. Although the buffet didn't serve anything 'special' in terms of Punjabi cuisine, the food was good, the place was clean, good ambiance, and so all in all, good value for money.

Oye Shaava, 3rd Floor, Asha Enclave, Above Saigon, Church St, Bangalore.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Café Masala

Another one of the BJN group's restaurants in the city, Cafe Masala is located on the top of Eva Mall on Brigade Road. We went for dinner when they had a special buffet of unlimited kababs and curries that would be served at the table to go with their regular spread. And my apologies, I forgot to click away when the starters were served to us and remembered only when it was time to head towards the main spread.

The soup, I forget what it was, was good (tasted good, but nothing special). Among from the kababs and the curries that were served to us at the table, the lamb dish that was served was particularly good. The salads, which were part of the spread, were kept in little bowls and that was a very nice idea as it mandated that the diner wouldn't stuff himself or herself with too much salad and not leave any room for the main course. Sadly, this concept was not followed by us while having the starters served at the table and were almost full by the time we were done with the salads.

Since we were pretty full (especially me), and since I was suffering from a severe throat infection, I couldn't have any of the desserts and so didn't even bother clicking away. However, the main course was nice: biryani in a pot, chicken (2 kinds), mutton, and fish were nice and did justice to the Rs. 399 we paid. The desserts looked very good, with two ice creams, several types of pastries, gulab jamoons, and some kind of pudding (for those who've visited other BJN restaurants, this shouldn't come as a surprise).


Nice place to visit, and the view is good as sitting high above, you're not shown eve a glimpse of the traffic below, while a person sings English and Hindi songs while playing the keyboard.

Café Masala, Eva Mall, Brigade Road, Bangalore.

Limelight - Royal Orchid Coffee Shop

Team lunches are always fun - we get to eat at the someone else's expense, and this time around it was at the company's expense. This time we chose to go to Limelight, the coffee shop at the Royal Orchid hotel on the old airport road. The only disappointment was the fact that in spite of calling and making reservations, when we got there, our names were surprisingly missing from the register; but it wasn't a problem as they were able to make arrangements for the 14 of us within 5 minutes.

The spread was pretty decent: the salads and cold cuts were nice (what you'd expect at a place like Royal Orchid) while the hummus and the pita bread were very nice, although I must warn you that it is an acquired taste and not all may like it. The chicken Manchow soup was nice and hot, perfect to get your appetite on the right path,

while among the cold cuts, the fish and lamb were particularly tasty among the non-veg items and the hummus and pita bread, along with the mushrooms and paneer were particularly delightful.


The main course offered use the usual fare of Indian breads, along with a variety of curries: chicken, mutton, fish, paneer, Thai green curry, and also an Italian stuffed pasta that was simply wonderful.

And now for the best part of every meal, the desserts. There was enough items to make a main course itself! From rasgullas to souffles, from tarts to pastries, they were there in all shapes and sizes and colours.


Food: Good (continental cuisine)
$$$: I think the buffet was around 400 or so per head, and for the spread they had, it was totally worth it.
Service: Buffet - what service do you expect?
Verdict: Can visit if you fancy a conti buffet amidst a nice surrounding lawn.

The Royal Orchid, 1 Golf Avenue, Adjoining KGA Golf Course, Old Airport Road, Bangalore