Friday, August 14, 2009

BM Review: Ta'am

Totally forgot about this review that I'd done for Bangalore Mirror on the 31st of July. It can be read here. I gave the place a 2, because of the not very nice food, neither in terms of authenticity nor taste. And I think this is my shortest post so far :)

Food: OK, nothing great.
$$$: Not expensive, our bill for what we ate came to around 950 (for four people).
Service: Nothing special - decent I guess.
Verdict: You can skip this place.

Ta'am, 8th Main, 4th Block, Adjacent to Exide showroom, Kormangala, Bangalore. Phone: 41169898, 41469595

The full review is here:

The website for Ta’am gives the definition of the word ta’am as ‘taste’ in the Hebrew language, and goes on to say, “...that summarises our desire to provide tasty food to our patrons!!” Never underestimate the power of a well-designed website and well-crafted sentences to mislead you. Or maybe I’m a dunce to have thought I’d be transported to the bustling streets of Lebanon (when there are no bombs going off) to savour Arab street food in the company of my guests and like-minded gourmands — Ravi D’Abreo, his brother Ashish D’Abreo, and Mohammad Ziad, partners at the creative firm Origami. The three have spent a lot of time in West Asia, with Ziad running the operations from Dubai, and so have had the opportunity to sample first-hand dishes like falafels, hummus and pita bread.

Ta’am is your friendly neighbourhood falafel joint, which started initially only with a vegetarian menu, but in its new avatar, a couple of chicken items have come in as well. Promoted by Anil Elassery, who spent a significant amount of time in Israel, Ta’am tries to bring to Bangaloreans something which isn’t the usual Italian-Continental fare. Falafels, by the way, seem to have taken Israel by storm, the way curry did in m e r r y ol’ Engl a n d . Originally made from fava beans (yes, the ones that Hannibal Lecter loves!), falafels took birth in Egypt. Over time, the dish migrated north into the Arab world, where chickpeas replaced the fava beans. Mashed with onion, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper, the mixture is made into small, slightly flattened balls and fried, resulting in a falafel.

With a mixture of warm and Spartan, yet comforting and contemporary décor and seating arrangements, Ta’am is nestled in a quiet part of Koramangala, off the main road. What would endear you for certain are the colours used inside — fresh g r e e n a n d yellow a n d pastels of other shades. We started off with mocktails and fruit juices on an unusually warm July night. The drinks, written on a white board next to a salad counter (something we agreed to skip), were quite okay.

With a limited menu — three dishes of pita bread stuffed with either falafels or chicken (along with pickles, cabbage, tomato, etc), and four platters (veg and non-veg) consisting of hummus, falafels, chicken and pita — we started off with the initial three. The pita with barbecued chicken was a complete let down. The chicken seemed old, cold and didn’t have an iota of the smoky, barbecued taste to it at all. What’s worse, it was overcooked, making it lose all its juices and leaving it chewy and dry. Guys, the chicken is dead — there’s no need to kill it again! The pita with the kababs in it was only slightly better, with the chicken having a mildly spicy taste to it. The falafel, though, was the best among the three, and I don’t mean best among the worst. It was actually good. According to my guests, it came pretty close to the real deal, with only the tahini (sesame paste) dip being a little too watery.

Although disappointed, we thought the hummus-pita combo could act as a saving grace for Ta’am (and our stomachs — this was our dinner). We ordered pita bread and hummus with baba ghanoush, an Arabian dish made from mashed aubergines (brinjals) with various seasonings. Typically, a baba ghanoush has a smoky taste to it, as it’s broiled over an open flame. The one we ordered fell flat — no smoky taste, no taste of any seasoning. And sadly, the hummus was no better, with it neither having the texture nor the colour one associates with hummus, made from mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and salt, with the tahini giving it a creamy white look. The consensus was that there wasn’t enough tahini used, and overall, the hummus with the baba ghanoush didn’t seem anywhere close to what you'd get on the streets of the Arab world.

If you’re a debutant to West Asian street food, then I guess this could pass the muster, and, in fact, even make a nice snack. But having been exposed to the real deal, it was sad that apart from the falafels, nothing else came close to replicating the magic. So if you’re around Koramangala, looking for a quick snack, apart from a regular sandwich, Ta’am could be an alternative to be considered.

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