Sunday, June 14, 2009

Aquasphere

My mom had to attend a seminar for psychiatrists on Sunday afternoon, and so it was a perfect opportunity for me try out Aquasphere, a place I'd been waiting to visit ever since I leanrt of its existence. And so my brother and I went there for lunch, and I had clear instructions for my brother - no chicken, only sea food is what we'll be ordering.

It was a slightly long drive, but worth it, because upon entering the place you're straightaway put at ease by the soothing light blue colours inside the restaurant, and the large aquarium there on the wall adds to the setup. My only grouse was the fact that the seats are carved out of stone/concrete, and so you can't move/adjust the seats, ergo, no point in adjusting the table since the person on the opposite side would be inconvenienced. Apart from that, I think everything about the food was good. My brother, as usual, had to have something to drink, but thankfully, this time he didn't go for his usual mango based drink, but had a blue curacao based drink called Caribbean Blue.
I settled for a spicy hot crab soup, and the amount of spices was just right - not hot enough that you'd be breathing out fire like an ancient Chinese dragon, but just enough to whet your appetite.
For appetizers, we ordered a plate of prawn wontons, oily (expected) but tasting great, especially with the garlic sauce they gave.
Apart from the wontons, we ordered a seafood basket, which consisted of crab, squid rings, prawns, and two types of fish. You have an option of tandoor (not spicy) style or Thai (spicy). Since my brother doesn't eat spicy food, it had to be tandoor style.
Apart from the fishes in the aquarium and the seafood on our plates, there was a little bunny hopping around the place, quite to the amusement of a couple of kids who had come to the restaurant. Seen here below, the little fellow (or felli?) was spending some time at my feet.
For our main course, I ordered a seer fish sizzler, Thai style, which came along with flat noodles, and tasted great.
My brother ordered a chicken sizzler, continental style, that came with fries and boiled vegetables (I allowed him to have chicken for the mains - a change of heart :) ).
Another pic of bugs.


Food: Fairly good
$$$: Fairly expensive (roughly 300-500 per head depending on the size of the group you're in).
Service: Ok, nothing special
Verdict: Worth a visit ONLY if you're in the area.

Aquasphere, 17, Sri Rama Layout, 1st Main, Next To Elita Promenade, just outside Brigade Millenium main gate, 7th Phase, JP Nagar, Bangalore. Phone: 41329017, 41329674

Clay Oven

Friday evenings are a little tricky - I'm never quite sure what I should be doing. P and VP were leaving office early, and decided to stop by at the latest coffee shop near my office on 100 feet road called Gloria Jean's Coffee. So I walked down there after work, and we sat discussing stuff, and eventually got down to discussing where we'd go for dinner.

KS: So where do we go for dinner?
VP: Kund...
P: Yeah, I'm not in the mood for any fancy food
KS: Kund is fancy
VP: No it isn't
KS: What? Indian food can't be fancy?
VP: It can, but it's more about the cost, etc, etc.
KS: Kund isn't cheap, it's the normal Bangalore fare
P: OK, let's go to Shanti Sagar
KS: If that's the case, there's a better place on CMH Road called Gokul Veg, we might as well
head there... Oh, Egg Factory?
P: Egg Factory's good..
VP: TGIF
KS: Oh, that isn't fancy now??? Forget, let's go to Kund itself.


While walking down, we crossed Cake Walk, and adjacent to it we see this place called Clay Oven. There used to be a place called Hot Wok there earlier, dishing out some really decent Chinese and Thai food, so I was a bit surprised that it shut shop. Clay Oven sounded nice. "Why not!" we said in unison. And so Clay Oven it was.

As soon as we walked in, we got the fragrance from incense sticks or oils, and it smelt great. The menu looked good as well - shaped differently, and the food inside, although the usual North Indian/Mughlai affair, seemed a little different. But as usual, we started off with a cream of mushroom soup. The soup was good - creamy and hot, and seasoned well. However, I'd like to add that apart from Herbs and Spices, I've never had an authentic cream of mushroom - the thick kind.

Appetizers were again more or less the same - paneer tikka for P, which was nice and soft, made in-house.

VP and I decided not to go for the chicken starters, and settled in for garlic prawns. Thankfully, the garlic wasn't overpowering, and the prawns were cooked just right.

For our main course ,we decided to skip the usual India breads (roti, naan, kulcha, etc), and ordered a chicken biryani and a peas pulav, along with two side dishes - a chicken razooli (chicken in an onion gravy) and a methi mushroom. The food was very good. And the best part, since this place is new, the prices aren't too high either.

After dinner, we went back to Gloria Jean's for P's sake - he wanted to have a shot of coffee before going home.

Wallet Factor: I don't quite remember, but the bill for all that we had was around 1200 or thereabouts, which wasn't too much.

Clay Oven, next to Cake Walk, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 25205393, 41611644

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Caperberry

Finally, we visit Caperberry. We'd heard so much about this place and its use of molecular gastronomy clubbed with fine dining that we were almost compelled to pay this place a visit. And what a visit it was. Our only grouse with the place was that the fine dining section was separated from the lounge area by a half wall and the music from the lounge area was just not suited for fine dining. For three guys in their mid-20s, that may not have been an issue, but I'm just giving the others a heads up.

First up, we knew this place was a touch bit expensive (ok, a lot more expensive) than most other places we've been so far. So when we saw a 4 and 6 course meal, we almost readily jumped for that option. The vegetarian 4 course meal is priced at Rs 1400 and the 6 course at Rs 1800. The non veg 4 course is priced at Rs 1500 and the 6 course at Rs 2000. Mr p went for the 4 course veg meal and Mr VP went for the 4 course non-veg meal while I went all out with the 6 course non-veg (too bad there wasn't a 10 course combine of veg and non-veg :) ).

The traditional, complimentary bread basket with herbed butter was nice and they keep bringing them as and when you finish it, and even in between courses. We were worried that VP would continue eating only this and end up wasting his food, but luckily that wasn't the case.

Mr P and I decided to have something to drink. I was driving back, so no alcohol for me and so we settled for a couple of mocktails - a Snapper, consisting of lemon, lychee, ginger and soda for me and
a Pine Coco, having pineapple, coconut and cream for Mr P it was.

Our first indications of the fine dining concept came with the waiter placing an amuse bouche in front of us - this one being a melon popsicle - which we suspected was the fruit dipped in liquid nitrogen (yes, they use it for some of their dishes) or frozen and then served. Whatever method it was, the end result was pleasant.

The non-veg course had a seafood appetizer, with (from left to right) scallop, prawn and squid served with a salad. I usually have a thing against the large jumbo prawns, but this one actually tasted good although my other grouse is that they have a strong smell and this one was no different. But overall, great way to start off a meal.
The veg course consisted of some kind of cheesy cutlets with a gazpacho, which Mr P said tasted nice. The salad seemed to same and must have been only as a garnish.
The second course followed, with Mr P getting a green pea soup with cheese, which was terrific. It reminded me a recipe I had watched Nigella Lawson use to prepare a cheesy green pea soup with mozzarella.
The second course of the non-veg menu was a duo of gazpacho - classic( r) and melon(l). A gazpacho is a cold vegetable soup from the southern part of Spain, and is traditionally tomato based.

Before the main courses arrived, we were given another amuse bouche, this time a citrus fruit crostini. At this point in time, we were wondering, and praying that the rest of the meal would be as good if not better than the appetizers, because only then would we feel we'd have gotten complete value for money.

The veg main course was a trio of mushroom - shitake at the top of the pic, then some kind of mushroom that seemed to have been stuffed with some kind of cream or cheese, and the last being a type of quiche or puff pastry with mushrooms. Mr P doesn't like shitake mushrooms, and these were particularly strong and the seasoning was a little on the saltier side, but the other two were really good.
Since I had the 6 course meal, I had two more dishes, and one among those was Baked Salmon on a bed of cous-cous and mushrooms with a sauce made from orange juice and ligtly seasoned.
A melon sorbet, served as another palate cleanser/amuse bouche before my other main course.
The other non-veg main course (which is what Mr VP was served as well as part of the 4 course meal) was a duck sous vide, with foie gras on pear and with a pear and cherry sauce. Mr VP didn't like the taste of duck, and I too prefer chicken, but I didn't think duck meat tasted 'bad'. But I was pretty excited to eat foie gras, considered a delicacy and on the do eat list of almost all food lovers. I didn't find it too bad, but I won't go onto describe how it felt or tasted...I'll leave that to you.
I was given an extra dessert (of which I didn't take a pic), which was mahon, brie and pear with olives. For the last course, we selected three separate desserts, making sure we had one type of cryo dessert (dessert chilled with liquid nitrogen). The first was a trio of custards (l-r): chocolate, blueberry pannacotta, and crème brûlée with Spanish flan around it. I loved the blueberry pannacotta, while P & VP liked the crème brûlée best, while all three of us weren't all that impressed by the chocolate one.
The second one of the desserts was a tiramisu, but instead of using coffee powder, this one had green tea powder, along with a garnish of faux caviar. I love tiramisu, and this one with the innovative use of green tea powder nailed it - it was fabulous.
The last dish was one of the cryo dishes, which came with dark chocolate and strawberry
And then came the trolley with liquid nitrogen, all gaseous and looking like it was straight out of a sci-fi flick.
The waiter squeezed out some foam like thing onto a spoon, and dropped it into the liquid nitrogen, and then fished it out and it looked...
...like this! The photo doesn't do justice but it looks way better in real, with 'smoke' coming out of it, giving you the impression that it's hot, but once it enters your mouth, it starts to 'pop'. The only possible drawback is that if it's too cold, your tongue kinda gets numb for a while, but that apart, the experience is fantastic.

Go to Caperberry with an open mind and only if you have the intention to go in for fine dining, and you will be blown away. I'm glad I went there, and the three of us have decided that we'd be back, but maybe not too soon :)

Food: Fabulous
$$$: Expensive
Service: Very good
Verdict: Fine dining at its best in Bangalore. Truly international. If you want to experience western fine dining, visit Caperberry once. The rates may seem exorbitant, but then again, you won't get this kind of food or experience anywhere else in Bangalore.
Extra Info: Caperberry is located within the Tanishq building on Dickenson road, adjacent to Manipal Centre, at the corner of Dickenson Road and M G Road. Valet parking is available.

Caperberry, 48/1 Ground Floor, The Estate (same building as Tanishq), Dickenson Road, Bangalore. Phone: 25594567

Monday, June 1, 2009

Alibaba Cafe

Saturday evening was when Mr P, VP, my brother (let's call him Spook) and I were to go out to watch Angels & Demons. The afternoon was going to be a bore and so I took my bro out for lunch, since it was the last two days of his vacation before the start of college. We went to this place called Alibaba Cafe and Restaurant in Frazer Town.

I'd heard a lot about this place, and was itching to go there. I'd also read that the tea served here was supposed to be superb, so I ordered an Irani Tea, and true to what I'd heard, this tea was simply fantastic. The aromas emanating from the glass were truly refreshing, and although it didn't require any sugar (because it wasn't bitter like regular tea without sugar), I plonked in a cube, which still didn't alter the taste too much and I still had a wonderful cuppa tea.
My bro had something called a Saudi Champagne - a mixture of apple juice, lemon juice and soda. For starters, since there were just two of us, and my brother hasn't got half the appetite I have, we just ordered a special kabab platter called the Bakhtiyari kabab, which was a mixture of mutton and chicken from two other kabab dishes - joojeh kabab (chicken) and chebeh kabab (mutton). The chicken was succulent, while the mutton was rich in flavour.

The menu is divided into 3 sections: Arabian, Persian, and Bhatkal (coastal Karnataka, North Canara dist.). For our main course, we ordered from the Arabian section, a chicken dish called gulgul.

Spook had a Kerala Paratha and a kuboos, the traditional Arab bread you usually have hummus with.

I ordered a couple of gawa polis, traditional Bhatkal parathas made from wheat.

For dessert, I went traditional again, and ordered something called a shaufa pana, a pudding made from dil leaves and egg. Although I was in a mood to experiment, I really didn't expect the dessert to be as tasty as it turned out to be. It was simply amazing. It kind of had the effect that a good mouth freshener has at the end of a meal. I think this is one of the best Indian desserts I've had in a long, long time, and it may just be one of the best I've ever had. Simply amazing.

This place isn't too heavy on the wallet either - well, ok, I guess that's a relative thing, but the two of us ate whatever was mentioned above for Rs. 541, which included a 5% service charge, but I had no problem leaving another 5% because I was thoroughly impressed with the food.

Alibaba Cafe & Restaurant, No. 69, 1st Floor, MM Road, Frazer Town, Bangalore. Phone: 40917163.