Friday, August 28, 2009

BM Review: Hae Kum Gang

I'd been to Hae Kum Gang last Friday to review it for Bangalore Mirror. The review, in full text, can be read either here, at the Bangalore Mirror site, or the watered down version with just what we ate, down below.

The pictures here were taken by the Bangalore Mirror photographer Durgesh, and since I couldn't take any, we'll have to make do with these for now.

The haemul pajeon is a pancake-like dish, made with flour and eggs, with a good amount of seafood tossed into it. The base is like a puff-pastry, while the top is fluffy. This has become my favourite egg-based dish.


This sushi-like dish is called a kimbap. It's the Korean version of sushi, an just like sushi, it's filled with rice, with vegetables and meat in the center, wrapped in seaweed, and then cut. This is a very popular fastfood dish.


This firey red dish is called a kkan pung gi, and is fried chicken cooked in a sweet garlic sauce. It's not as spicey as the colour indicates, and it didn't seem as if some kind of colouring was added.


The dish below is a pork dish called tang su yuk. What is unique is one of the main ingredient, which until now I had never encountered in any cuisine. Guess what the yellow coloured liquid is? Honey! Yup, pork with vegetables and honey. This was yum, and for someone like me who has a sweet tooth, this was something I reall loved.


The patties seen below are called beef wanja. Ground beef, herbs, garlic, a little seasoning - presto! Melt in your mouth tenderness.


Although I don't have the snaps of all the dishes we ate, this was just a summary. The full details can be read in the review in the link provided above. Below is the cut fruit salad in orange juice syrup.


Service - Prompt, helpful
Food - Fantastic
$$$ - Larger the group, lower you pay. The 9 of us paid 300 each including tips.
Verdict - Certainly a place to visit
Extra Info - Finding parking on Castle may turn out to be a problem, so try to park somewhere else.

Hae Kum Gang, #20, Paul Castle, Castle Street, Ashoknagar, Off Brigade Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41127730, 41127732

The full review is here:

Think Korea, and immediately Samsung, Hyundai, Fila, or tae-kwon-do come to mind. Think food associated with Korea, and most people would grimace, make a face, and feed you some nonsense about 'weird' things eaten, generalising all oriental cuisines as being 'freaky', to use a mild adjective. And mind you, this isn't a one off thing - go to any city across the world, and you'd get a similar answer, partly due to Ripley's Believe It Or Not (probably), but mostly because of ignorance. Well, hopefully, by the end of this review, although you wouldn't be any older, you'd be a little wiser.

I visited Hae Kum Gang with Mrs. Lee Woo Young, who takes piano lessons, and her daughter Lee Ye Jin, Koreans living in Bangalore for the last 7 years, and a few of their relatives who were visiting from Korea. Named after a place along the river Han in Korea, the first thing about Hae Kum Gang that struck me was the simplicity with which the restaurant was made to look beautiful. No brightly coloured walls or clichéd Buddha statues or ancient swords, but simple everyday stuff - from dolls dressed in the traditional hanbok to small paintings and vases, Hae Kum Gang makes you feel at home. And the fact that it puts you at ease, like you're at home, is what endears it to Koreans like Mrs. Lee. The restaurant is co-owned by Mr. Hira Bahadur Karki, a Nepali, whose wife is Korean and instructs the chefs in the kitchen along with Mrs. Yeon Mun Sung, the wife of the other co-owner.

Along with her aunt, Mrs. Lee ordered the food and also explained Korean customs and traditions, from the ceremonial costumes to the names given to children. Here's some food for thought: find out if going about your meal with 'appetisers' before the 'main course', and then having dessert is an Indian custom or a borrowed one. Ye Jin explained the importance of chopsticks and said that in Korean schools, the chopstick skills of students are tested at an early age by making them shift beans from one plate to another, one at a time. Also, Korean chopsticks are almost always stainless steel, and are flat, almost 2-D, when compared to the chopsticks used elsewhere in the world.

And so began our meal, which consisted of 'starters' like the beef wan ja (small patties of ground beef), haemul pajeon (a pancake-like dish made of eggs and flour, with seafood tossed in) and beef kimbap (Korean equivalent to sushi, and a 'fast-food' for those in a hurry) eaten along with our 'main course' of kkan pung gi (fried chicken in sweet garlic sauce), pork tang su yuk (pork cooked with vegetables and topped with honey), jajang myeon (thick, wheat noodles topped with a thick, black bean sauce), and bibimbap (rice topped with vegetables, chilli paste, egg and meat), the latter two being served in hot, beautiful ceramic pots. And although there was no Korean barbecue at the table, we didn’t seem to miss it amidst what was laid out before us.

Haemul pajeon (sometimes called the Korean pizza) has become my favourite egg-based dish, while the tenderness of the wan ja made me crave for more. The jajang myeon was pretty good, with Mrs. Lee doing the honours of mixing and serving (just as someone would at home). The jajang myeon and bibimbap came with separate bowls of the ubiquitous kimchi, radish, spinach, egg plant, sweet potatoes and tofu, along with individual bowls of rice and soup. The pork dish gave a good account of how vegetables can be blended in with meats, and the use of honey in it was a first for me - simply brilliant!

The last time I visited this place, I actually ate the rice with chopsticks, but didn't want to risk making a fool out of myself in front of my guests and stuck to the spoon. Contrary to popular belief, it's not only seafood that's central to peninsular Korea's cuisine - tofu, chicken, pork, and beef along with seafood make up the core elements of Korean cuisine, with rice of course. The wonderful meal was rounded off with a traditional bowl of cut fruits in orange juice syrup, giving it some zing. And as Ye Jin says "the food served here is the kind Indians would like as well", referring to the slightly spicy dishes available. This Indian agrees completely.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BM Review: Fame

Last week I had been to this small café called Fame, on the Kammanahalli Main Road, just before Jal Vayu Vihar. I was told about this place by a guest who'd accompanied me to Coastal Junction a couple of weeks back while on a Bangalore Mirror review. The review for Fame can be read here.

Here's a snapshot of the image that appeared in the paper

I forgot to click pictures of the our mocktails, the starters and the desserts, so I guess the image from the paper will have to suffice. The pictures of our main course are below.

For starters, we ordered an Indonesian chicken satay, a plate of Mexican meatballs, a bruschetta, and a plate of stuffed mushroom caps. The satay was alright, a bit spicy and minus the peanut sauce. The bruschetta's bread should have been a little more firm and crispier. The stuffed mushroom caps weren't all that great, but then again, I haven't had stuffed mushrooms caps that tasted good anywhere in Bangalore so far, so we can give that a pass. The Mexican meatballs were the best, with the sauce glazed over it nicely complimenting the meatballs.

For the main course, I had the Fame chicken burger.

Fame Chicken Burger

Ms BakeACake had a Chateaubriand steak.

Chateaubriand Steak

Her friend, newly wed Ms GreatBacheloretteParty had a fish steak in garlic sauce.

Fish in Garlic Sauce

Mr VP had a chicken Bolognese with macaroni.

Chicken Bolognese with Macaroni

Mr P & Ms BakeACake's hubby had shashliks.

Veg Shashlik

For dessert, we had a chocolate cake and an ice cream called strawberry ripple, which was vanilla with strawberry sauce.

Food: Good
$$$: Not too expensive; our bill came up to Rs. 2115 for 6
Service: OK
Verdict: Good steaks - a must visit if you're in the vicinity and have a craving for steaks and don't want to drive to the city center.

Fame, 43, Swetha Complex, Kammanahalli Main Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41208888

The full review is here:

The word ‘café’ brings up vivid yet vacillating images in each of our minds. As far as cafés go in Bangalore, you could see several eat out joints with the word ‘café’ emblazoned outside, but each one differing in looks and food served, with few of them having the quaint “I can relax” atmosphere. Tucked into a small lane off the busy Kammanahalli main road, just before Jal Vayu Vihar, is Fame, a café that came up 3 years ago to serve the cosmopolitan crowd in the Kammanhalli area. Owner Brian Bangar, a Singaporean, started Fame with the intention of serving steaks to the expats living here, who would otherwise have to travel to the city center for the same. Going by the recommendations we got from several people, there had to be something good about the place.

I certainly wouldn’t call Fame a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ joint, but a small, cozy café should suffice for now. The first thing that flashed through my head was “Authenticity be damned — let the food taste good!” We started off with Indonesian chicken satay, Mexican meatballs, a bruschetta and stuffed mushroom caps. Although the satay didn’t come with the usual peanut sauce, it was spicy (a little too spicy for one of my guests) and well done. The Mexican meatballs though were the best. The sauce that was glazed over it complemented it well, and the meat itself was flavoured nicely. The bruschetta’s bread should have been a lot more firm and crispier than what it was. Our drinks were fairly decent, with a couple of the mocktails - the Rainflower (mixture of orange, pineapple and grenadine) and the Berry Cooler (consisting of strawberries) standing out.

My guests, Padmini and her husband Bharat, techies who’ve lived in Germany for a while not too long ago, and a friend of theirs, Malavika, a techie working for insurance clients in the UK but more interested in dogs, the environment, travelling…and food, of course, seemed to have a penchant for small, cozy cafés, with taste trumping authenticity when it came to the food. Thus far, we were in agreement about the experience at Fame. Did things take a turn for the surreal? No, thankfully not, but I will admit that asking the question would have given rise to doubt.

Our main course consisted of a variety of dishes — from steaks to burgers, and shashliks to macaronis, we tried what Fame had to offer to its loyal patrons, most of whom were students that night. Working our way up from the lows to the highs, the shashliks didn’t seem to have the typical tangy flavour due to the lack of or reduced quantity of vinegar used in the marinating process of the meat. Now I know I said I wasn’t going to scrutinise a small café down to the last bit, but some things that hit you straight away need to be mentioned. It tasted good, served as they usually are with a bed of rice, but the tanginess would have heightened the taste. The Fame chicken burger was nice, and thankfully wasn’t like the ones you get at fast food joints with prefabricated patties. The chicken Bolognese with macaroni did seem a little dry and bland, but then again, that’s how a Bolognese is with only pepper adding the zing to it.

The steaks we had were far better. The Chateaubriand and the fish in garlic sauce were pretty good, and considering the fact that this wasn’t a fancy restaurant, we were very pleasantly surprised at the huge portions served. The chateaubriand is a cut from the tenderloin, originally created by a French chef for his master, François-René de Chateaubriand who worked under Napoleon. We asked for it to be well done, and although there was no way to guess which cut of meat was actually served, it was cooked well, and was nice and juicy. The fish steak in garlic sauce was good, and since the garlic wasn’t overpowering the fish, it blended well with the fish.

For desserts, we had a chocolate cake and an ice cream called strawberry ripple. While the ice cream was just vanilla with some strawberry sauce drizzled on it, the chocolate cake was pretty good. Overall, a pretty satisfying, and in equal measure, a pretty filling meal, justifying the use of ‘café’ in its name.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Home-made burgers

When I finish my list of top burgers/burger joints in Bangalore, I'm fairly certain one of my home-made creations would be on that list :) No seriously, I don't love the burgers I make at home "just because I made them" - trust me, I'm the biggest critic of my cooking - I like these burgers 'coz they're actually good, and cost way less than what similar ones would cost outside.

In any case, this is how I made 'em. And as usual, no exact quantities, it's all 'run time execution', so I'll try to give estimates, but at the end of the day, it's up to you to figure how much you want something in your meal.

Ingredients:
250g minced chicken (was able to make 5 burgers)
salt & pepper to season
red chilli powder (optional)
garam masala (optional)
1 large onion
1 egg
breadcrumbs
A few coriander leaves

After washing the minced meat and draining out all the water, season the meat with salt, pepper, chilli powder and garam masala. Cut the onion into small pieces and chop the coriander and add the two into a blender (mixie) and blend until you get a paste. Add this paste to the seasoned minced chicken meat and mix well. Crack an egg into this and...that's right mix again. Finally, add breadcrumbs into the mixture and mix until you notice that the mixture is becoming dry (if it looks as if there still a lot of 'water' or it seems watery, add breadcrumbs). Keep in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove, and make patties the size you want. Heat a pan and add about a teaspoon or two of oil/ghee. When this oil/ghee becomes hot, add the patties onto the pan and fry for about 5-6 minutes on a high flame, and then flip them to fry the other side for the same period of time. Once the other side is done as well, poke a knife through and see if the colour of the meat inside is white all the way through. If so, the meat is cooked, if not, lower the flame and heat both sides a few minutes longer.

Butter your bun, toast it on the pan once the patties are cooked and cut a few onion rings, caramelise them, and you're good to go. I don't think I'll need to explain how to assemble these to make your burger.


In The Bag (August) - Chicken Ghee Roast

There's this food blog called A Slice of Cherry Pie that I follow. Every now and then (or every month, I don't remember), there's this competition that's held called 'In the Bag'. Basically, you've got to cook something using only the ingredients that've been mentioned there, so it's kind of like cooking with what you get from the bag, hence 'In the Bag', you savvy?

This month's In the Bag had just the right ingredients for me to try out the famous Mangalorean chicken dish, chicken ghee roast. The ingredients from the bag for August were:

Chicken
Red Chillies
Garlic

Perfect! :)

You can read about the rules at the above mentioned link. Since we are allowed to use other ingredients that we see fit for the dish, I used a few more. So here's my ingredients list:

1. Chicken - about 450 gms, with bone, but you can use boneless ones as well.
2. 3 Red chillies (that's all I had at home on Saturday evening)
3. 4 flakes of garlic
4. 1/2 tbsp of red chilli powder (to make up for the lack of red chillies)
5. 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
6. 1-1.5 tsp garam masala.
7. Juice from 1 small lemon (use half lemon if you don't want it tangy)
8. 1/2 - 1 tsp vinegar
Note: At times, the lemon juice/vinegar is replaced by tamarind paste
9. 2 tbsp ghee, or clarified butter
10. Salt & pepper to season

If garam masala isn't available, or if you love preparing the stuff on your own, you can substitute the garam masala by adding a few coriander seeds, cumin seeds, a small piece of cinnamon, a couple of cloves, and even a pod of cardamom if you want, and toast them on a pan on medium-high heat until the colour changes to several shades darker grind these together to get a fine powder. This should take about 10 minutes, but do not increase the heat to quicken the process (one thing I've learnt the hard way is that patience in the kitchen is indeed a virtue). Allow this to cool, and then grind to as fine a powder as you can.

Now for the ghee roast.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. A lot of people (traditionalists, like my mom) would add the salt to the marinade itself, but I don't, no specific reason, that's just the way I operate :)


Chop the garlic flakes fine and make a paste of the red chillies. Mix this paste with the garlic and add the turmeric powder and garam masala. Add the red chilli powder as well (I was short of red chillies and used some red chilli powder). Squeeze the juice out of the lemon into this paste and add the vinegar as well and mix the entire marinade with the chicken, and let the chicken marinate for about 3-4 hours (or longer if you prefer, but 4 hours should do the trick) in the fridge. If the marinade is dry and ins't pasty enough, add a few drops of water.


Once you take the chicken out, allow it to thaw a little. Heat a pan/skillet and add the ghee (clarified butter) and once the ghee is hot, add the chicken into the pan and cook until done. You'll notice from the snap below some gravy - this dish is actually supposed to be dry, but when the chicken marinates, some amount of water is given out, and you could either drain it, or use it as I did. The traditional way this dish is made is completely dry, with only the marinade on the chicken and with the ghee oozing and dripping from the chicken.



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.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BM Review: Zoe

Last Friday I had the opportunity to visit the resto-cafe lounge Zoe in Indiranagar to review it for Bangalore Mirror. The review can be read here.

The lung fung soup was not the usual fair we get at Chinese restaurants that dot the city. The flotilla of beaten egg whites was the stand out in the dish.

Lung Fung Soup

The spicy lamb chimichanga, a Mexican dish that is like a deep-fried burrito, was really good, served along with a spicy sauce and the lettuce salad in the middle.

Spicy Lamb Chimichanga

The best dish of the evening was the mushroom fritters, stuffed with Fontina cheese and chicken, served with a peri peri sauce.

Mushroom Fritters

The crispy chicken fritters also came with a spicy peri-peri sauce. I only wish they had used a different type of sauce rather than the same one where ever something spicy was required.

Chicken Fritter

My favourite - the mini lamb burgers, especially since I"m on the lookout for the best burgers in Bangalore.

Mini Lamb Burgers

The Mediterranean cheese wrap was probably the only dish that wasn't all that great. That said, the muhammara dip that came along with it was fantastic.

Mediterranean Cheese Wrap

Chicken with mushroom sauce - simple, yet perfect.

Chicken in Mushroom Sauce

Moroccan Lamb with couscous. Nice.

Moroccan Lamb with Cous-Cous

Spaghetti Primavera - could have done without the extra olives (a few is OK, but not too many).

Spaghetti Primavera with Chicken

Blackout - Simply superb!

Blackout

Yankee Doodle Do - Nice name, nice ice cream, no need to have added watermelon along with the other cut fruits.

Yankee Doodle Do

Food: Very good
$$$:Not very expensive for the quality, quantity and type of cuisine served. Our bill, with taxes, came to a touch over 2400, that's 4 adults who pigged out and 1 extra dish for the kids.
Service: Good, although the condition of the menus needs a drastic redo
Verdict: A place you certainly must try out.
Extra info:No alcohol served. Also, someone told me they were put off by the location - it's opposite Anbhedkar College, and the surroundings after Zoe aren't all that great, but hey, once you're inside, why your mind should wander out beats me. You can park in an of the lanes nearby.

Zoe, 3790, HAL 2nd Stage, 7th Main, Opp. Ambedkar College, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 42115257

The full review can be read here:

Pleasure drives out pain, and excessive pain leads men to seek excessive pleasures.”
— Aristotle


It’s been a while since a restaurant would turn out to be a panacea to my predicament of a happy dining experience. Almost at the end of a quiet street is Zoe, like the elusive Leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Although I just cross-pollinated Greek and Irish cultures in the opening few lines, Zoe does a bit of the same — with food — with Lebanese, Mediterranean Greek, Spanish, Italian, Algerian, Moroccan, and a little bit of Mexican in its cuisine within the confines of it modern resto-lounge setup. Zoe is a Greek word which means ‘God-given life’ or ‘abundant life’, unlike bios, which refers to natural life. One look at the vibrant colours inside should be enough to bring some life (and colour) back into you after a hard day at the office.

Health and vibrancy being the theme, owner Ravi’s message is made clear with no alcohol being served here, and no smoking inside. No points then for guessing why he chose Mediterranean cuisine to be served here. My guests were Deboshree, a broadcast professional who’s also doubled up as a food critic in the past, and her daughter Zoe (coincidence, huh?) and a couple of friends. We started off with a lung fung soup and a chicken and cilantro soup, the chicken cilantro being great. The chicken fritters were nice and crispy, while the runaway hit was the mushroom fritters stuffed with Fontina cheese and chicken, served with a spicy peri-peri sauce. Another well presented and equally tasty dish was the lamb chimichanga rolls, a type of deep-fried burrito, served here with a spicy sauce. The presentation was good, and in spite of having oodles in terms of types of cuisines, neither taste nor presentation is compromised.

Apart from the food, the layout of Zoe makes it very friendly for kids, as Zoe the kid exemplified, almost tearing the place apart along with a couple of other kids. Thankfully there weren’t too many reservations from the staff. Another snacker on the menu is the mini lamb burgers — a set of 4 mini burgers served in small buns that somehow instill a sense of being homemade, and couple that with a perfectly cooked lamb patty with some caramelised onions, and presto! you’ve got yourself a first rate snack.

Along with the mini burgers, we also ordered a Mediterranean cheese wrap. This was probably the only dish there wasn’t anything to rave about. However, the muhammara dip that came with it had a lot going on inside it. The Lebanese muhammara is a dip primarily of walnuts, red chilies, and garlic, and had a really interesting taste that complemented the slightly bland cheese wrap. My only concern was that the menu didn’t explicitly mention what the dip contained (not everyone would know what a muhammara dip is), and since there are a lot of people who have violent allergic reactions to walnuts, which could be fatal, it would serve them well to mention this explicitly, or at least inform the patrons while the order is being placed.

For the main course, we ordered a spaghetti primavera, a Moroccan lamb with couscous, and chicken with mushroom sauce. At first, going only by looks, the spaghetti looked a little dry, but once we started to dig in, we realised that it was indeed good, although the chefs seemed to have hammed up the whole Mediterranean thingy by throwing in a good number of olives, which a classic primavera wouldn’t have. The chicken in mushroom sauce was fabulous. Simple and unpretentious, the sauce had the perfect consistency, neither too runny nor too thick, and the chicken was seasoned and cooked just right. Lastly, the combo of the lamb with the couscous was as good as it’s made out to be. Although it’s a standard dish and not one ‘cooked’ up by the chefs, the fact that it was done well earned them points.

For desserts, a chocolate cake with ice cream called Blackout, and an ice cream called Yankee Doodle Do multiple flavours of ice cream with cut fruits. The watermelon should have been omitted. That aside, the desserts were a delightful epilogue to conclude the saga called Zoe. “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” — JRR Tolkien. Go figure.

Lazy Saturday morning @ Egg Factory

Saturday morning was about as lazy as it gets. P, VP and I met for breakfast at 9 (I was famished by that time, since I'm used to having my breakfast @ 7 AM!). P was late, and so VP and I started off without him. We started off with a french toast with cream cheese and blueberry preserve. I've always loved this version, and it didn't disappoint again.

French Toast with Blueberry Preserve and Cream Cheese

I'd never had any of the special "Manipal connection" dishes on the menu before, and so VP and I decided to take a shot here. I had the mota special, and boy, did it have 'fat' in it or what! You can see the oil/ghee (clarified butter) floating on top.

Mota Special

VP decided to have the bread masala, and it did seem a lot lighter than the dish I ordered, although both tasted good.

Bread Masala

Finally, P arrived, and ordered a cilantro chilly omelette.

Cilantro & chilly omelette

VP then ordered an omelette with tomato sauce, simple yet effective.

Omelette withTomato sauce

P and I then decided to split a classic - huevos rancheros, a classic Mexican breakfast dish, served with tortillas.

Huevos Rancheros

This was P trying to take a picture of a glass of water. Not too sure what he was thinking, but then again, he's been working real hard and not been having enough coffee :)


Finally, for dessert, we ordered a new one we saw on the blackboard. It said zabaglione, and was a custard type dish with a wine flavour along with cream and chocolate shavings on top. It had a great taste, and kinda had a cinnamon/mouth fresher taste which 'pops' in your mouth.

Zabaglione

On the way out, we saw the co-owner of the place, Yogesh himself, and he let out a secret about the new dessert. Firstly, it was his research and tweaking of the recipe, and secondly, the thing that popped in the mouth... go eat it and find out (nothing bad or disgusting or shocking, just something simple that would pleasantly surprise you).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crêpe Connection

A couple of days ago, I'd stepped into Oasis Mall on the inner ring road at Koramangala to buy something for my cousin when my stomach began to send me signals that it was time to pay some attention to it, and so I stepped into the food court. I noticed this stall called Crepe Connection, selling crêpes, a type of pancake that originated in the Brittany region of France.

Preparing the crêpe

Crepe Connection has two types of crêpes, with sweet fillings and savoury. I had a sweet one called November Rain (fancy name - I thought Axl Rose would be playing inside my head as I ate it). This one was filled with apple and demarara sugar and cinnamon, and finally had whipped cream to present the final touch. They also had ones having bananas and chocolate, and seasonal fillings like strawberries and mango. It tasted great, especially the apple-cinnamon combo, although, if my mom was to learn that I paid Rs 70 for one, she'd blow her cool, and my head, saying I'm mad to pay 70 bucks for a glorified, sweet-filled dosa :)

November Rain

However, this is one place that needs to be polished off in the company of Mr P and VP, so another, more elaborate review should be coming soon.

Crepe Connection, Polynation Food Court, Oasis Center Mall, Inner Ring Road, Koramangala (near Sony world junction), Bangalore.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

BM Review: Coastal Junction

Last Friday, the 31st of July, saw me visiting Bangalore latest sea food restaurant, Coastal junction, on 80 feet road, in Indiranagar. Again, this was an official review for The Bangalore Mirror, and the review can be read here, titled 'At the crossroads'. The snaps of what we ate are below.

Squid masala

The squid masala (there was a specific Mallu name which I can't remember now) was the best among the appetisers.

Kane fry

Too thin, almost dry, and not marinated long enough, 'coz the marinade hadn't 'seeped' in deep enough (and since there was hardly any flesh, you can guess how 'well' it was marinated).

Chicken ghee roast

Tasted nice, but there didn't seem to be any ghee!!! I mean ghee roast and no ghee - are you kidding' me? They could have called it chicken masala or something, but not ghee roast.

Karwar prawns

Nice, but could have been seasoned a little more. Seemed to be lacking in salt, but the prawns were very fresh.

Baby corn something

This was ok.

Goan prawn curry

Tasted good. Again, prawns were fresh, and the spices in it were good and the dish on the whole seemed pretty authentic.

Chicken xacuti

Tasted good, but again, this isn't how a xacuti (pronounced sha-ku-tee) looks. It's supposed to be dark, like a shade of grey due to the roasted coconut nad peppercorns in it. Also, it's supposed to be 'knock-your-pants-off' spicy. This wasn't - it tasted good, but wasn't the 'real' xacuti.

Appam

Nice.

Neer dosa

Good.

Payasams

Heavenly. Probably the best dish of the night. All three payasams were heavenly, our own ambrosia.


Food: Nice, but I expected something better for the prices charged
$$$: On the higher side. Meal for two could cost anywhere from close to Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500 without drinks.
Service: Like any other place, nothing special for a 'fine-dining' place and for the prices charged.
Verdict: Can visit once for the Malabar cuisine, other cuisines are OK but may lack authenticity.

Coastal Junction, #623, 5th floor, Above Roseby's, 11th Main, 80 feet road, Indiranagar, Bangalore

The full review is here:

When I hear the words fine dining clubbed with coastal cuisine in India, and when the coastal cuisine in question is from the west coast, there’s a sense of cautious uneasiness in me. One usually associates fine dining with, among several other things, dining with a fork, knife and a spoon. See where I’m going? So either we dine with knives and forks, in which case it’s a little difficult to enjoy the Malabar and Konkan cuisine without food literally flying off the plate, or the food would be made suitable to be eaten with knives and forks, in which case the chefs would need to be really innovative to preserve the authenticity of the dishes.

Coastal Junction is Bangalore’s latest coastal cuisine restaurant, dishing out Konkan and Malabar dishes. Owner Clifford Mascarenhas, who also runs the store Roseby’s in Indiranagar (Coastal Junction is located above Roseby’s), says he started a coastal cuisine restaurant partly because of his origin (he’s a Mangalorean, so opening a coastal cuisine restaurant made sense), and also because there aren’t any restaurants in the vicinity dishing out coastal food. Fair enough. On a night that saw a steady drizzle after a long time, I visited the place along with my guests Ra-Ben Almeida (Goan), his cousin Mavis Smith (Mangalorean) and her sister-in-law Milly Smith (again, Goan). And of course, yours truly was there to chip in with his Mangalorean-in-exile expertise.

The bar looked swanky, but the furniture didn’t scream ‘fine dining’ to us. A look at the menu projected a tilt in favour of Malabar cuisine. The squid appetiser we had, one of the Kerala dishes, was fabulous — right from the way it was cooked to the masalas used in it, it was lip-smacking. The chicken ghee roast was nice, but strangely, was lacking the ghee! If I can’t even smell the ghee, let alone watch it drip from the chicken, it’s not a ghee roast. Had it been called by a different name, there would have been no complaints. The Karwar prawns were very fresh and nice, but should have been seasoned a little better. Sadly, the kane (lady fish) fry lacked any real substance (read flesh), and wasn’t marinated long enough with the marinade.

For our main course, again, we tried to sample dishes from across the coast, and so a round of appams and neer dosas along with a bowl of red rice was to be polished off with a Goan prawn curry and a chicken xacuti. The appams were good — crispy and not sticky, and the neer dosas were the best I’ve had in Bangalore restaurants in a long time. Although they didn’t look exactly like neer dosas (they’re supposed to be more porous and white), they tasted great.

The prawns in the Goan curry were fresh, and the curry had everything, right from the concoction of spices to the coconut milk. The xacuti, however, was a different story. Purely going by the sense of taste, it was great. But with its introduction to the sense of sight, especially with prior knowledge as to what a xacuti is supposed to look like, you would be a little flummoxed. A traditional xacuti, according to Mavis and Milly, is supposed to be dark, like a shade of dark grey because of the deep roasted coconut and peppercorns in it. Also, a traditional xacuti is supposed to be so spicy it will exorcise all the sniffles and blocked/running noses and coughs associated with the rainy weather. In our case, the xacuti presented to us was almost reddish-brown in colour, and although it tasted good, wasn’t anywhere close to the legendary spiciness. Our tryst with the desserts saw us order the trio of payasams — one tender coconut based, one banana and jaggery based, and the third one based on rice flour and cashew nuts. All three were heavenly — India’s very own ambrosia!

At any restaurant, the ‘cost-to-quantity and quality’ ratio is something to look for the most. For the prices charged here, you certainly expect more on your plate in terms of quality and certainly shouldn’t cut any slack for loss in authenticity. What’s more, you’d expect to see something that you normally wouldn’t find in other sea food restaurants. As for Coastal Junction, it’s seems to be at the crossroads from where it needs to chart its own course towards the promised land.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hae Kum Gang

It was my first outing with the Bangalore Gourmet Group, and understandably I was excited. Hae Kum Gang is a Korean restaurant on Castle Street, off Brigade Road, diagonally opposite Fuga and Asean. Since I was the newbie in the group, getting to know the group was priority uno (P & VP were off to Pondicherry without me!).

The place looks interesting, and although they don't have the mat and low table where you sit on the floor and eat, the menu seems totally authentic, and the food looked yummy (and eventually, it turned out to be yummy as well). I started off with a Ginseng tea that was served along with a cup of honey.

Ginseng Tea

Honey

A good start! The tea smelled great, and I later added a little honey to it as well, and although I didn't add enough to make it taste of only honey, this enhanced the taste of the tea. Couldn't ask for more.

We then ordered a couple of appetisers before the mains. A beef wan ja was ordered, and although the descriptions aren't there on the menus, like all authentic far eastern cuisine restaurants, there were pictures on the menu, and this seemed like patties of minced beef with some kind of sauce. Didn't care what was in it coz it tasted fabulous!

Beef wanja

As a few more people came in, we then ordered a couple of chicken fritters, which is akin to the local chicken lollipop.

Chicken Fritters

The other appetiser we ordered was some kind of an egg pizza crossed with pancake kind of dish having sea food in it, called a haemul pajeon (pronounced pa-jun). Pajeon is a combo of 'pa', meaning scallions, and 'jeon', referring to the battered ingredients in the dish. A seafood pajeon is called haemul pajeon.

Haemul pajeon

That done, we moved on to the main course. I was interested in having the bulgogi, which is korean beef barbecued with soya sauce, but upon looking at the menu, I was transfixed by everything else. We ordered 3 'sets' (meat in a deep dish, along with sticky rice and 6 accompanying bowls with other stuff) - beef, chicken, and pork, along with some sort of rice mixture with eggs and a beef noodles. Each 'set' consists of 6 small bowls with sweet potatoes, radish, spinach, brinjal (egg plant), kimchi, and tofu.

The side dishes with the main course set

Apart from the above, we also ordered a Korean noodles with beef (which also had some sea food in it). The noodles were a first for me - not the usual chow mien you have the Chinese restaurants, this was a lot thicker, and were almost cylindrical or something. And it was fun eating with chop sticks. The Korean chop sticks are flat, unlike the Chinese or Japanese chop sticks, which are cuboid, tapering down into a cylindrical shape.

Beef Noodles

All the 'sets' that we ordered were great - the beef was extremely soft and tasty, and the chicken and pork were yummy. I loved the pork the best, with beef and chicken tied at a close second.

Chicken

The rice and egg thingy too was pretty good, and it was nice to finally have something from the far east that did not have MSG in it :)

Rice and egg thingy



Pork

Beef

Compared to the rest of the food, the soup that came along with the 'sets' that we ordered (or were they separate?) were a bit flat, as in, the other dishes had raised the bar so high, the kimchi-like soup was OK.

Soup

To wrap things up, the fruit salad bowl was the perfect ending to our meal.

Fruit Salad (Pineapple, watermelon, papaya)


Service - Prompt, helpful
Food - Fantastic
$$$ - Larger the group, lower you pay. The 9 of us paid 300 each including tips
Verdict - Certainly a place to visit
Extra Info - Finding parking on Castle may pose a problem, so try to park somewhere else

Hae Kum Gang, #20, Castle Street, Off Brigade Road, Ashok Nagar, Bangalore. Phone: 41127730, 41127732