Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chamomile

It was Christmas day, and I had just moved into my new house, and what's more, along with VP, I'd visited the house of one of his colleague's who stays very close to where I live. So after some nice homemade wine at her place and some appams and stew, VP and I headed back to my place and started wondering where to go for dinner. P was down with viral fever, so it would have had to be at a place close to Indiranagar. Looking into the newspaper, we saw this new place called Chamomile and decided to head there for dinner.

Chamomile, named after the tea, is located on 100 Feet Road, and serves European cuisine. For Christmas, they has a special menu (apart from their regular menu), and since the items on it were 'special', well, so was the cost. But I guess they were banking on the fact that the merry season would have people in high enough spirits to splurge a little...at least, that's the principle we were dining out on :)

We started with a drink that we seem to have made our very own - a virgin Mary. Our principle of testing a barman's skill by the way he/she makes a virgin Mary can tell you whether he/she knows the business still holds good. This one was very good - not the best I've had, but very good nonetheless. And not surprisingly, there was soup that we had as well. P and VP settled for the special soups from the Christmas menu: braised red pepper soup with balsamic vinaigrette foam for P and a shrimp and crab bisque for VP, while I settled for one from the regular menu - a roasted sweet garlic and rosemary soup. Although the soups sounded grandiose, they actually fell flat a little. The red pepper soup didn't have any zing or heat in it, the bisque didn't quite give out the yummy flavours of the crab and the shrimp, while my soup was just way too course and grainy.

Virgin Mary

Braised red pepper soup with a balsamic vinaigrette foam

Roasted sweet garlic and rosemary soup

Shrimp and crab bisque

We decided to have one starter, and so went for the twice cooked mushroom. Not sure how many times it was cooked, but it tasted quite good, with the little smudge of cheese on top doing it a world of good.

Twice cooked mushrooms

VP and I were in two minds when it came to the main course: we wanted to have the turkey for sure (part of the special menu), but apart from that there was also a pork dish on the special menu that we wanted to try out, but weren't sure whether we'd be able to finish all the food coz VP was already full, and usually I end up eating what he leaves, and I didn't want to stuff myself like a pig that night, so we settled on a single main course dish for the two of us - the stuffed turkey roulade. P decided to skip the special from the Christmas menu and settled for mushroom stroganoff.

The turkey's stuffing was quite good, but the meat itself seemed to lack some basic seasoning. That, combined with the fact that we weren't given separate steak/serrated knives and had to use the usual stainless steel crap that's kept by your plate meant we struggled with the meat a bit. P ordered the stroganoff thinking it would be light, but with mushrooms and cheese making most of the stroganoff, it was anything but light. Taste wise, again, the cheese and the mushrooms seemed to have a taste that can best be described as one that you need to acquire, but being a sucker for mushrooms, I didn't seem to mind it too much.

Stuffed turkey roulade

Mushroom stroganoff

For desserts, again, two from the Christmas menu (apple pie and Christmas pudding), and one from the regular menu (strawberry cheesecake). I think desserts is their Achilles heel of sorts; while the apple pie was sinfully good, the 'pudding' (more like the rum cake we get) and the strawberry cheesecake were a big let down. The pudding was way too dry, while the cheesecake was just too hard and not creamy enough.

Strawberry cheesecake

Apple pie

Christmas pudding

Overall, a satisfying meal, but by no means a memorable one. The service was pretty decent, and so was the ambiance. And given that the seasonal menu was a 'special' (along with 'special' rates - read expensive), one would've thought that there'd be some extra effort put in to make all the dishes memorable. Since this was an outing where we essentially had stuff from the Christmas menu and not the regular menu, I'll leave out the 'ratings' that I give. Another visit perhaps.

Samarkhand

Firstly, the delay in the posts coming up was because I have shifted to my new house, and there's no net connectivity for a while. And also, the fact that the USB drives at work have been disabled, which means the methods of uploading pics and posts needs to get a little craftier. Sometime back, VP said he got a decent hike and so he took P and me out to dinner. After watching a movie (One of those Narnia movies) at Garuda Mall (where they've put up miniature models of famous landmarks like Statue of Liberty, The Kremlin, Eiffel Tower, etc), we were wondering whether to have dinner at Kobe's, or to go else where, when finally VP said he wanted to go to Samarkhand.

A miniature model of the Kremlin

Hey, he was paying, so who were we to say no :) and so Samarkhand it was. Saturday night, no reservations, the trio enter and are told to be seated in Hypnos (same management, and they also told us same food would be served here as well). It was nice. A mixture of rustic and crude, old school au natural. The air inside was cool, bordering on damp/dank, depending on where you're coming from.

The complimentary bread sticks with the dip is usually a big hit, and there was no exception to the rule here. and what's more, apart from whetting your appetite, they photograph pretty well too! We also decided to have something to drink, and since we were driving, you guessed it, no -OH group compounds would be entering our bodies that night. All I remember now is that I had a passion fruit based rink, P had a pineapple based drink, while VP settled for some raspberry based one. My drink turned out to be the winner for the night :)

For the food, we started off with shorbas - tomato, chicken, and mutton. All turned out to be really good.

Bread sticks

Shorbas

My mutton shorba

For starters, we had the Peshawari paneer tikka (something I'd had 5 years ago when I first visited Samarkhand) - 3 large chunks of creamy, juicy paneer blocks that just crumble into divine oblivion inside your mouth. And I didn't ask whether they make their own paneer or source from elsewhere, but this thing was rich - like to the point where you eat one and you'll go "oof, that's filling!". Apart from that, we also ordered a plate of cheese balls or something like that from the Hypnos menu. These were OK, and P stated that he was quite full already and may not be able to eat too much. I think he's getting old - I mean this is the guy who once ate two main course dishes at Miller's 46 (so what if they were vegetarian, it was after a full round of soup and starters).

Peshawari paneer

Cheese balls (middle), with our drinks

For the non veg option that VP so badly wanted, we ordered a dish (whose name now eludes my fragile memory) that comprised of chicken breasts stuffed with minced chicken. This looked awesome when it was served, with steam coming out of the sliced breast pieces, and it tasted just as good. P was a little flabbergasted at the prospect of food being stuffed into food, but we didn't bother humouring him with explanations.

Chicken stuffed with minced chicken...awesomeness!

Another shot of the above

P said he couldn't eat another morsel after the cheese overdose, and so VP and I ordered a mutton biryani. This biryani was not as flavourful as it was fragrant, but even I was a bit stuffed, and since VP doesn't eat the meat pieces in biryani (he usually tosses them into my plate), I had to contend with some extra protein and at the end of the meal, I wished we could carry extra storage space for our stomachs - some kind of a compressible unit that can be attached to our bodies like a USB...those of you rolling your eyes back, hell, I'm an engineer and I know my breed (engineers) can do it, but we just choose not to at the moment (unless someone's already done it and I don't know about it).

Mutton biryani


Food: Wonderful
$$$: Slightly pricey...with non-alcoholic drinks, a full meal could cost you about Rs. 1000 per head.
Service: Good
Verdict: Go, go, go already if you haven't. They have valet parking, and go early on weekends...like at 7:30 itself if you don't have reservations...or just make a reservation, but still go early.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Silver Wok

Silver Wok is almost an institution if not a just a landmark for Bangaloreans who've been in the city for more than 10 years and haven't confined themselves to only a few pockets of the city. Nestled next to the Lakme beauty parlour on Richmond Road, this Chinese restaurant has been there for almost forever, and even after repeated mentions from various mouths that it serves some of the best Chinese in town, something or the other kept me from visiting the place, until last Wednesday, when a friend told me it's going to close down shortly. But before I even get into the details of the food, let me clarify one thing: we found out that 'closing down' was a temporary thing, from the 31st of December 2010 to February 2011. So post Feb, you should be able to visit the place again.

I visited the place with Suhas and Santosh (guests at Khazana and Saffron) and a colleague of Suhas. I'm guessing they have seating in the cellar as well (which is where the repairs are happening that will cause them to close temporarily), because the seating on the entrance floor isn't too much, the walls are drab, and while the linen and cutlery are decent, I think it's about time they went in for a makeover. Perhaps all that leaking that took place leading to repairs and a temporary shutdown is a sign of fate, destiny, the hand of ... oh crap, what'm I saying! Bully, serves them right for not being ship-shape :)

The menu at Silver Wok is fairly big, and has sufficient options for vegetarians as well as options in poultry, pork, lamb, and sea food. We decided to start off with soup. While Suhas, Santosh and Rameez, settled for a crab manchow soup (initially they wanted to try a crab soup, but were told that it was plain thick crab soup and would be bland), while I had a shrimp clear soup, the menu stating that it also had a little bit of fish sauce in it. I loved my shrimp soup - hard to describe the how and why but it tasted the way I love seafood soups to taste (and no, not fishy!), while the others too seemed to enjoy their soups. Also, there were quite a few shrimps in my soups, a welcome sight when compared to most other places that would add a piece or two, giving an impression that they're doing you a favour by adding the shrimps in...a shrimp soup! No such inhibitions at Silver Wok though.

Crab Manchow soup

Shrimp clear soup

One of the main attractions at Silver Wok, I was told, was the chicken with crackling spinach, and this dish lived up to its reputation. Well cooked and well flavoured, the chicken was nice and tender, while the spinach was just brilliant - crispy, sweet, and best of all, it could be eaten alone and gelled well with the chicken as well.

Apart from the chicken, we ordered a portion of bacon wrapped prawns. My word, we were served 12 huge pieces of thick bacon slices wrapped around prawns. Unfortunately, these were again coated with a little bit of corn flour and fried - I really don't know whether this is done to hold the bacon and the prawn together, or for flavour, because I'd be gobsmacked if just grilling it wouldn't produce the desired effect. Nonetheless, thankfully, the amount of corn flour on this wasn't as much as the one we had at Xian, and so it was more palatable.

Lastly, no visit to any Chinese place that serves momos would be complete without ordering, well, momos! So a plate of steamed chicken momos it was, served along with a spicy salsa and spicy/tangy sauce that was kinda like the peanut paste you get with satay. Just as well that the salsa was spicy, but then again, I think I enjoyed it without anything as well. Again, not the best steamed momos, but certainly one of the better ones I've had.

Chicken with crispy crackling spinach

Bacon wrapped prawns

Chicken steamed momos

After getting thoroughly stuffed with 12 pieces of bacon wrapped prawns, out main course was certainly going to be a tame affair. So we ordered one rice dish, called Thai fried rice, which was a delightful mix of chicken, egg, prawns, and veggies. Since we hadn't had any lamb dishes, and since there were only 3 lamb dishes for the main course, we zeroed in on the Hunan lamb, which was a mixture of soy, ginger, corn starch, but again, not the best lamb dish I've had, but passable I guess.

And finally, like as if we hadn't had enough, we ordered a Cantonese roast pork, a sweet and mildly sour sauce, almost, in fact, if I'm right the same as char siu pork. It was really very good, and we were very full - not the ideal comforting combo when you're craving to eat as much as you can, especially when it's pork. Oink.

Thai fried rice (r), Hunan lamb

Cantonese roast pork


Food: Very good
$$$: Moderately expensive for a Chinese joint, but then again, their food is much better.
Service: Quick, to the point where I thought they wanted us to leave soon! :)
Verdict: Must visit for good Indi-Chinese food.

Silver Wok, #85, Sheriff House, Next to Lakme Beauty Parlour, Richmond Road, Bangalore. Phone: 22242288

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BM Review: Xian

Last Saturday, I finally visited Xian, along with the owners of the blog Purple Cinnamon and Salt, Pallavi and Upasana, along with Sreeja (a friend of a friend) and her friend Snigdha. The full review for the paper along with a snap of the guests can be read here.

I don't know the exact reason, but someone at the paper seems to like articles in the English language very much, so much so that they added a 'The' to the start of the title I'd given for the write up. I'd titled it as 'Yin yang harmony', to indicate the balance between the good and the not so good at Xian (and there being a giant yin yang at Xian contributed heavily to this title). By adding the 'The' at the start, it sort of makes it sound as an attribute almost exclusively meant for Xian (which obviously isn't true - almost all places could be recipients of this phrase as most would have some not so good things to go with the good...thus, yin yang). But anyway, what do I know about English, I'm just a techie who happens to love and know a little bit about food, so let's put an end to the English grammar lesson here.

We started off with some chicken and pork steamed momos, and then moved on spare ribs, crispy spinach, chilli prawn balls, and bacon-wrapped prawns. The momos were good, but I've found the momos served at delicacy to be better because the outer casing of the momo is not hard, but still soft (at Delicacy), but here, it was a little hard, but taste wise, they were good. The spare ribs stole the show, like totally! Served in a sweet-ish sauce that probably was a mixture of barbecue and a bit of Worcestershire (for a little tang and zing), the meat of actually so yummiliciously flavoured and tender that all of us had to struggle to remain civil at the table. In short, it was good. Then, things slid a little down hill. The crispy spinach was nice, but had flour added to it to 'hold' it together I'm guessing. Bad idea! not only did it add an unearthly whitish-cream colour to the green of the spinach, it cut into the taste as well.

Spare ribs...some of the best I've ever had

Crispy spinach with vegetables

On the menu, this chilli prawn balls was under the 'chef recommends' section. This dish was a little spicy (and some found it a little too spicy). Flavour wise, there was the distinct prawn flavour mixed with a little coriander and chilli, however, what was missing was something to go with the dish and probably cut out a little bit of the heat from the chilli. After talking to Pallavi, who thought a lemon-honey based sauce/dip could've helped as opposed to my garlic-mayo dip suggestion, I tended to agree more with her idea for the simple reason that a bit of acid WAS precisely what was needed for a sea food dish, and the lemon would certainly have provided that while cutting into the chilli. Some garnish on the dish would've helped as well - rather plane-Jane if you ask me.

Chilli prawn balls

Bacon-wrapped prawns. On any given day, I'd have to say that even in my sleep I'd answer that this would be a winner. now I'm not sure if this is the trend everywhere, but here the dish came batter-fried!!! Oh dear, my fat, crumbled heart nearly skipped a few beats when I saw it. And the batter coating was too thick to enjoy the salty, bacon-infused flavour on the prawns. Tch tch, I think even the prawns felt bad, and I felt bad that the prawns didn't get to be more physically intimate with the bacon.

Bacon wrapped prawns

For the mains, we ordered a Malaysian flat noodles and a Thai red curry with a portion of steamed rice. Along with this, we ordered a char-siu pork, dragon lamb, and Xian pickled prawns (with black bean paste). The flat noodles looked nice, with nice colours, and tasted good as well.

Malaysian flat noodles (kway teao)

The Thai red curry was quite lovely - coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and red chilli paste... yummmm-meee!

Thai red curry

Pork was a bit of a specialty here I think, and the char-siu pork served was quite good, save for a few pieces of meat that were a bit chewy. But otherwise, the honey-sweetened pork (generally flavoured with Chinese five-spice powder) is quite a good side dish to be had any time. the dragon lamb seemed and tasted almost like the char-siu pork, with the only difference being in the texture of the meats - they are different animals after all!

Char Sui pork

Dragon lamb

The Xian pickled prawns had got us a wee bit excited. We were anticipating a slightly sour, and probably fermented dish (it did say pickled, and was in a black bean paste, which is normally fermented and pungent). However, what came was a bowl of a thick gravy with prawns and vegetables, with tiny flecks of black bean in it. On it's own, it tasted good, but having being primed with the word 'pickled', it was a let down.

Pickled prawns in black bean sauce

Overall, quite a decent place, and since the prices are slightly on the higher side when compared to any of the other 'Chinese' joints in town, the good thing is the dishes, decor, cutlery, etc do live up to a slightly higher standard that you'd expect while paying this kind of money.

Food: Some good, some not so great, overall - pretty decent.
$$$: Not your average Chinese joint...maybe around 500 or so per head.
Service: Decent
Verdict: Worth a visit if in that part part of town.

Xian, #132, Gangadhara Chetty Road, opposite Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore. Phone: 41515163

Thursday, December 2, 2010

BM Review: Elements Heritage

On Sunday, I visited Elements Heritage on Mosque Road in Fraser Town to review the place for Bangalore Mirror. The review that got published can be read here (link will be provided once it's come up on their site). The snaps and the version with no word limit constraints is down here.

At the start, let me say that we didn't have any vegetarian dishes because nothing caught our fancy. The restaurant is setup in a 90 year old bungalow from the Raj era. It's been restored to a pristine condition, and is run by the same family that runs The Elements restaurant on Nandi Durg road. After my interactions with the owner, Asif Mohammad, one thing was clear - this is a person who's passionate about what he does. The food here follows the footsteps of

We started off with the Peshawari murgh tikka, which was very similar to a malai kabab. The chicken was cooked nicely and the marinade was just as we expected there. Along with that, we'd ordered a machchi ke tikka, which was essentially the same flavours but on fish (no snap of the fish dish). The fish was also done quite well. However, the creme de la creme of the starters were the Malabar prawns. Asif and his family are originally from Kerala, the right term being Mappila (or Moplah) and so the dishes from Kerala here are really great.

The tandoori lamb chops were a mixed bag. I liked it, while the guests were of the opinion that the masala used was a little 'raw', meaning, it hits you straight in the throat. Usually this is avoided if the ingredients of the masala are first dry roasted individually and then mixed and used in the marinade. Another interesting starter we had was the seekh-e-elements - seekh kababs that were served on paper thin iddiappams, and were to be eaten as a roll would be eaten - the iddiappam rolled over the kabab. Last but not the least was a special dish, the kaada fry, which is a partridge that is fried whole and served. Although it was the first time for the rest of the crew, I've had it before at Nachiyar's, and this tasted nice, but nothing special.

Malabar prawns

Seekh-e-Elements

Peshawari Murgh tikka

Tandoori lamb chops

Kaada (partridge) fry

For the main course, we again set our sights on a variety of dishes. A meen appam, which involved a fish being stuffed into an appam that was prepared by having rice batter smeared on a banana leaf and folded. This was served with some tamarind sauce and this certainly lifted the taste of the entire dish. The nalli nihari, which I had the last time I was here, was not to be missed, and it lived up to it's reputation. The surprise package though was the moogh dal ki gosht, which was moog dal with lamb served with rice and roti (all main course dishes are served with rotis/iddiappams and two portions of rice, while starters are served with rotis or iddiappams and no rice).

One of the spiciest dishes we had that night (and possibly ever) was the kozhi mulagh itathe. Fortunately, what went in favour of the dish was the fact that it wasn't just overly spicy to kill you, but spicy in a flavourful way. And lastly, there was the biryani, with meatballs in it. Mildly flavoured and served in a handi with the seal made of dough intact, it acted as a balm after the kozhi inferno :)

Meen (fish) appam

Nalli nihari

Moong dal ki gosht

Kozhi mulag itiathe

Meatball biryani

And whatever wee little space we had left inside us, we filled with dessert. Khubani ka meetha, a compote made from apricots (served here with butterscotch ice cream) and a zafrani phirni is what we opted for. Some of the other options were shahi tukda and gulab jamuns, and of course, ice cream, all of which we rejected because the former would have been very heavy, while the latter two were pretty common. Needless to say, the two desserts we had were quite superb.

Khubani meetha (right) with butterscotch ice cream

Zafrani phirni

Overall, great experience, and it's one of those places you'd be forcing yourself to visit each time you're anywhere close to Fraser town and are in the need for a meal.

Food: Very good
$$$: Slightly on the higher side. A full meal for non-vegetarians will come up to about Rs. 600 per head.
Service: Good
Verdict: Certainly worth a visit

Elements Heritage, Mosque Road, next to Savoury Restaurant, Fraser Town, Bangalore. Phone: 41144146

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Deepavali cookout at home - 2

So the final day of Deepavali and the brother and I need to eat again, but this time, we decided not to have anything fancy (notice that although I do all the buying, cleaning, cutting, cooking, etc, I just said we...somethings not right, I think I'm not getting enough from this deal). So, good old white rice along with some chicken was the 'order' of the day (that's what my brother does...he orders, and I comply like a dud!).

I still had some coconut milk from the the experiment on day 1 and so decided to incorporate that into the dish. I made a marinade out of coriander, green chillies, and garlic, and marinated the chicken in it overnight (actually it was marinating for almost two days :) ). Oil into the pan, tossed in some more chopped garlic, cumin, and green chillies, fried it a bit, and then in went the chicken. After a few minutes, I added the coconut milk to the pan and cooked over a low flame until the chicken was nice and tender. I should have made a career out of this, although, coming to think of it, I'm not that old yet, so I guess there's still hope :)

The end product

Another angle

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Family cookout

So the second night of Deepavali saw the brother and I go to a cousin's place for a family get together. And in Bunt families (as with families of most communities in India), this involves food, and a lot of it. So here's a sample of just some of the things that were on display. The usual "kori-rotti" and "neer dosa" that most people associate Mangalorean cuisine with WAS NOT there, and I'll let y'all know that Mangalorean cuisine isn't just kori-rotti and neer dosa. There's a whole lot more, and although essentially rice-based, there are soooo many dishes that are made.

Chicken biryani

A flat, dry rice cake

Chicken stew

Idlis

Chicken curry

Some kind of payasa

Another sweet stuffed with coconut & jaggery

The last dish, a sweet, is a little unique in it's prep method. The other 'shell' is made from rice. The rice is mashed into a paste and smeared on turmeric leaves. Once this is done, it's filled with grated coconut and jaggery and then it's folded in half and steamed. This is one of the several rice-based sweets we have, and although we had only a fraction of the dishes here, t'was still a superb night of fun, food and frolic.

Coming up, Deepavali cookout at home part 2.