Monday, May 31, 2010

Coming up...

There are a couple of review for the Bangalore Mirror that are pending. One is for 'The hole in the Wall Cafe' in Koramangala, while the other is of The Rogue Elephant, Basavanagudi. Hopefully the guys at the paper will publish these reviews soon, so I can put them up here along with the snaps. In the meantime, you can catch some of the pictures here on the Facebook page.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BM Review: Tango Calypso

Several weeks back, I'd visited the restaurant Tango Calypso, which is opposite the Life Style and Sapphires toy store on Richmond Road. The review can be read here. The restaurant, although having the word Calypso in it, baring touches Caribbean cuisine. It's more 'Euro American' is what they claim. Well, I put them to the test, and they came up short. You'll have to excuse the quality of the photos for this one - I was using my point & shoot and the lighting was a little dim, hence the blurry images.

The soups, polloa la garlic fungi (mushroom soup with chicken and garlic) and the American corn chowder were both nicely done. Creamy and smooth, they set the ball rolling in the right direction. However, the toppings on the bruschetta weren't good...in fact, they tasted quite bad, as though the tomato was spoilt. And the other thing is they weren't using cherry tomatoes, which I think is the right way to go about it. The Sicily garlic prawns were cooked well, but the garlic was a little string and we weren't able to discern the taste of the other spices (if any) mixed in. The last of our starters, the caribe chicken, seemed to have cajun spices rubbed on it. The chicken was nicely done and it would have been perfect had they not added the cajun spices in excess, thereby masking the taste of the chicken and presenting our palates only with the taste of the spices.

Pollo al garlic Fungi (mushroom soup with chicken and garlic)

American Corn Chowder

Bruschetta

Sicily garlic prawns

Caribe chicken

For our main course, we ended up ordering the following: I had a classic surf n' turf, which came beautifully presented, but I'll be a monkey's uncle if they expect me to cut a steak with a stainless steel table knife! The risotto Milanese and the pasta feta Siciliana were good according to my guests, while the pepper painted salmon fillet seemed a little too small for what was charged and the chicken balsamico was nice, but not memorable.

Surf 'n' Turf

Risotto Milanese

Fusilli feta Siciliana

Chicken Balsamico

Pepper painted Salmon

You can check out Ruth's blog to see a picture, sorry portrait, of Mona Lisa smoking a joint! Although at first glance you'll think this place is one of those absolutely formal dining type joints, the Mona Lisa with a joint just shattered whatever facade was propping up that idea.

Food: Nice, but certainly not worth the money charged. Presentation and ambience are good, but still, I can get similar kind of food (at the same prices or lesser) that tastes a lot better at a lot of other places.
$$$: Expensive. For 5 of us, including VAT and a 5% service charge, the bill came up to Rs 4444.
Service: Decent
Verdict: Unless someone else is paying, I don't think I'd be revisiting in a hurry.

Tango Calypso, #44, Richmond Road, opp. Sapphire's Toy Store, Bangalore. Phone: 25545555, 25554444.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finally...

...after a long time, I found 7 spare minutes to add a Facebook badge for my blog. Why 7? I Don't know, but that's the amount of time I was free for when doing 'blog work'. Now be sure to catch the action on Facebook as well. However, in keeping with being oblivious to what 'extra' would be provided to the readers by linking this to Facebook, the Facebook page will be primarily for the photos of higher quality (resolution) that can't be uploaded on the blog due to space constraints, although in time there could be some 'discussions' as well.

Shortly, I"ll be moving over to a new site, as Blogspot doesn't seem to be able to cater to all my needs (I've already bought a domain name for gastronomicalgspot.com, so even though some things may change, they would still remain the same), but enough of that for now. Bon appetit!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Café Noir

I visited Café Noir on Saturday with my food group. Café Noir is in UB City and is a cafe in the mould of a Parisian street cafe (similar to Toscano, which is Italian, also at UB city). The menu is essentially sandwiches with a couple of quiches and burgers, with a whole host of coolers and coffees (Duh! Café, coffee, obviously!) as well. This was my first visit to this place, and boy has UB City changed! The last time I'd been here, Noir hadn't opened up and there was just Rajdhani, Toscano and Subway. Yeah, I know, that's almost ancient...it's been a while.

Some of us got there early (and here, when I say early, I mean on time) and we while some ordered cappuccinos, I had a Blue Mint Froz, a drink with blue curacao and mint. It looked really nice, but the mint taste overpowered the tangy curacao. I love the taste of curacao, and was hoping to get a bit more of its taste, but there was more of the mint taste and flavour to it. Another drink that is worth mentioning was the Mint Honey Dew, and one of the persons who had it, PS said it tasted good. I didn't care how it tasted, but it looked awesome. The deep red at the bottom of the drink (from the honey mixing with whatever else was there, and also because of the sunlight) seems to have come out nicely in the snap.

Blue Mint Froz

Mint Honey Dew

Although I was tempted to have the chicken and bacon quiche, I went with the tide and ordered a sandwich. All the sandwiches are priced at Rs 160, and trust me, they are well worth the money, both in terms of quantity and quality. The group 'president', Lil, who's also come with me on a review before to Café Mondo, said that the Orsay (having salmon in it) was heavenly. If I'm right, there were about two or three people who ordered the Orsay (with different bread options). The bread options available are baguette, panini, white, and wheat. The Orsay was indeed good, and it was good to see that the amount of salmon meat added into it wasn't 'reduced' in any way when compared to any of the other sandwiches.

I went for a St Germain (having ham) with panini bread. The ham seemed fresh, with the taste gelling well the usual lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber inside it. Lil herself had a Cafe Noir sandwich, which I think had roast beef in it. There weren't any complaints from her. Another member, VR, had something called a Paris-Nice sandwich. I'm not sure whether it was the option of the bread he chose, or if that was the way the sandwich was served, but it looked awesome with cheese covering the top of the sandwich, and from what he said, it tasted pretty good as well.

Orsay

Paris-Nice

Orsay with Panini

Café Noir sandwich with wheat bread

St Germain

One of the three burgers on the menu was also ordered (Café Noir burger), and this one tasted amazing. Since I've been on the lookout now for the best burgers, this one came pretty close, but surprisingly, they hadn't got the construction right. The lettuce and veggies were below the patty as opposed to above it. I'm picky, ain't I? :) A couple of guys came in a bit late, and they ordered a St Lazare (roast chicken) and a Croque Madam, a veg sandwich, having zucchini I think.

Café Noir burger

St Lazare

Croque Madam

The dessert counter looked simply fabulous. It took most of us quite a few minutes to decide what to order because we weren't able to make up our minds. Lil had suggested earlier that the crème brûlée was to die for, so one crème brûlée was ordered. If you've not had crème brûlée before, you'd probably like this, but the one we had wasn't all that great on this day. The 'fired' sugar top snapped off, and the texture of the inside wasn't all that creamy either. I ordered a 3 chocolate ganache, and this was the best dessert of the afternoon. Thick and creamy, it was truly sinful. Lil ordered a Mille Feuille [thanks to boozy g for the correction] (yeah, if you can pronounce that, let me know...it's French!), which was a layered pastry with vanilla inside. It was very nice, but that was only on the sides, the middle seemed barren :( The last of the desserts was a tutti frutti sable, which seemed to have kiwis and figs.

Mille Feuille (Vanilla)

Tutti Frutti Sable

Crème Brûlée

3 Chocolate Ganache


Overall, I loved the food and the desserts, so no complaints from me. Although Lil and a few others complained that the desserts weren't the best this time around (my ganache being the exception), I still thought it's a very nice place to visit, especially on a bright sunny day.

Food: Primarily sandwiches, which were very good.
$$$: Actually not that expensive. Sandwiches are priced at 160, and most of the drinks are around 100-125, and given the quantity (size) served (and the quality), it's well worth the money.
Service: Decent.
Verdict: Amazing sandwiches, although my vegan friends may not agree. Desserts seemed yummilicious, and although when we visited, some weren't done to perfection, it still is worth visiting.

Café Noir, 2nd Floor, The Collection UB City, 24, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore; Phone: 40982050


Click to add a blog post for Cafe Noir on Zomato

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kund

Kund is a small north India/Punjabi restaurant in Indiranagar, adjacent to Domino's Pizza, and virtually a stone's throw away from my office. Given this, it's a little strange that in the past 5 years I've worked at the current company, I've visited Kund only twice before (and both times were before I started this blog). Kund is owned by the father of Chef Manjeet Singh (the owner of Herbs n Spices in Indiranagar 80 feet road). It's a tiny joint, with 5-6 six-seater tables and an equal number of 2 seater tables.

The menu has several options for vegetarians (the usual gobi and mushroom and half a zillion paneer options), but for non-vegetarians, it's almost like hitting pay dirt. What's heartening to see is that they have several lamb dishes on the menu. Since this was one of the few and rare occasions where the number of vegetarians outnumbered the non-vegetarians (I went with some freinds from office) comprehensively (in a group with whom I've dined), the non-veg dishes are minimal.

The vegetarians started off with usual - paneer tikkas with green mint chutney. Along with this, they also ordered a veg seekh kabab, which all the vegans seemed to like a lot, but left a lot to be desired with my palate. Also, a good number of these guys are poor eaters really, and one of 'em is allergic to mushrooms - talk about narrowing your options - vegetarian and allergic some of the veg stuff!

Us non-PETA folk settled for tangdi kababs and gosht mazedar kabab. I got a real kick out of the name. The tangdi kababs were drumsticks marinated in a chili, ginger & garlic paste, cumin, and fenugreek. These were nice and hot and the meat just slipped off the bone. The lamb kababs were marinated in cashew nut paste amongst other spices, making it rich and creamy. The lamb itself was boneless and was extremely tender. We ordered seconds of this.

Tangadi kabab

Paneer tikka

Gosht mazedar kabab

For our main coin course, my fellow non-veggie and I ordered a gosht lababdar. I didn't read what exactly this had, and really didn't care as long as there was gravy, no bones, and tender meat. And this was exactly that. Hurray! We also ordered a mutton biryani, which came in a copper pot and was nicely cooked. I've had better biryanis elsewhere, but this was not bad, and the quantity was more than enough for the two of us after having 2 kulchas each.

The PETA folk had some paneer dish and a dal along with kulchas, and to mop up the excess dal, they had a jeera rice. I guess it was good since they didn't complain and everything was polished off - the hallmark of hungry diners and/or tasty food.

Paneer something and Dal something

My plate with my food

Mutton biryani


Food: Good
$$$: Not too expensive. 8 of us (6 veg, 2 non-veg) ate and the bill was a touch under 2000, which was around 250 per head...well worth it!
Service: Decent
Verdict: Must visit if in the area and if you want to have north Indian/Punjabi food.

Kund, #303, Ashok Terrace, Next to Domino's Pizza, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 25281416

Friday, May 14, 2010

Greek Food Festival @ Olive Beach

On Thursday night, I was invited by my friend, whom we shall call BikerMan, to Olive Beach for a tasting of Greek food. Olive Beach, which is located on Wood Street, parallel to Castle Street (off Brigade Road), and typically serves Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant is planning on having a Greek food festival from the 17th to the 23rd of this month and so wanted to invite a few members of the press and a few other people. BikerMan happened to be one of them, and he asked me if I'd be interested in tagging along. I didn't need to be asked twice.

We got there and were greeted by Radhika Misra, in charge of the media information (PR). She and BikerMan knew each other from BikerMan's days at The Hindu. I also happened to meet a 'colleague' from the Bangalore Mirror (BM from now on) , and as you'd have noticed, I used colleague in inverted quotes, simply because I'm not an employee of BM. We were later joined a few others people who were to join us, and the Chef at Olive Beach, Chef Manu Chandra also joined us and we began discussing, well, food of course!

As if the Greek pantheon isn't filled with enough gods and goddesses, there is a stunning young Greek lady who'd flown down to Bangalore (a family friend of sorts of the Chef). Alexandra Lola Koutoudi, known as Lola, was inspired to visit India and work with Chef Manu to bring out some absolutely delectable and authentic dishes of Greek origin. Although I wasn't able to take pictures (would have been great with my new 50mm prime lens, but such is life) since we dined in a separate section of the restaurant with candles providing illumination, I had a great time and actually didn't mind missing out on the snaps. Ok, maybe I missed taking pics a little, but just a little.

So here's a summary of what we had:

We started of with what looked like a Mezze platter - pita bread served along with a host dips. The more memorable ones in that platter were the Patzarosalata, which was a dip made by pureeing beet root. I think this was a universal favourite at the table because our experiences with beet root thus far have been quite limited to chunky cubes, or at times scraped shavings, but never in a pureed form. The other interesting dips (leaving aside the hummus and that tzatziki) were the Kafteri, a mildly spicy dip made from Feta cheese (Greek cuisine seems to have some kind of overloaded fetish when it comes to Feta!), the Syko (don't go by the name, or the pronunciation), which was like a fig preserve, and the Melitzanosalata, which is made from brinjals and very similar to Baba Ghanoush. There was a dip made from fish roe whose name I can't quite recollect now, but that was superb and creamy and would have to rate only below the beet dip. Lastly, there was the Skordalia, which was made from almonds, again pureed into a nice creamy consistency.

Once the platter had completed its journey across our palates, we were then served the chicken and lamb Souvlakis, which were meats grilled on skewers. For those who were challenged when it came to eating animals, there was Kolokythokefte (fried zucchini balls) and Spanakopita (rolls of phyllo dough with spinach inside). Needless to say, I loved the grilled meats, while BikerMan was still raving about the beet root dip.

Onto the soups and salads (the order in which the Greek dishes are served is probably enough to make you think it's all Greek and Latin...certainly was to me), and we were given a small coffee cup filled what I could only describe as 'rava', with some cheese-like thing on top, and guess what what cheese... that's right, Feta! So it turned out that the 'soup' in the cup is called Tarhana, and is made from wholemeal wheat (like Semolina) mixed with sheep's milk. Sheep's milk (and for that matter goat's milk) has a very, well, unique, for lack of a better word, taste to it that would take getting used to. I didn't mind it, but I saw a lot of faces where expressions dramatically changed! A photo would have said what I can't explain here.

There were two salads served - the Horiatiki, and the Karpouzosalata. The Karpouzosalata was a watermelon salad with ruccola and guess what cheese..Feta! with an Ouzo vinaigrette. The Ouzo gave the required zing to the salad, and I wonder how it would be to have some it neat :)

For the main course, the beautiful lady had for us a Gemista, which was tomatoes stuffed with rice and pine nuts served with yogurt and dill sauce. And then there was the Moussaka (in a pure veg form and with minced lamb), and I was thoroughly overjoyed that they had the lamb option because thus far, I've only heard about the Moussaka that is made with minced lamb, but everywhere I've been that serves a Moussaka, it's been in the veg form. Suffice to say, this was what made my day (night).

Two other dishes that were served were the Giouvetsi, succulent thighs of chicken served with orzo pasta in a tomato cumin sauce. This was a nicely flavoured dish, one that adhered to the old adage of keeping it minimal and simple. The other dish was the Psari Plaki, which was fish served in a cherry tomato and capers sauce. I'm a sucker for capers with sea food, especially fish, so I really loved the fact that not only was the fish cooked perfectly, the sauce complimented the fish superbly.

By this time, I was ready to move my belt up a notch, when desserts were brought out. The Galaktoboureko, which was a semolina and egg custard encased in phyllo, had a wonderful aroma to it, but I guess I couldn't appreciate the taste that much because I was ready to drop dead with the amount of food inside me. Another surprising dish was a halva with almonds. I thought this was Chef Manu giving us something a little more Indian, so that we don't feel lost amidst all the Greek that was around us. But no, apparently the Amygdalo (the name of the sweet) is a very Greek dish, and I was left wondering if Alexander's invasion had anything to do with the introduction of this sweet to India. Remember, what the north Indians call halva isn't exactly what we in the south associate with.

So catch the Greek Food Festival @ Olive Beach from today, the 17th of May until the 23rd.

Olive Beach, 16, Wood Stret, Ashok Nagar, Off Brigade Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41128400

BM Review: Sultans of Spice

A couple of weeks back, I had been to Sultans of Spice, a new restaurant part of the Blu Petal Business hotel in Koramangala. My last visit here was to Zheng, with some friends (not part of a review). The review can be read here.

Here's a shorter take on the experience, along with some of the snaps I took.

We've all heard tales of the wild west, with gun-slinging cowboys shooting up towns, a la dirty Harry, but we've almost forgotten about the wild west in our neighbourhood - the 'frontier' region (as it was known during British rule). Yup, the NWFP, the badlands of north-nest Pakistan and Afghanistan. A lot of the culinary traits of these regions are heavily influenced from the Central Asian countries (once the satellite states of the erstwhile USSR). The landscape being arid, with scrubs and bushes making up the prominent vegetation, goats and sheep are the primary source of protein here. And so it isn't surprising to see that a restaurant serving food from a little beyond the Khyber Pass, through Punjab, all the way to Delhi, should have a good selection of dishes involving lamb.

The atmosphere inside the restaurant was very pleasant - light music, good clean linen on the table, nice upholstery for the chairs, and a menu that wouldn't disappoint even a vegetarian, and would certainly make a carnivore's mouth water. I'm not too much into the ambiance and music, so I didn't mind the Jagjit Singh ghazals in the background, but some of the guests did, although not to the point where they started throwing tantrums.

The food was great. I didn't care too much for the Punjabi section - don't get me wrong, they were nice - I just liked the dishes from the other two sections better (and so did the guests). Also, to the credit of this restaurant, the lamb dishes that were served among the starters were wonderfully cooked. Very often, the mutton in a biryani is tender and drops off the bone and this is because it is 'pressure' cooked (may not be in a pressure cooker, but you know what I mean). However, starters usually aren't, and these are slow cooked in a tandoor, and very often the meat is still a little chewy. This often spoils the experience. However, the lamb at Sultans of Spice didn't suffer from that and came off the bone quite easily. Kudos to the chef.

Paya Kalimirch Shorba


Gosht Nehari Shorba


Boondi shikhanji (minus the boondi)


Tikka Rasmonak (mushroom, background), Bhatti da peela kukkad


The one other dish I'd like to mention specifically is the Matiya Road bharwan tange. This was chicken legs stuffed with mince meat and methi. I was unable to decide which I liked better - this or the lamb chops (gosh quburghah). Eventually I settled for this because this had chicken as well as minced lamb.

Matiya Road bharwan tange


Gosh quburghah


Surjeet di Amritsari macchi


The main course, after the initial onslaught, was a little tame. Although we did have a superbly 'crafted' lamb chops dish in the main course as well (burrah kaliyan) along with the breads, we also went in for a keema fry and a mutton biryani.

Karim's keema mutter fry


Burrah Kaliyan


Among desserts, the stuffed gulab jamuns in a mango nectar were the most appealing (visually) - check out the snap below, I really liked the picture. Taste wise though, I'll have to go with something a little more, well, exotic if you like - the chickoo kulfi (they actually have a custard apple kulfi, but that is seasonal).

The hand wash bowl, with flower petals


Stuffed gulab jamuns with mango nectar


Chickoo kulfi


Jalebi + Rabdi (served in a cup)


Food: Very good
$$$: Moderately expensive
Service: Good
Verdict:Must visit
Extra info: Unless you're in a large groiup, and/or have a craving for Punjabi food, skip the Punjabi section and stay with the Kabul and Delhi section. It's not the Punjabi section is bad; it's just that the other two sections are better.

Sultans of Spice, Blu Petal Hotel, #60, Jyothi Nivas College Road, 5th Block Koramangala, Bangalore. Phone: 43431800

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's day: Sandwiches

"Finish the cheese that's in the fridge", that was mom's 'warning' before she left in the morning. I had a photography workshop to attends, so on my way back, I stopped at Spar Hypermarket and bought some minced chicken and some bacon, a couple of loaves of bread, and made use of the tomatoes and peppers that were there at home to make some sandwiches for dinner, into which I was going to toss in the cheese.

The ingredients

And so the better part of the evening/night was spent in the kitchen, with a few moments sneaking out to check if Chelsea would miraculously lose or draw their game against Wigan Athletic to allow my team Manchester united to win the title, and sneak a few moments out to watch a woeful Indian cricket team capitulate under their own cocoon of bullshit in the T20 World Cup.

No snaps of the chicken or the bacon being cooked because...I have a brand new lens, a Nikon 50mm F1.8 (with which I've taken these pictures as well), so there was no question of getting it close to the flame or oil or grime etc. The end result, nonetheless, was great, although the snap here is of the sandwich before it was toasted/grilled. Suffice to say, it was superb.

The mother's day sandwich

PS: Reviews aren't appearing on the blog because of a few things happening at the BM office that are being sorted out. Hopefully, things'll be back on track from this Friday onwards.