Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BM Review: Blue Fin Cafe

Around 3 weeks back, I visited this new cafe on Brigade road called Blue Fin Cafe. Right, Brigade road, and you'd start to wonder where on Brigade road is there place for something new. Old timers in Bangalore, remember during the mid-90s, there were just two malls in the whole city where the young n happening used to hang out - one was Mota Royal, the other was 5th Avenue, and Blue Fin is in the quadrangle, or the atrium as they call it, of 5th Avenue. The review can be read here.

The food here is all marine life (fish, prawns, crabs), so vegetarians, if you come here, you're going to be fishing in troubled waters. They have a kokum sherbet (juice) among the things to drink. This place is run by a person who is a prawn farmer, and so right at the top I can say that the prawns are some of the freshest I've had here. The menu, like in any cafe, has essentially snacks and finger food, but there are also some 'main courses' available.

Besides prawn burgers and prawn spring rolls and crab cutlets, there are also a variety of prawn and fish items in sauces/gravies of different styles. We started with a glass each of kokum juice, and a host of prawn dishes: Bangkok prawns (similar to a Chineses dish, soy sauce, garlic, and all), Colaba prawns (garlic & butter), Karaikudi prawns (peppery), Malpe prawns (ghee + red chilli), and a London fish n' chips. The fish n' chips was served with vinegar, the way it ought to be done (along with mayo). First time I'm seeing it done the right way, and so plus points there, but the batter of the fish was a little too thick, and we could taste some of the oil. The rest, tasted good, but there were a few things to note:

1. The prawns and fish (ordered later) were fresh.
2. For the prices charges, I think it's total VFM.
3. The sauces/gravies were nice, but nothing great.
4. It didn't seem as though the prawns/fish were 'cooked' in the sauce/gravy; seemed like the gravy was spooned over the seafood.

I liked the prawn spring rolls, and even though the wrapper was a tad too oily, the filling made up for it. The crab cutlets though were dry and had too much of crumbs outside. The Colaba prawns was a bit bland, and a butter-garlic flavoured sauce ought to have been bland, but this didn't even have the garlicy flavour.

The Chowringee, Karaikudi, Malpe, and Bangkok prawns and fish were all decent, but the one thing that was obvious was that the fishes/prawns weren't 'cooked' in this sauce/gravy.

Kokum juice


Bangkok prawns


Malpe prawns


Chowringee prawns


Colaba prawns


London fish n' chips


Prawn spring rolls


Crab cutlets

Overall, decent place given the price and the location, although I'm not sure if our junta have come to the stage of accepting fish/prawns with gravies as snacks.

Food: Decent for the price, although sea food is best
$$$: For fresh seafood, the cost is decent. Around 1500 for all this plus 4 full meal combos (4 people).
Service: Huh? You place your order at the counter, pay, and they get the food. Go figure.
Verdict: If around the area, and if in the mood for seafood snacks, hop in.

Blue Fin Cafe, #182/183, Ground Floor, G-22, Atrium, 5th Avenue Mall, Brigade Road, Bangalore. Phone: 65593377

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eating in Bangalore

A long time back, P, VP, and I were discussing how we always end up eating out once (sometimes more than once) every week. For most of you reading this, you may think "so?", or "wazza big deal?". Well, it is kinda a big deal. See, we're your typical good boys who enjoy eating at home with the family, and even if there's no family, or even if you don't eat with them, we enjoy eating home food. Now of course, we stay with our families (read parents and siblings, we aren't married!), and I can fully understand the situation of the thousands who live in Bangalore after having moved from a different city (or state), in which case, there'd be a very small percentage of people (who are single) who would cook at home. So now that I've got all the 'exceptions' out of the way (and if I've missed any, go cry someplace else), here's what we were harping upon: what does Bangalore have for it's citizens to 'do'? And don't let your dirty minds run away with the word 'do'.

In all sincerity, I am not asking this question in a condescending manner, and by no means am I pouring scorn over this city. Maybe this is the scene in most big cities across India - I wouldn't know - lived here all my life. But facts are facts, or at least, I'm not aware of anything else, so please feel free to educate me, for I'm all too willing to learn (it could help me reduce my freakin' weight, which seems to have frozen for a while now!). What is it that Bangaloreans can do weekend after weekend in the city? Most of the historical landmarks are gone, and the ones that remain aren't maintained by the ASI or the state govt., Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are passe now (come on, I've lived here all my life, I can't keep going there all the time!), Bannerghatta is too far away to visit every weekend, and what's more, the lions are in really bad shape there (and now there's some stupid bug that's killing the big cats because all the PETA and animals loving lunatics insisted that instead of feeding the big cats with beef, they be fed chicken meat injected with protein hormones that have reduced the resistivity of the cats - OK, more on this later, let's not deviate), the aquarium has the same species of marine life that were there more than a decade ago (perhaps it's the fourth or fifth generations of those species now, with probably some funky mutation from being couped in a glass box), Fun World isn't really fun, go carting isn't for everyone (ditto with bowling), I'd love to spend every weekend at Blossoms but know I can't, so that's out, we don't have impressive museums here to visit once in a while, the city central library is good but hey, it's a freakin' library - who speaks in one huh? And unless you're the academic type, ppfffbbt, and I certainly am not the type to go visiting temples every week (psst, EVER :) ). So there you have it, the only thing that my friends and I can do week after week is meet up at some place where we can sip on a cuppa (tea for me, thank you) and/or grab a bite and engage in long conversations.

Now watching movies and the like are something we do, but the central point is we can't be 'engaged in conversation' during a movie, and unless we're the only ones watching the show (like confessions of a shopaholic perhaps?), movies are out as well. This isn't a Mumbai where we have a beach front or a Marine drive where we can sit on a parapet wall with the waves crashing beneath our feet, and neither is this Delhi where we have roads good enough to drive a BMW and kill someone and get away with it because of our 'connections' (of course, assuming we can even own a BMW in the first place, and then pull ourselves to commit the ghastly acts that seem to come oh so naturally to some people). So that brings me eating. And eating we do and how!

Coffee shops and cafes dot almost every residential by lane in the city, and the CBDs (OK, no true CBD, so let's just say 'areas surrounding malls') are full of places that can spoil one for choice. Pubs and bars are usually pooled around one of the central areas of the city, or in one of the posh residential/commercial neighbourhoods (like Koramangala, Indiranagar, etc), while restaurants are spread across the city like butter over a slice of bread. And so we eat. We eat and eat and eat, and then we eat some more later. It's no wonder then than even a half-assed attempt at opening and running a restaurant that serves even half-decent food works in Bangalore. People love to eat out, and as long as there's variety (even if the variety includes some crappy options), the citizens are happy. Once in a while, those who aren't locals (read Kannadigas), or those who don't get to eat local Karnataka food often, throw caution to the wind and land up in some teeny-weeny hole in the wall place that probably serves raagi-mudde (raagi balls served with a fiery gravy) or some such dish not usually available at the fancy-shmancy locations. This constitutes adventure, although purely in the gastronomic sense though, but adventure none the less.

And so while not engaging in some charity work over the weekend, and while not sleeping off a massive hangover or nursing one of those 365-days-a-year-cold (I'm told Bangalore's penchant for causing people to start sneezing as soon as they cross the tarmac after touchdown is legendary), we Bangaloreans eat. We may spend time sipping a granita or a smoothie or a cuppa, but eventually we'll be eating, and eating out in force. That's what we are good at now, and by the looks of things, that's what we'll be good at.

We may not have a street-food culture as rich as several other cities, but the fact that groups like the BJN always experiment with Bangalore first with any place they plan to launch is testimony to the fact that we are a city that eats out. Myriad cultures, religions, nationalities even, make up the hoi polloi of Bangalore, and so there's potentially an untapped market in almost every one of those demographics (or is it demographs, or demographies). If you're a 'politically-correct gourmand', then maybe you'd be a tad disturbed at the gastronomic culture here because here as long as the food tastes good to you and needn't conform to the actual authenticity of the dish, the junta will rave about orgasmic bliss. If, on the other hand, you can take off your politically correct hat and just be a silent spectator amidst all the chaos, then no matter which part of the world you come from and where your loyalties lie, you'll conclude this: in Bangalore, as far as food is concerned, anything goes. [This line was added after the 4th comment because my 27 yr old brain hadn't realised sooner that I'd missed it: Based purely on the variety of cuisines available in this city, ] this truly is the gastronomic capital of the country.

* I'm sure the last sentence will elicit brick bats and stinky, worn-out shoes. Hunting season opens.
** I'm still sure the last sentence will elicit brick bats. Bring 'em on.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Road Trip

Last weekend, while VP was still cooling his ass in Malaysia or Indonesia or Bali or wherever, P, NitWit, ThePilot and his fiance (let's call her ThePilotess) planned to go to Woodstok, since NitWit is currently staying quite close to the place. So by the time ThePilot and his lady reached NitWit's place and we decided to walk down to Woodstok and got there it was 8:30. Hmm, well, the thing is, 8:30 on a Saturday night isn't the best time to start hoping that there would be empty seats (well ok, you can hope, but it would be futile). So I remembered that Road Trip was up the road, and we pulled ourselves to trod up the road, and I think we got lucky on two counts: we got a nice table (just managed), and the meal turned out to be quite a good one.

Firstly, I think this place has had a makeover. Now I've never been here before, but with a name called Road Trip, you'd think there'd be something in the place to remind you of bikes and the likes, wouldn't you. Next, I think is may vary from person to person, but when a restaurant has a menu and also a blackboard mentioning the day's 'specials', and people seem more interested in the specials than the menu, is that a good thing or a bad thing? No reference to Road Trip in particular, I'm just asking.

ThePilotess had apparently eaten a lot during lunch, and so she settled for a walnut and pear salad with Parmesan cheese. Pretty decent looking, and it tasted nice as well, especially since the pears were still crisp and not chewy.

Pear & walnut salad with Parmesan cheese

P had a chilled potato and leek soup, to go with the potato and leek soup he had a couple of weeks back at 100 Feet. Not too sure how this tasted, but he polished it off pretty fast, so I guess there must've been something good about it. Or maybe he was just plain hungry.

Chilled potato & leek soup

The pièce de résistance arrived next - pork sausages wrapped in bacon. Wowwee! Pork AND bacon. Awesomeness I say, just the very idea, and what's more, it tasted amazing. Fab idea, I must say.

Pork sausages wrapped in bacon

For P, apart from the soup, we ordered a dish of sauteed mushrooms with broccoli. This could have tasted better (to me) had I not assumed it would be spicy. Damn! Lot of assuming going on nowadays. Note to self: stop assuming stuff, this isn't like you! Coming back to to dish, I think P liked it, and not only he, but the others were sticking their forks into the dish as well.

Satueed mushrooms with broccoli

In the middle of dinner, we were exchanging stories with ThePilot and ThePilotess about our respective encounters with snakes and how one morning I was woken up by my mom (abruptly) and we came face to face with a beautiful spectacled cobra in our TV cabinet! (see photos). For the main course, while ThePilot was guzzling his beers (ThePilotess drives him around whenever he drinks. I wish they made more girls like her. Ladies, that's the kind of role model you need to have. Think about the guy as well once in a while!), the rest of us ordered. NitWit stuck to his age old tradition of having a chicken lasagna, P asked for a spinach and mushroom quiche, ThePilot wanted to have the beef steak ("..when there's pork and beef around, I don't even look at chicken and lamb", he says), and I had the roast pork in a white wine and fennel sauce.

The lasagna looked like mush, and wasn't standing very well, but I guess it tasted quite OK since NitWit didn't complain and mopped it up. The quiche was OK but not spectacular, but good nonetheless. The roast pork with the white wine & fennel sauce was good, although I wish there'd be a little more fat on the pieces that were served. Come on guys! It's Saturday night...I wanna sleep like a baby with a smile on my face...the sausage and the bacon put me and the smile on a collision course, and I'm sure the extra fat would've given it the 'wham' needed at the end (and by that I'm not referring to anything gay...wham, George Michael..aah, forget it). Oh, before I forget, the mash potato was really awesome...that's one thing I usually end up leaving, but I was polishing the plate this time around.

Mushroom & spinach quiche

Chicken lasagna

Beef steak

Roasted pork with white wine fennel sauce

VP had once told me that this place wasn't very nice (and at the time of writing this he tells me that he actually meant it isn't consistent). The inconsistent part is something I've heard from a few other people as well, and so I guess I'm willing to buy that. Just glad is a good meal overall :)

Food: Good
$$$: Reasonable (I guess). 5 people, 4 beers, and the food above, with a 10% tip came to around 3000.
Service: Decent
Verdict: Can surely consider a visit if in the area (I've been told this place is very inconsistent - sometimes very good and sometimes quite bad. So given the sinusoidal wave pattern, I guess my visit coincided with a crest on their graph).

Road Trip, 3524/1, Park-Service Road, 1st Main Domlur, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 41155848.

Sucky Friday Night

Given half a chance, I'd have introduced someone to my right fist last Friday evening. Actually I wouldn't have, I'm a man of peace, but my ancestral-warrior-blood sometimes boils over, and yet thankfully, I'm able to control it - beat that Hulk! A few weeks back, I was suffering from conjunctivitis, commonly know here as Madras eye. So a couple of days at home, off from work, actually made me realise that staying at home is boring, and working from home sucks big time. I really don't know why people opt for this option. Maybe it's a psychological thing - I've come to associate home with 'no office work', and so the very thought of doing office work at home sometimes is appalling. In any case, so during the last leg of healing, I decided to take a long walk - so I walked from home (Wilson Garden) all the way to Koramangala, and kept walking into streets and lanes I'd not visited before, until I noticed a restaurant called Momoz...that's right, spelt with a 'z'. For some strange reason, I automatically assumed that this would be a nice Chinese joint that served pork. Anyway, the restaurant was closed (I was there around 6-ish and was on my way back home...walking), and so I decided that this was a place that needed my gluttonous presence sometime soon.

So last Friday, on my way home, I decided to stop by this place and 'check it out'. P was busy, VP was in Malaysia, and at the last minute, I tried calling Manuscrypts, who also turned out to be busy. So it was the good old book and I (once again). This time I happened to have Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue, a fantastic book that speaks about the evolution of the English language and the origins of a lot of words.

So I enter Momoz, and the insides look all nice and clean, and again, the thoughts of sinking my teeth into some steamed pork momos and later into roast pork almost made me drool in front of the first waiter who showed me to a table. A worn-out copy of the menu was given to me, I flipped the page open, and in a restaurant called Momoz, you'd have thought they'd at least have substantial types of momos. Aaaaaaaaarrrrgggggghhh! Sacrilege! These blistering barnacles didn't have more than 8 types of momos (4 veg and 4 chicken), and what's worse, no pork! Oh, my stomach sent a strongly worded letter to my brain to henceforth not assume stuff and raise expectations. Excerpts of the letter:
...a brain of your capacity and in your position isn't expected to make such juvenile mistakes... ... ... such actions undermine the effort of the rest of us in trying to give you honest opinions about the meals... ... ... inclined to call you by names and adjectives used for those who break traffic signals...

Well, sometimes you have to take it on the chin and make do with what you have. So ordered a plate of steamed chicken momos, and a plate of roast chili chicken. The momos were decent, not the best I've had, but certainly better than some of the momos we had at the two Tibetan joints near Jyothi Nivas college, Khawa Kar Po and Momo Hut. The dough wasn't stale and chewy and didn't feel rubbery, and the chicken was surprisingly good. OK, to be fair to them, the momos were pretty decent, but I guess my yearning for pork didn't allow me to enjoy them as much. The roast chili chicken though, was more chili, less roast (couldn't make out if it was a batter or a reeeeeaaallly thick marinade, but didn't feel right), and the only thing good about it was that the chicken was still soft and not over-cooked (given my luck that night, one couldn't be sure if I'd end up with a plate of pieces from a bad batch).

Chicken steamed momos

Roasted chili chicken

So after this so-uninspiring meal, I walked out and headed towards a Mama Mia shop to try and hopefully resurrect my spirit that seemed to have all but left me. Just before the Mama Mia shop, I saw Tunday's. "What the hell, why not", I said to myself, and stepped in and ordered a plate of the Tunday's special, which is a gelawati/galouti kabab. While there is some confusion over whether this was the dish made for the toothless nawab or whether it was the shammi kabab, one thing is for certain - this kabab is so soft, a toothless person would have no problem scarfing it down, gumming it down the ol' food pipe. Yummyness I say!

Tunday kabab (Gelawati/Galouti kabab)

Damn, I need to get me one of those sleek cameras that fit into the pocket. Junta, suggestions are welcome. I don't want it to be too expensive (needn't be 10 mega pix, 3 will do nicely, and needs to be <= 8k) - I have a superb SLR and an even better lens. This one would be to replace the camera on my phone, which seems to churn out some baby vomit whenever the light is even remotely dim, case-in-point being the snaps here (and some other posts where lighting in the restaurant was 'romantic', meaning dim, which doesn't suit the needs of the camera on the phone), and the ones in the next review, which will be posted in a couple of days time.

There are a host of reviews to be done, and at the moment I'm having a mini crisis finding time, guests, and scheduling the reviews!

Phoooeee! Hope such nights are aberrations and don't recur. E.V.E.R.

Monday, October 18, 2010

100 Feet

Apart from P and VP, there's another buddy who spends most of his time in the US, and we were fortunate enough to have him over the weekend (he's here to renew his visa). He's pretty witty at times, so let's call him NitWit. So we met him for lunch on Saturday afternoon at 100 Feet Boutique Restaurant, before moving on to ThePilot's house. ThePilot, while being a valid license holder, doesn't fly, and in keeping with Bangalore's traditions, works for an IT company that's into storage. Yeehah!

While Ms WeightConsious, who along with Saucy were to drop by, we started off with something to drink. NitWit stuck to his Heineken, while P had some wine, and I had a drink with ginger, lime and grenadine in it. I don't remember the menu of the past, but I must say that they have some very boring and insipid starters (maybe it's for this very reason that I haven't visited this place for more than 2 years now). Since P is veg, we asked for a plate of potato cheese kibbe and some crostini della casa, while NitWit's eyes fell upon the chicken tzatziki. And if you've noticed, whenever there's soup, P usually has one, and I usually split with him, and so a potato and leek soup it was.

Now, kibbe (or kibbeh) is a croquette from the Arab world, usually stuffed with rice and meat. Since ours was potato and cheese, it was expected that we'd be served with a dip that may be a little on the spicy side. However, tomato sauce is what we got, and although the kibbe was decent, I think it would have been a lot better with a little more heat. The crostinis were very good, and the toppings of olives, capers, onions, tomatoes, on some good bread covered in mozzarella made it quite good indeed. The chicken tzatziki was just yogurt marinated chicken, grilled and served along with a salad and the tzatziki, a yogurt dip having cucumbers, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil and at times, lemon juice as well. Our tzatziki was more yogurt and cucumber, almost no garlic and certainly no pepper, olive oil, lemon juice. The soup was quite simply brilliant compared to the rest.

Potato and leek soup

Potato and cheese kibbe

Crostini della casa

Chicken tzatziki

Just as we were finishing the starters, Ms WeightConcious and Saucy walk in, and they weren't in a mood for starters, and so we moved on to the main course. Pastas seemed to be the meal of the day, as there were three pasta dishes ordered. P had a farfalle boscaiola that came with a sauce called Woodcutter's sauce - made up of mushrooms. Ms WeightConcious, who wanted to only have penne with white sauce, eventually settled for a penne riviera, which had a few veggies and, well, the white sauce. I asked for a spaghetti bolognese. All three pasta dishes were quite good, and there wasn't too much talking while we ate - usually a good indicator that the food is good.

Farfalle boscaiola

Penne riviera

Spaghetti bolognese

NitWit ordered a chicken princess, a grilled piece of chicken with a mushroom sauce, while Saucy ordered a chicken mascarpone, a breast of chicken stuffed with mascarpone cheese.

Chicken princess...cluck, cluck, pakaaak!

Chicken mascarpone

I'm not sure if it's a sign that I'm getting old(er) or if it's the weather in Bangalore, but I seem to be getting full a lot faster these days. The only silver lining - I wasn't the only one at the table who felt full. We ordered a couple of apple & berry pies - more apple than berry I must add, but still pretty tasty along with the little scoop of ice cream - and started planning for the evening at ThePilot's house.

Apple & berry pie

I must say that the quality of the food at 100 Feet has certainly gone down a bit - food is probably one of those fickle things in life that tends to change with time, and not necessarily for the better. The menu and the dishes on it haven't changed much in a while, and to me, that's a sign of a 'chalta-hai' attitude. Don't get me wrong - it's still quite nice, but it doesn't seem to have anything new done to it (from a food point of view) and the prices aren't getting cheaper, so what does 100 Feet have to draw me towards it - like say a Thulp or an Egg Factory?

Food: Decent, but not inspiring anymore.
$$$: Slightly on the higher side. Maybe around Rs. 500-700 per person.
Service: Good
Verdict: Can visit if you haven't, or if you're in the area, but whether you'll come back again and again and would continue to do so is something only you can answer.

100 Feet Boutique Restaurant, 777/1, opp. New Horizon School, Near Satyapaul, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 25277752