Monday, March 21, 2011

Phobidden Fruit

So the last time I visited Phobidden Fruit in Indiranagar, I was a newbie to Vietnamese cuisine, to the point where I knew only about Pho (had heard about it) and was a little blank when it came to more or less everything else. Well, I spent some time learning (if you can call the description that follows as learning) about the cuisine - reading Wiki to watching videos, including one having the bad boy himself, Anthony Bourdain, I had a more sound 'theoretical' knowledge about the cuisine when I went in the second time.

Vietnamese cuisine is a classic example of east-meets-west, and how tây (Vietnamese for 'western') culinary influences have been absorbed and seamlessly integrated into the local cuisine - in this case, the western influences are French, and although the cheeses that France is famous for may not be on the list, it's a little more than just the baguettes that were introduced. So we were all very thrilled to visit the place, this time around with a bigger group (12 of us).

The seating downstairs is a little limited - two 4 seaters, and one longer table behind the spiral stair case. However, upstairs, (after you've twisted yourself up via the stairs) the seating capacity improves.

The view as soon as you reach the top

We started off with something to drink. While a couple of caffeine fiends had cold coffee, some of us had iced teas, Pandan iced teas, and a tropical fizz (lime and mint in a fizzy mixture). The drinks were indeed quite refreshing, especially given the fact that the mercury seems to have already started on it's northward journey this early in March (hopefully they'll come up with some way to shift+del the month of May year). The snap right below here is that of Sriracha (pronounced si-ra-cha, after the town in Thailand it originates from, which is a mixture of red chillies, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt). Try a spoonful of the Sriracha and it'll bomb you outta your skin!

Sriracha (L), pickled carrot and radish (R)

Lemon iced tea

Pandan iced tea

Tropical fizz

Cold coffee

Vietnamese cuisine wouldn't be complete without pork. And when you have spare ribs on the menu in a sweetened bbq type sauce, you'd be crazy to miss out on it. The ribs were wonderfully done, although we'd hoped that either there'd be a few more pieces, or at least slightly bigger pieces. The beef spears were minced beef, seasoned and drizzled with sesame seeds and grilled. These were quite juicy and although they weren't the melt-in-your-mouth type texture (this isn't like a seekh kabab), it was still very good.

Spare ribs

Beef spears

Vietnamese cuisine involves the use of a lot of vegetables (crunchy and fresh ones at that), either directly in the preparation process, or indirectly in the form of condiments served along with any dish. Bean sprouts, raw onions, and greens of various kinds are the most popular. We ordered a rice crepe-like dish called Banh xeo, served along with the fish sauce nước mắm (don't ask me to say it - I tried and I sounded retarded, I swear). This was stuffed with mushrooms and sprouts, but was a little difficult to eat without looking clumsy, with the stuffings falling out all over the plate. This tasted ok, but certainly wasn't a 'hit' at the table. What was a hit, however, were the chicken spring rolls (also served with nước mắm). These too were stuffed with sprouts and a few strips of carrot and choice veggies along with the chicken, and the taste and texture was excellent. These spring rolls were made with the thin rice paper wrapper and weren't deep fried with flour-based wrappers (thankfully!). I tell you, rice is soooo much more easier to deal with than wheat (spoken like a true South Indian).

Banh xeo with nước mắm

Spring rolls with nước mắm

To round up the starters, we had a plate of chilli beef and pork momos. The chilli beef had small pieces of beef that were very nicely done and not chewy at all, while the pork momos tasted very nice, although the outer casing a touch too thick.

Chilli beef

Pork momos

For the main course, we knew we had to have Pho, which enjoys the status of being like Vietnam's national dish. So we had planned to divide the Pho and has asked for extra bowls (and let me say this categorically - the wait staff actually had an issue giving us extra bowls, claiming there weren't as many as we wanted! Yikes). Anyway, with that out of the way, we also ordered a Bún riêu (a north Vietnamese specialty) that involved crab meat in it. I loved this dish, although there was one fundamental flaw in all the Pho and Bún dishes. Vietnamese cuisine involves the use of rice noodles in most of the dishes, especially in Pho and Bún dishes. Phobidden fruit has substituted the rice noodles with the flat wheat noodles, thereby making the dish heavier and not the moderately light dish it's supposed to be.

The Pho too was filled with the flat noodles, and had a dash of extra cinnamon (like the last time I visited), but was otherwise it was nice (considering this is the only place I've had Pho). Apart from the Pho, the Bún bò too was filled with the flat wheat noodles. Now, the Vietnamese word Bún is for a clump of rice noodles. So when you call something A, but give B, then, hmm, that's not right, is it? The Bún bò was spicy, look at the image to see the amount of chilli flotilla on it. But there was flavour too, and I'm not being sarcastic. But the only disappointment was the fact that since the noodles weren't made of rice, they didn't absorb anything, and were slithery and slippery.

With some of the typical Vietnamese dishes out of the way, some of the other dishes we had were a reef soup, a Vietnamese chicken curry, and tamarind fish noodles. The chicken curry was very good - well flavoured, tender, and juicy. The reef soup too was quite nice, but the tamarind fish noodles was a little insipid - nothing special. My last grouse was that a particular dish called the Bánh mì (a pork sandwich) was not available. This wasn't available even the last time I visited. The Bánh mì is almost as iconic to the Orient as the Cuban pork sandwich is to the Occident. Having something on the menu and continually saying "It's not available" is just plain stupid.

Bún riêu

Reef soup - stirred, not shaken

Vietnamese chicken curry

Pho (vegetarian)

Tamarind fish noodles

Bún bò

Pho (beef)

I'm not too big on south-east Asian, or far eastern desserts for that matter, and we were quite full after the meal. All in all, a very satisfying meal, and coming from an authenticity angle, a few changes here and there (most noticeably with using rice noodles instead of flat wheat noodles, and actually having the Bánh mì) would go a long way in making Phobidden Fruit a much sought after culinary destination in Bangalore.

Food: Very good
$$$: Around 500-600 per head
Service: Decent; could get a little cold with larger groups :P
Verdict: Must visit

Phobidden Fruit, #965, 12th Main, Next to Yamaha store, HAL 2ndM/sup> Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 41255175


Swaroop said...

Hats off to bengaluru....The gastronomical culture is just splendid....


UPN said...

good coverage of dishes! may still visit Blue Ginger to see if its worth a


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