Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BM Review: Aioli

In the month of December, VP had told me that there's a new place called Aioli that's opened up close to where he lives, and a few days when he was home alone, he'd visited the place for dinner and absolutely loved the place. So one day when I had journeyed to his place (trust me, when you travel from BTM layout to that halli of his called Kamanahalli, that IS a journey!), we went to Aioli for lunch, and I liked the place myself and thought it was a fit case for a review. So the review given here will be a combined review of sorts - dishes from both visits will be under the spotlight.

The first time we went there, and since it was just the two of us, we ordered a plate of chicken wings, and for the main course he had the prawns with rosemary dunked in olive oil served in a terracotta dish while I had the Moroccan lamb chops. For desserts, we had a pot of happiness (made from hung yogurt), and grilled pineapples with chocolate sauce.

The chicken wings tasted really nice, and the smoky taste from grilling them over a charcoal fire was superb. However, the usual levels of spiciness that of these wings was enough to get my nose running, so you'd do well to tell them to serve them to you a notch or two lower with respect to spiciness - 'medium spicy' as we so eloquently say in Bangalore (probably India).

Chicken wings

For the mains, VP decided to go in for the prawns with rosemary in olive oil. Olive oil is the only oil VP can have without his stomach going for a toss. Now the thing with rosemary is that it's one of those herbs that either you like it or you don't, and if you do happen to like it, then it's very easy to start disliking it. Too little of it and you'll wonder what the big deal if, and too much of it overwhelms the dish to the point where you'll wanna push the plate away and rinse your mouth with water or something. So the time when Prash had visited alone, I think they'd got the amount of rosemary right coz he loved the dish, but his time around, he said it was 'OK', and both of us felt the rosemary was a touch higher than what we'd have liked. Also, I'm not sure, but some of the prawns didn't seem the best in terms of taste, although I couldn't be certain if this can directly be attributed to the rosemary, or something in the prawns themselves.

I had the Moroccan lamb chops. Though the snap isn't the best I could've taken as it doesn't show sufficient amount of flesh on the chops, suffice to say that they tasted good - well flavoured with herbs, and accompanied by some herbed rice. You can ask for pita bread, fries, or rice for the carbs, although the herbed rice was more Indian-esque than Moroccan, but it served its purpose well.

Grilled prawns with rosemary in olive oil


Moroccan lamb chops

For dessert, the pot of happiness made from hung yogurt seemed a good one, and along with that we decided to have a plate of grilled pineapples with chocolate sauce. The pot of happiness was nice, but a lil too sweet for my liking, while the grilled pineapples were quite good, save for the tutti-frutti that's added to the top.

Grilled pineapple with chocolate sauce


Pot of happiness

The review that I wrote for the Bangalore Mirror can be read here. During the review, we started off with a plate of chicken wings, and this time around, I made sure I asked them to make a little less spicy, and it turned out to be a good thing. Along with the wings, we also ordered a plate of hot dogs with salsa rossa (and later we ordered another plate of the same). The hot dogs came on skewers with a few grilled veggies - the standard lot of peppers, onions, tomatoes, and the likes. These turned out to be quite a hit at the table, hence the repeat order. The final starter was a baba ghanoush, a creamy, flavourful mush of brinjal served with one of the softest baked breads I've ever eaten. Order this dish just for the sake of the bread that's served with it - bliss!

Baba ghanoush


Hot dogs with salsa rossa

With the starters out of the way, we worked our way through the menu for the mains. We ordered the Moroccan lamb chops (again), the Jamaican jerk chicken, two fish preparations - sear fish in lime aioli, and another one with a red-chili marinade, and a vegetarian dish comprising of stuffed peppers and tomatoes.

The lamb chops were just as good as they were the first time I came - well cooked, sufficient meat, well flavoured, and a good number of chops. The jerk chicken tasted good and was nicely cooked, although I thought the jerk flavouring could've used a little more of the Scotch bonnet pepper (a key ingredient in jerk seasoning) - or whatever pepper they were using in their jerk seasoning. The stuffed peppers was just plain insipid and boring, and I don't think we got to see,hear, taste or smell any of it after it came to the table.

Jamaican jerk chicken


Stuffed peppers and tomatoes

The two fish dishes were instant hits and were the highlights of the meal that evening (in the main course). The fish were fresh, the marinades perfect, the cooking done just right and the taste was quite superb. A point to note was that the red marinade didn't seem to be very Mediterranean, although I could be wrong since I don't remember everything that went into it. Midway through the meal I realised I wouldn't be satisfied with what I'd eaten (quantity - I have a deep stomach) and so I ordered a Turkish doner as well. Click the link to see what it actually is, and for the lazy, it's very similar to the Arab shawarma, where meat is sliced off a vertical spit and filled into a bread pocket/made into a roll. This was nice, but could've be better in terms of adding a mayo-based sauce or something since the meat was getting drier by the minute.

Sear fish with lime aioli


Sear fish with red marinade


Turkish doner

For dessert, we had three dishes, of which, sadly, only one was good, while the other two were, quite frankly, bad. So let's start with the bad - the chocolate somethings, made from powdered chocolate and set in the shape of hearts. Taste and texture wise, this just didn't do the trick for any of us. The other dish that could've been good but ended up being not so great was the crème brûlée. The top wasn't fired crisp, while although the inside did try to make up for it, it was falling short of the mark in terms of texture. The one saviour for the desserts was the panna cotta, which was neither too sweet nor too hard and did manage to salvage a little for us after the meal.

Panna cotta


Hazelnut creme brulee


Chocolate something

All in all, a very nice place, good concept, and although it actually isn't a near smoke house, the grill house part of it does make it seem a viable option for a good meal once in a while.

Food: Very good
$$$: Rs 500 - 600 per head for a full meal
Service: Good, but could use a few more hands on weekends
Verdict: Must visit if in the area

Aioli Bbq and Grill Smoke house, #409, 1st Floor, 5th Main, 2nd Block, Kalyannagar, HRBR Layout, Bangalore. Phone: 42984259

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Strawberry Soufflé

A couple of weekends ago, mom and I made strawberry soufflé at home. She was expecting guests - a whole lot classmates from her days back in med school. So apart from the rest of the stuff that was made, the soufflé was one of the main draws that evening. Traditionally, soufflés contain eggs and are baked dishes, but mom's been calling this soufflé since I was a kid (back then she used to make one using pineapples) and so I've continued to call it soufflé.

Ingredients:
2 boxes strawberries (box = the small plastic boxes available nowadays)
2 packets cream (200 ml packets)
Gelatin
Sugar to taste

Take strawberries from one and a half boxes (leave half a box for garnishing and popping them into your mouth for an oh-so-lovely feeling). Wash them thoroughly. Take a vessel with about 3/4 lt. of water and dump the strawberries into it, put it onto the stove and bring to a boil. Add enough sugar to the solution/suspension until it's sweet enough (remember, we'll be adding cream later, which will further reduce the sweetness, so be generous). Once this is done, strain the liquid and set aside. While the strawberries are being boiled alive, add about 6 teaspoons of gelatin to a glass of water and allow it to swell. [Note to reader: The 6 teaspoons of gelatin is the proportionate amount needed for 400 ml cream plus nearly 1 lt. of water] Put the strawberry pulp into a blender and b(l)end it like Beckham until it's nice and smooth (mind you, when I say smooth, I mean it shouldn't be chunky). Add this pulpy awesomeness to the liquid strained above. Once the gelatin has swollen, add it to the strawberry + water mixture and allow to set (it would be hot, so let it rest in the open and then move it into the fridge).

Strawberries

After the suspension has set (around 6 hours, give or take a little), take the packets of cream and blend it into the suspension using a hand blender. Be sure not to whip the cream too much too soon or it'll become butter! Pour the new mixture into a large dish you wish to set it in, or into individual cups/bowls and smoothen it. Garnish the top with slices of strawberries. If you've got chocolate sauce at home, you can work your magic and create heaven in your home.

Soufflé

Soufflé - close up

Enjoy it cold, and if you think you like it a little runny, allow it to thaw a little - the gelatin loses its hold on the suspension and it becomes creamier and runnier.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BM Review: Chamomile

Wow, it's been a full month since the last post. Sorry for the delay, but after shifting to a new house, there are soooo many tasks that crop up every now and then, at times I've even wondered if it was worth it. Well, just so that I don't leave that dangling, it is. So a while back, I visited Chamomile again, this time to review the place for Bangalore Mirror. The review that was published can be read here. As I had already visited the place during Christmas, I knew what to expect from the place, but since we were in a group, and it was essentially going to be a collective opinion, I didn't see any points of potential conflict. Moreover, when P, VP and I had visited during Christmas, we ordered from the special Christmas menu, while this time around we were ordering from the regular menu.

There aren't any snaps of the starters that we had, so apologies for the same. For starters, we selected dishes from the regular menu as well as the bar menu. So the dishes we had from the regular menu were shrimp and avocado salad, honey mustard chicken, herb marinated prawns, and chicken wings and mushroom & Parmesan cigars from the bar menu. The only disappointment here was the salad, with the avocado being old and soft, 'sagging' being a word used at the table by someone. It surely could've use a shot or two of botox. The wings and the honey mustard chicken were nice, both with suitable amount of seasoning and flavours. The hits at the table that evening were the herb marinated prawns - large, chunky prawns marinated in a mixture of coriander, basil and perhaps mint (green stuff), and the mushroom cigars - these were phyllo stuffed with mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. The mushroom cigars were a pleasant surprise and were actually quite delightful and we couldn't seem to have enough of these.

For the mains, we selected one dish from each 'section' that we were able to form after looking at the menu. So Italian saw us ordering the aubergine lasagna (also doubled up as the vegetarian option) and the seafood cappelletti (cappelletti is a stuffed pasta, and means 'little hat' because that's what it kinda resembles), proteins were going to be the T-bone steak and the rosemary flavoured leg of lamb, and then there was grilled salmon in an orange sauce with a whole lot of other things.

The salmon was the only disappointment - almost no seasoning, bland, and the fish actually seemed old. The rest of the dishes though, we quite superb. The T-bone steak was a lovely cut of meat, and I'd for it to be done medium-rare, and it was done to near perfection there, well seasoned, and the mashed potatoes served with it were also very nicely done. The only grouse - they gave us a stainless steel table knife instead of a proper knife knife, and cutting a medium rare steam with such a knife is quite an effort. The cappelletti was a pleasant surprise - didn't have a fishy smell to it, tasted good, and although the texture of the stuffing inside wasn't very 'firm', it tasted good nonetheless, and so got the thumbs up.

Grilled salmon with an orange sauce

T-bone steak

Seafood cappelletti

Usually, whenever someone uses rosemary, they tend to screw up the flavour by using too much. If you ask me, adding too much rosemary often kills the dish, but these guys had managed to get the amount just right for the leg of lamb. What's more, the meat was cooked well and it wasn't chewy, making it a good selection, and a better dish to eat. The aubergine lasagna was a smashing hit at the dinner table that night. Who'd have thought a bunch of carnivores would be raving about a vegetarian dish, but that's exactly what happened. Although the lasagna looked a little disheveled, when it came to taste, it was quite exquisite.

Rosemary leg of baby lamb

Aubergine lasagna


Desserts were a bit of a mixed bag, tending more towards bad than good. The strawberry cheesecake was the same as the last time, good to taste, but hard and not creamy and soft (however, I've been reliably informed that they have now changed the cream cheese they use for the cheesecakes, and so it's supposed to be better now), the hazelnut brûlée had a nice crust, but what lay beneath was nowhere near the custard-like texture that a brûlée is supposed to have. The vanilla pannacotta was just waaaay too plain and insipid, and I'd have liked to see a little less gelatin used so that it is a little more 'creamy' when spooned out. The saviour of the night was the triple layered chocolate mousse, rich and chocolaty and not disappointing us any further.

Strawberry cheesecake

Vanilla pannacotta

Triple layered chocolate mousse

Hazelnut brulee


Food: Good. Need to work a little on the desserts and this place can be a winner.
$$$: Slightly expensive. Approx Rs 1000 per head for a full meal.
Service: Good
Verdict: Can visit for a select few dishes.

Chamomile, #4031, 1st Floor, Above Bombay Store, Next to Domlur Flyover, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 42156000, 42167000