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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ants Cafe - photos

Sometime back, in December, I met these two amazing ladies, who not only blog about food, but they're also awesome cooks. Some of the awesome things they've cooked can be read on their blog Purple Cinnamon and Salt. And with food being the common link, one of them had featured as a guest at Xian, while the other one waits her turn. Both have become good friends of mine, and I shall call the two Ms Quiche and Ms BakeAnything.

Some weeks ago, we'd visited Ants Cafe in Indiranagar as Ms Quiche had been called for a photo shoot (not just for the food, but for the clothes and accessories sold at the Ants Store as well). And being the wonderful person and friend that she is, she invited me to tag along for the photo shoot, to experience the whole thing. So although this technically isn't a review of the cafe - certainly not the way I usually do it - there are photographs of the dishes put up here, and suffice to say that the food was actually quite good, although Ants would primarily like to be known as a store that sells products made by the artisans in the North-East, the popularity of the cafe could certainly bring in more customers for the store as well. Boy, that was one long sentence, wasn't it? :P

One the many artifacts available at Ants. This one is a mask from Sikkim

Also, on the food front, every now and then there are North-East food festivals that take place here. Won't explicitly guarantee it, but this blog should be able to update the junta about whenever this may be happening.

Blue curçao?

Iced tea

Blueberry and something

Mango (R), and forgot the name of the drink on the left

Mango

Bruschetta, or simply garlic bread with various toppings

Salad

Salad

Spinach soup

Vegetable something

Chicken breast with herbs and cheese

Open sandwich

Fish with mustard sauce something

Lasagna

Lasagna, different angle

Third angle for the lasagna

Spaghetti and meatballs

Waffles with ice cream and maple syrup

Waffles with ice cream and maple syrup


Ants, # 2023/B, 14th A Main, 1st Cross, Hal 2nd Stage, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 41521742

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BM Review: Pepper Café

Some time back, I had visited Pepper Café on St. John's Road to review it for the Bangalore Mirror. I had taken along the Keppelmeisterin from the Peppa Zzing visit, her fiancée, and a couple of her friends along. And what a wonderful time we had! The review for Bangalore Mirror can be read here. Below is the review for the blog.

When the phrase multi-cuisine starts to sound like the nails across a blackboard, perhaps it’s time to explore, or better, switch to, a newer phrase – Eurasian cuisine. Pepper Café does just that, and luckily for Bangalore, it does so with some verve and panache. Situated on St. John’s road, next to Lavanya theatre, this casual wine-and-dine joint (at the time of writing this, I was told that wine would be introduced shortly) certainly knows how to ensure the satisfaction of the guests.

We were a group of 5 carnivores, with no inhibitions when it came to food. We started our meal with some iced teas. Five people with good appetites meant that we ordered five starters. Again, at the time of writing this, there was only one soup on the menu (we skipped it), and so ended up ordering a plate of beetroot hummus, a plate of Italian chicken bites, fish risoles, Caesar’s salad, and the chef’s special salad.

I love a good hummus and I love beetroot, so a naturally sweet beet in the form of a hummus seemed to be quite a treat - and it was. Soft, creamy, sweet, with a hint of garlic along with olives in it not only made it good, but a first for me with the use of beetroot. The chicken bites were seasoned with herbs and came with a sip that seemed like a mixture of mayo and a 1000 island dressing. The chicken was cooked well and it retained its juices.

Beetroot hummus


Another angle of the beetroot hummus


Italian chicken bites

The fish risoles were crumb fried portions, and came served with a salad and tartar dip. Again, quite beautifully done in terms of taste and presentation.

Fish risoles

On to the salads. I’m of the opinion that apart from fresh, crunchy ingredients, a good dressing makes for a good salad. And luckily both criteria were met in this case. What blew us away was, however, not the Caesar’s, but the chef’s special salad. Comprising of feta, lettuce, tomatoes, olives and jalapenos with a tangy dressing, not only was it refreshing, but it was a treat on that sunny afternoon. The Caesar's salad too was good, but there's nothing to write home about.

Caesar's salad


Chef's special low fat salad


Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil

For the main course, we stuck to some old favourites and some fancy creations that are part of the menu. Grilled lamb chops with tabouleh and mint coulis, basa fillet with cajun spiced crab, Vietnamese lemon chicken, a beef steak with mashed potatoes and veggies, and an Aqua pizza - no points for guessing that it had seafood on it.

Once again, all the dishes ordered were spot on in terms of taste and presentation, and the only grouse we had was that we weren't asked how we wanted the steak - rare, medium, or well done. That aside, the lamb chops and the tabouleh were done nicely and complemented each other, while the beef steak was served well done (but once again with a stainless steel knife...wonder why people don't give proper high carbon knives) and tasted good too. The Aqua pizza came with a thin crust, and the seafood toppings were fresh, and it was baked nicely with a nice drizzle of olive oil on top to give it a nice glossy sheen.

Aqua pizza


Grilled lamb chops with tabouleh and mint coulis


Beef steak with mashed potatoes and veggies

The basa with cajun spiced crab on top of it was quite easily one of the tastiest fish dishes I've eaten. Fresh, well flavoured, and the cajun flavoured crab added a different taste and texture to the dish that was well accepted. Lastly, the Vietnamese lemon chicken seemed to have received the most accolades, but the chicken itself, in my opinion, didn't seem that special (it was good, not great), but the condiments that came along made for a good dish.

Basa with cajun spiced crab


Vietnamese lemon chicken

For desserts, it was a bit of chocolate overload. Apart from the brownie, which was quite superb in taste and texture, the other other two cakes (chocolate based) were merely blah.

Brownie with ice cream


One of the chocolate desserts


The other chocolate dessert


Food: Very good
$$$: For a full meal with something to drink, starters, main course, and dessert, around Rs. 600 per head.
Service: Good, but dishes could take a while to arrive
Verdict: Certainly worth a visit
Extra info: Parking for cars may be an issue since St. John's road near Lavanya theatre is a little narrow. Two wheelers can park in any of the side streets.

Pepper Café, # 9, St. John’s Road, Near Lavanya Theatre, Bangalore. Phone: 4113 0000