Thursday, May 26, 2011

BM Review: Suggi

Sometime last month I'd visited a restaurant called Suggi in JP Nagar along with Ms BakeAnything and Ms Quiche. I later returned to review it for the Bangalore Mirror. The review can be read here. Suggi is the harvest festival in many parts of Karnataka. And this Suggi serves food from the Malnad area of Karnataka - Malnad is the Anglicised word for Male (rain) Nadu (region).

Malnad sits at the top of the Western Ghats, and hence is on the windward side of the approaching annual south west monsoons, and hence rainfall here is in abundance. The cuisine here is quite similar to the cuisine in South Canara (Mangalore and surrounding areas), although there are a few differences here and there, notably the use of pepper (image of mutton pepper dry) and few other spices in most dishes, that would otherwise be missing from the recipes of most dishes from South Canara.

For starters, we went whole hog and nearly out did ourselves (on both occasions). The mutton masala was simply fabulous, with the meat cooked extremely tender and the masala used was quite superb. The ghee roast was a copy of the famous dish from Kundapur (near Udupi, where the dish took birth) and since imitation is the best form of flattery, this ghee roast did a good job - the ghee still dripping off the pieces. Both dishes were cooked so well that the meat was just falling off the bones. Delicious doesn't begin to describe it!

Mutton masala


Another angle of the mutton masala


Chicken ghee roast

Fish! Just had to have some fish. Being a Mangalorean, it would be sacrilege to not :) and the seer fish (anjal) fried in a banana leaf with a red chilli paste marinade was just what the doctor ordered (actually it's what Ms BakeAnything ordered). And it was just as heavenly as the other dishes ordered. Now most of the dishes ordered thus far had a very similar marinade (if not the same) consisting of red chillies, garlic, turmeric, fenugreek among others.

Anjal masala fry

A few of the other dishes we had were the prawn masala (very similar to the ghee roast and anjal fish fry), the Malnad chicken (dry), and badane (brinjal/egg plant) sukka (a dry preparation with grated coconut and spices mixed), and a local favourite, the mutton pepper dry. The prawns were quite good, and the brinjal sukka (the lone veg dish during the review) was also very nicely done. The Malnad chicken was high on colour and decoratives, but low on flavour, while the mutton pepper dry was just that - dry and a little chewy!




For the main course, we chose to have the neer dosa, akki roti, appams, and shavige along with the Malnad chicken curry. The neer dosas were the best I've had outside of home, without a doubt, and kudos to the restaurant for getting it spot on (even in restaurants serving Mangalorean and Bunt food I've not had them this good). The batter for the appams had fermented quite a bit more than necessary and the strong smell was a turn off. The akki roti and shavige (Bunts and Mangaloreans alike, we call this semeda addye), served in the shape of an idli, were quite nice along with the chicken curry.

Neer dosa and shavige with Malnad chicken curry

Appams

Akki roti

Shavige

Desserts were a tempered affair, with us settling for the tender coconut payasa, which was quite delightful and refreshing actually (maybe we should start off our meals with this!) and a pumpkin halwa, again, something that I quite liked. I'm not sure about the Malnad region, but in South Canara cuisine, we do make a lot of halwas, and when I say halwa, don't think of it only as the stretchy, rubbery 'chunks' or blocks of sweet-meat that's made, but more along the likes of the carrot halwa. Typically, vegetables like ash gourd and pumpkin are used and there are copious amounts of cashew nuts and raisins thrown into it, along with a lot of ghee. Literally a heart stopper, but delicious none the less.

Tender coconut payasa

pumpkin halwa


Food: Very good
$$$: If you go whole hog and eat properly, it may come to about 400 or 500 per head, but otherwise around 300-400 per head would be the average
Service: Decent
Verdict: Must visit if in the area

The Narayan's Suggi, 683/A II Phase, Near Delmia, JP Nagar, Bangalore. Phone: 40988636, 40988637

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

El Tablao

A month ago, a cousin of mine had come down from abroad, and she was here for a whole month. Last weekend was when she was to leave, and so before she left, us cousins (those who could make it) decided to go out for dinner. We settled down on El Tablao in Koramangala. El tablao, if you didn't already know, or haven't guessed, served Spanish food, with a special emphasis on tapas. The menu of El Tablao can be found here on the Zomato website.

We started our meal with a couple of sangrias. Now my understanding of a sangria was that it was a mixture of wine along with brandy and some chopped fruits. However, the one we were served had only wine (or had so much wine it totally masked the brandy). It tasted good though, so I guess it was ok. Was a little depressed that when it came to spirits, there was no beer (guess it didn't fit in with the tapas concept). Expectedly, they had a big list of wines, some martinis and gin (I think), along with the sangrias, but no beer. And while sipping on the sangrias, we also munched on some of the acclaimed tapas on offer.



We started off with the chorizo, the famed sausages from Spain. The ones served here were chopped and sautéed in red wine. These tasted quite good, but a little hard, which made me assume this was the cured (smoked) version. I thought the chorizo would've been spicier, but then perhaps that's the Mexican variety (totally different from the Spanish one, which uses paprika).


One of my cousins has turned vegetarian for a short period, and so for him we ordered the patatas bravas, which is generally a very popular bar snack. It was served with a spicy sauce that seemed to get its zing from a dash of vinegar in it. The other dish that we ordered to warm the cockles of my cousin during his vegetarian escapade was a Spanish omelette. OK, not vegetarian, eggitarian!. The Spanish omelette was near perfect - fluffy, almost like a cake, although when we ripped the top open, it started to deflate.

Patatas bravas

Spanish omelette

My brother isn't too adventurous when it comes to food, and so to make sure that he didn't end up eating stuff that made him uneasy, we did end up ordering a chicken tapa, called brocheta de pollo Pimientos y cebolla, or skewers of chicken breast marinated in spices, peppers and onions. I'm guessing the 'spices' were essentially paprika and some garlic. Well cooked, and no complaints.


We also ordered a plate of the lamb chops, although why the description states this as lamb cutlets, none of us knew. There were solid bones, as one would expect in a lamb chop, and there wasn't a hint of minced meat anywhere in sight, which would've been essential for the cutlets.


When there's spare ribs on the menu, it's a little hard for me to not order them, and so a portion of spare ribs was ordered. Straight away I'll say two things: the ribs tasted nice, but these weren't the most tender ones I've had, and nowhere close to the best I've had, not by a long shot. I just wish these were tender like the ones I've had at Xian.


And then something really sucky happened! We were ready to order our main course, and of course, we wanted to try the paella (pronounced pa - 'e - ya), and so when we placed our order, we were informed that the paella takes about 35-40 minutes to make. WTF! There was no mention of this on the menu anywhere, and the least they could've done is told us this all important piece of information at the time of take the order for the starters so that we could've placed the order for the main course well in advance. Damn! So the only other thing to do was to wait, and while doing that we ordered another starter, a prawn dish, batter fried and served with mayo. This one wasn't anything special, and given that I had it when people batter fry prawns, I couldn't care too much about this dish.


Finally after more than 45 minutes, the paella Valenciana arrived. Another bit of info for you the unsuspecting reader, is that the paellas mentioned on the menu along with the price is a portion for one person, but they don't serve it for one person, and the minimum quantity served is for two, so be prepared to shell out 2x the cost of the paella. In terms of presentation and taste, full marks. The dish is served in a paella itself (paella is actually a vessel in which the dish is actually made). Taste too, was quite good, with sufficient chunks of chicken and seafood tossed into it. I just wish we were informed about the delay in serving this so that we wouldn't have had to sit idle waiting for the food for over 45 minutes.


Desserts were a dull affair, although there was a little bit of comedy. I asked the waiter what the "cake of the day" was, and "Black forest, sir" came the reply. At which point, my cousin said "Oooh maaiiiii" and put his hands on his face, acting all happily shocked and excited that we were going to eat black forest pastry! :D Was quite a sight. My brother had an ice cream - 3 flavours ice cream.






Food: Overall, quite OK if you limit it to some of the tapas
$$$: Not too expensive as I'd previously thought. The above meal with 4 sangrias came to around 3,500. We were a group of 5.
Service: Decent
Verdict: Visit for some good Spanish tapas.
Extra info: Paella takes a minimum of 40 minutes to make, so plan and order accordingly. And it's served for two, so multiply the cost given on the menu by 2 for your calculations.

El Tablao, #612/1, 80 Feet Road, Near Sony World signal, 4th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore. Phone: 41410124

Friday, May 20, 2011

Birthday at Pepper Cafe

This post is more than a month overdue. It was the day I updated the description of the blog from "A 27 year old Bangalorean's ..." to "A 28 year old Bangalorean's ...". It was my birthday dinner at Pepper Cafe with a few of my closest friends. Special day, special people, special moment. Nothing much to write, most of the dishes were the same as what we had when I'd gone to review the place.

One fact worth mentioning is that Ms Quiche and Ms BakeAnything came with a gift - Ms BakeAnything had baked me a wonderful chocolate cake. I usually don't choke, but I did while writing this post :) Many thanks also to Rohan D'Souza (partner & chef at Pepper Cafe) for ensuring the food was top notch.

Chef's summer salad


Italian chicken bites with garlic scallion mayo


Fish rissoles


Crab, chilli and corn soup


Fried calamari with cocktail dip


Beetroot hummus


Grilled basa topped with Cajun spiced crab


Asparagus and artichoke fusili pasta


Chicken something with a pepper sauce


Lebanese lamb chops with tabouleh


Grilled tenderloin strips with vinegar salad and horseradish cream


5 spice marinated chicken breast with spicy Asian sauce


My budday cake


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Assamese Food Fest @ Ants Cafe

There's going to be an Assamese food festival this Saturday, the 21st of May. Since this is a 'limited seats event', I suppose calling and making reservations would be a good thing to do if you plan to go.

The Menu for the Assamese Food Festival

Welcome Drink: Kordoi (Star Fruit) Juice

Main Course:
Joha saulor bhaat (local aromatic rice)
Omitaar Khar – Raw Papaya cooked in Khar
Maati Mahor Dail – Split Black Gram Dal Curry
Xoru Aloo and Xak – Small Potatoes with Greens
Bengena Pura – Brinjal smoked and mashed
Aloo Pitika – Mashed Potato with mustard oil, onions and green chillies

Maas patotdia (baked fish in banana leaf)
Mangsor Jul – Light Mutton and Potato curry
Norosingha maasor jhul (fish in curry leaves)
Ow Tengar Dail – Lentils cooked with Elephant Apple

Accompaniments:
Kharoli – Fermented Mustard Paste
Khorisa – Grated Bamboo Shoots Fermented
Bhoot Jolokia – Hottest Chili in the World!
Narikol Bota – Chutney made from Coconut and Lentils
Desert
Koni Dhaanor Payox – Millet Kheer/Payasam

Click photo below to enlarge.



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The little joys in Hyderabad - 2

So part 2 of the Hyderabad diaries is here.

Beyond Coffee: Beyond Coffee is a nice, cozy cafe in the Jubilee Hills are, just before the road to Hitech City. It has an open air seating area amidst grass and a tiled shaded area, usually where those who huff and puff sit, and an indoor section as well. All I'd heard about this place was the the New York cheesecake was simply divine, and so that's all I'd set my sights (and taste buds) on. And true to the reputation, the cheesecake came up a winner. Easily the best I've had my whole life (hands down, by miles).



Shadab: Shadab is an old hotel in the old city part of Hyderabad. Although most people say that the biryani at places like Paradise and Bawarchi are the main show piece in Hyderabad, the real stuff is to be had in the old city area. And so I braved the heat, and walked a total of 3.5 km in the blazing sun (after visiting Salar Jung museum and the Char Minar), and even though my feet (see photo below) did look like a piece of barbecued meat at the end, the biryani and the falooda at Shadab was worth the walk. Totally. I kid you not. And until then I didn't even like faloodas, but since Ms Quiche told me the faloodas here were a specialty, I stood up, did a jig to shuffle my stomach contents (by then filled with a full bowl of the special mutton biryani, meant for two people) and make room for the falooda, and downed the thing. I was good to walk another 10 km if needed (as it turned out I had to walk another 2.5 km before I got an auto as none of the autos in the area were willing to come to where I had to go to).



Heard of sun-dried tomatoes? How 'bout sun-burnt feet?


Some random shots of gelato:






















Once upon a time: This is one of the restaurants at the Green Park hotel where I was staying. Essentially they serve Indian food, with a smattering of Chinese as well. We had ordered some snacks from the bar menu - garlic grilled prawns, chicken wings and egg pakodas. The prawns were straight out of the freezer where they'd been chilling for a month or so - rubbery to the point where they could've been used to patch the puncture in your car tyre. The wings we magically transformed into drums of heaven (see photo), and yet the waiter insisted that these were indeed chicken wings. "Drums of heaven will be having more yellow colour, Sir". Somehow, adding a 'Sir' at the end seemed to add authority and authenticity to what he said. I wasn't in a mood to argue anymore; anyone who's eaten out more than once would've schooled him about the faux pas. The saving grace was the rogan josh, which was nice and tender. Thank goodness for that, for I'd imagined him bringing me lamb chops or something, trying to pass it off as rogan josh by telling me "chops will be having no gravy, Sir". Can't leave out the 'Sir'.

Garlic grilled prawns

Drums of heaven, which the waiter insisted were chicken wings

Egg pakodas

Rogan josh


Kibbeh: Kibbeh is an Arab dish, somewhat like a kabab, but comprising of broken wheat mixed with minced meat and fried. One of the many forms of kibbeh are croquettes. Kibbeh, here, happens to be a Lebanese lounge bar in Hyderabad. I visited Kibbeh on the night when RCB were playing the Rajasthan Royals in their own backyard (Warne's last home game) and immediately settled in with Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and a mug of beer. And to keep my taste buds happy, I ordered a meat sambousek, a Lebanese dish from which we get the word (and the dish) samosa. Sambousek is essentially the same (shapes vary depending on the stuffing), and it came with a feta dip. The sambousek was nice, and although 4 (or 5? don't remember now) pieces were quite filling, I wasn't going to stop at just one dish.

Sambousek

So after the second beer, I decided to go for a very common (boring?) Turkish dish - the chicken shish taouk, which is essentially chicken grilled on skewer (shish = skewer, taouk = chicken). The chicken was soft and succulent, and was nicely flavoured with garlic and yogurt. This came with two dips - feta and hummus. Feta, ok, I can understand, but why hummus? Anyway, I didn't care. RCB were knocking the stuffings outta the Rajasthan team and I was enjoying some nice food.

Chicken shish taouk


Thai Express: On my last night in Hyderabad, I visited Thai Express, a lovely joint in the Banjara Hills area (Road Number 2 I think) that, needless to say, serves Thai food. Although I went here twice, I ended up eating the same things both times because these were recommended by a Ms Quiche, and when you're alone, there's only so much you can eat. And since I love a good Tom kha ga soup, that's what I started off with. The combination of coconut milk, galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and some spices can get me to just about do anything you like. What can I say, I'm a self confessed Tom kha-holic, this was as good a Tom kha as I've had before.


Next, I decided to have the Thai meat pancakes, delicates pancakes stuffed with mince meat. This came with a sweet-ish sauce filled with chilli flakes. The combination of the sweet and chilli along with the texture and the taste of the pancake is hard to describe, but rest assured it was quite terrific. Damn! Bangalore sure needs a good Thai joint, and fast! Too bad Shiok closed down, coz that was the only good Thai place in the city. Any future restaurateurs, if you're planning to open a restaurant, there's a huuuuuggeeee market for Thai food in Bangalore, so please go Thai. And my frustration was compounded while writing this because I realised the snap I'd taken wasn't the best, as the lighting inside (at night) isn't very camera-minus-flash friendly.

And finally, the last dish I had was another hot favourite at Thai Express - the soft shelled crab. Except, I didn't have it at the restaurant as it was late and I had to get back to the hotel I was staying at (no vehicle you see, was at the mercy of the local auto drivers). So I had it parceled and had it back at the hotel room. And it was yummy. Served with a multitude of sauces, ranging from the sour of soy to the heat from chilli, the sauces only enhance the taste of a wonderfully done dish.

Soft-shelled crab