Monday, June 27, 2011

It's been 3 years

To all the readers, snoopsters (I made that word up right now), lurkers, slurpers, burpers, and everyone else far and in between, Gastronomical G-spot completes 3 years today. From a blog that started out as an outlet for my cooking experiments to writing about food that passed on my plate, to eventually 'reviewing' restaurants as an outcome of 'demands' made by readers of the blog (I didn't even know people followed the blog back then), it's been a joyful path that the blog has meandered through. Now I wouldn't want to dramatise this and say "the blog has come a long way" - quite simply because it hasn't - so to put me in a position where 3 years from now I'll be able to say with authority that the blog has come a long way, I'd like to ask you, my readers, if there's something different you'd like to see or read about to continue to be kept informed (because that's all my blog does - inform you), then please do let me know.

As a proponent of total free speech, all criticism and slamming and whamming of me and the blog will be accepted and published in the comments below, except for socially disturbing language (this too is a phrase I conjured up just now, so I'll have an added task of coming up with a definition for it) - simply because it would spoil it for all other readers (unless of course it's universally funny). Suggestions given shall be incorporated wherever possible as long as they don't stray from the underlying ethos and spirit of the blog (once again, I'll have to figure out what it is first). So please feel free with thoughts and ideas, both here in the comments' section as well as on the Facebook page. And no, I'm not paying you for this, but if I think someone's really given me something challenging and enjoyable to work with that I think is a winner of an idea, I might just sponsor a meal for two at one of the places covered here of the winners choice (of course, I'll be one of the two that I speak of).

And so on this day (coincidentally also happens to be the birthday of an extremely close friend), I think the first thing I'll try to change about my writing style is to use shorter sentences and not put so many things in brackets. Stay tuned to the blog, there could be a windfall in terms of meals... I have spoken too much, not another word.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Malaysian Hawker Fare Food Festival

There is a food festival "The Malaysian Street Hawker Fare" at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Electronics City. Here's a summary:

Malaysia is known for its exotic and sundry street food which reflects the impact of the multicultural aspects. After the success of our Maharashtrian Food Festival we bring to you this next journey of discovery to explore this unique melting pot - that is - The Malaysian Street Hawker Fare. The Malaysian Hawker Fare will hit you with a variety of exotic and tantalizing dishes with a hint of Indian, Chinese and South-East Asian influences to be experienced.

Explaining the cuisine as a gourmet extravaganza Malaysian chefs Chef Sous, Mohamed Haniff and Demi Chef de Partie - Nor Halis Shafik specially flown in from the sister property in Kuala Lumpur for the event shares few secrets from the Menu such as, “Kambing berempah dengan kentang (Lamb stew with lemon grass and coriander), Nasi goreng kampong (Authentic malaysian fried rice), Bami Goreng (Authentic malaysian fried noodles) and Lepat pisang (Steamed banana wrap cake)”.
The celebrations begin on the 13th of June up to the 24th of June for Lunch Buffet at 24@43 (Crowne Plaza Bengaluru, Electronics City)

Cost per head: lunch buffet – Rs. 395 (plus taxes) per person; ala carte dinner – Rs. 1500 (plus taxes) for 2
Contact: 080 3985 4700
Lunch Buffet: Monday - Friday


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Touché Diner

Technology has touched our lived in so many ways that a majority of the technology and the advances that let us get through a day with relative comfort is taken for granted. With the coming of touch screens, it was only a matter of time before this was incorporated into a restaurant's menu/ordering system. The idea was mooted by several people a long time ago, and I guess it wasn't a surprise that we actually are seeing this being implemented. Bengaluru got its first touch screen restaurant, rather appropriately (and obvious) named, Touché Diner.

Located on 100 Feet Road Indiranagar near the 12th main signal, the restaurant is mysteriously shrouded in black and dark shades inside - to enable the almost unearthly glow from the touch screens to 'light up your world'. The tables are large, as one would expect, and depending on the seating capacity per table, there are suitable number of touch screens on the table. Once you place your order, the order is sent to waiters who carry Samsung Galaxy tablets and they confirm the order before transmitting it to the kitchen.

The food, sadly (well, sadly for me), is a hodge podge of dishes from multiple cuisines as diverse as chalk and cheese. My fear with places that are 'multi-cuisine' is that there isn't much consistency and so far my fear has been well founded. 6 of us visited Touché diner for lunch, and while they did have the option of an executive buffet, we chose to go a la carte, for again, I'm of the opinion that the a la carte food is always better than the buffet food. You'll have to excuse the quality of hte pictures - hadn't carried my camera, and the camera on my phone is normally quite bad, and lousy under poor lighting conditions.

The Manchow soup, apart from being spicy, didn't have anything else and was just pathetic, while the roasted tomato & zucchini soup was tangy but quite insipid. The potato-leek soup was an absolute winner for us all - creamy, well flavoured, and smooth. It reminded us of a favourite - the cream of mushroom.

Manchow soup

Potato & leek soup

With the soups out of the way, it was time to munch on some of the starters. The spare ribs in a Tex-Mex sauce were quite a revelation - well cooked, succulent (could've been a bit spicier though), but my only grouse was that we were given only 3-4 ribs...for Rs 365.

Ribs

Another angle of the ribs

The fish skewers were also quite decent and thankfully the fish was cooked just right. The flavours used here were quite delectable, and Mr. VP actually ate everything on his plate.

Fish skewers

The Waldorf salad didn't seem very exciting (poor lighting in the restaurant results in uninspiring looking dishes), and when it came to the palate, either it was genuine mistake, or common error usually committed, but where was the basic seasoning??? You don't have to marinate the salad in salt & pepper, but PLEASE SPRINKLE SOME. Yes, for the salad. For any salad. Especially if you're primary dressing consists of mayonnaise. The Insalata de flowers - a mixture of red and yellow peppers with corn was quite nice to look at on the plate and pretty decent on the palate.

Waldorf salad

Insalata de flowers

The best veg starter we had was a dish whose name eludes me now (and I can't seem to find it in the menu here). It consisted of buffalo mozzarella cheese along with tomatoes and basil, and a drizzle of a dressing with balsamic vinegar, and it was quite divine.

For the main course, I went ahead and had the lasagna Bolognese, and although this was a spin on the classic spaghetti Bolognese, it was quite simply superb. The ground beef was fresh, and the lasagna was cooked just right with the right amount of cheese - loads of it! Also, in my opinion, this was a healthy spin on a classic dish, the kind of experiments that should be tried out in restaurants so that gourmands can get to experience something refreshingly different. Why limit experimentation only to the bedroom?

Lasagna Bolognese

On a previous visit, I had indulged in the pork chops on a bed of mashed potato along with an onion and sage sauce. The chops were succulent and the sauce was quite brilliant - excellent use of flavours that complimented the potato's bland taste.

Pork chops with onion & sage sauce

The fish sizzler we had was OK, but I am a purist and hate sizzlers, so perhaps the dish was actually good, but I'll still go with 'just OK'. The mushroom risotto was nice if you like cheesy risottos. Although bland (it's one of those dishes you have for 'subtle flavour'), this risotto was done quite nicely.

The veg shaslik, like all veg shasliks I've had all my life is small restaurants, was nothing great, with a few veggies and paneer skewered on sticks and served with herbed rice.
Veg shaslik

Another angle of the veg shaslik

The penne Arrabbiata was nice, but nothing to write home about - a dish if skipped, well, let's just say you wouldn't be missing much. The presentation of all dishes served here is given special attention. Very nicely done.


We didn't opt for dessert as we were quite full, and so left it at that. Given what we'd eaten, the portions, the taste, and the overall experience, I think Touché is a touch, or several touches too expensive. It's all very well to enthrall the guests with gizmos and technology, but this is a restaurant, and you can't shy away from the primary responsibility of serving good food. For 6 of us, the meal came up to a almost Rs 5400 (all inclusive, with a 10% tip). For this kind of money, I think any guest should get to eat absolutely authentic food, which sadly, isn't the case here. Not only was the meal not a 100% authentic to the cuisines served, some of the food is good, some OK, some plain bad, so they'd do well to improve on the kitchen front. 3 stars is a bit of a stretch actually, but what the heck, nobody's perfect right?

Food: OK. Pork and fish dishes good. Rest are average or poor (for the money charged)
$$$: Very expensive. Almost 700-800 per head for a full meal.
Service: Decent
Verdict: Can visit once, but for the money charged, the food needs to be a lot better.
Extra info: Presentation of dishes is very nice.

Touché Diner, 3rd Floor, #762, Above Reid & Taylor Showroom, 100 Feet Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore. Phone: 30412940 ext:107

Monday, June 6, 2011

When we grilled through the night

Soon after the Assamese food festival, the next night, Ms Quiche and Ms BakeAnything invited me to Ms Quiche's place for a night of fun cooking and drinking.

Ms Quiche: "BYOB and BYOF is what it's gonna be."
Me: "Eh?"
Ms Quiche: "Bring your own booze, and bring your own food."
Me: "Oh OK", I said, and I thought to myself, "Wicked!"

The ladies were onto something and were planning on sausages, grilled chicken, salads and what not. The salad was quite a hit even though there wasn't a shred of meat in it. Pineapple, watermelon, and lettuce with a dressing made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. Divine! Quite simply fabulous. I'd personally never thought of using honey in a salad dressing (or anywhere), but then again, my culinary expertise is very limited.



The chicken was marinated with ginger, garlic, chilli and paprika, and some vinegar and sugar with salt. At the end, we were tearing into the chicken like cavemen. Here's the link to their recipes.



Everyone got a welcome drink, a mojito, and it was quite a superb one. I wonder if these women are moonlighting somewhere without my knowledge.



There was also some grilled fruits - pineapple, raw mango, tomatoes and peppers. The pineapple and raw mango was also a hit.



I decided to make bacon-wrapped prawns. This dish is a result of my hatred towards all places that batter-fry this marvelous combination, thus killing two birds with one proverbial stone. Grilling, or pan frying the combo is the way to go, and the best way to go about doing this is by creating a nice pasty marinade for the two main actors in this show.




Recipe for prawn marinade:

20 medium sized prawns (use large ones if you please), deveined, with tails on (keeping the head on is optional, depending on personal preference)
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp sugar (preferably powdered)
2 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp red chilli powder / cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
3/4 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp oil (I used olive, but again, your choice)
1 lemon, juiced
10 rashers of Bacon
40-50 Toothpicks

Recipe for bacon marinade:

2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp pepper

Method:

Wash and de-vein the prawns, and dry them using paper towls. Mince the garlic as fine as possible. Make a paste out of the garlic, along with the sugar, paprika, chilli powder, pepper, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt, lemon juice and oil. Mix well, and then apply on the prawns and allow to marinate in room temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Now, heat a pan (without oil) and once it's hot, add a few rashers of bacon on it and start to fry them. No, no oil. The bacon has enough fat and we want to fry it in that itself. The idea is to partially fry them, until some of the fat melts and is rendered in liquid form. Do not fry until crisp; we need the bacon to be in a state where we can fold it around the prawns. Once the bacon is slightly cooked, take them off and dry them on paper towels. Collect the fat from the pan and keep aside. Repeat this until all the rashers of bacon have been partially fried, and collect whatever fat you can.

Once all the bacon has been partially fried, prepare the marinade. Mix all the ingredients for the bacon's marinade and use the fat collected (as much necessary) to mix all the dry ingredients and make a paste. Apply it on the bacon and allow it to marinate for about an hour. Once both the bacon and prawns have been marinated, take one rasher of bacon and put two prawns, heads together, into it, such that the tail ends stick out of opposite sides. Roll the bacon over them and secure this with 2 toothpicks, criss-crossing each other (or as many needed to secure it - I used 3 in some cases). Repeat this for all the rashers of bacon and prawns. Keep the 'parcels' in the refrigertor until about 30 mins before they are to be grilled.

Once your grill is ready, and the charcoals are hot, use a skewer and brush a little oil on it and run it through each bacon wrapped prawn(s) parcel. While skewering, leave the toothpicks on or it would fall apart. Skewer about two or three per skewer and set on the grill. Turn the skewers over periodiclaly to cook evenly. If you're using a pan, then leave the skewers aside and set the pan on a high flame, and once the pan is hot, add a half teaspoon of some of the fat collected from frying the bacon. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add the parcels onto the pan. how you manage to do this with the toothpicks still in the parcels is a test of your ingenuity. But rest assured, removing the toothpicks will spoil the show because you want the prawn(s) wrapped under the bacon blanket to get infused with some of that bacon goodness while it cooks.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Assamese Food Festival

In continuation with the post put up some time ago about the Assamese food festival that was to be held at ANTs cafe, here is the review.

Our meal started off with a drink called Kordoi, which is Assamese for star fruit. This was a really nice juice with a sweet and sour taste. Since Ms Quiche is Assamese, she was our 'guide' of sorts when it came to the food. She was all gung-ho about the food festival, dressed in a traditional Mekhela and all. The maas patotdia was a very nice chunk of fish cooked inside a banana leaf parcel. The flavours of the rohu fish were intact, and though only subtle, it was a very nice dish. Some of the other starters were fritters of pumpkin and brinjal. Along with these, there were several accompaniments like the bhoot jolokia (spiciest chilli in the world), khorisa (fermented bamboo shoots), and kharoli (fermented mustard paste).

Maas patotdia




On to the mains, and while rice was obviously going to be the staple carbohydrate source, many of us fell in love with the bengena pura, which was roasted brinjal which was them mashed. A few dals added to the melange of dishes, but what most of us were eager to reach the meats - and it was well worth the wait.




There were two fish(y) dishes, and one mutton dish. the murighonto, or fish head curry, was a flavourful, and if you aren't averse to eat fish head, this was indeed a wonderful curry, although it did involve using your hand and mouth in tandem to work the meat from it. The other fish curry, the norosingha mashur jul, was a mildly sour dish yet wonderfully flavoured with the levels of heat totally acceptable.

The mutton, mangsor jul, ooh, the mutton! How we raved about it till late in the night. Tender, tasty, in a light gravy with potatoes - clubbed with rice, this was simply amazing. We wound things off with the paayox (pronounced as paa-yosh), which was like kheer or payasa, and was also quite superb - had me literally licking the bowl clean.

Mangshor jul

Norosingha mashur jul


Can't wait for the next food fest!