Monday, October 29, 2012

Bricklane Grill invitation from Spiritz and More

Bricklane Grill is a restaurant located at the junction of Indiranagar’s 100 Feet Road and 12th Main Road, in the same building that houses Sunny’s, but on the 12th Main side. The restaurant opened up in a low key manner earlier in the year, and is quite popular with the expats in the city, and is yet to hit the mark with most other foodies and gourmands in town. I was asked to review the restaurant along with some of the alcohol brands that are served at the restaurant by Spiritz and More. The restaurant is high above all the hustle and bustle that takes place below. Awash with white walls, white furniture, and even white exposed bricks, the restaurant takes its name from a lane in London, that coincidentally also houses a large number of restaurants that serve curry.

While the restaurant does boast of a very romantic setup in one section, weekends are lively with DJ events, so that special meal with a special someone would have to be done on a weekday. While my photograph of the table in the romantic section doesn't to any justice, the night time view is spectacular. The night we visited the restaurant, there space was arranged for a party of 6, and I unfortunately was carrying only my 50mm lens, so couldn't get a wider shot.


The restaurant can be broadly divided into the following areas: few seats around the bar and the grill area, some tables under the covered area and some in the open, a table for 12 inside which is a chef’s table, primarily to be used for wine pairing events, and lastly, the upstairs area that has a lounge-y feel to it, with the balcony area having a three 2-seater tables – ideal for a romantic dinner with that special someone. The cool breeze in the night meant that the open air seating area was a brilliant location, and for those who tend to catch the chills easily, there are heaters nearby.

I started off with a cocktail – a green apple Martini, while my friend opted for a Whyte and Mackay Glasgow whisky. While the Martini was quite good, with the sour flavour of the green apple giving an additional ‘spike’ in the taste, the whisky, according to my friend was lovely, and he’s taken a liking to it over other Scotch whiskies like the Black Dog 12 year because of the slightly sweeter taste. Both of us enjoyed the drinks and while we were getting warmed up with the alcohol, a plate with toast arrived. I assumed it was the standard garlic bread, but it wasn’t. It was bread alright, but it was green with envy – basil oil. Very novel and quite a ‘refreshing’ change I might add. Before I get into what we ate and how the food turned out, I must say that Bricklane Grill serves Parsi food, which is their signature of sorts, along with a fusion of select Indian dishes and European favourites. While to some this could be seen as being a little ‘confused’, a closer inspection can present a different picture.

Green apple martini

Toast with basil oil - superb!

The first of the starters was a Chettinad chicken tikka, one of the examples of a slight fusion of the north Indian tikka, marinated in Chettinad spices. While a couple of pieces did feel a little dry, the rest were fine and the heat from the chicken was perfect with both the vodka martini as well as the whisky. Before the spices from this ebbed away, we were served with another special – the mango infused paneer with pomegranate. Superb! The paneer was of good quality (and even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t fault a Bangalore restaurant for not having good paneer), and the flavours blended perfectly – the sweet and the sour coming together beautifully.

Chettinad chicken tikka

Mango infused paneer with pomegranate 

The crispy yellow chilli prawns were a beautiful golden brown, but there wasn’t much chilli, and the plump prawns felt a little chewy, but that’s probably because of the size, and not over cooking, although some experts may say it could’ve been cooked for about 20 seconds less. I didn’t have any complaints. The ajwain fish tikka was also quite superb – well cooked, and thankfully not overcooked in spite of being cooked in the tandoor.

 Crispy yellow chilli prawns
The Parsi starters, the boti soti, cubes of mutton cooked and skewered on a toothpick with a cube of potato, and the batter coated and fried, lived up to expectations in taste and texture, although the outer coat was quite oily. The bheja na cutlets (brain cutlets) would certainly take getting used to due to the soft texture, but if you’re a fan, then the ones served here would give most places a run for their money. In between all these, I ordered another cocktail, a Moscow Mule – vodka, wine and ginger ale – and while it tasted good, it could have done a little more to make sure I felt the mule ‘kick’ me. My friend was in love with the Whyte and Mackay, and smooth whisky was working wonderfully with the starters.

Moscow Mule
Boti soti

 Brain cutlets

We then moved on to the main course, and here we were spoilt for choice. I mean, there are the Parsi favourites of course, and then there were some very interesting combinations that married flavours from Indian dishes to European favourites. The lamb chops with rogan josh masla and red wine reduction was a perfect example of flavours from two regions coming together beautifully. Ditto with the Jack Daniel’s pork chops – the JD sauce going brilliantly with the pork chops, but the whiskey corn salsa was a bit of a mystery as I wasn’t able to understand the reason for that, although texturally it was quite pleasing. The peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin was cooked very nicely, but I found the amount of pepper a touch overpowering as I wasn’t able to concentrate on the taste of the meat. Whisky or no whisky, the pepper was a bit too much.

Jack Daniel's pork chops

Rogan josh flavoured lamb chop with red wine reduction, and Whyte and Mackay in the background

 Peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin

The Parsi mains – sali boti, mutton dhansak, and the biryani with meatballs was quite a delight, although we were quite full by now, and couldn’t do full justice by polishing off the dishes as we did with the previous dishes. The dhansak was good and the sali boti was quite lip smacking – the sweet and mild sour flavours doing well to give the palate a good exercise. The lone veg dish that we had - the tamarind glazed eggplant and tomato - we had them serve us only a fraction of the portion. The tangy tamarind flavour combined well with the smokiness of the eggplant, but unless you're the kind who doesn't mind a light main course, you may want to stock up on something else.

Biryani and dhansak

Sali boti

Tamarind glazed eggplant and tomato

By the time we got to desserts, we were actually about to pop a few buttons on our shirts. Loosening our belts didn’t help, and so we could only take a couple of bites from both desserts. The ice cream sandwich – warm jalebis with home-made ice cream – was a little disappointing. The sweet, crisp jalebi was superb, but the vanilla flavour from the ice cream just didn’t come through. I mean, if you can’t taste vanilla, then that’ll certainly get you wondering, won’t it? If wasn’t sure if it was the sweetness from the jalebi, or the fact that the ice cream being home-made didn’t have enough vanilla flavouring from the pods, or a combination of both. The South Indian coffee brûlée was a nice idea and the coffee flavour wasn’t overpowering, but the custard below the caramelized sugar could’ve been a little more velvety. Also, while some would argue that the almond biscotti served with the brûlée could be used to spoon out every last bit, I don't know if I'm from that school of thought. We really had stuffed ourselves silly by now, and even getting off the chair was a bit of an issue.

South Indian coffee brûlée

 Ice cream sandwich with jalebis

Overall, it was a very nice meal that we had, clubbed with the alcohol. Both the cocktails I had were good on the whole, and the Whyte and Mackay my friend had was something he was quite pleased about. Given that Bricklane Grill has such a vast array of dishes and some that are obviously something new (marriage of flavours from different cuisines), I think they need to iron out a few creases and be spot on with the every dish, or people would automatically blame them for having their fingers in too many pies. Perhaps cutting down on the number of dishes on the menu is one way to go, but that’s for the restaurant to decide.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

4 Seasons wine tasting bloggers meet at Royal Orchid

Last month, I was invited to my second bloggers meet arranged by 4 Seasons wines, and this time around it was at the Royal Orchid Hotel on Old Airport Road. The guest of honour who was going to be joining us was Shamita Singha, who is also a brand ambassador for 4 Seasons Wine.


It was a cool, sunny day, and almost perfect for a wine pairing event, especially since camera-wielding bloggers like me crave for day time meetups with ample sunlight.The get together began with Shamita talking about the wines, and surprisingly, she actually knew quite a bit about wines, and didn't seem as if she were just repeating lines someone had fed her. That actually is quite a pleasant turn of events as it's actually good to see more and more people in celebrity positions getting more involved with promoting wines, which happens to be at a very nascent stage in our country, and a far more nascent stage in the food scene of our country.

  


After giving the bloggers a brief about the wines, it was time for the food. Starters started doing the rounds , and we had a decent selection of starters that could be paired with the wines. The Chenic Blanc went well with both the chicken satay as well as the grilled vegetables. While we were downing glass after glass of wine along with the food (starters), the staff of The Royal Orchid started getting things ready for the cooking demonstration.

  


  

The chef started off with the salad - slicing the apples deftly, and then tearing up the lettuce and went on to make the dressing. The dressing is what can make or break the salad, and an orange juice based dressing was in store for our salad, mixed with olive oil.

  


For the main course, the chefs went ahead with preparing a Thai green curry. Many of us were a little miffed that the chef chose to use canned coconut milk powder, canned green curry paste, and a whole lot of ingredients that were canned and not fresh. The dessert though was quite simply awesome. Overall, it was a nice opportunity to interact with Shamita (for that matter whoever 4 Seasons chooses to send) if wine is something you want to learn about.







Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ni Hao - Chinese food festival at Sheraton

When you think of Chinese cuisine, if you even remotely know your geography, and club that knowledge with some common sense, then putting these two together, it wouldn't be too hard to deduce that given the vast size of China, there has got to be more than a few variations of 'Chinese cuisine'. And true to that, China can be divided in several culinary zones or regions, each one having something unique for the diners in terms of ingredients used, methods of cooking, as well as the history of the dishes. Although opinions may vary, Chinese cuisine can be divided into roughly 5 culinary zones: 


  • Guangdong and Hong Kong , whose cuisine primarily can be called Cantonese or Yue
  • Beijing and the northern areas, whose cuisine primarily can be called Mandarin
  • Shanghai and surrounding areas, whose cuisine can be called Zhe or Zhejiang
  • Sichuan, or Szechuan, where the cuisine is called Chuan
  • Hunan, in the south-central part of China where the cuisine is called Xiang
  • Cuisines like Jiangsu and Min (from the coastal areas of Fujian) among others
The Sheraton in Bangalore has flown down a Chinese chef, Chef Thi Giang, the Chef de cuisine at Li Bai restaurant at the Sheraton Saigon for 11 days. The fest, that started on the 4th, will go on till the 14th of October. Since Chef Giang is Chinese, the dishes were very much Chinese, not the Indianised version that's peddled at most other restaurants in the city.

Chef Giang is a small man...frail, like someone's skinny grandmother, but don't let those sayings of "never trust a skinny chef" fool you. For just like many a grandmother, Chef Giang has many a culinary trick up his sleeve. His diminutive probably affirms to the fact that good things come in small packages!

Chef Giang Thi

Wonton soup with seafood

The wonton soup with seafood was simply superb. A clear soup, with a sprinkling of scallions and fried garlic along with the wonton and some choice seafood - prawns, squid, and scallops - made this a clear winner. So good was the soup that I actually had two bowls, one at the start of the meal and one at the end.

Wonton soup with seafood along with some of the key ingredients

Cosmopolitan

French 75

One fantastic idea Sheraton came up with was to make drinks based on Chinese philosophy, specifically based on the year you were born in. Since I was born in '83, the year of the pig, my drink was a gin and wasabi drink, as well as a drink called French 75, another gin-based cocktail, from Sheraton's top 100 cocktails. It's really a great thing to see the kitchen team work this closely with the F & B team and implement such wonderful ideas. I think the fact that Sheraton is now experimenting with different ideas, especially on the drink front, is great news to the food scene in Bangalore, because usually everyone focuses on the food, and the drinks are relegated to a proverbial footnote. Apart from that, we were also told about the concept behind this, and how the hotel plans to take this forward based on its success.

The Executive Chef, Bela K. Rieck, came and had a nice, long conversation about food and his philosophy about how food and how he plans to take things forward. The man is a genius. His work ethic is so focused and 'logical', it appealed to the engineer in me.

As for the food, it was lovely, and the Chinese dishes are part of the regular Feast buffet (easily one of the best, if not the best, spreads in the city). Although I tried very hard to restrict myself to only the Chinese dishes, I did end up trying a few other dishes, that were equally good. The salads, chicken and cabbage, as well as the spinach with roasted garlic were good. The idea of supplementing the spinach with garlic was good because not only does it add flavour,, it also helps neutralise the sort of monotonous taste of spinach. Apart from these salads, there were the other salads that are a part of the buffet anyway.

Cabbage and chicken salad

Spinach and garlic salad

Some Chinese ingredients used during the fest

The fish poached in olive oil was light and this sort of cooking technique does justice to the fish and helps keep intact the 'flavour' of the fish. This dish though wasn't par of the Chinese dishes of the fest, and neither was the roasted chicken at the carving station.

Poached fish

Roast chicken

The beef braised and stewed along with mushrooms was divine. I mean, yes, the cow is holy and all that, and so to make sure it continues to remain that way, it needs to be cooked with a lot of care. Loved this dish as well, but again, this wasn't part of the dishes for the Chinese fest.

Stewed beef with mushrooms

The braised tofu in Szechuan sauce was silky and spicy - the tofu being silky soft and the sauce being spicy. The Kung Pao chicken with cashew nuts was nice (wok fried), but I so hoped that there would've been sweet and sour pork that evening.

Braised tofu in Szechuan sauce

Some veg dish with broccoli

Kung Pao chicken with cashew nuts

The steamed fish in broth with pork fat was mind blowing...simply fabulous! This was one of the other dishes that I had twice, and I think it was my favourite dish of the evening. That broth...oh man, pork fat does lend such a wonderful and magical flavour to everything. There was another soup on offer, a lotus root with sweet corn in a pork broth. Unfortunately I don't seem to have a photograph of it, but that soup was equally brilliant. Normally, I'm not a big fan of the lotus root (sorry, I hope some jobless person doesn't sue me saying I'm disrespecting the national flower's root!), but in this case, the soup was really very good. I think anything cooked with pork automatically tastes better.

For desserts, the Chinese dessert that was on offer was something that has an acquired taste, and so although I did try a little and didn't find it too bad, I didn't go for seconds. I did, however, make my way to the teppanyaki ice cream counter to have some ice cream mixed over a cold stone and served to me. I didn't want to sample the other desserts, because that would've spoilt the taste of the Chinese food I had, so I opted to play safe. So overall, excellent food and great service at Feast. Stay tuned for more such fests at Sheraton (there's an Italian food festival coming up in November that I am eagerly waiting for).

Steamed fish in broth with pork fat

The veggies for the noodles

My second bowl of soup, along with the noodles with the XO sauce

Dessert...very acquired taste :)

Last two days of the fest...go fast! :)

Sheraton Bangalore at Brigade Gateway, 26/1, Dr Rajkumar Road, Malleshwaram-Rajajinagar, Bangalore. Phone: +91 80 4252 1000

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Suisse rendezvous - Mövenpick Swiss food festival

Last week, I was invited to Mövenpick Hotel and Spa near New BEL Road, for the Chef's Table at the start of the Swiss food festival. The Swiss food festival is on till the 14th of October and will be at the all day dining restaurant My Place. The hotel has flown down their Executive Chef from the Moevenpick in Zurich - Chef Walter Wyssen to showcase Swiss food. "Swiss food is more than just fondue!" And I can attest that it certainly was.

Our meal started off with a cheese platter consisting of some very unusual and some very strong cheese, brought all the way from Switzerland. In fact, Chef Wyssen told us that he brought along close to 210 KG of produce from Switzerland for his food festival. There were hard cheeses, and there were soft cheeses, and even some creamy ones as well. The names are just as strong as the cheese themselves, so I don't quite remember the names of the cheeses now. However, one thing is certain, and you don't need a degree in food sciences - cheeses have an acquired taste, so don't be too gung ho about tasting cheeses unless you're prepared to do so with an open mind and an adventurous palate.

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Next stop, cheese fondue! For this, the chef took us to an area where other chefs were, in front of their burners, and used a heavy-bottomed pan to dunk some cheese into it. And finally, the fondue prongs that were on our table were put to good use, as can be seen in the snap below where the chef

Prongs for the fondue

Bread basket

Making the fondue

Chef Wyssen tasting the fondue

Onto the actual hors d'oeuvre! Fancy eh? Well, it's French, and one part of Switzerland is French. Well, it means 'first course', or the course you have before the main course...starters, in lay mans terms. Oh wait, there's more fancy jargon around the corner. We started off with a lovely beef tartare with bacon gugelhopf. A gugelhopf is a term used in southern Germany, Austria, the Alsace region, and Switzerland for a sort of marble cake. This one had bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon. That's a fact, so deal with it.

Beef tartare with bacon gugelhopf

The second snack was a dry beef slice, rolled and filled with cheese, on a slice of zucchini and a slice of toasted baguette. Red meat and cheese is a lovely combination, and still, this was probably the only 'boring' dish of the evening. Don't get me wrong, it's not that it was bad...it simply didn't measure up against its more illustrious, and tastier counterparts.

Dry beef with cheese

The next canape was interesting, and was my favourite. It consisted of Tete de Moine, a cheese that literally translates to "Monk's head", and combined with a plum and pear bread, this was a real winner for me. The pear bread is what actually stole the show - a fruity sweetness with the crumbly texture of the cake/bread and the cheese was simply fabulous.

Tete de Moine cheese on pear bread


All 3 hors d'doeuvres

We were also given a shot of cappuccino, but not the coffee kind. This was a special one, and used one of my favourite non-meat ingredient - mushrooms! It was a porcini mushroom cappuccino, and was lovely. The earthy flavour of the mushroom along with the light cream and minimal seasoning brought out the flavours to the hilt. In my excitement to down the 'shot', I didn't realise there was actually more than just one 'shot', and it was hot as heck. My throat burnt, I worried that I'd not be able to enjoy the main course, but thankfully it wasn't that bad.

Porcini mushroom cappuccino

 And finally, the main course. The menu given to us said there would be a vegetarian dish, a dish that's as much Swiss as the masala dosa is Indian - the Rösti. A common breakfast dish of the farmers, it consists of roughly grated potatoes mixed with butter and seasonings that is then fried after shaping it into a rough patty. This was served with a mushroom sauce. The other dish was a lamb chop served on an elder aceto sauce and glazed pumpkin. The lamb chop was beautifully medium rare, nicely seasoned, and very tender. By this time actually, most of the diners at the table were dropping like flies coz they were full, and I must admit, you eat a lot of cheese and then some more in the form of fondue, your stomach will need to have some serious capacity to pack away the carbs (Rösti) and animal protein (lamb).

Lamb chops with sauce and glazed pumpkin


Another shot of the lamb chop

Rösti, the unofficial national dish of Switzerland

And as if all this food wasn't enough, there was dessert. And one of the most famous desserts from Switzerland, the carrot cake from the Aargau canton. The Aargau canton is famous for carrots, and in the words of the chef himself "they make everything from carrot...cake, pies, casserole, what not!" A strong waft of cinnamon from the cake makes it way into the nasal cavity, but it doesn't offend the senses, but entices you to dig in. And dig in I did...with gusto!

Rüebli (carrot) cake

Overall, given that this was the first time I was actually eating Swiss food, I'd have to say that it was very good, and extremely interesting. And like India, different regions have different foods, owing to the influence from the Germans, the French, the Italians, and some dishes very native to the land itself. The Swiss food festival is on till the 14th of October at My Place, the all day dining restaurant at Mövenpick Hotel & Spa, Bangalore. For more details and making reservations, you can check here.