I’m always a tad excited and nervous at the same time when it comes to trying out a new menu. Will I absolutely love it? Will it be pedestrian reinvented regular fare? Will there be that one dish that blows my mind and I tell all my friends about it? I always hope and pray that it’s a good menu with dishes to impress because I’m very respectful of the effort that goes into creating or re-imagining dishes on a menu. I was invited to 1Q1, located opposite the Indian Express Building in Bengaluru, to try out the new menu. The last time I was at 1Q1, I was inebriated enough to not remember what I ate. So, this was a new menu in that regard.
With enough people to field a football team, there were adequate reinforcements for us to try everything on the menu. We could be here a very long time if I start going into every dish, so I’ll talk about my favourites from the menu. The appetizers featured a variety of dishes in various pan-Asian styles. Thai Chilli Potatoes, Broccoli & Baby Corn in Nam Prik Pao, Thai Birds-Eye Chilli Pork, Bangkok Chicken were some of the dishes we polished off pretty quickly. While it didn’t quite bring back memories of inexpensive Chinese take-out from my trips to the U.S, my favourite was the General Tsao’s Chicken. Crispy, succulent pieces of chicken in a sweet and spicy sauce… this would be my pick the next time I head there. The perfectly cooked pork almost made it to the top of the list, but I’d have liked the skin to be crispy.
One of the things that makes 1Q1 stand out from the numerous pan-Asian restaurants is their Nikkei section on the menu. I remember first reading about this style in 2016, but this was my first time tasting it. For the uninitiated, the Nikkei cuisine came into existence in the late 19th century when about 800 Japanese migrated to Peru and began integrating their culinary heritage with locally available Peruvian produce. While I do know that this style features a lot of sea food, I do not have an authentic frame of reference. We began with two varieties of tostadas, one with avocado, cucumber, broccoli, grapefruit and edamame for the vegetarians, and the other with tuna salsa, jalapeño chillies, hicuiana sauce for the non-vegetarians. I would very gladly trade in my plate of greasy uninspiring nachos at my local brewpub for a plate of these. The vegetarian version was a favourite of mine owing to a better balance, and diversity, of flavours while the non-veg tilted towards being spicy. (Which was a minor injustice to the fresh fatty piece of tuna).
The Green Mango and Whitefish Tiradito was a delightful-delicate dish that had a wonderful slice of fresh red snapper whose natural flavour was enhanced by the sweet-sour flavours of the green mango. I definitely did not want to share this dish. Another favourite of mine was the Grilled Octopus in an Anticucho Sauce. Octopus is something don’t quite relish owing to the rubbery nature of the flesh. This experience was further ruined when I was served a live baby octopus in the famous Jagalchi Market in Busan, where I shrieked and bolted from the table. Fortunately, the grilled octopus, besides being very dead, was actually grilled very perfectly. Crunchy bits of octopus flesh with a citrus-herby sauce had me nearly polishing off an entire plate. Thankfully, there wasn’t much enthusiasm from the others. So yaay, all mine!
There were four cocktails being served for lunch. The Saku Bliss, a concoction of hibiscus tea infused with Bacardi and shaken into a sour. The Moonshine Volcano, a light gin-based cocktail and the Twilight, a grapefruit and whisky cocktail. My pick of the lot was the Mystery Dynasty. This was a balanced mix of walnut flavoured whisky with home-made banana liqueur.
We moved on to a variety of dumplings and sushi but I kept sneaking in bites of the red snapper and the octopus in between nibbles of sushi and dumplings. The dumplings, especially the Crystal Dumplings and the Pork Gyoza beat the sushi hands down.
With all the starters, the poor main course got secondary treatment. What did stand out was the Rendang Lamb Curry with the lamb cooked almost perfectly. Also, the Phad Kaprow Gai with Egg and Rice was a very enjoyable dish on its own.
The highlight of the afternoon would have to be the desserts. The Classic Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Coulis was a wonderful combination of flavours. The near-perfect baked cheesecake was light and perfectly balanced out by the sweet citrus flavours of the sorbet. The Deconstructed Apple Pie was a delightful reimagining of a classic dessert. But my absolute favourite and the most memorable dish of the afternoon would have to be the Avocado Parfait with Gooey Brownie Squares and Matcha Soil. Served with vanilla ice cream, the parfait was superb. Fresh buttery flavour of the avocado complemented by the chocolate flavour of the brownie left me sighing in happiness.
The Nikkei cuisine, executed very well, makes 1Q1 stand out. Small fixes to some of the dishes are needed. Overall, I’m quite happy that I thoroughly enjoyed almost all the dishes on the new menu. And fell in love with some of the dishes. It’s past midnight while I have to torture myself to complete this blog post while my mind keeps going back to that avocado parfait.