The Kabab Studio at Goldfinch Hotel, B'lore

I was invited to try out the (somewhat) recently renovated Kabab Studio at the Goldfinch Hotel in Bangalore. While the invite was open since late February, owing to work, illness and travel, I finally managed to go last week. Sit-in barbecues seem to have become a bit of a rage, especially among the IT office crowd in Bangalore, a fact evident from all the various barbecue joints that have more or less the same format. That being said, I was eager to see how The Kabab Studio set itself apart from the pack.

Located at the terrace of the Goldfinch Hotel, the restaurant offers both an indoor and outdoor seating area. We were promptly shown to our table with the bearer asking us what we’d like to drink. Having heard about the cocktails of the place, we left it to the bartender to surprise us with his best five cocktails for the summer evening. In the meantime, the grill was put in place and skewers of prawns, chicken, mushroom, mutton followed. I’ll be honest in saying that the meats were marinated fairly well, probably a tad too spicy for some (so beware) and the portions were generous. The prawn margination was satisfying as was the Kalmi kabab. The mutton sheek lacked the juiciness one expected of the dish. However, delighting me was the Paneer tikka. Yes, you read that right – the Paneer Tikka. Marinated to perfection, the paneer itself was one of the softest I had had in ages in the city in any restaurant. Brought in from Mumbai, the paneer was as soft as a warm marshmallow and egged me on to request for more helpings. Another favourite was the spicy pineapple.

While I had no complaints regarding the non veg served, I couldn’t help but comment on the lack of imagination when it comes to vegetarian grilled food, across the city. Vegetarian for most equals paneer, mushroom, baby corn, pineapple, potato and capsicum. What about tofu, eggplant, peaches, halloumi, radish, beetroot…and so many more options? I’m sure the chefs need to just sit down and take the time to figure out what they can do. This is a reflection of the state of vegetarian food across most restaurants in the city, not just the Kabab Studio alone. I was appreciative of the fact that the team there were open to feedback and didn’t try to hide behind excuses. So that’s a step in the right direction. Also, chaats as a “live counter” is not very imaginative. There’s a lot more room for improvement there!

In the middle of all of this, our very first pair of cocktails arrived. Looking rather ominous with smoke spewing out of the kettle, the first cocktail was their version of the Long Island Ice Tea except there was no coke but actual tea. Christened, The Last Tea, the cocktail consisted of five white spirits with tea and dry ice, to give it that menacing look. Lacking the kick of the traditional LIIT, this drink was still quite refreshing and almost became a sort of palate cleanser.

The second cocktail served, again with dry ice, was the Lemongrass Curry Leaf Martini. One of the finer cocktails I’ve had in some time, and the best of the evening, this drink had very mild hints of lemongrass that was over powered by the flavour of curry leaves. With the punch of liquor coming at the end as one gulped this down, this chilled cocktail was an immediate favourite of the evening.

What followed was a barrage of cocktails including the Santa Banta Screw Driver which was just another Screwdriver; the TKS OK which was a strong citrus orange cocktail with chunks of orange that made it ideal for the summer and a Cucumber Basil Lemonade which despite being a tad sweeter than required was actually very refreshing with the basil and cucumber instantly cooling the system.

The final, and bonus, cocktail for the evening which was my second favourite was Spice Fusion, a concoction of chaat masala, green chillis, lemon, tobacco sauce, guava juice and vodka. While it’s not an entirely new combination, the contrasting flavours of the sweet guava juice with the spicy punch of the drink worked very well with the drink hitting different parts of your tongue as it went down.

The main course was a respectable spread with some of the usual suspects like veg kholapuri, pasta in cream basil sauce, ghosht hara pyaza, murgh kalimirch, methi daal, etc. What stood out were the dishes in the Asian section with Mixed Vegetables in a Plum Sauce and the Prawns in Thai Green Curry. The good mix of flavours on both made me go back for seconds. Desserts was a slightly more impressive affair with the cold stone ice cream where I combined vanilla with almonds and paan, followed by copious amounts (read three cups) of mishit doi which was very reminiscent of what one gets in Kolkata.

The overall verdict of The Kabab Studio, a good attempt at changing the template of the regular barbecue-themed restaurant, but expected more with the vegetarian section. Respectable portions of meat that have been marinated well will be a hit with any crowd. While the Asian sections of the main course scored big for me, the Indian sections could do with a  bit more imagination. But the biggest strength that sets the Kabab Studio apart from other players in the market is the cocktails. With a gamut of flavours and presentation styles, the cocktails were the champion of the evening. Excellent companions for a barbecue, other than the run-of-the-mill beers, IMFLs and unimaginative mocktails, make Kabab Studio worth visiting. Since the IPL is on, it may be a good time to head over there in the evening to catch a game and make the best of some excellent offers running at this time.