Coastal Adventures at Monkey Bar

While I've been to the (now erstwhile) Monkey Bar on Wood Street for Sunday breakfast a fair number of times, my visit to the Indiranagar branch to review their on-going Coastal Adventures food festival was my first visit there. The food festival which started a couple of days ago features some of the big flavours from Udupi, Kundapur,  Mangalore and Kerala. While keeping the main flavours intact, the chefs have put their own little spin on every dish with additions of bread or salad to ensure that the festival isn't an 'also ran' food festival.

The afternoon started off with the Southern Fry. This dish consists of batter fried calamari with coconut crusted prawns in a coconut and dried shrimp crumb and is the perfect pub-finger food. With a dash of lime on top, the dish was absolutely comforting and was polished off quite quickly at our table. What was missing for me was perhaps a chutney of some sort. The first cocktail I tried was the Chilli Puli, a spicy salty cocktail of tequila, tamarind paste and green chilli. Probably not the best choice for a relatively empty stomach.





The prawns were followed by a serving of the Kuttari Salad. Mimicking the flavours of Thai-raw papaya salad, this dish comprised of baby spinach, red rice, raw mango, coconut and peanuts, with a very prominent curd pickle on top. I'm not a big fan of red rice, but this salad made me go back for more. With the sourness of the raw mango and crunch of the peanuts with the red rice, this dish was not only texturally appetizing but quite refreshing to eat. The Udipi Beet Cutlets that followed was one of the dishes that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. While the individual elements of the dish, the rava crusted beet cutlet with peas filling, the Kerala paratha and the coconut tamarind ketchup, were good individually; combined together I wasn't able to relish the combination. The cutlets themselves are very similar in taste to the Veg Chop - a favourite of mine from Kolkata. 




We were then served the Kundapur Wings, a dish that comprised of chicken wings tossed with Kundapur ghee roast masala served with sprouted moong kosambri salad. The wings were tender and quite spicy. One was expecting a bit of relief from the coconut, which could have been a bit more prominent, but that never stopped us from going back for more. While the kosambri salad seemed to have been put on the plate to offer relief from the spiciness of the masala, I wasn't too convinced. Call me a wings-purist, but the only accompaniment I like with my wings is a blue-cheese dipping sauce. That being said, lovers of spicy wings should give this one a spin. While we waited for the next dish, I ordered the Soulful Kadhee, a sweet cocktail made from gin, Kokum syrup, tender coconut, curry leaves and lime cordial.




Next up were the Monkee Eggs. Inspired by the more traditional Eggs Benedict, this dish consisted of coriander and black pepper crusted poached egg on puff pastry, with green chutney and a coconut cream hollandaise. The food snob in me was expecting a more runny poached egg, the kind that you cut into the dish and the yolk oozes out and everyone goes 'Aaaahhhh!', but that didn't hold back the dish from becoming my favourite from the afternoon. With the egg cooked almost perfectly, the light yet crunchy puff pastry, the contrasting flavours of the chutney and hollandaise, it was love at first bite. Needless to say, this is a 'must-try' dish.


The Kerela Bao Uttapam was another dish where the individual components of the Kerala-inspired Beef Fry and the Bao Uttapam worked well individually, but I wasn't able to appreciate the combination. We were served the Prawn Ghee Roast. Now don't let the name throw you off, the dish wasn't the traditional ghee roast that one would expect. However, cooked in the Kundapur style and served with garlic toast, the dish packs in quite a punch when it comes to bold spicy flavours. It's the kind of spice that make you want to go back for more (which we did). The fresh crunchy prawns and the gravy with the crunchy garlic toast brought a satisfied smile to my face. 



While we waited for a second serving of the prawns, we tried the KP tacos. Replacing the crunchy taco shell with a flaky Kerala paratha, the filling was a Chettinad styled pulled chicken with black lychen, baby onion salan and garlic pickle, comforting flavours with a twist that worked well. The tacos look deceptively small and are actually quite filling, so keep this for last. We ended the meal with some delightful homely Mangalore buns.



The Coastal Adventures festival began on the 16th of June and goes on till the end of the month. If you're looking for strong flavours, fresh seafood and cocktails to pair with, do head over the Monkey Bar. As far as the price goes, a meal for two without alcohol excluding taxes would cost you INR 1200++, and with alcohol excluding taxes, INR 1800++. I give this festival a 4/5.

The Great Indian Coastal Food Festival at the Ministry of Food, Hilton Bangalore EGL

The Ministry of Food at the Hilton Bangalore at Embassy Golf Links is back with a brand new festival that showcases the diversity of food and flavours all along the Indian coastline. The Great Indian Coastal Food Festival features food from across the coasts of Kerela, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Mangalore, Goa, just to name a few. A few bloggers and I were invited on the second day after the festival opened to try out the spread. 




The one thing that immediately hits you is the sheer number of dishes that one can sample. While that’s a good thing, it can be a little daunting as a food connoisseur to have to sample as much as you can to truly appreciate the work that’s gone into curating the menu. We kicked off the meal with a selection of fish that were marinated in various styles from Goan to Chettinad and grilled. While most of the flavours were perfect enough to ensure the taste of the fish wasn’t lost, some of the marination had a tad more salt than required. That aside, the fresh catch brought in daily ensured top notch quality. If you lack the patience to pull out tiny bones from the fish, recommend you have a word with the chef and choose from the fairly large spread accordingly.




Accompanying the grilled fish were a variety of appetizers including sundal, fried calamari, Goan roast beef and Vada. I’ve got to call out the vada on this menu. It is one of the most supremely prepared vadas I’ve had in a very long time. Almost as soft as cotton, the mildly peppery vada simply melted when we popped it into our mouths. Needless to say, it was my favourite part of the meal. Folks I did speak to a day later thought I’ve lost my marbles as I was talking about a vada after a seafood festival. Two thumbs up for this. Following closely was the Fish Tikka which was tender, flaked beautifully while retaining the spicy flavour. Another favourite among the appetizers was the Banana Stem Salad of which I took at least three helpings.








After all the appetizers, and vadas, there was limited room for the main course. I had to be very choosy from the vast spread. I chose the Bengali styled mustard fish and was delighted that I did. Strong mustard flavours immediately took over my taste buds the moment I had a spoon. Almost as close to the real deal, this was one of my favourites in the main course. I also chose the Kosha Mangsho which was relatively muted compared to the original, but tasty nonetheless. All that was missing was some luchi, which would have sealed the deal for me. I next attacked the Crab Xec Xec, a Goan delicacy that did not disappoint. All though a soft shell crab might have worked a little better, I had no choice but to tuck my napkin into my shirt and go all messy with the crab. Let’s be honest, there’s no other way to appreciate the dish. Left with very little space, I sampled a bit of the Chicken Chettinad which could have been a little more impactful with the flavour. Alas, not everyone appreciates the strong peppery flavours of the dish. 





At times like this I wish I had two stomachs because I didn’t get to try a lot of the dishes from the main course. Dessert was a relatively peaceful affair with a light ellaneer payasum ( Tender Coconut kheer) that helped with the unusually hot weather of the city as well as the strong flavours we’d been experiencing all evening. The folks at Ministry of Food have indeed put together a very commendable food festival with four rolling menus that ensure you don’t get bored. Running till the 30th of the month, the Great Indian Coastal Food Festival is priced very competitively at INR 1399 plus taxes per person. The quality of elaborate spread was reflected by the fact that even on a weekday, the restaurant was packed, something I’ve not seen at food festivals in a long time.

The Seafood Sensation at Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park

After the very enjoyable American Food festival at Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park a couple of months ago, I was looking forward to trying out what Chef Sandeep Kumar has put together for their Seafood sensation festival. And it turns out, quite a lot. As an addition to the regular buffet, the seafood section had an impressive display of catfish, prawns, red snapper and more. I kicked off the evening with a tiny assorted platter of prawns, calamari and fish with a variety of sauces including mayonnaise, tomato, chilli-honey, and a very new flavour which was yellow mustard with green apple. Chef Sandeep is turning out to the ‘sauce guy’ for me. While it didn’t top the chocolate mole from the last time, this sauce was the best of the evening and became the staple dip for almost everything. The recent Thailand trip did have me using a little more chilli-honey sauce than usual.
While we waited for the next course I tried some of the seafood salads on display including fish and fresh fruits salad. With contrasting sweet and citrus flavours, the salad came across as something I would have probably had an entire bowl of during the summer. 




Seafood Salads
Next at the table was a fish platter that consisted of tuna, sea bass and snapper all lightly fried. Among the three, the tuna was the best in terms of how much of the flavour it retained and how it blended with all the sauces. This was the second time I’ve had the red snapper, the last being at a restaurant in the US quite some time ago. While that particular dish had a predominant and predictable citrus punch, this snapper was far milder in flavours. All the fish flaked superbly. 

Fish Platter
Next up was a very attractive looking plate of sardines and prawns. The sardines aren’t my first choice for a fish to be honest. That being said, while the dish was supposed to offer a masala sardine, it somehow didn’t make it all the way in terms of the spice levels leaving me a bit disappointed. The prawns however, were cooked perfectly. More mustard and green apple sauce!!!

Sardines and Prawns Platter

Sardines and Prawns Platter

The main course was the best part of the meal. First up was the seafood biryani with the Prawns Salan. The biryani was cooked really well, despite having all that seafood thrown in, it did not have an overwhelming seafood smell - a problem with numerous seafood biryani’s I’ve had in the past. The flavour was rich and had spices in excellent proportion. The biryani was a hero by itself. But truly bringing all the flavours to life was the prawn salan whose tangy taste of mustard made my evening. Fresh hot biryani with a tangy prawn curry on a cold wet rainy evening, it couldn’t get any better.

Seafood Biryani

Prawn Salan



I also tried the fish curry with plain rice, which was a very homely dish and reminded me of something similar with chicken that a friend’s mother would make. But unfortunately, in front of the prawn salan, this dish was a distant second. After a single helping of the fish, I went back to the seafood biryani and the prawns. It was just so sad that I had but one stomach and a mere above-average appetite, for I would have finished the biryani entirely. Also, it would have been quite uncouth if I had asked for a doggy bag. Dinner ended with a helping of pista kheer as I had absolutely no space for anything more.

Fish Curry


Rice Kheer

The Seafood sensation at Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park is on till the 27th of November. My recommendation is definitely for the tuna with the yellow mustard and green apple sauce, and of course for the seafood biryani with the prawn salan. If I weren’t travelling, I’d definitely go back just to have those two again.

Food Mood: 'In a Shell' Seafood festival at Bene, Sheraton Bengaluru

I was back at Bene at the Sheraton Bengaluru to cover their aptly named seafood festival – In a Shell. Before we started on the five-course meal that was specially designed for the bloggers at the table, the chef for the evening – Chef Hemanth came over and talked us through what to expect for the evening.

We began the evening with an antipasto, Bruschetta. We were offered two types. The first was a slow poached prawn with fresh tomato, basil and garlic and the second was a steamed crab with pickled onion. Personally, I enjoyed the latter more than the former. It had a nice sweet and salty taste and the crab went well with the base. The prawn-bruschetta was alright but the blend of flavor wasn’t as compelling as the crab. The bread-base for the bruschetta was thicker than what I’m normally used to. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose.

Slow Poached Prawn Bruschetta

Steamed Crab Bruschetta
The second dish for the evening is definitely one of the high points of the evening. Thanks to previous uncomfortable experiences, I've always been apprehensive when it comes to oysters. And I’m sure it’s the same with a lot of people. The chef however decided to reinvent the oyster and served it fried with agrodolce, fennel, onion and peppers. The taste was something completely different and was not something I had expected. The fried oyster made the overall taste more palatable to my taste-buds and I really enjoyed the crunchy layer on the outside. This was well complemented with the fennel and onions that gave a sweetish taste. Kudos to the chef on this one.

Oyster "reinvented"
We moved on to the Seafood Chowder which consisted of fresh clams, mussels, crab meat and prawns. The one taste that immediately hits you is the fresh saltiness of the sea. While the chowder had a nice tomato tinge to it, I wasn't a big fan. While it is definitely a lot better than some of the other seafood chowders I've had, something didn't click with me. Quite a few of the other bloggers at the table simply loved the soup. I have a neutral verdict on it. I don’t know why.

Seafood Chowder
The main entree for the evening was another mind-blowing dish from the kitchen of Bene. We had two options for the main course. I chose to have the Smoky Pasta and mussels. The dish consisted of smoked linguini with clams, mussels and crab meat. Adding to the taste were tomatoes and basil. The very first bite of this pasta gave me a foodgasm. The smoky taste was simply brilliant and was consistent throughout all components of the dish. I had to try very hard not to grunt in satisfaction. In the past, I've tasted similar smoked dishes where only certain parts retained the smoky flavor. But this dish was perfect. The sauce, the meats, everything had a consistent addictive smoky taste ensuring there was only one taste that came through. The main course was definitely the high point of the evening for me.

Smoky Pasta
Some of the other folks at the table chose the Lobster Ravioli with asparagus, spinach and zucchini. I wasn't able to taste it. That would predominantly be because the pasta I ordered was doing a fabulous tango with the taste buds in my mouth.

Lobster Ravioli
Dessert was a simple Walnut and almond tart with vanilla ice cream that closed the meal very well. It wasn't the best dessert I've had from Bene. But I’m happy it did not overpower the lovely smoky taste left by the pasta. The dessert was followed by some lovely cappuccinos.

Walnut and almond tart with Vanilla Ice cream



Great meals are made better with great company. Besides the experienced food bloggers at the table, we had the company of Vijayan Gangadharan, the Executive Assistant Manager at the Sheraton Bengaluru. He shared fabulous stories of his food adventures from around the world and thoroughly impressed us with his knowledge of wines. It was very nice of him to spend the evening with us. 

The ‘In a Shell’ seafood festival is on till the 25th of June at Bene. I recommend seafood lovers to definitely give this a shot as it’s not your standard seafood spread. My recommendations would be the ‘Oyster Reinvented’ and the ‘Smoky Pasta and mussels’. The taste of pasta still lingers in my mouth and I’m willing to go back and have a big bowl of the same. Another memorable evening put together by the folks at Sheraton Bengaluru. Kudos to Chef Hemanth.