Bringing in the Year of the Monkey at Shao, Park Plaza

Continuing with my love for all things Asian at the moment, I was privileged to be invited to a pre-festival dinner at Park Plaza’s Chinese fine-dining restaurant, Shao. An evening put together by the flamboyant Chef Narender Singh, celebrated the Chinese New Year and the coming of the Year of the Monkey. The festival offers set menus in both veg and non veg. The style of cooking remains true to the familiar ‘Indian’ Chinese that most people are used to.



Decked up in the familiar shades of red and gold, our evening at Shao began with a refreshing cocktail and some addictive prawn crackers. My will power was put to the test to ensure I didn’t fill up on those crackers and not have any space for the meal. Soon enough, our first course for the evening arrived – a Lung-Fung soup with chicken, minced prawns and black mushrooms. Mixed with the right amount herbs and flavours coming from the mushrooms, the hot soup was just what I needed at the end of a long day at the office. The soup was served with Chinese-styled steam buns which brought back fond memories from my trip to Shanghai last year. Some of the other folks at the table even asked for a second helping of soup. The soup was bang in the middle of familiar comforting territory.




The appetizers started off with the Dragon Chicken. Not strictly Chinese in flavour, the chicken came wrapped in a pandan leaf and was infused with prominent flavours of kaffir lime and lemongrass. This made it almost Thai in flavour.  Going by the name, I was expecting a spicy dish that exploded in my mouth. On the contrary, the dish had a very refreshing taste thanks to the lime and was balanced out perfectly by the sauce of ginger and sesame that accompanied the dish. What I liked a lot more than the chicken was the accompaniment, a rice paper wrapped garden roll filled with veggies and melon and acted like a cleanser to the strong flavours of the soup and the chicken. I was willing to eat an entire plate of just the garden roll. This was followed by two single helpings of Vegetable Gyoza and Seafood Gyoza. The latter packed a much stronger punch with scallops, prawns and water chestnuts. It was my favourite in the appetizers, considering the garden roll wasn’t strictly the hero of any dish.




Before we hit the main course, we were presented with an extremely gorgeous-looking fish. The Chinese have a belief that having a surplus at the end of the year, allows you to save up and make more than what you require in the next year; according to them "fish" sounds like 'surplus'. Hence, fish plays an important role in any Chinese New Year celebration. The Chinese also believe that the fish should be the last dish left with some left over, to indicate surplus for the coming year. Good luck with that when you have a bunch of hungry people at the table. Also, since we’re not Chinese, we can be forgiven. The history aside, the fish looked good, tasted fresh and made all of us smile.



The main course had a variety of dishes. But my favourite was the Prawn Mandarin. With a perfect blend of sweet and spicy, the prawns were cooked perfectly. Crunchy exterior with the perfect crunch through the meat that retained all the natural flavour of the prawn without letting the sauce overpower it. Kudos to the chef on this one. I took about three generous helpings. Or maybe four, who counts these sort of things?




Other dishes included the braised lamb with cha choy, the Sichuan style spicy vegetables with tofu and the stir fry bokchoy with water chestnut. The prawn mandarin was the star player in the meal for me. Accompanying these dishes was a braised soba noodles with mushrooms. Taking me on yet another nostalgia trip, these noodles reminded me of the ramen noodles popularly found in Hong Kong. This made a perfect accompaniment to the prawns compared to the noodles and rice. Did I tell you about the Prawns BTW?


I do believe all those prawns got me quite high and I spent the rest of the meal staring at my plate (fairly) silently and wondering, “What have I done? Such gluttony!” The closing number of the meal was an almond and date ice cream topped with lychee and praline with a crisp fruit roll. While everyone gushed over the ice cream, I fell for the fruit roll. Call it my new found addiction to all things salad-ish and raw-ish, the ice cream was a bit too strong for me. I’m not the biggest fan of lychees either, so my heart found happiness in the fruit rolls. 




We got a glimpse to only a sample (okay, a rather large sample) of the dishes that would feature in the Chinese New Year Festival Celebrations at Shao, starting today, the 5th of February. Priced at INR 1500 and INR 1800 (plus taxes), the set menus would offer a variety of dishes, some of which you’ve read about. This was my first meal from the kitchen of Chef Narender Singh and I am quite impressed by what I’ve tasted. Look forward to more!

The American Food Festival at Aloft Cessna Business Park

If one were to ask me, there are only two things that truly define the culture of the United States of America – Jazz and the Burger. While I’m sure this comment might spark a great debate, let’s all just be civil for the remainder of this post. 

Celebrating the culinary culture of the US, I was invited to try out the spread at the American food festival at the Aloft (Cessna business park). Naturally, my expectations of the burger were quite high. I was also keen to see what else would be spread. This was the first festival put together by Aloft’s new executive chef – Chef Sandeep Kumar. Chef Sandeep brings with him over a decade of experience in food and beverages with stints at the Leela Goa, the Carnival Cruise Line, The Orient Express at the Taj Palace in Delhi and more. The inspiration for the theme for this particular food festival comes from Chef Sandeep’s time with the Carnival Cruise Line that allowed him to sample a lot of dishes that are now synonymous with the American landscape.


We kicked off our lunch with a helping of chicken wings. Very American in flavour, the wings were tender and came off the bone very easily. Like with all wings, the key differentiator is the sauce that the wings are coated in. The flavour of the sauce with these wings fell right in the middle of familiar territory with a largely sweet taste with a hint of spice. Following the wings was the good old American dish of fried chicken. With a light spice in the very crunchy skin on the outside, the chicken was once again a very familiar taste. But the absolute kicker and one of the highlights of this dish was the spicy chocolate mole. 




Made from chocolate and spices mixed together for over eight hours, the bitter sweet chocolate with the pepper and spice flavour that precedes it was an absolute turn on for my taste buds. They wanted to have this sauce with everything. I couldn’t hold back my shamelessness and requested for a small bottle of this sauce to take home with me. I have diligently been dipping everything from carrots to baked crisps in it. I know that sauce set me back in my grand ‘lose weight’ plan, but oh hell… YOLO. (See what that chocolate sauce has made me do, I’m typing YOLO and all that.)

Next up was a plate of nachos salad. I’ll be quite honest in saying that the nachos were one of the better nacho salads I’ve had in ages. With a lot of local restaurants maintaining their margins by cutting out elements on their previously flavourful nacho salads, this hit the spot with the right amount of veggies, meat, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.



We moved on to my favourite part of the meal – the burger. I was served a delicious beef patty that was sandwiched between a layer of fresh mustard, a fried egg, tomatoes and onion rings. While the mustard and beef flavours dominated the burger, a quick dip in the chocolate sauce took it to a whole new level altogether. A thumb up for the burger from me. 




Mexican food and flavours are an integral part of the American food landscape. Next up was the chicken roll with salsa roja. Heavy on Mexican spices, the roll was quite filling with the salsa sauce, layer of cheese, egg and mustard topped off with a jalapeno pepper. The tiny cubes of chicken themselves did not hold any flavour; this was driven completely by everything else in the roll. After having a third of the roll, I was quite full. I reluctantly sampled the hot dog because no American experience is complete without the hot dog. Compared to the burger and the hot dog was mild. It missed the punch of the all-important relish. Relish and mustard define the taste of any hot dog.



While there were numerous other dishes on the spread including the classic American mac and cheese, a corn jalapeno timble in a coriander sauce, a veg stew, burritos and more, I was too full to have anything more. Besides, whatever little crevices were left in my tummy was reserved for dessert.



Dessert was simple plate of churros, done perfectly with a slightly crispy exterior coated in sugar with a soft inside. There was a slightly overwhelming taste of cinnamon which went even better when I dipped it in the chocolate mole. 



This is a very promising start to Chef Sandeep’s stint with the Aloft at Cessna Business Park. I’m looking forward to more such festivals that chef has planned out. He did share some of the grand plans he’s got for the next year, and cheers to more good food.

Chumbak launches a new flavour!

You might have been a little surprised looking at the title of this post for a couple of reasons. First, Isn’t Chumbak an accessories and home décor brand and what does it have to do with ‘a new flavour’? Your second question might be, what is Nikhilesh doing writing about a home décor brand on his blog? Isn’t the boy all about food and music?



I’ll answer the second question first. Yes, my blog and ‘expertise’ (cough…..cough) is limited to food and music. I do not claim, nor do I want to claim that I know anything about things like interior decoration, fashion, technology and so on. So why am I writing about Chumbak? This brand, that to me was synonymous with funky India-centric designs for phone covers, coasters, baggage tags and more, has been very quietly growing their inventory to encompass a much larger range of products such as home furniture, art and more. As a part of this larger campaign, titled #MakeHappy, the brand has tied up with Milano, a dessert bar in Indiranagar to launch its own flavour after an online poll. The purpose is to associate all things happy with the brand. And what can make people happier than ice cream (or gelato in this case)? Well I could name a few things; cold desserts are definitely high up on that list.




Thankfully, the larger audience chose some of my favourite flavours, which are mint and chocolate. I was invited to try out the flavour. I’m assuming that the helping of ice cream I got was according to my size because it was very generous and I had to discipline myself to not over eat. Topped with sprinkles and chocolate sauce, the mint is mild yet adequate enough to bring about a refreshing taste in the mouth after the chocolate. Overall, it’s a fairly mild taste but is quite refreshing. 

I shall be going back to Milano to try out the other flavours. As far as extending their brand beyond their known accessories, apparel and home décor, this is an interesting extension by Chumbak. Do check out this flavour and some of the goodies at the store. 



PS: There is this particular wall-art which is yellow with the silhouette of a Tiger with stripes. You can buy that for me. Don’t worry; I’ll take care of framing it.

Food Mood: 25 years of Kairalli

Bangalore has changed very rapidly over the last decade or so with the IT revolution gaining momentum. The traffic has gone up at a rate that only competes with the cost of real estate. We have more malls than we can visit. A big part of the city that has disappeared are a lot of the older restaurants and hang-out joints that defined what Bangalore was for many years.  In all this, one of the few things that have remained the same is the Karavalli restaurant at the Gateway hotel. 



The restaurant recently completed 25 years and had put out a special menu featuring their best dishes. The original menu itself has remained pretty much the same since the start. The bloggers that evening were joined by Chef Naren Thimmaiah, the Executive Chef who has been the mastermind behind the consistent and addictive taste of the fare at Karavalli.

Chef Naren Thimmaiah

We kicked off the evening with a very interesting cocktail with the key ingredient being curry leaves. I was quite sceptical when I was given the recommendation. But this turned out to be a delightful cocktail. Like the start to a great innings of cricket, the opening dish was by far my favourite dish that evening; the Tiger Prawns Roast had a lovely blend of tomato, ginger and a light hint of coconut with spices to leave you wanting more. I was willing to have the prawns just as a dessert. To anyone reading this blog, I recommend that you head over to Karavalli and indulge your senses in a plate of these delicious prawns, you won’t regret it. 



Tiger Prawns Roast

Tiger Prawns Roast

We sampled a variety of appetizers including the Aritha Pundi (steam rice dumplings), the kerela-style crispy raw banana and two varieties of fish. The first was the Meen Eleittad which is a fried black pomfret marinated in a spicy masala and wrapped in a banana leaf to give it a fabulous flavour. The fish was cooked to perfection and showed signs of gentle flaking when cut. The second fish that was served was the Kane Kaidina which was a pan-cooked Lady Fish. I wasn’t very enthusiastic with this one owing to the few bones which came up. Even taste-wise, this wasn’t a hit when compared to the pomfret. 

Aritha Pundi



Pomfret with masala wrapped in banana leaves

Kane Kaidina

Before the main course, we had some fabulous rasam. Despite being brought up in a tambram house hold, I am not a fan of rasam at all. However, I thoroughly enjoyed what was served. For the main course, we had a variety of curries (mostly stews considering this was a south Indian restaurant) which included a fish, some fresh veggies in a coconut milk stew, and a very interesting one that was made out of mangoes with chilli and coconut. We were also served some well-cooked lamb which I felt would have been spot on had the lamb been replaced by pork. The spices in the dish along with the ginger, green chillies, onions and tomato reminded me of a pork curry I had fallen in love with ages ago during a trip to Coorg. This was accompanied by some idiappam, Malabar paratha, appam and plain rice.




I ate just enough to keep just that little bit of room for dessert. We were served bebinca with ice cream, a tender coconut payassam and some dodol.  



Overall, it was a great meal with the star of the meal being the prawn. I had been to dinner at Karavalli almost five years ago, and it is great to see that the taste has remained consistent. So what are you waiting for? Get over there and go nuts. 

Food Mood: Mother's Day Special at I & Monkey

While this might not qualify as a review of the restaurant, it’s definitely a very interesting lunch that I had been to at I & Monkey. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, a few bloggers and I were invited to a special lunch. The difference was that, we were told to send in the favourite dish that our mother 's make and the chef would try his hand at putting a twist on the same. 


First up was a very interesting dish which was a mix between the local favourite Lemon Rice and a Risotto. I’m not a fan of either dish individually, but this particular mash-up had a very unique taste that I was quite surprised that I enjoyed. It had the texture of the risotto with a mild touch of lemon giving it the lemon rice twang. Kudos to the chef on this one. It was one of the dishes that I shamelessly took more than one helping off. 



Next was the Navaratan Kurma which was average in comparison to the previous risotto. This dish is probably one of those few dishes that you really can’t mess around with and adapt to any other cuisine. We were also served a helping of Fish Fry which tasted alright, but the texture was a little tough. Fish is normally expected to easily break off with a fork, but this took some doing. The outer layer that was fried was crispy and quite tangy.



The next dish was my favourite part of the meal - The Moroccan Lamb Stew. Made in a gravy of plum and pepper, the saltiness of the meat went excellently well with the sauce. This was a perfect compliment to the Moroccan Rice that was mild in nature and did not overpower the gravy. The meat was tender enough to be cut with a fork. The bloggers at the table were unanimous that this was the best dish of the day and we all took several helpings.




Accompanying the food were a few cocktails based on whiskey, rum and vodka. I did not drink anything but a fresh lime soda as I was already nursing a bit of a hangover from some decent Irish single malt the previous evening.



Dessert was a fine closing chapter to our Mother’s Day special meal with Mango Soufflé, Tiramisu and my favourite Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream. It would be important to note that the brownie had a gelatine-like texture to it and was quite rich in chocolate. Folks who don’t relish dark chocolate might not enjoy this dish. 




Big thumbs up for the Lamb Stew and the Risotto in my book.  I look forward to trying some of the grub off the regular menus which the chef informed us will be changing every few months based on the ingredients that season. This would be an interesting change because neither the chef gets bored of doing the same thing every day nor more importantly, neither do the patrons. 

Food Mood: Biere Club turns 4 years old

The Biere Club on Lavelle Road completed four years on the 20th of April. An anniversary is always a good time for change, and they've done just that. A few weeks ago, some of the other bloggers and I were invited for a sneak peak of the menu that would be introduced post the place turning four years old. Having moved away from their traditional Mediterranean cuisine, Biere Club’s new menu focuses more on small eats and finger foods. This makes complete sense considering their star performers are the beer and most folks coming there are looking for grub to accompany the same. Our hosts for the evening were Shaun Kenworthy, Director F&B of Biere Club, and Vishal Nagpal, Director of Biere Club.




Besides sampling the various beers available that evening, we kicked off what was going to soon become a wild evening of eating and drinking with a helping of Pizza Samosas. These mini-samosas are to die for. With a filling that tastes like pizza, and more importantly oodles of stringy cheese, this dish is the perfect accompaniment for any beer. Every blogger fell in love with this dish instantly. This was followed by another superb veg starter, the Corn Curd Salt n Pepper. To me, it was a twist on the better known Dahi Kabab with a delicious curd and corn filling on the inside. Another perfect accompaniment with any ale. 

Pizza Samosa


Corn Curd Salt n Peppar

The next round of starters moved along with a serving of Asian style cottage cheese skewers with Thai peanut dip. This was a very simple dish and the name pretty much says it all. I personally found it to be a bit bland. That may be probably due to the two scrumptious starters from before. But that was soon forgotten when they brought out the Chicken with peppers, chilli and coriander. For those who love spicy Indian food with their drinks, this is a must have. The portions are quite neat and convenient to eat. I really enjoy how both these starters were served in the tea glasses one would find in their local chai adda.

Asian Style Cottage Cheese Skewers with Thai peanut dip

Chicken with Peppers, Chille and Coriander

We also got a helping of hummus, but with three varieties of the same. This was accompanied by a Rava fried fish and chips. I’m a bit on the fence on this one. I enjoyed the taste, the crispiness, the presentation, but am not entirely sure why it doesn’t fall into my list of recommendations for the place. Fish lovers can try this twist on the London Fish n Chips and see if it catches their fancy.  We also had a helping of the spicy Pork vindaloo with pav

Hummus Trio

Rava Fried Fish and Chips

It was at this point the evening got really fun because we began some serious drinking. We all had a helping of beer with Kahlua shots which hit a lot of people. Veterans like yours truly were still standing. Shaun Kenworthy took it upon himself to ensure everyone was adequately sozzled and ensured a variety of shots were served at regular intervals. We tried everything from the Biere Mojito to the stout float to the Biere Sangria and more. I personally enjoyed the Stout Float. Soon enough, most of us were having a good time. Some more than others. These drinks were accompanied with various starters including the Prawn Chettinad and the Mutton Pepper. I’m always partial to prawns and thoroughly enjoyed the former. 


Shan Kenworthy brings on the shots

Le Sozzled Bloggers

Prawn Chettinad

We also sampled some of the main course of which I tried Beef stroganoff with steamed rice and the Massaman chicken curry with steamed rice. A big plus point is that the main courses are served in small helpings rather than in large quantities. This is ideal for the crowd at Biere Club who are mostly full on booze and appetizers. This was a good move and shows that the restaurant understands their customers really well.

Beef Stroganoff




The final chapter – desserts. I’ve been actively trying to cut down the amount of sugar I have by eliminating it from coffee, tea, avoiding desserts and more. I’d like to thank the folks here for making me break my resolution by offering me a helping of Biere battered bounty bars with ice cream. I tried my best to resist, but alas. No one ever denies themselves fried bounty bars. As expected, the one bit I took filled my mouth with a fabulous sensation, amplified owing to the lack of sugar in my diet. Don’t miss out on this. We were also offered a Sticky date and toffee pudding and a Knickerbocker glory, which I avoided.

Biere Battered Bounty Bars with Ice Cream

This was definitely one of the more memorable blogger table meets I’ve been to in ages. Everyone had a great time thanks to the great hospitality of the folks at the Biere Club. I think I’m definitely going to enjoy the new menu. I’ve always enjoyed the ambiance of the Biere Club, and really enjoy the fact that they play retro pop and rock which is more my style as compared to most of the new age techno stuff. With the new menu in place, I’m looking forward to a lazy afternoon with friends where we’ll have some beer, good food and sing along to the music. Do head over the Biere Club and check out what are your favourites on the new menu.

Food Mood: Sunday Brunch at Sheraton Bangalore, Brigade Gateway

Sunday brunch is always meant to be a fun experience that’s not just about the food, but about spending time with friends and family while lethargically munching away and downing a few drinks.  This essence has been wonderfully captured by the recently opened Sunday Brunch at the Sheraton Bangalore at Brigade Gateway. Spread over a vast area, the buffet offers almost everything from salads, to pizza, to sliders, to kebabs, to pasta and so much more. The tables and the food counters are well spread out across the inside and outside, so no one ever feels cramped or rushed in any manner.

The brunch starts off with an extensive array of salads that cover Zucchini Carpaccio, Grilled Vegetable Antipasti, Marinated Squid and Octopus, Chilli and Basil Clams, Gazpacho and so much more. For those looking to make a salad from scratch, there was even a live counter with more than enough ingredients to make a salad of your choice. Near the salad counter, one even has the option of kicking off the meal with either a Margherita Pizza or a Pepperoni Pizza. The inside area even offers a cheese cart with a variety of cheeses. I had the Octopus salad. It was a momentous occasion because I finally got over my fear of the tentacles grabbing on to the inside of my throat and the Octopus crawling back out again. No such thing happened (Thankfully). I also tried the Corn and Spinach Quiche.






On the outside, the restaurant offered a variety of kebabs on their Persian grill. This includes a Vegetarian Sheek Kebab and a Lamb Koobideh. I really enjoy the lamb which went excellent with the variety of sauces (Chimichurri, garlic mayonnaise, tahini sauce, pickled vegetables) that were available. The grill also offers a Zereshk polo and Bagali polo with Gheimeh Badanjan. For those not looking to have the kebabs, there is some lovely Polenta with Grilled Veggies, Corn on the Cob, Mushroom Cannelloni and Parmigiana Melanzane on the spread. 





The other live grill counter covers a Tofu Steak and an Asian Spicy Chicken Burger respectively. I tried the latter, obviously. The burger was definitely one of the best I’ve had in a long time. The patty had the right amount of spice and required no additional sauces to give it a flavour. Having this fresh off the grill with the cheese melted to just the right temperature made this burger a highlight of the meal for me. Even the French Fries accompanying the burger were absolutely fresh and well done without too much of salt.



Now for the part that many of you have been waiting for - the alcohol.  On either side of the live grill counters are bar counters that offer a variety of liquor and cocktails. I chose to start off with a mojito, because honestly, Mojito rhymes with Sunday Brunch. Okay, it doesn’t, but you get the general idea. My friend and I absolutely loved the cocktails which had the right amount of alcohol to give you a lovely kick to set one off on a happy mood for the rest of the afternoon. Kudos to the bartender. 


With all this, there really wasn’t any room left for the main course because the extensive array of desserts that was calling out to me. The dessert station offered a wide variety of treats including pastry, brownies, cake and more. My second favourite dessert was the Tiramisu which had a hint of alcohol at the end. My friend and I took large helpings of the same and ignored everything else in the second round of desserts. But the crowning glory of the dessert and the meal was the Chocolate Fondant which was positively the best I’ve had in ages. This was a fitting end to our meal. Made absolutely fresh, the chocolate just oozed out once we dug into it.





I definitely recommend the Sunday Brunch at Sheraton Bangalore not only for the food, but the excellent ambiance (includes a live band playing too) and overall experience. At the end of the meal, I felt fat and content like a pig, came back home and crashed for the rest of the day while dreaming about the awesome burgers and desserts.

Food Mood: Korean Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore

It’s always exciting to try out a new cuisine. The experience of new flavours, new combinations of vegetables, meat and spices that one has never experienced before is something else altogether. You go in with a sense of excitement not knowing whether you’ll come out loving it or hating it.  Big thanks to the folks at the Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway for inviting some of the bloggers and me to be among the first few people to try out the spread at their Korean Food Festival.

Feast
Looking to add to their multi-cuisine spread, Feast at the Sheraton Bangalore is looking to try something unconventional by introducing the flavours of Korea to the Indian palate. Driven by Chef Link Chan Jae Chung and Shane Yun-Gi Hong from the Sheraton Seoul D Cube city Hotel, the meal is designed to be authentically Korean with no tailoring of the taste to match the average Indian’s taste buds. Chef Marty and Chef Link spent some time with the bloggers at the table to explain some of the philosophy and nuances behind the food and give us a glimpse into what is popular in Korea.

Chef Link and Chef Marty
I learnt a lot about the general landscape of food in Korea. Did you know that Kimchi, which is the national dish of Korea, comes in 200 varieties? It’s even shipped in cans across the world. Some Koreans are very finicky about their Kimchi to a point where they would carry their own when they travel. A lot of the Korean food is prepared keeping its medicinal value in mind. The people there are very proud of that – this pride is strengthened by the fact that when the bird flu hit Asia a few years ago, no one in Korea was affected. They say they owe it all to their Kimchi which is had with every meal.

The meal that evening was kept completely authentic to what one would eat in Korea. It was ensured that dishes that did not have the required ingredients were kept off the menu, rather than replace it with the locally available equivalent. I started off the evening with a Korean Spicy Squid Soup. While the spice levels were mild, the overwhelming taste of seafood came through, which may not go down well with a lot of people. I was neutral to the taste.

Korean Spicy Squid Soup
For the main course, I started off with a helping of the Braised Pork Belly with Kimchi. The pork had been put into a pot with the kimchi hours prior to being served. This allowed it to soak in the flavours and have an even taste across both the meat and the vegetable. The pork itself was quite lean and stripped off a lot of the fat. I know a lot of people who prefer a lot of fat on their pork, but this variant was quite alright by me. Definitely one of the must try dishes on the menu. The Sweet and Sour Pork tasted nice although it was outdone by the Pork Belly. The taste was very familiar to a lot of the regular Chinese dishes I've had in the past, so nothing much to write home about.

Braised Pork Belly with Kimchi

Sweet and Sour Pork

We were even served a helping of Korean Mini- Pancakes which were had a very interesting taste to it.The Korean Hot and Spicy Chicken had a nice taste on the outside but was completely bland and tasteless on the inside. I wasn’t sure if this was the way the dish was supposed to be made, but it honestly did nothing for me. This was the weakest dish on the entire menu.


Korean Mini-pancakes

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Another beauty on the menu was the Japachae Stir Fried Noodles. The vegetarian noodles had a vermicelli-like finish and were made out of sweet potato. Mixed with a light soya sauce and vegetables, this dish offered a completely new taste which I enjoyed. I think everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike enjoyed this. We also tried the Kimchi Vegetarian Fried Rice which was sticky rice with a tomato-soya taste to eat. I rather enjoyed combining this with the pork.

Japachae Stir Fried Noodles

Kimchi Fried Rice

I also got to try the Dong Chimi Korean Water Kimchi. I’ll be honest in saying that I’m used to a certain tangy flavour of Kimchi that one gets at most Asian restaurants here. This was one of those new flavours that I didn’t quite enjoy. I also tried the Konguksu which is a cold noodles with soya broth. This dish hit a home run with the taste buds as it was quite similar to kheer, without the excessive sugar obviously. Korean cuisine finds a bit of similarity with Japanese and Chinese cuisine. This was clear from the Korean Kimbap and Guklyonpan wraps which were very similar to sushi. We also got to have some dumplings.

Water Kimchi

Konguksu

Korean Kimbap

The next dish that we had was the Bibimbap. This is a traditional Korean dish made in most households. It consists of a helping of boiled rice with various vegetables, mixed together with a Gochujang Sauce. This sauce is essentially a hot pepper sauce whose potency and flavour varies based on how long it is fermented. Typical households allow this sauce to ferment in earthen pots for at least three years before it’s used. Some of the sauces are known to sit for up to fifty years before it’s used. Who would have thought that even chilli sauces were made to ferment like wine and whiskey? I enjoyed this particular dish very much. The taste was quite spicy and was a complete contradiction to the more subtle dishes that we had had so far. A definite must try in my book.

Bibimbap
We started the dessert chapter with some Korean Green Tea. This was a twist on the traditional green tea, with the addition of a lot of spices such as ginger and cinnamon. There were some other ingredients which gave it a milky taste. The Honey Rice Cake and the Baek Seol Ki are traditional Korean desserts, these had no sugar what so ever. The very mild sweetness to both left me without the satisfaction of having any dessert. That was taken care of by the Song Pyon. This was like a sweet dumpling with a nice soft layer on the outside and a sweet filling on the inside. Overall, the desserts were not too sweet.

Korean Green Tea

Baek Seol Ki

Song Pyon

So what’s the final verdict on Korean cuisine? I enjoyed the fact that despite eating so much, the meal did not feel heavy on the tummy, something synonymous with typical Mughlai food. The flavours are very natural and closer to the Japanese style of cooking. The one thing vegetarians do have to look out is the oil that is used to cook a lot of these dishes. Do remember to ask the chef for that same to be cooked in a vegan style so as to avoid the fish oil. That being said, there are more than enough vegetarian dishes for folks to try out. While Bangalore has a few relatively unknown Korean restaurants, this addition to the spread at Feast should help with the promotion of this very tasty cuisine in the city. Some of the flavours were very new. While I did enjoy most of them, there were a few that may take some getting used to.

 If you’re willing to experiment and open your taste buds to a whole new world of possibilities, do not miss the Korean Food Festival happening at Feast at the Sheraton Bangalore at Brigade Gateway. The festival is on till the 25th of February. The buffet is priced at Rs. 1395+taxes for lunch and at Rs. 1545+taxes for dinner. Kudos to Chef Marty, Chef Link Chan Jae Chung and Shane Yun-Gi Hong for bringing this festival to life.

Food Mood: Nando’s, Church Street, B’lore

I was invited to be a part of a special meal where bloggers would get to preview (or PERi-view in this case) the new Butterfly Chicken Breast meal at Nando’s. After being greeted by the delightful Shambhavi Mishra, our host for the evening, we started off on what was going to be a super few hours of Portuguese food from the kitchen of Nando’s. All the food is driven by their special PERi-PERi sauces that give it a distinct taste.


The appetizers for the evening kicked off with  Hummus, Spicy Mixed Olives, Roasted Veg dip and Pita bread. The Roasted veg dip gave me one of those ‘you had me at hello’ Jerry Maguire moments where I instantly fell in love. We were also served Chicken Liver with Portuguese rolls. Not being a liver fan, and seeing what was up next, I stayed away from this dish. But the folks who did eat it really enjoyed it. The final appetizer just made me fall in love with the place.

Hummus, Spicy mixed Olves, Roasted Veg Dip and Pita Bread


We were served Chicken Wings in a variety of PERi-PERi heats. The wings were done to perfection and the spice just lit up some fireworks in my mouth. Despite the fact that there was a main-course, I just lost it and sampled all the varieties and added extra hot sauces. Do NOT miss out on the wings when you go to Nando’s. Do be a bit cautious on the hot sauces though.

Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings

PERi-PERi Hot Sauce

We were also offered salads that included Fresh Tomato, Nando’s PERi-olives, mixed peppers, cucumber, onions on a bed of crisp lettuce. It all sounded too healthy to me and I stayed away. Well, those chicken wings were not going to finish themselves were they? Somebody had to eat them.

Salad

For the main course, we started off with the Espetada Rustica. Don’t get intimidated by the name. The dish consists of tender marinated chicken thighs stuffed with sundried tomatoes, red onions, served on a skewer. Full marks for the presentation of the dish; and full marks for taste. This comes along with sides such as corn and coleslaw that make great additions to the very tender meat. Definitely a ‘must-have’ on the list when I go next.

Espetada Rustica

We were also served the Cataplana Algarve. This item is served in an authentic copper dish with PERi-PERi chicken thighs, grilled peppers and chick peas. The unique flavour of the dish comes from the special cataplana sauce served on a bed of spicy rice. Compared to the rest of the dishes, this was on the milder side when it came to taste. Again, I added more hot sauce. Clearly I was in love with the hot sauces alone. I dont recollect, but I think I poured some drops in the water as well.

Cataplana Algarve

Now for the grand crescendo of the meal – The Butterfly Chicken Breast meal. The chicken was trimmed off all the fat, marinated for twenty four hours, frame grilled and served in a PERi-PERi sauce of your choice. Nandos has their own standards and quality checks for the meats that come into the restaurant. These are done on a regular basis right through-out the supply chain. The high quality was evident from the double breasted chicken in this meal that not only tasted fantastic, but was a joy to easily cut through and eat. While the sauce is already mildly spicy, you may want to ask for something a little more ambitious if you’re up for it. This meal comes with a side of crispy potato wedges and a refreshing drink. This is meal is something I want to go back and try in isolation, without any interference from appetizers. Especially those awesome chicken wings.

Butterfly Chicken Breast Meal

Butterfly Chicken Breast Meal

Chocolate Cake
We closed the meal with a slice of chocolate cake with layers of home-made butter cream. I do believe my stomach was vigorously waving a white flag and refused to take in any more food. It was a fantastic evening of great food with great company. I’m definitely putting Nando’s on the list of places I would recommend to people for great chicken wings. 


Food Mood: Cafe Max

I’ve been meaning to put this up for some time now, but better late than never. We wanted to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthday and use that occasion to try out a new joint for lunch. We settled on Cafe Max located at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Bengaluru. It was the best choice we could make because, I have now found a new favourite place that I would surely recommend to people.

Cafe Max
Located on the terrace, the restaurant has ample natural light and fresh breeze pouring in. They’ve not made too much of an effort to publicize the place, hence there was a small number of people when we went. I hear it’s normally crowded in the evenings. We ordered ourselves a few drinks which included Sangria. The Sangria is worth mentioning here because the fruits seem to have a tinge of some masala, giving you a very mild spicy hit as you drink it down. The drink was cold and hit the spot. My friend also tried the Fresh Orange Mojito which was quite refreshing too. 

We ordered three starters. The first was a plate of Chicken Skewers. The chicken skewers were marinated in orange juice, giving the dish a nice tangy citrus taste. The chicken itself was cooked perfectly allowing the meat to be really soft and absorb all the orange juice. We also ordered a plate of Spanish Coastal-style Prawns. These were prawns stir fried in olive oil with spring onions, garlic and chili. While I normally love prawns in any style, this dish didn't strike a great chord with me. The reason would be predominantly because the taste of olive oil lingered long after I had finished the prawn. The prawns themselves were done fairly alright maintaining the right amount of crunch. 

Chicken Skewers

Spanish Coastal-style Prawns
Now for the champion of the starters. We ordered a plate of Bratwurst ‘snail style’. This typical German sausage made of pork was the yummiest thing we had eaten so far. The meat was really soft, had the right amount of spice and was absolutely fabulous with the mustard sauce that was served. Thank god for the sausage because it took care of the lingering taste of olive oil in my mouth. While the dish was pricey, it was completely worth it. The sausages here are a definite recommendation from my side. I intend to try out all the varieties on the menu over the next few months.

Bratwurst
As far as the main course goes, I ordered a plate of Salmon ‘Denmark Style'. I've very rarely come across salmon in India, so I jumped at the chance of trying it here considering the sausage had set very high expectations. And I was not disappointed. The grilled salmon came with sautéed potatoes, which were simply awesome and vegetables. The fish itself was done perfectly leaving all the right taste of the salmon intact. Thankfully, they didn't ruin the natural flavour of salmon with too much oil or spices. 

Salmon 'Denmark Style'

Salmon 'Denmark Style'

Onto the second best part of the meal – dessert. Yes, we had room for dessert. We started with a slice of the Walnut Chocolate Pie which was..... OHMYGAWD.....so delicious. After a delicious meal of salmon, the lovely taste of chocolate which was not too sweet was just what the doctor ordered. We also tried a slice of the Lemon Pie. And that was..... OHMYGAWDTAKEMENOW. I kid you not, if I had died of a cardiac arrest at that moment, I would have been so happy that the lemon pie was the last thing I had tasted. It was sweet and tangy with a nice hazelnut base and was very light on the tummy. I have no words to describe the awesome desserts.

Walnut Chocolate Pie

Lemon Pie
I love Cafe Max now and hope to go there soon. If you do go to Cafe Max, do not miss out on the sausages and the desserts. Located on CMH Road, Cafe Max is ideal for a nice lazy weekend brunch. While service isn't the quickest, the ambience and food makes you want to stay longer. So it really doesn't bother you. Depending on how much you eat, a meal for two should cost around Rs.1500. But I can promise you that you’ll come back loving the place. 

Food Mood: Tim Tai

I was completely excited to meet fellow food evangelists to try out the fare at Tim Tai, the relatively new pan-Asian cuisine joint in Koramangala. The place has been open for a few months now and every time I would drive past it, I always thought how bright the entire place was. And that’s the very first thing that hits you when you enter the restaurant. Besides the large tree in the middle of the room, which doubles up as a very neat dining area, a lot of trouble has gone into ensuring the colours immediately lift your mood. It’s a stark difference from most restaurants I have been to recently that have fairly muted lighting. While the open kitchen makes the place a tad noisy, you soon get used to it. 

Bright Interiors
Men at work
We ordered a variety of mock tails including raspberry ice teas, cinnamon and orange mixes and more. We began the meal with a Chicken Tom Kha soup. This mildly spicy soup with lemon grass, galangal and lime leaves really hit the spot. I have been recovering from a cold and blocked nose, but the aroma of the soup took care of that almost immediately. I shamelessly took a second helping of the soup. I don’t know what it is about my love-affair with soups at almost all the places I visit. This is a definite must have on my list the next time I go there.

Chicken Tom Kha Soup


The meal continued with a tangy Raw Mango Salad which had the quintessential Thai taste. The onions with the peanuts and the raw mango were a superb combination that left a nice taste in the mouth. With all my senses being cleared up thanks to the soup, the salad was even tastier, a definite must-have from their list of signature dishes. We also had the Green Tomato Salad which came with grilled prawns with a hint of lime and chilli. My aversion to tomatoes did not help me enjoy the salad. This was despite having grilled prawns which were done quite well. 

Raw Mango Salad

Green Tomato Salad with Grilled Prawns
Next up was a variety of Dim sums and Momos including chicken, prawn, corn and spinach and more. Each of these very nice and fresh and we all had to make a conscious effort not to binge on them lest we not have space for the main course. We closed the appetizers with Prawn Skewers which were quite alright, but pale in comparison compared to the Dim sums and Momos. 




Prawn Skewers
For the main course, we had the Thai Chilli Basil noodles which had a lovely soya taste and aroma to it. This was accompanied by Fried Rice. The main side dish was the Lamb with Black Bean Sauce and Bamboo Shoots. This was a nice mildly spicy dish that really complimented both the rice and the noodles. The lamb was cut into fine slices and was cooked long enough to allow the gravy to enter the meat, evening out the taste.



Lamb in Black Bean Sauce
If your mouth isn’t watering already, here’s the most memorable part of the meal – the desserts. (Yes, plural) I started off with the Coconut Panna Cotta with Berry Compote. While the Panna Cotta was perfect, I did not enjoy the stark contrasting dominating taste of the berries. It didn’t do justice to the Panna Cotta. Now to the ice creams. We were offered a variety of Ice creams which included exotic flavours such as Orange Lemongrass, Chocolate Chilli and Kaffir Lime. All three were simply brilliant and soon made me forget what the berries had done to the Panna Cotta. Some of the other folks tried a very fancy looking dessert of water chestnuts with coconut milk, but I stuck to my ice creams. We also got a helping of Green Tea Fried Ice Cream with White Chocolate Sauce which was very unique.  The good part is that Tim Tai makes the ice cream in-house, so you probably won’t find a similar taste elsewhere. The elaborate meal ended with tiny chocolate paans.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Berry Compote

Kaffir Lime Ice Cream

Orange Lemongrass Ice Cream

Green Tea Fried Ice Cream with White Chocolate
I must say we all ate a lot that evening. But it was so worth it. Tim Tai is definitely one of the places I would recommend for someone looking out for a nice evening of good food at a place with a very cheerful ambiance. The staff was fairly courteous to us, food was served hot and the portions were quite filling. Located near the Sukh Sagar in Koramangala, Tim Tai is the new destination for good pan-Asian cuisine. A meal for two should cost around Rs.1000 – Rs.1200, provided you didn’t eat the way we did. I recommend booking a table in advance as the place was packed even on a Tuesday evening despite the rain. 

I’ve not even covered the vegetarian section but even that looked equally impressive. Do not miss having the Tom Yum soup and the Raw Mango Salad.

Food Mood: The Dyu Art Cafe

One of the few things that make me really happy is when I stumble upon an eating joint that I fall in love with, and the people I recommend it to try it, and love it too. The Dyu Art Cafe in Koramangala is one such place. Three people I know went here based on my recommendation and fell in love with the place. So yaay!

The Dyu Art Cafe is a quaint little cafe located in the gully just after the Mangala Kalyana Mantappa in Koramangala. A small old-style house converted into an eating joint offers patrons a cosy outdoor setting in the courtyard area to enjoy some yummy sandwiches and hot beverages. The menu isn't as elaborate as most other coffee shops I've been to, but whatever they do make tastes really good. I started off with the Chicken Club Sandwich which came layered with shredded chicken, egg, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and cheese. Everything was put together in just the right quantities such that none of the ingredients overpowered the taste of the other. Even the egg flavour was muted. The sandwich left a lovely minty taste in the mouth. This is definitely the one things you should order when you go here. This was accompanied with a Cappuccino that had a lovely aroma to it, and thick froth on top.

Chicken Club Sandwich

Chicken Club Sandwich

Cappucino
I moved on to have a pretty neat Chicken Omelette which was cooked really well. The amount of chicken was impressive and the cheese simply melted in your mouth. The omelette comes with brown bread and a generous lob of butter for those who feel like putting on some pounds. I closed the meal with one of the best Hot Chocolates I've had in Bengaluru in a long time.

Chicken Omelette

Hot Chocolate
Being a small cafe, they are understaffed. While this made service just a tad slow, Dyu Art Cafe is not a place you go when you’re in a hurry. It’s a cute joint that’s best suited for long conversations with friends, significant others or just some quiet time to catch up on a book. Now where’s the art? The cafe also doubles up as a venue to look at the work by some of the city’s artists and painters. The overall lazy feel of the cafe just adds to the good food. My pick would be the Chicken Club Sandwich and the Hot Chocolate. The entire meal cost me under Rs.400 which I thought was a steal. Do check out the Dyu Art Cafe – my new favourite cafe.

Food Mood: Berry'd Alive

I know a lot of people get extremely personal about their love for dessert and the places they go to for it, so I’m not going to judge. Berry’d Alive is one of my favourite destinations when it comes to desserts. We discovered this place a few years ago and visit it fairly often now. Why? Because we enjoy the extensive menu, the desserts that don’t have high amounts of sweet and the fact that we almost always get a table to sit. Choosing off the menu is always a daunting task for us.

The typical strategy when going to Berry’d Alive is that we order separate desserts and share. I however am a stubborn pig and always order the same dish all the time - the Hazelnut Crème Pot. I simply love this dessert. I really enjoy how the hazelnut cream mixes with the nutty baked pot and the chocolate. It’s almost as though I am addicted to this dessert. This is a Berry’d Alive signature treat. And I recommend this to anyone who goes there.

Hazelnut Creme Pot

Hazelnut Creme Pot
We also tried the Raspberry and Coconut Panna Cotta. This was a nice layered dish with the raspberry on top having a very strong dominating taste when compared to the rest of the dessert. If you’re not a fan of the taste of raspberry, I recommend you stay away from this one. 

Raspberry and Coconut Panna Cotta
Next up is the Dark Chocolate Delice. This dish is another one of those that blows your mind if you’re a chocolate lover. The dish is essentially thick dark chocolate pudding set over a crackling chocolate. Served cold, this is one awesome chocolate concoction.

Dark chocolate Delice
We also ordered a Brownie & a Bombe. This one is a mix if creamy vanilla ice cream with caramel and a well made chocolate brownie. If I had to choose the weakest player among what we ordered, this would be it. Its taste is yummy, but nothing that stands out and makes you want to order a second. This may also be true because I have a heavy bias towards the Hazelnut Crème Pot.

Brownie & a Bombe
Located, at the 12th Main Road in Indiranagar, Berry’d alive is definitely one the ‘must visit’ places on your list if you’re a dessert lover. Each dessert is priced between Rs. 120 to Rs.150. You know what I recommend when you go there. 

Food Mood: The Hole in the Wall

 I’ve been meaning to do a review of The Hole in the Wall for quite some time now. This is one of my favourite breakfasts spots in town, and has been right from the time they were a tiny outfit that barely managed to fit four tables. I went on a weekday and luckily was spared of the long wait to get a seat at the restaurant. People waiting in lines to get in are always a good sign for a restaurant.

Once we got a table and went through the extensive menu, my friend ordered The All English Breakfast. This comes with sausages, bacon, two fried eggs, baked beans sautéed mushrooms, mash potato and grilled tomatoes. The meal was a work of art that almost made me want to order one for myself. The bacon was done perfectly with the right amount of crisp and the right amount of fat. The sausages were nice and salty and went well with the meal. The one thing I like about this place is that a lot of care is taken while cooking the eggs to ensure the right amount of gooiness to ensure it doesn’t make the meal a messy affair.

The All English Breakfast

I ordered the Hole Nine Yards Hash. This dish was a combination of diced hash browns, ham, chicken, salami and sausage tossed with sautéed onions, capsicum and mushrooms. This was topped with two fried eggs. The onions and capsicum are the dominating flavours in this dish. It has a little bit of everything for meat lovers like me. I liked the English Breakfast better to be honest.We topped off the meal with some nice Hot Chocolate. 

The Hole Nine Yards Hash
Hot Chocolate
The food at The Hole in the Wall is superb. They specialize in breakfast and people looking to have an early light meal. If you are planning to go there on a weekend, please do go early as you may have to wait for a fair bit otherwise. The menu is extensive, the staff is courteous and despite the number of people waiting outside, you’re never made to rush through a meal. The restaurant is located opposite Ooty Chocolates in Koramangala. A meal for two would normally work out to around Rs.500. Do NOT miss eating here at any cost.


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.