A Taste of Israel, at the Aloft Cessna Business Park

One of the countries that is sitting on my list of ‘Places to travel’, with the driving force being the food of the region, is Israel. Israeli cuisine brings together flavours from the Mediterranean cuisine, the middle-eastern cuisine and the Levantine cuisine. While I’ve had my fair share at restaurants abroad, there’s nothing like having a chef from the region put together a festival in one’s own backyard. The Nook, at Aloft Cessna Business Park is playing host to Chef Shachar Aschengrau, a culinary expert from the port city of Haifa, who is leveraging local produce to put together a feast that showcases contemporary Israeli flavours.

Chef Aschengrau (L) with Chef Sandeep (R)

Along with fellow food enthusiasts, I was invited on the opening day of the festival to sample the food and interact with the Chef. While dinner was being set up, we were served appetizers that included Vegetable Shashlik, Chickpea dumplings, Mushroom Kibbeh and Fish in Beer. The stand out dish was the Cinnamon Sheekh, succulent meat on sticks of cinnamon that offered a lovely spicy flavour, leaving the lovely taste of cinnamon to take over one’s mouth. 

Cinnamon Sheekh

At the dinner table, we were served a variety of breads including the popular pita bread, the challah, the shabbat, and my favourite of the lot, the Jerusalem bagel; these were accompanied by an Israeli salad and a variety of dips each with a distinct flavour that covered everything from citrus, to mint, to spice. One of the stand-out dips was the Amba, a tangy mixture of mangoes, mustard, and spices. This popular middle-eastern condiment derives its name from the Sanskrit term for mango. 

While most of us were occupied with polishing off the bread and dips, we were served a rather large and gnarly looking cauliflower that I was certain had been mutated and would come alive at any point. This Baked Cauliflower was a simple dish of, as the name indicates, a baked cauliflower with spices on top. Despite its appearance, the dish actually tasted nice with the flavour of the vegetable with the mild spices on top working well together. This was followed by a rather tasty combination of grilled aubergines with Tabbouleh.

When one thinks of food from Israel, traditional dishes that immediately come to mind would be the falafel and hummus. Looking to showcase how hummus is consumed very differently back home, as compared to how most folks have the dish, Chef Aschengrau had a small master class where he demonstrated how hummus is had back home. With a variety of toppings including whole boiled chickpeas, boiled egg, chilli, pine nuts, onions, lemon-spiked tahini and more, hummus has evolved to suit the more contemporary palate that seeks out more flavour and textures. Soon enough, everyone in the room was looking make their own versions of the dish.


The main course featured traditional dishes like Tahini , Baba ghanoush, Fattoush and more. Accompanying the Shwarma and the Falafel were Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, Stuff Chicken, Baked Fish and the Israeli Rice Pilaf. Dessert included a platter of various tiny desserts and candies that made one feel like a kid in a candy store. A favourite of mine among the dessert was the relatively simple yet satisfying dish of figs and fresh cream. I should have stopped at two, but no one seemed too concerned, so I had about four. The team at Aloft put together a bit of a show with putting together various little sweet knick-knacks like cake, macaroons, chocolate and candy and sprinkling it with dry ice. I hadn’t any space left to try that out.

Chef Aschengrau has a relatively extensive arsenal of dishes that one can try out during the festival that runs till the 28th of the month. Dishes from this menu will be available for both lunch and dinner along with the regular buffet at Nook. This is a festival I do recommend to the vegetarians especially for the tasty spread of dips, hummus, salads and bread from Israel.

Fatty Bao Turns 2

Fatty Bao  turns 2, and to celebrate the occasion, the team has put together a special menu - the Fatty Travel Tales menu, that brings together some of the stand-out flavours from ten countries across South East and East Asia.

Chilli Eggplant and Tofu

Kimchi Fries

Carbon Tiger Prawn Tempura

Covering countries from Cambodia, to Japan, to Singapore to Indonesia, the festival offers an array of dishes, each with their own distinct flavours. Accompanying the dishes are six cocktails. The stand out dish from the menu, my favourite was the Sakura Winter dessert.

Cheng Fung

Marina Bay

Silk Route

Bicol Express

Raindrop Cake

Sakura Winter

Sakura Winter

The festival is on till the 28th of August. You could also win some tickets, courtesy Tigerair to allow you to head to Singapore to try out some of the fabulous food the city has to offer. A meal for two should work out to around INR 2500.

The Soup and Dim sum festival, Hunan

During the monsoons, there’s probably nothing more comforting than a cup of hot masala tea with fresh onion pakodas. Dishes that are apt for this kind of weather include samosas, fresh idlis, Maggi noodles and more. Adding to the usual suspects, keeping the emotions that a hot dish on a cold wet day should evoke, Hunan has put together a festival to celebrate soups and dim sums. I was invited along with fellow food enthusiasts to try out this menu.

That evening saw the city witness particularly intense rains (and the traffic jam that comes along with monsoons) that had me raring to go. Our evening began with the Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup, a Thai inspired vegetarian soup that hit the spot immediately. Strong flavours of carrot, coconut milk, spices with the crunchiness of peanuts made this an ideal soup to kick off the evening. I would have preferred if the carrot and sweet potato were a little crunchier to add some more texture to the soup. 
The first dim sums we sampled was the Bok Choy and Mushroom Money Pouch followed by the Truffle Scented Edamame dumpling. I enjoyed the latter a lot more owing to the more subtle salty flavour of the edamame which with the dipping sauce was a lot closer to the flavours I enjoy.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Bok Choy and Mushroom Money Pouch

Truffle Scented Edemame Dumpling

The Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup was my favourite from the evening. What hit the home run with the soup was the flavourful broth which was a chicken consommé with soya. The combination of that broth with the light noodles, the tender chicken leg and vegetables ticked all the boxes in my book. To balance out the meaty flavours of the broth, we were served the Vegan Vietnamese Spring Roll, a healthy and very sober option of crunchy vegetables wrapped in rice paper with a lovely spicy hoisin peanut sauce. 

Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup

Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup

Vegan Vietnamese Spring Roll
The Sweet and Sour Tofu Soup with Crabmeat was a bit of a miss in my book, predominantly because the strong tangy flavours overpowered the natural flavours of the crab. The sampling session was back on track with the Chicken Meatballs with Prawn Wanton Soup, a light clear soup that highlighted the simple flavours of the chicken and prawn. This was my second favourite soup of the evening. I would have preferred to have started the evening with this soup rather than with the sweet potato and carrot. 

Chicken Meatballs with Prawn Wonton Soup
Another big highlight of the evening was the Cocktail rolls with Chicken and Prawns. While by themselves, these crispy rolls offered good meaty flavours, it was the chilli and mango dipping sauce that accompanied the dish pushed it to a whole new level. It brought back fond memories of the Chilli Orange Marmalade dipping sauce from my New Orleans trip. Borrowing the tagline of a fast food brand, the rolls with the dipping sauce were ‘finger-licking-good’. Don’t miss ordering this one.

Cocktail Rolls with Chicken and Prawn

Some of the other dishes such as the Sesame Chicken Potstickers, the Chicken Steamed Bao and the Taro Puff with Chicken didn’t offer me flavours that made me sit up and take notice, and want to go back for seconds. We were also served a Khow Suey but I was too full to have more than a couple of spoons. An honourable runner up to the Cocktail rolls was the Crunchy Wanton Ribbon Prawns. The marinated prawns were served in a little wanton cage like package that allowed spicy honey mustard sauce to coat not just the outer wanton but the prawn as well, making this a strong flavoured dish.

Crunchy Wanton Ribbon Prawns

Khow Suey

 The final dish of the main course, the best for last was the Pork Flower Dumplings. Rolled into the shape of a flower, with a pork filling in between the petals, a sweet soya sauce is poured over the dumpling. Eaten in one go, the flower dumpling held the sauce and was a perfect end to the meal. Definitely a ‘must-have’ in my books. Dessert was a relatively simple affair with chocolate spring rolls and ice cream.

Pork Flower Dumplings

Pork Flower Dumplings

Coming in at the right season, the Soup and Dim Sum Festival offers an excellent mix of subtle and strong flavours to suit every palate. Considering the fine dining experience that Hunan offers, I feel the prices are just right with soups and dumplings priced at an average of INR 300. The festival is on till the end of August, only at the Koramangala branch of Hunan. My top three picks for the evening would be the Chicken Drumstick with Noodle Soup, the Cocktail rolls with Chicken and Prawns and the Pork Flower Dumplings.

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 Dragon Boat Festival at Yauatcha

A little over a week ago, I was invited to Yauatcha at 1 MG mall in Bangalore (Nope, not the Michelin-starred one in London) to sample and review the fare from their on-going Dragon Boat Festival. The menu is built around Zongzi and is offered with a variety of fillings. For the uninitiated, Zongzi is more popularly known as the sticky rice dumpling - sticky rice stuffed with various fillings and wrapped in a leaf , it is then either steamed or boiled.

While I waited for the first dish to be served, I tried out the Citrus Spritz, a cocktail, on the menu. Combining the flavours of vodka, dry vermouth, lime and Chandon Brut, the cocktail wasn't particularly great. I've never been a big fan of spritzer(ish) cocktails in general; this one didn’t help change my mind. The cocktail was quite bitter, lacked the freshness that one would normally associate with a spritzer and wasn't good when paired with the food that was served.

I started off with the Lamb and Pine Nuts Dumpling, tender lamb with a sweet soya flavour was the plus point of this dish. The pine nuts were soft and offered nothing in terms of flavour or texture. The Pork Belly with Shiitake mushrooms had strong flavours of both ingredients, I do wish the pieces of the pork were larger in size, and would have pushed this dish to the top of my favourites. My favourite for the evening was the Chicken Dumpling that came with Cashew Nuts. While it may the familiarity of the flavours of chicken and cashew when it comes to an Asian meal, this particular dumpling stood out of the pack. I did go back for seconds on this one.

The Chicken and Prawn dumpling was a bit disappointing with the flavour and aroma of the prawn completely taking over the entire dumpling. I personally found this a tad too dry and had to dip it in some chilli sauce to make it a little more palpable. While the prawns themselves were nice and crunchy, the chicken didn’t add any value to the dish. The vegetarian section was a tad disappointing. I had heard great things about the edamame and vegetarian duck dumpling, but found the taste a bit too sweet and the texture quite soapy. The asparagus one wasn't something to write home about.  

Post copious amounts of sticky rice, I was looking forward to some relief in terms of dessert, and that came in the form of the Wine-soaked water chestnut and mango cake with Sauvignon Sorbet. Great presentation on the dish with the sorbet standing out in terms of flavour. The mango cake with the crunchy chocolate base was blissful. While it wasn't something that pushed the boundaries in terms of flavour or innovation, the dessert was comforting and hit all the right places. It is without a doubt, the hero of the festival.

The festival is on till the end of June, and is offered along with the regular menu at Yauatcha. My recommendations would be the Chicken and Cashew Nut Dumpling, followed by the dessert. I give the festival a 2.5/5.

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.

Bene meets the Persian Terrace at sea, the Sheraton Grand

Bringing two of my favourite cuisines together, the Sheraton Grand is mixing it up at their on-going sea food festival by bringing together Italian flavours from Bene with Mediterranean flavours from The Persian Terrace. I was invited to try out some of the dishes at the opening night of the festival. Readers of the blog know how much I love Mediterranean food and the flavours it offers. The evening meal commenced with an appetizer which brought together watermelon, feta cheese and prawns in a herb salad. On my current obsession to have salads with every meal, watermelon and feta cheese is one of my all-time favourites.  Throw in some prawns, what’s not to like? The dressing of the appetizer offered strong tamarind flavours, like a chaat. While tamarind powder finds a miniscule place in some Mediterranean cooking, I wouldn’t classify the dish under that umbrella. All that aside, it was a lovely little appetizer and I’m planning to try and make it at home… without the prawns alas. 

This was followed by a serving of Spanish Garlic Prawns. While the flavour was good and the dish looked absolutely appetizing, the crunchiness of the prawns was a bit uneven. Of the three prawns served, two of them had the perfect crunch one expects of such a dish; while the third seemed to have been overcooked just a little more than required. The familiar flavour of the light garlic sauce was polished off with the toasted ciabatta that accompanied the dish.

Next up were the soups. We started off with a Mediterranean soup – the Ghalieh Mahi, a spicy herb soup. One sip in and I was thoroughly disappointed by the flavour. Very reminiscent of a spinach based lentil dish that we make in South India, the soup did nothing in terms of flavour to make me enjoy it. I took a few more sips and that was about all I could take of the soup. The silver lining – the serving was small, so I did not feel guilty about wasting it. The next soup however was something very similar to what I had had at Bene a couple of years ago. The Italian style Market Seafood Soup was a winner with strong Italian flavours of seafood that packed a punch. I loved this the first time I had this, and still do. Unlike the former, this soup left me wanting just a little bit more to tease my taste buds.

The first main course was Moroccan seafood Tagine with Cous Cous. A dish that could have been perfect if not for the slightly over cooked prawns which I thought was calamari. In terms of flavour, the sauce with the citrus cous cous was delightful. But nothing like a meat not done to perfection to take away all the good work that went into the dish. The second main course was very enjoyable; a Mixed Grill of Seafood with Greek Salad and Crusty bread. The grilled prawn displayed in its shell brought a certain rustic look to the dish. The dish was simple with a whole lot of natural flavours in every bit of seafood.  A simple classic dish.

Dessert was my favourite part of the meal. The one thing I always recommend to folks going to Bene is to try the Bene Classic Tiramisu. Packed with flavour and a slight alcohol tinge when you put a spoon of it into your mouth, makes this one of my favourite dishes at Bene. Needless to say, I polished this off quickly. And while in hindsight I should have said no, I polished off a second plate from another blogger at the table who said she wouldn’t be eating any more than a few spoons. Well, I can never say no to anyone offering me food. The evening came to an end with a fine espresso.

The dinners at the food festival are prices at INR 2500 (without the paired wines) and INR 3250 (with the paired wines). Besides the set menu that comprises of both Italian and Mediterranean spread, the festival also offers a variety from their ‘Catch of the day’ market that can be cooked to your liking. The Italian flavours came out more strongly than the Mediterranean flavours. Considering my bias to the latter, I felt a tad disappointed. Don’t miss the seafood soup and the tiramisu should you head here. The festival is on till the end of the week.

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 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.

The Indian Culinary Route - The Bangalore Marriott Hotel Whitefield

Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the last of the empire’s warlords in the Star Wars universe says in the ‘Heir to the Empire’ book that the study of his enemies' artwork gives him insight into their thought processes and cultures. To me and a lot of other folks, food is art. The ability to use local spices and ingredients to create magical mouth-watering dishes is nothing short of taking a blank canvas and putting a masterpiece together. If we run with my belief that good food is art, even someone like Grand Admiral Thrawn would have been bamboozled by the spread at the’ Indian Culinary Routefestival organized by the Bangalore Marriott Hotel Whitefield.

The festival brings together 12 chefs from 12 different Marriott properties across India, with every chef bringing with them cuisine unique to that region. This interesting showcase of the diversity of Indian culture offers dishes from various cuisines including Rajasthani, Awadhi, Hyderabadi, Chettinad, Goan, Punjabi and many more. Every chef had a little stall to themselves where they would showcase some of the prize dishes that are synonymous with the region.

The 12 chefs from across the Marriott group

The chefs with bloggers for the evening
This spread is one the largest I’ve seen. I had to be prudent and show a lot of self-control to sample smaller portions so as to maximize the number of dishes I ate. I also decided (quite shockingly) not to drink anything but water that evening. I started off with the Goan section and particularly the Goan spicy beef curry with pav bread. This was the Virendar Sehwag of the meal and came out all guns blazing smashing boundaries with the excellent balance of spice and pepper. The meat was done well enough to be mildly chewy and simply blew my taste buds away with the overall flavour. I also had the fish and calamari which were less than average when compared to the fabulous beef curry. The evening was off to a promising start.

Goan Spicy Curry

Next, I hit the Rajasthani section to try out some of the dishes there with the chutneys and especially the laal maas. There was this particular garlic chutney that offered a lovely taste yet was not strong enough to keep the vampires away.  The spice in the laal maas was tempered down owing to the large foreign crowd at the festival. This seemed to be a theme across some of the dishes in the other counters that I was expecting would be spicy. I was looking forward to some ker sangri in this section. While there wasn’t any on display, the chef was kind enough to make a batch for us. My love for this dish continues.

Laal Maas

I moved on to the Delhi section to indulge myself in some Delhi style chaat. While the flavour was closer to what one would get on the streets of Delhi as compared to what one gets locally, the lowered spice levels was a bit of a disappointment. There was a raw papaya salad in the Delhi stall that was among the dishes that stood out that evening. However, the best was yet to come.

Dahi Paapdi Chaat

The Maharashtrian stall was up next, and one particular dish at this stall pretty much sealed the deal for the evening. The Mutton Pandhara was a lovely dish made from chilli seeds and coconut milk. The mutton was cooked fabulously with the meat effortlessly falling off the bone. Combined with the sweet taste of coconut milk and the mild hint of chilli as the gravy goes down, this dish was my favourite for the evening. Everything about this dish was absolutely perfect. Followed by some hot poories with Shrikand, the Maharashtrian stall was the best among the stalls that evening.

Mutton Pandhara with poori and Shrikand

A vegetarian dish made from Brinjal
While I was tempted to go back for more of the mutton, better senses prevailed and I tried a variety of dishes from the other stalls including some kakori and shammi kababs from the Lucknow stall, an extremely heavy butter chicken from the Punjabi stall, kozhi roast from the Chettinad stall and a few others. One dish that did catch my attention was the twist on the paddu which was made from chicken and egg which was a completely new flavour altogether. I’ve always had the vegetarian version which I thoroughly enjoy with mint chutney, so it was nice to see some experimentation that paid off.

Kababs from Lucknow


The dessert section had a few pastries and custards, but did not offer anything that grabbed my attention and made me want to go back for seconds. 


This festival was definitely one of the most unique festivals I have been too in terms of the spread and in terms of discovering new tastes. While I did wish I could revert to my former self from three years ago and effortlessly sample all the dishes, from what I did taste, there were some dishes that stood out miles ahead of the others. Namely, the Mutton Pandhara and the Goan Spicy Beef Curry. Folks looking to truly explore India through food must try this festival. Do head over to the Marriott and let me know what dish you loved the most. 

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.

Chettinad Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Grand

There are food festivals and there are food festivals. This one’s the latter. The culinary team at Sheraton Grand (erstwhile Sheraton Bangalore Brigade Gateway) have raised the bar for what a food festival is all about. Focussing on the strong peppery flavours of the Chettinad cuisine, Chef Marty and Chef Sabari travelled into the heart of the region to discover flavours and recipes to put up an authentic chettinad food festival at Feast.

The big difference, besides the fabulous flavours of almost every dish, is the spread of the festival that seems to be almost double of what was on offer during previous festivals. A lot more effort has gone into decorating the restaurant with spices, curry powders, ceramic dolls and more to give one a chettinad feel. Another big difference was the equal proportion of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that kept both camps happy. 

I kicked off the festival with a fabulous crab soup. If ever there was a way to set the pace for the barrage of strong flavours I was going to experience for the rest of the evening, that crab soup was it. Strong on pepper, with a mild helping of spices with really soft crab portions, the soup instantly hits your throat. Some might find the taste of the pepper overwhelming, but I completely enjoyed the flavour. There were quite a few appetizers, each with their own unique flavours served. The Kozhi Kal Chops (chicken leg chop) was another dish strong on pepper and spices with the chicken just coming off the bone very easily. There was also the Nethli Fry, a fish appetizer that missed the mark in my book in terms of really displaying some strong spice. A variety of knick knacks for the vegetarians were excellent too including a masala vada, appam with tomato chutney, dosa and mini-addai (a dosa variant cooked with six types of lentils).

Kozhi Kal Chops

Nethli Fry


Masala Vada and Fried Pepper Mushroom

For the main course, there was a chicken and a mutton dish. While the mutton kurma offered no new tastes as such, the chicken in the pepper gravy was a home run. Loaded with spice and pepper, the chicken dish was cooked brilliantly. The meat was tender and cooked evenly across every piece. What did work for me was the gravy. One bite in and the typical-pepper flavour of chettinad food over-whelmed my taste buds and the aroma even crept into my nose. This gravy was an excellent complement for the mutton biryani which despite looking full of flavour was relatively bland. The buffet also offered a brinjal rice and a veg pulao, both off which gave off wonderful aromas of spice when I walked by.

Chicken in Pepper Sauce

Mutton Biryani

I didn’t try out too many of the vegetarian section as most of the dishes were very familiar. One dish among all caught my eye and I was delighted that it tasted even better than it looked. The Beetroot Kolavurndai, a beetroot dumpling cooked in coconut gravy offered a very unique taste. On the sweeter side owing to the sweetness of the beetroot and coconut, this dish provided much relief in terms of flavour. The texture of the dumpling was soft and while the outer layer had absorbed a lot of the coconut taste, the inside still retained the sweetness of beetroot. This is another example of how vegetarian food can be tasty and inventive too. 

Beetroot Koluvurndai
For the dessert, I took a small helping of the halwa which was average. The second dessert, the Eleneer Payasam (coconut kheer) was light, not too sweet and acted as a nice cleanser to the end of a meal driven by punches of pepper and spice.

Eleneer Payasam

In all honesty, this has been the best food festival at the Sheraton Grand that I have been too. There is clearly a lot more work that has gone into the dishes and the overall theme. This would be the new benchmark for all following festivals at Feast. 

Poush – The Essence of Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine, Cubbon Pavilion at ITC Gardenia

As a part of the ‘Kitchens of India’ theme, the Cubbon Pavilion at the ITC Gardenia is featuring a menu that brings food connoisseurs the flavours from the kitchens of Kashmiri Pandits. As far as Kashmiri food goes, I’ve only had the Wazwan-style of cooking; I was quite eager to taste what new flavours and experience the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine was going to offer. 

The festival, titled Poush - The Essence of  Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine,  kicked off  at a gala dinner accompanied by music from the valley. A few cocktails and starters down, everyone got into the spirit of the evening with most of the crowd singing and dancing along to Kashmiri folk songs. Without saying, there was no dancing from me. I reserve that splendid display only for the baarat at weddings. Without digressing further, I’ll stick to writing about the food. I just want to point out that the pictures of the food were not taken by me and were provided by the hotel's photographer. I wasn't able to take any owing to technical difficulties.

Driving the food festival is Chef Suman Kaul. I was able to spend some time with her to understand what to expect from the evening and a lot more about how the cooking style of the Pandits is different from the more familiar Wazwan-style. It turns out that the Kasmiri Pandits community are among a handful of Pandits in the sub-continent who eat meat as a part of their tradition. No beef though. (I’m very tempted to write a nasty quip on some states banning beef, but…). A big difference between the Wazwan-style of cooking is their emphasis on lamb as opposed to goat. The use of onion and garlic is almost non-existent in this style of cooking.

After downing a few very tasty Whiskey Sours, we kicked off the main course. Naturally, I gravitated to the non-vegetarian section first. I kicked off with a helping of Moush, a spicy minced lamb dumpling with some rice. It was love at first bite. With the bitter-citrus taste of the Whiskey Sour still hanging around my taste buds, the spiciness of the lamb worked some absolute magic. More than the gravy the lamb was cooked in, the actual minced dumpling had some spectacular flavour of spice and saffron coming through. Another blogger and I were commenting that we should have had this dish along with our drinks.  I showed appreciation for the dish in my own caveman-style, with a lot of grunting as I chewed down every morsel and went back for a second helping. 

Next up was the Naine Yekhenie – lamb cooked in a yogurt gravy with a mild hint of saffron. Kudos to the chef on the tenderness of the lamb. I initially did not read what the dish was because the chunks of meat looked fabulous and called out to me. As I ate away, looking at how easy the meat came off the bone and the lovely pink colour of the meat, I complimented the chef on the excellent chicken. This was a big faux pas. Chef Suman was polite enough to inform me that most Kashmiri Pandits consider eating chicken to be an insult of sorts. Lesson learnt. 

To give my tummy a break from all the meat, I tried some of the veg spread.  I sampled the Chamman Qaliya – a soft paneer cooked in a Kashmiri-style yellow gravy and the Kashmiri Dum Aloo. The flavours were not particularly mind-blowing to make me want to go back for a second helping. However, the Nadur Yakhne - lotus stem with Yoghurt was a very interesting dish. I’ve always had lotus stems in a pan-Asian style and this was my first time in an Indian style. The stem was soft with a light crunch and a hint of cardamom coming through with the gravy. While I was not completely sold on the dish, it did enough to make me go back for a second helping.

I went back to the non-vegetarian section and helped myself to some Naine  Roghunjosh -  lamb  cooked in a Kashmiri-style hot gravy and Mooje Gaade – fish cooked in raddish. The former had a more familiar taste similar to what I’ve had before with the Wazwan style. The fish was cooked well and flaked perfectly but I did not relish the raddish gravy, that’s mostly thanks to my irrational dislike to raddish as a vegetable. I did want to try out the lamb ribs, but the tray was clean. I’d normally be kicking myself for not trying out the entire non-veg spread first, but I just drowned my sorrows in another helping of Moush and Naine Yekhenie.

I left just enough space to sample the dessert. The Shuftha, a dish made from assorted dry fruits and saffron hit all the right spots and was the best among the desserts in my opinion. Before I hit the road, I grabbed myself a large mug of Kahwah which helped cleanse the palate after an evening of ‘more than usual’ eating. 

The stars of the spread that evening for me were the Moush and Naine Yekhenie. The Poush festival is on till the 16th, so use your Independence Day time-off to go and sample some of the fabulous flavours of Kashmiri Pandit cusine.

"The Cuisine of the Navaithas" at the Cubbon Pavilion at ITC Gardenia

As a part of their ‘Kitchens of India’ theme, ITC Gardenia introduced the "The Cuisine of the Navaithas" - a culinary treat whose origins date back to the time of Tipu Sultan. A quick history lesson before we get into what was offered on fare; the Navaitha Muslims are an Urdu speaking community from Gingee who were brought to fill the barracks of the British army in the war against Tipu Sultan.  They chose to stay back and resided in what we now know as Shivajinagar in Bengaluru. The flavours that this community introduced are an integral part of the city’s food culture.

We began the evening with a plate of Fried Chicken Kabab. Those familiar with Bengaluru would recognize this particular taste, especially from a lot of smaller outlets in the city. The kabab was spot –on in terms of spiciness and was just lightly over-fried to give it a familiar crunch. We also tried the Brain Tawa Masala. I’m not the biggest fan of brain ( I know some of you just went,” That’s evident since you hardly use what you already have!”), this dish didn’t do much to win me over. The texture was rather mushy unlike some of the other variants I’ve had elsewhere which tend to have the consistency of scrambled eggs. I guess we’ll have to check with Dr.Hannibal Lector on what’s the ideal consistency. The Tala Macchi was not too bad either. Among the vegetarian appetizers, I tried the Jimikand ke Kabab. While the taste was good, the initial attack of ghee was a tad unpleasant.

Chicken Kabab

Brain Tawa Masala

Tala Macchi

Jimikand Ke kabab

Next up was one of the stars of the meal – the Paya Khamiri. The broth in this paya soup had oodles of flavour that hit all the right notes with the pepper taste being just a tad more prominent than the other flavours. The meat on the bone was cooked to perfection; it came off the bone with just a spoon and easily melted in my mouth. Two thumbs up for this beautiful dish.

Paya Khamiri

The main-course was spread over twelve vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. First the not-so-good stuff before I get into what really caught my attention. Being a big fan of prawn, I started off with the Palak Prawn. I wasn’t pleased with the overall flavour and felt uncomfortable with the texture of the prawns which I thought was inconsistent. The Seen Ghosht was a familiar mildly spicy taste that I’ve had before but did not pack the punch I was expecting. One dish that I did enjoy, but had mixed responses across the table was the Mahi Sukha. This fried fish was cooked very well and the outer layer held the right amount of crunch. With a dash of lemon, the citrus flavour with the spiciness of the outer layer was tasty. Others however said that there was no spice on their fish. I guess I got lucky. The Dum ki Tangdi was one of the highlights among the non-vegetarian dishes for me. The chicken leg was cooked perfectly, as was the gravy which tasted almost like a cashew-based gravy but was not.

Mahi Sukha

Palak Prawn and Seen Ghosht

Dum ki Tangdi

The vegetarian section consisted of Tamatar ka dalcha, Besan wale paneer, Soppu saagu, Denta Soppu and other dishes, many of which are quite common to Bengaluru today. Good tastes, but nothing that caught my attention and made me go ‘Oh Wow’. But standing tall above all, was one particular dish that joined the paya on the winner’s podium. This dish was the Soya Lauki. On a regular day, I wouldn’t touch lauki with a ten foot pole. But the flavours that went into this dish muted the taste of the dreaded vegetable and infused some crunch into the same. The main-course ended with some Gosht Timatar biryani. The rice had excellent flavours and had the right amount of spice which was consistent through the meat and the rice. Tender meat and great flavour put this dish on the winner’s podium to complete my top three dishes from the evening.

Soya Lauki

Ghosht Timatar Biryani

I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of Indian desserts (yes yes…food snob and all that), so I had a few bites of what was on the spread. One dessert that did have a very interesting flavour was the Ginger Cream Rossagulla. While I was expecting the cream on top to have a ginger flavour,  it turned out that the juice of the rossagulla held a strong ginger flavour that almost killed the sugary taste of the actual dish. I’m still at odds as to whether this was ethically the right thing to do to an Indian classic like the rossagulla. 

Ginger Cream Rossagulla

Final verdict, I really enjoyed the concept of the entire festival. Food is probably one of the greatest history books one can ever indulge themselves in as it says a lot about the culture of a place. A lot of the dishes offered familiar tastes to someone like me who has been in the city for two decades. My top three picks from the fare would be  the Gosht Timatar biryani,the Soya Lauki and the Paya Khamiri, in ascending order. 

Rajasthani Food Festival - Aloft at Cessna Business Park

The Aloft at Cessna Business Park recently concluded their Rajasthani Food festival last weekend. I was quite fortunate to be able to savour the spread on the last day before the chefs went back home. The two-week festival was aimed at introducing new flavours from India to the hotel's target audience which mainly focuses on the employees of the nearby tech companies.

Being the last day, I was able to calmly savour all the dishes and take my time with the pictures. The meal began with a refreshing aam panna which was accompanied by some Rajasthani knick-knacks that included the famous Bikaneri bhujiya, dhungari pyaaz and chana daal ke papad which went fabulously with the assortment of pickles that were served.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of pickles and tend to be overly critical of the taste. The big plus points of the assortment of pickles that were served was the fact that none of them were overly heavy or aggressive in taste and actually complemented the papad. I rather enjoyed the aam kalonji (mango pickle) and the haldi ki chutney (turmeric chutney). Also as a part of the appetizers, we had some kota kachori with saunth ki chutney.

Until this day, Rajasthani cuisine to me has meant daal-bati-churma. I'm not the biggest fan of this dish. However, there was an interesting twist to the dish that was served with the rose churma. This particular mix was had two contrasting flavours that came out; the saltiness of the daal-bati which was followed by a sweet flavour of the rose churma which was made out of crushed rose petals and rose essence. This gave it an almost chaat-like finish which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The main course was an elaborate thali with more dishes than I can remember. After sampling all the servings, I found a few favourites and focused on those. The laal mass (mutton curry) was the best among the non-vegetarian. The flavours were stronger and had just the right amount of spice to wake up my taste buds. In contrast, the chicken was mild. I'll be candid here and admit that I did not know that non-veg was an integral part of the Rajasthani fare. Another dish that I rather enjoyed was the pitod. This was the second Rajasthani dish, aside from the daal-bati that I was familiar with. The superstar of the meal and the one dish that blew the mind of taste-buds apart was the ker sangri. The ker sangri is a delightful bean and berry mix unique to Rajastan. The flavour was very unique with the sweetness coming from the ker berry and the herbal yet tangy flavour coming from the sangri bean. The very light tinge of spices was enough to add some more punch to the dish without over powering the taste of the natural elements. It's not every day that a vegetarian dish impresses me. And this is a perfect example to every restaurant that vegetarian does not mean either paneer or aalo. there's a whole world of brilliant vegetarian food out there.

I was warned that I would not be able to finish the thali. Taking this as a personal challenge, I did try to, though unsuccessfully to complete what was placed in front of me. I had to eventually throw in the towel. I honestly had no space for desserts, but the glutton in me took two really small helpings of the malpua and ghevar.

If this was the fabulousness of the meal on the last day, I can imagine the fare throughout the festival. I'm rather grateful to the chefs at Aloft for introducing me to a new vegetarian dish that I love and hope that when the festival comes back to town next year, I can come over and order an entire bowl of Ker Sangri.