The Mango Mailbock at Arbor Brewing Company

I had about 20 mins to spare while at Garuda Mall, so I popped into Arbor Brewing Company India to try out the Mango Mailbock.

My quick review - While the beer lacked the mango aroma of some of the other mango-beers I've had recently, the after taste of mango lingered for a fair bit.I was expecting this fairly malty beer to be on the sweeter side, but it seemed to be held back by the hops. Overall, enjoyed the body, had a lot more expectation of flavour.

Too bad the person behind the bar told me about the mango-themed menu after I had ordered some grub. Going through the menu, I felt the beer and the food might have paired off wonderfully and complemented one another. Look forward to the 'Smoked Summer' (Another mango flavoured beer) which should be out by next week.

A culinary sojourn with The Phoenicians at Raj Pavilion, ITC Windsor

Before the food, it’s important to understand a bit of history around the theme for this particular dinner. Phoenicia was an ancient civilization composed of city-states which lay along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea through what is modern-day Syria, Lebannon and northern Israel. The civilization flourished through maritime trade between c. 1500-322 BCE. As far as the food goes, I read that they made porridges, breads and flat cakes that grew in popularity and crossed the borders  and survived for centuries. They also had vegetable gardens where they would grow peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans and fruits like fig, pomegranate, apple, lime and more. A lot of these ingredients find a prominent place in what we know as the Mediterranean cuisine. This is the theme for the food festival at the Raj Pavilion.

This sort of cuisine is among my favourites because besides being quite nutritious and healthy, one can work magic with the vegetarian dishes that tend to get ignored in a lot of food festivals. The salads are always where I find my favourites with Mediterranean food. Among the dozen salads that were on the fare, I found my palate favouring the Tamarind Tossed Papaya Salad and the Herbed Poached Shrimps with Salsa the most. Hitting similar spots on my tongue, the tanginess of both  brought out some fabulous flavours that beckoned me to go back for seconds… and thirds.

Some of the other salads like the Marinated Watermelon with Brined Artichoke and Gherkins, the Chargrilled Pineapple with Pickled Onions exemplified the rich Mediterranean flavours far better than some of the other non vegetarian salads that were on display.

I moved on to one of my all-time favourite meals – hummus and pita bread. Accompanying the hummus were other Mediterranean dips such as Taboulleh, Babaganosh and Beet Labneh. I will have to exercise my bias towards good old plain hummus as the hero of that section.

The main course of the meal consisted of vegetarian and non vegetarian food in equal variety. First up were the Greek Style Stuff Peppers. The capsicum (yes, we call them capsicum) with fillings of fruit, zucchini and a light layer of cheese. I’ve not had enough Greek food to say that it was authentic, but all I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed the dish. Unlike the more familiar mughlai styled stuffed capsicums I’ve had, this was quite light on the tummy and the interesting mix of all the fruits and vegetables left me wanting more. (Which I did go back and help myself to). Also served was the Imam Bayildi – a stuffed eggplant (or aubergine for the fancy people), my aversion to all things eggplant didn’t allow me to relish the dish.

In the non vegetarian section, I took a liking to the chicken wings with preserved lime. Although this tasted more like a summer dish to me, I wasn’t complaining as the wings were done tender enough to have the meat come off the bone effortlessly as I chomped away. The Agean Kakvia Fish dish was a tad too bland for what I’m used to when it comes to Mediterranean seafood, so I left it at a single helping. The Greek Lamb with Orzo was another dish that had me going back for seconds with the lamb cooked quite tender, and a light peppery sauce to accompany the rice made this a good dish.

Before I hit the dessert stand, we were served Shish Tawook – A twist on the popular Shwarma Roll, this had extremely tender Shish Kababs with zesty sauces and sliced veggies which made this a superb roll. I was wishing that I had started off the meal with this roll rather than ending it. I wanted to have another one, but had absolutely no space to tuck it in.

Dessert was a rather simple affair with a Baklava dumpling. While the taste of the chopped nuts and honey on the inside was good, the overall pastry was a bit heavier than what I was expecting. 

Full marks to the folks at ITC Windsor for bringing a nice historical twist to the familiar.
Mediterranean that I absolutely love. The top three picks of the meal for me would have to be the Herbed Poached Shrimps with Salsa, the Greek Style Stuff Peppers and the Shish Tawook. The food festival is on throughout the month of November. Do go and check it out.

The German Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Grand

It’s time for the Oktober Fest! And celebrating it, the Feast at Sheraton Grand Bangalore put together a German food festival, which for someone with my tastes, was simple brilliant thanks to all the non-vegetarian. Let’s be honest Paneer Bratwurst just doesn’t cut it. Our meal began with two classic German sausages – The Bratwurst and the Knackwurst. The former is a German classic and I was happy that they had the stronger whole mustard sauce when I asked for it. This went really well with the little helpings of Sauerkraut and red cabbage that I had to balance out the flavour. The Knackwurst was a little more flavourful and had a nice cracking skin on the outside that gave it just a little most zest than the bratwurst.

Next up was the lentils soup with sausage. For me, the problem with anything with lentil is that I ultimately dumb it down to either a daal or a rasam because that’s what it tastes to me. The soup was nothing to write home about and we quickly moved on. We were served the Bacon wrapped meatloaf with boiled egg and creamy sauce. Traditionally, meatloaf is a heavy dish that stands alone by itself. However, the chef had ensured that the dish was kept light and was served in smaller portions to ensure people don’t make a meal out of that. Nice light flavour, but nothing that knocked my socks off. On the contrary, the vegetarian variant - Bread dumpling with creamy mushroom sauce has a nice mushroom and light pepper flavour to it. I did go back for a second helping of this dish because it ticked all the boxes in terms of flavour and presentation.

Before we continued with more of the main course, we tried out some of the salads.  The Pasta salad with green peas and cooked ham, the Potato salad with egg and mayonnaise and the Pickled cucumber salad with dill were my favourites. The Potato salad became a constant on my plate from the first bite.

Next up was Beef roulades with sauce. While the beef was a little tougher than what I was expecting and it took a bit of chewing to break this down, the dark sauce was quite tasty and drove the flavour of the meat. I was hoping that the roulade would have held a little more flavour.  The Chicken schnitzel with lemon was nice crunchy piece of chicken that was very light and if not checked can cause one to overindulge.

Considering the amount of knackwurst I had tucked in, I wasn’t left with much space for dessert. I served myself very small portions of the Red berry compote with Vanilla Sauce and the Strudel with vanilla sauce. The desserts offered a familiar flavour that one would expect, but nothing noteworthy. You would have noticed that I’ve not mentioned any beer in the entire post. Quite simple, this was a food festival and not a beer festival. That being said, I was hoping to try at least one imported German beer this evening just to complete the entire package.

The final verdict – the German food festival doesn’t offer anything to the vegetarians on account of the nature of the cuisine. But for those who enjoy sausages and meats, do try and catch the festival before it closes on the 4th of October . The spread is relatively limited compared to previous food festivals at Feast, some of the flavours have been tempered down to suit the Indian palate and the absence of German styled beers leaves just a little to be desired. Do catch the spread if you’re in the area.

The Saturday Brunch at Cafe Azure, Vivanta by Taj Yeshwantpur

How do you compete in a market where ‘Sunday brunch’ is the big thing? Quite simple…. Introduce the Saturday Brunch. This is the reasoning behind relatively new Saturday Brunch at Mou Taverna at Café Azure at the Vivanta in Yeshwantpur. I was invited to try out the spread at Azure over a month ago. But owing to work and travel, I completely forgot to work on this. But, better late than never. Focussed on a largely Mediterranean theme, the café has a very impressive spread in terms of both non vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. The two big stand outs for me were the salad section and the dessert section which not only looked quite impressive, but offered some very good flavours too.

The salad section is quite elaborate with various cheeses, dips, and very fresh salads that are quite addictive. The carrot hummus was my favourite part of the section. With a lot of the Mediterranean flavours standing out, this was one of my fav sections, and I went back for quite a few helpings.

As far as the main course goes, the one big thing that stood out for me was that the flavours in the vegetarian section out did the flavours in the non vegetarian section. With delightfully tasting dishes like the Grilled Vegetable Briami, the Stuffed Spinach Crepes and the Avri Meshwi, I found myself going back for seconds. In comparison, the non veg section was relatively ordinary with only two dishes knocking my socks off. Those were the scrumptious Roasted  Pork Belly with Blue Berry Sauce and the Himalayan Trout. The rest of the dishes in this section came across as average and missed the ‘wow’ factor in terms of new flavours. But like having that one batsman whom you can depend on when the rest of the team is failing, the Roasted Pork Belly was an absolute champion and is among some of the best I’ve had.

The one thing one needs to be very careful at Café Azure is to not over indulge on the salads and main course, because one needs ample room for the very elaborate dessert spread. As the picture shows, the folks here have pulled out all the stops to set up a beautiful dessert table. From Strawberry Mouse cakes to Red VelvetMango Creameux, the table offered a numerous treats. My favourite was this beautifully designed little dessert made of Green Tea and cream. More marks to the presentation when compared to the taste.

Overall, Mou Tavern has something good going. It’s early days yet and there are a few areas of improvement like the flavours in the non veg section, drastic improvements to the liquor and mocktails section, but I am willing to let that pass for the detailed salad section, the impressive dessert table and the flavourful Mediterranean vegetarian food. If you’re looking for some new flavours and are willing to travel, do check out the Saturday Brunch at the Mou Tavern at Vivanta by Taj, Yeshwantpur.

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. 

The Spice Island Flavours at Dakshin, ITC Windsor

As someone who takes keen interest in experiencing various cultures of the world through food, the ‘Spice Island Flavours’ festival at Dakshin (ITC Windsor) was a very unique food experience. As a part of their ‘Kitchens of India’ campaign, ITC introduced me to a unique set of flavours from South India. Brought to us by Priya Bala, the festival focuses on the culinary style of people from the Tamil community who were moved to Sri Lanka during the British Raj to work on the tea plantations. After settling there for numerous decades, civil unrest in the region had them moving back to India. This community brought with them a style of cooking that blends the Sri Lankan style of cooking traditional south Tamil Nadu flavours.

While we waited for the appetizers to arrive, we munched on some south-Indian style crisps with four flavourful chutneys. The chutneys offered familiar tastes of coconut, tomato and more and made for a good start to the meal. Naturally, I had to exercise extreme discipline not to make that my meal altogether. 

The first two appetizers were the Khaima Somasi and the Devilled Prawns. The former is a variant of the kheema samosa with minced lamb, served with tomato chutney. While this dish was deep in familiar territory, the new flavour came from the Devilled Prawns. Tossed with onions, chilli and a piquant sauce, the dish had a delicate blend of tanginess and spice that opened up my taste buds to an evening of perfectly balanced spices. I’m normally used to prawn dishes from this region to be high on spice which I normally cooled down with a cold beer; so this flavour was quite new and did not set my tongue on fire. A dish I would definitely recommend.

Khaima Somasi and Devilled Prawns

Devilled Prawns
Before we hit the main course, we were served mini-uttapams in two varieties, one was savoury and the other was sweet and was made from bananas. I’ve never tasted the latter and thoroughly enjoyed dipping it into the chutneys.


For the main course, we were served Idiyappam with a coconut milk. Accompanying this were three side dishes. The first was the Erachi Curry which was a mildly-spiced lamb stew. I wasn’t a big fan of this particular dish as the flavours didn’t do anything to peak my taste buds. This was compensated with the Chicken Badun. The chicken was quite tender and the taste of pepper dominated the flavour. I’ve had a variation of this dish before in Tamil Nadu, but this packed a much bigger punch and the gravy was a good combination with the idiyappam and the rice that was served. The third and final dish of the main course, which was the star of the meal, was Anasi Perattal. This dish is a pineapple curry cooked with spices like cinnamon, lemon grass, a bit of fennel and chilli powder. Cinnamon is one of those spices that can overthrow all other tastes in your mouth when into a dish. The moment I popped a spoon of the dish into my mouth, the combination of cinnamon and the citrus taste of the pineapple hit me like a ton of bricks, in a good way. There’s a very subtle bit of spice that remains on your taste buds once the pineapple goes down, but the taste of the cinnamon lingers for long. I shamelessly asked for a second helping of this dish. 

Chicken Badun

Anasi Perattal

Dessert comprised of two dishes. The first was the Watalappam, a coconut milk and jaggery custard. I didn’t particularly enjoy this one for personal reasons. I’ve been moving away from consuming a lot of sugar in my daily meal by eliminating it from my coffee, tea, juices, etc. It’s been this way for eight months now. Hence, the jiggery in this dessert was too sweet for my taste buds. The second dessert was a simple yet elegant dessert. The Kiri Pani, a thick yogurt served with palm and jiggery honey was the fireworks to the end of a great meal. Not too sweet, this simple mix cleansed the palate completely and left me with a fresh taste in my mouth. This dessert was the second best part of my meal after the pineapple curry.


Kiri Pani

Priya Bala

‘Kitchens of India’ continues to bring new flavours and the ‘Spice Island Flavours’ festival is definitely something anyone looking for new tastes and experience should try out. My pick for the meal would have to be the pineapple curry, the Kiri Pani dessert and the Devilled Prawns. Kudos to Priya Bala for introducing a larger audience to these flavours.

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.

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.

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: DIY with Eggs at Smokehouse Deli, put together by Foodie Doodle

As someone whose new found aim in life is to scour the globe (or at least the city of Bangalore) trying out new dishes, this particular evening was a very different affair compared to some of the other food blogger gigs I’ve been to.  Normally, all the super talented chefs put together these little pieces of heaven for us to eat. This time, we were a part of the creation process. 

Organized by the folks at Foodie Doodle, this evening at the Smokehouse Deli in Indiranagar was a DIY class on egg-based dishes. Leading the class was Chef Saurabh Arora and his team of chefs who ensured even someone like me did not set the place on fire. Through the evening we were going to make four dishes, with the common theme of eggs. 

We kicked off the evening with a Mommy Style Akuri. Made almost on the lines of an egg bhurji, this dish was a quick preparation with jalapeno, salsa, tobacco, onions and more…. Not to forget the key taste driven by the Madras Curry Powder. The whisked eggs were cooked with all the spices and vegetables and go excellent with some nice toasted bread. As far as the taste goes, this dish is mildly spicy but is very close to a regular egg bhurji. It makes well for a quick meal or an early light dinner.

The next dish on the agenda was the Greek Styled Baked eggs. The preparation for this dish was something I’ve not seen before. Besides the two eggs that get baked sunny-side up, the interesting part was when the chef poured the well-beaten egg whites which puffed up in the oven almost like a cake. This was then adorned with a nice Greek salad. This dish wasn’t as easy to make as the previous one, but was far tastier. The baked eggs at the bottom, the fluffy egg white in the middle and the Greek Salad on top gave this dish a fabulous taste. Absolutely light on the stomach, this dish is worth the patience of having to make it. 

We moved on to prepare Poached Eggs with Deviled Baked Beans and Hash Browns. While one leaves two eggs to be poached, the baked beans are easy to prepare with chilli flakes, tobacco and the all-important bacon (cut into slices). I knew I was in love the moment the bacon met the baked beans. The hash brown potatoes were already prepared. The dish is otherwise quite simple. The hash browns are the base on which the baked beans (and bacon…must not forget bacon) are placed and topped with the two poached eggs. On the spicier side, this dish was sheer joy to have because it pretty much contained all the essential food groups I need to stay as healthy as I am. This was my favourite dish of the evening.

Our final dish was the Curry Benedict. This dish contained eggs, hash browns, sausages, curry sauce and coriander. The curry sauce was again driven by the Madras Curry Powder. On top of the base of hash browns was a mixture of chicken ham and chicken sausages with onions. Garlic and chilli flakes. This was topped with poached eggs and tobacco sauce to give it a spice. The Curry Benedict is again a heavy dish but is ideal for an early dinner. 

This was a fabulous evening that left me with new things to try out at home.  And by ‘try out’ I mean, get mum to stand next to me while I act all MasterChef like and ensure I do not burn the kitchen down. A big thanks to the Nitin and Rahul from Foodie Doodle who put together this fun evening that was a lot more than just tasting excellent food but by experiencing what it’s like to make some of these great dishes we love by fabulous chefs. 

PS: If you want the detailed recipes, get in touch with me... and get your eggs on!

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 Pix: From Las Vegas (Pt.1 of 4)

While I was hoping to have a lot more food related pictures from my office-sponsored trip to Vegas, I ended up eating at some standard joints since time ( and money) was a bit tight. Nevertheless, here are some of the lovely (and supremely fattening) food I had during my eight days in Las Vegas. 

I was fortunate to have a Denny's right next door to the motel I was put up at. Why fortunate? Because the food at the conference I had gone for was probably the worst tasting thing I've had in ages. Different versions of bread and even more raw vegetables.... I don't know how folks there survive with no spice or flavour in their lives. The 24-hour Denny's was a big savior as it ensured I got at least one good meal a day. Besides the supremely cheesy omelette , the highlight was the Jack Daniels Steak which...well...Jack Daniels. Need I say more. Here are some pictures from the meals I had at Denny's.

The Jack Daniels Steak

Food Mood: Aperitivo Evening with Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Bang at Ritz Carlton, B'lore

I was recently invited to an Aperitivo Evening sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro at the Bang located at the Ritz Carlton. This was the first time I have been to the fabulous venue here and simply loved everything about the location. Towering over the centre of Bangalore, the venue was apt for an evening of fine Peroni beer along with some fabulous Italian appetizers. I also got to take look at some of the art work by Shola Carletti, an Italian painter and sculptor. My knowledge of art is limited to doodles and comic books, so lest I come across as a philistine, I’d better not comment on the same. 

As far as the appetizers go, Chef Anupam had put together an excellent fare. I really enjoyed this little starter made out of duck and fig. The little pastry had three distinct flavours as you bite through. The immediate flavour is that of the fig. This slowly gets replaced by the taste of the duck and finally the taste of the pastry. I also enjoyed an appetizer which had a prawn over a shot glass, the contents of which were beer and tomato extract. The shot itself wasn’t strong, but the taste complemented the prawn excellently. There were numerous other appetizers that evening. An excellent end to the evening was the Tiramisu which was made fresh and left a fabulous taste in the mouth.  Overall, it was a fun evening of meeting people, copious amounts of Peroni beer, great food and great music. Here are some pictures from the evening.

Chef Anupam (center) with fellow food bloggers Natasha and Nitin