food

Conversations are the new mixers

Blog, Food and Drink

Float Brewery is a lovable new entrant to Kalyan Nagar in north-east Bangalore.

I wrote this on 20 March, 2019.

____________________________________________________________________________

I did expect to have a good time Sunday evening, but I didn’t expect to have THIS good a time.

The launch of the menu of summer cocktails at Float Brewery in Kalyan Nagar turned out to be as heady as the evening breeze in summer. The invitees were all people who know their food and drink, and who appreciate a mellow sundowner or two. Or five.

What elevated the party to a different pitch were the engaging conversations I had with the others. To me, the conversations at this party were akin to great mixers. By infusing distinct and memorable flavours and aromas into the party, they handed me a wonderful cocktail of an evening.

Float is a relatively recent entrant to Bangalore’s pubbing scene. The terrace is perfect for the evenings, while the air-conditioned indoors are just the place for hot afternoons. I can see myself visiting Kalyan Nagar more often, from now on.

Of the cocktails served, I loved the Jager Mule, Capri Water and Blue Tematangi the most. Bramble, I realised, is an acquired taste.

The finger food accompanying the cocktails did not, thankfully, have fancy names. They were interesting variations of classics and won on taste. From the vegetarian section, Parmesan Cheese puffs and Coriander Polenta cakes were my picks.

With their humility, smiles and dedication, Robin and Karan lit up the bar. Chef Vivek Salunkhe ensured that we kept getting an endless supply of wonderful food. Robin, Karan and Vivek – hat tip to you guys and to your efficient wait staff.

Suresh and Rupa, thank you very much.

My other friends, it was great meeting you!

Given the great conversations we were having, I had little time or inclination to take great photos. So, this is the best I have.

Note: I went to Float on invitation and did not pay for the food and drink. I have written this post of my own free will.

A simple lunch on a country road

Blog, Food and Drink

I wrote this on 2 March, 2019.

___________________________________________________________________________

One of the joys of eschewing the highway and taking interior roads is the chance of discovering small, basic restaurants serving tasty local food.

Which is why we took the Chengam-Tiruvannamalai road to Pondy. We stopped for lunch at Ananda Bhavan, perhaps half a kilometer down the road from Ramanashramam in Tiruvannamalai. I had to have three helpings of everything on the plate (except for the greenery you see in that bowl) – so good was the food. The meal cost us Rs. 80/- a plate. Definitely worth a halt the next time I come this way.

A new neighbourhood joint

Blog, Food and Drink

I wrote this on 20 March, 2019.

_________________________________________________________________________

Ever since Pooja Dosa Camp came to Kasturi Nagar, it has been a hit! Probably because it serves authentic Tamilnadu style food in an area filled with Darshinis and Sagars. This place is small, clean and quick. And, the prices are a steal!
It is especially popular for breakfast. Mark this place for a leisurely weekend morning. 🙂

Demolished this morning: idli, pongal, dosa and vadai.

Location: Pooja Dosa Camp, Kasturi Nagar 2nd Main Road, opposite Kolkata Victoria Chat House, East of NGEF.

A food walk in Basavanagudi

Blog, Food and Drink

I wrote this on 21 April, 2018.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I visited Basavanagudi a few days ago – after perhaps 8 years. Since I live in the Eastern part of town, Basavanagudi doesn’t come up on my radar at all. But for a long time, I had been thinking of visiting the old eateries in that area. And finally, last Wednesday, I girded my loins and took the plunge.

Walking through the traditional markets of DVG Road and Gandhi Bazaar was delightfu; I had forgotten Bangalore even HAD such places! The air was rich with the smells of flowers, spices and food. Every other shop and eatery here is more than 60 years old.

With my food-blogger friend Sindhu guiding me, I went on a tiny food trail too. We gave the much-hyped Vidyarthi Bhavan a wide berth and went into two other eateries. Udupi Krishna Bhavan, near Ramakrishna Ashram Circle, has been in existence for several decades. Though the interiors were revamped a few years ago, the taste of the food (thankfully) has not been ‘revamped’. 😀

I had the sagu masala dosa, with liberal helpings of coconut chutney and sambar. The dosa was a smashing hit! I would have had another one, but decided to try something else and plumped for the mini idlis dunked in sambar. These too were very good.

We then wended our way through the market roads to visit a 92 year old grand dame: Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room. Here, I had the khali dosa, while Sindhu tucked into a rava idli. Some delicious filter coffee helped me chase down the dosa.

The decor of Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room is heavy on simple, old-world charm. I especially loved the wooden menu board welcoming patrons at the door. 🙂

Before returning home, I bought some aromatic coffee powder from Srinivasa Coffee, ghee from Rama Traders, Congress from Srinivasa Brahmin’s Bakery and gulkan from a tiny shop whose name I don’t remember.

I will have to visit Basavanagudi and areas nearby a dozen times to cover all the wonderful eateries there – including many less-known ones.

 

 

 

My date with millets.

Blog, Food and Drink

I wrote this review on 7 March, 2019.

___________________________________________________________________________

The bisibele bhath, idlis, vada and kesari bhath looked just like the regular fare dished out at any Bangalore darshini. But there was nothing regular about them. They were all made from millets.

Lunch today was dedicated to the goodness and yummyness of millets. This was the first time I was sitting down to a multi-course millet meal. This lunch had been on the cards for the past four months. But since my friend and I had been keeping hectic travel schedules, we kept postponing this. Until today.

Siri Dhanya Upahara Darshini is a small restaurant near Coles Park in Bangalore East, that specialises in millet-based food. Spread over a small ground floor room and two rooms on the first floor, it is a bungalow repurposed into a restaurant. The decor is functional, though aesthetic. Service is attentive, yet non-intrusive. The food is tasty and filling, with the cooks doing a good job of blending millets in, without sacrificing texture or flavour. Moreover, they had shown restraint with the sugar in the kesari bhath (unlike in most of our other eateries).

The menu is similar to that of the typical Bangalore darshini. But most of the dishes are made from millets. While we had the dishes I mentioned earlier and a cup of coffee, I kept stealing glances at the tempting thali that was being devoured at another table. I have made a mental note to have that on my next visit.

The bill drew a mild gasp from us, because it was less than Rs. 200/-!

I understand that this restaurant is really popular amongst the local populace and pulls in a number of regulars. Thankfully, it was quiet when we went; so, we could yap as we ate. 

If you live anywhere close to Central or East Bangalore, this is a place worth checking out.

What we had:
Kodo millet bisibele bhath
Ragi dosa
Foxtail millet idlis and vada
Little millet kesari bhath

Siri Dhanya Upahara Darshini, Promenade Road, near Santosh Hospital, Coles Park.

A summery affair

Blog, Food and Drink

With its excellent food and cheery decor, Cafe Monet is a good place for European delights and cold, summery drinks.

I wrote this review on 13 March, 2019. 

____________________________________________________________________________

Lunch today was a delightful, summery affair at Bistro Monet on 80 Feet Road, Indira Nagar.

My friend had a smoked chicken salad, followed by a mutton kheema and mint chutney sandwhich (made with a croissant), while I chose a ‘caramelised onion and mushroom sandwich’ (made with brioche). We had the lemongrass lemonade to go with the food.

The smoked chicken salad was (I am quoting my friend) ‘light, flavoursome and comforting’. The bright colours of the salad made for a wonderfully textured and calming visual.

The mushroom and onion sandwich was my indulgence of the week. I normally have a light lunch, or I find that my tummy goes to sleep taking all my senses in its wake. 😀
But the gooey cheese, the mildly crisp onions and well-cooked mushrooms combined to more than overcome my guilt of indulging. At least, this was a bloody tasty meal!
The butter-glazed brioche was so shiny I thought I could see my face in it. Sprinkling some chilli flakes into the sandwich added some oomph to it.

The mutton kheema and mint chutney sandwich was a hit too. My friend oohed and aahed his way through it, which is a big deal for him. The meat was cooked well and spiced just right. The tang of the mint chutney was a good foil for the spice of the meat. The puff pastry was fluffy and light, with just a hint of crunch in its flakes.

While all this action was going on, the lemongrass lemonade was trying its best to keep our palate calm (it did succeed to some extent!). Anyway, it managed to bring our temperatures down by a few degrees.

Bistro Monet has cheery interiors that are easy on the eye – the walls have bare sections alternating with sections that have framed food photos put up. Wooden tables go well with the light chairs and sofas. The well-lit counter and kitchen added life to the place.

I particularly liked the area just outside the door, which is lined with plants and had a lovely wooden bench.

Given all this, the prices came as a surprise. Our bill came to just Rs. 778/-, including a second mutton sandwich, that my friend took home.

An interesting addition to the cafe map of Indira Nagar, Monet stands for great food, good service, superb prices and a warm, breezy vibe. This cafe delivers on every count.

Note: We paid for the food and drinks.

Bistro Monet, near CV Raman General Hospital, 80 Feet Road, Indira Nagar, Bangalore.

An Old Favourite

Blog, Food and Drink

Treat Restaurant in Indiranagar has been serving delicious North Indian food for 25 years! Its quality has remained the same throughout.

I wrote this piece on May 2, 2018.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Last afternoon, we went to Treat, an old favourite, for lunch. I started going to this restaurant 10 years ago when I first moved to Bangalore. Treat was just a lazy stroll from my office. Since then, I have kept going back to it – perhaps twice a year – even though I don’t work in that area.

Every time I go there, I find the food same and different at the same time, if you get what I mean. This is one of the hallmarks of a great eatery: that the food has the zing of freshness every single time, even while the ingredients and cooking style remain unchanged. It is a tough job to make the familiar seem fresh each time to customers, but Treat has managed to do it for so long.

In the pictures are paneer makhanwala khaas, jeerewalaey aloo, masala anda (chopped tomatoes and onions drizzled on slices of boiled eggs), a basket of small-sized assorted rotis (naans, lachcha parathas, methi roti, plain rotis and kulchas) and a tray containing those essential accompaniments of any North Indian meal – pudina chutney, diced raw onions and pickle.

NOT in the pictures are our groaning tummies and smiling faces. 🙂

In speaking to the owner Mr. Pramod Chaudhry, I learnt that his family hails from Peshawar, migrating to India during Partition. He is an old hand in the hospitality industry, having worked abroad for a while and with Taj Mansingh in Delhi. At the Taj, he learnt from master-chefs who hailed from Lucknow and other places in the North. How well he learnt from them is evident from the rich, authentic flavours of the food served at Treat.

Masalas hand-ground on a mortar and pestle, paneer that is flown down from Delhi twice a week, recipes created by Mr. Chaudhry himself and warm service are just some of the small touches that add up to the Treat experience, overall.

Definitely a case of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole.

Sidelights: 1) Framed posters of Hindi films, photos of Ravi Shankar and Mohammad Rafi and a recreation of ‘the Indian life’ on one of the walls accentuate the Indianness of the restaurant subtly.

2) Check out the framed menu card hung on the wall. This is the very first menu the restaurant offered, when it opened in 1993: a priceless nugget from the past. Interestingly, the restaurant offered pizzas and sandwiches for a while, before setting cozily in its niche of authentic North Indian food.

 

P.S. We paid for the food ourselves, though we were given a 25% discount (because Treat turns 25), since I am a member of an online group of food-lovers. I have written this review of my own volition.

A cross-country mini breakfast crawl.

Blog, Food and Drink

 

I loathe stepping out of home on weekends, when I should be idling in bed with a book. Weekends are when things are supposed to come to you automatically from time to time. You shouldn’t have to go out seeking anything. But this morning, I dragged myself out of home and went all the way to Malleswaram for a mini breakfast crawl. My friend is leaving town this month-end and I wanted to take him to one or two of our old eateries.

Our first stop was New Krishna Bhavan (NKB), diagonally opposite Mantri Square mall. We shared a plate of Ragi Dosai and a plate of Jowar/Jolada Dosai. They were true to form. It is always good to eat at NKB. The red onion-chilly chutney and the pure coconut chutney are distinctive touches here. I felt like asking for a second helping of just the onion chutney; it was so good!

From there, we walked up to 7th Cross Road and turned left to reach CTR. I last went to CTR nearly a decade ago. I wanted to try the much-touted benne masala dosa and see if it lived up to the hype. Despite changing its name to Shree Sagar, this restaurant has retained its simple, old-world look, which is very comforting. The fans, the colour of the walls, the framed painting of Madhvacharya, elderly women who remind me of my grandma, the tables and chairs – all seem to be unchanged.

As expected, all the tables were taken and there were nearly 50 people waiting for their turn to sit. The place resembled a stock market of yore, with much raising of hands, signalling and coded gestures. Much like the others, we took up position right next to a particular table in order to ‘reserve’ our seats. The word ‘reserved’ hung in the air. Everyone was looking at everyone else, wondering who was getting up and who was getting a seat. Furtive glances were cast at the tables nearby to figure out what was being eaten. All of us, I am sure, were mentally willing the seated customers to get the hell out asap!

We must have waited for about 15 minutes before we got a table, but in IST (Indian Stomach Time) terms, it seemed like 45 minutes. Post-ordering, our Benne Masala Dosas took another 20 minutes to come. They turned out to be good, but nowhere close to the hype generated. They were just good masala dosas that had been cooked extra-crisp thanks to a generous use of butter. Honestly, you find similarly good dosas in many places across town. It may make sense for people around this neighbourhood to visit CTR frequently, it does not make sense for me to come here again for a long time.

This is just my personal take. Die-hard fans of CTR, please continue to love their dosas. 

This trip helped me bust a myth (that CTR’s dosas are out-of-the-world) and confirm a theory (that most people probably rave about old joints and romanticise them due to their heritage and a strong sense of nostalgia. The taste of the food really is actually not the major factor in these cases.)

Finding the room too stuffy (and wanting to vacate our place for the guys standing at our elbow), we paid the bill and stepped across the road to Temple Meals for filter coffee.

Over coffee, my mind kept going back to NKB. Would they think I am a madman if I were to go back there and ask for just a bowl of that red chutney? 

P.S. We paid for the food ourselves.

 

 

 

Windmills Craftworks – Review of a brewpub

Food and Drink

The place is not what I expected. For one, the building looks somewhat monolithic and looks like it houses the headquarters of a company. Stepping into the pub on the 6th floor (or is it the 7th?), I am taken aback for a moment. Spread out in front of me is a large room (perhaps about 3000 sq.ft.) with tables laid out for the most part. Sofas wrapped around the tables provide for cushy seating. At the far end, there is a slightly raised stage, which appears to be a performance space. I can spot mikes, speakers and other paraphernalia used in live performances. A few wires snake across the stage. The lighting is moderate: neither too dim nor too bright. I see that the walls of the room are covered with bookshelves. There are a number of books on architecture, urban planning and space design. There are books on Business/Management too and in one section, pulp fiction. And amidst all this, are the people seated at the tables. There are people drinking at the bar too.

What surprises me the most is the near-hush that prevails in the room. Even on straining my ears, I manage to catch just murmurs and hints of laughter from here and there. Waiters move about silently, depositing drinks and plates of food. Hello! Have I stepped into a pub or a fine-dine restaurant?!

Across the room from me, I see sliding glass doors that lead to a small terrace. Tables have been laid out too; half of them seem to be occupied.

For a few minutes, I try to find labels to succinctly describe this place, but nothing comes to mind. Clearly, my dear fellow, I tell myself, this is unlike any other public house you have been to in Bangalore (or anywhere else for that matter). It seems like they started out building an architect’s office, changed their mind mid-way to make it a reading room, suddenly decided to allow wining & dining here and finally, thought it a great after-thought to hold live performances here! And so you have a look that is very sophisticated kitsch.

But it is definitely a look that works.

The décor and mood of Windmills Craftworks suggest a large, wood-lined smoking room in a British county manor. Only, it happens to be in Whitefield instead. After a few minutes of mental adjustment, I decide that I like this place. It just takes me some time to get used to the low decibel levels. Why isn’t the drinking crowd raucous like in other bars, I can’t help wondering. Must have something to do with the rich wood panelling and the bookshelves, I suppose.

When I emerge from my rumination, I find that my wife has wisely seated herself at a table on the terrace. This section is starkly different from the room. For one, this is open-to-air. Secondly, the space is punctuated by a number of plants, giving it a lush look. Small water bodies have been carved out on the floor next to the pathways. At one end of the terrace, I can see the microbrewery encased by a glass wall. The terrace is not large, but it is lovely.

Our table gives us a reasonably good view. In one sweep of the eye, we can take in the IT complex located across the road, a park and several trees. And then, there are the buildings under construction, their tower cranes eerily silhouetted against the darkening sky. A cool breeze is blowing. Since they can’t smoke indoors, people keep coming out to the deck for a few drags before returning to their tables.

We are thirsty and place our first orders on a wi-fi enabled tab (an impressive touch that makes for smooth and efficient ordering). We first ask for the Hefeweizen (for me) and Golden Ale (for the wife). She wants to begin with something very light; so, the Golden Ale is the obvious choice. Its floral character stands out, while the base is crisp and refreshing. My Hefe is a wheat beer with distinct notes of clove and banana. I love how they hit my palate together, producing a wonderful effect.

 

 

 

 

Finishing this, the wife wants to have a cocktail. So, she orders an Asian Mary, while I have their summer special mango-infused beer (I forget the name). While my beer is interesting, the taste of mango is too faint. It is supplanted by the strong, sour notes of orange. I find this strange, because the name led me to expect more mango in it. The beer lacks the light, summery freshness I had expected. But a few pulls later, I say what the heck and make peace with it. I realise it is an acquired taste and even begin to like it. My wife, on the other hand, finds it impossible to make peace with her drink. The cocktail she has been handed tastes like vegetable juice. The flavour of vodka is buried somewhere deep under several leaves, shoots and capsicum juice. She is having to wade through a mini forest to get to the alcohol! We promptly give our feedback to Suraj, who is serving us, and he graciously agrees to spike the drink with more vodka. When it comes back, it is definitely better, but the strong taste of leaves doesn’t go away. Overall, a disappointing concoction.

 

 

After these are finished, we split a Stout (which is just as stout as Stout should be) and another Hefeweizen between us. Both go down well.

We don’t feel like eating much; it is a ‘drinking’ kind of evening. So, a plate of Nachos (topped with mayonnaise, salsa sauce and herbs), some Ragatoni Pasta and Honey Chilli Potatoes are all that we have. The food is very good, though the vegetarian entries in the menu are limited. The non-veg section is expansive, which is good.

 

 

Much like the beer, our conversation flows smoothly for the next couple of hours. The deck is perfect for the night. Service is silent and efficient. Inspite of the Friday-evening crowd, the serving staff manages to get our orders fairly quickly. They smile a lot and are easy to converse with. I like that. The outdoor ambience of the deck definitely helps enhance our mood.

And oh, there is the occasion too. You see, it is our twelfth wedding anniversary!
___________________________________________________

In sum: Windmills Craftworks in Whitefield-Bangalore is a great place for a quiet drink or five, especially if you love beer. Their Golden Ale, Hefeweizen and Stout are very good. The place pleases on food, beer, service and ambience. Prior reservation is recommended, because it is a popular place that fills up soon. If you go in the evening, try to snag a table on the deck. Just remember that the mood is more muted than that of a typical pub. And boy, they have to work on their cocktails!

MY RATING

Food: 3.5/5 (good food, but more veg options needed)

Beer: 4/5

Cocktail (Asian Mary): 3/5

Service: 4/5

Ambience: 4/5 for the deck; 3.5/5 for the indoor section.

 

 

 

Travel Diaries with Chef Ritwik – a brief review of a food pop-up

Travel and Places

 

 

 

One of the things I cherish when I travel is the local food I find there. Many of you may do the same. This is one of the reasons we are increasingly seeking out homestays and smaller guest houses, preferring to give the regular hotels a miss.

 
Chef Ritwik Sarkar did just that sometime back, when he travelled all over Kerala and Coorg. Which is why he is a man after my heart. During those trips, he learnt a lot of recipes from the regional cuisines and took copious notes. ‘Many Malayalis and Coorgis allowed me to enter their kitchens and learn how to cook their traditional dishes. That was a great feeling.’ says Ritwik.
 
All those lessons have translated into a very interesting, limited-edition menu at Café Felix. ‘Chef Ritwik’s Travel Diaries’ is a food pop-up being dished out until April 15.
 
The pop-up menu has cocktails, soups, appetisers, entrees and desserts. Every offering on the menu draws its inspiration from Keralan and Coorgi cuisine, but has a global touch added to it. For instance, the chakka curry (jackfruit curry) is made Malabar-style, but tossed with homemade fettuccine and shitake mushrooms. What sounds like an unlikely combination is actually a delight when it lands on the palate.
Inspite of adding a twist to every dish, Chef Ritwik has managed to keep the taste authentic and close to the native version. And that, to my mind, is his true triumph.
 
This is what I had:
 
Southern Somras – dark rum, orange liqueur, curry leaves, jaggery, apple juice and tamarind water.
 
Alleppey Apple – whiskey, apple juice, green apple juice, spiced maple syrup, Assam tea, fresh apple chunks, cloves and cinnamon.
The effect of the spiced maple syrup is an utter delight.
 
Jackfruit cutlets – I love jackfruit in any form, and totally loved these cutlets, which were fried just right and served with raw mango & jaggery chutney.
 
Sweet potato & green pepper gnocchi – pumpkin erissery with baby spinach and picked radish.
Chakka curry with homemade fettuccine – as described earlier.
 
Vegetable ishtu – ‘Ishtu’ is how any Malayali worth his coconut oil pronounces ‘stew’.
While it is usually had with appams, Ritwik servers it with a nutty pilaf. I didn’t realise how good this combination would taste until I spooned myself the first mouthful of ishtu and the rice. The caramelised onions add a nice crunch to the pilaf.
 
Kerala Sundae – And towards the end of my meal, Ritwik delivers his knock-out punch. Three balls of vanilla ice cream arrive in a plate. I take a spoonful from each and realise that one has been stuffed with coconut, another with jaggery and the third, with banana.
Bits of waffle, banana chips and strips of jackfruit complete this dessert bomb.
 
The acronym ‘OMG’ is reserved for experiences like this one.
 
Now, quickly look at the photos below, call your foodie buddies or family and head over to Cafe Felix at 1 MG Mall. The pop-up is on only till April 15,2018.