Bangalore Lunch

about KHB Block Koramangala,, Bengaluru, 2 comments:

After Koshy’s retro cool breakfast, I found myself in Koramangla at lunch. Of all the food choices available in Bangalore, the one thing you cannot get in Mumbai is Andhra, so I figured that would be a good bet. Someone told me there was a Nagarjuna in Koramangla, but that proved a fruitless exercise.

Burrp came to the rescue, identifying a Naati Manae for me. Karnataka rather than Andhra, but promising enough, and so we set off in search. Koramangla with its warren of isn’t the easiest of places to navigate, but google maps, two loops and a few u-turns later, we turned into one smallish lane. A deliberately rustic thatch-house with blue walls and warli paintings greeted us (warli is firmly Maharashtrian, not clear about the connection here). I’m told Naati Manae means country house, and that’s clearly the look these guys were clearly going after. The rural theme continued inside, with wooden panels and terracotta tiles everywhere.

It was a small place place inside, maybe 20 covers or so, and it was full (which is always a good sign). This prentends to be a hole in the wall, but is actually a relatively modern restaurant (read clean). Banana leaves came perched on plastic plates. The star of the menu seemed to be something called donne biriyani which landed up heaped in a leaf bowl, along with the inevitable raitha and rassa. The special of the day was pepper chicken – definitely chettinad.

It turned out to be a find. The generously proportioned biriyani was very nice – similar to andhra but a little different and with plenty of melting pieces on the bone. A particularly nice touch – the rassa it came with was outstanding. The pepper chicken - dark and biting - was more than acceptable. The menu is loaded with never-heard-before kanadda dishes that definitely merit some more exploration. All in all, quite worth the extended search operation.

Bangalore Breakfast

about Koshy's, Bengaluru No comments:

Early in the morning today, I stepped out of the swank Bangalore Airport. Rubbing wakedness into my bleary eyes and speculating on breakfast choices, I narrowed down to a Bangalore institution - Koshy's.

Everyone (including many who have never been there) will confirm that Koshy's is an institution - it has been in existence for long enough and been popular for long enough. Koshy's is the place that Bangalore insiders take Bangalore outsiders to introduce them to the "real" Bangalore – before, that is, those money-grubbing software yuppies started insisting on cappucinos and malls. Koshy’s is, in other words, an institution (or did I already say that). It should be mentioned here that Koshy's comes in three flavours within the same premises - an ice-cream parlour cum bakery, a restautant and a cafe - of which only the cafe (technically Koshy's Parade Cafe) is worth all this fuss.

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Luckily for those of us not interested in insides and outsides, Koshy's is more than just a crumbling Raj holdout and manages to wear its heavy label with a certain lack of pretension. That neither decor nor waiters nor menus have changed in decades is oddly comforting (my friend ordered idlysambar, only to be told with mild condescension that this was a western breakfast place). The old rhythms of the place are intact; the regular breakfast favourites of omelettes, chicken liver on toast, coffee are still as good as they were while appam and stew, hugely popular it may be, is still not allowed outside Sunday.

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Amazingly Koshy’s, without trying too hard, has managed to be cool. A retro cool, for sure, but one that makes for a pleasant breakfast even without a history lesson. It is a comfortable world of filtered sunlight, interesting food and competent but unhurried waiters. Still a good place to head for straight out of Bangalore Airport.

Back in Bongland

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Work brings me back to Kolkata and there isn’t enough time for a full-fledged food wandering but a man  still has to eat. Luckily, the streets of Kolkata are not without options.

The first stop was jhalmuri, and I must say things have become much fancier than I am used to. Every vendor had a choice of different kinds of muri, including a ‘healthy’ brown rice variety that we finally chose. Not spectacular, but distinctly Kolkata enough to erase memories of years of bhel.

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I wanted to show off my knowledge of Kolkata, took my team to the Ganguram at Everest House, and was sorely disappointed. A similar fate befell us at KC Das. Lets not even get into the details. Wandering among the ancient Chinese shoe stores near KC Das (some date back to the 1790s) I decided to pay a visit to the food stalls in the bylanes of Tipu Sultan’s Mosque. Years ago, this place was one of the few in Kolkata serving beef (most places prefer mutton) and had delectable seekhs. It turns out I was too late for the seekhs, but a small, satisfying bowl of Arbi Haleem (from Arab, not the vegetable) put me in a much better mood. This haleem has distinctly Hyderabadi roots, and probably came along with Tipu Sultan’s sons (who were exiled here after his death). Nearby a stall sold square samosa-like things with an onion-peas filling, while biriyani-seller allowed me a taste and a picture of the local speciality – beef biriyani (I still prefer the mutton variety). Not much influence of Hyderabad remains though – even the biriyani was avadhi style.

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A short walk from there got me to an old favourite – the New Aliah Hotel. As you can see from the sign, its been around for a while, and its popularity is undiminished. I had to jostle with at least a dozen regulars to get my order of chaap and rizala packed.

 

The next day was far more satisfying. First came a visit to a very old favourite – the tiny Ghosh Brothers sweetshop on CIT Road. I’ve been coming here since I was a child (some four decades now) and in that time they have not changed in any noticeable way. They used to be famous for their ice-cream sandesh, but apparently that does not sell that well any more. What is still available is still excellent, including a droolworthy laccha rabdi.

The last stop, for lunch on my way to the airport, was a soundly modern option in Salt Lake that has received much coverage. Abcos Food Plaza is a strange animal – a multi-storey glass tower that harbours four theme restaurants (but apparently a common kitchen). We sat on the first floor – Kipling Klub. A rainy-day lunch of khichudi with three kinds of fish fry (topse, bhetki, ilish), an ilish-paturi and beer was a great finish to a short Bongland trip.

 

Simbly South

about Fort, Mumbai 1 comment:

Matunga is home to the Tamilians, but for Kerala one must head to Fort. A clutch of Kerala restaurants between Fort House and Citibank have lurked in my consciousness for years. If you were up really early and yearned for  odd tubular mallu idlies called puttu, Fountain Plaza was your best bet (usually the follow-up to nightout drinking, it even inspired one of my friends to contemplate a mallu wife). Rahamaniya next door was a haven of soundly non-veg Moplah food. Recently, however, I was led further afield to a tiny lane near the Bombay Store that hid away two Kerala Thali joints - Latha and the more crowded, more colourful Hotel Deluxe that was our recommended destination.

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We first headed into the first available entrance, colourfully festooned with Hotel Deluxe multicoloured signs. However, we were told that the downstairs is just biriyani-paratha - Thali is upstairs. This meant getting out of the restaurant, going next door and climbing up a baby doll pink flight of stairs while signs on the way prepped us for "seafod" and "vagitarian". That done, we sat down, ordered thali, biriyani and fish masala, and sat back to wait.

First came the banana leaf, then heap of red (or if you insist, white) parboiled rice. Pickles, salt and other sides magically appeared, vegetables were plonked on from the standard quatro of bowls on a handle while rasam and dessert appeared in tiny transparent nescafe-type plastic cups. An hour of satisfied munching later, we leaned back and pronounced the verdict.

Definitely a find. Everything was at minimum hugely, satisfyingly good with the occasional foray into the distinctly great - pachadi, fish masala in particular. It's messy, ambience-less eating (I'm not that great a fan of banana leaf and it's gravies running amok) but quite worth putting up with the slurps emanating from a huge ravan of a man at the next table.

Cycle Tales

about Apollo Bandar, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India 2 comments:

Last Sunday’s ride was a series of mishaps. Two punctures caused me to walk as much as I cycled, and a stolen tail light left me more than a little miffed.

On the plus side, however, I explored a new place – The Table – freshly opened for lunch right next to a Moshe and Indigo Deli. It promised the freshest ingredients and a community-style menu that encouraged sharing (which was going to be tough for me, eating alone).

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The Table is a handsome, handsome space. The two-level arrangement is not uncommon, but the large windows add to a comfortable, stay-for-a-while kind of vibe that the best bistros do so effortlessly. I would have sat at the communal table (what better for the solitary gustator) but having come at the very last five minutes of lunch service I was faced with a mostly empty restaurant and was thus led to a smaller table upstairs.

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The menu is modern nouvelle cuisine, the kind where smart grocery shopping meets delectable French sauces, usually at uncomfortably high prices. The Table is expensive, but not eye-wateringly so – no thousand rupee starters or main courses ready to challenge bank balances. But to the food – a waiter politely landed up and I checked off a chilled courgette soup, an asparagus and egg-yolk salad and a bib lettuce in blue cheese dressing.

First the chilled courgette soup. I must tell you here that I love chilled soups; not everyone can get used to the idea that soups dont come steaming hot, but I love them (Indigo two doors down does a wonderful chilled buttermilk soup). Courgette is a fancier name for a zucchini, not your usual cold soup material but, if you think of it, not that far from that other coldsoup staple – cucumber. In any case, it was a nice refreshing soup with the fried courgette chips adding an interesting twist.

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The white asparagus with egg yolk was a more complicated-looking dish, topped with a huge birds nest of fried onion strips. The egg yolk was hidden under a generous load of asparagus bits that were definitely not anything from a can. Firm and tender, they did manage to live up to the promise. The dish overall was scrumptious – the crisp onions, the crunchy tender asparagus and a delicious buttery sauce covering thickened egg yolks made for very nice mouthful indeed.

I’d been dreaming of lettuce wedges with blue cheese – it used to be favourite of mine in Plano, where Roy’s frequently served me a very nice one called “Da Wedge”. This one was suitably wedgy, but came covered with avocado slices (never seen that before). The chef’s grocery shopping had clearly failed him there – the avocado was far from the best. Pushing the slices aside, however, revealed a very fresh lettuce wedge covered with gorgonzola sauce. Nice!

The Table, with Indigo as neighbour and Salt Water Cafe connections, is a very nice restaurant, and one that I would highly recommend a visit to. The interesting part about sourcing the freshest is, however, their strong focus on imported ingredients. Courgette, white asparagus, iceberg lettuce, avocado, none of these are items you would find growing in the average field in Karjat. Alice Waters and her followers made a cuisine out of foraging in their own back yards, blending locally found ingredients with fancy European techniques. It isn’t even that you can call a zucchini or an iceberg lettuce exotic, so why source it “fresh” from faraway farms or even across the seas. It’s probably also the reason these cannot stand up to the best in the world – how can you compete on these dishes with a French chef who has the pick of the stuff in his back yard?

I like European food. I’m hoping that someday, like the ever inventive Chinese have taken local stuff and produced a wonderful new sub-genre of chinese, that someone will take bhindi and gobi and other mundane desi goods and produce wonderful nouvelle food. Till then, I’ll keep visiting The Table and intellectualising over some excellent food.

Two Meats and a Vegetable

about Palladium, Lower Parel, Mumbai 1 comment:

Anjali, down from London for a day, had a simple (practically one word) request – galauti. Since we were already at Phoenix, there seemed no excuse to avoid the temptations of Punjab Grill.

As Indian food of any kind goes, this is my top choice in Mumbai. Indian Harvest held my favour for a while, but they closed their doors a few months ago so Punjab Grill is back on top. To Anjali’s worries – of course it does a mean galauti, except that they call it kham khatai (an interesting choice of name, because kham khatai is usually veg – and often called veg galauti). A short wait was rewarded with the requisite mini paratha holding up an ultrasoft mutton patty, a sprig of mint and a single onion ring; the whole thing a perfect bite awaiting only a squirt of lemon.

My favourite on the menu full of great kababs is, however, a vegetarian one – the tandoori bharwan gucchi. In Mumbai, as far as I know, only the Punjab Grill offers gucchi – the very exotic morel – rather than common button mushroom. And the morel is a magnificent mushroom that Punjab Grill tandoors magnificently. They do other magic with morels too – a delectable gucchi masala and a very nice gucchi biriyani, but this is my favourite. Its hard to describe a morel experience – you just have to step into one. While not carrying the ubermystique of a truffle, the morel is still highly prized. Its never been cultivated successfully, so all morels are wild morels – making them very hard to find where they do not grow. In Mr. Kalra’s hands, Punjab Grill’s morels come stuffed with khoya, coated with a dahi marinade and tandoored to perfectly charred edges and assorted droolworthy perfection.

I did promise a second meat – and that came in the form of our lamb chop. Nice, but not the star of the show. No picture for you.

Urbanity

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Sometimes, its just enough to come across a nice lunch. Work lunches tend to canteen food (dull) or quiet fancy restaurants (usually the same ones over and over) or mall food (more fast than food) so its nice when a working lunch turns out to be just nice.

This one was an old favourite that I had not gone back to in a long while. I used to find the Versova version excellent (if a little hard to get a seat in) but have not gone for a while. Sitting at Mulund’s Urban Takda over a droolworthy kalimiri paneer and a delectable tandoori gobi, I ruminate on the niceties of Punjabi food and the potential of vegetables in tandoor.

Urban Tadka is still as kitschy as I remember it, and the food is every bit as nice. Regulation Punjabi, but distinctly better than the usual butter chicken crap dished out by every second person who can spell dhaba. Crisp flavours and efficient execution makes for a nice experience. Rich, of course, especially if you top the meal off with a rabdi.

Busaba heads North

about Lower Parel, Mumbai 2 comments:

Busaba has been open in Lower Parel for a while now, which is rather convenient for me as a lunch I can walk to. Worthy of note, in particular, is their set lunch menu -a starter, a salad, a main course and a dessert of the day to be chosen from a small menu at a mere four fifty; it's cheaper than a standard meal at Jai Hind round the corner. The options keep rotating, but there's always a couple of good choices (even if you insist on veggies). The food, as in the other Busaba, is South East Asian, except for desserts (those are unwaveringly European).

Thai steamed chicken and Vietnamese pho soup has been ordered...

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