Bicycle Tales: A Belgian Bite

about Appasaheb Marathe Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India 3 comments:

What would you say to a shop located on the blind side as you turn from Siddhi Vinayak to the more mundane parts of Prabhadevi? Cycling is a good cure to blindness; that's probably the only reason why I managed to stare at the completely unpronounceable name without killing anyone. Two minutes of stammering later I'm ready to go back to modaks – someone should be warned that isn't really the land of spelling bee champions; its the land of their language-mangling parents.

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Lets just bite the tongue and spit it out; Debailleul. Its not quite clear how you say it, but apparently mashing the two middle 'l's into a 'y' is involved.

Mumbai Boss was the first to warn me about a Belgian pastry chef who was bringing an entire patisserie flash frozen from the land of real chocolates. Chef Marc Debailleul is the man behind the magic, a much decorated pastry chef (I wish he had liked his first name more than his second, but no more name jokes). Its a beautiful, inviting space – small, but with a few tables for two and the lovliest, most droolworthy display of chocolates you are likely to see in a while.

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Now straight to the bottom line. The citron macaroon was wonderful, the chicken quiche tasty but not memorable, the coffee perfect and the two chocolates tiny but delectable. The hole in the pocket was noticeable, though not as huge as feared.

Ok, the bottom line (second attempt). The chocolates are beautiful (and really very nice) but not Mumbai's best chocolate. I thought both the Taj and the Grand Hyatt do a little bit of a better job at similar prices and easier pronunciation. Yauatcha manages a wonderful job too; none, however, look anywhere near as elegant. Isn't that part of what you want to pay for? There's a reason why the seating is all for two.

Bangalore Brunch

7 comments:

I landed in Bangalore starved from the early morning flight and a lack of breakfast, and was greeted straightaway with something I thought was uniquely Bangalore – a branded variant of filter coffee. Hatti Kaapi even did the whole meter coffee ritual, and handed me a perfectly acceptable filter kaapi; only the double steel containers were missing. Of course, Bangalore also invented Cafe Coffee Day; that stared reproachfully at my fickleness from the other side of the parking.

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Kaapi done, I discovered myself on the loose end after a friend ditched me for lunch. Given that it was going to be my sole lunch in Bangalore in a long while, I needed a touch of special. A bit of research dug up modern Indian at the Pink Poppadom, but it was dinner only. Caperberry and its molecular tapas beckoned, but I figured, do I really expect Ferran Adria to hang about Dickenson Road? I needed something Bangalore and  bit of thought later I narrowed the choice to the biriyani at Nagarjuna Residency.

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Its not much of an exaggeration to say that Bangalore is the centre of Andhra food (not to be confused with Hyderabadi food with its Nawabi airs).  This cuisine combines Arab traders, Guntur chillies and Reddy palates into  some of the spiciest food in the world; challenging most Indians and making even the average Thai sit up and take notice. For some reason Bangalore is the only major city that has Andhra food coming out of every pore while the rest of the country remains blisslessly untouched by it. There isn't a single Andhra eatery in Mumbai, and not that many even in Hyderabad. Nagarjuna, with its Andhra biriyani and  thus seemed fitting.

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Nostalgia aside, Nagarjuna is also one of the great biriyanis of the world. I've written about the Chennai biriyani wars and Cochin's choices, but Nagarjuna remains my favourite biriyani of its kind; short grained aromatic rice and noticeably different spicing from the dum variants further north. It comes heaped on a plate, with a raita and a kurma (a coconut based gravy) – a rich, subtle dish loaded with flavour.

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Then there was Nagarjuna's Chilly Chicken where green chillies are used in the same way that lesser civilizations use onions (I counted no less than thirty in my four-inch plate); the result is a blazing fire of a dish. However, its not just fire for the sake of it; these Andhras really know how to sing while the fire is burning. For all the torture, the flavour is utterly addictive.

What would be your Bangalore onlymeal?

Cafe Cool

about Mathuradas Mills, Lower Parel, Mumbai No comments:

No one can accuse Cafe Zoe of being easy to locate.  Embedded deep in the heart of Mathuradas Mills, the entrance tucked out of sight behind parked cars and the local omelette-pao place, Zoe tries very hard to be a 'find'. And succeeds.

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Push past the large door, and you are suddenly transported into a cool, minimalist world of comfortable spaces and calm furniture. The ceiling soars, the sunlight pours in, colourful sofas invite you to laze about and widely space blondewood tables seem meant for gossip. Bunches of bare bulbs hang from unconcealed cables, the bar is made of old crates, a long bare brick wall adds to a carefully cultivated sense of industrial clutter. Cutlery comes in glass tumblers, water and gazpacho in glass milk bottles, salads in tall glass containers that look just like plastic till you touch them. This could be New York – a bistro in LES one of those cool Brooklyn places that have sprung out of gentrification, men in suits mingled with tousled female hair and hippe jeans.

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The food is quintessentially bistro – competent and comforting rather than spectacular. Having run through nearly the entire menu in three visits, I find a good deal to be satisfied with. The melon gazpacho is definitely one of the hits, the salads quite worth trying, the truffle cappelini delectable, the pastas properly toothsome and the desserts (with the exception of a poorly set panna cotta) satisfying. Even the bread is satisfyingly hardcrust.

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Go, 'find' it.

Dalmore Dalliance

about The Leela, Mathuradas Vasanji Rd, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India 1 comment:

It was with some interest that I read the invitation Rushina had sent me. The text mentioned Dalmore, and I knew only two pieces of trivia about Dalmore. One was its owner - via Whyte and Mackay our very own Vijay Mallya – and second that someone had purchased in Singapore Duty Free a Dalmore worth about rupees one crore – apparently the most expensive regular whisky in the world. To those who want to do the math, its about one lakh rupees a small sip.

My hopes of coming anywhere near that bottle were understandably slim, but Dalmore makes other stuff worth drinking too. The twelve, the gran reserva and the fifteen were promised but the invitation promised still more - a food and whisky pairing that combined the talents of Mallya's minions with Jamavar's Chef Surender Mohan.

While wine-food pairings are a dime a dozen, this was the first time I was about to try a whisky-food pairing that did not involve a dive bar. Whisky is hardly a stranger to food; the enduring popularity of the chicken tikka derives from its ability to make cheap whisky better. This one was different – Dalmore hardly requires help going down, and Jamawar seemed quite capable on its own as well.

We started with the Dalmore 15; this, in my opinion, is of the finest scotches in the world (in my price range, of course). Mellow, sophisticated, lots of flavours and aromas jumping in and out as you hold it in your mouth, its a pleasure to drink in slow, measured sips over evening conversations. Served in champagne flutes to enhance the nose, it was paired with a jumbo prawn baked in cheese, lamb seekh kababs and tandoori broccoli. The Dalmore 12 returned to regular tumblers, paired with the main courses of fish alleppey, badami chicken korma, bharwan gucchi and paneer pasanda. Biriyani and dal also floated in and out. The final whisky – the Gran Reserva – was paired with the pista kulfi dessert.

The food was outstanding. The tandoori broccoli was to die for, the biriyani wonderful and the bharwan gucchi worth the wait. The whiskys were equally good – the Twelve was nice, the Gran Reserva sweet and complex, the Fifteen I have already been fulsome over. Though both were robust flavours and aromas the selection was good; they did well not to clash with each other.

The big question is, however – what did it add? A great cheese lifts a wine to greater heights, and the right wine does the same for the cheese. Here, however, the pairing was more pleasant company than dance partner. I still find whisky a wonderful standalone drink. Call me a purist but I firmly believe the incredible complexity of the Fifteen or the Gran Reserva should be savoured without distractions.

Don't read books while listening to Bach…

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