Monday, 30 September 2013

'BreakFirst @ Monkey Bar', Bangalore

Breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day and considering the food scene in Bangalore, there is a world of option available for us foodies. In Bangalore, it can be a simple South-Indian affair or an extravagant affair involving global offerings. Depending on the cuisine and preferences, it can be eaten on either the street side, the neighborhood garage, or the restaurants housed in the numerous star hotels and everything in between.

But how about having breakfast at a pub? I stand corrected; at a Gastro-Pub?

Yes and this is exactly what my wife and I did. We kick started our weekend with ‘Breakfirst @ Monkey Bar’; known to be India’s first Gastro-Pub.

Well, what is a Gastro-Pub? It is a space that has the essence of a pub, but is backed by excellent food and service at accessible prices.

Monkey bar, on weekends only runs a special a-la carte breakfast menu starting 9 AM to Noon. The listing includes delicacies spanning across cuisines from the western hemisphere to the eastern hemisphere; but with a twist. The breakfirst menu introduced earlier this year, now has some new dishes introduced as a part of the Breakfirst menu offering gourmet options for vegetarians, eggitarians and non-vegetarians. Here is a glimpse of the ‘Breakfirst @ Monkey Bar’ menu.

The menu not only caters to the eggitarians (The eggs came first), the health conscious, or the ones with a serious appetite (The Big Bang) but also to those who believe only a ‘breakfirst’ cocktail can cure a hangover (Well, that’s a just a reason to drink). Yes, Monkey Bar serves signature breakfast cocktail 10:00 AM onwards.

What we ate:
Our breakfirst was really king sized with a lot of dishes making a visit on our table. It started with the 'Mutton Keema Bao', 'Eggs Benedictine' and 'Eggs Florentine' arriving first.

Bao is a Chinese steamed bun stuffed with either meat or veggies. It is something I ate first during my travel to US a few years ago and since have longed for a good one in Bangalore. I’d assume the picture speaks for itself; the bao was stuffed well with a spicy mutton filling and enjoyed best when eating steaming hot with the accompanying peanut- chilli sauce and the hot mutton broth served in a shot glass.

On request, our portion was split between an Egg Benedictine and an Egg Florentine. Benedictine, listed on the menu since start contains ham between the poached egg and the English muffin while the new addition ‘Florentine’ replaced the ham with creamy spinach. You may have noticed that my preference usually inclines towards the non-vegetarian option but Florentine was a winner this time. What worked was the marriage of the texture and flavor of the creamy spinach, the poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

Soon to follow was a portion of ‘Eggs in a Blanket’ and ‘Toast to France’. ‘Eggs in a blanket’ was a fabulous preparation of egg stuffed between a flaky and light paratha served with mutton keema. I kept asking myself, “Could Breakfast get any better?”

Mention 'Toast to France' and I will always be reminded of the ‘French Toast’ that is served at Monkey Bar. It is a sweet and heavenly preparation of Jewish Challah soaked with numerous ingredients like egg, orange zest, cinnamon, milk and more. This was served along with maple syrup which takes the toast to another high.
Photo Credit: Kunal Chandra

By this time, we were stuffed but were not willing to give up without trying the newly introduced ‘Cinnamon & Toffee Pancakes’. This came as a stack of 3 fluffy cinnamon pancakes topped with sweet toffee and vanilla pastry cream. Of course, there was maple syrup too. Again, this was delicious and easily the best pan cakes I have eaten here in Bangalore. All thanks to its goodness, we managed to get through half the stack.
Photo Credit: Kunal Chandra

How can I miss to mention, all the food we ate was in the company of their ‘Monkey recommends’ – ‘Red Riding Wood’ – vodka based cocktail and a healthy smoothie ‘Green Goddess’. ‘Red Riding Wood’ was served in a mini vodka bottle with the plum and apple pulp floating in it. This drink exudes lovely flavors of fresh plum and apple juice. ‘Green Goddess’ failed to make its mark due to the over powering flavor of Banana. We wished the flavors of banana, peach, orange; kiwi and cucumber were well balanced.

Ohhh, what a wonderful way to kick start our weekend!!!

Monkey Bar with ease makes you believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and they take no time to do so. We loved every single dish that came on our table. As we drove back home after the hearty breakfast, we spoke about what we liked the most. For my wife it was ‘Eggs Florentine’ and the ‘Cinnamon & Toffee Pancakes’ and for me it was ‘Egg in a blanket’ and ‘has to be ‘Toast to France’. Bao – something I love; was good too but missed being at the top only for the lack of sweetness in the steamed bun which makes a lovely contrast to the spicy mutton keema filling.

The ambiance was welcoming and warm. Interiors are rustic and wood finished yet well balanced. Monkey bar does receive a pleasant amount of natural light through it windows which is a plus for me when I’m going for breakfast. The music was on with the sound levels maintained well for a morning visit. It was quite a contrast to how you will find Monkey Bar post evenings. The basement has a pool table and a foosball table.

What will be an average spend for a ‘Breakfirst @ Monkey Bar’ without alcohol and taxes? And What about parking?

Parking is the owner’s responsibility and can be done on the roadside. The breakfast at Monkey Bar averages about Rs. 1200 for two. Post this visit; I’d rate this sit down breakfast way over the extravagant but standard breakfast fare at numerous star hotels. Well, at least I do not want to walk around with my plate across a large buffet hall when I can have lovely delicious food brought right to my table.

Quick Tips:
‘Breakfirst @ Monkey Bar’ rocks! It was not just a meal but the whole experience that we loved. Where else do you get to sit in a NYC style diner and enjoy a gourmet breakfast in Bangalore?

Signing off with a collage of some general info on ‘Breakfirst @ Monkey Bar’

Address: Woods Street, Ashok Nagar, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 4111 6878 / 79 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs @ ITC Windsor - Restaurant Week India

If you are living in Bangalore, Mumbai or New Delhi, you ought to know this, “Citibank Restaurant Week India is back”. This bi-annual 10 day celebration offers you a chance to savor some of the finest culinary delights in your very own city. The culinary fiesta commences on 23rd September and is on till the 2nd of October, 2013. The reservations for the same open at 12:00 AM on 18th September and can only be done online.

During this period, over 24 restaurants (both specialized restaurants from the star hotel chains and the finest of the stand alone) in Bangalore alone craft a special 3 course prix – fixe menu to showcase their signature creations. This special menu across participating restaurants in Bangalore is priced at Rs. 750 ++ for both lunch and dinner.

As a prelude to this, an invitation came my way for a special preview dinner at ‘Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs’. This Lucknowi restaurant housed inside Windsor Manor offers a truly regal ambiance. In no time, it felt as if we were transported into the world of the Nawabs of Lucknow.

We were presented with 2 menu options each; vegetarian for my wife and non-vegetarian for me. What we loved about the menu was; each option listed a prix – fixe 3 course meals which included a signature appetizer, a series of mains, accompanying Indian breads, biryani and desserts. It can’t be that I don’t write and share with you my experience but click here to take a look at the online version of the special Restaurant Week India menu.

Yes! Choose any of the 4 meals and you get everything listed under the chosen one.

What we ate:
Puja a vegetarian and I a non-vegetarian, choose our respective meals and the food courses kept flowing for the rest of the evening. Of course, while the food was being prepared the roasted papad with the spicy mint chutney and the lovely sweet chutney made with papaya, raisin and Gudd provided some solace to our hungry stomach.

Soon to arrive was our first course, ‘Khus Khus Kebab’ from the vegetarian and ‘Murgh Chandni Kebab’ from the non-vegetarian prix fixe menu. My wife absolutely loved the ‘Khus Khus Kebab’ that were prepared with minced veggies, poppy seeds and spice. It was fragrant, delicious and for sure a win for any vegetarian.  

‘Murgh Chandni Kebab’ – tikkas of chicken presented under a blanket of edible silver sheet (silver warq) looked fabulous and succulent. The chicken was unimaginably tender and moist; the secret being that it was first grilled on a tandoor and then finished on dum. Flavor-wise, I found it a tad bit bland for my palate and wished there was more flavoring coming from the cumin.

What followed were the mains. It was an extravagant affair with each menu offering at least 4 main course dishes accompanied with 2 types of Indian breads and a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian biryani to follow.

A common feature on the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian menu is ‘Subz Miloni’ and ‘Daal Qureshi’. ‘Daal Qureshi’ was a lovely preparation of mainly daal and burnt garlic as it two main ingredients and ‘Subz Miloni’ a medley of fresh garden vegetables in rich and creamy spinach gravy.
'Subz Miloni' (Left; 'Daal Qureshi' (Right)

Another common feature is the nice and flaky, ajwain flavored multi layered bread - ‘Warqi Paratha’ and another house special for the health conscious; ‘Naun-E-Bah Khummach’ – baked on a tandoor, made with leavened semolina bread sprinkled with poppy seeds and aniseeds. Between the breads both of us tend to favor the super flaky and crisp ‘Warqi Paratha’ over the healthy ‘Naun-E-Bah Khummach.

In the non-vegetarian meal, there is a portion of ‘Mahi Dum Anari’, ‘Pomegranate Chaap’. ‘Mahi’ (Fish) was cooked in a pomegranate sauce and fish stock. The preparation ensured that it did not overpower the flavor of the fish which was really fresh. ‘Chaap’ (mutton chops) was nice and tender; cooked in a pomegranate sauce which was quite different in taste when compared to the sauce used in the fish preparation. It was cooked in a mutton broth and sufficiently spiced to tone down the sweetness from the pomegranate sauce.
Mahi Dum Anari
Mutton Chaap

The vegetarians are not left out too. Their menu includes ‘Dum ki Khumb’ an aromatic gravy with a generous inclusion of button mushrooms and ‘Guncha-O-Keema’; a semi dry preparation of cauliflower, capsicum and tomato in a kastoori methi based gravy.
Dum Ki Khumb

When it comes to Lucknowi cuisine, there can be no better end that being served a lamb biryani which is aptly called ‘Dum Pukht Biryani’. The biryani cooked on dum came in a vessel sealed with dough to all it too cook on dum. Once the seal was open and the lid taken off, the aroma was unimaginable. I could no longer wait to dig into it. The basmati rice cooked in the mutton stock was bang on in flavor, the lamb meat was easily the juiciest and tender most meat I have ever eaten. The biryani served was perfect to be eaten as is without any accompaniment. The burrani raita served along could not succeed in changing my stance. If it is the lamb biryani for the non-vegetarians, the vegetarians are served a ‘Subz Biryani.
Dum Pukht Biryani - Sealed with Dough
Lamb Biryani - On My Plate

We were stuffed to our throats and had no appetite for any more food. The Staff literarily convinced us to not give it a miss. We are glad we didn’t. We were served ‘365’; rich caramel custard and the classic ‘Shahi Tukra’ for which we requested for the sweet bread and the rabdi to be served separately. Both were really nice and made for a good end to a lovely meal.
Shahi Tukda

The service was flawless. On the food front, they definitely score full marks on making you feels totally pampered. My wife and I had a great evening. We enjoyed every aspect of the evening; be it the plush and rich ambiance, the fabulous service, the wine and the unforgettable food. Unforgettable for two reasons – (1) every dish exudes richness, freshness and use of the finest quality of the ingredients and (2) wide array of dishes and really large portions got us really tired of eating; indeed a rare situation.

This menu specially designed for the 10 day Restaurant Week comes wonderfully priced at just Rs. 750 plus taxes and charges. It’s a steal! Go for it

Quick Tips:
What I love about this festival is that, the finest of the restaurants serve the finest of their food at the most affordable prices.

The online reservation opens on 18th September at 12:00 AM for the Citibank Restaurant Week India that runs through Monday, 23rd September to Wednesday, 02nd October 2013.

It was a lovely meal at Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs and I look forward to visiting a few more restaurants during this festival. A visit is highly recommended. Here’s a link to make an online reservation.

Address: ITC Windsor, 25 Windsor Square, Golf Course Road, Near Sankey Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 2226 9898

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Smoke House Deli, Bangalore

"When are we meeting?" was a question one friend asked. Almost instantly, the others replied, "this weekend."

The conversation ended here for the rest of the week. Come Saturday and we go all around Bangalore before we all strike a chord for our lunch meet up..


The much heard and talked about restaurant currently - Smoke House Deli.

We usually are at least 8 of us and an extensive menu of food and drinks always excites us. Smoke House Deli has one such Menu - An extensive listing of both food and beverages. 

The food menu includes varied cuisines primarily European and Continental while the beverages menu is very impressive too. It holds a range of very interesting cocktails like smoked pineapple mojito, smoked melon martini etc. They also have an additional placard style menu for the appetizers. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians are well thought out for by Smoke House Deli and this can be said from their menu listing.

What we ate:
It was a lovely Sunday we spent over a couple of drinks, loads of fabulous food, fun and conversations. Being a good number of us on the table, I think we covered every section of their menu, well if not everything, it has to be pretty much everything. Let’s go over a pictorial review of what we ate at Smoke House Deli and what we think about it:
The Customary Start: Assorted Bread Basket

Breakfast Section: Yes, they have a section on their menu listing breakfast dishes like cereals, pancakes, scrambled eggs, range of omelet, French toasts etc. The good news, all of this is available all day long.
Masala Omelette

Appetizers - These are listed on a placard placed on every table. Our pick included:
Chicken Fritters: Dry and chewy meat; Can be avoided
Three Cheese and Jalepeno Toast - Gooey cheese and crunch bread. A good pick
The Cottage Cheese and Chicken skewers were delicious with chicken being juicy and tender and the cottage cheese - melt in mouth.
Spiked Cottage Cheese Skewers
Coriander Chicken Skewers
I am not very fond of mushrooms, but the mushroom lovers on my table liked the Mushroom crostini.
Mushroom Crostini

Moving on from appetizers, we decided to go with 2 Italian dishes, 1 burger and 2 Smoke House Deli signature mains. In Italian, for us it was the Ravioli that stole the show. 
Spinach & Ricotta Cheese Ravioli
Do not recollect the name of this dish
The cottage cheese steak was nice and crunch on the outside with well seasoned and minced cottage cheese on the inside. Ratatouille provided a nice blend of flavors and texture to this dish. 
Cottage Cheese Steak with Ratatouille
The Lamb burger was delicious and was all eaten up without ever being placed back on the plate.

Fish 'N' Chips - another SHD special was fabulous. The fish was flaky and moist; perfectly cooked with encased in a really light and crispy fried batter coating. 

Desserts – We were over stuffed with a lot of food and drinks but were in no mood to settle without desserts. We thought we could do with 4 desserts to share but the decadent looks got us calling for 5. The best we liked was the White Chocolate and Orange 'Creme Brulee' closely followed by the 'Hazelnut Mousse Flan'. The 'Raspberry and Oreo Cheese Cake' was nothing exceptional. Oreo only constituted to the crumble base. To our surprise, the 'Molten Chocolate Cake' was a total disappointment. The melting chocolate or the cake lacked any trace of flavor and sweetness.
Hazelnut Mousse Flan
The super delicious White Chocolate & Orange 'Creme Brulee'
Raspberry and Oreo Cheese Cake
Roasted Almond Ganache Torte
Molten Chocolate Cake

It was an afternoon that left each of our stomach and heart very well satiated. The food was fabulous; most of the dishes hit the good notes be it the appetizers, the burger, Italian or continental. Desserts provided for a perfect end to a fantastic meal. The only disappointment being the molten chocolate cake. 

The cocktails were a disappointment with Bellini being an exception. The smoked drinks like the melon Martini lacked any smoked flavor; the smoked pineapple mojito was not very refreshing and also lacked any flavor of pineapple.

The ambiance was really captivating. We got to sit by the lovely glass facade that provided for natural light. The interiors are done up in all white adding to the brightness. The service started off on a weak note but caught up really well for the rest of our visit. The staff seemed well informed about their menu. They were quick to suggest when asked for an opinion. Everything we ordered was served well in reasonable time. The food and desserts were well plated too. The portions are well sized and more than sufficient to feed a very hungry person.

A worry on a busy 100 FT road has to be Parking space. You need not work, Smoke House Deli provides for Valet service.

Two diners can have a good and relaxed meal at an average cost of Rs. 1500 (without alcohol) plus taxes.

Quick Tips:
To me, Smoke House Deli definitely qualifies to be one of the restaurants I’d love to visit again and again. I’ve already been here 2 weekends back to back and look forward to visiting them soon.

The menu is extensive but from what I've eaten so far, here are my recommendations for when you are at Smoke House Deli –

Spiked Chicken Skewers, Smoked Lamb Burger, SHD Fish ‘N’ Chips, Spinach and Ricotta ravioli, House spiced smoked Chicken with 5 spice Jus. To give a perfect end to a lovely meal, do not miss the White Chocolate and Orange ‘Crème Brulee’.

Address: 1029, 100 FT Road, Indiranagar, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 2520 0899