Monday, 29 June 2015

Bangalore's 1st Bombay Irani Cafe - SodaBottleOpenerWala

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Even with a little over 2 months into operations in Bangalore, the buzz around SodaBottleOpenerWala does not seem to die down. SBOW (is the way I will refer & mention henceforth) continues to be flocked by families, couples, friends, work associates and the likes. Open all day, it does not get easy to get a table especially during lunch and dinner hours. Many find the wait for a table worth every minute spent.

This Bombay Irani cafe and Bar had created a strong buzz much before its opening all thanks to it's earlier outlet from different cities in India; not to mention, the legacy of good experiences earned by AD Singh and team. SBOW itself is a tribute to the Parsi community and a concept created to retain the dying legacy of the bustling, chaotic, quirky, colorful and eccentric Irani cafes of Mumbai.

Full of vibe, this Bombay Irani cafe offers an interesting menu which includes the typical/signature Parsi delicacies and some Irani specialties. The menu stretches to Irani bakery stuff and Parsi inspired alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, full-fledged bar menu, teas, coffees and a lot more. Being an all day diner, it's a place you can visit for lunch, dinner or in between for drinks or quick snack with a cup of chai or coffee.

I've been here twice to date and want to go back to try stuff I still haven't been able to get my hands on. Before getting there, here's what I've loved from my previous visits -

'Spicy Mushroom on Khari' - a twist to the popular khari biscuit that comes topped with mushrooms, chili and cheese,

'Eggs Kejriwal' - egg on toast with cheese in between and a generous sprinkling of cheese; a dish made famous and originated in the Royal Wellington Sports Club of Mumbai,

'Kolmi fry' - a simple dish of prawns fried with onion slivers/ rings around it. Mope it up with the mint chutney and it seals the deal,

'Bohri Style Keema Pav' - Everytime I visit SBOW, this dish will surely make it to the table. It's mildly spiced but really rich in flavor mutton keema served with pav made in the in-house bakery. I don't know if this qualifies to be in the starters though as it is a meal in itself and enough for me make a meal out of this.

'Mutton Dhansak' - Comes packaged in a tiffin box with 3 containers. One contains the mutton Dhansak and the other holds caramelized rice and kachumber. Nice, but not the best Dhansak I've eaten.

'Berry Pulao' - This comes in veg/chicken/mutton variants. I personally love both chicken and mutton but given my meat preference, will recommend the mutton berry pulao. Berry pulao is fragrant rice and meat combination topped with fried onion and berries. The fried onions and berries add a nice hint of sweetness to this preparation but the flavoring is really elegant to allow for the sweetness to take over.

'Parsiana' (Cocktail) - A connection with Bangalore indeed. Old Monk based rum cocktail with plums and orange muddled in. A very well concocted drink indeed.

'Caramel Custard' - I love caramel custard and this one surely leaves it' mark. You've gotta try this.

Perfect for the chai time or an evening snack are also 'Vada Pav', Shrewberry biscuits, Mumbai special 'Kandha Bhajji' in the company of some 'Irani special chai' or 'Masala chai' from the Irani Chai Bar menu.

In all, SodaBottleOpenerWala has an all day dining menu with something suiting the time and purpose of your visit. The beverages are very competitively priced and the food for two will cost an average of Rs. 1300 plus taxes and charges.

I have been here twice so far and will surely go back to get my hands on the 'Bacon Keema Macaroni', 'Irani Falooda', 'Sali Chicken / Mutton', 'Bheendi Bazaar Sheek Paratha', 'Mawa Cake' and more.

Note: All pictures in this post are representative and only tasting portions. Actual portions served are much larger and hearty.

Address: 25/4, Lavelle Road, Opp. Harley Davidson Showroom, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 70222 55299

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Shiro Collection - DimSum Festival, Bangalore

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Some of the top brands of restaurants, pubs and lounges are an offering of JSM Corp. Right from Hard Rock Cafe, to Ginger Tiger, California Pizza Kitchen, Shiro are just to name a few. DimSums are my favourite and it's rarely that I make a meal out of dimsums. On till the 7th of July is this lovely showcase of 'The Shiro Collection' of DimSums.

With over 40 DimSums on the specially designed menu, there is a plenty on offer for both vegetarian and non-vegetarians. Elevating the experience is the beautiful setting/ambiance, service and the variety of tea served complimentary. The evening for us was an elaborate affair that started with two wonderful variants of the mojito; one was orange and the other was fig mojito. At first I was skeptical to try a variant for previous not so good experiences around Bangalore but here, both the mojito variants were really refreshing, no bottled flavors were added and the marriage of the flavors was beautiful. These are a set of cocktails I will definitely repeat on my future visits.

Shortly arrived two baskets of assorted dumplings - one vegetarian and another with non-vegetarian dumplings. It was a great way to go ahead with tasting the offerings on the menu. The non-vegetarian basket came with the following dimsums -

 - Chicken Gyonza: Lovely stuffing of minced chicken and herbs offering a mild flavor enough to really savor this classic Chinese preparation.
 - Har Gao: Simplicity is at the heart of this har gao; good chunks of prawns and brilliantly light and translucent casing to hold them all together. The prawn filling was perfectly cooked and filled in good measure to allow to be eaten in one go.
 - Chicken & Sichuan Pepper  Dumpling: Clearly the Sichuan pepper was the star addition to this dumpling giving it the a nice lingering after taste of the Sichuan pepper. 
 - SuiMai: Prawn Sui Mai was delicate and flavors were well balanced. The filling was fabulous and generous.
 - Prawn & Asparagus Dumpling: This was a very light and refreshing combination with both the prawn and asparagus adding a nice crunch to the delicate texture of the dimsum wrapper.

The flow of dimsums didn't seem to end but at this time we thought of pairing them with Sublime tea which has partnered with Shiro in curating a wonderful Yum Cha experience of sorts. Brilliant aroma on the nose, crisp notes and a lingering finish were traits of two varieties (Rose in Bloom and Jasmine Mandarin) of Sublime tea that we sipped for the rest of the evening in the company of more dim sums. I loved the tea and have ordered my quota of the tea bags from Sublime's website.

Our date with dim-sums continued with the arrival of some new entrants- 
 - Phoenix Eye Dumpling: A classic prawn dumpling seasoned with chilis and fish sauce and topped with Edamame. 
 - Prawn Nest dumpling: It was art on a plate that required the technique, talent and skill to prepare. The casing was like fibre; a result of the use of potato and starch fried with a prawn filling. This was really heavy and I could not afford another one for the sheer spread of dim-sums that were yet to arrive. The XO sauce came as a condiment which was well prepared too.
 - Chicken Pearl Dumpling: This was a chicken dumpling flavoured with the five spice powder and oyster sauce. Rolled as a ball with Sticky Jasmine rice, this was my least preferred dumpling by taste due to the over powering essence and taste of the star anise and the missing flavor of the oyster sauce that I love.

To my surprise, the vegetarian dumpling too had a host of selection to choose from. From the various we tried, what my dining companion enjoyed the most were-
 - Chi Chow Fried Dumpling
 - Pak choi & Water Chestnut Dumpling
 - Vegetable Nest Dumpling

Our evening continued with 3 steamed delicacies- 
 - Silken Tofu with Mustard XO: Steamed slices of silken tofu topped with a delicious mustard sauce was a delight combination of texture and flavor.
 - Prawn with Thai herb sauce: The succulent prawns were steamed in and quoted with a Thai herb sauce. Indeed succulent and flavourful.
 - Pork ribs with sweet chili and black bean sauce: Easily the best pork ribs I have ever eaten. The pork itself fell of the bone without second thoughts. It was so soft that the bone remained clean and clear effortlessly. The smokiness of the pork married fabulously with the sweet chili and black bean sauce.

Not very fond of desserts that too after a scrumptious dim-sum meal we were in no mood for desserts  and instead continued to sip the 'Jasmine Mandarin' offering from sublime tea. It was a meal that had us really content and left us feeling easy even after an overload of dim-sums. The menu also includes steamed fish wrapped in lotus leaf, steamed bao and the likes.

For those who'd love to try a varied range of the dim-sum offerings at Shiro can go in for a basket of 9 varieties of dim-sums which is priced at Rs. 1900 plus taxes and charges. The portion is good to be shared between 2 - 3 diners and can be enjoyed with portions of Sublime tea which come complimentary to complete the Dim-Sum experience. On till 7th July, do head here if you'd love to have a YumCha experience.

Address: UB City, 4th Floor, Piazza Area, Lavelle Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 4173 8861

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Street Food of the world @ Raj Pavilion, ITC Windsor, Bangalore

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Street food is possibly one of the most loved and comforting form of food. Be it India, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, Morocco, London, NYC or any city or country of the world; street food is the most dynamic, democratic, soul satisfying and an exciting expression of the food culture.

To experience it in a five star setting may not sound as interesting if you consider the spread to be only Indian. However, it gets totally worthwhile when you have hot selling items from various parts of the globe. To give you an idea - how about Spanish Paella, Malaysian Ice Kachang, Nasi Goreng of Indonesia, Roti Jala with chicken and prawn curry and a lot more that comes up on the buffet menu on a rotation basis!

The evening I dined, the street food section of the expansive buffet spread comprised of Mexican and Malaysian delicacies. We started with live Mexican station from where was dished out nachos with the lovely multi-layer dip which comprised of lamb, chicken, beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese. For the vegetarians, the dip came layered excluding any meats. From the Mexican koisk, the vendor also dished out other classics like tacos and burrito which were hearty and filling. To be able to experience more, we sampled some of these and moved on to the other side of Greenwich Meridian.

On the other side of Greenwich Meridian was a Malaysian street vendor who served up the famous Roti Jala with Malaysian chicken curry and a tangy and spicy sambal prawn dish. I could have easily made a complete meal of this combination in itself. I absolutely loved the prominent flavor of the coconut milk used in the chicken curry and the tang of the tomato and the flavor of Malaysian spices that made up the prawn dish. Of the two curries, I enjoyed eating the roti jala soaked in the chicken curry and enjoyed the prawn dish all by itself.

The vegetarians on the table too were having a good time savoring the roti jala with the vegetarian counterparts. Thoughtfully, ITC Windsor has segmented their buffet spread to balance between the street food offerings and the regular features on the buffet which include salads, soups, mains like Chinese, Indian, Continental and more. Over the course of the evening, we also enjoyed some cold cuts, gourmet cheeses, and a little bit of Chinese before moving on to the dessert section which had the colorful and vibrant Malaysian dessert 'Ice Kachang' waiting for us.

In desserts, there was s spread right from Indian to international but for this evening, the star was the the live station preparing the 'Ice Kachang' as known in Penang, Malaysia. This is a dessert made with shaved ice, condensed milk, fresh fruits, jelly, syrups and more. While every Asian country has it's own version; this one is from Penang, Malaysia. 

This special street food introduction is on offer at ITC Windsor's Raj Pavilion for dinner all days of the week until 30th June 2015. The elaborate buffet is priced at Rs. 1800 plus taxes and charges. Head here if you'd like to indulge in a buffet spread that offers the street food classics from around the globe and also offers the elegant and gourmet food options.

Address: ITC Windsor, 25 Windsor Square, Golf Course Road, Near Sankey Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 4140 1205

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Johnny Walker Double Black Whisky Experience

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Some spell it 'Whiskey' while others spell it 'Whisky' and the right way to spell it has been an argument that is quite overdone. The funda goes like this -
 - If the country has the alphabet 'e' in its name; then this fine alcoholic beverage is spelt as 'Whiskey' with an 'e', and;
 - The countries without an 'e' in its name conveniently skip the alphabet and spell it as 'Whisky'.

In this post, I will go by the globally accepted standards and spell it they way its ought to be and that's 'Whisky'. Easy to term it as the most popular whisky brands world over; across whisky categories is the brand Johnnie Walker owned by Diageo from Scotland. Our Whisky for the lovely evening ahead was the 'Double Black Whisky'; a deeper, smokier and a more intense version of the world no. 1 blended scotch whisky - Johnnie Walker Black Label.

It truly was an experience to be hosted by Diageo at the al-Fresco and classy bar Blue Ginger at Taj West-End. Our evening began with a showcase of the Johnnie Walker Double Black whisky with the Diageo Reserve Brand Amabassador 'Zbigniew Zapert' alias 'Zibi' curating a deconstructed tasting session of the complex flavors of the exquisite and creamy blended Scotch whisky. The only way this experience could be elevated from its heights could be by pairing the whisky with delectable food from the dynamic kitchen of Chef Sandip Narang.

Focusing on the 4 key elements / flavors of Double Black whisky; Zibi concocted 4 cocktails; each specifically highlighting flavors of raisins, green apple, berries or spices. Our first drink for the evening was the 'Double Black Raisin Sour' which beautifully brought out the flavor of the raisin on the palate and the aroma and freshness of the twisted orange peel to the nose. As the cocktails were passed on among us, the first course of the food pairing arrived and it was a platter of cheese to go along with the cocktail. Simple and elegant were the words I reminisced.

Next up was the 'Double Black Oaky Apple' paired with Smoked Ham. This cocktail was served in a martini glass and was a concoction of oak aged port wine and Johnnie Walker Double Black'; topped with a Green Apple foam for the freshness.

Our third cocktail for the evening was the 'Double Black and Berry' paired with perfectly grilled and subtly flavored lamb chops. This cocktail had two of my favorite ingredients - Whisky and ginger ale. The berry syrup also an inclusion to make this cocktail added a sweetness that I did not enjoy much.

The next pairing had me amazed and standing on my feet. 'Double Black Maple Masala Old Fashioned' paired with the Indian classic 'Galouti Kabab' placed on sheermal. Needless to say, "This cocktail is by far the best twist to the classic old fashioned I've ever tasted." Barring the whisky, the surprise element that really elevated this cocktail was the maple syrup that was infused with garam masala for over an hour. Pairing was brilliant with the galouti adding to the spice and the sheermal working beautifully to mellow the intensity. 

Done with the cocktails; the last was 'Double Black and Water' which was clearly intense, had a warm finish and left a lingering taste of the smoke. The final pairing was my first experience and certainly something I've looked forward to in the recent times - 'Rich German Chocolate Cake'. I loved this pairing for the way the chocolate and Whisky contributed to the pairing in terms of textures and flavor and at the same time; maintained their individual notes and characteristics.

The evening seamlessly extended into a casual social gathering with more Double Black whisky and cocktails with a good spread of complimenting food which included breads, cheese boards, cold cuts, live grills, Asian mains and desserts.

With different things happening over the course of the evening, what remained constant and repetitive (in a good way) was Zibi's reminder, "Drink less but drink better; choose better places, better situations, better booze and most of all great company and wonderful food."

What else can I say, "I absolutely agree with you Zibi!" Cheers!