Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Bengali Food Festival @ Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia

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Not often does a hotel host a Bengali food festival; I ask why? It's a cuisine rich in history and tradition with flavors being diverse right from subtle to fiery. Essentially a culmination of 5 spices (called 'Panchphoron') - mustard, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, aniseed and black  cumin seeds the food was as authentic and homely as it can get.

Like every other festival at Cubbon Pavilion, the Indian section has been converted to offer just Bengali delicacies. However, unlike any other festival at Cubbon Pavilion, I did not even see the need to glance at any other segment or cuisine on the buffet. Such was the richness and diversity this cuisine brought to the table.

Common knowledge is that Fish, Maach  as it is called in Bengali is widely consumed in Bengali cuisine with prawns, chicken and mutton following close. I knew I'd be in for a treat even before I headed for dinner that evening. Knowing me, my Bengali friend was quite assertive and authoritative said to me, "Don't just focus on the non-vegetarian food, there's a world of vegetarian that's not to be missed."

I followed every word he mentioned and am really glad that I did. Dinner that evening was like experiencing two worlds - vegetarian and non-vegetarian all on a plate. Without much ado, I'll head straight to what I ate and enjoyed the most.

'Beguni', 'Mutton cutlets' and 'Tilapia Bajja' were served as starters. Aptly, the tilapia bajja and mutton cutlet came served with onion slivers and lime on the side. Off the two, I absolutely loved the tilapia bajja which was mildly coated with freshly pounded jeera masala and fried. Cooked perfectly, the fish though deep fried was moist, flaky and tender on the inside. The flavors of the masala was mild and did not interfere in the experience of enjoying the fish itself.

Mutton cutlets were really mild in flavor but nothing to rave about. Personally, I found the mutton filling to be scarce while potato mash took prominence. Beguni was as simple Bengali food can get - Bengal gram flour battered eggplant. It was simple and a nice way to begin the evening.

The experience only kept getting better through the evening. In mains, I followed the instructions of the chef and stuck to her food pairing recommendation. Here, it was not food pairing with wine or whisky but was what food dish to be paired with another food dish for the best experience.

My first round of mains began with the pairing of fresh, hot and fluffy luchi with 'Alur Dum' and 'Misthi Doi' on the side. I went ahead and also helped myself with a 'Rosgulla' as well out of temptation. 'Alur Dum' was whole baby potatoes floating in a thick and spicy gravy perfect for the hot luchi. A perfect finish to sooth the palate was the combination of fresh Misthi doi on side.

The next round in mains comprised of the 'Kosha Mangsho pulao' and 'Murgi Jhol'. Murgi jhol as the name suggests was a thin curry with chicken and baby potatoes in it. Subtle yet well present flavors was a highlight of this dish. The mutton pulao was well balanced in flavor and the meat was tender and complimented well in enhancing the flavor of the pulao.

What I looked forward to was this next round. Steamed rice soaked with the nice and light 'Maacher Jhol' and accompanied by semi dry prawns, banana stack in curry and a semi dry aloo pawral vegetable. Eating all of this on one plate was nothing short of a feast and probably for the first time I had so many vegetarian preparations on my plate. Absolutely loved the experience and as I ate, it only felt like any experience a non-bengali might have when visiting a Bengali household as a guest.

I was wishing for the festival to be extended beyond the planned schedule but I know for sure, it's going to make a come back in the near-term. I will look forward to it so that I can visit again for a wonderful Bengali food experience and also to update you so we can share the same experience.

Address: No. 1, Residency Road, Bengaluru - 560025
Phone Number: +91 80 2211 9898

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Celebrating 25 Years of Karavalli, Gateway Hotel Bangalore

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While I've been always in a look out to try new restaurants and new cuisines and dishes; there are some places I keep visiting and really look forward to visiting time and again. Karavalli is one such place where I know what to expect in each and every visit and that's exactly how I expect it to be.

The food here has been the most consistent visit after visit. It seems like Chef Naren has left no scope of improvement and that level of consistency, love and passion speaks in the form of the iconic 25 dishes. It is these signature dishes that make for a legendary menu that has been integral to the 25 glorious years of Karavalli.

I've always looked forward to an evening of conversations and food at Karavalli with chef Naren and this time around it was - Celebrating 25 years of Karavalli with its 25 signature and classic dishes. The menu for the evening was not a surprise and this was the best part about the evening.

The start was customary - A small portion of jaggery was provided to cleanse our palate and prepare it for the fabulous food that was about to arrive.

Starters arrived one after the other and like always I was in all awe with every passing dish. Read on for some food porn and this one clearly has no age bar:

‘Kuttanandan Karuvapila Konju’ – Tiger prawns pan fried with onion, tomato and fresh curry leaves. Memories of the previous visits over the years came alive; I looked forward to this preparation even before it arrived and even after it was downed with a cry as it headed to a finish. The ingredients are simple yet enough to get one on a food high.

'Koli Barthad' a chicken starter was pan - fried in a blend of roasted spices and corgi vinegar leaving a mild tarty after taste. The chicken and the spices married really well and would make for a lovely starter with a chilled pint of beer.

‘Kane Kaidina’ – Whole Lady fish was seasoned generously with fine ground Mangalorean spices and pan cooked leaving the fish downright delicious and succulent. Another fish served this evening was 'Meen Eleittad' - a black pomfret marinated in Malabar masala and pan-fried wrapped in a banana leaf. This preparation tasted as delicious as it looked with the balance of the spices and their flavor felt clearly yet not overpowering the flavor of the fish itself. Cooked a minute or two lower and this would have just kicked ass.

In the mains, it was a feast contemplated at an all new high. This indulgent course is not for someone with a weak appetite. There was:
'Allapuzha Meen Curry' - a moderately spiced curry of ground coconut, raw mangoes and ginger with the seer fish simmered in it.

'Kozhi Malliperlan' - delicious gravy of coconut milk and fresh spices with succulent boneless chicken drowned in it.

'Attirachy Ulathu' is something I've always enjoyed at Karavalli. It is a dry preparation of lamb cubes cooked with tomato, onion and fresh spices based from Travancore, Kerala.

What I've again always loved at Karavalli and in vegetarian is the 'Maavinakai Mensukkai' which is a dish of preserved mangoes cooked in a blend of chilis and coconut. It's a beautiful amalgamation of sweet and sour flavors. While this tasted great with the malabar paratha, I could mop this dish just by itself. A 'Pachakkari Stew' or 'Veg Stew' is hard to get wrong and is such a great combination with the appam and idiappam.

For desserts it was Bebinca and Dodol with vanilla ice cream. Bebinca is a coconut based Goan dessert and 'Dodol' served warm was a rice cake cooked gently in coconut milk and jaggery. Both these desserts are best enjoyed warm with vanilla ice cream and that's the way it was served.

A meal at Karavalli is never complete without a scoop of Banana-Caramel ice-cream which is a must-visit on your table before you can even think of calling it a meal.

What more can I say, "It's always been a great and consistent experience dining at Karavalli and with no surprises in store, the flavors still tend to surprise me ."

Address: Ground Floor, Gateway, Hotel No. 66, Residency Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 6660 4545