Kukkare

This review was first published in Bangalore Mirror. Since there was mush room for improvement, here is a revised version.

Shimoga is now quite known, even to non Kannadigas, thanks to the chief minister who currently serves Karnataka. Now, if you’ve been curious about the kind of food that is served in Malnad, of which Shimoga is a part, Kukkare is the place to consider. From coastal and Malnad delicacies to Chinese and Tandoor, Kukkare has attempted the multi cuisine route to please all, but the Malnad food is what you should drop in here for.

Kukkare is above Pizza Hut, near the IBP petrol  pump on the way from Sony World Signal, Koramangala to National Games Village. Here’s a map to get you there. Parking can be done in one of the many side lanes nearby.

One flight of stairs takes you to the restaurant. The ambiance is a mix of contemporary design and traditional art. An entire wall is dedicated to Waqrli paintings, while the other side overlooks the bustling 80ft road. The seating is comfortable, but the colours alternate between sober and bright. So long as you don’t question the connection between the Judas Priest you’re listening to and the Malnad delicacies you’re having, you should be just fine. And of course, there’s the obligatory LCD television tuned into the day’s IPL match.

‘Kukkare’ means mushroom in Malnad, and the idea is to provide a range of cuisines under one umbrella. The menu begins with the restaurant’s unique proposition – Malnad and coastal delicacies, but soon moves into the tried and tested multi cuisine genre. So, soon after you encounter the Kane Fry, you will also meet Chilly Chicken, Tandoori Prawn and Caramel Custard too. The advantage of this is that you have plenty of options in case you want to mix and match a new cuisine with comfort food. A couple of masala drinks also add some spice. You can take a look at the complete menu on Zomato.

The Kukkare Special Dum Ki Murg proved to be an excellent starter, stuffed with spices and dry fruits, and complemented by a chutney that reminded us of ghee roasts. But given its quantity, it would work better for a large group. The more common Mutton Kheema Cutlets were quite good too. The only disappointment among the starters was the Anjal Tawa fry.

In the main course, the name meant that the Mutton Bengaluru was a dish we had to try, and it didn’t disappoint with its almond based gravy. But the Naati Koli Saaru, which promised a lot on paper, with its coconut milk based gravy and homemade spices didn’t really deliver. There was a garlic flavour that dominated the Molake Kaalina Saaru and worked against it.

All the rice based items delivered — the Shavige (vermicelli) and Akki roti were good though they were upstaged by the Kaai Kadubu (rice and coconut dumpling) and the Neeru Dosa. The Masala Butter Milk was quite good, if you like spice and the Masala Soft Drink is worth a try, considering it is more flavourful than the regular Masala Cola. The dessert section was probably the biggest downer. There weren’t any unique options and the Pineapple Soufflé and Kheer fell way short of the mark.

The costs are a tad above average, but considering the unique cuisine, it is worth it. The service was quite prompt and stuck to the 20-minutes-to-serve rule mentioned in the menu. Mohit, part of the management team, insists on feedback if he’s around. Drop in at Kukkare if you want to check out the interesting Malnad cuisine.

Kukkare, #478, N.A. Chambers II, 80 Ft Road, 6th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore -560095. Ph: 41102032  www.kukkare.com

Weekly Top 5

This week's roundup covers Apple's record label deals, the OS X malware, the Foxconn factory explosion and patents from Freescale; Groupon's deals with Loopt and possibly Foursquare, Foursquare and INQ, HTC's foray into location based coupons; Amazon's Kindle records, Lady Gaga promo, data loss and Oracle; Facebook's photo taggi

ng payment, use of Microsoft's PhotoDNA, 'Subscribe via RSS' feature for pages, recommendation updates; Google's Social Search roll out, Google Advisor, Google Transit in Delhi and Ahmedabad, 'People Like You' in Places, WebP image protocol, and 3 billion views/day on YouTube's 6th birthday.

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Button Mania

Since the Skybags driven conversation on Twitter a few weeks ago (related posts by L.Bhat and Karthik) I have wondered about the presence of Facebook/Twitter icons in print ads. So I decided to do a little research on my own. For a week – from 13th – 19th May, I tracked the ads in Bangalore Times, particularly those which had mention of a social media presence. The results are in the presentation below.

Brand – Social Iconography
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I would estimate that only about 25% (or less) of the ads carried these logos, so I can understand why brands would want to use this as a differentiation tactic, but doing so with just buttons (sometimes without a url/handle/name) and no worthwhile presence to showcase, defeats the purpose. Or maybe we can wait for the day when Augmented Reality will allow me to use that button and automatically go to the url. ;) Meanwhile, I await the introduction of the Foursquare button into the mix. :)

until next time, button up for the social media ride

P.S: I'd like to make this an infographic, if you know someone who can volunteer, please pass the word.

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Comic Gone

Some time back, Comic Con India had its first edition. And it promises to remain, for me, just like the Jaipur Lit Fest. I’ll come back to that in a while. Meanwhile, unlike the Jaipur Lit Fest, I wasn’t found living in a cave for this one. But that didn’t stop my participation from being limited to virtuality – a Comic Kaun tweet, (which someone thought was a genuine event  resulting in a #facepalm moment for me), wordplay with Roshni resulting in #CommieKaun – finding revolutionaries, tweeting photos and using the new display of global solidarity – the Facebook Like.

So, the comparison to the Lit Fest. For the last two years, I have been making hazy plans to get there. Every time I see camels here in Bangalore, I also wonder whether they might consider shifting the venue, but I guess that’s unlikely. And especially after the controversies this year, I don’t think I’ll bother going again.  Can’t stand places where you can’t say things in a lighter vein. So I will just sit here in Bangalore, and hope for some controversy so I can have some fun with it on Twitter.

The Comic Con event seemed quite popular this year.  So I asked myself why I felt I wouldn’t drop in next year. There seemed to be something more than the  omnipotent but generic laziness + shyness combo. Given my affection for superheroes and costume creation, Comic Con would probably be fun.

If I were still the boy on the left, I would probably have been there instead of writing a post. But somewhere in a couple of decades, I’ve forgotten how much fun it could be even when Spiderman was just a Rasna sponsored mask, Bajaj bulb covers and a piece of thread. Now there are other roles, and other audiences, and playing for an audience of one is just a distant hazy memory. When I can remember it better, maybe I’ll go.

until next time, cosplay time doesn’t last forever.

EastforEaster: Day 7 – Tiger Cave, Airports and back

Click here for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6

We wondered why the cab was picking us up at 8. The airport was less than an hour away and we only had to visit one place on the way. The flight was only just past noon and we only had to check in an hour in advance. We were told by the folks at Harvest House that Tiger Cave was not very far off, but it took a couple of hours to explore. We wondered why.

We ceased to wonder after the driver cheerfully informed us that Tiger Cave involved a climb. He was all smiles probably because his job ended at leaving us at the bottom of the hill. Of course, it would be a wonder if we didn’t have to climb, after the experiences so far. Meanwhile, there were a few other things to see before we started the climb. We saw a Ganesha idol here too.

And now for the climb, which I had been putting off. It involved not 100, not 200, but 1237 steps. I was sure that there was a better way to keep my head in the clouds, but we started out nevertheless. To be honest, the climb itself was quite tiring but manageable, though our legs hurt for days after. The problem was with the design at about 400 steps – they suddenly became steep and narrow, but more tragically, I could see on both sides the height we were at, and climbing, and that meant I became jittery. So yes, we stopped, which turned out to be a good thing, because D’s legs gave out when we were near the bottom!

That also meant that we got to the airport a bit in advance, but Air Asia welcomed us warmly and proved that missing the excess kgs in the earlier flight baggage was an anomaly. 500 bahts later, we were in the aircraft and just over an hour later, in Suvarnabhumi. With the aid of the airport map, we scouted the 3rd and 4th levels for lunch and despite the deluge of Japanese options, settled for a Thai lunch on the 3rd level. On hindsight, might not have been a bad idea to check in and lunch on the 4th Level. 2 hours flew past while we gawked at uber expensive brands spread across what seemed like a few kilometres (must have been the tired legs!) and underwent body scans. Finally, we heard the familiar Kingfisher call for Kolkata. We were assured of reaching there with only the pilot ahead of us as we drew 1A and 1B. :|

Reading a newspaper after a week was a strange experience, and it didn’t help that it was Kolkata Times! But the gossip in the flight rag distracted us even more! Swalpahaar was served, and we watched “Khelein hum jee jaan se” starring Shaky Bachchan and an earnest D-Pad. It was probably because I had drunk a Pepsi after a long time, but I started wondering whether Sid (Mallya kind) would ever wake up and ask D-Pad “Will UB my wife”. Bwahahaha. Ok, sorry.

We landed at Kolkata and immediately felt the brunt of Kolkata’s bureaucratic personnel. For some strange reason, the KF staff insisted that “all passengers proceeding to Bangalore via Hyderabad” had to stick together and move to the other terminal under guidance. Maybe the fuss was because the signs were only in English. Gah. I saw the Coffee Day we had sat in, during our Sikkim trip. We got back into the same flight, D discovered a peanut she had dropped earlier. :) All the airport waits meant that I finished reading one book and I distracted myself from starting a new book with old Sarabhai vs Sarabhai episodes.

After a brief halt in Hyderabad, where I earned the JetSetter badge on 4sq, and a KF staff invasion meant that there were more airport personnel than passengers, we finally reached Bangalore close to 11 pm and discovered a new phenomenon – waiting lines for cabs. :O And as the tee goes, ‘Aap Qatar main hain’ but thankfully, for a cab that would take us home.

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Weekly Top 5

This week's top news has Angry Birds, Zynga's acquisitions and valuation, Twitter for Mac, Twitter mobile website, Lady Gaga, its deal with NTT DOCOMO, Android's security fix, Market Update, Samsung bringing Gingerbread to Galaxy, ViewSonic's Honeycomb tablet, Facebook's lawsuits, Places function

ality, non profits resource center, Bing's integration, Google's News Near You, expandable stories, Journalists Memorial Channel and the YouTube100.

P.S: That was also my 50th by-line in Bangalore Mirror :)

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Brands – real and virtual frontiers

A few months back, I had written about the Balkanisation of the internet, in which I had asked how a  brand could deal with the surge of not just new services, but new platforms too. A few days back, I thought of this from a (slightly oblique) user point of view and remembered incidents spread across years – a few years back, one morning, when I was thankful on seeing a CCD in Colva, Goa while I was hunting for breakfast options because I knew exactly what to expect in a CCD menu; last year, when I visited a mall in Cochin, and realised that I could more or less predict the brands that would be present there; on television, the increasing popularity of US TV shows and how channels seem to be working to sync a global audience in terms of seasons; (forget torrents for now) and how, a meme on Twitter or Facebook is many a time global in appeal and interesting apps on iPhone/Android platforms are discussion points across geographies and in general, an increasingly growing population is 'in touch' and having similar sensibilities.

The themes here from the real world experiences to virtual ones are homogeneity, and of a user's preference (in many cases) for familiarity. Which makes me turn back the question on balkanisation

lectronic Repair Information'>Electronic Repair Information

. Despite the balkanisation, do new platforms accelerate a homogeneity within a certain demographic?  The rate of upward mobility notwithstanding, do you think, at some point, popular culture and preferences will become homogenous globally? eg. say Angry Birds, Dexter, Bieber hatred…

Meanwhile, since the time I switched to Android – a few months ago, I have noticed that services like Facebook, Twitter, 4sq and the Google range, are working hard to ensure that users can move seamlessly across different platforms – web, mobile web, apps, tablets. While that doesn't absolve the brands from having to understand the workings of different platforms, consumption patterns and how they could provide the user an interesting experience in these contexts, it does provide some relief.

Few brands have been known to get regional nuances right in communication. Now, along with location and location based marketing becoming center-stage, there is an added challenge. Not only do they have to get the nuances right in their communication, but they also have to provide consistency in the value offering (not the same as being static) in experiences across platforms. That is a long stretch from blasting messages across traditional media platforms.

until next time, brand-owned platforms?

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EastforEaster: Day 6 – Hong Island tour

Click here for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

Just like the previous day, we were served a decent breakfast by the cheerful Harvest House folk and though the pick up ( a different one) arrived slightly later than the day before (but within the timeband specified) we reached the pier on time. For this tour we had chosen a longtail boat, just so we had both experiences. Also helped that it was cheaper. From the previous day’s experience, we were traveling light – no extra set of clothes and just a towel in addition to our shoulder bag.

The long boat doesn’t lose much over the speedboat in terms of comfort – in fact it’s better if it’s a windy day since the speedboat shields most everything, but is definitely slower. Our first stop was near Red Island where we did some snorkeling. Nothing great. We then moved on to the Hong Islands Lagoon where the water was only waist deep and we could pick up starfish from the sea floor.

From there we moved on to a smaller island where we had another ‘buffet lunch’, this one not even in a restaurant, but just food they had packed from Ao Nang. We saw that the speedboat guys had lunch packets. :) It was announced that there was a ‘happy room’ available. My hopes had a sad ending after it turned out to be a toilet. I did wonder later about this usage after seeing a ‘Happy Beach’ though.  Hong Island was up next and we had about 2 hours to kill there, so we spent some time walking on the beach, lying down on that useful towel (beach mats at Ao Nang are only 100 baht, we later realised) and then snorkeling. Nothing much again, though I thought I saw one live coral. On the way back we saw this cave where apparently 2 people lived, collecting bird’s saliva to make the bird’s nest soup that was popular! They had provisions reaching them every fortnight.

We reached Ao Nang around 4.30 and thought we would go to Railay Beach to see the sunset. Patty had warned us that getting back would be difficult, but when we asked around, we were told that boats were available, though they would cost double at night.  The ferry left from Ao Nang and reached Railay in about 15 minutes. It cost us 80 baht each and the tides decide how wet you get. We had showered just a while earlier, and put on fresh clothes, so felt quite stupid. :| .

Railay (west) Beach was a more private one and we contemplated dinner there.The sunset happened soon after and it was well worth the wetness we had suffered. But when we went to check on the ferry, we realised that after 6, it was quite a difficult proposition, specially because they waited for 6-8 passengers before they would set out. After waiting for almost an hour, watching an increasingly choppy sea, and deciding we would dine at Ao Nang, we asked for a boat for ourselves. That set us back by a 1000 baht. Arrgh.

We wanted to explore the ‘left’ side of the beach (when coming from the hotel) since we had been frequenting the other side. Since it was dark, we couldn’t venture far and decided to dine at the Phra Nang restaurant. The mandatory Tom Kha Kai was followed by Pha Nang chicken and a Pad Priew wan (pork) with plain rice (figured that plain rice is the best way – in Cambodia and Thailand). Dream Cones round 2 happened – Ferrero was decent, but the Rum Almond disappointed. We walked back to the hotel slowly, finally buying D the large handbag that she had been eyeing for the last few days. And thus ended our last night in Siam.

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