Restaurant Reviews

Puma Social

Puma Social (map) is one of those places that people half our age flock to on Saturday nights. So we arrived there late, on a Sunday afternoon. We arrived on a social vehicle – auto-rickshaw – but I think there is valet parking. 12 PM is the official opening time as per Zomato, and we got there by 1, but they requested an additional 10 minutes to set things up! We pretty much had the place all to ourselves (except for an older couple and their kids) and after surveying two out of three floors, decided to sit on the second. The place has definitely been around for a while, and the biggest proof is probably the state of the decor and menu cards. (sauce smudges) But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pleasant space. The bar stool seating at a few tables isn’t the safest bet after a few drinks but we weren’t planning a lot anyway, so we choose them. The place began filling up a bit after we had placed our orders. Those video cassette ashtrays, I thought, were a cool touch. :)

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From the menu, we asked for a Coconut Chicken soup, the best way to begin a meal on a windy, cloudy day. It wasn’t very spicy but was thick enough with just the right amount of lemongrass, and we quite liked it. Meanwhile, I had asked for the Jack Hammer and D, for a Mai Tai. They weren’t really generous with the Jack Daniels or the honey in my drink and with the dry Martini and pepper, it made for just an average drink. D’s drink, with the almond syrup added to the standard white and dark rum, was a much better one. More

Napoli Bistro

First published in Bangalore Mirror

After the World Cup, a bite of Italian could mean a lot of things, but in HSR Layout, there aren’t really a lot many options. That probably explains the crowd on a Saturday night at Napoli Bistro. ( Having said that, HSR continues to surprise me each time with its growth spurts!) Street parking and a flight of stairs take you to a well-lit floor with views to the busy 27th Main road. (map) The faux brick wall, the framed art and the functional, elegant furniture all add a semblance of character to the place. We got there just in time before the place filled up. The menu is all Italian and seemingly extensive.

There is no dearth of starter options – soup, appetisers and a host of salads – though there is a clear skew towards vegetarian. On a chilly Bangalore night, a soup is a great way to begin a meal, and that’s exactly what we did. The description doesn’t offer a lot of explanation and simply states ‘Non Veg’. The risk turned out to be worth it and we got a delicious, creamy yellow soup (pumpkin was the guess, but turned out to be carrot) with chicken sausage slices. The Napoli Pesto was a tasty dish too – toasted bread with a tasteful signature pesto. The Chicken Quesadilla – standard tortillas stuffed with diced chicken – wasn’t really the best we have had. Quite savourless and a bit too greasy.

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Leaping Windows Cafe

One about-to-rain Bangalore night, despite the comments that we shouldn’t go there only for the food, we took a leap of faith, and landed up at this cafe in Indiranagar. You’re bound to miss it if you don’t know exactly where it is, so check the map in the link. It’s a house converted into a cafe and the ground floor is devoted to the library/reading rooms. Up a winding staircase and we got to a balcony where we managed to get a table for two. There are other seating options inside as well. You’ll love the ambiance if you’re into comics. Bright, colourful murals and comfortable furniture. What works for the balcony is that it also offers non-comic entertainment, thanks to a bar across the road! From the menu, I asked for a Nutella Banana shake and D wanted a Peppermint Hot chocolate. (day’s special, said the board) The shake was more banana than Nutella, and despite me specifically asking for no ice cubes, I got them in abundance. The hot chocolate was much better!

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The Fatty Bao

On a Saturday, when we wanted to do more than just monkeying around, we climbed a few more floors to get to The Fatty Bao (map) We had reserved a table for two, and even though most of the tables were empty, we were rather firmly asked to take a specific one, just like we were told not to go upstairs because it was full. One of the tables we asked for remained empty until about five minutes before we left. Oh, well. Despite all that, I quite liked the ambiance – fun and relaxed with a dash of quirky.

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While the decor has a panda domination, the ‘Monkey’ flavour is evident in the menu. There are quite a few interesting cocktails to choose from – I asked for the Mandalay Bay, and D wanted a Bora Bora. The jasmine tea in my drink was refreshing and worked really well with the vodka and ginger beer. The other drink was quite a melange – gin, coconut water, vodka and passion fruit – and it was difficult to get one dominant flavour. But that also made it quite a lively drink! More

Brewsky

First published in Bangalore Mirror quite a while back! I delayed posting it here because I thought I’d be able to taste the brew soon. Last I heard, they still hadn’t solved the brew problem, and it’s almost a year now!

Usually when there’s talk of something brewing in south Bangalore, the reference is to coffee, and when names such as Giltasura or Kamacitra are brought up, you’d be pardoned for thinking that it’s about some new play at Rangashankara. That probably explains the open jaws, quickly followed by excitement, when I mentioned that a microbrewery had opened in JP Nagar. (map) Spread across two floors for now, it goes by the name of Brewsky, and though they ran out of brew samples by the time we visited – and that was a real pity, because they really sounded interesting on paper – there was no shortage of sky.

On one side, the bar stools lining the wall on the lower floor offer a wonderful view of South Bangalore’s skyline – one of the best I’ve seen. On the other side one can view the brewery itself, glowing blue at night, with graphics of the brew characters. The upper floor is alfresco and would be perfect for a brunch. Another floor is planned below soon, with space for live performances – we got a preview and the Viking helmet lampshades and ‘chandeliers’ made of beer bottles all pointed to a hangout with character. Watch out for a few interesting elements of a biker theme too! They plan to serve the full-fledged beer menu in about a month, for now you’ll have to make do with a standard alcohol menu. More

Bierre Republic

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Church Street has been getting quite a high these days – Social, Tapwater, and Bierre Republic. Pavilion Mall, where Bierre Republic is located, seems like a sandwich with nothing in between – the ground and top floors are active but the two floors in between looked unoccupied.  There’s no valet parking but they have space in the basement. The huge signage outside serves as a beacon of hope as you trudge past two floors of desolation and alien-looking faux vegetation to finally land up, ironically, near a man in a sailor suit! You could choose to be boring and take the lift too. Another small flight of stairs gets you to the dining area with many parts to it – alfresco with a few enclosed portions, a smoking section, a smaller lounge area, and even an ‘upper deck’. The furniture is almost all wood, except for the plush sofas in the smoking section and some other elements, and that includes the décor consisting of ‘barrels’! It was edging towards tackiness, but the beer posters manage to pull it back a bit. The alfresco section is the perfect place to be in typical Bangalore weather and offers a superb view of the Public Utility building. A live band was in the house, and except for a massacre of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, which almost provoked us to violence for the sake of silence, they were quite good! Meanwhile, as the evening progressed, the service began reflecting the ‘ship’ theme – they were totally at sea, and were finding it difficult to manage the orders, despite the valiant efforts of their active crew, whom we felt sorry for. More

The Fort Kochi Connection

We’d been eyeing The Fort Kochi connection for a while now, especially since the ads started appearing in the Malayalam daily, and the only reason we’d been delaying the inevitable trip was that we thought it would be a revamped version of its earlier avatar – Oyster Bay. But on the day we were planning to watch Bangalore Days in PVR, its location gave it an advantage and we succumbed finally.

The layout has been modified only slightly, if at all, but the menu seemed different. A few good Cochin photographs have been added too. The ‘connection’, thanks to Kochi being a major trading port, allows it to have a smattering of all kinds of cuisines – Chinese, Portugese, Dutch, and of course, British. But like all well brought up Malayalis, we first checked out what was available in beef. We also completely ignored everything but the Kerala cuisines – Malabar, Kochi and Syrian Christian. After much debate, the Achayan Pothularth (who makes these spellings man?!) was ordered. It sounds Sith, and is dark, but did an amazing job nevertheless – spicy, well cooked meat. They had a special Kallu Shop menu going, but unfortunately what we wanted from it was not available. We also tried the Karimeen Pollichathu, and while its masala was decent – spicy and a good texture, we have had better, and on healthier fish.

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Harry’s

First published in Bangalore Mirror

When an iconic brand from Singapore lands up in your city, it’s only fair that you pay a visit at the earliest. I harried a few friends into doing exactly that on a lazy Sunday afternoon. From a single establishment at Boat Quay, Harry’s now has over thirty outlets across the globe, including one at our very own Indiranagar that started operations a month ago. This is right above Copper Chimney, (map) and yes, there’s valet parking. They haven’t really publicised it, so we weren’t surprised to find only a few other tables occupied. Harry’s, as a chain, bills itself as a sports bar but though the large flat televisions would corroborate that, it does seem more like something that just stepped out of an American sitcom – the one where friends catch up after a day’s work. Brick walls and comfortable seating, with a pool table in one corner, you get the picture. The props are probably standard at all the outlets, but they do make the entire ambience conversational – posters, coasters, napkins, all are an attempt at wit. My favourite was “High! How are you?” The music was a bit of a surprise and could be an educative experience for the kids who are the typical target audience at such outlets – ABBA, Boney M, The Whispers are not something they’d hear a lot. But I wouldn’t complain, especially because they played “That Thing You Do” when we were leaving! Now let’s stop pottering around and talk about the food and drinks!

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The drinks menu gets both sides of a menu card (illustrated like a clipboard) just like its food counterpart and that’s an indication of the focus. They have several house specials from which we tried the Singapore Sling and Harry’s Old Fashioned. The cherry brandy pretty much overpowered the gin in the Sling, but it was a reasonably refreshing drink. The second drink (created at the original outlet) had Scotch in abundance though they went a bit overboard on the orange peels! But what we really liked were the ‘election specials’! (‘drink for change’) The mango and vodka based Kejrinator was fantastic, and the NaMo Thunder (orange vodka, lime and mint) matched it. We passed the RaGa snoozer though. I absolutely loved the creative play on the ingredients/descriptions in these- mango, orange, and RaGa being a mocktail ‘approved by mom’! An extra point only for that!

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The complimentary bowl of peanuts indicated that they had a good insight into our salaries! The ‘Wasabi Paneer’ sounded interesting, but turned out to be Paneer with a wasabi dip. Except for that expectation blip, the dish was quite good – fresh cottage cheese that was made just the right side of crispy.  The Crispy Calamari, on the other hand, was a disappointment as it was fried a little too much. We then tried the BBQ Pickled Chicken and discovered a potential rival to the Tunday Kabab for the melt-in-your-mouth quotient! Thanks to this, and its zesty flavours, this was our favourite dish. The Fried Lollypops and Pattaya Fish Fingers are house specials, and you could give them a shot as well.

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In the main course, the Caesar Salad was more mundane than magnificent, and this was despite the bacon! The Harry’s Jazz Burger was good on paper, with mutton patty and bacon among its ingredients, but the patty could have done with better cooking. Ironically, the next dish was Harry’s Double Cooked Noodles and we asked for the Mixed Meat Butter Curry version. While fish sauce in everything is probably common in the generic geography that Harry’s originates from, I hadn’t anticipated prawns in the dish. Over several experiences, I have discovered that they’re allergic to me and seek to escape. This time was no different; I will spare you the graphic details. A mention in the menu would have been nice! The Kasoori Paneer Khurchan, with well cooked cottage cheese, a flavourful gravy and served with a curious version of naan was a surprise winner in this round.

From the four dessert options available, we chose the Baked Vanilla Cheesecake and the Chocolate Mousse. The former, with the little lemon curd touch was easily the better dish. In addition to the taste itself, we didn’t like the plating of the latter much, because seeing a lot of empty space where chocolate could have been is not a pleasant feeling!

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A meal for two would cost around Rs.1500 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) – a couple of cocktails, a non veg starter, a main course dish and a dessert. The service staff is friendly and helpful. The ambiance and the pricing give it the potential to be a good hangout. However, in the crowded restaurant scene of Bangalore, consistently great food is a must for any Tom, Dick or Harry to survive!

Harry’s, (Above Copper Chimney) Plot No: 2006, 100 feet Road, Indiranagar, HAL 2nd Stage, Ph: 080 41113500

The Boozy Griffin

First published in Bangalore Mirror

One would have to wonder at the intelligence in adding alcohol to a mythical creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, but hey, it does make for a fun, quirky name – The Boozy Griffin, and it sits right below a joint named after a pirate ship! (map) Yes, there is valet parking. Welcome to Koramangala, where we have seen it all! Once inside, the plush black sofas, high bar stools, the relatively dim lighting, and the red telephone booth all manage to convey a British pub theme. The smoking section, with its faux fireplace and posters starring Charlie Chaplin, Mr.Bean, Sienna Miller and so on, probably do this theme even more justice considering that the larger non-smoking section features First Blood and Scarface! It’s tough to get the right balance of relaxing and vibrant in terms of ambiance, but this place manages it. There are multiple TV screens placed so that most tables get a clear view, but for some reason they were showing WWE for a while before remembering their British theme and switching to EPL. By the end of the night, there were shouting matches at practically every table, thanks to the really loud music, which had switched from classics earlier in the evening to current hits and remixes of old favourites, all the while increasing in volume as well! So much for the sound, now let’s talk about the bite.

For a pub, the beer menu is pretty disappointing with just about three options! They do try to make up with a cocktail selection and an otherwise exhaustive bar menu, though we found a couple of missing items there as well. The menu gets a neat British touch with an entire set of James Bond themed cocktails. I tried the ‘From Russia with Love’ from this and though it was potent and delivered on the ingredients – especially the vodka and the chilli – it was loved about as much as Russia is these days! The mocktail we tried – Pear Mojito – was closer to being virgin than pear. The gin based Foxtail, a light drink guaranteed to keep you at ‘that level’ was the best we had. The other gin based cocktail – Tom Collins – also disappointed. It was the Caipiroska (4 for the price of 3) that saved the day.

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From the food menu, the interestingly named Son In law Eggs arrived first, and the Thai combination of fried boiled egg and tamarind soya sauce was just fantastic. The Cottage Cheese & Tellicherry Pepper Fry was spicily awesome if you’re fine with curry leaves. The Beer Batter Fried Calamari was a dip in the high standards thus far, an actual dip would have helped! The Chilli Beef Fry wasn’t available, and that proved to be a blessing in disguise because its replacement – sautéed Stir Fried Chilli Pork in soy chilly sauce turned out to be one of the best dishes we had.

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The main course has burgers, a few steaks, some pasta and some old school pub grub to be had! Unfortunately none of the beef dishes were available! The Chicken Espetada in Peri Peri arrived first. Served with butter pilaf, and on skewers, with onions, this had superbly spicy and perfectly cooked chicken. But the Angel Hair pasta with its Walnut & Thyme infused cream sauce was the clear winner. A wonderfully nuanced, flavourful dish! The Crispy Chicken Butty (nothing posterior about it, as the coaster explains, it’s just lingo for a buttered sandwich) wasn’t a bummer either, and the mildly spicy dish was well liked. The Deviled Kidneys on Toast (stir fried lamb kidneys) was not bad, and is quite obviously for those who enjoy these body parts.

There are only four dessert options, and three were unavailable! Let’s just say that the Sticky Toffee pudding is not worth saving stomach space for!

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A meal for two would cost around Rs.1450 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) – a couple of cocktails, a non veg starter, a main course dish and a dessert. The service is friendly, but occasionally tardy.  With a well-crafted ambiance, (barring the sound assault – carry cotton!)  some interesting food, and reasonable pricing, the Boozy Griffin has a lot going for it to hold its own even in the competitive grub landscape of Koramangala. But on the flip side, the unavailability of a lot of menu items could make the griffin seem woozy.

The Boozy Griffin, #105, 1A Cross Road, Near JNC Road, 5th Block Koramangala, Ph: 08064050000

P.S. It’s open till 1 AM on Fridays and Staurdays

Mekong

We’d seen Mekong during our trips to Kanua, and one Saturday evening, when we were in the mood for Oriental fare, we decided to drop in. Mekong is exactly opposite the Kaikondrahalli Lake (map) and on the top floor of a building that also houses various other food joints and even a gym. There is a fairly large shared parking lot, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty on that front.

Just as you get out of the lift, there’s a Thai tuk tuk to welcome you, complete with flashing lights! We got there by 7.30 without a reservation and just managed to get a table facing the lake. This section was already beginning to get crowded, though there is an indoor seating option as well. The decor is functional but there are some lovely lanterns and knickknacks to add some character to the place. This continues in the menu – shaped like a travel suitcase with the usual sticker graphics to boot. All the table mats have a different Did-You-Know food byte. All of this gives the place quite some charm.

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The drinks menu had quite a few interesting cocktails and we chose the Tom Yam Siam and the Thai Bomb. The first was obviously inspired by the soup but had vodka and rum with lemongrass, lychee juice and ground chilli. This was quite a spicy drink with all the flavours well represented. Loved it. The second drink was milder and simpler – white rum with green chilli. When there’s Tom Kha on the menu, (a little incomplete version) we have to have it! The soup was a little thinner than we liked it but had fresh coconut milk, but lots of chicken and mushrooms. We then tried the Stir Fried Chilli Pork. Though it featured a lot of red chillies, they turned out to be quite harmless. The pork was really well cooked and with peanuts for texture, the dish was scrumptious!

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For mains, we debated a bit because the menu had Khow Suey, but finally chose Lamb Rendang, Phuket Fish and Thai Fried Rice. The lamb could have been cooked better, but the gravy was quite tasty. The fish gravy was a little salty but otherwise fine. The fried rice was billed as spicy but was only mildly so. There were quite a few dessert options, but we were reasonably stuffed and asked for just a Rubies with coconut milk. We were hopeful of tasting something like the awesome Cendol we’d had in Bali. But not only was this delayed quite a bit, the drink itself was extremely meh – with gigantic ‘rubies’ and powder based coconut milk! :( Turned out to be quite a disappointing end to the meal.

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The bill was a little over Rs.2600. Not really pricey, because we’d tried out quite a few things. Despite the just passable mains and bad dessert, we loved the place for the ambiance – the lake view and superb music – and superb service. We’ll most definitely drop by again.

Mekong, 51, Kaikondrahalli Village, Sarjapur Road Ph: 8884122000/22200