East Bangalore

The Brew & Barbeque

First published in Bangalore Mirror under my more famous pseudonym 😉

In the steel and concrete drabness that goes by the name of Outer Ring Road, it takes a sense of irony to name a mall Soul Space Arena! But maybe there’s hop, my Malayali mind thought, when I heard that a microbrewery had begun operating there. That’s how we landed at The Brew and Barbeque. To be honest, I didn’t really have a good feeling about this- the last time we visited a microbrewery operating in a mall on Old Madras Road, we had a very bitter experience! But to be fair, once you step inside, it’s easy to forget the mall environment. Part of it is to do with the spaciousness, the place is huge. The simplistic furniture – mostly bare wooden tables and functional chairs – allows efficient usage of space, making it seem even more roomy. A DJ and a giant screen to complete the pitcher!

In what is a departure from menus I’ve seen recently, the place has a fairly simple, small and what one might call an unambitious menu. What it smartly does is focus on dishes that go well with a mug of beer. Speaking of that liquid, there were three kinds available, and we asked for samplers. The wheat was what you’d call barley passable! The lager was much better in terms of flavour and feel. The red ale was milder than what I expected but likeable enough. The other kind of drink we tried was a mango lassi, and while it tasted fine, the flavour was packaged mango and not any real fruit.

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Float

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Take a deep breath and imagine this – a Moroccan themed rooftop lounge and restaurant serving Japanese and North Indian, located in the concrete abomination called Outer Ring Road. Whatever floats your boat, you might say, and Float is exactly what you now have in Kadubeesanahalli. (map, same building as Jashn) Truth be told, they have actually done quite a decent job with the ambiance. In addition to the standard tables and bar seating that offer a good view of the cityscape and probably the sunset as well, there are comfortable cabanas that amply justify the lounge tag. And if that weren’t enough, there are hookahs too, which seemed to be quite popular, judging by what we saw. But wait, there’s more. We were all in agreement that the dinner was just about average, but around the time we lef, there was a burst of affection for the place from the ladies in the group. Sounds fishy? It literally was, because the gamechanger was a mini fish spa located right in the middle of the restaurant, which was discovered only after our meal had ended. If you think this is surreal, let me share a quick note on the music. In the space of an hour and a half, I heard Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay and Backstreet Boys! The place might be named Float, but one way or another, it will leave you floored.

The menu makes you think, on multiple levels. Considering the place is fairly new, how could the menu get so dirty so fast? Beyond that distraction, the first drink we tried was the schizophrenic sounding Luv U Like A Women that added to this perception by being just a Cosmopolitan by another name. The group was unanimous that I needed a drink named “For Taller, Stronger, Sharper” – a warm combination of Brandy, Horlicks and honey. That wasn’t as bad as I had feared though it could have been mixed better. The second drink we tried from the Dawa Daaru section was what they called Sarkar’s Prescription. The description sounded like the Hot Toddy/Doctor’s Prescription available elsewhere – apple juice, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, honey and brandy. But trust things to go bad when the Sarkar gets involved! I was also punished later for giving the Scotch Float a chance – after all, what kind of person would ask for a drink that mixed whiskey and wine! One drink that worked relatively was Knock Out – a vodka, green chili, tabasco shot floating in beer. The mocktail we tried – Flying Kiwi – was colourful enough to be a kids drink, but was fine in terms of taste.

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Elements Heritage

In terms of heritage, Elements used to be quite liked for its continental menu, while on Nandidurga Road. I was looking at the photos on their site, and wondered how I managed to miss it. 😐 All’s not lost though, as the new Elements Heritage, on Mosque Road, (just after Savoury, diagonally opposite Empire, just before Mosque Road meets MM Road – map) scores heavily on ambiance, and only differs in cuisine focus. Parking shouldn’t be a big problem, more so because there are enough side lanes around.

Apparently, this was a really old Raj bungalow which has been revamped. As soon as we got there, we were shown a table, but also encouraged to take a little tour to see more seating options. That included a section upstairs with a live counter, but apparently, that was for the buffet diners. So we got back to our ground floor table, which was neat enough. The ambiance is really super, and the spread out table groups, not visible to each other, ensure that you feel the restaurant buzz, but still retain the exclusive dining experience. The lighting is dim, but the only discomfort that caused was in the photography.

The menu is below, the last one was the buffet menu for the day, priced at Rs.550 + tax. (click to enlarge) While I was struggling to take the photos, the owner, presumably, who was taking another set of guests on the restaurant tour, offered to send me the menu by mail. I was almost through though, so I didn’t take up the offer. (seeing that quenchers page, I should have :\ ) That only adds to my feeling that the guys who run the place want to add a personal touch and make the dining experience really good.

From that large selection, which included many many things we wanted to try, we skipped the shorbas and went for a “Seekh ‘e’ Elements” and a Bheja Fry. The former  consists of 4 seekh kebabs, each with an idiappam. Quite good, but the winner was clearly the Bheja fry, spicy and cooked superbly.  This was the part where I was caught between getting a good photo and devouring the food. The latter won out, as is obvious.

For the main course, we ordered a ‘Meen appam’, and a ‘Kozhi Mulagh Ittathe’. Most of the dishes come with neer dosa/rice, so ask before you order naans/ appam/ rice separately. The meen appam actually turned out more like an ada than appam, with fish stuffed in it and cooked in a banana leaf. It comes with a sauce that seemed to have a jeera flavour, which worked well to complement the taste. Though we felt that the ada overpowered the fish filling, its still a dish you could try. The chicken dish came with two kinds of rice (one of which was the Kerala style boiled rice) and 4 neer dosas. We expected this to be really spicy, but it was actually more flavoursome, despite me eating up one of the large chillies.

We debated a biriyani, but then decided to behave in a more un-glutton manner and  debated whether we should ask for a halwa of the day or a Shahi Tukda. The former wasn’t available (thankfully, on hindsight). The Shahi Tukda was really good – less heavy (ghee) than usual, and is highly recommended. All of the above cost us a little less than Rs.1000. The service is brilliant, offers to help and the place probably has the promptest delivery time I’ve seen  recently.

Elements gets into our favourites list for many reasons – a menu that’s not very common, an ambiance that’s really awesome, excellent service and overall, a wonderful dining experience.

Elements Heritage, #55, Mosque Road, Frazer Town, Ph: 41144146/8

Alibaba

The name conjures up the vision of a medieval Arabic story, and its indeed a restaurant that (also) serves Arabic cuisine. And just like the treasure, it makes itself very hard to find. Since we knew the rough location, we asked around until we reached there. Here’s a map for you. When coming from Coles road on Mosque road, take a left at the junction where Mosque Road meets MM Road (immediately after Empire Hotel). Then, Alibaba is at the corner of the first road to the left, on the first floor. The Charminar Kabab Centre opposite it is easier to notice. Parking is not much of a problem.

We got there late, well after 8, and were worried that we wouldn’t find a place. But the place started filling up only around 9. Its dimly lit, but the decor has a certain charm that deserves a special mention. There are red curtains,  lots of dark wood – right from the main door, sheeshas, and Moroccan lamps. I read somewhere that the seating capacity is exactly 40, and that some of the furniture  pieces are actually renovated bits and pieces from Navayathi furniture, including window frames, wooden chests and sewing machines! The seating is quite comfortable, but try not to take the stools without a backrest. Or maybe I was just wondering what exactly I was sitting on 😉

CIMG1250Alibaba serves Bhatkali, Arabian and Persian cuisines. The link to the menu is right here. But that really doesn’t do justice to the extremely unique menu ‘card’. Its a bit like holding history in your hands, literally. Click on it, and read it, before you start reading the actual menu. It will tell you about Bhatkal, the Navayaths, their culture, their dialect and the evolution of their cuisine. Its not as though as i require a special reason to like food, but I’ve always liked the idea of giving a historical and cultural context to the food quite fascinating.

What it also does, is add to the desire of trying out as many samples as is possible from the different cuisines that makes up the fusion. With limited numbers – two to be precise, that is quite a difficult task. But try we did.

CIMG1251We chose the Joo soup, “Chicken cubes, carrot, oats, garnished with parsley”, from the Persian cuisine. Little did we know that it was an old acquaintance. I not-so-fondly remembered the ‘sambar’ from Sufi – Soup-e-Jo! We also missed the chicken cubes. Not really a great start, but we’d traveled quite a bit to get here and refused to be easily let down.

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Next up was the Alibaba Special kebab “Chef’s special grilled chunks of boneless chicken and lamb”. That took quite a while and after a lot of fidgeting, we were told that it would be delayed. We were worried whether this was turning into a Arabian-Persian tragedy, but thankfully we got the chicken skewer in a couple of minutes. Very succulent stuff, but we were left to wonder whether the lamb had met with some alternate unfortunate fate. But just as we were about to enquire, the lamb skewer arrived. The vegetables in this were a bit burnt, but really, who cared, because the lamb was fine. Actually very good. Usually, this is served together, but apparently the lamb takes a while longer than the chicken to be convinced, so be prepared to wait a bit if you’re ordering this. The dish is a bit on the bland side, but tasty enough to give a try. If you’re a larger group, it might be a good idea to order other kababs too while you’re waiting for it, ones that will require less time. The service is very helpful and will help you with the choices.

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We decided to start the main course with Bhatkali cuisine – the Sharwa Maas, “Chicken/Mutton pieces cooked with authentic green chilli masala”. We chose the chicken version after a longish debate on whether to go for the Sharwa Maas or the Laun Miriya Maas (the red chilli version). Glad that we did. If you like spicy food, this dish is a must have. Its really tasty and while the green chilli masala does make a solid presence, it actually goes well beyond that and makes an excellent combination with the Gawa Poli, “Traditional Bhatkally Roti prepared with Wheat”. Actually the khubus too, which we’d ordered just to check it out.

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Up next was the Dajaj Machboos, “Middle Eastern Spiced Chicken served with Basmati Rice”. We asked for a half plate, but the guy who took our order told us that it would be too much and suggested two small portions. It turned out strange because the two ‘portions’ cost us more than the half plate (?!) But that doesn’t take away from the awesome rice. The masala was good too, and not really greasy, just like the rice, but it preferred the rice’ company over the chicken. Well, so long as we’re having it all together. D quite liked the tomato chutney provided with the dish, but i still hadn’t gotten over the earlier chicken dish. I think it’ll go with anything, it was that good!!!!

CIMG1265I was quite stuffed, but the desserts section did a mind-over-matter trick and I ordered a Shaufa Pana Pudding, “An exotic Bhatkali Pudding flavoured with Dil leaf Syrup”. The greenish color did scare me a little, but that vanished as soon as i tasted it. Excellent pudding with a very unique flavour, almost like a subtle mouth freshener. Must try.

CIMG1264Meanwhile D ordered a Saudi Champagne, which is a mocktail made mostly of apple soda, but with a twist of lime. It also has tiny apple bits floating on top. from the little I was allowed to have, great stuff.

All of the above cost us, including a 5% service charge, just over Rs.900. The service is quite good, and helpful, despite a few communication lapses. This place is a must visit, for a distinctly unique cuisine, decor and value-for-money fare that won’t cost you a treasure. 😉

Alibaba, #69, 1st Floor, MM Road, Frazer Town Ph:40917163

PS. This week, the blog takes a break :)

Menu and Photos at Zomato

Samarkand

For those into history, Samarkand, in Uzbekistan, is the birthplace of Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India. For those into immediate concerns, like ‘where do we go for dinner tonight’, its also a restaurant on Infantry Road, part of the BJN Group. Infantry Road is a one-way, so don’t try to get in from the Safina Plaza direction.

We called on Friday to reserve a table (the day you get a table without reservation, you might as well make life changing decisions too, you’re in luck) We were told that both the two seaters were already reserved, so we asked for a 4 seater, and then our 2 friends who were supposed to join us, failed to turn up. 😀

Samarkand specialises in the cuisine of the place its named after. The menu card is a nice curio, and is in the form of a newspaper, and gives a small peek into the culture and cooking habits of the area.

We’d decided to try out a kabab this time, so from the choices available, we selected a Murgh Gilafee Seekh, which is ‘made from chicken mince flavored with cardamom, and wrapped with finely chopped pepper’. Not a bad choice, and tasted good, especially with some of the sauces they provide. A bit of ‘anti snobbery’ desreves mention, as we were asked to eat the dish without the aid of cutlery. :)

That, and the bread sticks, made us go for a single gravy for the main course. So, we ordered the Murgh Peshawari, which is ‘chicken in a rich and invigorating blend of spices, brown gravy, roasted garlic and fresh red chillies’. To go with it, an onion kulcha and a paneer kulcha. Boneless chicken, and a very tasty gravy, goes well with the kulchas too. The red chillies weren’t spicy though. The quantity is sufficient for two people.

We were stuffed, so we skipped desserts, but there are a few good options, for about Rs.150. The service was very good, though unlike the last time we were here, there was no advice given on the menu.

All of the above, including a bottle of mineral water (Rs.70 again)!! :O, and a service charge of 10%, came upto just over Rs.1000. In terms of wallet friendliness, its less affectionate than say, a Sahib Sind. So, a good place to go, if you plan to splurge.

Samarkand, #66, Gem Plaza, Infantry Road, Bangalore. Ph: 41113366

Menu and Photos at Zomato