East Bangalore

Stomp

First published in Bangalore Mirror, though I had no hand in that unintentionally hilarious USP! 

I whined when I was asked to do this review, because it was in Whitefield! The Koramangala snobbery in me called it a 2D/1N package, specially thanks to traffic. But it was a good thing that I finally visited. A visit to Stomp manages to bring out both the meanings of the word. I can imagine people stomping their way (angrily) through Forum Value Mall (map) trying to find the place. They have hidden it well in a corner! But once they manage to get in, I can understand why they’d want to stomp – dance with a rhythmic stamping step.

There’s a small alfresco section, but the rest of the ambiance immediately reminded me of Richard O’Brien’s Crystal Maze – this would be the Medieval zone, with some ‘Industrial’ thanks to the large pipes. Add to this a Gothic touch, and the picture would be almost complete. Almost, because music is an integral part of the pub’s character as well. I loved the church-like stained glass ‘windows’ featuring Ozzy, Hendrix, Morrison and so on, and the quotes by famous artists that pop up at a few places. With all of that as the backdrop, we were mildly disappointed when we walked into a James Blunt song video playing on the giant screen. But that was quickly redeemed with a blast of Floyd, Dire Straits, Guns N’ Roses, The Police, Bon Jovi and videos we hadn’t seen in a long time! A hark back to the days of my youth, but as the night progressed, the playlist became younger. Avicii woke me up to the fact that I was older and Icona Pop reminded me that “You’re from the 70′s, but I’m a 90′s b***h”! The food proved to be a good distraction, and I let the non-veg mafia croon ‘Don’t you worry child’ in their own comforting way!

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The menu is mostly Indian, and even when they do stray towards Continental and Mexican, there’s an Indian touch to it. The good news is that alcohol is relatively cheap and there are some interesting cocktail options. We tried the Purple Slurple, made from cabbage juice and white rum, and the strong and frothy Whisky Lass-y. The white wine Sangria was also different from the standard, apparently using a pulpy soft orange. The complimentary Guava Martini wasn’t bad either. Solid consumption began with the Beef Chilli Fry, which was quite tasty – well cooked meat and spicy. A house special – Ghaati Chicken Sukha was up next, and it reminded us of the coastal Sukka dishes. This was our favourite non veg starter with a mildly spicy masala and finely grated coconut for texture. Baingan Burani tha, in fact it was quite good and in appearance and flavour reminiscent of chaats. The Chilli Pork was the last of the starters to arrive, and except for the animal involved, was a replica of the beef dish we’d had earlier. But we had been  warned, so I wouldn’t really complain.

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Understandably, the main course section has fewer options compared to the starters, but what was disappointing was that quite a few dishes were unavailable. All dishes are served with Indian bread/rice variations. We had to go with the Dal Gosht because the Dabba Gosht, Maamsam Koora and the Sri Lankan Beef Stir fry were not available. Unsurprisingly, this bland dish proved to be the least favourite. The Prawn Chilliajo made up for it with juicy, brilliantly cooked prawns in a delicious onion and pepper based thick gravy. The only vegetarian in the group tried to interest us in the Pesto Penne, which was quite good, though heavy, according to her, but we were preoccupied with the superb Chicken Farfalle in Makhanwala sauce – thick, flavourful and an example of a happy cuisine marriage.

There are only four dessert options and the house special wasn’t available. The Gulab Jamun turned out to be quite good, though not extraordinary. The shocker was the Shahi Tukra. Though they weren’t stingy with the milk ‘sauce’, it wasn’t really rich, but the bread was the kind that could be successfully used for interrogations. You must pray that the tooth prevails!

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For about Rs.1800, you could share a couple of cocktails, two non veg starters, a non veg main course dish and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The service is friendly, but occasionally careless. They also need to be coached on dishes. I had to wonder how many people coming to Forum Value Mall would be interested in this kind of an offering. A pity because once you find your way in, the only thing that could piss you off is the lack of a toilet – you have to use the mall’s common facilities. Despite all that, I think the combination of good food, excellent ambiance, and different and interesting meal deals through the day will help this wonderful hangout establish a stomp of authority in Whitefield’s pub scene.

Stomp, 12A, Ground Floor, Forum Value Mall, Whitefield, Ph: 080 49420000

Like That Only

One of the pleasant side effects of writing reviews on Zomato are gift vouchers – I got a couple for Like That Only. Though it is far from our regular haunts – in Whitefield – the end of season sale at Phoenix helped the first time, and a long weekend, the second time. This map is pretty accurate, and they have valet parking. The ambiance is totally unique – especially the decor elements. From a retro scooter at the entry to the tub shower and funky garden seating, it shows off a quirky, whimsical side very well. There are other seating options as well – inside, and a lounge section off the main passage.

The menu is mostly Asian, with a skew towards starters and ‘small plates’. The drinks section is also worth a look – quite a few signature cocktails that are not found on standard bar menus. The one drink that we tried on both visits was the LikeThatOnly, which has hot and cold versions. I haven’t seen Earl Grey in a lot of cocktails, add to that gin, triple sec, dark rum and cinnamon bars, and you have a hot hit! We also tried the Fru Fru Colada and the LTO Style 3G and both were good. The complimentary bread basket is worth a mention as well.

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During the first visit, we tried out a few ‘small plates’. General Tso’s Chicken has crispy, fried chicken in a chili sauce, but it’s not too spicy. The LTO Char Siu has BBQ pork on a flat bread – it had a cloyingly sweet flavour which we didn’t really like. The Beef Carpaccio has really thin slices of fillet and mustard cress with wasabi mayo, and was really tasty. During the second visit, we tried the Spicy Chicken and Celery Gyoza (pan seared dumplings) and it was spicy and fantastic.

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The couple of main course dishes we tried were the Filipino Chicken Sizzling Sisig and the Steamed Snapper curry. Actually we wanted the Beef tenderloin stew in Pumpkin shells, but that was not available. The chicken dish had grilled cubes of chicken topped with a fried egg and served with Jasmine rice. It was spicy and also had an excellent tang, but I’m fairly sure it wasn’t Jasmine rice. The coconut flavour was really subtle in the snapper curry but the gravy was flavorful and was complemented well by the basil rice. Choosing desserts was a difficult process since we had a number of options we wished to try, but in the end the ‘Snicker bar’ won out. The LTO version has a crunchy nut base and a mousse on top of it and some wonderful salted caramel cream. Turned out to be an excellent choice.

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A meal for two would cost between Rs. 2500-3000. The service was prompt on both occasions, and the ambiance is delightful enough for you to want to visit again.

Like That Only, 14/31A, Hagadur Road, Behind Forum Value Mall, Whitefield, Ph: 65475610

Windmills Craftworks

We’ve been hearing good things about Windmills Craftworks for a while now – that though we might be considered tourists given the distance between Koramangala and Whitefield, it was worth dropping in. We had tried once earlier, but they had an event and all the seats were taken. This time, though, we agreed to meet, and an OlaCabs booking was promptly made! That was a massive risk, given that they had left us high and dry only the previous night, but I persisted. When I didn’t get the cab details half an hour prior to the planned departure, I called up OlaCabs and they said I’d get the details in 5 minutes. True to word, I did get a call in 5 minutes, to tell me that there had been a mistake, and I would not be getting a cab! An auto, a Volvo and another auto later, we managed to reach on time! This accurate map really helped!

The ground floor itself is business-like, and has nothing to offer in terms of directions. Your first task is to find the lift, then all will be clear. The floor which houses the establishment is a better representative of Total Environment Hospitality though. Once inside, there are bookshelves and comfortable seating options indoors and a smaller space outside from where you can see the IT parks that surround the building. Despite all that concrete, the latter is still a wonderful setting, and we chose to sit there.

The menu is available on an interactive tablet that gives more scope for the appealing food visuals and you can order on it as well. The staff will also confirm the order with you. Though I was tempted to try the samplers, we went ahead with half pints (Rs.195) of Golden Ale, Hefeweizen, a pint (Rs.295) of Dunkelweizen and later a half pint (Rs.225) of the India Pale Ale as well. The Hefe, with its low bitterness, was the most popular, though I liked its darker cousin Dunkel too! The Golden Ale, which is probably the lightest around, was also quite good, and the Pale Ale, true to its name, paled in neglect at our table. Chicken in Pigs Blanket was our first starter, and though in itself it was quite good and not stingy on the bacon either, they could’ve given us a better dip. We then tried the Chicken and Smoked Bacon salad, which had some amazing flavours on the veg leaves that I otherwise ignore! But the pick of the starters was the Beef Picante, which will give any of my favourite Kerala preparations a run for its money. Superbly hot and sweet with very well cooked meat, highly recommended!

This was about the time that we decided to skip the main course, since we couldn’t have done justice to it. So D decided to test out an Indian starter – Dill Chicken Kebab. It wasn’t bad, but by then the beef had set the bar really high! Given the dessert options, we jumped right in and asked for a Chocolate Pudding, Shahi Tukda, and an Orange Bread and Butter Pudding. The Chocolate was really dark and a little too bitter, though the strawberry helped a bit. The other pudding was fantastic, as was the Shahi Tukda.

The service was prompt and helpful, and all of the above cost us, including charges and taxes, over Rs.3800. (3 people) Costly? Yes, but then the experience is quite worth it. Like a friend said, you probably can’t go there regularly, but for special occasions or to try the place out once, most definitely.

Windmills Craftworks, #331, Road No:5B, EPIP Zone, Whitefield. Ph: 26592012

Trader Vic’s

Our visits to Phoenix Market City are biannual, since the End of Season Sale is the only time we can buy most of the stuff that gets sold there! This time, in addition to the wardrobe makeover, we were also looking forward to visiting Trader Vic’s. While the food court at the mall was not bad, and we specially loved the chocolate momos, meals there were getting a bit monotonous. The restaurant is on the same floor as the food court, right next to Rajdhani.

There are about three seating options – the bar itself, a lounge, and a terrace – though that faces the parking lot. We sat in the lounge, and though we ended up right next to the stage – where a band began to perform later – we didn’t really mind, because the music was good. I quite liked the ambiance as well – a reflection of the restaurant’s overall Polynesian theme – check out the various carvings around.

Though they had a very appealing Sunday brunch priced at Rs.1500 + taxes, we chose to go à la carte. You can take a look at the drinks menu on Zomato and a more detailed food menu at Burrp. The Mai Tai is said to be invented by the restaurant chain’s owner, something that is heavily contested by one other party as well. Since we didn’t want to take sides, we decided to share a Mango Taj, despite the Mai Tai temptation. Even if it wasn’t fresh mango, we really couldn’t spot the difference in this concoction of orange juice, vodka, gold rum and a dash of spices. Superb drink. They also gave us a complimentary nibble, which turned out to be really good. Polynesian papad, you could call it, with an excellent dip that complemented it superbly. If the Tom Kha is on the menu, it’d be a rare occasion when we didn’t order it. This one turned out to be slightly less thick that we liked, but made up for it with the flavours. Didn’t have the standard lemongrass and galangal though.

  

For the main course, I resisted the Thai curries and asked for a Wood Fired Trader Vic’s burger, and D chose a Spicy Chilli Fish. The burger patty was superb, and the peppered bacon and caramelised onion played their parts well too. Massive amounts of french fries as well! The Chilli fish was actually quite spicy, but since it was paired with jasmine rice, it ended up quite a good dish. The only snag was that we were too stuffed for desserts!

  

The service was reasonably prompt, the music was really good, and so we didn’t really mind the Rs.1800+ bill (including taxes and service charges) I really want to try that Sunday brunch at some point, but it requires skipping many meals to ensure the Rs.1500+taxes is well spent! :D

Trader Vic’s, 2nd Floor, Phoenix Market City,  Mahadevapura Ph: 67266237/8

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. :D

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