Bangalore Mirror reviews

The Mirage

First appeared in Bangalore Mirror

I came upon The Mirage quite by chance on the web, and for a few moments, when I was hunting for its precise location in Koramangala, I did wonder about the name of the restaurant and whether it was literally that! Situated on the fourth floor of a building, it’s pretty easy to miss unless you’re specifically looking for it. At an eye level, look for the new Corner House. (map – though it has shifted to the other side of the same road) Parking on the street. When we visited, the place was relatively unknown because it’d been less than a month since it opened, and they hadn’t done much in terms of publicity. That probably explains why we were the only group there. Thankfully, the cliché of the service staff attacking as a swarm did not happen. In fact they actually seemed a little intimidated, especially when we ordered wine – they had difficulty finding it, and seemed confused on how to serve it! For now they are serving only wines, (though they plan to make it a full fledged alcohol menu soon) so it might be a good idea to train the staff on it. But once the initial fear of strangers passed, they turned out to be quite helpful and attentive! The décor is functional aiming towards lounge and there’s lots of ‘greenery’ – in the form of lighting, graphics and cushion covers. Marilyn Monroe seems to be quite an influence, appearing in various avatars, the most interesting of which is her quote “I don’t want to make money. I just want to be wonderful.

The menu is a mix of many cuisines – Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Italian and even a smattering of Vietnamese. From the more than a dozen options available, we began with a Sesame Potato Bites in Chili Sauce. On hindsight, we needn’t have ordered this since everything else came with potatoes anyway! There was something funny about the oil in this dish, and it wasn’t the kind that would make you look forward to the rest of the meal. The Fried Calamari served with Garlic Aioli and chips was up next. The squid was well cooked, the dip complemented it well and if you can ignore the general greasiness, it’s not a bad dish. The Highnoons Special Fried Chicken was the last to arrive, and was served with the mandatory chips and a ‘Mayo-Tard’ sauce. The chicken itself was decent, except for a couple of undercooked bits, but the sauce, which was already a cause of much mirth thanks to our juvenile vowel movement jokes, actually had a funny taste, most likely thanks to a mustard overdose.

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In addition to the standard menu, there’s also a ‘daily specials’ display. Since the idea was to pig out, we decided to try the BBQ Pork from this set. It came with.. Ok, this is getting boring, so imagine potatoes as bodyguards and that no dish arrives on the table without them accompanying it in some form! But the pork dish actually turned out to be the first of the fantastic dishes – a superb mix of spice, tang and splendidly cooked meat. To even out things a bit, we then tried the Veg Dumplings in Hot & Sour Gravy which was served with Butter Rice. This was not in the league of the earlier dish, but the hot and sour flavours were complemented well by the mildly flavoured rice. The Cajun Spiced Grilled Fish with Dill Butter Sauce was up next. The fish was cooked well enough, but it was probably our least favourite, mostly thanks to a strange pungency. The Chicken Roulade turned out to be the dish of the day, with an awesome spinach filling, a mildly spicy herb sauce and butter rice to complete the package. From the half a dozen pizza options, we chose the Pepperoni & Bacon. They weren’t stingy with the meat and the caramelised shallots added a nice touch to the thin crust pizza.

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There were plenty of interesting options but we were pointed to the Brownie Caramel Fudge and the New York Style Blueberry Cheesecake, and thus we had a new benchmark of how meals should end! The brownie was just the right texture and consistency – neither too dry nor moist- and had some wonderful dark chocolate! Good chocolate dishes are always a tough act to follow, and the fact that the baked cheesecake almost beat it is testament to its quality. I wondered whether we should have started with desserts!

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For about Rs.1350, you could share a couple of non veg starters, two  non veg main course dishes and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The Mirage actually lives up to its name in the sense that the restaurant’s appearance doesn’t do full justice to the quality of some of the dishes. Considering the Koramangala location, it manages to deliver value for money as well. A little more attention to the overall packaging, including some good music (instead of piping Radio Indigo) and it could be wonderful and make money!

The Mirage, #61, 4th Floor, Above Corner House, 7th Block, Koramangala, Ph: 080 65333533/633

La Tagliatella

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Something about the consonants in the name of the restaurant reminded me of The Godfather – turned out to be the Tattaglia family, one of New York’s ‘Five Families’ in the novel. The establishment on 100 feet Road, Indiranagar (map) obviously has no connection, and is actually named after a kind of pasta. Yes, there is valet parking. There is something about the façade and the view of the brightly lit interior from the outside that conveys opulence. This is only enhanced once you step inside – gold and yellow dominate the décor, with red thrown in for good measure, and the chandeliers and the framed pictures only add to the effect, though occasionally it tends towards gaudiness. But just when you begin to think you’re in the protective warmth of a palatial bungalow, the culinary illustrations, the display of cooking instruments, the pricing and the temperature manage to bring you back to the cold reality of a fine dining restaurant. There was a lot of chatter happening on our table – some of it was because of the menu, which had a variety of choices, and it took several rounds of discussions before we could reach a consensus, but most of it was courtesy the intense cold. When we asked for it to be reduced, we were given a central air conditioning story. It did seem that the entire air conditioning was centred on our table! The rain meant that we couldn’t use the alfresco option available.

The starter options consist of a couple of soups, half a dozen salads, and some antipasti. We skipped the first two and launched into a Focacce liguri and a Mozzarelletta. The flat bread and its toppings turned out to be quite picturesque, but even the collective presence of duck ham, parmigiano cheese and provolone cheese wasn’t enough to take the dish beyond ordinariness. In contrast, the simplistic combination of mozzarella melted with nuts and sweet tomato, though not very appealing to the eye, made a mark on other senses – smell and taste. It was totally melt-in-the-mouth, with the nuts offering a texture counterpoint. The wine list is fairly exhaustive on paper, but that is a common menu, and in Bangalore, they have chosen to serve only wine. They had run out of bottles of the white wines we preferred, so we settled for ‘pints’ of red and white wine, and were left rather unimpressed with both!

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The sheer variety of pasta choices is something to pay attention to – from spaghetti and ravioli to Sorrentino and Taglierini, I could count about twenty. Together with the condiments, there are potentially hundreds of combinations! Add to that pizzas and calzones! We began with a Tagliatella pizza – thin crusted and fairly large with pesto, mushrooms, taleggio cheese, turkey bacon and spinach. This is probably shuddh Italian judging by the relative blandness, and despite that consideration, it failed to impress. The Calzone Verde was a lot of hot air as they weren’t really generous with the mozzarella, mushrooms and pesto stuffing. We then tried the Gamberetti di Funghi which turned out to be an excellent dish with well cooked pasta and prawns. On weekdays, they have a ‘1111 for 2’ menu, in which we can choose 3 pastas from 9 options. That turned out to be quite a blessing and we sampled the Spaghetti Bolognese, Sorrentino with Vera Casalinga sauce and the Tagliatelle with Tremenda sauce. The spaghetti nosed ahead, though I thought if the Tagliatelle wasn’t a tad overcooked, it might have won, the cream sauce was quite good. I liked the Sorrentino as well, but the table was evenly divided on the parmigiano-reggiano and Iberian pork dish.

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There are plenty of dessert options, but as usual I got unlucky with the exact one I wanted! We tried the Tiramisu, which was phenomenally good and the best dish of the day. The Tutto Cioccolato seemed a little too similar to the standard lava cakes available around. Coppa Fior di Latte al Cioccolat oFuso – Mascarpone ice cream with hot chocolate cream – was also just average.

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For about Rs.2700, you could share a drink, a non veg starter, a non veg main course dish and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) La Tagliatella is an international chain and prides itself on the authenticity and freshness of the ingredients used. That probably explains the pricing to an extent, but somehow the experience itself didn’t really justify the bill. So, unless the gap between value and cost is bridged, the bill would make it very easy for a customer to suspect a Godfather like extortion!

La Tagliatella, 766, Amrest Bunglow, HAL 2nd Stage, 100 feet road, Indiranagar, Ph: 080 60506066/77

Troika

originally published at Bangalore Mirror

‘Troika’, to me, immediately brings Russia to mind, and though the resto-bar itself does not show any red colour preferences, the Staples signboard right below makes up for it! (map) They do have valet parking. But it is to be noted that the restaurant is to your left once you get out of the elevator. Actually, the name is more a function of ‘three’. The logo shows three elements – fire, water, and air. The décor is classy and functional with three kinds of seating – high stools near the island bar, a semi-open lounge area, and an air-conditioned space. The ambiance is classy and comfortable. But we were there mostly for the food, and the menu is also a mix of three primary culinary influences – Mediterranean, Oriental, and Coastal. If you’ve been keeping track, that’s three times that the theme of three had manifested itself, and I was increasingly reminded of “The Number 23”, in which Jim Carrey sees all events and incidents being connected to 23. See?

I decided to distract myself with the menu (reading the font in the dim light is quite a pain) as we waited for the third couple to join us, and as soon as I opened the beverages menu, among the cocktails, I noticed the drink Awesome Threesome! Avoiding that, we tried the Cin-Fully Yours and the James Bond Martini (shaken not stirred) and both were quite good. The chef has done an excellent job of creating intrigue around the dishes long before they are served – the fusion combinations are unique and many a dish would sell solely because of the description! Take for example, the Lemon Grass scented Pineapple and Parupu Rasam! We missed the scent, and it was more sambar than rasam courtesy the lentils, but none of that could take away from the super soup! We began solid food consumption with the Crispy Fish Coconut Chilli and though the coconut didn’t really feature much, the dish was spicy with some flavourful seasoning. The Rochaedo chicken dumplings are very un-dumpling-like in their appearance, but the Goan masala and the sweet and sour flavour didn’t disappoint. The chargrilled Lamb Souvlaki was quite bland and despite a valiant effort by the Tzatziki dip, and the well cooked meat, the dish was not really a favourite. We’d been ignoring the vegetarians and their revenge did turn out to be a dish best served cold – the Sweet & Sour Glass Noodle Rolls. A surprise hit, with a Vietnamese salad inside a rice paper sheet, and flavours that hit all the right notes!

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In the main course, the Tai Chi chicken was supposed to have a chili pepper sauce but actually turned out to be quite bland! The Kingfish Darne Kodampulli was served with coconut and spinach rice and it fondly reminded us of traditional fish curry meals! The Curd Roast Lamb Casserole had a very bland marinade and the Oozi (sic) rice didn’t really thrill either. The Chicken Roulade, with garlic, mushroom and ricotta stuffing was excellent, and would’ve been the favourite if not for the Potato & Red Onion Roesti, with its lime and parmesan dressing. Yes, vegetarian again, and it must be mentioned that the menu does provide some excellent options for them. The other vegetarian dish we tried – Grilled Cottage Cheese and Garlic Roast Spinach mille-feuille, Tomato Provencal Sauce – was only average. The main course portions are sized just right, and one would easily feel confident about ordering desserts!

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There are just about half a dozen dessert options, but each of them is unique! The Coconut, Honey and Green Lime Panna Cotta turned out to be quite a win, and the Banoffee pie was a delight to look at and consume. The Chocolate crostata didn’t really fulfil its chocolate potential and we’ve had had better blueberry cheesecakes. The Cannoli Kaapi yogurt was the biggest disappointment both in terms of texture and flavour.

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Troika creates some fabulous adventures from different cuisines. For about Rs.1800, you could share a drink, a non veg starter, a veg and non veg main course dish and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) A few dishes didn’t live up to the textual expectations they created, but there were others which made up for it. Add to that the classy décor and the peppy ambiance, and there’s really no reason to raise a red flag. Well worth a visit.

Troika, 100 feet Road (above Staples) Indiranagar, Ph: 080 41511155

Smokehouse Deli

First Delivered on Bangalore Mirror

There was quite some buzz in my glutton fraternity and among Bangalore’s restaurant watchers in general when the glass façade on 100 feet Road, Indiranagar sent out smoke signals that a much-awaited launch was imminent. That was back in February and since then I’ve heard several people raving about Smokehouse Deli. In fact, this one, (whose recipes are a hit among my friends) practically salivates when talking about the place! Adding salt-to-taste is usually recommended in culinary matters, so I took these with a pinch of salt and decided to pay a visit to check things out myself. The glowing white building, the picket fence, the pretty-as-a-picture outdoor seating – all contribute to the elegance that’s evident as soon as one lays eyes on the establishment. Yes, there’s valet parking as well. There is a deli section and functional but comfortable seating as well on the ground floor, and upstairs, a long bar and seats that offer a view of the busy roads outside. But I’d say the real magic begins as you take in the illustrations that are a hallmark of the chain. Lal Bagh to Sankey to Lord Cubbon to the city’s music bands and aero history, this is a rich tribute to Bangalore’s timeline, with quirky nuggets like the famous ‘haunted house’! So much to take in, and we hadn’t even started on the food! Thanks to all that, you really must reserve a table, unless you want to stand outside- smoking – for a while.

At the very outset, I must admit to a little bias in this review because they fed me some really good bacon all through the meal! From the exhaustive beverages menu, we tried the Melon Freeze, fresh, not too sweet and blended really with the alcohol. The Bellini had a subtle fruity flavour that meshed well with the champagne. In the Bourbon Freeze, the Kahlua managed to dominate, and again, the sweetness and the blend of chocolate and bourbon was just right. The spiced- pineapple infusions worked beautifully with the Jose Cuervo based drink as well.

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If the Grilled Mushroom + Bearnaise Crostini had to win the starters round when it had a Sausage Plate for competition, you can imagine how good it must have been. Perfectly sized with a crispy, crunchy base and loaded with mushrooms and cheese. The Peri Peri Spiced Squid Rings were a close second – perfectly cooked squid, crunchy batter and a superb dip. Two kinds of pork sausages (one with a bacon wrap) and a portion of chicken sausages, and yet, the Sausage Plate could only manage a place below these two, despite the sausages being really good! A testament to the quality of the food served!

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In the main course, we were served a splendid Smoked Chicken Caesar Salad – fresh vegetables and well cooked meat, and we topped it with Oak Smoked Bacon. The”My Boss’s style Spaghetti” had an olive oil dressing with seasoning. It was basic but flavourful and the red onions and field mushrooms added to the dish’s appeal. The House Spiced Smoked Chicken with Five Spiced Jus turned out to be our favourite dish though, and despite the double spice in the name, it was only mildly spicy with well cooked chicken. We also tried the Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin with Burnt Butter Hollandaise. The ‘medium’ could have done with just a tad more cooking, but it was quite succulent and I wouldn’t really complain.

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We wanted to try at least half a dozen desserts but the portion sizes of both earlier courses meant that it took much negotiating before we settled on half of that. The Hazelnut Mousse Flan was a unanimous choice and turned out to be deservedly so. Smooooth mousse with a textured base, you must leave space for this! We wanted an Espresso Soufflé but since it wasn’t available, asked for a Flourless Chocolate Fudge. This turned out to be quite good too with a mild coffee flavour that added to the dark chocolate. The Philly Plum cheesecake was the only disappointment. You should probably go for the Raspberry + Oreo cheesecake – several drooling people have confirmed its awesomeness.

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We had a wonderful time. A unique and superb ambiance, excellent food, and service staff who are confident about the fare they serve. For about Rs.1900, you could share a drink, a non veg starter, a couple of main course dishes and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) It’s definitely on the costly side, but that’s understandable given the location and the factors above. In essence, completely worth all the praise it gets. Only goes to prove the old adage – there’s no smoke without fire!

Smokehouse Deli, 1209, Ward No: 72, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar Ph: 080 – 25200898/9

PS: By th e time this is published, I think their Lavelle Road outlet and the Brigade Road Mocha would be up and running.

Carnival de Goa

Published first in Bangalore Mirror.

Around the time when most of our friends were busy watching a blonde ‘Russian’ battle it out with zombies, we decided to get ourselves a little more authentic Goan experience…in Ulsoor, courtesy Carnival-De-Goa. It’s on Ulsoor Road, above The Grill House, and there’s valet parking. Bollywood did not take the decision kindly and sent a variety of obstacles – divine and natural – which did their best to play spoilsport. To begin with, we came to know that the day we landed up was a dry day in Ulsoor, courtesy a holy procession! Ironically, it rained so heavily on the ‘dry day’ that we had to choose the indoor seating option, though the verandah is quite appealing. The décor – yellow walls, paintings, caricatures, tiled tables, and the colourfully attired service staff with their hats, all screamed Goa, even as we got ready to experience a Goa without alcohol. Thankfully there was live music to lift our spirits! If you’re ok with some amount of Boyzone, MLTR, Backstreet Boys in your life, you’d enjoy it too. Speaking of lifts, the lift to the second floor gives a romantic twist to the restaurant’s Goan theme and does its best to convey that “three’s a crowd”, but don’t be put off by it. The way to paradise is fraught with trials, but if you soldier on, you will be rewarded for your efforts!

We hoped to drown our sorrow in what served as the closest substitute for alcohol – mocktails. The Ice & Fire, a chilly drink with lime chunks and lemonade, unwittingly set the tone for the dinner – spicily superb! The Kokum Cordial did try to match up, but its Tabasco sauce and chaat masala didn’t have the requisite punch! The “Goan Style Chicken Cutlets” was the first starter to arrive, and though a tad crumbly, the chicken mince and potato coated egg did their job wonderfully well. The Chilly Beef was the next to arrive, and completely lived up to its name. The meat was well cooked and the chilli was kind enough to allow a roasted masala flavour to make its presence felt. The Goan Sausage Chilly Fry was excellent as well, and in addition to the spice, also had a tang. Both the beef and the pork go very well with pav, so that’s something you might want to try out. A display tray with all sorts of aquatic life posing for us (and a board that actually had ‘Salman’ amidst aquatic life) finally convinced us to go for tiger prawns (with masala) and what a choice that turned out to be! Superbly cooked prawns with a spicy masala that had a variety of flavours in it, this was an excellent way to end the intro act!

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We began the main course with a Roast Beef with Goan Pav. The mini ‘burgers’ managed to give some respite to the flaming tongues and deliciously so. It’s probably a cardinal sin to try vegetarian fare in a meat carnival, but the Mushroom Xacuti did the veg section proud with its roasted spices and fresh coconut. Went quite well with the Goan rice. The Pork Vindaloo arrived next, with Sannas, and quickly made its way up the charts with its hot-sweet-sour burst of flavours and a strong vinegar presence. A lot of open mouthed admiration happened for this dish, some thanks due to its extreme spice levels as well. The Goan Style Chicken Curry was the last to arrive, and under normal circumstances would have been well appreciated, but it was a bit like Dravid batting in the era of Tendulkar!

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Bebinca was a given in desserts, but we also tried out the Alle Belle and a Caramel Custard. I’m not a Bebinca fan- actually hate it – but this was probably one of the best I’ve had. The Alle Belle, coconut filled pancakes, actually reminded us much of a Kerala dish! The Caramel Custard was excellent and etiquette was completely ignored as we attacked it.

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If, somewhere in Ulsoor, you come across a larger-than-life milestone that says Goa is 0 km away, treat it as a message from the heavens, and travel two floors upwards to experience Carnival-De-Goa. A well designed restaurant, with friendly and energetic staff, who are extremely confident about the food they serve, and superb food at great prices, (for about Rs.1250, you could share a mocktail, a couple of non veg starters, a couple of main course dishes and a dessert) it’s sure to give you an awesome taste of Goa.

Carnival De Goa, IInd Floor, Kensington Point,  Ulsoor Road, Ph: 080 – 25580093, 7676767620

Fenny’s

This review first appeared in Bangalore Mirror.

Fenny’s is almost opposite Raheja Arcade in Koramangala, on the third floor of the building next to Food World. They have valet parking, and those with a more modest and lesser set of wheels can park in one of the many side lanes and walk it up. The map and menu are at Zomato.

The word ‘Fenny’ (though usually spelt feni) can mean different things to different people depending on what happened after they consumed it, but there would definitely be a Goa connection. So it is a bit funny that a restaurant named Fenny’s does not serve Goan food. But the owners clarified that the name symbolised a connection in spirit to Goa, further emphasised by a tagline “Happiness Everyday”. This was my third visit here, and I can confirm that the lift is most definitely a slice of Goa. It moves at its own pace, rocks, (though more in an effort to mimic waves) is mostly crowded, and starts and stops exactly when it wants to. But much like Goa, the niggles take a backseat as soon as you enter the place. The menu is a mix of Mediterranean and European, and is backed superbly by an ambiance and décor that’s probably one of the best around, and manages to easily transport you way out of Koramangala.

We began with the Basil Bell Pepper Soup – the tomato overshadowed the bell pepper, but we enjoyed it courtesy the spicy flavour and a dash of tang. The Crispy Ola Breads with Fenny’s signature dip turned out to be four standard and largely unimpressive dips including salsa, Baba Ghanoush, and Hummus. The Peri Peri Mushroom was easily a better veg starter – grilled mushrooms with a vegetable stuffing and mildly spicy Peri Peri sauce. The Devil Beef Chunks had tender meat with a spicy sauce that also had chilli flakes in it. We also found this sauce’s cousin in Fenny’s Paprika Chicken, but it was spicier, fairer in complexion, and tastier as well. From the drinks section, we tried the ‘Dom’my Gun, which was unfortunately dominated by a guava flavour that mercilessly gunned down any taste of the vodka or the Fenny’s Special Mix that might have existed. You are more likely to have a better chance of success with ‘Vicky Donor’ -the other cocktail we tried – with its good mix of lime juice, vodka and spicy green chilli. But the winner proved to be the mocktail – the creamy Strawberry Delight, which also had pineapple, orange and cinnamon playing support.

In the main course, the Fiery Hot Vegetable Pizza arrived first, and despite the double adjective, needed some assistance from chilli flakes to make it truly worthy of its name. But that didn’t take away from its awesomeness – crisp onion, bell pepper, chilli and mozzarella cheese proved to be a great combination. The Supreme Chicken with Mushroom Sauce gave us a sense of déjà vu – except for the abundance of mushroom, it was a near replica of the sauce in the starters. The rice that came with it was boiled a little more than it should have, and the dish was soon neglected. Another dose of déjà vu – though a milder one – appeared in the form of the Fish Grand Milano. But though it was reminiscent of the soup, its spicy, creamy nature soon stopped comparisons.

We didn’t have much of a choice in desserts – the only options were a Chocolate Mousse, a Brownie and a Sticky Toffee Cake with Butterscotch sauce. The last one screamed for attention and got it! Richly deserved, I must add. It was moist, with an excellent texture and the rich butterscotch sauce complemented it beautifully. If it wasn’t closing time, I think we might have ordered one more!

Fenny’s has managed to create a fantastic setting in the middle of Koramangala. The food is quite good, though in some cases, the portions are arguably small. They also have an interesting bar menu; all of this explains the increasing buzz about, and in the place. You’re better off reserving a place, especially on weekends.The music was a little louder than we’d have liked but is not really a conversation stopper. The service was prompt and helpful. The person who took our orders was really good, and the only spoilsport was another member of the staff who almost dropped our main course all over us and didn’t even bother to apologise! With a cuisine that’s not very common in this part of Bangalore, and an amazing ambiance, it’s probably only the lift that holds it back from reaching greater heights! (As you might have guessed, I did get stuck in it!)

Fenny’s, 3rd Floor, 115, 7th Block, Koramangala, Opp Raheja Arcade, Ph: 080 65658000

The Black Pearl

Pirated from Bangalore Mirror

There’s something very ironic about ‘borrowing’ a ship’s name from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and using it to run a restaurant with a pirate theme! Even more ironic when it’s located right next to an establishment called Empire! (map) But that’s exactly what The Black Pearl has done, and they have obviously invested a lot of effort into doing justice to the theme. Across three floors – the top floor akin to an upper deck with open sky above – there are décor elements that accentuate this – anchors, cannons, mannequins, chains and ropes, skeletons, swords. There is a tinge of tackiness too, like the huge bones that became the butt of many jokes, and it was a little funny to have pirate-costumed service staff valet parking and speaking in Hindi. But ambiance is only part of the tale – the service, and the food had a role to play too, and that’s where the seas got rough! In the end, keeping with the theme, looting did happen, in the form of a bill.

Except for some pirate lingo, there was hardly anything on the menu (though the one we got was quite different) that went with the theme. When we began ordering the starters, we realised it was pointless to navigate the Continental and Chinese sections since they weren’t available. That went for some of the more interesting (sounding) drinks as well! From the Indian menu, we asked for a Til aur Paneer ka Tikka, an Afghani Mutton Boti Kabab, Aatishi Murgh and a Pirate Special Macchi Tikka. The veg representation was superficially spicy, though the paneer itself seemed quite fresh. We were served what was claimed to be the chicken, but easily sensed that it wasn’t. For a while, we pondered the various possibilities, until we were told that it was just the mutton dish. A little too bland. The Aatishi Murgh made an effort to live up to its name in terms of spiciness, and was quite a favourite. The Macchi Tikka was mildly spicy and quite tasty. In addition to some standard fare, we had ordered a Masala Cola. That turned out to be a Hajmola cola in disguise, with an overdose of masala! Exactly the opposite happened with the Pomegranate ‘N’ Tamarind Martini – it had no trace of a tamarind flavour. In the meanwhile, the ship was under aural attack – a singer was methodically gunning down favourite numbers!

It took so long for the main course to arrive that we joked that it had to be brought from the mainland! The Dal Peshawari was watery and had none of the butter and cream that was promised! We unanimously agreed that the Navaratna Korma deserved a spot in the desserts section! The Malai Gosht turned out to be its near-cousin, the only consolation was that the meat was well cooked. The Murgh Matka suffered from a methi overdose, though the boneless chicken was tender. The Ulte Tawa ka Paratha was mentioned in the menu as a must-try, but was nothing special. Ditto for the Afghani Kulcha, which had a few dry fruits slivers tossed into it for the name’s sake! The excitement was delivered as Crispy Roomali Roti – another ‘must try, but deservedly so. It was huge and we thought this was the Family Naan we’d ordered! When we realised it wasn’t, we had a sinking feeling, soon justified when we saw the size of the actual Family Naan! Gigantic and they obviously had the Indian joint family in mind! Thankfully, it was quite good.

Meanwhile, penance was happening in the form of bottled water, which was being served for free! The singer, as though understanding his limitations, was now crooning ‘Please Forgive Me’

From about ten dessert options on the menu, only four were available, and that included ice cream! Considering the experience thus far, we decided to play safe and try just the Gulab Jamun. That was surprisingly not bad! By this time, the singer had reached ‘Take me home’, and we heartily agreed.

For about Rs.1800, you could share a cocktail, a non veg starter, a couple of main course dishes, rotis and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) But ‘Arrgo’ would be a pithy way to describe our predicament – six of us held hostage in a pirate-themed restaurant serving not-so-great food. Such is the restaurant scene in Koramangala that a new place needs to run a tight ship just to keep its head above the water. Shape up or ship out, as the saying goes, and it’s mercilessly enforced. There would be first visits courtesy the theme, and the place was full while we were there, but unless there’s a sea change in the service, food and pricing, The Black Pearl could soon be in Davy Jones’ Locker!

Black Pearl, Vikas Tech Park, 2nd & 3rd Floor, #105 1 A Cross Road, Koramangala Industrial Layout, Jyoti Niwas College Road, 5th Block, Koramangala, Ph: 080-64333111

Bak Bak Bar

the bak bak appeared on Bangalore Mirror first

The place has a bakstory – the Manchester United Restaurant and Bar. But after its game ended, the buck was passed on to Bak Bak Bar on Children’s Day in 2011. (map and menu at Zomato) It belongs to the same group as Bakasur, and even if you miss the mention at the door, you might find an odd stirrer or two that have the Bakasur motif. But there ends the connection. The theme stays true to the name, sometimes in the form of good advice – “Don’t walk into a bar. Use the door instead” (though the poster is inside) – and sometimes as great conversation starters – “Avoid nuts. You are what you eat.” Coasters, posters, plates, bak bak is all over the place. A special mention needs to be made of the music – from Modern Talking to Peter Andre to Coldplay, it seemed to be a soundtrack of an average 30 year old’s life! The volume level is generally toned down to allow bak bak, but Saturdays are a loud exception! But enough bak bak, and on to the bar and the rest.

It’s difficult to slot the menu into the regular starters, main course silos, so we’ll just proceed in the order of consumption and move to the next section at half time! The drinks have amazing names – mostly popular culture characters! It was difficult to believe that Captain Jack Sparrow was a mocktail, but even then it was more entertaining than Mary Poppins. We also tried Princess Leia. Yes, that does sound wrong given that she’s an (ahem) icon among males, and unfortunately, we found her lack of taste disturbing! Since the idea was to pig out, we began with ‘Porkalicious. Though the meat was well cooked, it was a bit bland given that it was supposed to have a green chilli presence. The Beef Kheema Pav made up for it though and was probably the best of the starters. In close contention was the Prawn Pesto cutlet, though we felt that the signature gunpowder mayonnaise that came with it did not live up to gunpowder standards. We’d also tried the Spiced Beef Baklet earlier, and it wasn’t bad either. The PCP (Perfect Citrus Potatoes) had an excellent masala coating, but (thankfully) was not as addictive as its more famous acronym. The Lemongrass Fish steamed riceballs were really strong on flavours, and if you find that too overpowering, its dip is a real help. The Chicken Sausage Kalimirch is usually a safe bet, but during this visit, was lacking in spice.

The Monk-Flamed Chicken provided some flambé entertainment, but was more or less a flame out. The Mushroom Tikki ‘bakwich’ was also very mediocre and it was only the Beef Burger (with the bacon contributing generously) which brought some respite. The patty scored well on texture and flavour, though it was a task to ignore the over-excited lettuce leaves which was forever trying to get in the way! The Lamb Seekh ‘Bak Wrap’ failed to evoke any extreme reaction and played a decent supporting role. The star though was the Chicken Roulade with Makhni sauce. The cheese filling was subtle and allowed the Makhni sauce to shine. The only tiny chink was the strong mustard flavour in the mashed potato. We had tried the Butter Chicken pizza (yes, you heard that right!) the first time we dropped in, and it was awesome, but the second time, it was a huge disappointment thanks to its unavailability!

The writing was on the wall (actually a plate, but you get the message) “Exercise is good, but desserts taste better” So we tried everything that was available. The chocolate easily won – Ganache Tart with Badam Milk sauce, though the latter was ignored. The second half of Apple Pie with Pista Kulfi was a favourite as well, and if they had been less stingy with the Caramel Rum Sauce, the vanilla ice cream would have left us in high spirits as well! The Apricot Meetha Pastry couldn’t really match up to the other performances.

In terms of price, for about Rs.2000, you could share a cocktail, a couple of non veg starters and main course dishes each dishes and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) But beyond that, Bak Bak Bar serves oodles of character – from the liberally strewn fun messages to the yellow cycle. The food they served was not stellar, but it doesn’t make you go ‘What the bak’ either. There’s a definite buzz about the place, and courtesy that, and the Bak Bak meter (a bill holder) that thankfully doesn’t do a one-and-a-half, an extra point.

Bak Bak Bar & Restaurant, #1, Kira Layout, Hosur Main Road, Ph: 8792000390/1

Tangerine – Koramangala

Tangerine at Indiranagar had always been in my favourites list from the first time I dropped in there. But thanks to the column space hogged by Namma Metro construction and the resultant chaos on the road, and helped by competition ‘toitening’ its grip, my visits had tapered down to zero. So I was extremely happy when I saw a signboard late last year in Koramangala – one that was familiar in terms of font and colours – that announced the launch of the restaurant. I learned during my visit that the Indiranagar outlet had been shut down. A stone’s throw from the busy Sony World junction, (when coming from Indiranagar, it’s the first left after the Sony World Signal – it’s just off the road) and yet somehow retaining a sense of calmness, exists the new version of Tangerine that started operations in September. Yes, they do have valet parking and two wheelers can find easy parking in the lane.

Some of the tables offer a wonderful view of the road. The trademark light-coloured wooden furniture has made it, but sadly, their companions, the ‘chimney’ lampshades haven’t. You can check out the menu at Burrp. They also plan to have wines soon.

The Spicy Chicken and Coriander Soup had been a favourite, so we decided to begin with some nostalgia. Unfortunately, it hasn’t taken the location transition very well. It was thinner, stingier on the coconut cream, and the chillies hadn’t been informed about their role. The Fried Prawns that came next did nothing to salvage the situation. The prawns were leathery, and beer wasn’t the only thing that deserved to be battered. Mustard Chicken Sausage Flowers hooked us with its matter-of-fact, non-flowery description, but the actual dish, though not lacking in flavours, went a tad overboard on the saltiness. Hope took a long time coming, and it came from an unexpected quarter – Vegetables with Feta. But even that was too little, and too late, since we had to remind the service staff at least a couple of times that we had ordered a veg starter, as the vegetarians at the table cast mournful glances at the dishes that arrived much before theirs. In the end, they gloatingly offered to share their fried vegetables and tasty cheese dish with us meatheads!

Despite unfortunate experiences with aquatic life earlier, we asked for a Fillet of Fish ‘Moutarde’. The last word sounds like a lot of things, but it’s only French for mustard, and that was indeed the prime player in the dish that also featured red chilli flakes and oregano, all of which complemented the grilled fish perfectly. But the Chicken ‘Desiree’ unfortunately left a lot to be desired. The chicken was rubbery, the jacket potatoes weren’t boiled well, and the sauce, despite featuring spiced honey and lemon (on paper) was rather insipid. The penne pasta, with a sauce that had minced chicken, red chilli flakes, tomatoes and herbs, thankfully brought some cheer. It wasn’t dry; the flavours were brought out really well, and it was just spicy enough to make an excellent dish. The vegetarians ran out of their beginners’ luck with the Stuffed Cottage Cheese Steaks, as the paprika and herb sauce proved to be extremely spicy. In case you want to experiment, there are some interesting Indian Sizzler options.

  

All the knives that were out thus far for the place were replaced with spoons after the desserts arrived. In a heavily competed section, the Mud Pie emerged the winner, despite having a slightly tough base. The unique Death by Chocolate would have won if it had not been at room temperature, and had been less grainy. The Tiramisu was not bad either. But the actual winner was the chocolate sauce and they clearly knew it, judging by its active presence in any dish that offered a chance!

For about Rs.1300, you could share a non veg starter, a couple of non veg main course dishes and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The service delayed quite a few dishes and while they had their reasons, they weren’t really convincing.

The desserts and an old times’ sake fondness might get me to visit again, but Tangerine needs some tangible improvement if it hopes to win the affections its Indiranagar version had earned. In the journey from one end of 100 feet Road to another, something seems to have been missed out. It isn’t as though the food was uniformly bad, but in Koramangala, where we’re approaching the state of one restaurant per family, things need to be perfect for a restaurant to thrive.

Tangerine, 52, 100 feet Road, Koramangala, Ph: 080 41152678/9

Soul Kadhi

First published in Bangalore Mirror.

A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” Thus goes the quote, and it should apply to any dish. But with the advantage of hindsight, I think we should have started with the Murgh Hussaini Shorba or at least tried the Kadhi Pakora later – the former for chicken soup’s bestselling association with the soul, and the latter for the restaurant’s name. They probably contained the soul connection that we missed in our entire meal. In fact, such was the standard of the fare that, several times during the meal, an (almost) homonym flashed through my mind – kadi. It means ‘bite’ in Tamil and Malayalam and also has a genre of jokes named after it. The next few paragraphs should provide ample explanation of why this thought crossed my mind!

Soul Kadhi is housed in the same building as ‘Under the Mango Tree‘. (link has a location map)  It’s a small lane but you should find a place to park without much difficulty. Valet parking exists too. The decor is friendly enough, and those winnows on the ceiling are a nice touch. The music was all 90s Bollywood evoking bouts of nostalgia. Just loud enough to be heard clearly, but subtle enough to allow conversation.

Though there were soups in the menu, and some chaats as well, the starters sounded more promising and provided more options. So we began with the Banarasi Seekh Kabab. Soul – holy city – auspicious start, you know. Though presented well, they turned out to be like cutlets in taste, and some parts were burnt as well. The overall crumbliness didn’t help either. The Tangari Kabab had a marinade that wasn’t really bad, but its interiors hadn’t been introduced to the masala. In fact the interiors didn’t seem to have been introduced to cooking in general. The Murgh Gilafi Seekh was particularly bland and the mint chutney didn’t seem interested enough to save it either. By this time, we were ready for a fight, and the Pind Baluchi Tikka proved a worthy opponent. It put up a solid battle against our collective ravaging canines and proved to be a tough opponent! Despite its faults, the Mahi Tikka Ajvaini stayed true to its origins. The fish was salty enough for us to believe that sea water had actually seeped into its very soul. More