Bangalore Mirror reviews

High Ultra Lounge

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Sometimes when you’re high, you begin to brag, and sometimes it really can be justified – like when you’re a lounge on the 31st floor of the World Trade Centre, (map) making you one of the highest located dining points in the country, and when you command a breath-taking view of the city that’s arguably unparalleled. It is very rarely that you can get a sense of the city as a whole (outside of Google Maps) and the 180 degree view that High offers is almost humbling. But that’s enough of a high, let me give you the lowdown on the place itself.

It’s open from 5.30 -11.30 PM, and reserving in advance is a good idea. There are different kinds of High, each serving a specific purpose – High View is the lounge space, High Dine is more of a fine dining experience, High Mix is the place for a cocktail do, and High Edge is a private dining area. There’s a sense of shifting moods through these sections, brought about by the colours used and the lighting. Yet, despite the individual personas, all of these flow seamlessly into each other. The seating is trendy and comfortable across the spaces, and on a Saturday night, with music in the background, and the bright lights of Bangalore spread out in front of you, it is easy to feel on top of the world!

It didn’t really make sense to leave ourselves high and dry in such a wonderful ambience, so we quickly scanned the drinks menu – a mix of signature cocktails, classic fare, some interesting mocktails and everything else you’d need in a bar! From the signature drinks, we tried the Moon Lighting, the Spell Bound Bellini and The Last Order. I’d asked for the first, and the vodka based pink-orange coloured drink got me a few smirks from the guys, but that was settled by the Bellini, which was completely lady-like in its pink frothy (and tasty) avatar. The Last Order was a more subtle drink in all respects. The one mocktail we tried – Fame of Passion – was peachy and quite refreshing.

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The food menu, with a lot of focus on appetisers and short eats, is a mix of Asian cuisines – Japanese, Korean and Thai. We began with the salmon sashimi, complemented well by the wasabi and ginger, but preferred the Red Snapper Nigiri over this. Also in good form was the vegetarian dish we tried – the mildly spicy Shichimi-spiced Maki with tenkasu. The Pork Belly was quite good too – well cooked meat with a lime based tangy topping that gave it a flavourful pop. The Prawns Tempura also found a lot of takers – fluffy and crisp batter with succulent meat. The starters ended on a high with the fantastic Chilly Beef Asparagus, spicy enough even for the seasoned palates.

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On a relative scale, there aren’t a lot of choices in the main menu, and a couple of dishes weren’t available, but the remaining did suffice to make a decent meal out of it. The Beef stew was nowhere near what we’d consider a stew, but well cooked meat and mildly spicy flavours meant we didn’t really complain. The San Bei Chicken was a tad too salty for our liking. We had the Soba rice noodles with chilli to go with these and it was liked mainly thanks to its zesty spiciness. The seafood noodles was surprisingly insipid.

It’s a lounge, so understandably there aren’t many dessert options. To be precise, there are three, and the Banoffee Pie was an easy winner given that the competition was a fruit platter and homemade ice creams. The dessert wasn’t bad, though I can’t claim it was the best I’d eaten.

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At a height of over 420 feet and spread across 10000 square feet, High sets the bar high, literally and otherwise. Special thanks to Guru, who in addition to being wonderful at his job as the resident mixologist, also charmed us with his child management skills! An energetic yet relaxing ambiance, good appetisers, superb service, and a view that might remain unmatched for quite a while, High has everything going for it.  A meal for two would cost around Rs.3500 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The pricing might make it seem a little for the highborn, but hey, the experience is difficult to top!

High Ultra Lounge, Roof Top, World Trade Center, 31st Floor, Brigade Gateway Campus, 26/1, Dr. Rajkumar Road, Malleshwaram West, Ph: 08045674567

The Local

Originally appeared in Bangalore Mirror.

If, in Koramangala, Jimi doesn’t give you enough of a high, perhaps you should try a stairway to heaven, led by messaging on a steep flight of stairs. Subtext apart, there’s a new watering hole in this part of town, or rather, a ‘terrace drinkery’, that goes by the name of ‘The Local’. (map) The logo sets the tone quite clearly – it is inspired by a bottle cap. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, perhaps the messaging on the stairs will. It’s too long to recount in entirety, but the message is that this is a place that celebrates the ordinary, and all the kinds that make up a great hangout. The talk is easily backed up by the relaxed ambiance. Quirky is going mainstream, but The Local’s décor is certainly a candidate for tastefulness. An assortment of seating options – indoors and al fresco, featuring a motley group of chairs, stone benches, and surprisingly, greenery in the heart of Koramangala! Add to this, beer served in ceramic mugs, the little blackboard menus, offers like Tap Tuesdays and Tequila Thursdays, it’s easy to imagine an evening spent lazing around. And then there’s the music! We started the evening with classics – As Time Goes by, Uptown Girl and so on, quickly moved on to New York City Speed and such, and ended the night with everything kids listen to these days!

When the drinks menu occupies as much space as the food on the menu, it does seem like a good start. It gets better when you figure that they actually do have the stuff. There’s no end to the number of pubs which have Hoegaarden and Asahi on the menu, and on the menu only! However, their in-house specials are nothing out of the ordinary. We asked for a Strawberry Margarita and it arrived in the form of a Strawberry Martini! Someone at the bar was definitely having a few *hic* cups. They did offer to replace it though, after we pointed it out. The starters took a long while to arrive. The Veg platter which had Paneer Tikka, mushrooms, cauliflower and Basil Haryali Kababs. The last was an easy winner, since the tikka was only average, the mushrooms rather insipid and the cauliflower suffered from a mustard overdose.

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The good news had been that the Chilli Beef had arrived first, the bad news was that it forgot to cook itself! That was unfortunate because the flavours were really good. The Portuguese Patra in name and appearance was similar to the Parsi Patra ni Machchi, but this one had a chicken version too. Wrapped in banana leaves, this was easily our favourite starter and was well complemented by the peanut based dip.

The main course options consisted of burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and a few steaks. We began with the Meat Lovers Pizza, which was a chicken, pork and cheese extravaganza. They did play their parts well, but the pizza itself was burnt. The BELT was our favourite mains dish, the acronym (and the dish) being made up of bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato. Despite the ingredients, the sandwich was light, with subtle flavours. The Penne Alfredo (we had the veg version) was only average though the cream sauce promised much. The Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers sounded quite interesting – bell peppers stuffed with cheesy rice, served with baked apple and red wine sauce. It looked quite the belle too, red and green bell peppers looking pretty in the company of the apple. But looks proved deceptive, the dish wasn’t great, the barely cooked rice being the chief culprit! We were in the mood for desserts, but they didn’t exist!

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For about Rs.1800, you could share a couple of drinks, two non veg starters, and a main course dish. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The Local makes no pretence to being a fine dining destination, and bills itself as a ‘my kind of place, come as you are’ hangout. The décor, music and the general buzz manages to do that quite well, but it has a long way to go in terms of the quality of food served. If the general idea is only to lounge around in Koramangala with beer and sides, and in a relaxed atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed. But if the expectation is more than casual ‘drinkery’, then the terrace might fall short.

The Local, 467, 80ft Road, 6th block, Koramangala, Ph: 2550 5119

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

Hoppipola

first published in Bangalore Mirror

My first Hoppipola visit was an experience I’m not likely to forget soon. They wouldn’t take reservations so we had to try our luck on a Saturday night. This is on the top floor of the Mainland China building immediately after the Domlur flyover when coming from Koramangala. (map) A bunch of kids were waiting in the ground floor lobby expectantly eyeing the lift every time its doors opened, for such was the crowd that only when guests left were new ones let in. We finally managed a place in the lift, and smugly assumed there would be a table waiting upstairs for us. The doors opened to a college fest, (or school – debatable) with alcohol, and standing space for just about four people. The only way to get a table was to have Spidey like speed and reflexes. Since we were barely on the right side of forty and had no special effects for support, we felt like people in the namesake Sigur Ros song and beat a hasty retreat before the sharp increase in the average age on the floor provoked an uncle/aunty comment. The second visit, on a Friday afternoon, was more peaceful and we could appreciate the quirky ambiance as well. Garden seating with potted plants and creepers for company on the outside and large tables and bar seating inside, exam pad menus with offbeat descriptions, board games, books and a happy wall whose doors and windows can be opened for surprise gifts, all add to the youthful vibe. Judging by the crowd, Hoppipola has definitely been successful in its endeavour to make people of all kinds happy!

We took quite some advantage of the ridiculously cheap alcohol prices. The Apples and Curry Leaves mojito was refreshing with the curry leaves adding that extra bite. If you’d like things to be a little less sweet, go for the Kafir-Lime and Lychees version. Even spicier tastes? Go for the Guava Balsamic Mary, served in a salt-rimmed glass and strong in flavours and alcohol! The red wine based Sonora Sangria is not bad either, with the wine quantity making up for the relatively lower overall volume.

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The Pimped Shrimp was our solid start, and in addition to the promised garlic and burnt chilli flavours, it also had a lime presence that added an excellent tanginess. The mildly spicy Sansho fish came a close second with vinegar and chilli flavours. We also liked The Mexican samosas – they chose to call it empanada – crispy exterior with a creamy corn and jalapeno filling. The Teriyaki Paneer, with a unique presentation style and gingery flavour, and the Chickiti’tah – grilled chicken with a whiff of tangerine and ginger – were not bad either. The Rasta Chicken came recommended, and though it was crisp-fried and tasty, it didn’t really live up the expectations.

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On a relative note, there are fewer options in the mains section, and it didn’t help that a few items were unavailable. We chose Captain Haddock to begin with – a carbonara pizza with ‘chicken bacon’ and though a tad bland, we still liked it. The tomato heavy Margarita was a thin crust pizza and even discounting our collective meat bias, this was not something we cared for. We tried two versions of “The Drinking Man’s food” – ‘Champagne Cream’ with a creamy cheese sauce and champagne with chicken and ‘Pesto Rum’ with shrimp. Both were excellent, though we could detect no trace of the alcohol mentioned’, and it took several rounds of debate before the Pesto Rum was given top honours. The last to arrive was the Coin Lamburgers – three mini burgers with mildly spicy and tasty patties.

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There is no way to sugar-coat this. There are no desserts! I am rarely one to rant about the youth of today, but is this what it has come down to? How can we be called a civilisation without a sweet tooth? What about those researches that correlate chocolate and happiness? Sigh. A minus point for that, though I was told that desserts would be added soon!

For about Rs.1350, you could share a couple of cocktails, two non veg starters, and a couple of non veg main course dishes. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The service is reasonably prompt, though they do tend to get hassled sometimes. If you can brave the challenges of gaining entry, you’ll find that the ambiance and the buzz do give Hoppipola the lively bonhomie it aspires to have. It also hits the sweet spot in terms of pricing, but c’mon, some desserts to sweeten the deal?

Hoppipola, 4032, (Mainland China Building – terrace) HAL, 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore Ph: 080 25217070

P.S. This happens to be restaurant review #200 on this blog. Burp! :D

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