italian

Serafina

Serafina sounds like a fantastic super villain from the Marvel universe, but this is about a restaurant in Koramangala. (map) I think I could easily associate charming or pretty if I had one word to describe the place. The brick walls, decor, furniture, lighting and the fantastic music (classics, played at just the right sound for one to enjoy it and yet have a conversation without a megaphone) lend it a touch of classiness. They have seating on two floors inside, and an alfresco option that faces the 80 feet Road. On a pleasant Bangalore evening, we chose the latter.

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Puma Social

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

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

Napoli Bistro

First published in Bangalore Mirror

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

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

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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

Terrazzo

There’ve been so many name and location changes in the last year that I can’t be sure which Italy has been replaced by Terrazzo – Italia or Little Italy. I think it’s the former. In any case, this is on 100 feet Road just before the 12th Main junction when you’re coming from the Koramangala direction. (on your right – so take a right before 12th main, loop around to 12th Main and then turn left on 100 feet Road) There’s valet parking for the bigger machines and just enough space for the smaller ones. The map can be found at Zomato, and the menu as well. There’s another restaurant Esplanade housed in the same building, and is related to the one in Koramangala.

One thing they should probably change is piling the garbage right in front of the restaurant! Why would anyone want to see this when they walk into the restaurant? And the stink stays with you for quite a while. :\

There are three seating options – 2 downstairs (one closed, one semi open with a glass ceiling) and 1 upstairs. We sat upstairs and had a nice view of the road. The menu is a mix of (wait for it) Italian and Indian, so we decided to do the same with our order too! From the bar menu, we asked for a Tequila Steeler and a Classic Sangria, and for starters, a Lal Surkh Tangdi Kabab. We could have done with lesser chopped fruits in the Sangria but the Steeler was not a bad drink. The Kabab didn’t have much of the mince it was supposed to have, and the chilli paste was not really present in all the 3 pieces we got, but it was not a bad dish really.

For the main course, we decided to try the Sicilian al Pollo with a thin crust (that you have to ask for) and a Carbonara with Fusilli. The pizza turned out to be quite good with lots of cheese, mushrooms and chicken and a slight tang and spiciness thanks to the sauce. We’d have liked the pasta sauce to be a little less dry but there was no questioning the fresh cream, cheese and bacon presence.

    

We were quite stuffed but the person who took the order insisted on a complimentary dessert when he learned that we had booked through Poshvine. (and that the booking for some reason had not gone through!) That happened to be a caramel custard with some amazing custard and a caramel sauce that could have been a bit less bitter.

All of the above came to just under Rs.1850 (that’s after a Citi discount and taxes and service charge) The service was really really good and that’s not just because he bribed me with the dessert. :) The food is reasonably good too and the ambiance is quite nice. All things considered, you could probably drop in if you’re around those parts.

Terrazzo, No:1135, 100 feet Road, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar Ph: 25289126/97482

Portland Steakhouse & Cafe

First appeared in Bangalore Mirror.

Brunton Road holds a special place in my heart. My first office in Bangalore was there. So it was a neat coincidence that those who accompanied me for the review were my friends from that office. :)

But before we lose ourselves in nostalgia, here’s how to get there. The location raised our collective eyebrows. They will soon have valet parking, and there’s enough space for 2 wheelers around. We arrived on a night they were having an expat party, so one half of the restaurant was reserved for that. We still managed to find a decent table and thanks to the party, got ourselves some awesome live music. Now, on to the menu. They also have wines and mocktails.

When a place is named Portland Steakhouse & Café, you’d be pardoned for skipping the first few pages of the menu and jumping straight to the steaks section. But then, if your focus wavers for a moment, and you glance at what’s written beside the ‘Steaks’ heading, you’ll notice a hat tip that’s a clue to the establishment’s origins. “A tribute to Haroon”- even if you’re a neo Bangalorean, there’s a strong likelihood that you’d recognise the name Haroon Sulaiman Sait from The Only Place. I learned later that Portland Steakhouse & Café is run by Sabiha, his daughter, and her husband Maqsood Mohamed. Once the connection was established, I began looking for some similarity in the ambiance, especially the iconic check tablecloth, but there was none. However, there is an unmistakable sense of charm and hospitableness to the place.

But on to the food! The Fiery Chicken arrived first – chicken strips marinated in Cajun spices, with peppers – moderately spicy though a tad oily. The Batter Fried Calamari came next, and though it got the crispness right, the greasiness just overpowered everything else. We were saved by the Chili Con Carne soup, a beef, vegetable and bean stew served with twisted breadsticks. A wonderful dish, its tang provided just the bite that our palates needed. The Clam Chowder soup followed and though the clam flavour itself was subtle, the creaminess was much appreciated. The veg representation was the next to appear – the Jalapeno–Jack Mushroom Dommies. The jalapeno presence was limited to the dip and the dish itself wasn’t really inspiring. What we were really waiting for, given the number of PMOs (People of Malayali Origin) at the table, was the Beef Strips in Lettuce Wrap. This was when the service faltered first, and it seemed as though they had forgotten about this order. Thankfully, when it did arrive, it was well worth the wait. With spicy and well cooked meat, we didn’t even miss the dip we were promised in the menu.

 

 

By the time we were ready for the main course, the expat party was in full swing, and we bore the brunt of it with a longer-than-average waiting time. The Signature Portland Beef Burger hosted a perfect patty and I completely enjoyed it. The Herbed Gnocchi had slightly chewy dumplings but the scrumptious pesto sauce made up for it. The Spicy Beef Ragu Spaghetti was good enough to be hoarded and taken as a doggy pack! The Porterhouse steak had slightly inconsistent meat (we had asked for medium rare) but together with the mashed potato and the red wine reduction sauce was excellent enough for us to appreciate the dish. The last to arrive was the much anticipated Shivaji Nagar Curried Beef Pizza. But that literally left a bitter taste in the mouth, and we discussed quite a few unsavoury possibilities of what the Shivaji Nagar connection could be as we waited for the desserts.

 

 

We decided against the dessert platter options, and asked for the Crème Brulee, Bread and Butter Pudding and Profiteroles with Chocolate sauce. The Cream Brulee was very well made, and everyone’s favourite, though I thought the soft, butter-rich pudding with its sprinkling of dry fruits was a strong contender. The Profiteroles were more éclair shaped, and despite the chocolate filling and sauce, was not good enough to be in the reckoning.

 

For about Rs.1600, you could share a soup, a non veg starter, a couple of non veg main course dishes and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes) It’s only been a couple of months since the restaurant began operations and it obviously has its small share of teething troubles. Though the service missed a few steps courtesy the expat party, it really couldn’t take away much from the overall experience, especially after Maqsood stepped in for damage control. But given the pedigree and experience of the management, these would be temporary. An excellent, inviting ambiance and largely superb food means that this should be your port of call soon.

Portland Steakhouse & Café, No:1, Brunton Road 1st Cross, Bangalore Ph: 25593405

Spaghetti Kitchen (Koramangala)

Though we asked for an EMI option at the Indiranagar version, we picked up the courage to try out the Koramangala version, thanks to Poshvine. Mostly for the awesome view of Hosur Road while we dined. Located right at the Forum junction, above Punjab Grill, there’s valet parking. There’s also a coffee shop in the same premises.

The ambiance, which is bright and cheerful in daylight, gets an additional classiness at night, and suckers that we are for road facing views, this one was just awesome. We had a fair idea of what we wanted, courtesy the menu at Zomato, but added a Sangria for two to that list.

The complimentary bread basket was excellent, and the bread was indeed fresh. We started with the Cappuccino of Four Mushroom soup (/2) and it turned out pretty and tasty, though I’d have liked a dash of pepper. Thankfully that’s available on the table easily. For the main course, we asked for a Fettuccine with Cream & Cheese and a Tutto Carne thin crust (Rs.50 extra) pizza. The all meat pizza arrived first and though we couldn’t complain about the meat presence – ham, lamb…, the crust was burnt a bit too much. Basically, pay Rs.50 extra for a burnt crust. The pasta though, was awesome. Don’t judge it by its skimpy appearance, it’s quite heavy and there’s no stinginess on the cream and the parmesan – pecorino sauce was just amazing.

 

The wallet felt lighter by about Rs.2350, after the Poshvine discount. Pricey, and probably the place to go to when you’re in the mood for celebrations. The lunch buffet on weekdays (<500 after tax) is something I’d very highly recommend though.

Spaghetti Kitchen, 1, SJR Primus, 1st Floor, Adjacent To Raheja Arcade, Koramangala. Ph: 41160500

Toscano

Between the Diesel 50% sale and the fact that I’ve heard so many diverse comments about Toscano, the decision was swung in favour of a UB City visit. (as opposed to a special event at Benjarong) Toscano is at one end of the food court on the 2nd floor, and opposite Soul City. As almost all the eateries here go, the seating includes an al fresco option too, an excellent choice on a windy Bangalore night.

8.30 pm on Saturday is around the time that Bangalore behaves as though it hasn’t eaten all week. So we did reserve, but still had to wait for 10 minutes for a table. It might have been more if I hadn’t pointed out a free table. :\ There’s no real waiting area, so it wasn’t  the greatest of beginnings.

But thanks to the wait, we had the time to decide what we wanted to eat. Yes, I’d have preferred doing that sitting down, but let me not nag now. :) You can take a look at the menu here. Also take a look at the wine list and watch out for the day’s specials! A complimentary bread basket arrived before the Minestrone (chicken) soup we ordered. Two dips, one seemed to be herbed butter with olives, and the other had a chilli flavour. The soup was thick, with a tasty, mildly spicy broth base, and yes, chicken pieces were spotted along with pasta and cheese! (the photos were taken using the  phone camera, that would explain the worse-than-the-usual-bad visuals) ;)

For the main course, D ordered a Linguine Chicken Aglio e olio Peperoncino and I asked for a Fettuccine e Salsiccia Piccante. (yes, just point to them on the menu card!) The former was a tad bland (for our palate, of course) despite the promise of chili in the description. But a huge dose of chicken cubes slightly made up for it. I quite liked the fettuccine though, lots of spicy sausages and a mild tang to it.

 

Despite appearances, the dishes were quite filling, and we didn’t have space for desserts. The service was quite prompt and all the above cost us just over Rs.1300.

Toscano, UB City, The Collection, 2nd Floor, Vittal Mallya Road, Ph: 4173 8800

Chianti

D’s organisational duties and my laziness conspired to make sure that we had a ‘home’ match. Thanks to Zomato, we came to know about Chianti. It’s on the road that goes from Sukh Sagar on 100 feet Road in Koramangala towards Jyoti Nivas. (map) You can’t miss the orange sign on the left. This, I thought, is probably how Nepal feels like – India  (Sukh Sagar) towards its south and China to the north (Beijing Bites, Mainland China) They have valet parking and two-wheelers can go underground.

You can either watch the world go by or enjoy air conditioning. We chose the former, though the brick wall and the chandeliers inside looked very inviting. We were given a DIY Bruschetta (no, it’s not Mallu) on arrival, even as we checked the menu. In that order, we rubbed (on the bread) garlic, basil, (fold first) tomatoes, and then added salt and pepper and the olive oil, but they won’t chuck you out if you tried any other order. :)

 

On the paid part, we started with a Crema di Funghi and D used puppy eyes on the person who took the order, and asked for chicken to be added.  He seemed familiar, and it turned out that we had seen him at Fiorano. Same owner, apparently. Though we were told that the chicken would be added, the chicken didn’t get the memo. But the soup was thick and creamy and quite a good dish otherwise. A complimentary bread basket arrived too, and I quite liked the dip that they provided with it. For the main course, I tried to nudge D towards a thin crust pizza but she refused to bite. So we ended up with D’s Cannelloni (Beef Ragu version) and my Tagliatelle Prosciutto e Funghi. I ordered it partly because it reminded me of the Tattaglia family in The Godfather, who make attempts on Don Corleone’s life because he wouldn’t partner them in the heroin business, nor allow them to trade in it (hint hint) and partly because it had a creamy sauce and ham! D’s dish turned out to be a bit too tangy for her liking though she did like the Ricotta cheese and the overall taste. The other dish was heavy and a bit salty, though I loved the ham in it. We also had a Red Wine Sangria which we quite liked.

 

The service is friendly, but are a bit over eager in asking for our opinions. (not the person who took our order) The meal cost us Rs. 1548 inclusive of charges and tax. Considering the location and the cuisine, I’d say it’s fair. It’s not the place you go to if you’re in a hurry. Sit back, enjoy the food and the wine, and watch the world go by.

Chianti Ristorante & Wine Bar, #12, 5th A Block, Koramangala, Ph: 41132021/4

Under the Mango Tree

This review was first published in Bangalore Mirror (yes, yes, we got our name in the papers n’ all) ;) Have reworked it to suit the blog’s regular format. :)

Remember Cornucopia in Richmond Town. (map) Its now got a new owner and a new name – Under the Mango Tree. The set up has been modified ever so slightly, the mango tree remains, and the erstwhile elaborate menu changed completely, though it still serves Continental and Italian. Here’s the new menu. Meanwhile, this time, my company consisted of Gautam, Radha, Karthik and Prmod.

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I started with a Cream of Mushroom and Leek soup, which turned out to be the best among its kind. Karthik’s Cold Melon soup was a bit of a disaster, and Gautam had still not come to terms with the existence of a vegetarian French Onion soup. The Goan sausages made a pretty decent starter.  The Pita and Hummus were only just ok.

The ‘King Size sausages’ was what I chose for the main course, and again got lucky, because it was quite a good dish, with its caramelised onion sauce. Prmod’s Veg Lasagna also turned out to be tasty enough. The Sea Bass was quite a disappointment  – Karthik was sure it was mackerel, and both the Pepperoni as well as the Mozzarella – Hot Pepper pizzas one were only average.

On to desserts. The Chocolate Mousse is not something a chocoholic ever complains about, but this one could’ve been better. The Mango mousse cake tried to be the saviour and just about managed to succeed despite some essence extravagance. The chocolate mousse with caramelised banana could’ve been a winner if the mousse had been allowed to be strong enough, it would have worked well with the banana, I thought.

In essence, some hard work needs to go into the place. The aambiance is pleasant enough, and the owner, Nirmala, helps with the order as well as some amount of customisation. Cost for two people would be about Rs.1000, which would get you a couple of soups, a starter, main course dishes and a dessert. So, drop in, if you’re in the neighbourhood, and give it a shot.

Under the Mango Tree, # 3, Laurel Lane, Richmond town, Bangalore. Tel: 9686601021

PS: If you’re in Bangalore, and would like to be featured in a review, drop me a line with your favourite cuisine or new restaurant you’ve noticed – manuscryptsATgmailDOTcom, and we’ll figure something out :)