Multi Cuisine

Happy Brew

First published in Bangalore Mirror . Happens to be my 50th for the publication.

There’s always something brewing in Koramangala and the latest addition is a Gastro Café named Happy Brew. This is the place that was once occupied by Soul Courtyard. (map) Yes, they have valet parking! From the name, we did expect a microbrewery, but soon learned that the happiness was limited to Kingfisher, which gets branding space all over the place. Thankfully, the pricing and the ambiance ensured that we could adhere to Bangalore’s famous ‘Grin and beer’ philosophy. The place resembles a courtyard more than anything else, with the bar at the centre and ‘good times’ caricature adorning the wall. A flight of stairs leads you to an area which won’t let you get too high, mostly thanks to the really low ceiling! The walls here are made of wooden panels with some lovely black and white photos of smiling people. While it seemed like an excellent area to lounge on a weekend afternoon, the heat became quite unbearable in a while! The playlist was a nostalgia attack – we heard everything from Modern Talking’s “Brother Louie” to Geri Halliwell’s “It’s Raining Men”, and “That Thing You Do” – songs which the younger members in our group didn’t even recognise. But between the songs, the brew and the food, we were all kept reasonably happy!

The drinks menu consists of beer, ‘beer tails’, mocktails, coffee and a few milkshakes. Conveying our order turned out to be tougher than a Mars mission, since it took three attempts before the person who took our order convinced us he had it right! The only ‘beer tail’ that worked was Diesel. (lager with cola) The Beer Mojito and Kiwi’s Paradise (beer with Kiwi) sounded promising but fell flat on taste. The Blue Lagoon, tagged a mocktail, featured Blue Curacao and scored on looks, but that was it. It also didn’t help that a couple of drinks we asked for (including a Brownie shake) weren’t available. When there’s cheap beer, perhaps one shouldn’t hope for a lot more!

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Flambe

One of the other side effects (other than one’s own sides, that is) of having a Food Court almost next door, is that eating out is easily taken care of. And that’s why it took us quite a few weeks to unplug ourselves from ‘Crepe Connection’ and visit a new place.

Flambe‘ opened a few weeks back in Koramangala, opposite GK Vale, and above the Bata showroom – on the same road  (map) that has China Pearl, Vicky’s Tava Lounge, Oye Amritsar, The Esplanade etc.. Parking shouldn’t be too difficult, even for 4 wheelers since there are many side roads. Flambe has an a/c dining section as well as a terrace section. With the kind of weather Bangalore’s been having, we chose the latter.

It’s quite a pleasant setting, though the seats with a view of the road are clearly meant for larger groups. Also, some of the tables, though aesthetically appealing, lack a bit on functionality, since they are too low.

Over to the menu. Multi-cuisine meant that there was much choice. For starters, there are Nachos and Cheese Fritters, Corn & Cheese balls, Paneer Kalimirch, Achari Tandoor Mushrooms etc, priced at Rs.110, for the veggies, and for the meat minded, Chicken Satay, Crispy Lamb, Pahadi Murgh,Reshmi Kabab, Lahori Boti Kabab etc and seafood too – fish – lasooni fish tikka to fish fingers, calamari, shrimp, priced  between Rs.110 – Rs.320. The soup section, relatively, has fewer options – about 4 veg options, priced at Rs.60 and about 10 non veg options from the regular Hot & Sour and Chicken Shorba to the zuppa di pesce at Rs.70-110. There are a few salad options too, about 3 each in veg and non veg at Rs.70-140.

The main course starts with sizzlers and flambe options – veg, chicken and seafood in both cases. There are half a dozen sizzler options, priced at Rs.100-330, and 9 flambe options, at Rs.200-400. You also get other regulars like Stroganoff, enchiladas, fish’n’chips, a few pasta options. (Rs.110-270) Multi-cuisine means that these share the menu with sweet’n’sour vegetables, Methi Chaman, Hyderabadi kadai Subzi, Dal makhni etc (Rs.70-140) and Diced Chicken in Black pepper, Shredded lamb with onion and capsicum, Mutton Kolhapuri, Malabar fish curry, Goan prawns curry, Murgh Adraki etc  (Rs.190-320). To go along with that, there are quite a few rice and roti options. They also have a snack menu.

We went through all of that, while munching a plate of nachos, complimentary. :)  We finally chose a Brodo di Pollo, “a traditional italian chicken broth served on a slice of toasted bread”, to start with. I think they meant along with a slice of toasted bread, or probably not, because we got the by-two soup along with 1 croissant, which we erm, manually converted to by-two. But the broth was hot and tasty, with loads of chopped vegetables and chicken, though the taste did remind me a lot of Tabasco sauce.

For the main course, we both chose from the flambe section. D, because, well if the restaurant were named so, this should be the specialty, and me, because it seemed destined. Earlier in the day, i had successfully ‘flambe’d’ my tongue, though with hot chocolate, not alcohol. D ordered a Chicken Pepperonata, “a traditional italian roast chicken with pimentos, flambed with red wine”, and I asked for a Chicken Diane, “boneless grilled chicken and bell peppers flambed with brandy, served with mushroom and pepper corn sauce”. The flooring has two levels, and we were on the upper part, which meant that, though we could see it, the flambe-ing couldn’t be done near our table. That does take a bit away, I thought. Both the items were quite good, though they managed to give me 2 free bones in my dish. When I asked about what ‘boneless’ meant, the guy appeared clueless and mumbled ‘only two bones at the side’. D’s Pepperonata was mildly spicy and tangy, though she felt that the meat could’ve been cooked a bit more. But notwithstanding that, still a good dish. The Chicken Diane was done very well, with a strong pepper flavor that I quite liked.

There are a few dessert options, including Crepes and Banana Fritters, but we had a movie to catch, so we skipped dessert.

All of the above cost us just less than Rs.700, including service tax, and a service charge of 5%. The service is quite good and attentive, the ambiance is pleasant, and overall, a decent experience.

Flambe, #93, 5th Cross, 6th Block, Koramangala Ph: 41606888/89

Tamarind

We’d not visited Tamarind for a while, though its quite nearby, and what better than a lazy Saturday to drop in? Its located on the Koramangala-Indiranagar intermediate ring road. When coming from Indirangar, you’ll see it on the right after the Sony World junction. Actually, the pub on the ground floor-Enigma is more visible. Tamarind is on the first floor.

Tamarind serves Chinese, Continental and North Indian, but we’ve always had only the last, perhaps because the market leaders in the other verticals have already been clearly defined :) The soup, of course, is an exception and we went with our favourite Cream of Chicken Soup. D claimed there was garlic in it, though I couldn’t sense it. I’m not too sure of this, since D was a bit woozy and even managed to pop the plastic sauce container like a champagne bottle.

For the main course we ordered a Fish Tikka Masala, which is “fish tikkas in tomato and onion gravy”, and (okay, I saw this one and though it left me speechless, I had to have it!!) Chicken Madrasy (sic), which is “chicken cooked in cardamom and coconut milk topped with cashew gravy topped with curry leaves”. We also ordered an onion kulcha and a roti to go along with it. The fish gravy was quite good, but a couple of the tikka pieces were a bit burnt. The chicken was certainly different with a distinct coconut milk flavor, which questioned its supposed Madras origins in favour of Kerala. The quantities of both were sufficient, but we had to order an extra Naan. Though there were quite a few dessert options, we were too stuffed.

The person who took our order was quite tardy, but the guy who served our table made up for it quite well. Tamarind also serves alcohol. A 330 ml Kingfisher costs Rs.85, that should give you an indication of the costs. Its quite a good place if you are a large group, I’ve never seen a place with so many seating options for large groups. I think they also have a roof top option.

All of the above cost us just above Rs.500, which was quite value-for-money, considering the quantity and quality.

Tamarind, #2, 100 ft Road, 5th Block, Koramangala Ph: 25633999

PS. Have installed a lifestream service, check it out here

Menu at Zomato

Empire

We’d planned on Kubay, but got there pretty late, thanks to a torturous Mallu movie that dragged on forever. By the time we got there, it was beyond 10. It was crowded even then, and we were told we’d have to wait for 25 minutes. Since we were quite famished by then, we played inky pinky ponky and agreed upon Empire, perhaps to reinforce the flagging Mallu spirit. When you’re coming from Indiranagar towards Koramangala, take the first right turn (that leads to Jyoti Nivas College/ Casa Picola/William Penn). You’ll find Empire on your left. Parking is not a problem for two wheelers, you might have to walk a bit if you have a four wheeler.

Empire has a fast food section/snacks/ice cream section on the roadside, a/c and non a/c sections inside and a terrace section where they also serve Arabian food. Though not exactly fine dining experience, Empire guarantees good food. It also saves me from giving explanations of unpronounceable dishes 😉

Since we were too hungry to do multiple courses, we ordered a couple of Kerala Porottas, an onion dosa, a chilly fish, a brain masala (quarter plate) and a butter chicken (half). One of the great things about Empire is the speed with which the food is served, I’ve never had to wait impatiently. And it was fortunate this time, since we were inching towards 11.30 – the time when we would be spared the effort of walking out and nice cops would escort/throw us out. The cops really believe in ‘The Dark Night’ here. Ok, sorry 😀

The onion dosa was pretty thick,a nd though I had my own apprehensions on how it would go with the side dishes, it was actually pretty good. The brain masala was really good, and though had some giant green chillies, turned out to be just right and not too spicy. But alas, I made the mistake of using that learning for the chillies in the Chilly Fish, and was in for a nasty surprise. But I still liked the dish. The butter chicken was the odd one out. A bit too salty, a bit too much of color and a strange metallic flavor. The Porotta was not as soft as it usually is, but still quite okay. All of the above cost us just over Rs.300. That’s the best part of empire – value for money. You can stuff yourself and you’ll still get a reasonable bill.

We had a Maghai Meetha Paan outside. Damn thing costs Rs.10 now, used to be Rs.5. Only the prices are inflated, the paan size remains the same. The Empire Strikes Back :(

Menu and Photos at Zomato

The Grand

It’d been quite a while since I’d visited The Grand, so on this trip home – Cochin, I’d decided to give it a try, especially since the food there has always gotten rave reviews, and it was about time I made my own judgment. It is located on MG Road, since 1963,  so its a landmark for most auto/taxi guys.

We reserved a table for 8pm, and were told that they wouldn’t hold it beyond 8.10. Fair. The crowd actually started coming in after 8.30. The menu is exhaustive with separate sections for Indian, Kerala, Far East, Continental, Chinese and so on.

We ordered a velvet chicken and corn soup (2/3) and a Talomein Soup. Pappadams on the house while you wait. :)  The former is a chinese preparation – chicken broth flavoured with dry sherry, and the latter is a combination of shredded chicken, carrot and celery garnished with spring onion. The (velvet chicken) soup was quite good, thicker than I expected, and quite sufficient in terms of quantity. For the main course, we decided to go all Kerala.. ‘when in kerala….’ , and so ordered a Malabar Kozhi cury, an Erachi Varattiyathu, a Meen pollichathu, and a Tharavu Mappaz. Thats four kinds of living beings – chicken, beef, fish and duck respectively.  :)

So, the Malabar Kozhi Curry is a spicy North kerala dish, which turned out to be only moderately spicy, that was a disappointment. The Erachi Varattiyathu is cooked beef,  with onions, but with enough flavours to keep it from being bland. Better. The Meen pollichathu (you have a choice of seer or pearlspot) is fish with (usually) a very spicy paste around it. Its actually the paste that gives this dish its character. However, this time it was just some sort of onion preparation and ended up very average. The saving grace was the Tharavu Mappaz (they have a ‘duck’ festival happening here) which was duck cooked in coconut milk. This one was yummy, and the ‘chatti’ (earthenware) that they brought it in did add to the effect, I think. We ordered appams to go along with all, and though I was tempted to have a Kerala porotta, the appams were tasty enough to discourage any steps in that direction.

But more than the food, which was reasonably good, though not the spectacular I had hoped for, it was the service that disappointed. They took such a long time bringing the main course that I had to ask them if I should be back the next morning to collect the order. (Yeah, I seem to be a bad service magnet these days) But they were pretty good in a very mercurial way, refilling glasses on time, bringing appams alongwith the additional order (not earlier and letting them get cold) and so on.

All of the above cost us Rs.1200, which was reasonable that 4 people were quite well fed. When in Cochin, its worth checking out for some authentic Kerala food.

Aaranya

Aaranya is quite close to the heart, because it has been a place which we have frequented from the time we came to Bangalore, 5 years back. At one time, it used to be a neighbour and the constant source of takeaways/home deliveries, apart from a place to take relatives to, when they visited. It’s never given us a cause to complain. It’d been quite a while since the last visit, primarily because we shifted to the other side of town, but now that we’re back in koramanga, the connection has been recharged :)

Its located in HSR Layout. When coming from the MG Road direction, take a left from under the Silk Board flyover, and after about 200m, you’ll see it on the left on the service road, opposite Fernhill Apartments. They’ve added parking space, so parking won’t be a problem.

There are some three floors of dining space. Go to the top floor, a dimly lit breezy place. I’ve always wondered why they wouldn’t take off some of the vegetation, it would give a beautiful view. Possibly because ‘aaranya’ means garden? Anyway, the seating is great for largish groups, though they have some good 4 seater options too. If you go after say, 8.30, expect more of a wining crowd (though not the boisterous type) than a dining one.

Since it was almost 9 by the time we got there, we had to wait for about 10 minutes before we got a table. We ordered a Cream of Chicken soup, and had to use quite some salt and pepper to get some flavor. But it was thick, and the adding is something we’re used to ;).

For the main course, we ordered an Andhra Roast chicken (gravy), a Fish Tikka Masala, an onion kulcha, a butter naan, and a plain naan. The Andhra Roast chicken is quite a unique preparation, with the normal spicy flavour that you’d expect, and because the chicken is roasted, it gives a taste diferent from the regular chicken gravies. I’d recommend you try it out once. The Fish tikka masala was also good, but i think their Goan Fish Curry is a better bet. I was expecting the Kulcha to have a spicy Andhra twist, but it was quite normal :)

Meanwhile, there are quite a lot of starters here, both fish and fowl, and they also serve Chinese, though I’ve not been adventurous enough to try it out. They also have a lot of ice cream options, and a few North indian dessert options too. Though we didn’t have any this time, the Gajar ka Halwa is quite good.

All of the above cost us less than Rs.600, and we’ll be regular visitors, unless they do something really nasty to us :)

Aaranya, Opp. fernhill apartments, HSR Layout, Ph- 41108346/7

Imperial + Cream & Fudge Factory

It’d been a while since i paid a visit to the friendly neighbour joint thats imperial, and someone had to pay for the dessert fetish, that turned out to be keeping dinner to a vfm joint :D. I doubt if Imperial would be the place to test out soups, though starters are a different matter altogether.

We skipped both (remember dessert?) and chose to have a brain onion fry (half plate) and a tandoori chicken masala, along with Kerala Paratha. For once, I was disappointed with the brain onion fry, it was too salty, and the roles of onions and chillies were interchanged. The quantity has also been reduced drastically.The tandoori chicken masala was also only passable, though the quantity was sufficient. But since the place has been an old favourite, it merits one more chance, especially since Empire’s brain fry doesnt hold a candle to Imperial’s.

The Cream and Fudge Factory is quite a place for the sweet toothed Bangalorean. I refuse to allow flavors other than chocolate to enter my dessert horizon, and despite this being the second visit, I’ve to make at least 4 more visits to complete the chocolate based stuff there, so you can imagine. This time we had the Cookie dream which had chocolate chips, chocolate cookies, and chocolate fudge with a vanilla base. While there are so many flavours to choose from, thats not all. You can make your own ice cream with your chosen flavor, and an army of toppings ranging from Ferrero Rocher, Snickers, M&M etc to hazelnuts, almonds and sooo many things in between. Yes, it just might be the closest you’d get to the mythical chocolate paradise, and as for price, while it’s not peanuts, it doesnt make you ask for a personal loan either 😀

The Cream & Fudge Factory, Opposite HDFC Bank, 7th Block, 80 Feet Road, Koramangala. Tel: 41726222.

Pink Pepper

The poor place suffered at the hands of Bangalore Times’s review, but we still decided to give it a try. After all, we aren’t that gourmet yet.

Since we didn’t want to go around in circles (considering that 13th main, 6th cross can be mny different places in indiranagar), we called up the place for directions, and were guided quite well. For those familiar with the Indiranagar culinary scene,  its on the same road as Sigri. (the first right turn when you enter Indiranagar from the Old Madras Road – 100 ft road intersection)

The name and the decor would recommend a setting different from what it currently occupies. The seating is very comfortable, with a smoking and non smoking section, and a view of the road its located in. The menu has a bit of continental, Indian and Chinese stuff. As always, we decided to mix and match. So we went for the Hot and Sour Chicken soup first, which was quite thick and delicious, a bit on the salty side, the wife said, but I’d still say it was pretty good.

For the main course, we went Indian and ordered a Murgh Masaledar and a Goan Fish curry. The portions were quite sufficient for two people, and they actually serve a roti as part of any dish for the main course. That is not something I’ve come across earlier. Both the dishes were unlike the regular fare we get to eat, and definitely tasted like some good work had gone into it. A strange thing was the lack of bloated feeling, which usually accompanies our Saturday dinners :)

The menu did have some dessert options, but the lure of the Casa Picola nearby (CMH road) was too tempting to miss. So we had our regular Black forest Crepes and Chocolate Mousse Cake, after the waiter there handed us a ‘Duh’ moment, when he asked us ‘Garlic Bread or Rice’ for the order above.

Contact – Pink pepper,

No.152,1st Floor, Indiranagar, 2nd Main,1st Stage, Bangalore

25217787, 25217788, 9945272366, 9741311443

Shezan

I was introduced to Shezan a few years back, thanks to it being located close to my ex-place of work. It was quite a wallet friendly place then, thankfully still is. They’ve also added more floor space on the ground floor quite recently.

Though the place is quite well known for the steaks, we usually have the North Indian fare, because thats quite good too. But having said that, we usually start with the Chicken & Mushroom soup. :) Though we’ve always ordered that, we’ve never had the soup tasting the same across visits, but there never has been a reason to complain either, so far. This time, though, was a big let down, because it seemed to be a hastily prepared concoction with the mushrooms looking like they had been chopped and put in somewhere on the way between the kitchen and the table.

For the main course, we had onion kulchas, fish biriyani, murg patiala and fish hyderabadi (yes, we are an equal opportunity consumer). The chicken was very good, and so was the biriyani, and the quantity was just right for two people, and just enough space for dessert. We usually skip dessert here, and hop across to Corner House for the must-have dose of ‘Death by Chocolate’

A meal for two costs about Rs.450 (not including dessert).

What brings us back to Shezan is the lovely seating on the terrace where we can watch the world go by on Lavelle Road. So, yes, we’ll be back, bad soup notwithstanding.

Update: Shifted

Cafe Masala

Cafe Masala is brought to you by the BJN group, and has ‘Aromas of China’ and ‘Vaayu’ for neighbours on the top floor of Eva Mall, Brigade Road.

We made reservations in advance, and i think a wait of about 15 minutes would’ve happened if not for that. We were given a reasonably good table, with comfortable seating, though some poor staff were dealt with sternly by my wife when they tried to pull one of our chairs for an adjoining table. She treats the results of our shopping expeditions with a great deal of adoration, you see, and so, those covers on the floor would be sacrilege.

While the menu does have some continental stuff, a lot of it is meant for the evening snacks category, and not dinner. But we did manage to get some corn soup, which was quite good. And like good mix and matchers, we ordered mutton pepper chops, murgh bhartha, kulcha and butter naan for the main course.  The mutton chops gravy was awesome, though not recommended for people with low spice tolerance. The chicken was also good, but for once, was overshadowed by the above. And yes, special mention for the fact that they gave us a Lachcha Paratha instead of the Butter Naan, and when we pointed it out, we were told that this was how Butter Naan was made here, but it could be replaced. We’re yet to figure that out.

You’ll notice from later reviews that we are no novices when it comes to desserts, but this time, we were too stuffed, although the menu listed some decent options. :(

The pricing is as per the regular BJN standards, and all the above came upto about Rs.650.

The ambience is pretty good, somewhere between the rgular noisy neighbourhood cafe, but with an effort to make it look more organised. We noticed a lot of large groups there. And yes, there’s even a one-man-band, who plays requests. Heard him play MLTR and Bollywood numbers, so metal guys can consider that a warning.

Overall, it was quite a pleasant experience, and definitely makes it to the ‘please visit again’ list.

Address: No.60, 5th Floor, Eva Mall, Brigade Road, Bangalore
Phone 41113388, 41118477, 41118466, 41118422

Photos at Zomato