A Japanese Experience At Edo

For the longest time, I have been hearing about Edo, ITC Gardenia’s specialty Japanese restaurant, from friends who have been visiting since it opened its doors. So, last month, when the opportunity presented itself to partake of a specially curated, 7-course meal, said friends, my date for the evening and I made our way over with every expectation of a grand meal. And disappointed, we were not. Trite as it may sound to some, this was not just about eating Japanese food. This was a dining experience, a meal for the senses. Which is very much in keeping with the way the Japanese approach their food, anyhow!

Now there is something just a bit naughty about banging on the table and yelling and doing a bomb, as you sit in fine dine surroundings at one of Bangalore’s top hotels! This, however, is exactly how we began our evening, with a Soju Bomb: glass of chilled beer, about half full, is topped with a pair of chopsticks, upon which a Soju cup, filled to the brim with the potent rice liquor, is further balanced. After a one-two-three countdown in Japanese, everyone bangs on the table, the chopsticks displace and the Soju goes ‘plop’ into the beer. At which point, we were instructed to pick up our glasses and go for broke. Yours truly managed to drain her glass first, and we all agreed that this was a most entertaining and warming way to begin the meal! Not that we stopped there – flavored Soju Tinis kept us company through the evening.

The calm before the storm - Soju Bomb Time!
The calm before the storm – Soju Bomb Time!

As I would expect from a Japanese meal, there was attention to detail, extended to all aspects of plating too – every morsel we ate that night was presented beautifully and had us in anticipation of the next course. We started off with Zenzai, which featured a trio of proteins that set the tone in terms of elegance, flavor and quality. Aigamo Butter Ponzu, sous vide of duck breast with shiitake mushrooms and butter, a shot glass layered with Kanpachi Shishozuke (Yellow Tail with Shisho) and Chuka Kuragae (jellyfish), and Avacado Tamari (fatty tuna with avocado) adorned with salmon roe. For Sashimi, we were presented with young Yellow Tail and Fatty Tuna, sliced finely, while the Sushi offerings included Samurai, Rainbow maki and Sweet Shrimp nigiri.  A special mention here for the Wasabi – fresh, not processed, with the root brought to the table and grated, giving it a much smoother and less punch in the gut aspect than its bright green cousin! And finally, I got to enjoy Sushi and Sashimi of the highest order, something I have missed after all those years of beach side indulgence at sushi bars in San Diego!

The soup course brought with it Hokkaido scallop, edamame, roe and mushroom arranged prettily on a soup plate, and then the green liquified edamame was poured over this base. I could easily and happily have consumed a second portion of this; what a fantastic meld of flavors, strong on mushrooms I might add, was that! Yakimono course of surf and turf meant a brilliant Angus Beef grilled to perfection and Sweet Miso marinated Black Cod. Next was a dish that took a few bites to get used to, but once I got started, I could not put my spoon down until I scraped the bowl. This Japanese egg custard, Chawanmushi, came adorned with mushrooms and edamame beans, and had a dashi base. And it had a special treasure of the sea in its midst – a perfect morsel of Unagi, freshwater eel.

Pork belly is always welcome, and when cooked and flavored as delicately as what Master Chef Kamlesh presented us with, was, there was silence punctuated by happy sounds while we all dug into the Kuro Buta Kakuni. And hard as it is to believe, the dish that appeared next actually was both the perfect foil as well as worthy competitor to the pork belly – Ume Chazuke, green tea flavored rice with Japanese pickled plum and a beautiful piece of salmon, garnished with sesame, wakame (seaweed) and scallions.


Black Sesame Ice Cream, Japanese Cheesecake, Green Tea Creme Brulee
Black Sesame Ice Cream, Japanese Cheesecake, Green Tea Creme Brulee

The dessert course, Mizugashi, was another trio – ah, the symmetry of ending the way we began – of Goma aka Black Sesame ice cream, Green Tea creme brule and Yuzu Cheesecake. The creme brulee was topped with a green tea cookie, and the flavors within both were just spectacular – light yet lingering on the tongue. The ice cream, unusual as it was, was delicious, and the Japanese style cheesecake was everything one could ask for. I am a cheesecake junkie, and have gotten into the Japanese version, which is much lighter and airier than its American/European counterpart.

This was a meal for the books, one we discussed all the way home, told our friends about, and will relish in memory too. So, the next time a craving for authentic and high quality Japanese food hits, you know where to head. Or you know, to celebrate a special moment, birthday or anniversary, to the tune of a beautiful meal. It will be a sensory experience and trust me, one your senses will definitely thank you for!


Traveling Through Time with Italian Fine Dine

Master Chef Vittorio Greco of ITC Gardenia’s Ottimo is the kind of person who elevates every meal into that something special, not just because of his food and styling, but as a facet of who he is. Ever witty, entertaining and with that swoon worthy Italian charm, we generally never miss the opportunity to sample one of Chef Vittorio’s meals, and the pleasure of his company. Here is a man who thinks up different things to do and different ways to present his food, just to keep things entertaining and varied, as much for himself as for his guests. This is also the man who is currently shuttling between Bangalore and Chennai, helming two Ottimos, and about to add Delhi to that list – boundless energy sure seems like an apt description. We stopped in a couple nights ago for the Art of Time Travel food festival, which is available for dinner through June 2nd, and is not to be missed.

A four course meal awaits, with choices for the dishes in each set course, and plenty for both veg and non-veg alike. Chef didn’t give us the choice however, presenting us with every item on the menu – a single portion for each dish contains two versions of the same dish on the plate: the classic/traditional dish, and alongside it, Chef’s modern interpretation. And he came along to explain his take on favorite Italian classics, some of which I had actually not eaten in the four years since I left the US.

The Antipasto procession began with Carpaccio alla Piemontese and Sfere di carpaccio alla piemontese con fungi e uovo the first being the classic tenderloin carpaccio and the latter being Chef’s twist on it, which came as an egg and mushroom encased ball of tenderloin. Delicious and the modern take had a little extra flavor going. Next up was Parmigiana di melanzane classica and Parmigiana di melenzane rivisitata con olio al carbone – classic eggplant parmesan and the then Chef’s ‘undone’ version, which had the tomato and eggplant pureed and piped into rectangles on the plate, and the parmesan was fried into delightful crisps, the whole topped off with charcoal oil – now this was a dish with flavors that went on and on. The second vegetarian appetizer was Insalata classica italiana con burrata and Burrata con pomodori e cipolla – here the classic burrata cheese and tomato salad won over the pureed and colorful interpretation. The second non veg appetizer was a simple and delicious Insalata di pollo – chicken breast with tonnata sauce, where the two versions were quite similar in flavor.

Up next was Primo Piatti – the pastas. Spinach Ravioli classic and modern, where the modern take had double pockets for spinach and ricotta and thus emerged victorious! And Chef told us that Ottimo Bangalore is one of just three restaurants the world over that serves this version, as he got the recipe off a friend in Rome. Ravioli di agnello, aka lamb ravioli – the presentation was different for the two, but flavor wise, it was hard to distinguish between them, and we happily munched on both. Next was Lasagna alla Bolognese – not a lasagne fan in general, I contented myself with a couple bites of the classic and modern versions. Our Secondo Piatti started with Insalata di patate – Tuscany potato salad, where the modern take included black truffle and fried garlic pieces as well as smoked butter – hello heavenly goodness! I had been looking forward to the next dish – Puttanesca – a piquant caper and olive pasta  that I enjoyed in homestyle Italian restaurants in the US. Chef’s modern twist went to the North of Italy for inspiration and replaced the traditional Roman style pasta with risotto, with the tangy tomato sauce topping it. Both versions were damn good and I for one will not choose a victor in this round! Seabass Livornese had a simple looking classic version and the modern version won here in the plating department, what with a lightly grilled fillet that was served on tomato coulis and with shreds of olives and capers making for a very pretty picture. The last main dish, Pollo cacciatora took me back to my college days, where chicken cacciatori would make an appearance in the dining hall and was one of the dishes us international students favored, given its tangy taste and departure from the bland meals that abounded! We liked both the slow cooked, bell pepper, onion and tomatoes stuffed breast of chicken modern interpretation as well as the on the bone traditional version.

Desserts were the usual Ottimo offerings – Tiramisu done two ways and my favorite, the Chocolate Caprese sphere (which is Chef’s twist on a classic Torta Caprese cake). Strong coffee was offered and declined, and we marveled at the fact that we’d actually made our way across and through, the entire festival menu! By the way, a glass of wine or pint of beer is part of the INR 2250 price tag, making this a rather good deal. The short duration is thanks to Chef needing to head to Chennai again, but really, without his presence it would not be the same, so go and catch it before it ends, and if we’re lucky, maybe Chef will revisit this time travel menu again!


Twilight Grills in an Ocean of Calm

Whenever I think of Sarjapur Road and the Outer Ring Road, I see tail lights, traffic snarls and get the glum feeling that wading through Bangalore traffic inevitably evokes in one. So it was a pleasant surprise indeed, to view said roads and traffic from up above, and to find that the twinkling lights of seemingly distant cars and the lack of noise from their beeping, made quite a difference to my perception! A recent visit to the Doubletree Suites by Hilton was the cause – an evening spent enjoying their Twilight Grills, under a clear sky on the rooftop, where bits of lawn and the dim lighting and the infinity pool made the madness below irrelevant for the time being. The Twilight Grills promotion is available every Saturday evening between 7pm and midnight and at INR 1499 plus taxes for unlimited grills (Asian/Western/Indian) and beer, wine and soft drinks, it’s a good deal. Oh and if you have kids under the age of eleven, the deal’s even sweeter, since they dine on the house.

Chef Pratik Rao has put together a nice range of dishes for the grill, and while it is not vast, it is all tasty and satisfying and you will leave happy. On the evening we visited, we stuck to the non veg selection and enjoyed Grilled Chicken in BBQ sauce, Beef steak in BBQ sauce with mashed potatoes, Sotto Battered Fish in Banana Leaf with Chilli Paste, Indonesian Prawn Satay With Peanut Sauce, Lamb Chops, and ended with a DoubleTree by Hilton Chocolate Chip and Walnut Cookie Sundae – Chef’s special creation using the famed DoubleTree welcome cookie. The standout from the meats was definitely the banana leaf wrapped fish – so delicious we asked for a second round! The Indonesian flavors in the prawn satay were spot on – that distinctive peanut sauce and chilli combo. And whatever you do, don’t miss out on the cookie sundae – adding some berry compote, ice cream and other accoutrements, Chef elevates the already delicious cookie into a dessert you’ll crave later on, once you’re far away from the hotel!

We also got a glimpse of the rooms and the hotel in general – it doesn’t look that impressive from the outside and the lobby and adjacent dining area are nice enough, but it’s when you see the rooms that you get the real appreciation for the place. Beautifully appointed, and with every amenity in place for long stay customers (extra closet, kitchenette with cooking utensils, stove, microwave, non-mini bar sized fridge) and for anyone looking to have a nice, cozy stay, we were very tempted to not return home that night but instead dive into the inviting and plumped up bed (decked out in the chain’s signature Sweet Dreams bedding), then and there! In fact on the way home we found ourselves discussing (well, more like plotting) how we could get the gang together to spend a weekend there and enjoy a little staycation! And it certainly is a place to consider when people in South Bangalore are looking for a party venue, with the rooftop and all.


Festa Della Sensa – Surf, Turf and Cheese

The Italian chefs are always a pleasure – they are charming, effusive, passionate about their food and culture – in short, not to be missed when in town! Bene, Sheraton Bangalore’s excellent Italian restaurant, is currently hosting the Festa Della Sensa festival, and for the duration, Chef Giuseppe Lioce, from The Westin Pune has flown down to share his creations. Originally from Bari, the capital city of the Puglia region in South Italy, he has traveled and worked in different countries including Spain, and seems to be quite enjoying his stint in India. He was determined that we try as many of the dishes on his specially crafted menu as he could send out and we could stuff ourselves with, though by the time mains rolled around we were sunk – cheesetastic dish after dish really did us in! But we enjoyed every morsel, as much as we enjoyed Chef Giuseppe’s conversation and playful sense of humor. He came by each time to explain each creation and back story – from tales of drinking with friends to accidental flavor combos and creations to his grandmom who cooked for WW II soldiers and his father’s lack of comprehension at his son wanting to be a chef rather than join the family’s construction business!

Tuna Carpaccio - a feast for the senses
Tuna Carpaccio – a feast for the senses

On to the business of the food then. The amuse bouche was Pettole Pugliese, fried balls of pizza dough served with a red bell pepper sauce and accompanied by little plastic tube “injections” filled with more sauce – take a bite of the pizza dough, squeeze some bell pepper sauce straight into your mouth! Fun to do, especially in fine dine environs! Carpaccio is always a treat and Chef gave us one with wild mushrooms, another with artichokes, the third with tuna -all extremely thinly sliced. A lavender vinaigrette, shaved parmesan, green pea leaves and balsamic vinegar were the accompaniments for the vegetarian ones. The artichoke version in particular, was a true feast for the senses – the textures, the taste – wow! The tuna version was another sensory experience, rock salt, blood orange and rocket leaves made this a dish to savor slowly. I also loved what came next, Frittele di Broccoli Calabresi, broccoli and cheese fritters that made me think of cheese+broccoli soup and was a warm and loving embrace – I wanted to have a little kid next to me, to feed these to! Chef also presented us with a standout scallop starter: Capesante Mare e Monti, a large, fresh scallop on a bed of sweet pumpkin puree and topped with with fried Parma Ham (hello-bacon to the nth power!), wild mushrooms and truffle honey. How can one not marvel at the mind that combined scallop and Parma Ham and then further upped the ante by frying said ham?!

Chocolate, raspberry, custard, vanilla ice cream - what's not to love?
Chocolate, raspberry, custard, vanilla ice cream – what’s not to love?

We also just took a couple of spoons of the two soups that came to the table – there’s so much more to be had here, give this course a miss, I say. Chef served us Risotto poached in Chianti that was perfectly al dente and finished with cheese and which was rich and decadent. We also tried Orecchiette Alla Barese (a small circular pasta cooked with tomato, broccoli and pecorino cheese) and Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (tonnarelli pasta finished with a generous amount of cheese and black pepper that was too salty a dish for my palate). We begged Chef to let us off when it came to the mains, but could not resist trying the Straccotto di Agnelio, Australian lamb shanks that had been slow cooked in red wine for around a dozen hours and were served on a bed of truffle mashed potatoes – hello heaven! Dessert for two, was two – Millefoglie – layers of filo with custard, berry compote on top and served with Chef’s homemade vanilla ice cream and Pasticciotto – shortbread pastry with custard, nutella and more of the vanilla ice cream. We loved the Millefoglie and managed to demolish it, despite our full status! I drank a crisp South African red with my meal, and also enjoyed the red wine Sangria that had been made earlier in the day by one of the Bene bartenders, for the special Sunday brunch. I would recommend trying the Sangria – Chef himself was drinking a glass with us, and commented on it being rather good! The festival is on until the 24th of May, and is available for both lunch and dinner, and you really should go eat the Southern Italian food that Chef’s serving up, and don’t miss the opportunity to share some banter with him and learn about Italian food and culture, either!


Graze on this!

Vivanta by Taj on MG Road has been the site of a few mediocre meals over the last 2-3 years, and I don’t generally have it on my top list of places to dine. However, all that changed recently, with the introduction of the new menu at Graze, under the capable and talented hands of Chef Gaurav Paul. Apart from his clear passion for food and cooking, and his use of fresh and unique combinations, that this was a man with vision and a talent for creating interesting and innovative flavors came through early on in our evening. The new Italian focus menu is not vast, but it is delightful! There is a fair amount of attention paid to vegetarian dishes, and of course, for meat eaters, the choices are more. We saw couples, families celebrating a birthday,  travelers from foreign shores and business meetings occurring in the mellow surroundings, and with the fine collection of wines that are on offer, you can be assured of a lovely meal at Graze.

Duck Confit Risotto - be still my heart!
Duck Confit Risotto – be still my heart!

Chef got us started with what turned out to be, for both of us, the star dish of the evening. Seafood tempura, tempura fried assorted seafood, pommery basil aioli, lemon (INR 550) featured tiger prawns, calamari, John Dory and mussels and the tempura treatment made it lighter and crunchier than a regular batter coating. I would say this is a do not miss if you like seafood – you will crunch and munch your way to happiness, just like we did! Alongside this, to assuage my conscience (nah, in truth, because I love salads!) we ordered the Fig salad (INR 450), which had red wine and spices poached figs, mesclun, and fig jam. I found the spiced figs a tad overpowering, but it was a nice salad with generous shavings of Manchego cheese. Next up was chef’s version of mushroom soup (INR 350), cappuccino styled – served in a cup with truffle oil and milk foam and with all the delightful earthiness of mushroom intact. After quibbling over this (for the sake of sanity and stomach, we requested single servings of everything – sometimes, it can come to haunt one, such requests!) as we had the seafood platter, we listened with interest to Chef’s main course selections and settled on Duck confit risotto  (INR 650) which was garnished with arugula leaves and a port reduction for moi, and for the fish loving companion, Panzerotti – salmon and lobster filled pasta, bisque and mascarpone sauce (INR 650). Salmon and lobster as a combination was  a new one on me, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the two flavors married; who’d have thunk it! This was one course where each was happy with our own selection and decorum presided!

Dessert we could not decide on. I mean, Tiramisu, served with espresso ice cream, savoiardi and Chef’s ‘secret’ ingredient – no I won’t give it away, had to be tried, especially after Chef told us his was a different take on this must-have-on-the-menu Italian treat, but given my inability to endure the smell/taste of coffee, it was also something I would leave to my dinner companion to eat on his own! Deciding to indulge our collective sweet tooth to the hilt, we then proceeded to make our way through the assorted dessert platter Chef Gaurav presented us: citrus and almond semifreddo (my pick of the lot), banana and white chocolate mousse, pistachio dacquise, and pistachio ice cream (all desserts are INR 400 each). Chef experiments with different ice creams, so make sure to ask your server what’s on offer when you visit. We had a very charming time and I am planning on heading back soon with another friend who I know will love the food. If you happen to visit in the meantime, let us know what you thought! I for one, am very happy to have Chef Gaurav in town – the new Chef in town is bringing some fun and innovation to the food at Graze!



A Taste of Japan

Imagine this: you’re a businessman who needs to be away from home and country for long stretches. You come from a land and a culture that is known for its unique food, its emphasis on simplicity of flavors and adherence to norms. Now put yourself in a new country, especially one as chaotic as India, with its myriad colors and regional cuisines, and sensory overload and a bout of homesickness are sure to occur. Enter: Davanam Sarovar Portico Suites in Madiwala to ease your culture shock. This hotel has over 40% of its clientele from Japan, and makes quite the effort to cater to their needs and make them feel comfortable. To this end, there is a specialty Japanese menu, Fukusuke, that has been created in conjunction and consultation with the hotel’s Japanese guests. While at present it’s all part of the single multi-cuisine restaurant, Tangerine, the idea is to create a separate Japanese restaurant down the line. I sure hope that happens soon, ’cause Japanese needs its own space, and taking in the smells of biryani and kebabs alongside this delicately balanced cuisine can put one a bit off kilter. A few weeks ago I made a visit for dinner to sample the Fukusuke menu, and I will admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But learning the story and how the menu came to pass, and after eating the food, I think it is a commendable effort and I would recommend it to those looking to get a taste of “authentic” Japanese cuisine that goes beyond the sushis and sashimis, and at a price that won’t break the bank.

Wasabi peas with your ice cream, anyone?
Wasabi peas with your ice cream, anyone?

So, what did we eat? We started with soup – Miso, but of course – a lovely, flavorful and light Miso Wakame Tofu.
Next up was a delicate and delectable cooked salad, Ohitashi style; spinach with cubes of tofu in Dashi sauce . I could not stop picking at this with my chopsticks – it was so light and flavorful! The chicken gyoza, Tori gyoza, was well done, and the other starter was an interesting take on Goma Tofu, with the addition of large shrimp to the sesame tofu, which was presented with a mushroom and grated veggies salad. The platter of sushi was nice but didn’t leave a mark. The main was a predictable but tasty Tori Teri Yaki, aka chicken teriyaki served with sticky rice and Yasai Iteme, stir fried spinach and tofu and carrots. Given the restaurant’s multi-cuisine status, we were also presented with some kebabs that were decent, but the surprise for me was the cold mezze – the trio of tabouleh, baba ghanoush and hummus were  really good, and I would recommend definitely ordering them, when you visit this establishment. Dessert had an element of surprise – Chef created a wasabi ice cream that was rather fun! He also served us a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, which he spiced up with wasabi peas – I didn’t leave even one, let me tell ya!

The serving staff need a little work, in that they aren’t that knowledgeable about the cuisine they’re serving. We tried but a few of the dishes on the menu, but enough to get a sampling of what one can expect during a visit. In a town where Japanese cuisine equals high end and expensive, I was pleasantly surprised by the affordable pricing at Fukusuke and the number of pages the menu (printed in both Japanese and English, by the way), boasted. As we were told during our visit, the aim is to serve the in-house guests a meal they would have prepared and enjoyed had they been in their own homes – and we “locals” then are the beneficiaries of this, too! My dining companion had never come across Japanese food, unlike myself, who enjoyed her share of udon, sushi, miso, seaweed, green tea icecream and more in California. He enjoyed the experience and the flavors, and it was fun to view the meal through his gaze rather than my own jaded one.


Happy at Fatty: New Menu Goodness

The Fatty Bao has been around for little less than a year and as with other Manu Chandra offerings, has a faithful following and has become one of the places to hang out in Bangalore. Despite all the go good things I had heard, somehow I just never made it over until last month, when three of us met up for a girls’ lunch and to savor the new menu offerings. It was of course all new for me! Fatty has its menu set up into small plates, salads and large plates, alongside desserts and cocktails. The small plates are a great way to try various items and make a meal of them, though of the new menu items, there were some spectacular large plates (read: Ramen) that shouldn’t be missed either. With its eclectic decor, bright colors and overall fun vibe, whether you want a quiet date, a family lunch or a gathering of friends, the vibe is suitable for all. If you’re Monkey Bar regulars, you will feel an air of familiarity (not just because Fatty is housed above Monkey Bar Indiranagar, but also because of the crockery and the way cocktails are served). There is a terrace/al fresco dining area that is also quite popular, though obviously we desisted, there as we were on a warm Saturday afternoon.

Scallops oh my!
Scallops oh my!

Our meal began with a few dimnsum baskets, Spicy Pumpkin and Radish Har Gow, Curried Chicken and Shrimp Har Gow and Lamb with Oyster Sauce Sheng Jian Bao. All nice enough, and there are plenty more options too. We were served Chicken Katsu Open Bao, which looked like a pair of soft shell tacos – cute and quite tasty too! A rather addictive Crispy Lotus Root was the perfect munchie on the table, which went well with our cocktails. We tried the Green Kimono, a blend of Absolut Pepper, Fresh Pineapple, Curry Leaves and Lemongrass; Made in China, which had Absolut Mandarin, Earl Grey Tea and Orange Marmalade (not enough Earl Grey for this addict!); Hello Motto, an Absolut Vanilla, Absolut Pepper, Fresh Melon & Cardamom concoction; and Life’s Peachy, with Absolut Mandarin, Gin, Peach, Lime & Martini Rosso. This last was my favorite. Speaking of, the standouts amongst the small plates were the Stir Fried Pork Neck with Chilli Bean Sauce (pork neck – how can you go wrong?!) and Steamed Baby Scallops with Fujiko Butter. This was presented with a delicate basket web over it that made it look like a work of art, and it’s taste certainly made us ooh over it in a similar fashion! The salad that came next, Yum Yai Seafood Salad, is an absolute must order when you visit Fatty. It was a treasure trove of seafood including squid and shrimp and us three girls unabashedly fought for the morsels!

A treasure trove of seafood
A treasure trove of seafood

Both large plates from the new menu were just lovely – Nasik lemak with Ayam Bakar and Lamb Tsukune Ramen, where the lamb was presented as skewered meatballs and had a host of wonderful flavors and the perfect juicyness, and the Ramen broth just kept the party going for us. In terms of dessert, we enjoyed Green tea chiffon cake and Japanese cheese cake, both delicate and light morsels to round out a big meal. I am a major cheesecake buff, and Japanese cheesecake that I’ve eaten in Hong Kong and Singapore tends to be less rich and more light than its American/European counterpart, and this one certainly followed that model. The one dessert that we didn’t care for was the Strawberry and tofu pannacotta, which is a diabetic friendly dessert. While it looked bright and nice, the taste and textures left much to the desired – one of the table mentioned baby food, and I am afraid I cannot think of a better analogy. Well, now that I am a Fatty Bao virgin no more, I can safely say I shall be going back often, especially to enjoy that seafood salad in the warmer months, and bury my nose in a steaming bowl of Ramen, in the cooler months!



Ottimo + Restaurant Week = Fine Dine Time!

Citibank Restaurant Week India has established itself as an exciting time, where a couple times a year, you get to eat at the top fine dine establishments in town (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and from this 2015 edition, Chennai too) for a price that is way below what a three or four course meal normally costs at the same place. With around 30 restaurants participating in RWI in Bangalore, the choices are pretty awesome. I know friends who plan and book at least two meals during the RWI run, and really, you should go for at least one! This time around, I chose to check out Ottimo, the ITC Gardenia’s signature Italian restaurant, and what its Italian chef, Chef Vittorio Greco, was putting on for RWI. The preview meals for RWI were last weekend, and the actual event runs from this Friday, April 17th, through April 26th, giving you two full weekends and weekday meals a-plenty to indulge! Ottimo is only open for dinner, and at INR 1000 plus taxes for a three course meal, where you get to choose from of the restaurant’s best offerings, it is sure to fill up fast – so get thee to the site and make your booking – they opened this past Sunday. Ottimo is beautiful, luxurious and where fine dine oozes from every pore. Obviously, at one of Bangalore’s top hotels, the service and surroundings are impeccable, and you will be in for a memorable meal. And Ottimo has taken plating to an art form, so every dish is turned out like its ready for a food photography session! Chef Vittorio was actually away the night we went, which was disappointing since he really makes the meal come alive, but his Sous Chef Sasha took great care of us, and we were told he will definitely be around during RWI.

Chocolate Dreams
Chocolate Dreams

Now to the main question: what did we eat that night? My companion and I, two staunch non vegetarians, both stayed true to those roots. There were four options for veg and four for non-veg, in the appetizers and main courses, so no one will be short of choice! On a rainy evening, soup did sound good, but the Tenderloin Carpaccio with rocket and parmesan won out for me, and my friend chose Prawns salad with burrata and pink tomatoes sauce at my urging (buratta cheese – hell ya, must try!). The prawns were crisp, juicy and large, the burrata fantastic, and my carpaccio had a really generous cover of parmesan cheese shaved over it. Happy first course! My dining partner had no hesitation when it came to what to eat for his main course, having spied the Slow cooked Supreme of chicken stuffed with mushrooms and smoked scarmorza, while I dithered between the Jaipur lamb rack loaf with confit garlic jus and Corzetti with prawns and asparagus, finally settling for the latter. Both dishes arrived looking pretty as a picture: the wafer thin pasta rounds that is Corzetti provided the base on which diced shrimp, chopped asparagus and two sauces lay, and the two pieces of chicken were presented with tiny scooped out balls of green and yellow squash and carrots, and broccoli florets. We thoroughly enjoyed our mains and conversation came to a near standstill. Dessert was a forgone conclusion, of the four options, we asked for Tiramisu (it has a serious coffee hit and was presented in a glass), and Torta caprese, a signature dessert at Ottimo that I think every person who even mildly likes chocolate just must indulge in! With dark and light chocolate encased in a chocolate ball that melts into itself once hot chocolate from a jug is poured over it, this dessert speaks to your eyes, nose and taste buds! All in all, a lovely meal and I realize I have to head over to the RWI site and get booking, so Buon Appetito and Ciao!


Goût de France, a la Lalit Ashok

Goût de France/Good France, is a dining concept that ran across the world, in over 1000 participating restaurants, with the chefs of each establishment putting together a meal that paid homage to French style, cooking techniques and sensibilities. I was intrigued once I heard of it, and accepted an invite to the media preview of The Lalit Ashok Bangalore’s Gout de France meal, an evening before the actual event. Executive Chef Ajay Kumar had gone all out and really taken up the challenge and put on his most creative hat, as evidenced by the food. Given the success, the 5 course meal is actually available for an additional short time, through Saturday March 28th. And at the price point for the food we ate, it’s definitely something to avail of. Here’s the five courses we really enjoyed every moment of, and my thoughts:

Duo d ‘asperge, emulsion de chevre frais – asparagus two way with fennel heart and pepper salad in a herbed goat cheese emulsion – this was a nice light start to the meal.

Veloute de Celery, truffle noire – a brilliant celery soup with shaved black truffle accompanying it. It came with a side serving of lavash like cracker with a cold meat decoration. I loved every aspect of this dish! The wine was AOC Alsace Gewurztraminer Hugel from 2006.

Cote mer (surf), Loup de mer grille, risotto, sauce vierge – Crispy skin Seabass, Porcini risotto, snow peas in a delectable sauce. Really, this was the best of a series of excellent dishes that night. From the bite and texture to the risotto to the beautiful seabass, it was impressive. The wine alongside was a beautifully crisp and perfect for the start of the summer white, AOC Entre Deux Mers “chateau De Fontenille”, 2009 vintage.
Cote terre (turf) consisted of Carre d’agneau, fondant de pommes de terre, reduction au romarin – grilled studded lamb chop with baby spinach in a fried packet, potatoes and a fragrant rosemary jus. The lamb was the topic of conversation and much praise, across all the tables, for its perfectly pink interior, and indeed, this dish was so prettily plated it qualified as art on my plate! We were offered a nice red to go with our lamb.

A French meal would be incomplete without a cheese course, ne c’est pas? Nut salami (which I found a tad too sweet), orange compote and oatmeal crackers accompanied four different cheeses, all good. The wine paired for the cheese course was VDP OC ST COSME “Little James” 2013.

Parfair au chocolat, creme vanille – I have a sweet tooth, no doubt of it. And when dessert comes in the form of a layered confection such as this, one offers up thanks to the god of all things sweet and dives right in! Passion fruit “caviar” topped a salted butter caramel and vanilla cream chocolate parfait. Enough said, right?! The dessert wine was one we didn’t care for, a GH Mumm bubbly. But with many earlier glasses on our table, we had no complaints!

Running at 24/7, from 7pm – 11.30 pm, until Saturday, 28th March 2015.
For Reservations Call : 990064314 
Price: 2500 plus taxes (Food Only);  3999 plus taxes ( Food +Wine)