27 June, 2014

Gig Review: Lagori at Infosys

Playing an office crowd is always a challenging affair because folks tend to be reserved and not truly give into the spirit of rock music. This was no different when Lagori played at the Infosys campus to a crowd of thousand strong people. With a lot of coaxing, Tejas Shankar was able to get a small band of fifty folks to get out of the comfortable seats at the Infosys auditorium, and that crowd grew as the gig progressed.

Starting off with a cover of Mast Kalandar, the band had a decent mix of covers and original compositions like Duniya, River Song and more. They covered crowd-pleasing tracks like Allah ke bandeh, Madari (from Coke Studio) and even Avicii (No escaping EDM is there?). The band got the crowd going with their song Hadimba, from the Dewarists show. The evening closed with their signature song Boom Shankar.

While I wasn't too kicked about the covers they played considering the number of original tracks I have heard them play before, the band was successful in getting a normally laid back crowd at Infosys to actually come up front, clap, sing along and for once not worry about catching the last bus leaving the campus.

18 June, 2014

Food Mood: 'In a Shell' Seafood festival at Bene, Sheraton Bengaluru

I was back at Bene at the Sheraton Bengaluru to cover their aptly named seafood festival – In a Shell. Before we started on the five-course meal that was specially designed for the bloggers at the table, the chef for the evening – Chef Hemanth came over and talked us through what to expect for the evening.

We began the evening with an antipasto, Bruschetta. We were offered two types. The first was a slow poached prawn with fresh tomato, basil and garlic and the second was a steamed crab with pickled onion. Personally, I enjoyed the latter more than the former. It had a nice sweet and salty taste and the crab went well with the base. The prawn-bruschetta was alright but the blend of flavor wasn’t as compelling as the crab. The bread-base for the bruschetta was thicker than what I’m normally used to. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose.

Slow Poached Prawn Bruschetta

Steamed Crab Bruschetta
The second dish for the evening is definitely one of the high points of the evening. Thanks to previous uncomfortable experiences, I've always been apprehensive when it comes to oysters. And I’m sure it’s the same with a lot of people. The chef however decided to reinvent the oyster and served it fried with agrodolce, fennel, onion and peppers. The taste was something completely different and was not something I had expected. The fried oyster made the overall taste more palatable to my taste-buds and I really enjoyed the crunchy layer on the outside. This was well complemented with the fennel and onions that gave a sweetish taste. Kudos to the chef on this one.

Oyster "reinvented"
We moved on to the Seafood Chowder which consisted of fresh clams, mussels, crab meat and prawns. The one taste that immediately hits you is the fresh saltiness of the sea. While the chowder had a nice tomato tinge to it, I wasn't a big fan. While it is definitely a lot better than some of the other seafood chowders I've had, something didn't click with me. Quite a few of the other bloggers at the table simply loved the soup. I have a neutral verdict on it. I don’t know why.

Seafood Chowder
The main entree for the evening was another mind-blowing dish from the kitchen of Bene. We had two options for the main course. I chose to have the Smoky Pasta and mussels. The dish consisted of smoked linguini with clams, mussels and crab meat. Adding to the taste were tomatoes and basil. The very first bite of this pasta gave me a foodgasm. The smoky taste was simply brilliant and was consistent throughout all components of the dish. I had to try very hard not to grunt in satisfaction. In the past, I've tasted similar smoked dishes where only certain parts retained the smoky flavor. But this dish was perfect. The sauce, the meats, everything had a consistent addictive smoky taste ensuring there was only one taste that came through. The main course was definitely the high point of the evening for me.

Smoky Pasta
Some of the other folks at the table chose the Lobster Ravioli with asparagus, spinach and zucchini. I wasn't able to taste it. That would predominantly be because the pasta I ordered was doing a fabulous tango with the taste buds in my mouth.

Lobster Ravioli
Dessert was a simple Walnut and almond tart with vanilla ice cream that closed the meal very well. It wasn't the best dessert I've had from Bene. But I’m happy it did not overpower the lovely smoky taste left by the pasta. The dessert was followed by some lovely cappuccinos.

Walnut and almond tart with Vanilla Ice cream

Great meals are made better with great company. Besides the experienced food bloggers at the table, we had the company of Vijayan Gangadharan, the Executive Assistant Manager at the Sheraton Bengaluru. He shared fabulous stories of his food adventures from around the world and thoroughly impressed us with his knowledge of wines. It was very nice of him to spend the evening with us. 

The ‘In a Shell’ seafood festival is on till the 25th of June at Bene. I recommend seafood lovers to definitely give this a shot as it’s not your standard seafood spread. My recommendations would be the ‘Oyster Reinvented’ and the ‘Smoky Pasta and mussels’. The taste of pasta still lingers in my mouth and I’m willing to go back and have a big bowl of the same. Another memorable evening put together by the folks at Sheraton Bengaluru. Kudos to Chef Hemanth.

14 June, 2014

Food Mood: The Tao Terraces, 1 MG Mall

Earlier this week, we expanded our list of restaurants conquered, by adding The Tao Terraces in the 1 MG mall to our list. We arrived at around 2 in the afternoon and quickly ordered three appetizers. The first was the Ginger chicken which was really good and had the nice distinct taste of ginger coming out. The second appetizer was vegetarian and was a plate of Warm mixed vegetable Maki rolls cooked with seven spice peppers. This dish was truly unique in taste and was one of my favourites despite having ordered a spread dominated by non veg. The warm rolls were wrapped in a layer of rice, giving it a very sushi-like finish and they tasted really good. The vegetables inside were nice and crispy.

Warm vegetable Maki Rolls

Ginger Chicken
The clear winner (by miles) among the appetizers was the Grilled fish with lemon grass, sun dried tomato in basil sweet chilly. This is definitely something I recommend to anyone who comes here. The fish was cooked to perfection. The accompanying lemon grass and basil sweet chilly gave it a nice tangy-sweet taste that made everyone at the table go ‘wow’ with their mouths full. The plate was quickly polished clean with everyone going for seconds within a few minutes

Grilled Fish with lemon grass, sun dried tomato in basil sweet chilly
For the main course, we ordered a simple chicken fried rice to help us relish the gravies we would order. The rice was well cooked and served the purpose. We also ordered a plate of vegetarian Pad Thai Noodles. These were flat noodles with vegetables and garnished with peanuts giving the dish a traditional Thai cuisine taste. I really enjoyed this dish as it would have tasted great even by itself.

Vegetarian Pad Thai Noodles
As far as the accompanying dishes go, for the vegetarians we ordered a plate of Broccoli, baby corn, asparagus and water chestnut in a yellow bean sauce. This dish was nice and crunchy with all the vegetables and had a Thai yellow curry type taste to it. It went very well with the fried rice.

Broccoli, baby corn, asparagus, water chestnut in a yellow bean sauce
For the non vegetarians, we ordered a plate of sliced chicken with bamboo shoot and black mushroom. I really relished the taste of this dish because I really enjoy the pepper-ish taste to it. The chicken was tender and had soaked in the right amount of sauce on the outside while maintaining the rawness of chicken on the inside. The bamboo shoots gave a nice flavour to the dish. Overall, I really enjoyed how the gravies really complimented the rice and noodles.

Chicken with bamboo shoot and black mushroom
Ideally, we would have gone to dessert but here’s where the lunch got a little sour for me. The time was 3:20 in the afternoon and without inquiring whether we wanted any dessert, the waiter came and silently placed the bill on our table. I had to call him back to tell him that we would like to order dessert as well. We had seen the menu earlier and had planned out what each person would order to ensure we cover the entire spread between the five of us.

The waiter went into the kitchen and came back to tell us that only ice cream was available. One does not expect this sort of service from a restaurant of this nature. To me and others present, it came across as though they wanted to get rid of us as it was late into the afternoon and could not be bothered with dessert. If the kitchen were closing, I would have expected to be informed and asked before-hand what dessert we would like so that they could keep it ready. This is the expectation even if I went to the idly-wada eatery at the end of my street. Needless to say, we left in search of satisfying our dessert cravings elsewhere.

While the Tao Terraces served very good food, my lasting impression would be with regard to what happened during dessert. I did not enjoy the bill being put on my table when I did not ask for it, and I did not enjoy being told that only Ice Cream was available. The official timings of the restaurant are from 12 noon to 11 PM, so I don’t understand why we were being made to feel like we had to leave. As far as service goes, it’s almost like watching a striker take the ball all the way from the mid-field going past defenders in the most beautiful fashion, only to come in front of the goal and shoot the ball high. (Yes, football fever is here).

Excluding that extremely annoying bit of service in the end, I really enjoyed the food at Tao Terraces. The ambiance and music were nice and laid back. The Grilled fish with lemon grass, sun dried tomato in basil sweet chilly was undoubtedly the highlight of the meal. The Tao Terraces is an expensive joint and a meal for two would cost approximately Rs.2000. But I do recommend trying it at least once for a special occasion like an anniversary or a birthday.

PS: Ask them if dessert would be served, just in case.

10 June, 2014

The coming of middle age

Today I hit the cultural milestone of the age of 30. I am now officially a middle-aged man. I don’t feel too bad about my rapidly graying sideburns now. It’s been a while since I've written a blog of personal nature, but I felt today could be a little different.

Soooo.... the big ‘Three-Oh’. Yep. The age when people(mostly Indians) are supposed to have achieved all they can and settle down, have a family and plan family trips to Ooty (or wherever it is that families go on vacation these days). I know a lot of my still-single friends are fairly depressed at the prospect of turning 30, but I’m actually quite kicked about it.

I look back at three decades and wonder why the devil I did most of the stupid things I did. I look back and see a confused person with no real clue on what direction to take in life. I actually enjoy where I am right now in life. I’m so much more clear of my expectations from life, I am more accepting of my shortcomings and demons (which is neat because I've been fortunate to have met a lot of them early on in life when it was only I who had to deal with the consequences). I hold far less grudges against people. (Unless you tell me EDM is an actual type of music, I will have to smack you in the face). Overall, I am more comfortable with who I am as a person today, than I was about two years ago.

So here’s to another three decades of finally living on my terms (And some of the terms the future Mrs.Murthy would impose) and to finally being clear and carrying far less emotional weight than before. I look forward to better health and opportunities to achieve all the little dreams I have in life. And most importantly, I look forward to continue to have the handful of friends who I trust with my life still by my side and to the continued love and acute tolerance of my quirks from them and my parents.

Anyway, now to the fun stuff – My turning-thirty birthday gifts. I've been saving up for about two years and finally bought my very first Fender Standard Stratocaster guitar. Her name is ‘Lady Olivia’. I also got my sixth tattoo which is a tribute to the Strat and has the words ‘Smile’ – taken from the song written by Charlie Chaplin. It’s one of my favourite songs to help me feel better when I’m low. I had also been hunting for the Eric Clapton Crossroads t-shirt from HRC for quite some time. With no luck from friends and colleagues who went all over the world, I finally found my size in the HRC right here in Bengaluru. And the final gift sponsored by the folks (besides new clothes), I got a copy of India Psychedelic – the story of a Rocking Generation by Siddarth Bhatia.

Lady Olivia

I've been partying with friends right from Saturday and will be spending most of my day with them today. I’m doubly happy because the second friend in my extended family had a baby girl last evening. All my wishes and prayers to her to have an awesome life ahead. See y’all at the next food review. Taah!

09 June, 2014

Food mood: Bootlegger

This weekend, some friends and I decided to try Bootlegger on Vittal Mallaya road. We arrived at around 4 PM to find the place jam-packed. We were immediately attended to and were shown a place we could sit until a table cleared up. Luckily, we got one on the outside in a matter of five minutes. I was happy to move outdoors as the air-conditioning inside the premises was not effective at all. It was quite hot and unpleasant thanks to so many people cramped into a small space.

One of the first things that put me off to the evening was the fact that while the menu card boasted of an extensive list of domestic and foreign beers, almost none of the foreign brands were available. Almost like an udipi hotel, the waiter kept telling us what wasn't there on the menu rather than what was. As it turned out they pretty much had only the domestic fare and one very odd-tasting Amstel beer. We soon switched to the tried and tested formula of Kingfisher.

The cocktails aren't much to write home about either. I started the evening with a cocktail titled ‘The Godfather’ which had a very confusing taste to it. It was almost like drinking tonic water flavoured with lemon. It apparently had bourbon and scotch, but I wouldn't know. The first Long Island Ice Tea I ordered had some promise, while the second was absolutely terrible where the coke was the overwhelming taste. I can’t say much for the Daiquiri either. My friends had some Mojitos which weren't impressive. Bootleggers also committed the sin of putting ice in the Sangria, rather than ensuring the wine was cold to start with. The cocktails are not inexpensive and are priced at an average of over Rs.400.

The Godfather

As far as the food goes, Bootlegger was consistent in keeping us disappointed. The nachos we ordered had barely enough cheese and had huge chunks of onions just cut and sprinkled around. The onion sizes were ideal if one were having a meal of naan and butter chicken. The taste was below average. The chilly cheese toast and the chilly chicken we ordered were alright, but nothing to write home about. What did stand out were the spicy fries that were cooked to perfection and were not too oily.

Veg Nachos

Chilly Cheese Toast

Chilly Chicken
The big plus point (and maybe the only) of Bootlegger was that the waiters were prompt and courteous. The guy waiting on us ensured we never had an empty glass and always had a plate full of food. That aside, I don’t recommend Bootlegger to people and I won’t be visiting it again anytime soon. 

05 June, 2014

Just Pix: Veer Hegde - Eternal Expression Tattoo Studio

I went along with my friend and colleague to get my sixth tattoo done. Long story on that one for when you take me out for a drink. Anyway, we went to Veer Hegde at Eternal Expression Tattoo Studio. I got mine done first which gave me some time to get some pictures of my friend getting his tattoo done. Veer was really cool in helping re-imagine the designs in our respective heads and did clean job of the tattoos. Here are some pics....BTW, this was my friend's first tattoo.

Nervous before the first prick of the needle
In the zone
Veer Hegde
Message to the people

01 June, 2014

Just Pix: Baby squirrels

My friend's sister managed to find some baby squirrels. Here goes....

Food Pix: Barbeque Nation

It has been a slow ten days thanks to the day job. I finally managed to get out and celebrate my parent's 32nd wedding anniversary by taking them on their very first visit to Barbeque Nation. I loved the watermelon-kiwi cocktail. Here are some pictures.

Barbeque Prawns
Golden Fried Prawns
Watermelon - Kiwi Cocktail
Lychee Cheesecake
Mango Ice Cream with Caramel