28 December, 2015

Soulmate brings down the roof at BFlat. B'lore

Last night, folks at BFlat in Bengaluru witnessed probably the best gig till date that Soulmate has ever played in the city. Returning to the venue after over two years, the band was looking to make it a Christmas Weekend to remember and they came out with all guns blazing. With Tips' voice keeping pace with Rudy's guitar licks, the evening soon turned into one big party with everyone in the house singing and clapping along to every song. The crowd was also gifted a guest appearance by Gino Banks on the drums for one song. An absolutely wild night of blues and good old fashioned Rock N Roll.

5 years of Edo, ITC Gardenia

After 5 weeks of being on a strict no-nonsense diet owing to health reasons, I was delighted to get back into the food blogging scene with an invite to try out the special menu at Edo at the ITC Gardenia which celebrated 5 years of top notch Japanese food. This was the first time I’ve been to Edo. I’ve heard so much about it, so naturally, expectations were high. Giving me company for the evening were Ruth (here’s her blog) and Sudhakar, who’ve always been superb company for any meal where we all drool over food and music. Well, it was their anniversary, so it was more like I was crashing their party.

The meal started off with a Zensai. This was a platter that offered an assortment of dishes including Toro Renkon (Fatty Tuna on crispy Lotus chips),Mozuku (Stringy Seaweed),Tori Gyoza (Mince Chicken and Ginger Dumpling) and a Kani Salada (Japanese mayo marinated Crab and Flying Fish Roe). Staying true to Japanese cooking, every dish on this platter offered subtle elegant flavours. My favourites were the Kani Salada and the Mozuku. The former was a very summer dish with all the cucumber and mayo marinated crab. Light on the stomach, I was willing to order and entire bowl of salad of just this. While I have tried sea weed before, and wasn’t impressed then. This preparation however introduced me to some new flavours. Almost like light tamarind chutney, the stringy sea weed helped remove the unpleasant memories of the previous sea weed dish I had had.

No Japanese meal is complete without Sushi and Sashimi. This evening, we were presented with three varieties - the Chutoro, Sake, Kanpachi (Fatty tuna, Salmon, Young Yellow Tail). Accompanied with freshly done wasabi, every piece was elegant. Each of these offered the elegance you’d expect from a restaurant like Edo. Subtle flavours of the fish differentiating one from the other. 

Next up was my favourite dish of the evening. Straight from the grill, the Negima (Chicken and leek Yakitori) with the Ebi (Grilled Prawns) were the most flavourful dish of the evening. The light sweet sauce on top of the slightly crunchy chicken on the skewer, supplemented by the leek really woke up my taste buds after 5 weeks of hibernation. The prawns on the side were grilled perfectly and besides the meat, were consistent in flavour with the chicken. If ever there was a way for my taste buds to come back to life, this was probably the way to do it. Strong flavour, yet not overwhelming. 

Before we hit the main course, a plate of Agemono (Light and crisp Tempura with accompaniments) was served. Compared to what we had eaten previously, this was the weakest dish of the evening. The dish fell right in the center of familiar tempura territory. What I was hoping for was that the sauces would introduce me to a new flavour or something that made me go wow. Unfortunately, they were nothing new in terms of flavour. While the dish tasted good, it did nothing for me with the wow factor.

The main course was a relatively simple fried rice of vegetables and some egg. 

Dessert threw up some good surprizes and stuck with the elegant theme of the evening. We were offered a platter which consisted of Madagascar Chocolate Mousse, Yuzu cheesecake and a Kaboocha Kasutera. While the chocolate mousse ticked all the boxes in terms of flavour and presentation, the Kaboocha Kasutera - a Japanese sponge cake with guava on top was the winner in the dessert. This was a completely new flavour for me and the guava did a fantastic job of cleansing the palate after the meal.

My very first meal at Edo was everything I expected it to be. From good service, to elegant food and superb company, the evening was definitely a memorable one. I look forward to my next meal at Edo once I am fighting fit so that I can try out some of the more ambitious Japanese flavours.

27 December, 2015

Guest Column - iheartblr.com - Rudy Wallang from Soulmate talks about the band, the Blues and Bengaluru

In this piece that I wrote for iheartblr.com, I interviewed Rudy Wallang of Soulmate when the band was a on a short tour of Bangalore, playing at three different venues. Rudy spoke about the band, the current state of Blues in the Indian music scene and why they love playing in Bengaluru.

Click here to read the entire interview.

Guest Column - iheartblr.com - Musicians unite at Bangalore for Chennai

In my first piece for iheartblr.com, I interviewed Sanjeev Thomas, one of the established musicians of Bangalore and guitarist with A.R Rahman, who put together a charity fund raising event for the people affected by the Chennai floods. The evening  featured performances by artistes like All the Fat Children, Mad Orange Fireworks , The Sylvester Pradeep Trio, Swarathma, Chris Avinash, Bruce Lee Mani, Vasundhara Das, Roberto Narain and others.

Click here to read the entire interview.

Guest Column - Deccan Chronicle - 5 Christmas Albums you need to check out

In the Music Column that appeared in the Deccan Chronicle on 22nd Dec 2015 , I wrote about 5 Christmas albums that wouldn't necessarily fall into your 'must listen to' list, including artistes like Bob Dylan, Inner Circle and James Brown.

25 November, 2015

A culinary sojourn with The Phoenicians at Raj Pavilion, ITC Windsor

Before the food, it’s important to understand a bit of history around the theme for this particular dinner. Phoenicia was an ancient civilization composed of city-states which lay along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea through what is modern-day Syria, Lebannon and northern Israel. The civilization flourished through maritime trade between c. 1500-322 BCE. As far as the food goes, I read that they made porridges, breads and flat cakes that grew in popularity and crossed the borders  and survived for centuries. They also had vegetable gardens where they would grow peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans and fruits like fig, pomegranate, apple, lime and more. A lot of these ingredients find a prominent place in what we know as the Mediterranean cuisine. This is the theme for the food festival at the Raj Pavilion.

This sort of cuisine is among my favourites because besides being quite nutritious and healthy, one can work magic with the vegetarian dishes that tend to get ignored in a lot of food festivals. The salads are always where I find my favourites with Mediterranean food. Among the dozen salads that were on the fare, I found my palate favouring the Tamarind Tossed Papaya Salad and the Herbed Poached Shrimps with Salsa the most. Hitting similar spots on my tongue, the tanginess of both  brought out some fabulous flavours that beckoned me to go back for seconds… and thirds.

Some of the other salads like the Marinated Watermelon with Brined Artichoke and Gherkins, the Chargrilled Pineapple with Pickled Onions exemplified the rich Mediterranean flavours far better than some of the other non vegetarian salads that were on display.

I moved on to one of my all-time favourite meals – hummus and pita bread. Accompanying the hummus were other Mediterranean dips such as Taboulleh, Babaganosh and Beet Labneh. I will have to exercise my bias towards good old plain hummus as the hero of that section.

The main course of the meal consisted of vegetarian and non vegetarian food in equal variety. First up were the Greek Style Stuff Peppers. The capsicum (yes, we call them capsicum) with fillings of fruit, zucchini and a light layer of cheese. I’ve not had enough Greek food to say that it was authentic, but all I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed the dish. Unlike the more familiar mughlai styled stuffed capsicums I’ve had, this was quite light on the tummy and the interesting mix of all the fruits and vegetables left me wanting more. (Which I did go back and help myself to). Also served was the Imam Bayildi – a stuffed eggplant (or aubergine for the fancy people), my aversion to all things eggplant didn’t allow me to relish the dish.

In the non vegetarian section, I took a liking to the chicken wings with preserved lime. Although this tasted more like a summer dish to me, I wasn’t complaining as the wings were done tender enough to have the meat come off the bone effortlessly as I chomped away. The Agean Kakvia Fish dish was a tad too bland for what I’m used to when it comes to Mediterranean seafood, so I left it at a single helping. The Greek Lamb with Orzo was another dish that had me going back for seconds with the lamb cooked quite tender, and a light peppery sauce to accompany the rice made this a good dish.

Before I hit the dessert stand, we were served Shish Tawook – A twist on the popular Shwarma Roll, this had extremely tender Shish Kababs with zesty sauces and sliced veggies which made this a superb roll. I was wishing that I had started off the meal with this roll rather than ending it. I wanted to have another one, but had absolutely no space to tuck it in.

Dessert was a rather simple affair with a Baklava dumpling. While the taste of the chopped nuts and honey on the inside was good, the overall pastry was a bit heavier than what I was expecting. 

Full marks to the folks at ITC Windsor for bringing a nice historical twist to the familiar.
Mediterranean that I absolutely love. The top three picks of the meal for me would have to be the Herbed Poached Shrimps with Salsa, the Greek Style Stuff Peppers and the Shish Tawook. The food festival is on throughout the month of November. Do go and check it out.

23 November, 2015

Guest Column Deccan Chronicle - Rock the world over!

In the column that appeared on the 10th of November 2015, I wrote about how songs like Hotel California, Sweet Child of Mine and Summer of 69 have universal appeal across the globe and can make anyone sing along.

22 November, 2015

The Seafood Sensation at Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park

After the very enjoyable American Food festival at Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park a couple of months ago, I was looking forward to trying out what Chef Sandeep Kumar has put together for their Seafood sensation festival. And it turns out, quite a lot. As an addition to the regular buffet, the seafood section had an impressive display of catfish, prawns, red snapper and more. I kicked off the evening with a tiny assorted platter of prawns, calamari and fish with a variety of sauces including mayonnaise, tomato, chilli-honey, and a very new flavour which was yellow mustard with green apple. Chef Sandeep is turning out to the ‘sauce guy’ for me. While it didn’t top the chocolate mole from the last time, this sauce was the best of the evening and became the staple dip for almost everything. The recent Thailand trip did have me using a little more chilli-honey sauce than usual.
While we waited for the next course I tried some of the seafood salads on display including fish and fresh fruits salad. With contrasting sweet and citrus flavours, the salad came across as something I would have probably had an entire bowl of during the summer. 

Seafood Salads
Next at the table was a fish platter that consisted of tuna, sea bass and snapper all lightly fried. Among the three, the tuna was the best in terms of how much of the flavour it retained and how it blended with all the sauces. This was the second time I’ve had the red snapper, the last being at a restaurant in the US quite some time ago. While that particular dish had a predominant and predictable citrus punch, this snapper was far milder in flavours. All the fish flaked superbly. 

Fish Platter
Next up was a very attractive looking plate of sardines and prawns. The sardines aren’t my first choice for a fish to be honest. That being said, while the dish was supposed to offer a masala sardine, it somehow didn’t make it all the way in terms of the spice levels leaving me a bit disappointed. The prawns however, were cooked perfectly. More mustard and green apple sauce!!!

Sardines and Prawns Platter

Sardines and Prawns Platter

The main course was the best part of the meal. First up was the seafood biryani with the Prawns Salan. The biryani was cooked really well, despite having all that seafood thrown in, it did not have an overwhelming seafood smell - a problem with numerous seafood biryani’s I’ve had in the past. The flavour was rich and had spices in excellent proportion. The biryani was a hero by itself. But truly bringing all the flavours to life was the prawn salan whose tangy taste of mustard made my evening. Fresh hot biryani with a tangy prawn curry on a cold wet rainy evening, it couldn’t get any better.

Seafood Biryani

Prawn Salan

I also tried the fish curry with plain rice, which was a very homely dish and reminded me of something similar with chicken that a friend’s mother would make. But unfortunately, in front of the prawn salan, this dish was a distant second. After a single helping of the fish, I went back to the seafood biryani and the prawns. It was just so sad that I had but one stomach and a mere above-average appetite, for I would have finished the biryani entirely. Also, it would have been quite uncouth if I had asked for a doggy bag. Dinner ended with a helping of pista kheer as I had absolutely no space for anything more.

Fish Curry

Rice Kheer

The Seafood sensation at Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park is on till the 27th of November. My recommendation is definitely for the tuna with the yellow mustard and green apple sauce, and of course for the seafood biryani with the prawn salan. If I weren’t travelling, I’d definitely go back just to have those two again.