30 June, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

In this week's column, I do a round up of new releases that stood out over the last three months. The two albums that I really enjoyed were 'No' by FuzzCulture and 'Union Farm' by Madboy/Mink.


27 June, 2015

Food Mood: 25 years of Kairalli

Bangalore has changed very rapidly over the last decade or so with the IT revolution gaining momentum. The traffic has gone up at a rate that only competes with the cost of real estate. We have more malls than we can visit. A big part of the city that has disappeared are a lot of the older restaurants and hang-out joints that defined what Bangalore was for many years.  In all this, one of the few things that have remained the same is the Karavalli restaurant at the Gateway hotel. 



The restaurant recently completed 25 years and had put out a special menu featuring their best dishes. The original menu itself has remained pretty much the same since the start. The bloggers that evening were joined by Chef Naren Thimmaiah, the Executive Chef who has been the mastermind behind the consistent and addictive taste of the fare at Karavalli.

Chef Naren Thimmaiah

We kicked off the evening with a very interesting cocktail with the key ingredient being curry leaves. I was quite sceptical when I was given the recommendation. But this turned out to be a delightful cocktail. Like the start to a great innings of cricket, the opening dish was by far my favourite dish that evening; the Tiger Prawns Roast had a lovely blend of tomato, ginger and a light hint of coconut with spices to leave you wanting more. I was willing to have the prawns just as a dessert. To anyone reading this blog, I recommend that you head over to Karavalli and indulge your senses in a plate of these delicious prawns, you won’t regret it. 



Tiger Prawns Roast

Tiger Prawns Roast

We sampled a variety of appetizers including the Aritha Pundi (steam rice dumplings), the kerela-style crispy raw banana and two varieties of fish. The first was the Meen Eleittad which is a fried black pomfret marinated in a spicy masala and wrapped in a banana leaf to give it a fabulous flavour. The fish was cooked to perfection and showed signs of gentle flaking when cut. The second fish that was served was the Kane Kaidina which was a pan-cooked Lady Fish. I wasn’t very enthusiastic with this one owing to the few bones which came up. Even taste-wise, this wasn’t a hit when compared to the pomfret. 

Aritha Pundi



Pomfret with masala wrapped in banana leaves

Kane Kaidina

Before the main course, we had some fabulous rasam. Despite being brought up in a tambram house hold, I am not a fan of rasam at all. However, I thoroughly enjoyed what was served. For the main course, we had a variety of curries (mostly stews considering this was a south Indian restaurant) which included a fish, some fresh veggies in a coconut milk stew, and a very interesting one that was made out of mangoes with chilli and coconut. We were also served some well-cooked lamb which I felt would have been spot on had the lamb been replaced by pork. The spices in the dish along with the ginger, green chillies, onions and tomato reminded me of a pork curry I had fallen in love with ages ago during a trip to Coorg. This was accompanied by some idiappam, Malabar paratha, appam and plain rice.




I ate just enough to keep just that little bit of room for dessert. We were served bebinca with ice cream, a tender coconut payassam and some dodol.  



Overall, it was a great meal with the star of the meal being the prawn. I had been to dinner at Karavalli almost five years ago, and it is great to see that the taste has remained consistent. So what are you waiting for? Get over there and go nuts. 

Gig Review: Skrat and As we keep searching, 2 Stroke Tour @ Indigo Live

I’ll be quite honest in admitting that I was at this gig, the 2 Stroke Tour, predominantly to see Skrat who are one of my favourite Indian bands. There has been a lot of noise about the post-rock outfit from Ahmedabad, ‘As we keep searching’ (AWKS), who opened the gig for Skrat. Call it old school mentality but I’m not a big fan of the post-rock genre in general. I find the licks to be a bit repetitive in nature and is not something I would listen to by itself. I do however find most post-rock sounds to be well-suited for background scores of good modern cinema. That being said, AWKS didn’t do anything to change my opinion of the genre.

AWKS
The band does have high energy and has garnered a small fan base that will keep growing with the popularity of the genre in India. A Rolling Stone article named Bangalore as the unofficial capital of post-rock in India. This sort of held true with the near full house that had turned up for the gig and were head banging away. The sound of the band is a lot heavier than a lot of the other bands in this space. I attribute a lot of that to the drumming which was precise and heavy, and was the one big positive I would take away from this particular gig. 

AWKS

AWKS
I would have to call out one thing that did not sit well with me, which was the band’s post-rock cover of Avial’s  Aranda. Personally, to me it was definitely a chapter in the book of ‘How not play covers’. That aside, I’m neutral on the sound of the band overall, but a big thumbs up for the drumming.

AWKS
Skrat – need I say more? This particular gig of Skrat was the last gig of their 2Stroke tour with As We Keep Searching who was the opening act. Besides that, this was the last gig in the city with Satish Narayanan on bass for Skrat. Sats has decided to part ways with the band and move to Canada to pursue the great Indian dream of doing an MBA abroad. Almost all the regulars in the Bangalore scene had turned up for this gig. 

Skrat

Skrat

As always, Skrat delivered a high energy performance with the crowd going nuts and mosh pits erupting towards the end. Playing a healthy mix from all their albums so far, the band once again brought down the house. There really isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t been said before.

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat


We’re all looking forward to whom would replace Sats on bass and wish them all the best in continuing the Skrat journey. A big thanks and best wishes to Sats for all the gigs.

26 June, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

This week's post had me talking about which bands I felt should represent India in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


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21 June, 2015

Gig Review: Agam, at HRC B'lore

Last Thursday saw the Carnatic-progressive Rock outfit Agam play at the Hard Rock Cafe in Bangalore. I've been a big fan of the band and their music from the very first listen. More importantly, so is my mother owing to her passion for Carnatic music. She was upfront and center when Agam played at another venue in the city and is a big fan of theirs. Unfortunately, she couldn't make it to this gig. I was looking forward to some 'mother-son-bonding-over-rock-music' time.

When I reached the venue, there was a long line of people waiting outside that went around the corner of the HRC building. The last time I saw such a crowd for a gig was when Indian Ocean played here about four years ago. After purchasing a rather over-priced beer ( Rs.500+ for a Corona), I managed to find a spot in the jam-packed gig area. 




The band started almost on the dot as scheduled with Brahma's Dance and moved on to other crowd favourites. The band also gave us a preview into some of their new material and played two of the crowd favourite covers with Dil Se and Aaromale. The gig ended with their Coke Studio hit Malhar Jam. The energy in the crowd was great and this helped the band really improve their performances. Everyone in the band have become far more confident on stage as a unit and as individuals. The sound at the HRC has always been unpredictable, and was a bit of a let down this time considering I've heard Agam at other venues play a similar set list and sound way better. The sound of the drums was off and flat at times. HRC also needs to get some better lighting which has pretty much been the same ever since they've opened.






A good performance, but nowhere close to the last gig of theirs I had been to at Counter Culture. That was the best gig where the sound, light, the audience and everything else worked in the bands favour. Eagerly awaiting Agam's next album.


Gig Pix: Bryden-Parth at Starbucks

As part of a Starbucks event to promote musicians, I was invited to cover Bryden-Parth. For those of you who dont know about them, Bryden Lewis was the guitarist for the Raghu Dixit Project (Until a month ago) and is currently the guitarist with Slain, while Parth Chandiramani is the flautist for the Raghu Dixit Project. Both these musicians have come together to create a stripped down act (currently accompanied by Joel Rozario from Solder on percussion) where they’re currently focussing on creating medleys of popular songs ranging from the Backstreet Boys to Avicii. 

This act was formed as a stress buster from the other more intense mainstream gigs that they individually work on and is aimed at giving them an avenue to write original material. The choice of going with a stripped-down approach was to focus more on having fun. Bryden commented,” With this approach we’re doing multiple things like Parth going beyond the flute to play keys and saxophone. And I’m looking after vocals which are a big challenge for me. This gives us room to push ourselves.”





While original music is the intent, the band’s set list right now focuses on covers. As the band explained, the reason for starting off with this was easy because they were playing these songs at parties for friends and family in any case. While the band did not rule out an album, their current focus is to write more original material. “Given everyone’s packed schedules, we’re not sure on a date for the album. Right now, this is just a big stress buster for us.” said Parth. 



This particular gig had a special guest from Mumbai– Siddarth Basrur. Anyone who has been in the indie scene knows the vocal range of Siddarth. I’ve personally been a big fan of his since his Goddess Gagged days and cannot wait to see what he brings to the party with Scribe. As someone who still has dreams of being a rock journalist, this gig is something that would go into a memoir for sure. After performing a couple of songs from his other act – Last remaining light, Siddarth and the band sang Stay from his Chasing Rain album. We suddenly had a flash choir join him. This turned out to be his proposal to his long-time girlfriend. I’ve only seen such things in the movies; this was the first time I’ve actually seen this live. She said yes.




The audience at the gig was made up mostly of friends, family and faces familiar to the band. It’ll be interesting to see if they do take this particular act on the road with some original material



18 June, 2015

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

I had interviewed Thermal and a Quarter to understand more about Taaqademy and how it came to be. The interview appeared in the Deccan Chronicle column on 16 Jun 2015.


16 June, 2015

Food Mood: Mustard and Cress at Biere Street, B'lore

It was a fine Saturday evening to have dinner outdoors. For once, we didn’t have torrential rain that started at 7 PM and ruined everyone’s evening plans for the weekend. I was invited to Mustard and Cress at the Biere Street in Whitefield. I’ve been meaning to head there for the longest time ever, but thanks to the distance and traffic, I never really got around to doing it. I’ve heard so much about the ambiance of the place which resembles the streets of London with cobblestones and stores on the side. I wasn’t disappointed. Even though the lighting was rather dim, the place came across as something that would be ideal for a lovely photo shoot during the day. Our host for the evening was Vishal who explained some of the ideas behind the new menu. On the similar lines of the Biere Club, the menu places a large focus on finger foods and smaller portions which are convenient to have along with some cold beer.

The first starter for the evening was a plate of assorted Indian crostini which had mushrooms, mixed peppers and potato. I’ll be honest to say that while the crostini with the peppers was palatable, the rest of the flavours did absolutely nothing to make my taste buds take notice. But this was quickly forgotten by the next dish which was a creamy, cheese and asparagus Vol-au-vent. Despite being filled with cheese, this particular appetizer wasn’t heavy. This snack means ‘windblown’ in French, it lived up to its name and went down nice and easy. We also tried the Potato & apple fritters, with aubergine salad and blueberry mustard emulsion. This dish stood out for me because I’ve normally had apple fritters as a part of the dessert. The fritters were made quite differently from what I’ve experienced as the filling inside was not a crunchy apple but consisted of the apple being beaten into a nice thick pulp.

Assorted Indian Crostini

Cream, cheese and asparagus Vol-au-vent


The Bloody Mary

As a part of the non-vegetarian starters, we had the Spice grilled chicken skewers, green bean & coconut salad. This had a very chettinad taste to the chicken and perfectly complimented the stout beer that evening. Next up was a very familiar taste - Wok tossed chilli garlic crispy prawns. While prawns were fresh and crunchy, there really wasn’t a new flavour that I was experiencing.  This was followed by the Spicy lamb minced rolls. This particular dish turned out to be something I really enjoyed. Made the size of dragon rolls, the lamb inside was nice and spicy while the rolls itself were crispy and light. This was the perfect finger food for the evening. Most of the other bloggers also fell in love with this particular dish. We also tried the Japanese style tenderloin skewers, but the previous dish had pretty much taken all the votes we had.

Spicy grilled chicken skewers

Wok tossed chilli garlic crispy prawns

Spicy lamb minced rolls

Japanese style tenderloin skewers

Before we hit the main course, we all got a small serving of a soup made out of corn, coconut milk and coriander. At the risk of sounding like a teenager, but ….. aaaaawwwwmyyyyygawd. This soup was simple brilliant. The taste was largely like something you would have with Thai cuisine, everyone fell instantly in love with this. We all shamelessly requested for a second helping knowing very well that this was going to fill us up. But …. YOLO! (I’m going to hate myself for using that term). This was accompanied with a Crispy Bang Bang chicken, glass noodles, cucumber, spring onions, satay sauce salad.

Corn, coconut milk and coriander soup

Crispy bang bang chicken

The main course began with a Madras curry inspired green vegetable risotto with organic red rice, crisp okra, parmesan which was perhaps the most disappointing dish of the evening. To me it was pretty much the local favourite bisi-bele bath with aroborio rice. One spoon in and I was done. There was no love to be found with the Thai style charred pumpkin & red capsicum risotto either. What I did enjoy as a part of the vegetarian dishes was the pizza. But then again, anyone who knows me knows how much in love I am with pizza.


While the staunch vegetarians might accuse me of being biased towards non vegetarian food, the saviour of the main course came in the form of a Panko crumbed blue cheese butter stuffed chicken over spinach, creamy mash. Folks who are not accustomed to the taste of blue cheese, stay away from this dish as it is the very first taste that hits you. The flavour of chicken is very mild in comparison. At this point, most of us were quite full. ( A lot of you just thought,” Obviously…. What were you expecting?”) I just sampled the Indian style lamb lasagne, masala garlic bread and a little salad and the Kashmiri style spiced lamb & beetroot stew. I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t remember much of the taste as I was well beyond my capacity at that point.

Panko crumbed blue cheese butter stuffed chicken

Indian style lamb lasagne

Kashmiri style spicy lamb

We all requested that we be given a break to allow the food to settle before we made space for dessert. Yes…dessert. How uncivilized do you think we are by skipping dessert? Dessert consisted of a platter of seasonal Mango Panna cotta, Mishti dahi with red velvet cake and Chocolate & orange mousse with pillows of rasmalai and biscuit. The panna cotta and he mousse were nothing out of the ordinary.  Now the mishti dahi with red velvet cake combination was something else. These are two very distinct flavours that one would not put together. However, in this particular instance it seemed to work well. While the red velvet cake wasn’t mind-blowing, the combination did find good favour with the bloggers at the table.