20 October, 2015

RockStock 2015 - Lagori








   


RockStock 2015 - Parvaaz












RockStock 2015 - Kavita Thomas

One of the new exciting voices I came across at the RockStock 2015 music festival was that of Kavita Thomas. I'll be honest in admitting that I wasn't overly impressed with her voice during the sound check which for some reason reminded me of a reality TV show contestant who was showing off range without any soul. But 45 minutes later, when the band took the stage for the gig, oh WOW! The voice that felt empty to me was all of a sudden full of soul and absolutely vibrant.

I am officially a fan! Almost like night and day, her voice was captivating and hit all the right notes (no pun intended). A great voice and good stage presence has made Kavita one of the singers I intend to follow in the indie scene here. 











 

19 October, 2015

The Boxing Cat Brewery, Shanghai

Inspired by my conversation with another fellow food blogger/beer enthusiast, I’ve decided to add microbreweries to my list of places to visit when travelling and attempt to develop the taste buds to differentiate between good and average beer. For my trip to Shanghai, the Boxing Cat Brewery was on the top of my list. Reviews online gave this an excellent rating for both food and the beers.


Located in the absolutely gorgeous French Concession in Shanghai, Boxing Cat is a lovely little microbrewery which gives you a total feel of chilling on some cold beer on a holiday. Built with (the now very common) brick and bare bones interiors, this place is ideal to kick back on a weekend afternoon with friends and catch up over a game. Since I was by myself, I was given a small table on the outside, on the street; but that was fine because I was blessed with fabulous weather that day. 




I kicked off my meal with a plate of wings aptly named Fist of Fury. A house specialty, this dish comes with 12 absolutely spicy tangy wings with a buffalo style sauce. They were not joking about how spicy these were, every bite made my lips burn just a little bit while the tanginess just took over my mouth. Giving this brilliant contrast and some relief was the blue cheese dressing on the side. While the dressing was very mild compared to other blue cheese, it was the ideal match for these tender spicy wings. Giving the wings company was the Sucker Punch Ale. This light beer had a very mild fruity taste to it and I was glad that the waitress recommended this as a pair. Overall, everything just went excellent with this meal. The spice of the chicken, with the blue cheese, interspersed with a light fruity beer made it a memorable meal.

Fists of Fury

Sucker Punch Ale

I was quite full after belting away on the wings and was torn between doing a main course and keeping no space for dessert or with heading straight to a dessert. Such are the troubles of a food enthusiast with no company. I chose the latter. And like the flip of a coin that goes your way, I was glad I chose the dessert. I chose the Snickers Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel sauce. If that didn’t make you drool, take a look at the picture below.

Snickers Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Sauce
In my limited career as a food blogger, this dessert ranks among the top three I’ve had. Those who experiment with food know the familiar feeling of putting a spoon into a dessert, grabbing that first bite and experiencing what heaven probably tastes like. This was one of those desserts. Without being overly sweet, the snickers, the dark chocolate and salted caramel came together and had a little orgy in my mouth. I was making fairly obnoxious noises as I worked my way through the cake; the waitress came up to me and commented that I really seem to like the cake. (Which was a polite way of telling me to stop making the other customers uncomfortable with all the grunting and sighing).  With just the right amount of saltiness, this dessert knocked my socks off. If I ever go back to Shanghai, I’m going back to eat just this. What made it even sweeter was that I didn’t have to share this with anyone.


I washed down my meal with a helping of a bitter, high alcohol content beer called the TKO IPA. While the colour was lighter when compared to the Sucker Punch, the taste was heavier. With a mild citrus after taste, the beer left a fresh taste in the mouth and set me up for the rest of the day. 

TKO IPA


Unfortunately, I am but one man. So I couldn’t have either tried more food or drink more beer. I did put Boxing Cat on my list of a place for a second visit should I have had more time during this trip. Alas, I had to leave content with my pictures and memory of the fabulous dessert. If you’re ever in Shanghai, do not miss going to the Boxing Cat Brewery. It is a little pricey compared to other restaurants I visited, but the experience is worth the extra money. Also, don’t forget to take a friend along so that you could divide and conquer.

15 October, 2015

My first real Chinese meal - Zhanggui Restaurant, Shanghai

It’s taken me over two weeks since I’ve returned from an absolutely exciting trip to Shanghai to get this post up. And that’s all thanks to my (now erstwhile) internet provider who decided it was completely fine to take over two weeks to lay cables. Anyway, good riddance. Let’s talk about the food.

I’m absolutely ecstatic about this particular post because it’s about my very first authentic Chinese meal in China. I did do a few places in Hong Kong last year, but that’s not really China. A colleague of ours took us to the Zhanggui Restaurant near the Holiday Inn Express and was completely in charge of ordering food. One of the things about eating in Shanghai is that (a) not all restaurants would have an English menu or an English speaking bearer and (b) not all restaurants keep spoons. I was fortunate that there was an English translation and spoons at this place. I was in for a total surprise because I left the ordering up to my colleague and whatever Mandarin he spoke, did not fit into the 5 sentences that I know.


While we waited for our food to arrive, we cracked open a bottle of Tiger beer. It was my first time trying this one out; I’m not a big fan. We ordered two appetizers – The Stir-fried Shredded Potato and the Scrambled Eggs with Fungus and Caraway. While the former was a very familiar taste, what really got the party going with my taste buds was the scrambled eggs dish. The mushrooms and the eggs were a fabulous combination with the eggs being just a tad runny and the bitter taste of the mushrooms complementing the taste of the yolk. This is a dish that I want to go back and try should I go to Shanghai again.

Stir-fried Shredded Potato

Scrambled Eggs with Fungus and Caraway


Our main course was extremely elaborate, but surprisingly did not make one feel bloated. We started off with the Braised Wild Vegetable Casserole, a dish that I simply loved. A lot of folks who say that genuine Chinese food is all about exotic animals, here’s a simple yet tasty vegetarian dish that had a slight vinegar taste that was left behind. We also ordered the Beef Brisket with Beef Tendon and Peppers. The dish tasted a lot like a rasam with beef portions, I didn’t quite enjoy the tomato-peppery flavour of the dish overall. This round was accompanied by some Noodles in a chilli soya sauce. 

Braised Wild Vegetable Casserole

Noodles

I’m not a big fan of tofu, and was a little disappointed when my colleague said he’s ordered fresh tofu. However, the tofu that came was almost like a thick curd and was accompanied by beans and a soya sauce. Oddly enough, that combination worked quite alright. I wouldn’t swear by the dish, but it did show me that tofu has to be made well to taste good. We also ordered a river fish cooked in a chilli sauce of some sort. I unfortunately did not catch the name of the dish. From a taste perspective, the amount of saltiness in the meat was a little too high for me. The outer sauce had a nice spicy yet citrus taste to it. While I didn’t enjoy the fish by itself, its flavour got neutralized with the simple fried rice that we ordered.

Fish
The best dish of the evening, and one of the most elegant dishes I’ve ever had was the Prawns cooked in Tea. Every now and then, a dish comes into my life that knocks the shoes, socks and pants off me. This was one such dish. True to the name, the crunchy prawns had a splendid aroma of freshly brewed tea; one bite into them released a wave of flavours that made me make a lot of inappropriate happy noises. The outer layer has a light sweet-chilli coating, but the kick comes when one bites into the meat. Almost immediately you taste freshly brewed tea with a very mild jasmine flavour. As one chews through the prawn, the flavour overtakes the palate leaving a fresh refreshing taste. I was told by my colleague that not everyone enjoys this flavour and it takes a great deal of experience with food to immediately enjoy this. While I’m not sure if he was buttering me up, I’ll just take it as a complement.

Prawn cooked in tea
Dessert was a simple ice cream. As far as the décor of the restaurant goes, it does resemble some of the cramped eat out you’d see in old Chinese movies with wooden tables, portraits of history on the wall, and even a squawking blackbird as you enter the restaurant.

Burp!
I was absolutely thrilled by my very first truly Chinese meal. I was told that the flavours here were very local to the Shanghai region and vary drastically when one moves towards the Beijing area. I guess one will have to wait and hope for a trip to Beijing next year to see for themselves. Overall, one of the most memorable meals I’ve had. The 31 year wait was worth it.

02 October, 2015

The German Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Grand

It’s time for the Oktober Fest! And celebrating it, the Feast at Sheraton Grand Bangalore put together a German food festival, which for someone with my tastes, was simple brilliant thanks to all the non-vegetarian. Let’s be honest Paneer Bratwurst just doesn’t cut it. Our meal began with two classic German sausages – The Bratwurst and the Knackwurst. The former is a German classic and I was happy that they had the stronger whole mustard sauce when I asked for it. This went really well with the little helpings of Sauerkraut and red cabbage that I had to balance out the flavour. The Knackwurst was a little more flavourful and had a nice cracking skin on the outside that gave it just a little most zest than the bratwurst.



Next up was the lentils soup with sausage. For me, the problem with anything with lentil is that I ultimately dumb it down to either a daal or a rasam because that’s what it tastes to me. The soup was nothing to write home about and we quickly moved on. We were served the Bacon wrapped meatloaf with boiled egg and creamy sauce. Traditionally, meatloaf is a heavy dish that stands alone by itself. However, the chef had ensured that the dish was kept light and was served in smaller portions to ensure people don’t make a meal out of that. Nice light flavour, but nothing that knocked my socks off. On the contrary, the vegetarian variant - Bread dumpling with creamy mushroom sauce has a nice mushroom and light pepper flavour to it. I did go back for a second helping of this dish because it ticked all the boxes in terms of flavour and presentation.




Before we continued with more of the main course, we tried out some of the salads.  The Pasta salad with green peas and cooked ham, the Potato salad with egg and mayonnaise and the Pickled cucumber salad with dill were my favourites. The Potato salad became a constant on my plate from the first bite.




Next up was Beef roulades with sauce. While the beef was a little tougher than what I was expecting and it took a bit of chewing to break this down, the dark sauce was quite tasty and drove the flavour of the meat. I was hoping that the roulade would have held a little more flavour.  The Chicken schnitzel with lemon was nice crunchy piece of chicken that was very light and if not checked can cause one to overindulge.



Considering the amount of knackwurst I had tucked in, I wasn’t left with much space for dessert. I served myself very small portions of the Red berry compote with Vanilla Sauce and the Strudel with vanilla sauce. The desserts offered a familiar flavour that one would expect, but nothing noteworthy. You would have noticed that I’ve not mentioned any beer in the entire post. Quite simple, this was a food festival and not a beer festival. That being said, I was hoping to try at least one imported German beer this evening just to complete the entire package.



The final verdict – the German food festival doesn’t offer anything to the vegetarians on account of the nature of the cuisine. But for those who enjoy sausages and meats, do try and catch the festival before it closes on the 4th of October . The spread is relatively limited compared to previous food festivals at Feast, some of the flavours have been tempered down to suit the Indian palate and the absence of German styled beers leaves just a little to be desired. Do catch the spread if you’re in the area.