31 January, 2016

The Spicier Side of Italy at Ottimo, ITC Gardenia

On some days, the stars align and the universe does everything in its power to give you memories that you will share with everyone you know (and don’t know through social media) for weeks to come. One such evening was on my very first visit to Ottimo ristorante at ITC Gardenia for their ‘Fire of Italy’ festival. Having heard so much about Chef Vittorio Greco’s creations and personality from other fellow food bloggers, my expectations were quite high.

An evening of fine Italian dining demands excellent wine. While I’m no connoisseur of the same, I resort to the very rudimentary assessment of ‘do I like the taste or not’. We were offered a Gavi DOCG from Ricossa, whose delicate fruity flavour was something I instantly took a liking to. Never having eaten at Ottimo before, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the courses. We began the evening with a vegetarian appetizer, the Salt cooked Onion with Parmesan Chilli and Star Anise. Call it love at first bite, the dish offered me a completely new flavour that had me grunting with joy with every bite I took. The saltiness of the onion balanced out perfectly with the parmesan filling which was quite light. The star anise and the star anise powder were the spices that pushed the dish into the zone of absolute culinary joy. I’ve heard that Chef Greco believes that while a good piece of meat can hold its ground, the true power of innovation comes with vegetarian. This dish was a perfect example of how to do it… and do it well! The presence of a biscuit and the crispy friselle-like bread in the meal to offer a change of texture could have been avoided as it didn’t do anything to help the grand star that was the stuffed onion. Kudos to the chef on this creation.


Salt Cooked Onion with Parmesan Chilli and star anise

Salt Cooked Onion with Parmesan Chilli and star anise

This was followed by a Squid and Chorizo salad where the squid was cut into shapes that resembled pasta. Subtle flavours, nothing complicated yet nothing that blew my taste buds away when compared to the previous dish.  This was followed by the Agnolotti with Liquid Smoked Ricotta, Morels and Aglio-olio e pepperoncino. The dish was more traditional in its taste and offered the sort of bold flavours that one would expect from an Italian dish. That being said, the combination overall didn’t particularly leave me with the urge of wanting to go back for more. The blend of flavours went a little all over the place and made the dish a tad strenuous on the palette.

Squid and Chorizo Salad

Bringing the meal back on track was the next course, Lobster and Chili Double Stuffed Ravioli. Again, this dish had very bold flavours but everything worked well. The ravioli was perfect and the portions of lobster were adequate enough to leave the mild lingering taste of seafood that makes you go back for another bite to keep that flavour going. The sauces and spice were strong in flavour but subtle enough not to negate the taste of the seafood.

Lobster Double Stuffed Ravioli

The main course was something that made my taste buds dance around. Putting together some of my personal favourite flavours, the Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Pistachio and Black Pepper was an absolute treat. The pork belly was left a tad shy of being soft, a texture I am more used to. But that worked with the outer coating of pistachio. Having to crunch through a bit, the flavours of the meat and the nuts came together well in my mouth.  The pork belly was placed on a bed of spinach that brought about not only a change in texture to the dish, but a new flavour as well. And being a fan of spinach, I was more than delighted. Accompanied with a strong jus and veggies, each bite was a sheer delight. (Unintentional rhyming there).  This dish is a rich and heavy dish no doubt and comes with four fairly huge pieces on the plate. While I’d like to think it was all the previous food that I ate (obviously), I was able to conquer only two pieces on the plate. But those two pieces were sheer joy. Kudos to the chef on this dish again.

Slow cooked pork belly with pistachio and black pepper

The crowning glory of the evening, the magnum opus if you may call it, was the dessert. The Torta Caprese 2.0. This dessert was the sort of magic one has only seen on shows like Masterchef. And that evening, I saw the magic with my own eyes. Words will not be adequate to describe the theatre and the flavour behind this dish, so I’ll just let you all take a look at the video below.  (PS: I am not responsible for any unruly behaviour or unexplained emotions you may have after this)


Great appetizer, great wine, great main course and a dessert worthy of the Gods…. That pretty much sums up the evening. While the festival concluded very recently, I’m sure the folks at Ottimo would be glad to indulge you with some of the dishes from the festival. While I couldn’t meet Chef Greco who was travelling at the time, I was able to speak to him over the phone and thank him for envisioning this memorable meal and a dessert that I will tell everyone I meet about.  Look forward to more creativity from the hands of Chef Grecco at future festivals.

27 January, 2016

Control Alt Delete 9.0 - Nine bands, one great evening

I'm writing this post after almost a fortnight after the gig happened, but better late than never. The renowned DIY gig Control Alt Delete moved cities to Bangalore for its ninth version. Held at The Humming Tree in Bangalore on the 16th of January, Control ALT Delete 9.0 gave audiences what I personally believe was the best line-up I've seen at an indie gig in quite some time. Upping the ante from last year and brought together nine bands for what was a spectacular evening of indie music.

When the gig began at 5 pm, the venue was already packed with over a 100 people, and this number just grew through the evening till eventually the venue could take no more people. Unlike a lot of other gigs, the audience didn’t comprise of just the usual gig junkies like yours truly or friends of the bands playing who leave once the gig was done. I found myself next to a trio of women who didn’t know any of the bands, but stood rooted front and center from start to finish, very enthusiastically asking me about the band and the songs they were playing. 

This was the crowd at 5 pm for the first act of the day. Sriram TT from Skrat and Tails on Fire is a total scenester checking out all the bands with the crowd.
The first band up on stage was Bangalore's only band on the roster, RushLed. Relatively new to the circuit, the band had original numbers to present. A clear case of nerves was evident throughout the performance but kudos to the band for standing and delivering. This act was followed up by the Chennai rock outfit - The Broadway Addicts. Presenting material from the debut, No Act along with old-school punk from bands like the Stooges, this three-piece outfit really got the evening rolling. A lot of folks who I spoke to agreed that while the band sounded great, the long silent intervals between songs where the vocalist was either drinking water or saying something utterly pointless was a tad annoying. Great sound nonetheless.

Rushled

Rushled

Rushled

The Broadway Addicts

The Broadway Addicts

The Broadway Addicts

The Broadway Addicts

I'm not the biggest fan of the post-rock genre and very few bands have put together material that makes me want to listen to it over and over again. Unfortunately, the third band of the evening Mushroom Lake isn't one of those bands. Unfortunately, most of the band sat down or stood rooted to the spot. It was evident that after the cracker of a set from the previous band, this was the band a lot of people chose to step out for a smoke, take their loo breaks or grab something to eat. The music didn’t do enough to match the mood that had been set in the evening. Bringing the house down was the high-energy riot-inducing band Punk on Toast who got the mosh pit going for the evening. Staying true to the punk rock theme of being angry, with everyone from the BJP to Salman Khan, Punk on Toast had everyone screaming and head banging. 

Mushroom Lake

Mushroom Lake

Punk on Toast

Punk on Toast

Punk on Toast
Following them was Aswekeepsearching who're all the rage in the post-rock scene right now. What sets the band apart from a lot of their peers in the genre is aggressiveness and heavy drumming (which is why I like this band) which is sorely missing with bands who tend to have long-winding seemingly never ending repetitive notes being played. The crowd was treated to a special guest appearance from Sunneith Revankar of Bhayanak Maut fame (all hail!!!) on AWKS closing number B-303. Making his Bangalore debut, Achint Thakkar's self-titled act played his version of alternative-electronic music from his debut album Shalimar. While a lot of the purists frowned on the excessive dependency on backing tracks and samples, they ignored the good work being done on the bass and violins. All this didn't stop Achint from putting together a set that had everyone in the house dancing away. I thoroughly enjoyed the groove and was dancing myself. (Shocking! Do not tell my friends that I dance, I'll never hear the end of it)

Aswekeepsearching

Aswekeepsearching

Aswekeepsearching

Sunneith from Bhayanak Maut helping out Aswekeepsearching on a B-303

Achint

Achint
Bringing in some old school waltz and jazz influenced music was Delhi rocker's Peter Cat Recording Company. who played a lot of songs from their older material. They were followed by the other Delhi-based band of the evening - Superfuzz. While I had heard some of their music post them winning Channel V Launchpad way back in 2007, I had never seen the band play live. So expectations were high. What started out with new old-school garage rock tunes such as 'Future Baby Mama', the band soon moved into a disco-esque vibe (very reminiscent of the kind of music Ganesh Talkies are doing) with ' Message from the Stars', and got the entire venue dancing away. Bands like Superfuzz and Achint proved that live acts can still get people to dance and go crazy. (PS: I danced to this band's music also)

PCRC

Superfuzz

Superfuzz

Superfuzz

Superfuzz
The closing act for the evening was from one of my favourite bands, Skrat. Kicking off with my favourite, 'Shake it off', the band powered through their wildest set ever with stuff from both their previous albums and introduced audiences to 'Wake up', a song that would feature on their next album, Bison, out some time this year. The crowd had gone chaotic with mosh pits and other bands crowd surfing and bringing back all the rowdy scenes of live acts we've grown up seeing in the bygone era of MTV. I did have to tolerate the girls next to me gushing over front man Sriram TT. Otherwise, it was among Skrat's top three best gigs I've been to.

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat
Control Alt Delete 9.0 is the finest example of "where there is a will, there is a way"! And a big slap in the face of all these new acts who complain that there's no "scene" in India and that EDM has taken away the crowds. The independent music movement is still alive and kicking, and sometimes moshing. All you need is good music, and people will come to listen to you. The nine bands that played this evening at a gig that had absolutely no corporate sponsorship is an ode to that. Kudos to the organizers and the bands!

Note: All the pictures are my property, so don't use it without prior permission.


23 January, 2016

The flavours of Rajasthan at Feast, Sheraton Grand Bangalore

I’m delighted that my very first food festival review of the year is back at the place where I started my very first big time food review. Feast at the Sheraton Grand, Bangalore introduced patrons to the desert flavours of Rajasthan. I wouldn’t say that I am the greatest fan of all the food out of that region, but there are certain dishes that define what Rajasthani food is to me, and I always enjoy those. One of my favourite vegetarian dishes – Ker Sangri is from Rajasthan. When I did receive the invite, I was eagerly looking forward to trying some authentic ker sangri.


The other food bloggers and I were welcomed with a Sattu ki Sharbat. This was the first time I’ve had this drink, the taste was pretty good. While the non veg  appetizers of Murg ka Sula and Jaisalmer ke Boti didn’t leave me wanting more than the one round, the surprise package came in the form of both the vegetarian starters. The Sangri ki Sheekh kabab and the stuffed paapad were both new dishes that none of the bloggers at the table had tried before. With the very subtle flavour of sangria, the sheikh kabab was flavourful. The mini-papads stuffed with a potato filling were crispy and had a slight tang that was enhanced with familiar spicy ginger chutney.

Sattu ki Sherbat

Murg ka Sula

Jaisalmer ke Boti

Sangri Sheekh Kabab

Mini Paapad Rolls

Another very familiar and comforting appetizer was the daal-baati churma, a Rajasthani cult dish. 

Daal Baati Churma

The main course had its fair share of hits and misses. While this could have been an opportunity to show case much more than just the famous laal mass curry, which was a tad too spicy for my taste buds that are still recovering from the two months of tasteless food. The non veg section was a bit of a letdown as dishes like the Marwari fish curry and Chicken cooked in the Rajasthani style tasted fine, but didn’t make me want to go back for a second helping. Trumping the non-veg once again was the vegetarian section with the Ker Sangri and the Dum Aaloo Jodhpuri. The former was almost as good as what my friend’s mother makes while the latter had the right amount of chilly and spices to make me go back for more. The Gatte Pulao was my favourite among the three varieties of rice that were served; this was an excellent complement in terms of flavour for the dum aaloo. While there were other dishes in the spread, these are what I remember eating for all the right reasons.

Laal Maas

Ker Sangri

Aaloo Dum Jodhpuri

Dessert was a relatively muted affair with the Gawar and rabdi. 

Gawar with Rabdi


Overall, the flavours have been muted a fair bit keeping in mind the client profile of Sheraton Grand. While the menu didn’t top their Chettinad Food festival (which was the best that Feast had put up till date), some of the stars in the vegetarian section helped bring the team across the line, just barely. For those looking for something different with regard to their veg cravings, this might be the festival you want to head to.

12 January, 2016

Guest Column - iheartblr.com - Control ALT Delete 9.0 in Bengaluru

My interview with Nikhil Udupa, one of the founding member of the Control ALT Delete movement appeared in iheartblr.com on the 12th of January 2016. In the interview, Nikhil talks about how the gig has evolved over time, why they moved to Bengaluru and what to expect at the gig.

Click here to read the entire interview.


11 January, 2016

In the Indian Music Diaries Instagram account...

Most of you would have seen my pictures from the Soulmate gig from late last year. One of the pictures of Rudy Wallang that I had clicked was featured in the instagram account of The Indian Music Diaries