21 June, 2016

Guest Column - LBB - Music and Menus


In this article (read here) , I talk about some of the venues in Bangalore that are great for live music (other than the usual suspects) and offer some good food and ale to make your gig experience even better.


Here's a transcript of the article - 


When one thinks of the live music scene in Bangalore, there are certain popular names that come to almost everyone’s mind. The great thing about music is that you don’t need a great big stage with equipment to make it and share it. Get an ordinary acoustic guitar and a harmonica and you’re good to go. And that’s what we’re trying to get in sync with. We’re looking at a few places that probably won’t be among the first names that come to mind when you want to have some good food, ale and check out some great bands.

Church Street Social

Besides being one of the busiest places almost every day of the week, Church Street Social is quite the hub of fun and serious activities such as karaoke night, social offline, vinyl trading and much more. Naturally, music isn’t too far behind with the venue promoting numerous popular international and local electronic and hip hop acts such as Sarah Farina, MADBOY/MINK, Dualist Inquiry and others. With a slightly tight venue and music bouncing off the brick walls, you can’t help but get into the party mood. My favourite poison has been the Bira beer {which will be back in stock soon…fingers crossed} or the Two Lost Souls Swimming in a Fish Bowl cocktail with a plate of the Pork Belly Pops.

Cafe Mezzuna

While the restaurant is known for relatively inexpensive yet scrumptious Continental food such as their Grilled Prawns with Lemon and Basil Sauce, Chilled Watermelon Salad and my favourite, the Grilled Morrocan Lamb chops, the al fresco area sometimes features simple stripped down acoustic bands. The most recent band to have played there was the By2Blues. Throw in some nice cold beer, and you’re all set for the evening.

Toit

While Toit would definitely make to your list of microbreweries, it probably wouldn’t feature in the list of venues for live music. While it’s not exactly built for live acts, Toit has hosted a fair number of bands including namma Bengaluru’s Thermal And A Quarter, Suraj Mani and the Tattva Trip, Peter Cat Recording Company, One Girl Shy and many other bands from the indie scene. Make sure you get there early to grab a good seat, a tall glass of the Toit Tintin with either their chicken wings or any of their pizzas. I’m also a big fan of their Meatball Spaghetti.

Big Pitcher

This is another venue that probably won’t be among the top few when you think of live music, but the venue does offer patrons a healthy mix of DJs and live music from big bands such as the Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate and White Mug. Tuesday nights, known as the Big Jam, has bands fresh to the music scene play here. These include bands like Motorwide, Inception and Mother Root. The venue has also hosted pre-gigs for the hallowed Bangalore Open Air metal gig too. Irrespective of what you eat or drink, do try the Trio Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

The Beer Cafe

Bangalore now has not one, but two Beer Cafes. Newbies on the scene, both venues have not been very aggressive in promoting live acts, and have focussed most of their messaging and branding on beer. That being said, musical acts such as Tea for 2, Anish and Anisha, Mahesh and the Mix and Dirty Work have been some of the more prominent acts to have played at these venues. Beer Café offers you an array of familiar pub food that should please all palates.

Murphy’s Brewhouse

One of the more recent additions to the Bengaluru scene, besides having regular EDM nights over the weekend, Murphy’s has also played host to live music acts like White Mug, Thakara, Thermal Projekt and others. While EDM does seem to be the strongest musical brew in this venue, it’s still got what it takes to bring in live acts to accompany the beer. The Beer Battered Prawns with Carolina Sauce and the Chilli Cheese Finger Toast were my choices the last time I went here, to be paired with the Blackbeard from their beer menu.

20 June, 2016

Food for Seoul – The Korean Food Festival at The Square

The Square at Novotel plays host to Chef Hee-Jin Park and Chef Jong-Man Kim, from Seoul who are bringing some of the traditional flavours of Korea to Bangalore. I was invited last week to try out the fare at The Square. The Korean section occupied a significant portion of the buffet at the restaurant. With numerous varieties of Kimchi (Where would any Korean food festival be without its Kimchi) and some delectable juices made from pumpkin and cranberry respectively, the evening looked promising.

Bibimbap
We kicked off the evening with the Beef in Soya Sauce with Noodles. Like a great opening partnership in cricket, this combination was luscious. The beef was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of gaminess and the combination of spice and soya flavours was perfect. This dish set the bar high for the rest of the evening.

Beef in Soya Sauce with Noodles
While we waited for the rest of the dishes, we were served various meats including calamari, chicken, prawns and fish from the barbeque. While I was honestly hoping for the real deal when it came to the barbeque, where the meats are roasted in a gas or charcoal grill, we had to make do with the regular barbeque. I’ll have to admit that the barbequed meats did not excite me as the marinade hadn’t gone through fully and there were a lot of over-cooked spots on the meat. While the prawns made it past the line in terms of flavour and texture, the rest went largely untouched post the first helping. I was told that there were certain technical problems with the grill which was causing the unevenness. That being said, I was served a rather mouth-watering fish towards the end of the meal. The fish flaked beautifully and had a perfect blend of flavours from the grill and that of the seafood. It flaked perfectly and offered redemption.



The rest of the meal was much more appetizing and flavourful. The simplicity and subtleness of the Fried Rice made this a dish that could be had all by itself and still perfectly complemented all the other sauce-based dishes that followed. It went especially well with the Stir Fried Seafood that was cooked with very familiar Asian flavours. A big tick-mark from the evening was the very comforting and familiar flavours of the Fried Chicken in Spicy Sauce. Very reminiscent of the popular American-Chinese dish - General Tso's chicken, the chicken had a perfect mix of sweet and spicy and made me go back for seconds (and thirds).

Stir Fried Seafood

Fried Chicken in a Spicy Sauce
No Korean meal is complete without Bibimbap. I shared a bowl of the Beef Bibimbap, which was the perfect crescendo to end the meal with. The yolk from the egg blended perfectly with all the vegetables, the meat, the chilli pepper paste and the rice to hit the ball out of the park for this festival.

Bibimbaap
While I was hoping for more Korean(ish) desserts, I grabbed a few little bites from the large dessert section. We were also served a Salted Caramel and a Praline Ice Cream; a thumbs up for the former. Priced at INR 1250 (plus taxes), the food festival is on till the 26th of the month and is offered as a part of both the lunch and dinner buffet. Despite the disappointment with the barbeque, the flavours of the Beef in Soya Sauce with Noodles, the Fried Chicken in Spicy Sauce and the Bibimbap make this a must try festival. I rate the festival 3.5/5.

Chef Park and Chef Kim

PS - Check out Monica with fellow food enthusiast Natasha and I, rocking some aprons Gangnam Style.


19 June, 2016

Coastal Adventures at Monkey Bar

While I've been to the (now erstwhile) Monkey Bar on Wood Street for Sunday breakfast a fair number of times, my visit to the Indiranagar branch to review their on-going Coastal Adventures food festival was my first visit there. The food festival which started a couple of days ago features some of the big flavours from Udupi, Kundapur,  Mangalore and Kerala. While keeping the main flavours intact, the chefs have put their own little spin on every dish with additions of bread or salad to ensure that the festival isn't an 'also ran' food festival.

The afternoon started off with the Southern Fry. This dish consists of batter fried calamari with coconut crusted prawns in a coconut and dried shrimp crumb and is the perfect pub-finger food. With a dash of lime on top, the dish was absolutely comforting and was polished off quite quickly at our table. What was missing for me was perhaps a chutney of some sort. The first cocktail I tried was the Chilli Puli, a spicy salty cocktail of tequila, tamarind paste and green chilli. Probably not the best choice for a relatively empty stomach.





The prawns were followed by a serving of the Kuttari Salad. Mimicking the flavours of Thai-raw papaya salad, this dish comprised of baby spinach, red rice, raw mango, coconut and peanuts, with a very prominent curd pickle on top. I'm not a big fan of red rice, but this salad made me go back for more. With the sourness of the raw mango and crunch of the peanuts with the red rice, this dish was not only texturally appetizing but quite refreshing to eat. The Udipi Beet Cutlets that followed was one of the dishes that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. While the individual elements of the dish, the rava crusted beet cutlet with peas filling, the Kerala paratha and the coconut tamarind ketchup, were good individually; combined together I wasn't able to relish the combination. The cutlets themselves are very similar in taste to the Veg Chop - a favourite of mine from Kolkata. 




We were then served the Kundapur Wings, a dish that comprised of chicken wings tossed with Kundapur ghee roast masala served with sprouted moong kosambri salad. The wings were tender and quite spicy. One was expecting a bit of relief from the coconut, which could have been a bit more prominent, but that never stopped us from going back for more. While the kosambri salad seemed to have been put on the plate to offer relief from the spiciness of the masala, I wasn't too convinced. Call me a wings-purist, but the only accompaniment I like with my wings is a blue-cheese dipping sauce. That being said, lovers of spicy wings should give this one a spin. While we waited for the next dish, I ordered the Soulful Kadhee, a sweet cocktail made from gin, Kokum syrup, tender coconut, curry leaves and lime cordial.




Next up were the Monkee Eggs. Inspired by the more traditional Eggs Benedict, this dish consisted of coriander and black pepper crusted poached egg on puff pastry, with green chutney and a coconut cream hollandaise. The food snob in me was expecting a more runny poached egg, the kind that you cut into the dish and the yolk oozes out and everyone goes 'Aaaahhhh!', but that didn't hold back the dish from becoming my favourite from the afternoon. With the egg cooked almost perfectly, the light yet crunchy puff pastry, the contrasting flavours of the chutney and hollandaise, it was love at first bite. Needless to say, this is a 'must-try' dish.


The Kerela Bao Uttapam was another dish where the individual components of the Kerala-inspired Beef Fry and the Bao Uttapam worked well individually, but I wasn't able to appreciate the combination. We were served the Prawn Ghee Roast. Now don't let the name throw you off, the dish wasn't the traditional ghee roast that one would expect. However, cooked in the Kundapur style and served with garlic toast, the dish packs in quite a punch when it comes to bold spicy flavours. It's the kind of spice that make you want to go back for more (which we did). The fresh crunchy prawns and the gravy with the crunchy garlic toast brought a satisfied smile to my face. 



While we waited for a second serving of the prawns, we tried the KP tacos. Replacing the crunchy taco shell with a flaky Kerala paratha, the filling was a Chettinad styled pulled chicken with black lychen, baby onion salan and garlic pickle, comforting flavours with a twist that worked well. The tacos look deceptively small and are actually quite filling, so keep this for last. We ended the meal with some delightful homely Mangalore buns.



The Coastal Adventures festival began on the 16th of June and goes on till the end of the month. If you're looking for strong flavours, fresh seafood and cocktails to pair with, do head over the Monkey Bar. As far as the price goes, a meal for two without alcohol excluding taxes would cost you INR 1200++, and with alcohol excluding taxes, INR 1800++. I give this festival a 4/5.

18 June, 2016

The Dragon Boat Festival at Yauatcha

A little over a week ago, I was invited to Yauatcha at 1 MG mall in Bangalore (Nope, not the Michelin-starred one in London) to sample and review the fare from their on-going Dragon Boat Festival. The menu is built around Zongzi and is offered with a variety of fillings. For the uninitiated, Zongzi is more popularly known as the sticky rice dumpling - sticky rice stuffed with various fillings and wrapped in a leaf , it is then either steamed or boiled.


While I waited for the first dish to be served, I tried out the Citrus Spritz, a cocktail, on the menu. Combining the flavours of vodka, dry vermouth, lime and Chandon Brut, the cocktail wasn't particularly great. I've never been a big fan of spritzer(ish) cocktails in general; this one didn’t help change my mind. The cocktail was quite bitter, lacked the freshness that one would normally associate with a spritzer and wasn't good when paired with the food that was served.


I started off with the Lamb and Pine Nuts Dumpling, tender lamb with a sweet soya flavour was the plus point of this dish. The pine nuts were soft and offered nothing in terms of flavour or texture. The Pork Belly with Shiitake mushrooms had strong flavours of both ingredients, I do wish the pieces of the pork were larger in size, and would have pushed this dish to the top of my favourites. My favourite for the evening was the Chicken Dumpling that came with Cashew Nuts. While it may the familiarity of the flavours of chicken and cashew when it comes to an Asian meal, this particular dumpling stood out of the pack. I did go back for seconds on this one.



The Chicken and Prawn dumpling was a bit disappointing with the flavour and aroma of the prawn completely taking over the entire dumpling. I personally found this a tad too dry and had to dip it in some chilli sauce to make it a little more palpable. While the prawns themselves were nice and crunchy, the chicken didn’t add any value to the dish. The vegetarian section was a tad disappointing. I had heard great things about the edamame and vegetarian duck dumpling, but found the taste a bit too sweet and the texture quite soapy. The asparagus one wasn't something to write home about.  


Post copious amounts of sticky rice, I was looking forward to some relief in terms of dessert, and that came in the form of the Wine-soaked water chestnut and mango cake with Sauvignon Sorbet. Great presentation on the dish with the sorbet standing out in terms of flavour. The mango cake with the crunchy chocolate base was blissful. While it wasn't something that pushed the boundaries in terms of flavour or innovation, the dessert was comforting and hit all the right places. It is without a doubt, the hero of the festival.




The festival is on till the end of June, and is offered along with the regular menu at Yauatcha. My recommendations would be the Chicken and Cashew Nut Dumpling, followed by the dessert. I give the festival a 2.5/5.

10 June, 2016

The Mango Mailbock at Arbor Brewing Company

I had about 20 mins to spare while at Garuda Mall, so I popped into Arbor Brewing Company India to try out the Mango Mailbock.

My quick review - While the beer lacked the mango aroma of some of the other mango-beers I've had recently, the after taste of mango lingered for a fair bit.I was expecting this fairly malty beer to be on the sweeter side, but it seemed to be held back by the hops. Overall, enjoyed the body, had a lot more expectation of flavour.


Too bad the person behind the bar told me about the mango-themed menu after I had ordered some grub. Going through the menu, I felt the beer and the food might have paired off wonderfully and complemented one another. Look forward to the 'Smoked Summer' (Another mango flavoured beer) which should be out by next week.

Guest Column - Iheartblr.com - Get Healthy with Smoke House Deli

I had written a guest column for iheartblr.com covering the new healthy menu at  Smoke House Deli.

Read the entire post here




Picture Credits - Diarchy on the The Indian Music Diaries

A picture of Diarchy that I had clicked at the IndieMarch 2016 was featured in The Indian Music Diaries.


Guest Column - Deccan Herald - Over a Cup of Tea

Yours truly was quoted in the Deccan Herald Newspaper where I spoke about the new movement around tea and what some of the clubs I know are doing. This appeared on 8th June 2016.


07 June, 2016

Vh1 & The Humming Tree Present: Blackstratblues & By2Blues

After inching through two and a half hours of traffic (why do I bother even talking about this problem any more in B'lore?), I finally made it to the Humming Tree to catch By2Blues opening the evening for one of my favourite bands from Mumbai, Blackstratblues. This is the third time I'm seeing By2Blues play live. This band is a classic example of how you don't need fancy electronics and (no pun intended) all that jazz to put up a good show. Keeping it simple the band had a healthy mix of covers from Eric Clapton, CCR and other crowd favourites along with some own compositions. The band had Shalini Mohan (from Lagori) accompany them on bass; and set the mood perfectly for Blackstrat Blues to take over the rest of the evening.







Starting off proceedings with The Happy Billy Song, Blackstrat Blues had the crowd screaming out requests from the first note. The audience were privy to some new material including a soft ballad titled Northstar which Warren dedicated to the missus; and a very trippy untitled number whose bass a drum riff were absolutely trippy and addictive. I could probably listen to just those two instruments playing that groove in isolation and not be bored. There was also a tribute to SRV and the band’s take on 12-bar blues (Check out my Instagram feed for a sneak peek)







The band powered through popular hits like Anuva's Sky, Folkish Three and The Universe has a Strange Sense of Humour. Having seen Blackstrat Blues perform for the seventh (or eighth ) time, it's very clear to see that the band have become really comfortable with one another, joking around between songs and having a good time playing with one another. Warren Mendonsa himself has become relatively verbose and spent a good amount of time between songs talking to the audience and sharing stories rather than rushing through the name of the song and the occasional thank you. That being said, he should never sing 'Sultans of Swing'. (An inside joke with the band that I didn't quite follow beyond the fact that it had something to do with a gig in Mumbai with Zero)





Talking about how he was inspired by The Beatles' song Here Comes the Sun, Warren moved into the penultimate song of the evening, Ode to a Sunny day followed by a very smooth transition into Renaissance Mission, the last song for the evening. This was yet another stellar gig from the band. Going by all the new material that was played, I’m looking forward to the next album whenever it’s out.