Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Aqua Fest 2013 @ Karavalli, Bangalore

Bangalore has been witnessing this event every year for the past 23 years. A correction - past 22 years and this year; starting 15th November till the 30th November, Karavalli - housed in Taj Gateway and voted as Bangalore’s best coastal restaurant is hosting Aqua Fest 2013.

This festival offers sea food lovers to choose from 18 to 20 types of sea food dishes which are new creations for the festival with one or more likely to make their way into the regular menu. Interacting with Chef Naren who has been with Karavalli for 23 years, we learnt that the fest happens particularly during this time of the year for the very reason that a variety of fresh sea food is easily available during this period.

We were seated outdoors and in front of lay the menu for the evening. It had a listing of delicacies from the western coast of India. In terms of sea food there were 4 types of fish, clams, baby octopus, mud crab and tiger prawns. All of this in appetizers alone! For the mains, we had a prawn curry, a fish curry, Ramaserri idli, coin paratha and more. 

Yes! we ate all of this but it didn't end there. There were desserts too - Bebinca, Banana-Caramel ice cream, dodhol and payasam. 

Yet again, this was not all. We were also served some speciality preparations which were outside of the menu. Surprises in terms of food, food history, facts and knowledge kept springing up again and again over the course of our meal and conversations for nearly 3.5 hours.

What we ate:
The start was customary - A small portion of jaggery was provided to cleanse our palate and prepare it for the fabulous food that was about to arrive.

The appetizers arrived one after the other and we were only mesmerized even more with every passing dish. The stars for me that evening were:

‘Kuttanandan Karuvapila Konju’ – Tiger prawns pan fried with onion, tomato and fresh curry leaves. The ingredients are simple yet when I did dig into this dish, I was literally on a food high. I was just one bite into it and wished to have more of it. Yet, I restrained myself for there was a lot of food coming our way.

‘Kane Jeera Meera’ – Lady fish cooked in masala enhanced with freshly pounded peppers and cumin was outright delicious and succulent. My other favorites included ‘Tissryo Sukke’ – clams cooked in fresh ground coconut and goan spices. I love dishes that exude the sweetness of ingredients and at the the same time how the spices used bring out the contrasting spice flavors.
Lady Fish / Kane Fish
Clams Sukke

Clams were something I ate for the first time and so is the next dish ‘Octopus Uppumunchi’. My first time at it, I loved the texture which was very similar to calamari or squid rings. While the preparation was fabulous, the others were in all praise of the chef for the cooking, tenderness and the flavor just expressed the finesse of the Chef.

There was more fish – ‘Syrian Meen Roast’; kingfish marinated with Syrian masala and grilled. Shallots brought in a mild sweetness to the otherwise masaledar preparation.

There was also stir fried mud crab meat tossed with pepper, chili, butter and more. This was served in a crab shell and is called ‘ Caranguejos Pimento Fritto’. Though this was nice, I would have enjoyed it better if there was more crab meat in it. A mention of this to chef Naren and he brought out a really fascinating fact in no way trying to justify the preparation – Crabs during full moon nights tend to have lesser meat content for it is their mating season.

‘Fish Albardado’ – A fillet of pomfret deep fried with a coating of egg, onion and goan masala drew the least attention. Not that it was bad, in fact the preparation was really simple, and the fish was super fresh but all the other preparation over shadowed this simple dish.

We were not done with our meal yet. Our mains arrived – Tiger prawns in curry; a specialty of the fisher’s island of Vypeen , Kochi, Kerala and the classic fish curry of Mangalore. Both these curries were eaten in the company of Ramasseri idli (specialty of Ramasseri a small village near Palakad) and coin paratha.

We were also served ‘Shevai Ani Refogado’ a preparation of mixed sea food with Shevai or string hoppers. This was mildly flavored to allow the natural flavor of the seafood to come alive.

In desserts, we were served, Bebinca, Dodhol, Elaneer Payasam and the show stopper Banana-Caramel ice cream. Do not give those looks.. Actually, even I did when I was first told that it is ‘Banana-Caramel ice cream’. Believe me, when I and the rest of us ate it; we wished it did not finish. I loved it so much that the chef has promised to bring me this ice cream before and after my meal at Karavalli every time I visit. Do I need to say more?

The ambiance here is fabulous; food is served in copper banana leaf shaped plates with of course a banana leaf laid on it. Having read Natasha’s blog, I completely second what she has written on her blog, “We were high on food; alcohol was neither served nor was it missed. Aqua Fest 2013 Preview night was just not to be missed.” I too recommend that you do not miss this opportunity to dine at Karavalli between the 15th to the 30th November; the duration through which the Aqua Fest 2013 is on. To really have a great experience and savor the most you can in one sitting, this restaurant is best visited in a larger group.

A meal for 2 at Karavalli will cost an average of Rs. 2500 plus taxes and charges and each penny is justified for the food (seafood), ambiance, service and the overall experience.

Quick Tips:
Do not miss the Aqua Fest 2013. It is on only until 30th November 2013.

Go in a group.

Go for – an experience of India’s western coast on your plate, banana-caramel ice cream

Address: Ground Floor, Gateway, Hotel No. 66, Residency Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 6660 4545


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

New Cocktails at LikeThatOnly, Bangalore

Are you in mood for some cocktails?

Walk into a pub or a bar; look up their menu or ask the bartender for recommendations on cocktails and you will be given an array of options which include the likes of Mojitos, Bloody Mary, margaritas, martinis, Mai Tai, variations of island ice teas etc.

Cocktail Lovers, “bored of these; aren’t we?” Don’t we need some innovation on the drinks being sent out of the bar just as we see in the food being sent out of the kitchens?

Well, then how about going to a place that is really willing to innovate and stir up with some really fabulous, interesting and exciting new concoctions?

A place does exist… You don’t believe me? Okay, let me tell you “don’t be surprised if you are recommended ‘Misty Morning’ or ‘LTO Tom Yum’ or ‘The Bath Tub Special’ and so on. You still don’t believe me? Then, read on -

‘LikeThatOnly’ – the fun Asian Bar and Restaurant in Whitefield is known to focus on innovation right from its kitchen to behind its bar counter. Comes as no surprise, ‘LikeThatOnly’ recently introduced some signature and luxury cocktails to their already innovative cocktail menu. I was really excited to receive an invitation to the sun downer preview of the new cocktail and short eats menu.

Flight of Cocktails
If I was asked at the end of the cocktail tasting session I wouldn't have been able to give an answer to - “How many cocktails did I try that evening?” But now, I’m sober and say, “It was 7 new tantalizing cocktail concoctions.” An evening that involved a lot of drinking started on a note (well, not literally) which I noticed on a glass coaster ‘Enjoy Responsibly’

Actually, we started on a sweet note with ‘Misty Morning’ our first cocktail for the evening stirred up. It is a vodka based drink with lychee giving it the prime flavor and a hint of flavor from the rose petals. If you like sweet cocktails then this has to be your drink. To me, it wouldn't be my first choice.

Some of the crowd favorites that evening were the ‘Grape and Goat Cheese Martini’, ‘The Bath Tub Special’ and ‘LTO Tom Yum’.

Yes, ‘Grape and Goat Cheese Martini’ – again a vodka based drink (not gin) which involved the use of wine infused grapes and goat cheese as its ingredients. This was served to us in a martini glass with a swirl of goat cheese on its interiors. I loved this concoction not only for its flavor and balance but also the creamy texture of the drink; thanks to the goat cheese.

‘The Bath Tub Special’ captured special attention. This was a really refreshing cocktail made with gin, cucumber and orange at the heart of its concoction. A sip of this and I could only recollect an age old idiom ‘cool as a cucumber’.

Now this is another example that just reemphasizes the importance of innovation from behind the bar counter at LTO. It has to be the ‘LTO Tom Yum’. Yes, ‘Tom Yum’ but not the soup, it’s a vodka based cocktail shaken with fresh pomegranate and tamarind. Now why the name – ‘Tom Yum’? Well, that’s because of the secret infusion in the vodka that I’m not sure if I can let out.

While the above qualify as my favorites, the ‘Basil Bliss’ and ‘LTO House Passion’ didn’t fail to please at all. ‘Basil Bliss’ is a rum based cocktail which is shaken with fresh pineapple, sweet and sour mix and as the name suggests; basil. This cocktail has a mild flavor and is very easy on the palate.

‘LTO House Passion’ gets its name from the use of passion fruit that is grown in the garden at ‘LikeThatOnly’. So yes, this mix is a fruity drink with fresh watermelon and passion fruit shaken with vodka. Unlike ‘Basil Bliss’; this drink had a really strong flavor of the passion fruit which tasted good but seemed like an overdose over the course of the drink.

A perfect end to a food course is usually a dessert. Likewise, ‘Muddy River’ which I’d classify as a desert cocktail was served to us. It came as a glass nearly filled with crushed ice, Kahlua and Baileys poured over it, then topped with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream and finally with a drizzle of chocolate shaving. I love coffee and needless to say, I so loved this drink too.

Short Eats
One way to ‘Enjoy Responsibly’ is to eat well before and while you drink. It is said, “One tends to drink less with distractions like food, games, etc.”

We were served an array of short eats from their menu. Here is a pictorial review of some of the food dishes that I absolutely loved –
Spicy Lamb Bao - A perfect balance of spicy lamb filling in a mildly sweet casing of steamed bun
Pork Belly on Skewers - Deliciousness on a stick
Stuffed Mushroom Oshitashi
Coconut Prawns in Spicy Mayo - Lovely medley of textures from the crunchy coconut, fresh prawns & the creamy mayo
The other dish that I absolutely loved and couldn't resist myself from was the fried crispy squid; so much so that I do not even have a picture to share.

Events & Offers
There are a plenty for those who believe in work hard and play hard. How? Every evening, between 5PM and 8PM you can head to ‘LikeThatOnly’ for ‘Second Shift’ to enjoy innovative concoctions at special discounts.

Also, the weekends get even closer with the I’LTO – ‘I’LikeThursdayOnly’ every Thursday, from 7 to 11:30 PM.  It’s a time when cocktail lovers can sip and enjoy the classic and innovative cocktails and the new short eats menu in the company of signature music from the 80’s.

Address: #14/31A, Hagadur Road, Whitefield, Bangalore 560066
Landmark: Behind Forum Value Mall
Phone Number: +91 80 6547 5610