Friday, 25 July 2014

Food, Technology and #WhatTheBlack

The advent of technology has given this world a whole new dimension. The world has become a much smaller place to live in. It is due to technology viz. internet, personal computer, etc that I have been able to venture into this space called 'Blog'.

My blog Review Of Restaurants is one of the medium I use to express my passion for food and share good experiences in the dining space; be it in my very own city or through my travel escapades. Food is getting a lot of attention from me and so is technology. The later has only been getting better with each passing day and so is its contribution in my life.

Dining experiences become memorable due to various factors and one such factor that I lay emphasis on today is 'Color'. Imagine food being colorless or may be just black and white! Let's get more specific, imagine this lovely 'Lemon Cake' in the shade of just black and white (actually more black than white)
Lemon Cake - Color
Lemon Cake - Black & White

Today, experiences can be shared live in the form of tweets, posts, images etc. It's technology that helped me convert the color image to a black and white. Coincidentally, the software I used to do so also has a black background color.

This post is all about food, technology and color. To me food and technology make great partners and the color I am specifically speaking about today is 'Black'. Food space is getting busier and so is the technology space and with each passing day it provides better:
Portability and convenience
Performance and speed
Travel experience

Black is a color of importance and I have always been affectionate towards it. It's a color that cannot be ignored and so are the 5 products that are black in color. Yes, these are the very 5 products that are on my wish-list to have:

Connectivity: A new iPhone (5S or newer) - Color 'Black'
"You are more powerful than you can think... ", says the tag line of this product from Apple Inc. iPhone is a beautifully crafted phone with quality standards that are a benchmark in the industry. A new iPhone is expected to be announced in a month or so with a larger screen, better hardware and even richer in its feature set. This phone is expected to come with iOS 8 which only aims to take the user experience to a whole new height.

As a phone communication device, a larger screen, better processor and hardware, new features this phone is surely on my wish list and is a definitive way to connect food and technology.

Portability & Convenience: iPad Air 'Black'
An iPad Air is a product that looks beautiful in black. It's chick and sleek and perfectly fills the product space right between an iPhone and a laptop. While an iPhone is really handy and portable, it meets my need to stay in touch over the phone. On the other hand is a laptop that comes with space and weight issues.

So right in between is an iPad Air that is highly portable, convenient, light and makes for a perfect travel accessory. With applications like pages, numbers, adobe photoshop etc. it's easier to work on an iPad which has a much larger screen than an iPhone. Now you know why this forms a part of my wish list.

Performance and speed: Mac Pro - Color 'Black':
Okay! I admit, I am a great fan of Apple products. Why not! it creates a great synergy across various products. Like the portable devices iPhone and an iPad in wish-list, Mac Pro comes in black and with a beast of an engine it fits the bill of a work station. Perfect for high end video making, photo editing and more this work space provides a performance that's nothing short of spectacular.

The seamless connectivity and communication between Apple devices is truly a benchmark and makes managing data and resources even easier.

Travel: A Black SUV:
The world has been getting better of technology in terms of travel as well. Cars introduces way back in history were mere modes of transport from one place to another. Now, in addition to its mere utility, cars help create both experience and wonderful memories. Likewise, a holiday should be nothing short of fun, leisure, luxury and anything that makes its memorable.

What we wish to do and also excites us the most about travel is the fun of driving around and exploring destinations by road. Coincidentally, we love SUV's and what's better that having a black Honda CRV or Audi Q7.

Entertainment: Sony PlayStation 4 - Color 'Black'
Games are the best way to learn. One gets to learn team work, art of winning, accepting a loss and a lot more. Video games are fun and it all began for me with a Nintendo handheld in my childhood days, followed by Media Little master, Sony PlayStation 2 and then Nintendo Wii. They are a great source of entertainment and a wonderful stress buster.

Coming in black, I tried my hand at the PS4 console at of of the Sony Center and find Play Station 4 is high on graphics, game play and what interests me most is the internet gaming features. Looking forward to grab a console soon.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Food Festival: Colorful Flavors of Chettinad @ Dakshin, ITC Windsor, Bangalore

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Chettiar - a successful business community from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu are a social community that specializes in the preparation of food. High on spice and aromas, use of traditional spices to bring in the flavors and distinct colors to each preparation, famous for their meat preparations (comprising of mostly chicken, lamb and a variety of seafood) is my way of describing the cuisine that is gaining a lot of popularity. 

It is true - Food is an expression of flavors, colors, love, culture and more. One such dining experience I had a few days ago was at the ongoing food festival 'Colorful Flavors of Chettinad' being hosted by Dakshin - a quintessential South Indian restaurant at ITC Windsor, Bangalore. This festival, on till 31st July is a great way to experience the cuisine and its flavors. Though high on spice, Dakshin is known to cater to the diners palate and tune the levels of spice based on preference yet maintaining high emphasis on flavors and authenticity. 

We were guided to our table and as we took seat, I looked around to see most tables occupied with foreign nationals. As a tradition of Dakshin, women here are welcomed with Jasmine (Mallige / Mogra etc in different parts of the country) flowers. 

A special a-la carte menu has been crafted specially for this food festival and includes the classics and signature dishes that represent the cuisine. Presenting quite an elaborate listing for a food festival; right from starters, mains and accompaniments to dessert, there is enough for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. I couldn't wait more to get started and when it did, I was clueless of where it would stop.

For those who relate to South Indian cuisine as not more that idli, vada, dosa, chutney and sambar; you've got to visit this restaurant to get a real feel of the diverse food that South India has to offer. To get a feel of the kind of experience you will have, continue to read on as I take you on a food journey through the region of Chettinad. 

What We Ate:
Our start was with assorted poppadoms, mini banana dosai and 4 different types of chutneys. Each chutney distinct in flavor and color. This a customary start to the food on every table at Dakshin and forms a good company as we wait for our food to arrive.
Chutneys (L to R): Tomato Pachdi, Coconut chutney, Mint chutney and Tomato & Peanut chutney

Settu Soup was the first to arrive - A lentil based broth made with tomatoes and cauliflower, this soup was rich in spices and got a lot of its flavor from the use of peppercorns. Nice and hot, this was indeed a good start to the chettinad cuisine.

For starters it was 'Kuzhi Paniyaram'; dumplings of rice and urad dal batter seasoned and tempered with mustard, onions and green chilies, cooked in paniyaram moulds and 'Sundiah' - lovely shredded lamb ball cooked in a blend of special spices, caged in banana stem fibers and deep fried. Both were excellent but my preference tilts towards the delicious 'Sundiah' for its subtle flavors and perfect tenderness. Accompany this with the fabulous tomato-chili chutney and it is a melange of flavor.
Kuzhi Paniyaram

Mains was an absolute feast - both in terms of flavor and spread. Starting clockwise from the bottom, on my plate was 'Malabar paratha', 'Chettinad Kozhi', 'Keerai Kadayal', 'Vella Poriyal', 'Attukal Kari', 'Meen Kozhambu', 'Chettinad Chops' and 'Kozhi Tharakkal' right in the center. Do you want to picture that? Okay.. Here you go - 

Dining on this table was an absolute feast to each of the senses. 'Attukal Kari'; a lamb curry was rich in both texture and flavor. The chettinad spices brought out a wonderful aroma and the boneless lamb chunks in this dish were tender and juicy. 'Meen Kozhambu' was a tangy fish curry and a perfect example of exquisite flavors and perfectly cooked fish. 
Meen Kozhambu

In vegetarian, between 'Keerai Kadayal' - tempered spinach curry and 'Kaikari Mandi' - a combination of vegetables in a gravy of tamarind, chilis, and garlic tempered with mustard and curry leaves, my pick will be the latter for its sweet and tangy flavor. This flavor was quite unique and beautifully showcased the diversity of flavor in Chettinad preparations.
Kaikari Mandi

There was more on the non-vegetarian front - 'Kozhi Tharakkal' a semi-dry chicken dish with tomato and ground cashew as the base. This was mild, subtle and delicious in flavor. 

The highlight in terms of spice for the evening came from the 'Chettinad Kozhi and chops'. Kozhi is chicken and chops - of course lamb chops. High on spice and flavor both these preparations were wonderful and went very well as both a side; all by itself or in mains with the Malabar paratha. 

We were served Malabar paratha and Appam to go with the mains. Malabar paratha was flaky and soft. Looks like Dakshin can never go wrong with this. I say this recalling a memory of lunch with the famous American Chef - Christopher Koetke who needed no time to fall in love with their paratha. Appam was nice too and made for a good pairing with the fish curry. 

There was rice as well but I was so stuffed for this evening that I had no space even for desserts. in fact a very rare scene - I had non-vegetarian food left in my plate. Yet, going by the feedback from the table, I did give it a try and glad I did. It was 'Aadikkumayam', an urad dal based sweet and 'Kavani Arisi', a pudding made sweetened wild rice and coconut. The former was really rich in consistency and quite sweet on the palate. For those who like mild sweetness, it is the 'Kavani Arisi' that will shine.
L: Aadikkumayam; R: Kavani Arisi

The menu for 'Colorful flavors of Chettinad' - a food festival is available till the end of this month. An average meal for two will cost around Rs. 3500 plus taxes and charges. This dining experience is definitely memorable for each dish served is so distinct from each other and really appeals to the taste buds. 

I must tell you, "ITC Windsor takes its food and hospitality very seriously and I can say this from the numerous visits I have made to this elegant hotel." For this food festival specifically, wild rice for instance has been imported all the way from Europe into the kitchen of Dakshin to make the 'Kavani Arisi' dessert.
L: Wild Rice; R: Kavani Arisi

Quick Tips:
Go experience the extravagance of Chettinad on a plate in a setting that is very welcoming and hospitality that will have you coming back for more. 

Address: Dakshin, ITC Windsor, 25 Windsor Square, Golf Course Road, Near Sankey Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 2226 9898

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Event Alert!!! Citi Chef's Table Week 2014 is Back, Bangalore

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It's that time of the year when Citi Chef's Table Week makes a comeback. This week long festival features Chef's 6 course tasting menu at 10 of the city's (Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi finest restaurants. This format works wonderfully as it not only facilitates you to savor the signature dishes from Chef's kitchen but also prevents you from the hassle of deciding what to order. Of course your dietary preferences are well cared about.

Citi Chef's Table Week is a dinner only event and will be on from the 14th to 20th July. Reservations open on 9th July and guess what? It is 9th July meaning, reservations are Now Open.

One cuisine just doesn't work for me and it is a joy to see the diversity of cuisines on offer which is evident from the restaurant listing. What's also nice is that I have visited 5 of the participating restaurants and each of them cover a very distinct cuisine ranging from Italian to my West, Indian/Lucknowi at the epicenter to Japanese on the extreme East. Here's sharing with you a list of participating restaurants from Bangalore that I have visited:

1. Blue Ginger, Taj West End
Having celebrated its 10th anniversary this Vietnamese restaurant is known not just for it's ambiance, service and food but also for holding the title of being the oldest Vietnamese restaurant of India. I have been here a couple of times and undoubtedly this restaurant figures as my best Vietnamese dining experience. 

Leaving you with some images from my dining experience here and also a link to the reservations page.

2. Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs, ITC Windsor
A power house of indulgence, exquisiteness, extravagance and elegance, Dum Pukht Jolly Nabobs is an experience to be lived. Serving the finest of the Lucknowi cuisine in a setting that's  unmatched thus far, Chef's Table Week is a perfect time to make a visit to this restaurant that is housed in ITC Windsor Hotel.

Again, some images from my dining experience here and also a link to the reservations page.

3. Edo, ITC Gardenia
Edo the fabulous Japanese restaurant at ITC Gardenia is an institution of sorts for Japanese cuisine. The resident master chef 'Sensai Kikuta San' lays high emphasis on procuring ingredients fresh and of the highest quality and this emphasis is clearly evident from its taste. The interiors here are really simple yet very elegant and make for a wonderful dining experience. Japanese food paired with their tradition drink 'Sake' only completes the experience of dining at Edo. I cannot think of a better time to make a visit to this restaurant.

4. Ottimo - Cuicina Italiana, ITC Gardenia
Translating to 'Excellent' in english, Ottimo is the most recent restaurant offering from ITC Hotels in Bangalore. Resident Chef Vittorio Greco of Italy, takes centre stage in the kitchen of Ottimo. Inclined towards traditional Italian cuisine, Chef Greco at Ottimo offers a rare fusion of traditional Italian with emphasis on both nutrition and fresh ingredients which are sourced both locally and internationally. While maintaining simplicity and keeping food at its authentic best, plating of food at Ottimo is exquisite and in true sense signifies 'food porn'. 

Leaving you with some images from my dining experience here and also a link to the reservations page.

Yauatcha, 1 MG Mall
A London based dim-sum tea house serves up the finest dim-sums I have had thus far. Be it their Chicken and Prawn Shui Mai, Crispy Prawn Cheung fun, Crispy Duck Rolls, mains, or the Raspberry Delice for dessert - This place has stolen my heart. 

Leaving you with some images from my dining experience here and also a link to the reservations page.

What I look forward to from this event is being able to visit at least one of the remaining 5 restaurants that I have not paid a visit so far:

Alba, JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru
For me, it has been Italian cuisine for quite a long time. Having eaten this cuisine extensively I only geo fonder of the same with every passing day. I'm definitely spoiled for choice and am only curious now to see if Alba; housed in JW Marriott on Lavelle road makes it tougher for me? Yes, it is a speciality restaurant of one of the worlds most famous cuisines - Italian and here's the page I'd go to for a reservation.

Oko, The Lalit Ashok
Off lateA Pan-Asian restaurant close to home is nestled on the roof top of The Lalit Ashok. The food and ambiance are much spoken about and is on my list of places to visit.

Rim Naam, The Oberoi
Known to be one of the oldest Thai restaurants in Bangalore, Rim Naam is not only famous for its delicious and mouthwatering food but also very popular for its alfresco dining set up. If you love Thai food, Rim Naam is surely a name that instantly rings the bell. If you wish to reserve the table I'm sure you know where to click.

Riwaz, The Ritz-Carlton
On my wish list? Of course it is. The food of the North-Western Frontier has always intrigued me. It has the appeal to get me hungry even after a really satisfying meal. Is it because of my love for food or the character of this cuisine? I don't know myself. Anyway, Riwaz at the much spoken about The Ritz-Carlton serves up exactly the cuisine being spoken about. Looks like now's the time to make a visit.

Zen, The Leela Palace
I've been to Citrus at Leela a couple of times and en route to Citrus have spotted this wonderful looking restaurant that serves Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean cuisines in a setting that is heavenly. A restaurant that needs no introduction, is a place I look forward to visit and experience the goodness that has been doing the buzz. 

This specially crafted tasting menu is on offer at Rs. 2000 plus taxes and charges in Bangalore at each of the above restaurants only from 14 July to 20th July, 2014.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A Maharashtrian Gem in Bangalore - Suryawanshi

Twitter: @nkandhari     Facebook: Review Of Restaurants     Instagram: Review Of Restaurants 

Rewinding back in time to August last year, I was introduced to Maharashtrian food by my cousin in Nagpur. Technically speaking, it was an introduction to one of the cuisines called Saoji cuisine; specific to the Saoji community. Known for its simple but really spicy non-vegetarian food, I was in love with it the very moment I got my hands on it. So more about it in another blog post.

Returning from the past to the present, I was quite excited when I heard the buzz in social media about the opening of a restaurant that served Maharashtrian food. What I was even happier to hear was that, "It is located in Whitefield very close to Satya Sai Hospital." Well, that's where my office is which means, I could walk from work to this restaurant for lunch. Going by this thought, I headed to this restaurant a fortnight ago with a colleague from work.  

The owner mentioned the food was specific to Kolhapuri cuisine. The menu is quite nice and presents options to diners in the form of thalis. So going by the obvious, the menu had a lot of thali options to choose from for the non-vegetarians like a solo or gala chicken thali, gala chicken and mutton thali, splendid gala mutton thali to name a few. The vegetarians on the other hand have a very limited listing to choose from. 

Apart from the thalis, the menu at Suryawanshi also offers an a-la carte selection of individual dishes that come as a part of either of the thalis. In all, if you are a non-vegatarian you might loose you way into the menu for the sheer variety that is on offer.

What We Ate:
We started with vegetarian and I must tell you, this was the only vegetarian dish on our table post which we feasted on non-vegetarian food all through. Why the exception? Of course, it is the popular or celebrated Maharashtrian dish - 'Misal Pav'. Needs no introduction, this was a good way to start. Misal was well spiced and came with buttered pav, chopped onion, lime and a small cup of curd. The curd acting as a nice coolant. This was shared between the two of us and we were glad we did.

Soon arrived 'Seer fish fry' which is bought by the owner himself only if he is satisfied with the quality and freshness factor. Clearly evident as we dug into it, the fish was well spiced and shallow fried in a pan. It was cooked to a nice moist consistency with the freshness evident from the moist yet flaky texture. My friend a Mangalorean; who know his fish well was quite happy and content with this dish. Served up with lime and sliced onion, the only thing I missed to keep this company was a mug of chilled beer. Needless to say, I loved it too.

As we consumed the fish, two lunch thali arrived. The fried mutton thali comprised of chapathis, Kolhapuri fried mutton, mutton curry, egg curry, Tambda rassa, Pandhra rassa, Sol Kadhi, masala rice and a slice of onion and lime. 

Both Kolhapuri fried mutton and the mutton curry were delicious at its best. Do not get deceived at the start of you meal on the spice levels as they do get on to you slowly. I enjoyed every bit of it. Both fried mutton and mutton curry are best eaten with the chapatis served. The masala rice is best enjoyed with tambda rassa while Pandhra can be consumed as a soup. Sol Kadhi acted as a coolant for all the heat generated through the spice levels in the dishes presented as a part of the thali. Describing the thali in a word - 'Scrumptious'
Mutton Fry
Mutton Curry
Tambda and Pandhra rassa are unlimited and make for a delicious drink all through the meal. Tambda is a spicy red curry made with mutton stock, red chilies and more while pandhra is a more soothing curry made again with mutton stock, cinnamon, coriander and coconut milk. While both were delicious and rich in flavor coming from the mutton stock, I enjoyed Tambda rassa for its higher spice levels. Pandhra and Sol kadhi worked by provide the much needed cooling to bring down the heat level from Tambda rassa.

Another thali on the table was the fully loaded 'Splendid gala mutton thali'. Similar to the 'Fried Mutton Thali', the only difference being egg curry was not a part of this thali. Instead, there was another mutton dish - Mutton Keema. Loaded with all goodness of mutton,  this is a thali for a true mutton lover with an appetite.

In between the first visit and posting this review, I visited this place again and this time I tried the 'Gala chicken and mutton thali'. This thali comes will a delicious chicken gravy, the ever lovely mutton curry and the usual like egg curry, Tambda rassa, Pandhra rassa, Sol Kadhi, masala rice and a slice of onion and lime. The chicken was very well cooked and succulent. It went very well with the spicy gravy it came in and was a delight to eat with the chapatis served.

With 2 visits made thus far to Suryawanshi, I have enjoyed every bit of the meal here and I know there are going to be many more visits. The ambiance is really simple with nothing much to write about. Located on the 2nd floor of Santosh towers very close to Sathya Sai Hospital, this place surely is a delight for the non-vegetarians.

The egg thali starts at Rs. 110, the chicken and mutton thalis start at Rs 210 and go up to Rs. 370 which is the cost of a fully loaded 'Splendid Gala Mutton Thali'. The meal here is definitely full filling and satisfying. 

Quick Tips:
If you love Maharasthrian food, this is the place to visit in Bangalore and if you haven't tried this cuisine yet, Suryawanshi is the place I'd recommend you to visit. 

PS: I'm in love with this cuisine and would like to explore more of it in Bangalore until I make a travel to Maharashtra. If you know of places in Bangalore to visit for Maharashtrian food, do drop in a comment below.

Address: 2nd Floor, Santosh Tower, EPIP Industrial Area, Whitefield, Bangalore 560066
Landmark: Near EPIP Busstop
Phone Number: +91 97380 19048