Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Punjabi Experience @ Punjab Grill

I was invited to taste the Signature dishes at Punjab Grill which is known for serving exotic North Indian dishes. I had been here earlier at least a couple of times and really loved the food here. Given that this was another opportunity for me to taste the food at one of the best restaurants in town, I definitely was not going to miss the chance.

Located near the famous Forum Mall, this place offers valet parking which is a boon given the very location itself. I’m particular about the ambiance in fine dine restaurants and this place didn’t disappoint. The ambiance was really good with ample spacing between tables which was well complemented with lighting and décor adding elegance and class.

You would expect great service from places such as Punjab Grill and I was not disappointed. The staff greeted me at the entrance and led to my table and served me through my meal with a warm smile. A brownie point here.

I was offered a choice of welcome drinks and I picked fruit punch and a Paan-flavoured mocktail. Both these drinks were exotic appetising me for the next course.

I was handed over the menu listing out the Signature Dishes and it looked like I was having a feast with one of the best and choicest Punjabi Food and going by my past experience it would be cooked to perfection. The first to arrive was the Paneer Tikka Multani - Tandoor panner with herbs and then came the Beetroot Peanut Tikki. I must admit that I consider Beetroot as a Salad Veggie and here I was devouring the Tikki. With the Peanut mix it was just amazing. Surely had the second helping. Now their speciality Dahi ke Kebabs are melt-in-the-mouth one-of-a-kind of dish. It had hung curd along with some spices making it a mixture of sourness as well as some spice. Kinda different. The Chicken Malai Tikka was out of the world. The chicken just melted in the mouth. Extremely rich with malai which I really loved. I don’t eat red meat so skipped the mutton starter but going by the way my friends ate looked that it was equally good. Next to follow was the Tandoori Pomfret. Well cooked with a blend of spices and the presentation making it even more inviting. Each of the starter was a handpicked and cooked to perfection.

The Main course was the their Makki ki Rot and Laccha Parathas with Sarson Da Saag and Daal Makhani along with Murg Lababdar and Raarhya Meat. The Raarhya meat did look inviting and though I don’t eat red meat I could not help but take a dig. It was yummy. The Sarson Da Saag was really very very good. The dal was cooked traditionally and with dollops of butter making it truly wonderful.

I am not really a desserts guy but the Rum Flambéed Gulab Jamun made me take more than a bite of it. A combination of gulab jamuns that are covered with rum and then set aflame at the table. As you dig into it you get the taste of some chocolate which makes it even more yummy. I also tried their Kulfi Falooda.

Coming as a conclusion, is totally worth the money. The food is really good and not to mention the Service which was impeccable. Ever ready to help and serve and check on the food for any feedback. Would I be visiting them again … Well surely.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Kabab Studio - Unique Dining Experience

Last week I had a chance to visit this place and what  I thought initially as just another kabab joint turned out to a a unique dining experience by itself and made our Saturday  night something to be remembered.

The Kabab Studio has a lot to offer in its menu and surely there is something for everyone. Located near the Bangalore Race Course and near Shivananda Circle, this place is quite nostalgic for me as I was a regular to restaurants in this vicinity during my college and initial working days.  It is on the Terrace Floor of Goldfinch Hotel.  

Upon arrival we were greeted and led to our seat.  The interiors were quite catchy with dark colours being the choice for the décor. The seating is quite comfortable and quite contemporary in style, also giving a good view of the kitchen too.  The food is laid out at the centre with the Green and Red coloured lids to indicate the Veg and Non Veg. Novel thought....

Once we settled down, the staff explained us the menu as well as the ingredients of each dish with the spice levels.  I was actually impressed by this and also helped us to choose what we wanted to eat as the menu was quite elaborate too. The place had live music with songs from the yesteryears being sung which added some entertainment. 

The drinks was something which I looked forward to as the presentation was quite unique as well as the mixes quite right.  The Smoking Martini, to Pinacollada to Spicy Guava, Virgin Mojito was just wow.  The presentation was a killer which made us wait for the next drink as the thought on how it would be presented kept us excited .  Each Cocktail had a unique blend of the flavours and just right  The spicy Guava drink (mocktail) was a bit too spicy for my liking.

With this unique presentation, the repeat drinks order was quite obvious. The presentation makes us kind of wonder how would the next drink be presented.  Yes that was the excitement which made us order a few more.

The grill is placed on the centre of the table and we had the panneer tikka, murgh malai tikka, mushroom, fish.  All just right and had six variety of sauces/dips like chilly, mint, garlic, sweet tomato etc.  Loved it with the dips.  There were some chaats and Dahi puri was one which stood out.  

The main course was quite a huge spread with a good choices for salads too.  I really loved the tossed salad and the chicken salad.  The main course though not a huge spread by itself it was just right.  Some of my personal favourites were on the menu (Thai Green curry). The rotis and butter nans were served on the table. Served not in the traditional way but in a mini truck.  Some thoughts have been put on the presentation.  Yes, it does go a long way.

The rotis were crisp and nan had a dollop of butter. The basil noodles was very soft and nice.  I was in love with the Thai Green Curry which I had with some plain rice.  The starters and the chaats had actually made us full and we needed to have the desserts too.


So the options are like Indo Chinese with a dash of Italian which kind of suits me.     Would have loved to taste the biryani, the aroma of which was very inviting but save some space for the desserts.

Desserts :  The desserts section itself was a bit different with rabdi and Kiwi cheese cake being the highlights and of course the ice cream with Oreo was also equally good.  We did have a repeat of the rabdi.  

Conclusion :  I had a great time and the food was wonderful .  Service was very good with both Ram (Chef) and Vikas (Bar) making sure that were served well and explaining us in detail about the cuisine.  What more could I ask for.

I would definitely recommend this. 

PS :It can get quite crowded on weekends so advance table bookings are recommended

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Authenticity and Simplicity - A Coringa Experience

There is something about Coringa the restaurant which has made me write this blog even though I don’t necessarily write about one particular restaurant.  This has been on my wish list for a very long time but just that the drive to the place made me think twice.  Infact some of my fellow foodies were giving rave reviews about the restaurant and to such an extent that I started recommending it to my friends and colleagues  without actually visiting the place and none of them complained but were very happy that they visited it.
One fine day I got a few fellow foodies and decided to try this out.  Off we went on a Saturday and the long drive was indeed tiring.  We reached at around 1 and were a bit taken aback at the interiors.

Coringa is located on the Roof Top with the bare minimal décor.  The dining area is huge and well complemented by the open kitchen.  Bamboo dining tables accompanied by bamboo chairs give it a typical dhabha look and may not appeal to many of us.  Well now that we had reached we were seated.  Slowly but surely the ambiance gets into you with the cool breeze as well as the view you begin to enjoy.  This was evident as all of us (4) were discussing on how we liked the simplicity.    Being a Mangalorean myself, I was feeling like as if I was in one of the restaurants that are located in the Western Ghats.  These are some lovely moments that I enjoy during my drive down to Dakshin Kannada.   The restaurants there have bare minimal décor and people go there for the food. 

We were given Rasam as the welcome drink followed by lime drink.  The rasam was more of a cooler to help you gear up for the gluttony that follows.  People from Mangalore would draw comparison that generally rasam rice is the start followed by the full course meal. 

Generally Andhra food is associated with spice, which to a certain extent is true but it does have some tasty fare which can be less spicy and that too vegetarian.  In Bangalore, Andhra food is associated with spice, biryani and ofcourse the meals.   Here it was different.  Totally different.  We were now about to experience some culinary delights which I would say was really something which any foodie would relish.  For the starters, the Arbi Fry (Chama Dumpa Vepudu), stuffed Karela to Baby Seer Fish.  All amazing and cooked to perfection.  A lot of discussions were on about the food the source of ingredients as well as the recipe which was very interesting to say the least.  We were also informed that the name of the restaurant itself was derived from a name of a place.  Coringa being a place or a village in East of Andhra.  Yes it is a little known fact.  Now, back to the food, some of the starters were quite unique which made our outing even more interesting as for me it was a trip down the memory lane as I remember we used to like all the simple food cooked by grandma.  Yes the food itself took me to a trip down them memory lane.  

To top of it all  there was Dibba Rotti.  This is something which people should try and though we have a similar variant in Mangalore, but this was even better.  To be had with Jaggery and chutney this was really very good.  The crispyness of the outer layer followed by soft inner layer made it something very good to eat. 


No Andhra meal would be complete without eating rice and we did order the biryani, some Andhra Pappu dal with plain rice along with Kandi Podi rice.  All of them amazing.  The spice was at the right quantity with the meat cooked to perfection to ignite your taste buds. 

I must highlight a fact here that the vegetarians would not be disappointed with this joint.  There is ample choice here and for the meat lovers the menu is quite exhaustive too.  After while and eating so much that we were stuffed we decided to pause a bit before we ordered the dessert. We ended the culinary trip with a sweet called “Pootarekallu” I think.  Lovely dish which is made of sheet of paper made of rice with jaggery and cashew stuffing in it.  Topped with coconut and jaggery.   A must have for all those who have a sweet tooth or even those who don't (like me)

All this while the talk and the food got me thinking about the place as well as food.  There has to be something.  The fact that we were a happy lot after the meal thanks to the lovely food and we could not hide our enjoyment (given away by the smiles on our faces) made me even more curious.
The restaurant had no advertisement, no fancy décor, no hi-fi music or lighting, no hard liquor and top of it no AC too, yet we travelled across the city to try it out and were not wee bit disappointed.

Food served was with basic cutlery and presentation yet it left us wanting for more till our stomachs were full.  Why??? was my question. 

Ahh !!!  The secret was the simplicity and the authenticity of the food.  Yes, there was no extra spice not much of oil than what is necessary and all dishes cooked to perfection.  To top it all up, the owners take special interest in seeking customer feedback which makes a case for itself.   Like they say the secret to good food is through grandma's recipe and that's what Coringa does so effectively.  Eat your heart out like you would have eaten at home.   

Not surprisingly, I visited them 4 more times after that and even took my wife along who is a total veggie to the place and each time I have came out smiling.   It really didn’t surprise me when they won the award at the Times Food Awards and why not, they deserve it.  Does that mean they will expand and reach out to the population at the centre of the city....  I  don’t know but how I wish they would till then......  I guess my long drives followed by sinful eating will continue.

Rating 4/5 for taste as well as service.  A must visit place too.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Run in the Stadium - Management Thought

Bangalore being a runners paradise
It was not long before I too had thrown my dice
The run up to Bangalore Marathon had many invites
One of them was in the Stadium ya you’re right
It’s time for a 12 hr relay in the stadium
I was there to check the Podium
Filled with energy & enthusiasm like a cougar
After all I am also a “Jayanagar Jaguar”
At the start I wonder what’s in here
With awe I looked at the atmosphere
As Satya & Anu’s  didn’t under estimate their power
I thought there’s something about management here
Next in line were rank newcomers
Running with professionals I would have been a goner
But Naren & Pooja’s run was an epitome
Giving it their best shot they reached home
Casting no doubts on Tanmai & Bahar
With sheer determination, they ran as if they were on war
Keeping in mind the sun was peaking in its heat
The cheering and pacing squad ensured the runners didn’t miss a beat
Sarah was wonderful in running the lap
For Ravi it was just adding another feather in his cap
Their run was an example of keeping the focus in spite of adversity
You’d reach your goal and shine inevitably
Amit showed us to be prepared for any eventuality
As a back up runner he completed the race with sincerity
Tina ran as if she was possessed
Please take a bow is what we all said
What do I say about the last couple
They ran the race on the double
Keeping in their mind the goal of the team
Their final finish made us gleam
Katy and Charul as the backup runner
Their cheering and energy was a stunner
There was a lot of effort and coordination
With tireless effort of Nandini and Darshan
Lest I forget to make a mention
All the team were pacing and cheering in equal participation
All this was made possible in every aspect
By Pramod, our coach whom we love and respect
Question you ask What’s the Management lesson about
Dedication, Commitment  and Focus  it was, no doubt

Thursday, 26 February 2015

What's in a Name

What’s in a name
Popular quote – by none other than William Shakespeare -  This got me thinking. Really what's in a name, after all if we were to call Dosa something else would I like it more or like it a little less. So as one thought led to another, I could not help but realize that in the recent past there has been an increase the number of restaurants serving “Authentic” cuisines across namma Bengaluru.  All at affordable prices.  You do have the ones which are kind of fine dining but there are many which are affordable and of course very good.  My thoughts were more from the south indian cuisines.
Yes, I was slowly realizing that this was a trend and was just amazed at this.  So I how would this have occurred.  Initially the craze was set by the “Darshini” fever which started sometime in early 80s and the fever really caught up in early 90s with Uphara Darshini starting it and we had every other restaurant to be name “Something – Darshini”.  Most of us would recollect that wave.   Then came the KFC (remember their first outlet on Brigade Road) which was perpetually crowded as now the people wanted to taste something international (After all Bengaluru was the IT Capital already).  As time passed more and more International Food joints cropped up in Namma Bengaluru.  So how could a normal Indian Entrepreneur reinvent his business and stay in business.   The answer was simple- By offering some good authentic Indian Cuisines and not to mention the international cuisines with some innovative names to the restaurants to attract customers or create interest. 
Just as a trip down the memory lane, after the Darshini we had some lull which was rekindled by the Shanti Sagars which became the place to be for affordable vegetarian food.  Yes,  the interiors, sofa seating, AC section and the Glass décor made people feel very good coupled with the fact that you could choose to eat north indian to south indian to some chaats / pav bhaji in the same restaurant meant more like family outings.  While the ones who could afford the slightly higher end restaurants continued to patron their favourites.
The trend has now seen some new players in the field who have provided a unique concept which actually existed only in a very few restaurants earlier (like theme based or Cuisine based restaurants) which has kind of caught peoples fancy.   Take for example South Indies – reminds me of the famous West Indian Cricket team but the food is purely south Indian which of course it has struck a chord with the people.  I would not be doing justice if I forget to comment on their tag line - quite unique and catchy.  To further substantiate there are restaurants named after the National Highways, Traditional Cooks/ Regions  and provide us with the cuisine of states (through which the highway runs or the name belongs).   These are now currently the talk of the town.
Another apt example would be Halli Mane in Malleshwaram which was quite a craze when it started for its meals as well as the snacks and continues to be so.  Not that the food is not available around malleshwaram but people liked the concept and somehow the connect was made.  All this is possible because of sustained quality.
Similarly, Kanua  on Sarjapur Road serves Konkani food  with a modern touch and ambience which I was pleasantly surprised at this and people are quite liking it based on the reviews on the popular websites.  
Not to be left behind now the small restaurants (small in the sense of not having multi city locations and not in terms of business) are using the local vernacular as their USP.  This strikes a chord with the localites as well as those who want to try local food at affordable prices.
Take a sample of this.   The names are like
1.       South thindies – Thindies being snack in Kannada
2.       Taaza Thindi - 
3.       Mane Thindi
4.       Ramana’s Coffee Thindi
5.       Thindi Mandi
6.       GPS Kaapi Thindi (not Coffee but Kaapi)
7.       Halli Thindi
8.       Anna Kutteera- (Rice Hut )
Yes, all these restaurants are kind of unique in their own sense and provide some good authentic food at some affordable prices and generally follow the Darshini concept.  Crowded most of the times as   well as serve as an outing for the young and the old alike.
To catch some of the young crowd, a few restaurants have a name some English Twists. Take for example “South Kitchen”, South Thindies, By 2 Coffee (earlier people used to order by 2 coffee just to catch up with friends and now represents a chain).  The business is quite brisk and they too have a loyal fan following.  
These restaurants now coexist with the regular darshinis as well as the likes of MTR, Vidyarthi Bhavan, Maiyyas etc .   So there has to be some connect with the name which is why these restaurants are very popular and have happy customers with a large fan following.  I have also noticed that in many discussions people argue that the Akki Rotti is very good in some place or the other and eventually end up having in both places and still not come up to a conclusion.   Nothing wrong after all you cannot decide the winner between a Vidyarthi Bhavan Dosa or CTR Dosa right.   We can debate that on a later date but for now the message is clear. Namma Bengaluru seems to have a liking for some local cuisine and how does the person recollect this -  All in the name. 
I started this with “Whats in a name” would like to end it with " Now I guess I know"

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Best of both worlds

Living in south Bengaluru has its advantages.   This side of town has a lot of joints which dish out the traditional south indian staples like idly, vada, dosa and the like.  There are joints which have been in existence for a long time like MTR, Vidhyarthi Bhavan, Brahmins Coffee Bar etc which continue to serve the general public with not much changes in the menu and have their loyalists who swear by their food.
Then followed the Darshini trend in the 1990s which provided the affordability and proved to be a game changer.  New darshinis mushroomed all over Bengaluru making it the buzz word.   Affordability was something which made it an instant hit.  I recollect that the coffee would cost only Re.1 coupled with the fact that the food would be served fresh and hot making it like an indian fast food joints.   The only flip side was that there was no seating and it was self service.  People did not mind as it saved time and money.   The menu had a lot of choices which varied from idly &  dosas to gobi Manchurian to roti curry. All these were at affordable prices.   Those were the good times and slowly the fever died down and so did the number of darshinis.
Recently I noticed that there is a new generation of restaurants which have come up which not only focus on hygiene (not that the others don't) but also on affordability.  The trend seems to be catching up and South Bengaluru is currently witnessing this.  The idly vada and dosas are priced very reasonably and this is their USP .  This is kind of rekindling the Darshini Fever of the early 1990s
To name a few, The South Kitchen, Taaza Thindi, Iyengars Kitchen, By Two Coffee etc., are actually now changing the game with affordability and quality. 
To prove me right, these places are generally crowded even in the morning. Taaza Thindi is no different which has a separate queue for Masala Dosa. The primary factor apart from the quality would be the cost which is Rs.20 which otherwise would be at least Rs.30 in other restaurants if not more.  The dosa per say is quite good with a generous dose of ghee/ butter though the size could be a bit smaller than the traditional ones.  Generally in these restaurants the average price would not be not more than Rs.15 which makes the masala dosa the costliest item on the menu here.
Another similarity is that,  the kitchen follows the "open kitchen" concept and has display boards on the cleaning methodology which is a feel good factor for customers.  Taaza Thinidi also has a note on the dishwasher they use.  Impressive.  Not to be left behind South Kitchen has some cartoons of traditional vessels with some facts written on the wall providing the connect with tradition as well as provide local touch.
Can all this be too good to be true.  No there has to be a catch. Yes, the catch is that these restaurants have limited menu options for the customer. This can work to their advantages as they can focus on their strengths as well as turnaround faster and costs controlled.   A good breakfast would not be more than 30 minutes even if you factor in the crowd.  Yes, it can be a bit cramped though which is a small price to pay.
This trend seems to be catching up and it is really nice to know that while we do have a lot of restaurants which charge us for the ambience, there are restaurants which provide us with affordable options making it an instant hit with the old and the young alike.   Weekends or weekdays you would find people who would have just finished their quota of morning walk having a quick bite or the young college crowd binging on some idly/dosas. Not to mention people gossiping over a cup of strong south indian coffee.  Yes, over the weekend these places can turn out to be a family outing for breakfast. 
Now who would want to complain.  The customer seems to be getting choices on eating south indian food at affordable prices which keeps him smiling which in turn means benefits of economies of scale for the owner.  Seems like it is the best of both worlds.  Enjoy till good times last