Cruising down “NH48” at JW Marriott Bangalore

Sometime ago I was privileged to attend a Traveler meet organized by Holiday IQ at JW Marriott in Bangalore. It was also a special invite to be a part of the NH48 food festival held in JW Kitchen of JW Marriott Bangalore. Travel and Food have an interesting bond, the deep connection of co-existence. One of the best ways to explore a place, a culture, a tradition is to delve deep into the culinary practices. The way of cooking, the ingredients and the practices of enjoying food reveal a lot about the people and their way of life. So, you can be in a city and take a culinary tour of the world simply through specialized cuisines of each region in a country and different countries OR you can travel the world as far as your itchy feet can take you and complete your experience by tasting your way through at local joints to fine dine restaurants.

Chef Jolly who is also an ardent traveler journeyed along NH48 that runs through the length of Karnataka from Bangalore to Mangalore via Coorg and Udupi to unearth local taste, the special touch of the local people that makes the dishes so special.

I headed straight to the counter where Chef Jolly was stirring the most delicious Mutton Sukka and it is not everyday that you get a Masterchef to do that. This is a special recipe he picked up from Charan’s Boat House in Mangalore. The fire in the spice hit my tongue after a couple of helpings and I was enjoying the sensation.

To counter the heat of the spices, I headed to the Bhatt’s Residence in Alevoor Village in Udupi. The Brahmin food low in spice but high on flavour like the Gulla Huli (Eggplant curry) and Thondekai Palya and the Pumpkin curry coupled with the sambhar were a welcome diversion. 

I kept eyeing the fish but decided to load up on some Coorg special Kadambattu (rice balls) with the Pandi Curry (Pork Curry). The peppery pork cooked in its own fat was soft with the tangy taste of vinegar. Mrs Ponappa’s surely had some unique blend of spices that added that extra zing to the amazing food. 

Finally, I was at the Fish Counter making that difficult choice between seer and pomfret. I settled for the Pomfret in Mint and the local Mandeli in Chilly Paste and a small one dripped in Semolina.

The cocktails were interesting, infused with freshly ground local spices and I queued up for my cinnamon flavored orange juice while Vodka and Whiskey were being given a local touch. 

I got so carried away by all the food that desserts took a back seat. I just managed a piece of that Mangalore Special Phenori ~ flaky pastry thought there was a huge spread.

It was a wonderful evening over travel and food conversations and that extra bit of goodness from all the smiling chefs; who were eager to serve and explain all about the food specially since they had traveled with Chef Jolly in his quest for unearthing the local touch.

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Mango and Jackfruit Festival in Lal Bagh, Bangalore

It is that time of the year which completely transforms my diet plan. Yeah; its the mango season and almost every meal during these 2 to 3 months between April and July will have mango in some form or the other. I have been visiting the Mango and Jackfruit Festival held in Lal Bagh, Bangalore over the last few years but this time I managed to be one of the early visitors. Jointly organized by the Department of Horticulture and the Karnataka State Mango Development Marketing Corporation Limited (KSMDMCL) every year, this festival orients visitors and fruit lovers to the joys of the fruits and the varieties that are available in the state. In 2017, the festival is on in Lal Bagh from 5th May 2017 to 24th May 2017. It is held near the glass house right next to the hillock that has the Kempegowda Gate.Mango and Jackfruit Festival

Mango and Jackfruit Festival

Mangoes that Stole my Heart

While I knew the names of the most of the varieties of mangoes by virtue of sampling them from the neighborhood grocery stores but there were far more on display here. As usual I gravitated towards the Mallika which is my all time favorite followed by Badami, Malgova, Daseri and the small sweet but heavily fibrous Sugar Baby. I tasted a few slices off the different varieties that were on sale and in most cases the prices are way below the market price in the city.Mango and Jackfruit Festival Mango and Jackfruit Festival

Jackfruit; Look beyond the Smell

That one fruit whose olfactory reputation precedes the fruit by miles is none other than Jackfruit. While most people shy away, I love the fruit to bits. I remember my childhood days as an able assistant to my grand mother cutting through a jackfruit with oil on my hands to minimize the sticky damage caused by the gum of the fruit. In recent times, Jackfruit has turned out to be a wonder cure for diabetes. Jackfruits are peeled and the bulbs are sold by the dozen in the fair. I went from table to table tasting a bulb each till I found my juicy sweet bulbs and quickly packed 2 dozens for myself. Mango and Jackfruit Festival Mango and Jackfruit Festival

There were stalls selling organic honey, home made savories, food items made from mangoes and jackfruits as well as some kitchen tools. Everyone who walked in through the rows of stalls, invariably walked out with a couple of bags. My latent greed for mangoes surfaces at the sight of unending cartons of mangoes. After some thoughtful and some impulsive purchase I returned home a couple of kilograms heavier. Mango and Jackfruit Festival

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Lounging in happening Hoot, Bangalore

When Hoot opened its doors very close home; I was wondering whether the laid back locality would have the appetite for an upscale microbrewery. On my first visit within 2 weeks of their inauguration, I realized that it was much more than a microbrewery behind the huge iron door. The ambiance was calming yet electrifying within the 40000 square feet space complete with a water body, palm trees and cosy seating. In spite of the hip Bangalore crowd swaying to live beats on a late Friday evening it was a perfect place to unwind.  We had ordered paneer which was melt in the mouth, creamy rich and the tandoori prawn was at its juicy best both of which left me yearning for more. I wanted to go back again to try more of their food and finally got the opportunity to lounge around with a bunch of enthusiastic foodies in Hoot, Bangalore during a recent Food Bloggers Association of Bangalore meet up.Hoot Bangalore

This time I got the opportunity to walk around on an early Sunday evening. I was pleasantly surprised to find rows of books stacked on the wall shelves and some of the seating was vintage gracious resembling automobile seating. We munched on deep fried Baby Corn and Crackling Spinach both peppered with white sesame seeds. Not something to attract my attention, these were at best lite bite accompaniments over generic banter.

This was followed by plates of Gulshan ki Paneer, Multani Fish and mushroom on skewers.  While the mushroom was forgettable the Paneer and Fish caught my fancy so much so that I generously gorged on them through the evening until the Prawn Tempuras and Potli Chicken made an appearance.Hoot Bangalore

The thin fluffy batter of the tempura and the potli did not overpower the taste of the juicy prawns or the chicken and thumbs up to that. With one potli of chicken which is more of a fried dumpling safely tucked away in my stomach, I gravitated towards the paneer and fish both of which added that special touch to the evening. Hoot Bangalore

Gulshan ki Paneer was like a creamy sandwich of thin slices of Paneer layered with mint and coriander paste and cheese. It was as delicate and fragrant like a flower true to its name that I did not have the heart to slice it through rather gobbled a piece only to be overwhelmed by its creamy goodness and burst of flavors.Hoot Bangalore

Multani Fish was soft, flaky succulent chunks of tandoori fish which had the tang of the amchoor intact while the ginger, chilly, cumin and carom (ajwain) ensured it all got digested between sips of the hot sweet Guava Chilly mocktail. Hoot Bangalore

The burp of satisfaction from a generous dose of Fish had to be postponed at the  sight of the spiced Lamb Chops. The lamb was well cooked, spiced and falling off the bone so much so that a couple of them were demolished in no time. Wish that bed of mint dip was devoid of sweetened mayo.Hoot Bangalore

After a sumptuous treat of lamb, I passed over the Focaccia Bread Sandwiches seeking refuge in Pesto and Basil infused Fusilli Pasta and the Mixed Noodles. Both the noodles and pasta appealed to the senses but I would still be heavily swayed towards the Paneer, Fish and Prawn that will definitely figure on my repeats. We parted on a sweet note with the soft squishy Cheese Cake.

Recommendation:
  • This is my perfect place for a rain soaked afternoon with a travel book munching on paneer, fish, prawns and sipping on a tabasco spiced mocktail.
  • Perfect date night over wine or beer, candle light and some great food. Friday nights can be noisy with live music and crowd but is invigorating as well.
  • Order the Paneer, Prawn and Fish off their menu without thinking twice; they just get it right every time.

Hoot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Inside the “Lantern” in Ritz Carlton, Bangalore

Lantern in Ritz Carlton is undoubtedly one of the best places for Chinese Cuisine in Bangalore. At a time when most Chinese restaurants are re-evolving themselves into Pan Asian; Lantern holds the lantern to traditional Chinese fare.Lantern in Ritz Carlton Chinese

It was sometime close to Christmas when we dropped by to celebrate an anniversary in the family. Lantern was an obvious choice since everyone was feeling decidedly Chinese and Ritz Carlton with all the festive decor and lights had the perfect ambiance. This restaurant is located in a separate ante building from the main building and sometimes the entrance can get confusing. The restaurant has a bright vibrant look with all the red and green glass vases and the blue pottery donning the walls. I actually felt like I was inside a Lantern, all warm and cosy. We sat inside since we were quite a large group and the alfresco area is suitable for twosomes or solo diner.Lantern in Ritz Carlton Chinese

Cantonese Starters

We had the Chicken Shumai and Corn Dumpling for starters followed by Veg Cheung Fun.

The Shumai and Corn Dumpling were perfect in their own way but Veg Cheung Fun turned out to be the star of the evening. Lightly fried and toasted vegetables were tightly rolled into broad but wafer thin rice noodle sheets in Veg Cheun Fun. The rolls were cut into 3 pieces for ease of eating and sprayed with soy and oyster sauce. One bite into these delicate delicious pieces and a burst of flavors in the mouth bowled over a hard core chicken eater into a veggie fan. Its a different matter that the dish originating in Hong Kong owes its name to Pig Intestine (Cheung Fun) given its appearance 🙂

Sichuan Delights for Main Course

We moved on to the Sichuan favourite Mapo Tofu and the Chinese Drunken Chicken along with a light fried rice. The rice items in Lantern are always a delight; perfectly cooked rice grains is an art by itself. Mapo Tofu appeared red hot and spicy and quite lived up to its Sichuan origin in spiciness. The tofu was very tender and melted on the tongue. I could not sense the presence of any kind of fermented ingredients so I guess the dish was modified to suit the average Indian palate.

I relished the drunken chicken bit by bit, the marination in rice wine just tenders the chicken so soft that it tends to come off in layers. There was a time several years ago I was under the impression that I would surely get drunk if I had a portion of this dish.

The service was warm and top notch. We had to postpone the desserts for another day since we were happily full to the brim. They willingly modified a chicken dish to suit my 5 year old niece and also entertained all her curious questions about the decor, the food and their names. Though a part of a 5 star hotel, the pricing is pretty reasonable and high value for money.

The Lantern Restaurant & Bar - The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Straight off the leaf at Gundappa Donne Biryani

Beyond the legendary and regular Tiffin restaurants doling out idlis, vadas and dosas there is a thriving  “Donne Biryani” culture in Bangalore. Served in large leafy cups called “Donne” – this Biryani does not trace its roots to the Mughals or the Nizams. Cooked slowly in traditional home ground spices, it seems to have originated as an easy nutritious option for the masses or perhaps the soldiers. After a reassuring appointment with the doctor about my travel beaten knee, I hopped over to Gundappa Donne Biryani in the vicinity. Gundappa Donne Biryani

It was just about lunch time and they were yet to start serving. I settled for the Gundappa Thali after a quick glance at the menu which included Biryani Rice, 5 different sides and raita. This was the best way to taste all that they had to offer.Gundappa Donne Biryani

The thali was a riot of colors and with the names of dishes (Chilly Chicken, Guntur Chicken, Pepper Chicken) that the staff rattled out, it appeared that I was in for a roller coaster ride with spice. I started off with chicken kabab gorged in red color and not chilly powder as I was anticipating. The chicken was soft but the flavour was only skin deep since the pieces were dipped in some red colored batter and then deep fried.Gundappa Donne Biryani After the seemingly unimpressive chicken kabab, moved on to the biryani topped with a slice of egg. The pudina flavored Biryani made from jeeraga samba rice (small grained) was moist, sticky and had the distinct aroma of cardamom and cinnamon that tasted better with a dash of lime.Gundappa Donne Biryani

Next it was the turn of the 3 chicken sides, each one adding a different flavor to the Biryani. The blackish pepper chicken was the it usually is and mint and pepper did a brief tango before resting in my stomach.Gundappa Donne BiryaniThe Chilly chicken cooked purely in green chillies without any soya was an eye opener. I gasped with the fire on my tongue quickly quietened by the curd in the raita. Loved this green chilly powered chicken with a slightly watery gravy and maybe I will go back for more. Gundappa Donne Biryani

The fiery red guntur chicken tickled my tongue but not to the extent to gulp down glasses of water. It did not have the aroma of freshly ground roasted red as expected from the name. I doubt whether the red chilly powder actually came from the famous spice markets of Guntur in neighboring Andhra Pradesh.Gundappa Donne BiryaniI munched into the crunchy mutton keema vada saved up for the last bite to counter the famous guntur spice. As I devoured the vada, I realised how the Bangalore special Donne Biryani was enhanced by a pepper chicken and guntur chicken with roots in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The kabab, chilly chicken and minced meat vada has evolved under the influence of food cultures from other parts of India. It is so true for the spirit of Bangalore which is home to different languages, different food cultures from all over India !!Gundappa Donne Biryani

Food Tip:

Located on a busy Koramangala Street; this is not a place for a cosy meal. Its a stop, eat, go kind of place where food served on green leaves is the most important thing. The staff were cordial and made me instantly comfortable. If your idea of Biryani relates to long grained flavoured rice, please avoid this place. If you are someone who loves to experiment and learn about food, its origin and culture, this is the place to visit !!
Gundappa Donne Biriyani Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato