Watch Restaurant Review: Grab a pint, some finger food and chill at BBQ’D [4/5]

Live barbecues have their own charm. Few things can beat the combination of a hot barbecue, a cold pint and a weekend evening to kick up your legs, let down your hair or do whatever English idiom linking the human anatomy implies chilling. That is BBQ’D in short for you. For a longer review and a video, read on!

BBQ'D - Global Grill & Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Unwind and chill

If BBQ’D ever wants to go for a motto, the words “unwind” and “chill” should prominently feature in them. The eatery – to me – is primarily one where people should go with family and friends to chat around while they eat.

There is a buffet at hand, and even otherwise, the barbecues keep coming. Order your choice of drink, and keep sipping as the grill shimmies with fragrant fumes.

One suggestion would be: Try the home-brewed beer offered by BBQ’D.

Craft beer at BBQ’D

From left to right, these are Hefeweizen, Masala Saison, Chocolate Stout and India Pale Ale (IPA) in the smaller glasses. I took a liking towards the Hefeweizen, and the result was a taller glass on my table, as seen in the second part of the photo above.

Finger food and barbecue

BBQ’D has a nice section of finger foods and starters. For us, one of the first to arrive was this Grilled Chicken Pizza.

We also had some Carrot Chicken Momo, steamed with a creaminess to the centre that makes for a great pairing with the beer I had chosen.

For the barbecue, we had Cajun Spicy Chicken, Char-grilled Fish and Yakitori Prawns. To be honest, the prawns won this deal by a mile.

Pardon the photo, please. It does little justice to the offerings.

Now, these may not look like it, but they were some really good Fish Tikka:

And then there was some Flambe Chicken, which has – in this next picture – landed on my plate after having been set on fire with some tequila. Noice!

Main course and dessert

Now, I won’t bore you with the main course, because honestly our appetite had been quite satiated by the starters. Suffice to say, the entrees were up to scratch.

Most of us at the table chose to go for some dessert. And this is where BBQ’D wowed us again.

None of the desserts was overpoweringly sweet. They were just right to sweeten the tooth and give a small sugar high to complement the light high from the little social drinking we had indulged in.

Final thoughts on BBQ’D

This is a new place, and will take a little time to settle down. Nevertheless, BBQ’D is already a nice place to – and we can’t stress this enough in a city that gives you tension every direction you look – relax with some F&B on a weekend evening.

Watch the video of my experience here:

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Restaurant Review: Hungree Belly really fills you up! [4/5]

HSR Layout in Bengaluru has become one of the most happening places when it comes to happening things. And when it comes to food, there is no exception. However, just because the place is happening does not mean the food is happening as well! That is where Hungree Belly stands out, with some great and experimental food. Visit this place if you are in for a culinary mini adventure, or just want some quality Tandoori Chicken! Read on for the longer version of the review.

Hungree Belly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

At first sight, Hungree Belly might not look like a place where you have a good dining experience. It may even come off as tacky! But please do not be fooled by the informal looks or turned off by the prices. Sit down, order some food and owner Prateek Chandok – a chartered accountant-turned-restaurateur – may just walk by and suggest some great orders. Heck, he might even get the kitchen to rustle up something special for you!

Getting there is not a problem if you are a regular in the Koramangala area. A bunch of us went there, and this is what we experienced.

Starters

Chandok, who was at the venue on this day we visited, was more than happy to recommend us some starters. He began with some desi jalapeno poppers aka some mirchi bhaji and some fried prawn dumplings, as seen here:

Finger food!!

Suffice to say, they were delicious! Mildly spiced though they were, these were good finger food. But there was more to come.

Here you see, clockwise from top left: Chicken 65 [Hungree Belly-style], Chukandari Paneer Tikka, Hariyali Tikki and Tiranga Paneer, aka bread pakoda with a paneer filling.

Palate-tickling affair!

Chandok stayed true to the name of his eatery and its spirit, that people need a little more than a single dish when they are hungry, and hence the noodles with the first dish.

The paneer tikka was surprisingly delicious, in that the flavours had permeated the otherwise dense cheese. The grilling had also made it slightly smoky and charred, which was also great! And the bread pakoda was nothing like the old-oil-soaked cholesterol-inducing stuff sold by the roadside.

And then, some more finger food. Here we have, again clockwise from top left, some Classic Chilli Fish, some Hungree Belly Cheese Nachos, some Elvis Presley-style breakfast – which is a huge calorific intake given that it is PB&J sandwiches and fries, something Elvis apparently had to replenish his strength after a night of rocking – and some Pav Bhaji.

To be honest, the Pav Bhaji was a bit underwhelming, in that the bhaji was nowhere near the hearty goop of veggies that are found in many roadside stalls dotting Mumbai. Even the nachos, served with Rajma for some reason, were not a big draw, in that they were heavy and oily.

But the Chilli Fish seemed to make up for that, given that it was beautifully flavoured and succulent enough to disintegrate when pressed between the tongue and the roof of the mouth! Even the Elvis breakfast was good, but recommended only if you want a lot of empty carbs!

Now, Tandoori Chicken is a dish few people can get wrong. Get it just right, and you have repeat customers. Hungree Belly goes a step further and gets it really delicious, and my mouth is watering even as I write this!

Soft, succulent, smoky… this is one dish that is a must-try here!

Main course

Before I treat you to the main course, here’s an apology because I was too busy eating to click the breads, which made this Hungree Belly Dal – a take on Dal Makhni – and the Methi Matar Makai Malai [M4 for short] taste absolutely delicious!

Veggie delights!

Now I am no vegetarian, but that M4 made one out of me, at least for some time. The dal was no slouch either.

And then they brought out the meat! Here we have the Hungree Belly Mutton Railway Curry and Chicken Dahiwala. The mutton is the bigger draw here.

Money on the meat!

And what great food exploration is complete without some Chicken Biryani?

Another apology here, because I could not stay back for the desserts, which I was told were every bit as delectable as promised!

Final thoughts on Hungree Belly

Here’s wishing Chandok and his team all the best, with years and years of filling the “Hungree Belly” of people!

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Restaurant Review: Vaho Kafe blends health, fusion and taste! [3.5/5]

There are two versions of this review. Short version: Visit Vaho Kafe; order their fusion food if you are feeling adventurous, health food if you are feeling bloated or fat, and the weekday or weekend combos if you want to chill and enjoy their food. It’s simple, somewhat reasonable, and you can get takeaways! For the longer version, read on…

Vaho Kafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vaho Kafe advertises itself as a “Kafe and Pressery,” meaning you get food as well as cold-pressed fresh drinks there. Owner Umesh Reddy wants to project Vaho as a one-stop destination for healthy and fusion foods, as well as some combos – what came across to me as a mini-version of a thaali – of traditional food. Vaho has also recently added more to its menu, keeping in mind the demands and feedback of corporate clientele.

Vaho Kafe, and owner Umesh Reddy.

However, the primary offering of Vaho continues to be health food, as is evident right from the water they serve on the tables! On the day I went to the eatery, the water was infused with ginger, but it varies, from cucumber to cumin to other healthy alternatives.

The presentation on the table

The food we had as takeaway

In total, four things were ordered: Biryani with Peri Peri Chicken, Chicken Tikka Roll with Cheese, a Glow Onn juice [fresh-pressed and put in a handy, branded bottle] and a Wholesome Mexican Salad.

First, the roll. The idea of making any and all food healthy is extended here as well, with the wrap being made of Atta [wheat flour] and not Maida [refined wheat flour]. And even after about three hours of being made, the roll and its contents did not give way, like any Roti or other flatbread made of Atta does when exposed for a sufficient period to anything that has more moisture.

The chicken seemed a little bland and there seemed to be not much of a presence of cheese anywhere. But the freshness of it all was there in every bite, and I savoured it to the hilt!

The roll. Should have taken a pic after taking a bite, but I was too hungry…

However, we had had the Biryani first. Hyderabadi-style Biryani is always a treat, but this time the chicken was prepared peri-peri style. It was lip-burningly good, but the slightly tangy, vinegary aftertaste was a bit of a letdown. That, however, did not stop either me or Pooja from polishing it off to the point where ants would starve. After all, Biryani!

The Biryani. Hyderabadi style!

The healthier options

Then there was the salad. Put it in the fridge and had it next morning. Surprisingly fresh and crunchy, and every bit as wholesome as promised! If I was not partial towards Biryani, this would have been the pick of the entire meal! I mean, can anything else beat a salad made of freshly-chopped onions, halved cherry tomatos, chopped capsicum [bell peppers], cucumber, millets and an assortment of fresh ingredients with a dash of lime that you get to squeeze fresh into the prepared meal?

The wholesome Mexican salad made for a great breakfast!

And finally, the juice. Pooja appropriated it from my possession, but was gracious enough to give me a few sips. It tasted like the ingredients we were promised it would have, but was not to my liking.

Final thoughts on Vaho Kafe

Some of the things we did not order were the weekday and everyday combos, which we were assured were good and were often ordered for corporate lunches. As for the other foods, even the Biryani was made with less oil than what usually should go in. So if you are a health nut and want some good wholesome food, this is your place.

Umesh Reddy also wants his Vaho Kafe to be a place known for fusion food. To be honest, the fusions may be a bit of an adventure, and may not sit well with palates used to the authentic varieties. But if you crave adventure in what you eat, give this place a try: It will surprise you!

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Restaurant Review: Flechazo offers good food and experience! [4.5/5]

What are restaurants for? To sit down, order, enjoy the food, converse, pay the bill and be done with it? Many a serious foodie – more like food critics a la Anton Ego from the Pixar blockbuster Ratatouille – would say that is exactly how restaurants should be. However, times have changed. Food – from being a necessity once – has become an extension of the gathering point after a day, week or month of hard work. It is where friends and colleagues assemble to enjoy some food and beverages, let down their hair, and simply enjoy! Now, not all places can offer such enjoyment. But Flechazo is not all places.

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

I went there with a batch of like-minded friends to do some tasting, but to my great delight – especially after a really hectic week at work – managed to loosen up. So much so, that I forgot to take enough pictures of what we were eating! However, I hope to serve up enough of a pen-picture to whet your appetite!

The sauces and condiments. So full of colour!

The food

Flechazo offers a buffet, and bunch of starters to begin your meal. The buffet cost is Rs 664 if you are a vegetarian, and Rs 791 for the non-vegetarian fare. And that is minus the bar tab, which you can run up to quite a bit. Sounds a bit too much? Grab the early-bird offer of 15 percent off when you get lunch at 11:30-11:45 am. Also, there’s offer on a beer and a cocktail or a mocktail. Here’s the menu for the day we visited:

The menu for the day.

The starters were mostly delicious. It’s a shame I do not have photos of the Asian-style crispy potato – a dish we asked for three times! Somehow, it always seemed to be lapped up pretty fast! These are both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.

The starters: Vegetarian (left) and non-vegetarian.

Then there was the main food. Again, I will let you judge with the photos, because although these look and taste delicious, there are bigger attractions ahead! These are the non-vegetarian dishes…

The non-vegetarian main course.

And these are the vegetarian ones.

The vegetarian dishes in the main course.

The attractions

Now this is the most exciting part about Flechazo! People love pizza, but how often do they get to make them? Flechazo offers exactly such a service, and we were not amongst those to pass it up. I mean, would you? So here I am, having made my own pizza and ready to put it in the oven. Can’t tell you how it really compared to a Dominos or a Pizza Hut, but the experience was something no pizza chain has offered so far!

Arkadev Ghoshal
Yours truly, with his creation. Photo courtesy: Fellow foodie Priyanka Jagaty.

Another exciting part of Flechazo is this train of small platters of starters – from sushi to golgappa (pani puri, phuchka, gupchup, pani patashe or whatever other name you know it by). Just wait around for whatever you want to come to you, pick it up, walk back to the table and by the time you come back for more, whatever you had taken would have been replenished!

The starters in a train!

Finally, no meal is complete with a dessert, and Flechazo has a last ace up its sleeve! The cream is mixed with liquid nitrogen right in front of you to form fresh ice cream. Choose your flavours, and taste the cold sweetness that Flechazo delivers up to aptly end an adventurous meal!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…?

Final thoughts on Flechazo

Flechazo’s price tag is one that is a bit of a deterrent when it comes to regular eating there. However, this is absolutely the place you want to take your family – especially your parents and kids – if you want them to have a dining experience you want them to remember and brag about! That is solely why it gets just half a star less than full marks.

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Restaurant review: Wok has potential and the right ingredients [3/5]

Bengaluru is becoming home to all sorts of restaurants. While some offer ambiance and a fine-dining experience, others offer quickfire food that you can later consume in the comfort of your home. The latter is especially welcome at the end of tiring days when you seek comfort in what you eat. And Wok in Koramangala offers just that.

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

It’s a cosy little nook on Splendid Plaze in Koramangala 5th Block. Sure, there’s another one at Domlur as well, but this one is the older one of the two, functioning since October 2016. Besides the regular fare – hot and sour, lemon clear, sweet corn and manchow soup in veg and non-veg, besides chilli and manchurian chicken, baby corn and broccoli – it also offers schezwan chicken and saigon chicken.

Wok, the takeaway place

But the menu is much more than just this. Want some rice or noodles? Feel free to mix and match from a wide selection of noodles, rice, sauces and other condiments! Too weary? Ask for some recommendations. Here’s the menu for you. BTW, the dim sums will come later, as will the soft drinks and water, and a whole new outlet!

The new menu

We – Arkadev and Pooja – went with the recommendations, and were urged to try out noodles with prawn in Beijing sauce, rice with chicken in Lankan Sambal, Schezwan Chicken and the traditional sweet corn chicken soup. Basically, a mix of adventurous and the usual fare.

The tasting

We started with the rice. This was spicy by my standards, but Pooja likes spicy. She found it perfectly well made, and had quite a few spoonfuls. I, on the other hand, seemed to be tasting something akin to when food goes bad and starts to smell or taste slightly alcoholic. Pooja found no such taste, so this was probably entirely on me. The first experiment had yielded mixed results.

Rice with chicken and Lankan Sambal

Next came the noodles. A little less experimental, and well beyond the realms of normal noodles in lesser eateries! While these were slightly oily, they were well seasoned enough to pass all other tastes. We also put them to the “store and eat later” test. The reheating happened in the microwave, with the entire box going in, and the noodles came out as tasty as when we had eaten them earlier!

Noodles with prawns in Beijing sauce

And then, the Schezwan Chicken. Again, really soft – but not entirely succulent – flat chunks in dryish condiments that complemented both the noodles and the rice – the latter according to Pooja – quite well. These, two were stored in the refrigerator and reheated and eaten later, with minimal loss in taste. Good job, Wok!

Schezwan chicken

And finally, the soup, the entirety of which was consumed after storage in the refrigerator. This was to determine how much corn flour / corn starch had been used to thicken it. Sadly, it was quite a bit. So much so that continued heating and mixing of water did not reduce the lumpiness of the product. The chicken and the corn were still fresh, but guys, reduce the corn flour please.

Here is how our entire order looked like:

The full order

Final thoughts on Wok

This not a fine-dining place, so it should not be treated as one. It strives to provide good Chinese food. The lack of quality in some parts is made up for in ampleness by the quantity. The quantity is also what makes Wok pocket friendly. And then there’s the promise that shines through in some dishes. Little tweaks here and there – like the corn flour bit – could put Wok ahead of the game.

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Restaurant Review: Echoes Koramangala, where food and service speak volumes [4/5]

The oft-cliched understanding in the restaurant business is that food quality and service speak much louder than a blitzkrieg of advertisements. But there’s a reason it has become cliched: It was widely true once, and still holds true – albeit in much fewer cases. Echoes Koramangala is one such place.

ECHOES Koramangala Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We – some like-minded friends – visited the place, and were nearly floored by it! Why? Like I said, the food and service spoke volumes, despite our servers being all hearing and speech-impaired. Of course the cooking-staff speaks, but come on! This was a dose of empowerment we all found wonderful!

Echoes Koramangala

So how does it all work? See these three photos, and the explanation comes after that.

This is how you order…

As soon as you sit down, you find the eight cards – seen in the top left image – on the table. These, along with the pen and paper the wait staff bring you, are to be used to order and give feedback. But how do you call them in the first place? See the switch on the right? Press it, and a light corresponding to your table switches on, as seen in the bottom left image. Neat, huh?

Starters

So we sat down and placed our order. The first to come out were several mocktails – Echoes Koramangala does not serve alcohol. These are various kind of chocolate shakes, simple sparkling drinks and and a Red Velvet. They are real lifesavers in the summer Bengaluru is currently sweltering in, and really once the food starts coming, you really understand the importance of these beverages!

Wet your whistle before you whet your appetite.

The next to come out is fast turning into a staple in many eateries for any meal as a starter. Honestly, nothing beats cheese-covered nachos with a salsa sauce dip when it comes to good finger food when all you want to do is some chin-wagging of both varieties!

Pardon the image quality, please.

Then, the full-meal starters: Clockwise from top left, a form of mushroom tikka, chicken and fish Chinese style, and some chicken kabab.

A hearty start…

Next up, something recommendation-worthy! On the right might have been some more kababs, but on the left are the showstealers. Those are chicken and veg momos, and they deserve a special mention because rarely does an eatery season the covering of momos. Echoes did, and my tastebuds are still craving them even as I write this!

Quite an eyeful, and then very mouthful!

Some more starters, all equally nice – both veg and non-veg are great!

Come, get some!

Main course

The thing with these gatherings is, we often fill up a little too much on the delicious starters. But that did not deter some of us – me included – from partaking in the main course. Here you see, clockwise from left, the Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, the Classic Butter Chicken Thali and the Veg Tiffin Service. Props are due here for the Butter Chicken Thali, where the gravy is tasty enough to polish of several rotis at a single sitting!

You ready for this?

And then the two pastas. Well done, beautifully seasoned, and a simple delight when you want to sit back and yak away, with the conversation interspersed with small bites.

You can’t look past-a this!

And finally, a couple of pizzas. Thin crust, good cheese crunchy, and overall delicious!

Pizza is love! Pizza is life!

My friends stayed back for some dessert, but I had to get out of there to reach home on time. Had office early next morning.

Final thoughts about Echoes Koramangala

But like I have said before, the service speaks volumes, and the ambiance at Echoes Koramangala is one of the friendliest I have seen in eateries around Bengaluru. Visit this one for the food as much as for the experience! I even wrote an article about it!

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Restaurant review: Zaica on Nagawara Road is a genuine treat and reasonable on the pocket [3.5/5]

So here we were – just a handful of us on invitation – at Zaica on Nagawara Road, near Elements Mall in north Bengaluru. The light was dim, the place was mostly to us thanks to Mahashivaratri, and the review turned out to be a culinary treat of sorts, with Rajesh Pandey – when he got time from helming the proceedings in the kitchen – visiting us often to talk to us.

Now, to be precise, Zaica serves both a la carte and buffet menus of chiefly North Indian cuisine, but this evening there was no buffet, and we went a la carte. However, we found out later that the buffet really does not cost sky high: something around the mid Rs 400s, and that too with taxes.

You can find the place here:

Zaica Dine & Wine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And the ambience was nice, too. Dim lighting with shine at the correct places makes this great for small gatherings that cannot be ruined by anything but out-of-control children running around.

Appetiser and starters

Pandey ji, meanwhile, was serving our appetiser: Makai Kali Mirch Shorba. Essentially, a mash of American sweet corn turned into a thick – but not goopy – soup where you can taste the small bits of corn, while the eponymous black pepper is more of an aftertaste that is felt as heat at the back of your mouth. Thoroughly enjoyable!

And then, the starters. I’ll mention to vegetarian options first. On the left you have Bhatti Ka Paneer – skewered paneer covered with delectable spices cooked in a traditional Indian oven. The spices covered the paneer pieces nicely, and the paneer itself was soft and creamy – a far cry from the rubbery stuff we are often served.

Along with it was the Makai Motiya Seekh Kabab – a vegetarian mishmash seasoned expertly with spices and embedded with whole sweet corn that jutted out like the pearls mentioned in the name of the kabaab. This was delectable – not too salty to start with, but the spices left a strong and pleasing aftertaste.

Next, the non-vegetarian ones – Murg Siya Mirchi Kabaab, Chakori Murg and Lemonese Chicken Tikka [counter-clockwise from top left]. Each was succulent in its own right. The first, true to its name, had the heat factor, the second was lemony, and the third was spiced nicely, making for some yummy tasting.

Wetting the whistle

Of course, there were some drinks, but nothing to hard. Among the five of us – the four bloggers and the nice gentleman who arranged for the review – we had [left to right] Sea Breeze, Kiwi Delight, Fruit Punch, Lemon Iced Tea and Pineapple Sunshine. Or was it Sunrise? I ended up having the Sea Breeze. Again, each drink had been carefully crafted, but the fruit punch was just that little extra fruity.

Main course

Generally, this is the part of the meal everyone waits for. And writes about. Not me, though. Arkadev, yours truly, had had a long day, and was simply too hungry. So, in no particular order, we had [in the vegetarian section] Dal Bukhara, Kadhai Paneer Patiala, Lahsooni Mushroom Palak and the Diwani Handi. There was also [in the non-vegetarian options] the Tandoori Murg Masala – different from the normal Chicken Tikka Masala in the spices that go in and the preparation process – and the Murg Nawabi.
Along with that were the breads: The Amritsari Kulcha, Coriander Kulcha, the Paneer Kulcha and the general Tandoori Roti.

Honestly, I did not have too many of the rotis, because the dishes had grabbed my attention. The Dal Bukhara was smooth and not too spicy – perfect for children’s consumption, and nutritious too! The Diwani Handi was an especially interesting mix, making each mouthful a burst of flavour, and the two chicken dishes were also well-prepared.

A special recommendation for the Murg Nawabi, where the gravy was as smooth as the chicken was succulent. Pair them with any Indian bread, and it should be a treat!

Dessert

We were almost full when word of dessert arose. Honestly, I would have left earlier – I was really tired and had had an especially prolonged day – but you don’t desert dessert. Or you get your just desserts, which is anything but sweet! So out came the Moong Dal Halwa [left] and the Gajar Ka Halwa, along with a few Gulab Jamuns. I was too full to have the Gulab Jamuns, but the Moong Dal Halwa and the Gajar Ka Halwa were genuinely nice.

Parting thoughts on Zaica

So if the food is this good, why does Zaica get 3.5 out of 5, [7 out of 10]? At around Rs 450 per plate for the buffet, including taxes, the price is still a little steep for some personal occasions. However, it should do perfectly well for corporate bookings, with space aplenty and an obliging staff. Sadly, Pandey ji rued to us how corporate clients often haggle even for such prices, when similar food at a higher-end eatery would cost them much more, despite there being no noticeable difference in quality.

Second, the taste. It does rise above a 3 out of 5, and is just about short of a 4 when it comes to good North Indian cuisine. Nevertheless, this one is definitely a place to visit if you are in North Bengaluru and are looking for a good buffet! It definitely scores higher than some of the other ones around.

Oh, and special thanks to Priyanka Jagaty for doing the due diligence we should all be doing by writing down the names of all the different items we were served.  Lady, you are a lifesaver!

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Esplanade review: Putting the Bengal inside Bengaluru, but at a slightly steep price [3.5/5] – A Valentine’s Day story

So ‘twas the day of St Valentine – Valentine’s Day, for those who needed that explanation – and Arkadev and Pooja decided to find a little slice of Bengal inside Namma Bengaluru to celebrate the occasion. The location they found was Esplanade in Indiranagar, and the experience they had can be summed up with one word: Nostalgia.

If you want further directions, this is the place:

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

Starters

Now, the place itself has a cosy feel to it. The lights are not all that bright, and there are small candles on individual tables. They made for a romantic setting, but had a practical use too, as we learnt when the power supply was disrupted a couple of times for a few seconds. So Pooja ended up ordering the Aampora shorbot (left) – a Bengaali rendition of what northern India would recognise as Aam Panna – and Arkadev got the fresh lime soda.

They turned out to be quite refreshing. They were the optimum temperature – not so cold as to numb the palate, but neither too warm to ruin the experience. And alongside we had the Chicken Kobiraji.

Fun fact: While the word Kobiraji may be an adjective alluding to the local doctor who practises traditional medicine, and is called the Kobiraj, this dish has nothing to do with such a person. The name Kobiraji is derived as a breaking-down of the word “coverage,” which refers to the light and flaky crust of fried beaten egg that covers the original thing. And it was flavourful and delicious!

Main course

We talked to Firdous Alam – the gentleman running the eatery – after our meal, and he confirmed that we had, without even consulting anyone, ordered a house speciality. He said he would have recommended the Daab Chingre (a special prawn curry made with tender coconut, and often served in the shell of one), Bhapa Ilish (hilsa fish steamed with a specific concoction of spices), Bhetki Paturi (Bhekti fish steamed and cooked in a banana leaf with spices) or the Kachalanka Mangsho (a dish where mutton and green chilli are the eponymous ingredients).

However, it was the fifth dish he named that Pooja had alredy ordered – with an ear-to-ear grin that would later turn into a smile of satisfaction. It was the Kosha Mangsho (Mutton with specially spiced curry) and Luchi (puffed bread). We were not exactly in a mood for rice, so two Lachchha Parathas (Bengal’s equivalent of the Kerala parotta) and a Koraishutir Kochuri (Luchi-like bread stuffed with grounded, spiced and then cooked peas).

We knew we had ordered the correct thing with the first lick of the gravy, which we found just a smidge scanty. What it lacked in quantity, it made up for in taste: The flavours played around in our mouths for quite some time! And it paired well with the Lachchha Paratha as well!

Pardon our hungry selves, for we found little time to snag a pic of the Koraishutir Kochuri. But you can take our word for it: It was soft and flavourful as long as it stayed warm. And that goes for the Kosha Mangsho as well! The mutton was succulent at first, but quickly turned tough. However, it did not turn rubbery. Thanks, Esplanade!

Dessert

There was a limited spread for dessert, but we chose the Baked Bonde (sweet Boondi in kheer), which was a delight because it was served warm and stayed warm. Not exactly an Esplanade speciality, but wonderfully sweet!

Later

It was only after we had finished our food-coma-inducing meal that we managed to notice that Esplanade had come up with some Valentine’s Day specials. We had ordered the Chicken Kobiraji/Kabiraji from here, but would have liked to sample more of the cuisine.

Maybe another time. When we are really hungry and have more money in out pockets. Because as much as the restaurant would like to say, eating there is not exactly a cheap affair.

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Kosha Mangsho: An especially spicy Bengali preparation of chicken

Sreya and Sandipan Chatterjee have become regular guests at our home now. And they bring with them bagfuls of joy, fun and fruendship. They drop in, sometimes unnanounced, and the smile on our faces widen each time.

 

The last time they came, whcih was a couple of weeks ago — this is where we apologise to followers of our blog for no new posts for more than two weeks — they brought with them a little part of Kolkata. It was something every Bengali cherishes. It was their version of Kosha Mangsho. And they took over the kitchen to treat us to it.

 

Do you smell what Sandipan (Bunty) is cooking?

 

So while I was not there — I got a little of the leftover, and it was still delicious, despite the reheating and all — Pooja waxed eloquent about this dish.

 

Here’s what they used:

  • Chicken: 800 g
  • Onions: 200 in paste form, 250 g chopped
  • Tomato: 200 g
  • Salt: to taste
  • Ginger: 20 pods in paste form, 30 g chopped
  • Garlic: 2 in paste form, 3 chopped
  • Red chilli powder (optional): 30-40 g
  • Turmeric: 20-30 g
  • Green chilli: 2-3, slit dorsally
  • Sugar (yes, you read that right): 20-30 g
  • Mustard oil: 300-350 ml (yes, it will be oily)
  • Water: 40-50 ml

The resulting dish should look something like this:

So, this is entirely Pooja’s account, and it starts with the marination, which took a full 30 minutes. And the first step was making a paste out of all that onion, ginger and garlic mentioned earlier.

The fresh chicken, just cleaned, is about to get a good lathering. And that ginger-garlic-onion paste is just the beginning!

Then, in go the turmeric and red chilli powder. And I am salivating as I type. This was made two weeks ago, and I still can’t forget the taste!

Now, add some of that mustard oil, mix everything well so every bit of the chicken’s surface area is lathered in the homogeneous marinade. Then set it aside for half an hour.

Meanwhile, ensure that your onions, garlic…

…and tomatoes are chopped and kept aside.

And this is where the husband-wife jugalbandi (collaboration, if you will) started showing. Pooja says as soon as the cooking began, Sreya and Sandipan displayed a kind of innate understanding that was truly amazing!

With the marination almost done, in goes the rest of the oil, and it’s quite a lot, into a pan for heating.

Pooja, at this point, is a silent spectator, flitting in and out of the busy couple’s way as she tries to pictorially document the recipe. She also scrunches her nose as the split green chillies hit the now-boiling oil, which already has just had the sugar put in it. The sugar will bring the beautiful brown colour this recipe boasts of.

Then, in go the chopped onions, which will be fried to a golden brown, with the sugar already working its magic.

Then, it’s the turn of the tomatoes. And more stirring ensues for a more homogeneous colour and so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.

This time-consuming stirring is called “kosha” in Bengali. I am not familiar with the etymology. If you are, please feel free to tell us, and we will feature your statement here! Meanwhile, in with the well-marinated chicken.

As the stirring continues, the chicken cooks in not only the marinade, but the juices the onions and tomatoes had earlier released.

Sreya and Sandipan have kept on cooking the chicken for 20 minutes when the veggies reduce, the oils are released and the chicken has taken the beautiful brown hue that we so desire.

The pan is now covered and left to simmer on a small temperature, to kosha-fy the chicken a little more. And Pooja says the aroma at this point was making her homesick.

After around 5-10 minutes, a little water is added to the pan and its contents given a few more decisive stirs before Sreya and Sandipan pronounce the dish ready! And boy does it look good!

Like I said, Pooja and the Chatterjees simply gobbled this up in the early morning of India’s Independence Day, while I got to the leftovers later in the day. And it was every bit worth it! Interesting thing is, paired extremely well with both rice and bread!

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Coriander Chicken, with friends at home

Nothing can be experienced to the fullest unless you have friends and loved ones to experience it with. That’s why when our friends Sreya and Sandipan drop in from time to time, often surprising us, the Cheshire-Cat smile makes its appearance on Pooja’s face, and the drinking and eating lasts well into the next day.

And every time this beautiful couple comes a-visiting, they bring with them something or the other that’s uniquely their own, and regale us with it. This Saturday, Sreya brought with her a recipe whose end-product made us nostalgic for quintessential roadside dhabas and their lip-smacking cuisine. And this one, too, has no turmeric, much like the wine chicken Pooja had cooked earlier! Pretty unusual for Indian food, right? Here’s what it ultimately looked like.

As for the the taste, it was a little piece of heaven, with tastes of the earth and the most welcoming hearth combined! The spices were strong, the chicken was succulent, and the evening was coloured savoury by the cooking and the company.

Got your creative culinary juices flowing? Here’s how we did it. First, the ingredients:

  • Chicken: 500 g
  • Onion: Paste of 200 g
  • Tomato: Paste of 100-150 g
  • Green chilli: 3
  • Ginger-garlic paste: 100 g
  • Coriander: 100 g
  • Coriander powder: 15-20 g
  • Bay-leaf: 1
  • Curd: 250-300 ml (can be more)
  • Dried chilli powder (optional): 15-30 g
  • Cashew (optional): 100 g
  • Lemon juice: 15-20 ml (can be more)
  • Cinnamon stick: 1 piece
  • Garlic pods: 4
  • Cooking oil: 50 ml
  • Ghee (clarified butter): 50 ml
  • Sugar: As per taste
  • Salt: As per taste

The recipe:

Pooja starts by cleaning the chicken with hot water, thereby killing off a lot of micro-organisms that would have otherwise made our bodies their home.

Then, in goes the curd, cold and creamy, but not too fatty.

Add to that the lemon juice, coriander powder, chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste and salt.

Mix the entire thing up, and let the chicken soak in the marinade.

Now for another bit to the marinade. Take the fresh coriander leaves and the garlic pods, …

… put them in the mixer, and pour most of the resulting paste into the marinating chicken. Keep a little of the paste aside. You will need it later.

Mix that thing well, and marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare to cook. Set your oven to medium heat, put on the pan, heat the oil and the ghee, and put in the bay-leaf and the cinnamon stick, all broken up.

By now, we hope you have made your onion paste…

…and tomato paste.

Now that the oil is starting to release the spices flavour, pour in the onion paste and keep stirring. Don’t let the paste stick to the bottom.

Then, just when the onion starts becoming a beautiful golden-yellow, put in the tomato paste and commence more stirring.

Then, when the entire thing has achieved a homogeneous colour, put in the rest of the coriander paste and stir some more till the mixture achieves a beautiful greenish tinge.

Now, pour in the marinated chicken. Let more stirring commence.

The stirring should be continuous for the chicken to cook well, and the spices to work its magic.

After some time, when the chicken is cooked well — a fact easily verified by testing its softness: just poke it with a knife and you will know — and the gravy is starting to congeal, pour in some water. Let the water mix with the gravy, so you have a good curry with the chicken.

And voila! The coriander chicken is ready. Thank you, Sreya!

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