Watch Restaurant review: Oye Amritsar has banging starters! [3.5/5]

An eatery decides to associate itself with a particular kind of cuisine only when it looks to excel at it. Oye Amritsar at Indiranagar is more than halfway there, and serves up starters that whip up quite an appetite. However, it falters a bit on the main course. That is the succinct review of the place. For a more detailed review, and a video of the place, continue reading this blog!

Oye Amritsar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oye Amritsar has four outlets in Bengaluru – formerly Bangalore – the first of which has been functional for 10-odd years now. The one where I and a few friends visited was in Indiranagar. Walked in, and were welcomed with a Spicy Redcurrant drink that had me all…

Ambiance

While the rustic feel of a Punjabi Dhaba is not exactly present here, there is a hint of it if you sit on the raised platform seen on the right of this pic:

The seating arrangement at Oye Amritsar.

It gives you the feel of sitting on a charpai and having your food from a low table – something that is quite common in roadside dhabas.

And what adds to the ambiance are these staples of Punjabi food:

Starters

With the thirst quenched and the tastebuds stimulated simultaneously by the welcome drink, we moved on the starters. Here are, clockwise from top: Malai Broccoli, Sanewal Mushroom Tikki and Punjabi Paneer Tikka.

The broccoli is on the smoother side, but the other two are robustly spiced, making for some good and hearty eating!

Next up, the non-veg starters. Clockwise from left, these are Mogewale Di Tikki, Pindwla Bhatti Murg and Tawa Mutton Chop.

The tikki and the murg almost transported me to the yellow mustard fields of Punjab! The mutton chop – from the rib section of the goat or lamb – was slightly on the milder side, with almost a Chinese taste to it. They required to be eaten with the hand, and were a treat for what little meat they had.

Main course

The starters had us full and satisfied, so we took a bit of time before moving on to the main course, served with roti, butter naan, kulcha and Methi Corn Matar Pulao. I was too busy sampling the food to take photos of them, so please pardon me for that.

What we ate were mostly the staples of a Punjabi dhaba, starting with Butter Chicken [left] and Bhatinda Mutton Curry.

In both cases, that Punjabi/Mughlai x-factor was missing in the food. These were nicely flavoured, and the meat came off the bones easily, so there was nothing to complain there. But the punch of spice one expects from Mughlai cuisine from a Punjabi kitchen was lacking here.

Next up, Kadhai Paneer [left] and Dal Makhani.

Now, these are two dishes you simply cannot afford to get wrong. Oye Amritsar does not do that, but it does not get it perfect either! Some improvement here should elevate its offerings to a much higher level!

Dessert

One of the final offerings was Jalebi with Rabri. Neither was overpoweringly sweet, and made for as much a treat for the tongue as the eyes. See for yourself!

Oh, and we also tried out some Lassi shots – which I once again forgot to click because I was too busy swigging the thick white liquid from shot glasses.

Final thoughts about Oye Amritsar

I am a non-vegetarian, and found the starters quite to my satisfaction. It is only the main course that needs improvement, and only in certain quarters. Once that is done, Oye Amritsar can pose a threat to most other eateries serving Punjabi cuisine in Bengaluru.

See our video review here:

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Watch restaurant review: This Cafe and Microbrewery is a Hoot! [4/5]

When you live in North Bengaluru and have to make the journey towards deep south in the city, whatever you are looking to achieve or experience better live up to the hype. Having said that, this was one of the occasions when expectations were indeed met. Welcome to Hoot Cafe and Microbrewery, which indeed does justice to its name! That is the short review of it. For a longer account of our visit, read on!

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

Located just off Sarjapur Road, Hoot can be a place to unwind on a lazy afternoon after a tough week, or a place to party hard in the evening, when the mood lights come on and the music starts to play loud. Add some in-house beer to the concoction, and you might just have a candidate for a regular hangout! If your pocket suits it, that is.

The alcohol

Hoot may serve a heady menu of cocktails and drinks, like the Jalapeno Margarita I ordered, but the suggestion would be to go for one of the three kinds of locally-crafted St Martin beer. Can’t decide on one? Ask for a sampler like the one shown below. These are, from right: Special German Wheat Beer, Abbey Blond Beer and Abbey Dark Beer.

My suggestion: Go for the first of the three. Its flavours are not overpowered by the bitterness of the beer, and it goes down well with some finger food. And you won’t find it often outside Hoot Cafe and Microbrewery!

The starters

Now, I admit I arrived late, so some of the starters had already been served. But I still got some delicious finger food! Here we have, clockwise from top-left: Lazeez Khumb [a creamy mushroom dish], Paneer Karara Dhaniya [melt-in-your-mouth paneer triangles encrusted with crispy herbs], Beer Batter Fish and American Buffalo Wings [no beef, only chicken].

The first two were creamy to the point of coating the mouth till you clear it with the first swig of sharp alcohol. The basa fish coated in beer batter was slightly on the oilier side, but the wings were indeed nice, even on the eyes.

Main course and desserts

One thing that goes down well with alcohol and can be both finger food and main course is pizza. We got two kinds: Farmhouse for the vegetarians, and Butter Chicken for the non-vegetarians. Nothing to write home about, but they gelled well with a quiet dusk that turned into a happening evening.

Next, some noodles: Veg and Chicken Haka. Beautifully spiced, these noodles could give any decent Chinese joint a run for their money.

Then, pasta. The green one is Penne Pesto Rosso, while the red one… well, what’s in a name? They were equally delicious, although possibly a little bland for the Indian palate that is used to more robust spices.

The last round was some Indian food: Paneer Kulcha and Kadai Subz. Hearty spices blended with fresh ingredients to make for some flavours that would be remembered for quite some time!

And finally, some caramel custard to end on a sweet note. This, however, can be improved upon.

Final thoughts on Hoot Cafe and Microbrewery

The food at Hoot is up to par, with you getting what you pay for… on the most part. And based on that alone, the watering hole can get a decent 3.5 out of 5. However, add the St Martin German Wheat Beer and the ambiance to the mix, and the rating goes up automatically to 4!

Visit this place in the afternoon for a quite time, and in the evenings for a happening time. And if you are a family man, bring your children too!

Watch the video review here:

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Restaurant Review: Malabar Bay is a food destination if you can’t visit Kerala! [4/5]

Come in. Sit down. Order your food, and be transported to Kerala! That is what Malabar Bay in BTM Layout aspires to be. And speaking as someone who has always wanted to go to God’s Own Country but never managed, I was more than happy to share a table with friends and partake in food that would tingle my palate. That’s the shorter version of the review. For the longer version, read on…

Malabar Bay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Now, when you think of Kerala, the lush backwaters along the Malabar coast come to mind. Malabar Bay may not have an ambience like that – it is located in Bengaluru and nowhere near any significant water body – and yet its interiors are a reminder of the roots of a culture that has branched out all over the world.

A typical Kerala thaali

What’s on offer

When it comes to Keralian cuisine, it is a spicy mixture of ingredients that are primarily sourced from the sea, but poultry and mutton are also not unheard of. Of course, there is another kind of meat that’s popular in Kerala, but let’s not complicate matters here. Malabar Bay didn’t, and summed up the sentiment behind its offerings in a single banana leaf, as shown above.

The seafood offerings are quite interesting, actually. I mean, how often do you get crabs as the primary flavour in a soup?

Crab soup
Crab soup

Also on offer, by way of salad, were raw mangos spiced delectably – the kind that sends a shiver down your teeth with their sour taste and make you salivate.

Raw mango salad
Mango salad

Starters and main course

Now, I will admit freely here that I was too busy throughout the entire meal to note down what was what. However, I do remember some of them, but the language barrier stops be from understanding what the rest are. Nevertheless, I will try my best to tell you what was what, and how good it was.

You may also take it upon yourself to draw your own conclusions from the photos I am providing.

First up is one of the starters, a type of fritters and the third is a type of faltbread that looked like a slightly heaver and thicker version of the North Indian poori. The gujiya-looking fritters were actually savoury, and could have done with some sort of chutney.

Now, the three things in the photo came at different times, but ended up together here as a testament to the variety on offer at Malabar Bay. Clockwise from left are some appam and a duck curry, a variety of biryani served with some side dishes, and a drink that was a refreshing treat for us amid the enjoyable assault of spices on our tongues.

Here are some of the other dishes we were served. On top right is a prawn dish that was especially nice, albeit a little bitter.

Somewhere in between where these three dishes. Notice the use of glazed clay pots and banana leaf in plating of dishes. These alone were enough to transport me to a land I want to visit even more now.

And finally these two: The “confused chicken” on the left and volcano prawn on the right. Both delightful, but in very different ways!

Desserts

Now, you would not generally associate Kerala with desserts, but people down there do have a sweet tooth, and some great desserts to quell those cravings.

Here is a version of Shahi Tukda that was a pleasant surprise for me. The custard-like cream was fresh, and yet it had not made the bread beneath it soggy! The sweet and smooth cream with the crunchy bread can be revisited multiple times!

But that was not all! Here we have [clockwise from top left] the Banana Toffee Ice Cream, the Firnee, the Kairalee Jamun and a fourth dish that I cannot seem to identify now.

Final thoughts on Malabar Bay

If you want a proper taste of Kerala, Malabar Bay is the place. Of course, some of the dishes seemed to have been a little over-spiced, to the extent that they seemed bitter to my tongue. However, the “confused chicken” is a safe bet if you like Punjabi and Tandoori dishes, and the volcano prawn is a must-have, even though it is just for the looks of it.

Some of the other dishes I recommend is the general seafood fare Malabar Bay offers. In case you have had enough of the chicken, this is the way to go! And even if you are opting for the chicken, you are getting some authentic fare.

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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: Millets all the way at Kaulige Foods! [4.5/5]

Health is wealth, they say. And if you have to part with a meagre portion of your wealth to retain your health, we end up saying Amen! Barring comfort food and deep-fried goodies, of course. But what if instead of picking just some healthy foods, we make the entire meal healthy? Kaulige Foods does just that, with the option to continue eating healthy present in-house. And, in short, that is exactly why it earns a place of pilgrimage for healthy eaters. For the longer review, read on!

Kaulige Millet Corner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What is Kaulige Foods?

So what is special about Kaulige Foods? More importantly, what is Kaulige foods? It’s an organisation started by a few people to champion the cause of millets in a country that is facing the ever-increasingly spectre of water scarcity, and also wants to eat healthier. Here is a quick insight, in their own words, as to what they do and how they do it.

Kaulige Millet Corner
What is Kaulige Foods?

So what are millets? They are a group of high-fibre crops that can be grown in water-scarce regions, and do not do need to many nutrients in the soil. Because they are high-fibre, they are easier on the stomach, but also need to be supplemented with some water consumption. Here are seven of the eight varieties of millets Kaulige Foods deals in.

Different kinds of millets

Now, these people aren’t all talk. They are interested in a chin-wag of a different variety, and put their money where their mouth is. So after some of us gathered there, they let us try our hand at cooking some South Indian staples. The base, of course, was fermented millet flour instead of the rice one.

Suffice to say, foodies are more often than not kitchen-enthusiasts, and not too wary of making the odd dish. This was the case with our group, where some of us were allowed to test our hands with cooking with millets. Suffice to say, even the testiest of us found the result tasty and quite to our liking!

The effort and the result

Besides the dosa, an uthapam was also made and consumed before I had a chance to photograph it. As did the first batch of paddu. So I decided to take matters into my own hands – a tad more literally – and made a second batch of paddu. Any comments on my skills here?

Paddu, by yours truly.

The meal

And finally, we come to the meal Kaulige Foods serves every day from noon to 3 pm, where most of the primary and secondary ingredients are either millets or derived from the crop. What you see here – clockwise from top – are a millet bisibele bhaath [nice and spicy, with nary a complaint over rice being not a part of it], curd-millets [a la curd rice, and again nothing to complain about here], a salad of some fresh veggies, cauliflower manchurian [with the coating made from millet-flour] and some sweet millet dish.

The millets thaali!

Final words on Kaulige Foods

These people not only serve their millet meals regularly, but also sell different varieties of millets. Want to switch to a healthier diet? Just approach them and ask nicely, and they will flood you with more recipes involving millets than you thought possible! For that innovative thought and a great idea, coupled with what we can only say is the beginning of a great execution, they score a 90% on the report card. The rest depends on how they go forward.

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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: 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: Cafe Azzure is great for sundowners at the centre of Bengaluru, with not too much strain on the wallet [3.5/5]

Mahatma Gandhi Road, better known as MG Road, has been one of the best-known thoroughfares of Bengaluru, right from the days it was Bangalore. And one of its best-known intersections if the one where Brigade Road meets it. Having an eatery a few floors above the ground at one of the busiest intersections of one of India’s most happening metropolitan cities may not sound like a good idea, but Cafe Azzure manages to overcome that hurdle.

Cafe Azzure Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The official location is just 10 or so buildings away from the MG Road Metro Station, and on the fourth floor above Pantaloons. Pretty difficult to miss. And once you arrive, make sure to go out to sit. That is the best place if you are there for a sundowner. Look down, and you have a cool view of all the hustle-bustle that you have just left behind.

The drinks

The five of us reviewing the place were given a multitude of drinks to help use wash down the food. The place serves no alcohol, but the drinks themselves are cool and refreshing for the most part. Here they are:

From the top left and going clockwise, these are: Mango Margarita and Green Apple Mojito, Blue Heaven, Chocolate Freak Shake, Peach Iced Tea, Ferrero Rocher Shake, Nutella Shake, two Lime Granitas and a Sulemani Tea.

If you are looking for a sugar rush or a chocolate hit, go for the shakes. If you want to chill some more, try the Blue Heaven. Even the Granitas are nice and smooth, with the crushed ice slowly melting into water helping the drink stay nice and cool.

Starters

We were first offered the Schezwan Chicken Nachos, and these alone were the kind of starters that had us drooling! I personally felt this was one of the better nacho dishes I had eaten in recent times: The nachos were crisp, the cheese was creamy and well spread, the chicken bits were well seasoned, and so was the salsa dip the dish was served with. Great start!

Next up were two more non-vegetarian starters: Butter Garlic Prawns and Sesame Chicken Strips. Neatly presented, the prawns were well-seasoned and a delight to the tastebuds. The chicken strips had become slightly soggy, but that could have been because we took a little time to get to them.

This was followed by two more starters – vegetarian this time. These were Salt and Pepper Mushroom and Cheese-loaded Jalapeno Balls, the second being served with cocktail sauce. The mushrooms were again beyond reproach, while the Jalapeno Balls – I felt – required a different kind of creamier cheese that would make it even more delightful!

Main Course

Of course, the main course too came via recommendations, and started with a creamy white pasta which the following photograph does not do justice to. This was the kind of pasta that would best go in advertisements where some girl sensuously licks it off her lips!

Pizza was always on the cards, but we had no idea it would look like this! The entire thing is like a ring – a giant hole in the middle where the sauce is kept, surrounded by the actual pizza. And the circumference of this ring is alternately filled with cheese and other fillings, making it a treat for both the eyes and the tongue. See for yourself at the Azzure Special Twisted Chicken Pizza!

And the final offering – which we were told was a house specialty – was Cheese Crumb Chicken. A delight to look and, and an equally delightful eat! Special mention again for the cheese, which was awesome.

Dessert

All that cheese already had us full, but like they say, there’s always room for dessert! This time round it was a Mascarpone Brownie [cheese again!] and Sinful Chocolate with Ice Cream. The latter seemed slightly sugary, but maybe that was how it was meant to be, but the Brownie was a delight!

Parting thoughts on Cafe Azzure

This is probably one of the better non-alcoholic places in the city for a sundowner. Unwind with your friends – and the odd board game supplied by the good people at Cafe Azzure – and there are chances you will feel rejuvenated for another tough week ahead!

So how come this is not getting a 4-4.5 out of 5 in the ratings? I’ll be honest. Cafe Azzure is indeed a strong contender for a 4, but what brings it slightly down is the service: When a bunch of people have ordered food and are starting to eat, there should be more cutlery around. And then there’s the cost, which is a little steep for regular visits.

Then again, as an eatery that had only opened in mid-November last year, Cafe Azzure is receptive to feedback. And here’s hoping they keep that up. If it does, there’s no keeping it down!

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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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