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:
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.
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!
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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