From Spain with love
Tapas, tapas everywhere – excessive, don’t you think? Seems to me that every Tom, Vik, and Hari thinks he can plop down a minuscule amount of food on a teeny tiny plate and charge a premium for it by calling “tapas”. Was that what El Tablao, this new, supposedly Spanish restaurant in Koramangala, was going to be about?
Thankfully not. In my opinion, there are very few restaurant owners or chefs in this city who understand what tapas are supposed to be – you can count them on the fingers of one hand, even if a couple of your fingers have been amputated. To that very short list, I am happy to be able to add new kid on the block Sachin Nair of El Tablao.
Naati Manae's rustic theme
Once in a way, a dining experience makes an impression. If you are well-traveled and eat out more often than not, that kind of experience becomes especially elusive. That’s why I am happy to report that I recently discovered an experience of that sort – pretty much on my own doorstep. It’s called Naati Manae (naati = rustic/country-style; manae = house), serves only typical Karnataka cuisine, and (this was a surprise) as of now, only non-vegetarian dishes. K. Girish and B. Ravi Shankar, Koramangala-based friends and real estate developers, got so tired of having to schlep off to Cubbonpet or Malleswaram every time they needed a fix of honest-to-goodness local oota (meal) that they decided to go the DIY route. The result is an unpretentious little eatery that dishes out specialties like raagi mudde (raagi = finger millet; mudde = balls), donne biriyani (biriyani served in a cup made of dry leaves), naati koli saaru (naati koli = free range chicken; saaru = a thin, soupy curry), and more. Disclaimer: In a break with my standard policy, I have only dined at this restaurant ONCE. It was good enough to share.
Lucknow's Chowk area: unbridled chaos
The esrtwhile Kingdom of Avadh (or Lucknow, as it is now called), boasts a rich cultural history. The Nawabs, Muslim noblemen who governed the province for the Mughal rulers, were connoisseurs of the arts. Avadh’s history is replete with poetry, literature, art, music… and, of course, good food. In acknowledgement of its opulent past, Lucknow is known as The City of Nawabs. Thanks to its culinary legacy, however, I have come to think of it as The City of Nawabs and Kebabs. And no kababi in Lucknow is more beloved than Tunday Kababi, located amidst the chaos of Chowk, the walled Old City.
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Gavin struts his stuff
I enjoy “Indian Chinese” food. I even enjoy “American Chinese” food. That said, I have often wondered what the good people of China think of perversions like “Gobi Manchurian” and “General Tso’s Chicken”. A random tweet, from Gautam John of Pratham Books, bemoaning the lack of authentic Chinese food in Bangalore, sparked an idea.
Gavin Mak, who belongs to one of Bangalore’s oldest ethnic Chinese families, has been catering at our home for years. While Mak Hospitality, his catering company, dishes out some very good Indian, kinda-European, and desi-Chinese cuisine, Gavin never serves authentic Chinese food, because he believes that “no one will eat or appreciate it”. I made a deal with Gavin: If I could find 10 people who would enjoy the “bland” flavors of true Cantonese cuisine, he would have to come and cook it himself.