The first time I visited Medici was a couple of years ago, when I was invited as a guest of the Bangalore Mirror review team. At that time, I thought it had a lot of promise, but for one reason or another (so many restaurants, so little time!), I never returned. I was recently invited, with a bunch of other people, to sample Medici’s new Franco-Italian menu, ostensibly so that they could receive feedback on it (in other words, I did not pay for this meal). Having attended the very low-key sit down dinner, I was intrigued (and impressed) enough to return, several times, on my own dime.
My first time back, my goal was to see whether the food was consistently as good as that served up at the PR-focused dinner. Serving dinner to a table full of journos, writers, and opinion-makers is a snap when you KNOW they’re there – I wanted to see whether quality would suffer if I dined as just another walk-in customer. Accordingly, our reservation was made in The Spouse’s name, and I wore a wig and sunglasses. (Just kidding! Wait staff did not recognize me from the dinner though – we were just another family out for a meal).
Where and What
Medici is located in Indiranagar, on 100 Foot Road, above Maharaja Furniture.They offer limited basement parking and a valet service, so parking – that bane of Bangalore diners – is not a problem. The restaurant’s decor is classy and understated, in muted shades of brown and gold. A huge glass frontage offers you the chance to snigger at the miserable multitudes stuck in peak hour traffic as you tuck into your dinner.
Giant Vacuum Cleaner and
Mr. Small Mr. Not-So-Small-Any-Longer (they grow up so soon! sigh) each ordered a mocktail, and The Spouse and I ordered martinis. These were perfect – nice and dry, a rarity in Bangalore today given the profusion of “martinis” made, by default, with vodka and flavored syrup. GVC’s “Funky Toffee” mocktail was… interesting. A concoction of “chocolate syrup, butterscotch, pineapple juice and cream”, Funky Toffee turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. “It doesn’t taste BAD, but it just tastes WRONG,” opined GVC. “Pineapple and chocolate don’t GO together!” Having had a sip, I’d tend to agree.
Le Menu S’il Vous Plait
The menu at Medici is one of the very few in this city that offers you the option to order most dishes in either an “appetizer” or an “entree” portion size. This pleased me immensely; as a food writer, I often end up ordering more than I can eat in order to sample a wide range of dishes, and I abhor wasting food.
We began our meal with an order of fish arancini (Rs.250) and one of carpaccio (Rs. 260), both typically Italian dishes.
In 1950, Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, was presented with a challenge: the Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, a regular customer, had been put on a strict diet – she could only consume raw meat. Cipriani lovingly shaved paper-thin slices of his finest beef sirloin, drizzled a crosshatch of mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce over it, and served it to the Contessa. He named it after Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, whose works were being exhibited in Venice at that time, because the color of the raw beef reminded him of the bright red hues in the artist’s paintings. Given this, I ask four questions to benchmark carpaccio:
1. Is it sliced thinly enough?
2. Is it flavorful, as beef sirloin should be, indicating that a good cut of meat has been used?
3. Is there enough sauce to add flavor without drowning out the meat?
4. Is it served at room temperature (a personal preference, because I feel it better brings out the flavor and the texture)
At Medici, the answers were yes, a qualified yes, no, and yes. Why the ambiguity with regard to flavor? Because it’s a sad fact that the beef available in Bangalore simply isn’t as flavorful as “phoren” beef. Maybe it’s the feed, maybe it’s the breed – either way, the beef we get is inferior. So while I didn’t think the meat was as flavorful as it should be, that probably has less to do with the chef and more to do with the cow, because Chef (and owner) Rohan Malik informs me that Medici only uses tenderloin for its carpaccio.
Arancini are deep-fried balls of breadcrumb-coated cooked risotto. In Italy, arancini are usually (but not always) stuffed with mozzarella. When you bite or cut into them, the mozzarella oozes out deliciously. Like this:
Medici’s rendition of fish arancini, although perfect in appearance, unfortunately fell flat in the flavor department. And the reason for this, I suspect, is twofold: one, the arborio rice has been cooked in water, instead of in a flavorful stock as risotto is supposed to be prepared; and two, they’ve chosen to use (oh no, not again!) basa. I like basa, but only in dishes where fish isn’t meant to be the star performer. Even if I’m wrong about the rice, the arancini was essentially flavorless, because basa takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in and imparts no flavor of its own, #fail.
At a subsequent meal, accompanied by willing niece Akshaya Pai, I unwittingly ordered another #fail: the crab cake (Rs.275). Essentially, this was a large aloo tikki with some chopped imitation crab (aka Jus Like Crab or crab sticks) in it. As an aloo tikki – it was good, and didn’t need the crab sticks. As a crab cake – well, like I said: #fail. (I must say, though, that the red pepper salsa/sauce it was served with was excellent.) [Whiny aside: Whyyyyyyyyyy does no one in Bangalore do a proper crab cake?] Luckily for Akshaya, she ordered the pan-seared scallops (Rs.350) – three perfectly seared little fellas, each topped with a citrusy salsa.
Back to our first meal… by now, we had settled on our entrées. Service, by the way, was attentive and courteous – as always, though, the staff could do with a little more training (informing customers that a filet mignon is “soft” while a rib eye is “little hard” does not inspire confidence.)
My duck ravioli (Rs. 350) was good – or so I’m told. I couldn’t really appreciate it because my recent sugar detox has resulted in my being super-sensitive to sweetness in food. To me, the fragrant pear jus seemed overly sweet. GVC, however, tasted it and pronounced it “perfectly balanced“, and I trust his sense of taste. While the ravioli was cooked right, we both wished that it had a little more stuffing in it.
The Spouse had ordered a lamb shank (Rs.475) that the restaurant claims had been “braised for 8 hours”. Given the falling-off-the-bone quality of the meat, it probably had been – there was enough “tooth” to the meat to know that it hadn’t been pressure-cooked. The rich, fragrant gravy and polenta served alongside evoked images of a cold day spent under a warm blanket – the quintessential comfort food.
Mr. Not-So-Small’s “Italian sausage” pizza (Rs. 375) was great – except for the sausage. A nice thin crust, just the right proportion of sauce to cheese, and a sparse but not invisible topping were let down by the fact that the so-called Italian sausage was made of… chicken. Yup. Sausage yes; Italian – emphatically no. To be fair, I will say that Medici, like many other restaurants, is trying to cater to the large number of people who don’t eat pork. In the interest of authenticity, however, it would be better to offer sweet Italian pork sausage as the default and chicken sausage as an option for those who want it. I know without doubt that real Italian sausage would have made it… well, pizza perfect.
GVC, having no such issues with consuming pork, ordered a pork scallopini (Rs. 450) that turned out to be the evening’s winning dish, characterized by subtle flavors and contrasting textures. A thin, crisp crust of seasoned breadcrumbs imprisoned the pork’s juices, so every mouthful was succulent and intense. Braised red cabbage added an interesting twist, lending a sharp note to the creamy mushroom sauce.
For dessert (which, being in the middle of my sugar detox, I could only taste by the spoonful), The Spouse ordered a Mascarpone sandwich topped with fresh figs (Rs. 175). The creamy cheese was layered between two generously-sized and not-too-sweet almond biscuits. The Spouse felt that had the biscuit been thinner, the overall effect would have been exquisite: crunchy, rich almond biscuit; creamy, mild cheese; and fresh, sweet fig in perfect harmony. As it was, he felt that the texture and flavor of the biscuit dominated and detracted from the whole.
Mr. Not-So-Small decided to go with something off-menu (a kitchen experiment that the restaurant happened to be conducting that day) and accepted the offer of a tender coconut panna cotta. This was pretty good – the panna cotta was neither stiff with gelatin nor gloppy and unformed. It was subtle, understated and tasty – though I daresay there’s nothing Italian or French about tender coconut.
On another occasion, Akshaya found that the chocolate fondant (Rs. 175) struck the perfect balance: not too sweet, not too rich, but gooey and chocolatey and warm and good nevertheless. Wish it had been bigger, though!
Pièce de résistance
As always, I have saved the best for last. Across multiple visits to Medici, I found their
steak to be par excellence. When you order it rare or medium rare, they know what that means. Simple seasoning allows the flavor and texture of the beef to shine through uninhibited, while the accompanying sauces are big on flavor (I highly recommend the filet mignon (Rs. 400) served with a blue cheese sauce that’s strong enough to knock your socks off.)
Overall, I think Medici is pretty good – I’d give it 7.5 on 10 for the fact that its breads, steak, scallops, lamb, and pizza crust were impeccable and its servers are well-informed. It could be brilliant if it stopped trying to cater to more uninformed palates with things like basa, chicken sausage, paneer steak (yup, true), and aloo tikkis trying to be crab cakes. Seems to me that Medici falls short of its potential wherever Chef Malik has tried to compromise in the name of “popular taste.” My advice: revamp the menu and aim for the highest common factor among your customers, not the lowest common denominator.
Should you go? Yes. As long as you know that authentic Italian and/or French food is about subtlety and not spice, you’ll like it. If you prefer loud flavors – stick to South East Asian cuisine. Don’t force good chefs to bastardize other cuisines by insisting that they are too “bland” and must be showered with “spice.”
#1206, 2nd Floor,
Bangalore – 560038
Phone: 65705890 / 65705891