El Tablao: Spanish Tapas in Koramangala

El tablao

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.

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Full Kee: Dining in DC #2

Chinatown in DC: as authentic as...

This October, the Giant Vacuum Cleaner had to take his 10th grade board exams. The Spouse felt it would be a great idea to whisk me away as far as possible in order to prevent mother-son meltdown. We ended up spending a couple of days in my favorite American city – Washington, DC. Despite having lived in the area for several years, we had never ventured into the District’s Chinatown neighborhood, other than to drive through it on our way to someplace else. Despite knowing that DC’s Chinatown is kitschy and about as authentic as an Elvis impersonator, I thought it would be fun to make like a tourist and eat Chinese food in a Chinatown restaurant. … Keep reading

Bhutanese Cuisine

My Bhutanese alter ego 🙂

Bhutan, the last true Himalayan Kingdom, has worked hard to retain every aspect of its cultural identity. Every home that is built must conform to guidelines that mandate traditional woodwork and craftsmanship on the facade. Whenever a Bhutanese citizen sets foot on the  premises of a government office, a school, or a college, they are required by law to don traditional attire – the gho (for men) and the kira (for women). The Kingdom of Bhutan not only keeps its traditions alive from within – it also takes active steps to limit outside influence while reaping the economic benefits of tourism. Only 21,000 foreign tourists are allowed to visit each year, and each of these tourists is required by law to a) book all travel through a licensed Bhutanese or international travel agency; b) spend a minimum of US$ 200 per day, paid in advance, for food, transport, sightseeing and accommodation; and c) enter the country via air, thereby filling the coffers of DrukAir, Bhutan’s state-owned monopoly airline (as of August, Buddha Air, a Nepalese airline, is also being allowed to operate flights into Bhutan).

Happily, thanks to the bonhomie between our two countries, none of these strictures apply to Indian citizens. Indians are allowed to enter Bhutan by road, without a visa (you need a permit-on-arrival, though); make their own travel arrangements; and spend however much (or however little 🙂 ) moolah they choose. … Keep reading

Sikkimese Cuisine

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Entering: Sikkim state border

Most people are drawn to Sikkim for its cloud-shrouded hilltops, snow-clad peaks, and punishing yet fulfilling trekking opportunities. Me? All I could think of was the fact that I would be able to embark on yet another exciting food adventure.

Sikkim is India’s second-smallest (Goa is the smallest) and least populated state. That said, it also represents a confluence of diverse peoples and cultures. It is home to the indigenous Lepcha tribe, thought to be Sikkim’s original inhabitants; the Bhutias who migrated from Tibet in the 14th century; and the more recent migrant Nepalese (now almost 80% of the populace). Sikkimese cuisine is a reflection of this diversity. …Keep reading

Odiya Cuisine

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Gud rasgulla: Odiya origin

As home to the ancient Jagannath Temple at Puri, which cooks for and feeds an average of over 10,000 people each day, the recently renamed Odisha boasts a rich culinary heritage whose dishes are often wrongly attributed to West Bengal. Did you know, for instance, that the gud (jaggery) rosogolla originated in Odisha? Odiya cooks then took their talents to West Bengal, where they were employed in the homes of rich Brahmins. According to many historians, this sweet has been offered to the Goddess Lakshmi at Puri for several centuries, predating the Nobin Das story.

We glimpsed the complexities of Odiya cuisine as we traveled through the state. Although we only spent a few days in Odisha, visiting Puri, Konark, Bhubaneswar, and Chilika Lake, the few dishes we sampled made an impression for their distinctly different flavors. This cuisine is neither heavy nor oily, and its flavors are a subtle meld rather than a loud, joyous cacophony.

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12th Main, Koramangala

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Um, no. That’s not my address. It’s the name of a restaurant situated on (no prizes for guessing) 12th Main in (no prizes here either) Koramangala. And a very good one it is too.

Although the food at 12th Main is excellent, I want to focus for once on service – an area that many mid-range fine dining restaurants seem to neglect (two notable exceptions, off the top of my head: Caperberry and Via Milano). 12th Main has gotten service down to a T. Partly because I enjoyed the food immensely, but mostly because I simply couldn’t believe they’d gotten it so, so right, I visited 12th Main on several separate occasions. My conclusion: these guys know a little secret – service is an attitude, not a script.

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Cantonese Cuisine: At Home

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.

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