Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cafe Satsanga and Cafe Rendezvous: Pondi Series Part I

Atrocious Service, nice ambience, average food, snooty waiters, and sky high prices: apparently these are the ingredients to a well renowned eating place in Pondicherry (Did I mention the awful service). Cafe Satsang came highly recommended but as you have probably surmised it was one HUMONGOUS let down.

Let me quickly sum up the good points about this place: The ambiance is stunning. Old world decor, quaint little courtyard in the middle, beautiful lighting. Someone very imaginative and skilled wrote the menu. And that is where the good news stops.

We walked into a fairly crowded, gorgeous cafe which others had given rave reviews to. There was a huge waiting line and the group before us left because the head waiter was rude to them (In retrospect I wish we had followed their lead). We were finally given a table but with an insufficient number of chairs. Left to arrange our own seating, we pounced upon chairs just as soon as there was space between the previous customer's bottom and the chair. There were times when we even took the chair of patrons who had gone to the loo, unsuspecting souls who returned to find their chairs missing and a pack of girls giggling uncontrollably. With the much applauded departure of an old European couple we were all finally seated and then began the long process of getting the waiter's eye. Twenty minutes later we finally got our menu and another twenty minutes later he deigned to take our order.

If you are wondering why we stuck it out this long, we were under the illusion that the food was good, an illusion which was soon to be shattered. The complimentary bread they gave us was awful. It was brown, home made, neither warm nor toasted! No wonder its complementary, nobody in their right mind would pay money for this. When our food finally arrived we were told that none of the sides we ordered were available, gave us a big plate of fries and asked us to make do with that (What sort of restaurant runs out of mashed potatoes?!!) I ordered the fried eggplants in walnut sauce along with mashed potatoes. Of course, there were no mashed potatoes. My dish was very interesting. The walnut sauce was slightly sweet but had a nice flavour. The eggplants were fried nicely but the stuffing in them was non descript. This dish definitely requires a little more flavour and spice. They also served it with some sort of zucchini and red sauce mix which was pretty decent. The dish wasn't great but if you're looking to try something new, then this is right up your alley. Ganje orderedthe mushroom and veg kabab which was just about OK. It was bland and the mushrooms were a little chewy. The shallots steak was toooooo chewy and had no real taste of its own. Rads ordered the steak with garlic and parsley, the lemon chicken (I imagine this is what the much mocked dish in Everybody Loves Raymond must have tasted like) and a mushroom dish. The only reason I'm not describing each dish is because it was all incredibly average, had nothing of specific note, no noteworthy flavour and remembering it adds to the disappointment each time.

Please be aware that we were incredibly hungry before this meal and at the point where even mildly good food would have tasted like corden bleu.

The quantities are sufficient I suppose, because there is only so much of average food that one can stomach. The prices are steep. A meal for two could easily cost Rs. 1000.

I largely recommend that you give this place the miss. I have never seen such atrocious service in my life and a place that cannot inculcate basic manners, is never worth the trouble. I must also mention the head waiter who just walked around the whole time being inexcusably rude. There are other, incredibly lovely establishments in Pondicherry that serve you great food and which seem mildly pleased (at the least) to have your patronage.

Cafe Rendezvous: I am making a small mention within the main review since we never got around to ordering any food here. We waited and waited for the waiter to take our order but apparently there are only two waiters who are designated the incredibly difficult task of taking the order. Incidentally, these two waiters also felt the need to exchange life histories at each table they went to. Having been burned by the Satsang experience we decided to walk out and save ourself the bother (Thank God!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Millers 46

Mid week blues and rapidly deteriorating mess standards saw Vats, SneMo, Woogulz, Rao, Aditi and me heading to Millers 46. Take the right at the end of Cunningham onto Millers Road and on your right you will find this little nugget. Rumbling stomachs in tow we reached this place early and breathed a sigh of relief when we didn't have to wait in a loooong line(If we had to I might have ended up eating Vats). This, however, is a unique occurence and generally one must be prepared to wait it out at this place. The restaurant is on the first floor and has a unique decor which recreates the whole cowboy/wild wild west theme. A little overboard at places, me thinks, but it's quite ok.

This place prides itself on being Bangalore's only steak house (they say it, not me!). The menu is immense and it would take me quite some time to peruse each item and its enchanting description. My favourite part about this place is the complimentary bread and garlic butter. The garlic butter is just yumm (Momentary pause to honour the butter). I could happily eat just that for dinner but it's frowned upon (I've tried). The service is quick and the portions HUGE.

SneMo and Vat ordered the Herb Crusted Chicken. It was very good, albeit a little predictable and boring. Aditi ordered the Chicken Gallantine. It was an interesting choice with stuffed chicken and had a unique flavour. However, I think one must be a hard core non veggie to truly appreciate it. It was a little too tough for my gauche taste buds. Woogulz ordered the Mixed Meat Jamaya which I loved. It was a mix of pork and chicken served with rice, veggies and awesome dressing. The chicken was soft, tender and tasted lovely. The pork was OK but personally I think the chicken trumped it.

Being the only veggies there, Rao and I ordered Millers Mixed Veg Grill and the Skewered Mushroom and Zucchini. The Mixed Veg Grill was stunning. Vegetables stuffed with rice and spices, cutlets crammed with mashed potatoes and crisp veggies, fried mozarella cheeseballs. Every morsel was a pleasant surprise. They serve it with pasta. The Skewered Mushroom and Zucchini was largely grilled cottage cheese and veggies in a lovely sauce. The promised mushrooms were missing but I won't hold that against the dish.

I have had the cottqage cheese grill here and it's pretty good. KK went the next day and loved the fish steak. Rao claims that the lasagna here is pretty awesome. Bikki strongly recommends the T-Bone and the twice marinated steak.
The one thing that I dislike about this place is the cutlery. The forks are wavy and difficult to grasp (especially difficult for the food they serve!).

All in all, this place is one of the better restaurants in Bangalore (and that really is saying something). A vegetarian meal will cost you about Rs. 220 and a non vegetarian one close to Rs. 300. Be warned about the quantities and those with frail apptetites may be better off splitting a dish.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Casa Piccola: Still worth a visit

I have been going to this place since I was 16 and I adore it. While the chain has a lot of branches. my favourite is the one on Residency Road, near Juice Junction (the one in the basement). It strives to achieve the look of a roadside Italian cafe. The outdoor seating is charming. The walls depict a lazy Italian village and it is gorgeous - simple and soothing.

For dinner that day I ordered a Pasta Primavera, Krits ordered a Paneer and Veg Platter and Tuhi ordered the Chicken Parmesan (did I get the spelling right??). My pasta was nice but a little bland, so I wasn't a huge fan of that. Krits' platter was awesome. The sauce was tomatoey and tangy and the vegetables were nicely done. It's served with fries and salad. The Chicken Parmesan was the first chicken dish that I truly liked. KK tells me that the Chicken Tetrazini here is also very good. On previous occasions I have tried out the Epinard a'la Creme and quite liked this casserole of spinach, mashed potatoes and assorted vegetables. The Pasta Putanesca also meets with my approval (Clearly, I've tried out almost all the vegetarian dishes here).
To round it off we ordered the chocolate marble cake with ice cream which was sinuous, fatty and totally worth it. The quantities are very generous and my meal cost me less than Rs. 200 :)

Casa used to have THE best pasta ever - The Pasta Valentino (Soft, Tasty Veg Dumplings in a sauce that managed to blend cheese and tomato perfectly). However, in a misguided moment of insanity the management removed this from the menu!! Despite requests to the waiters and long complaints in the register beseeching the return of this masterpiece, no action has been taken. I truly wish the someone (anyone!) in the management reads this review and brings it back (Please, Pretty Please).

Casa used to be cheap, awesome Conti food. It's not that cheap or that awesome anymore but it's still worth visiting.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kodai Kronicles / When Pigs Fly Part II

This post is incredibly late but better late than never I guess. As mentioned in a previous post (Look at Part I of this series) the swine flu holidays saw Kriti, Tuhina and me head over to Chennai. From there we proceeded to the scenic hill station of Kodaikanal. One train journey and a rickety bus ride later we reached Kodaikanal. To get there by train, you will have to catch one to Kodai Road then a cab/bus to Kodaikanal.

Kodaikanal is gorgeous and clean, unlike its ill fated cousin - Ooty. No paper bags in this place and the locals are scrupulous about keeping it clean. Clearly, this is my sort of place. The focal point of the city is the lake. It's not huge but its charming and cycling around the lake was my favourite activity of all. It's fun and healthy! There are cycles to accommodate everyone's needs (including a double cycle which is quite fun). It's around 20 bucks for the hour and the ride around the lake is totally worth it. I also recommend the chilli bajjis sold in mobile carts around the lake - yumm. The one incredibly annoying thing about the lake is the number of newly weds on their honeymoon – nauseatingly in love, making dopey eyes at each other and joint at the hip (Barf! Barf!).

We stayed at Highland Resorts which is at a higher altitude than the main town. We had a beautiful balcony and a small patch of garden all to ourselves and the view was magical. In the nights we just sat at the edge of the garden and watched the twinkling lights in far away mountains.

Home made chocolates are cheap and aplenty here.
Plain, dark, cashew encrusted, butterscotch flavoured - the list is endless. We ate copious amounts of this chocolate throughout the trip and brought back even more for family and friends. Kodaikanal also houses the famous Kodai International School. Students from all over the world flock here and the buildings alone are worth it. It’s huge and built in stone and is straight out of an English story book. Opposite this is an eclectically designed café and pizza place where we spent many an hour gazing dreamily at the school (If only law school were there!!).

Our other great culinary find in Kodai was P.T. Road. It has a host of Tibetan restaurants which serve excellent food for moderate rates (keep in mind it's a tourist place so everything is always a little pricey). We had thupkas, momos and noodles of all varieties and it was tasty and authentic (the potato cheese momos were my personal favourite). You will find a motley crowd in this place including Buddhist monks, French ladies with LOUD red hair and the ubiquitous western tourist who looks like he has never seen a shaving kit and is carrying his whole life in a backpack. This road also houses PotLuck which is a quaint little café serving pancakes, sandwiches and other light food. Definitely sit here and watch the world go by 

Being the masochists that we are, we also signed up for various treks. As is obvious by the amount we eat, we are not in peak physical condition. The treks are hard but incredibly fun and the scenic beauty leaves you awestruck. We trekked to the top of a mountain and the view from the there was something else. We also went to the Devil’s Peak which is a narrow ledge with a fall of monstrous proportions onto hard, solid rock (I don’t even want to think
about how many feet that would have been). I was the only one who managed to walk till the edge despite dire warnings and repeated calls from Kriti and Tuhi. It’s incredibly dangerous but so exhilarating. For the first time I understood why people risk their lives in adventure sports. Of course, that might have been a little too much adventure for my frail heart and I am going to stick to solid ground for sometime now.

The three days in Kodai just flew by and soon we found ourselves heading back to the train station in Kodai Road (in a cab that cost us very very little thanks to my amazing bargaining skills and some emotional blackmail). If you’re looking for a nice pretty hill station in the South, then Kodai and Munnar head my list. If you are going there and want some more info (which this ridiculously long post does not contain), then feel free to ask.

P.S – I have received requests from a number of you to add pictures to my blog. While I haven’t been entirely sold on that idea before, I have added some here since this is one post which I think would be incomplete without it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bangalore Bistro: Pretty Place, Good Food

For a break from our trial misery, Tuhina, Rads and I headed to Bangalore Bistro. It is located in a large complex (the name eludes me) down the road from Eva Mall. It's a rooftop restaurant and this does wonders for the ambiance. They have indoor and outdoor seating but I strongly recommend the outdoors. The view was pretty, seating comfortable and weather fantastic. The middle of the table has a small depression which is filled with petals and candles. Pwetty!!

Having heard much about the generous portions and wanting to save room for dessert, we skipped starters and went to the main course. They gave us complimentary nachos which were OK but nothing I would recommend ordering. I ordered the Canneloni, Rads ordered the Triple Chicken (or something like that) and Tuhina ordered the Meditteranean Chicken. The Canneloni was awesome. Fairly generous portions and the vegetables were crisp, fresh with a distinctive flavour. It had enough cheese to make me happy but not so much that it killed the dish . I had bites of the other dishes and my gauche vegetarian taste buds preferred Rads's dish. Rads swears that all the chicken dishes here are great.

We were quite full at the end of this and decided to order Oreo Shakes instead of a big dessert. While the Oreo Shake was good, I think the ones at Bocca Grande or Mocha are way better. The Java Lava sounded sinful, but we skipped it in deference to our ever expanding waistlines :(. It cost us around 350-400 per person. The prices are a little steep but its worth it. We also thouroughly embarassed ourselves in front of the waiter. So we might not be going there for some time but there is no reason you shouldn't :)