Sufi Persian Restaurant, Koramangala, Bangalore

I hit this place practically every month and have never found more than 4 other people eating here at the same time. Being alone among 50 tables in a huge restaurant is eerie and if it had not been for ther fact that I have always got the craziest food each time I go there and it never fails me, I would never have gone back. Under the circumstances, I always do.

When Mohit was here a couple of weeks ago, I was able to introduce him to Sufi. Now, I have never taken anybody other than Sunita to this restautant before on the fear that they will end up ordering Indian tandoori stuff, which in comparison to the Gafghazi kebab and such other divine stuff, is abomination. So, it was a relief to be able to take another devotee to pay homage. And boy, did we pray!

Three huge kebab platters and one massive Persian bread.  Not even the slightest hint of oil, lightly done veggies to round out the meat. And the meat – ahhh!!!!

Go there if you are seriously into meat. It is on the top floor of the Empire hotel in Koramangala, 5th block.

Geylang Serai Market & Arab Street, Singapore

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Over the last few visits to Singapore I trained my sights on  ‘alternative’ food destinations away from Orchard Road, Chinatown and the such. And found Geylang Serai Market and Arab Street.

The Geylang Serai area is culturally Malay. Arab Street is , as the name suggests, Muslim and so intersects with Malay culture in addition to Middle Eastern & North African.

Hogged on the briyanis, kebabs, hummus et al. Next time in Singapore, you must absolutely check out these places.

Barasti Bar at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina

The Barasti bar in Dubai was recently polled by Worlds Best Bars as THE top bar in the world (the photo above is from their site).  And since I run a site that does ratings, for a living, I know the ‘Best” rating is a bit of a cross to bear. For, being labeled the best restaurant or bar or hotel is like getting a reputation in the old wild west as the ‘fastest gun’. Every cow-poke in the west then wants to have a shoot out with you for the chance to win and attain immediate notoriety. Life can get troublesome.

Anyway, my old project finance friend Anshul (whom I hadn’t met in a long time) decided he would treat me to an evening in the Barasti and so we went. It was a really muggy weekend evening. The bar has an inside area and a nice outdoor patio kind of space facing the Arabian Gulf, all of which added up to a lot of space. Since I live in a country where extreme highs of temperature are the norm, I was not fully enticed by the 40-odd degrees outside and decided to stick to the indoors; air-conditioned, you see.

The booze was fair to good and so was the food, although everything generally took a long time to get to the table and seemed pretty expensive. There was live music and Euro cup on TV. Brits and assorted Europeans overflowed from all nooks and crannies. (This is the biggest change I can see in Dubai; the overwhelming & very visible presence of Europeans).

My verdict is – good, nice atmosphere if you ignore the occasional sensation of a hostel reunion, decent food & booze. Certainly worth a visit if you are in Dubai. But, the best bar in the world. Nah…

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Ofto Kleftiko, Halloumi & the world’s lamb capital

(No, Ofto Kleftiko is not the Cypriot term for an old lady by an oven – it is actually very slow-cooked lamb. Just put this photo in for effect!)

Kleftiko is a form of cooking in Greece & Cyprus in which the raw ingredients are put into a hole in the ground, sealed with mud and slow fired for 6 to 7 hours. Lamb done this way is a particular delicacy and having experienced it at the Mona Lisa restaurant on the other side of the Larnaca fort, I can say this with confidence. Go for it.

The origins of Kleftiko are a bit murky, but the more popular version suggests that Greek soldiers dumped meat & veggies into the ground in the morning, fired it with charcoal and left to fight the Romans. At sundown, those of them that survived the day’s battle would come back and eat up the stuff, which to their surprise had become deliciously tender by then. The good men at Mona Lisa plied me with the softest, most delicate Lamb I have ever had along with wonderful rice and potatoes. Kleftiko.

Halloumi is goat’s cheese and is another Greek/Cypriot favourite. Grilled or Fried, Halloumi makes a great course in itself. And if you don’t believe me, check out oomphy Nigella Lawson’s take on it.

As you can see, there is a pattern beginning to emerge. And it is – yes, Lamb.

The middle east & the Mediterranean are the places to go for those who like their Ovine repasts. If East Asia is the place to go for Seafood and the Americas for more bovine pursuits, Asia Minor is great for all forms of goat/sheep/lamb. Whether it is lamb kebab or lamb pilaf from Turkey or the Kleftiko from Cyprus, Lamb enthusiasts will never tire in this land. And after 4 days of unceasing effort in this direction, all I could say was baa.

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Travel writing & the art of writing about Food

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“we counted fourteen separate hors d’oeuvres – artichoke hearts, tiny sardines fried in batter, perfumed tabouleh, creamed salt cod, marinated mushrooms, baby calamari, tapenade, small onions in a fresh tomato sauce, celery and chick-peas, radishes and cherry tomatoes, cold mussels. Balanced on top of the loaded tray were thick slices of pate and gherkins, saucers of olives and cold peppers. The bread had a fine crisp crust. There was white wine in the ice bucket, and a bottle of Chateauneauf-du-Pape left to breathe in the shade”

” The main course arrived – rosy slices of lamb cooked with whole cloves of garlic, young green beans and a golden potato-and-onion galette

“The cheese was from Banon, moist in its wrapping of vine leaves, then came the triple flavours and textures of the desserts – lemon sorbet, chocolate tart, and creme angalise all sharing a plate. A coffee. A glass of marc from Gigondas. A sigh of contentment.”

Peter Mayle can be irritating. Here I had just finished what most observers would call a sumptuous Sunday lunch and settled down to read his “A year in Provence” and before you know it, I am panting for more food. I must say this for the man. He can bring food alive . Continue reading

Times Food Guide 2008 Awards and launch in Bangalore

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(Telugu actress – or, Actor as they seem to prefer it – Ileana giving away a prize)

The latest edition of the Times Food Guide, Bangalore was launched over the weekend with much fanfare at the Windsor Manor.  And I found myself in a Page 3 gathering, not my natural watering-hole. For some reason, the good folks who ran this shindig decided that I was to be one of the 20 odd people giving away a prize and so I found myself wedged inside an unlikely group including Kannada actors Ramya & Ganesh , the snooker player Pankaj Advani and Wipro CFO Suresh Senapati among others.

I gave away the prize to Dakshin the south Indian cuisine restaurant at the Windsor. Which was a relief, since I do genuinely like Dakshin. But specialty food in 5 star restaurants is, in general, not for true foodies. Continue reading

Middle-east food

Here is a video of a Fattoush – a lebanese salad

A few days ago, Kunal Vijaykar’s show on TimesNow showed a Parsi family making an Iranian mutton dish called Khoresh Badenjan. We tried it out last night. Turned out to be very good – the trick, like in almost all middle-east food is in getting good mutton. And Ali has a good eye for mutton. So, it turned out great.

Mesopotamia, Persia, Euphrates, Tigris, Egypt – the middle east has had no dearth of ancient civilizations. And food is most certainly one of the region’s great contributions to world civilisation.

One of those lingering memories of my life is of a simple turkish dish in a small eating-house in a city called Al-khobar in Saudi Arabia. A plate of lightly roasted chicken served on a fresh platter of mixed herbs – I can smell the divine aroma after 15 years.