Start-up? Shut down please

Yes I realise the headline does not make for good reading. Alright, at least pivot please! Confused? Let me explain.

I popped into my neighbourhood Dunkin’ Donuts this week to pick up some donuts for the evening. I discovered a box of ‘DunkyDoos’, a six-pack of smaller sized donuts, at a much more repeat-worth price. I picked the flavours I wanted and asked the guy at the counter to box them up and walked over to pay. It might have been uneventful from here on if I’d not seen the guy placing the donuts on the lid of the box. I sparked chaos by pointing out that it might be better if the donuts were placed properly. 4 variously uniformed workers converged to set things right, amid some mumbled apologies. As I waited for the confusion to settle, I glanced up at the menu, and spotted ‘Bangalore Start-up Coffee’, in a list of new coffees.

Let me disclose right away that I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I don’t drink it often, and I can’t tell my Arabica from French Press (now that was all wrong wasn’t it?) I do love the generic aroma of coffee, and gravitate toward other coffee flavoured foods, such as ice-cream, all the time. And among coffee, I know 3 broad flavours – the instant coffee (aka Nescoffee), the cappuccino at the chain coffee shop, and South Indian filter coffee. The last named is my favourite kind of coffee to drink, and Delhi isn’t the easiest place to find a decent cup of filter coffee. True, there are a few places that serve a mean cup, Karnataka Food Centre in RK Puram for example, but in general good filter coffee in Delhi is found a minimum of 10 km apart.

The name sparked hope in my mind and I asked the cashier, who confirmed, to my delight, that Bangalore Start-up Coffee was indeed South Indian filter coffee. I immediately asked for one, to add to my DunkyDoos order (now settled snugly in the box the right way up). I walked out with my cup of Start-up coffee, tingling with anticipation and happy thoughts. As I waited for it to cool, I took a small sniff, and the lovely aroma of filter coffee wafted out.

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That was it. It was all downhill from there on. From the first sip onwards, it was a fruitless search for filter coffee as I’ve known it. The funny thing was, it didn’t taste like any other coffee, or any coffee at all. All I got was a hot brown liquid, with a hint of sweetness and the occasional fragrance of the cardboard cup to go along with it. There is a fourth type of coffee flavour I’m familiar with, not mentioned above. It is the ‘wedding coffee’ – spat and coughed out by rusty ‘espresso’ machines at wedding banquets, especially up North. It is hot, sweet, milky, and has cocoa powder sprinkled on for flavour. Even if you haven’t come across this specimen, you can tell that it barely qualifies as coffee. After a few sips of the Start-up coffee, I began to think kindly of ‘wedding coffee’ (not going so far as to actually want it though).

Suffice to say, I poured the half of the coffee down the drain, to follow the money I’d spent on it. And instead of filter coffee on my palate, I had questions swirling in my head – such as, why does it continue to be so hard to get decent filter coffee in Delhi; who tasted this coffee at Dunkin Donuts before they approved it; was the cashier wrong in confirming that Bangalore start-up coffee was filter coffee, when it is designed to be sludge, to remind you that you are now in a start-up and don’t have money to buy a wedding coffee even; is this actually the coffee drunk at start-ups in Bangalore, and is that the reason the start-up space is in much trouble recently, and suchlike.

Dunkin Donuts has done some wonderful stuff since they’ve been here. Not least is to take a name that encourages people to dunk donuts in coffee, and establish a premium chain burger (and sandwiches etc) brand with it. That’s quite something – and I do enjoy the burgers at Dunkin. But this Bangalore start-up coffee? Not their proudest moment.

Back to Mamagoto – in a new location

Mamagoto – the ‘fun Asian eating’ place, opened recently in Vasant Kunj, at the DLF Promenade mall. It occupies the site recently vacated by Tasty Tangles – so there seems to be some Oriental karma about the location.

Catching up with friends took me to the Promenade mall over the weekend and we came upon Mamagoto at lunch time, with a crowd milling around the entrance. A waiting period of about 45 minutes later (during which time we downed a couple of beers and sushi plates at Izakaya, down the corridor), we were ushered in. I’d written about Mamagoto a couple of posts back (or at my current blog-rate, a couple of months ago). The somewhat mixed results of the food, but the overall good feeling from the previous visit made me want to try them again – and ensure that the order comprised new dishes.

The vibe here is decidedly muted – the vibrant colours and buzz of the Khan Market location aren’t quite there yet. Possibly, having to set up on the remains of an earlier restaurant may have limited them in terms of layout and permanent fixtures. The food however, was better. The Thai green curry was richly aromatic, and a lovely colour and texture consisting of the coconut milk and generous portions of lemongrass (If you want a more diluted taste, just add more rice!). The lamb massaman curry was creamy and sumptuous too, although it could have done with more spice and bite, and a little less cocounut milk. The lamb, a little inconsistent, had some chewy little pieces. I did not try the pan-fried noodle bowl that one of us ordered – I’m told it had nothing to complain about apart from being a little bland (that’s easily remedied right?).

While there’s work to be done on amping up the fun score here, it is still worth dropping by if one is around. Let’s hope the location works out better for Mamagoto than it did for the previous occupants.

A warm and hearty pocket-of-Pita

Pita Pocket 5

Here’s a quick note to recommend the ‘Pita Pocket‘ sandwich (seen above) at Cafe Turtle as a must-try. I will roll the caveat here – for those who are unaware, Cafe Turtle serves vegetarian food. There, that’s the big ‘gastro-mental’ hurdle to overcome. I usually find myself proximate to a Cafe Turtle only when I’m at the excellent Full Circle bookshop (which as a bookshop, is as omnivorous as they come). The last time around, I was not only near Cafe Turtle in the aforesaid manner, I was also near starvation.

The ‘Pita Pocket’ appears near the bottom of the list of Mains at the cafe, and offers a pita bread filled with falafel, lettuce and tomato, with tzatziki dressing. The sandwich was indeed filled with the promised goodness – the bread warm, soft and crumbly crisp, with the lettuce and tomato inside still crunchy. The falafel (2 of them), made with cottage cheese and bulgur wheat (from the menu, not that I could tell while eating it) were warm, dense and melt-y. I would have loved some more of the delicious tzatziki – drizzled liberally as it was on the outside, there was none inside. While it helped preserve the integrity of the stuff inside the ‘pocket’, a bit of tzatziki on the side would only have helped. Maybe I should have asked? So once again, here’s the hero of the piece.

Pita Pocket
Pita Pocket – Cafe Turtle

Hungry as I was, as you can see, I was unable to take a shot of the full sandwich. And I had to quickly take this picture before my other hand reached out for a second bite.

Mamagoto – go for the food, stay for the vibe

Chiang Mai train station noodles1

A few weeks back, when the summer in Delhi had still not bared its fangs, we were in Khan Market one weekend evening for a long planned visit to the excellent Full Circle bookshop, followed by dinner in the neighbourhood. And so it was that after the books were bought, we (self, the wife and the two girls) wandered desultorily in Khan Market’s middle arc – the one that most of the restaurants and cafes open their doors to. A few minutes of wandering among sated happy diners and others purposefully striding to their dinner reminded us to decide quickly, it being Saturday evening and nearly rush hour for the dinner crowd. Quickly scanning the lane for a place we had not been to before, Mamagoto (promising ‘fun Asian eating’) caught the eye.

We walked up the narrow flight of stairs wondering how the place was going to deliver the ‘fun’ along with Asian eating. As we reached the first floor (they have another above), the hubbub of a busy, happy cafe hit us. Bright and colourful, looking packed to the gills with chattering customers and waiters snaking to and fro, it looked promising – the only question was, would we find a table? Luckily there was one, and a nice location too – a table for 3 in one corner with a view (ok, of the lane outside and the car park). The place had a casual, cafe-like air, more buzz-y than relaxed, and with no overt Chinese or Oriental restaurant trappings. A waiter sauntered by soon enough, greeted and introduced himself, and handed us the menu.

The menu was interesting, riffing on flavours and techniques across the Orient. To begin with, we ordered a spicy fried calamari to go with a Mojito and a glass of white wine. It turned out to be a great choice of appetiser. The calamari was crisp on the outside, and chewy yet tender as you bit through and spicy enough without overwhelming the rest of the flavours.

Spicy fried calamari
Spicy fried calamari

As we munched through what soon started looking like a meagre serving (!) it was time to order the mains. It being our first visit to Mamagoto, we wanted to sample as wide a variety across the menu as was possible for two adults and a kid (our younger daughter is a little more a year old and so doesn’t count, yet. She spent most of the evening on the windowsill – they have only one high chair for kids and it was taken – or wandering about, looking at large noisy human beings at other tables). We decided to go for an Indonesian grilled chicken with coriander and peanut dip for our elder one, and a teriyaki meal in a bowl with chicken and Chiang Mai train station noodles for us. The name of the last dish was too much to resist, and it promised a khao-suey style preparation – so I guess we couldn’t go wrong.

The grilled chicken was excellent, with the smokey notes of ‘tikka-ed’ chicken mixing well with the slightly sweet and pungent sauce it was cooked with. The dip was nice too, and I used it later to add flavour to my teriyaki meal as well.

Indonesian grilled chicken
Indonesian grilled chicken

The teriyaki and Chiang Mai train station noodles took a while longer to arrive. While we waited, we sipped our drinks and longingly looked at the now empty fried calamari bowl, and wondered if it made sense to order another portion. And while the wine was great, the Mojito was served with ice cubes, instead of crushed ice – not sure that was an innovation that added much. Our friendly waiter was difficult to trace, and when he finally arrived to tell us that the rest of the food was almost ready, he introduced himself again. Blame it on a busy night I guess.

Teriyaki Chicken in a Bowl
Teriyaki Chicken in a Bowl

The teriyaki meal in a bowl was nice enough, with a hearty taste albeit a little low on flavour. The serving was generous and so towards the second half of the bowl I found myself reaching for the peanut and coriander dip to add some spice.

Chiang Mai train station noodles

The Chiang Mai train station noodles were a little disappointing – not bad mind you, but did not quite hit the notes we were expecting it to. Overall, it seemed sweeter and more tangy than it should have been, and low on the rich flavour of coconut milk (Maybe the coconuts are expensive at Chiang Mai station?). The sauce in which the noodles were cooked was quite thick, a little too many fried onions, and heavy on turmeric. Maybe the sub-conscious comparison with khao-suey affected this unfairly, but the balance of the dish seemed a little off.

The buzz at the place was great throughout, with large happy groups of friends and families at most tables – the crowd starting to thin out only around the time we were leaving. Asian eating it was, with hearty portions and certainly a sense of fun. I would certainly go back for the calamari, the Indonesian grilled chicken, and to try some of the other interesting offerings on the menu.

Rating: 3.6/5

Mumbai my new abode

I never thought I would ever get an opportunity to sample working and discovering a new city but thanks to a great boss and husband moving bases, this opportunity landed in my lap. So here I am in Mumbai, trying out new stuff to cook for dinner and trying out new tastes. I am consciously avoiding chains that I can get to eat in Delhi so that my food horizons broaden. Will be writing my reviews soon so far I have had Parasi, Gujarati, Mexican, Italian, only in Mumbai cafes and street food here. A few places get my likes , some don’t impress me much contrary to what some people might say.

I have another handicap- as much as I would like to try new places I’m avoiding being too adventurous so that I don’t get Mumbai Belly (read Delhi belly) here, so I try to be innovative for dinner at home. A few experiments that I try on husband have been as follows

1. Garlic bread- All time favourite

Ingredients

1 French loaf or Garlic bread loaf

2 table spoons of butter (I use Amul)

2 small cloves Garlic crushed (depends on how strong do you want it)

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Pepper

Pinch of Oregano

1 tea spoon Olive Oil

Mix garlic, Olive oil, Oregano, Salt and Pepper in softened butter. Cut the French loaf diagonally into 8-10 pieces. On top of each piece of loaf spoon out the butter mixture, spreading it across the pieces equally. On a baking tray arrange the pieces and let it bake till the bread top is crisp and brown but should be soft from inside.

If the tray is not non-stick  spray a little bit of Olive oil before putting the pieces on the baking tray. You can also jazz up the bread by putting alternate juliennes of tomato and capsicum after you’ve put the butter mixture and bake. Or you could also put a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella on top of the tomato and bake till the cheese has melted and is slightly brown.

2. Vegetable Au- Gratin

1 cup par boiled vegetables- carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, french beans, broccoli, capsicums (red, green and yellow) and potato (all veggies are to be cut into cubes)

2 table spoons maida

2 table spoons butter

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

¼ cup milk

Ina non stick pan put the maida and sauté it with butter till the maida is slightly brown. Add milk to the pan stirring it constantly so that no lumps are formed. You can add water or more milk if you feel that the sauce is thick or will not cover the veggies. Add salt and pepper to the sauce and pour it over the par boiled veggies, hope the veggies are in a bowl that you want to bake the dish in. On top of the veggies in white sauce add generous helping of cheddar and mozzarella mixture and put it to bake. I usually use  100 degree Celsius for pre heating  the OTG and then keeping the dish at the same temperature till the cheese has melted and has become brown (approx. 5-10 mins) depends if your using a microwave with grill make sure you are using both microwave and grill so that the veggies are hot and the cheese slightly brown.To be served immediately.

3. My take on Cesar  Salad

For the dressing

2 table spoons olive oil

1 table spoon mayonnaise

1 tea spoon white vinegar

Salt to taste Pepper to taste

¼  tea spoon Oregano

1 tea spoon tomato ketchup

For the salad

¼ Ice berg lettuce torn into pieces and put in drinking water with ice

¼ carrot cut into cubes

¼ capsicums cubes (green, yellow, red)

5-6 Cherry tomatoes cut into half

4-5 pieces of Bread croutons

Drain water and dry the lettuce leaves on a kitchen towel , add carrots, capsicum and croutons. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. Mix dressing and the veggies together make sure the dressing is not runny and coates the veggies. The salad is ready to eat, you could keep the salad in the fridge as well, it tastes best when served cold.

To add Hawaiian touch to this, you can also add a few pieces of canned pineapple cut into same size cubes as the rest. For non-veg add cold cuts of chicken or cold fried beacon and mix in with the veggies.

That’s it for now, I would be writting my reviews soon, let me know if you would like a few recipes that I have tried so far

1. Golgappa jaljeera home made (gol gappey ka pani)

2. Phirni

3. Pizza including the pizza base

or

4. Moong Dal cheelas