Bangalore has been a glutton for restaurant showcases in the past couple of years and every gourmand worth his salt, bookmarks this time to explore and indulge. Le Jardin at The Oberoi played host to us this Thursday to kick start the FoodLovers Gourmet City event. With 20 of the finest restaurants in Bangalore participating this year, it promises to be a celebration of all things food. While value for money has always been the driving theme for restaurant showcases, FoodLovers Gourmet city combines that with a specially curated menu featuring the chef’s signature dishes. Add to that the variety of cuisines on offer, options to dine out at lunch or dinner, choices between a 2 course and a 3 course menu – and you have yourself an event that’s bound to stand out from the crowd.
FoodLovers takes it a couple of notches higher and ends the showcase with FoodLovers Chefs for Charity. The 20 participating restaurants offer a gourmet grazing experience over lunch on 29th March, at The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore. All proceeds from this event go to Sneha Nilaya, an orphanage run by the Franciscan Sisters Of The Immaculate Society, in Langford Gardens, Bangalore, that looks after the complete well-being of orphans and under-privileged children. We had a chance to meet with Executive Chef of The Oberoi, Bangalore – Amit Wadhawanand Chef and Director of Caperberry restaurant – Abhijit Saha, who over lunch offered us their perspective of why Chefs for Charity holds a special place in their hearts as well. I’m a staunch supporter of Corporate Social responsibility and when it comes in the form of a celebration, there’s little that I can do to resist. March is also going to be a month of celebrations for me – with seven birthdays, including my own, interspersed with dining at fabulous restaurants and ending with the Chefs for Charity event – all I want for my birthday is an iron gut!
Le Jardin, aptly named because it has the most fabulous views of the garden, is an all-day dining restaurant at The Oberoi. It offers both Western and Indian cuisine with emphasis on getting the classics back to life. This is even reflected in the décor – french windows, teak wood flooring and double height ceilings supported by colonial pillars, all awash with golden light, lend a stately charm to the place. I don’t think I need to go into the how much I adore the service at The Oberoi – it will always be their trump card. Chef offered to bring us tasting portions of the starters from the specially created menu so that we couple sample more than a few options. This way I would be forced to sample some of the vegetarian offerings and thereby absolve myself the sin of not writing about it 😉
Chilled Gazpacho arrived in style. I am a sucker for presentation and the bowl of bright red soup nestled among sparkling ice cubes, dressed with a pretty nasturtium flower definitely lit up my eyes. The basil crostini completed the pretty picture. The Classical Chicken Consomme is not something you see on restaurant menu’s these days. Everyone wants to do something different and funky, and the classics seem to have been relegated to the background. Creating a prefect consommé is pretty much culinary training 101. We heard some interesting stories from the chefs at the table where they were lamenting about college graduates wanting to jump from A to Z without going through the necessary training. The hard labour of love to reach the pinnacle of perfection is often brushed aside for momentary thrills in a world of instant gratification. Luckily for us at Le Jardin,– someone seemed to have put in the heart to perfect the art of a beautiful consommé. Crystal clear with a beautiful golden color – this one was consummate.
The Tenderloin Carpaccio was an exercise in will power for me. Having given up eating beef, it was sheer agony to restrain myself from picking a perfectly marbled translucent slice of meat and popping it into my mouth. The gremolata tipped edges just highlighted the pink beef and the baby radishes and caper mayonnaise hung around to add the right amount of heat. (This is not active imagination – my beef eating companions alluded to this fact, albeit not so poetically).
My reward for abstinence (of the carpaccio kind), was the Pickled Beetroot. Sheer plating poetry! Wafer thin slices of pickled beetroot, ruby red in appearance were dressed with herbed goats cheese and orange segments. The sugary candied walnuts and the bitter arugula complimented and contrasted each other both with texture and taste but were the perfect accomplice to the beetroot. I thought the nasturtium flower was just a pretty face, but was informed that it was edible as well. So I ate the flower expecting a high level of vegetal nausea but was pleasantly surprised that it tasted a bit like radish! This dish was the highlight of the day for me…or so I thought because I didn’t have a mirror into the future. (And by that I mean dessert!).
From the Indian menu, the veg and non-veg appetizers arrived in a trio. The vegetarians have an option between the Lacchedaar Malai Tikka – panner marinated with saunf, layered with sweet tamarind and mint chutney or the Tandoori Bharwan Aloo. The potatoes formed a little roundel to hold cottage cheese and dry fruits within.
The Tandoori Jhinga was marinated with spices and carom seeds and contained Chef Amit’s favourite Ingredient that he claimed he tries to sneak in everywhere – oranges! Seafood and citrus combinations are a match made in heaven and I definitely like the spin of oranges instead of lemons here. The Sarsoon Murg Tikka will happily find a place in my plate because I am a fan of Kasundi mustard. The tang and pungency of this Bengali mustard paste is my new kitchen must have. (If you don’t have a Bengali friend to get it down from Calcutta for you – try ordering it off Towness). The Beef Pepper Fry parted ways with me and landed in my fellow bloggers plate. She quickly gulped down the preparation of peppery beef slices served with mini uttapams and cucumber pachadi.You win some and lose some, right?
We decided to go the whole hog for main course and order one portion each. I for one, couldn’t take my eyes off the Barbary Duck Confit. When it arrived it made me do a little happy jig in my head. The duck was perfectly cooked with crispy skin encasing the succulent meat inside. Beautiful baby carrots and beans nestled contently over the puy lentils – which I absolutely loved. The sautéed potatoes were more like golden fried medallions – I personally would have preferred it a little softer. The berry jus was just perfect with the duck and I shamelessly asked for more to dunk the beans in. Absolutely no regrets on polishing this one off!
My fellow diners ordered the Pan Seared Tenderloin. I saw her nodding her head in approval as she cut through the meat to find it cooked to a nice medium rare. Served with creamed polenta, roast vegetables and red wine jus – I can imagine many a happy diner sail into food bliss after this one.
We couldn’t resist sneaking bites of the perfectly balanced Prawn Balchao. The Managalorean on the table even proclaimed that it was a dead ringer for the ones served in traditional homes on the western coast. The key element of a good balchao is the vinegar used to make the spice paste. Le jardin specially sources it from the fishing community on the coast and hence the flawless flavor profile! Served with Sannas, this is definitely a comfort meal. Chef was kind enough to share a little bottle of vinegar with one of the bloggers – she’s promised to call us home for a meal!
I don’t have a picture of the Wild Mushroom Risotto, but couldn’t warp up the main course section without a mention. The flavor was so robust – maybe because of wild mushrooms. Coupled with the grana padano and the truffle oil it earned its place in the top risottos of Bangalore. (Graze, Olive Beach and Italia round up the top contenders). If you ever had ‘risotto fatigue syndrome’, generally happens after the tenth bite – this one will surprise you when you lick the bowl clean.
There are desserts and then there are DESSERTS. This one was clearly the latter and contended fiercely with the Pickled Beetroot for top dish of the day. With no disrespect – this was one sexy mamma! The ‘Textures of Berries’ was designed to titillate and drive the palate into a frenzy. The plating again was a work of art and I must confer special praise to the artist. The platter was an amalgamation of tart and sweet flavors – raspberry and chilli sorbet, chocolate and berry mousse, berry macaron and glazed berries like Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry and even our humble cape gooseberry from India found a place on the chocolate bed. There can be no better ode to the season’s bounty than what was laid in front of us that afternoon.
FoodLovers Gourmet City is on from the 13th to the 31st of March. The special menus at the 20 participating restaurants are available exclusively on reservations. For more information on the same log onto http://www.foodloversgourmetcity.com/home.html
Publisher and Managing Editor of FoodLovers Magazine Kripal Amanna with the Bespoke Silvers awarded to Le Jardin last year at the FoodLovers Gourment City event.
The Oberoi, Bangalore
39, M.G. Road,
Bangalore – 560001
Ph: 080 2558 5858/ 4135 8202
Parking: Valet Available
Cost: Rs.999/-++ to Rs.1299/++ for the special FoodLovers Gourmet City menu from 13th to 31st March