There’s something about the sizzle of a grill that brings out the caveman/ cave women in us. The thrill to see something cooking on a hot rock versus a modern day oven is a primitive urge I can’t explain. There are umpteen theories about why this style of cooking results in the most luscious grills. The ones that makes the most sense to me are A. the ability of the stone to retain and distribute heat evenly and B. the retention of moisture and flavor in the food while preventing flare-ups caused in regular grills. Now, not all of us have the privilege of owning hot stones (generally made of volcanic rock) but Dublin at the ITC Windsor brings the excitement of cooking on a hot stone right to our plate, with the Hot Rock Grills festival. The Irish pub comes alive with a variety of sizzlers crafted by Executive Chef Uchit Vohra giving diners an option of healthy, oil free cuisine made from a selection of meats and seafood. Presented on preheated “Rocks” served with an array of rubs and sauces, it’s a festival designed to delight your inner grill monster.
We tried their offering this Saturday and (I’ll say it even before I finish the post) came away absolutely delighted. There are many restaurants these days that focus on the frills and thrills rather than the food and eventually lose their regular patrons. Dublin need not worry – their commitment to make food the hero, will always hold them in good stead.
We started with a couple of cocktails (nothing like alcohol to take the edge off driving across the city!). We gave the bartender our choice of alcohol and let him come up with something creative for us. In all honesty, this is something I never do – but the staff was so courteous and in control that we trusted them to delight us. What came in was a lovely pineapple and gin based concoction with the faintest hint of cardamom – light, sweet and refreshing. The vodka and pomegranate cocktail was the spunkier of the two and I shamelessly helped myself to a couple of swings from my friends drink. The prettiest one of the lot was unfortunately a mocktail and had peaches, sweet lime and blue curacao. Maybe next time I’ll just ask them to add some white rum to it and act like I’m chilling on a beach 🙂Dublin being a pub, served us some bar snacks along with our drinks and I resisted from eating too much of the spiced peas, because I wanted to do the Hot rock menu justice.
Four main courses for four of the ladies on the table. (There was a tussle for who gets to order the Tiger Prawns and guess who won? – ME 🙂 . The sole vegetarian offering is an exciting Blue Cheese stuffed Polenta steak, but all of us being carnivores conveniently ignored it. When you look at the menu, what you see is classic combinations that you know will hit the spot.
For example, the Lamb Chops were marinated with garlic and rosemary and served with a red wine jus. Match made in heaven? For sure. A mint and mango relish and potato wedges were the accompaniments and they all seamlessly collaborated to present a wonderful meal for the diner. The meat comes sizzling on the hot rock and the aromas will leave your appetite roaring even before the platter hits the table. The restaurant has thoughtfully placed the hot rocks in a ceramic platter so that no untoward ‘ouch I burnt my hand’ incidents occur. (For those who like to test the waters themselves – don’t. Just take my word that the Hot Rocks are, well…hot!).
The Chicken is generally the recipient of the least love when it comes to grilling, because it is such an insipid meat and also extremely easy to overcook, leaving it tough and stringy. However when treated right, it can transform into a marvelously satisfying meal and that is what the Jerk spiced Chicken with candied garlic mash (oooh…) and grilled vegetables was. Oh, they served the mash with some pan-gravy and all I could think of was Christmas!
My best friend is a sucker for good fish and pesto, in no particular order. So when she saw Pesto spiced Black King Fish on the menu, her heart did a double take. (By the way, I think its super cool that they serve Kingfish and not Tuna or Salmon or God forbid, Basa, which seems to be the staple fish of choice in most restaurants these days). Two perfectly cooked, generous filets of kingfish lay content on the hot stone. The sides included a Shitake mushroom reduction (to die for!!) and a leafy house salad. If you are a fish lover, definitely order this. You have my word.
And now for the grand finale – Peri Peri rubbed Tiger Prawns! (Well, they did get all the dishes in at once, but I reserved judgment on this for the end). Let’s first consider their size. The ONLY place in Bangalore that did justice to the word ‘Tiger’ Prawns. Every other restaurant that has offered me a tiger prawn can now rename their dishes to ‘wannabe’ Tiger Prawns! Each of these beauties (and there are two to a plate) was the size of my fist! Size – full marks. Now let’s get down to the cooking bit. When you grill something this size which has a tendency to curl up, you better know what you are doing. Adding another complex variable to the equation, is the fact that the prawn will continue to cook on the Hot Rock even after the chef has completed his work in the kitchen. So I give Chef Uchit and team full marks for how perfectly these were cooked. Each bite had a wonderful peri-peri hit and the knife cut through the prawn like a ripe apple – firm to the touch but juicy and soft to the bite. Divine. The raw mango chutney was an inspired seasonal accompaniment. The parmesan fries were interesting but I would have preferred something much creamier and softer to accompany the succulent prawns. Buttery Jacket Potatoes or Creamy Polenta? But don’t let my pickiness distract you from ordering this one…it’s a winner through and through.
After such a sublime main course, I actually didn’t want to sully my mouth with any dessert. (I know, it’s sacrilegious to ignore dessert). So we did order three and decide to share amongst us. I have exacting standards for Tiramisu and though this one was lovely, it still failed in the ratio of coffee-soaked ladyfingers to mascarpone. Layer people, layer. (Ok, I admit my tiramisu OCD is going to earn me no favors in Bangalore restaurants). The other two desserts were absolutely gorgeous and decadent. The Rum Chocolate Mousse was large enough for two to share and was so rich that a couple of bites could leave you satiated. If you are on a diet, this could be your diet Armageddon. My favorite dessert for the day was the Caramel Custard. I know it’s home-style and too simple to be on a restaurant menu, but how many get it right? Rich caramel top glistening and adorned with candied nuts complimented by a cheery cream custard lying in a pool of liquid gold. Loved this one.
The festival is on till the 31st of May at Dublin for dinner only. But grill lovers can rejoice, because post May, it will move to the Raj Pavilion and you still get to enjoy the Hot Rock experience. *Still lusting after those prawns…*
25 Golf Course Road,
Bangalore – 560052.
#1, Residency Road,
Bangalore – 560025.
Ph: 080 2226 9898
Parking: Valet available
Cost: Rs.900 – 1300/-++ for the special grills