By PRIYADARSHINI NANDY
I wonder if we ever sit down and tabulate the number of meals we eat out every year. Be it a quick snack or an elaborate feast, do we ever actually write down a tally anywhere, perhaps in a secret book, all our gastronomic indulgences? I do not. However, this year has been rather spectacular in many ways. Perhaps not as spectacular as 2014, but I have to give this year its due credit.
Walking down the streets of North Kolkata in mid-January, I sat on a plastic chair in a lane behind the stock exchange and devoured samosas, bun malai, and kullads filled with strongly brewed and sweet milk tea. The two stalls dishing out ‘breakfast’, with grinning faces of its affluent guests who had driven up in their Mercedes after their morning walks, was a sight to behold. There is absolutely nothing spectacular about eating warm toast slathered with fresh, sweet malai. But it is special.
The year had definitely begun on a high note.
A couple of months after that, a bunch of us sat at Harima on Residency Road. I have eaten there many times, and yet that lunch, complete with bento boxes, steamed spinach in a thin soy sauce and garnished with sesame seeds, served cold, and a generous platter of sashimi – I was in Japanese heaven. I also have a strong feeling that mindless banter with friends and lots of laughter can make any meal delicious, with a few exceptions, of course.
I would say July and August were months of decadence. The exquisite tasting menu at Ziya reinstated my faith in modern Indian food, and the idea that you do not have to open a science lab to play with food is proved right here.
Back in Bangalore, a pan-fried whole grouper at Lan Thai on Brigade Road is a dish I would recommend to any fish eater. It is a task, having to meander your way through fish bones, but the delicate, yet honest flavours of that dish are worth going back to the place for.
I had not had a good Sunday brunch in a while. Honestly, the thought of having to choose from an array of fairly inconsequential dishes that are laid out to justify the cost does not work for me. However, the new brunch at Olive Beach is nothing short of spectacular. And I do not mean caviar-served-on-a-gold-spoon spectacular. It is simple and straightforward. The food comes to the table and, if you choose wisely, you will be addicted. My favourite? Fresh oysters.
Did I mention Le Cirque Signature at The Leela Palace Bengaluru? The pecorino cheese crème brûlée with red onion marmalade and balsamic reduction is probably my favourite dish of the year. If it did not come with all the invisible calories, I would eat it every Saturday night, complete with a good Merlot.
But then Lucknow happened, and I roamed the busy streets hunting for good food. It is so hard to decide in that city, especially when you are literally counting the hours. Yes, Tunday Kababi was as I expected it to be – crowded, with people queuing up for the famous galawati kabab. And it was delicious too. But ecstasy came from the local dessert, makhan malai, a melt-in-the-mouth indigenous dessert that one can hardly forget. Ice-cream parlous be damned.
I did not count the number of times I ate out this year. But I went through a gamut of flavours and aromas that is going down in my ‘book of memories’ for good.
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Priyadarshini is an independent journalist from Bengaluru whose life pretty much revolves around food, good music, literature, and cinema. She’s worked with different publications over the past 10 years, and has written about travel, theatre, films, books, music, food and lots of food! She’s travelled wherever her feet and budget would allow, discovering cultures through local palates and social behaviour, and in an ideal world would probably resort to using food and music to resolve any dispute.
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