A Temple for Meat!

It has been a while since I put up a post on this blog. It has been a combination of factors. Sheer laziness, the ease of putting stuff on Insta or FB and a feeling sometimes that blogging has run its course in this Snapchat generation!

But once in a while, you have a meal which redefines an aspect of food and makes you think that this deserves way more description than a post on Instagram or FB. This was a trip to Lima which mixed business with some absolutely serious eating. Our hosts had snagged us reservations at three really hard to get spots for dinner, but this post is about a lunch we had on the last day which turned out to be the best meal of the trip! And that was really saying something on this trip.

We had already eaten at Central, Maido and Astrid y Gaston on this trip and were to have the last lunch before leaving at Osso, a meat restaurant owned and run by Renzo Garibaldi, a celebrated chef high up on the Best Latin American restaurant list. Jack Perkins, of Maple and Motor (one of the ten best burgers in America) fame, one of our party, had scored the reservation through a mutual friend of Renzo’s and we landed up there for a Sunday meal which is special in Peru. What was to follow would blow the mind (and stomach!)

We had a tasting menu so as to sample the variety of meat on offer. Even the desserts had meat in them!

It started off with a charcuterie platter. All the meats are cured in house and we also got to visit the meat storage. Pics to follow.

The cuts included a prosciutto, pork pate, cured beef and a couple of others. Also some chicken liver pate served with Melba toast and some berry jam. Quite exquisite.

Then came a visit to the meat storage where they dry age and wet age the meat. Some cuts had been dry aged for 4-5 years. Quite extraordinary. The angels share in these (to paraphrase the whisky industry) is likely to be quite high making for an expensive and very intense tasting cut of meat.

Roast bone marrow with sea salt and salmon eggs. Marrow cooked to perfection in its fatty goodness! Just fabulous and this was just beginning.

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Pork Ceviche

Possibly the most startling dish in this extraordinary meal. A ceviche made with pork! We already had plenty of ceviche in Lima already. It is probably the best known Peruvian food after all. We were all used to eating raw fish or raw beef, but raw pork was a stretch esp coming from India. It was bold and absolutely brilliant. The meat had cured perfectly in the lime juice and was succulent and juicy.

Steak Tartare Peruvian style

Raw beef to follow as a tartare. With Melba toast. Flavorsome and expected from a restaurant which started as a butchery and continues to be an excellent one

Two sliders. One beef and one pork belly

Two sliders followed. One with a medium rare beef patty and one with a activated charcoal patty with pork belly inside. Because we liked this Renzo insisted on us trying his regular burger at the restaurant. Which was made with bacon jam and was excellent too! The fries were great too

In case you thought that was a lot of food, then we came to the main courses!

Just some wagyu on a skillet to start off with. Keeping it simple ūüėČ

Then the three steaks to share among us

Ribeye

Strip with Chimmichurri sauce

Dry aged pork with just salt and pepper

All 3 cuts together. Ribeye, strip and the phenomenal dry aged pork

accompanied by mashed potatoes and an extraordinary bone marrow risotto

Mashed potatoes with bacon bits

Bone marrow risotto with a fried egg

The Pork was just out of the world. And dry aged was something I hadn’t eaten before. The ribeye and strip were excellent as was to be expected from a restaurant and chef with the heart of a butcher. The sides were wow as well. I mean, bone marrow risotto!

By this time, we were struggling to eat any more but the desserts were so good, we managed to finish those too. And they had meat too!

Osso Mess! Renzo’s take on the Eton mess with bacon inside

The piggy covers a maple and bacon icecream on a cake

One meatless dessert!

Bacon certainly goes very well with the Mess as well as with maple in an icecream. It cuts the sweetness and the saltiness adds a dimension to the dessert.

That was the end of a quite extraordinary meal. Special thanks to Jack Perkins and the next agenda is a visit to Maple and Motor.

And a very special thank you to Renzo Garibaldi, chef and butcher extraordinaire! He is a bold chef and running a butchery seems to have given him enough knowledge for trying new things with meat like raw pork ceviche, dry aged pork and bacon in his desserts.

It is worth a visit to Lima to eat at Osso alone. Although the other restaurants were great as well. And might deserve a blog post too!

Renzo and Jack (in center) with the Endourology All Stars!

A Temple for Meat Eaters!

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The Case of the Elusive Sweet!

One of my best friends is a Bohri. And at his wedding, about 20 years back, I had eaten (among a whole host of other things) a sweet brought in from Surat. This was called Sagla Bagla. It was sheets of incredibly thin filo pastry covering a milk and nuts based sweet. The bland and crispy pastry shell with the not too sweet nut based concoction stayed in the memory. I had not managed to get hold of it till two years back. Each time I asked someone from Surat or other foodies, they had never heard of it. It was the stuff of legend where my Bohri friends were concerned, and since they had since migrated out of the country I had no further access to this sweet.

Then I had a few friends who moved to Surat and I had to go there for work. I mentioned this sweet to one of my yhounger friends and he was able to trace it with some difficulty and order some for me. None of my 6 friends in Surat had even heard of this till I mentioned it to them. The reason being that there is only one shop and one family which makes this particular sweet. And it is a labour intensive dying art. They have been making it for more than a 100 years now. The shop was established in 1901.

The photos here have the name and phone number of the shop. So it should be easier to get ahold of this now. I suddenly saw a tweet today from a food blogger friend, Annaparabrahma, and a FB post by her as well. Asking about this sweet which she had heard of from some Parsis. It awakened my dormant blogging instincts (which have never really recovered since the ease of use of dotMac went away). And I thought this post was essential.

Hopefully this gets my blog active again ūüėČ

The name and number of the shop is clearly seen. The box says kaju pista. So possibly they have different flavors? I need to go back and check it out. Jiggy, need to do this ūüėČ


This is sweet just after opening the box. Untouched. Pastry on top.


It is triangular in shape. So was the one I had eaten all those years back. And here is a pic showing the cut section. With the Kaju Pista mixture under the pastry shell.

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Breakfasts in Bengaluru!

Back after a long hiatus! Was in Bangalore over the weekend. We decided to skip the five star breakfast on offer and try out the breakfast at some of the more traditional specialty breakfast spots in Bangalore. I wanted to go to MTR (the original at Lalbaug) on one of the 2 days but was vetoed by my cousins who were locals. They recommended two other places.

The first was Brahmins Coffee Shop. This place has grown since the last time I was there (about 15 years back).  It now occupies 3 small shops as against one before and the crowds are the same if not more. One queues up to buy a coupon, collects the food from the counter and stands on the roadside and eats. No chairs, tables or such. One old man with a bucket of chutney is ladling out more for those who require it.

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The menu is simple here. Idli, Medhu Wada, Khara bhath and Pineapple Sheera with Coffee to end with. The Idli and Khara bhath optionally come with pats of white butter. The gluttons that we are, it was not optional for us. As an aside, fresh hot steamed idlis deserve a pat of white butter especially in the early mornings! Other than the Pineapple Sheera, which is sweet, the other items come swimming in a pool of chutney. Which can always be topped up by aforementioned old geezer.

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The food was exceptional. The Wada was perfection and the Idlis silky smooth. The Khara bhath (sort of a spicy upma), was perfectly flavoured and went well with the butter too! And the liquid chutney complemented things perfectly.

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These guys have their operation really in order. Everything seems to run like clockwork. The food is exceptional and consistent. We definitely did not miss that hotel breakfast!

On the second day, i was overruled again for MTR. We took a poll of a few friends at dinner and decided to try the Masala Dosa at Janardhana. This is a sort of canteen where a lot of the local politicos go. And it specialises in Masala Dosa and Sagu Dosa. The only difference between the two is the filling. Masala Dosa has the regular potato onion dosa film while the Sagu dosa has a south Indian style Korma, which is normally served as a breakfast dish with pooris.

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The verdict: Good Masala Dosa, but not exceptional. Both CTR (famous for Benne Dosa) and MTR (best Masala Dosas ever) make better dosas. And I could live without tasting the Sagu dosa again.

Great breakfasts in Bangalore. Strongest recommendations for Brahmins and MTR (the original outlet in Lalbaug).

 

 

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Best Indian restaurant in the world? A visit to Gaggan

My friends and acquaintances know that if there is one thing I hate, it is eating Indian food abroad. I love trying out new cuisines and different types of food. And I truly believe the best Indian food is in India. In fact, I believe you get better North Indian food in Delhi and Punjab than in Mumbai. The only place outside India that I eat Indian food is London and that is mostly at Pakistani restaurants.

When the 2014 edition of the best restaurants in the World came out, there was an Indian restaurant there and it was in Bangkok, of all the places! Now the only restaurant which used to make this list regularly was the Bukhara and it has been slipping for a while and did not even make the last couple of lists (probably because the menu never changes and I suppose they have points for innovation and reinventing yourself). Gaggan was a new entry in the list and straight in at No. 3 in Asia (No. 17 in the world). Definitely had to be checked out. The chef Gaggan had worked with Ferran Adria and the restaurant was based on molecular gastronomy, giving a new twist to Indian food!

I was traveling with a bunch of other doctors in Bangkok on some work and convinced them (although their tastes ran to alcohol more than food), that we had to try this place out. We made a reservation a week before we left, making sure that we would get a meal there. It was just a short walk from our hotel in a leafy bylane close to the city centre.

The restaurant occupies a bungalow and has a nice garden with a small waiting area outside. We had a bit of a wait till our table got ready and had a choice of 3 set menus with progressively more courses. We went for the largest one, so as to sample as many different things as possible. They are very understanding about food preferences and willing to substitute dishes from the menus, if one is allergic or does not eat some particular food item. The menu described each item apart from one, described as a surprise. The very helpful steward kept telling us how to eat certain items to get the right texture and taste. You can see the menus here.

Menus

The first course was actually bite sized multiple courses, a Gaggan take on India’s street food. ¬†It was pretty unique and the few on our table who had opted for the shorter menus, changed to the full menu after eating this first course!

Burnt Mango Panna

Burnt Mango Panna – Essentially a sorbet of panna (summertime raw mango drink in India), with some citrus flavoured caviar which exploded in your moth in a burst of flavour.

Yoghurt Explosion

Yogurt explosion – Sphere of a white emulsion, tasting like lassi, on individual spoons to be gulped down as a mouthful

Edible plastic spiced nuts

Edible plastic spiced nuts- eaten with the plastic! Definitely an instruction needed here, the nuts inside were standard Indian starters, almonds and pistachios, the plastic probably created from sugar (need to read Nathan Myhrvold‘s book for that!) It was fun eating that.

Chocolate Panipuri

Chocolate pani-puri, spheres of white¬†chocolate filled with spicy panipuri water. Huge hit with all at the table, but they don’t do seconds here.

Potato 2-some-crispy and liquid

Potato 2-some crispy and liquid – straw potatoes looking like a birds nest with and egg resting on a bed, a take on an Indian chaat with tamarind chutney and that sweet sour hit

Bengali mustard and noori pakoda

Bengali mustard and noori pakoda – don’t really remember the taste of this one, one of the disadvantages of not writing a blog post immediately, I guess. Must have been good, were only disappointed with two things.

Pappadum and tomato chutney

Papadam and Tomato chutney – disappointing, basically a white papad with some tomato sauce on top.

Kheema pao

Keema Pao – straightforward Mince burger

Say Cheese

Say Cheese Р4 cheese hot souffle with crispy rice cereals green chilli oil flavour. A subtle kick from the chillis and the texture from the cereal. Texture of thick dahi. Very nice.

Sandwich

Sandwich – Foiegras mousse, onion chutney in an onion water baguette. Not really bread, just looks like it. Thought I was eating air, with some excellent foiegras!

Soup bowlDown to Earth

Down to Earth – a vegetable soup, cappuccino style, with a foam with truffle flavour, served in a heavy stone vessel with its own stone lid. Excellent soup.

Charcoal 2Charcoal 3

Charcoal – the surprise dish. Was for both veg and non-veg, looked like a piece of coal. The non-veg one was like a fish cutlet with a black coating. All of it was very nice indeed

Treasure shells

Treasure shells – Norwegian scallops in a coconut sauce with coriander gel to cut the sweetness of the scallops and coconut

Portugese connection

Portuguese Connection – Now this is Vindaloo in style!. Iberico pork on a bed of sweet potato mash in an island of vindaloo sauce. I don’t think I can go back to eating the regular vindaloo now

Fusion called Confusion 2

Fusion called confusion – Veg but very nice. Tender asparagus in a chilli miso sauce with fake green peas (really need to go through that Myhrvold book once)

Best memory 2 Best memory

Best Memory -Lamb chops cooked to perfection sous-vide, medium rare and very very good

Land of Lungi 2

Land of Lungi – Large prawns (they were out of lobster) in a malabar coconut curry with micro idiappams (not in pic) with some foam. One of us got the chicken instead and that was better as I think the chicken suited the robust gravy rather well. A good ending to the mains before the four desserts.

The Desserts

Made in Japan

Made in Japan – Matcha tea cake with mascarpone ice cream, vanilla salt and fresh wasabi. This was one of the best things we ate and definitely the best dessert

Poor man's porridge

Poor man’s porridge – A firni-Jasmine rice icecream with pistachio crisps and rose flavouring. Average

Magnum

Magnum – Tasted like a magnum lollipop and looked like one too. Pretty good

Masala Chai

Masala Chai – iced sorbet jelly with saffron and cardamom flavouring. Did not really work for me, but then I am not much of a tea guy.

This was definitely one of the best restaurants I have eaten at and I would love to go again. ¬†I don’t think it was over priced for the quality of food and the care taken in presentation and serving. Worth traveling to eat at for sure, and after all, that was what the original definition of the Michelin stars was.

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A City seafood shack – One of the greats!

Manjas

I have been going to Mangalore all my life and there is a good food spot I had not eaten at yet. When a friend mentioned this place to me, I knew I had to try it out. My cousins were reluctant to take me there because it is a pretty small place where everyone sits on one side of a table, wedding style and the servers come and serve. This is one of the few Konkani GSB owned restaurants which serves that style of non-veg food. These are rare, even in Mangalore which has a few Veg Konkani places but only two of the non-veg ones. There are no other restaurants anywhere else that I know of, serving this non-veg cuisine.

Menumanjas

The menu is written on a white board. The basic meal at the bottom, which is unlimited. And lots of seafood with local names. Anjal (Surmai), Nang (Sole), Bangude (Mackerel), Bondas (Squid), Silverfish (Motiale in Konkani, Velhe in Marathi), Buthai (Small sardines, Pedva in Marathi / Konkani). Pannaupkari is a very special Konkani fish preparation which goes well with rice and is red and spicy, similar but not the same as the Pulimunchi of the Bunts and Ambotik in Goa.

ThalimanjasFishPU

                                  Rice Plate                                                   Pomfret Pannaupkari

The basic meal consists of parboiled (red) rice, a fish curry (with a small fish), one vegetable (Tendli Kaju upkari the day we were there), one bean preparation (Konkani style), some veg pakoda and some dried shark chutney in the top left corner. In addition, they serve you sambhar or Konkani style tur dal (daali-tove, seen in picture) on the rice.

Surmai Bandas

Anjal Tawa Fry                                                     Deep fried Squid

The seafood is ordered on the side. The tawa fry comes with a coating of thick masala and tastes similar to the ghee roast famous in these parts. The deep fry is succulent. I have been to this place twice and ordered multiple plates of fry, and never has one been over or undercooked! The squids are the best I have eaten anywhere (not just in India) and the prawns and the sardines are done to perfection. The Prawns 65 was just about average and best avoided.

Prawnfry Prawn65

Prawns deep fry                                                        Prawns 65

Just a small shack on Car street in the heart of Mangalore, serving some of the most ambrosial seafood you will eat anywhere. Mangalore has some great food and very good restaurants but this is the standout if you like seafood. They don’t serve anything but seafood though. Be prepared to wait, but the turnover is high and the tables are communal. You sit on stools and the focus is on the food as it should be.

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The Intrepid Gourmand is back!

Red Fish

The Intrepid Gourmand returns! Since Apple took down their dotMac service which used to host my blog, it has been tough to get back to blogging. All the more because in spite of repeated reminders from Apple for a year before taking down the site, I just neglected to migrate or even save the posts on the original blog. It was, of course, a lot easier to blog then using the simplicity of the mac interface. The primary credit for starting this up again should go to my friend, Sassy Fork, who has been pushing me to start writing again.

I have been traveling a lot over the last few years (my family can angrily attest to that) and since sight seeing for me primarily consists of restaurant menus, I thought it was worth documenting a few of the unusual things I have eaten as well as highlight some terrific meals I have had. You are unlikely to find a bad restaurant review on my blog, because I would not feel like writing about food I have not enjoyed. Dissing is best left to Facebook posts when responding to a friend. (and I do plenty of that!)

Intrepid means fearless and Gourmand is one who enjoys fine food but occasionally eats too much. The picture at the top is the one which was on the cover of my blog when it was hosted on dotMac.

In the last couple of weeks, I ate at two very different restaurants with such terrific food that I felt I should write these up and let people know about them. So these would be my first two posts. One is a small hole in the wall called Giri Manjas in Mangalore which has some of the best seafood I have eaten anywhere and the other is Gaggan in Bangkok which is deservedly one of the best Indian restaurants in the world (Actually the only Indian restaurant in the San Pellegrino list and the number 3 restaurant in Asia and Number 17 in the world!) I hope these posts are up by the end of the week with a bunch of food photos.

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