There's a fork in the culinary road

Green cucumber and tomato salad in pomegranate dressing at Colonial, Walton Road, Bangalore.

Is there life beyond Pizza Hut and TGIF when it comes to international dining in Bangalore? Really, until a couple of years ago, the answer would have been a five star restaurant, say something like Le Jardin at the Oberoi or Monsoon at The Park: sort of Mediterranean, South East Asian with a liberal splash of Indian and the mandatory club sandwich throw in. Le Jardin and Monsoon are, doubtless, fine restaurants. But they have met more than their match in the string of new places that have been cropping up. Bangalore today has been lavished upon by international flavours — from Japanese at the tranquil Harima to the intriguing molecular gastronomy of Caperberry that finds its inspiration in French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.

In many ways, the culinary journey of Bangalore captures the cultural transformation that the City has been experiencing. Bangalore today is exploding with international flavours, a reflection of its global connectedness. Step out and there’s Asia, Europe and the US on a platter — Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Lebanese, Greek, Moroccan, Mexican and Mid-Western too. What’s happening to Bangalore, once well known for its Uppittu and Mosaru Vade, its akki rotti and Mysore masala dosa? 

The most notable makeover is as much in the vast spread of culinary styles available as in the ambiance in which you can experience them. Take a look at the restaurants mentioned by the ex-pat community (Page 2): none of them mentioned a single five star restaurant, traditionally considered to be the best possible experience that money can buy.

Quality dining is now available in casual environments as well. For the Bangalorean to opt for a meal at the newly-opened Shiro at UB City requires educated hindsight and informed foresight: diners today have grown to appreciate Balinese and Japanese food because of exposure through travel and they are confident that non-star restaurants can provide authentic teppenyaki, mouth-watering dim sum, sushi and sashimi. As a consequence, Shiro is packed on weekends. One of the bigger reasons for restaurants like Shiro becoming popular is the attention to detail — your meal is not just exquisitely presented, but the environment is seductive enough to draw you back. You could say that for the Colonial on Walton Road that does superb world cuisine, or the Italian Toscano at UB City.

Bangalore’s growing eclectic taste buds are actually providing wider choice to diners. You could always have been to the ancient (but dependable) Dahlia for a good soba and buckwheat noodle soup. But today you have a choice between Dahlia, Harima, Shiro and Zen for a near-authentic Japanese experience. The same holds good for Lebanese or Vietnamese food. You could even try the deliciously Korean bulgogi at Hae Kum Gang or Soo Ra Sang. And there’s great news for those sick of spaghetti Bolognese. “The one at 100 Ft in Indira Nagar is without a hint of turmeric, coriander or chilli powder,” says regular Meena Menon. Clearly, the emphasis on authenticity is fast gaining currency.

If anything, the changing tastes of Bangalore offer food for reflection. We are becoming a more globalised community, able to assimilate lifestyles and etiquette from distant parts of the world. Today’s changing culinary landscape mirrors the adaptability and the spirit of adventure that Bangaloreans harbour. But that’s just one side of the story. The other is that Bangalore is becoming home to an increasing number of foreigners who demand quality and service. Between the two, our dinner options are improving dramatically. Bon appetit.

(Arun Katiyar is a Bangalore-based
content and communications consultant)

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