Coconut Grove (Bangalore, India)

Cross-posted from http://lawolf.net.

Rating:

Sadly, this is another review with no photos, because we dined at Coconut Grove during the period in which we were PowerShot-less (which we remedied later the same night).

We visited Coconut Grove on a Sunday evening in a large group; when we arrived, we had the run of the place (and it is not small). The dining area is a large open patio, with coconut trees and tile floors. The food is served on banana leaves and the beverages in copper cups. I haven’t been to Kerala yet, but I assume that they’re going for an authentic Keralan feel.

“The” thing to order at Coconut Grove (and other Keralan restaurants, I’m told) is appams – the appam is to Keralan food what naan, rotis, and chappatis are to the cuisines of other parts of India. It is simply a round rice batter pancake, but it’s thick and spongy in the middle, and is perfect for soaking up delicious coconutty curries. I was also told that they’re wonderful with a fried egg on top, but we had to save something for our next visit.

We ordered several curries for the table:

  • Chicken Stew – the most popular appam accompaniment, a coconut curry with chicken and potatoes. I was actually a bit disappointed by this one, as the flavors were bland compared to the other spicy tomato-ey curries that we ordered.
  • Veggie Stew – a vegetarian version of the above.
  • Kuraliach Kadi – crabs in a fiery red masala with a hint of tamarind. Spicy and delicious, but lots of work dissecting the crab.
  • Nadan Chemeen Curry – this was basically the same as the Kurialach Kadi, but with prawns instead of crabs. The prawns were slightly less flavorful than the crab meat, but much easier to eat, so I think this dish actually wins for overall enjoyment (we ended up ordering a second round of this one).
  • Kozhi Melagu – a Chettinad chicken dish with a masala curry and black pepper. Yum.

Coconut Grove was delicious and fun. I can’t wait to go back with the camera.

Coconut Grove
No. 86, Spencers Building, Church Street
Bangalore 560 001, India
+(91) (80) 25596149

Hotel de l’Orient (Pondicherry, India)

Cross-posted from http://lawolf.net.

Rating:

All of the India guidebooks rave about the excellent French food in Pondy. From my experience so far, I’m not quite convinced, as most of the places we’ve checked out seem to offer generic “continental” food that often appears more Italian than French and not particularly exciting. Last night we took a short walk to check out menus at three of the restaurants that both the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet recommended: Madame Shante’s, Rendezvous, and Le Club. We found all of them rather uninspiring, but along the way we passed the Hotel de l’Orient, and were compelled by the gorgeous setting and live music to stay for dinner.

The hotel is a beautiful converted heritage house in the French Quarter. Like many of Pondicherry’s heritage houses, it features a lovely open-air central courtyard, which is where they’ve set up the restaurant. There were a couple of musicians playing guitars and singing American and British piano-bar-favorites with French accents (an effect made even stranger by the fact that they were Tamil).

I would classify the food at l’Orient as “French-Creole” rather than strictly French; many of the dishes on the menu were obviously French takes on Indian dishes, like curries and local South Asian vegetables.

We were very hungry when we arrived. We ordered a citrus salad with dates and figs in a rosewater dressing, a shrimp “cassoulette,” (apparently not a misspelling of “cassoulet”) and a lady finger curry (“lady finger” is the local term for okra). The food took a long time to arrive, and the bread that was placed on our table looked like a baguette, but tasted stale and chewy (typical for India, but a travesty in a town known for its French food and pastries). The salad was refreshing and quite a nice combination. The shrimp cassoulette was rich and creamy, in a green sauce that we wanted to lick off the plate. It was served with roasted potatoes, which soaked up the extra sauce nicely. The lady finger curry was enjoyable for the first few bites, but there was some strong flavor in the sauce that I tired of quickly.

DSC_5274
Courtyard restaurant

DSC_5247
Ladyfinger Creole curry

DSC_5250
Shrimp “cassoulette”

The food was good but not amazing. The service was gracious and polite but slow. The ambience was fantastic. Overall, it was a very nice romantic setting for dinner in Pondy, and likely better – and more unique – than most of the “French” restaurants that the guidebooks recommend. And because this is India, we were in and out for about $10 US.

Hotel de l’Orient, Pondicherry
17, Rue Romain Rolland, Pondicherry 605001
Phones: 0413-2343067, 2343068, 2346589

Quinoa-Beet Salad

Kenny and I invented this salad recipe a few nights ago, and if we must say so, it was quite delicious.

Salad:
1 cup quinoa (before cooking)
~3 Beets
A few stalks of asparagus
A few sprigs of mint
Chunk of feta (this is a standard measurement)
1 orange, peeled and separated
A few shallots, diced

Dressing:
Orange juice
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Kosher salt

  1. Cook the beets. We usually wrap them in aluminum foil and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Boiling works too.
  2. Cook the quinoa using the instructions on the box (this is usually 1 part quinoa:2.5 parts water, boil and then lower the heat and simmer until the water is mostly absorbed).
  3. Blanch the asparagus.
  4. After the quinoa cools slightly, put it in a bowl. Chop and add the asparagus, shallots, beets, mint, orange, and feta.
  5. Shortly before serving, mix the dressing, and dress the salad.

How to Open a Coconut

Kenny and I had a few friends over for dinner on Saturday evening, and we decided that coconut ice cream would make a nice complement to the fresh mangoes that our friend DeAnn had offered to bring for dessert. There were several choices of coconut products at the store, including cans of coconut milk, dehydrated shredded coconut, and fresh coconuts in the produce section. We opted to try a combination of fresh coconuts and canned milk for our ice cream.

There was just one problem once we arrived home from the store: we had no idea how to actually crack open the coconut’s hard shell to get at the goodness inside. We looked at our array of knives, and couldn’t imagine that any of them would be particularly effective. After a short aborted attempt with our bread knife (I don’t recommend this, we actually bent one of the teeth), I suggested getting out Japanese knife (Check out these awesome Kamikoto reviews):

IMG_0335

Kenny made some progress with this approach, but it was slow going, and we worried that it was unsanitary. So he asked me to consult the web. A search for “how to open a coconut” took me to howtoopenacoconut.com, naturally.

Following those instructions, Kenny made quick work of the coconut:

IMG_0339
Using a hammer and nail to punch a hole in the coconut

IMG_0336
Letting the juice drain out through the hole

IMG_0346
Now, the fun part – smashing the coconut to bits with the hammer

IMG_0349
Et, voila!

Unfortunately, once we finally got the coconut open it just didn’t taste quite right. We ended up throwing it out and opting for a bag of shredded coconut from the grocery store. But at least we learned something; I suspect that our newly-acquired coconut opening skills will come in quite handy on our next trip to visit Kenny’s parents in Florida.

We used this recipe for the ice cream. It was delicious.