Monday, December 31, 2007

The missing non-veg buffet: a Desmond's speciality

Desmond's on Lavelle Road, Bangalore, serves a mean buffet. All you can buffets - both, veg or non-veg - for an extremely affordable Rs.100. Having had the buffet on many an occasion before, I can attest that it is great value for money.

But, unfortunately that isn't quite the end of the story. The last few times I have been there I was categorically told that the non-veg buffet will take time to be ready and instead have had a veg buffet foisted upon me. In fact, the last time the waiter was at great pains to make the non-veg buffet seem perpetually elusive - it would take an undisclosed amount of time to be prepared.

What might seem a harmless irresponsibility at first actually turns out to be an elaborate scam. By marking up the prices on the veg buffet to match that of a non-veg buffet - and then making excuses not to serve the latter, Desmond's could actually be making a neat profit. And fools of all its customers.

A glance at the bill - and the hidden costs that crop up in it - should convince that the establishment in question is indeed capable of such a ruse. A mysterious item on the bill is marked as 'S C' only. Enquiry reveals it stands for 'service charges' - but there are gullible customers who will be leaving a handsome tip, even after paying the 'S C.'

Do drop by at Desmond's if the veg buffet is all you want. But if you or your lunch companion is looking forward to a non-veg buffet, I suggest you call up beforehand to politely enquire 'if their chicken supplier has had an accident this morning.' Their numbers are +91-80-41278000/1.

[Original pic by Bob.Fornal]

Sunday, December 30, 2007


In Satyajit Ray's Samapti, a tomboy defies all attempts by her mother-in-law and others around to rush her into womanhood. But when the transition happens, it is surprisingly swift - and unaided. A simple story of inevitable change - minus the bells and whistles. And, Ray wisely doesn't add any.

PS: Read more reviews of Satyajit Ray movies: Apur Sansar > Devi > Samapti > Parash Pathar

[Original pic by GIa Quicolli]

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Rhapsody in August (1991)

Rhapsody in August by Akiro Kurusowa's is a grim reminder that in war there are no survivors. Even if they go on to live another 45 years.

PS: Not regarded amongst the best of his work but it's not without flashes of absolute brilliance now and then.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Emperor of all Shorbas

If you are a mutton lover like me, Yakhni Shorba at Samarkhand (Infantry Road) in Bangalore, should delight all your taste buds significantly. In plain english it's a yoghurt based mutton stock in very thin consistency.

I haven't had the chance to try this shorba at any other restaurant yet, but I doubt if any one should manage to get this one wrong. That might take more work. Just like any dish made from potatoes - where the magic in the ingredients triumphs over any shortcomings of the cook.

Like most mughalai cuisine, this shorba too has its origins in Persia and was imported to India during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. The earliest documented recipe for Yakhni Shorba can be found in Ain-I-Akbar.
Akbar himself however did not think much of meat. The 400 cooks he employed had to be kept busy I guess.

Not wanting to be left out, the vegetarians during the British raj innovated appropriately on the recipe to match their palate, in the form of Yakhni sauce
- minus the meat of course.

If you ever find yourself at Samarkhand in Bangalore, do give Yakhni Shorba a try. Couple it with Seekh Kebabs and Dum Ghost Biryani and even Akbar would convert into a mutton-arian at this meat-lovers haven.

[Original pic by akbar1947]

The Visitor's Book (2008)

"Once every year, go someplace you've never been before."
- Dalai Lama, Instructions for Life

When I started this blog just a month ago, I had no idea where I'll take it - or, as it turned out, where it'll take me.

Now I know. In the coming year(s), it'll take me places I have never known, or imagined, existed. And hopefully not just once or twice in the year, but every single day.

And I hope to chronicle every visit I make, here. Do keep dropping by.

[Original pic by Mor (bcnbits). This post is a part of a blog project sharing blogging goals for 2008.]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Parash Pathar (1958)

Parash Pathar by Satyajit Ray is an endearing story of a middle class clerk from Calcutta, who chances upon the philosopher's stone that can turn metal into gold. Greed overrides the fear that usually follows when fairy tales turn real. A rags to riches adventure transpires until fear and folly overtake him - making the philosopher's stone a liability.

May not be one of Ray's best works but watch it only for the way it extricates the comical ex clerk out of his predicament - so characteristic of Ray's refreshingly human touch.

PS: For more information on subtitles, please see Apur Sansar.

[Original pic by poopee shmoopee]

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tiramisu, anyone?

I wonder what it is about Tiramisu that most cafes make it a point to feature it on their menu. But stop right there. What gets served on your table is invariably a pastry in light brown color, only sometimes with a flavor of coffee - if you are lucky.

The motivation is easily understandable if my reaction to the mention of Tiramisu in a menu is indicative of a larger trend. Overcome with greed and hope, I give it a shot everywhere - at least once. But then 'pick me up' ( what Tiramisu means in Italian) is a promise not easy to resist. The fact that Tiramisu is only around ten years old should hardly be an excuse for the disappointment that follows, or for the widespread culinary short change.

Said to have been originated at Le Beccherie in the city of Treviso (located north west of Venice), Tiramisu was an instant hit. It was as instantly copied by other restaurants, first in Italy and then the world over. It has been claimed that even today Le Beccherie makes it with the classic recipe - ladyfingers soaked in bitter strong espresso coffee, mascarpone-zabaglione cream and bitter cocoa powder.

So, until I manage to save enough euros to make it to Treviso, I will have to settle for Little Italy on 100 feet road in Bangalore the next time a Tiramisu craving strikes. In my opinion, Little Italy also serves the best pizzas in Bangalore - and the only pizza I eat these days.

Back to the story, one of the regrets of Alba and Ado Campeol - owners of Le Beccherie - is that they didn't patent the name and recipe to avoid speculation and the profusion of many a recipe that have nothing to do with the original Tiramisu. If only.

[Original pic by pasotraspaso]
[Tiramisu origins courtesy Linda Stradley. ]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Manhattan (1979)

Starring New York, Manhattan by Woody Allen is a wry take on modern relationships - and changes of heart that are more frequent than bad capucinnos at Coffee Day.

The fatigue of fleeting relationships and the tingle of stand-ins is made indulgently bittersweet in its 96 minute run time - which by the way's a breeze.

Woody Allen's patented cynicism comes thick and fast as intended, but Gordon Willis' camera romancing New York in it's element is the crowning stroke. It provides a contrast of endurance to serve as a backdrop for some passing attachments.

[Wallpaper courtesy Ben.a]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Devi (1960)

A young daughter-in-law is revered as a goddess after her father-in-law has a vision that she's an incarnation of Maa Kaali (Goddess Kaali). A mass hysteria follows. The odyssey from a mere mortal to that of goddess is swift and exalting. But for the 'goddess' herself, is the transformation a boon or a curse?

Satayajit Ray's Devi leaves us viewers with some not so very comforting questions. It reminds us that no matter how much we mortals want it, there's no going back home.

PS: For more information on subtitles, please see Apur Sansar.

[Original pic by Eva Marieville]

Monday, December 10, 2007

Beowulf (2007)

If you thought only superhuman mythical beasts can kill a hero, think again. A fixation with technique while telling a story can do just the same. And in Beowulf's case, it definitely delivers the killer blow.

[Original pic by Dunechaser]

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Apur Sansar (1959)

Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) by Satyajit Ray is a visual and sensual treat - almost like cinema in verse. This was my first Ray film and my first engagement with cinema in art form.

Apur Sansar is the last in the Apu trilogy series, the first being Pathar Panchali followed by Aparajito. If I had seen them in sequence, it may have been a far richer experience. While watching the movie, however, I had no idea of the trilogy or Apur Sansar's place in it. To me the film worked as a standalone piece. And I have been told, so do the other two masterpieces.

The story is set in rural and urban Bengal around the 1930s. The protagonist, Apu, is an unemployed writer living in the squalor of Calcutta city. A serendipitous trip to a friend's village returns him a married man. Love blossoms between him and his angelic wife amidst daily domestic chaos.

However, the journey from solitude to blessed companionship is sweet but short - with the death of his wife during childbirth. Overcome with grief, it takes Apu five years of mindless wandering to come to terms with the loss. In the end, life comes a full circle.

The film's universal theme of loss and redemption makes it timeless. And Ray's effortless and understated direction renders it sublime.

PS: You may have to brave the less than perfect subtitles, for this lesson in cinema. (I watched it on Zee Studio's special series on Satyajit Ray airing every Sunday in December '07.)

[Original pic by wmacphail]

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Peter Brook's Mahabharata (1989)

Having grown up on rich legends from the Mahabharata and on B.R. Chopra's definitive TV version, it required me to summon an open mind to appreciate The Mahabharata by Peter Brook .

The original epic is more complex than it initially appears. The account of the epic battle (Kurukshetra) between the good (Dharma) and evil (Adharma) led by victorious Pandavas against the mighty Kauravas is, in reality, a reflection on the duality of human nature.

Peter Brook's version, on the other hand, is shot more in the style of a play - with minimalist sets, costumes and interpretations. This approach helps avoid expected, and unexpected, distractions - which is the film's main asset. Plus, it tells the story in its purest form - outside of its physical and geographical trappings. The result is as timeless as the epic itself.

A conventional and straightforward interpretation of an otherwise multifaceted epic, it still makes for absorbing viewing (barring some minor irritants). The 6 hour viewing time seemed only like an instant, or two. And that's testimony from someone who pressed the play button as a die hard skeptic.

[Original pic by HGM]

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Aaja Nachle (2007)

Touted as Madhuri Dixit's comeback film, Aaja Nachle from Yash Raj films stops at being just that.

The story begins with Ajanta - a dance school in the town of Shamli that's soon to be demolished to make way for the new retailing phenomenon that we call the shopping mall. But Dia (Madhuri Dixit), an NRI with roots in Ajanta, decides to revive it to its original glory with the promise of a decisive performance that will make the Shamli junta root for their culture (aka Ajanta) instead of consumerism. So begins her trial to eke out a sell-out performance from a crew comprising of initially-reluctant locals.

Aaja Nachle starts with a promise that never takes off. Even the long list of dependable actors who pop up regularly during the entire length of the film fail to make a connect at any level. And that is thanks mostly to over-the-top sentimentalism resulting from a half-baked script.

Borrowed heavily from Chocolat, the film is not even half as appetising. They, no doubt, have got hold of the recipe. But as any reader of recipe books will attest, good food is much more than a few ingredients thrown in.

[Original pic by Simone Merli]