May 16, 2007

Saigon Restaurant

I just posted about Saigon Restaurant on Bangalore Metroblog. You can read the review there, but I wanted to add a few details here, one invidious comparison, and a description of my trip to the kitchen.

First the comparison. Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to compare restaurants in Bangalore and San Francisco because, well, in most cases there is no comparison. With the obvious exception of all the many and varied forms of indian cuisines (especially south indian - karnatakan, keralan, chettinad, andhra, etc.) with very few exceptions (Shiok, Grasshopper, and recently Nanking) the restaurants we've been to in Bangalore don't really compare to similar style restaurants in San Francisco.

Now I know this isn't really fair. San Francisco is known as one of the restaurant capitals of the world, being compared in the same breath with New York City, London, and Paris. But locals like to tout Bangalore as one of India's "foodie" cities and so we had (and have) high expectations for the dining scene here.

That said, Saigon has provided a bright spot in that landscape. The Thai is high quality, as authentic as I can tell having not actually been to Thailand. I'm not really an expert just opinionated and experienced. In any case, this is a restaurant I'd go to in San Francisco. Sure there were a couple of misses - the soup (thom kha) had broken, and the pork was overcooked. But the dishes were interesting, the spicing and preparation was to high standards, and the presentation was well done.

I'm sure some of it has to do with the fact that there is a visiting chef from Bangkok. We'll see if they can keep the standards up after she leaves, but in the mean time I'm happy.

So, being the nosy guy I am, when the chef came to chat, I asked if I could see the kitchen. In no time I was whisked down the back stair (the restaurant is on 3, the kitchen is on 2) into a spacious, immaculately clean, nicely appointed restaurant kitchen. Looked like one cold station, one hot (wok, griddle, frier), and someone plating. I've posted pix on flickr but I was surprised by the size of the mise!

Anyway, all in all it was an enjoyable experience to warm the cockles of my foodie heart. It gives me hope that we'll find more little treasures like this to comfort me while I try to learn the ins and outs of indian food - I won't feel quite so much like a stranger in a strange land.

May 14, 2007

aire helado de parmesano con muesli

parmesan frozen-air with muesli

This dish was a tour-de-force. A styrofoam box was carefully placed in front of each of us. We were directed to unwrap it, and sprinkle the "muesli" on it. When opened, the box contained - air, sort of. It was a very light frozen foam, almost a snow. I suspect the use of liquid nitrogen, but I can't prove it.

The foam tasted intensely of parmesan, while the "muesli" looked and tasted like muesli, it was clearly not like any other muesli you'd ever had. Each of the elements had been distilled to its essence. The dried fruit having an intense fruitiness, and the crispy brown flakes having a delicate nutty sweetness. Both worked well with the parmesan.

As a nice touch we got to keep the wrapper and the muesli bag. The entire presentation was slightly reminiscent of the snacks you got served on an airplane. The styrofoam container, the little zip-loc baggie of unidentifiable bits. The pun being enhanced by the "elbulliaire" logo on the wrappings.

El Bulli

brioche frito shangai

Fried Shanghai Brioche

These were tasty little fried puffs, just about what you'd expect from the name. Brioche-like dough filled with crab, cilantro, green onion, and sesame oil. Very yummy but if there was something astonishing about it I missed it.

People who couldn't have seafood got a "mozarella puff" that looked entirely more interesting. A base of what looked like a steamed mozarella flavored dumpling, split and topped with some kind of foam. For all I know it was actually the foam that had the mozarella flavor, and the dumpling was a puff of something else.

El Bulli