Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Abhijit’s Saha broke away from The Park as Executive Chef and creative head of I.talia last year to debut his baby – Caperberry. The restaurant, self proclaimed as the only in Bangalore to serve up molecular gastronomy caused quite a stir, so much so that the news of Saha’s latest venture made it to me in Australia, and at that with great fervour.

Naturally, Caperberry was amongst the top 5 must- eat-at places during my two month holiday and being a fine dining restaurant, I was relishing the experience to be had, saving it up for a special moment. One such evening came by last week, and finally it was time to see what all the fuss was about.

Quite often I build up my expectations prior to visiting a restaurant and am left disappointed afterward, so I try my best to keep a clean slate and decipher the experience for what it is, as I go along. In the case of Caperberry it was almost impossible to enter the place without the slightest of preconceived notions. This was partly because of the mixed reviews I had received from fellow foodies and friends, and partly because I wondered ‘if’ and ‘how’ a true molecular gastronomy experience was actually possible in Bangalore, not so much from the point of view of the creation and existence, but rather from a business point of view in terms of its patronage and survival on a long-term basis.

Apart from trying to work out the logistics, capacity and probability of a molecular gastronomy restaurant’s success in Bangalore, a previous affliction – my pessimistic approach to molecular gastronomy continued to plague me. When it comes to the “deconstruction” of a meal and flowery additions of “foams” and “gels” in place of traditional dish accompaniments and components, I begin to question the legitimacy of an establishment and the headspace of the management as well as the reality of my (customer’s) good money spent on something that is well, rather intangible. Simply put, I am far from sold when it comes to the concept of molecular gastronomy – to me it is art on a plate and I go as far as to say that perhaps it even has an amusement park effect on the palate. While my belief may be slightly cheeky, I believe to be truly appreciated molecular gastronomy should be treated like a visit to a museum, carried out on an annual basis followed by dinner at a substantial restaurant.

Anyways, enough of my pragmatic point of view, let’s talk actualities. Upon entering we were greeted by Chef Saha himself – a great touch seeing him within his own space, following which we were promptly ushered to our table. Caperberry is a sprawling restaurant designed on a substantial scale, and Saturday evening presented itself as a rather bustling evening – neither of which I were factors I had anticipated.

Caperberry offers a four course tasting menu at Rs. 1300/- and a six course at Rs. 1700/- with a wine flight to pair at Rs. 900/- . The wine flight is an international concept that fine dining restaurants often offer, and it is especially heartening to see this here in Bangalore. While the prices for the tasting menu are reasonable for a restaurant of its stature, in my opinion, the choices are somewhat lacklustre in comparison with their a la carte menu that left me in a tizzy, scrambling back and forth the pages hard-pressed to make a decision.

Having ordered, an amuse bouche or palate teaser designed to excite the palate in anticipation of the meal to come was presented to us complimentary as part of the dining experience. A skewered quartered fig with a drizzling of balsamic reduction and an olive oil glaze garnished the little plate it was served upon along with a scattered sun dried tomato – altogether a nice idea, but missing the characteristic, unforgettable flavours associated with these classical Italian ingredients.

Since my partner is a teetotaller I saw it silly to order a bottle of wine or relish it on my own, so I sampled two of their cocktails. A vanilla and nutmeg concoction with vodka that was interesting and then I tried a ‘design your own cocktail’ – a concept I rather liked, one opts for their desired glass size, spirit base, mixer and flavour.

While the menu offers an array of tapas to choose from, this is something I usually take advantage of when with a big group as it allows everyone t o nibble and taste a variety, minus getting full. In the case of myself and Sameer my dining partner that had so kindly decided to treat me, we settled on a single dish – the crumb fried goat cheese that was tasty but missing that somethin’, somethin’ – let’s just say there was nothing tantalizing enough to make you come back screaming for more.

Before mains we split a chicken and chorizo paella that was well below the mark. For starters the bottom of the pan wasn’t crisp enough and there was no beginning s of a crust in sight or upon mouth feel. On the whole the dish was a little too moist, reminiscent of risotto rather than paella and the chorizo was more like a pork sausage from the Bangalore Ham Shop, need I say more.

On to the mains, the tenderloin was heavenly, cooked to medium perfection as I like it, although the stickler within me must be honest – my partner asked for it medium-well done, so in that case it was a touch under.

The pork belly I choose was beautiful – buttery and melt in the mouth, however it is probably the largest piece I have ever seen served up. A thick tile about two inches by two inches on the surface and two and a half inches in thickness. Where pork belly is concerned you truly are better off with a petite portion that is well garnished to balance the richness and cut the fat. The accompanying carrot, beans and mash were lovely however something about the brown sauce was acrid on the palate.

The grand finale came in the form of a textured apple platter with apple incorporated in three forms. The deconstructed tart tatin was an absolute washout – the apple chunks too jammy and sweet and the pastry was far from that expected from puff – light and flaky. The second element was opaque cubic jellied apple – made for an interesting garnish, but not worthy of sitting pretty in its own entity as a component of the dish. Lastly was an apple sorbet of sorts that Sameer broke down for me simply: ‘you take Tropicana apple juice, freeze it and voila,’... need I say more?

So to go or not go? My final evaluation in a snap:

Hits: Caperberry nails the fine dining experience offered in the lap of luxury, with a walk in the clouds kind of feel. Wait staff are extremely capable and service is excellent.

Misses: Sorry folks, for those of you that thought you could skip the queue at El Buli and experience a bit of the fuss on home turf there isn’t much to be seen in the form of molecular gastronomy apart from a clarification of terms at the beginning of the menu familiarising patrons with fancy terminology.

Between the lines: Where the food is concerned do not expect Saha’s genius touch that was well loved and revered at I.talia, for it is lost somewhere in translation at Caperberry. Although the food is undoubtedly of a good standard, it falls to the wayside when put in comparison with some of Bangalore’s best Euro-inspired offerings such as Via Milano, Fiorano and a selection of of Sunny’s classics. Where pricing is concerned you are paying for the experience rather than just the food, something that we as Bangaloreans are otherwise used to and perhaps, yet to come to terms with.

121, Dickenson Road,
48/1, Ground Floor, The Estate,, Bangalore, Karnataka 560042
080 2559 4567

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You write well and seem to know your food.
I think Molecular Gastronomy is best left to Blumenthal and Adria though.