Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stint at Masala Klub’s Kitchen - The Taj West End, Bangalore

Two weeks of being a complete social butterfly in Bangalore, followed by a week in Goa soaking up the sun, enjoying the sand between my toes and lazing in the surf I decided it was high time I added some spice to my newly acquired and steadily expanding culinary repertoire.

I sought out a traineeship at a real, live, professional Indian kitchen, approaching several of Bangalore’s fine five star properties before finally settling on a three week stint at Masala Klub, a reputed and renowned fine dining restaurant at the city’s oldest establishments, The Taj West End that is stunning in its colonial grandeur.

Situated just behind the poolside, Masala Klub boasts a chic yet classic ambience gilded with an uber sexy-esque feel. While the restaurant showcases timeless Indian favourites (predominantly traditional North Indian fare with a sprinkling of South Indian specialities) the menu incorporates a contemporary twist employing modern culinary techniques and nuances by offering both an a la carte menu as well as a tasting or degustation menu with several courses including amuse bouche of grilled tandoori fruit chaat style in pani-puri cups and lemongrass rasam to begin with and a refreshing sorbet to clear the palate between entre and main course. Another step in the global direction is the pairing of wines with the food and a well stocked cellar featuring more than 200 premium bottles.

Deep fried crispy munchies, lemongrass rasam and grilled tandoori fruit chaat style pani-puri cups

Tamarind Sorbet

The restaurant features a live grill called Masala Studio akin to the tepankayi style of cooking and serving directly to customers as well as two grill tables that seat up to four people each with the chef upon request cooking your meal for you personally at your table using the grill provided.
Chef Rishikesh Rai heads up Bangalore’s Masala Klub, the fourth in the Masala series of restaurants spread across other Taj Properties in major Indian metros.
Contrary to my nightmares of chopping endless bags of onions and cleaning stacks of dirty dishes I was thrown head first in to a hands on experience. I walked into Masala Klub with almost no prior knowledge of what Indian cooking comprised of and walked out enlightened.
From toasting and grinding spices to make masalas, concocting chutneys, preparing marinades, skewering kebabs and cooking them in the tandoor, firing my own flat, leavened breads pressed out by hand to deciphering the basic ingredients and discovering the pillars of Indian cooking, my time in the kitchen whizzed by all too soon.
Below are some rare shots of Indian cooking at its best, replete with the customary preperations that persevere using age old techniques. These images burst with vibrant colours, capturing the essence of the powerful aromatic spices, the richness of the cream, butter and ghee, the immense heat of the tandoor that is usually 350 degrees celcius - all the components that make Indian cuisine a magnificent and unique sought after culinary delight.

Lachcha Paratha - a North Indian crisp bread made by pleating the dough as pictured above with several layers. This bread makes for the perfect accompaniment for a rich, thick gravy

Hot Lachcha Paratha's right out of the tandoor

Skewered Eggplants ready to go into the tandoor for a special Punjabi dish

The eggplants roasting in the hot, fiery tandoor

Chef Rajiv with a perfectly presented Baingan Bartha. The flesh of the smoked eggplants are cooked with spices, tomatoes and onions until soft and served up in a whole, hollowed out eggplant

Perhaps one of the most popular kebabs of all time, Galouti Kebabs are the gem of Awadhi cuisine from Lucknow, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. On the left is the mushroom version - Khumb Galouti, for vegetarians and on the right the traditional finely minced goat mince with spices.

Chef Venkatesh skewering chicken tikka a popular Indian kebab onto the tandoor skewers

Above: Marinating whole baby legs of lamb known as Raan

Below: The finished dish, meat flaked off the bone and presented in a tagine with corriander

An array of gravies: (L -R) Allepey Fish Curry, Nalli ki Dhum, Dal Maknee, Palak, Shahi Paneer

Chef Dilip mixes chicken tikka marinade

An eggplant stack with two kinds of spiced patties in between, corn and then potatoes as a sampler for a wine paired dinner to be held at the restaurant

Stuffed chicken breasts in a fragrant coconut curry with rice pulao

Kerala style banana leaf wrapped fish

Various kebab skewers cooking in the tandoor

Iddiyappam or String hoppers originate from down South - Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Made of either rice or wheat flour, salt and water it is always served with curry. This presentation is very contemporary as compared to the traditional way of serving it flat with the curry on top instead of below.

Norweigian Salmon with a tikka marinade served on slivers of aloo chaat potatoes

The garnish tray

Lahori gravy bubbling away on the stove tainted with the bright red hue from Red Kashmiri Degi Mirch Chilli Powder

Vegetarian Kebab Sampler

Nawabi Dum Biryani

Chef Sartaj Qureshi and Myself

Chef Shaifali Kishore and myself


Gautam said...

Thanks for insights Meagan. So is it worth a visit and not just because you interned there? Is the food an interesting enough take on traditional Indian food? Is much lost in translation?

MEGalomaniac said...

Masala Klub is absolutely deserving of a visit. In fact I'm pretty certain once you sample the place you will be back for more. It is especially great to take out-of-towners to and to visit in big groups, so you can order more, share and revel in the complex flavours, individual plating and creativity of the chefs.

In actuality the food is but one component of a bigger luxurious experience that Masala encompasses, (keeping in line with Taj's philosophy of hospitality), extending to silver service, plush ambience, unique dining options that effortlessly marries traditional Indian recipes, way of eating and ideology with contemporary Western gastronomy.

While I have my reservations with regard to the lightness of the food that they claim to serve: their usage of olive oil and tempering of spices, I applaud them for going where no restaurant has gone before atleast in Bangalore. Masala maintains high standards of Indian food, serving it up with flair and panache. Truly they seem to specialise in art on a plate and their visual treats go beyond fulfilling the primary criteria as their dishes are a tantalising delight for the palate!

Gautam said...

Well, I'm a little skeptical of this new age Indian food business but since you've recommended it for the Indian food, primarily, I think I'll go try it.

Do they have degustation menu?

MEGalomaniac said...

I am pretty sure you won't be dissapointed.

And yes they do a TDH menu starting at Rs. 2000 for dinner going up depending how "meaty" your choices may be, and for lunch starting at Rs. 750.