Bangalore restaurant reviews Domlur


Friday, February 27, 2015Me! In words

Christened after a lake in Cochin Kerala, Vembanad at The Paul has been on my wishlist for a long time now. Having been to the Sidewalk Cafe ages ago, the ambiance and the serenity of the space has remained with us a long time. Familiarity with the chaos that is Bangalore's traffic, especially around the Koramangala region has made us appreciate the oasis-like respite this hotel and its restaurants provide. On this particular afternoon, it was a taste of home that seemed to be hounding us, well my husband's home to be precise, considering he is from Cochin, and so we had our reason on hand to try Vembanad.

The restaurant is situated on the 4th floor of the hotel and you have to walk past the atrium which houses Sidewalk Cafe and the gorgeous grand piano that is played on in the evenings. 

The interiors are not screaming Kerala, but rather subtle in their approach - wide glass windows sans grills to bring in natural light, engraved wooden wall hangings and a roof that resembles the interiors of a house boat we once travelled on in Alleppey. At the reception table is an antique-looking miniature single person row boat, which in real life has a tendency to tip over when one is paddling it. At the restaurant, it is used decoratively. 

While we were busy looking through the menu and trying to hold ourselves back from ordering everything that sounded familiar and reminded us of home - the staff placed before us a basket of fried crisps of different types - you had the Kondadatum Molagu, which is red chillies stuffed with yogurt and spices and then sun-dried. There were also Kappa (tapioca) and Pavakka (Bitter Gourd) chips to munch on. The two little bowls of pickles had a heavenly rendition of seer fish and another of shredded mango. If you worry about Indian pickles being only about the spice, these will change your mind. 

Soups are not really a part of Kerala cuisine, but a restaurant will have to be innovative about their offerings. The Crab and Drumstick Soup seemed quite tempting and that is what we ordered to the table first - Drumstick has never been a favorite with me and I maintain that if someone can change my thoughts on a particular ingredient, then they certainly have a brilliant dish on hand. This crab meat and drumstick soup with a garnish of caramelized onions was spot on. The crab meat was fresh and not the frozen variety and the bits of soft drumstick pulp contributed towards the thick, dreg-like texture of the soup. Hearty and delicious!

We decided to stick with the classics at this meal and come back again another time to indulge in the more exotic. Prawns are an all time favorite especially if they are stir fried the Kerala way. Called the Chemmeen Thenga Ularthu - tiger prawns - tails and all are stir fried in a gentle spice mix of red chillies, coriander and curry leaves along with finely sliced strips of coconut. The prawns are fried just enough to get the masala to coat it well and imbibe a brilliant flavor. The flavours are delicious enough for you to consider sucking the little tails clean quite unabashedly. 

Kappa - boiled tapioca is a staple across Kerala and no Kerala meal experience is complete without it. A brilliant combination is with a fish curry cooked in a clay pot of course, but we choose to pair it with the onion chutney that came with it and a beef fry. The Kappa was steaming when it came to the table and the onion chutney gave it that tangy accompaniment that enhances the otherwise bland flavor. The chutney could have done with a mustard seed tempering though as far as I see it. 

Erachi Ularthu or the Beef and coconut fry has a masala that comprises of ground shallots, coconuts, red chilli, coriander and pepper. I am sure that Chef Krishna, who handles the restaurant here has a few secret ingredients of his own that went into this marination. What I would honestly love to know is how he managed to get the meat to be as soft as what he placed on our table that day.

Kerala, as is most of South India, has a primarily rice eating population. Red boiled rice is by far the healthiest and the most filling of rice varieties that is a staple in most homes. We paired this with the Kallushappu Meen Curry you see below.

Kallushappu Meen Curry - Kallushappu is a reference to the toddy shops that dot the beaches, backwaters and river banks of Kerala. The food here is defined by excessive use of spice, simply to make it a good pairing for the liquor being sold alongside. But fear not, this fish curry is gentle on the palate - the sourness comes from kokum and the thick, red coconut gravy gets its mild heat from kashmiri chillies (is my guess). The seer fish has very few bones if that is another thing you may be worried about. 

For us, no meal can end without something sweet to round it off - we were torn between the Ada Pradhaman which is a jaggery sweetened rice pudding or payasam as it is called in this part of the world and the Pallada Payasam - which is a milk and sugar based version of the payasam. We settled for the milk version which is served in a heavy set, deep tea cup. The sweetness was spot on and not so much that it gives you a sugar rush to nurse on your way out, but enough to lull you into a perfect afternoon siesta. 

Being a week day we were the only table occupied in the restaurant. Chef Krishna came out to enquire on our satisfaction at the end of the meal and we were all praises for him. The service is smooth, unobtrusive and efficient. This meal cost use approximately Rs 3500 including taxes. You may choose from a well stocked bar as well as from a range of brews from Murphy's Brewhouse which is also part of the hotel.

Amex customers may avail of a 15% discount on the total bill if the meal is purchased with an Amex Card.

Address: The Paul, #139/28, Opposite Embassy Golf Links, Off Intermediate Ring Road, Domlur, Bangalore
Phone: 40477777
Cuisine: Kerala
Wallet factor: Rs 3000 for 2
Parking: Hotel Parking

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