Byblos – Indiranagar Restaurant Review

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We went to Byblos for our anniversary dinner. We shortlisted Japanese and Lebanese cuisines for dinner, and we settled for Lebanese, and Byblos made us feel very happy about our choice.

We were given a warm welcome by a Lebanese steward! He claimed that Byblos served genuinely, undoubtedly, and profoundly authentic Lebanese food. We did believe him and led him to help us choose our dishes, which he was extremely happy to help with. We also noticed that the chefs working in the open kitchen were Lebanese. In fact, the place is owned and managed by the Head Chef, Mr. Ammar, who is Lebanese. Even his business card smells of heavenly aromatic spices. Thereafter, we did not have an iota of disbelief about the authenticity of the place and the food.

While the kid asked for the Chicken Bouillon soup, we went for the Byblos Mixed Grill. The Chicken Bouillon soup was just the right taste for a 4 year old, non-spicy, a little creamy, and served with croutons. The Mix Grill that we ordered was a platter of Lamb Chops, Lamb Kofta, Lamb Tikka, Shish Taouk (chicken kabab), and Arayess. Arayess is pita stuffed with meat. The grill platter was served with a basket of fluffy pita breads.It is a slightly leavened bread that has a pocket that can be stuffed with various fillings and had. I must mention their Pita breads.  The Pita that Byblos served was warm, soft, and puffed up. They looked and tasted fresh. The kid absolutely loved them, not to mention that we finished the entire basket within a few minutes of it being placed on the table. Coming back to the grill, the meat was good, soft and well marinated. However, the entire platter was strewn with french fries, and we wondered why. The steward explained that people in Lebanon loved fries with their grills. It is almost an inevitable part of a grilled platter.

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We were hoping that there would be some hummus to go with the Pita and the grill, but since there was none, we ordered a bowl. It looked wonderful with a creamy yet firm consistency, and there was a well of olive oil in the center of the bowl. We licked it clean until the bowl remained just a white bowl.

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For those who don’t have Lebanese food often, tasting the Shawarma is inevitable when they try the cuisine. Therefore, we ordered a Shawarma, and it appeared soon with another basket of Pitas. We actually returned the Pita basket because we were almost getting full and wanted to eat only the Shawarma. The chicken Shawarma had just the right amount of spices and it was served with garlic mayonnaise. As expected, there were french fries on the side, and this time we were not surprised. Haha! The thin slices of the chicken were good to be stuffed in the pita but we had it just plain and they tasted just wonderful. Even the little one tried it and asked for more of it repeatedly.

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I must mention that we tried a drink Ayran which is almost close to the Indian Buttermilk except that the yogurt is more sour and has garlic.

We didn’t order any desserts but Mr.Ammar sent over some Baklava and also asked us to taste a new dessert called Halawa Alkeshta that they were introducing. The pastry chef came over to describe how he made the Baklava. He mentioned how he uses chopped pistachios in between layers of filo (dough for making baklava) and holds it firm with sugar syrup. The Baklava was medium sweet and the chopped pistachios in the center gave it a soft crunch. The other new item on their dessert menu was soft sweetened cheese rolled within a sweet coating and garnished with chopped nuts and seeds. There are some desserts that almost put you into a sweet coma, and this was one of those. It melted in the mouth and the sweet Arabic aromas lingered on for long. We loved it, and we told the Head Chef how much we loved it!

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The Baklava:

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Overall, we had a great dinner at Byblos. They are warm to their guests, and actually, they have a very loyal following. By the time we left, we saw a lot of guests coming in who were familiar faces to the staff there, and that included Indians as well as Arabs and other expats. There was another elderly couple sitting at the table adjacent to us who mentioned how much they loved Byblos and why they loved it!

One last nugget: ‘Byblos’ is an old and famous coastal town in Lebanon, and it is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The restaurant is named after the place.

You must head to the restaurant if you are craving for authentic Middle Eastern food, or if you are keen to experiment with a new cuisine.

Byblos

100 ft Road, Indiranagar

Bangalore

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masala Chai Tales – People & Conversations

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10 am Tuesday morning. Table number 1. My favorite spot.

Two silent figures walked in. Without a word, they walked over to the ordering corner and mumbled out an order.  I tried not to hear. I tried not to overhear. The decibels were too low to be overheard. They sat down at a huge table meant for eight people. Never mind. I waited for them to talk. Either they were too sleepy, or they were just silent people. Two glasses of Cutting Chai appeared before them. Silent sips. Silent sips. No slurps like us, the uncouth lot who force out a lung full of air into the small glass and then slurp as if we are drinking an ocean.  Still silent sips. Not a word and they went out. I was stunned at their silence. Figures of silence!

You must know that the cafe Masala Chai both absorbs and exudes a lot of energy. Energy from all the huge groups of people who throng here. Office goers who are perennially in a hurry, moms always drained of their energy, the elderly who don’t know what to do with their time, people like me who want to watch all the other groups of people, bawling kids, running kids, and lots more. I love to watch these people and try to make stories just by watching them. Masala Chai is one of my favorite places to hangout and do just that. I can probably sit here for hours at my favorite table with endless cups of chai and watch all my fellow chai drinkers there. Of course, only if the kid is at school.

This beautifully cozy place is also a thriving epicenter of conversation. I don’t eavesdrop because its a sin. I just let my auditory canals do the only job they can do.  They pick up strains of conversation which are loud enough for the place anyways. You really can’t blame me if I note down what I watch and what I hear. Today is one of those happy days when I’m here writing.

Ok, now back to people watching.

Two women came in. Tall, hefty, they seemed too big for the quaint shop.  Nevertheless, everyone seems miniature when it comes to the craving for chai. They sat at the table next to me. One of them went over to order while the other one seated comfortably. In a few minutes, a plate of Omelette and two earthenware cups of chai were placed on their table. While a lot of incoherent talk happened here, another guy outside the shop seemed to be walking by in a hurry. He crossed the shop, walked back, seemed to be in a double mind to enter, looked strayed, looked at his watch, and with a ‘what the hell’ attitude, came in. He was carrying a ‘man bag’ as Joey from Friends would say. Impatient from the hurry, he ordered a ‘chai to go’ while tapping at the ordering counter with his fingers. The tut, tut, tut, tut, tut, tut from his finger tapping hurry continued until a paper cup was given to him. Off he went, and the constant ‘tuts’ of the shop died down.

Even before the guy-in-a-hurry had entirely moved out of my line of vision, a pair of zebra striped t-shirts walked in. They took the table opposite to me. They were wearing almost identical tees. One of them went over to place an order, and turned and looked back at me a couple of times. He had this quizzical look on his face. I turned back to my laptop. He placed an order and sat with his friend/colleague. Even before he had completely sat down, he decided to go out to the nearby grocer, and in a few minutes walked back in with a packet of spiced peanuts.  I wanted to go over and tell him ‘hey, I got one of these packets yesterday. I ate the peanuts too. They are very fattening, you know,’ but I held back my urge to do that. Sandwiches and chai were delivered at their table. One of them spoke of how his company’s stocks soared within a few months of his joining the firm, while the other ate in silent affirmation of the discourse. He threw in a few sniggers and a few strains of laughter to massage the already inflated speaker. Colleagues, definitely.

Again, two women entered. One of them was talking, and the other was listening. I couldn’t hear a sound from the woman talking. I didn’t know what her voice was like. I saw her lips move in fervent animation, but I didn’t hear a sound. And then I noticed something! She was wearing a shirt, and I had the same one. I hate it when I see someone else wearing the same shirt that I have. I wanted to run away from there. But I sat on, my lemon tea was too nice to be left alone.

 

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I turned to see a United Colors of Benetton walk in. But I didn’t see any colors on him. He was in white. There was not an iota of colors on him. Possibly all the colors had united to form white. Thats what White is, correct? United colors? And his rich cologne wafted out to mask all the sweet smell of the food around. Aargh!

By this time, the zebra-striped tshirts had left, and the two women mentioned above substituted for them at the opposite table. In the meanwhile, United Colors had already taken a seat and also taken out his sunglasses. He put them on and pulled the newspaper from the next table. Suddenly, a group of professionals came in. A lot of friendly chatter and laughter happened. In contrast to the first two figures of silence who had come in, these people were the figures of speech.  Laughter flowed freely and confusion happened on who-wants-what-chai and finally someone ordered. I noticed United Colors trying to make his way out with a grim ‘excuse me.’  The whole talking group sat at a big table. 4 guys and 5 women. Two women talked of watching a video of a marriage in which the groom had accidentally fallen down during the wedding. And then they cracked up again. One of the guys looked very friendly and was the story teller of the group. He talked of Leonardo DiCaprio and the Oscars, and the rest of the group laughed animatedly. They decided to change their seats and went outside the cafe to stand and have their discussion.

I noticed I had already had three glasses of cutting chai and one mug of lemon tea by now. I checked the time and realized it was time to pick up the kiddo from school. Off I went, happy, and looking forward to another day of people watching here.

If you haven’t read my introductory post on Masala Chai (my favorite chai shop in the neighborhood), do read it here.

Also, watch out for my next write-up on Masala Chai.

Masala Chai Tales-Introduction

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My mornings start with masala chai. At Masala Chai.

Every morning, a steaming hot earthenware cup of sweet milky masala chai is kept before me at my favorite table. I slurp, and I sip, taking in the sweet aroma of the hot chai while the steam fogs up my glasses.

Unmistakably tucked among a series of shops in Brigade Metropolis, Masala Chai is a  quaint ‘tea-room’ (as the friendly owners call it) and a gem of a place when it comes to Indian chai (tea) and snacks.

It is a small place that attracts hordes of people, office-goers, entrepreneurs, writers, the elderly, young moms and old moms, tired moms, kids, young crowds; you name a person in and around 5 kilometers who doesn’t visit this place, and I will treat you to a chai and a snack here. I will.

I love this place. Absolutely. It is like my second home. If you are looking for me and I’m not at home, you will find me here sipping cups of their famous cutting chai.

First, let me tell you about the tea here. They serve a variety of Indian chai. Cutting Chai, Masala Chai, Assam Chai, Darjeeling Chai, Black Chai, Lemon Chai, and Ginger Tulsi Chai. Cutting Chai is the famous ginger tea of India, milky and boiled with loads of ginger. Sweetened or unsweetened; as you would like it. Masala Chai is chai with a lot of Indian spices like cardomom, cloves, pepper, and some ginger too. These spices add a zing to the sweetness of the chai that almost shakes and stirs you up. The Assam Chai here has a very delicate flavor. Their Darjeeling Chai is one that oozes garden freshness. Very refreshing, and a lovely golden brown in color, this Chai leaves a lingering taste for long. Usually had unsweetened and without milk.

What also is a speciality for them is their Lemon Chai. Fresh lemon juice is squeezed into a golden mug of blonde chai. No milk, obviously. Once you take a sip, you can’t miss twirling it around in your mouth savoring its warm sweet but fruity flavor.

The other forms of beverages available here are the traditional ‘Filter Kapi,’ hot chocolate, and cold coffee for the summers. With the heat touching the stratosphere, they also serve fresh lime juice.

Here is their Chai menu.

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Here are the lip-smacking snacks menu they offer.

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As you can see, the snack options are varied. Mostly Indian, they stir up quite a hefty and savory ‘samosa,’ a spicy mix of potatoes and nuts covered in a wheat dough layer and then fried. Another fast-moving-consumer-snack for them is the Indian ‘Pakoda,’ onions deep fried in a spicy batter of chick-pea flour. Also notable snack options are the ‘Dabeli,’ buns stuffed with spicy potatoes and layered with pomegranates, the ‘Chicken Mayo Sandwich,’ ‘Bombay Sandwich,’ ‘Egg, Cheese & Crunchy Onion Roll,’ Masala French Toast’ which is more of an Indian version of the French Toast, ‘Paneer Sandwich’ or cottage cheese sandwich, and the ‘Chilli Cheese Toast.’

We love this place so much that we have stopped making breakfast at home for the two of us. We walk, we jog, and then we head straight to this place for chai and breakfast. They cook up a variety of Omelettes, cheese burst, mushroom stuffed, spiced. Also notable on their menu for breakfast is the ‘Homestyle Sandwich,’ the ‘Egg Bhurji’ or scrambled eggs. Couple them with Chai, and it makes for a wonderful Indian breakfast.

While you are reading this, I’m busy watching people here at Masala Chai and writing while savoring another glass of piping hot Cutting Chai. Do watch out for my next post.

Oh and yes, do check out the 360 degree photo (panoramic photo) of Masala Chai. Click on the play button to see the panorama. The photo credits go to mayodip.com.

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The Bangalore Food Truck + Music Festival

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(*In the photo above, I’m merely posing inside a food truck. I’ve not switched professions.*)

We went to the Bangalore Food Truck + Music Festival Edition 4 at Pebble, The Jungle Lounge at the Palace Grounds held on April 3, 2015. I had never been to a Food Truck event, and I’ve always romanticized a food truck fest. When it was so close to home, I couldn’t resist the urge to go to the event.

Food trucks. Huge trucks, some monochromatic, some mottled, and some kaleidoscopic in colors that serve a variety of foods at affordable prices. For this rally, the trucks that participated were Square Ruth, Truckafe, Swat, Le Casse Croute, Waffle Truck, Khan Saheb, Smoke Signal BBQ, As on Fire, and more brands that I missed taking note of. I must say we had quite a variety of cuisines to choose from: Indian, Oriental, Indo-Chinese, French, Mexican and more. There was actually one truck that had a wood fire inside and they cooked amazing pizzas. My bad I didnt take note of the name.

Here are a few pics of the bright trucks.

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We went in pretty early, at around 12:00 pm when some trucks were still setting up. Le Casse Croute seemed to have already tugged at the hearts of people right from the beginning. We were a group of four adults and each one of us got items from a lot of the trucks, and therefore, we tasted a medley of foods. Golden fried crispy honey potatoes, loaded (and I mean really loaded) nachos, wonderful dimsums, amazing wood-fired pizzas, Buffalo wings, Lemon Chicken Thai rice washed down with a sparkling Green Apple drink made us too full to try anything else. We were in the mood for waffles from the Waffle Truck, but we were already satiated beyond capacity.

Of all the trucks that I tried and that looked great, I loved Truckafe. Beautifully painted in red, yellow, orange, blue, and green, the truck was a treat for my eyes. I loved the interior too and the friendly host let me in the truck. I had a long cherished desire to be on the other side of a food truck and cook, and today I did fulfill my wish. I was in the truck, and I tossed and turned some chicken that was being cooked and had my share of fun! It was fascinating to see an entire kitchen in there. The buffalo wings were lip-smacking and the Thai rice was yummy. Here I am inside Truckafe tossing up some Thai chicken.

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Though we had gorged on a lot of delish, we wanted icecreams. And what better than the IceCream Buggy. Our kids relished on the icecreams and so did we.

There were two areas of concern though. First, the entry fee was not mentioned on the Facebook page for the event, and there were no replies when someone asked about the fee. Second, in the entire field of the rally, there was very little/almost no option to get something to drink. Only one truck had beverages and there were not many options. However, we could get water or drinks in Pebble, the lounge inside that was also the host of the event.

Overall, we had a lovely time. We will definitely go for more food truck events to be held. Actually, I spotted some more trucks on the roadside at MG road. I will sure visit that place soon!

I’m also going to put up some videos of the rally. Watch out!