Buffet Strategy

Skip the main course. I’ve come to this conclusion based on three buffet meals I’ve had in the recent and not-so-recent past – Khansama in UB city in early July, Barbecue Nation in JP Nagar last weekend and The Higher Taste at ISKCon tonight.

In all these meals, there has been significant variety in the starters. There have been various kinds of starters and salads (and anyways Barbecue Nation’s USP is the barbecues – which are starters). And significantly awesome desserts too – wtih a couple of Indian sweets, variety of cakes, fruit and ice cream.

The problem with main course in all these restaurants is that it’s too standard. There might be the odd innovation here or there but it is usually a close cousin of some standard item itself. The nature of North Indian main course meals (which is the main course of the main course in all these places) doesn’t lend itself to too much radical innovation and hence the main course ends up being not too much special.

So this is what you need to do at buffets – load up on the starters. They are usually the best part of the meal in these buffets. And if you combine all the starters judiciously, it should give enough nutrition (except maybe for calories). Maybe have a little bit of main course (something like rice) to fill up your stomach (density of food fundaes). And then thulpitmax on the desserts. I’m sure you’ll leave the meal feeling happy and contented and full.

JEE Results

Exactly ten years ago, they used to give a sum total of 3400 ranks for IIT-JEE. Typically, to get an engineering branch at one of the “big 5” IITs you needed to be in the early 2000s or better. Back then, there were ~40 people from Bangalore who made it to the merit list (I’ve forgotten the exact numbers but if I remember right, at least 30 people from Bangalore JOINED some IIT or the other). About 1.2% of all successful candidates back then were from Karnataka (for IIT/JEE purposes Bangalore = Karnataka since there are no other centres in the state).

JEE results for this year came out yesterday. Most of the second page of today’s The New Indian Express is spent in giving footage to people from Bangalore who got a rank. This year, they gave out 13,100 ranks, of which 58 were from Bangalore – 0.5% of all successful candidates. And you have the New Indian Express which puts the headline “City Students crack IIT by the dozen”. Yeah, five dozen out of thirteen kilopeople is worse than three dozen out of three kilopeople. But anyway…

Back in my days, there was one decently established factory and a couple of fledgling factories in Bangalore. The established factory (a small scale industry by national standards) had 100 students, of which over 30 got ranks in the JEE (and about 20 actually joined IIT). Today the same factory has some 500 students. And surely not more than 58 of its students could have cleared the JEE! And then there are several other factories in the city. Don’t know if any of them have done significantly well.

Madness. Sheer madness. I had written about this before.

Postscript: I must admit there is a small bit of hotteuri (stomach burn) at the amount of footage toppers get nowadays. Back then, it was an advertisement by the coaching factory in all major English dailies in the city, and little else.

Postscript2: This post might sound like one old thatha sitting in his armchair and ranting. It is meant to be that way.

Food Review: Silver Thali at Maiya’s

The new Maiya’s restaurant has recently started a concept called the “silver thali”. Served on the third floor, it is advertised as “fine dining”. And the high point of the meal was supposed to be the “40 items”. Despite the steep price tag of Rs. 350, I wanted to try it out, and hence chose this place when I had to treat my cousin and cousin-in-law last night.

It is an extremely small place, the hall where the “silver thali” is served, on the third floor. Mindful of the 40 items that were to follow, we decided to take the stairs. We were made to wait for a brief while while they set up our table, and in we went. The dinner began with a speech by the owner of the restaurant explaining the “concept” of the 40-course meal and advising us to just “have a taste” of each of the items in the meal, and we could then revisit the items we liked if we still had stomach capacity. The freaky part of his speech was that he asked us to recommend his meal to friends and relatives – it wouldv’e been ok if it were after the meal, but I don’t know what the guy was doing telling us this before we’d been served.

The most freaky part of the meal was the waiter. Given that it was positioned as “fine dining”, it was fair on the restaurant’s part to recruit someone who spoke English. Unfortunately the guy couldn’t speak Kannada. So here we were – three Kannadigas (ok – two; cousin-in-law is technically marathi) eating proper Kannadiga food, and not able to discuss it with the waiter. Also, the waiter had some complicated fundaes about the direction from which to serve, and he kept coming behind us and between my cousin and me in order to serve me. Was very freaky. And the number of times he told me “and for you, sir” suggested he was a steward in his previous job.

We enthusiastically counted the items as they arrived. We lost count midway through the meal, but I think there were 40 items – counting each variety of papad separately, and the chips, and the beeDa. Most of the items were of better-than-decent quality. They also had some “exotic” items such as the tambULi, the lime rasam, “gojju-amboDe”, etc. Surprising thing was there was just one big sweet – and then there was paayasa made of hesarbELe (this is the paayasa usually made at death ceremonies) and some grapes “gojju” which¬† tasted like chyawanprash.

The worst part of the meal, though, was the rice, which was hard – and this made it very difficult for me to enjoy any of the rice-accompanist items (majjige huLi (similar to the north indian kadhi) , sambar, rasam, tambULi, etc). Thing is they cook rice once for all the people dining in the fine dining area, and so it would’ve become slightly cold by the time you are served, especially if you’ve gone late. The grains were too big and didn’t gel well with the accompanying items – which were too watery to gel with this kind of rice. In fact it was similar to the rice they make at Shiok, but that kind of rice is perfect for Thai stuff, not for Indian stuff.

The rest of the items were ok, but I still wouldn’t recommend this thali. There are too many items, and the service is a bit freaky, and it is overpriced. They don’t seem to know how to do the fine dining stuff. They make excellent food though, which is why I recommend you to visit the Restaurant. However, I advise you to go to the first or the second floor and have the normal thali (priced at Rs. 125). Excellent food. Significantly better service. Better “experience”.

Silver Thali at Maiya’s, 30th Cross, 4th Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore:

Cuisine: South Indian vegetarian

Meal for three: Rs. 1050 (alcohol not served)

3 stars;

Menu (whatever I can remember):

  1. Choice of grape and ginger juice
  2. Tomato soup
  3. fruit chaat
  4. Kosambri
  5. lady’s finger dry curry
  6. cabbage and chickpeas dry curry
  7. vegetable saagu
  8. onion-and-potato saagu
  9. poori (oh, there was no chutney; #fail)
  10. gojju-AmboDe
  11. some yellow bengali sweet
  12. onion pakoda
  13. bisi bele bhath
  14. aloo dum pulav
  15. raita
  16. potato chips
  17. plain rice
  18. tambULi
  19. mixed vegetable majjige huLi
  20. sambar
  21. tomato rasam
  22. lime rasam
  23. normal papad
  24. small papad
  25. fryums
  26. baaLka mensinkai (fried salted chillies)
  27. hesrbELe (moong dal) paayasa
  28. pickle
  29. curd
  30. buttermilk
  31. grapes gojju (the thing that tasted like chyawanprash)
  32. choice between hot chocolate fudge and fruit salad with ice cream
  33. beeda
  34. water