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Bisi Bengaluru: RockSalt – When desi met classics with a twist

Posted January 12th, 2018, 11:22 AM IST

Bisi Bengaluru: RockSalt – When desi met classics with a twist

To any artistic mind, a return to where it all began is always a catharsis. Chef Abhijit Saha, the man of renown behind Fava and Caperberry, decided to return to his memories of Indian cuisine and it opened up a spice box of flavours. It also resulted in the newest space in town, in which he is a partner, unearthing delectable morsels from his considerable culinary journey. RockSalt launched recently in Bengaluru, celebrating, as the name suggests, the wholesomeness of rock salt, as regional cuisine boldly states its arrival.

Here, Saha differs in his treatment of a restaurant too - the wooden, trellised interiors, amber and candle lit hues and shrubbed spaces is a breath of fresh air. And it's an expansive, grey, minimal furniture address on St Mark's Road that we didn't even know existed! Chef Saha and his team at Avant Garde Hospitality decided to give Indians back their desi khana which hospitality whizzes have been doing with places like Pizza Bakery.





This easy, comfortable and hip avatar comprising an Indian regional cuisine restaurant and tapas bar, has been missing in the city. So here the regional taste trail is playful in its wisdom, not the usual, somewhat sombre, rich tapestry of heavy flavours. The Indian and tapas-inspired 36-foot bar where one can sip a guava martini and mull about life is a beautiful space. "The idea came to life a year ago, when we opened Saha in Singapore, which we are in the process of relocating. I had not done an Indian restaurant, and Bengaluru needed a restaurant of regional influences. I wanted to create an interesting tapas menu, where people can try desi cocktails, the pani puri bar that offers 25 different types, with small plates, and not a full heavy Indian meal," explains Chef Abhijit Saha, whose idea is inspired by Indian cuisine that is light and playful, yet traditional.

You can enjoy the simple tapas, sliders, pizzas, and grills that come with twists like the kafir lime fish. Then, if you so desire, dunk into mains of classic flavours. Most awaited, however, is the monthly regional celebration, "We will have promotions of diverse regional Indian cuisine with a home chef curating the experience, for instance, we won't just do Kerala cuisine, but go deeper and do Moplah, Nair, Syrian Christian, etc with six to eight dishes that I curate with them. There are many people who I know cook wonderful food at home, and when they feature six to eight of their recipes, we would present it, that is a huge part of RockSalt... apart from light Indian food."

The menu, in Saha's typical style is understated, succinct and plays on classics with a twist... but unlike the social media tizzy about fusion spins, this is (thankfully) the food we have all grown up with - soul food in the trappings of ease, comfort and lightness that desi khana is not really known for!

The gol gappa or puchka bar with its portions of chaas, jaljeera ka pani or kokum saar and the fillings of classic spiced potato, pindi chole, spiced peas, mixed fruit or paneer tikka in vegetarian and the non vegetarian chicken 65, chicken tikka, mutton kheema matar, pepper crabmeat and shrimp ghee roast in a pani puri are interesting. As foodies, we are traditionalists but we liked the tangy, flavour-infused chilled jaljeera, although we did wish for a more spicy version. The crab-filled variety with jal jeera was surprisingly delicious, the blandness of crab meat complemented the punch of jaljeera. We loved the chaas too. We would have liked the good old traditional attey ka puchka instead of the more modern crunchy version. Or even sooji ones. It also comes in gaspacho, avocado salsa and of course the bar faves - margarita, bloody mary and martini in a pani puri shot too. We also spotted some dessert ones with aam panna. Not our cuppa, though.

The stuffed paniaram was perfect - delicious with its chutney pudi-inspired chilli chutney. Next came the pepper garlic chops and galouti starter... the lamb was perfectly cooked and fell of the bone - delectable with its yogurt-based, nutty marinade. Juicy and succulent. The galouti, which the Lucknow Nawab has endowed with rich history was alright, subtly spiced with a pudina chutney.

For mains, we tried the garlic naan with lal maas, the meat of the day. They do have a simple selection of dishes with soul food like dal makhani, Kerala vegetable ishtew, and fish curry, Bengali and Goan style, butter chicken, biryanis and pulav.

The naan came in tandoor toasty though it was crumbly. We dunked it into the lal maas gravy and very succulent pieces of mutton. Very light, if on the saltier side and lacking the punch of the lal maas we know and love.

We loved the desserts, there is something for any desi sweet lover; we had the gulab jamun cheese cake: creamy cheese cake filled with dollops of gulab jamun, delicious... We would have liked it New York style, hot instead of cold... "There are certain things in an Indian restaurant you must have, these are quintessential dishes on my menu and we are getting excellent feedback for our dal and murgh makhani. We've kept the starters and desserts modern and the mains classic," Saha says.

Using quality food ingredients he has aptly addressed regional cuisine with quality, organic and local ingredients.

We liked the comfortable ease and simplicit and the desi tapas bar. Would like more interesting starters. We are looking forward to the regional menus as that's where our heart lies, he promises that soon. and we wait, impatiently.

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