Consistently voted amongst Bangalore’s best European-cuisine serving restaurants, Graze in Taj Vivanta had captured my curiosity many moons ago. In order to suit the schedule for my visit, I made the stars propitiously align on one burning summer afternoon.Soon transiting through M.G Road I finally entered the portals of this hotel with the intention of checking whether these 5-star-wallahs were living up to their rarefied reputation.
In this age of do-it-yourself luxury, Taj Vivanta did not even have a doorman to open its portals. Before this self-service, I had to pass through metal detectors ,past nonchalant securitymen. Screening out terrorists but forgetting hospitality?
But once inside, the cool elegant beauty of a spacious lobby and various inviting passage-ways exerted their appeal. Into the restaurant now..
Ambience : Top-class ,sporting a sophisticated glow and glint. Lighted glass screens of red and white are suspended from the ceiling while walls have elegant hues of dappled slate and dark scarlet.Two amply stocked wine cabinets flank a long beautifully set table in the center of the restaurant,while the kitchen front is visible at the back section of the restaurant. Table-top arrangements should have been more deluxe. You will not find the all-out royal magnificence of the Palace of Versailles, but you will discover a modern stylishly plush space that a king might not mind relaxing in. One of Bangalore’s best "Conti" designs.
Service - is easily amongst the finest that I have ever received in India. To give the full picture, I have to add that I was the only guest in the restaurant interior from 1 pm to 2-50 pm .A single table of diners sat outside by the pool. Imagine a luxury restaurant where you are the only patron and the waiter stands by ready to cater to your every whim. All the staff I saw that day in Graze were young men. The manager was Mr. Ashvin Singh -a dapper gentleman who engaged me in conversation, even presented a dish to my table while incidentally revealing his good knowledge about the menu at the behest of a casual enquiry, and who sought to dilute my intense solitude by offering a newspaper. Chef Uday Nathan was introduced to me and came across as an earnest professional.My steward for the afternoon was Subba Reddy - who performed his duty with polish,tact and vigilance. He was pleasantly assiduous in enquiring whether I was satisfied with my meal.
The glass of water was re-filled with clock-work regularity while cutlery was duly replenished from a ceremoniously carried wooden tray.Summoning glances were promptly responded to,and sometimes I had to purposely not look in his direction so as to not unnecessarily bring him to the table. After the delivery of each course except for the dessert,he would return with a salt and pepper grinder and each time I would decline the use of this extra seasoning. Cavil-caveat: While the wait staff have a reasonably good fund of knowledge apropos the dishes’ ingredients, this knowledge is not exact- since my 4 course meal cost Rs.3590 and not Rs.6000 or more,I will forgive this minor shortcoming.
Menu (with prices in INR in brackets)- Graze’s compendium is concise and appealing. Starters include Torchon de Foie Gras (900), and Confit de Canard with Milanese polenta (700). Soups have familiar varieties like lobster bisque (5 00).In the mains, Tenderloin and Lamb (1850) share prime space with Monkfish and Halibut (approx 850). Desserts have options like Lemon Tart Brulee with Vanilla et Champagne Sabayon (500) .
Veg etarians can choose from dishes like "blanquette of vegetables", soups ,salads and Italian persuasions like Risotto, Tortellini and Gnocchi.
Grazing on complimentary bread offered with aioli and moong, I noted that they also offered a 3 course tasting menu (2600) and the 5 course version (4000) -these last two rates include tax.
Entree - Thin-cut petite medallions of lobster, five stacked dominoes of them, could all be stuffed into a child’s mouth in one go- but to be fair to this entree’s quality, that child would have also enjoyed an eye-bulgingly good time masticating and swallowing these deliciously succulent slices bathed in the buttery goodness of truffled sauce. Tiny black orbs which initially appeared seemed to be mustard seeds often seen in Indian dishes, turned out to be Tobiko caviar that afforded scintillas of salty tang. The salad was regulation foliage whose dressing was in no danger of igniting revelatory pleasure.
1st main course- The chicken breast’s refulgent orange exterior was crisp and distinct,but I was not enamoured by what lay beneath. When availing of the pleasures of the flesh, loss of tenderness is always a tragedy. Compact white cylinders of roasted salsify acted as nominally interesting side-kicks.Sauteed spinach and assorted vegetables registered no show-stealing cameos but the best performance issued from a finely balanced sauce coaxed out from morel mushrooms,white wine and sweet secrets.
Complimentary Palate Cleanser- A Cognac and Tamarind Sorbet achieved its function while tasting like the faintly amusing "lemon-lime-’n’-bitters" ice candy.
John Dory -This variety of fish, comparable in mouthfeel to the Indian Lady-fish or Nagli, was velvety soft .’Twas accesorized with "Neeps & Tatties"- a delectably docile accompaniment of potatoes-’n’-turnips mashed and roasted with butter,salt and chives. The artichoke in the Barigoule could not rise above being an astringent,chewy side-player. Garlic foam or any culinary foam for that matter,may be a good new-age technical stunt but it always runs the risk of visual ridicule, and my family launched into an assortment of unsavoury jokes upon seeing this concoction. Overall, Yes this was an excellently rendered fish & mash with a satisfying sauce, but fine-dining fiends expect more- a dazzling dance of flavours or a textural three-ring circus neither of which were in evidence in this largely classicist dish.
Dark chocolate souffle with homemade Vanilla ice-cream- A quenelle of the latter complete with the powdered original product at the base,was strongly redolent of the perfumed bean’s essence but ’twas too sweet for its own good. The flavour of the former lacked intense seduction,and was further compromized by an element of stodginess. Both on the same spoon,however, created a interesting hot-cold double wave of sweetness. This dish was was twice mentioned by the waiter as one of their best desserts -a remark which has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Cognac-Chocolate petit fours: 2 small cocoa-covered balls packed a solid hit of cognac and strong chocolate, thus affording the rich satisfaction missing in the previous heftier sweet.
Tariffs - Highly expensive, going by Bangalore standards. A meal for two people may be placed at an average cost, inclusive of 17% tax but not drinks,of Rs.6000. And Yes I felt there is value-for-money to be found here. Some points of comparison- My main course here cost more than a fine 3 course menu’s all-inclusive rate charged a year ago in the highly rated Via Milano in Koramangala. My 4 course meal in Graze was a steeper bill as compared to the 12 course affair I experienced three months ago in the top-rated Caperberry. And finally to put things in international perspective, in certain 3 Michelin star establishments it is not rare to find a single main course offered at Rs.5000.
I concede that having consumed only 4 dishes (& 2 complimentary mini-ones) my assessment of this restaurant is not yet complete. But as synecdoches go,my meal was not fully effective in being tantalizingly indicative of the overall treasure. I wanted to depart gratified, but actually only left satisfied.There remained an enticing range of dishes that solicited my partaking. Graze''s setting and service aid and abet my intention to do so in the future.
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