Thursday, June 16, 2011

udupi restaurant, kuwait city. thalis.

Once you find it, Udupi Restaurant, Vegetarian, Deluxe, Welcome. A friend heard about this place so we went and tried it out. Another of the several thali restaurants in Kuwait that I seem to be really liking these summer days. I want to develop a ranking for thali restaurants in Kuwait, more for my own interest than anything else. I really like the idea of the thali. I reviewed Green Land a few postings ago, which is located only a couple of blocks away from Udupi, and I couldn't help but compare the two throughout the meal. I wouldn't necessarily say one is better than the other, they offer enough key differences to allow them to be applicable depending on the situation and the mood.

Located on Ahmed Al-Jaber St. in the city, next to the Warba Insurance company building.
It is open all day, from 6:30 am to 10:00 pm. Until 6 pm, I was told, they only serve a thali meal, but I noticed someone at a table nearby eating a dosa, so I'm not sure I was given the best information. After 6, they have more dishes. Walking in for the first time, the man standing at the cashier near the door didn't say hello, he just said "hatha mat'am hindi." i nodded and asked for a table. We were looked at suspiciously, with the staff somewhat bewildered that a group of arabs just sat at a table and plainly asked for 3 thalis.

We were handed the thali tray with what seemed at first a minimum of effort put into the food. You have a choice of chapatis or phuris. Going clockwise in the photo, starting from the left, you have yoghurt, chapati, thali dessert, vegetable curry, soup, creamy lentils, beans/spinach/others stir-fry, hot sauce and phuris in the middle.

As I said, I had some suspicion that the meal wouldn't be that great. But then I started tasting it. Each dish bursting with flavour and seemingly working together quite well. Very balanced individually, with just the right amount of spice, salt. I didn't have a favourite, but I started adjusting each of them with small dollops of yoghurt mixed in, and I seemed to eat the soup the least, simply because it wasn't interactive with the bread, but it was still really good. In general, the food was a bit more spicy than Green Land, but much better than the times I've had the spicy option at Green Land.

The suspicion seemed to wear off as the meal went on when refills started and then after a couple of rounds, some rice that (I hope) wasn't ready earlier. The staff were great, attentive, making sure that your tray was full until you had enough.

And then it was done and it was time for tea. Only tea with carnation milk and nescafe were on offer as after-meal options. The tea was great. Strong and, mixed with the carnation, gave a nice finishing touch for the meal.

Would I go back to Udupi? In short, yes. It's very clean, yet somewhat spartan with the stainless steel utensils. Even the jug of water and drinking glasses were made of the same metal. But honestly, for 1.250 KD per person, 1.000 for the thali alone, and for how good the food was, I was really happy. Fresh food at such a price in the city. And it's timings are very convenient. One thing, though, is that I  like ordering one more dish at Green Land, to add a bit more diversity to the thali, but it wasn't really missed in this experience. Yes, I will definitely go back.

This place is on the upper side of 3.
If you have a thali restaurant in Kuwait that you recommend, please let me know. Thanks.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

my version of korean bbq

I have been to a korean restaurant a couple of times now and it inspired me to take a challenge. I always do this, I go to a restaurant and try out their food a couple of times until something clicks and I say to myself, "i can do this better." and i did.  When I research new foods, I conjure up a mental image of what that food would look like, taste like, smell like. Every time I had the food at the korean place I wanted a bit more. Not in the quality of the food, but in the aromas and flavours. I should note that I am quite particular to my own tastes, I have built up an expectation of what various foods should taste like, this time based on a recipe I tried years ago when I was bbqing a lot at the chalet; if I try something I don't like, I think of what could be added to make it that much better. This was the basis of this experiment. This recipe will certainly be added to my repertoire, whether it is authentic or not.

The great thing about Korean BBQ is that it really doesn't need a long time for marination. In fact, I wouldn't have marinated this meat very long anyway as I intended to braise it and have it with polenta. However, I discovered that the ribs were cut for barbecuing and were too large to fit in my crock pot. Instead of giving up, I decided to chop it up and have a go at my homemade gal-bi (korean for bbq ribs). I was glad to be able to control the doneness of the meat, as in the restaurant it is always served quite well done and as you all probably know by now, I'm not a fan of well-done meat. I removed the meat from the bones, tried my best at removing as much of the connective tissue in order to have tender pieces of meat without the rubbery bits that always remain on barbecued ribs. Poured in some soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, some onions, garlic and ginger. I went by smell on this one. I let it sit for an hour or so before I griddled the ribs to my liking.

I also had some bean sprouts that needed to get used. So i blanched them, added many of the same ingredients as the marinade, save the sugar, ginger and rice vinegar, and ended up with a side salad. Korean BBQ often provides you with a myriad of side items to go along with the meat, but I settled with this sukju namul. In fact, being served on the same plate as the almost-caramelized marinade from the meat made for a fantastic harmony.

This will be a dish I will be trying to perfect.