Old Bangaloreans constantly bemoan the ghastly changes that have transformed our beloved city in the last three decades: tree-lined boulevards, politeness and balmy weather have been replaced by congestion, rudeness and 40 plus temperatures. Forget the National Citizens Register; what we need is former Minister Lakshmisagar who floated the proposition that green cards should be issued to those who could prove they had a "Bangalore state of mind." "See saar, I am not against outsiders, but they should know how to adjust with our mentality." Amidst the chaos, one landmark restaurant, Ebony has not just retained their mojo but has opened a branch in Whitefield. In the process, the baton has been smoothly passed from baby boomer to millennial: young Mayuri who has taken over from her father, Rajesh, is a natural in the hospitality business. Plus she keeps her cool despite having to cross the Marathahalli Bridge five times a week!
Rajesh and his GM, Krishna Shantakumar, who is synonymous with Ebony, are passionate and knowledgeable foodies. Being stalwarts of the restaurant trade, they are shrewd enough to have figured out that the vast majority of diners don't give a tinker's toss about scotch eggs nestling with dhansak on the menu. One man's peach is another man's poison and to hell with the monochromatic approach to dining. This may annoy purists but since the hospitality business is all about keeping the customer happy, it makes business sense to offer John, Johnny and Janardhan a choice. One can opt for butter chicken, aloo gobi, Turkish Adana Kebab and salli mutton or Mrs Palekar's fish curry, while Pan-Asian fans can indulge their craving for som tam, Thai green curry or go buck wild with khao suey.
Ebony is located on the first floor of the Miraya Rose Mall and the designer, Kabir Hira, has made a valiant effort to transcend the mall ambience with his take on colonial architecture. The look and feel is of an old bungalow with duck egg blue walls, vintage ceiling fans, slatted high ceilings and carefully sourced bric-a-brac to recreate the Raj era. Even the crockery and cutlery and the Victorian water goblets have been carefully handpicked to reflect designs and patterns used in the late 1800s. The balcony area is a great choice, especially if the weather is pleasant.
We started with the dahi kebab: fresh paneer with creamy curd, golden-brown on the outside and subtly flavourful on the inside, mwaah. Vegetarians will relish the Mushroom Galouti or the intriguing crisp lotus root tossed with Chittoor chutney podi, inspired by the motto of the International Chilli Society, 'the aroma of good chilli should generate the rapture of a lover's kiss.' Until they discovered curry, the British made do with Worcestershire sauce!
The Arcot Mutton Chops, a childhood favourite of Krishna's and his sole sustenance on long train journeys, were relished next. Burra kebab fans will love these succulent, subtly spiced meaty chops best eaten by hand. Picky eaters will prefer the Kakori kebab: the Ebony chefs have totally nailed this complex dish, which I first sampled in Dum Pukht with the legendary Imtiaz Quereshi. Mutton and fat in a 70:30 proportion is ground six times with mace, cloves and a mélange of herbs and grilled to perfection: imagine a kebab with the consistency of hot ice cream. Apparently the dish was created to please a toothless nawab, but who knows, kebab may soon become a bad word.
We had a tiny sampling of Nagore Prawn Chukka, embellished with grace notes of ginger, garlic, tamarind and hing with a taser jolt of black pepper. Then it was time to feel virtuous with Meenu Maami's Banana Blossom salad which was light, fragrant and aromatic and better than a confession for guilt pangs.
Then it was time for Nalli ka Salan: marrowbones with shin meat cooked in a silken gravy till the meat is literally falling off the bone, these are best enjoyed with a kadak roti or with the taftan. Despite being stuffed to bursting, we managed a taste of the Arcot Mutton Biryani: robustly flavoured and well worth the calories, served with mirchi ka salan and impeccable curd pachdi. Among the old faithfuls, there's butter chicken and rogan josh done in the Balti style or Surti Malai Kofta and the ultimate paneer tikka masala.