Lounge Review: Toast & Tonic, Bengaluru
Seasonal, local, unexpectedevery single dish on the launch menu is a first-time experience
The location is the same as the first Monkey Bar (which now has editions in Mumbai and Delhi) but the bubble-glass doors open into a space that’s new in all respects, except for the high-octane vibe that is as much a Manu Chandra signature as surprising flavour combinations. Suffice to say, Bengaluru has never seen a restaurant opening under more pressure than Toast & Tonic (T&T).
The good stuff
The unexpectedness. With Chandra’s resumé, it is a given that the food at his new restaurant will be good; what remains to be seen is how far he has pushed the envelope. Reductionists will revel in T&T’s tag line “East Village Style", referencing the hip Manhattan neighbourhood, but it is an amorphous descriptor that is an emancipator, not a definer. With local as bedrock and innovation as guide, every single dish on the unapologetic launch menu is a first-time experience. Over three visits, we worked our way through much of it, but we already know what we’re having when we go back.
Each time, we devoured the excellent multigrain rolls (served gratis with chickpea butter) as we pored over the menu and unanimously ordered the same first course: the superlative Pork Tea ( ₹ 290). A clearer, deeper, more layered—and, yes, prettier—pork consommé would be hard to find. It comes with cloud ear mushrooms, tiny tortellinis and a surprising hint of pickled ginger. The Chicken & Coconut Soup ( ₹ 275) is a more regular, but still delicious, concoction; the punch here comes from the astringent leaves of the sweet potato plant.
Appetite whetted for the mains, we skipped the Flat Breads and Burgers & Buns section to zero in on the Andouille Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo ( ₹ 520), the non-vegetarian uptake of the Vegetable Gumbo ( ₹ 420). Like the poke (pronounced po-keh) bowl, the southern American favourite is a medley of good things: crisp okra, buttery jimikand, sour cream, house-made sausage and shrimps. So very international. The Udon, House-Cured Chorizo and Clams ( ₹ 495), in contrast, will satiate chilli heat-fiends: The thick wheat noodles absorb all the flavours of the sausage and seafood and the soft-boiled egg yolk and sprinkle of Bandel cheese add to the unctuousness.
All the drinks we tried were smooth and well-mixed but the house-made tonic waters ( ₹ 175) are special. Wood Street ( ₹ 375 with the house gin; ₹ 500 with Beefeater), which uses a basil-orange tonic, was an instant favourite, as was the Bloody Baron ( ₹ 375 with the house vodka; ₹ 500 with Absolut), an updated Bloody Mary, and a Bacon Old-Fashioned ( ₹ 480) with bacon-infused bourbon, bitters and orange.
We tried the Charred Broccoli, Chopped Mustard Greens, Garlic and Cream Cheese Rangoon ( ₹ 260) on a recommendation: It’s strictly for those who like fried food. We found ourselves peeling off the pastry and forking up the filling. The bigger disappointment was the Spaghetti & Lobster ( ₹ 725), the menu’s most expensive dish. Unable to believe this unimaginative dish came from the same kitchen as the rest of our meal, we ordered it a second time, but, nope: With a disproportionately large mass of spaghetti jumbled up on the plate with chunks of lobster and spice hits from Schezwan pepper and chilli, this is T&T’s posh mac-and-cheese. Not even the sweet potato leaves save it. Plus, it cools into a congealed lump. Not nice (the dish has since been taken off the menu, I’ve been informed). In the desserts, the indifferent cherry sorbet ( ₹ 100) was further undermined by the overwhelming taste of toasted almond flakes.
Also, I thought the decor could have avoided the cutesy barnyard touches: The supremely confident menu says “local", “seasonal" and “farm" much more unequivocally than the clay roosters and piglets ever could.
With five drinks, five starters, two mains and a dessert, our bill came to ₹ 5,419, all inclusive. The management did not charge us for the Spaghetti & Lobster.
Toast & Tonic, 14/1, Wood Street, Ashok Nagar (080-41116878). Open from 7-11.30pm (dinner; till 1am on weekends). Lunch service from 1 March. For reservations (recommended), visit www.toastandtonic.com
FIRST PUBLISHED25.02.2016 | 09:06 PM IST
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