Lounge review: Nimisserie, Bengaluru
Desi food beyond the straight and narrow, but good ideas here are marred by a lack of restraint
With his affable personality and unapologetically rotund appearance, Nimish Bhatia was one of Bengaluru’s favourite chefs when he headed the kitchen at The Lalit Ashok hotel, till November 2012. After a stint in New Delhi with the same group, he is now back in the heart of the ooru (city) with his own restaurant brand Nimisserie, set up in partnership with three like-minded friends.
The good stuff
The ambition. Bengaluru lags sadly behind the other metros in the country in progressive Indian cuisine and the grandiose idea of Nimisserie—a well-meaning, if meaningless, play on the chef’s name—is the closest the city comes to desi food beyond the straight and narrow. For reasons unclear, however, the restaurant abjures the term “progressive” and defines its offerings as “aspect cuisine” (don’t bother looking it up: Like Nimisserie, it isn’t in the dictionary either).
Oh sorry, this is supposed to be the good part.
Fortunately, it’s easy to pick that out: It’s mostly the simple stuff that shines at Nimisserie. After a mind-numbingly underwhelming first visit, the second time around we ignored the degustation meals (Rs.3,950, Rs.2,950 and Rs.1,950 for 11, nine and seven courses, respectively) and asked for the Trio Galore of Dals (Rs.495): three large faux soup-spoons of masoor dal and mixes, including one of khichdi, one tempered with chaat flavours and the other with sun-dried pomegranate, and accompanied by four miniature phulkas with mascarpone. We scraped off the unnecessary cheese to dunk the breads into the dals and, when the breads ran out, licked off every last morsel of the creamy, perfectly seasoned protein goodness. A similar balance was also in place in the Curried Fresh Crab (Rs.795), prettily plated with Jodhpuri Choor Choor Parantha, broken up bits of crisp flatbread. A dash of green chilli tapenade brought out the freshness of the crab. Who would have believed the sea and the desert could marry so well.
At our earlier meal, we had walked away with only two heroes: the Smoked Young Chicken Breasts and Arugula Salad (Rs.295), a dish that lived up to the 1980s theatre-like ambience of the restaurant with double receptacles and hickory smoke, and a Tarte Tatin Misti Doi Crème Brûlée (Rs.295), a biscuit shell filled with an honest-to-goodness mishti doi. Take away the slate plate, the dwarf rickshaw and the aam-papad and bits of dehydrated fruit, and it would still work.
In these early days, Nimisserie seems to be the classic overreacher, determined to prove its worth through way-out crockery (an artfully “broken” teapot for the underdone Dum Nalli, Rs.745, a single shank, topped with two mint leaves, sticking out of the mouth, while the gravy separated into sludge and fat at the base), pomegranate juice globules of every conceivable colour, including a brilliant turquoise, and a general over-the-topness indicating a nervousness unbecoming of a chef who has been in the business for 30-odd years. Like the mascarpone with the phulkas, almost every single good idea is marred by an absence of restraint.
Through our two meals, we idly played Coco Chanel, wondering which was the one accessory a dish should have lost before arriving at our table. The Mix Max Bhel (Rs.275) under “Appeteasers” (ugh) was a thoughtless mishmash of hip micro-greens, further let down by an insipid lime dressing (a punchy tamarind would have been so much more effective). The various fish and chicken kebabs (under “Kebaberie”, ugh, ugh), ranging in price from Rs.545-595, were unexceptional, despite the exotic marinades. The naans, Rs.95, (bacon and onion kulcha, anyone?), from the “Naanerie” (kill me now) were, frankly, derivative. The Mulberry Cream (Rs.295) tasted great, if exactly like strawberry ice cream, while the Chlorophyll Panna Cotta (Rs.295) did a good approximation of grass. Still awaiting an alcohol licence, they had only aerated drinks and juices on offer.
When we visited, they were only accepting cash. A meal for two, with a single starter, three mains, two desserts and a fresh lime soda, cost us Rs.3,947.
Nimisserie, noon-3pm and 7-11pm, 120, Brigade Road, off Wood Street. For details, call 40988989.