Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs, Day 2: How To Cook With Millets

If Day 1 of the Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs was enlightening, Day 2 was even more so. Day 2 was when all participants couldn’t take their eyes off stage, when they watched goggle-eyed the magic being spun before them, riveted to their seats. Day 2 was as full of practical sessions as Day 1 was of technical ones, with a number of chefs coming up on stage to demonstrate all the delicacies that can be cooked using millets.

The point was to prove just how versatile millets are, how they can lend themselves to a variety of dishes, Indian and international, healthy and not-so-healthy, simple and five-star-menu worthy, sweet and savoury, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Together, I think, the chefs more than proved this!

Here is an overview of Day 2 of the workshop, for your viewing and reading pleasure. I think I’ll mostly let the pictures of the food do the talking – that left all of us speechless, for sure!

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Day 2 began with Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Honourable Minister of Agriculture for the state of Karnataka, addressing those present. In his speech, he recapped most of what was discussed on the first day – enunciating how exactly millets are good for you, for the farmers, and for the environment as well.

(Check out my detailed post about the key take-aways on Day 1!)

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Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, in his inaugural address on Day 2

Then, Dr. Bhaskarachary of the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad, came up on stage to talk about the role of millets in today’s society. He talked at length about how the inclusion of millets would go a long way towards creating a balanced diet, as opposed to the wheat- or rice-heavy diets that most people these days seem to use. He spoke of how the high nutritional value of millets is not something that we should miss out on, especially now, when lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are on the rise. Dr. Bhaskarachary also stressed on the role of chefs, dieticians, home cooks and food bloggers to spread the right information about millets, and to encourage more people to include them in their diets.

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Dr. Bhaskarachary addressing the participants of the workshop

After this, some heavy-duty action began on stage! It was the turn of chefs from all over Bangalore to showcase their delectable millet confections!

Chef Ramaswamy Selvaraju, Executive Chef of Vivanta By Taj, Bangalore, went first. He demonstrated how to make a beautiful Spinach-Stuffed Millet Ravioli With Primavera Sauce, as well as some Pan-Seared Chicken With Millet Stew And Sauternes Sauce and Smoked Chicken And Baby Pineapple Salad With Crispy Foxtail Millet.

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Left: Chef Selvaraju demonstrating his recipes; Right: Top – Spinach-Stuffed Millet Ravioli With Primavera Sauce, Centre – Pan-Seared Chicken With Millet Stew And Sauternes Sauce

Next, Ms. Vani Anamdas, Manager – Housing & Food Services, International Crops Research Institute For The Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, came up on stage. Her team demonstrated the making of Finger Millet Cake With Hot Garlic Sauce, Millet Manchurian, and Millet Kashmiri Kofta In Palak Gravy.

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Left: Ms. Vani Anamdas addressing the participants; Centre: Top – Finger Millet Cake With Hot Garlic Sauce, Bottom: Millet Manchurian With Gravy; Right: Top – Millet Kashmiri Kofta In Palak Gravy, Bottom – Dry Millet Manchurian

Ms. Anamdas’s team from ICRISAT also went on to demonstrate how to make Ragi Shots, Sorghum Stuffed Kulcha, Millet Waffles, Ragi Banana Bread, and Sorghum Flakes-Fried Chicken.

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Top left: Ms. Vani Anamdas’s team demonstrating millet-based recipes; Bottom left: Sorghum Flakes-Fried Chicken; Adjacent to bottom left: Ragi Banana Bread; Bottom right: Millet Waffle; Top of bottom right: Sorghum Stuffed Kulcha; Top right: Ragi Shots

Post this, Chef Nagarekha Palli of Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences (RUAS) came up on stage to demonstrate two more millet-based recipes – Foxtail Millet Crisps With Millet Sprouts and Smoked Kodo Millet Kabab With Yogurt Dip. She also demonstrated how to get millets to sprout beautifully into long, delicate, green shoots, over a period of four or five days.

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Left: Chef Nagarekha Palli demonstrating on stage; Centre: Foxtail Millet Crisps With Millet Sprouts; Right: Smoked Kodo Millet Kabab With Yogurt Dip

Chef Shyam Prasad of RUAS then came up on stage to show the audience how to make Millet Paella (yes, you read that right!) and Finger Millet Tacos.

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Left: Chef Shyam Prasad demonstrating his dishes; Centre: Millet Paella; Right: Finger Millet Tacos

Chef Shashi Sharma of RUAS then showed everyone the method of preparation of his Millet Paneer And Spinach Tikki and Millet Chicken Risotto.

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Left: Chef Shashi Sharma on stage; Centre: Millet Paneer And Spinach Tikki; Right: Millet Chicken Risotto

After this, Chef Sridhar Krishnan of RUAS demonstrated how to make two beautiful, beautiful, beautiful millet-based desserts – Greek Yogurt Cake With Citrus Glaze and Toffee Chocolate Tart.

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Left: Chef Sridhar Krishnan on stage; Centre: Greek Yogurt Cake With Citrus Glaze; Right: Toffee Chocolate Tart

Day 2 of the workshop concluded with a panel discussion, where participants could ask relevant questions to the experts on stage. The experts included Chef Shashi Sharma, Chef Shyam Kumar, Chef Sridhar Krishnan, food blogger Ruth D’Souza Prabhu of the Bangalore’s Restaurants fame,  Chef Nagarekha Palli, Chef Vani Anamdas, and the Joint Director of Agriculture, Mr. Jayaswamy.

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The experts on stage, for the panel discussion

Key take-aways from Day 2 of the workshop

~ Millets can be used to cook a huge variety of dishes, ranging from traditional Indian fare to the highly exotic. And millet-based food can look great, too!

~ Millets can be used to create healthy dishes as well as junk food like manchurian and calorie-heavy dishes like cakes and other desserts. The dishes demonstrated at the workshop were a mix of both these types. I admit some the dishes shown to us weren’t very healthy, but I guess the aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the vast range of possibilities. Also, as the experts stated, people would be more amenable to using millets if they saw them being used to make contemporary food that is tasty as well.

~ While cooking with millets, one needs to be aware of the inherent properties that each type possesses. Some types of millets, for instance, needs to be soaked for a while before cooking, to ensure that they are cooked well and not very chewy. This understanding comes with trial and error, experimenting with millets in your kitchen on a regular basis.

~ Baking with millets can be a tad tough, since they do not possess any gluten. Hence, it becomes essential to mix maida or whole wheat flour with them, to get a good-quality finished product.

~ When you substitute millets for rice in a dish well-known to you, there might be a change in the texture of the dish as it is known to you. This is something you must be ready for, when beginning to cook with millets.

Well, that was all about the beautiful millet workshop I attended. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it will be of help to you.

Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs, Day 1: An Overview

The 25th and 26th of July, 2017, saw a beautiful workshop on millet foods being conducted at the MS Ramaiah campus in Matthikere. This workshop – Workshop On Millet Foods For Dieticians And Chefs – was organised by the Government of Karnataka, in association with MS Ramaiah Institute, with the intention of spreading more awareness about millets and millet-based foods. This is an extension to the #LetsMillet campaign being vigorously undertaken by the Government of Karnataka, an attempt to reach out to the masses after the hugely successful Organics And Millets Mela held in April 2017.

I am thankful to have been offered an invite to attend and cover the workshop which, I think, was just as successful as the Organics And Millets Mela. It was met with a wonderful, enthusiastic response from chefs, dieticians, students, home cooks and various dignitaries from the worlds of food, nutrition and politics.

To say I am overwhelmed and enlightened by the experience of attending the workshop would be an understatement. I’ve learnt so much in these two days; watched so much of magic being unravelled; life in my kitchen is never going to be the same again, I’m sure.

Some of the most commonly asked questions about millets were answered, this first day of the workshop. Here’s a glimpse of all that happened on Day 1 of the workshop, and the key take-aways, for your viewing and reading pleasure.

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The workshop began with an address by Shri Krishna Byre Gowda, Honourable Minister of Agriculture for Karnataka. He spoke about how millets are the need of the hour, speaking about what exactly millets are and the need to inculcate them in our daily diets

We’ve been hearing about this ‘millets’ thing day in and day out. But what are they, really?

Millets are actually grasses with tiny seeds, something that has been cultivated in India since ages. They are hardy crops that can be grown with little investment and little usage of water, and hold immense nutrition within their tiny selves.

If they are so good for us, why aren’t we using more of millets?

Once upon a time, millets were consumed in generous quantities by Indians, and were extensively used to feed cattle as well. However, with advancing times and the increasing influence of Western culture, millets began to be looked down upon. They began to be called ‘poor man’s food’ or ‘cattle feed’, and our diets changed to include primarily wheat-  or rice-based products. Our consumption of millets has gone down drastically, both in urban and rural areas, so much so that it is negligible. People have forgotten how to use these ancient powerhouses of nutrition aka millets.

Why millets?

Today, when global warming is a scary reality that we are slowly waking up to and water conservation is the need of the hour, millets can be of great help. Growing 1 kg. of rice consumes about 4,000-5,500 thousand litres of water, while growing a kg. of millets needs just about 20% of that. Moreover, millets can be grown even in bad weather conditions, in poor soil conditions. They are sturdy crops that aren’t usually infested by insects or diseases and, hence, require little or no pesticides and fertilisers. Therefore, the cost of growing millets is much, much lower than that of cultivating wheat or rice.

Sadly, though, there is little demand for millets today. Today, millets are grown only by those farmers who are unable to grow anything else, because they are extremely pressed for money or have land that has extremely poor conditions. Millets are good for the farmer in a lot of ways. So, if you begin to include more millets in your daily diets, you are actually helping the poorest of farmers, saving them from a life of misery.

By buying millets, you also contribute to environmental good health, by reducing the stress on already stressed-out water resources. You also help in cutting down the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Millets are, therefore, good for the environment, too. 

This is not all. Millets are good for our health, too. Today, non-communicable or lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol are rampant in rural and urban India. Many of these diseases occur because of our sedentary lifestyles, increasing stress levels, and an unbalanced diet (read: increasing use of junk food and drinks, a high level of wheat- or rice-based foods, and a lack of inclusion of different types of fruits, grains, vegetables and other ingredients). Thanks to their high nutritional content, the inclusion of millets in our daily diets can be one of the ways out of this situation. It is rather sad that people today are turning to foreign grains like quinoa and oats for their nutritional values, but ignoring our very own millets, which are far superior to these foods (even to rice and wheat, in case of most nutrients).

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Shri Krishna Byre Gowda releasing a special cookbook containing millet-based dishes, at the workshop, along with other dignitaries

What’s this #LetsMillet thing? Who are the various stakeholders?

The Government of Karnataka is presently on a mission to propagate awareness about millets through workshops like this one, to encourage people to use more of them, and to teach them different ways in which they can do so. Check out the #LetsMillet hashtag on Facebook and Instagram to take a look at the considerable work that has been done in this regard.

Chefs, dieticians, food bloggers and other social media influencers have an important role to play in contributing towards this end.

So, millets can be used just to make stuff like ragi mudde, right?

Millets can be used in a variety of dishes, traditional and contemporary, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Also, people take millets to mean just ragi (finger millet) or bajri (pearl millet), while that is so not the case. These are just two types of millet – there’s a whole millet family out there, for you to explore and get the benefit of. Pearl millet, kodo millet, little millet, proso millet, finger millet, barnyard millet.. there are so many varieties of millets! Most people today don’t even know what these grains look like! 

Further, these grains can be used to make anything from gobi manchurian, dosa, idli, curd rice and bisi bele bath to risotto, ravioli, cakes and breads. For the last two years or so, chefs, home cooks and food bloggers have been experimenting with different types of millets, and there is now a wealth of recipes to be explored. So, millets does not translate into just stuff like ragi mudde.. almost anything can be made from them! They can be used in place of wheat and rice in all the dishes you commonly consume today, like curd rice or sambar rice, and they can be made into delicacies like payasam and kesari bath, too. That said, millets possess certain qualities that are inherent to them, and a chef should work around them while trying to develop dishes with them. 

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Some of the exhibits at the workshop. Left: The various kinds of millets, and some other grains that we should be consuming; Centre (top): Palak dosa made with navane (foxtail millet); Centre (bottom): Different types of breads and cakes prepared using millets; Right (top): Various snacks prepared using millets; Right (bottom): Thalipeeth prepared using bhajni (a flour made with mixed millets and grains)

Should I use millets just because my ancestors used them?

The Honourable Minister of Agriculture ended his speech with a request to everyone to consider increasing the use of millets in their daily diets. He stated that he does not solicit people’s co-operation because increasing consumption of millets is a political agenda, or because our ancestors used these grains, but because they are good for us in so many different ways, a fact that has been backed up by a whole lot of systematic scientific research.

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Dignitaries speaking about various aspects of millets, including their nutritional values and the way in which they should be introduced into one’s diet. Among the dignitaries who graced the occasion were Dr. Vilas Tonapi, Director – Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad; Dr. Bhaskarachary of IIMR, Hyderabad; Dr. Vibha Shetty, Professor of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, MS Ramaiah Dental College and Hospital; Ms. Hema Arvind, Chief Dietician, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital; and Dr. Govind R Kadambi, Pro VC-Research, MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences.

What are the various nutrients that millets possess?

  • They are high in dietary fibre, so they fill you up with lesser portion sizes. Therefore, they are helpful in weight management. They also help in lowering constipation.
  • They possess a low Glycemic Index (GI), and are thus useful in controlling diabetes.
  • They have anti-tumour and anti-carcinogenic properties too.
  • They are low in sodium, so they are helpful in the management of hypertension.
  • They help in the lowering of serum cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • They possess a highly alkaline nature, thereby helping in preventing and lowering the effects of irritable bowel syndrome, acidity, gallstones and stomach ulcers.
  • They are rich in anti-oxidants.
  • They possess hypo-allergenic properties and, hence, help in preventing allergic reactions.
  • They are rich in iron, thereby helping in the prevention of anaemia. 
  • They are useful in the prevention of liver disorders.
  • They are completely gluten-free.
  • Millets are far superior to wheat and rice and even quinoa, as far as various micro-nutrients are concerned.
  • They are quite high in protein, and hence, play a crucial role in a vegetarian diet, wherein protein sources are limited.
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A panel discussion on millets by experts from various fields. The experts include food blogger Archana Doshi, reputed dietician Geetha GH, Yogen Dutta – Executive Chef of ITC Gardenia (Bangalore), and Dr. Vibha Shetty – Professor of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences

If millets are so high in nutrients, should I be switching over to an all-millet diet then?

No, that kind of extreme switching over in diet is not advisable, not recommended by dieticians or nutritionists. Yes, millets are very high in nutrients, but they do need to be supplemented by wheat, rice, pulses, vegetables, milk, meat, eggs and a variety of other foods, so as to provide complete health to a human being.

What is advocated, really, through campaigns like this is an open mind, an acceptance to trying out different kinds of millets, at least a basic introduction of millets in your daily diet. All meals/snacks that you consume in a day need not be millet-heavy, but it would be great if at least one of them is.

Also, millets are not a miracle cure for all your ailments. The increase in lifestyle diseases in today’s times in not just a product of an imbalanced diet, which can be cured by the introduction of millets in your diet. There are other steps that need to be taken, too, to curb this, such as lowering overall stress levels, incorporating more physical activity in our lives, etc.

What are the things that I should keep in mind while introducing millets in my daily diet?

  • Millets can be used by people of all age groups, from a 6-month-old baby to a geriatric person, irrespective of their health condition. However, millets are believed to be goitrogenous in nature (i.e. they can enlarge one’s thyroid gland) and, hence, it would be advisable to consult a doctor before beginning to consume millets if you have a thyroid condition. If you have any other chronic ailment, too, you should ideally consult with a doctor to check on how much of millets you should consume in your daily diet, and in what form.
  • Soaking millets and throwing away the water, sprouting, cooking, roasting and fermenting are some techniques that are recommended to reduce the negative goiterogenous properties of millets.
  • Do not get carried away when you are just beginning to introduce millets into your daily diet. Do not go overboard. Introduce them slowly, little by little, into your diets, and wait and check whether they suit you. To start with, you may consume just one type of millet for a while, mixing it with rice or pulses, about twice a week, to see how they agree with you. Slowly and gradually, you may increase the quantity of millets you use.
  • Since millets are non-glutinous, baking with them can be tough. You might have to mix whole wheat flour or maida to them, to get good results.
  • There might be a slight difference in texture, when you substitute millets for rice in a dish known to you. For instance, pongal made with barnyard millet or proso millet might be grainier in texture as compared to that made with rice. That is something you should keep in mind while using millets.

Well, that’s how Day 1 of the workshop ended. I hope you enjoyed reading the post, and found it informative!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Echoes, Koramangala: Dining With A Difference 

Just last week, the happening locality of Koramangala in Bangalore saw the launch of a brand new restaurant. This restaurant, however, is very unique. It is different from the rest. In what way?, I hear you ask. Well, this place, Echoes, is different because it promises you a different sort of dining experience.

Echoes, Koramangala, is fully managed by hearing- and speech-impaired staff. This includes the overall running of the outlet, except for the kitchen, as far as I understand. The same hearing- and speech-impaired staff serve customers as well. Noble thought behind the outlet, right? I was humbled to be a part of a bloggers’ table at Echoes, recently.

This is Echoes’ second outlet. The first one, in Delhi, has had a really good innings.

The concept and ambience

Echoes has a wonderful warm and friendly vibe to it. The decor is absolutely beautiful, there is no doubt about that. Brick walls, tastefully chosen knick-knacks, cosy nooks, a spacious sit-out, the smiling crew, the thoughtful quotes on the walls, the lovely motto on the T-shirts of the service staff – everything adds to the effect. It is clear that a whole lot of thought has gone into creating just the right sort of place and atmosphere at Echoes.

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From left to right: 1. A cosy corner that I fell in love with, at Echoes, 2. Sign language basics!, 3. A signboard at Echoes

I especially loved the way they have done up one of the walls entirely using kitchen utensils. Classy!

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From left to right: 1. My personal favourite wall at Echoes – the one decked up with kitchen utensils, 2. The uniform for the staff – THAT motto!, 3. A quote up on one of the walls that I absolutely loved (The picture in the centre is courtesy of @200 deg)

Echoes has taken several steps to ensure a hassle-free ordering and dining experience for its patrons. Each dish on the menu, for instance, has a number alongside it, which is to be written down on a notepad when the service staff visits a table to take an order. (Each tubelight, fan and bulb here also has a number, to facilitate things for the staff – I loved the way they have paid attention to these little details!).

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From left to right: 1. The set of placards that is a part of each table at Echoes, 2. The calling bell that every table at Echoes is equipped with

Furthermore, each table is equipped with a calling bell, which will summon the service staff when pressed. The tables at Echoes also have a set of placards, each one containing a word that is commonly used in communication between the patrons of a restaurant and the wait staff – ‘Menu’ and ‘Plates’, for instance, or ‘Please get the manager’. Hold up the right card, get your word across to the service crew!

Very well thought-out, right?

The food and drinks story

Now, let’s move on to the grub we had at Echoes, shall we?

Echoes has a mixed sort of menu – there’s a little bit of everything on it. There’s Italian, Mexican, Indian and Chinese, among other cuisines. The eatery serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.

Here’s a round-up of the food and drinks I sampled at Echoes.

Raju Veg Tiffin Service: This was a beautifully presented dish, with papad, butter roti, and rice on a plate and two different kinds of gravies (butter paneer and rajma) served in an old-world tiffin carrier. I loved the taste of everything that was a part of this combo.

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The Raju Veg Tiffin Service at Echoes!

Baked Cheesy Nachos: These were simply lovely! The sauce the nachos were served with were just the right amount of tangy, and the cheese was simply perfect.

Rajma Galouti: I thought this was very ordinary. It seemed to lack flavour.

Vegetarian Steamed and Tandoori Momos: Both the versions of momos lacked flavour, in my humble opinion. There’s definitely scope for improvement here.

Stuffed Shrooms Tikka: This dish, again, was quite unexceptional. It felt quite bland.

Paneer Makhani Pizza: This pizza had paneer as well as two other types of cheese, with a makhani-style gravy. It was quite average, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of taste.

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Top left: A platter of steamed and tandoori vegetarian momos, Top right: Baked Cheesy Nachos, Bottom left: Paneer Makhani Pizza, Bottom right: Stufffed Shrooms Tikka

Makhani Pasta: This was something very new to me – penne pasta served with a paneer-butter-masala kind of sauce. Odd combination, probably, and maybe not meant for everyone, but I loved it to bits. I thought it was really well done.

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The lovely Makhani Pasta at Echoes!

Milkshakes: Echoes has a whole lot of milkshakes for the chocolate-lover, with every conceivable flavour on offer – Oreo cookies, Snickers, Kit Kat, Black Forest, Ferrero Rocher.. you name it, they have it! We tried most of these chocolate-based milkshakes, and they were really very well done. Good job on this! My personal favourite milkshake, though, was the Red Rave, a red velvet cake-based shake that was mildly sweet, with bits of cake in it. Try out the milkshakes here, but don’t miss the amazing Red Rave, I say!

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On the left: The Snickers and Oreo milkshakes, On the right: The Red Rave milkshake, all at Echoes

Strawberry Lemonade: This was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful drink, both in terms of taste and looks! The blend of sugar, strawberry and lemon was just perfect, making this a very refreshing thing to have. It sure didn’t have that ‘cough syrup’ taste that I have come across at a lot of other eateries, in case of strawberry-flavoured drinks. This is a must-have here, for sure.

Virgin Mo: The Virgin Mo or mojito at Echoes was just perfect. It was very well executed, with the mint, sugar and lemon all perfectly balanced. Quite the salve for parched throats. This, again, is a must-have, as per me.

Pricing

The prices here seem to be slightly on the higher side, but not too exorbitant. A meal for two would set you back by about INR 1,000.

Overall experience

  1. I absolutely loved the time I spent at Echoes, Koramangala. The service staff seemed to be so put-together and well-organised, and all of them had a warm and welcoming smile on their faces. That said, I was here as part of a very formal set-up, so I am yet to experience the entire ‘service experience’ as such. I would definitely love to go back to this place, any time!
  2. The place seems to have quite a strong hold over Indian cuisine. We loved the Indian dishes here a whole lot more than the other fare. Likewise, the eatery is very, very strong with respect to its mocktails, juices and milkshakes. Every single one of the drinks we tasted here was beautifully done.
  3. I loved some of the food I sampled here, but was not overly impressed by some stuff. The place is very new, though, so it would only be fair to give them some time to gain a foothold. I would wait and watch as to how the food story here unfolds in the times to come.
  4. The ambience and decor here is absolutely amazing. Full marks to that. I would go back to this place just for the ambience, the service experience and the drinks!

Disclaimer:

I was served this meal free of cost, along with a group of other food bloggers, in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed herein are entirely my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.

Have you been to this place yet? I would definitely urge you to visit!