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Your weekend fix

There is some good food at Food First. Unfortunately, with the eatery’s confused servers and muddled menu, it’s not easy to identify.

mumbai Updated: Nov 17, 2012 01:55 IST

The food
Food, no focus

In a nearly empty new office building in Goregaon, not far from Oberoi Mall, is a restaurant shaped like a vertically split narrow cone.

The slanted wall is made of clear glass and rises 70 feet. The menu is pan-Indian, from fish paturi and paya shorba to dakshini mutton and Jaipuri tikka (the last featuring asparagus and papad).

Under the name, Food First, is a tagline: Everything else later.

Despite the promise of focus in those words, this restaurant is mildly perplexing. Who is it trying to appeal to? It’s hard to say. That soaring view of sky makes a stunning first impression. But the small bar off to one side looks tacky, like it’s trying too hard to be cool. The servers smile a lot and are quick to respond, but are lost when asked to describe dishes.

This confusion spills over into the meal. Ours started well — a good paturi, pillows of wrapped and steamed fish with a nifty mustard kick, and an even better paya shorba. The soup was expectedly rich, but more from flavour than fat.

And then came the fall — crab seekh arrived in the shell, every piece filled with rows of gills. These inedible bits are known as ‘dead man’s fingers’ for a good reason. We discarded the dish, disturbed. To FF’s credit, the manager quickly came by to inspect it, concurred, and took it off our bill, promising us a scoop of nolin gur ice cream later to make up for the blooper.

FF pulled off that strange concoction called chicken tikka chaat competently. The confetti of chicken, peppers, onions and tomato was tangy, spicy and fresh. Our dakshin mutton came in a slightly sweet, onion-rich gravy speckled with fried curry leaves, but the mutton was dry and the edges of the gravy leaked enough oil to frighten us.

FF is owned by the same folks who own First Flight Couriers. The manager explained that the business allows them to fly in the best ingredients at relatively low costs from across the country. Perhaps this advantage made them pick a pan-Indian menu despite being newbies in a crowded segment. Now if only there was more of that focus promised in the name.

- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi

The performance
Here and now

In the 1980s, when Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas first began experimenting with contemporary influences, German artist Siegward Sprotte made a series of paintings dedicated to the dancer.

Over the years, Mangaldas maintained a close friendship with the senior artist, who died at 91 in 2004. Now, to mark Sprotte’s 100th birth anniversary, Mangaldas is staging a new production, titled Now Is — a performance showcasing collaborations between dance, music and painting.

This production will premiere on November 18 as part of the second annual edition of the Contemporary Dance Festival at the National Centre for the Performance Arts (NCPA).

“Both Sprotte and I have been fascinated by the ‘now’ — by the idea that transformations happen in the present,” says Mangaldas, who will stage Now Is with her Delhi-based Drishtikon Dance Company.

The production will feature filmed visuals of Sprotte’s paintings in the backdrop, music by vocalist Shubha Mudgal and tabla artiste Aneesh Pradhan and Mangaldas’s signature choreography, which she describes as “contemporary dance based on Kathak”.

“I am trying to explore and transform from within the Kathak tradition,” says Mangaldas, whose work is known for its vibrancy, physicality and thought process. “Classical work is like an ever-flowing river that is always rejuvenating itself. All our classical works are, in that sense, contemporary.”

The premiere of Now Is will be followed by an exhibition of 40 paintings by Sprotte at the Tao Art Gallery in Worli, from November 23 to December 5.

The NCPA’s Contemporary Dance Festival will continue next month, with a performance by the Bangalore-based Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts on December 4 and Shiv Shakti, a production by the Daksha Sheth Dance Company, on December 16.

— Aarefa Johari

Feast at the Frog
If you’re looking for a place to hang out at 5 pm, you’re more likely to head to a café than a club. That’s exactly what Blue frog is hoping to change with its new Happy

Hours Menu, which offers starters and sandwiches at prices slashed to less than half.

The single-page menu has plenty of options to choose from and we ordered a round of starters to begin with. Visually, they looked fabulous, but the lacklustre flavours left us somewhat underwhelmed. The jerked potato wedges (Rs. 150) looked delightful but were too dry and could have done with a slightly larger portion of the cheesy roasted tomato salsa and spicy queso sauce.

And while the chicken wings, coated in a sweet-spicy marinade, were quite good, as was the accompanying blue-cheese dip (Rs. 175), the combination was not pleasant.

The sandwiches, in comparison, were fantastic to the last crumb. Despite being packed with every cliché, the pulled pork croissant with mustard mayonnaise, green apple and shallot marmalade and red cabbage sauerkraut (Rs. 200) was delicious. Every element melded seamlessly.

In the grilled tomato and brie sandwich (Rs. 180), the sweetness of the tomato and cheese was beautifully balanced by the delicate pungent-smokiness of arugula and sharpness of basil pesto. The accompanying asparagus, iceberg, black olive and olive oil salad was simple, but crunchy and fresh.

Along with the happy hours menu, Blue Frog is also offering the Frog quarter — 180 ml of selected spirits starting at R300.

Your best bet, though, is the Mega Frog — four portions of a pre-mixed cocktail (choose between rum, whisky and vodka) served in a plastic take-away bottle that can quite easily last you the whole night. At Rs. 750, it’s an offer worth jumping at.

— Antoine Lewis

(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)

The exhibition
A burst of colour
There is a sense of restlessness in the works of Milburn Cherian. A surreal energy that stems, perhaps, from the fact that the imagery flows organically from the 55-year-old artist, unplanned and yet as effortless, in her words, “as chores to a homemaker”.

Usually, there are floating heads, severed limbs and bulging human forms, each detail bearing a signature style so intricate that Cherian can create only nine works a year, and therefore holds just one exhibition every four years.

This time, that exhibition — titled The Story Weavers — is showcasing 45 relatively light-hearted works at the Cymroza Art Gallery.

“I paint without planning or thinking,” says Cherian. “When I start painting I never know what the end result will be.”

This time, however, Cherian made a conscious effort to move away from violent imagery and instead produce more colourful, light-hearted works.

“I paint people suffering all the time,” she says. “This time I thought I should make my works a little joyous.”

So, there are jesters in these paintings, and vivid colours. And yet there lingers still a sense of foreboding, of menace just beneath the surface.

“Some people think my works are very sad, others think they are beautiful,” she says. “It all depends on how each individual looks at each work.”

— Riddhi Doshi

The concerts
Sufi, so good
Amir Khusrau (1253 to 1325) is best known as a Sufi mystic and poet, but he also possessed a multi-dimensional personality. Not only is he credited with the invention of two indispensable Indian classical instruments, the sitar and the tabla, he was also a master of Persian language and culture and is responsible for integrating some of those influences into Indian music, creating ragas such as Shahana and Bahar.

Khusrau will be the focal point of two upcoming events in the city: Sama’a: The Mystic Ecstasy, a Sufi festival to be held at the NCPA next week; and Ruhaniyat, a Sufi festival organised by city-based cultural organisation Banyan Tree that will be held the week after that.

The first festival, apart from featuring musical and dance performances, will include a screening of a documentary film on Khusrau’s life, directed by Yousuf Sayeed. This film contains interviews with musicians like Ustad Halim Jaffer Khan, Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Sumati Mutatkar and Neela Bhagwat, who talk about Khusrau’s contributions to Hindustani classical music.

The second festival, Ruhaniyat, will feature a qawwali performance by the Nizami Brothers. Qawwali, yet another one of Khusrau’s creations, is a form of Islamic religious songs in praise of saints and God. Khusrau combined aphorisms for the Prophet in Islam with tarannum (music), composing in ragas such as Bageshri, Basant, Sohoni and Yaman. For example, the famous qawwali number ‘Chhap tilak sab’, penned by Khusrau, is based on Yaman.

“We will try and sing as many of Amir Khusrau’s compositions as possible,” says Sohrab Nizami, one of the younger brothers in that troupe.

— Amarendra Dhaneshwar