Food Review: "Higher Taste" refinement with sattvic vegetarianism
By Sahar Adil | Published: July 22 2010
Higher Taste is a new fine dining establishment at the ISKCON that will serve only the strictest sattvic fare complying with the Vedas. Tasteful ambience in hand with a sattvic yet delicious repast makes for a special dining experience.
Higher Taste, Fine Dining Sattvic Restaurant at ISKCON
When today, pure-vegetarianism has become a way of life for many, there is something of a slight void in catering to this epicurean niche, especially when it comes to fine dining. This niche gets even more so when it comes to Sattvic dining based on the Vedic concept of Sattva or purity in existence. Here the object of Sattivc dining is to encourage one to abstain from worldly evils and desires. Also today, people want food that is healthful with a strong demand for looking good and staying fit. Higher Taste promises a meal that is nutritious, environmentally responsible and tasty.
The Vedas are strongly reflected in Jainism, Ayurveda as well as Yoga and this applies itself to food that is not only nutritious but also pure and clean which leads to good health and a peaceful physical and mental equilibrium. Foods that are considered sattvic are fruits, cereals, most vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, grains, milk and all it derivates and honey and jaggery as sweeteners. Foods that are a strict no-no include al non-vegetarian food as well as eggs, onions, garlic or caffeine; even mushrooms are considered non-sattvic as they are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Soufiyani alu and delicious Tirangä Paneer Tikka The ISKCON
is a global religious institution which has been foremost in its promotion of vedic living and a holistic lifestyle. ISCKON has had a fast food styled restaurant that has catered sattvic fare. It has now started Higher Taste, a sattvic fine-dining which will cater to those looking for an option to eat out with sattvic specifications. This could be for religious reasons, like at the times of certain fasts and festivals or it could be just a change from your regular menu. ISKCON also caught on to the fact that now people are willing to explore and experiment with different tastes and cultures. A fine-dining experience is a great way to reach out to people on the benefits of sattvic dining.
Higher Taste is fitted out with tasteful contemporary interiors in dark wood with splashes of turquoise and orange in its accents. The restaurant has been split into two levels with the downstairs offering a more casual setting with the buffet table, while the upstairs has a more cozy, intimate feel with high-backed double seater sofas’ coupled with unobstrusive lighting. This fine setting is then enhanced with its extensive strict sattvic menu which includes innovative and delicious refreshing drinks, which are obviously non-alcoholic.
Arisi Paruppu Satham, Thakkali Kothu Parota, Mayapal; Elaneer Karaisal, Special dosa
The menu has been carefully planned by master chefs and food technicians who have whipped up recipes at the ISKCON food lab. There is a complexity of flavours, textures and seasoning in a range of recipes, sourced from across India.
I sat down to a Keshar Sikanji, a refreshing lemonade seasoned with light hints of rich kesar or saffron garnished with almond shavings. I started my meal with a Nellikai Charu or a fresh gooseberry soup, cooked with lentils seasoned with curry leaves and roasted zeera or cumin powder. The soup was tangy and light with a slightly spicy base, very different from the western soups one is used to, but still worked well as an appetizer.
For the vegetarians you can’t do starters and not order paneer, or cottage cheese. I tried the Tirangä Paneer Tikka, which was cubes of paneer in 3 different masalas. One was a green chilli, mint and coriander masala, followed with a red chilli and haldi masala, garam masala or a whole spices all served in a grilled goodness. The vegetarian kakori Sheekh kababs was lots of veggies like carrots and beans blended with methi and spinach seasoned quite creatively with a chaat masala was another delicious starter. I also tried the Inji Vadai or the whole urad dal vada seasoned with ginger which is a staple to south Indian cuisine.
intimate seating at Higher Taste at ISKCON, Rajajinagar
It has to be mentioned at this point that Sattvic cuisine makes a strict departure from the use of the usual traditional favorites of cooking like onions and garlic. For most of us, its practically scandalous to even fathom cooking without these, especially in Indian cooking. Higher Taste has managed to brazenly not use any of these staples to dish out fare that is not just tasteful but also varied.
For the main course there was some delicious Zafrani Koftta or Paneer stuffed with peanuts cooked in a thick creamy cashew, saffron-flavoured gravy. The Soufiani alu, or baby potatoes tossed in sounf or fennel seeds was delightful in its unusual falvouring. This was followed with a Pallipalayam Kaikari Masala or Mixed vegetable masala, prepared with traditional masala powder from Pallipalayam. This was tried with Keçariya Çeermal that is a flat pastry style bread or roti which is a supposed to come with a secret recipe from the ISKCON kitchens.
Chef Aditya along with a consultation from CN Bhat a specialist on Sattvic cuisine and an active member on the ISKCON management, I am taken through the intricacies of Sattvic dining. CN Bhat explains to me that there are 3 gunas or qualities in nature Tamasic that reflects ignorance, Rajasic reflecting passion and then Sattvic that is just goodness. He says that different foods and the quantities one consumes them in, comes under these categories and effect us physically and mentally. The idea of Sattvic or good food, ensures that we are taking good care of our body and mind.
I then tried some some Sukku Paniyäram or crisp, fluffy rice dumplings made with a special ginger-flavoured batter and this was served with Mohana Kalavai Mohana Kalavai a delicious sambar of toor dal and tender coconut, laced with cream. The flavours so far, were all distinct and the food was light yet wholesome and tasty.
Arisi Paruppu Satham is like a khichdi that is not and seasoned generously with ghee or clarified butter and local spices in this is one of the most wholesome and traditional dishes and also a mainstay to most Indian kitchens
I also sampled a very flavourful Vetrilai Thakkali Satham a pulao made with an unusual combination of tomatoes and betel leaf. This meal was delicately topped off with a lovely Elaneer Payasam a light dessert made from coconut milk and tender coconut.
Other items on the menu that are recommended by Chef Aditya is the Raja Bojanam a ghee-rich peppery curry of assorted nuts: almonds, cashews and pistachios, Mangai Kilangu Thodukari a stirring curry with raw mangoes and potatoes finished with hand picked aromatic spices.
The ISKCON Bangalore
is nestled away from the city’s bustle and crowds and is yet just about twenty minutes drive from its centre. We have also in the past known and enjoyed the food served at the various ISKCON kitchens: delicious, wholesome and truly authentic. At ISKCON Bangalore, the goal is to offer its culinary competencies to access the health benefits of India’s great storehouse of heritage cooking.