On a sultry Bangalore evening, we find ourselves in the middle of a decidedly adult faux pas - underdressed and out to a fancy dinner. It isn’t that we have put on our pocha and stepped out for the evening, but our vintage (read: old) jeans and ruffled top combo are no match for our dining companions’ cocktail dresses and dinner jackets. Unlike the last time this happened, however, we can’t bring ourselves to be too bothered - Lipi’s food is much too intriguing a distraction.
A chef’s table that encourages diners to eat more mindfully, Lipi started off by four young whippersnappers who wanted to do something innovative with seasonal, local food. We lowkey wonder if this is going to be mosaranna dressed up in bougie marketing.
It starts off a bit silly - a geranium petal is perched on top of a fryum covered in dill dust and dotted with onion reduction. Next to it is a Mangalore cucumber tart upon which lie some elephant yam crisps. The accompanying drink is a leaf green cucumber concoction, spiked with fennel and dill. Our ploddingly pragmatic companion gives us A Look. “Did you really drag me out of my quilted cocoon to eat hot chips?” it says to us. We avoid eye contact and crunch into these minuscule treats. They are flavourful but forgotten as quickly as they are consumed. Perhaps we were too peckish for a course of small nibbles, we begin to fear, before we remember there are 14 courses to this meal. We self-soothe as our genial host announces the courses.
A deep bowl of watery red appears: tomatoes blanketed by green apple daisies and purple sorrel leaf. They have been prepared in a variety of ways - roasted, marinated, smoked - all coming together to form a bright wash of tomato on the tongue. Accompanied by a rasam inspired shot that only enhances the sweetness of this course, Lipi seems to be hitting its stride.
The evening progresses with increasingly imaginative takes on everyday tarkari until we lose count. We wolf down nutty pumpkin that has been browned in butter, over a bed of caramelized milk dust and topped with seeds. It’s round flavour is enhanced by a swipe of saffron pumpkin cream offset by a decidedly floral geranium leaf. Gokarna prawns bursting with flavour with roasted cauliflower nestled on a pineapple base company arrive. The pineapple and kokum drink accompanying it only enhances the beachy flavour.
Course after course delights, right up to the star of the show making its grand entrance. We want to marry How I Met Your Curry a single bite in, despite its terrible taste in television. It’s a warming bowl of mixed strains of rice, soaked in a pulled mutton curry that has been braised for hours. A nostalgic Iyengar bakery style khara bun, toasted in butter is presented to mop our bowls clean. For the first time in a long time, we burn our tongues in our eagerness to eat it all as quickly as humanly possible.
Over the course of a few hours, our reservations about the picturesque portion sizes have disappeared. Our high chairs groan precariously under our recently expanded posteriors. We stand to get the blood running again, finally grateful for our comfortably broken in jeans, just in time for dessert. Calories don’t count when you eat standing, right?
Citrus marinated coconut flesh is topped with an airy coconut milk whipped cream. It gleams at us innocently, perfectly pale, save for the popped amaranth seeds that speckle its surface. Earl grey tea steeped in coconut water is our digestif, creating the perfect end to our meal.
We lick our return gift of fennel yoghurt topped with sunflower seeds meditatively during the ride back home. Lipi has helped us see what our home has to offer in a new light. Next time, we’ll dress up for the occasion.
Getting There: Reservations for upto 14 guests are taken each night. Each meal (with the drink option - and you’ll want the drink option) will set you back by Rs. 3200 per head. Make a reservation here.
Accessibility: A low step up from the pavement. Seating is all high chairs.
Sushmita Sundaram writes about food, culture, and discovering your city. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.
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