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If it's SATURDAY night, it must be...

Like Jekyll and Hyde, Taika is both a watering hole for the party-hard 10 p.m. crowd as well as a Zen and Ayurveda experience for 6 a.m. yogics

— Photo: Murali Kumar K.

With fitness becoming an obsessive trend, much of the crowd is pretty up on Zen and Ayurveda.

EVERY FEW months, the inextricable tangle that is Bangalore's social circuit uncoils long enough to heave its fickle self elsewhere. Recently, the object of its ardent interest has been Taika, the spa lounge on Church Street. On a party night, Taika is a good imitation of the club scene in The Mask: winding queues of clubbers snaking all the way down the staircase, assertive, unyielding bouncers, and a sea of humanity humming around the bar.

But as its description, spa bar, suggests, Taika is hydra-headed. While pleasing throngs of ardent clubbers on the one hand, it also devotes a large arm of its ample interiors to a diametrically different lifestyle — that of karmic yogi. With fitness becoming an obsessive trend, much of the 10 p.m. crowd is pretty up on Zen, Ayurveda and high-end spas anyway; so bringing everything together is smart business sense. When it opens, a few months from now, the spa will greet visitors with an assessment sheet. Answer questions such as "Are you thin; have you always been thin?" and other more probing ones on the state of your digestion and a consultant will decide your dosha or body type: vata, pitta or kapha.

After the spa indulgence is the lingering meal upstairs. Lamps are brought to your table, and you can choose what fragrant oil to douse them in. The oils are labelled to pertain to skin types ("oily, acne, dry and so on); pick your oil and be treated to your smell.

Next up is the do-it-yourself garlic and vinegar sauce. Instead of the indifferent way in which the oils are usually dumped on the table, here you place some garlic, chillies and basil in a mortar, grind them together with a stone pestle, pour in the oils, and voila! Not quite gourmet cooking, but it's your humble contribution to what will unfold into a long, perfect meal. Taika prides itself on a wide variety of breads, so be sure to grind your sauce with extra vigour.

We began with refreshing spa drinks, thick with a blend of fruits and vegetables, a pointer to the stress on natural food in the meal that followed. Hitting the main course, either you pick an Ayurvedic meal set to your dosha or craft your meal from the Indonesian, Thai, Malay and Indian foods on offer. Each dish is complete with a mention of its calorie count and fat points if it falls in the "fitness" section of the menu or left discretely vague if it lies in the "indulgence" section.

Fresh and light

For starters we had the sautéed mushrooms and grilled pepper in olive oil and the Thai haw mok, which was spicy dumplings steamed with coconut in banana leaf parcels. After all the prodding and chopping, flavouring and soaking that mushrooms are subject to, Taika actually allows you to savour the tender readiness of full mushrooms. The haw mok was light and perfectly flavoured, with the dumplings crumbling easily out of their careful banana leaf wrapping.

The main course comprised rice with Thai red curry — gaeng phed and from the fitness section, the steamed tofu in soya sauce and ginger on a bed of stir-fried morning glory and a salad-type preparation consisting, most memorably, of glass noodles. The Thai red curry was about as exciting as red curries usually are, but the steamed tofu contrasted by being a wonderful surprise. Fresh and lightly flavoured, it yielded to the slightest prod of the fork, succumbing into tiny almost plain-tasting bits, elegantly drawing out the raw crispiness of the morning glory.

The dessert made up for the occasional abstinence of the main course by being a sinful, unapologetic ladling of calories in the form of chocolate mousse. Taika may be expensive but hey, fitness comes at a cost! Call 51512828/51512929 for details.

* * *

Specialty: Spa drinks, also try any of the fitness dishes

Wallet factor: Each dish is priced at approximately Rs. 200

Service: Helpful

Ambience: Very relaxed, luxuriant


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