Monday 21 July 2014

Having lived in the Middle East for a considerable part of my life, Mediterranean cuisine has always played a great impact in my passion for food. Cuisines from Turkey, Lebanon, Greece, Southern Italy & Tunisia have a lot in common yet are different in their own ways. The Shawarma in Lebanon is known as Doner in Turkey while in Greece it’s called Gyros. Although technically all the three are same it’s the flavourings that create the difference and this has a lot to do with the local culture. 

Most of these Mediterranean countries follow a broad classification of cuisine called the ‘Sun Cuisine’. Dishes that represent the sun cuisine have a strong domination of Olive Oil, Tomato, Seafood and Meat (especially lamb). The seasonings and methodology of preparation makes all the differences within the Mediterranean cuisine. One such country in this area that has a strong contribution is Tunisia. It was here that ‘Cous Cous’ was first prepared is also regarded as their national dish.

One restaurant in Chennai that has been serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine ever since they started is ‘Kefi’ at the Taj Club House. Kefi has always been my to-go place as the roof-top ambiance with the Gazebo seating always made it the right choice for special occasions. Being in the month of Ramadhan and wanting for some good Mediterranean food, the moment I found out they were having a special ‘Tunisian’ menu, I just couldn’t resist missing it. So as usual a group of us got together to experience the Tunisian sun cuisine at Kefi.
When it comes to restaurants belonging to the Taj group, one thing that always stands out is their hospitality. We were welcomed with a fresh smile and escorted to our table. Upon settling down, we were given a short introduction about the Tunisian cuisine as it was what we had come for. With the pleasantries done, in typical fine dine fashion, the amuse-bouche was served first. It was a cute beetroot leaf wrapped with feta cheese. This was followed by some Pita bread along with harissa and toum. Harissa is a Tunisian speciality spice dip aka Tunisia’s National Condiment and is made up of different chillies of varying hotness while Toum is a dip made using garlic and oil.

The starters for the evening were ‘Solanum Brik’ for the vegetarians while for the non-vegetarians it was ‘Fatmas finger’. The non-veg starter was themed around sea food and had a filling of mushroom, garlic and seafood wrapped in pastry sheet and fried. On the other hand, the veg starter was a Mediterranean spiced creamed potato encase in pastry sheet and baked. Of the two, the ‘Solanum Brik’ was my favourite. This followed by the ‘Lablabi’ which is a chickpea based creamy soup. The lablabi served to us was garlic flavoured chicken with a rich creaminess from the well-cooked chickpeas. 
(Solanum Brik)
(Fatmas finger)
With the soup and starts thoroughly enjoyed, we couldn’t wait for the mains. Wondering how come cous cous was not yet served, we were just waiting to see what was for the mains. We got the ‘Phoenician Spicy grilled chicken’ which looked true its name. But all that changed with the first slice through the chicken. We were surprised to find out that the meat was stuffed with cous cous and prunes. This added more flavouring to the cous cous from the fat that must have rendered while cooking the chicken. I was happy that the chicken was grilled with the skin on as that is how I prefer my chicken to be served. The chicken along with jus made for a complete dish for the cous cous.
(Phoenician Spicy grilled chicken)
Being thoroughly satisfied with the proceedings of the evening, we were eagerly awaiting the desserts. Mediterranean desserts are some of the best in the world as they are very unique and can be customized in numerous ways. The dessert for the evening was a ‘Makroudh Baklava’, which unlike the regular baklavas wasn’t stuffed top to bottom but was rather rolled in small bite size rolls. The filling for the baklava followed the traditional route with pistachios and dates soaked in rose syrup. How can a Mediterranean dessert be complete without a rose & citrus element. The citrus element today was brought in by small slivers of oranges soaked in rose syrup accompanied with an orange flavoured caramelized toffee. The entire experience truly felt like a travel to the culinary world of Tunisia. 
(Makroudh Baklava)
A great thanks to Chef Siddiq, the Executive Chef at Taj Club House for bringing such distinctive cuisines to Chennai. And yeah, don’t forget to break a plate near the entrance if you are satisfied with your meal. 

The Tunisia special menu runs till the 27th of July, 2014 at Kefi located in Hotel Taj Club House, Anna Salai. The menu is an A-la-carte and will cost you around ₹ 1,250 - ₹ 1,500 per person (inclusive of taxes) for four course meal.

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  1. Excellent post with useful information..And the combination of elements are very different and unique..

  2. Good article. I am really happy to visit your website. I like your blog. Thanks for sharing.
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  3. Yeah, I know the taste of this baklava very well. Also whenever I have tried this baklava I just become more hungry to eat more. That's why I always do baklava to order online because I always get very rich and high-quality baklava with it's perfect taste. But I think after seeing your blog from now I could make it by my own.

  4. Typical Tunisian dishes – tunisian cuisine – spiced couscous with lemon and thyme; lamb tagine with preserved lemon and olives; chicken with saffron and curcuma; and seffa – Tunisian street food – fluffy semolina pancakes with honey, sugar and bananas. Explore Tunisian Cuisine at Kefi located at Taj Club House, Anna Salai! You can also try their delicious china national dish which offers authentic Tunisian dishes to savor!