Showing posts with label cous cous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cous cous. Show all posts

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Gone are the days when there were only a handful of amazing restaurants located within five star hotels. With the mushrooming of several new properties every year, the existing hotels are continually looking at increasing their revenue by revamping the restaurant offerings situated within. One such chain of hotels that has been consistently great with their restaurants is Hotel Raintree. Among my multiple visits to both their properties in Chennai, I’ve never left back with a single iota of worry. So when I was told that the Coffee Shop at their St. Mary’s road hotel had been renovated, I just couldn’t wait to check the new place.

First things first, the restaurant has been rechristened as ‘The Colony’ and flows seamlessly all the way to the lobby with a different ambiance set up near the lobby and a very colonial set up with art pieces depicting the Colonial era of Chennai inside the main dining area. As I settled down into my place, I was greeted by the Executive Chef Mr. Hushmoin Patell, whose looks immediately made me feel that I’m in for a delight tonight. After brief pleasantries, Chef informed that their concept of buffet is slightly different as in addition to the spread, a few dishes are made on order and served hot and fresh right at the table.
(Chicken and Mushroom Cappuccino)
(Salad Counter)
(Cold Meat spread)
(Cold Platter)
(Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous)
While I waited for the soup to be served, I made a visit to the spread and was quite surprised at the same. The cold counters had an assortment of salads with a cold mezze platter too. Some of the salads that were intriguing were a ‘Salad of Broccoli, Orange & Bocconcini’, ‘Surati Fafda’, ‘Vietnamese rice paper rolls with raw Mango & Vermicelli noodles’, ‘Salad of Wine poached Pear, Asparagus and Arugula’, a delicious ‘Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous’ and a whole lot of dips including ‘Mustard Mayo’, ‘Hummus’, ‘Babaganoush’ and ‘Labneh’. By the time I could pick up my choice from the cold counter, the ‘Chicken & Mushroom Cappuccino’ made its way to the table. The soup had the perfect balance of both flavours and along with the biscotti made me feel as if it was a meal all by itself. The beginning was just fabulous.
(Mutton Chapli Kebab)
(Spicy Bean Fattayar & Kudamulagai Bonda)
(Prawn Pollichathu)
With the entrĂ©e’s complete, there was an order placed to the kitchen for some of the made to order items from the buffet. First up was the ‘Mutton Chapli Kebab’. Although looks similar to the Galouti, this is quite different as the texture is coarser. On enquiring, Chef informed me that the Chapli is from the Indus region and is considered to be the forefather of the Lucknowi Galouti. With the plate completely swept, I made way for some ‘Spicy Bean Fattayar’ and ‘Kudamulagai Bonda’. While the fattayar was a mix of flavour, the bonda did not fancy me much. Not wanting to stuff myself, I wanted to try out something that was unique to the restaurant. So ask the Chef and he says I’ll get you some ‘Prawn Pollichathu’. I was excited to try it out as it has always been Meen Polichathu and being a prawn lover, was expecting a burst of flavours. The presentation was cute with the prawn beautifully wrapped in the leaf served along with some crunch. However, the first bite and I was slightly confused as I couldn’t feel the taste that you get from a claypot. Upon enquiring, Chef revealed that they don’t use a claypot due to the complexities involved as this is the only dish on the menu that may require one. Nevertheless, the prawn was still amazing and great selection.
(Buffet Spread)
With different flavours playing inside my mouth, I just had a quick sneak peak of the other main courses on the spread which included a yummy ‘Badami Murgh’, a crispy ‘Kozhi Erakai Varuval’ and ‘Roasted lamb with waterchestnuts’. In addition, I also tried the ‘Shahi Paneer’ which had a very succulent paneer. With about 60+ items on the buffet menu, it was one large spread yet by the way the spread was placed didn’t look that massive.
(Dessert Counter)
(Dessert Counter)
To bring closure to the evening, I headed to the dessert counter and realized that vast variety of selection that was displayed. Being very confident that not more than a couple can be accommodated by myself, I picked up the ‘Apple Strudel’, ‘Carrot Pudding’, ‘Rasberry Mousse’, ‘Chenna Malai Sandwich’ and a ‘Mango Velvet cake’. With this done as I was just about to call it an evening, the Chef asked me if I wanted to try a speciality dessert of theirs. Me being someone who will go to any extent for desserts, was game for it.
(Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta)
What came next took me by a big surprise. The speciality dessert was a ‘Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta’. Mighty heavens it was just mind boggling. The aroma was just like our original filter coffee while the panna cotta was perfectly set and to balance the textures it was accompanied by a lime curd and peanut Florentine. This was by far one of the best panna cotta that I’d savoured during my food journey and is on the must have dish list that I’m compiling for Chennai. Truly outstanding. If you are looking for a different buffet experience with a wide variety of cuisine, then I may say that “The Colony” awaits you.


The Colony is located at Hotel Raintree, St Mary’s Road in Alwarpet with the buffet priced at ₹1,300 plus taxes.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Amongst all cuisines for me, if it’s Mediterranean then it automatically gets on to the to-visit list with a priority. With hardly any standalone Mediterranean restaurants in Chennai, I was excited when I saw on Facebook that a new one was popping right in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, it was during the month of Ramadhan and the multitude of attempts to visit proved futile. It was on the top of my list once Ramadhan got over but still couldn’t make it as I had to travel out of India. It just kept eluding me while couple of friends had some good reviews to make of the place that made the urge all the more significant.

Finally on 15th August an impromptu dinner plan was made with the family and before any suggestions could come up, I suggested ‘Lavash’. Having made our reservation as it was a holiday, we promptly reached the place. The first reaction was on the ambiance. It had all the perfect setting for a Mediterranean restaurant. There was both an indoor as well as outdoor seating. As we were with my son and the climate in Chennai has still not reached to the point where outdoor seating becomes a comfort, we gladly went inside. The interiors had a Middle Eastern rustic feel to them and the lights complemented the look and feel.
(Bread Basket)
As it was already way past our dinner time, we quickly got digging into the menu. The menu looks to be meticulously planned with a select variety of dishes under each category. Though this made ordering easy once you have decided on the type of meal, it made it difficult to choose the type of meal as there was easily around 10 different courses. The menu had the usual soup, salad, cold & hot Mezzes. Adding the Mediterranean touches were the grills, Tagine, Rice, Pastas, Pizzas, Shawarmas & Breads. Being a dinner and with a long weekend ahead, we decided to go light on the tummy.

(Hot & Cold Mezze)
The first order for the evening was a ‘Hot & Cold Mezze Platter’. The platter consisted of all the cold mezze’s such as Hummus, Muttabal, Baba Ganoush, Muhammara, Tabouleh & Dolmades (Stuffed veggies and rice rolled in Vine leaves) while the Hot Mezze’s included were Cheese Sambousak, Falafel, Kibbeh and Chicken Harissa. As indicated on the menu, it was a perfect fit for two. The dolmades tasted different to those I’d savoured elsewhere in the Middle East while the rest of them were pretty close to the original.
(Lamb Souvlaki)
(Shish Taouk)

The next up were from the grills and we went with ‘Shish Taouk’ and ‘Lamb Souvlaki’. Each portion served were apt for two persons. Both grills came skewered on top of the Arabic bread ‘Kuboos’. This made it easier for those who wanted to convert the grill into a wrap as all that was needed was to remove the skewer and add the desired dressing and voila the wrap is ready. The ‘Shish Taouk’ was well flavoured but the chicken seemed a tad dry to my liking. But nevertheless, it disappeared in a flash. The story with the ‘Lamb Souvlaki’ was another twist. Though the lamb was quite tough, it was marinated thoroughly and had a good amount of smokiness to it which elevated its flavouring so much that we didn’t mind the toughness and ordered again for another portion.

(Chicken Tagine)
Having favoured our desire with generous amount meat, we decided to have a very light main and ordered a ‘Chicken Tagine’. The tagine seemed to be well prepared as the stew had deep infusion of flavourings from the vegetables and the chicken. Also to mention, the chicken was well cooked this time and was very tender. The highlight was the Couscous that was served along with it. Probably one of the best couscous tasted by me so far. Overall, if they can slightly fine tune their seasonings to avoid incorporating Indian flavours and retain the authentic flavouring, I’m sure ‘Lavash’ would definitely establish itself as a dominant Mediterranean restaurant in Chennai.

Lavash is located at the Oyster Building on Khader Nawaz Khan Road. A meal for two should cost you about ₹ 1200 including taxes. 

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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.
(Amuse-bouche)
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)
(Lablabi)
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.

P.S: Unfortunately my email subscription list had some bug because of which the updates were not getting delivered. It has now been resolved, request you to kindly click Subscribe by email on the right hand side at the top of this page to re-subscribe to keep yourself updated on new reviews.

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