For all of you who think Coastal Cuisine is all about Seafood, the ITC Coastal Spice is an eye opener. There is much more to Coastal Cuisine and you would be surprised to know that they love their veggies as much as they love their meats, if not more. The ITC Coastal Spice is on till the 15th of July, 2012.
I feel so honored to have been invited for the Coastal Food Festival at the ITC Grand Central, Mumbai, for not only did it feature lip smacking and mouth watering food, but also made us feel very welcomed.
Me and the best friend traveled a rather tiresome journey from Andheri to Parel (I should get used to train travel) and had to almost walk down from the train station till we managed to find a cab barely 500 meters (or so) away from our destination. Nonetheless, all that tiredness was gone in a jiffy when we entered the Hornby's Pavilion and Chef Harish and his crew were at the entrance with the most beautiful and handsome smiles. ITC does know how to make their guests feel special.
Chef Harish has been specially flown in from the infamous Dakshin all the way from The Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, Chennai, and for someone who is in my honest opinion a master at pairing flavours and adding his special personal twist to the classic dishes without going overboard, he is so humble and easy to talk to. All reservations lie aside when people talk over one topic - Food. Chef Harish and Chef Sumit were happy and patient with my never ending questions (only till I started eating, coz then I was quiet) and willingly shared and exchanged ideas about coastal cooking.
We were seated down in a comfortable corner and we chose to have some drinks to start off with. I had the Pink Fantasy (Rum + Cranberry Juice) whereas my friend had the ever so amazing Cucumber and Mint Mocktail. We could not stop raving about how refreshingly pleasant this combination is and every single sip was a fresh new experience. Must try making this at home (This applies to most of the things that will follow through the post, you may choose to call it an overdose of yumminess).
I must commend the ITC group for having such an extensive spread for their buffet. Although the damage is 1800 INR + Taxes per person, you get to sample food as well as alcohol with it.
We were too tempted to try the Salads and the Cheese Station, and we did give in to the awesome Sushi and of course the wide array of desserts (which were strictly okay except the Chocolate Mousse), but alas, we had to save space for all those Coastal Delights as they were the best thing on the menu.
We started off with Appams with Chutney, if you guys remember my Bettering Breakfast post on this you would know how amazing they are. The only difference was that Chef Harish used a rice flour batter instead of what I use (Semolina+Curd) and the results were absolutely delicious.
There was also Kodi Vepudu, a Chicken Appetizer preparation, mildly spiced and with a definite hit of Curry Leaves and Onions. The Chicken was a bit dry, though.
There was a Dosa Station, and the Dosa Chef was happy enough to send a couple of Egg Dosas our way. One was spiced with crushed pepper while the other with Onions and Coriander Leaves. For someone who makes/eats Dosas every Sunday (me), this is going to be featured pretty often from now on.
We then moved on to Melagu Sadam, or Pepper Rice, which was so simple yet too high on flavour. That is completely my kind of a palate. I am not a big fan of anything overloaded with so many ingredients that you don't even know what you are tasting. But this was clean, no nonsense, super tasty, Curry Leafy Rice with a compelling aftertaste of Pepper in the throat, and that would make anyone just go for the next bite by default.
There was a very simple Cauliflower and Potato Sabzi, Urralai Pookoos Peratal, and we make this at home so it was just like having Mom made food :)
Then there was the Kai Korma, a creamy, rich and delicious preparation with mixed vegetables in a coconut based gravy. I had 2 servings of this just by itself. It was that good.
I personally feel that Chef Harish outdid himself with The Red Spinach Gravy and it was beautifully earthy, cooked in lentils and I would totally have a bowl of that on a rainy day sitting by my window.
I loved the play of flavours in the Tomato Based Ananas Mensakai, which is Pineapple cooked till it's juicy tenderness and although I was not big on the sweet Pineapple in a tangy curry which is an acquired taste, I managed to polish off a good amount of the gravy.
Moving on to the Non Vegetarian section (my favorite, I was seen hovering around in this area mostly) there were carefully spiced Crabs, Njandu Masala, which we ate in the true desi style, going all slurp and bite on the shells and all the works with bare hands. That IS the way to eat an Indian style crab preparation, if you ask me! The Crab Meat was plump, juicy, tender and fresh, and the gravy had nicely flavoured the mild crabby juices perfectly.
The Chemeen Ularthiyathi, Prawns cooked with Onions and Tomatoes, which are a popular fare at my place on weekdays were a pleasant surprise since at home we eat it overloaded with spices and the mild flavouring on this one on the other hand brought out the the freshness and maintained the integrity and the original flavour of the Prawns. In MasterChef Australia lingo, Prawns were the star of this dish. Job well done!
Classic Meen Moilee did not cease to impress. Fresh Pomfret slices simmered to perfection in a light Coconut based gravy, and usually is ideal with plain rice, but as you guys can guess, we had no room for Rice!
But we always have room for Biryani! This Mutton Bori Biryani was bursting with awesomeness, the meat was fall-off-the-bone-tender and it did not taste heavy at all, as compared to most of the soda added Biryanis I have had before.
Another pleasant surprise was the Dried Shrimp Papads, which are rare to find in the local stores, Mom used to make them when we were little kids and I was instantly nostalgic.
Let me introduce the last dish from the Coastal Fiesta this way. Lamb Chops cooked in a gravy, simmered and reduced till dry, battered in Egg and then Deep Fried. This is the stuff for champions. This is the kind of dish that cannot be identified as a main or an appetizer. If I had a choice I would snack on it Nigella style in the middle of the night. Kaipidi Chops were the dish of the night for me!
And last but not the least Thank You so much for one of the most memorable meals we have ever had.