Monday, January 11, 2010

Hook…line…and sinker

I happened to see an article in the ‘Urban Taste’; well it’s a daily in London, which spoke about eating out 09 in London. It featured dishes from a restaurant called ‘mint leaf’ and the name of that chef was Ajay Chopra. He is here in Goa, I was told, and you must taste his creations…they are awesome. I needed no second invite, to dine at the hands of the chef who has catered to A-list Celebes, urban socialites as well as Former President Bill Clinton and our very own Dr Manmohan Singh. I was the privileged one.
So with great expectations I went on to the Goa Marriott Resort where this chef has joined as the new Executive Chef. Oberoi Hotels, J W Marriott’s, and then the mint leaf chain of restaurants in London, brushing shoulders with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Angela Harnet…what more could one ask for.

‘Where are we headed,’ Joe asks. ‘To simply fish…’ was my response. Now trust him to take that sentence literally, but we were actually headed to the waterfront restaurant aptly named ‘Simply Fish’ to sample chef’s innovative preparations. He has recently re-designed the menu for that restaurant.

There is one thing that I would definitely recommend (if you have not tried it before) is the ambience. Seated on the waterfront with the sound of the water lapping against the bank, the slight breeze ruffling through your hair, the candlelight flickering in the dark….don’t blame me for getting romantic. I would definitely recommend a special occasion here. But that is just one part…we were here to experience the other. Now with such a CV one would expect an older profile of the chef. We were pleasantly surprised. His warm outgoing personality had me hooked. ‘Go fish,’ Joe murmured under his breath. I threw him a stony glance which said. What’s sauce for the goose…..?

So from the kitchens…he was on the range himself, came the taste tickler, the ‘amuse bouche’ I was told. Grilled prawns with lemon mustard on a triangular piece of toasted bread. An interesting concept, I found as I let my teeth sink into the masala rolls spread with a combination of tomato chutney, mustard and celery pesto. Ummm…and we had not yet started on the actual meal.

Well one can have a choice of the ‘catch menu’ where you choose from a large variety of seafood, the a la carte or the table d hote (fixed) menu. We were going to sample from the a la carte. ..Starting with the appetizers. The southern spiced potted crab, the tandoori lobster and pickled beetroot carpaccio and the mint and chili grilled king prawns. Now as you can see there is a fusion of the chef had told us, ‘fresh ingredients subtly mixed with herbs.’ Well I went potty about that potted crab, especially when I dipped the crisp fenugreek bread into the mixture, and the prawns? The flavor of the mint mingled with the lime chutney and green pea relish. Did I fail to state that this chef believed in ‘trendy dining?’ Now you will not get marinations like this in the numerous restaurants dotted along our coast. The flavor of the fish was enhanced, especially when I had that lobster. You see that dish was served with a spiced rocket and apple salad….fly me to the moon. I had always made a mistake of having a salad as an accompaniment. I now realized the creativity involved in the choice of ingredients and the sauces.

But we were now onto the soup…the old favorite lobster cappuccino and the Canadian clam chowder. Now if you think the chowder was a mash of ingredients think again…the chef’s words ‘food inspires me’, played on in my head as I dipped a roast garlic straw into the ‘delicately flavored’ preparation.

And there is still the ‘mains’ to arrive. The Grilled tiger prawns with corn mash, pan seared catch with kokum crab crust and the seafood pot. If the names sound exciting let me describe the food. I beamed across the table. ‘Line mutt marao,’ Joe mutters. But I was smiling from ear to ear. That crusted fish…I played around with it in my mouth hoping to catch the flavor, as I mixed it with the moilee sauce. Yes, kokum crusted and a kerela sauce. ‘Its curry patta flavored spice,’ chef explains. But it is the sea food pot that had me begging for more. Clams, squid, prawns, mussels in a sauce one would die for…a tomato and coconut gravy that spiced me up to the gills. It was with great regret that I was unable to finish those tiger prawns though a bite into one made me smile like a Cheshire cat.

‘I’m sunk,’ I groan as I look at the tempting dessert. ‘Now you are making sense’, Joe states as he dips his spoon into the creamy pistachio parfait with honey glazed fruit. Could I resist that? No siree. If one thinks of a fitting end for the meal, go for it….Hook…Line…and Sinker.

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