Mad about Mediterranean

Kotopoulos Stifado
Kotopoulos Stifado

The world knows that the Mediterranean diet, with its use of olive oil, fresh meats and vegetables, grilled or baked, and vegetables drizzled with olive oil, is considered one of the healthiest diets there is. If you need proof you only have to look at the glowing skins of people from that region.
The Mediterranean region, foodwise, loosely comprises of Greece, Malta, Turkey, Egypt and some of the Arabic regions as well as Italy. At least that is what I believe, because of the similarities in their food habits, dishes and ingredients used. While there are variations aplenty, the overall treatment of food has a lot of common ground.
A love for this fresh, non-spicy and extremely tasty food ensured that I would not miss the food festival centering around this cuisine being held at Encounters at the Taj Krishna Hotel. The festival, titled Souk, after the hotel chain’s extremely popular restaurant by the same name at the flagship Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai, is a treat for those who love Mediterranean cuisine, and is on till the 26th of October. Chef Nitin Mathur, Executive Chef at the Taj Krishna, gets it right, no matter which cuisine he is involved with;  and his talented team of chefs create magic with the dishes.

The good news? There are plenty of vegetarian options to choose from like the Mezzes sampler that includes Babaganouj, Tabbouleh and Muhammara, a dip made with bell peppers, Shankaleeesh which is aged goat cheese mixed with vegetables and paprika and herbs etc. The hot Mezzes, essentially the Lebanese word for appetisers, include my personal favourite, the falafel and the Spinach fatayer.

Sampling several dishes, even though I had them in small quantities, left me replete. The Chicken Shawarma was fresh and tasty and the Sheesh Taouk, or grilled chicken, had an unusual flavour thanks to its marinade of lemon and garlic paste. The surprise star of the food fest was for me, the Fattir, an Egyptian flat bread with halloumi, (goat cheese) and bell peppers. You might loosely call it their version of the pizza but the base was soft and flaky, almost like the khari biscuits we have with our tea. It was delicious on its own too, unlike the dry crust of a regular pizza which one would leave aside.

And since none of us at the table were watching our weight or denying ourselves the little pleasures of life, dessert was welcomed with big grins. The traditional Baklava, a filo and nut pastry was decadently sweet and bursting with the taste of pistachios, and Omali – a throwback from the Alexandrian empire – a baked filo with condensed milk was so tasty I couldn’t stop eating it. To cleanse the palate, the refreshing orange flower and rose petal ice creams were refreshing and a welcome way to finish the meal on a hot day.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal and one I would easily recommend to people who like world cuisines.

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