Five Chefs, Five Cuisines

When an all-day diner serves several dishes that are flavourful and tasty; they must be doing something right. Especially because there are multiple cuisines on offer. At Cayenne, the restaurant at the Mercure Hyderabad KCP, a signature event is on till the 3rd of April. Called Choose your Chef, the series entails the team of chefs creating specially crafted dishes based on their culinary expertise. Five chefs, five cuisines, so you can take your pick.

chefs at mercure
The five chefs with Executive Chef Vinay (seated)

The team, headed by Executive Chef Vinay, includes Chef Ganapathi, Western cuisines, Chef Maniruddin, Hyderabadi, Chef Sahoo, Indian, Chef Satyanarayana, South Indian and Chef Vikram, pan-Asian. Unfortunately, Chef Vikram was unwell so we didn’t get to taste the pan-Asian food, which from reports is supposed to be outstanding.

prawn
Beet Cured Squid with Prawn Ceviche

Still, the other chefs didn’t disappoint. We sampled Crumb fried Idlis, stuffed with pickle masala; Beet Cured Squid with black garlic and Prawn Ceviche; Badami Tangdi; Ankuri Makkai hare Pyaaz ki Tikki and Murgh Hariyali Tikka. Of the lot, my vote goes to the humble idli, taken to another level with the piquant pickle masala, the gram flour coating deep fried, making it a sinful starter; ideal for rainy evenings.

fried idli
Fried Idli 

From the selection of soups, I chose the South Indian option of Pineapple Rasam. Having loved this spicy staple in its various avatars through the years, the pineapple bits added a sweet and sour taste to the tangy rasam. I could have had just this with rice for dinner; that is how tasty it was. Other soups served were Basil Pesto and Courgette Soup and Chawli aur Beetroot ka Shorba.

beet shorba
Chawli aur Beeetroot Shorba

For the mains, I tried the Subz ka Mela, a mixed vegetable curry, Curried Coconut and Cilantro Risotto, and Coconut Rice. There was also Gongura Koi Kura, or chicken curry with gongura leaves. All of them made the cut, with the Coconut Rice, even without any gravy to accompany it, stood out from the rest. The delicate flavouring of grated coconut, mingled effortlessly with the crisp sesame seeds tossed in and the overall light texture and feel of the dish, almost made it taste like our Sabudana Khichdi. This is one recipe I will be asking for, because simple as it was, getting it right is going to be a challenge.

gongura chicken
Gongura Chicken

Since it is a four course meal that is on offer, there are plenty of popular favourites, along with some unusual dishes one can choose from. What I also liked was the little touch of adding a flower to a dish as a garnish.

poached pear
Golden Poached Pear

Desserts were a delightful end to a good meal; an exotic Baked Gulkand Jamun with Rose Petal ice cream; Golden Poached Pear with sweet Mascarpone quinnel; and a Paan flavoured ice cream. All of them were excellent.

mercure dessert
Dessert Platter

The Choose your Chef series will continue till 3rd April at 7.30 pm onwards at Cayenne Restaurant, Mercure Hyderabad KCP. To reserve your table, call: 040-67888888/60.

Essentially Good

What should come as a relief to hard core vegetarians in the city is that there is now a fine dining restaurant that has a very extensive all vegetarian menu. Multiple cuisines – Italian, Oriental and Indian – with a range of starters, mains and desserts, along with some very unusual drinks, are a very good reason to visit Tatva, a new restaurant set up by the group that owns Rajdhani restaurant at Abids. Tatva is a Sanskrit word, and it means essence/ thatness or reality, and the restaurant has effectively captured the meaning through the food it serves.

crackling spinach

The USP of Tatva is the vast choice on offer, where even the fussiest eater can find something he or she will like. Yes, this includes non-vegetarians who scoff at the ghaas poos we herbivores eat. And for the bloggers’ lunch, Executive Chef Naveen Nagaraj, and his assistant Yogesh, plied us with so many dishes that doing full justice to Tatva’s menu will require multiple visits. My advice is – save it for the times you are entertaining vegetarian friends and family. Everyone will be happy.

jalapeno poppers

From the starters, the Oriental style Crackling Spinach and the Continental Jalapeno Poppers, made with three different cheeses, were my pick of the lot. The Kamalkakdi ke Galauti, the lotus stem version of Lucknow’s famous Galauti Kebabs made with minced meat is a very good substitute. I found it a little heavy on the spice though you couldn’t really tell it was vegetarian; the replacement with lotus stem was a great idea however.

louts stem kebab

An interesting aspect of the food here is the focus on the presentation; the Smoked Pesto Paneer Tikka was brought out in a flourish, covered with a glass jar, which when lifted, let out the hot steam captured from the tandoor.

paneer pesto

The mains have some really good dishes, and for those of you who love your vegetarian Italian, the Cannelloni Florentine and the Risotto are a must try. The cheese in the Risotto makes you want to savour every bite, slowly. For Indian food aficionados, the Olive Naan, dotted with sliced black olives, had with the uber tasty Dal Tadka or Dal Makhni are worthy options for a filling meal. What I like about Chef Naveen’s innovations are that they blend – whether it is the lotus stem in place of kheema; pesto in place of chutney as a marinade and olives on a naan – they work well with the other ingredients in the dish and are not contrived in the least.

olive naan

Now, for my favourite part of any meal – the desserts. Here too, the presentation was the star and each one was impeccably presented – Tres Leches, Banoffee Pie, Apricot Delight, Chocolate Mousse, Baked Cheesecake and Paan Tantra.  I tried all but the Banoffee Pie [I left this one out only because I am allergic to bananas]. My vote goes to the Baked Cheesecake and the Paan Tantra; the former had a rich, creamy texture and the latter, an ice cream infused with the freshness of paan or betel leaves garnished with gulkand [candied rose petals] was a fitting end to a very good meal. A great cooler for summer too.

paan tantracrackling spinach

I would count Tatva as one of those restaurants in the city that have got the right mix of traditional and innovation just right. The fact that they are all vegetarian, makes it a place that deserves multiple visits.

Tatva,

First Floor, SL Jubilee, Above Ratnadeep Supermarket

Road No. 36, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad

Tel: 040 33194254

11 am – 11 pm

 

Mad About Mushrooms

 

mushrooms

There are few ingredients, in my opinion, that can hold their own and stand out, even when mixed with several other, sometimes, even stronger, vegetables/meats/spices. Mushrooms, in all their varieties, fall in this category. Whether tossed into an Asian stir fry, pureed into a creamy soup; or mixed into an Indian curry with other vegetables; these versatile funghi impart their own personality to a dish, while not taking away from the overall taste experience.

Full marks then, to Executive Chef Manek Magotra, of The Trident Hotel, Hitech City, Hyderabad, for envisioning and creating Funghi Fiesta – a food festival centred around the magic of mushrooms. No, he did not use the magic variety which gives you a high; but the ones he did use were – Shiitake, Porcini, Oyster, Morel, Portobello, White Fungus and Button Mushrooms.

These versatile little funghi have always been a favourite of mine, from childhood, when we ate the Morel mushroom in a pulao; and a dried mushroom only available in the North of India, which we called dhingri, in a curry. These are now available for a king’s ransom, at over Rs 40,000 a kg. But, the more common ones thankfully, don’t cost as much, so one can still relish them.

We started the dinner with the appetiser – Chocolate and Crumb Fried Button Mushrooms, served with saffron cream, pepper coulis and Balsamic reduction – which set the mood for the rest of the evening.

starter mushroom

The chocolate coated one was created on the lines of Umami – described by Wikipedia as –  Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/), a savoury taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). A word from the Japanese –  Umami can be translated as a pleasant savoury taste. Coated with chocolate, with sea salt sprinkled on top, it was unusual. But the Crumb Fried Button Mushroom stole its thunder, if I had to compare them.

The Wild Mushroom Cappuccino, a frothy soup, had an extra edge to it with the espresso foam that had been blended in. I thought I was mistaken when I got the familiar whiff of coffee from the soup, but Chef explained that the espresso gave the soup a twist which has proven to be quite popular with guests. And rightly so, because it did taste different from the usual mushroom soup.

capuccino 1

Then came the Pizza, made with an Oriental crust, topped with seafood, white fungus, galangal and lemongrass.

mushroom pizza

The lemongrass and galangal flavours were extremely subtle, while the white fungus and the salmon dominated the dish. A pizza that was certainly different from those normally served at Tuscany, the Italian fine dining restaurant of The Trident Hotel, where  the festival is being held.

The two dishes that followed, to my mind, were the masterpieces of the festival. Definite must-haves in my book, the pasta was an outstanding Salmon Ravioli with dill cream, shiitake mushrooms and caper jus. The smokiness of the dill with the crunch of the shiitake mushroom were a perfect foil to the salmon filled ravioli. This mix of ingredients, certainly not a commonplace one, had created the piece de resistance of the festival.

ravioli

The Risotto: Given all that Italian cuisine has in its ouvre, a Risotto for me is the last option after the pastas, antipasti and pizzas on offer. In other words, not my first choice at an Italian meal. But here, the Portobello Risotto, made with sundried tomatoes and mascarpone cheese, besides the Portobello mushrooms, was delicious enough that, had I not been so full already, I might even have had a second helping. That is saying something, since I am not a big eater to start with. The flavours delicately underlined that of the mushrooms, and came together in a concoction that was surprisingly light.

A fitting end to the meal was the Chocolate Mud Pie, served with vanilla and truffle oil ice cream. Sinfully creamy on the palate, it more than matched the other dishes served earlier, in terms of taste and presentation.

chocolate mud pie

Note: There are several more options on the menu available as part of this promotion. The dishes mentioned here are the ones I tried.

The Fungi Fiesta Festival is on till the 28th of August at Tuscany, the Italian restaurant at The Trident Hotel. The restaurant is open only for dinner. For reservations, call: 91 40 6623 2323

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