Now at the Pavilions (Raj Pavilion New Menu)

Au revoir, 2016 – it’s was an all over the place year, but as always, dining experiences stood out and made for some very satisfying and good times with my food-loving, food-blogging gang. The time has come to end the year, my first as an independent food blogger, and this post on the new menu launch at ITC Windsor’s Raj Pavilion is a fitting end to a(nother) year of good food. One, it brought together the madcap group; two, it was an interesting and delectable lunch; three, it allowed us to wallow in the luxurious old world charm of ITC Windsor, and all that lovely glass at the Raj Pavilion. Which, by the way made for some lovely photographs, with the natural light streaming in from the side and overhead.

 

In keeping with their mandate of “responsible luxury”, the menu gives diners information on the danger level of the fish so they can make informed choices, alongside having symbols against the different dishes that mark them as locally sourced, gluten free, containing nuts/pork, etc. Did you know that ITCs serve water that’s zero mile and purified in-house? Just another way they do their bit to reduce carbon footprint. #TrendingAtPavilion was the hashtag of the day, as this luncheon was not a solitary affair, but held across multiple ITC Pavilions all over the country, with bloggers and food writers participating and posting on their social media.

As we waited for the new menu to be brought forth, we were served Pulled Lamb Cornettos and Tomato and Feta Wonton Cups along with two mocktails. The first dish to make an appearance was the Burrata with Anise-poached Pears, and what a grand start this was! Father Michael (Vallombrosa Cheese Shop), a local priest who is known in food circles for his fantastic cheese making, was the source of the Buratta. The anise spicing on the pears was judicious and in combination with the creamy cheese and the bread and salad greens on the side, it was a great set of flavors. Next up was another cheese starrer, Molten Brie with Pretzel Crusts, accompanied by roasted beets and a green apple chutney that had some heat to it – this dish had a number of elements, but they all came together wonderfully.

img_20161217_135602img_20161217_134544

The next dish was a seemingly simple Shrimp Cocktail, but elevated to unusual with a Curry Leaf and Kokum Mayo, which gave it an interesting color and most delicious and unexpected taste – the boiled eggs on the side added a certain something too. Soups were next, and both the Singaporean Laksa and the Mushroom and Barley were packed with great flavor. The mushroom soup is one I would want to reach for on a cool winter day, and the injection of celery and leek that came in a little plastic tube was a fun element. The Laksa won more favor at the table, with its shrimp, chicken, fish , noodles, boiled egg, tofu, and coconutty broth.

img_20161217_135515

Next up, mains – four dishes were presented and shared by the group. From the local love section there was Bisibele Bath, which was served with half a dozen sides including expected ones like boondi and pachadi, and more unusual ones like Parmesan cheese and dried carrot shavings. The dish was appreciated by everyone, especially the unique cheese topping. Personally, Bisebele Bath is not something I like, so after a tiny taste, I moved on. The other and biggest hit of the mains was the Slow Cooked Mushroom and White Bean Soup, with crusty bread and garlicy broccoli on the side – again, this was a soul satisfying soup for a winter’s night.

The other two mains, unfortunately, didn’t translate well to the plate. The Gratinated Meatballs in a Makhani sauce with cheese was actually lovely – didn’t expect to like Indianized meatballs but it worked. However, the accompanying spaghetti had been tossed in curry leaves and that marred the overall taste – somehow, the curry leaves in a pasta dish just didn’t resonate with any of us. The Lamb Rib and Broad Bean Tagine, served with couscous and stewed apricots, was actually the most anticipated dish of the main course, and its presentation in a Tagine was flawless, as was the couscous. Unfortunately the lamb and stew itself was altogether over spiced, and the overpowering cinnamon taste made it difficult to eat. We of course passed our feedback on to the kitchen and Chef, and I am sure that there will be a lot more care in the making of this hereafter.

The piece de resistance of the meal was the desserts, courtesy ITC’s pastry chef, Chef Alrich. I am a cheesecake lover, through and through, so the fact that I took just a couple bites of the beautiful cheesecake that came to the table and concentrated on the other two offerings should give you an idea of just how good those desserts were! Milk Chocolate Parfait with Darjeeling Tea Namelaka and Raspberry sorbet was beautifully plated and presented, and the finishing touch of a rich chocolate sauce poured at the table. I actually went back on New Year’s eve for lunch to Raj Pavilion, just so I could order and once again savor this dessert. From the halved hazelnuts to that decadently delicious chocolate sauce, the tart raspberry sorbet and the parfait – this was all kinds of awesome!

The Pavilion Chocolate Fudge with Jaggery Caramel Sauce was equally wondrous and wonderful – and we shamelessly took our spoons and dug into the tureen which held the sauce, unwilling to leave a single drop! We ended our meal thus in dessert bliss, and then spent a few enjoyable minutes takin in the beautifully decorated lobby, complete with working model train amidst the Xmas decorations.

img_20161217_153837

Fatty Bao’s year-ending Night Market Festival

It’s that most wonderful time of the year – when the best and worst of lists of the year that was make an appearance, when malls, hotels, and restaurants are getting into the festive spirit, and everyone’s wanting to end things on a high note. Well, 2016, many say, has been a “worse” rather than “good” year. But there are still things we can do to keep happy, and amongst my set of friends, food ranks high on our happy-making experiences. Fatty Bao’s year-ending Night Market food festival falls firmly in this category, and they have really outdone themselves in creating a delicious, colorful, and enchanting experience for diners. Sticking mostly to finger and bite sized foods, like you’d see in an Asian night market, and with the Root to Fruit cocktail menu at hand (something Fatty launched recently) as accompaniment, there’s really no going wrong here.

topshot

The all vegetarian Temari Sushi platter, served in mini skillets was the first dish on the table – the sushi had been rolled into golf sized balls and and had different seasonal vegetables. With some soy and wasabi on the side, these made for a delectable mouthful. Tuna Oshizushi was pressed sushi with soy caviar, and the non-veg offering. The grills and skewers that followed covered quite a range, from the Fried Stinky Tofu with a nice chilly sauce and tapioca crisps, to the Mindanao Beef Skewers, a Filipino Muslim style dish. From Thailand (home to some of the best street food!) there was Mu Ping, pork tenderloin that had been marinated and grilled, and which was accompanied by raw papaya salad. The two dishes that were the stars for me though, were the Firecracker Chicken Wings and the Grilled Quail Eggs. Really, you may be thinking, those sound quite pedestrian for a night market menu! But not when Chef Prashanth has had a go at them! The quail eggs were beautifully grilled and that Sambal Oelek sauce just upped the taste factor. The ubiquitous chicken wings were stuffed, you see, with basil jasmine rice and basted with a lovely sauce that echoes the flavors of the region. How’s that for interesting and a one-pot meal?

chickenwings

Firecracker Chicken Wings

quaileggs

Grilled Quail Eggs with Sambal Oelek

The Kushikatsu Seafood Platter that we had had skewers of fish, shrimp, squid rings and oysters – all done to perfection, and I especially loved the oysters. For dessert, we got rather un-street looking and very gorgeous plates, one being the Tokyo Banana, a light sponge cake, banana custard and caramelized banana ice cream – a little ode to fried ice cream was in there. And even though that sounds like a lot of banana, it was actually light and crisp flavors and quite delicious! The other platter, Lokot Lokot, looked like a piece of art and tasted as good – crispy rice threads encased a Jaggery Custard and mini macaroons and a couple of different sauces also dotted the plate. Just the way to end the meal!

dessert1dessert2

The Root to Fruit cocktails, which essentially bring as much of the fruit and herbs to the proceedings as is possible, had a range of exotic looking and potent drinks. Over the course of the evening, everyone loved every cocktail they ordered – now how often does that happen? I started with a particularly potent concoction, the Sesame Street, which had  roasted-sesame infused whiskey, Earl Grey bitters, sesame syrup and a sesame and honey coated cracker topped the glass tumbler, making for a cool picture. Deciding to stick to whiskey, my second cocktail was the K-Pop, featuring Earl Grey bitters, wasabi syrup, and popcorn-infused whiskey, served with a small wooden platter of popcorn kernels, that covered the tumbler. I of course tried some of the others’ drinks, like the Mi-So-Happy which lived up to its name, a concoction of miso mustard, ginger and lime, with a vodka base, and the Forbidden Fruit, a dark pink looking mix of tequila, plum puree, grapefruit ginger syrup, lime and soda.

Make the time and head to this fest that showcases grills and delicacies from night markets across East Asia – all with some gentrification and that indomitable twist that marks everything Fatty does. So maybe your boss didn’t sanction your leave and your plans of traveling in Asia fell flat, or maybe demonetization did it instead – at least you can go enjoy the Night Market that’s on through the 1st of January, 2017, and experience the food. And then of course, start planning for the jaunt through East Asia again – I sure am!

img_20161211_220518