A festival of Sushi at Zen, The Leela Palace

Sushi? Anytime! A sushi festival, with over 25 types of sushi on offer? Oh yes please! Zen, at The Leela Palace, just started the From the Land of the Rising Sun promotion, and a bunch of us were invited to a preview to check out the offerings. Chef Panchai, the man behind the festival, has put together an extensive feast of rolls, from his favorites to the most popular ones at Zen. We ate so many varieties that day, there’s no way I can do justice and name them all. So, sharing some photos of what we ate and naming a few favorites from the afternoon. The festival is on until the 21st of March and the special menu will be available for both lunch and dinner.

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First on the table was this light and crisp daikon, carrot, cabbage shreds salad. The toasted sesame and garlic slices made this a delectable start!

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Many oohs and aahs greeted the appearance of this Sashimi platter. Gorgeous presentation, but we felt the slices were on the thicker side. But the freshness and range of the seafood – Octopus, Habachi, Tuna, Salmon, Scallops – was impressive

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This Ebi Tempura roll, with tempura battered prawns giving it a crisp center and the outer covering offering softness, along with the flying fish roe on top adding even more texture, was a delight. The soy and Yuzu sauce offered beautiful flavors

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Probably the biggest hit of the afternoon, this Spicy Crispy Avocado roll had us all going back for seconds – so vegetarians, here’s the sushi to order!

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Salmon roll, with Salmon roe

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Seared Tuna and Salmon roll was gorgeous – flavor and looks wise!

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On the left was another much favored roll that day, the Unagi Ninniku roll, and why not, with its combination of freshwater eel, avocado, and a generous topping of crisp garlic! Definitely order this one! On the right was another lovely vegetarian sushi, a maki roll of braised Shiitake mushrooms and avocado – the crisp seaweed wrapping contrasted well with the soft avocado and meaty Shiitake textures

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Le Cirque Signature Experience

October was a tumultuous month for me (resulting in zero blog posts, I should admit), with the bright spots being far and few between. And the dinner I was part of at Le Cirque Signature, Leela Palace Bangalore, was definitely one of those high notes of the month. The original Le Cirque has been around since 1974 – I grew up reading novels where meals and rendezvous would be set up at the iconic NYC establishment, known for its exquisite take on French and Italian cuisine. Over the years, Le Cirque in NYC has changed locations, and set up additional restaurants as well. For the past couple of years, select Leela Palace Hotels in India too, have become home to the Le Cirque brand. Part of a series of dinners hosted to showcase Le Cirque specialties and signature dishes, the dinner I attended last month at The Leela Palace Bangalore, was elegant and delightful, supported by good wine.

The amuse bouche that started us off was of mozzarella cheese atop a halved artichoke, served with artichoke puree and black truffle oil. This really set the tone of things to come – elegance, simplicity, and fantastic, flavorful food all the way! The salad course was one of the restaurant’s signatures, the eponymous Le Cirque Salad, a mix of arugula, lollo rosso, segmented orange, berries, mint, beets, figs, celery, carrot, toasted sunflower seeds, lemon and oregano dressing – citrusy and light, with a lot of crunch and freshness. Corn Soup was next, with a choice of shrimp or Brie fritters – I ended up with the latter, and while the soup itself was lovely (a bit sweet and with some interesting texture thanks to the bits of tomato and the thick but smooth liquid), I think the shrimp did a lot more in terms of flavor than the fried cheese.

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The Le Cirque Salad

I was most excited about the next dish on our menu – Risotto! This is one of my all-time favorite foods to eat – it is comfort food and fine dining rolled into one. And when its a black truffle risotto, well then that makes it all the more mouthwatering! Vialone nano rice, black truffle pesto and shavings, topped with burrata cheese – the reverence that such a dish calls for was established by the silence as I smelled and then tasted and then wiped clean the plate in front of me.

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Black Truffle Risotto

Pasta Primavera is not just a Le Cirque signature dish, it was created by Chef Sirio Macccioni and presented at Le Cirque in the mid 70s and became one of the restaurant’s most famous and talked about offerings, remaining even to date, a much in demand item even though it’s not on the menu anymore. It’s one of those seemingly simple pasta preps, with butter and cream, fresh veggies, and spaghetti. It is in fact, the kind of pasta dish that authentic Italian is famous for, where a smattering of ingredients come together to transport the diner to a different plane!

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The Pasta Primavera

A palate cleansing sorbet of Limoncello with candied lemon came as a break before the main courses arrived, and for any lemon and tart flavor lover, this was a moment of happiness – strong lemon flavor that made one’s mouth pucker. I had chosen the Chicken Diable for my main course, among the options of that, the vegetarian Trio of Parmigiana, and the pescatarian Paupiette. The Paupiette was a pastry of Halibut, potato crust, stewed leek, and Rocca di Frassinello red wine sauce and won much favor at the table. For me however, the chicken was the perfect choice. Again, that perfect mix of haute cuisine and comfort food, it was pan seared chicken breast, Dijon mustard sauce, morel mushrooms, potatoes, shallots, and chicken jus. And oh, what a jus – that gravy on top was just incredible and really upped the delicious quotient of that chicken!

 

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Chicken Diable

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Paupiette

However, believe it or not, the piece de resistance was still to come, in the form of the dessert served – Crème Brûlée. I have eaten a couple great, some good Crème Brûlées, and many a mediocre one in my life, but this one was second to none. Served in an individual dish, it was a good portion and we all expected to be unable to finish it seeing as we were already sated from all that had come before. But when one is presented with greatness, one must give it the respect it commands, and in this case, that meant cracking into that beautifully caramelized top layer and scooping up every bite of the creamy center (which had black dots denoting its real vanilla bean heritage) and scraping the bottom of the dish. And then what did I spy? A recipe for this Queen of Crème Brûlées! A nice touch, though I daresay there are enough like me who would be too intimidated to try recreating it!

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Heaven!

A meal at Le Cirque goes into the category of experiential dining, rather than satisfying one’s hunger. It is, as is to be expected, also an expensive place to dine – but that really should not stop you! When you have something to celebrate, be it a promotion, special birthday or anniversary, this is where you should plan on satiating your senses…

Details: Le Cirque, The Leela Palace Bangalore; INR 7000 plus taxes for two people