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Monday, Nov 19, 2001

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Five star touch to fast food

The Bowl and Wraps festival at Chola Sheraton's Cafe Mercara offers a unique treat at an affordable price.

DON'T YOU think that a masala vadai tastes much better when you eat it on the road or in a car? Somehow the same magic is not there when you have it at home or for that matter even at any restaurant. May be it is the plantain leaf or the newspaper it is bought in or is it that our senses are more honed while on the road?

Street food is about being right there living the moment, feeling the pulse of the local culture. There is no window dressing, no artifice.

At Cafi Mercara, Chola Sheraton, the executive chef, Vijay Malhotra brings in a variety of fast food to the five star comforts with the Bowls & Wraps festival. Of course the transplanting of the most vibrant food is not a painless one. The inevitable homogenisation, the five star touch is very much there. Still all is not lost. The canny French realised the potential of this cuisine early enough and even institutionalised it with their roadside cafes.

The Union Wrap is about crepes with spinach, mushrooms and cottage cheese in their folds. Though the name is a bit confusing the roots are unmistakable.

The Mexican Wrap is grilled chicken in tortillas. The tomato and bell pepper salsa gives the bite to the other wise bland dish. Though our own Katti rolls are not featured, there are Chettinad and Punjabi wraps. Though mutton fry rolled in veech paratha may not be there in any wayside eatery, the combination is promising. In the same measure the clubbing of rumali roti and chicken tikka is innovative. The pita-bread chicken combine, Arabian Wrap is my favourite in this section.

The Bowls part of the fest includes Oriental, Thai, Avadhi, Kerala and Italian bowls.

The innumerable noodle stalls that dot Chinese and Japanese cities are a testimonial to the popularity of this fast food. At Mercara, chef Malhotra gives it a seafood interpretation. Again the Indian representatives do not jell well in the harsh light of reality.

The Avadhi bowl has saffron pulao and mutton roganjosh while the idiappam and vegetable stew make the Kerala one. Pasta, fusilli with bacon, cream and white wine sauce is tasty. The Italian dish is light and goes down smoothly. Authenticity is not an issue at this festival. The price is.

At Rs.150 plus taxes the five star fares comes closer than ever to the general public whose food is being featured.

The portions served are sizeable too. One bowl or a wrap is enough to fill a person. The festival is on till November 30.

MARIEN MATHEW

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