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It's simply exotic

The new menu at 601, The Park, dips and dives around the world

Pic. by Vino John

"HERE, WE never say `no'. Whatever you want, it's done," says Mahesh. S, the beaming Food and Beverage Manger at The Park, as he beatifically watches a team of chefs sautéing, stirring and garnishing with glee, at 601, the hotel's coffee shop.

Don't sashay in and ask for an elephant float, though. (So, how do you make an elephant float? Pour one glass of chilled milk. Add one scoop of chocolate ice cream and one elephant. PS: Sprinkle with chocolate chips for decoration.) For, after a quick look at the maniacal twinkle in a guest's eye, Mahesh hastily follows his extravagant assertion with: "Umm... provided we have the ingredients, that is."

There are no elephants on the new menu at 601 — but you won't miss them one bit. The menu dips and dives, like a flying carpet, around the world picking up curry leaves from one continent, hummus from another and garlic mayonnaise from the third. Then, with a little help from Executive Chef Willi Willson, they all come together, in ways no pita bread has gone before (to misquote Star Trek).

At a flamboyant meal to mark the launch of 601's new menu, the table groans under an array of aesthetically designed `platters' loaded with exotic food. The Eastern Bites Platter is largely Lebanese and has some delightfully unpronouncable foods. There's babganoush — crisp paper thin wheels of brinjal smothered in yoghurt and sprinkled with parsley. The falafel and hummus that nestle besides it are perfect with a carefully piled mountain of pita bread triangles. And, if you're on a health kick you can throw in a handful of tabbouleh — a combination of broken wheat, tomato and parsley that looks like just-mown grass, but tastes surprisingly good.

The best things on the hot snacks platter are the corn vol vents (light flaky pastry topped with sweet corn in a white sauce) and the mozzarella asparagus fingers — crumb-fried sticks of gooey fried mozzarella accompanied by crunchy asparagus.

Every item on the seafood platter is eclipsed by the Prawn Tempura — sizzling gigantic prawns crisp outside and soft and steaming inside.

Onto the main course, anyone who thinks pizza is everyday TV food should dive headfirst into 601's smoked salmon and camembert pizza - it's as pretty as a painting (think abstract art in watercolours).

The thin crust is topped with swirls of delicately coloured salmon, generous ponds of melted cheese, thick slices of warm ready-to-melt Camembert cheese and splashes of sour cream flavoured with dill. And, yes, it tastes just as good as it looks.

If you're feeling particularly self-indulgent order the phyllo pastry with fruit of the forest berries in cream — wild berries, lolling in a sweet sauce and whipped cream — for dessert. The `warm devil's food cake topped with white chocolate' is another option.

Then, there's the milder `fresh toasted brioche and Suzette sauce,' which is a warm cake-like bread served with caramelised bananas.

The new range of desserts is so deliciously decadent at 601 that you'll probably be tempted to just abandon your car and high heels, to jog all the way home once you've finished scraping every last bit of whipped cream off the plate with your fork. But, sometimes, calories are SO worth it.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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