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Mediterranean and more

The fare at Cedars is a celebration of the senses


IT'S LIKE inhaling a deliciously slow, soothingly deep breath of sheesha. As the sparkling water inside the hookah bubbles languidly and fragrant smoke tinged with the taste of strawberries, apricots and cherries envelopes you, the bustling world outside stills. You feel like moving into a small, storybook-style Lebanese, or Mediterranean, village to wrinkle in peace - playing chess in honey-coloured sunshine as you tear up warmly crusty bread drizzled with golden olive oil and inhale dessert after dessert.

Which brings me to the desserts - a good place as any to start. Because at Cedars, you can eat your meal backwards. Or forwards, if you must. Either way, you'll be on the right track. Because eating here is not about a progression of courses and cutlery. It's about savouring each distinct flavour. For, this is food that celebrates the senses.

Siddharth Deepak, owner of Cedars, says they change their menu every four months. The latest menu introduces more Mediterranean food, expands the kebab collection and binges on the desserts. And we're back to the desserts. Cedars' fluffily perfect orange cognac soufflé spiked with chocolate shavings may be the highlight of this section, but it has some tough competition from the brownies, which are delightfully sticky, studded with walnuts and served with a light-as-air Kahlua cream and dark almond chocolate. If this were a race, however, the atayif would be far behind, probably panting madly. A traditional Lebanese pancake, it's crammed with painfully pink strawberry cream and topped with sweet syrup!

Moving on, the highlights of the meal were - in no particular order - Cedars' fabulous pita bread, sun dried tomatoes and classic Italian pizza.

The Lebanese pita bread, which begins every meal, is accompanied by `mezza,' a collection of spicy hors d'oeuvres, including a silky Hummus — chickpea dip made with swirls of sesame oil.

The secret behind Cedar's vibrantly aromatic food could be the ingredients, which are imported from the lands of their origin. And, the fact that they really slave over their hot stoves - and wood fires. The chicken from the smoked chicken salad, for instance, is slowly cooked over chips of hickory wood to give it its lusciously smoky flavour. Initially, Cedars even tried making sun-dried tomatoes the way the Italians do - by hanging it on a sun-soaked terrace. "They rotted!" says Siddharth sadly, adding that after some experimentation, though, they figured out how to get it right. "We just chop them into quarters, toss them in olive oil and place them on a bed of rock salt in a hot place."

The result is a concentrated burst of bright flavour, which works perfectly with the scattered feta cheese and garlicky mozzarella on Cedars' drippy pizza roma.

The food here, by the way, is obstinately non-spicy, so if your idea of a good dinner includes red chillies and wicked peppers, you might need a shot of Tabasco.

For reservations, call 5585 5111 or 24475073. A meal for two should cost around Rs.600.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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