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A good bait

If you are feeling crabby about the rain, claw your way to the ongoing seafood festival at Hotel Pankaj



GOURMET'S DELIGHT: An array of salads and sauces

WHAT, YOU may well ask, is the point of reviewing a seafood festival at a restaurant that is already known for its delicious food?

Our only answer is to say that it seems a good idea to tuck into some hot and spicy food during the monsoon.

If you are feeling crabby about the rain putting a damper on your plans for an evening out, claw your way to Hotel Pankaj's restaurant, Marthanda.

The seafood festival is in full swing at the restaurant.

Ambience

As we walk into the Marthanda, the walls decorated with motifs of fishes and prawns, catch our eye. A fish net affixed on to the roof of the ceiling adds to the ambience.

You may experience a pang of guilt when you see pearl spot fishes, tiger prawns and crabs (they look quite unappetising), lying cooped inside a glass shelf. Till some time ago, the crustaceans would have been happily swimming in the cool waters. But then, if you love seafood you may go ahead and devour the mouth-watering delicacies.

Though sophisticated may not be the first word that comes to mind while describing the restaurant, the food here is tasty and light on the pocket.


Salads and sauces are arranged on the counter and we see which of the salads look more appetising.

The restaurant wastes no time in scoring its first points. We are handed a glass each of tender coconut supreme. We sip in the chilled drink. It has a hint of vanilla, more like the taste of vanilla ice creams, and we decide to ask the chef to divulge the recipe to us.

The prawn masala and squid golden fry are pretty tempting. Hot garlic sauce is served as an accompaniment to the fried squids, one of the staff tells us.

Food

We study the menu for some minutes in silence weighing up a medley of mamo with bone soup, Goan fish curry, chilly fried prawns against the likes of sambal udang (Malaysian fried prawns in chilli sauce) and prawn crackers, before tossing in the towel and opting for some tom yam kung soup. The executive chef, Salim Shahjahan, tells us the prawns are cooked in stock comprising ginger, celery, simmered for six hours and strained before serving. Onions are added to garnish it.

Since we are not in the mood for anything sweet, we skip the Indonesian fried rice, a dish made of squid and pineapple. Indonesian fried rice tastes sweet but we are in the mood to gorge on something spicy.

We wait for the arrival of the soup and we tuck into a few tapioca vadas. The crispy, piping hot vadas don't taste great but we slap on a liberal amount of the special hot and tangy sauce, served as accompaniment, and the vadas make for good eating. We ask the chef for advise on what to try out, lest we feel grossed out.

Our tom yam kung soup is sharpened by the taste of lemon grass, yet, it does not overwhelm us with its tanginess. The soup is quite easy on the palate. Another dish that we had zeroed in on while poring over the menu, the squid masala, has grated coconut and lots of chilli. It tastes hot but not too hot.

Momo, the Thai bread dish on offer, has baked fish stuffed in it. It is somewhat similar to our desi kulchas but we spot some elayappams and vellayappams, and choose to have vellayappam with some prawn Malabar curry and vegetable stew. The spicing in the prawn curry and its melting softness is unmistakably Malabari. If you have been on a resolve to control your diet, you may slightly regret the feebleness of your resolve by the time you scoop the prawns.

Just when we are done with vellayappam the fish moilee grabs our attention. The tiger prawn dish is not exactly cheap (Rs. 300 to Rs. 700), but the dish of this quality is never going to be. Nor should it be, for it affects the quality and freshness of the principal ingredient, in this case, the tiger prawns. The tandoori crab, well-marinated with cashewnut paste, spices and chilli paste, and cooked in the tandoor looks tempting. Instead, we wind up our dinner with some chilled orange juice. The tandoori crabs will have to wait until we embark on our next gastronomic voyage.

Food Festival: The seafood festival is on till August 22.

Time: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Smitha Sadanandan

Photos: S. Mahinsha

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