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One plate of the world, please


MY EXPERIENCES with fine dining have always spelled forks, delicate china, gourmet food, and a chat with a chef who spews forth food descriptions with more syllables than I can digest. So when The Oberoi's Chef Dominic Gerard said: "I chumma tried out lots of combinations of cuisine and kept whatever tasted good," I sent a mental thank-you note to the food gods.

Chef Dominic is a true-blue Bangalorean, and that means at least one thing for sure — he'll eat anything. But what he serves up for The Oberoi fusion food festival all this week is top-notch. "All I was looking for was a perfect balance of continental, Thai, and Indian cuisine," he said.

I did crinkle my nose at the mention of ajwaini pakodas in West Indian roasted pumpkin soup, but as soon a spoonful of it met my taste buds, one phrase popped into my mind — affair d'amour. The sweetness of the pumpkin teamed perfectly with the spicy pakodas, as a hint of thyme and garlic lent the tang to the otherwise mild dish. The sharp synthetic taste in the tom yam with crab ravioli didn't set me clamouring for more, but the chicken consommé (clarified soup) with steamed rice cakes was intriguing. Especially since the cleverly disguised rice cakes were but our very own idlis!

Though the starters didn't score too well on the experimentation, they were appetising nevertheless. The murg malai kabab with pesto (Italian sauce made of basil, Parmesan cheese, and garlic), however, is wonderfully harmonious. The whiff of hot cheese from the tandoor chicken so mingles with the herbal aroma of basil that you'd just want to throw dainty nibbling etiquette to the wind and polish off your plate.

You can tell that Chef Dominic didn't hold back on creativity for the main course when a south Indian style potato pancake arrives with Lebanese coulis (eggplant and yogurt). Curry leaves and mustard are added for the real dakshin flavour and onions provide the occasional crunch. Stuffing French crepes with paneer bhurjee was a great idea, but the saffron cream sauce on it wipes out all the flavour. Also, when the grilled sheekh kabab quesadilla was served with the tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt dip) and tomato chutney, it was a killer. The tad of jaggery and ginger in the chutney makes sure the fire in your tongue doesn't quell your appetite.


Dominic's king offering, though, was the Mexican prawn brochette served on pok choi fried rice, made Schezwan style and therefore high on spice. This he enhanced with the Thai ginger lemon grass made in French sabayon style. It's not everyday that the entire continent sits on your plate.

Considering Confectionary Chef Vivek Menon ran into the kitchen straight from a dentist's appointment, be assured that desserts will take you to a happy place. Mini rasgullas soaked in single malt hidden in Belgian chocolate mousse is heady enough, but when the tangy caramelised orange creeps into the whirl, don't be surprised if a moan escapes your lips. And though the baked Shimla golden apples filled with kesari bath filling is a wild experiment, my advice is to drown this confusion in a fruit ice-cream.

The fusion doesn't stop at the food. If you're up to it, Brandrus (brandy and rasam... no sedimentation to worry about) and Apwordjal (gin and jaljeera, totally refreshing) are good cocktail bets. For the non-alcoholics, the fun-sounding red brigade, a mix of watermelon and strawberry crush, will be good to splash in.

The festival is on at The Oberoi from October 11 to 17, dinner only (7.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.).

ROHINI MOHAN

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