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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vietnamese Food Festival at Pondicherry Café at Sofitel

Friend said that I must try some good cuisine at various restaurants at Sofitel. 
There are some good restaurants tucked away at different level of the hotel and all are worth trying.” She added. She spoke about the kitty party she had with her friends at Jyran on the fourth floor. She had loved the North Indian cuisine at Jyran. She had also dined with her family at Tuskers that serves Gujju and Marwari cuisine, although she does not like the rich taste of Marwari food, she said that her family loved it. At Pondicherry café she said that she had the best meal because there is multi-cuisine buffet at all hours of the day, with Indian cuisine clubbed with International fare and she was specially happy because she had some beautiful moments on Valentine day at Pondicherry cafe with her spouse. I asked her if she would re-visit those restaurants and she replied in affirmative. Being a true foodie, she is a frequent diner and often eats out with her family and friends.

A true foodie will normally go to a restaurant either on invitation, or through recommendation or simply walk into a restaurant and take chances expecting some good food. I had made a mental note of visiting this hotel some time soon whenever I would be in that area of Bandra-Kurla Complex

The opportunity to visit this hotel came in the form of invitation. I was invited by Pooja Vaswani for the Vietnamese food festival at Pondicherry café, which is on till the first week of June. I found myself walking into Sofitel with a friend to a warm welcome of “Namastey’ and smiling faces of everybody at the entrance. Large chandeliers resembling the frilly skirts of French dancers stood prominently from the high ceiling of the lobby. (These Chandeliers are inspired by the beaded dresses of Parisian dancers of Charlestown.) The décor of the Sofitel is in the blending tones of French and Indian culture as it is visible everywhere, In the culture, in the cuisine, in the architecture, in the design of the hotel and restaurants, for example: Tuskar: elephant motifs everywhere, on the furniture, walls, on door knobs and a big carved wrought iron elephant(with a beautiful story behind it) in the open space at 4th floor, Artisan at the ground level had an interesting concept. Early morning its a coffee shop with tea and coffee, afternoon one can walk in for cakes, salads and sandwiches and late evening, there is live music and jazz. A small store tucked away in the corner sells some beautiful handicraft items.

Chef Dao Van Son, Head Chef at Hotel Sofitel Saigon Plaza, Ho Chi Minh has specially come to conduct this festival. I was happy for the invite to Vietnamese food festival mainly because I was hoping to revive the taste of Vietnamese food that I had during my last visit to Loas. 
It has been able to maintain the five elements of life in its cooking; wood, fire, earth, metal and water through the usage of its various spices and ingredients. Hence the taste of the food has to stand out with minimal spices. Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by Thai, Burma, India, French, Chinese, Malaysian and all the other migrant travellers who brought in their spices.
 Confirmed the Chef who gave the brief account of the Vietnamese cuisine and what to expect.

I had really enjoyed the local cuisine of Loas and during my three days stay in the city some years ago; street food had been my prime focus amongst other things.

The first thing I looked for when I went towards Vietnamese cooking station at Pondicherry cafe was Cha gio, a minced pork/shrimps/veggies rolled up in rice paper and deep fried, served in the bed of greens with chili-vinegar, and peanut sauce

But deeply disappointed, Cha gio was not on the menu. The second best thing that attracted me was the plate of seafood of clams, shrimps, octopus, squids, steamed veggies and mushroom. I dressed it up with basil sauce and it tasted great.

The soup was a disappointment. The stock tasted like bland warm water with shredded chicken, pasta and greens floating apart. Neither was there any taste of the herbs nor any spices. Even on adding salt, lime and chili, I couldn’t alter the taste.

However, the main course that was served in clay pots was very fresh. I saw the chef at the cooking station churn out the dishes in small portions, refilling the clay pots as soon as they were empty. The broccoli and vegetables were crispy and tasty but roasted chicken coated in sauce was hard and chewy. However, I loved the shrimps in sweet and sour, fragrant, succulent and fresh, cooked to the perfection, it was the winner.

The sweet dish of fresh fruits soaked in coconut milk tasted well. I am not much fond of desserts but I tasted in small portions, nibbling on it while deep in conversation with my friend across the table.

The ambience of Pondicherry café is very vibrant with live music, an attractive tinted glass wine enclosure at the entrance, with winding staircase leading to the wine cellar upstairs that was very impressive. Being in the vicinity of diamond market of BKC, the architecture of the hotel resembles the cut-glass diamonds and this design can be observed in the pillars and in different angles of the building.

It was the enriching experience. To escape the heat of Mumbai, spending a lazy afternoon at Pondicherry café and enjoying a Vietnamese cuisine seems a better option.

Here is the recipe that Chef at Vietnamese shared with me.

Raw Mango Salad
Inspired through the magnificent mango onset, the recipe will blow you away with its taste bud-awakening flavours and mix of textures. Extremely healthy and low calorie the dish is designed to keep you upbeat.

150gms Raw Mangoes
50gms Shallots
20gms Green chillies
30gms roasted cashew nuts
50gms Tomatoes
20gms    Coriander
15gms Palm Sugar or Castor Sugar
10ml Fish Sauce
40gms Lemon
50gms Desiccated coconut      
1.    Peel the Mango and make julienne.
2.    Slice the shallot. Julienne deseeded tomato.
3.    Toast the cashew nuts and keep ready.
4.    Make nice sprigs of coriander and keep it ready.
5.    Make a dressing of Palm sugar, fish sauce and lemon Juice.
6.    Mix all the ingredients.
7.    Garnish with desiccated coconut.

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