Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sun 'n' sand 'n' seafood (The Hindu's Metro Plus)

Note: I had written this for The Hindu's Metro Plus supplement. You can find the original review article on The Hindu's site here: The Hindu Metro Plus - Caribbean Food Festival

Sun 'n' sand 'n' seafood

The Caribbean food festival at The Leela celebrates the vibrant spirit of the tropical archipelago's cuisine

VARIED FARE Contrary to the general belief here, the islands do not share a uniform cuisine

You don't need excuses to celebrate the Calypso spirit and The Leela offers none as it for its exotic Caribbean food festival.

When we visited, although the up-tempo music was yet to be turned on, it proved a lasting treat for the palate.

Contrary to the general belief here, the islands do not share a uniform cuisine, having come under different colonial experiences over the centuries. But they share a vibrant common spirit that is typical of the tropical islands and that is reflected in the preparations on offer.

We started with the seafood bouillabaisse, which is also known in the islands as "fish tea". While not exclusively Caribbean, there's an excellent spread of salads that includes the Caribbean seviche, Haitian ham salad, smoked fish, crab salad and an interesting combination of salty beef with mango salsa.

For the veggies, there's a Bahamian potato salad, vegetable Rasta salad, Pomello salad and several other options. A live salad station offers tossed salads made to your preference.

The meal is complemented by a glass of peppy ginger beer.

From the English-speaking Bahamas to the Spanish Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Danish West Indies, the islands offer quite a variety of seafood dishes and an even richer variety of spices in which to cook them. Surprisingly, none of the preparations were spicy enough, which could come as a bit of a disappointment if you tended to expect the flavours from the Caribbean islands to match their music and lifestyle. This was apparently a concession for the regular clientele.

The main course menu had a natural predominance of non-vegetarian dishes, mostly seafood. We enjoyed the absolutely fabulous Havana lobster mariposa which was attractively packaged and cooked to a delicious finish, flavoured with crisp toasted almonds and a tangy orange sauce. Also excellent was the St. Martin fish steak, a well-marinated grouper set on a plate of wild rice and flavoured with sweet tasting ginger and rum sauce. Instead of the full buffet, visitors may also choose to order the main course items à la carte.

To top it off, the dessert counter offers delicious banana fritters with mango ice-cream and an assortment of other popular items. As a bonus, a selection of Caribbean cocktails is also available.

You can sign off summer in style at the Caribbean food festival. The fest is on till May 21. Call 30571340 for dinner reservations at the Citrus.

Ambience: Good, but sans Calypso spirit

Service: Buffet cum a la carte

Specialty: Caribbean flavors

Wallet factor: Rs. 1,500 per head


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