Grill and Mezze at Sunset Grill, Westin Velachery

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All that was missing was the flying carpet.

Sitting in the rooftop restaurant at Westin Velachery Chennai, sipping on some innovative cocktails and tucking into an amazing platter of mezze and Middle-Eastern grills, if a flying carpet were to come around, we wouldn't have stepped on it. Not until we were done tasting the mezze at any rate.

The Sunset Grill is one of my favourite spaces in the city. It's breezy, secluded and serves some really good food. This time, it's the Grills and Mezze promotion by the talented Chef Subimon from Sheraton Grand Bangalore.

From left: fried pita; mast o khiar; pickled veg; baba ganoush; muhammara; hummus; burani spinach; breads 

Middle Eastern food encompasses the cuisines of Greece, the Levant, Armenia and Iran. A mezze is an assortment of breads and dips, hot and cold and sweet and savoury.

At Sunset Grill, they offer both a la carte and a 4 course set menu which is what we opted for. The meal started with little pots of pickled pink cauliflower and mast o khiar - tiny dices of cucumber in yoghurt which we scooped with fried pita triangles. Chef's mezze sampler was just a sign of good things to come. The hummus was one of the smoothest that I've tasted, the baba ganoush with its lightly smoked flavour was addictive but best of all was the beautiful red muhammara, a finely ground paste of peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs and Turkish chilli. It was spicy but that didn't stop us from scraping out every last bit from the bowl. There was more pita bread as well as a bun sprinkled with the delicious herby tangy flavours of za'atar.

Soup e murgh

The soup - Soup e Murgh was outstanding. More broth than soup, it had bits of chicken but the stock, thickened with carrot and celery puree, was so full of flavour and extremely nourishing.

Veg skewers; cottage cheese subzi kebab; falafel

The main course vegetarian platter has veggie skewers and cottage cheese that had been finished on the grill, giving it that characteristic smokiness. The soft cubes of cottage cheese were served with a chimichuri sauce that intensified the flavour and aroma. The falafel was well made, but as is its wont, a tad dry though the tahini sauce was good enough on its own.

Chelo kebab koobideh; meigoo e kebab; mahi e kebab; shish taouk; zereshk polo; khoresht bamia

The grilled cubes of seer fish on the non-veg platter were quite dry but the saffron-infused smoky prawns in zesty sauce was lovely. Tiny minced lamb kebabs - chelo kebab koobideh and the shish taouk were delicious, the Turkish chilli paste gave the chicken a soothing warmth. All the kebabs were lightly seasoned with typical Middle-Eastern spices, the composition of which is a little different from that used in Indian cooking, which allowed the flavour of both meat and veg to shine. Both main courses were served with delicious Iranian-style zereshk polo, a saffron flavoured rice with barberries. A serving of khoresht bamia, a lamb and okra stew, was the perfect accompaniment to the polo.

Baklava; omali

Dessert was omali and baklava. The omali, made with flaky dough, was outstanding, just the right amount of sweetness and the mild flavour and scent of rosewater made this humble sweet one to be savoured and relished.

Real Touch with vodka, ginger & basil; pineapple & rum Ananas Mist; Midori, gin, coriander & chilli Southern Siren

Balaji, Westin's mixologist has handcrafted 7 new cocktails and we tried them all. The ones that caught our fancy were Southern Siren with the familiar flavours of chilli and coriander and Skyy Valley served In The Rocks where the drinks are encased in balls of ice and to get at them, the ice has to be broken. We were loving the green drinks that night - anything with Midori was our favourite.

In the Rocks - Blue Moon; Skyy Valley


Shooters - Alien Brain; Mind Eraser

The Grill and Mezze promotion is on only till February 25, 2017.The set menu is priced at 1999/++ per head which includes 3 glasses of wine or 3 beers. As for the shooters, they are priced at 100/ each.


From Coast to Coast - gone fishing at Park Hyatt Chennai

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The Indian mainland has a coastline that is approximately 6000 kms long. From the northern part of the Bay of Bengal, down the Coromandel coast, up along the Malabar coast and all the way to Gujarat, 9 states have direct access to the bounty from the sea, our state being one of them. Which must be a great thing for someone who loves seafood.

Park Hyatt Chennai's seafood festival "From Coast to Coast" has some great fishing seafood on the boat and you don't even have to get your toes wet to land that catch. The deck outside the Dining Room's got a catamaran parked on it and in it, on a huge mound of ice, are some yummy fishes. There's a big kingfish, large prawns, small mud crabs, lady fish, snapper and emperor fish. Choose your catch of the day and tell the chef your marinade of choice. You can sit right there under the canopy and inhale the aroma of your seafood while it is being cooked or sit within the cool confines of the restaurant, which is what we did. The marinade choices range from mild lemon garlic to Goan-style chilli hot.

Mackerel; emperor fish; snapper; crab; prawn

What's on the menu?

Sizzling ladyfish

A grill and a fryer have been set up beside the boat and after being marinated, the food is cooked right there. We asked for the marinades to be kept as simple as possible. With nothing to hide behind, all that the fish needed was the most basic of marinades (ours was a paste of chillies and salt) and they were definitely some of the freshest catch we've had.

Fried mackerel; ladyfish, kingfish fried in mustard paste and chilli paste; crab

There's no elegant way of eating crab with cutlery but the masala it was cooked in was so delicious. So also the kingfish smothered in kasundi (mustard) spice paste, quite a change from the usual chilli paste.

Beautifully fried prawns
   
Fish curry with sannas

There were also 3 different kinds of fish curry which were served with spongy Goan sannas, steamed rice and Indian breads. The combination of sannas and fish curry was particularly appealing, the slight sweetness of the rice cake toned down the spiciness of the gorgeous red and tangy gravy.

Squid roast

Seafood pickle. Mustard oil gives it a distinctive flavour

Delicious Susegado, a citrus based drink

Apart from the fish, there's an interesting spread of food at the buffet counter that includes batata wada pav and a selection of Mumbai's favourite chaats, Kolkata's famous kathi rolls, a mean lamb biryani, a peas curry that a friend just couldn't get enough of and even shrikhand. The menu does change on a rotational basis.

Fruit log

If you have a sweet tooth, there's a tableful of desserts to make make a selection from. My pick of the evening was the fruit log, possibly because it looked like a boatload of fruit and custard!

"From Coast to Coast' is on only till Sunday 26th February, from 7 -11 pm at The Dining Room. It costs 1600/ ++ per person.  This is one boat you definitely don't want to miss!!

Park Hyatt Chennai
39, Velachery Main Road (near Raj Bhavan)
Chennai 600032.

For reservations, do call 044 49919965/ 044 49919961.

 

Heritage Afternoon Tea at Fullerton Bay Hotel

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Ships sailing to Singapore in the early days would dock at the harbour and boats would bring in passengers and goods up to Clifford Pier where they would disembark, or embark for outward journeys. The Pier, built in 1933, must have been a rather busy, noisy place, a great spot for fishing and hawkers would ply their wares on it. In 2006, the Pier was shut down. 


Fullerton Bay Hotel and the Pier


The entrance to the restaurant 





Setting for afternoon tea


Today, the Pier is part of the Fullerton Bay Hotel; under its graceful arched tresses is the setting of the genteel The Clifford Pier Heritage Afternoon Tea. Paying tribute to the cuisines of the many races that make up the nation, the menu reflects this diversity.
Large glass windows afford spectacular views of the bay which at the same time protect diners from the elements. Soft furnishings in muted shades of brown and grey highlight the luxurious feel.

Auspicious welcome to the Heritage Tea

Since it was just a week away from the Lunar new Year, red lanterns added to the festive cheer (incidentally, the Pier was once known as the Red Lantern Pier as red lamps were used to guide travellers ashore).


Spring rolls; chicken stuffed money bags

Eight savouries and 8 sweets represent the Singapore food experience. The starters comprised wonderfully crisp spring rolls and little chicken stuffed money bags. And kuih pie tee, a snack that one hardly sees anywhere except on the menus of caterers.

Bak kwa jam on egg tarts (or on anything!)



Popiah; kuih pie tee

Chefs were busy assembling the tiny pie tee cups and rolling up popiah with freshly made skins. The gyoza with its ginger soy dip was equally delicious.

Gyoza

Carrot cake with XO chilli & egg; spicy prawns - give me more!

Chilli crab with fried mantou buns, kong bak bao

Clifford Pier's chilli crab had crab meat cooked in the tangy chill sauce. The sauce was quite gluggy but the braised belly pork with garlic soy sauce was outstanding. Sandwiched in a steamed mantou bun, the meat was tender and moist and finger licking good.

How to make ...rojak!!!

Rojak, a mix of fruits and veg in a prawn and peanut sauce featured some unusual ingredients like jambu (water apple) and guava. Even the salads, particularly the cold jellyfish salad, with its crunchy jelly-like (what else!!) texture were a lovely addition to the typical high tea menu.

Smoked duck salad; salmon; jellyfish salad

To drink - rose milk, soyabean milk and the works 
Lunar New Year bites - pineapple tarts; osmanthus jelly; prawn rolls, kuih bahulu; melt-in-the-mouth peanut cookies; kuih tako

Kuih tako - my fav!

There are a selection of teas, including jasmine, sencha, rooibos and teh tarik of course. Not a coffee drinker - they took care of that too - with kopi kosong (black coffee, no sugar).


It's the 3-tiered stand that draws the most murmurs of appreciation for how can it be high tea without one! The occupants of the stand were slices of red velvet swiss roll, delicious cheesecake, financiers, almond biscuits, bika ambon (honeycomb cake) and macarons. No tea, however, is complete without scones and they were on the top tier, wrapped in a napkin. Eat them plain or spread them with some kaya, cream cheese or pineapple.

Service is excellent, the staff are at hand to make suggestions and keep that teacup full.

The Clifford Pier Heritage Afternoon Tea is a great way to catch up on the island's culinary history. And in the perfect setting.

Clifford Pier Heritage Afternoon Tea costs $48++per head and is from 3.30 - 5.30pm daily.






Lo hei and pepper crab at Long Beach Restaurant

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Long Beach Seafood Restaurant at Singapore is a pretty popular place for its menu. Its location is also fantastic - a spectacular view of the sea while you tuck into some really fresh fish. The restaurant has an air conditioned section on the first floor but on a cloudy weekend afternoon, there's nothing like sitting beside the lawn, sipping cold beer and watching ships and boats sail by.

Sea view
Fierce looking Alaskan king crabs


Gold crabs


Geoduck

Huge tanks are lined up against one of the walls of the restaurant that hold Alaskan king crabs, lobsters, grouper and other fish and bivalves like geoducks. Most of the tank inhabitants are imported.


Yusheng before the toss up

Canned abalone
Since it's just a few days before the lunar new year, we start with yusheng (prosperity toss), a salad that is made of several ingredients and each is symbolic of health, wealth, happiness and prosperity. As he added the ingredients, our waiter explained the significance of each one. There's usually slices of raw fish but we had the abalone version. Lime juice is squeezed over it and placed over the shredded carrots and radish along with seasoning, oil, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and crisps. Everyone at the table tosses together all the ingredients with chopsticks, the higher the better, all the while shouting out "lo hei"!! 

Pepper crab

Long Beach is famous for its pepper crab. Our crab was a huge fellow, meaty and the pepper had infused the sweet flesh with warmth and an earthy flavour. So delicious. Eating crab is always a messy affair but our waiter offered to extract the meat for us and did a fantastic job.


Squid stuffed youtiou

There was also youtiou (Chinese crullers) stuffed with squid paste, topped with sesame seeds and deep-fried (I've never had squid this tender). Served with mayo, this was another stand out dish.

Thai-style fried red snapper

The fish dish was deep-fried red snapper Thai-style. Loved the kaffir lime leaf-infused curry paste, a perfect foil for the crisp fish that was so moist inside. The squeeze of lime juice over the top added much needed acidity and heightened every other flavour. 

Fried rice with fish

Kailan with garlic

To end the meal, we had fried rice and kailan with garlic sauce. The greens were cooked just enough to retain their crunchiness and colour; the flavour of garlic was mild and lent a lovely fragrance to the greens. A perfect match for the rice. 

Long Beach UDMC Seafood Restaurant
#01-04 East Coast Seafood Centre
Singapore 449881  

 
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