At the Sunset Grill at the Westin

It was sunset alright when I left home but on the way to Westin Chennai, the heavens opened up and I reached the hotel way past the appointed hour.

At the lobby, I was met by a charming young lady who took me on a quick tour of the hotel. Willows, their sports bar had an interesting bar counter made up of cricket balls.

A quick peek into EEST, the Pan Asian restaurant was my undoing. They have 14 dimsums on the menu every Wednesday and me being a dimsum aficionado, simply must go back to try them out.

I was at the Westin to review their new dining space, Sunset Grill, but the weather gods had other plans. From afar, I could see that dinner in that alfresco setting wasn't going to happen that night. Instead, the chef had set up a table at their all day cafe, Seasonal Tastes. It's an elegant space, well lit and having to sit in front of the dessert buffet was not helping me one bit... but I was going to be served from the menu of the Sunset Grill- totally acceptable!

I was joined by the executive chef and Chef Akshay, the architect of the menu. Two months in the creating and designing of the space and menu, and Sunset Grill opens during the rains. Isn't timing everything? However, there are plenty of plans afoot to keep the rains out and diners in and dry.

We started with a platter of breads - focaccia slices and rye buns, accompanied by 3 dips- slow cooked tomatoes, pesto and garlic in olive oil.

This was followed by Ocean Crumbed Calamari- crisp calamari rings that had been marinated in a lemon pepper marinade and served with garlic aioli and thickened tomato sauce. The crumb coating was crisp and the calamari tender. Perfect little morsels that bode well for the evening ahead.

Chef Akshay ordered a mocktail for me which looked like sunset in a glass. It doubled as a palate cleanser too.

The Lahori paneer tikka, big triangles of paneer and capsicum and Bharwan e khumb, mushrooms stuffed with mozzarella cheese, arrived soon after. Cooked in the tandoor, both were delicious, especially the mushrooms with their oozy melting cheese.

The boti talwar kabab, strips of boneless lamb, was another utterly delicious starter. It was tender and the well marinated meat had been cooked on a thread of heat and then finished off in the tandoor.

Then there were peri peri prawns-jumbo prawns in shells, the peri peri flavour was quite mild but the prawns themselves were juicy.

The mesclun salad with orange segments and feta cheese had maple syrup in the dressing which gave it an unusual twist. It was just about ok. I did wish there was some aragula to liven up both colour and taste.

Sunset Grill encourages the diner to play chef- by choosing from a selection of meats or seafood, marinades, sides and sauces. You could then cook it yourself on a portable grill that is brought to the table or have the meats cooked by the chef.

There was a selection of three main courses for us to taste- spring chicken with jerk marinade, served with home-style roast potatoes and barbeque sauce;

a beautifully done, juicy tenderloin steak, pink in the middle and served with jus, fries and steamed veg;

and Sunset Grill's signature barbeque baby back ribs, artfully garnished and served with Oklahoma fries and an interesting bean cassoulet. Those ribs, with the meat practically falling off the bone, were about the most perfect tasting ribs I've ever had. Each of the sauces perfectly complemented the meats. What I liked most was that there was no charred bits on any of the grills.

All the meats undergo a 2 stage marination process and are then grilled to perfection. The 14 kinds of marinades are mostly Continental but also include Cajun, charmoula, peri peri and lemon garlic for seafood. Of course, there's tandoori too. And 9 sauces to choose from. Each grill is accompanied by a sauce and sides.

Also on the menu are risotto, eggplant parmigiana and lasagna, in case you want to give the meat a miss.

When it comes to dessert, it seems that most guests just can't make up their minds on what to order. Very thoughtfully, the Sunset Grill sampler comes to their rescue. It's the prettiest selection of desserts I've ever seen- a trio of tiramisu, New York cheesecake and baked yoghurt with raspberry coulis. The tiramisu, made with mascarpone cheese and flavoured with Amaretto is the real deal though I'd wished the coffee flavour was a tiny bit more pronounced. The cheesecake, tangy with Philadelphia cream cheese, was simply superb, the passion fruit puree was just the thing to cut through the richness; the creamy baked yoghurt was a little too sweet for me.

All in all, a beautiful evening spent with good food and good company. Sure, I'd love to go back and do this all again and this time, in the perfect setting.


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