Chennai: In the land of beans curry (sauted finely chopped green beans and curry leaves with a little oil) a Caribbean food festival surely comes as a surprise.
Welcome of to the 68-cover Above Sea Level restaurant at The Raintree Hotel on St.Mary’s Road where chefs R. Jai Shankar and Ritesh Patel offer you around 20 Caribbean dishes – appetisers, main courses and desserts – to choose from.
The festival, which began March 28, will run till April 6.
“We wanted to host a food festival that is different from the routine. And our chef Ritesh Sharma suggested hosting a Caribbean food festival,” Shankar told IANS.
He said Caribbean cuisine is influenced by Chinese, Indian, Dutch, French, Spanish, British and Native American food serving tasters portions of appetizers like barbecued chicken wings, heart of palm fritters and calypso nachos.
Shankar said the Caribbean food is mainly non-vegetarian – fish, chicken, pork, beef and mutton – though there are some vegetarian items as well.
“There will be similarities between what we cook here and what the Caribbean’s cook and eat there. But the taste is unique. Like us, they cook rice, raw banana, greens, beans and others. The Caribbean food is
generally spicy,” Shankar added.
What he said was true. The barbecued chicken wings with chilli, demerara and mustard had a strong tinge of chilli which was bit softened by the sweetness of demerara.
Shankar said some of the dishes like the Jamaican roast fish and jerk chicken are marinated overnight so that the flavours soak well.
The Jamaican roast fish is a whole fish soaked in beer and flavoured with smoked paprika and severed with fiery sweet potatoes, he said.
While the discussions were on without one’s realisation the heart of palm fritters got exhausted, making one pose as to what was the bonda like – a South Indian snack.
Hearts of palm fritters is a popular street food in Caribbean islands. It is made with the inner stem of the cabbage palm tree.
“It is one of the fast-moving items. It is a great hit,” assistant restaurant manager R. Anand told IANS.
Meanwhile, the main course items the Jamaican jerk chicken and roti with thick mashed greens reached the table.
The roti tasted like any other Indian tandoor roti, the thick mashed greens will take one by surprise by its spiciness.
The darkish brown coloured Jamaican jerk chicken came with a chicken piece, chicken rice and the spicy jerk sauce.
“The chicken is marinated overnight with all spices – ginger, pepper and other items – and is then cooked,” Shankar said.
Interestingly the roti with the jerk sauce went well.
According to Shankar, goat curry and roti are popular foods throughout the Indian-influenced areas of the Caribbean.
The ingredients which are common in most islands’ dishes are rice, plantain, beans, cassava, cilantro, bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut and meats such as beef, poultry, pork and fish, he said.
While the food was good, what was missing at the restaurant was the mood setters for the Caribbean food like some music or at least a colourful attire and hats for the waiters.
The desert chocolate tres leches (gateau made with three forms of milk – condensed, normal and coconut) suggested by Shankar lived up to the expectations.
A meal for two would cost around Rs.1,500 without liquor. With liquor, it will be around Rs.2,500.