On a rainy, traffic jammed, chaotic evening of Bangalore, we braved our way to the ITC Windsor because we love food and we love variety. Not too long ago, ITC had invited us for a delectable Kashmiri Cuisine which we enjoyed thoroughly. This time, ITC Windsor, had called us to be a part of their World Cuisine series and we were to indulge ourselves in the exquisite Mediterranean gourmet cuisine. Now who in their right minds would say no to that!
We were greeted by a very pleasant and friendly Hayesha Ahmed. She took us to the Raj Pavilion, the magnificent looking 24 hours restaurant and coffee shop of the ITC Windsor. Pretty soon we were led to a spectacular spread of starters, soups, and salads and thus began what I like to call our palatable party!
We obviously started with soup. While the Non-Vegetarian soup was a Chicken Spinach Noodle soup, the vegetarian one was embellished with an interesting name — Faki Soupa. I know! This was the first time I was hearing such an interesting name. And talking of names, the whole evening was full of dishes with names that had us move our mouths in all directions.
Coming back, I liked my Faki Soupa. It was made of lentils, garlic, and cloves. The Chicken Spinach noodle soup was devoid of any noodle. But it had other veggies like mushroom, baby corn and of course, spinach. I liked it’s neither sweet nor sour well-blended taste. After being almost drenched in rain, taking a sip of this soup was like getting a warm hug from an old friend.
The salads were a treat to the eyes — they were simply beautiful to look at. It almost felt like a sacrilege to eat them, but thankfully, our priorities are right. Among the vegetarian salads, my personal favorite were the Eggplants and Babaganoush rolls. Chef RaviRaj told us about Babaganoush. It is made up of roasted eggplants that are mashed and mixed with Onions, Tomatoes, and Olive Oils.
In the Non-Veg section of the salads, there was a wide range including chicken, pork, shrimps and lamb. I really liked the Shrimp cocktail and the Chicken salad. For starters, they served us with chicken kabab on the table and also Chicken spring roll from the live counter which was an absolute delight in my mouth.
The whole Phoenician cuisine makes a generous use of Olive Oil and that was pretty clear when we moved towards dips and Pita bread. They were almost dipped in Olive Oil. From the whole gamut of dips, I liked the pink colored Beet Labneh which is made with hung curd, Olive Oil, and garlic. The addition of beet is an adventurous detour by the chef. We had the dips with Lavash — a form of Persian bread. Once again, the Chef had given it his own twist by adding red color and sprinkling it with some chili. Between the traditional Lavash and the Red colored spicy Lavash, I liked the latter better.
As for the main Course, my picks were the fish based dishes Psariplaki and Mahi Mussalam. Mahi Mussalam is marinated fish fillet slowly cooked in the oven.
In the vegetarian main course, I tried the Spanakopita, which is a Greek Spinach pie made with layers of cheese, spinach and of course, olive oil. Although I will not put itin the list of my best dishes, I did it appreciate it for being something very different.
I also liked the fact that the buffet spread was infused with a bit of variety by adding the Indian cuisine as well. So while we had our fill of the Spanakopita and Vegetarian Dolmas, we were also indulging in the mouth watering Rice and Dal Makhni. With long grained rice and deliciously creamy and buttery Dal Makhni in veg and a scrumptious helping of Chicken biryani under non-veg, I could just keep eating while my stomach had sent me signals to stop sending food down there ages ago.
We washed down all of this delightful food with a Mocktail interestingly named the “Italian Smooch”. It was a drink out of the menu and we really liked it.
However, the spread was far from over. We were still to taste the desserts. I found green tea and white chocolate strata and Lemon Coconut Pudding very interesting. I was too full by now else I would have had the ice creams and Macaroons too!
We had a warm chit chat with a shy Chef RaviRaj who took us through the dishes and shared his love for cooking with an uncomfortable grin on his face. He also told us that a lot of research and hard work goes in when they are presented with a challenge of recreating tastes from different parts of the world. Well, it did seem a lot of hard work had paid off because we had a lot of fun.
Towards the end of the evening, I was smiling. We had a great time with Hayesha, the food was awesome and finally it had stopped raining. I remembered someone say, “Everything in life is satisfactory with a satisfied stomach.” Everything was satisfying, indeed!