It’s festive season for all Malayalis, and Radisson Blue’s Chill restaurant has revamped its dinner buffet to give people a taste of food from God’s Own Country. I was invited to experience the Kerala Food Festival that will be running till the end of August.
Executive Chef Chandrashekar Pandey has attempted to represent the highlights of a Onam Sandya in the menu, and although there were few standard options from Indian and international cuisine, I was happy to see that the majority of the dishes on offer were from Kerala. We started off with Attaerachi Charu – a lamb soup with little chunks of tender meat that’s inspired by the Kerala style goat curry. The heat and the salt level in the soup were a bit too high, but once that’s corrected it’ll be a brilliant dish. For vegeterians there was Malli Rasam, which I didn’t try. Next up were the four starters – Parippu Wada. Mushroom Pepper Fry, Kerala Meen Fry (Fish Fry), and Kozhi Nadan Fry (Chicken fry). Both the non veg starters could have done with a more aggressive uses of spices, but the veg starters didn’t disappoint. We also tasted some of the accompaniments including a platter of chips and non-veg pickles. The Tapioka Chips and Prawn Pickles were absolutely delightful, and are something you should definitely try.
The focus of the buffet was the main course, and there was a lot to choose from. I started off with Appam and Malabar Parota from the live counters along with servings of Mutton Mappas (Green Herbs Lamb), Kottayam Chicken Curry, Crab Roast, and Meen Moilee (Fish). The parota was inconsistent, with some people on the table getting really dry and crispy ones. The Appam would have tasted better with the typical thick and soft centre. Nevertheless, all the curries were excellent. My favourite was the Crab Roast, which was cooked to perfection. The Meen Moilee also impressed – it’s a simple dish that’s elevated by the coconut flavour.
In the next round I sampled the various vegetarian offerings along with Steamed Rice, Brown Rice, and Prawns Biryani. The Prawns Biryani was more like a pulao, but surprised me with just how good it tasted! Among the vegetarian gravies my favourites were the Ulli Theeyal and Pumpkin Erussery. I’m not a big fan of pumpkins, but the Erussery, which reduced the pumpkins to an almost paste like consistency, went really well with steamed rice. The Ulli Theeyal looked really spicy but surprised me with its wonderfully sweet and sour aftertaste. The other vegetarian offerings including Katti Parippu (Daal with a lot of tadka), Urlai Roast (Roasted Potatoes), and Aviyal were also on the mark.
The desserts, however, proved to be a bit of a hit and miss. I didn’t like any of the Western desserts including Lemon Tart and the Gateaux. Among the desserts from Kerala, the Vattapayam, which seemed like a close cousin of caramel pudding, was fantastic. The Paal Payasam was also quite good. However, others were disappointing. The Ada Pradhaman was let down by the layer of rice pastry that wasn’t fully cooked, while the Bellam Paniyaram was too oily.
Kerala cuisine is mostly an unexplored territory for me, and I was delighted to have this opportunity to learn more about the food from this beautiful state. I have no idea how authentic the dishes were, but judged purely on taste, there was a lot that impressed. The main course is the focus of the buffet, and almost everything on offer was delicious. However, the starters and desserts definitely had a lot of room for improvement. Chef Chandrashekar promised to work on those aspects, so I’d expect them to get better during the course of this festival. cuisine is known for its heavy use of Coconut oil, however, there were only a handful of dishes in the buffet where I could even tell that coconut oil was used. So, if you haven’t experienced Kerala cuisine before, the food festival is a great way to get started. The Kerala Food Festival dinner buffet is priced at Rs. 1250 (plus taxes) and will be available till August 31, 2015.