The birth of Sizzlers is widely credited to Firoz Erani from Mumbai, who crafted this technique of serving food on a hot iron skillet to ensure that the meat remains hot during the course of the meal. Quite possibly, he took inspiration from the Japanese Teppanyaki style of cooking meat on a hot iron girdle. While many a food trends have come and gone, Sizzlers have remained in vogue. The theatre of the cracking sound and blinding smoke continue to enthral diners around the country. La Cantina’s Smokin’ Sizzles festival promises the familiar charm of Sizzlers with exotic new flavours.
The poolside, al fresco seating overlooking the impressive Novotel building offers the perfect stage for relishing sizzling hot meats on a pleasant winter evening. I was invited to a tasting session for bloggers and media. As I settled in and waited for the dishes to arrive, the aromas wafting in from the adjacent outdoor kitchen whet my appetite. The Grills selection includes a wide selection of meat and seafood available in marinades and sauces of your choice. Available choices include Fillet Mignon, New Zealand Lamb Chops, Bratwurst Pork Sausages, Chicken (Breast and Leg), Lobster, and Norwegian Pink Salmon. You can complement your grill with add-ons like Mashed Potato, Crispy Bacon, Grilled Vegetables, and Rosemary Fries. Most of these are also available as Sizzlers. Each sizzler is served with steak fries or creamy mash, herbed rice, and chef selected accompaniments. The chef selected accompaniments are distinct for each sizzler and have been picked to complement the flavour of the meat.
The dish that I was really eager to try was the Sous Vide Pork Sizzler. The sous vide Pulled Pork Belly had floored me during the Fajita fest, and it worked its magic once again. Sous Vide is a modern style of cooking meats where the meat is sealed in vacuumed pouchers and submerged in a water bath. The mild yet uniform and constant temperature of the water bath slow-cooks the meat. This ensures that the meat is cooked evenly while retaining the maximum amount of flavour and texture. The Pork Belly was cooked sous vide for 8 hours at a temperature of 70 C and served with spiced grilled fruits. The fat had been rendered beautifully – completely cooked yet without a hint of stringiness. This is a dish that I can keep coming back for.
It’s not easy to get a tenderloin right in a sizzler since the meat tends to keep cooking on the hot skillet. La Cantina did a reasonable job with the meat. I tried three different servings – while the second serving was right on the money and a perfect medium-rare, the other two batches were overcooked to varying degrees. From the grills, we tried the Australian Lamb Chops. Australian Lamb Chops don’t but cheap, but the flavour of these meaty cuts laden with a thin strip of fat is quite simply phenomenal. A Lobster is always a sight to behold. The Tequila Lobster was undoubtedly the most visually arresting dish of the night. The tequila marinade lent a hint of sharpness to the lobster that was served in a spicy tomato sauce. For those who don’t enjoy red meat or sea food there are a couple of options in Chicken. I tried the Peri Peri Roast Chicken. The chicken was moist and tender with a subtle Peri Peri flavour that worked really well the steak fries and caramelised onions.
While the grills selection is strictly non-vegetarian, there are several green options in sizzlers – Cottage Cheese, Crumbed Cheddar, Mushrooms, and Vegetable Skewers. The Chargrilled Portobello featured Portobello Mushrooms that had been soaked in Balsamic Vinegar overnight and then grilled and served with wilted spinach and caramelised onions. Due to the overnight marination, the mushrooms had acquired a wonderfully supple texture and a sharp flavour. The sharpness of the Balsamic would have been disconcerting on its own, but paired well with the potato mash and herbed rice.
The sizzlers and grills will be available at La Cantina, every day 6 PM onwards. The festival ends on 12th February.