Chef Michel is busy adding finishing touches to his fare when I reach Celini, the Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt. It’s his big day. He is about to serve a five-course dinner (French-Indian) to more than 40 pax at someone else’s restaurant.
“See these seeds?” he shows me the seeds from the drumsticks. “And this is the flesh. The texture of the seeds is amazing. I wonder why nobody has explored before…” A brief discussion about the use of moringa as a tree with varied edible assets follows.
I proceed towards the bar where they are serving the welcome drink Chateau Timberlay Cremant Brut from Bordeaux. I am a little disappointed as it’s not chilled enough and even with the chilled version as the bubbles don’t quite titillate my palate with freshness the way I had expected them to be. However, the pass arounds with it were quite tasty. Especially the grilled cauliflower mash.
The chef’s special soup – the Drumstick and Moringa Soup – is a marvel. Spicy chana dal broth with moringa leaves is poured over cumin foam that adorns candied lemon and is laced with curry oil. The result is an explosion of flavours in the mouth. The accompaniment is a classic single grape Chardonnay from Moulin de Gasse estate, 2021 vintage. Fruity with smooth buttery finish.
The second course was Grilled Prawns for the non-vegetarians and Grilled Broccoli for vegetarians on the bed of mint and green peas puree dressed with pomelo vesicles, grilled almonds, with extra virgin olive oil and lemon curd on the plate as well. The Chevai Quancard Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (from Bordeaux again) blend had the right, complementing notes of grapefruit to start and finished well on the palate, slightly crispy (at least for me). I immediately requested the pourer to save some for me for the dessert that was going to be citrusy. The pomelo vesicles gave the prawns and broccoli a desirable after which was enhanced with sip of the wine.
The third course was Kadaif wrapped Sea Bass served with tamarind reduction. The crispness of the Turkish noodles that enveloped the softer, correctly cooked fish was perfect set off. What was more perfect was the wine paired – Chateau Lacoste Garzac, Bordeaux, 2020 vintage. Pairing a red with fish is something that I loved. Not many have the courage. But this full-bodied wine with deep notes teamed well.
Then came the course I was really looking forward to. Lamb and Vadouvan. Chef Michel had used the Tamilian Vadouvan spice mix so beautifully. The lamb was, probably, marinated for at least for eight to ten hours and then slow cooked for four to six hours. It was delectable. The spices didn’t overpower but gave it a delicious flavour. The accompanied potato cappuccino and carrots helped. The vegetarians had Eggplant Canneloni – thin slices carefully rolled, with vadouvan spices giving it the subtle flavour. Yes, of course, the wine was a delicate yet robust red. A Spanish one – Bodegas, Ribero del Duero. Soft tannins and long berrilicous finish with hint of balsamic. Impeccable companion for lamb and eggplant.
The dessert was a Modern Lemon Tart – an assembly of cucumber, citrus fruits, sabja seeds, herbs and edible flowers. I had saved my Chevai Quancard Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for it, which set off the citrusy and fresh flavours perfectly.
Three Cheers to Nikhil and Chef Michel for great dinner! Michel… you really killed it with Tamilian ingredients in French style.