Friday, May 13, 2016

Specialized Cuisine for a Leisure Weekend: JW Café Review

In this era of super-speciality, look what we found for our readers. A super specialised food festival - "kokanastha brahmin food festival" that's getting featured to make your Weekend all the more special.
So, if you're living in Mumbai, this is a great treat for you as JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar is running this specialized food fest at JW Café, till the 15th of this month, and our Mumbai Contributor Amruta Kendurkar Sapre with her partner (see pics courtesy) got a chance to experience the same...

Glimpse of the On-going Kokanastha Brahmin Food Festival at
JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar
The fest this time is celebrating recipes of Kokanastha brahmins. Kokanastha literally means one who is living in Konkan, a narrow and long strip of land between Western Ghats and Arabian sea. On asking "Why such a specialised cuisine" Vishal Atreya, Executive Chef JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, tells us a story. He heard word "Kobra" some time back and just like any non-marathi Indian, he could not imagine even in his wildest dreams that "Kobra" in addition to snake, which is what it actually is, also meant "Kokanastha Brahmin". One thing led to other and finally about a month ago Atreya and his team found themselves living with a "kobra" family in Kokan and learning their kitchen secrets. Armed with this knowledge and encouraged by Marriott Group's policy to focus on local foods, Atreya came up with this novel food festival. "It's sad that people in Mumbai consider only vada pav and pav bhaji as local food. Mumbai, being a part of Konkan, can offer much more than imagined by people. I will feel successful if I could aware people about the simple yet elegant taste of Konkan" Said Chef Atreya. 

One can imagine the richness of food variety by the fact that team Atreya will serve total 60 dishes in the main course during 10 days, approximately 6 dishes per day. And mind you, this is from the kitchen of just Kokanastha Brahmins. We visited JW Café on the very first day of festival. Its setup is grand and elegant. Café offers north Indian, south Indian, Thai and Japanese cuisines with buffet and a la carte options. It’s advisable to book a table before visiting the café. 

Chef Atreya described the concept of this food fest over welcome drink – kokam sherbet. As we approached the buffet counters, chef's words echoed in our mind - "simple yet elegant". First counter served snacks, pickles and papads of many varieties. Amba poli and phanas poli (dried Mango and jackfruit sheets) were stars of this group. These sheets are dried using fruit pulp in season and used throughout the year, just like jam or pickle.

Plate Full OF Konkan Flavours... 
On the next counter, delicious main course preparation were being served. Kaju chi usal (fresh Cashew Nuts Curry), dalimbi usal (sprouted butter beans curry), phanasachi bhaji (jackfruit dry vegetable) and bharleli vangi (stuffed brinjal) had many common ingredients like coconut, coriander, and curry leaves, but each has a distinct taste and aroma. The most astonishing feature was the use of minimal oil and spices, thus retaining original taste and texture of main content and team Atreya deserves full marks on this. Bread for the evening was Ghavan (special type of rice chapati). This is special recipe which might seem close to dosa, but tastes very different. Bhaji and usal also leaves different feel and taste with Ghavan as compared to eating with roti (wheat chapatti), which was also available.

 Masale bhat (a variation of pulao) and varan (yellow dal) complete the typical Indian thali of dal-chawal-sabji-roti. Here also a distinct touch of Konkan is present. While masale bhat has scores of spices, varan is plain arhar dal with tadka of heeng (asafoetida). These two complement each other very well. No Indian meal is complete without sweets. There were three sweet preparations for the evening. First one is ukadiche modak (steamed modak). Its cover is made up from rice flour and filling is rich in tender coconut. Next sweet is ambe-bhat (mango rice). Rice traditionally cooked and mixed with fresh mango pulp. Final dish is presented with sparkled dry fruits.

Most famous food item of Konkan is probably mango - Hapus or Alphanso. Without its presence, no summer food fest can be considered complete in India. Last and best in our plate was Hapus mango juice as well as fruit itself. It is served cool. Overall, this buffet is a unique opportunity to taste homemade food, prepared under the guidance of Mrs. Kelkar, A resident of Diveagar, and an expert cook herself; she made this banquet possible first by training Atreya and his team at her house in Konkan and then by agreeing to monitor preparations for entire duration of food fest. 

Amruta Poses With Executive Chef Vishal Atreya 
If we had to write two words about this festival it surely will be – “don’t miss”. 
Authentic cuisine of Kokanastha Brahmin kitchen is waiting for you till 15th of this month. It’s for both – who know this taste and those who keep hunting for newer taste. Ambiance and food both worth per head cost INR 1999/- (plus taxes). If you get a chance, do interact with Chef and/or Mrs. Kelkar. This will be a memorable conversation for sure...

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