I have a very adventurous palate and have learned to appreciate and love several cuisines. But there is something about Thai cuisine that doesn't excite me at all!! Whenever I have tried Thai food, I have realized that the strong flavors of lemon grass and the bold spiciness of the food just don't do anything for my palate. Its not that I hate it but I just don't enjoy it. Well!! Till right uptil now. Last week, our bloggers table had the pleasure of dining at the newly launched Thai Pavilion at Vivanta by Taj, Gurgaon and the food there just blew me away, making me realize that I just had being having the wrong kind of Thai food and at the wrong place. The food here was spectacular - well balanced flavors, freshness of ingredients and subtly (or rather I can say suitably) spiced. I fell in love with it and came back a convert!!
We were also fortunate to be attended personally by the legendary Chef Ananda Solomon, who introduced Thai cuisine to the country, with the pioneering Thai pavilion in Mumbai in the early 1990's. He spoke to us about how back then before the launch he spent many months across Thailand studying its cuisine and culture and then came back to India to present it with his own twist.
We felt really lucky as we were about to sample an extensive pre-set menu for the evening especially created by the chef for us.
We started off with their signature pomegranate drink. With hints of ginger and mint it was light and fresh tasting.
Our tasting menu started with a delicious amuse bouche Watermelon with galangal sauce. Though a most unusual combination, it was sweet and light. It was followed by an appetizer, Young papaya salad which had typical sweet and spicy Thai flavors. Knowing it only to be used for marinating meat, it was the first time I was having raw papaya in the form of a salad. It was nice and crunchy with little pieces of peanuts coming in every bite. If I was not told I would not have been able to make out that the salad was made out of raw papaya.
Next came the Corn cakes flavored with red curry paste and Mushrooms delicately marinated with thai herbs. The corn cakes were crispy and blended together nicely with thai spices. The mushrooms came in cute little parcels made out of rice flour which were edible. Opening the bundle along with the mushrooms there were finely chopped raw onions and tomatoes pepping up the flavor of the mushrooms.
Next on our plate was Marinated chicken morsels wrapped in panadus leaves. Known as Kai haw bai toey, the chicken not only looked wonderful but tasted fabulous too. We were told by the chef that the leaves act both as a covering and flavoring for the chicken and that that the chicken was cooked by first marinating, then wrapping it in the leaves before it was finally fried. The leaves keeping the chicken moist and lending a lovely sweet scent and flavor to the chicken.
We were also served Tempura prawns with tamarind sauce – golden fried and crispy prawns with the tangy sauce were sheer heaven and had most of us asking for a second helping. Infact, Himanshu who had planned to be a vegetarian for that day changed his mind and join our carnivores team.
Thai dimsum with chicken and vegetarian filling came next and were wrapped quite interestingly in cedar leaves which helps them to stay moist and give a nice woody flavor. The chicken filling was quite nice and tasty except for the fact that I would have liked the covering of the dimsums to be a little thinner.
There was a constant stream of food coming in and that too in quick succession. We had already eaten so much and realized that the main course had not even begun.The main course started with us being served a wrapped plantain leaf parcel tied together with lemon grass twigs. Unwrapping it we found fragrant jasmine rice inside. The rice was to be had with the Thai red curry chicken and Thai green curry vegetables which came in soon after. Already filling quite full, I decided to give the green curry vegetables a miss and concentrated only on the red curry chicken. The red curry was creamy and tasted delicious, unlike what I had ever had before. The spiciness was toned down with the coconut milk and lemon grass and paired with the jasmine rice it was perfect.with freshly made flat rice noodles was a dish with a lovely mix of flavors and colors. It was full of flavor, fresh and zinging with taste
Can you believe in the continuous stream of food being served, I actually got missed being served the Water chestnut with red chilli paste? So, now I definitely need to go back there to try this dish as I heard it was really delicious.
By now I was in serious food coma and I could still see some more food coming.
Grilled lamb with mint and cucumber sauce were to die for. The meat was melt-in-the mouth and grilled to perfection.
The last dish in the main course was Crispy fried fish topped with tangy sauce and Thai herbs which again was cooked beautifully. It was crispy with a mild flavor of lemongrass which I loved.
I think the best was saved for the last. The dessert tray which was a work of art left us all awestruck. It was picture perfect with so many elements on one plate. It had a baby thai coconut filled with coconut milk with diced water chestnuts inside it(the chestnuts were incidentally red in color and were marinated in rose water), a hot thai chocolate souffle (the hot chocolate was just melting in your mouth) served in tarts made out of thai ginger and Brandy snaps with vanilla ice cream. How much more amazing can one get than this? Seriously, it was like a stroke of genius artist which I didn't feel like disturbing. This is one dessert I would highly recommend you to try out.I was really amazed at the time and effort that must have been spent by the chef in preparing this extensive menu which was nothing short of outstanding.
Thanks Chef Ananda Solomon and Vivanta By Taj for this unique and wonderful journey. We truly enjoyed it.