Friday 25 January 2013

Food Event/ Bloggers Table at Blue Ginger, Taj Palace Hotel.

I had never tried Vietnamese food before.  In my mind, somehow I had always thought of Vietnamese food to be quite similar to Chinese food. So, When the bloggers table got an invite for lunch to 'Blue Ginger', their contemporary Vietnamese restaurant at the Taj Palace Hotel, I was more than eager, rather curious to learn more about the culture and cuisine of Vietnam. 
Fresh, light and full of flavours, right from the start to the finish, what a beautiful gastronomic journey it turned out to be!! A great learning experience in every sense!!

We reached 'Blue Ginger' for lunch and were ushered into a private dining room, a little off the main hall. Looking around the dimly lit room, you could see the  decor was beautiful.The main attraction was the centerpiece, which was a huge round table for 12 people, the top of the table, beautifully inlayed with mother of pearl. 
The dim light from the hand-crafted chandeliers hanging above the table bathed the whole room in a golden hue, adding to the elegant touch and the cozy atmosphere.
We were joined briefly on the table by the Executive Chef Rajesh Wadhwa who spoke to us about how Vietnamese cuisine was influenced by the Chinese, Indian & French. He told us that out of all South-East Asian cuisines,Vietnamese food was the lightest and the freshest with minimal amount of oil used. Also, it was not very fiery since it had a lot of French influence, Vietnam, earlier being a French colony. He also spoke about how at 'Blue Ginger', the menu was devised especially keeping the vegetarians in mind since there are hardly any vegetarian options available in the Vietnamese cuisine.
Comfortably settled, we began our lunch with the Amuse Bouche which was curried rice cakes with scallion oil & Sriraja panich. Nice and crispy, quite like the Indian papad, dipped in the chilli sauce it was the perfect start to a great meal.

Next came the starters -  Fresh summer rolls with chicken, shrimps and chives , Stir fried minced served with lettuce and a Raw mango salad all of which were beautifully presented and full of flavors.The rolls had a super thin translucent (almost transparent) wrap, the stir fried mince- nice and crispy and the raw mango salad exquisite!!

What I loved best about the Vietnamese cuisine was that, unlike the other cuisines, here the spices were used sparingly, just enough so as not to overpower the taste of the dish but to compliment the taste of the basic ingredients.
I was loving every bit of it!! My tastebuds shouting out for more!!
In the grills, we were served 'Grilled Chicken with lime leaf and chilli' and 'Peppered prawns with sea salt', French -Vietnamese concoctions, which were a perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy. I got to taste the vegetarian options too (advantages of being a non-vegetarian) which again were fabulous.The Tofu in lemon grass and chilli marinade was extremely soft and almost melted in your mouth.The flavors fresh, light, and balanced. Having never tasted Tofu before, any misconceptions that I had about it, totally evaporated. It was delightful. 
The real standout was the Sweet tamarind Sorbet, a delicious melange of sweet and tangy flavors just exploding in your mouth. It made me nostalgic, taking me right back into my childhood, when after school we used to rush to the 'bhaiya' outside our school gates selling this lovely ripe tamarind wrapped in paper. Yumm! I still can't get the flavors out of my mind!!
Next on  main course was Stir fried lobster with garlic, salt and pepper, Lamb shank with chilli, oyster and caramel sauce and Stir fried chicken with lemongrass garlic chilli sauceeach one of them perfectly executed and the flavors spot on. The lamb shank was exceptional, the meat soft and succulent, almost falling off the bone.
Vegetarians would love the Crispy Lotus Root served with Tamarind Sauce, nice and tangy, interestingly almost like a 'Aloo tikki'. Familiar only with eating the lotus stem, it was a learning experience for me that the lotus root was edible too. 
Spicy vegetable Red Cari served with a platter of baguette was simple yet lovely. 
The vegetables in this red curry were soft, but not mushy and a perfect combination with the french bread.
 By the time the main course was over, I knew I had grossly overeaten. But one look at the beautifully plated desserts which were being placed in front of us, I knew I had to have a go at them, even though it meant just having a spoon of each. For desserts, we noticed that all were western desserts that had elements of Vietnamese influence. Chocolate  bombe with coffee mousse and amaretto chocolate sauce looked like a master-piece. Though the coffee mousse inside was soft and airy, I found the chocolate covering a little too sweet. But again, I am sure for those of you with a sweet tooth, this dessert would be a complete heaven. What I was really looking forward to was the Ginger Coconut Caramel Custard, but was a bit disappointed as somehow I found the flavors missing here and it was a little bit overcooked . The Lemongrass ice cream was light and refreshing with just a slight hint of lemongrass.This was something I really enjoyed. 
Overall the whole experience was totally exhilarating !! An experience just not to be missed and coupled with good company, it becomes even more memorable. If you've never tried Vietnamese food, 'Blue Ginger' is just the place to start. 

Thank you 'Blue Ginger' for having us over. We really enjoyed your warm hospitality and not to mention the amazing food.

My other friends who were with me:
Sid from Chef at Large
Sangeeta  from banaras ka khana
Rekha  from My tasty curry
Parul   from The Shirazine
Ruchira  from The Great Cookaroo
Deeba from Passionate about baking
Himanshu from The White Ramekins