I am not really into food festivals but I was keen on attending the Malaysian Food Festival which is currently being hosted at India Jones at the Trident, Nariman Point, Mumbai . My first day visit plans were stymied swearing in of our new Chief Minister and his cabinet as the hotel was full and all the restaurants were full too! So I did the next best thing which was to book for Monday night – traditionally a dull night in most restaurants. Because we were dining en famille where the youngest member was all of 18 months, we took the first booking at 7.30 and were a bit taken aback when we found India Jones not only empty but was actually shut! when we arrived earlier than our scheduled time!
Luckily the staff at the Frangipani next door obliged us with a seat while we waited for the doors to open ( also obliging little one with a scrumptious chocolate) and when they did, were shown to a table with a sofa seat – a must when dining with young babies as this can double up as a bed. It can also be a recipe for disaster if the young diner decides to crawl up to the neighbouring table and disturb their dinner. Luckily our sofa was till the corner where a couple which obviously looked like a food critic and his spouse as the chef was brought along to talk to them…….
After we settled down, we got down to the main business of studying the menu and doing the ordering which was quite complex given the choices but then we decided to take the easy way out which was to order the sampler platter. This was almost like ordering an Indian Thali where you are given a little bit of each dish.
The appetizer plate which consisted of the famous Satay a skewer each of lamb and chicken which was deliciously spiced and coated with a crunchy peanut sauce. The surprise was the crisply fried fish (Kerabu Mangaa Jeruk Ikan) served on a bed of mango salad with slivers of carrot adding to the texture and taste.
The Roti Jala Kush Kari Ikan was an interesting looking roll of a perforated rice pancake to be eaten with a fiery hot red fish curry.
We were each given a portion of Aayam Panggang Madu which is not a fried Marwari (as you may think) but grilled chicken coated with a honey sauce. This was a bit like a chikken tikka with the skin !
Our plates were cleared off and the Sup Ayam Bersantan which was a chicken soup with a coconut base was put before us. No this was not a chicken curry watered down but a delightful soup with sliced carrot, bits of mushroom and baby corn and a strong flavour of lemon grass to lift it from the mundane.
I was a bit disappointed when I saw a mound of rice (Nasi Miyank Halba – ghee rice) and three pieces of what distinctly looked like a paratha (Roti Canai) and a bowl of spicy noodles in the main dish. These were to be eaten with the accompanying Rendang Daging Temasik (braised tenderloin – yummy), Gulai Kambing Kentang ( a thin meat and potato curry – ok) , Karin Ikan Ibunda( fish curry with vegetables- reminiscent of Goan fish curry) and Sambal Udang Tradisi ( braised prawn in chilli tamarind sauce – strong sambhar overtones).
South Asian desserts do not really appeal to the Indian palate which is used to a sweeter and more robust taste hence I was disappointed with the desserts. We were treated to Agar-agar Kelapa which was a coconut jelly ( one thing I can’t stand) , the Bubur pulut hitam Gula Melaka which was like a watered down coconut milk payasam and the Bua Buahana Manis Bersyrup which was assorted fruit in pandan syrup, an overall let down after the sumptuous meal we were treated to. The fruit salad looked distinctly out of a tin and even though it had interesting textures ( a frilly mushroom which tasted cartilagenous!) was decidedly the best of the lot.
The quantities were generous,(including the to die for jumbo prawn sambhar) the the presentation excellent, the ambiance perfect for families and young couples and the price pretty ok at Rs.3500 + tax considering that you were getting a meal at a premier dining restaurant in a five star hotel.
Well, the food festival is definitely worth going for if one wants a different kind of cuisine out but not too unfamiliar from the tried and tested because the food was almost like eating Indian. In fact it reminded me of our Chinese friend from Ningbo Zhou Guo Qing who said that Indian food was like Chinese food ! Perhaps there was some truth to that at least when I ate Mayalsian food.
So if you are feeling indulgent and are looking to pamper your palate with a similar but dissimilar cuisine do go for the Malaysian Food Festival in town!
- Snapshots from Malaysia: What Is Malaysian Cuisine?(seriouseats.com)
- Malaysian restaurant offers multi-ethnic mix(thestar.com)
- Eating Malaysia: a culinary tour(telegraph.co.uk)