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    Chef Dharmen Makawana at The Leela Palace plates up bar snacks hand picked from 8 countries

    Ust because you get free peanuts to go with your drink, doesn’t mean the chef gets to relax. At least not if you have chef Dharmen Makawana watching over you. He’s counting down to the launch of his pet project — Passport: Journeys of Chef Mak — that begins today (till September 14), at The Leela Palace. “I’ve done this at the Four Seasons in Egypt,” the executive chef tells us. “So now I’ve put together short bar eats from eight countries that I’ve worked in,” he says, adding, “I’ve kept it simple with just one dish from each country, so there’s not too much deliberation.”
    LEELA13Authenticity, the key
    At the Library Blu, the globe trotting chef unwinds enough to share some of his travel stories. “It’s been 18 years since I began travelling,” he shares. There’s still the faint hint of an Australian accent with shades of Singaporean and Thai — indicating he’s brought back more than just great food memories from his travels. Just about then, the Thod Man Goong (prawn cakes with almond flakes) finds its way to our table. We flinch at the tanginess of the plum sauce, but we’re met with a knowing smile, “It’s all about authenticity here, so we’re not into adjustment of flavours. Especially not with Thai food,” he explains.

     
    Snack with a story
    The most succulent Egyptian-style samosas arrive and his memory is triggered again. “My daughter grew up in hotels around the world. She told her teacher in Cairo that she had a huge living room. He almost had a fit when he realised she was talking about the hotel lobby,” he snickers. Though his tryst with the far East was shorter, the Panko Crusted Prawns with a shot of wasabi aioli are mind-blowing — from the balance of flavours to the breading, it’s probably the only thing that can make you peel your fingers off your Scotch. If you’re a fan of variety when you’re having a drink, it can’t get better than this. And who knows, you just might bump into the chef and hear some of his food-tastic tales.
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    — Daniel Thimmayya

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