Home Chennai Food&Drink Grand Thai tasting

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    Spectra, the coffee shop at The Leela Palace, offers some royal wok action and the crunch of peanuts

    It’s rare to see a chef flashing green eye-shadow! In the case of chef Nisa Yimthong, it’s entirely appropriate. When she comes and places an exquisite plate of tongue ticklers in front of us and greets us in the traditional Thai way, with a bob of her head and folded hands, we are instantly transported into the “Land of Smiles”— Thailand. In her crisp chef’s whites, she could be one of the pond herons that are to be seen flashing their wings over the wetlands of her home.

    Starting note
    The entrée sets the tone. There is a thin sliver of pineapple, curving like a sampan, or boat over a strip of green with a round peanut ball sitting in the middle and tiny strands of carrot and pale spring onion floating by the edge. The shot glass filled with ice and a tingle of sweet freshness placed alongside serves as a lighthouse. Just outside our window facing the dark expanse of the sea and sky, flashes of lightning remind us that we are at the edge of the North West monsoon. As ever, it’s the setting of The Leela Palace hotel that takes precedence over the food.

    Mix of meats
    We are treated to a veritable array of dishes from appetisers, salads, noodle based platters and an exquisite duck vindaloo cooked in the Thai style in a rich green curry spiked with pineapple, grapes and cherry tomato. The one dominant note that remains on the tongue is the crunch of peanuts. There are peanuts in the diced chicken sauce that we spoon over discs of crunchy puffed rice and peanuts over the salads, the minced chicken with mango-ginger and sweet and sour sauce. Amidst all this variety, two dishes stand out. Look out for San Jan Phad Poo. It might make you laugh, but it means flat noodles with crab meat and soft shell crabs. A fabulous bowl of clear soup with morsels of fish, ginger, chilies and greens served halfway, made us flutter our eyelids and paint them green. The Royal Thai menu at Spectra is available only in the evenings.
    Meal per head at approximately `2,500, without wine or taxes. Details: 33661234

    — Geeta Doctor

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