ITC Grand Chola brings the best of both Mumbai and Goan cuisines in its newest festival
IT’S nostalgia time at the Madras Pavilion, at the ITC Grand Chola. For 10 days, the nights are being converted into a road show for foodies—for the food festival, Two States: Bombay to Goa—with music and songs along the way. Chef Nikhil Merchant has created a moveable feast of delights: from the gullies and street corners of Mumbai, the Maratha-style curries and crunchy dry chutneys of Kolhapur and coastal Malwani cuisine, to the silky smooth Goan vinegar-infused prawn and chicken vindaloos.
For some of us it’s difficult not to start singing “thanda, thanda pani”, when they bring the ice golas to the table. Even chef Merchant’s eyes widen. The sweet-sour-raspberry coloured ice lollies—crammed into tiny glasses filled with shaved ice and a wooden stick in the middle—is the taste of childhood in Mumbai. For less adventurous souls, there are terracotta containers with chilled kokum sherbet.
Keeping it local
There is an array of Chowpatty style chaats, golgappas, dahi puris and their similar-sounding crunchy cousins, served in style on wooden platters. There are also interesting starters like golden batata vada, made from spicy potato balls, sabudana vada, spicy sago and potato crunchies, and a superb kothimbir vadi. Do not miss the steamed chickpea and finely chopped kothmari (cilantro) dumplings that are lightly fried and served with delicious chutneys. And if these are not enough, Merchant also serves a mean pav bhaji, with tiny squares of soft spongy bread laced with Amul butter and a rich potato, onion, tomato and spice-laden mash.
Take a break
This is the point at which your average roadie might want to take a break with a glass of buttermilk, called tak in Maharashtra. And the best is yet to come. There are choices like prawn balchao and a delicate fish coated with rava, or semolina, and shallow fried. Also try other dishes like the mutton Kohlapuri, chicken xacuti, pork vindaloo with fiery red (but mild tasting) Goan fish and chicken curries that are served with traditional breads and a choice of rice preparations.
“I’ve sourced the bebinca from Goa,” says chef Merchant, as we slice through the layers of baked pancake batter, coconut milk and other delicious elements. Like the road to Goa, it’s a voyage of culinary delights.
Two States: Bombay to Goa, from today till April 17. For dinner only. From `2,200 plus taxes.
— Geeta Doctor