At Kefi, Chef Siddiq presents a festival offering delicacies from the Northern corner of Africa
Here’s the thing about Mediterranean food: you just can’t have a wee bit of Greek here, a little shaving of Moroccon there and believe that you’ve had it all. Reinforcing that fact in, perhaps, the most tasteful way, is Kefi’s Taste of Tunisia festival, beginning today. “We’ve had a lot of the other Mediterranean mainstays on the menu at Kefi,” explains Taj Club House’s executive chef Siddiq, “but we’ve never really brought Tunisian food into the picture. So we figured, why ever not!” he says with a short laugh. With an eye on revamping what keeps people coming to the rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view of the city’s centre, Siddiq says that Tunisian food could actually appeal to the Indian palate a lot more than some of the others. “They love spice. Most of the other cuisines that we serve here tend to be on the blander side, but Tunisian food comes with a lot of harissa (as a dip and a curry),” he explains.
Searching for spice
Our appetites are as piqued as our interest by now, and we make short work of the solanum brik (spiced creamed potato in baked pastry), while the prawn-heavy fatmas fingers last just a little bit longer. The spice isn’t quite there yet, but at least it’s not as flat as some of the Lebanese stuff. After a little ladle of thick and garlicky lablabi (a chickpea and chicken soup), we had to wonder if this came first or the shorba was trademarked by then. Siddiq laughs, “The flavours are very close to Indian, and that’s what’s different about Tunisian flavouring. The way they use cous cous is amazingly close to how we use rava, in an upma.”
And almost as if on cue, the Phoenician spicy grilled chicken arrives. Now, if we’d been told that our chicken was going to be stuffed with cous cous beforehand, we would have made faces — and not very happy ones at that. A few tentative slice-and-shovel motions in, all of that trepidation disappears. The juiciness of the chicken leg and the buttery bed of beans is a perfect foil to the cous cous stuffing inside and we’re only sorry to see it all disappear in minutes. It’s a good thing we’re stuffed by then, because dessert is something that we’ve come to expect at Kefi — the not-too-flashy baklava. Bite-sized, almost as if it were baked to a plan, it’s a calming finale to a culinary repast through Tunisia.
Starting today, till July 27. Meal for two from Rs. 2,200 onwards. Details: 66313131
— Daniel Thimmayya