Along the Mediterranean shoreline
By Sonali Shenoy - CHENNAI
17th September 2012 10:41 AM
Stepping into Azulia, one is quickly transported to the Mediterranean region much before the food arrives. The hostess at the door wears a vibrant red Turkish-style dress, there are hand-made Turkish porcelain plates on the wall and the music is distinctly Turkish. And then, ourwaiter arrives with an apron in hand, as it is a tradition to wear one while eating this cuisine. Cuisines from 10 countries are packed into this restaurant’s brand-new weekend menu at GRT Grand. After trying the apron on for size, the food experience commences.
“Most restaurants these days have weekend buffets,” says Executive chef Ethem Aydemir with evident distaste. “I wanted to do a full weekend menu instead – keep it fresh and authentic,” he adds as a platter of Mezza arrives. They come in two kinds – Hot and Cold. A mini vine leaf roll called the Yaprak Dolma looks intriguing. Filled with sushi rice (caramelized with onions) and pine nuts, it is quite a mouthfull. Then comes the Mohammara — an interesting mix of nuts with cumin, tomato, Mediterranean spices and olive oil. Being completely sweet, this could have easily been mistaken for local dessert. Perhaps the most striking dish on the table is a pink paste, placed right next to the Hummus dip. “It’s made from beetroot and hung curd,” the chef reveals. Pita bread or just a plain fork will do for accompaniment.
This weekend luncheon also allows a trip into the kitchen for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how your food is prepared. If you ask nicely, you may even get a trademark tall white hat while you’re in there! But back to our table now, apron on, white hat in hand and ready for the main course. First to be laid on the table is an Anatolian Moussaka — fried aubergine (brinjal) and a bake full of potatoes topped with cheesy béchamel sauce. Delicious is the word – whether you like vegetables or you don’t. A creamy Spagetti Carbonara follows alongside Sish Taouk — skewered pieces of chicken breast, served with rice and grilled veggies on the side. It looks inviting, but the chicken is dry and even a dab of hummus doesn’t do the trick. Overall, the dish was a disappointment.
However, dampened spirits are instantly revived when three decadent desserts change the course of the afternoon. A Turkish-style baklava with rich nuts and topped with wild honey and perfumed with rose, is yum! This is followed by a Hot choco-volcano souffle (save this one for the kids) and finally a Gateaux Fromage (cheese cake). Topped with a thick blueberry sauce, this final dessert wasn’t spectacular, but that said, it was addictive. And, it turns out the meal was not over yet.
Bursting at the seams by this point, we try to tell chef Ethem that one more bite just isn’t possible. But he orders up cups of Turkish coffee anyway. “Where else are you going to get this?” he nudges blatantly. When the beverage is placed on the table, dainty porcelain cups and saucers and all, it is evident that milk isn’t part of the recipe. However, one sip in and perhaps ‘strong’ is too mild a word to describe this brew. Caffeine people of Chennai, may we challenge you to try finishing a cup?
(The Mediterranean weekend menu is open for lunch at Azulia, GRT Grand, T Nagar. For details, contact 044 28150500.)
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