Chennai Gets Served A Magnificent Slice Of Mauritius
If you’re looking for an eclectic blend of the best of cuisines around the world, The Mauritian Food Festival at The Raintree, Anna Salai is where you need to be. The ongoing festival, in association with Constance Belle Mare Plage Hotel of Mauritius, brings the folks of Chennai an authentic, soulfully-tropical array of Mauritian food served with love by their expert team of chefs. The Kitchen, where the event is currently underway, comes alive with peachy lighting and that along with the attendants sporting colorful tropical prints set the mood for the feast in store.
A steaming bowl of creamy, Sweet Potato Soup welcomes us into the world of Mauritian cuisine. It tastes divine and rich, yet feels light on the tongue. This is one soup we wouldn’t mind getting used to.
The Mauritian salads were an impressive entity in themselves. The first was a Smoked Marlin Salad with Aubergine Caviar that’s presented in a very elegant fashion. As Chef Rajesh from Belle Mare explains to us, the Marlin (swordfish that can be found only in Mauritian waters) is filleted and slow-cooked in nothing but the heat of smoke to bring out the smoky flavor that is so evident in the dish. The aubergine caviar, in contrast to the fish, hits the tongue with a sharp, tangy note and balances the dish beautifully.
Potato, Local Octopus, and Calamari Salad, with Roasted Pumpkin is the next salad for the day and its creole-style of making brings a unique twist to the local Mauritian dish. Mildly flavored to bring out the taste of the seafood, the salad is fresh and blends in different textures and is a must-try for seafood-lovers.
The appetizers were a celebration of Mauritian seafood as well. The Salmon Mousse Roll on Smoked Salmon Pimento Puree with Citrus Sabayon comes with a side of fresh lettuce and plated with edible flowers. The mousse is flavorful and rich, the puree perfectly spiced and the lettuce takes the taste up a notch. The Citrus Sabayon brings together every component of the dish, an Italian-style preparation.
“The seafood or meat in most Indian dishes takes on the flavors of the spices and loses its unique taste. That’s one thing we make sure doesn’t happen in Mauritian food. We make sure that the spices don’t kill the taste of the main ingredient,” says Chef Rajesh who comes up with a new menu for the festival every day, in order to cater to the experimental Chennai crowd. He adds that he’s put in a lot of Indian touches to the dishes for guests to more easily adapt to the Mauritian cuisine.
The next appetizer was an expertly-plated Octopus Tentacle Shashlik with Oyster and Soya Glaze, a dish with a Chinese touch. Juicy pieces of octopus tentacles, bell peppers and leeks are skewed and flambéd with sake and come with a salty glaze that gets its saltiness just from the oyster sauce. The dish, as Chef Vinoth Kumar, the sous chef at The Raintree reminds us, is another classic example of how the spices don’t overpower the main ingredient.
Our main course was a Lamb and Aubergine Moussaka, a dish that has its roots in Greek cuisine and resembles a lasagna. Alternate layers of aubergine slices and minced lamb are cooked like a bolognese and served with spicy gravy and a pool of white cheese sauce. The dish was our favorite for the day, with a mélange of different flavors taking our senses on a whirlwind. The moussaka was as deliciously wholesome dish as it can get.
All through our meal, we had for company two delicious mocktails curated by the well-known bar and cocktail advisor Valayten Anba, who patiently explained the beverages to us. There was Sega, named after the national dance of Mauritius and is a blend of mango juice, cranberry juice, fresh pineapple and guava juice.
The Maravan, is another refreshing drink named after the Mauritian musical instrument that’s played during the Sega dance. It has lemongrass cooked with cardamom, fresh lime juice, fresh pineapple juice and fresh watermelon juice and tasted heavenly.
Chef Vinoth takes us on a tour of the dessert counters (yes, there’s more than one!) and we are back to our tables with plates overflowing with sinful desserts that threw away every diet resolution we’ve ever taken. There was a Mango Clafoutis, a baked French dessert of mango puree cooked with milk, cream, egg yolk and sugar, dry baked and topped with fresh mango slivers.
There’s the Sweet Potato Cake, a deep-fried Mauritian dessert similar to the soiyyam from Tamil Nadu, stuffed with sweet potato, cream cheese, and brown sugar.
The Coconut Crumble Cream Cookie is a light, brittle biscuit topped with cream and dried coconut flakes.
One of the most delicate Swiss Rolls we’ve seen in a while, this chef’s version has a mango cream stuffing and is topped with chocolate cream.
The Pineapple Cake is a simple pineapple sponge cake topped with caramelized pineapples that taste sharp with just a touch of sourness.
The Rosemary Crème’ Brulee is a concoction of unique flavors and just slides down the throat. A rich, dense texture compliments the rarely-used rosemary flavor.
We finish off with a decadent Chocolate Fudge made with a moist dark chocolate sponge with chocolate sauce overflowing on top. A purely chocolatey indulgence if there ever was.
The Mauritian Food Festival is a delightful experience on the whole with fresh and delicious seafood, rich main dishes and divine desserts that transported us to the sandy beaches of Mauritius for one glorious night and the courteous staff making it an absolutely pleasurable dining experience.
The festival is on till the 24th of July, at The Kitchen – The Raintree, Anna Salai, Chennai.