I was looking forward to sampling a meal at Syn, the Asian Grill and Bar at the Taj Deccan. Having heard a lot of praise for the food and drinks served here, my interest was more than piqued. The hotel itself is one of my favorites in Hyderabad and I always loved their atrium like coffee shop. Syn is their specialty Asian restaurant and bar which serves the best of Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor al fresco seating is set against a stunning rock garden and makes for very pleasant evenings. You walk in and are warmly greeted, ushered in to a seat of choice and by the time you sink into one of the chairs and settle in, someone will appear and place what to me looked like a tiny tea cup with some white tablet in a small depression. When the gentleman poured water onto it and the white object began to expand, I realised it was a face/ hand towel to refresh yourself with.
This is the kind of attention to detail that will spoil you at Syn. The lunch was a customized menu that the restaurant was offering and right away we were served an Amuse Bouche (Happy Spoons) bite sized appetizer. Kind of like a precursor to the meal. I kind of knew it was a tiny appetizer, but came home and looked the term up. Turns out, an Amuse Bouche is a single, bite sized hors d’oeuvres which are not ordered by the patron but served without charge according to the chef’s selection. After excitedly taking pictures, when I bit into the delicate salad like serving, I knew the meal would be memorable! Small cubes of raw mango and water chestnut were tossed with a chilly plum and soya sauce based dressing and served on a tiny bed of fried noodles. The balance of sweet, sour, salt, tang and crispness was just right.
Next up, in a margarita glass was a pale green salad called Yasai Salad. This was a delicately coloured lettuce based salad topped with spinach & beetroot tempura, which looked like very delicate pearls and topped further with a Miso Mayonnaise. I loved the little tempura pearls.
We then were served a Wasabi cocktail called Wasabi Chilli Vodka Cocktail. I for one have never liked wasabi the few times I have tried it. I admit it was always in the form of snacks like wasabi coated nuts. I went as far as saying I would never eat wasabi again. It’s another matter when a little alcohol is lovingly made into a cocktail. It takes on a new avatar and I must say I enjoyed the drink. The sharpness of the Wasabi and Chilly made friends with the mixer and made for a nice pairing. We were also served a Watermelon Mintini which was a mock tail with hints of (what else?) mint in a watermelon juice base. A little too sweet for my taste, but that is purely because I was biased towards the Wasabi Chilli Cocktail!
As we were busy talking and swapping stories, serving staff appeared with something I have been intimidated by so far – Sushi. For all that has been written and said about sushi, I have never eaten it. I heard Syn is famous for its Sushi and told myself that there would be no better place to give it a try. Acting very cool and collected I asked for the Sushi to be served to me. I must say, the preparation of sushi itself is like art. Delicately layered ingredients rolled up and sliced just right. Am sure it needs to be done with nimble fingers and is best left to the experts. The last time I tried Sushi I spat it out didn’t like it much. So when I saw the gorgeous (must admit sushi does score in the presentation department) Dragon Maki – a Fancy roll with shrimp tempura, crab stick, avocado and unagi sauce, I was like, ‘yeah! This is what it should look like!’ First bite, the flavours, of the prawn tempura, the buttery avocado and the crab stick with sushi rice come through in a layered fashion. I loved it. I ate another one.
Then came the Karai Maguro Maki which was traditional Japanese Spicy Tuna Roll. The flavors and texture very subtle on this sushi roll. I must I enjoyed this one too.
The Kaki Age Maki was the vegetarian option for Sushi, with Crispy vegetable in the roll. Was interesting to savor the crunch of the vegetable tempura within the softer texture of the sushi rice.
For me though the pleasant surprise was Mango Maki – Fresh Mango Sushi Roll. It was light, sweet and soft at the same time. If I had to choose a second favourite after the Japanese Spicy Tuna Roll it would definitely be the Mango Maki.
Next we tried the Hanoi Corn Cakes which is a traditional Vietnamese Style Corn cake flavoured with Chilli and topped with fresh Dill leaves. This dish didn’t really have anything going either for or against it. It was a competent preparation, but I wouldn’t really miss it if I am not served this again. What I did like though was the accompanying Chilli Honey dipping sauce. It was a simple sauce of just chilli flakes infused with honey, so simple, yet something I would never have thought about. I enjoyed this dipping sauce on its own.
We were then served the Crispy Fried Soft Shell Crab in Garlic Butter. Those of you who read my review of the Thai Pavilion know that this was a dish I enjoyed thoroughly. The soft shell crabs here were real tiny, about 2 inches, and what’s not to like about batter fried sea food? I had two servings of this crab simply because the mildly curry flavoured butter garlic sauce was yummy.
In between very interesting conversation that ranged from the palaces of India and what they had to offer, domestic skills (or the lack of) respective spouses and of course cricket and bollywood shenanigans, we tried the Pho – which is a Vietnamese Rice noodle soup with brown onion topping. The stock is flavoured with star anise and I was blown away by the subtleness of flavour. The fried onion topping gives it a depth of flavour. Brown onion is essentially a part of Indian and particularly Moghlai cooking. It is so different to taste its layers in a mild soup such as the Pho.
Next up was the Steamed Basa Fillets with Glass Noodles. Lightly flavoured with oyster mushrooms, scallions and ginger soya sauce, the Basa fillets were steamed to just the right texture, and served enveloped in glass noodles. While I loved the fish, the overall flavour of the dish was very underwhelming.
One portion of the Simmered Pork ribs with ginger garlic soya frankly was not enough! Juicy, succulent and simmered to perfection in the marinade that was left on overnight – This was a delightful dish for any meat lover.
Lamb Chop Teppanyaki was served with fried crispy potatoes. This was a little dry and in comparison with the Pork Chops fared badly! Perhaps one would not be so biased if only this was served.
The Stir Fried Vegetables with Tender Coconut was one of my favorites from all the dishes served that afternoon. Crisp tender asparagus, green beans and crunchy palm hearts with slivers of tender coconut stir fried in a mildly garlicky sauce, this was a terrific dish that I could even eat as it was.
We also had some excellent Vietnamese Vegetable Red Curry. I also learnt that a good red curry actually looks deep yellow! The crunchy mélange of vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, etc) and soft silken tofu. The flavour of my favourite herb lemongrass melded beautifully with (who would have thought!) curry leaves.
What can a Pan-Asian meal be without a taste of Thai Curry? This was Thai Chicken Green Curry. Silken, nutty and slightly sweet. The flavour of the kaffir lime leaves coming through quite robustly. I enjoyed this with Jasmine Rice. The curry was well made, but didn’t stand out. Possibly because there was such an array of (other) outstanding dishes!
One taste of the Spicy Bamee Noodles – Thickish noodles cooked with chilli and basil in a Thai style and I think this is now my favourite kind of noodle preparation. It was spicy enough to be eaten without a side dish.
Thai Fried Rice followed – coated with a generous amount of roasted curry paste, this again was a robust rice which can be eaten on its own without any side dish. The deep flavour of the roasted spice curry paste was the highlight of this rice dish.
Satiated not just by the food, but the peppy table conversation and the wonderful company over lunch of Siri and Preethi, we reluctantly moved towards the end of the meal – Desserts. We were served a beautiful looking Dessert Platter that I could just look at and not eat (in remembrance of my girth, not the quality of the desserts!). Presentation is fabulously crafted at Syn. Every dish we were served was a miniature lesson in presentation. Carefully selected garnish, additions of subtle elements that add to the look of the dish, whether it was patterned banana leaves, a sprig of green onion or finely sliced chilies, or curry powder used to write on a platter. Chef Sajesh Nair and his team execute their love for food in such a meticulous manner that it’s tough to favour one dish over another. The chef and his team were always close at hand, explaining the names and ingredients of the dishes, briefly telling us how they were prepared and why they were chosen to be presented on this menu over the multitude of Asian recipes. There is almost nothing to fault in the hospitality of the Taj, it remains their most celebrated quality and it’s easy to see why.
The dessert platter consisted of Chocolate Tsunami with Vanilla Ice-cream – a warm dessert of melting chocolate lava cake and ice-cream. This would be delightful for a chocolate lover (which I certainly am not!). Next I tried the mildly flavoured Makroot Flavoured Ricotta Cheese Cake. But for the denseness of the cheesecake, I loved the mild flavour of the makroot lime, since I am extremely partial to citrussy flavours, I also liked that the cheesecake was not too sweet.
The Tub Tim Grob served in a shot glass was of course my favourite dessert of all. Tiny pieces of rose flavoured water chestnuts and tapioca pearls, in coconut milk has to be one of the best ways to end the meal. Quite frankly I would have gladly skipped the other two desserts to have an extra portion of this dessert alone!
The set up of the restaurant and dishes on the menu make for an all round dining experience. Whether you are planning a weekday lunch with work colleagues or a special celebration with a significant someone, Syn fits the bill. I would recommend a meal here to experience the nuances of Asian cuisine. What I like best about Syn is that it is Subtle. The service, the food, layers of flavours, attentive service and the attention to detail – everything is subtle, multilayered and so much in place, that it would be difficult to fault.
Syn Asian Grill & Bar, Taj Deccan, Hyderabad
Cuisine: Asian – Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese
Location: Taj Deccan, Road 1, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.
Phone: 040 66663939 / 092 95 006969
Hours of Operation: 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm – closing. Closed on Monday’s
Recommendations: Cocktails, Sushi Rolls (both Veg and Non-veg), Simmered Pork Ribs, Stir Fried Vegetables with tender coconut, Vietnamese Vegetable Red Curry, Bamee Noodles, Tub-Tim-Grob
Disclaimer: We were invited to sample few of their dishes and our meal was compensated for. However, the views expressed in this post are strictly my own and the recommendations are completely my choice, and doesn’t involve any monetary compensation.