Eating Out ~ Inspire Me Chef, Okra, The Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre

As far as decision making goes, The Marriott gets less attention from me for the sole reason that it is quite a distance from home. If this was not a concern in today’s traffic riddled times, I would be eating there a lot more than I have in the past few years.

The ‘Inspire Me Chef’ series curated by the very gifted Chef Yogender Pal and his team promised to be something new. I confess as someone who works with food, cooking and and teaching it, I am intrigued and interested in ingredients and what they end up being much more than the normal person. I am also surrounded by food so much that the bar of expectation is quite high. “When was the last time a meal wowed you?” my fellow blogger and I asked each other as we drove to the venue.  There have been a few stand out dishes and a couple of memorable meals here and there, but none that knocked my socks off I confessed.

This meal particularly impressed me because we are bombarded by imagery and food so much on all forms of social media, eating out is now a routine, not the treat it used to be, so the expectations sometimes are unreal. The simplicity of giving in to the core of an ingredient and allowing it to shine without overwhelming it is what I look forward to these days. When a fresh ingredient is made to take centre stage, combining it with technique and imagination, the end product always stands out in a good way.

This is not so much a review (because the menu will change multiple times)as it is praise for the concept.

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The preview was at Altitude, the private dining room atop the property which gives an unmatched view of Hyderabad’s beloved Hussain Sagar lake.

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The meal began with an Amuse bouche – chicken liver pate served with a chocolate macaron. Not a pairing I would think of for two reasons, the macaron is mildly sweet and liver pate is not everyone’s favourite and very easy to mess up. But this worked, the crispness of the macaron complimenting the silky pate so well.

Mushroom dumpling with mushroom tea
Mushroom dumpling with mushroom tea

For the soup we had a clear mushroom tea with a mushroom ketchup dumpling. The flavours of the clear mushroom broth were excellent, not overpowering in how sometimes mushroom soups tend to be. The dumpling stuffed with mushroom ketchup was a bit too jammy for my taste but top points for the clear broth.

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crisp chicken on a bed of shrimp and bacon rice in soya broth

For the appetiser course, we could choose between Crisp chicken leg, served on a bed of bacon shrimp rice and soya broth and Vine ripened tomatoes, fresh buffalo curd, basil oil. 

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vine ripened tomatoes with fresh buffalo curd

I chose the latter. The cherry tomatoes and fresh buffalo curd (made in house by the team) was one of those unexpectedly excellent dishes. The simplicity allows for the ingredients to shine, which in this case were the organic cherry tomatoes grown at a local farm and the absolutely creamy buffalo curd, which felt luxurious on the tongue.

Squid ink ravioli with quail
Squid ink ravioli with quail

For the pasta course, I picked the exotic Squid ink and quail ravioli with berry jus the other option being Tomato and cream cheese tortellini with rocket pesto. This turned out to be the only disappointing dish of the evening. The ravioli seemed tough and leathery, which failed the nicely seasoned quail. While it had some multi layered flavours – the distinct squid ink, quail and the berry jus, the texture of the ravioli stayed with me in a not so pleasant way.

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We had a palette cleansing lemon sorbet served as a popsicle. This is a signature of The Marriott. These refreshing sorbets are always served with their full course meals. The refreshing tang of the citrus sorbet was a good break in the meal. High points for the dramatic way in which it was served.

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For the mains I chose the 8 hour braised pork belly with a jaggery tamarind glaze.  Pork is one of my favourite meats and I am always disappointed by the low popularity of this meat in Hyderabad. The long slow braise rendered the pork so soft and succulent and the jaggery picked up the sweetness of the meat, tamarind adding a nice woody depth of flavour. I enjoyed this so much and licked my plate clean.

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My fellow diners who ordered the Atlantic Salmon, pullet lamb gallette with smoked tomato jus raved about their dishes and I did have a taste to conclude it was worthy of every praise.

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There was also a Fricasse of chicken with spring vegetables and a Spinach and ricotta pithivier, which is a puff pastry parcel. The pastry was very buttery and flaky and complimented the creamy filling beautifully.

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With that the dessert was summoned and it was a dramatic yet delicate piece of art titled The Earth. A round edible box made from chocolate contained one of the most delicate yet luxuriant desserts I have tasted, a citrus vanilla mousseline (which is far lighter than the already airy mousse), this was infused with strains of the famous Calvin Klein perfume Eternity, served with a sour cherry compote on a bed of chocolate soil. The citrus notes of the mousseline, were propped up by the tart cherry compote and the soil added a nice textural break. A special mention to their Pastry Sous Chef Ratheesh Unni Nair, he is an artist with his creations. Follow him on instagram to see all of is work. Constructing multilayered desserts with ingredients that simultaneously contrast and combine is a true gift. The attention to detail and the minute finishing of every element makes it difficult to destroy as you spoon it into your mouth. I felt almost guilty to break that beautiful dish apart, but the texture and taste was so good that I couldn’t help myself.

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We ended the evening with Chocolate bombs, round chocolate shells, sprayed with gold dust which had a shot of cointreau encased in them that burst into the mouth. It was a fitting end to a well crafted showcase meal.
About the experience – This is one meal that will be difficult to surpass in terms of variety, craft, flavour, finesse and just the way it was put together. Each dish offered a unique experience. The menu will change each fortnight and is available only for dinner on saturdays. Executive Chef Yogendra Pal promises an experience where the senses will be wowed. I was particularly besotted by the plating and the use of fresh vibrant edible flower petals in each of the dishes. It was not just the food (which is brilliant and I do not use this word flippantly) but the experience that was outstanding. If you are someone who is wanting to try something out of the box, explore what an ingredient can do to your senses or are celebrating a special occasion, a meal at the ‘Inspire me Chef’ series is a must do.
Available for dinner at Okra every saturday. Dishes can be ordered A la carte from the options available and will be about Rs. 2000-2500 per person.

Place: Okra, Marriott Hotel & Convention Center.

Address: Tank Bund Road, Opposite Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad, Telangana 500080

Phone: 040-27522999

Disclaimer: I was invited by the hotel to review the Inspire Me Chef  promotion, however the opinions expressed in the review are unbiased and honest. 

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