A few days ago I was at Seasonal Tastes, the popular coffee shop of The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace to sample the food at their “Flavours of Indonesia” a food festival. I was seated at a table in the busy coffee shop buzzing at lunch time. Seasonal Tastes is very popular for their extensive lunch spread and an assortment of the Indonesian dishes are part of their regular buffet. The coffee shop takes advantage of the lobby’s sky-high ceilings and offers both tables and couches for seating. It is always buzzing at meal times, so choosing a quiet corner may need a reservation. The food is spread out extensively and access to the counters is easy.
Chef Muhsoni ~ Image courtesy The Westin
I was introduced to the shy Chef Mohammed Muhsoni who is helming the food festival. The Chef is with Le Meridian in Indonesia and has come to this hotel via a collaborative association. The chef traveled with a lot of the ‘difficult to find in India’ ingredients. He also brought with him curry pastes, etc which would be used in the preparation of the food. Executive Sous Chef Rakesh Anand Singh played interpreter and buffet guide and indulged in my questions and finally a request for some galangal to grow in my kitchen garden too! A lot of Indonesian cuisine shows the influence of their trade with India, Arab countries and the rest of Asia and this is visible in the familiar ingredients and flavours that are presented. The food tends to be spicy and fiery for the most part, to pique the taste buds, but is well-balanced and uses a lot of steaming and flash stir frying as their cooking methods to keep the flavour and colour of the ingredients fresh and retain the nutritional value of the food.
One part of the extensive buffet spread
I went around the elegantly set and busy buffet to do a survey. The Indonesian offerings sat choc a bloc (distinguished by their promotional pictures and labelled neatly) with the dishes on their regular menu which is a melange of global dishes along with local Hyderabadi, Telangana and Andhra offerings. Seasonal Tastes has a really extensive buffet and it is not possible to do justice to the food unless one plans to vegetate for the next couple of hours. I requested for only the Indonesian fare to be served to me to be able to stay sane amidst all that food and focus on reviewing it.
Udan Goreng (prawns) & Sayung Goreng Chumpur (crispy fried vegetables)
I started with the Udang Goreng (batter coated deep-fried prawns tossed in green onions, peppers and paprika) the batter coated prawns were done just right, crisp exterior and succulent prawns and I am beginning to marvel at the technique of managing this. The kick of this dish is the paprika that the prawns are tossed with. Fiery is an understatement and I was quick to realize this would set the pace for the rest of the meal. The flavours are fresh and yet hit you with spice. Its going to be interesting for me I keep thinking because I have a high threshold for heat in my food although most of the food I make otherwise is not spicy (only because I cater to another living being at home).
Next up was the Sayur Goreng Chumpur (Crispy fried vegetables sauté in sweet chili sauce) I loved the thin discs of vegetables, my favourite being zucchini and the sweet sticky sauce. Quite a contrast from the heat of the prawns I tasted earlier. This will hopefully be offered on the buffet much after the festival ends.
The Salads ~ fresh, crisp and flavourful
For the salads, there was a nice selection of three varieties. First up, I loved the presentation of the vegetarian salads in champagne flutes. Makes for a pretty picture and prompts those passive to salads to try them out. I tasted all three salads. The Bakwan Udans (Tamarind marinated shrimps with vegetables) was fresh tasting and I loved the woody earthy balance that tamarind gives this otherwise crisp salad.
The Ayam Pelallah (Kafir lime turmeric and galangal roasted chicken and glass noodles with vegetables & sprouts) served with a peanut and tamarind dip which had the consistency of a proper chutney. While the salad was good, because I am partial to glass noodles, I loved the familiar flavours of the peanut and tamarind dip. The same ingredients (used extensively in south indian cooking) were given a completely different dressing in this Indonesian dip.
The vegetarian Tofu salad with sprouts was delightful and I loved the creamy texture of the tofu and the contrast it created with the fried tofu pieces and the sprouts. This had a mildly sweet and spicy dressing.
The live stir fry station and the main course dishes
For the main course, there was a Fish and beef dish. The Ikam Stim Lada Hitam (Lemon grass steamed fish in black pepper sauce) was so different from anything else I had tasted. Readers of this blog will know that I am partial to citrus flavours and I think lemongrass and fish are a match made in heaven. Served on a bed of steamed spinach, I loved the combination of the mild lemon grass and the heat from the coarsely ground black pepper in the sauce.
The Daging Tumis Paprika dan Cabe Merah (Sauté beef with capsicum sauce) small slices of beef sauteed with capsicum was a tad chewy and I would happily give it a pass.
Live Stations offering custom made stir fries
They have a live stir fry counter that makes the well known favourites from Indonesian cuisine, Mie Goreng (noodles with vegetables, meat and herbs) and Nasi Goreng (Indonesian style fried rice). I loved the Mie Goreng, taking several helpings of the vegetarian version until I just had to stop.
From the main course, the one dish that stood out for me was the Gulai tahu dan buncis (tofu and beans in a coconut and chilli curry paste) the flavours subtle and layered and so delicate it was a welcome difference from the fiery dishes I’d eaten till then. I was stuffed to the gills, but couldn’t resist taking another helping of this aromatic curry with sticky rice.
The dessert spread
They had three signature desserts of which the Pulut Hitam (a coconut rice pudding) flavoured with coconut milk and garnished with ripe banana, lychees and rose water soaked raisins) reminded me of the Thai dessert Tub Tim Grob. The flavours are well-balanced and the sweet comes both from the coconut milk and sugar and is subtle, creamy and rich.
The Kue Mangkok (Cup cakes made from tapioca flour) I found them very dry, would give this a miss
The Dadar Gulung (Pancake rolls stuffed with jaggery and coconut) again, I love the combination of jaggery and coconut and this dessert tho a little sweeter than what I prefer is reminiscent of eating another version of a poli due to the stuffing.
This buffet especially with the Indonesian dishes is highly recommended and will be worth all the calories that I ingested. I loved the fiery spice balanced with sugar and the flavours of the fresh herbs of lemongrass & galangal. There is just enough to keep the palate delighted and yet not overwhelm the senses. The dishes change everyday, but some favourites may be repeated based on the requests from guests or the popularity of the dish. At 1327 (All Inclusive) it is total VFM.
Selamat Datang Indonesian Food Festival (part of the lunch and dinner buffet at Seasonal Tastes ~ The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace
Recommendations: Sayur Goreng Chumpur (Crispy fried vegetables sauté in sweet chili sauce), Ikam Stim Lada Hitam (Lemon grass steamed fish in black pepper sauce), Mie Goreng (noodles with vegetables, meat and herbs), Gulai tahu dan buncis (tofu and beans in a coconut and chilli curry paste), Pulut Hitam (a coconut rice pudding)
Price: Rs. 1327 for one (All Inclusive)
Hours: Lunch: 12:00 PM To 03:00 PM
Dinner: 07:00 PM To 11:00 PM
Location: Mindspace IT Park, Hitech City, Hyderabad
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 040 33165071 (Reservations are recommended)
PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.