Some new oriental flavours at Ponzu, the pan-Asian restaurant at Le Meridien
A lofted six and Chennai Super Kings wins! A sigh of relief and we turn back to the food. Hot food, elegant ambience, pleasant company, a big TV screen and a victory for our team is a pretty good way to review food in a restaurant. We are at Ponzu, Le Meridien's pan-Asian gourmet restaurant.
The only catch is that the reviewer is vegetarian and Ponzu cries out for a diner who is not! There is Japanese, Mongolian, Thai and, of course, Chinese food (I suspect that is the safety net). Behind long counters, gleaming grills stand by to serve fresh off the grill sea-food and meats prepared with vegetables of your choice. The Sushi counter is on the ready to create bite sized pieces of art.
Our hostess for the evening, Sarah, asks, “Will you try some vegetarian sushi Ma'am?” I will, and a combination of seaweed, sticky rice and vegetables appears, elegantly arranged on a slender plate. Another serving appears. This time the sushi is wrapped up in translucent slices of yellow mango. Delicious. It is served with Wasabi that shoots upyour nose into your brain before coming out in the form of tears from your eyes.
The name Ponzu is derived from a soya-based cooking sauce, explains Sarah, once we have recovered from the wasabi attack. We are served with crisp-golden yellow veg-tempura. It disappears, like Dwayne Bravo's six. Kanpo chicken is popular, they tell us. We enjoy a vegetarian version of it with water chestnuts.
“People are interested in the less known Mongolian cuisine and Sushi,” says Amit Mitra, director, business development. The chef comes to say hello. My dinner companion finds it incredibly funny that chef Suresh from Srirangam is discussing Sushi! But that is exactly how much the world has shrunk. And how far Coimbatore has travelled. Suresh is highly trained in Asian cuisine with years of experience.
“We are the first to introduce this cuisine in the city because we feel Coimbatore is ready for it,” says Mitra. We are apparently being served the best. The spices and sauces are imported from Singapore, and the rarer varieties of vegetables are also sourced from places as far as Delhi. All very authentic. Mitra says that the Japanese guests they have had at the hotel have gone away happy and full from Ponzu!
The dinner, despite the variety (burnt garlic rice, a dish of assorted mushrooms, and flavoursome green vegetables, noodles) does not leave us with the unpleasant shouldn't-have-eaten-so-much feeling. Subtle flavours, virtually no grease, and best of all, the good looking food make the dining experience a fine one.
And it gets finer with the dessert. While others stick to fried ice cream, I decide to go with a scoop each of wasabi, lemon grass and basil ice-cream. The wasabi flavoured one gets my vote. We plan to go back for more. It may help Chennai Super Kings win the next match too.
Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami were awarded the IgNobel Prize in Chemistry for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi to wake people in event of an emergency. They discovered that wasabi had an effect like smelling salts. One deaf subject participating in a test of the prototype awoke within 10 seconds of wasabi vapor being sprayed into his sleeping chamber! The Ig list of Nobel Prizes, started in 1991, is a parody of the Nobel Prize and is awarded for achievements "that first make people laugh, and then make them think". All prizes are awarded for real achievements.