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Looks great, tastes great


IT'S LIGHT easy on the stomach. It's good for your heart — medics will vouch for that. The bright red tomatoes, and green capsicum, the inviting Spanish and Italian melting cheese on garlic breads, the colourful cold cuts, and of course wholesome sea platters. That's Mediterranean food for you.

The various countries around the Mediterranean Sea seem to share more than their beaches. It's their love for food and detail. And a passion for turning out bland food that somehow doesn't match up to the riot of colour the dishes are!

The Taj West End has a new Med Nite dinner buffet every Wednesday at its restaurant Mynt, that brings together the melting pot of France, Italy, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Morocco, North Africa and Tunisia. Whoa! That's quite a whole lot of countries and food to be tickling our palates with, we think.

Acquired taste

It is said that wine and herbs are central to the Southern European cuisine, while spices boldly flavour North African foods. Seafood remains at the core of the cooking heritage. But one needs to acquire a taste to enjoy Mediterranean food that is rather bland. If you are one who can appreciate only the Indian masaledaar and dumdaar khana, this is not the kind of food for you. 'Coz the only thing you see red in the dishes are the tomatoes!

The land's bounty is reflected in massive use of vegetables in dishes throughout the region. But that's where their similarity with Indian food begins and ends. Onions, garlic and tomatoes, drizzled in olive oil, are endemic. Eggplants, mushrooms, cucumbers, artichokes, okra and various greens and lettuces, legumes, lentils, chickpeas and beans form the core. Fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, fennel and oregano are thrown in to give a subtle flavour.

Light food

"It's very light food we serve and you will never find oil floating on top of any dish," assures Sous Chef Gaurav Shiva. A lot of people are taking to Mediterranean food as it is cooked in olive oil, that has Omega 3 fatty acids (good for the heart) and almost no cholesterol. Most of the food is baked. Another common ingredient in Mediterranen cooking is the balsamic vinegar, commonly used in dressings. Made from black grapes, it has to mature over 12 years to meet the required cooking standards, Chef Gaurav Shiva informs.

At Med Nites, the spread is very well laid out with distinct vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections for each region.

The Tapas and Crostini Bar is an interesting section to begin with. Crostini are Italian toasted sliced bread pieces with different toppings and Tapas are various Spanish appetizers. Dainty bits of garlic bread are served with toppings of tomatoes, tomato salsa, aubergines, cream cheese, chicken liver with interesting dips to match. The bar offers a wide range assorted cold meats of chicken, prawns, Parma ham, olives, fish tataki, sundried tomato, pickled seafood, and pickled veggies.

There is a host of salads to choose from: green and red lollo rosso, tomato and mozarella salad, mushroom salad, fish carpaccio, panzanella (Italian tomato and onion salad), meshwi salad, the Lebanese hummus (with a distinctive taste of chickpeas and garlic), the African harissa, tahina, Moroccon salad and many others.

The buffet menu includes the Italian Langoustine thermidor (a dish of slender lobsters) that is very popular with the diners here, fried calamari (squid), fried chops, tenderloin with cream and mushroom, steamed vegetables, pomodoro rsipeni, babycorn gratinati, and grilled mushrooms with rosemary and garlic.

Lebanese dishes

The Lebanese dishes machbous al dijaj, samak makli, lahm and prune tagine, sheesh taouk, shawarma, sheesh barak, arnavut khudra, sumac grilled veggies, turlu, felafel, and spinach fetayer are exotic dishes that can't be explained but only eaten and enjoyed! Lebanese chef Ahmad Ammouri describes the land's food thus: "Raw meat is loved in Lebanon. And lamb is the only word synonymous with meat." Grills and salads dominate his menu.

A live cook-in of pasta, pizza, and paella (a saffron rice dish of tomatoes, shellfish and other choice of meat, it is considered Spain's national dish) is also there to choose from.

Top off your meal with some interesting desserts like the tia maria flan, fresh pear with cinnamon crumble, mocha and chocolate mousse (very yummy), black forest yoghurt slice, newyolk top flat cheese cake, peach brandy cream, tiramisu, citrus cream tart, banana and almond slice and more.

The Med Nite is on every Wednesday at Taj West End's Mynt restaurant from 8 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. For reservations call 56605660.

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