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Sizzling around the world

IF YOU'RE freaked out on sizzlers, there must be a good reason why. Because these plated meals hiss, but don't bite. They leave the tasting, the morsel-savouring, and the finger-licking relish afterwards to you.

Surprises in menu

What sets the ongoing Sizzler Fiesta (on till December19) at The Capitol's rooftop Trivoli Gardens apart are the surprises in the menu. Apart from the standard Continental steaks, mixed grills and chops, its food and beverages manager R.K. Maharana and executive chef R. Eshwar Rao opted for a taste of adventure — with tastebud-challenging results.

You might do a double take when you hear this, but they have chosen to present Italian, Chinese, Balti, Thai, and even Greek food on sizzler plates. Most of it doesn't just sizzle, but calls for second servings. Another day, of course, given the generous size of each portion.

We chose a random sampling at lunch to check out the fare. A tested option to begin with — London house mixed grill (Rs. 250). Redolent of HP sauce and 8 to 8 sauce as the basic marinade, the beef fillet was melt-in-the-mouth, just as mamma would do it, while the chicken was juicy, the mutton liver flavour-rich. A real steal at the price, with mashed potatoes and lightly cooked vegetables on the side.

An Italian experiment beckoned next — Pollo Ripieno Con Mascarpone (Rs. 225). A close cousin to Veal Parmigiana, this would do a Neapolitan chef proud. The breast of chicken, stuffed with delicate mascarpone cheese (remember tiramisu?) and fresh rosemary, is pan-grilled to perfection, crisp on the outside, melting within.

Minutes later, sizzling skewers follow, serving Greek lamb kebabs with mint (Rs. 235). The tender cubes of lamb, softened with yoghurt, garlic, saffron and honey, were to die for, alternating with bites of grilled onion and brinjal. Very creative.

Doesn't Thai food, sizzler-style, seem like a contradiction? Phad Tap Kai (Rs. 225) set our doubts to rest. The aromatic chicken livers stir-fried with onion, leeks and garlic, with a dash of red wine, were superb, served with fragrant jasmine rice. For a vegetarian option, we tried Phad Pak Tow-hoo (Rs. 200), its spicier rice variant a perfect contrast to the deep fried tofu sauteed with broccoli, beans and carrots.

What of a taste of China? Yu Xiang Cui Pi Gui Yu (Rs. 24) was a slight letdown. The fried whole pomfret was a trifle soggy, its batter no longer golden and crisp as expected. But that could be because we took a while to savour it. Disappointment over this dish was made up for by Qi Gai Jai (or beggar's chicken, Rs. 250), a tender whole country chicken stuffed with soya-sauce rich minced lamb, baked in a wrapping of maida dough. An unusual culinary treat, the chicken less fatty than its broiler cousins, the fine mince delicious to taste.

Chinese tale

"There's a story behind beggar's chicken," says Maharana. "A Chinese servant once stole a chicken from his master's coop. Just then, he heard his master's footsteps approaching. In a hurry to get rid of the evidence, he coated it with clay and popped it into a nearby oven. What resulted was a delicious dish. Ours is a more sophisticated version, of course."

Though we're stuffed like the chicken by this stage, he insists on serving Adrak Ke Panje (Rs. 235) from their Indian selection. These full-flavoured lamb chops, silver-wrapped for easier handling, are Mughal-oriented, their ginger-rich marinade and tandoor grilling rendering them a diner's dream, served with butter naan.

Our favourite of the sizzler array was (hold your breath!) the grilled lobster (Rs. 185 per 100 gm). Served in an artistic shell for dramatic value, drizzled with lemon butter, each tangy seafood morsel was succulence personified, accompanied by tender mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and French fries.

For sizzler-lovers, this festival is definitely worth each bite. Not just for the sheer imagination invested in it, but for its culinary range. It literally leaves you with so much to chew on, for days afterwards.

Call Trivoli Gardens on 22267076/22281234.

* * *

Ambience: Quasi-Roman, quasi-Oriental pavilions, starry by night

Service: Not quite as snappy as befits a business hotel

Wallet factor: Easy on the pocket, considering the quality fare served

Specials: Sizzlers that challenge the palate


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