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Men, menu and the mood

An unusual menu does the trick at the aphrodisiac festival at Aqua

Passion platter: chefs at work at Aqua, The Park — Pic. by K. Pichumani

YOU WON'T believe what The Park's latest offering is. Food that puts you in the mood. Food that can... um... make you a dude. Food that's lewd. If you're one of the city's many aspiring Tom Cats, here's a food fest that's right up your alley. Casanova, as always, is the pin up boy here. The organisers of the `Aphrodisiac Food Festival' at the Park say he ate 50 raw oysters every morning to ensure he was always in top form. What they coyly left out is the fact that the man — who evidently did nothing in half measures — ate them "with his mistress of the moment, in a bathtub designed for two," according to an enthusiastic Google search, which by the way threw up precisely 701,000 sites for `aphrodisiac,' a good number of which were fire-walled by my office's web nanny. (There goes my reputation in the Internet department!) So — giving up on my computer — I finally sneaked out furtively and headed to the Park to find out exactly what they were up to. (Sigh... the things you have to do for research!)

Aphrodisiac analysis

Now, according to V. Srinivas, junior sous chef, the chefs at Aqua have passionately thrown themselves into an aphrodisiac analysis over the past few weeks. So, he's a goldmine of information on the topic. Apparently, the word dates back 5,000 years and is derived from the name of Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love a.k.a Venus. Cinnamon, pomegranates, beans, carrots, cloves, figs and tomatoes are a few of the lesser-known aphrodisiac foods, besides the usual champagne-strawberries-chocolate package that shows up in every drippy, moonlit scene in any glitzy soap worth its caviar. What the Aqua chefs have done is experiment with all these ingredients-with-oomph, tweaking here and twisting there, to come up with a short, but fascinating, menu of foods that... well... help you get jiggy with it. So the meal begins with a thick, bright roasted tomato soup (tomato being the `apple of love') spiced with thyme. It's accompanied by chicken skewers encrusted with coarse, black pepper and served with an interesting sweet honey peach sauce. They're followed by a beautifully done roasted vegetable and corn tart, cooked in red wine and served with a flourish of bright sliced peppers and crisp onions. Warm and crusty outside, and creamy inside, this cheesy tart is one of the highlights of the menu, which also features chicken dusted with cinnamon and served with crunchy okra and beef medallions, accompanied by mushrooms.

Artistically arranged

Since the chefs are working with a specific list of ingredients, the menu is unusual and the tastes are distinctive — although some combinations do work much better than others. The trick here is to identify your favourite foods and then keep an open mind. Each platter arrives looking like something out of an artist's loft, especially when you get to the desserts. If you're going to eat just one sinful thing this week, order the strawberries. Poster-boys for romantic food, they are fitted out dark chocolate crusts and loll on a thick chocolate mousse served in a chocolate cup. It sure beats eating gloopy oysters in an overcrowded bathtub with cold draughts getting you in the most uncomfortable places!

The festival is on till April 3 at Aqua for dinner. Call 52144000 for more details.


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