FOOD SPOT February is the time for seafoods and Monsoon at Le Meridien cooks up some great dishes, writes RAHUL VERMA
You can blame it on the weather. When it's cold, the body – along with the soul – yearns for something juicy and red. So as the mercury dipped, I ate more and more of kormas and biryanis. But February arrived with a warm sun, and I thought I'd eaten enough of red meats. So when I was invited for a meal to Monsoon, Le Meridien's Indian restaurant, I decided that I would focus on seafood.
My friend at the hotel had been after me for a while, insisting that I visit the restaurant to check out its new menu. The last time I was there, I'd enjoyed the food – so I have to admit that it didn't take much to persuade me to go there again. And I was keen to see what they'd done to the menu.
I like the ambience of the restaurant too. It's nice and sunny in the afternoons, with glass walls on one side opening up to Janpath Road. So you can see life on Janpath, but not undergo the cacophony that goes with it. I looked at the menu card, and found that the restaurant had now introduced a whole new set of dishes. It included a great many meat dishes, but I was adamant – I was going to stay off meat.
But what I ate instead was indeed most delicious. I had some king prawns infused with kaffir limes, basil, honey and yoghurt. Then I had a piece of a tandoori mustard sole served with a small helping of upma with shrimps in it, crispy okra and tamarind glaze. I ate a sea bass cooked in Madras curry, and served with artichoke, asparagus and steamed snowpeas. That wasn't all. I next had a pan-seared lobster with lentil and broccoli risotto, spiced lobster emulsion and cepes. And since a good diet calls for something non-fishy and meaty in your meal, I ate some dal, peppered with zeera and hing. And oh yes, I had a tandoori roti along with it.
What I loved about the food was that the dishes had all been cooked with just the required amount of spices. I always quake in my shoes when I find seafood smothered in masalas. But Monsoon's chefs clearly know how to cook a fine dish without overwhelming it. For instance, the lobster's sweet taste was in no way compromised by the ingredients and the style of cooking. Likewise, the prawns had just the right touch of tartness and sweet. And mustard, which goes well with fish but has a heady flavour, didn't kill the taste of the sole – on the contrary, it enhanced it.
The prices are what you'd expect in a five-star. Most entrees are between Rs.900 and 1500, though the vegetable dishes are for Rs.700 or 800, all excluding taxes. The menu has something called an Avant Garde section, where prices range between Rs.1300 and 2300. The lobster and the sea bass that I ate were from there.
I think the chefs at Monsoon are doing a great job. The food is light, yet most delicious. And for me, it was a delectable way of ushering in the end of winter.
illustration: Tony Smith