Sunday, 21 January 2018

Flavors Of Malvan Food Festival | Pondicherry Cafe Sofitel BKC Mumbai | Maharashtrian Konkan Malvani Food Review | Food Photography

My fourth visit to Pondicherry Cafe within 6 months and these guys are absolutely fantastic. This time, it is to review their Flavors of Malvan Food Festival. A special kudos to them for coming up with such exotic food festivals helping us acquaint with unique Indian regional cuisines. Moreover, I love that this festival is being curated by home-chefs Mrs. Prathishta and Mrs. Praja under the guidance of Chef de Cuisine Vividh Patil. This means authentic Malvani dishes, replete with home-made spices and family secret recipes, are being presented to discerning diners for lunch and dinner everyday till 28th Jan 2018 :)

Walk in on the ground floor of the luxurious Sofitel at BKC, enter the plush Pondicherry Cafe and take a moment to soak in the ambiance. Bright rich colors, beautiful view from the french windows, an array of food counters, and for the special occasion of Malvan Food Festival, very ethnic set-up to welcome us all. Think coastal Maharashrian region- coconut trees, fishing trawlers, fishing nets, traditional pots and pans, colorful saris, aroma of spices in the air. The home chefs have left no stone un-turned in ensuring that the best of Malvani cuisine is on display. Everything looks and feels down to earth, simple yet enchanting.

One would expect that the food would be mostly non-vegetarian but they also have many great vegetarian options. There is plenty of fresh fish, prawns, chicken and mutton to make every carnivore happy. The dishes are named in traditional way too. Even though I am a vegetarian, I did glance at the non-veg section and it looks properly inviting, so dig in :D

I loved all that I had in my veg section, mainly because I feel that the spices and gravies here actually enhanced the natural flavors of all the ingredients. So for e.g. if I had potatoes in spicy gravy, I did not just taste hot spices, I tasted potato made better with the use of shredded coconut and spices! Each dish is delightful and they are changing the menu a little bit everyday to include as diverse roster of Malvani dishes as possible.

For starters,we loved ARBI CHE VADE- Minced Colocasia (also known as Kacchu in Hindi) patties marinated in spices and baked, lip-smacking with accompanying pudina as well as peanut chutneys. Jars of homemade chutneys and pickles are delicious way to start this feast and every table also has TILKUT-a special dry sesame chutney, a Malvan specialty.

MASALA BHAAT was my personal favorite- such a simple dish, humble like a pulao but packs a flavorful punch thanks to some secret masala combination, honestly one of the best version I have tried ever. Made me want to loudly proclaim, 'they have their Biryani, we have our Masala Bhaat, Game ON!' :D

VALCHE BIRDE - Beans! This is simple beans! I never though beans could taste like this. Simple with just the perfect addition of spices to make it a standout. You would never look at beans the same way again, I know I won't :)

LAL MATH CHI BHAJI -When was the last time you had Amaranth leaves? Have it here! Looks like pinkish cousin of spinach and when mixed with onions, chillies and special spices, it is THE bomb to have with steamed rice/masala bhaat or plain Bhakri!

BHARLI VANGI - I am the last person to even go near an eggplant willingly. I would rather be friends with Voldemort. However, I must concede that the version they have here-brinjals stuffed with a spicy-coconuty gravy-is worth having and goes amazingly with fresh soft Bhakri. Why can't brinjal dishes everywhere taste like this :P

KALYA VATANCHI USAL - Maharashtra's answer to the famous Punjabi daal. Dense and delicious, steamed rice is perfect accompaniment to this one.

A great thing about this festival - none of the dishes mentioned here are too calorific! It tastes just like a home-cooked meal and I felt 0% guilty while indulging in these.

For those who want to stick to tried & tested/conventional fare, in Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai sections, this buffet has plenty of options for them too. Pondicherry Cafe buffets are among the best in Mumbai because they literally have something for everyone. From among the vast choices, I would recommend-

PANEER LABABDAR (spicy accompaniment to normal naan/kulcha/tandoori roti),
Soft, Sweet-Sour-Spicy TOFU in Soya Ginger Sauce,
Delicious VEG DIMSUM (especially Edamame),

AND the whole dessert section deserves repeat visits, hands down one of the best dessert spreads in the city, alone making the price of buffet totally worth it, especially recommended are -

Chena Toast
Caramel Delight
Berry Jelly Pastry
Apple Crumble Slice
Old Fashioned Cake (Gooey and Chocolatey)
Not to forget LONDON DAIRY ICE-CREAMS! Especially love Double Chocolate and Mango Sorbet.

Very value for money looking at the quality of the buffet, the excellent service from beginning to end, very polite and helpful staff and our delicious experience here. Malvani Food Festival is a must-visit whether you are craving for some tried-and-tested Malvani delights or just starting to dip into this delicious regional cuisine for the first time :)

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