Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Thai Food Festival | Pondicherry Cafe - Sofitel | Food Review | Restaurant Review

As a kid, it was my understanding that buffets signified weddings. You stood in lines and got a usual medley of veggies, pulses, breads, desserts etc. to celebrate a joyous occasion. As a foodie however, it seems that buffets can be so much more, a trip around the world perhaps! It is heartening to see how many hotels and restaurants are arranging for global cuisines with authentic preparations in their buffet offerings, the quickest way for us foodies to become more acquainted with world food. Food festivals are excellent for this!

It is same vein that luxury destination of Sofitel has organized Thai Food Festival at Pondicherry Cafe where Chefs Sorataj Thesaphu and Teepanon Pongthong have flown in from Bangkok Sofitel to create a special Thai menu (in addition to the regular buffet options) for discerning food lovers.

Luxury and royalty drip from every corner of the ambiance as one walks in here. From drop-dead gorgeous chandeliers to a stunning cellar in the middle of the vast space, plush carpet, exotic flowers and they have created a mini-Thailand here with artifacts, knick-knacks such as face masks and mini umbrellas strewn in all over, not overwhelming, just about right. When it comes to the buffet, it seems never-ending with a long range of counters serving Indian, Continental, Pizzas, Pasta, Dessert, London Dairy Ice Cream and a beautiful display of Thai veggies & fruits such as Rambutan and Mangosteen showcase the best of Thai too. Smell of exotic spices hung in the air as we saw Chefs creating some masterpieces LIVE with names almost impossible to pronounce and remember, but we shall try :D

The buffet here is already super lavish, full marks to them for including dishes such as Karela (bitter gourd), Sweet Potato, Yams, Saag in a mainstream buffet and they all tasted FANTASTIC, obviously so did the usual Paneer Masala, Dal Makhani, Veg Pulao, Raita, Veg Jalfrezi. Curd rice had no salt but was cooling nonetheless, just what the stomach needs after a heavy feast :D Tulsi marinated Paneer Tikka was OUTSTANDING.

Potato rolls in continental section was good as was the pizza, I tried a mushroom dish but it had a distinctly meat-y smell that put me off so then I did not venture in this section more. What I am giving them full marks for, they have not tried to 'Indianize' every section, everything is close to authentic taste. So Indian section has distinctly Indian spices and flavors, Continental has its own unique flavors, when we reached Thai section, it had its own medley of flavors. This is good, for those who are not very adventurous in terms of trying out 'new' food, there are enough of 'safe' options to stick to while experimental palates have so much to look forward to! Veggies and Non-Veggies both have much to rejoice.

I have not traveled the world so cannot vouch for 'authentic' taste of any global cuisine, but know enough about Thai food to know how rich in flavors it is, from sweet and bitter to salty and tangy, rich in aroma and intricately prepared with the help of exotic spices such as Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime, Galangal, Cilantro and so on. Strong components, lightly prepared, lingering taste on palate for long! What we tried here certainly felt true on all these counts.

Thai special mushroom salad (Lab Hed) had a sweet edge sharply cut by a spicy-tangy end, beautiful!

Thai Sweet & Sour (or was it hot & sour) Soup had nice lightly oily texture with a good smattering of veggies with real heat punch but again a distinctly meat-y feel (maybe again due to these particular mushrooms that bothered me) so I personally did not like it much but saw others loving it, so :D

Vegetable Thai Green Curry with Tofu (Kang Kiew Wan Pak) was SUPERSTAR of a dish, velvety light texture, creamy all the same, exotic veggies, strong aroma, went beautifully with Sticky Jasmine Rice!

Veg Noodles - I think these were Rice Noodles with Veggies, felt dry and sticky on their own but I lathered them in Green Curry and there they were, beautiful to chomp on :)

Veg Stir-Fried Veggies Thai Style were another winner for me with strong nutty flavor and texture,

Veg Dimsum Platter had a nice mix of dimsums, all of them absolutely gourmet, distinct crunch and flavors, including the hard-to-like edamame (loved it!)

Chef Teepanon Pongthong graciously prepared Veg KhaoSuey for us (such unassuming and modest artists these geniuses are! Pleasure to meet them) and frankly this was THE BEST KHAOSUEY I HAVE EVER HAD. Pity that by then we were almost bursting to the seams otherwise this alone deserved 5 trips. The most stunning curry, it went on the palate like a hot spicy tangy liquid but after just about 20 seconds,gave a tinge of sweetness, this one is alchemy and the mix of noodles, chives, peanuts, fried onion that Chef created just elevated the dish to another level. I am going to emigrate to Thailand if THIS is what they eat everyday :D

A spread of Cheese, Fruits, Salads, Pita Bread, Hummus, Breads beckoned us but we were too full and too tempted by the Dessert spread. I am lucky enough to have attended some great buffets recently with a fabulous dessert spread and this one joins the same ranks. With Gajar Ka Halwa, Chocolate Barfi, Kalakand, Cham-Cham starting off the delicious count, we went on to some outstanding Chocolate Brownie, Coco Pastry, Chocolate Tart, Raspberry Pastry, Strawberry-Chocolate Mousse and of course the Thai special Mango Panna Cotta as well as Frangipani from their Boulangerie, an utter work of art. This is one of the most decadent dessert spreads EVER! Full 5 Stars here :D

Oh, and they also have this Thai special Bubble Tea stand, this is an acquired taste but it grows on you, well it certainly did on me! It is not a creamy strong tea concoction, rather it is a delicate, subtle, very lightly fragrant drink and is available in quite a range of flavors. I say, do try some :)

Service was good, in the beginning though we were left wondering for a good 10 minutes on where to go and how to proceed. We had landed here some time before our reservation time and the lunch buffet had just started so it took the staff some time to get around to our table but they gave us no reasons to complain once they did. 

Extremely lovely staff, service was a little slow in the beginning but picked up later on. I would give a special word of thanks to the Sardarji uncle at the main entrance itself who was so jolly and welcoming that he frankly made our day :)

Fancy a trip to Thailand? This Thai Food Festival is certainly recommended for a little glimpse of this beautiful, delicious land :) 

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