Friday, October 27, 2006

Aki's: Diwali (Deepavali) Festival Banquet

Menu cover at Aki's
I’m going to start with an apology. These pictures are crap. The light was low, beautifully moody with candles, and I hate using a flash if I’m in a restaurant. I don’t want to encroach on the pleasure of other diners because I happen to have a penchant for photographing my food and writing about. I can get away with a great deal at lunch, but sometimes dinner is much more difficult. So through wrestling with the night conditions, my respect for others, and my desire to be unobtrusive, you have to put up with bad pictures. Sorry, but don’t let that detract too much from the experience, the food was divine. And the dishes are just as they came out on the plate. I'm not taking the rap for odd food styling as well as the crap photos.

What I can do is give you an extensive menu description for this $58 multiple dish banquet menu to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali, or the coming of the light.

The menu was divided into four sections. The first entrée (left) was a trio of vegetable morsels. Kulzhi Paneeram, a fermented rice and coconut dumpling served with sesame, tamarind and red chilli chutney (top right). Tawa Paneer Anari, a cubed paneer tossed with Ajwain, ginger, fresh chillis, coriander and pomegranate seeds (botton right). The last was Baingan Kachri, chickpea battered eggplant fritters served with date and tamarind chutney (top left).

These were all outstanding and very different in flavour. The paneer was the most intriguingly spiced of the three and the soft cheese texture mingled with the spice seeds to produce a wonderful mouth feel and sparky palate pepping taste. The eggplant was crisply battered and the tamarind blanket provided a foil for the batter with an intense sour sweet syrup.

The second triplet (left) took us to the sea. For the Meen Sunti, the publicised sword fish steaks were replaced by tuna and marinated in onion juice, browned coconut, cumin, coriander seeds, red chillis and pepper then smoked in tandoor (top right). Jumbo Prawn, was a tandoor roasted prawn in a marinade of Ajwain (carom seeds), lime, ginger and turmeric (top left), and the third, Balmain Bug Milagu consisted of Balmain bug meat tossed with shallots, fennel, mustard seeds, cracked black pepper and fresh curry leaves (botton centre). The bugs were soft an tender as you’d expect and although the tuna was luscious, I can only stand so much cooked tuna (I prefer it raw) and passed half to a comrade who gobbled it up enthusiastically. The prawn was a bit of a disappointment. Cooked in the shell it was well underdone so the spices hadn’t penetrated and the flesh had the squeaky mouth feel of partially cooked crustacean, in a bad way. I left it on the plate.

Our main course arrived with Hara Chicken Khorma (left), a mint and coriander flavoured chicken in a rich sauce of cashew nut and poppy seeds, and Lamb Dalcha (below), a slow cooked spicy curry with yellow lentil, cinnamon, fennel, and tomatoes, finished off with fresh coriander leaves. The potato Karakari, were cubed chat potatoes steam roasted and finished with black mustard seeds, sweated onions and chilli powder. The mains were accompanied with ghee rice, naan bread and raita. All were delightful and unique in their spice profile. Each complemented the other, but I couldn’t get through too many of the piquant potatoes with the wealth of food presented to us.

By this stage I was feeling well satiated but the desserts provided fresh relief. A Panna Cotta with Blood Orange and Berry Salad was light and delicate with the clean notes of citrus. The Date and Cashew Halwa looked admirable but I must admit by this time I was defeated. I had well and truly welcomed Rama and the light and I didn’t think he’d mind if I left a bit.

(left: naan bread)
I always struggle with the wine list at Indian eateries. If the food’s too spicy it will destroy a good wine, the palate will be assaulted with the other flavours. Too big a red and the subtle spices will get lost in a torrent of hand-to-hand combat berries and tannin. I know, you’ll say drink beer or lassi, but I wasn’t with that sort of crowd. They wanted their vino and they didn’t want white. I chose a 2003 Jaboulet ‘Parallèle 45’ Côtes du Rhône at $42. This wine costs about €6.55 which is about AUD$11.00, take shipping and import and GST into account, brings it up to about an RRP of AUD$20 to buy it locally. So their list was not too bad a price and it definitely matched well with the food.
(Left: dessert plate)
We lumbered under this feast, as truly sumptuous as it was. Generous servings, generous spirit, happy service and even the Australian Miss India was there to have her photo op.


Blogger CRK-BS said...

como siempre una gran noticia!!!!!!!! siguen asi!!!!!!

2:03 AM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

I understand how you feel about taking photos with the flash too. You really need to have flash for a good photo but in darker restaurants, it literally lights up the whole room.

The other way is to buy a mini tripod I guess and take longer integration times, but that means carrying even more equipment.

The third option is to end up with less than brilliant photos. :-(

12:12 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

oh, i feel terribly obnoxious. i'm one of those horrible food bloggers who uses their flash!!!

every time i do it i cringe at myself and yet i just keep on doing it like a sick compulsion.

somebody needs to spank me.

7:15 PM  

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