Friday, 1 May 2015

Attitudes of Tastes- Kaema Sutra Vs Masala Library

#Comparison Series Kickstarts....

A few days back, while browsing through foodie groups on social media, a post caught my attention. It was asking the patrons of the group as to what do you do when a restaurant serve great food but their service is below any limits to be called good, and goes on to be a bit more of an attitude problem of the restaurant itself. An innocent question that can spark off arguments of many sorts. Do you go back to the erring restaurant for the love of food or not?

Or does an act of kindness get you a loyal customer of life, even when the food does not reach up to that standard. 

Where does a restaurateur stand in this argument? Everyone has a bad day in kitchen. Fair enough, but what if that bad day just ruined some important celebration of the diner. Recently I went through 2 scenarios of opposite effects. And hence today I sit down to rant review both these meals, and the restaurateur; and talk about how both chose to address these situations.

Darshana Munidasa vs Zorawar Kalra

Modernizing an age old cuisine is undoubtedly the most recent food revolution. And when you talk about culturally rich tropical countries like Sri Lanka and India, there is a lot to modernise. Throw in the fact that both are primary countries, boasting of vast bounty of fresh and flavourful produce; and your experiments become even bolder. And truly, both these iconic restaurateurs along with their teams produced some really good gems in their menu, unarguably the best I have tasted so far.

For all those who don’t know these names, a brief background. Darshana Munidasa (DM) is a Sri Lankan cook and TV host who owns and co-owns three of the most successful restaurants in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He has smartly collaborated with cricketers (Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakara) and an actress (Jaqueline Fernandez) of international fame, to maximise the restaurant’s touristic attraction. Zorawar Kalra (ZK) is the son of the Famous chef/newspaper columnist- Jiggs Kalra; who heads the Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd, which owns busy and successful restaurants like Masala Library and Farzi cafĂ©. Both these distinguished businesses are built on the concept of modernizing their respective cuisines. And to go by the taste, their teams have done an excellent job that cannot be denied from any aspect.

Sri Lanka
Ministry of Crabs was my first when I tasted DM’s creations. This restaurant has achieved immense international acclaim and is run on just one food philosophy- ‘The only use we've found for freezers is to store our food refuse for disposal.’ The island is the best place to get the freshest of the fresh seafood, and the restaurant does justice to these majestic crabs. It’s juicy, delicious and needs to be devoured with hands rather than a fork and knife. I had half a dozen oysters as a starter, followed by the Pepper Garlic Medium Crab with traditional Sri Lankan wood fired bread- Kade. We drank a beautiful French garage wine along with it and finished off the dinner with a spoon full of coffee jelly! Fresh clean flavours, that blew my mind off in every gastronomic directions possible. It’s a moderately priced menu, where it came up to 5900 INR for a couple’s dinner with a bottle of wine. I would recommend it to one and all. It’s an experience that should not be missed by any seafood lover. Complete Value for the money Paid as well.

The very next day, I headed to Kaema Sutra, a restaurant jointly owned by actress Jaquelin Fernandez and Chef Munidasa. It serves contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine, with chic presentation. It sounded too good to pass, and hence I couldn’t stop my foodie steps towards the restaurant. I ordered for the famed Hot Chilli Wings with classic cocktail of gin and tonic. Wings were hard, difficult to eat as the hot sauce that coated it had too much of vinegar, which over cooked the chicken further. The wingettes were a bit better than the drums and spice levels were out of the world hot. We progressed into a simple Sri Lankan lunch of Black Goat curry and fresh hot hoppers (appams). And this is where the inevitable happened. Twice I found goat hair in the meat. Uncleansed meat is not an appetising thought. In fact, it’s a very serious issue which can lead unto food poisoning. Once was forgiven, but when I found a hair again, it was the time to raise an alarm. The restaurant manager quickly made his way up to our table and apologised. He served fresh food, where obviously we chose not to order goat or chicken, and settled on fish. Upon knowing we were Indians, the manager served us a baby jackfruit curry, made in the exact same manner as the goat. He refilled our drinks, and went onto serve us a French inspired hopper with strawberries and cream, which came as a surprise with ‘Happy Anniversary’ etched on it. It was our anniversary lunch, which could have been really rudely ruined. If you analyse, it was just a bad day for one of the kitchen staff who was responsible for cleaning meats. It could have been dealt in a chalta hai attitude, as done in India. But the management decided to come forth to apologise, and did not let us pay anything for the lunch.


Cut to my birthday dinner last year in Masala Library, about which you can read here-

The callousness shown in the service was echoed in the call from the marketing team of Massive Restaurants. I was reduced to using the term attitude even during the call, where I didn’t feel the call was made to apologise but just as a customary duty to inform that the plates are changed. India apparently is the hub of hospitality, but an Indian found it better in the Lankan Island. The plates were chipped which is unacceptable; but the sommelier leaving in the middle of the dinner, followed with no wine service; to the screaming shouting kitchen staff were as unacceptable as the plate. And moreover, when you notice your patron upset, don’t you take immediate steps to put it right? Doesn’t this fall under basic courtesy of a restaurant of that stature? Now I leave it unto you to decide and tell me which situation was right and wrong and why. There can never be a straight answer to this. To each his/her own. Cheers!

P.S. I think I should stop going to restaurants to celebrate special days. They almost always end up being rather difficult! Anyway, I leave you with my Anniversary shopping of lovely Noritake Porcelain tea sets.


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