Foodie Trail-Chennai: Of tweaking Karavalli home food for five-star guests

Chef Ganesh Sheregar
Chef Ganesh Sheregar

Chef Ganesh Sheregar will always be reminded of his home kitchen and his wife while at work at the famed Karavalli restaurant in Bengaluru’s The Gateway Hotel Residency Road.

This is because three or four dishes on the Karavalli’s menu are from his home.

“My wife is a good cook. I found three or four items made by her at home very tasty. I took the recipes to my seniors and with slight tweaking to suit the palate of a five-star clientele, the items have been included in the menu card,” Sheregar said.

He was whipping out the famous South Western Indian coastal (Goa, Karnataka and Kerala) delicacies served at Karavalli restaurant that is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

While the majority of the dishes served in Indian hotels are from the kitchens of Indian homes, a slight tweaking happens at the hotel kitchens, which are commercial in nature.

“One has to make slight changes in the manner of cooking to suit the restaurant operations without compromising on the taste. The unique taste of home food is due to its slow cooking process. But slow cooking is generally not possible in a busy restaurant,” Mohamed Siddiq, executive chef at the Taj Club House, said.

Allapuzha Meen Curry
Allapuzha Meen Curry

That is why busy restaurants adopt various time-saving measures like fully/partly pre-cooking some items, making a puree of some items and others.

At restaurants, one first eats with the eyes. Hence, the dishes have to be presented in a soothing manner, while at home there are no such commercial compulsions, Siddiq added while serving the camaro con cilantro, a Goan prawn dish for starters.

Cooked in saffron sauce and flavoured with coriander, the tasty prawns vanished fast from the plate.

“Hosting such food festivals is part of the hotel’s marketing strategy to build its brand equity and also improve the business,” Chitra Saleem, the graceful sari-clad general manager of the property, said.

Beds and food are the two important aspects that decide a guest’s repeat visits and a hotel has to get these two right, she added.

Saleem, with nearly three decades of experience in the hospitality industry, is the only woman general manager of a star hotel property in Chennai. She earlier headed a Taj hotel in Goa.

Officials said that their elegant soft-spoken head is a hands-on operations person, asking in-depth and searching questions at daily meetings.

Tiger Prawn Roast
Tiger Prawn Roast

By this time, the kane kaidina arrived at the table. The crispy fried female fish from the estuaries of Mangalore was also mild and was followed by dry and non-soggy gobi kempu bezule (crisp fired cauliflower florets tossed in yoghurt, green chillies and curry leaves) and uralakkizhangu roast (baby potatoes, roasted with fennel, Malabar masala and a dash of lemon).

According to Saleem there is a vast difference between a leisure and business class hotels.

Business class hotels like Taj Club House have to provide a pleasant and unforgettable experience to a guest, whose average stay will be for a day-and-a-half or a maximum two days.

The crispy fish was going down the throat fast while hearing Saleem saying that her plan is to increase the hotel’s occupancy ratio in a year’s time by five-seven percent and also to increase the ratio of repeat guests.

Next came the meen eleittad (fresh snapper, marinated in Malabar masala, wrapped in a banana leaf and pan fried).

One need not get alarmed at the bright red-coloured masala covering the fish as the spice levels were not very high.

It was time for the main course and non-vegetarians wanting to have white rice can safely opt for kozhi malliperlan (chicken in tender gravy of coconut milk and spices) or karavalli mutton curry, a south Canara speciality made with finely ground spices, thickened with cashew paste, coconut milk and flavoured with tomato.

Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi
Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi

The vegetarians can try out maavinakai mensukkai, a raw mango dish made with chillies and coconut without onion or garlic; matti gulla gojju (Udupi local green brinjal cooked with onions, tomatos and fresh coconut) or ananas sansav, a Mangalorean curried pineapple dish.

Since the vegetarian curries have a tinge of sweetness, pairing with iddiappam, sannas, neer dosa and not with white rice is suggested.

One can finish the meal with bebinca and dodol with coconut ice cream or alle belle – a Goan pancake stuffed with coconut, cashew and jiggery.

FAQs:

Where: Clubhouse restaurant at Taj Club House off Anna Salai, Chennai.

The Karavalli food festival is on till Sep 27.

Lunch: A la carte average rate for a couple around Rs.2,200 tax included

Dinner: Buffet Rs.1,700 per person tax included

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