Life is a radial balance between order and chaos, between loud and delicate. The tasks we perform each day bring us a step closer to attaining that perfect serenity and nothing gives us more joy than knowing that the universe too is working in unison with us. We know this by observing the little things and nuances of every day which genuinely make us happy. And the WGSHA food fest – “Mandala” on the 16th and 17th of September was chartered to be one such experience.
“Mandala ideally is an Indian abstract which represents a design in a circle where the circle symbolizes the universe and that’s why I wanted to name my food fest Mandala where the circle signified the plate and the design was the food that was served on it” – Shreya, Final year BACA.
We were greeted warmly at the reception by Vibukar – the marketing head. The place was tastefully decorated with abstract art exhibiting a fusion of different concepts and cultures. It was explained to us that Mandala focused on Indian Contemporary cuisine which meant that there were strong influences from the West whilst still retaining the essence of the East. He then led us to the kitchen, which was a site to behold. The immense effort which goes into making and plating every perfect morsel of food is simply unfathomable. There were different stations for each dish on the seven course menu and each dish was manned by a different set of students and a chef. The pressure and precision in there contributed to the intense atmosphere.
Naturally, looking at all the food being cooked, our metabolism rates spiked and our salivary glands started working over-time. We rushed to the bakery next where we witnessed nothing short of art strewn on a plate which made us eager to go and taste some of that art right away.
As we took our seats the sweet melody of Indian classical instrumental music filled the room. Anticipations and expectations were soaring high at this moment and as we took the first sip of our welcome drink, we were not disappointed.
The ‘Sabze Spritzer’ was tender coconut water infused with holy basil pearls and chia seeds and it was like a breath of fresh air. The drink tasted so different than what usually graces the palate, and it sure kept us wanting more as the refreshing taste put a smile on our faces. Then we had the appetizer, ’Samal-un-Naan’ which was a blue cheese naan. The blue cheese blended in with the saltiness of the bread perfectly.
Next, it was time for a soup course – the ‘Raj Rasoi Shorba’. It was a clear soup with an underlying tangy taste and a side helping of peanut raja masala which added to the masala flavours of the shorba. Then it was time for the first course which of-course had a separate vegetarian and a non vegetarian selection. Thanks to my allergies to shellfish, I took the vegetarian option. The servers were extremely polite and careful and checked beforehand about any allergies we might be suffering from.
Now while I didn’t taste the ‘Daab Chingri’, it looked extremely pleasing to the eye. It was composed of sous-vide prawns, coconut cream, shallots and kasundi chutney and the presentation looked spectacular. As vegetarians, we had the ‘Tiranga-e’tandoor’ which was tandoori pumpkin pie, beshamel and pesto. The tandoor gave the pie a beautiful charred flavor which blended with the softness of the pie and the strong taste of the pesto.
Before the second course we had a ‘Aam Panna Sorbet’ which acted as a palate cleanser. It was so light and gripping and the taste of raw mango lingered for a long time. For the second course itself, we had the ‘Tirangi Matar Paneer’ which was a very interesting and innovative take on a ravioli and the ‘Murgh Sulemani‘ which was a chicken roulade with glazed vegetables. To complement this course we had the Butter Chicken Kulcha and the Aloo Kulcha.
For the last part of this seven course meal we had the ‘Semiya-e-Khas’ which was a semiya payasam panna cotta, mango coulis, mint crumble, coconut brandy-snap and kiwi caviar. It tasted exactly like heaven on a plate. Each element on the plate complemented each other and it felt like a breathtaking take on the basic payasam.
After this food fest the extraordinary creativity and hard work that goes behind each plate of food served to us dawned on me. And such skills deserve a lot of appreciation. I will always remember this experience and if anything ever goes on with me in life, I know that there will always be a Mandala that will guide me to finding the perfect balance in life.
– Written by Anushna Sen
– Photography by Srinath Balakrishnan