The scene – a balmy evening in Bengaluru, tables set around a cooking station, fresh seafood on a bed of crushed ice, bowls of fragrant marinades, a chef standing over a well-seasoned grill to bring it all together on banana leaf-lined platters. It was a showcase of new additions to the menu at Karavalli, aptly called – West Coast Seafood Grill and Wood Fired Dishes Experience.
Executive Chef Naren Thimmaiah kicked off the evening by informing the blogger invitees about the dishes added to the iconic menu from different regions on the Konkan coast, including vegetarian specialties from Mangalore and other areas. The chef’s love for coastal cuisine and his expertise in the field made his introduction really interesting and then we were onto the lovely seafood grilling experience. Diners can choose from Scampi, Red snapper, Black Pomfret, Indian Salmon etc., then pick their choice of marinade and have it cooked by a chef or opt to grill it themselves. A couple of guests chose to man the grills under chef’s supervision while the rest of us watched and tried to pick up some pointers on grilling seafood.
First to sizzle were the scampi in a fiery Goan masala. The huge scampi were coated in a reddish-orange marinade and then thrown onto the heat. After some time they were covered briefly with a vessel, in order to cook thoroughly without drying out the meat. As part of the plating, all the delicious browned bits were scraped up from the tava and used as a finger-licking garnish on the scampi!
The next feature was Meen Eleittad, delicate fillet of fish lavishly coated with a spicy marinade, enfolded in a banana leaf and grilled to perfection. The banana leaf envelope ensured that the fish came out fork-tender and juicy, with nary a hint of toughness on the skin. This is a technique we’re borrowing for sure.
Also served at the table were Chemeen Roast – lightly cooked prawns in a dark, onion-y masala and a lovely slice of fried fish coated sparingly in spices. All the preparations were full of flavour and definitely on the hotter side, so if you enjoy a higher scale of heat, you will love this menu.
The vegetarian starters included a raw-banana fry dish from Kerala – Pachakkai Varathathu that was absolutely delicious and addictive. The crescent-shaped slices of banana had been deep-fried and then tossed in a lovely blend of spices, with a hint of coconut perhaps.
The Kaju Kotambir Vadi, though described as ‘coriander-tossed masala cashews’ were more like coriander fritters with cashewnuts, nicely crisped-up and satisfying. The third appetizer was an offering of tiny rice dumplings in a powdery coconutty dressing with bits of crunchy urad dal, slightly reminiscent of our favourite snack of cocktail idlis brushed with ghee and a dry chutney.
All the curries in the main course had been cooked in wood-fired clay pots, we were told. Mounds of steaming idiyappam were served alongside, topped with shards of fresh grated coconut. The appams with their perfectly crispy sides and thick, spongy centres, and the Malabar-style paranthas were perfect to soak in and scoop up the gravies.
The chef told us that the home-style dish of brown chickpeas in a dark sauce – Kadala Gassi originated in South Canara. Our pick though was the Maavinakai Mensukkai, a preserved mango curry that was sweet, sour and spicy, rich with coconut milk and really tasty.
For the non-vegetarians there was Meen Vevichathu – succulent pieces of seer fish in an excellent curry, the chilli base was balanced well here with a nice tang from the tamarind. The Karavalli Mutton Curry looked thick and creamy, but at that point we were really full and could not do it real justice.
The trio of hot, cold and room temperature desserts had something for every kind of sweet tooth. Of course, we had to start with the Tamarind Ice cream that had just the right amount of tartness in the sweet cream base. Chef explained to us how they had experimented to get this edgy balance. The ever-popular Goan Bebinca tasted fresh, and the eggy layers had been flavoured with nutmeg, as is traditional. The Ada Pradhaman was divine and rich and got a nod from everyone at the table.
We really enjoyed the food and service at Karavalli and would recommend it to anyone who’d enjoy a sumptuous meal with authentic dishes, all hand-picked from India’s West coast and beautifully cooked in traditional styles.Address: Karavalli @ The Gateway Hotel, Residency Road
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