Pan-Asian cuisine has been steadily gaining momentum in the city. The past year has seen restaurants like Mamagoto and Malaka Spice arriving in Hyderabad. However, there are still many aspects of the food from this vast and geographically diverse region that remain unexplored in the city. The Square at Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre is hosting a Pan-Asian food festival that promises to showcase the familiar favourites as well as popular Asian gastronomic delights that aren’t readily available in the city. I was invited to a media and blogger’s session organised earlier in the week.
The hotel has been decked up for Christmas. There are bright lights and streamers everywhere. The lobby features a charming snow castle, and Le Cafe is now a massive gingerbread house featuring multiple smaller gingerbread houses within it. However, walking into The Square shifts offers a somewhat jarring change in theme from winter festivities to the mystical Orient.
The outdoor area has been converted into a mini Asian Streetfood hub with an assortment of live stations. The Vietnamese Roll counter was dishing out delicious spring rolls made from rice paper and stuffed with fresh veggies. The Satay counter went beyond the usual Chicken Satays and also had Tenderloin, Fish, and Cottage Cheese Satay. Both Vietnamese Rolls and Beef Satays are dishes you’d be hard-pressed to find in the city, and I was thrilled to see them on offer. Even the familiar offerings like Dim Sum had some pleasant surprises. The Dim Sums were available in five variants – Prawn, Chicken, Fish, Assorted Vegetables, and Corn and Water Chestnut. All of the Dim Sums that I tried were really good, but what made them truly stand out were the unique assortment of dips. Novotel went beyond the usual accompaniments for Dim Sum and offered as many as six dips – Mustard with Cream, Parsley and Roasted Garlic, Caramelised Onion with Soya, Spring Onion with Ginger, Roasted Chilli and Seasame, and Roasted Tomato. Two sauces stood out in particular – Mustard and Caramelised Onion. They paired beautifully with the dim sum and offered an interesting mix of flavours ranging from the pungency of mustard to the sweetness of caramelised onion. The final live counter was a Teppanyaki grill that had Chicken, Fish, and Prawns on offer.
The buffet laid out indoors also had its fair share of surprises. The highlights from the cold cuts counter were Lemongrass marinated Squid Cups, Tenderloin with Sesame and Broccoli, and Fish with Peanut Dressing. The soups counter featured a hearty Vietnamese Pho with Shrimps. In the mains, the duo of Korean dishes Caramelized Pork Chops and Beef Bulgogi were the main attractions. Both the dishes had a lip-smacking sweet and sticky marinade, but the meat itself was a tad too chewy to be enjoyable. The other highlights in the main courses were the Egg Pad Thai and Thai Yellow Curry.
Pan-Asian desserts can often be a predictable exercise as most places limit themselves to tried and tested sweet dishes from the Orient like Darshan and Tub Tim Grob. Sure enough, I spotted the Tub Tim Grob on the desserts counter. But, Novotel ventured beyond the usual Asian desserts and had an interesting array of fusion desserts with Pan Asian flavours. I mentioned in an earlier article that Novotel Convention Centre is looking to experiment more with Modern cuisine. They had earlier procured a Sous Vide machine. Now, the kitchen also has the necessary tools to dabble in molecular gastronomy. The buffet had a few simple techniques on display. The Fish with Peanut Dressing mentioned earlier featured some orange caviars. The Honey Mousse and Black Sesame Pancakes saw more utilisation of spherification. I absolutely loved the Mousse due to its perfectly airy texture and the experimentation with Asian flavours paid rich dividends here. Another surprise was Mint Mojito Jelly, which was a jellified version of a Mojito.
The Wok’s Hot – Pan Asian Food Festival, will continue at The Square until 18th December. The dinner buffet is priced at Rs. 1400 (plus taxes) between Mon and Thusday, and at Rs. 2100 (plus taxes) between Friday and Sunday.