Cayenne, the all-day dining restaurant at Mercure Hyderabad KCP has flown in Chef Nihal Senanayake from Galle (Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel & Spa) to offer the ‘City of Pearls’ a taste of the cuisine of the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’. The weeklong Sri Lankan Food Festival is a part of the dinner buffet, which will feature over a dozen delicacies from our neighbouring island.
Sri Lankan cuisine is somewhat similar to South Indian cuisine and shares several dishes with Tamil cuisine. However, the island has been influenced by multiple cultures over the years and has developed its own distinctive flavour. I was invited to a tasting and interaction session on Saturday. Here’s a glimpse of what was on offer.
Among the appetizers, the Goraka and black pepper marinated Tuna Fish balls were nothing short of spectacular. However, if fish isn’t your thing, you’d be left disappointed by the selection of the vegetarian appetizer – the humdrum Daal Vada. One of the most well-known and distinctive features of Sri Lankan cuisine is their refreshing and vibrant Sambol. The menu for the night featured Pol Sambol, Green Mango and Chicken Sambol, Fried Bitter Gourd, and Snake Gourd Sambol. The Pol Sambol that’s a mix of desecrated coconut, onions, chillies, and lemon is perhaps the most well known of the Sambols, and it didn’t disappoint. However, the Green Mango and Chicken Sambol, which was somewhat similar to a Raw Mango Thai Salad prepared without chillies, was my favourite. I was a tad disappointed to not see any Fish Sambol on her menu. The taste of Fish Sambol that I ate in a BnB at Yala during my Sri Lanka trip is still my most vivid memory of island’s cuisine.
The main course featured Kottu Parota, Red Rice, and Mutton Tawa Pulao. I’m not a big fan of Biryanis or Pulaos at buffet restaurants, but Cayenne managed to surprise me. The Pulao had robust flavours that reminded me of the Chettinad Biryani. Sides included Fish Curry, Sweet potato mustard curry, Pork Black Curry, and Chicken Thel Vinakari. The Black Curry features all the distinctive elements of Sri Lankan cuisine – from pepper and cinnamon to coconut milk. The gravy was delicious, but the pork was a tad chewy. I finished off my meal with an excellent platter of assorted Sri Lankan sweets including Milk Toffee, Jaggery Pudding, and Kalu Dodol.
The Sri Lankan food festival offers a rare opportunity to experience the subtleties of the cuisine of Sri Lanka without having to hop on a flight. The buffet is priced at Rs. 1499 (plus taxes), but is available for Rs. 1299 (plus taxes) for Accor members. The inclusion of unlimited liquor (IMFL, Beer, and Cocktails) in the package makes this a pretty sweet deal. The festival ends on July 21st.