If you’ve read about my travels to Thailand, and my review of our very-Sushi meal at Shiro, Mumbai, then you already know that I’m obsessed with Asian Cuisine! 😀 I love it all – Sushi, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Tempura, Nasi Goreng, Laksa, Thai curry, Glass Noodle Soups and Salads, Dimsum, Crackling Pork, Bao, Sticky Rice, Darsaan. You name it, I love it. And if I haven’t tried it, I will and I’m sure I’ll love it. 😀
So naturally, when my brother told me about a Pan Asian Food Festival happening at The Gateway Hotel, Mangalore, my ears perked up, and my mind was instantly swirling with images of Sushi, Dimsum, fresh salads and hot, sweet and sour punches of flavour. After tossing the idea around for a few days, last night we finally got off our lazy bums and headed to The Gateway Hotel. If you’re in Mangalore and are planning to try it out, hurry, the festival ends on January 31, 2016!
This is how the night went…
As soon as we were seated we were asked what we’d like to order and we went with the Asian Buffet. A couple of solo photographs of the brother and the boyfriend done, I headed to the buffet spread to get some clicks of the prettily laid out food.
As I walked over to the Appetizer bar, I must say, I was not very thrilled. There lay a few trays of sliced salad veggies, some Kimchi, Poached Seafood Salad, vegetarian Sushi and Crab Stick Urumaki, a Glass Noodle Salad and two platters stocked high with bread rolls. On another table lay two soups – Vietnamese Noodle Soup and Prawn Tom Yum Soup and some steamed Chicken Dimsum. When I list this all out, it seems like a beautiful spread, but one look at the Sushi and I was very disappointed. I also expected a larger variety of salads, some steamed bao and Vietnamese spring rolls; not to forget freshly fried tempura!
We began our meal with some soup. I went with a bowl of Tom Yum Soup. The reason I call it Tom Yum Soup and not Prawn Tom Yum Soup is because in my entire bowl, I managed to find just two tiny prawns sunken to the bottom. The reason they were sunken was because the soup was not thick enough and far too watery. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoyed the flavours; but we all know that consistency is key to a good soup. The flavour profile of the Vietnamese soup was really nice as well. Light and refreshing.
Steamed Chicken Dimsum
We absolutely loved the Steamed Chicken Dimsums. The outer coating was soft, and pulled away easily, revealing a delectable succulent filling that was so well seasoned, you kept wanting to go in for another bite. I loved the Mustard-Chilli relish that went with it (looked a lot like chimichurri to me!). Just delish!
Glass Noodle Salad
The Glass Noodle Salad looked so pretty and colourful and was packed with refreshing flavours. It was lemon-y, sweet, fresh and just lip-smacking. I liked it so much, I went back for a second serving!
The crispy fried Fish Takra was another great dish. It was sweet and spicy and crunchy with a wonderfully soft centre. Just what you want from a yum starter to go with some drinks.
I am a huge fan of bread. Whenever I’m dining at a buffet spread, I make it a point to try all the different breads out there. The spread at The Gateway Hotel featured the Classic Bun and the Dinner Roll. I loved both. They were soft and melt-in-the-mouth, just the right amount of sweet sans the overpowering flavour of yeast. Just the way I like it!
There were two kinds of Sushi – a vegetarian kind that was basically a rice roll with a stick of carrot and Cucumber each and the Crab Stick Urumaki.
As you can see in the picture above, the Urumaki looks nothing like a good Sushi. It is almost impossible to locate the seafood. However, if you look closely, you can see a crab stick each stuck in there and some wasabi around it. Already disheartened with how it looked, I popped an Urumaki into my mouth. And my tongue was on fire. Due to the lack of veggies and seafood to complement and tackle the heat of the wasabi, the Urumaki was far too pungent; and not in an appetizing way. Having gorged on some amazing Sushi in Muscat, Mumbai and Thailand, this was a huge letdown. 😦
Apart from this, the Kimchi was not seasoned well enough and the Poached Seafood Salad didn’t please my taste buds. The Cottage Cheese cooked in pepper and herbs was rubbery and required a lot of effort to bite. Definitely not how it’s supposed to be.
So, this was my general issue with the Main Course spread. While I glanced through the gravies that lined the buffet table, I could see a variety of dishes that screamed Indo-Chinese! You know the kind. There was a chicken gravy, some Mushroom, Brocolli and Bamboo Shoot and Kung Pao Chicken – all featuring the same corn-starch thickened gravy seasoned with different sauces and batter-fried chicken and veggies. This was very disappointing, because I wanted to eat authentic Asian food, not Indo-Chinese!
The only thing I decided I wanted to taste from the entire main course spread was the Jungle Seafood Curry (which looked and tasted exactly like Thai Green Curry!) and steamed rice (no, it was not Jasmine Rice). I really enjoyed the curry but hated that the seafood was – as expected – batter-fried as well. The best bit about Thai curry is how fresh seafood/ chicken/ veggies work perfectly with the spicy gravy. Despite being a seafood lover, I couldn’t bring myself to eat all that soggy batter-fried seafood; I ended up eating just the rice and curry.
The dessert bar was prettily laid out with some fresh fruit, a sweet Tofu dish, some Darsaan (which they named Darshan!), Mithai Kaja (something like a desi Baklava), Green Peas Halwa and Cream Caramel.
Though it looked absolutely stunning, the Mithai Kaja was a little hard to bite and had a strong flavour of sesame to it. It was good, but not great!
Tofu Wrapped Pineapple
These little bites of decadent goodness were amazing. The soft tofu covering giving way to a piece of sweet and sour pineapple was a lovely surprise! I tasted it for the first time and loved it!
When bakers see soft vanilla cake as the base of a cheesecake, they see red (are graham crackers or digestive biscuits not on the market?). And that’s exactly what happened last night and it drove me mad! To top it off, well literally, there was nothing cheesy about the strawberry layer – it was just a really bad strawberry mousse. We took one bite, cringed and set it aside. Extremely unpalatable.
Darsaan (Honeyed Crispy Noodles with Ice-Cream)
Then came the best part of the meal – and I mean no sarcasm here – the Darsaan. The noodles were crispy, oozing with the sweetness of honey and a dash of sesame and paired with Vanilla Ice-Cream, it was a match made it heaven! Super delicious!
The brother and the boyfriend then went on to ruin the amazing aftertaste of the Darsaan with some really uninviting Cream Caramel, but I made no such mistake, hence my evening ended on a beautifully sweet note! (What can I say, they should’ve listened to me!) 😛
All in all, the Pan Asian Food Festival was largely marred by the introduction of Indian flavours, which was very dissatisfying for someone who expected authentic Asian Cuisine. When we conveyed our concerns to a server, he let us know about how the first day of the festival featured authentic Asian delicacies which were not well-received by diners. Hence the adjustments with an Indian touch. That’s too bad, they’re really missing out!
If I were to rate the Pan Asian Food Festival 2016, at The Gateway Hotel, on a five star scale, I’d give it a 2.5. I believe staying authentic to classic delicacies would have taken our dining experience to a whole other level!