I find it hard to believe that you can have a food festival in a buffet, but that is how it is in Chennai. And invariably all those places have average food festivals. One place that was an exception with the consistency was the Madras Pavilion at ITC Grand Chola. I've been to three food festivals, the Arcots, the Telangana and the Navaithas and loved them all. I've always wondered, 'How do these guys do it?" and when I got the invite for their Two States food festival, I was rather excited.
The drive between Mumbai and Goa is supposed to be exotic, but I've not done it. Always did it via Mangalore, so I don't know what you get on the way. Here, the drive starts with a couple of musicians belting out live Goan music! Definitely sets the tone for the evening!
The Mumbai chats were lacklustre for me. Except the Keema Pav, the rest, including the Pav Bhaji, the pani puri and the others simply didn't cut it for me. Definitely nowhere close to the real ones. Not a great start to the drive. Coming to the drive, I think that because this was set as starters and main courses, the Mumbai to Goa drive feel did not translate in the food. Maybe if this was a set menu and it took us through the drive starting with Mumbai and slowly introducing the flavours of Goa, this might have done really well, but the buffet style for what is essentially four different styles of food, I guess did not allow that. Four because Mumbai has a street food and a Maharashtrian which are completely different flavours and so does Goa with the vindaloos and the beach shack which are completely different.
I saw Khow Suey and immediately took a small helping of that, though it is far away from the two states. Loved it! The grills, Goa style were excellent. The little platter with a fried fish, the peri-peri prawns and the chicken along with the grilled prawns were the best dishes of the evening. And my excitement stopped there. Tried the main courses and personally, I felt like the plot was lost. Combining the flavours of Goa with the vindaloo and stuff with the rather new (for my palate) Maharashtrian flavours were a miss and I ended up not enjoying both. Nothing stood out and I couldn't help but compare with the previous food festivals here where there were stand out dishes!!!
Dessert was pretty good. The Mumbai Gola was there and I had the Kala Kati, and it was close to the flavours I love in Mumbai. The Bebinca was fabulous and the rice kheer from Mumbai was fantastic. Dessert and the grills definitely saved the day.
This is probably the first time I am coming out without the 300% satisfaction from a food festival in ITC Grand Chola. This food was not bad in any sense, but simply didn't live up to the super high expectation that I have from Madras Pavilion food festivals. However, I am already looking forward to their next food festival!!! I think it is going to be a great one!!!