Temple Food Festival, Hyatt Regency

Plonking festival and promotional dishes in the middle of an elaborate buffet is something I hate to write about. In general, it tends to dilute the promotional dishes which almost always tend to be overlooked! Which is why the Temple Food Festival at Hyatt Regency stands out. A chef is plonked there. Not just any chef, but the one who curated the menu and an entire section is dedicated to the festival and he goes about explaining dishes to the guests who show a lot of interest in those dishes. The fact that this section alone is priced separately could be why people spend a lot of time here. You could simply have the festive dishes for Rs. 1250+

Festivals come and go and for most five star hotel buffets, it is just about adding variety for their in-house guests. Chef Balaji, who has worked closely with one Mr. Rakesh, who hosts a TV show and goes up digging out little-known-to-the-world-but-very-popular-locally kind of dishes and is trying to preserve those recipes before they are replaced this revolution of similar tasting foods worldwide. I was meeting a friend at Hyatt and chef Balaji saw me there and invited me over. I wish I had gone earlier and written about it earlier as the festival is getting over on the 5th of this month.

I think the festival had me at hello! OK, maybe at the soup, a Mysore Rasam. More like a paruppu rasam. Throughout this post, I am going to be struggling to describe why I liked something. It was like good home food, but at 5 star quality. So this rasam was like an insane melange of flavours that come together to clear your throat and appetising you as it makes its way down to the tummy. It was a simple rasam, but a near perfect rasam. What did it have that my mom's rasam doesn't? Apparently ground coconut paste!

The starters were super simple. An adai and sanas. Sanas is a steamed dish, similar to idly, but with a batter made with rice and split black gram. What made these dishes spectacular? The pineapple menaskai that it was served with. Again, very difficult to describe a sambar and why I liked it, but I know the ingredients - pineapple and green grapes. Yes, grapes!!!!

After that even more simplicity took over. I didn't know that PuliyoDARAI and PuliyoGORAI were two different dishes. GARAI has a scent of cinnamon that was more than palatable in the dish presented yesterday and a whiff of sweetness to the dish. Chef explained that it was jaggery that added that flavour.

Rice again, but this time with a variety of things eat with. Veppilaikatti, a citron leaf with condiments powdered with rice and sesame oil was fabulous. The citron leaf lending a rather unique flavour and the salt and chilly adding the flavours of podi with the sesame oil blending them all was one of the highlights of dinner. A close second was the Injipuli, a ginger soaked in something that you add to rice to enjoy. Instead of the usual mor molaga (sun dried chilly), they had sun dried beans. Something I've never had before which along with fried lotus stem, played the perfect companion adding the crunch to the dish.

Desserts were entirely a different story. Two types of payasam and one had torn puris inside! Lol! The puri payasam wasn't sweet at all and I couldn't identify it as a dessert, but the other one was a good payasam. Menu changes every day, so you may not get what we had. I have a good mind to go back again for one more round of temple awesomeness.

It maybe a little too simple for a 5 star meal for some, it could be a 'I-get-this-at-this-temple' food for some, but for folks like me, this festival has opened eyes to the kind of food that temples and temple towns serve. Pineapple and grapes in a gravy? Citron leaf powder with oil as a full gravy and side dish for rice? Considering the fact that there was no onion and garlic used anywhere, but with no dearth of flavour, this is the vegetarian cuisine that needs to be showcased. With food like this, meat will not be missed!!!