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I have been procrastinating with this post. I was sure that I was going to write this as soon as I could get my hands on a PC - I was that upset coming out of Rasoi. Think about it..I'm an Indian, living in Switzerland, for more than 14 years now, so naturally, I am totally obsessed with Indian food (or just "food" to me). Growing up, living in Lagos, Nigeria (that's a different story for another day) in a family that owns hotels and restaurants, I was constantly surrounded by absolutely gorgeous food. Almost every Sunday, we would go to the hotel for Indian brunch. As soon as the lift opened, I was quickly intoxicated by scents from the tandoor oven - fresh naans, Tandoori chicken, kebabs, down to lamb Vindaloo, chicken Khadai and Paneer Bhurji.
My "must go" place was Rasoi, the crown jewel at the Mandarin Oriental. I had heard about it from friends, often walked past the restaurant glancing at the menu telling myself "ooh I need to try that. Wow ! that sound amazing." etc etc etc.
So, on my second wedding anniversary, my husband and I booked the restaurant. I was so excited to taste those avant garde flavours, combining oriental spices with western classics - I just couldn't wait but I needed to save up - afterall, its a michelin star!
Going in, I thought, "what a beautiful restaurant, wonderful decor, warm rich brown and gold colours" (what can I say - you get into the mood). The waitress had a warm smile while handing us the menus then left it to us. We had the choice between "à la carte" traditional dishes or try their 7 course "Menu Gourmand" - which we both went for. Might I add, I had absolutely no intention of reveiwing this restaurant, thus was my blind faith in a michelin star establishment, and ofcourse, I was going to have a romantic dinner with my wonderful husband.
"Menu Gourmand" at Rasoi, by Vineet Bhatia, The Mandarin Oriental, Geneva
Alas! As Adele's sorrows inspired her to write tragic love songs, horrible food inspired me to write sonnets of despair. So here I go:
The "Amuse bouche" was "Spiced Deep Fried Cauliflower". The over kill of the garam masala not only numbed my tastebuds but left me bemused. Obviously such strong flavours right from the start completely ruined the effect of the second course - "Banana Wrapped Slow Cooked Cod with a Black Olive Tapenade on a Bed of Spiced Lentils." Either my tranquilised tongue couldn't taste the salt...or the chef was going through a divorce and therefore blamed it on my cod. Although it was cooked to perfection, the tapenade tasted of, for lack of a better word, nothing, and the only thing "spiced" about the lentils was green chilli.
Ofcourse I ordered my favorite "Cheese & Chilli"naan with my next course. If done to perfection, cheese dotted with green chilli oozes when you tear into it. Boy was I wrong on this one. Gruyère cheese had been used . From the waxy yellow look of it (you know the one that you see in American Mac n Cheese commercials), it seemed like a mature Gruyère, which completely overpowered the green chilli.
Along came my third course - "Sambar Podi Crusted Char Grilled Lobster, with a Coconut Lime Sauce and Coriander Oil" This was actually quite perfect. Once again the lobster was cooked to perfection as the natural sweetness of the meat blended perfectly with the eye beans. The coconut lime had a hint of lemon grass and just enough chilli to warm your lips - Bravo to the chef manning the fish station! Truly a delight.
Next we were graced by the humble chicken in the style of " Baby Chicken Achari Roast with Lemon Mint Khichidi, Braised Chicken Jus, Preserved Lemon." Yes, again the chicken was "tandoored" to perfection. You could taste the ginger, garlic, and chilli while it melted in your mouth. Although the lemon mint khichidi was a little heavy on the ginger, the thinly sliced preserved lemon balanced the heat. That being said. once agian, the spices completely overpowerd the lemon dip.
After the semi-onslaut of spice abused meats, I was given a short but delightful reprieve in the form of an "Orange Sorbet, Basil Mojito" palate cleanser. This little number was a "wow" moment of the meal so far. It tasted every bit as divine as it looked. Basil jello pearls and all! A truly "Heston" moment.
You know what they say "the calm before the storm". Up until this moment - I had been keeping mental notes of each dish. However, the fourth course was such an abomination that my brain couldn't contain the rush of vile comments that swept in, which is why I had to ask for some paper. Armed with my pen and my severely insulted tongue I started to write furiously. "Lamb Raan Roulade, Beetroot Upma and Cinamon Jus." It arrived at our table escorted by our waitress and two accompanying "guards" Honestly..I thought there was a secret gift made of diamonds, what with the grand enterance it made.
They placed the perfectly cooked fig and pistachio stuffed lamb infront of me contrasted by the vibrant magenta coloured upma and then poured a test-tube , yes! A TEST TUBE of brown sauce , onto it - the cinamon "jus". The first bite of this divine looking dish completely shattered any illusions I had. There was so much cinamon, I had to ask for an additional bottle of water. It had completely dehydrated my palate. Although I had managed to scrape aside quite a bit of that cinamon poison and tasted the wonderful upma, the damage had already been done. The bitterness of cinamon at the back of my throat had murdered my appetite and good mood.
Pissed off from the cinamon induced heart-burn. I was fully ready for some desert to bring my mouth back to life. Queue in the "Cranberry-Gianduja Phirni, Warm Mandarin-Chestnut Ravioli." Utterly defeated from the previous course, the desert, which looked like it had been stolen from the table of the Gods left me utterly confused. The phirni itself was okay, the chestnut didn't go with the mandarin at all. it just tasted like a mess.
To summarize ,both my husband and I were completely deflated after this meal. What was supposed to be a romantic sumptious meal ended up being a circus act with smokes and mirros, contorted expressions from me and cringing at the bill. Although the service was impeccable and food was presented beautifully, it felt like a "trying too hard" resto and we aren't going back.
Even the little bribe of complementary home made chocolates (the waitress had seen me taking notes) did not deter me from sighing with dissappointment. Can you belive it?! Chocolate didnt make me feel better - That is a first!
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