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Jan 24, 2013

A Royal Blue

The weather in my city had turned to a listless grey. It reminded me of gruel, how London would be and black and white pictures. A part of me finds this dreariness quite romantic so I was glad to be heading to an afternoon with my beloved blogger buddies and Vietnamese food. I have tasted Vietnam from Anthony Bourdain's perspective, he is so lyrical about the cuisine of this quaint, struggling, ex-French colony, that it makes you wonder how fish can be sweet from sea water and how herbs mimic the potency of spices, beautiful! With an introduction like that, a few dishes at Pan Asian restaurants and a few experiments at home, I was ready for a full on Vietnam experience at Blue Ginger, Taj Palace Hotel (New Delhi).


The Taj group has marveled Delhi for decades, three of which I have vivid memories of. Taj Palace in particular was quite the hangout when we were young adults. Coming back here always induces a sense of nostalgia and warmth. Blue Ginger is their Vietnamese Restaurant, beautifully done with dramatic waterfall chandelairs and a cozy private dining room, I was happy to be in a place where everything is opulent and well, heavy,  the chairs, the silverware....!

The menu was wonderful, mainly because I would love to try some of those things but never really travel far enough (not in the near future!) or conjure them in my kitchen! Having said that, have a look for yourself -

  
AMUSE BOUCHE
Curried rice cakes with scallion oil & Sriraja panich
STARTERS SAMPLER
Non Vegetarian
Cuu bam xúc sàlách
Stir fried minced lamb with fried onions and scallions served with lettuce
Goi Cuô´n Tôm Gà
Fresh summer rolls with shrimp & chicken
Goi Xòai
Raw mango salad

Vegetarian
Dâu Hu Sóc Muôí
Tofu rock salt
Goi Cuô´n Cha
                                                           Fresh summer rolls with vegetables
Goi Xòai
Raw mango salad

SOUP
Súp Gà Mang Tây
Chicken and asparagus soup
Súp Nâm Chay
Shiitake, ceps, homishimeji and enoki mushrooms soup

GRILLS
Tôm Nuong Muôi Biên
Peppered prawns with sea salt
Gà Nuong Ot lá Chanh
Grilled chicken with lime leaf and chilli

Dâu hu Nuong Kiêu HUÊ
Tofu in lemon grass and chilli marinade
Muop, Dâu Bap, Nâm Nuong Kiêu Hà Tiên
Grilled zucchini, okra and mushroom Ha tien

SORBET
Sweet tamarind sorbet

MAIN COURSE

Tôm Hùm Xàò Muôi Tiêu
Stir fried lobster with garlic, salt and pepper
Bap Cuu Nâu Dâu Haò
Lemon grass scented braised lamb shanks in caramel chilli oyster sauce
Gà Xàò Sa Ot
Stir fried chicken supreme with lemongrass garlic chilli sauce
 Cu Sen Dôn Rau Chiên Giòn Sôt Me
Crispy lotus root and vegetable delicacy served with tamarind sauce
Dâu xào bach qua
Hue style edamame and broad beans with ginko nuts
Càri Chay
Spicy vegetable red cari
 Xôi Chay Trong Thô
Sticky rice with vegetable topping in clay pot
Mi Xào Mêm Chay
Stir fried soft noodles with vegetables

 DESSERT

Bánh Flan Dac Biêt
Ginger coconut caramel custard
Socôla Boc Kem Voí Ruou Amaretto
Chocolate bombe with coffee mousse and amaretto chocolate sauce
Kem Huong Sa
                                                        Lemongrass Ice cream

How intriguing isn't it? For someone like me just the words are music to my ears so the food has to match up and match up it did! I discovered a whole new array of flavours, some I had imagined and some I had forgotten, Vietnamese is that kind of blended cuisine where you are bound to find something you love. And so many surprises, just like Anthony said. In this menu, the Amuse bouche stood out for its spectacular 'hot' zing, from the starters, the Stir fried minced lamb with fried onions and scallions served with lettuce was so pleasantly good that I plan to try it at home. I have tried many a Mango Salad in Pan Asian restaurants but this one was one of best, raw mango is a flavour from my childhood, if you do it well, you will strike a chord! I am not much of a soup person unless its going to be my meal but give me anything with Shiitake and I will love it. The prawns were unforgettable and surprisingly (coming from me), the same can be said of the Grilled okra, so familiar, yet so new. Unmatchable stars of the Main Course have to be - Bap Cuu Nâu Dâu Haò (Lemon grass scented braised lamb shanks in caramel chilli oyster sauce), this has to be eaten to be believed, I would go back just for this, hats off Chef's! The Cu Sen Dôn Rau Chiên Giòn Sôt Me (Crispy lotus root and vegetable delicacy served with tamarind sauce) is something all vegetarians need to try, it is such a richly flavoured dish that not once did we need to add a condiment or seasoning! And for me the biggest surprise, the Dâu xào bach qua (Hue style edamame and broad beans with ginko nuts), which I tasted separately since I was mainly keen on the meats, but this would be one place I could go veggie, seriously!A super special mention of the palate cleanser, the Tamarin Sorbet, never had anything like it before and I simply loved it ... damn it was like a whole different take on a 'kala khatta gola', if you ever had those!

Picture this - Crisp, chilled Chardonnay, still cold from the cosy afternoon and another glass, a warmer, more inviting glass, of a full bodied and heavy Cabernet Shiraz, while we chat and banter. Completely unaware of how wonderfully complimentary the dessert platter will be and then it comes, complete silence! From the three showstoppers - Bánh Flan Dac Biêt (Ginger coconut caramel custard, oh so French!!), the Socôla Boc Kem Voí Ruou Amaretto (Chocolate bombe with coffee mousse and amaretto chocolate sauce) and the Matcha infused, Kem Huong Sa (Lemongrass Ice cream, my favourite!), I was equally awed by all by I am a sucker for anything with lemongrass, so I came out a very satisfied soul!

I say, slow down, take an afternoon off and do something truly special. Life is all about ebb and flow, flow a little, enjoy the ride and do it with a belly full of Vietnamese at Blue Ginger, The Taj Palace Hotel. Thank you for the experience.

I enjoyed this afternoon with - 

Himanshu - The White Ramekins
Mukta - Bake a Mania
Sangeeta - Banaras Ka Khana
Charis - Culinary Storm
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