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The inevitable question had to come up. Which region makes the best Baklava? Till now it was a smooth conversation going on at the table with discussions of the menu, the food, amongst several other things. But now 'Chef Simon Shakour' paused and gave an impish smile.
Chef Simon Shakour
Top 5 reasons why you must attend this special Mediterranean Food Festival at The Souk, Taj Bengal:
1) Chef Simon Shakour is back
The man behind the food, 'Chef Simon Shakour', who had opened Souk in 2009 at Taj Bengal, is back for 10 days. He is very fondly remembered by his patrons in the city. He was here for 2 and a half years, post the opening of Souk. Now is the chance for everyone who has been yearning to have a quick catch up with his food and his generous smile, as he moves from table to table, exchanging pleasantries.
2) Extraordinary vegetarian selection of food:
It is much more than Hummus, Falafel and Baklava.
The Hummus and Labneh comes in small taco shells, you will find labneh with truffle oil, hummus with basil and extra virgin olive oil and so much more. There is a whole lot of food for the vegetarians and unlike most Middle Eastern food joints, a lot of thought and innovation has gone into the vegetarian fare, leading to some very interesting vegetarian version of the non-vegetarian counterpart. So, when it comes to Lebanese Pizza, order for a vegetarian version with tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, onions and cheese. And who says that Italians make the best pizza? Trust me when I say this, it is one of the best pizza I have eaten. It is not paper thin, yet not thick. It is soft and the cheese is stringy and delicious.
3) The best quality ingredients:
As usual, there is no compromise on the quality of the ingredients. If it is the olive oil, it is the best and imported from the region. The olives, grape wine leaves for the Warakenab or Dolmas, some of the Arabic rice, lemons and some more speciality ingredients are all flown in. Of course, Chef Simon believes in using fresh ingredients and sticks to local vegetables including tomatoes for the best flavours in his food.
4) A large selection of appetisers:
The grills are always the best. Artichoke and mushroom are on their own very familiar ingredients but combining them was a surprise in the mouth.
Artichoke Ma Feter Meshwi
The Artichokes are smoked and along with the mushroom which is coated in tomato sauce creates a sharp tanginess and a wildly unexpected flavour. Finishing off with the Nutty Rocket Leaves, the whole thing is deceptive, visually and taste-wise. If it is grilled, then the prawns need a special mention.
Malek al Kardis
Char Grilled Prawns flavoured with Turkish spices are quite a non-fuss grill with simple and pure flavours bound together. Chef Simon says that people in Kolkata know to enjoy their food much more than any other city and they spend time savouring their food. Hence, a lot of emphases has gone into creating mezzes, both hot and cold, grills, soups and shawarmas. The idea is for people to spend time with their starters and slowly cruise towards the main course.
5) Some interesting main course and dessert:
Do not be disheartened. The main course has an equally great selection of dishes from across the region. Sometimes simple can be explosive. That is Tharid Al Khudra - a light stew made with artichokes, bell peppers, potatoes, beans and soya chunks with turmeric being the only flavouring agent. It is so comforting that you can probably end up eating your entire bowl of rice with this stew.
There are 2 brilliant tagines, one with cottage cheese and one with fish with the finest quality Cous Cous that you will find in the city.
Not to forget the Lahm Barkook, which is a tender piece of lamb shank sitting on a bed of saffron rice with a velvety smooth prune sauce - a clear showstopper? You will be surprised to have an ice cream made with feta cheese. Yes, the Feta Cheese and Caramel Ice Cream - little high on salt but cleverly balanced with the sweetness of the caramel is a brilliant way to end your meal.
This special festival is on until the 16th of September lunch service. Till such time you will get this for both lunch and dinner.
For someone who's run two restaurants, being a baker and cook par excellence comes easily to Madhushree . When she's not eating out, she's organizing her own pop ups or experimenting with regional recipes. Her experiments with food and her recipes are part of Pikturenama , where she's a co founder.