Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pan Asian ~ Tradition meets sapidity....

Well, honestly speaking I don’t know whether I should call it a “food review post” or a “familiarization exercise”, it’s a tricky jargon to be honest; one thing is for sure, though….it’s been a thoroughly gratifying experience. I did mention this time and time again through my blog-posts- you actually don’t need to do too much to impress a food-lover; but having said that…there’s always an analytical mind ‘hovering over the platter’….no mercy there any way. Sometimes the fragrance does the trick, sometimes the ‘look’ and sometimes we sink into the gravity of the moment; yes, the connoisseurs never do a homework...people keep asking me those weird set of questions like “What are the set of parameters that you look at?”, “What type of cuisine, you think, is more popular in this part of the country?”, “Which one is more spicy, Punjabi food or Bengali?”…well, the problem is, even I don’t know the answers because the perception changes with every possible outing. And this is exactly what happened on our ‘Saturday tryst’ at the India's finest East Asian Restaurant (period), Pan Asian- an integral part of our beloved ITC Sonar, Kolkata. Yes, I know that I’m running into a definite risk when I say “beloved”…because we, the ‘food bloggers’ are supposed to be unbiased…rather nondiscriminatory when it comes to ‘evaluating and scripting down those thoughts on the web’, but then there has to be a reservation for a consistent track record. Correct?
Hmm…I know that the eyebrows are pretty much ‘tickling’ right now, in-fact there’s an abhorred ‘upward tow’ to round it up….that, my friend, doesn’t change things does it? Almost a month back, I received a stinker from one of the readers (who’s had once claimed to be one of my avid blog followers) ….an email sent across through my “About me” profile that read “Dear Sammya, I followed your blog because I liked the way you ‘presented food’ through your words and pictures….but then there should be an aspect of criticism in all these posts, it’s an indispensable component of all review posts”. Well, yes, I agree…I simply cannot criticize food. I tend to adore every (thing and body) that is somehow associated with food, and when it comes to the signature dining experiences at the ITC Sonar…I don’t even come with a ‘critical’ mindset. Whatever they do, they deliver the ‘good-s’ in a package…the décor, the finesse, the hospitality, the regimen and of course, the fantastic signature cuisines that they effectuate- impeccable is the word.
Gah…I guess, I’m dragging this too much. Umm…I’m just not in a mood to write a conventional review post, and I’m going to make it ‘spicy’ this time. Damn… that was such a wannabe statement for sure. Yes, I must say that the best part about the review meets is the interaction-session with the chefs…the ones who actually represent their creativity on the platter; I believe the fellow food bloggers from KFB will also concur. Okay, I’ll be blunt about this, I can’t cook…yes, the idea of cooking fascinates me to the core but when it comes to execution, I’m a disaster…people call it the “Engineers’ syndrome”, I call it “lack of diversion”. My POV is, you need to “feel” food to write about food…it’s not just about knowing the ingredients or achieving expertise in the field of ‘experimentation with food”, once you ‘connect to the grains’…you can encapsulate those emotions in free flowing words. Yes, now that it’s easy to connect to like-minded people on the social networking websites, I keep checking those pictures on Instagram that are uploaded with the hashtag #ITC, #ITCHotels, #ITCSonar and of course #PanAsian because I’ve always heard encouraging reviews on the latter, never got a chance to explore the same. *Super excited*

The Pan Asian Tryst : 'Exploring the decor'...take a look at the beautiful wine glasses....
Yes, there’s always an added charm attached to the authentic style of cooking and presentation, and when I say “authentic”…I REALLY MEAN IT! I’ve been researching on the impact of the different genres of food that are presently available in Calcutta (both in ‘posh’ restaurants and street food) vis-à-vis the traditional Bengali recipes, and you’ll be astonished to know that the general public feels that there’s a predominant lack of authenticity in each of the not-so-common-genre of cuisines. I have interviewed people of different age groups at different stages of my research and those facts stating the dearth of ‘signature’ Oriental cuisines in the city has come up time and time again; the customized drive didn’t manage to impress many. People keep talking about Teratti Bazar, presumably the only hub of ‘inner peace’…not undermining its sagacity, I guess, Kolkata now has a new all-rounder in the stratum of fine dining. Yes, I’m talking about ITC Sonar and its esteemed coterie of culinary gems ranging from North West Frontier cuisines to traditional Indian fine dining, cuisines of East Asia, International Bar & Grill, gourmet shops and multi-cuisine restaurants.
Ah! Let’s not divert from the point then…I was talking about the impact of ‘Oriental cuisines’ and I’d certainly take this opportunity to assert that the palatable ones that were served to us at the Pan Asian on a fine Saturday afternoon, was of the highest order. At the same time, the responsibility was immense…we had to put forward our verdict, the verdict that revolved around Pan Asian’s new menu launch, the traditional touch with a luscious blend. And since we are essentially talking about a “shubh arambh”, the nectarous cranberry mocktail was perhaps the best opening drive. As the table-discussion hovered around Vishal’s new project to Anwesha’s overseas experiences, we got a chance to flip through the exquisite design of the new menu; it’s a colorful assortment so as to say….I must say that those sketches on the cover page are very impressive and content inside is rich and elucidative. The ‘aroma’ of the East and South East Asia was pretty much emanating from the authored descriptions; a big thumbs up to the creative team for such an edifying fabrication. Visual impact - 9.9 /10.

The Pan Asian Tryst : Cranberry and Lemon mocktail...
BAM! The ‘build-up’ has been perfect till now…the décor is sensational by the way…marked with the dark elegance and awe-inspiring wall-art, it’s pretty well lit with “natural light” gaining the denotation. Having said that, the “bhook-patrol” had already marked its impulsion…the cranberry delight had catalyzed the spirit, the “intensity” had been multiplied by then. And, they sensed the yearning….glad that they shifted gears into the T20 mode right from the onset. This is indeed one my beloved characteristic features of modern day restaurants.

The Pan Asian Tryst : The delicious and authentic Thai pork salad named Yam Moo...
The delectable starters – the ingenuous glass noodle-salad mingled with sweet chilli & chopped vegetables called Yam Woon Sen Phak and the authentic Thai pork salad named Yam Moo were served soon after; I was tasting the glass noodles for the first time ever and the experience was refreshingly different, it almost melted in my mouth, the soggy texture coated perfectly in there. The pork salad was distinctively zesty and appetizing; the perfect follow-up delicacy after the classy, transparent glass noodles from the depths of Bangkok.

The Pan Asian Tryst : The glass noodle-salad mingled with veggies Yam Woon Sen Phak...
Wait for it though, because the next ‘gem’ on the platter could infuse a tinge of inferiority complex to the globally acclaimed hub of delicious fried chicken, KFC…the reason being pretty evident. The Kushikatsu skewers, draped in the essence of Japanese piquancy… seemed to be seasoned,marinated and fried with utmost care. Let me tell you a secret…I used to ask for an additional set of tissue papers every-time I ordered for fried chicken legs at the KFC by simply visiting CupoNation, let me know if you could ‘track down’ the reason. The best part about Kushikatsu is, the judicious application of onion and pepper that accentuated the flavor; the deep fried crumbed chicken skewer stole the show baby !!! "

The Pan Asian Tryst : The Kushikatsu skewersdraped in the essence of Japanese piquancy...
The Pan Asian Tryst : Close up on the Kushikatsu skewers, you could draw a synergy ;)
The next set of starters that included a cold-wave combatant Chongqing crispy fried lotus stem (tasted okay-ish) and the Stir fried eggplant with Chinese barbeque sauce called Chao Shao qie zi (tasted decent enough) did manage to tickle the taste buds…but then, we needed the perfect power-play performance to lead the way to the main course. Yes, all we needed was an efficacious ‘half-time-kick’.

The Pan Asian Tryst:  Stir fried eggplant with Chinese barbeque sauce called Chao Shao qie zi..
The Pan Asian Tryst:  The signature dish... Chongqing (very) crispy fried lotus stem...
TADA! They are mind-readers …..aren’t they? The Lemon-grass fish was tailor-made as the half-time momentum setter; the Thai ‘tenderness’ almost reflected out of every bite…and bhetki has a charm of its own for sure. The congenial essence of lemongrass did the trick…the idiosyncratic ‘feeler’ that it generated was just extraordinary. We could have done away with the Lychee Curacao mock tail for sure…. a ‘grand’ main-course serving was waiting for us in the hut. Folks, it goes without saying that the "bar" had been already raised.

The Pan Asian Tryst: The star-performer of the day, the luscious Lemon-grass fish....
But before that let’s talk about something that truly mesmerized us…yes, something that emulated the ‘gusto of Japan’ and perhaps the ‘crux of the entire set-up’…yes, the Japanese style clear seafood soup served with sea fish, squid, mushroom, & prawn did titillate the connoisseurs. The interesting aspect of the Japanese spectacle was that the broth and the sea-food integrands were served separately…you need to mix the two in order to arrive at the final comestible. You often need a bridge ‘of sorts’ to walk from one edge to the other…the seafood soup was clearly the bridge. The legendary gobble tales have just begun….
The main course itineraries were as illustrious as ever...the Stir fried pokchoy and mushroom in soy bean sauce (slightly vivid in its ‘aftermath’…the soya bean sauce had an overwhelming effect to be honest), Babycorn with spicy tomato water chestnut and onions (did make an impact), Cantonese-style asparagus and garlic glazed bell peppers (refreshingly different and had that zing about it), the Thai steamed prawns and glass noodles (yes a +1 from side… I have developed a bias for glass noodle alright), the stir fried sliced chicken with white fungus and cucumber called Muxu Chicken (I liked it to be honest…the chicken was soft and tender and the addition of cucumber had an antithetic causatum for sure), Chinese black pepper pork spare ribs (Pretty overwhelming as well…could have been done away with) and the Malaysian dazzler- the amazing rice preparation with prawn chicken and dried shrimp paste called Nasi Goreng (this one surely stole the show…it was dainty, mellow and scripted a gratifying climax for sure, I could come back any day to taste this Malaysian ‘phenomenon’). I don’t know whether this happens to you, but I certainly relive those pageant moments while writing the detailed accounts…it’s a charade for sure and (as a result) I louve this exercise. Look at the colours folks...*delightful*.

The Pan Asian Tryst: Highlight from the main course- Chinese black pepper pork spare ribs...
The desserts section was literally the ‘one man show’ with the heavenly Kati sod pampering our “already charged up” taste buds with care, it’s soothing charm hypnotized us and we indulged in without any contingency…it stepping stone for a perfect “Never say goodbye” kind of experience. The home-made young coconut ice cream beautifully served in coconut shells topped with coconut jelly did serve as an inspiration for a ‘picture perfect’ cusp. Yes, with the growing trend of food-styling and food-presentation, as pioneers in the field of fine dining, you need to set the highest standard…and Pan Asian did exactly that. They say that there’s a story behind each and every ‘successful creation’ and every story has a punch-line. Yes, the punchline could be sweet or bitter…the denouement should carry forward the central character of the story that is marked by blissful conformity. The entire menu has the spur of assiduity, it builds up the tempo right up to the last level and ends it in a sacchariferous note; ahan! …I found a story in there alright. It's a 'romantic tale' for sure..

The Pan Asian Tryst: I'd compare "Kati sod" with our very own Indian captain M.S. Dhoni...
*The perfect finisher...*
- Mandatory Rating time:
Venue: Pan Asian, ITC Sonar, Kolkata
Location: 45/1A, JBS Haldane Ave, Gobra, Kolkata, West Bengal 700046
Genre: India’s finest Asian cuisine restaurant, Pan Asian brings an award winning repertoire of culinary traditions from across East and South East Asia to Kolkata. Savour the flavours of Japan, China, Mongolia, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam and more.
Specialty offer: Indulge in the Oriental spectacles presented through the newly launched menu.
Restaurant timings: On Weekends, Lunch: 12:30 PM - 2:45 PM; Through-the-week Dinner: 7 PM - 11:45 PM
Type: Vegetarian / Non-Vegetarian
Food quality: Excellent- 9/10, Variety- 8/10, Presentation- 8/10
Foodie Picks: Starters: 1. Yam Woon Sen Phak, 2. Kushikatsu skewers 3. Lemon-grass fish Main course: 1. Nasi Goreng, 2. Muxu ChickenDesserts: The one-man-army, Kati sod
Price range: Approximately INR 2200/- plus taxes per head.
Service and hospitality: Excellent 8.5/10
Ambiance: Fantastic...very well decorated and extremely well lit up (perhaps certain portions of the restaurant are over-exposed to the sunlight, that could be taken care of) – 8/10.'
Analysis: Enticed by the authentic taste of the East and South East Asia that Pan Asian brings on to the platter, I would assert that it is highly recommended for all the food-lovers across the country…especially for the Calcuttans, who nurture an insatiable craving for the ‘original oriental cuisines’. I'm coming back soon enough for sure, this time with my family.
Disclaimer: This was an invited review and no compensation, monetary or otherwise, was involved. All views expressed in this post are my own and not influenced by the hosts in anyway.
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