Friday, May 14, 2010

Greek Food Festival @ Olive Beach

On Thursday night, I was invited by my friend, whom we shall call BikerMan, to Olive Beach for a tasting of Greek food. Olive Beach, which is located on Wood Street, parallel to Castle Street (off Brigade Road), and typically serves Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant is planning on having a Greek food festival from the 17th to the 23rd of this month and so wanted to invite a few members of the press and a few other people. BikerMan happened to be one of them, and he asked me if I'd be interested in tagging along. I didn't need to be asked twice.

We got there and were greeted by Radhika Misra, in charge of the media information (PR). She and BikerMan knew each other from BikerMan's days at The Hindu. I also happened to meet a 'colleague' from the Bangalore Mirror (BM from now on) , and as you'd have noticed, I used colleague in inverted quotes, simply because I'm not an employee of BM. We were later joined a few others people who were to join us, and the Chef at Olive Beach, Chef Manu Chandra also joined us and we began discussing, well, food of course!

As if the Greek pantheon isn't filled with enough gods and goddesses, there is a stunning young Greek lady who'd flown down to Bangalore (a family friend of sorts of the Chef). Alexandra Lola Koutoudi, known as Lola, was inspired to visit India and work with Chef Manu to bring out some absolutely delectable and authentic dishes of Greek origin. Although I wasn't able to take pictures (would have been great with my new 50mm prime lens, but such is life) since we dined in a separate section of the restaurant with candles providing illumination, I had a great time and actually didn't mind missing out on the snaps. Ok, maybe I missed taking pics a little, but just a little.

So here's a summary of what we had:

We started of with what looked like a Mezze platter - pita bread served along with a host dips. The more memorable ones in that platter were the Patzarosalata, which was a dip made by pureeing beet root. I think this was a universal favourite at the table because our experiences with beet root thus far have been quite limited to chunky cubes, or at times scraped shavings, but never in a pureed form. The other interesting dips (leaving aside the hummus and that tzatziki) were the Kafteri, a mildly spicy dip made from Feta cheese (Greek cuisine seems to have some kind of overloaded fetish when it comes to Feta!), the Syko (don't go by the name, or the pronunciation), which was like a fig preserve, and the Melitzanosalata, which is made from brinjals and very similar to Baba Ghanoush. There was a dip made from fish roe whose name I can't quite recollect now, but that was superb and creamy and would have to rate only below the beet dip. Lastly, there was the Skordalia, which was made from almonds, again pureed into a nice creamy consistency.

Once the platter had completed its journey across our palates, we were then served the chicken and lamb Souvlakis, which were meats grilled on skewers. For those who were challenged when it came to eating animals, there was Kolokythokefte (fried zucchini balls) and Spanakopita (rolls of phyllo dough with spinach inside). Needless to say, I loved the grilled meats, while BikerMan was still raving about the beet root dip.

Onto the soups and salads (the order in which the Greek dishes are served is probably enough to make you think it's all Greek and Latin...certainly was to me), and we were given a small coffee cup filled what I could only describe as 'rava', with some cheese-like thing on top, and guess what what cheese... that's right, Feta! So it turned out that the 'soup' in the cup is called Tarhana, and is made from wholemeal wheat (like Semolina) mixed with sheep's milk. Sheep's milk (and for that matter goat's milk) has a very, well, unique, for lack of a better word, taste to it that would take getting used to. I didn't mind it, but I saw a lot of faces where expressions dramatically changed! A photo would have said what I can't explain here.

There were two salads served - the Horiatiki, and the Karpouzosalata. The Karpouzosalata was a watermelon salad with ruccola and guess what cheese..Feta! with an Ouzo vinaigrette. The Ouzo gave the required zing to the salad, and I wonder how it would be to have some it neat :)

For the main course, the beautiful lady had for us a Gemista, which was tomatoes stuffed with rice and pine nuts served with yogurt and dill sauce. And then there was the Moussaka (in a pure veg form and with minced lamb), and I was thoroughly overjoyed that they had the lamb option because thus far, I've only heard about the Moussaka that is made with minced lamb, but everywhere I've been that serves a Moussaka, it's been in the veg form. Suffice to say, this was what made my day (night).

Two other dishes that were served were the Giouvetsi, succulent thighs of chicken served with orzo pasta in a tomato cumin sauce. This was a nicely flavoured dish, one that adhered to the old adage of keeping it minimal and simple. The other dish was the Psari Plaki, which was fish served in a cherry tomato and capers sauce. I'm a sucker for capers with sea food, especially fish, so I really loved the fact that not only was the fish cooked perfectly, the sauce complimented the fish superbly.

By this time, I was ready to move my belt up a notch, when desserts were brought out. The Galaktoboureko, which was a semolina and egg custard encased in phyllo, had a wonderful aroma to it, but I guess I couldn't appreciate the taste that much because I was ready to drop dead with the amount of food inside me. Another surprising dish was a halva with almonds. I thought this was Chef Manu giving us something a little more Indian, so that we don't feel lost amidst all the Greek that was around us. But no, apparently the Amygdalo (the name of the sweet) is a very Greek dish, and I was left wondering if Alexander's invasion had anything to do with the introduction of this sweet to India. Remember, what the north Indians call halva isn't exactly what we in the south associate with.

So catch the Greek Food Festival @ Olive Beach from today, the 17th of May until the 23rd.

Olive Beach, 16, Wood Stret, Ashok Nagar, Off Brigade Road, Bangalore. Phone: 41128400


Bangalore's Restaurants said...

Sounds really yumm!! is this festival a buffet or set menu kinds?? any idea on pricing?

Karthik Shetty said...

It isn't a buffet, that's for sure (educated guess), but seems to be more a la carte. As far as pricing goes, I'm not too sure as it wasn't made known to us, but I guess it would be the usual Olive fare (or maybe a touch more since this is a 'special).


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