I know that promotion for Mangoes are everywhere around the city at this hour. I am on a severe meal plan and Mangoes are no where mentioned in the plan. I read Madhu’s post Look Who’s Returned to My Mango Trees (she hasn’t written much about mangoes though) and felt hopelessly romantic with the thought – yes, I truly love Mangoes! Mahec, in Le Meridien Airport Hotel has been celebrating the Mango Festival for the last month and I have been following their tweets, retweeting them once in a while. With 2 more days remaining for the ‘Mango Festival’ to come to an end, I landed up with the Z-Sisters for lunch earlier today. Big Z is turning 10 years on 31st May and apparently we have to celebrate for 10 days back-to-back. So, Day 1 of our celebrations kick started today! Mahec means aroma or flavours in Hindi. But here, MAHEC is also an acronym standing for Modern Authentic Hindustani Evolved Cuisine. The term Hindustani requires the understanding of the cultural history of India – definitely beyond the scope of this post. So, let me concentrate on Mangoes instead. Usually, a food festival in a Dubai restaurant can be overwhelming and overdoes on the menu. Well, to be honest, I did think that the Papads (above right) would be mango flvaoured as well. But instead, the menu is very simple and concentrates on a few dishes. Thankfully, each tasting and looking very different from one another.The Drinks: The most common drink with an Indian heritage in an Indian restaurant, regardless of its pedigree, will always be the Aam Pana or the Green Mango drink. In India, each region has a different rendition of their own Aam Panas. The Aam Pana at Mahec was definitely different from the Bengali Aam Pana that I have previously made for My Dubai My City or the frozen Aam Pana cubes that I sometimes make at home to infuse our drinking water. While I smoke the green mangoes on fire with the skin on and scoop out the pulp from inside the charred skins, the Aam Pana that we were served here had been made by putting the green mangoes in the oven and then taking out the pulp, once the mangoes had softened up. My Aam Pana has an unmistakeably smokey aroma in it. A Saffron Lemonade (above left) made with seeds of Indian Basil or Tulsi followed soon. This is the usual complimentary welcome drink in Mahec accompanying their complimentary starters like the Onion Bhajis. On my last visit, I had posted a picture of the drink on my Instagram and many readers had suggested that it was a Passion fruit drink. They obviously had no clue that the Tulsi that has been used here is supposed to be calming all passion! Lil Z ordered a Strawberry Lassi (below right) and declared that it tasted like Actimel, the probiotic yogurt drink available in supermarkets. Well, the ingredients between the two don’t differ much honey! Masala Pepsi (above left) is my contribution to the Mahec menu and although it isn’t written on the menu, do ask for it. It’s my take on the Masala Thumsup that I have grown up drinking on Kolkata streets (just to clarify here, I wasn’t brought up on streets!), specially around the Vivekananda area where the Phuchkas are phenomenal. A lot of experiment has resulted in my near perfect Masala Cola that is so imperfectly delicious in its own way. Yes, when the new Menu is designed, my rendition would be included (I have been told) and I have been asked to think of a name for the drink. I hope the Cola vendors in the streets of Kolkata don’t get to know that I am selling off their signature recipe to an Indian fine dining restaurant in Dubai and branding it my own!Salads, Soup and Starters: I am always lamenting that we Indians, haven’t really grown up eating salads. So to see (and taste) some salads with distinct Indian flavour was pretty much a novelty. The Papaya Mango Salad (above left) was tangy and sweet with a Pineapple dressing, only a hint of red Chilli powder and pepper adding a bit of spiciness. I can very well imagine what a makeover this would be at a Chaat counter in an Indian street corner. In contrast, the Mango Chicken Salad (above right) with grilled toasted chicken strips polished with a bit of Mayonnaise, pepper, and finally tossed with almond flakes and lettuce – this could never ever taste utterly desi. So while the first one would be Modern Authentic Hindustani, the second one would be the Evolved Cuisine – and together they make the fabulous duo of the MAHEC MANGO salad! Now if Salads are alien to Indian cuisine, so are soups. Until and unless you would like to call Daals as the Indian soups. We tasted the Raw Mango and Pumkin soup (above) – a thick pumpkin soup spiced up with red chilli powder. Pumpkin soup is something that I am often making at home, provided I am not making the Kumro Bhaaté or Mashed Pumpkin Bengali Style. The Z-Sisters love Pumpkins and give them pumpkins in whatever manner – mashed, grilled, pureed – they will be licking their bowls. In fact, the other soup that was there on the menu was a Lentil Soup with Raw Mango, which I thought would be very similar to the Aam Dal or the Mango Lentil Soup that I make – probably a bit thicker (see, I even called it a Lentil Soup in my blog!). But who knew that today’s hero would be the Tandoori Mango (below)? Ripe mangoes marinated in yogurt and Tandoori Masala, skewered and grilled – the marinated seasonal fruit defeated the soft and deliciously tasty Mango Chicken kebabs (much below) today hands on!
Main Course: ‘The main thing is the Main Course’ – I was told very firmly when I complained that we couldn’t eat any more and it was about time to get the cheque! So what followed was a sample tasting – Green Mango Fish Curry and Lamb Achras served with Kulchas and Mango and Pudina Rice – all apparently served in the tiniest serving bowls that Mahec had. While the fish curry had been prepared in the style of the Allepey Fish Curry (a signature dish from the Alleppey district of Kerala in India), the lamb preparation had a pickled flavour, more like a Hyderabadi Achari Gosht. Both of them had distinctly different flavours, although the taste of the crowning ingredient – the mango, reigned in all the dishes. Oh, how I wish there was Gujrati Aam Raas on the menu (topped up with ice… we had this divine drink for lunch last Friday in an impromptu get together with friends at home).Munching on the mango dishes and chatting away with Santosh, the Restaurant Service Manager (another Kolkata connection here… he is originally from UP but now settled in Kolkata) or with Chef Asif who is from Karachi in Pakistan, I realised (again and again this realisation haunts me!!!) that there wasn’t a single dish inspired by Bengal. Santosh pacified me – ‘Of course there is Rice Kheer. Isn’t that the Bengali Payesh?’ Well, yeah… may be or may be not. No clearly not, specially the Notun Gurer Payesh that my Dida used to make. And that brings me back to a very special event in BookMunch this coming Wednesday… the ‘Cook the Book’ event where I am the Chef host and I have created a Bengali menu that you can taste. While I will keep you posted with all the details in my next post, here’s my sincerest invitation to all of you!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: The cost of our Mango love in Mahec came to about Dhs 400/3 persons (Lil Z included but she is a poor eater). Please note that this blog is not a sponsored blog and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Related Posts on other Indian restaurants in Dubai:
- Chef Sanjay Bahl | Flavours And Flavours And Flavours of Patiala!
- Asha Bhosle | Cooking With Her, Listening To Her & Sharing Her Recipe!
- Romantic Dinner Giveaway From Options by Sanjeev Kapoor
- Baisakhi Celebration in Patiala and Options By Sanjeev Kapoor | Celebrating Festivals in Dubai
My round up for RoundMenu on mid-range Indian restaurants:
- Indian Delights a Journey around India – Part 1: New Dubai to Barsha
- Indian Delights a Journey around India – Part 2: Old Dubai