The moveable feast : Different hues of buffet


Hyatt hotels are known for their original, fresh and vast buffets. In Kathmandu, Chef Narender

who invents the almost 30-dish-buffet is a welcome extra because as Santosh Dhimal the waiter hurried to bring our Carpaccio with Parmessan flakes, Chef Narender told us the secret of his version (the original Carpaccio was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice) which requires three processes of marination, one of refrigeration, and the final one of presentation.

Carpaccio are thin, translucent slivers of meat in a herbed vinaigrette sauce. So slender are they that if you aren’t careful, you pick up a block instead of individual fine pieces. A Carpaccio

has a first taste of pepper especially ground for the occasion and then there is the afterglow of herbs and mustard — it has to be Dijon.

Dhimal created a Caesar’s salad for me from the special place at the buffet for the dish invented by Alex Cardini, an Italian Air Force pilot in Tijuana, who ran Caesar’s Sports Bar and Grill Family Restaurant in 1924, and emptied a refrigerator to feed hungry friends. In place of the anchovies traditionally used, Dhimal had smoked breast of chicken with soya and honey glaze and a readymade sauce of garlic, lemon juice, olive oil with a touch of mayonnaise, not Cardini perhaps, but Dhimal and Chef Narender’s version was a tangy, crunchy delight.

Dhimal got the smoothly smoked chicken with a salty-sweet soya and honey glaze from a platter that also had multi coloured Frittata of which the Rombaeurs say, “This Italian omelet usually has the filling mixed into the eggs before they are cooked”. Chef Narender serves them in small squares full of colour.

Chef believes in colours, he says, “The more colours you use, the better it is for your health because each colour in food represents a different essential nutrient.”

His Frittatas had cream and cheese and were baked rather like a quiche. You ate them endlessly so delicious were they.

Narender has cooked for Advani and General Musharraf and has a signed menu to prove it. He has cooked for Clinton and has a bottle of Korbel champagne with the presidential seal on it. And way down the scale he has cooked for us.

Of the cold tenderloin with grilled pepper he said, “It is easy to cook tenderloin — you just add lemon juice and a stage of cooking is complete.” The dish was so flavoured that the grilled peppers didn’t drown the taste of tenderloin.

From the Indian buffet, we had the Brinjal bhartha of which Jiggs Kalra says, “A charcoal-smoked aubergine delicacy, cooked with onions and tomatoes.” It has a smoky flavour and Narender adds peas so a new eating dimension is added.

With it one had the papadi chaat, an Indian street food with a special tamarind sauce on fine wafers mixed with yoghurt and a blend of spices including pomegranates.

It brought back winters on the sub-continent and street vendors.

For dessert, so that it lingered into the night, we had the Moc-ha mousse which refers to a coffee plus chocolate mixture. The name came from the Port of Moc-ha and now called Al Muklha, which was once the centre of World Coffee Trade. On the drive home, I thought of all the different regions of food we had visited that night and remembered Chef Narender saying, “Food has no politics”.

Amen. Call 4491234.