Goût de France roughly translates to ‘a taste of France’, and that is exactly what 21st March, 2016 is all about, when 1000 restaurants come together to celebrate the joys of French cuisine. Initiated by celebrated chef, Alain Ducasse, and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, this is truly an event to look forward to. I was recently invited to have a sampler of what would be on offer, and I must say, the fare knocked my breath away!
A tasting session was held at the French Consulate recently, and the eight participating hotels showcased their food at the event. After a brief introduction, the hotels were asked to elaborate upon the food, and I have to say, details like “Bouillabaisse” and “Boeuf Bourguignon” made my soul happy.
At present, the eight restaurants which would be participating in the Goût de France are as follows: The Bridge at The Park Hotels, Cafe Swiss at Swissotel, The Dinning Room at The Taj Bengal, The Legacy Grill of The Lalit Great Eastern, West View Bar & Grill at ITC Sonar, La Terrasse at The Oberoi Grand, The Square at Novotel, and La Cucina from Hyatt Regency.
Naturally, I was excited to try out the food, and I was surprised and delighted by the efforts the chefs had made. I generally veer towards desserts, and well, here it was no different. After looking longingly at the plump prawns laced with cognac and Thousand Island dressing (Oberoi Grand), I sighed and made my way to Swissotel, and picked up a slice of the rather delightful Opera Cake, which I love because it has layers and layers of cream in between, and the key here is to keep everything together and not make it soggy, which Swissotel does with a flair, and I know I am off to a fine start.
My next stop is The Park, where I find a rather complex course of Smoked Salmon with nubbins of feta and crunchy rocket and romaine. The dessert here is a simple creme caramel, topped with cognac caviar and sugared violet and Chef Surajit sneakily adds a second sugared violet to my bowl, because I have a fondness for them.
The Tarte Normand from ITC Sonar is simple, almost deceptively so, till you bite into it and realize that there is a rather comforting depth to it, showing how good ingredients can elevate a simple dish so easily.
Taj Bengal is, of course, a completely cool player, and the stunning dish of scallops with quail eggs is definitely a daring dish – the scallops are cooked just right – the smash of seafood hits my palate hard, followed by the sharp creaminess of the quail egg, the runny yolk adding a hit of creaminess to the rich, buttery scallops. The beetroot puree and roasted corn are there to add texture and flavour, but well, at this point I really don’t care for vegetables when I can have scallops.
After the scallops, I was dying to have something to clear my palate and the beautifully presented watermelon with feta from Novotel was a great way to prep myself for more – the tangy watermelon benefited from the blood orange caviar, and there was a bit of balsamic to keep things interesting, while the micro-grens gave a nice texture to it all.
At this point, my brain started to switch into dessert mode, and I ambled slowly towards La Cucina’s direction. Chef Sumeet Priyadarshi had made a chocolate mousse in a meringue cup, and although that sounds simple enough, a single, gleeful spoon went and knocked the fragile meringue apart, making a thick rivulet of chocolate run out and mingle gently with the sabayon at the bottom, and play with the tart raspberries. I can honestly say, this was my favourite moment of the evening.
However, just as I had thought that nothing could make me happier, I was introduced to the rather decadent and intriguing looking dessert at The Lalit Great Eastern’s counter, and of course, who can resist chocolate? The result was a Malted Milk Bavarian, Chocolate Pudding, Peanut Sable and Salted Caramel which made my toes curl. The silky smooth chocolate pudding, rich and trembling gently under the weight of caramelized nuts and shards of chocolate was enough for me to have a sugar-induced coma, and I happily fell back on a seat, holding my prize with a gentle possessiveness of newfound love.
As I finished my plate and started to leave, a small bag filled with madeleines and financiers from the good folks at Shuktara Cakes was given to me. If you are in Kolkata, you should definitely give this bakery a turn, they make rather wonderful cakes, smelling of butter and love.
If you want to book your table, then check out the website and find a restaurant near you. Remember, its only for one night, and although some restaurants are holding the festival for more than a day, I would strongly recommend you to go on the 21st and sit down for a great meal.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited by the French Consulate of Kolkata to attend the tasting session.