For a good long time I wondered what ‘Balava’ meant because I knew that lunch was going to be about an ‘Assal Marathi’ spread with a slight twist; and I’d never heard about any ‘Balava’ cuisine in all 29 years of my existence as a Maharashtrian. Celebrity Chef Nilesh Limaye (of the Zee Marathi – Amhi Saare Khavaiyye fame – more on www.nileshlimaye.com) explained that the two-month long Balava theme at Courtyart by Marriott’s Momo cafe was centered around the ‘Balavacharya’ (the ‘Chef’) and aimed at propagating the rich and multifarious Maharashtrian cuisine to Pune’s populace.
So yeah, there’s a Courtyard by Marriott in Chakan, too….and it’s gorgeous, mind you. Bigger than its city-bred brothers and sexier; the only flipside being the logistics of getting there… Then again, for a chance to be hosted by a Celebrity Chef and a host of carefully curated Marathi preparations I’d say the whole package is definitely worth it.
Great food apart, there was a fruity-syrupy welcome drink, loads of smalltalk and a huge exchange of cooking ideas…not much of an exchange, really…more ideas came from Chef Limaye…you know, him being a big-time chef and all…*sheepish grin*
So the highlights, first –
Chicken Maratha Kebab –
Succulent Chicken pieces marinated in a coconut and peanut chutney, cooked over charcoal – the subtle freshness from the coconut and earthy nuttiness from the peanut was very evident and made for a great contrasting combination with the chef-recommended cucumber-dahi koshimbir.
Paneer Lonche (pickle) Tikka –
A Kolhapur-style preparation of cottage cheese marinated in traditional mango pickle, charcoal grilled. The rich taste of the pickles had fused very well with the paneer and this, too, went very well with the contrasting cucumber-dahi koshimbir.
Misal with a twist –
A khow-suey style serving of Misal (not the mild ‘Puneri’ version) served with spring onions garnished with crushed rice papads on top, as against the traditional ‘farsaan’ giving it a healthy twist. The ‘zhatkaa’ from the misal was also neutralized by the papads on the side; this is something you could try at home, too ! My pick of the lot; I’d go back just for this !
Fodanicha Bhaat –
A pick off their made-to-order special Marathi menu, reminded me of home. This is a standard preparation in Marathi households wherein leftover rice is tempered with a standard ‘tadka’ or ‘fodani’ and garnished by Mum, with love. No Mum or leftover rice here at Marriott, but the rest of it was all there.
A perfect home-style creamy, creamy, creamy shrikhand garnished with just the right amount of cardamom and dry fruits. There were even little remnant bits of coagulated chakka/strained yoghurt, which you get when you prepare this by hand. Reminded me of my grandmother, this. And I don’t know any other buffet that serves Shrikhand, so there’s that, too. The cherry on top was to be served generous dollops of Shrikhand by the chef himself 😀 Absolutely loved this !
Sabudana Kheer –
A traditional fasting – style preparation of sago, reduced milk and coconut milk – mildly sweet and fairly thick. It had got a little cold by the time we had it, which rendered it a custard-ey texture as expected. Loved it all the same !
Other items on the menu included –
>Cold Cuts and fruits
>Spices and toppings including, but not limited to, silver skin onions, pickled gherkins, horseradish paste, both kinds of olives, capers, sundered tomatoes, feta cheese, pulses, dijon mustard, javas chutney, caramelized onions, roasted brinjal cubes, and so much more ! A classic fusion of indian and videsi cuisines !
>Spinach Au Gratin – spinach-ey and cheesy
>Fish in Oyster Sauce – briny, thick sauce and stir fried fish soaked in it
>Cheesy Potato – very gooey, creamy, cheesy baked potatoes. so much love !
>Cheese Poppers – went extremely well with the sweet chilli dip
>Other oriental preparations included Chicken in Sichuan Sauce, Stir Fried Vegetables, Corn and Tofu Fried Rice, which brought in the pan-asian coverage to the spread
>An assortment of breads – the usual spread of bread, nothing out of the box, here
>Paneer Handi – a rich (Marathi) home-style onion-tomato gravy with an evident aftertaste of roasted groundnuts
>Kofta Gravy – Mixed vegetable dumplings in an onion gravy and Maharashtrian spices
>Subz Solapuri – Mixed Vegetables in a traditional black spice-mix-based gravy with desiccated coconut, poppy seeds, stoneflower….the works
>Malabar Fish Curry – Basa cooked in onion-tomato based gravy with Coconut milk.
>Murgh Makhani – Roasted smoky chicken cooked in a rich sweet-potato gravy
>Peas Pulao, Chicken Biryani and Garlic Naan – great accompaniments to all the gravy-based mains
>There were also 8 types of ice cream, kickass pastries (of which I personally loved the mud pie) and Gajar Halwa too.
A respectable spread, if you ask me…
Not to mention the local made-to-order options including Vada Pav (yes, you read it right !) Misal Pav (my personal favorite !), Kombadi Rassa, Bhakri, Dal Amti/Varan, Fodanicha Bhaat and Tambda Rassa (a legendary Kolhapuri preparation)
All in all –
Food – 4/5
Service – 4.5/5
Ambience – 4/5 (they could definitely use a bug zapper near the cold cuts)
Value for Money – N/A (invited)
If you’re into long drives, have a big appetite and are are open to evolving cuisines, Marriott Chakan is the place to head to !