An Epicurean escapade

Saturday, 21 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cassandra Mascarenhas

A 24-dish Epicurean menu is certainly not for the fainthearted, neither is it for picky eaters as I found out last Thursday at Cinnamon Grand’s signature fusion restaurant, Tao.

A fusion of flavours, the restaurant certainly delivers on what they call an epic feast with seven starters, three soups, seven main courses and seven desserts and the deceptively small portions laid out in front of you, each meticulously decorated and wonderfully presented, are surprisingly filling.

Nestled amongst the confines of the pillars on the wooden walkway where the restaurant is located, we armed ourselves with a fork and knife in anticipation of the battle ahead of us. Commencing with a portion of turkey sausage, the starter deliciously shocks the taste buds, as the meat served with corn spinach roesti is combined with an orange sauce – an unexpected combination that worked surprisingly well.

Dish after dish was brought forth as we systematically wiped each plate clean; amid the starters which covered everything from lobster to duck and asparagus to mango, my personal favourites were the crispy tempura fried asparagus, which put a whole new twist on what I generally consider a rather bland vegetable and the Scottish mussels with matsuhisa salsa. Slurping the tiny treat off the shell it comes in, the mix of herbs and sauces adds to it a tasty tangy taste.

This was followed by the three soups; all served in one go in small glasses. Two hot soups, roasted pumpkin latte with herb rubbed lavosh and lemongrass and galangal scented oyster and one cold, the salmon essence with a salmon tataki skewer. Perhaps it’s because I prefer to have my soup scalding hot, but the salmon soup didn’t go down as well as the other two, both of which were thick and well made.

After finishing the soups, which honestly felt somewhat like downing shots as they came in similar small glasses, came the seven main courses and although rather full just 10 dishes down the line, we found our second wind and waited expectantly to be served.

It could be put down to the fact that we were already rather stuffed, but the main courses paled somewhat in comparison to the delicious starters. Again sampling a wide variety of meats, seafood and an abundance of herbs, spices and sauces, the only dish that really stood out was the final main course – the poached fillet of modha served with lemon chilli topping.

The hot chilli with the sour lemon with the poached fish was a delicious end to the seven main courses, whereas some of the other dishes, even the grilled tuna steaks with wasabi teriyaki which one would expect to find fire-engine hot, were somewhat bland, much like most of the main courses.

However, it was an interesting fusion of various foods, with the simple fried chicken winglet in Sri Lankan curry with which we started to the more complex lamb scaloppini with eggplant with tarragon sauce and the beetroot gnocchi with Brussels sprout gratin and white emulsion.

As we ploughed through the main courses somewhat slowly, Chef Suresh Senarathne approached our table. Into his seventh year at the Cinnamon Grand, the Chef explained that this year, he had chosen to come up with 12 different menus – a different menu for each month. The Epicurean menu which is now a year old is served at Tao every Thursday, with dishes served a la carte the rest of the week.

“We are into our fifth menu right now and I came up with this concept especially for food lovers as it samples a medley of dishes meticulously prepared to reflect the amalgamation of the East and West and the menu also highlights our fusion restaurant,” explained Chef Senarathne.

Our waiter for the evening took pity on us and gave us a moment to bolster ourselves before lading our table with all seven desserts served on two large dishes. Like kids in a candy store, we were spoilt for choice, unsure which to try first, with all qualms about being full to bursting point abandoned.

Starting with the honey macerated roasted baby pineapple with vanilla bean ice cream, we moved onto the gooey praline French macaroon with lashings of chocolate to the honey yoghurt panna cota with Pedro balsamic glazed strawberries and lost in a happy haze, we lost track of what we were having afterwards.

The best was, however, saved for last – the Grand Marnier orange chocolate mousse with shavings of chocolate liberally sprinkled on top, the perfect end to what was a truly gastronomic feast.

The Epicurean menu is available at Tao every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. – it’s best to get there early as sampling 24 dishes does take some time – and is priced at Rs. 1,750 (plus taxes).