Saturday, November 26, 2011

Restaurant Review - Azulia

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I was impressed from the moment I walked into this restaurant. This Mediterranean restaurant in GRT Grand Days Hotel has been on my “must-eat-at” list for a while now, and somehow we never got around to it. When I got an opportunity to review it, of course I could not miss the opportunity.

The first thing I must mention is that the ambience and experience of eating at Azulia is just lovely. It is one of those places that make you feel welcome, warm and you settle right in. The decor is lovely too, as is the silverware and crockery. The attention to detail is really good. And I loved these  lamps!

The menus are absolutely like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Designed to look and feel like a coffee table book, the book is chock full of beautiful pictures, history, facts and other interesting things. I think you could spend an hour just reading the menu! The most difficult part of lunch was trying to decide what to eat! With a menu of 165 dishes from 10 countries in the Mediterranean, everything sounded so yummy!

To make things simpler, we asked Chef Etham to just send over some of his best starters, and he delivered! 

I have always been a sucker for a good Mezze platter, and this was one of the best I’ve had. The tzakziki, hummus, babaganoush (which they called mutabal) and moussaka marakkech were all really yummy.

While we were busily digging into the dips with our pita-like kubus breads, we suddenly went, “oh something smells fabulous.” After sniffing a few dishes on the table, we discovered that the source of the aroma was a fabulous plate of crispy fried chicken wings sautéed with garlic & cilantro among other fabulous smelling ingredients. I thought it was really yummy!

The other stand-out starters were the filo pastry cigars (I liked the cheesy vegetarian version better than the lamb filled ones) and an olive-loaded manakish pizza. The only starter that I was disappointed with was the Fatayer. The description of a spinach and pomegranate filling in a baked pastry sounded really good, but failed to impress. The pastry wasn’t great, and the filling tasted under seasoned. The way the spinach was cooked left an unpleasant after taste in my mouth.

As soon as we were done with the starters, the staff brought around a passion fruit sorbet as a palate cleanser. Oh boy! I could eat a lot of that sorbet. It was pleasantly tart, just sweet enough and absolutely refreshing and delicious. 
After poring through the menu, I finally decided on the lamb chops for my main. The main courses came around and unanimous favourite (among the meat-eaters) were a plate of perfectly cooked, deliciously spiced Marakech prawns. The gnocchi served on the side was just average, but those prawns were just absolutely, positively mouth-wateringly good.

My lamb was well seasoned and tasty, but sadly a little undercooked. I ate a couple of them that were done right, but the other two chops were too rare for my palate. And the red wine sauce on the side was good enough to eat with a spoon! Chef very kindly offered to re-fire my lamb chops but I was already filled up with the yummy starters and was content with just the two that I had eaten.

The other yummy mains were a very messy looking but tasty Yoghurtlu Kebab and a well-cooked beef steak with a pepper sauce.

And then it was time for dessert. I am sorry to say that I was not a fan. This was probably the only part of the meal I didn’t enjoy. They served something called a ‘hot souffle’ which reminded me of a chocolate fondant/lava cake. I don’t know about you, but I like my chocolate fondant to have a thick, gooey filling. The filling in this hot soufflé was way too runny for me. I realize that the way Baklava is made in different countries in the Mediterranean may be different, but I like my baklava crisp & light. This baklava was very juicy, a little doughy and sooooo sweet. There were some people who liked it though. So it’s just a question of taste. The orange cheesecake had a nice texture, but the orange flavour tasted a little fake and over-powering. 

I would have been exceedingly happy to have that wonderful passion fruit sorbet again for dessert. 

All in all, I loved Azulia. The staff is well trained, most of the food is good, the ambience is just cosy & the decor simple and tasteful. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of the Mediterranean in Chennai.
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