This seafood festival extraordinaire at The Raintree in Chennai has us hooked!
Chef Jai Shankar tells us, it is not just about picking from the catch of the day — you get to choose the cut, the cuisine and the marinade
Starting tonight, the rooftop restaurant at The Raintree Hotel at St Mary’s Road is going to be transformed into a bustling seaside shack with a trough of fresh catch and live cooking counters. We headed there earlier this week to get a peek into the popular annual Fish Bazaar festival menu. Much to our delight we were greeted with a brisk breeze aptly adding to the beach vibe even as Jai Shankar, Sous Chef at The Raintree, who has curated and designed the menu, tells us to pick our fish from the fresh heap on the ice-lined trough.
A securely bound crab looked at us balefully as we picked the Red Snapper, the Seer fish and a troupe of Jumbo Tiger prawns. So what sets this festival apart from other seafood menus in town? The chef is practically gleeful as he elaborates while pointing at an arsenal of different knives, “It is not just about picking from the catch of the day — you get to choose the cut, the cuisine and the marinade — and it is all prepared and cooked at live stations right here.” What’s more, you can make multiple preparations from one fish and finally pay only for the fish and not for the add-on veggies, rice and breads. You could have a three-course meal with just one well-sized fish! We are told that they hope to put out up to 50 varieties of fish this year — 10 more than last time. Also, expect both sea and freshwater catches.
The Snapper is expertly filleted — though one half is kept with the skin and the other half is chopped into cubes. The latter is tossed in red tandoori marinade while the former is soaked in an Italian marinade. The spicy tandoori fish is flaky and delectable — though we are soon distracted when we taste the grilled fillet with skin. Drizzled with Herb Lemon Beurre Blanc along with a side of roasted veggies, it is finger licking good and we promise to be back for this one!
As we sigh over the fresh and succulent quality of the meat, the chef lets on that each day, he along with his team, reach Kasimedu at 3.30 am to get the best pick from the vendors.
The Meen Varuval made from darne of Seer Fish is an immediate hit with the spicy South Indian marinade perfectly balanced and the delicate crunch thanks to the rice flour. The rest of the fillet is cubed and prepared as hariyali marinade. We watch the well-endowed prawns getting slit into the butterfly cut and find some of them turning up juicily grilled with kasundi marinade, while the others were dramatically plated with the hot, signature harissa sauce.
Chef Jai Shankar surprises us with a whole grilled Achari Pomfret despite protests of gluttony. Though he agrees that Hilsa is the ‘queen of fish’ — he insists also that a meal was not complete without trying the Pomfret! One bite of the perfectly cooked fish — and we are on his side, rooting for the scrumptious dish. The main course is again, seer fish, this time in a piquant gravy, well paired with garlic naan. We resist offers of kulfi — instead savouring the lingering taste of the delicate flavours and promise to come back to tackle the sea crab next time.
For dinner only, a meal for two at about INR 2,500. The Fish Bazaar festival is on till February 16.