Casino Hotel’s seafood specialty restaurant Fort Cochin revamps its menu with modern aesthetics
Kochi’s cityscape, interspersed with backwaters and touched by the sea, has definitely shaped its culinary heritage. The multitude of tropical ingredients like coconut cream and curry leaf also add to the flavour palette.
So, when Mumbai-based consultant chefs Xavier Fernandes and Conrad D’Souza were entrusted with the task of revamping the menu of Casino Hotel’s three-decade-old Fort Cochin restaurant, they had a strong base to work on; also a great responsibility.
“Our old menu was shaped to serve what’s fresh in the market as grills or curries. Keeping some of our platters untouched for our regular customers, we want to introduce more cooking techniques and styles without compromising on a traditional touch,” says George Joseph, the General Manager of the property.
So, we wait for the chefs to serve us something that juxtaposes continental and coastal flavours from the menu.
Their thick Seafood chowder gives off a strong whiff of mixed seafood, however, the herb blend (celery, fennel and dill leaves) it is flavoured with grows on you.
“We’ve been here for two months, researching the availability of raw material and the local cuisine, with the help of in-house chef Jobish M J,” says Conrad, who has been in the industry since 1995, adding, “We’ve introduced the small plate concept so that diners can try more dishes.”
The sea food mousse they serve alongside crispy tapioca chips captures the idea of ‘familiar, yet foreign,’ from a Malayali perspective. The slushy blend (prawn, squid and fish cubes), pureed with cream and sprinkled with a curry leaf and prawn powder makes the platter irresistible.
Their next small plate, the prawn and calamari in lemon coriander broth, is slightly smoky and emits a sourness that is reminiscent of tamarind.
Getting into the mains, they bring to the spread two plates—a greenish crab curry with jalapeno, basil and coconut milk, and a baked karimeen (pearl spot) with orange caper butter meuniere. “We’ve been careful to preserve the Kerala touch but there are influences from other cuisines, like Thai in this one,” says Xavier, pointing at the crab.
The pearl spot platter with a sweetish tangy fish paired with butter-tossed tapioca gnocchi is my personal favourite. “Since we see a lot of foreign travellers here, the spice levels have been negotiated down. Instead, we rely on a tadka which uses materials like curry leaves and mustard seed,” informs the chef who has over two decades of experience with stints at firms like Impresario Hospitality.
From the dessert menu, I’d choose brown butter apple tart with ice cream over the hazelnut mousse for a satisfying end to this sumptuous meal.
Doors open in February