It was exactly one year ago that I was introduced to Guestronomy through their Mangalorean Oota. The flavour of the Chicken Ghee Roast was so good that to date it is a lingering thought. On 17th December, we met again, but this time in place of Chef Shriya Shetty, it was Chef Gerald Sheeran with his walkabout. If you haven’t read about the oota, here it is: https://thankgodimfat.com/reminiscing-the-mangalorean-oota-by-chef-shriya-shetty-guestronomy/.
The place was once again Restaurant 51 at The Xandari Harbour, but this time there was also a Christmas souk arranged where brands sold chocolates, kombucha, brownies, pickles, t-shirts and more. Amidst the moderately controlled crowd of people, I found familiar faces and shared the joy of socialising once again. I had more than one reasons to attend the pop up this time, besides the fact that it was going to be a delectable spread, a very familiar name was cooking that night.
Chef Ratish and I go back to the days at culinary school. He graduated and went ahead with his zeal while I dropped out twice. I would like to make it sound fancy and write that I was a critic while he was cooking for me, but it would be too much, lol. So with many emotions bottled up, I went down and sat at my designated place with the rest of the bloggers (read friends).
Chef Jery, who according to Sareeka’s explanation is not related to Ed Sheeran, lived a major chunk of his life in Australia but has his roots here, in Pondicherry. The menu held flavours of his life, holding together the essence of his journeys, growth and learnings tempered with nostalgia.
- 9 in Pondy: Oysters were arranged beautifully on a bed of pulses laid out within an earthenware. It was my first encounter with the mighty oysters, and thanks to the countless times I have watched Mr Bean, I was a bit intimidated. I scooped out what was in the shell and dumped it straight into my mouth. Honestly, due to the strong flavours of cilantro, ginger, red chillies and Shaoxing (rice wine), I couldn’t taste the oysters. But nonetheless, we were off for a great start.
- 17 in Aus: Chef Jery highlighted that the combination of prawns and avocado is an Australian thing and that being his inspiration for one of the finest dishes that I had that night. The salad was extremely refreshing and held strong flavours of pickled and fried onions. The balance was just mind-blowing, with fresh jumbo prawns elevating the salad game. I could go back to eat a bowl full of just this salad.
- 20 and shocked: I am not 20, but I was shocked too! A cheeseburger inspired dumpling? An Asian-American fusion and how! The buffalo mince with oozy cheese topped potato crisps like ‘salli’. By the time I was done tasting the lobster dumpling with xo sauce (I am a sucker for xo sauce, thank you), the buff lovers had finished whatever was served to us. As soon as a fresh batch came out of the kitchen, I was too impatient and burnt my mouth too. What an experience!
- 21 with Emm: How can someone love a palate cleanser so much? That is me guys! It was probably the excitement of trying a new ingredient, we are talking about persimmon here. The fruit that feels and looks like a tomato but tastes like muskmelon! What is this sorcery, nature? Now, this fruit was paired with orange and flavoured with ginger. So what next?
- 23 and What the Hell: What the hell was that on our table? sorry, thank heavens! Delicate buffalo cheek, slow-cooked in soy, one that had a beautiful caramelisation from the rock sugar used. The first bite was just an explosion of sweet, tart and meaty goodness in my mouth, though eventually, I got tired of the flavours as the portion size was pretty huge. The meat just fell apart like how I do when I experience an emotional roller coaster! It was only halfway through my meal that I noticed the side of bao being served, picked it up, sliced it through the middle and made myself a cute sandwich (read sammich)
The tea-smoked duck probably won my heart more than the buff cheek, I know I do not speak like a true Malayalee here but honesty is the best policy, isn’t it? For all those who oppose pineapple on pizza or biriyani, you have to try this dish. The pineapple and duck just paired oh so beautifully and the fried curry leaves just levelled it up. This with rice was just lip-smacking good! The miso butter beans lacked the flavour of miso though.
- 26 and my Kids: By now, I had started my prep for hibernation and the rest of the night was blurred. Feeling like a stuffed toy, I let the dessert pass. But to give you an idea, the bao was filled with raspberry caramel and drowsed in chocolate, and more chocolate, and more.. you know the drill!
- 33 and still a kid: Aren’t we all? A jar full of nostalgia for the rest of them, and one filled with amusement for me. Oneal taught me how to make a ‘Pambara Muttayi’ work, one that spins and looks like a gas Muttayi!
With that, the restaurant switched to a classroom mode, with chitter-chatter about food, decor and anticipation rising for Guestronomy’s next. From being batchmates to a pop-up, bumping into Ratish like this was highly unexpected, but worth it! Meeting Chef Jery, Chef Tony and Chef Armaan (two of our Kochi boys who co-created the magic) was extremely refreshing too, laid out a new perspective in my head. I live for such experiences. Thank you, Sareeka and Payal, here is wishing you the best and looking forward to the next!