A magical experience
Too often we rave about the food and sometimes the service but when they both come together, its a magical experience. I had the privilege of enjoying both quite recently while trying new cuisine for the first time with a friend who has the most challenging dietary requirements. It would have been so easy to give up for both these restaurants but I want to highly commend them both on rising to the challenge and making it such a memorable evening. My friend Pierre (and his wife Catherine) love good food and wine and eat out a lot. And in some of the best restaurants around the world. In the past couple of years, they (especially Pierre) have developed intolerances to some food and both underwent extensive allergy tests. This has now limited Pierre's choice (huge sea food and dairy allergy) in most restaurants and he ends up with meat and two veg more often than not. It has also meant that he has stopped going to some of his favourite places. (WARNING: This might be a long post but worth it, I hope)
First up was Inka. I had been toying with the idea of trying Peruvian cuisine and the PR lady for Sofitel suggested Inka (its in the Sofitel Downtown) and I thought why not. I hadn't caught up with Pierre and Catherine and they were up for it too having just come back from a South American trip though it did not include Peruvian food. We did let them know that my friend had some food allergies and they needed to help us around these. I do know that the PR lady informed the restaurant so I'm not sure if that helped or if the service is good anyway. Judging by the service extended to the other diners, it would seem that it was the norm rather than exception. The lounge and bar are quite popular as a late night venue. So at 7 in the evening, the restaurant was quite empty so we had their undivided attention (at least for the first hour or so). We were served by Cynthia (from Argentina) who was not only knowledgeable about the menu but knew the ingredients that went into the dishes (which is rare). So she first focused on making sure that my friend Pierre was looked after, suggesting items from the menu and suggesting a couple of substitutions.
For starters, I had the deep-fried calamari. I am always scared but can never resist them. And I wasn't disappointed. I think my friend had the Beef anticuchos but without the yoghurt (I think they substituted it with avocado - if I remember correctly). Can't remember what my other dinner companions (Pierre's wife Catherine, my brother and his wife) had but all the dishes were placed in the centre, almost as a sharing platter so that we could try each others' dishes. For the main, my friend had the Prime Rib Eye and I had the lamb shanks with purple potato and rose pearls (the sauce and the "rose pearls" were a treat). My dinner companions had the seabass al horno (Cath and Wasila) and the beef tenderloin and chimichurri (my brother). While all of them were delicious and the service impeccable, the all round favourite was the Sea bass. It was something we would definitely go back for. We finished with chocolate volcan, with quinoa ice cream (highly recommended), Merengado de chirimoya (not sure of the taste and texture) and the ice cream trio of lucuma, maca and quinoa. My friend just had a few fruits since none of the other desserts would have worked for him. It was a very pleasant evening accompanied by some lovely South American wines that my friend Pierre (who knows these things) selected. Unfortunately, and I have no idea why, I did not take any photographs. Rare for me I know.
But the outstanding experience for all of us was Farzi Cafe a couple of weeks later. Talk about going above and beyond, Farzi Cafe created a menu just for Pierre without losing some of the theatre and taste that the rest of us enjoyed that evening. We shared the list of allergies and the marvelous Chef Avneesh and the delightful Shivankit Mehta drove the whole experience taking it to a level of customer service that should be synonymous with hospitality. Not only were they accommodating but they made sure we loved every morsel. The food touched every sense you had - look, smell, touch, sound and above all taste. There were surprise twists to almost every dish but there was an international feel that appealed to my French-Swiss friends' tastebuds (as well as my Ghanaian sister-in-law's). Despite the fact that there was no alcohol, the mocktails were winners (try the virgin Mojito, the Pina Colada and there was one other I forget). I will not go into great details on the food we tasted (for one I remember some of them not all). Suffice to say I ordered a lot of the food that I had tried (and enjoyed) at the bloggers pre-launch lunch (hosted by Zorawar Kalra (the owner) and Ishita Saha of FoodeMag Dxb and IshitaUnblogged fame) including the Emirati platter, an extra helping of duck samosas, and shawarma biryani, among others. We had a few extras that the Chef and Shivankit wanted us to try. I think we might have sampled and tried around 10-12 dishes from amuse bouche to dessert. I wish I had photographed the theatre of one of the desserts (especially) that use liquid nitrogen to a taste explosion in our mouths. Pierre had his own dedicated 8 courses specially crafted for him. So I leave you with images (its a combination of the bloggers lunch and the dinner) of the food we had. We will be back, Farzi Cafe. Till then we remain suitably Farzified.