Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dar Foodie In ZNZ! - Coral Rock Hotel

I was very excited about this weekend as we headed to Coral Rock Hotel in Jambiani, Zanzibar. I have been a fan on their facebook page for a while now and recently they put up a link to their very promising sounding new menu. On paper, it had all the ingredients that promised a feast for the senses; freshly caught seafood, delicious sauces and a good variety on the menu. So I packed myself and my discerning tastebuds and prepared for an overload of sensual pleasures (strictly of the gastronomical kind!).

We arrived at about 11.15am at the hotel and having missed breakfast, immediately ordered brunch. My sister asked for penne arrabbiata and after much agonizing, I settled on the grilled kingfish on a bed of red mash and a side of delicious coconut sauce. The food took more than an hour in arriving but as I assured my sister, that meant it was likely to be freshly cooked and scrumptious!

When the long awaited food finally arrived, my sister took one bite and spat it out immediately! It was practically drowning in chilli powder! Now I am well aware that arrabbiata is the italian word for angry, but if you're going to be red hot furious, you do need to warn your customers! Ideally, as in many other places, the menu needs to have a heat rating. Generally in european and continental establishments, one just does not expect this level of heat! The manager did not charge us for the uneaten meal and at my sister's request it was replaced with a much more palatable cheese and vegetable sandwich, which was charged. :P

Turning my attention to my food, which was stone cold, I was dissapointed to find that the fish had been overcooked and neither the fish nor red potato mash had a hint of seasoning (including salt)! For those of you who read my earlier post on naked salads, you can imagine that this was akin to a sacreligious insult for me! To have an undressed salad is bad enough, but to have unseasoned food is like poking me with red hot knives and slowly turning me on a spit! To add further insult to injury, the promised coconut sauce was nowhere to be seen!

Forcing down the bland boring food somehow due to hunger, we headed to our rooms and were gloomily contemplating the meals in the days to come and also sorely regretting the fact that we had not carried any snacks!

Come dinner, I spoke to one of the managers about the quality of the food, but he was of the opinion that it was better to add seasonings at the table so that people could choose how much they wanted .... the quality and the taste of the food also apparently depended on which chef was on duty that night....hmmm... someone get Gordon Ramsey here on the double!!!

After having confirmed that the 'good' chef was on duty that night and having received something like a recommendation for the seafood pancakes, I took a deep breathe and decided to order them. Surprisingly, the seafood filling in the coconut sauce was delicious! The pancakes themselves were too thick, but the portion was generous, the sauce subtly seasoned and the delicious creamy taste of coconut pervaded my senses. That with the sound of the crashing waves nearby, the palm trees in the distance and the balmy evening air was near perfection...

Good things do come in small portions, we sadly realized, as the next morning breakfast was a mishmash of overly sour fruit juice, unripe bananas, tasteless watermelon and a finale of burnt cheese and bacon omlette! Offering a selection of seasonal ripe fruits would go a long way in establishing a more pleasing start to the day!

The afternoon continued in this vein as we were presented with soggy nachos (though real nachos and not Doritos as you find at Spurs... so kudos for that!), watery salsa and an oily mess which was meant to pass as an oriental vegetable stirfry! The food and beverage manager was sincerely apologetic and immediately asked if we would like something else on the house, since the food was practically untouched. But all that oil had left a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth, so we declined.

Am I guilty of presenting an overly well seasoned argument? For my last meal here tonight I ordered the seafood special; fish and prawn curry on yellow rice. The oversalted curry came with two prawns and two pieces of fish and tasted strongly of tumeric, which had been added liberally, thereby losing all the other delicate flavours in the sauce. If one looks at the importance of food and sees the main components as the chef, the seasonings can only be seen as the sous chef.... both fulfilling an equally important part and needing to work together beautifully in tandem in order to create magic..... After all good cooking is magical....

My sister's final order of minestrone soup was so bad, (a bowl of boiled spaghetti and boiled pieces of carrots & peppers floating about in a tablespoon of plain water) that I have decided to dedicate a whole post on the subject and also discuss what a real minestrone is.... so watch the next post!

I believe what is further highlighting the substandard bland food here is also the fact that I am fully engrossed at present in reading 'My Life In France' by Julia Child, a passionate lover of good food and the author of many renowned cook books based on french fare.

The book is alive with the sights, sounds, colours and most importantly the tastes of Paris and nearby regions! Each description leaves the reader drooling and is a real smorgasbord for the senses! Ah, la belle France.......

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Zuane Uppp, Zuane Downnnn”

A rant from the past ;)

Most of you remember that nursery rhyme with the girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead? Well if one could apply the same sentiment to restaurants, Zuane would be the clear winner. When ze food iz good, eet iz very very good, and when ze food is bad, eet iz terrible!

The food at Zuane swings from one extreme to another, and all this I'm talking about in a week. I was introduced to Zuane when I had a real craving for Italian food (just the way mother makes it ;) ).... I went with a group of friends and the food was delish!

We ordered the pasta, pizza and to end with; the rather dubious sounding sweet chocolate ravioli, which turned out to be divine. Everything was perfect and the pleasure of finding real Italian food in Dar put us on cloud nine.

Well.... I was bitten by the Italian food bug, and a few days later saw me heading back there for take away. (same spinach ricotta ravioli and pizza) The place was rather crowded but I got my food and headed home. This time the food was slightly below the first great impression the place had on me; for one thing a lot less cheese!

No matter. Everyone is allowed a bad day. So two days later, once more I took a guest and we headed back to Zuane. The food took quite a while in arriving and when it finally did, my guest took one bite and spat out the spinach ricotta ravioli (the same one ordered twice before in a week)! I was shocked. I leaned over to try a bite and to my dismay the savory dish was as sweet as a desert! 

We asked for the manager and he took some 20 minutes in arriving, in a foul mood. (Neither of us had eaten more than a bite). When we explained what the problem was he gave us a condescending look and proceeded to enlighten us that yes, the ravioli did call for honey and zometimes it had less and zometimes eet had more honey, but the taste was always the same... umm yeah right and I fell off the Christmas tree yesterday!

After spending some 10 minutes or more in this vein with no sign of an apology or other food in view, we decided to end this farce, asked for the bill (which we paid in full), and headed off to good ole Spurs for some real food.

I find it a shame that we had this experience, since it is difficult at the best of times to find consistently good quality food in Dar and I thought we had a winner. More than anything, it was the attitude that really put us off. Has no one here ever heard of 'the customer is always right'? Or it could just be that my taste buds went through a massive makeover in a week and I can't tell good food from bad any more.... ..and outside pink pigs with silver wings are flying in a green sky ;)

NB: For those brave enough, here are recipes for chocolate ravioli:


I visited Fish Mongers at Sea Cliff Village last night looking forward to a delicious meal of tender baby Portugese chicken and a large plate of salad.

Well, that's what I looked forward to ... but what I received was a different matter altogether. Our chicken arrived (a whole baby chicken cut in two as requested) dry, hard and completely lacking in seasoning or taste. I was really surprised as on my last visit here I had fallen in love with this dish....But unluckily I have come to accept that it is easier to find the proverbial needle in the haystack than consistency in Dar restaurants.....

Chewing on the hard tasteless meat, we finally sent it back asking that the chef add some more sauce and seasonings to the meal and turned our attention to the Greek Salad.

Now, food historians tell us salads (generally defined as mixed greens with dressing) were enjoyed by ancient Romans and Greeks. As time progressed, salads became more complicated.....(in some countries at least!)

Lucky Romans & Greeks! It's little wonder they never turned an eye to Tanzania because the lack of dressings on salads would surely have sent them scuttling back home! Our tiny plate of Greek Salad (which cost a hefty Tshs 8,000) consisted of lettuce, tomatoes cut in quarters, thin slivers of green pepper, cucumbers, 6 olives, 6 small pieces of feta cheese..... and NO dressing!

I am a firm believer that serving a salad without dressing it is like serving a naked salad... a real shame! When I spoke to the manager about this, she informed me that not all the customers preferred their salads dressed which is why they had the same generic (boring) salad dressing on the side which could be used on all the salads. (Surely if this is part of the menu, then others can ask for it to left off?)

This unluckily means you receive an untossed undressed salad which is lacking in flavour, finesse or any yummy saladiness....Furthermore, as I was informed you most certainly shouldn't expect this as your main course! Luckily we had a terrific waiter who was very helpful and accommodating, so this made up slightly for an unpleasant unappetizing evening.

Upon my return home, I found it hard to believe that the Greeks who are well known for their love of colours, tastes and textures in their foods would create such an unappetizing dish... so I decided to do some research....

Not surprisingly, all the best recipes for Greek salads contain dressings (seen as an essential), some of which the salads are marinated in before being tossed and served with warm bread and olive oil. Naturally being invented in Greece, their portions are also very large!

If you would like to make your own big delicious Greek Salad bursting with flavours, textures and goodness, try one from the following...... and remember: DON'T SERVE THE SALAD NAKED!