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.......

1 comment:

  1. OMG that sounds horrendous! I'd be so mad. This is why I only go to the 2-3 proven solid restaurants in Dar - it's just not worth the time and money to try out anything new! (btw, this is Aditi)