Garam Masala Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos IslandsRestaurant Reviewed May / June 2014

A photograph of Garam Masala Indian Restaurant, The Regent Village, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Garam Masala is located at The Regent Village in Grace Bay

Review By Mandy Rostance-Wolf

Of all the world’s exotic and faraway cuisines, few can rival the absolute sensorial experience of the gastronomy of India. The moment I inhale the heady, intoxicating scents and the pungent, powerful spices I am helplessly under the influence, drunk with desire and giddy with anticipation.

Experience your ‘aromatic affaire with Indian cuisine’ at Garam Masala in an ambiance that is both exotic and contemporary, surrounded by the warmth of spice-inspired hues and stylishly elegant lighting. India’s celebrated symbol of welcome and good luck, two 400kg hand-carved white marble elephants are first to greet you. Indoors, dining is luxuriously ‘cool’ with A/C, or take pleasure in the gentle island breezes and a star-studded night sky on the fully-furnished terrace.

A photograph of Mix Grill Platter at Garam Masala Indian Restaurant, The Regent Village, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.For a great lunch or appetiser to share try the Mix Grill Platter

Authenticity is fundamental as two chefs from Northern India prepare the same classic dishes that have been enjoyed for generations. Laxmi and Keshav are each responsible for specific functions that include marinating, curries, base sauces and breads. Their edification of Indian cuisine goes back generation after generation, to their parents and their parents’ parents. They never measure anything – they just know. Using ‘whole’ spices and age-old preparation methods many of the dishes are cooked in a traditional clay tandoor with a charcoal bed.

Reaching temperatures of 600F the tandoor essentially ‘grills’ and sears by the radiant heat generated from the hot coals; the hot air inside the ‘belly’ of the tandoor facilitates roasting via convection and the natural meat juices that drip onto the hot coals ‘smoke’ the foods to create that distinctive char-grilled flavour and aroma.

Keshav is known as ‘the charcoal guy’. He’s out there very early every morning choosing his charcoal bits with determined deliberation. Manager, Ashley Samuel explained that you just can’t put any charcoal in the tandoor. It has to be wood charcoal, because brick charcoal does not catch on fire properly. I joked that Keshav probably has no hair on his arms. “Oh yes he does, Keshav does,” Ashley laughed.

A photograph of Chicken Tikka Masala at Garam Masala Indian Restaurant, The Regent Village, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.A favourite entree is Chicken Tikka Masala, served here with Pulao Rice

All that talk about heat had me thinking of icy beverages. If you’re having a cocktail, I highly recommend Garam Masala’s Special Mojito. It is indeed special, topped up with champagne instead of club soda, a lavish and refreshing innovation.

What’s important to remember is that in Indian cuisine, spices bring flavour and chilies bring heat. Beer and Indian cuisine are a great combination and Kingfisher Indian lager is India’s largest selling beer. I also discovered that scotch (and a splash of soda) is a frequent beverage of choice with Indian dishes and that India sells the most scotch in the world! Wine is also a pleasurable pairing, but here I recommend a sweeter, white like Riesling or Gewürztraminer. Gut Hermannsberg Kabinett Reisling’s aromatic and pleasurable sweetness harmonised splendidly with the piquant and flavourful dishes.

A basket of crispy papadums served with two dipping sauces, sweet tamarind chutney; and mint chutney made with a blend of herbs including mint and cilantro had everyone eagerly snapping, crackling and popping these tasty wafer-thin snacks into their mouths at lightning speed, leaving nothing behind but a few crumbs.

Dazzling and purposeful, the copper water goblets are immediately eye-catching. Together with copper serving dishes and serving cutlery, these types of utensils were traditionally used in palaces in bygone times. Copper is an ideal temperature conductor so your dishes come out piping hot – while your water stays frosty cold.

A photograph of Garlic Naan Bread at Garam Masala Indian Restaurant, The Regent Village, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Must Do - Garlic Naan Bread - at Garam Masala

While Ashley was eager and enthusiastic to offer suggestions, I quickly discovered that he was equally unwavering and intent on keeping the chef’s secrets – a secret. We began with the Mix Grill Platter, a wonderful way to sample several dishes from the extensive menu with grilled vegetables and a mystery dipping sauce. Tikka means ‘bits’ or pieces’ and these delicious chunks of chicken marinated in yogurt and herbs and cooked in the tandoor were fabulous. The marinated Prawns were plump and succulent rendering my fellow diner momentarily speechless. Wholeheartedly plunging them into the sauce he raved, “The shrimp are excellent … anything with that brown sauce is excellent!” We asked Ashley what the predominant ingredient in the brown sauce was. He just smiled coyly and said, “That is the chef’s ingredient … a secret.” Lamb and Chicken Seekh Kebabs are always a perennial favourite. The minced meat is superbly spiced, rolled like a sausage and cooked in a tandoor. We applauded the firm consistency of the marinated Paneer (homemade cottage cheese); its wonderful texture soaked up the seasonings like a sponge while the tandoor gave it a great char, crispy outside and tender inside.

A photograph of Rogan Josh at Garam Masala Indian Restaurant, The Regent Village, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Rogan Josh served with Lamb

As the starter dishes were cleared we couldn’t help but notice the evidence left behind that stemmed from our obvious enthusiasm over that infamous brown sauce! “They’re going to have to change the tablecloth!” my dining companion chuckled. Then, a deluge of fabulous aromas began to engulf the air and we began to salivate uncontrollably as we inhaled the faraway and exotic fragrances of our main dishes en route to our table.

Marinated and cooked in a creamy tomato-cashew based sauce and Indian spices, Chicken Tikka Masala had a perceptible “smoky taste” and was “delectably creamy.” “What gives the chicken that smoky flavour?” I asked Ashley. Yeah, yeah, I knew what was coming … chef’s secret. He did divulge that the chicken is first cooked in the tandoor, then added to masala sauce and cooked again.

Lobster Kerala Masala’s 8 oz lobster tail is grilled, then added to a red sauce with a hint of coconut milk and fresh curry leaf. “Definitely has Indian spice … not overwhelming. Wow, that’s perfect.” “I died and went to heaven right now”.

A moment of silence ensued for the Lamb Rogan Josh; melt-in-your-mouth tender cubes of meat cooked in brown base sauce with herbs and light spices. Then, “Phenomenal, always been a favourite. Always get lamb.” Wait! Was it déjà vu? Not a moment too soon we solved the mystery behind the brown sauce served with the Mix Grill Platter … it was Rogan Josh sauce!

I don’t usually get excited about rice but Pulao Rice with cumin seeds and green peas was quite simply divine. It had a delicate and lovely texture and each and every grain remained separate. It was an ideal accompaniment to all of our curries, kebabs and masalas.

And of course, no Indian meal would be complete without the bastion of Indian sides, Garlic Naan. Piping hot from the tandoor walls, perfectly blistered, crispy and lip-smacking good! The naan was like a super sponge, mopping up every drop of sauce on our plates as well as soaking up the residual spice on our palates.

A photograph of Indian dessert Gajar Halwa at Garam Masala Indian Restaurant, The Regent Village, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Indian Dessert is Gajar Halwa

Indulge in authentic desserts like Gulab Jamun, made with milk solids and flour, rolled into a ball and deep fried. Reminiscent of dumplings, these tasty delicacies were soaked in a rose-flavoured sugar syrup.

Gajar Halwa is a must-try, a classic pudding made with shredded carrots and milk. From 3:00 to 6:00 the chef stirs and stirs and stirs …reducing one pound of shredded carrots, two gallons of milk, sugar syrup, saffron, clarified butter, raisins and cashews. We all took pleasure in this warm, comfort-laden sweet ending, with my companion remarking, “I would not have ordered that off the menu, but it’s really good!”

Take your tastebuds halfway around the world on a culinary adventure without ever leaving Provo … take your palate on a passage to India at Garam Masala!

Photography by Lisa Adara Photo

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