Garam Masala Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos Islands Reviewed November / December 2011
Garam Masala is located at The Regent Village in Grace Bay
For many, visions of dining out on Provo typically conjure up images of a succulent grilled lobster tail or the Catch of the Day. But those who have done their culinary homework know they are in for much more... so much more! How about a mouth–watering Murg Tikka Masala, a spicy Rhogan Josh or a hot and fiery Mutton Vindaloo? Yes, you read it right... to add to our uniquely impressive and incredibly diverse carte du jour of international cuisine, we can now take great gastronomic pleasure in Garam Masala ‘an aromatic affaire with Indian cuisine’.
For a great lunch or appetiser try the Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Manager Vinayak (Vinni) Razdan is animated and passionate when talk turns to Indian fare. Our consummate host, Vinni was delighted to enlighten and educate us in the rudiments of Indian cuisine; his modus operandi being a simple and a basic one, he wants his diners to, “Experience India while being here.” The simple, yet modern décor was completely inspired by two 400kg hand–carved, bejeweled white marble elephants, India’s celebrated symbol of welcome and good luck. Warm and inviting colors, from the terra cotta ceiling to curry hued walls, are accentuated with colorful hanging silks and an abundance of bead–encrusted cushions. Copper water goblets are immediately eye–catching yet functional, together with copper serving dishes and serving cutlery; utensils traditionally used in palaces in bygone times. The copper is an ideal temperature conductor so your dishes come out piping hot – while your water stays frosty cold. Indoor seating is refreshingly cool and comfortable with A/C or take in the balmy island breezes outdoors on the fully–furnished patio.
I called on Vinni’s expertise to plot our course, or more aptly courses, inviting him to select a broad range of dishes so we could experience a complete sampling of Indian cuisine. Our group of six collectively agreed to share them all, 5 starters and 7 mains to be exact; sharing is something I wholeheartedly recommend.
A favourite entree is Murg Tikka Masala
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 explicit functions that include marinating, curries, base sauces and breads – where Vinni acknowledges, “The best part about these two guys is consistency. They never measure anything... they know.” Their edification of Indian cuisine goes back generation after generation, to their parents and their parents’ parents. 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 via 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.
All that heat is certain to have you thinking of icy beverages so we asked the expert, what is the best libation to pair with Indian dishes? Vinni was quick to remind us that in Indian cuisine, spices bring flavour and chilies bring heat. According to Vinni, “Beer and Indian food is the best combination – you cannot beat it.” He continued on to remark that in India, in addition to beer, scotch (and a splash of soda) is a frequent beverage of choice with Indian food... sharing the fact that the most scotch sold in the world is in India! A few die–hard wine drinkers at our table questioned Vinni as to the appropriateness of selecting a wine. He went on to explain that all of the wines that are offered on the menu were carefully chosen because they pair well with Indian food. My favourite dining companion and I were delighted with the Oriel Riesling – the perfect palate cleanser and all–purpose refresher, while the remainder of our consortium took great pleasure in their frosty Kingfisher Indian Lager – India’s largest selling beer and an idyllic match to the flavours and spices.
Must Do - Naan Bread - served here with Kadahi Paneer
All food is made fresh, some dishes may take more time to prepare so Garam Masala is happy to appease your appetite with a basket of crispy papadums served with sweet tamarind chutney, and a yogurt–based green sauce made with a blend of herbs including mint and cilantro for dipping. Everyone eagerly snapped, crackled and popped these tasty wafer–thin snacks into their mouths with lightning speed, leaving nothing behind but a few crumbs of evidence.
First up was a Specialty of the House and quite probably India’s most popular snack, street–food and appetizer, Vegetable Samosas. These crispy and delightful pastries were stuffed with a delicious and savoury combination of vegetables and spices. A nice heat for some and an aftershock for others, palates were pleasurably revived with the Kingfisher beer. It’s easy to recognize, and important to appreciate, the complexity of flavours, that the time and labour–intensive dishes impart. Marinating in yogurt (a natural meat tenderizer) and herbs for 24 hours to absorb the flavours makes Murg (Chicken) Tikka a very tender and flavoursome dish. The Paneer (Cottage Cheese) Tikka was a new experience for us. Before I go on, erase all thoughts of a viscous, small curd cottage cheese and in its place, envision delightfully firm, flavourful chunks of homemade cottage cheese, similar in taste and texture to tofu. The Paneer Tikka was served in the company of vegetables, all marinated and cooked in the tandoor. The Seekh Kebabs were an undisputed sensation with, “I would order an entire platter of those!” and, “That was a hit!” Delicately spiced, minced meat was rolled into a sausage shape and cooked in the tandoor. And to complete our starter dishes, Tandoori Beef; short ribs that were marinated for 24 hours in yogurt and spices and served with grilled red and green peppers and onions, finished with a sprinkling of fresh lime juice and a dash of Chat Masala – a frequently used and very versatile spice mix. The sauce was deemed to be “Delectable.” and Vinni explained that it was the same sauce used in the Rhogan Josh dish – onions, ginger and garlic with yogurt to add flavour and to thicken; but it also lightens the dish. In all, there are five different base sauces, with two or three blended together to create different sauces.
Mixed Grill Platter makes a great Start and to Share
This is where we sat back, took inventory and paused to exclaim, “And that was just our starters!” Thrilled with all of our dishes so far, we listened as the Kingfisher beer drinkers enthusiastically espoused the thirst–quenching merits of the frosty brew, but also pointed out that caution must be exercised when it came to ordering refills!
And so began the second act, a veritable convoy of cuisine. While each successive dish was completely different and unique in its composition of ingredients, they were at once equally engaging with exciting, faraway flavours and exotic, mouthwatering tastes. I knew that my inventory of adjectives would run out long before I finished this captivating and comprehensive culinary quest! Across the table, my companion summed it up best when he said, “Where do you start, where do you stop?” Our dishes were served in the company of Raita – a yogurt based side dish with cooling cucumber that balances the heat and freshens your palate; plain basmati rice and what I consider to be the bastion of Indian sides, Tandoori Roti and Garlic Naan... piping hot from the tandoor walls, perfectly blistered, crispy and lip–smacking good!
The understated yet concentrated flavours of the Murg Tikka Masala earned this cashew and creamy tomato–based chicken curry an all around thumbs–up, with Vinni offering a tidbit of culinary discourse. He quipped that it is the, “National dish of England,” and that the Queen eats it three times a week! Southern India is represented with two dishes: Murg Kerala Masala – tender chunks of chicken cooked with onion, tomatoes, cilantro, ginger, garlic and coconut milk; and Macchli Kerala Masala – pieces of grouper cooked in the tandoor and added to a coconut milk sauce also with onion, ginger and garlic. Keema Matter and Palak Gosht were both selections from the Mutton Curries. The first was prepared with minced mutton that virtually melted–in–your–mouth. Its divine and unforgettable sauce is forever etched on my palate and had everyone uttering unrelenting accolades for this dish. The latter, Palak Gosht, is one of Vinni’s favourites; pieces of boneless lamb that simply fell apart, cooked with spinach and a hint of ginger and garlic. Vinni animatedly went on about this dish, “I like spinach... boil it, blend it, fry it with onions, ginger and garlic... it has a lot of flavour.” We couldn’t help but agree. Our next dish was Kadahi Paneer, a vegetarian selection of homemade chunks of cottage cheese that were utterly saturated with rich, spicy flavours and served in the company of a medley of vegetables. Like cottage cheese, lentils boast an inherent ability to infuse and absorb flavours and Dal Makhani’s blend of three lentils; yellow, brown and kidney beans were bursting with potent flavours. Cooking to perfection overnight over a slow fire is the secret to incredibly tender, even–cooked lentils.
Indian Dessert is Gajar Halwa
Even desserts are made using the labour–intensive, time–honoured methods. Gajar Halwa is a classic pudding made with shredded carrots and milk. From 3:00 to 6:00 the chef stirs and stirs and stirs... reducing down 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!”
There is no doubt that residents and visitors alike have enthusiastically embraced Garam Masala’s cuisine; so much so that Vinni cheerfully boasted of a recent Jerk convert. Yes, one of Provo’s own die–hard, staunch Jerk aficionados is now a wholehearted and enthusiastic Garam Masala believer... and the culinary contrivance behind this radical and ground–breaking event? Tandoori beef.
Garam Masala had me at the door... the instant I inhaled the heady scent of the intoxicating and pungent spices I was giddy with anticipation... a fabulous addition to Provo’s ever–growing captivating and diverse melting pot... or should I say, tandoor of cuisine!
Serving lunch and dinner, Garam Masala is Provo’s only restaurant that can indulge you in late–night, sit–down dining; check the Providenciales Restaurants, Cafés and Bars page for hours.
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