Taste of India at Piccolo Mondo, Michelangelo Hotel*

Last night, I went to the opening night of the Taste of India week at Piccolo Mondo, situated at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton. I received a mailer a week or two ago, and after seeing the menu I immediately decided that I HAD to go. We have an abundance of North Indian restaurants in Jozi, where you know exactly what to expect, (butter chicken, lamb vindaloo, garlic naan), but very few South Indian restaurants.

For those who don’t know, South Indian food is quite different. They use a lot of coconut milk and coconut in their dishes, and less tomato. Also, where North Indian gravies are thicker and more dairy based (using cream, yoghurt or ghee), South Indian gravies are thinner and lighter. 

Taste of India is a collaboration between Legacy Hotels and South African Tourism, who have partnered to bring a chef from Kerala to SA to train chefs at Legacy’s various hotels. The reason for this is, SA gets a HUGE amount of visitors from India (did you know that Mumbai- Joburg is SAA’s busiest leg?!) and often these Indian groups want to bring their own chefs. Legacy is aiming to grow skills in house so that their hotels can better cater to these groups. 

While the chef, Jerry, is in town training Piccolo Mondo’s staff, he’s also putting on a feast at the restaurant each night. The buffet dinner is priced at R395 per person and the menu is really varied. Have a look here to view it

Piccolo Mondo really went all out to transform the restaurant from what is usually a sedate, quiet spot to a place reflective of a restaurant in India. The decor was beautiful! 

After enjoying our welcome drinks (strawberry/ mango lassi), we were surprised by a Indian dance performance by the Ghungroo dance academy, who will be performing every night this week. I was subjected to going to Indian dance lessons as a child, and was terrible at it, so I’ve always been a little jealous of these girls who make it look so effortless. The Ghungroo dancers were particularly impressive- the dances were all quite fast paced and they performed to popular songs like Jai Ho which the Pussycat Dolls remixed. They moved through the tables and it was a really nice way to start the evening, especially because I didn’t expect entertainment at the dinner. 

We were then invited to help ourselves at the buffet. Starters were chicken kebabs, katti rolls (like a roti filled with veggies), pumpkin and coconut soup and dhahi vada (fried lentil nuggets in a spiced yoghurt). I enjoyed the katti rolls but found the chicken a little too tender for me- but then I like my chicken dry which I know is unusual. I didn’t try the soup, and the dhahi vada was interesting but also not really to my taste. 

For mains, we both visited the buffet twice, attempting to taste as much food as possible while also trying all the various chutneys on offer. 

I loved the chicken biryani, the paneer butter masala and the prawn jalfrezi. All 3 dishes were different to anything I’ve had before, and the combination of spices was delicious. Rishav really enjoyed the beef coconut fry. The only dish I didn’t enjoy was the kerala roast potatoes, because they were hard and underdone. The food definitely wasn’t as spicy as what you’d get in India, but the chef was cooking for a diverse group of people so he had to err on the side of caution. As you can see from the pics, there was fresh chilli available to add if desired. 

Dessert was carrot halva and kheer, which is like warm liquid burfee. Delish! 

At R395 per person this buffet is a little on the pricey side, but it is at the Michelangelo, one of Jozi’s most upmarket hotels, so you can’t really expect a bargain. You’re also getting entertainment, and a unique opportunity to try foods you wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. 

Taste of India is happening every night until Friday. To book, call 011 282 7463. Go hungry! 

xx H