Saimi Sattar Reinvents Her Taste buds in the Revamped Outletby Opinion Express May 11, 2018 0 comments
The iconic diner is back with pure Mexican culinary route in bite-sized portions. Saimi Sattar, the owner of Rodeo in Connaught Place reinvents her taste buds in the revamped outlet
As we broke off pieces of Chicharron de Queso, the famous Mexican street snack, Mukesh Rana, manager, Rodeo, pointed out with a laugh that in its method of preparation and looks it resembled the humble Indian dosa. But taste is where the comparison evaporated — completely. For the Chicharron de Queso is crispy grilled Gouda cheese, all frilly and curled crisp served with fresh guacamole and avocado relish — yes, absolutely drool worthy and opening up tastebuds you never knew existed.
We were at the revamped Rodeo’s Connaught Place outlet, which has been around longer than the millennials who had had parked themselves in strategic corners that night. The restaurant, which started in 1994, was one of the first home-grown Tex Mex brands which predated the international chain, TGIF. But Rodeo 2.0 which reopened in March has a new avatar which is cool, casual and fluid as opposed to the cowboy theme of the past. “People can walk in for the quick drink after work with friends and colleagues, grab a snack or go for a full meal,” says Rana. And the menu specialities are all about authenticity in bite-sized portions.
True to its theme, the place carries the casual and fun vibe. The walls have been done up with colourful murals and paintings depicting festivals that are quintessential to Mexico. The wall adjacent to the table was painted with which my companion immediately identified as being from the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos), when the departed souls come down for a feast with the living. Incidentally, we were there trying to hold down a memory of a dear one but that is another story.
For drinks, we started with Agua de Tamarind, which was a Mexican classic consisting of fresh tamarind juice for me and kaffir lime and watermelon margarita, which as the name suggests was fresh and done just right with a zesty kick.
In the starters we dug into Guacamole artesenal, essentially tortilla chips served alongside avocado dip dressed up with onion, tomato, cilantro, chile, serrano and lime juice. The lightness of the chips, the soft mouth feel of the guacamole and the crunch of the onion was a good start to the meal. We had not quite finished with the chips when the server came up with the Chicharron de Queso — and that suddenly had the effect of transporting us straight to culinary heaven. I am somewhat of a cheese buff (I would avoid the word aficionado at the heart of which is embedded the idea of being knowledgeable about something. All I can say is that I can down substantial quantity of a variety of cheese — hard, soft, blue, melted — with gusto). But even for me this was a surprise and a pleasant one at that for crunchy cheese is something that is a world apart. The caramelly, nutty and buttery taste of gouda on its own was to die for but when combined with the creamy guacamole, the dish was certainly not the one I would miss here.
One thing that makes us merry about Mexican cuisine is that it features many dishes that one can grab on the go. Tostadas are just that. Consisting of crispy corn or white flour tortillas, these can be layered with a filling of your choice. We stuck to Chicken Tinga and Roasted Vegetables. And the complexity and the layering of the dish was astounding. Refried beans were pureed and spread over the tortilla over which were placed spicy chicken cooked in Chile Chipotle, onion and tomato sauce, sour cream, crumbled cheese, avocado and lettuce. For the vegetarian variants, there were roasted vegetables. Considering the fact that each of it was finished in not more than four bites, it was certainly a wonder where each flavour came through distinctly. Despite being a carnivore, my vote in this one would certainly go with the vegetarian version.
If you get tired of the corn tortillas, the chefs can whip up ones with flour as well. So we had four different versions — two with corn and two with flour. The first was Mushroom Silvestres, where the fungi were grilled and marinated in a blend of chillies and herbs. The second vegetarian version was with eggplant and potato, which had an eggplant cutlet, green chili potato mash topped with avocado salsa, jalapenos, fried leeks and crumbled cheese. But it was the one with cheese and chilli, where the grilled cottage cheese filled out roasted chilli Poblano strips and coated Pinto beans and Avocado Salsa, that got our unanimous vote. The chicken version did not match up for it tasted similar to the one which we had earlier.
The main course, Pescado A La Mostaza, with oregano flavoured baby potaotes, fish in a creamy mustard sauce and grilled vegetables, was spectacular for several reasons. The flavouring of the potatoes with oregano was a snack in its own right, it was that delicious. The fish in the mustard sauce on the other had was cooked just right and the flavours were bang on. The grilled vegetables on the side added the much-needed element of crunch and created a contrast of texture with the potatoes and fish.
We were full to the brim, but it did not take much cajoling to dig into the dessert(s). Churros with chocolate, the traditional Mexican pastry with cinammon and chocolate dip was delicious and is considered one of the better versions not just in India but Asia as well. The Vanilla tres leches cake, a sponge cake which has strawberry, peaches, pine nuts and rose petals, despite its lush appearance, was mildly sweet and light.
This new Rodeo’s is not about grit and gush but a comforting lull over long conversations with some throwback music and familiar food. Let it sit nice and easy. One suggestion: They could add more main course varieties than the wraps and tortillas.
Writer: Team Viva
Courtesy: The Pioneer