New Place in Town: Café Cilantro

I have known Chef Chandra Sekhar Pandey since the time he was the Executive Chef at Radisson Blu Plaza at Banjara Hills, where I had tried out many innovative preparations from him. Recently, Chef has taken the next logical step of entrepreneurship in opening his own restaurant. Café Cilantro, the all-day dining restaurant at Deccan Serai near Raheja Mindspace has opened its doors a few weeks back serving cuisine from all over the world.

Dim Sum Biryani
The Showstopper Dim Sum Biryani

As you enter the restaurant located at the lobby level of the hotel, you feel good at the minimalistic décor and open ambience. Located close to many multinational organizations in Hitech City, Café Cilantro serves a buffet for both lunch and dinner and there is a significant demand for takeaways too. The a-la-carte menu makes interesting reading with Indian, continental and oriental items on it. A casual glance threw up a host of differentiators such as Meen Moilee, Machher Jhol, Lamb Vindaloo, Sambal Fried Rice and Fish Croquettes.

Cafe Cilantro
Cafe Cilantro

Invited to a bloggers table, I was pleasantly surprised to note that the special menu for the day had certain new items which are being previewed for an introduction in the regular menu. There were around a dozen dishes in the neatly typed menu. What struck me was that the menu was carefully curated showcasing the diversity of cuisines on offer. Also, there were innovative creations as well as interesting twists and fusion recipes.

As explained to us, the name Café Cilantro has been chosen after a lot of deliberations. Cilantro is a universal leafy vegetable found in the recipes all over the world, so for a restaurant serving global food, it is an apt name. During the course of our meal, I noticed that most of the dishes were presented garnished with coriander leaves in line with it.

Chukandar aur Gajar ka Shorba
Chukandar aur Gajar ka Shorba
First off the block was Chukandar aur Gajar ka Shorba, a soup of medium density replete with an earthy taste. It had strong flavours of beetroot and reminded me of the thick beetroot juice I loved to savour at my Punjabi neighbours in Kolkata.

Kottayam Chemmeen Fry
Kottayam Chemmeen Fry
The soup was followed by Kottayam Chemmeen Fry, a Malayali preparation of prawns sautéed in onions. The masala-laden prawn tasted decent but more than that I liked the way this was presented, garnished with some fried red chillies and coriander chutney.

Malai Chicken Roulade
Malai Chicken Roulade
Next in line was an Indo-Italian fusion recipe Thayeer Sadam Arancini, or deep fried curd rice balls served with a veggie salad. It was a nice innovation and was universally liked. The café has made sure that it has quite a few vegetarian delicacies on their menu, and this will be a welcome addition.

Thayeer Sadam Arancini
Thayeer Sadam Arancini
The Bengali Macher Chop was par for the course. The fish croquettes were served with mustard sauce. I would have liked the fish mince fillings to be a bit chunkier, and not smooth as in a kabab.

Crispy Congee Veg
Crispy Congee Veg
The Crispy Congee Veg reminded me of Kolkata Chinese preparation. The Cheddar Cheese Shammi Kabab was, in my opinion, the best dish among the starters. Another strong contender for inclusion in the menu.

Cheddar Cheese Shammi Kabab
Cheddar Cheese Shammi Kabab

Among the main courses, three dishes were novel. Spaghetti in Prawn Moilee was pasta in a base of coconut based sauce from Kerala and garnished with prawns. The sauce was delicious though the coconut flavour was a bit subtle, unlike what we normally see. The vegetarian Broccoli in Curried Coconut Cream made up for that. Again they have a clear winner here.

Broccoli in Curried Coconut Cream
Broccoli in Curried Coconut Cream

Recently, Potlam biryani has become quite famous in Hyderabad, where the biryani is wrapped in a rumali roti and even an omelet. Café Cilantro now brings Dimsum Biryani, where the biryani is stuffed inside a mid-sized dim sum. The dish is served with curried chicken and a sauce based on Mirchi ka Salan.  I liked the twist in the dish and the awesome presentation. With both the biryani and chicken tasting good, my only suggestion was to reduce the thickness of the dimsum skin. Given Hyderabad’s obsession with biryani, I am sure with a little bit of tweaking this dish will surely find favour with the local food lovers.

Dal Cilantro with Bhindi Amchur and Indian Breads

At this stage, we were also served some pure Indian food. Dal Cilantro is the restaurant's version of kaali daal. We enjoyed this with some garlic naans and Amchur Bhindi, which has been a particularly favourite recipe of mine from my Banaras days. From the buffet, I also tried some tangy Nellore Chapala Pulusu with steamed rice.

Fried Ice Cream and Gajar Ke Halwa Galette

The dessert served was, in fact, a combination of four sweet items.  Fried Ice Cream and Gajar Ke Halwa Galette was served with Aval (Poha) Payasam and Khubani Marmalade. The combo wowed even a person like me who is not seen as a fan of desserts.

I am sure most of the dishes will find their way into the menu soon. For me, the main takeaway was the fact that here is a restaurant which does not shy away from experimentation, and looks very promising for the discerning food lovers. That said, the current buffet looked an extremely value for money option, and the a-la-carte menu has many dishes to satisfy different palates.

Location:
Café Cilantro
Deccan Serai (near Westin Hotel)
Raheja Mindspace
Hitech City, Hyderabad
Telephone: 91777 86310

Disclaimer: The review is based on an invite from the restaurant

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