The Kochi Marriott hotel, located in the sprawling Lulu Mall campus is Kerala’s largest hotel. With 273 rooms, the hotel was launched on 21st December 2014 and has three elegant restaurants – Kochi Kitchen, for All Day Dining, Cassava, the Kerala specialty restaurant and the Great Room, which is the Lobby Lounge. The 17 floor hotel is one of the tallest buildings in the city and boasts of a helipad. RITZ dines at the storied and much loved Casssava restaurant, which is rated very highly even on Tripadvisor.
Text: Riya Sonny Datson
Photography: Shafi Shakkeer
As one walks into this enchanting restaurant, the display of the vintage utensils and accessories that were once an indispensable part of every Kerala Kitchen, instantly captures your attention – the ice crushers, the glass milk churner, the wooden spice boxes, the coconut scraper and grindstones, all readily welcome you to this recreated traditional haven. The open kitchen is stocked with earthen pots that are known to lend its flavour to the dish being prepared. The ceramic baranis filled with homemade pickles and the large glass jars that hold the traditional uperis or jackfruit and banana chips are a visual delight that promptly takes you on a trip down memory lane.
“Cassava or tapioca is of Brazilian origin. The Portuguese brought it to India and Visakham Thirunal Rama Varma of Travancore, wanting to popularize the shrub, planted it along the fence. A royal proclamation stated that the root was only for palace use and anyone trespassing would be punished. All the plants were stolen overnight. Thus the Maharaja achieved his objective of spreading the cultivation of kappa,” narrates Sous Chef, Saji Alex who spearheads the 86-cover restaurant.
Elegant opulence is the order of the day as one sits down to a welcoming plate of tapioca and chamanthi. The recipes come from Saji’s mother’s kitchen at Elamgulam, in Pala. “They are simple, authentic and perfected over the years,” says Saji. His Signature dish, the kappa pappadam pidi is a unique combination of mashed tapioca with fried pappadam, crispy on the outside but surprisingly, it absolutely melts in your mouth.
For seafood lovers, there is an enticing seafood display that gives you the luxury of choosing your very own ‘catch of the day’ with the option of preparing it, just the way you like it! Chef Saji recommends the meen nirachathu (grilled fish fillets stuffed with raw mango, ginger and chilli) and the classic Konju Thenga Kothu Ittathu (tiger prawn sautéed with coconut and kokum and tempered with mustard) -that is a ‘must have’ if you are at Cassava.
As one enjoys the starters, you can’t help but notice the soft lighting, wooden panelling, the black and white photo display and the flower-shaped fans that reflects a smooth blend of Kerala traditions and colonial influence. The fresh white table linen with the gold rimmed cutlery and the candlelit lamps exuberate elegance and lends a warm ambience.
For the main course, the chef’s specials include palappams, almost like pancakes that are soft at the centre with crispy edges paired with the meen manga curry (seer fish cooked in coconut milk sautéed with chillies, shallots and spices), traditionally served at Syrian Christian weddings. Next, comes the soft pathiris and parathas paired with the spicy duck roast that is every gourmand’s delight. For the grand finale, the rich Lamb Biriyani arrives, a sheer treat to the palate with its short grain rice and soft meat that captures just the right note of the flavours of the Malabar spices.
Dessert is a generous indulgence with the sweet palada payasam (sweet delicacy with rice bits, ghee, sugar and milk), the karikku payasam (tender coconut payasam) and the traditional pazham nirachatu (jaggery and coconut stuffed Robusta sauteed in carmelised sugar and honey), that reflects a glimpse of every Malayali’s childhood.
“Before you actually taste the food, you relish it with your eyes and the fragrance prepares you for the delicacy that arrives. It may be the most basic of dishes but that’s how the process of savouring food works,” explains Chef Saji Alex. He has curated a menu that showcases our cuisine, complete with regional influences. The menu is not extensive but the 45 dishes, he says, has been carefully chosen with months of research. He spent time getting each of the dishes right before putting them on the menu. Naadan food as a concept has been trudged before, but Chef Saji manages to keep the flavours refreshing and not in the least repetitive or monotonous.
Cassava is open for dinner from 7 p.m – 11 p.m.
Address: Behind Lulu International Shopping Mall, Edappally, Kochi.
Phone: 91 484 717 7777