Hakuna Matata doesn’t need any introduction. This place had gained much hype since it’s launch about a year back. Occupying a prominent position in the restaurant hub of the city, Park Street, and giving a tough competition to the legendary restaurants there, isn’t an easy job, which Hakuna has been doing quite well. And above all, this place serves pure veg food ! So, I was really eager to try out the food of this place, which I assumed to be the reason behind the hype. But then, I’m highly non experimental about veg food and thus could never manage to give this a visit. However, it was through an invitation to ‘Panchphoron’ for the pre-inauguration of the South-East Asian food festival named ‘Koko goes to South-East Asia’, that I finally gave Hakuna a visit and I was glad it happened !
Hakuna Matata is an unique fusion of food, fun and adventure. It’s lot more than food, it’s a fun ride to a gastronomical journey. The ambience has been well designed, with a special mention to the structures hung from the ceiling, which basically represents people on an adventure. That’s how this place has been themed !
Now let’s shift to the inclusions of the South East Asian food festival. South east Asian food is mainly non vegetarian where beef and chicken are predominant and used in almost every dish. So, initially I was curious as what veg dishes could this place present that could compete with the non vegetarian versions of South East Asian food which I love having. But as Hakuna came up with the dishes one after another, I was left totally stunned !
1. Asian spiced broth – This dish is inspired from the Pho soup of Vietnam, which is one of the blomost popular soups there. Now, at Hakuna they had completely changed the look and feel of the soup. I had never tried a soup served in a coconut shell. It looked stunning ! The broth was loaded with noodles, chopped onions, garlic, lime and other spices, which imparted a sour taste to the soup. It was served with a bunch of thin crisp noodles, which when had with the soup, turned out to be amazing. The crispy noodles were perfectly done, the soup was steaming and most importantly the inner shell of the coconut was coated with a thick layer of malai, which made it all the more amazing ! Once you begin with this, there’s no scope of complaining !
2. Gn Tso’s cauliflower – Gn Tso is a very popular chinese sauce. Its main ingredients are soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, chilli paste and cornstarch. This is tangy to taste and a little sweet. Using this sauce with cauliflower was quite a great idea. Cauliflower was chopped into slices, coated with a thin layer of flour and then golden fried to crispness. The fried slices were tossed with the sauce and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Finally, these were topped with thick crispy flour noodles. This was my favourite among the entire festival menu. The noodles were yet again perfect and amazingly crispy. The outer coating of the cauliflower was slightly crispy while it was totally succulent and soft from inside. The hero of the dish, however, was the sauce, sweet and tangy, which did bind all the flavours together !
3. Chinese Katori – This was a blend of several ingredients punched into a single dish. The base was a typical fried wanton shaped in the form of a small basket, within which the entire dish was placed. The Katori consisted of noodles tossed with bell peppers, beetroot quenelles and baked apple wedges. The apple wedges were further wrapped in nori sheets, which is basically an edible seaweed. ( Nori sheets are generally used for wrapping of sushis ) The entire thing was finally garnished with a dollop of goat cheese and an edible orchid ! Besides, there was a chinese sauce, dense and quite spicy. Pour it over the noodles and enjoy ! All in all, the katori, though named as chinese, is a blend of chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. I loved the overall concept. The sauce did provide a completely new dimension to the noodles. The base of the katori was well fried and perfectly crispy. This is definitely a must try over here !
4. Mushroom sticky rice – Sticky rice is one among the most popular Japanese dishes. The rice was mixed with finely chopped mushrooms and ginger and then boiled. It was further wrapped into a banana leaf to ensure authenticity. It came with a steaming broth and batter fried vegetable flowers. The flowers were amazingly crispy. The broth had a slight sourness, loaded with cabbage and onion dumplings, that did melt in my mouth. The rice with the broth was an amazing match.
5. Veggie Banh Xèo – This is a very popular dish in Vietnam, known as Vietnamese crepes. This was quite my favourite. The crepe coating was done with rice and wheat flour, along with a certain proportion of coconut milk. Turmeric was used to impart a yellow colour to it. The crepe was stuffed with a lemony salad that included shredded cottage cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, almonds, peanuts, etc and garnished with grated cheese. The sour taste was definitely enjoyable. It came with a tomato coulis, which was quite spicy, and served to combat the sour taste of the crepes.
6. Green tea and lemon pannacotta – This was yet again amazing. The entire thing was served on a lotus leaf and looked great. Not just lemon, the pannacotta was infused with the strong and intense flavour of gondhoraj lemon, which made it much more appealing to the taste buds. The pannacotta, otherwise, was perfectly done with proper texture and adequate sweetness. With it, was served a jelly extracted from sugarcane. This somewhat served to uplift the flavour of the pannacotta. Overall, this was a great dessert.
Apart from these, there were two special beverages
1. Bubble tea – This ain’t the typical version of tea which we are used to having. Condensed milk was used, having the flavour of tea infused in it. It was loaded with tapioca balls. It was sweet, consistent and chilled. The overall taste was nice. This is something one definitely needs on a summer afternoon.
2. Brewing Flower Tea – So this was something I haven’t seen or heard of before ! A flowering tea ball was placed in a cup of hot water. Within a few minutes, it unraveled from a tiny ball into a beautiful flower like bloom. It was then kept still for some time to allow the flavour to diffuse through the entire hot water. Firstly, it was a virtual pleasure to watch the ball bloom into a flower in the cup of hot water. Secondly, the flower did impart a typical lichi flavour into the tea, which made it somewhat unique and amazing !
Overall, Hakuna Matata has made an amazing assortment of dishes to take you on a culinary journey on the exploration of South East Asian cuisines. The food is sure to impress you to such an extent that a non vegetarian might quit a plate of meat for these ! The festival will begin from the 7th of September and will continue till 13th of the month. Hakuna Matata welcomes you all, whole heartedly at the festival !