The Road to Gurgaon: Hyatt's Indian Food Festival

When I went to India 6 years ago, the thing I was most excited about was the food. I have an inexplicable love for anything spicy—the more it gets my head sweating, the better—and where best to enjoy a smorgasbord of fiery stuff than in the land of spice itself? I must admit that my first week there was truly an out-of-this-world experience; my stomach and tongue weren’t used to all the Indian ingredients I was having for the first time, but it didn’t stop me from hunting—and loving—all the curries, masala, naan, tandooris, and biryanis I could find.

That’s why when I got invited to Hyatt City of Dreams Manila’s Indian food festival, I had no other answer but YES. The Road to Gurgaon, which happens this week (July 17 to 24), features the creations of guest chef Ajith Kumar, who cooks for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Gurgaon, India. The week-long promotion highlights the exotic cuisine in Hyatt’s in-house all-day dining restaurant, The Café, and showcases the best dishes straight from the fast-growing city that is Gurgaon. For as low as PhP1,388 net, guests can enjoy a sumptuous spread of Indian specialties along with The Café’s regular buffet offerings.

Indian cuisine—and culture, in general—is a total assault to the senses. Vibrant, unique, and unabashed, everything about the 7th largest country in the world screams, runs, and jumps—no whispers, no tiptoeing walks. This kind of culture reflects in their food—and it’s probably why I love it so much. When you go there and experience eating some street food from a random corner or taste home-cooked meals from a local, you’ll know that “restraint” is not a word, and that spicier is always better.

At The Café, the heat level of the dishes is somewhat mellowed, but you could still taste the complex flavors making up each dish. Start with some Vegetable Samosa or Dal Vadai—a fried patty made of lentils. Some vegetable fritters to munch on perhaps, or some Aloo Tikka, your Indian croquettes. Try a piece of each to see which ones you like, then head over to the bread station and pile your plate high with freshly-made Papadam, Naan, and Bhattura.

The biryanis are must-try—there are chicken and vegetarian variants—and I remember when I was in Trivandrum, a heaping plate of this is enough for me to last the whole day (the servings there are colossal). Just like that mixed rice-in-a-box you see in malls, the Chicken Biryani can be eaten on its own. But of course, with the assortment of authentic Indian food available at The Café, you wouldn’t want to do that.

Hoard the Chicken Tikka—yes, sometimes it’s ok to be inconsiderate. The chicken chunks, marinated in spices, are baked in The Café’s tandoor oven, resulting in a flavorful chicken with the subtlest crisp. If you like curries, The Café has several options to choose from: the classic Chicken Curry; the Prawn Curry with Mango, which combines sweet and spicy overtones; and the Mutton Gosht Rogan, which is made with tender lamb meat in a rich sauce.

There are so many dishes to try, enjoy, and discover. I ate paneer (Indian cottage cheese) almost daily for breakfast for two months in our hotel in India, so I was happy to see some Paneer Makhani in The Café’s spread. Curried chickpea, baked trevally, a separate raita station, a wide range of Indian desserts, and many more await hungry diners who are eager to immerse themselves in this fascinating South Asian cuisine.

Indians generally don’t eat pork, of course, but if you’re craving for porcine treats, The Café’s regular buffet offerings are still available. I must say that they have a rather impressive set-up with each station doubling as a culinary theater for the stationed chefs. The open-style buffet tempts diners even more with appealing visuals that target the eyes and the stomach.

I find their Italian station good, with its delicious pasta and pizza offerings as well as a few selection of viands. The Grid and Griddle—a.k.a. the carnivore’s haven—features skewers, carvery, and teppanyaki, along with The Café’s humongous Mayura Wagyu Beef, dubbed as the “The Beast”.

The Deli features fresh sushi and sashimi selections, charcuterie, cheeses, salads, breads, and chilled seafood, while the nearby Asian station showcases Chinese favorites like dim sum, Chinese roasts, noodle dishes, and many more.

Seafood lovers will enjoy The Café’s Fresh Seafood Station, while those craving to indulge in their guilty pleasures will find themselves lingering at The Comfort and Favorites—where I spotted some seriously wicked twister fries. The Dessert section is extensive, boasting of pastries, soft-serve ice cream, cakes, Filipino delicacies, waffles, crepes, and pralines—some of them with curry inside, especially made for the Road to Gurgaon.

Indeed, a visit to The Café is a culinary journey, and whether it’s India week or not, diners will definitely find their own favorite. I, however, choose to smell and eat all the chilies, cardamom, cumin, ginger, and turmeric I can have, for it is not every day that I get to be transported back to this land of infinite variety.

The Café
G/F Hyatt City of Dreams Manila, Aseana Ave. cor. Roxas Blvd., Entertainment City, Paranaque City
+632.691.1234 ext. 1162
Buffet rates: PhP1,388++ lunch/PhP1,888++ dinner

Do you like Indian food? What do you think of The Café’s Road to Gurgaon food festival?

My meal was sponsored by The Cafe Hyatt. All opinions, however, are my own.

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