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Shalom Israel @ The Nook, Aloft-Cessna Business Park

When you have one of the best and well-travelled chef from Israel cook up a personalized meal for you in the wonderful company of friends, fellow food enthusiasts and his own family, the sky is just not the limit. And that is exactly what we experienced at the Israeli Food Festival held at The Nook, Aloft, Cessna Business Park last week.

Aloft, CBP has the extra advantage of being hosted in the same premises where I work. We were greeted with home-made Vodka shots of numerous varieties as our welcome drink and served some special Israeli Hors d’oeuvres to kick start our evening- but more of that in just a bit.

Chef Sachar Aschengrau brings forth his culinary expertise not only from Mainland Israel and its capital city Tel Aviv, but also from Tokyo where he lived before his arrival to Bangalore. Being married to a diplomat, he has always catered to the very niche and exclusive during his stint in Tokyo with larger than life names like the Four Seasons Hotels and Serviced Residences among others. His cuisine is not simply Lebanese or Arabic, but an international amalgamation of Mediterranean and East European flavours. We were in the gracious presence of his family of two daughters and his wife and felt at his residence by his warm and exuberant presence.

The pass-arounds along with our welcome drinks, and then some were primarily Middle Eastern favourites with a hint of European flavours-Cinnamon Sheekh, Vegetable Shashlik, Chickpea Dumplings, Mushroom Kibbeh and the unforgettable Fish in Beer Batter. Being a Bengali, we have a different name for this delicacy-Fish Orley and I simply indulged in this heavily reminiscence of Kolkata and if you are aware-Bijoligrill. We sat down post the bartender’s performance of the innovative cocktail mixing where more than 35 Jaeger master shots were prepared with Red Bull in one push across across the edge. This was an experience worth witnessing and in the excitement of the moment, I forgot to record a video of it.

As we sat down for the dinner, Chef took us through a live demonstration of a Hummus and how it is made from scratch. Some of us were lucky enough to choose our own ingredients and tossed or custom-made humus by chef himself. As we enjoyed with our Pita, we were served the super dramatic Pina Colada in a Pineapple shell and the Screwdriver in an Orange peel. The Israeli salad and a variety of dips including Tzatziki, Tahini and Amba were placed on our table and the Whole Baked Cauliflower made its appearance. We were simply wooed by the sheer earthiness of its appeal and the flavours. The Beetroot Carpaccio was another delicacy which we experienced. Served next was the Grilled Aubergine with Tabbouleh, definitely an acquired taste.

We proceeded over to the elaborate Buffet spread and helped ourselves with some more dips like the Baba Ganoush and Pickled Turnips. What is a middle-eastern meal without some succulent Shawarma topped with extra bits of Fried Potato on top? I had a very generous serving of the Radish dip and helped myself to some of the Mains like the Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with some Israeli Pilaf and Baked fish and Stuffed Chicken Breast.

The Dessert section was hitherto unexplored as we were already pampered with a generous plate of goodies including some good old Churros, Candies, Marshmallows and Chocolate Eclairs. The Stuffed Figs with Fresh Cream were the ultimate indulgence. The team at Aloft put together a wonderful performance in the end to create an assortment with the various macaroons, pastries, cakes and dessert knick knacks with dry ice to add to the theatrics. I was able to taste a few macaroons out of the tray and were simply divine to say the least. The Israeli Festival curated by Chef Sachar Aschengrau runs till 28th August and is available as dishes within the Buffet spread for both Lunch and Dinner.

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