What is the most important thing to remember when you go for a tasting session? “Must remember to make my MasterChef face after every bite,” said our burrper Farah J Chaudhary. While her comment led to all sorts of funny faces, it also set the tone for a fun evening. Café Pico is one of the first few restaurants to open at Phoenix Market City in Kurla. The décor is largely white with hints of green while the best seat in the house is the one with the high chairs near the door.
Bottles of pickled vegetables and chilli oil are stacked across an entire wall giving it a playful touch of colour. What we didn’t like were the white, railway station-like lights killing the warmth that we are accustomed to in a café. Another teething problem was the defunct air-conditioning – apparently due to problems with the mall’s central cooling system. They’ve installed large fans for the time being but and it will be a little while before it’s fixed. A little birdie also told us that their chairs aren’t very stable and replacements have been ordered.
Before we move on to the food, I must warn you, we were five of us at Café Pico out to taste as many dishes as we could. Yes we’re guilty of being gluttons, but hey! cut our XXL appetites some slack. While we wanted to order little portions of almost everything on the menu, sadly much of it wasn’t available. Clearly, hosting continuous tasting sessions took its toll and we were among the last to enter at 10pm. Nevertheless, we handed the reins over to the Manager and let him order for us.
For starters, we tried the Chicken Sambussa, Korean Pancakes and vegetarian Empanada. The Chicken Sambussa was just another name for chicken samosa’s. The bland filling left us wanting Jeff Caterer’s spicy kheema samosas instead. The Vegetarian Empanada shaped like karanjee or gujia was okay at best. The Korean Pancakes, yellow doughy triangles with diced vegetables, were a little like idlis steamed with diced carrots and beans. Dispte this rather tepid start, the Soya and Sesame dip served with the pancakes made a big difference. Of the three starters, this last one is the only one we thought was worth recommending.
Moving on to the salads, there was nothing exceptional about the Roast Chicken and Artichoke salad. As far as the Rocket and Mixed Herb Salad with Parmesan goes, the rocket was soggy and soaked with the oily dressing. The sweet potato wedges were interesting, but were horribly greasy. The crushed potatoes on the other hand reminded us of home-made jeera aloo, although we doubt the chef used any jeera. While the peeled and diced potatoes were supposedly sautéed with herbs, the flavour was completely amiss. Verdict on the first course - too much oil and everything was fried!
With that heavy start, we weren’t even thinking of the next course when it arrived. Once again we decided to nibble our way through lots of different dishes. What would we recommend? For the vegetarians, we say the Semolina Pancakes with Lentils and Feta Cheese is a must try. The pancakes are stacked with layers of grilled vegetables, lentils and feta cheese in between and topped with a tangy tomato sauce. We don’t really like aubergine, yet, we actually enjoyed every bite of the grilled slice that sat snugly within the pancake. The Summer Vegetable Risotto looked like something that you would prepare to appease The Incredible Hulk’s. Although after a spoonful of the thick green sludge with Italian Arborio rice and diced yellow peppers, we decided, he probably wouldn’t have liked either.
On the upside the Tangliata Di Manzo and Spicy Mozambique Chicken were delicious. The first one was sliced tenderloin served with a mixed herb salad and crushed potato. Beef lovers and steak addicts, this was truly a lesson in what great tenderloin is like, sans any gravy to drown the taste of the meat. The meat was cooked perfectly with a delightfully crisp crust that added that lovely charred flavour to the each bite. For once, we could actually taste the meat instead of an overpowering sauce. For those who can’t do without the gravy I’m sure you can ask the chef for some on the side (*sigh*).
The Spicy Mozambique Chicken won us over with its crazy combination of grilled chicken served on a bed of sabu dana; yes, that ‘bed of tapioca taboulleh’ mentioned in the menu. Here, we would like to raise a toast to the chef for introducing this fun and novel combination.
The Fish Cakes we tried after this were large crispy Basa cutlets, which were a tad heavy but balanced well with the blanched spinach. The one disappointment was the Tobago Marinated Chicken. The menu describes it as a ‘Chicken breast marinated with mixed herbs using a traditional Caribbean recipe’. Sadly, you can skip this one because it sounded far more exotic than it tasted.
After this strenuous eating, we almost skipped dessert. But the manager insisted we try an assortment even if it’s just to taste. Unfortunately, we unanimously decided that the cakes served were a bit stale. We’ve tried better cheese cakes than the Polish Baked Citrus Cheese Cake and Ludy’s Peanut Butter Cake was just passable. We enjoyed the cupcake, which tasted like home-made chocolate cake.
So while we won’t make the trip to specially dine at café Pico, if we are at the mall we may just drop in. You know how we love a good deal and the high price coupled with small portions doesn’t make this a value for money bet. We suggest visiting Café Pico if you are at Phoenix Market City anytime before 30th June. With 50% off, you just might come back pleasantly surprised!