And the belly danced in joy... Souk, Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai

I am all for the women's lib movement. Especially the part about women footing the tab. And who could complain when his wife treats him to an exquisite five star dinner on their anniversary?

We closed our eight anniversary on the 22nd with dinner at Souk, the restaurant at the top of the Taj Mahal Hotel at Colaba. Souk wasn't on my radar till I recently read about it on Gaurav's post on Metrotwin Mumbai. We are fond of Mediterranean food and Gaurav's description of Souk' view won me over.

The view was as promised. The Gateway of India looked like something out of the Arabian Nights from the top of the Taj. It was bathed in golden light and looked like a work of art. The photo doesn't do justice to the experience of sitting at the top looking onto the Gateway of India and the ships floating behind it lighting up the dark.

The decor was minimalist. An interesting scheme of blue lights, reminiscent of the Islamic art of the Ottoman Empire and the odd Turkish lamp hanging in the corner. The food was from Turkey, Iran, Morocco and Syria. Two of their chefs are from Morocco and Syria respectively.

The evening started with one of the staff explaining the sauces on the table. A practice which I saw in The Thai Pavillion across the road at The Taj President. The sort of thing that leaves you with a peaceful easy feeling of a lovely meal on the anvil. You know that you are in the hands of experts who understand and appreciate food.

And the food was stellar stuff. Unique and authentic and kept taking us back to our holiday at Turkey last year and the whiff of Lebanese food that we had at Dubai last month.

We started with a mezze sampler. We took two cold mezzes - a creamy hummus with chopped, fried lamb bits ... moist and crunchy ... and a samte tartare (cold baked fish in a stiff, salty dip) an electrifying taste which woke up your senses. The sharpness was too much for K though I loved it. We had a lamb kibbe for the hot mezzes. A distant cousin of the mutton chop of Calcutta. And some lovely steamed prawns to go with it. Juicy as a priceless oil well.

The only grouse was just two slices of gossamer thin and light pita bread to go with these gems.

Far our main course we had huge, though slightly stiff, prawns in a pesto marinade. We had this with a 'Souk Pulao'. This was made with thick rice, similar to Keralite brown rice, caramelised onions and dry fruits. The Maitre d warned me that it would be on the sweet side but I quite enjoyed the combo of the subtle prawns and the fruity rice.

We followed dinner with chocolate b'stilles. A Turkish Delight apparently. A very thin, sugar dust coated pastry flake stuffed with the richest chocolate with the sudden burst of twang. Sheer poetry in desserts. Sweet memories which only an anniversary can live up to.

Souk was refreshingly different and memorable. The food was superlative and stayed with you well after dinner was long gone. Each bite was a Whirling Dervish of culinary devotion and ecstasy. The service was polite, warm, courteous and knowledgeable. So rare in Mumbai today.

We would definitely like to go back someday.

A dinner for two without alcohol would cost around Rs 3500 or 70 USD, not very different from a meal from a mid to upper end restaurant in Mumbai.