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We mark the spot

Suki Panda: Grab what you can

1 février 2024, 19:42

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Suki Panda: Grab what you can

In this section, we visit a restaurant incognito, pay for our meal and give our impressions of the dining experience. We hope to be able to help our readers somewhat by introducing them to new eateries.

The restaurant is new as it was opened only in November last year. The concept is rather new in Mauritius. It’s a combination of hotpot and conveyor belt sushi where plates are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant and moves past the tables and seats allowing diners to grab the items that appeal to them.

I did not know what to expect when I entered Suki Panda on the recommendation of a colleague who simply told me: “You will like the concept and it is worth reporting on”. When I entered, I saw a fairly large crowd seated around a big long table. I was with a friend and wanted a private table to be able to talk them. I was definitely in the wrong place. The waiter directed us towards the last two empty seats in the middle of other diners. There was no other seating arrangement possible. We sat, not knowing what to expect. Then the waiter came with small pots and put them on induction hot plates in front of us. I understood that I was not going to get a break from cooking.

Everyone around knew the code and was busy doing their own thing. The waiter explained that if we wanted drinks, we should go and grab them from the fridges at the entrance of the restaurant. The same thing goes for the different sauces on display. It’s really a do-yourown-thing place. No joke.

Once we chose our broth – crab, chicken or mushroom – the waiter put the little stove on for us and asked us to help ourselves to the items we wanted to cook from the conveyor belt. We started examining the items moving past the two long tables facing each other. A wide choice of items presented in a variety of ways which was pleasing to the eye started appearing at our table. The organisation is very imaginative. The different colours in which they were presented are not only to make the whole experience colourful but also to distinguish the prices: Rs30 for the yellow forks and the yellow trays, Rs40 for the red trays and Rs60 for the white ones. I assume these must contain the prawns and lamb slices. All these are displayed in front of every customer so they can make their choice knowingly and add the ingredients according to their budget.

From mussels, fish, prawns, lamb, chicken and fish balls to crab sticks and a large variety of vegetables as well as fresh and dried noodles, everything was out for grab. Just as in a revolving sushi bar. Except that here, there are very few items ready to eat such as spring rolls, which were crispy and delicious and most welcome while waiting for the food to cook. Most other items have to be put in the hot pot for cooking first.

After the cooking, you end up with a tasty soup with all sorts of mixed ingredients adding to the flavour. You can enhance it with chilli paste, sweet chilli sauce or some other unfamiliar looking sauces we didn’t try. The result will be something to your taste because you are the chef. There was no desert to end the meal. Wrong place again. Coffee? Nope! Are you worried about the hygiene of food being displayed for a fair amount of time on a normal conveyor belt with no ice in it? The waiter explained to us that the food is first frozen and then put on the belt straight out of the freezer. So it has time to thaw before you grab it and throw it in your broth.

One thing is for sure: we didn’t see any flies around as you would expect in a place where there is a good amount of seafood and meats. Did we enjoy the experience? It makes a change from the food cooked in the kitchen and presented to you in an appetising way. Is it convivial because everyone is seated around the same table? Not exactly. You can’t talk to the person next to you because it is a bit awkward and even if you wanted to talk to the ones opposite you, they are too far away. It is basically a place where you go looking for a new dining experience and a bit of fun with some friends with whom you don’t intend to discuss anything very serious or highly confidential. But it is worth the experience.

Value for money? The small items surprisingly add up to quite a bit. We grabbed most items on display – except the synthetic crab sticks and fish balls – and helped ourselves to a couple of sauces and we ended up paying around Rs800 for our soup. When you think that on top of that we had to cook it ourselves! Naturally, you can choose to pay much less for a much less rich soup with noodles, a couple of pieces of chicken and a few leaves of bok choy (brede pouce). Would I go again? No but you should. The concept is definitely worth trying at least once.

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