"This summer is particularly hot," says Rishikesh Rai, the executive chef at Vivanta by Taj as we rode the buggy down to Bait, the seaside restobar at Kovalam. But here, at 'Bait', he adds, walking up the couple of steps, the sea breeze cools you down. And as you take your seat and settle down, you will find yourself agreeing to his opinion.
The endless blue ocean spreads out in front of you. There were a couple of fishing boats bobbing in the sea even though it was around 1 pm. A thatched roof, laterite walls, wooden beams and the floor done up with wood—old railway sleepers to be exact—adds to the rustic charm. And as you kick back and relax, the welcome drink, a tangy rasam, arrives.
"Rasam is not just an appetizer, it cools you down", says Rishikesh Rai. I munch on the chips as we start a conversation which revolves mainly around food, tourism and Kerala. For starters he suggests a seafood platter, which includes prawns and squid rings cooked in the traditional Kerala style. 'Our chefs went to the houses of fishermen and saw how they cooked the fish and made notes. Back at the hotel, we modified the recipes to come up with the perfect blend of local and international cuisines. The prawns and squid have many takers, he says. The platter also included fish cooked in plantain leaf.
“The signature dish at 'Bait' is the baked bay fish”, Rishikesh Rai went on. The fish is seasoned, marinated according to your spice levels and baked in a slab of wood in the fire. This way of cooking, he says, seals the juices inside, and the fish will be soft and succulent. Digging into the baked bay fish which is served on the wood it is cooked on, is pure indulgence. You can order rice or Kerala porotta with fish curry too. You could end your meal on a sweet note with ice creams or kulfis.
Not so fishy
Bait is basically a seafood restaurant, however it also serves meat. A vegetarian too will not go hungry here amid the excellent hospitality. The pizzas are finger-licking good. “The only flip side is that you will have to eat it a bit fast, because the breeze will cool it down soon”, says Rishikesh Rai.
The service staff are very cordial. If you are in doubt, they will help you decide your order. They will also help you with the portions and suggest the dish that would suit your palate based on your likes and dislikes.
On a personal note
What made the experience at Bait very special is Rishikesh Rai's attention to detail regarding the choice of my food. I, for one, do not like to battle with the tail of the prawn. This had intrigued him. When it came to the main course, he told the service staff to take off the tail of the prawns in the curry which I had ordered to go with the rice. That extra mile he went, to make me comfortable speaks volumes about the grade of perfection the group stands for.
A meal for two would easily cost more than Rs 4000/-