Flavors of Indian cuisine showcased at Icoa

Icoa is taking diners on a tour of India with its weekly Thali night. 

Thali is a popular Indian style of dining which allows guests to sample a wide selection of traditional dishes. 

Icoa serves the Thali on a traditional stainless steel, round platter with the numerous dishes served in small bowls called katori which are placed around the border of the platter. Rice, served in the center of the platter, as well as traditional breads, including poppadum and “poori” (or “puri,” fried bread) accompany the meal. 

Each week a selection of different dishes are served, often reflecting a different region of India.  

Shruty Garrison of Icoa decided to start the Thali night following the launch of the restaurant’s dinner service late last year.  

“We wanted to create awareness about our dinners and needed to come up with a special night,” Garrison said. “Our executive chef Jurgen Wevers had hired chef George Pirakasam who previously worked at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and was impressed with his Indian dishes.  

“Guests are loving the tapas-style Thali concept. Thali appeals to anyone who loves curries.” 

Chef Pirakasam is from South India, where he trained at catering college. He has been based in Cayman for the past five years. At Icoa’s Thali night he is assisted by chef Bala Vellakkannu, also an Indian trained chef. The love and passion both chefs have for their native cuisine is evident. 

My experience  

I headed to Icoa’s Thali night last week and left with a newfound love for this style of cuisine. 

The evening’s menu included a selection of six curries, two desserts, potato fritters, rice, breads and “lassi,” a palate-cleansing yogurt beverage, in addition to a selection of condiments such as tamarind chutney and lemon pickle. 

Favorites included the Vegetable Makhani, a richly flavored cream-based sauce filled with mixed vegetables; Dal Palak, a dish made from spinach and lentils; Kadai Paneer, a fresh cheese curry made from paneer – an unsalted white cheese – and cooked in a tomato based sauce; and pepper chicken. Dessert was Gulab Jamun, a milk-based cake smothered in syrup, and Rice Kheer, a highly aromatic rice pudding made with cardamon powder and saffron. 

None of the dishes is overly spicy, and diners are welcome to request top-ups of their favorite dish. Both my guest and I opted for second helpings of the Vegetable Makhani and pepper chicken.  

It would be remiss of me not to mention Icoa’s fantastic selection of handcrafted cocktails. The cocktails are a collaboration between bartender Naresh Sharma and chef Jurgen, who aim to put their own spin on popular libations by adding new and unique flavors.  

My favorite from the night’s cocktail specials was the Tamarind Margarita, made from tequila, triple sec, lime juice, orange juice, tamarind and simple syrup. The cocktail was a delicious blend of sweet and sour and was the ideal start to the meal. 

To finish, diners can opt for a cup of Masala Chai, a traditional Indian spiced black tea. It was the perfect brew to finish off an exceptionally delicious meal.  

The Thali night is $30 per person, or $25 for the vegetarian option. Gratuities are not included. Call 945-1915 for reservations. 

A selection of dishes are served in ‘Katoris’ and presented on a traditional platter at Icoa’s Thali night.