Someone once said that experiencing a country’s culture and taste is through its food. Some of us are quite well travelled and so you know exactly what I am talking about. For those who aren’t so lucky, in recent years, Dhaka has transformed into a vast canvas for the culinary world. Boasting cuisines starting from Southeast Asia to Europe and many more, eateries have sprouted in this city like wild mushrooms. Some are mentionable while others can be categorized as merely the same ol’ same ol’.
Many like me opt to choose a place that has the works! A place that excels in service, great food and a welcoming environment to be my money’s worth. With so many restaurants, cafes, lounges and bistros in every corner of the city, when deciding where to eat out, we are left wondering whether to just stick to the usual or try something new.
A year ago a new restaurant opened doors in Dhaka’s Baridhara area, named “Coentro”. This restaurant, like its first branch in Dhanmondi, “Cilantro”, brings a refreshing earthy, warm and welcoming environment with its bare red brick walls, wooden furniture and recycled bottles with firefly lights hanging overhead. Coentro prides itself on serving a fusion of Latin American & Mediterranean dishes, always surprising their customers with their brilliantly concocted drinks and carefully constructed dishes.
In celebration of their 1st Birthday, Coentro transformed itself into a Tapas Restaurant, the first of its kind in Bangladesh! The new menu is solely dedicated to bringing to you the flavours of Latin America and the Mediterranean in the form of Tapas to tickle your taste buds. “Tapas are a style of eating that originates in Spain, where small savory dishes are enjoyed over drinks and conversation”, say its owners. The word ‘Tapas’ literally means ‘cover’ or ‘lid’. What started as a way to keep away fruit flies from sitting on the drinks and to avoid getting drunk too fast, quickly became an immensely popular way to enjoy food across the world.
Tapas are often served as a snack with drinks, or with other Tapas as a meal. This culture became so exceedingly popular that the Spanish came up with the phrase to ‘Tapear’, which means going out to eat Tapas. To me, the best thing about Tapas is that you are able to taste more than just one dish as opposed to the traditional Ala Carte menu. All the items on the Menu can be eaten single as dish or paired with another dish or sides. The true way of experiencing Tapas is by ordering the items gradually and of course with good company to share it with. The new Menu boasts a variety of seafood and different preparation of meats as well as soups and fresh vibrant salads. As per the restaurant, amongst the popular items are the Octopus Balls, Lamb chops, Rib-eye Steak, Meatballs, Stuffed chicken, Seafood Paella, Seafood Chowder, Caesar Salad, to name a few.
What always drew me towards Coentro was its fresh new take on Latin American & Mediterranean cuisine. They went to the extent of creating a fusion of tastes by daring to combine these two cuisines in to one! Instead of sticking to the rules and going by the book, Coentro serves up interesting flavours that can be a pleasant tease to the taste buds. When asked about the spices they use, the question was met with a slight snicker from the proud owners, as they like any other establishment won’t give away their secrets. However they did honor me with a rather diplomatic answer, “our spices and marinades are carefully mixed to retain the flavours of each cuisine as well as create a fusion that make us stand out for an all around gastronomic experience”.
The ever popular drinks menu has had a makeover too with new additions of Frozen and Iced Mocktails in the form of Margaritas and Martinis as well as new flavours of the classic Iced Tea. I am quite a fan of their drinks from the start; the Mojito and Black Jack were always quite popular. But they just took everything to another level with new items of the Menu!
Coentro prides on its ability to serve to their customers refreshing drinks with fresh ingredients with a twist. With both their Tapas and Drinks Menu, Coentro tries to use fresh local ingredients as much as possible even though some of the dishes demand imported spices and herbs. The improvising and experimenting with flavours and spices makes me wonder whether their kitchen is actually a Laboratory running their experiments with new tastes all the time.
There is no doubt that Coentro offers a breath of fresh air when it comes to their culinary skills. For a fresh new take on Latin American & Mediterranean flavours Coentro is a must try for all foodies out there. Take an advice from a food adventure junky, dare to try new things and if you’re not so courageous then ask for recommendations!
All the images used in this article are courtesy of the author.