Cayman Compass: Go for surgery, stay for food

(Published in the Cayman Compass, Friday, December 18, 2015)

Hospitals are often the last place you want to go. So you can forgive my husband Matt’s confusion and shock, for that matter, when I said last Saturday night that we were going to Health City Cayman Islands – for dinner.

Hospitals aren’t exactly known for their culinary greatness (just Google “hospital food” for an assortment of vile looking dishes that are bound to leave your stomach churning), but thanks to Health City’s partnership with executive chef/co-owner Vidyadhara Shetty of award-winning restaurant Blue Cilantro, the hospital is now becoming well known for its gastronomic delights, as well as being a center for healthcare excellence.

Chef Shetty has formed a formidable reputation on Cayman’s culinary scene. Born in Mumbai, India, Shetty came to Cayman in 1994 to work with the Hyatt Regency hotel. In 1999 he earned the “Chef of the Year” award from the Cayman Culinary Society, an organization of which he is now president.

His Blue Cilantro restaurant, along the heart of Seven Mile Beach, has become well-known for its fusion cuisine, a blend of Indian, European and Caribbean flavors.

The restaurant has won a slew of awards, including most recently the prestigious Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards 2014/15 “Best Caribbean Restaurant.”

Chef Shetty personally oversees the day-to-day running of Blue Cilantro at Health City, including prep and service. It’s therefore no surprise that the food has people coming back to dine time and time again.

Shomari Scott, marketing director at Health City, said the aim was to go the “extra mile,” to offer not only excellent medical care, but also delicious food.

“As we are offering destination healthcare, we needed to offer the ultimate concierge service as well, in order to impress in places least expected,” Scott said.

Fine-dining, canteen-style 

The menu’s focus is on traditional Indian cuisine, as well as classic American favorites. Menu items include soups, salads, pastas, fajitas, sandwiches and wraps, as well as a selection of Indian curries, such as prawn masala and chicken tikka masala. There is also a breakfast menu available from 7-11 a.m. that includes American-style favorites alongside traditional Indian fare such as masala dosa and uttapam. Visitors will also find a daily buffet for breakfast, (7-10 a.m.) lunch, (noon-3 p.m.) and dinner, (6-9 p.m.) with menu items changing daily.

I’d heard via word of mouth that the curries are what you go for, so I ordered a paneer tikka masala from the menu, while Matt plumped for fish curry from the buffet options.

One thing to note here is that dining at Health City isn’t like eating in a fine-dining restaurant. There’s no white linen table cloths, soft ambient lighting or fine vintages to wash down your meal. This is a canteen in every sense of the word. But you can forgive this because the food is simply stand-out delicious – and, as you would expect, all at purse-friendly prices.

The paneer tikka masala was $12.50, and the fish curry was $15, including ample rice to share between us.

Like Blue Cilantro, dishes are prepared at Health City using local fruits and vegetables sourced from Cayman’s established farmers whenever possible.

According to Scott, the restaurant is becoming particularly popular at weekends, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As numbers steadily increase, Chef Shetty is working to add more Caribbean-influenced dishes to the menu to keep up with demand from the local residents.

Thanks to its gourmet fare, Blue Cilantro at Health City was short-listed at this year’s inaugural Cayman Islands edition of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards for “Best Kept Secret.”

However, as word of mouth spreads, it won’t be a secret for much longer.


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