This was something to look forward to since the time I’d heard about it. The Blind tasting at Olive on a Sunday eve, organised by Food Talk India who decided to have a second round after the first one made quite a wave. Inspired by the restaurant chain ‘Dans le noir’ that initially started in London & Paris, offering an experience of senses by guiding you to a meal in the pitch dark. While there you’re escorted by the visually impaired who guide you through out until you come out of the door a little bewildered. Here it was fun, right from the word go.

I reached the venue sharp at 7 30pm in the fear of missing out any of the course. I think only couple of more people had the same fear since there weren’t many people yet. Drinks at Dirty Martini that got us mingling, and some pizzas later, it felt like the party was about to start. Everyone was thrilled to see what this is gonna turn out like. For me it was a combined version of their earlier events : Blind-tasting with strangers. So we proceeded to the Greenhouse on the Ridge, for the adventure to begin.

Soon after we were seated at our allocated tables, a little briefing on the etiquettes followed. We were supposed to put our blindfolds on as the bell rang. Anticipation showed up on everyone’s face trying those on and just working on their dexterity. People with glasses, lenses, or long nose, everyone had a bit of struggle story to tell. This was going to be exciting. But before we could start with it, we had the amuse served to us. Crisp pumpkin crackers with feta cheese, semi dried tomato, black olives, and sorrel on top. The only thing that we could see before we could devour it. This was supposed to set the tone of the upcoming courses. Intriguing!

Holding a cutlery in each hand (with a blindfold on), I was ready to indulge my senses. Something crisp and sweet, something cheesy and something saucy, but altogether it was just pure heavenly. The crunch of the candied walnuts were like the sweet lord from heavens. I was hooked and yearning for more.. when someone shouted, ‘the plate is clean ma’am. you can stop’. The bell rang, we took off our blind folds, and the chef came around to show us what we had. As delightful visually as it tasted.

The bell rang again and I started reaching for my cutlery to wipe it, just out of habit before putting it in my plate. I realised there was just a spoon and no fork. So I was sure it wasn’t going to be another salad. The smells of the soup was over powering. I decided to stop guessing and dig right in to take a mouthful. So creamy and yummy.. people at the table started chiming in with their reaction. I was quietly mouthing more. ‘Oh there’s something crispy in it too’ I thought. ‘I think there’s mushroom.. yeah yeah.. this is definitely mushroom. I love it’, said my neighbour. I agreed with her. ‘I love mushroom too’. ‘ I continued finishing my mouss-y course until I couldn’t pick any in my spoon. After all it had mushroom- my favourite! We were in for a shock when the chef came over. There was no mushroom in it.

Time for main course. We were discussing our preferences and allergies on the table. Blindfolded, of course! I’d have really liked some fish and was hoping for the surprise. The first bite turned out sharp and salty. I nudged for more and realised it was gnocchi. Filling and satiated, I kept quiet and listened more to what others had to say. The neighbours were going ballistic! ‘Popcorn.. I had a popcorn’, said one. ‘in a main course?’ enquired the other. They couldn’t believe it. Another one cooed in- ‘I am having something spaghetti like, but its made of some thing else’. I was intrigued. My dish wasn’t so complex. Anyway, we waited for the chef to show us all that we had. It was eye-opening, and not just literally.

We were almost full but had that little space for dessert. I was disappointed when I tasted custard. I ploughed for more, but all I got was some cake with custard. Now am not a big fan of either, so I left it. But the others’ feedback were great. They all were loving it while going on guessing and describing the textures. I’d stopped and was waiting for the chef to show up. We were in for another surprise. The dessert looked delicious. It had Panna-cotta which I usually like. So we had a go at it for the second time. This time without the blindfolds. Gauri who had lip-smacked the whole bowl the first time, didn’t like it as much anymore. While I who couldn’t finish it earlier, wiped the bowl clean!

What did just happen? Isn’t taste everything when we decide to eat something we enjoy? Or there’s more to it?

Do we get tricked by the visuals?

Well well.. I guess you’d like to know the answers for yourself.

Thanks to this event, I figured how I roll.

One Styled Mille-feuille

Food is seldom the content of my dreams, here the reality was about to gonna get a lot more splendid!

This one had kept me up all night in anticipation. After all, its been a while that the Chef had me on his table of patrons. I had to be myself- hard to please, not just coz am a vegetarian but I am a true scrooge when it comes to dishing out a compliment.

Most of the blogs would cover the kind of food he makes, along with the pictures that speak for itself. So I wouldn’t dwell into that. What I would explore instead is how it left me feeling, how different he is when it comes to the rest of the chef’s Cavalry, and what the food did to me, in the days that followed.

Being soft-spoken has its pros and pros in his case, this guy wins your heart with his persona first, his food creation being a very big part of it. Subtle, light on tummy, yet full of flavours, always complimenting. It’s like an orchestra of textures in the mouth, often contrasting delectably. Be it an amouse-bouche or a full-fledged main course, it will leave you in reverence until much later. You would have hardly had the time to recover from that as you’d follow the journey of courses with him for hours. It’s possible to be first hypnotised by the fine-looking dish and then tempted into exploring the depths of it with your cutlery. Charcoal dust for sprinkles, special cheese sorbet as base, savoury granola or fritters or cracklings that takes two days to make, just for garnish, everything that occupies the plate has a story to tell. Having devoured each one of his creations, the experience only gets more intense and thought-provoking to see how the simple ingredients are de-constructed into such beautiful masterpieces on a plate, that feels just right as well. Might I add, the latter aint an easy thing to come by.

This wasn’t the first time I’d had a gourmet tasting with a touch of Molecular Gastronomy. What I have to admit is, I’ve almost always felt sickened by gluttony, earlier. (May be that’s why there hadn’t been a post on it yet!) While here this wasn’t the case at all, it was just like a quest to know more, see more, and experience more of what I could, in terms of a food orgasm that could go on and on. It was probably the very first time, that after a nine-course meal, I was ready to trot and dance and jump with joy. If that meal creation is not clever, then what is?

His personal attention to details, be it the food or the person he’s serving to, is heart warming to say the least. I’ve seen display of extreme reactions outside of my body as well to support the above statement. I’m usually quite gabby, but this experience had just calmed me down. Arousing nooks of my palate that were neglected for much long or I didn’t know existed. It was talking to my senses that I thought was long-lost in hibernation, and I was just listening to that conversation silently, solemnly in awe.

The restaurant – Olive Qutub serves well as a launchpad for his experiments to come. As you usher in at any time of the evening, you would find the most uppish crowd enjoying themselves in the posh antique surroundings. The guests just don’t stop coming until it’s too late, that goes to say  how popular and established the place has been. The service staff is as energetic but it prefers to let its kitchen staff interact more with the guests explaining them the minutiae about the dishes. After all it’s not something you get served on any given day. Elite or fabulous is how you would leave the place feeling, along with a thankful tummy. And that’s what makes this launch a cut above the rest and truly par excellence.