Gaggan

Kuh-ggannn, is how our cab driver read it to us. I was excited for we had planned this for sometime. The moment the cab stopped, I thought we were entering someone’s residence. Someone posh, someone classy and elegant. As we usher in, I get the feeling of being at the right place at the right time.

Subtle noises, clinking of glasses and hushed laughter fill in the room, along with the black bus boys meandering in the middle. We are seated on the extreme left end on a corner table –  nice for us to have our conversation, away from everyone else, until another couple joins in soon to sit to the far right end of the corner.

We settle for the most elaborate, between 14-16 course Best of Gaggan Tasting Menu, not wanting to miss out on anything. Vegetarian for me and non-vegetarian for him. Once we choose the fancy drinks, we sit back, ready to be lured and get on the gastronomic journey that Gaggan promises.

The drinks, I have to admit floored me at once. I forgot what it was called, but it came in a coconut shell with all of its smoky flavour AND the smoke, little like Pina colada to sip on. Ah! The jazz that it started with, i was loving it already. And believe you me, it happens so rare!

It will turn out to be a very long post if i go on describing each course, and will totally lose the point. So i’ll stick to what held my sway and what swayed off.

Starting with a bunch of mini-bites that kept coming in the span of half an hour had me on a roll. The white-chocolate golgappas were definitely innovative for me, what with that edible packet of nuts on the side and a yoghurt bubble that bursts in the mouth. Beautifully decorative and deliciously textured bites were in the order, and I could hardly keep my hands off it. At one point it was hard to differentiate between the presentation platter and the food that was served on it. To have a sneak-peek you can always go to their page and drool over.

Next up was the soup. I mean who can ever fall in love with a soup? Sure they can fall in soup. but this .. here.. was.. sheer.. orgasm. The truffle soup, the way it came, the way it smelled, the way it smoked, it was love at first sight, smell and taste. I could hold on to that little rock and make love to it while I sipped little sips of it so it goes on forever and ever. This was my nirvana. And I did not want it to get over. I moaned unapologetically.

That was the highest point of my entire meal. The charcoal, although exquisitely presented couldn’t have possibly kept up with the truffle soup. And it was not meant to either. Subtle, gooey, it was the surprise element that it was supposed to be. Later, followed by other familiar flavours and textures, I was beginning to get full but the presentation kept alluring me no matter what. I ordered another drink that I remember the name of. Sexy Poison was served in a glass with a cat tail, and tasted like an elixir. There was a certain fun element that most of the dishes and drinks flaunted. The way it was written, presented or tasted, it was sort of a tease throughout. A bit of this with a bit of that seemed easy to pursue.

Meanwhile we spotted a loner ordering shorter version of Tasting Menu. He would nod at himself while eating, a little too often. Like he was justifying that he has come for the sole pleasure of eating and nothing else. Like its not a social place but a place where they serve your taste buds only. He had to be a banker, I at once thought; an investment banker to be precise. Who comes alone in a destination restaurant that is currently at no.3 and pitted to be the no.1 restaurant in Asia?

Well, the story doesn’t end here. He’s then seated on the table that’s between the two couples which is us. Did I mention, we’d got talking to the other couple discussing the food and drinks and restaurants, and life and it had become quite a group affair, until the gentleman butted right in. I saw him enjoying his chhole chawal with a lot of chaw (interest). All awkward, he decides to strike a conversation with the other couple. Seemingly disinterested, they give in out of courtesy, while we all slyly wait for him to leave. His dessert is now over, and the waiter signals for him to leave. Whats funny was how shocked he appeared and sorry he felt to be leaving the table that he had just interrupted with.

I was only glad with the way waiters use their discretion at such places. Thats one of the things that makes this place such top-notch. Not to my surprise, he confirmed that he works at Morgan Stanley, Hongkong before leaving us to get back to our merrymaking and dessert courses.

With some ostentatious dehydrated miso look, the desserts looked very Japanese except the Lollipops that were crumbly on the outside and yummy on the inside. I felt like complaining how this could be Indian, but then again, just a thought later I knew how diversified India truly is. So no matter how far away you go from making Indian, or variate it on multiple levels, it could still somehow easily belong to atleast one of our states, or city.

Indian Accent

It been over a month and a half that I went to this restaurant. I can’t claim for my memories to be fresh that I still remember the taste. However what I do remember is that it was different in a way that Indian cuisine isn’t supposed to be. Not greasy yet fulfilling, light yet varied, Indian yet had an European touch. None of those elaborate saucy-curry like spreads or a mix of all that you can’t tell what has gone in. Simplicity of flavours intact along with complexity of textures, is what makes Indian cuisine. The way it’s presented in mind-boggling forms makes it modern.

Now that we have defined roughly what modern Indian cuisine is, I wonder whats the market viability of such a restaurant within the Indian market. Like someone recently said, people don’t buy a Louis Vuitton everyday, but sure they will go splurge on the street almost daily without a second thought. So is there truly any business value and sustainability in an instance like this? Well.. i don’t know. But I’d sure like to see where it goes and how.

Everyone craves temple food once in a while but would they appreciate it as much if they had it everyday? I had similar thoughts after I’d had my pig-out session with my sisters with the tasting menu last month. The restaurant is known for its classic twist and top-notch clientage, not to forget the celebrated chef whose first-mover advantage in this segment in the country has gone to make it the acclaimed restaurant that it is today. So i have a mixed bag of a story to tell.

A three-hour traffic barely goes for a good opening to any evening, and would usually end up in a brawl in Delhi, except in this case where it was a determined drive to explore this restaurant no-matter-what. In a place that is hard to find, nestled in some corner of a colony that makes you walk and wonder if all this trouble is worth the effort. I was making mental notes to trash the restaurant for all the inconvenience it caused me even before i dined there.

Gladly, it’s not going to be that. All the doubts are soon put to rest once you set foot inside the club like environment and see families happily enjoying some classical music with their food and few hi-flying executives equally engrossed with their phones and plates alone. It’s not unusual, but not a usual feel as you enter an Indian restaurant in a five-star hotel. This one is bustling in a continental way. And i forget all about my traffic woes immediately.

It’s difficult to not appreciate the exceptionally well curated courses and pin down the quirks in the ingredients used. Just to summarise, I loved the blue cheese naan-lets for starters and beetroot tikkis with wasabi chutney. The potion control through little shapes and sizes is just whats needed where you can’t decide when to stop. The khandvi ravioli with cheese arbi mash, and the potato sphere chaat was nicely deviant while the baingan bharta cornetto.. left me quite offbeat and curious throughout.

The dessert platter was another playground of all the distinguished flavours and textures that round off the meal on another queer high. Am still contemplating if its time to go back and mull in a familiar yet a contrast of taste, that only Indian Accent can justify.

Yappy -by I

I never thought I’d ever warm up to Sushi. Or anything remotely Japanese ever! My earliest memory of having it is of the corner Sushi bar down the road to the DLR station off South Quays, when I’d just accompanied a colleague on a lunch break. Then I swallowed it all thinking how bland it was. But then I remember I couldn’t own up how uninitiated I felt even with my eyes welling up for the strong taste of Wasabi and soy. Well.. that was me then. I thought Sushi is not for the faint hearted.

Fast forward to the present. Even though it can be an acquired taste. With this raging introduction of the vegetarian Sushi in the recent times, it doesn’t have to be that daunting anymore. Once ventured into its hard not to be addicted, and leaves you craving for more. My rendezvous with it has only gone from good to great. The first time I really fell in love with Sushi was at Teppan Sushi bar in Bangalore. I have to say that was what made me raring to go and look further to see what Japanese cuisine has in store for a vegetarian like moi! Another sushi-bar worth a mention here is the Kylin closer home. OK. Now that am all warmed up, lets proceed to the main topic of this blog.

A visit to Guppy by Ai was much-anticipated since my arrival here in Delhi. Good things take time. So one fine evening, I drove down all the way and found it after few rounds of Khanna market, only to realise that it was so easy to miss the first time. Located as a part of an old style mall, it has that old world charm with no such pretensions. Until you enter from the lane side, and it takes only few seconds to be transformed before you begin to feel like you are in Japan. With frangipani tree in the courtyard, a bright color scheme as a backdrop, it gets better when you finally enter the dining.  Animé murals with the hint of a play school, you automatically get into the fun mode. And then there’s origami paper for you to try while you wait for the food! Now enough about the surroundings, I’ve got to get on the food. But I swear I was so taken aback by the place that it deserves all this mention. The kid in me was jumping to come out and play.

So while I was busy folding the paper to make a heart, my amuse-bouche appeared. It looked so pretty, I gulped it down without a thought, with some soup along with it. And bam! Everything else had to stop right there. The food had all my attention. I requested another portion, for I needed to spend some more time with it, devouring. I was almost coming to my seventh senses. Ha.. guess that!

Obviously from there we decided to settle for the tasting menu. How cruel to decide not to have something off this fantastic menu? At least I am not capable of such crime. So we let the Chef reel us in by doling out what later made me (dare i say) a very happy woman.

To start with I’ve had vegetarian Maki before but a vegetarian Nigiri, Sashimi, and Temaki was a first! For once I thought absolute justice has been done to me. Usually the non-vegetarians always have more options to try, that I envy. Here there was variety and how. Absolutely loved the bell pepper and thin omlet sushi. That rolling definitely calls for some dexterity and talent. Did I mention about the fresh wasabi? It’s like a green stem that’s grated on shark skin.. how exquisite is that!

Then came the varied starters, which turned out a nice experiment with tofu, miso and some more brand new set of flavours bustling in my mouth. It was fairly building up my appetite towards main course. Now I like to play safe by being a vegetarian. But I thank the stars that day which made me try the Cod! Is it the god of fish or what? It definitely had a royal entry seething on a stone and tasted absolutely heavenly. Who’d believe it’s coming from me, a vegetarian? Well I have decided now to turn a pesceterian. I can’t afford to miss out on such oh-so-yummy delicacies anymore.

God.. the Black Cod blew my mind. I was on the seventh heaven after this. I did not want to get rid of it’s taste so soon. Nope not even for desserts. The charred- smoky flavour was something that had me enthralled. I was bordering delirium. I had to calm down.

So came the dessert platter with its tidbits, that is probably there just so people do calm down and come back to reality. You can’t have a high after another high. It could be maddening you know! No one endorses such danger.

Anyway I just couldn’t get over the scene around me. It subtly engulfed me to believe like I was lazing in a cafe in Nakano Ward, perhaps. It was easy to drift off and mull over Murakami. The restaurant had cast such a spell. A shot of Limoncillo, got me back to India.

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.

Taste of Mumbai

I was quite wary and hesitant to go for this..Taste of Mumbai. After all how could it even match up to my experience with ‘Taste of London‘, the popular format that was recently introduced in India, few weeks ago.

Well I am glad to be proven wrong.

An early morning dash to the airport, and then chauffeur driven drive to South Bombay to stay in the very group of hotels that I served ten years ago, was nothing short of an epiphany of how time has just flown by!

Overlooking the Arabian Sea from the 23rd floor, the sun drowning into the sea and the full moon before the onset of the dawn, the room gives you more than enough of the antics of nature and the hi-fi crowding skyline the city is waiting to flaunt.

I had missed out on the day 1 but I was optimistic about the rest two days as it would be a weekend. Little after the sun set, having enjoyed the spectacular view, and after struggling on what to wear, I trotted high into the Bombay Ballard Estate. Scanning the crowd, the posh and the pretty, I began my crawl through the stalls.

Starting with chocolate, cheese, silicone crockery, herbs, and then a showcase of speciality cuisine by the niche outlets by five star hotels, demonstrated by their celebrated chefs… I got hooked onto Smokehouse Deli. Light and crisp mix of Salad and sauces made for an appetizing hors d’oeuvre. Followed by Caulifolower Espuma by Caperberry. This one still makes me salivate!

Moving on to some more appliance demos, a little Zumba gig to involve the crowd, and a few Mint Juleps later, started the celebrity showcase-ing their signature dish making. It was fun, with the tidbit-trivia being talked about while they go on with preparing trial dishes for the audience. Kinda intimidating to get the first hand reactions on their cherished recipes.

In the meanwhile, the crowd was warming up to celebrity sightings, tasting what their TV-appeared chefs from different parts of the world had to offer, participating in live barbecue and pizzeria demonstrations, and enjoying quite a breezy evening for Bombay standards. What added more flavors, was the so many in-house family business sprawling up – owning the stalls, doing the demos had its own charm in the middle of all the established 5 star brands.

Day 2 paled in front of Day 1, guess I missed the Zumba and was still recovering from the Oyster shots and what too much of Zinc does in one’s system. But the Strawberry Risotto grew on me despite that. Well who’d ever say  NO to strawberries?

By the way, strawberry is technically a fruit and not a berry!