Burma Burma

If anyone thinks that you need to have a bar and serve meat to have a successful restaurant, then this is the sweetest slap on their face.

This restaurant is making me write after a hiatus of more than a year, well that should speak for itself to begin with. Other than my aversion to drinking or binging out for no reason or rhyme, it does make this blog kinda limited edition. And then there are taxes.. you do kind of feel guilty if that list is longer than what you order.

So this place was on my agenda for a long time (read: over few months). The only reason stopping me was the long drive from Delhi to cyber hub. We all know the kind of mental preparation that needs if you’re not used to crossing states on a daily basis.

Speaking of states, this place boasts of a cuisine that we usually think is bland, raw, and hence healthy. Now I have not been to Burma (now Myanmar) yet. But this place makes me want to! And that is a big credit on top of the ambience, service, clientele, and the kind of food they serve here. From a big CEO’s family to one side, to a bunch of start up kids on the other, the gamut of its clientele is mass and all inclusive. With a cover of around 50 seats in a place like cyber hub where people are spoilt for choices, there’s a waiting queue, reservation line and a turnaround of covers most evenings and afternoons. Either that goes to say that people are becoming health conscious as the majority of menu is either salad/soups  and noodles. Or they have just taken up to this cuisine and made it palate worthy. Yes Samosas in chickpea soup can only be as delicious when its a love child between Burma and Delhi! Now I wouldn’t go into the main course or the dessert, coz my explanation may border on being repetitive, so I\ll leave you with just this. Pick your phone, book a table and try it for yourself.

Art you see!

..and then you don’t, but you feel it out and about.

From the outside, there isn’t anything special about the place. The usual Audi’s honking away on the lanes of M block GK market, once known as the place to be- popular, posh and ‘happening’ has now become a quieter version of display of the big names in the restaurant business. Artusi, derives its name from the famous writer of The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining. Obviously I was keen to explore this place.

Indistinct and almost vacant, besides one table, on a saturday night didn’t pique me but I was surprised. We took seats nonetheless. White linen-ed decor with black and white sketches adorning the walls, it was simple and cozy with tea lights on table. We waited for the menu and then the waiter to take the order. Akin to questioning them on the ingredients that would help me decide on what to order, I was a little miffed when he went to check back before he answered me. Even though it was all to my advantage.

I have always loved Italian. Be it Food, Fashion or Men. Although i haven’t tried the latter much but the dream lives on. Fantasising anymore about this might disappoint me unlike the food here. So coming back to the safer topic, I ordered an antipasti and a salad before deciding on a main course. While we waited, few breads appeared with a lip smacking sun-dried tomato dip. I love such restaurants that take care of things like these: replacing butter with healthier options even if compromising a bit on their costing. I mean a little CSR in your daily routine can go a long way.

Soon my order appeared with all kinds of my favourite fungus and some bread but most of the plate had this insanely big full round piece of melted Brie or was it Camembert! Seriously I couldn’t be bothered. But if you are you can find more here. It’s apparently not much different. I have never been served like this before. Well I have never been to Italy before. This is how they eat there, now I know. A meal that starts with cheese can never go wrong. That could be a general rule of thumb for vegetarians and cheese lovers like moi. You may feel stuffy so remember to share or take-it-away so the deliciousness continues for a day or two. I was loving the fresh rocket leaves with fig and grapes salad along with the cheese and mushroom. There’s no way these combinations can go wrong. Its the safest yet most delicious way to get yourself started. Tangy-ness of grapes, gooey-ness of cheese and the crunch of bread along with leaves is like having everything good in one go.  Since i was happy with the waiters’ recommendation I let him decide the main course for me too.

Pasta Pockets was something new for me. I had an idea but lets say I had not had it off the menu yet. I settled for the hat shaped ones filled with cream cheese. Delightful but the portion size was overwhelming. I wanted to keep some space for the desserts. Again with a sweet jaw like mine it’s always the most difficult part of the dinner, because I just can not settle for one easily. With a lot of hubbub I let the waiter recommend again. I explained him I wanted something like mille-feuille.. lot of layers of pastries with cream in between. I mean Tira misu can not be the answer to all the french desserts in the world. There’s a certain complexity and sophistication that Italians seem to miss. Not for nothing, simplicity has its charm after all. Zuppa Inglese with its layers of chocolate and custard was a bit too much of mush for me to handle. The Panna Cotta arrived with its golden glory of caramelised figs and roasted almonds. It was just what I needed to go up the graph and finish the meal on a much much higher note. That little thing didn’t even survive six bites. Still the price is totally worth it. I ‘ll  probably go there again just for the dessert and blow my pocket a sweet hole.

Sighing with pleasure, I rolled up my sleeves, tied my hair and picked up my doggy pack to head to the door, where the Manager waited to hand me a red rose bud. Now only if he was Italian enough just like the food inside. The Sigh continued..

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.

Blind.Talk.Food

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.