Charcoal roasted sweet potato, tamarind and beetroot puree, wild arugula, kala namak and mango vinaigrette
The humble Shkarakandi gets a new avatar, but I am afraid I don’t vouch for it.
I had the opportunity to meet the best in the food industry over two events last week, namely the Indian restaurant congress and the Top Chef awards. The point of discussion was food evolution, what’s on the menu and how food has become more than food, especially in context to the nouveau Indian cuisine.
Sphere, powder, liquid nitrogen, caviar, foam, deconstruction, sous vied are all terms and techniques now increasingly used with Indian Cuisine. Chefs are transforming familiar tastes and dishes into things, that look and feel completely different from the original.
Taste has to be supreme and the prime objective, chefs who know their bit, know this extremely well. One can take the desi khichdi and transform it into a risotto like dish, but at the core, the first job is to get the khichdi right and here lies the paradox. At times, the process starts with how to present the khichdi in the manner of a primo as in an Italian restaurant and not from getting the best khichdi on the plate. This is where a lot of my friends falter.
Chefs today know 15 different ways to present and enhance a galaouti kebab. On an ulta tawa parantha, under something, with something, in between something, on a bed of, stuffed with, paired with………. the list can go on. But not many would know how to make one. Fusion is another over used term, when you intend to fuse two classics, ideally the outcome should be more than sum of those classics, however it’s seldom achieved. A ratatouille pao bhaji that is neither ratatouille nor pao bhaji might leave you unconvinced and is certainly not a prime example of fusion.
We as fans of Bollywood movies have inculcated the habit of giving the director cinematic liberty, but this concept only works if the script, the emotions it imparts, the star of the movie or for that matter everything else is right on the money. This is an extremely thin line that one should not have where food is concerned. Our chefs sometime take this liberty, go too far from the spirit of the dish and miss the trick in the name of innovation.
At prominent progressive Indian restaurants this line is never crossed. Chefs here respect the ingredients, understand the essence of the dish and only after this understanding they take the mantle to enhance the dining experience for the guest. They remain true to the ingredient, and what comes on the plate speaks for itself. Progressive Indian cuisine requires that each plate is meticulously planned and prepared. Hence chefs now take into account the conversion cost of a dish and have started to charge a premium for the effort it requires them to transform lack-lustre ingredients into signature dishes. The other thing that eminent chefs do, is that they understand the potential of their kitchen and the number of people they can cater effectively in one service. Well they always knew this, it’s just that now they taken a firm stance on this subject. The overall brand preposition is more important than the sale of the day.
Coming back to the paradox, Chicken tikka served on a small rickshaw should ideally not work because of the equipment used to serve it. But at times it does, this is where food has become more than food. Today the top restaurateurs / chefs are trying to get conversations out of what’s on the plate. The guests too, are looking for a holistic experiences, where food is a prominent part, but not the only thing at play. Sublime food experiences today require more than food. 2+2 needs to equal to 5 as 4 is passé. What we intend to achieve from a meal as a guest, differs from time to time, place to place and in accordance to the company we have. I personally might be more accommodating at a Café Lota than at a Varq.
I am a big fan of the thali, or the traditional Indian feast, where everything is laid on the table and you can have desserts first. But there are days when you have to indulge in the tasting menu at Indian Accent or the sumptuous options at Farzi Café .
With this I intend to leave you salivating……….. some of my favourite progressive Indian options
Tandoori chicken & thai pomelo segments, amla murabba reduction, crispy garlic
Pulled Tandoori Makhni bao
Palak Patta chaat
Amritsari amaranth machhli aur shakarkandi
Ghee Roast Mutton Boti
Ragi Banana Pancakes
Meetha achaar chilean spare ribs, sun dried mango, toasted kalonji seeds
Indian accent kulfi sorbet