Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bangkok's Gaggan Unfurls Indian Tricolour at The World's 50 Best Restaurants as India Scores Another Duck

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

FOR THE second year in succession, Gaggan of Bangkok is the only Indian restaurant to figure on The World's 50 Best Restaurants. There's a big difference, though, between 2013 and today. Gaggan Anand, the chef-restaurateur who's without doubt the high priest of Indian modernist cuisine, was at No. 66 last year. Today, he's at No. 17, which has got him 2014's Highest New Entry accolade, and he's closer than ever to his dream of being in the hallowed Top 10, a dream that took hold of him when he was apprenticing at the 'laboratory' of the then World No. 1, Ferran Adria's El Bulli.
The much-awaited list was announced at a glittering ceremony at the Guildhall, a London landmark dating back to the 12th century.
When I met Gaggan last year at his 60-cover, one-seating-only restaurant operating out of a classical Thai home dwarfed by some of Bangkok's most expensive real estate in the Rama I neighbourhood, he was clear about his goals. The Kolkata-raised IHM-Thiruvananthapuram graduate, who earned his initial spurs at Taj Palace, said he wanted to be in the 20s and 30s, for starters, and eventually make it to No. 1 like Ferran Adria, at whose 'laboratory' near Barcelona he first got exposed to the techniques of the patron saint of molecular gastronomy. Well, it looks like he's getting there, and how!
Gaggan Anand (centre) exults in the company
of Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca (left)
and another guest at the Asia's Top 50
Restaurants in Singapore, where he
was ranked No. 3 some weeks back. 
The other big news about this year's list, which is followed closely around the world though it was dismissed instantly by The Guardian newspaper as "a menu of predictable names for the food bores", is that Noma, Rene Redzepi's mould-breaking Scandinavian seasonal restaurant in Copenhagen, has re-established itself as the World No. 1.
Noma (which The Guardian describes as "the purveyor of sea urchin toast and rock moss"!) dislodged the 2013 topper, Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, which has, in just seven years, established itself as a temple of modern Spanish cuisine in the working class suburb of Girona in the fiercely independent state of Catalunya. El Celler de Can Roca spoilt Noma's party after the Copenhagen restaurant completed a hat-trick of years at the No. 1 spot.
At No. 3 for the second consecutive year is Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, where a traditional menu of Emilia-Romagna's celebrated staples, such as Bottura’s spectacular tortellini with Parmesan sauce and tagliatelle with meat sauce, coexists happily with modernist creations, such as the five ages of Parmesan and foie gras crunch – a take on a Feast ice cream with a hunk of foie gras bound in hazelnuts and filled with balsamic vinegar.
Italy, surprisingly, is under-represented on the list, brought out annually by the London-based Restaurant magazine, which is a respected trade journal. India, like last year, figures nowhere, nor do restaurants run by Indian Michelin-star chefs in Britain and the U.S. In searing contrast, with seven restaurants each on the list, Spain, France and the U.S. (New York's Eleven Madison Park is at No. 4 and Chicago's Alinea at No. 9) are right on top; Italy has three, and Brazil (Sao Paulo's D.O.M. is at No. 7), Peru and Thailand have two each.
Apart from El Celler, Spain is represented by Mugaritz (No. 6) and the venerable Arzak (No. 8), both in San Sebastian. And Britain has two in the first ten: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (No. 5) and The Ledbury (No. 10, up from No. 13), Brett Graham's modern French restaurant tucked away in a corner of London’s fashionable Notting Hill neighbourhood. The Asian champs, apart from Gaggan, in the Top 50 list are: Nahm, Bangkok (No. 13), Narisawa, Tokyo (No. 15), Amber, Hong Kong (No. 24), Nihonryori Ryugin, Tokyo (No. 33) and Waku Ghin, Singapore (No. 50).
India's absence is the only reason its presence is being felt. It's time to re-visit the old debate. Why does India, for long represented by the dowdy Bukhara, not figure anywhere on a list that has been responsible for turning unknown gastronomic jewels into world destinations?
(Note: I'll keep updating the story through the day, so watch this space!)

Saturday, 26 April 2014

GURGAON'S FINEST: Zorawar Kalra, Sodabottleopenerwala, Bernardo, Amaranta, Zambar & Many More

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

I HAD never considered Gurgaon to be anything more than a culinary desert till the Cyber Hub came up and became Delhi's go-to destination.
My only Gurgaon favourite was Cilantro, especially because of the wines on offer with its Sunday brunch, and then, in chronological order, Spectra (Leela Ambience), MoMo Cafe at the Courtyard by Marriott, Eest at The Westin (not my favourite!), La Riviera (which has lost much of its old glory after the fire that broke out some months back) and Sen5es at the Pullman, and Amaranta at The Oberoi gave me occasional reasons to cross the border to satiate my curiosity about our neighbour's foodie islands. With the opening of Cyber Hub, my jaunts to Millennium City have become frequent and taken me to restaurants beyond India's answer to Clarke Quay, and I have discovered that Gurgaon has well and truly evolved gastronomically.
When my friend Pawan Soni announced the Indian Food Freak Awards to recognise Gurgaon's best restaurants (indeed, a creditable initiative!), I decided to do my own quiet recce, exchanging notes over FB Mail with certified foodies of the Delhi Gourmet Club, F&B professionals and chefs. I compared their recommendations with my notes and realised that my favourites more or less reflected the popular opinion.
Here, then, are my personal awards, and if you find five-star hotels being poorly represented on the list, it is because most of them haven't impressed me. The future clearly belongs to standalone restaurants powered by passionate entrepreneurs and powerhouses of young talent. I would have loved it if the Indian Food Freak Awards were given out at Cyber Hub amphitheatre as a tribute to the future of Delhi-NCR's culture of dining out.

Restaurateur of the Year: Zorawar Kalra, Massive Restaurants
He's a tribute to his father, India's first and foremost food impresario Jiggs Kalra, and the tradition of Indian fine-dining he upheld. After creating Masala Library in Mumbai, a Michelin star-quality restaurant, Zorawar rolled out Made in Punjab, demonstrating the ease with which he can operate across formats.
In his next project, Farzi Cafe, next door to Made in Punjab, I believe he's marrying Masala Library's finesse with Made in Punjab's mass appeal. It takes an imaginative and versatile entrepreneur to think across so many formats. He may be younger, but if he maintains his standards and his success rate, he'll  be in the league of AD Singh and Riyaz Amlani.

Restaurant Concept of the Year: Sodabottleopenerwala
Marrying quirky ambience with food you can never tire of, Sodabottleopenerwala, under Mohit Balachandran's able leadership, has made us fall in love with Irani Cafe cuisine.

Discovery of the Year: Anahita Dhondy, Sodabottleopenerwala
She can land any international modelling contract with her porcelain looks, but this Taj product believes in sweating it out in the kitchen and producing Delhi-NCR's most addictive Parsi food. Bring on the Marghi Na Farcha.

INVENTIVE SPIRIT: Amaranta rewrote the
rules of serving rasam  at a Stag's Leap
Winery dinner for the Delhi Gourmet Club.

Gurgaon's Pride: Bernardo, Super Mart I, DLF Phase IV
Crescentia Scolt and Chris Fernandes have had to wage a long struggle to keep Bernardo afloat, moving from one location to another because of the real estate market's vagaries, but their to-die-for authentic Goan spread, which is better than what you get in Goa, has ensured their diehard loyalists keep following them wherever they go.

Corporate Chef of the Year: Ravi Saxena, Dhaba by Claridges, Cyber Hub, DLF Cyber City
I've seen him from the time he turned around The Imperial's Tuscan restaurant, San Gimignano, and it's heartening to see his transformation from an European fine-dining specialist to the creator of a growing chain of restaurants that exudes youthful energy even as it serves the classics that have been responsible for Dhaba's runaway success at The Claridges.

F&B Executive of the Year: Varun Duggal, Massive Restaurants
Zorawar Kalra's right-hand man, he combines sharp business instincts, a deep understanding of the restaurant trade and a warm personality that gets him friends and new clients with ease.

Best Modern Indian Restaurant of the Year: Amaranta, The Oberoi, Udyog Vihar, Phase V
Here's a restaurant that has achieved the impossible by consistently delivering the best fresh fish and seafood preparations from the coastal states with a contemporary twist, despite being in the heart of India's dusty plains. A tribute to the epicurean perfection that Executive Chef Ravitej Nath seeks to achieve in this laboratory of creativity, Amaranta can never let you down.

Sodabottleopenerwala combines a quirky design
with impeccable authenticity in its efforts to
popularise Irani Cafe cuisine and give it a
permanent new home in Delhi-NCR
Best North Indian Restaurant of the Year: Made In Punjab, Cyber Hub, DLF Cyber City
It's often unfairly judged because of its buffet, but you must order from its a la carte menu to understand why Palak Patta Chaat, Salmon Tikka, Beetroot Tikki and Railway Mutton Curry haven't tasted better anywhere else.

Best South Indian Restaurant of the Year: Zambar, Cyber Hub, DLF Cyber City
Arun Kumar TR's return with an all-new Zambar has been the best thing to have happened to Cyber Hub in recent months. The decor turns all notions of a South Indian restaurant on thjeir head and the menu is refreshingly different -- dig their Cauliflower Bezule, Andhra Chicken Vepedu, Squid Rings with Seafood Filling and Pork Sukka to understand why.

Best Small Restaurant of the Year: Pintxo, DLF Galleria Market, DLF Phase 4
Besides introducing a new word into our vocabulary, which means 'small snacks' in Basque country, Pintxo has proved that a restaurant can be a hole-in-the-wall and yet have an army of admirers, because what really matters is the food you're served. Can I have the bacon-wrapped prawns?

Best Multi-Cuisine Restaurant of the Year: Spectra, Leela Ambience Gurgaon
International variety and goodness, when combined, can be the recipe for a real winner, which is what this all-day restaurant with the best view in Gurgaon has to offer.

Best Sunday Brunch of the Year: Sen5es, Pullman Gurgaon Central Park
Its crab omelette isn't the only reason I am in love with Sen5es. The restaurant's Sunday Brunch, judging by the turnout for it, is clearly Gurgaon's favourite because it goes beyond the obvious offerings and makes an effort to do things, to borrow an expression from Pizza Hut, 'zaraa Hut ke'.

Best Italian Restaurant of the Year: 56 Ristorante Italiano, Vatika Atrium, DLF Golf Course Road
Located uniquely between two business towers, this restaurant combines a good menu and wine list overseen by an Italian chef with friendly and efficient service and a business-like atmosphere just right for corporate lunches. It's the best dining option on Golf Course Road.

Best Chinese Restaurant of the Year: Nooba, DLF Cyber City, Tower C
Restaurateurs in Vasant Kunj may be complaining about how their businesses have been hit because of the Cyber Hub, but this place bang next to India's first food mall continues to be the favoured 'canteen' of Chinese executives working at DLF Cyber City. What does it tell you about the food of this silent star among Rahul 'Indigo' Bhatia's trio of restaurants?

Best Japanese Restaurant of the Year: Raifu Tei, Dia Park Premier, Sector 29
Ask any Japanese expat where he hangs out with friends and he would say 'Raifu Tei' without blinking his eyes (yes, if you go to a Japanese hangout, as opposed to a horribly expensive restaurant favoured by desi moneybags, you'd think all Japanese men are single!). If you wish to have Japanese food the way the Japanese do, this is the where you can savour the experience without burning your wallet.

Best Dim Sum of the Year: dimsumbros, Ambience Mall
A leap of faith by the Yo! China trio, dimsumbros dazzles you with its array and quality of 'little hearts'. Ask for their Almond Prawn with Wasabi Mayo, Laksa Crab Dumpling and BBQ Pork Pastry to find out what has got me eating out of their hand!

Best Korean Restaurant of the Year: Gung The Palace, City Centre, Near Crowne Plaza, Sec. 29
Here's a restaurant whose only competition is itself, but it is on this list because of the consistency of its offering and the authenticity of its preparations, which is why it is the social magnet of Delhi-NCR's Korean community. Its Beef Bulgogi will have you, like Oliver Twist, asking for more.

Best Pizzas of the Year: Fat Lulu's, Arjun Marg, DLF Shopping Centre, DLF Phase I
This is where your search for Delhi-NCR's best pizzas should end. The base, sauce, cheese and toppings of each of the 22 pizza varieties are textbook perfect. You can choose from an array of choices in each of the four categories, making every order a new experience.

Best Comfort Food of the Year: Eat@Joe's, Cross Point Mall, DLF Phase IV
Joe Baath romanced the spotlight on MasterChef India, but he's not the kind of guy who basks in past glory. He's an engaging fellow and his Chicken Wings, Jalapeno Cheese Shots and BBQ Chicken Hotdog keep bringing back his growing horde of loyalists. And his tie-up with Pradeep Gidwani's The Pint Room keeps us well supplied with brews of the best kind.

Best Cocktails of the Year: Cocktails & Dreams Speakeasy, Behind Galaxy Hotel, Sector 15
This is the creative laboratory of Yangdup Lama and if it doesn't serve Gurgaon's best cocktails, then Millennium City has no hope. Fortunately, the maestro of mixology has been able to live up to his reputation and keeps giving the world an unforgettable high.

Best Patisserie of the Year: The Oberoi Patisseri and Delicatessen, Udyog Vihar
From croissants, cakes and chocolates to sausages and sandwiches, to freshly baked breads and olive oil, you get them all here, the standards notches higher than the competition and the prices, surprisingly, about the same as, and in some cases lower than, L'Opera.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

On The Day After National Public Relations Day, Spare A Thought for Hospitality PRs

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WHENEVER Richa Sharma of ITC Hotels sends me a 'thank you' text early in the morning for a cheeky story I may have written about Bukhara, or some other pet peeve, I can feel the searing heat of her irony. I call her up at once, she makes her point, and then it's business as usual.
Having known Richa from her days as the country's first celebrity television news anchor (when Zee News ruled the ratings) to the present, when she's the national head of PR of a hotel chain that takes media reports about it a bit too seriously, I know, and I know she knows, that if there's a more thankless profession than journalism, it is hospitality industry PR.
Richa Sharma's Facebook profile
picture seemed to me to be a
telling comment on the fuzzy
status of the PR person in
the hospitality business
It was National Public Relations Day yesterday, so it set me thinking about the people who keep calling me, texting me or emailing me every day, feeding my exaggerated sense of self-importance, asking me to review restaurants or attend food promotions, or sometimes, grace hotel and restaurant openings, or better still, go on an outstation junket. The older I get, the less inclined I am to accept invitations to places where I know I won't get a good meal. Earlier, I would just flatly, sometimes rudely, say 'no'; now, I try to come up with inventive excuses.
My latest didn't work. The other day, I met this bright young man named Akshat, well brought-up and polite without being grovelling in the fake PR sort of way. When he was pressing me hard to review a new restaurant, which must have become old by now, I said I had decided to stop eating out. He took one good look at me, laughed out loud, and said, "No sir, that can't be possible." Well, now that the world assumes that I live to eat, and now that I have to keep playing this cat-and-mouse game with PRs because I am left with no other option, let me share my thoughts on the people whom food journos need all the time, no matter how much we may deny the fact.
Hotel PRs can never please anyone, especially their own F&B guys, because the human appetite for the spotlight is limitless. Even if they get the respect of their colleagues, the world doesn't get to know the work they put in to create stars. As I keep telling Mukta Kapoor of Old World Hospitality, Manish Mehrotra owes a substantial part of his fame to her efforts to market his exception talents at a time when he was an unknown chef in a restaurant that used to be empty even on a good day. Yes, I am talking about Indian Accent five years ago.
In hotels where the F&B guys are bright and communicative, as in the instances of Soumya Goswami at The Oberoi New Delhi, Rajesh Namby of The Leela Palace New Delhi and Tanveer Kwatra at Pullman Gurgaon Central Park, the PRs have to work overtime to be taken seriously by their sub-set of contacts. Deepti Uppal of The Leela Palace, though, doesn't have to make that effort. Nor does Deepica Sarma at The Oberoi. But Tanveer definitely deserves a doubling of his salary because of the effort he invests in popularising his hotel!
The PRs also have to contend with another, greater, internal challenge. Their bosses, I know for a fact, are in love with international PR agencies, because they get gora journos on junkets to write glowingly about their host hotels after being wined and dined by the local PR resources. Good publicity in the international media is worth several times more than the money a hotel might spend to get gora journos over -- and the poor local resource who put in 16-hour days to wine and dine the junketeers is forgotten in the afterglow of a splash in the North American and European editions of Conde Nast Traveler.
If the poor local resource manages good local media for free (which is becoming increasingly hard in the time of paid media), the chefs walk away with the credit. If a hotel, however, lands in a mess because of a prostitution ring being busted, or a man deciding to jump to his death from its 17th floor, or an IPL after party going bad, and the name of the place gets mentioned even once, then I would rather be in a deserted island with Osama Bin Laden than be the PR of that hotel.
I have lost count of the number of times PRs have called me to get their hotel's name dropped in a crime story. I have invariably obliged because I believe that if a hotel did not actively aid and abet a murder or a freelance escort, it should be left out of the glare of bad publicity. It should be taken to the cleaners, however, if there's a case of food poisoning or bad service. Of course, in this day and age of the social media and citizen journalism, hotels should give up the fond hope of their fair name not being dragged through the mud in the public domain.
When I first started writing about food, I would be chaperoned by PRs who used to remind me of my Science teachers in school -- of course, I was a young man then and would have surely enjoyed their company now! They oozed sweetness, but they controlled, like mother eagles, access to even the doorman as if he was privy to some state secret.
In those dreary days, I would pray for an invitation to the Taj Mahal Hotel because Vandana Ranganathan (who has since left the hotel industry -- not because of me! -- and even re-married) could at least share stories (never gossip!) about the theatre world, which was her second life. Madhulika Bhattacharya, who would entertain us with her mellifluous voice and her quirky sense of humour, was briefly the light of our lives, first at the ITC Maurya and then at The Park, but then she opted for happy domesticity with my good friend, Aman Dhall, India's foremost wine importer. L. Aruna Dhir was another exception who stood out in the crowd till she opted out, not only because of her exceptional grasp over the English language (she is gifted poet too), but also because of her unfailing sense of humour.
I don't know what has happened, but as the years progress, and the industry grows to unprecedented levels, the PRs are getting younger, sassier and definitely more professional. Some years back, I was particularly impressed by Pallavi Singh, who manages the PR of the two Crowne Plaza addresses in Okhla and Gurgaon, after she passed on information that I had forgotten to add in a restaurant review, and which I had noticed just as the pages were going to bed, at 11 p.m. She was half-asleep, but she called the hotel, got the information and passed it on to me. That, for me, was a wow example of professionalism.
The trio of The Oberoi's PRs -- Silki Sehgal (who I have seen grow in stature, and how!), Deepica Sarma and Mallika Dasgupta -- are textbook examples of professional finesse. Madhur Madaan of the Kempinski Ambience and Nidhi Budhia of Crowne Plaza Rohini get my vote for doing a great job of putting their respective hotels on the mindspace of Delhi-NCR's media-consuming public. Madhur, of course, is lucky to have Vella Ramaswamy as her General Manager -- I always look forward to an invitation to dine with him.
Nidhi Verma of The Leela Ambience Gumrgaon is the other PR whose understated efficiency is complemented by a General Manager (Michel Koopman), an Executive Chef (Ramon Salto Alvarez) and an Executive Sous Chef (Kunal Kapur of MasterChef India fame), who are pros at having the media eat out of their hands. Unfortunately, Reema Chawla, formerly of the Taj Palace and Vivanta by Taj Gurgaon-NCR, has moved on to another line of business. She has always impressed me with her sunny disposition and competence at work. It'll be hard to find a replacement for her.
Before I sign off, and although I have steered clear of PR agencies, I must mention Neeta Raheja and Pareina Thapar's Very Truly Yours, which has a host of F&B accounts. What I like about them is that they create excitement in their communications about the restaurants they handle and their juniors, luckily for us, don't exist in some other universe. Their one-time colleague, Sonali Sokhal, who now has her own agency, Intelliquo, brings to the table that winsome quality. And of course, my last sentence must belong to my favourite upcoming PRs working with impersonal agencies. They are without doubt Muddassar Alvi (Avian Media), Daisy Basumatary (Perfect Relations), Ruchika Gupta (PR Pundit), Zainab Kanthawala (El Sol) and Akshat Kapoor (Goodword). If their tribe grows, journalists won't ever dodge the calls of PRs.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

An Afternoon With Chateau Margaux: Marriage of Kebabs & Fine Wines Isn't Fated to be Doomed

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

VILLA MEDICI, the rooftop banqueting space of The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, came alive on Saturday afternoon with one of the world's finest wines, the warmth and conversations that only such pleasures can inspire, and the re-ignition of an old debate in food and wine pairing. Can Indian food, which can be as complex, textured and flavourful as a full-bodied Bordeaux red, and fine wine make for a good marriage? This was the question at the core of the discussion that was conducted with aplomb by Dhruv Sawhney, CMD, Triveni Engineering, who is without doubt Delhi's wine encyclopaedia and a connoisseur in the true sense of the word (and not in the way it is loosely interpreted today).
FOOD: (From left) Mumbai-based wine importer
Sanjay Menon, Chateau Margaux's managing
director Paul Pontallier, Alexandra
Petit-Mentzelopoulos and Thibault Pontallier
at the wine-and-kebab pairing at Villa Medici,
The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mansingh Road
Before I go on to describe the day's proceedings, where we experienced an extraordinary duet between Executive Chef Amit Chowdhury's kebabs and three wines from Chauteau Margaux, I must say I found the answer I have always been seeking in the concluding observation by Paul Pontallier, Chateau Margaux's managing director and chief architect of its return to glory along with its owner, Corrine Mentzelopoulos.
"A good pairing between food and wine is like a successful marriage," he said. "For a marriage to be successful, one of the partners has to tone down his or her personality. Similarly, for a pairing to work, the food and the wine cannot both have strong personalities." He also had another gem to offer: a happy pairing is all about "matching the pleasure of food with the pleasure of wine". Only a Frenchman could make the experience sound so magical -- and it was indeed so, for we were able to see for ourselves the fallacy of the blanket statement that Indian food and fine wines don't match.
We tasted for ourselves the truth of Pontallier's pronouncement. The miniature galouti kebabs served on baby sheermal, a challenge to match with any wine in the best of times because of the diverse spices (32 in all) these are spiked with, clearly prevailed over the Chateau Margaux 2001, a deliciously well-developed wine whose aromatic finesse and tender tannins may have agreed better with a Dal Makhni.
As you can see, we didn't leave a drop behind!
By itself, the 2001 was a treat for the senses, but once we had the galouti, made without tweaking the spices, the wine disappeared off the palate and the spices, especially the clove, lingered. But the galouti made with mushroom was just right -- maybe because its recipe wasn't an exact copy of the lamb galouti, it had a mellow personality that agreed with the wine, so we were able to savour the kebabs without being denied the pleasure of the wine.
The galouti experience, after two rounds of perfect matches, underlined the challenges of pairing Indian food with the fine wines (or grand vin) of Bordeaux. We were five of us -- acclaimed restaurant critic Marryam Reshii, celebrated sommelier Magandeep Singh, Indian Wine Academy's founder-president Subhash Arora, blogger Karina Aggarwal and Ajay Khullar of India Today Travel Plus -- and our hosts, apart from Pontallier, Sawhney and Chowdhury, were the Taj General Manager Satyajeet Krishnan, Alexandra Petit-Mentzelopoulos, Corrine's younger daughter and head of the India market, Thibault Pontallier, Paul's son and the very well-spoken brand ambassador of Chateau Margaux for Asia based in Hong Kong, and wine importer Sanjay Menon from Mumbai.
We all agreed on three points: the Pavillon Rouge 2003, the estate's second wine, was the clear winner and most Indian food-friendly; you cannot pair spice-heavy food and fine wines whose tannins haven't yet mellowed, so you have to hold back on the spice attack and choose a wine that had opened up; and the best pairing of the day was the one between the Pavillon Rouge 2003 and the zarkhanda kebabs, which had slivers of roasted lamb, prunes and pickled onion co-existing in happy togetherness. Alexandra, who can break into raptures over the paranthas (including one with a chocolate filling) she last had in Mumbai on one of her many private visits to India, assured us that she has only red wines with the Indian food that she cooks very often. "Don't be under the impression that I only drink Chateau Margaux," she said.
I asked Chef Chowdhury what 'zarkhanda' meant. He said he had no idea because chefs most often give names that don't mean anything! Chowdhury, incidentally, was recently included as one of the world's 50 great chefs by the New York-based photographer Melanie Dunea in her well-received book, The Last Supper, where she recorded the food fantasies of her well-known and much-celebrated subjects by asking them what would their last meal on earth be.
The Pavillon 2003, which has a four-centuries-old history, got Thibault talking. He reminded us that France experienced its hottest summer after 1893 in 2003, which isn't good news for any wine, yet it floored us with what his father described as "its combination of strength and gentle sweetness". Thibault pointed out that it was an example of a great terroir prevailing over a bad vintage. He then shared with us a thought to ponder over.
Unlike the grand signature wines of Bordeaux's celebrity estates, the seconds are not only substantially cheaper, but also "you need to wait less to drink it". The Pavillon 2003 was a testimonial to the joys of drinking a second wine of an estate whose signature wine, especially in our restaurants (a point Arora raised in his inimitable no-nonsense way), is miles beyond the means of most mere mortals. "It is a very good introduction to Chateau Margaux," Thibault said, and he wasn't exaggerating.
Before Andre Mentzelopoulos, Alexandra's grandfather, took over Chateau Margaux, Pavillon consumed 70 per cent of the estate's wine grapes and the best 30 per cent was earmarked for the signature wine; today, the wine grapes are divided into three parts -- one third for Chateau Margaux, another third for Pavillon, and the rest is used to make bulk wines. The same selectiveness goes into making the Pavillon Blanc (we tasted the 2009, which stood out because of its amazing perfume and long caress), Margaux's white wine made 100 per cent with Sauvignon Blanc. It was one of the finest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted in many years and it paired like magic with the murgh makhmali seekh and the roasted spinach and corn kebabs on sugarcane skewers.
Unsurprisingly, not more than 60 per cent of the estate's Sauvignon Blanc production, from the 11 hectares reserved for the grape variety, goes into the wine, which translates to 1,000 bottles per hectare; the remaining grapes are sold off cheap to bulk wine producers. As Pontallier Senior emphasised, "It is our business to be the best."
Another point made by Thibault was that 2001 wasn't one of the most famous or the most expensive vintages of Bordeaux, yet we couldn't stop admiring the wine. "You must know how to choose a vintage," Thibault's father said, citing the 2004 for the "unbelievable value" it offered. "Don't only go for the huge vintages," Paul Pontallier, Bordeaux's elder statesman, declared. Those words, for me, summed up the philosophy of buying Bordeaux's fine wines. Don't be a snob and invest all your money only on best-selling wines. Also pick up the less-celebrated vintages because they, like the second wines, are cheaper and open up faster and have the depth to surprise you.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Kebab Date of Chateau Margaux Heiress Revives Memories of Her Late Grandfather's India-Pakistan Connection

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WHEN Alexandra Petit-Mentzelopoulos pairs kebabs with the wines of Chateau Margaux at The Taj Mahal Hotel on Saturday, April 19, she will, perhaps unknowingly, re-establish the old sub-continental connections of her entrepreneurial grandfather, who was responsible for turning around the fortunes of the Bordeaux First Growth.
Owner Corrine Mentzelopoulos and daughter,
Alexandra, who's in India, flank Chateau
Margaux's Managing Director, Paul Pontallier,
at the headquarters of the prestigious Bordeaux
First Growth wine house. On Saturday, April 19,
Alexandra will pair the wine with kebabs at a lunch
at The Taj Mahal Hotel, co-hosted by Delhi's
best-known wine connoisseur, Dhruv Sawhney,
CMD, Triveni Engineering, and the hotel's
General Manager, Satyajeet Krishnan. Image:
Courtesy of

Andre Mentzelopoulos, the son of a Greek peasant, moved to Burma towards the end of the 1930s, in the footsteps of his sister who had married a British Colonel of the Royal Indian Army, with the dream to make a fortune. For the rest of this most interesting story, let me paraphrase an account of Andre's life that I have read in the brilliantly informative website, A Good Nose (
The Japanese invasion of Burma in 1941 botched Andre's plans, so he set out for India through China to pick up the threads of his life. After Partition, fired by the dream of becoming an independent businessman, Andre, by now a fluent speaker of Urdu, moved to newly formed Pakistan, got into the cereal trade with Europe, and started making big bucks. Destiny, though, had other plans for him.
Andre returned to Europe, to Paris, in 1958 to be able to marry and live with Laura, Alexandra's maternal grandmother, whom he met and romanced on a skiing holiday in Switzerland. Laura was firm about not wanting to go to Pakistan. For Andre, it must have been a professional setback, for he was close to the Pakistani ruling class and was a good friend of the future Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Love prevailed and brought him to an unfamiliar country, where he bought and re-energised the Felix Potin chain of grocery stores; sired Alexandra's mother, Corinne, who is today without doubt the First Lady of Bordeaux; and bought Chateau Margaux in 1977.
The celebrated chateau, classified as a First Growth in 1855, and whose famous admirers included the American presidents Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon, was then in a state of terminal decline. The French government, in a fiercely nationalist move that saw a re-run when Vijay Mallya made a bid on Champagne Taittinger, had meanwhile blocked an American attempt to acquire Margaux. The Ginestet family that had owned Margaux since 1934 was in a precarious financial condition and the 1970s were a difficult decade for Bordeaux. Some might have considered the acquisition a foolhardy decision at that point in time, but it dramatically altered the fortunes of the Mentzelopoulos family.
Andre Mentzolupoulos brought on board the famous professor of oenology, Emile Peynaud, to put Margaux back on track. Bordeaux's wine guru invested his entire wealth of knowledge into ever stage of Margaux's, and its second wine Pavilion's, development, till 1990. It was his favourite child and he left his stamp of excellence on the wines that the chateau produced. But the man who gave Margaux its new lease of life passed away suddenly in 1980, when he was only 65. That was when his daughter Corinne, Alexandra's mother, came into the business and together with her mother, Laura, she went about systematically to restore Margaux's old glory, befitting a member of that exclusive club of the five First Growths.
Corinne, who is said to exude Mediterranean warmth, studied Classical Literature as an undergraduate student, went on to get a Master's in Political Science and worked with a leading advertising agency, Havas, before joining Felix Potin. It was his unexpected death, though, that brought her to Margaux, with which she had previously very little to do.
She reconstructed the winery's aging and decrepit cellars and fortuitously, when the process was complete, Bordeaux got one of its most memorable vintages: 1982. It was a great year to announce that Margaux was back in the reckoning. The next year, Margaux got a new estate manager, an erudite young man named Paul Pontallier, to replace the aging Philippe Barre. Corinne and Paul, who is now the managing director of the company, rewrote the Margaux story -- she with her sharp business sense and he with his oenological competence -- and it has seen celebrities as diverse as the U.S. basketball star Michael Jordan and former Chinese President Hu Jintao visit the chateau to partake of its history and its superlative wines.
In 1993, to reduce the burden of managing a thriving business single-handedly, Corinne got the Agnelli family, which owned Fiat, to acquire a 75 per cent controlling stake in Margaux. When in 2003, the Agnellis announced that they were preparing to sell that stake, Corinne bought it back and reclaimed the legacy that her family has been jealously guarding since 1977. It is into this tradition that Alexandra, the youngest of Corinne's three children, was inducted in the autumn 2012.
Margaux is certainly not the first First Growth to make a serious attempt to pair with Indian cuisine. Wine snobs may shudder at the thought, but some years back, at the initiative of Frederic Engerer, President of Chateau Latour, the venerable First Growth hosted Hemant Oberoi, Grand Master Chef of the Taj Group, to perfect the match between Indian food and the fine wines of Bordeaux. Will Margaux and kebabs make a good match on Saturday? Watch this space to find out all about it.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

As The Oberoi New Delhi Prepares for Golden Jubilee, Rare Vintage Pictures & A Sweet Personal Memory

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

Baan Thai opened in 1992, a year before Thai Pavilion in
Mumbai, making it the country's first Thai restaurant.
Before it became Baan Thai, it used to be India's first
Spanish restaurant named Esmeralda. It introduced
Delhi to the pleasures of sangria. Baan Thai had a short life
and eventually made way for a spa. Read this short piece 
from India Today dating back to 1993 to figure out how 
much our palate has evolved in all these years.

The Moghul Room, photographed in 1976, had a troubled
history. Its entire staff was filched by ITC when the Maurya
came up around the same time. ITC's then chairman, A.N.
 Haksar, it seems, not only preferred to hire senior executives
from The Oberoi  (notably, Anil Channa, Sashi Pancholi and
Virendra Datta), but also was in love with the food served
at Moghul Room. That was just one of the many points of
contention between ITC and the East India Hotels. P.S.

When I put this post up on Facebook, the lady in the picture
was identified by old Oberoi hands as Nandita Ghosh, who
was the guest relations manager of the hotel when this
picture was taken. She was later working for Taj Bengal in
Kolkata. People remember her as being an ageless beauty.

The Taj restaurant, seen here in 1972, served French food, had
tableside garridon service, the master of which was the veteran
waiter Albert Gomes, so you got your fish meuniere filleted in
front of you. Taj had a sprawling backdrop of a  dancing peacock
made with beads, four minarets, and its popular dishes were
duck egg omelette, prawn cocktail, chicken a la Kiev, beef
Wellington and crepes Suzette. Jawaharlal Nehru was
a regular. It made way for La Rochelle in 1988,
and eventually for threesixtydegrees in 2004.   

This picture of Cafe Chinois dates back to 1970, two years
after it was opened at a time when India's humiliation by China
in 1962 was till fresh in people's minds. The restaurant served
Sichuan food and was the first in India to hire Chinese chefs.
One of them was John Wong, who was quite a celebrity in his
time. The only reason he came to India was that he had
related living in Kolkata's Chinatown. Today, any chef
from anywhere in the world would give an arm and a leg
to be hired by an Indian hotel chain.

A view of the beauty saloon at The Oberoi in
1968. No wedding of the city's elite would be
complete without the bride visiting the
saloon for a makeover.
A BUNCH of vintage pictures of The Oberoi New Delhi emailed to me by the lovely Deepica Sarma, the hotel's spokesperson, set in motion a torrent of memories, not the least of which was my recollection of my first accidental food assignment. Back in 1988, when I was still a rookie in journalism, I was fortunate enough to be a minor cog in the wheel of The Indian Express at a time when Ramnath Goenka and Arun Shourie were fighting Dhirubhai Ambani and Rajiv Gandhi respectively. Those were heady days for young journalists, especially after The India Express declared war on the government and Rajiv Gandhi responded with the entire might of the State.
Those were also the days when invitations from five-star hotels (and embassies) were handed over with great fanfare by the news editor (a Jurassic breed in this age of editor-centric journalism) to general beat reporters or sub-editors who performed well. It was quite an incentive at a time when journalists used to be paid peanuts, but were feared and never suspected (unlike today!), and a visit to a five-star hotel was unimaginable luxury. Even our sources (unlike today!) wouldn't entertain us at a five-star hotel!
The recipient of one such invitation -- to Kandahar, The Oberoi's Indian restaurant, which thereafter made way for the Delicatessen -- was Sujata Brown (she added Shakeel to her name after marriage), who used to cover the police and crime. When she got the invite, Sujata, instead of being on top of the world, was in a state of panic. She did not want to go alone, so I gallantly offered to be her partner.
Before that, I had only heard stories about The Oberoi, about how Cafe Espresso (the precursor to The Palms, which eventually made way for Travertino) served the most expensive cold coffee in the city -- as The Oberoi Group's Corporate Chef, the brilliant Soumya Goswami, reminded me, it came for a princely Rs 15 in the 1980s! We would also hear from some of our more fortunate friends about how the Beef Wellington at La Rochelle was made with 'real beef' imported from Scotland -- 'real beef', they would insist, for Angus was still a foreign name.
Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi had started building the iconic hotel in 1962, but he soon ran out of money. He was advised then to approach the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which by the way is now headed by an Indian American, for an injection of funds. The only requirement was that the Rai Bahadur would have to tie up with an American hotel chain and that's how the InterContinental came into the picture.
The InterContinental management team turned around the place and organised it along the lines of an American hotel. When it opened its doors in 1965, which explains why the countdown to the golden jubilee celebrations has started, it had many firsts to its credit. The Oberoi New Delhi was the first hotel in the country to set up an electronic telephone exchange, introduce 24-hour room service, provide hot water round the clock, and have piped natural gas in its kitchens. It was also the first hotel in our city to employ women to operate the telephone exchange.
Unsurprisingly, The Oberoi New Delhi soon became the benchmark-setter for the country's hospitality industry. Goswami, who joined the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development in 1993 and has emerged as the group's star in the last 21 years, is not exaggerating when he says it has taught generations of hoteliers "the finer aspects of luxury hoteliering". It was Abhijit Mukherji, Executive Director of Taj Hotels, who first pointed this out to me, much to my surprise, in an interview which I carried in HT City. The Oberoi New Delhi, he said (he was then the much-celebrated General Manager of The Taj Mahal Hotel in the Capital), is a "hotelier's hotel" because it has taught hospitality professionals the fine art of attention to detail.
The same sentiment was shared with me recently by Ranjan Bhattacharya, Managing Director, Country Development & Management Services, whose record of becoming the youngest general manager of an Oberoi hotel (at 25, he was heading the group's Srinagar hotel) remains unbroken. He recalled how he had met the East India Hotels Chairman, P.R.S. 'Biki' Oberoi, some days back and he said to him, "Do you realise what an unbeatable institution you have created?" I couldn't help but be affected by that feeling of awe.
You must be wondering what happened to my first assignment at The Oberoi New Delhi. Well, here is the rest of the story. On the appointed day, at the appointed hour, we took an autorickshaw from Express Building and set off for The Oberoi. Our first shock came at the main gate. We were stopped by the guard outside and told gently but firmly that autorickshaws were allowed only through the hotel's service entrance. My first arrival into The Oberoi New Delhi therefore was through the service entrance.
Once we entered the hotel, Sujata (with whom I had the privilege of working again at Mail Today) and I were given the importance due to journalists from the city's second most read (The Times of India used to be a poor third in those days) but most respected (The Hindustan Times was then regarded as a rag read only by Lajpat Nagar traders!) newspaper. We were greeted by a sweet PR person (we all loved her and when she passed away one night in her sleep when she was not even 30, she left us in a state of shock).
Her natural warmth made us shed at once whatever 'we are journalists' attitude we may have had. We were talking as if we were old friends, but a real surprise awaited me when we entered Kandahar. I was greeted at the door by an old schoolmate who was not exactly a model citizen in our callow teens. He said he had joined The Oberoi as an apprentice right after school (I believe the programme is now called STEPS) and the chef who cooked for us was Pankaj Mehra, who, I learnt to my shock the other day from L. Aruna Dhir, is no longer in this mortal world. I don't remember what I ate, but I haven't forgotten my shock when Sujata asked me, a couple of days later, to write the review, which was on page the very same evening.
I had never cooked in my life and I had never written about food. But Sujata had some major crime story to do and I was on morning shift, which meant my evening was free, so, kicking and screaming, I sat down to write the review. I did not take a byline because I was so uncertain about what I had written. The next day the PR person, whose name I just can't remember, called me up to thank me profusely for the review. She had been informed by the ever-gracious Sujata about its real author.
I could not believe my luck. I was being complimented for a review on a subject I had no clue about! I hope I got the spelling of 'galouti' right, I remember asking her! Little did I know then that food, literally, would become the source of my daily bread.

Kwality's Corporate Chef Sultan Mohideen Eyes Guinness World Records with 72-Kilo Paneer Tikka

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

Kwality Group's Corporate Chef
G. Sultan Mohideen, who served
a long list of VIPs during his stint
with ITC Hotels, created history
by cooking a 72-kilo paneer tikka
at a Delhi farmhouse on April 12
IT IS chicken tikka masala (CTM) that's been making history. Back in 2001, the then UK foreign secretary Robin Cook declared it to be "a true British national dish". More recently, in 2009, Pakistani-born British MP Mohammad Sarwar tabled a motion in the House of Commons seeking protected geographical status for Glasgow's CTM.
Now, it's time for the rise of the underwhelming paneer tikka. Kwality Group's Corporate Chef G. Sultan Mohideen, who has also written a Ph.D. thesis on the Indo-French cuisine of the court of Tipu Sultan, produced what he claimed was the world's largest paneer tikka on Saturday.
Mohideen started his quest for the paneer tikka Holy Grail in the afternoon, in the presence of a jury consisting of, among others, a magistrate, an inspector of weights and measures and the well-regarded chef Sudhir Sibal of the ITDC.
By the end of the day, after Mohideen had cooked the monstrous 72-kilo block to perfection in a custom-made tandoor with a diameter of 4 feet and cut it into 1,650 pieces (each a 1.5-inch square) at a Chhattarpur farmhouse, he was confident that his feat would qualify for the Guinness World Records.
The chef started working towards the paneer tikka world record some time back by first getting a fabricator to develop a mould to produce the humongous block, which he sexed up with spices. He also got giant skewers made to hold the block in the tandoor, which had 50 kilos of coal burning, and these were supported by heavy-duty chains operated by a pulley.
The mould came with a sliding door so that the block of paneer could be rolled out without much fuss. And to ensure the flavours were distributed equally down to the core of the block, Mohideen injected the marinade into it five to six hours before undertaking the challenging task of cooking it.
Commenting on the feat, Indian Accent's celebrated master chef, Manish Mehrotra, said no one had ever attempted to cook such a big block of paneer, so it was indeed deserving of a place in the Guinness World Records.
Monish Gujral, Moti Mahal's Brand Custodian, said the chef couldn't have chosen a more appropriate dish. "Paneer tikka remains the most ordered starter in any North Indian cuisine restaurant," Gujral said. Each of the 150-plus Moti Mahal's Tandoori Trail restaurants, he added, sells, on average, 25-30 portions of the dish every day. Mohideen said the 70-plus-year-old Kwality restaurant in Connaught Place, which is famous for its Pindi chhole-bhature, seekh kebabs and tomato fish, moves an average of three kilos, or 100 pieces, of paneer tikka a day.
The hara bhara kabab follows the paneer tikka in the popularity sweepstakes, according to Gujral. The record-chasing chef, though, believes tandoori mushroom tikkas and bharwan aloo follow in the pecking order.
Mehrotra shares Gujral's bullish sentiments on the paneer tikka. "It gives vegetarians a sense of getting a bigger bang for a buck," he said. "They see it to be a product whose value is equivalent to that of a chicken preparation." In the case of the other vegetarian preparations, they get the feeling that they are paying a lot more than they should. The humble paneer tikka has finally found the pride of place its fans would like  it to have.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

FORTUNE COOKIE: The Long and Eventful Journey of Our Chaiwallahs

In the season of political chaiwallahs, a lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched book takes us back to the days of the pioneers who gave us our chai. This is my column, Fortune Cookie, which appeared in the Op-Ed page of Mail Today on April 10, 2014, Delhi's election day. 

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

THIS IS the season of the chaiwallah. Mani Shankar Aiyar may not consider the tea business to be good enough to produce a prime ministerial candidate, but India is the world's second largest producer of tea, rolling out 1.11 billion kilograms of tea. And we consume a fifth of the tea that the world produces.
Rekha Sarin and Rajan Kapoor's encyclopaedic
book, Chai: The Experience of Indian Tea (Niyogi
Books; Rs 1,995), is a riveting read studded with
information. Enjoy it with a cup of your favourite
chai! Image: Courtesy of
The Indian side of the tea story was waiting to be told with all the colour and the chutzpah associated with the industry, but the previous accounts of it, by corporate historian D.K. Taknet and tea auctioneer Prafull Goradia, weren't the most riveting reads. Chai: The Experience of Indian Tea (Niyogi Books; Rs 1,995), by freelance writer and floral decorator Rekha Sarin and businessman and award-winning photographer Rajan Kapoor, therefore, comes like a refreshing whiff of (what else?) a nicely brewed Darjeeling First Flush.
Brilliantly produced and lavishly illustrated, Chai travels back and forth in time, blending history with the present. It starts by taking readers on a pan-Indian journey, making us savour tea laced with peppercorns and sometimes nutmeg in Kerala, or the khade chammach ki chai (the tea is said to have so much sugar that the spoon can literally stand in the cup!) served at the Irani restaurants of Hyderabad, or the tea that accompanies a meal of aloo parantha and dal tadka with eggs at Kolkata's Russel Punjabi Dhaba, or the milk-laden expressions of Brooke Bond Super Dust that draw hundreds daily to Moosa Tea Stall at the old Fort St George in Chennai.
'India Runs on Chai', declares the tag line of Chai Point, the hugely successful tea delivery service conceived by Harvard Business School alumnus Amuleek Singh Bijral and mentored by his professor, Tarun Khanna. After reading Chai, you'll be struck by the irony of this fact, for the East India Company was initially most reluctant to recognise the fact that tea was growing in the wild in Assam and that the Singhpo tribe had been drinking tea forever, a discovery made by Robert Bruce, a Scottish tradesman, on a tip-off from a local nobleman, Maniram Dutta Barua, in 1823.
The Company was happy earning heaps of silver out of Chinese tea, which it exchanged with opium grown in India. Britain fought two Opium Wars (1839-42; 1856-58) to protect this nefarious trade, but then, China started growing opium and soon became the world's largest producer of the poppy. In all this, the gainer was Indian tea, because first the Company and then the British Raj saw in it the means to counter the Chinese tea monopoly.
The tautly edited book glides through history to bring to life the drama behind the rise of chai: the pioneering efforts of Charles Alexander Bruce, Robert's brother, to propagate Assamese tea; the formation of the Assam Company, the world's first tea enterprise, with Rabindranath Tagore's grandfather, 'Prince' Dwarkanath, on the board of directors, in 1839; the hanging of Maniram in 1858 for daring to plant tea in competition to the British entrepreneurs; Scottish botanist Robert Fortune's successful attempts to sneak into out-of-bounds Chinese gardens and filch 20,000 plants of the best black and green tea for Darjeeling; and the hazardous journeys and back-breaking hardships faced by the early planters: they had to store rice, for instance, in their socks and hang them on the walls to prevent their food from being eaten away by rats.
No challenge, though, was big enough to prevent tea from becoming the massive enterprise it eventually turned out to be. Rosheswar Barua became the first Indian to establish and own six tea estates. Marwaris such as Senai Ram Lohia, travelling on camel back and on foot from Ratangarh in Rajasthan, reached Dibrugarh in Assam as far back as 1861, because they were told "there's gold growing there". These are the chaiwallahs who created the national enterprise. From Dibrugarh to the Nilgiris and Munnar, to the foot of the Dhaulagiri in Kangra, this is one flavourful ride you must take with a cup of chai by your side.

IF YOU haven't hosted a home appreciation session dedicated to single malts, you cannot claim your bragging rights. This is the new fad going viral around the country, as single malts gain new followers in Tier II and III cities, such as Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Pune and Kochi.
Home appreciation sessions dedicated to single
malts are the new style statements, according
to Rajiv Bhatia, Director, William Grant & Sons,
 the makers of Glenfiddich 12YO

The most prominent Indian face of Scotland's single malts industry, and a member of the exclusive club of Keepers of the Quaiche, Rajiv Bhatia, shared this information with me on the day he was going to give away's Best Emerging Artist Award 2014 to Chetnaa Verma. Being a Delhiite and having just set up the India office of William Grant & Sons, makers of the best-selling single malt, Glendfiddich 12YO, Bhatia seemed to be prepared with an answer when I asked why international alcoholic beverage heavy hitters, from Diageo and Pernod Ricard to Moet Hennessy, were setting up Indian operations.
"The market is sufficiently large for companies like ours to invest in India," he said, pinpointing three reasons for the consumption of single malts becoming the new middle-class statement of upward mobility: growing international travel; success of the arrival lounge duty-free stores (buoyed by the response, William Grant India has unveiled its exclusive Cask Collection at T3); and the proliferation of upscale retail outlets that stock premium liquor brands. Back in 1907, Charles Gordon, a founder of William Grant & Sons, travelled across India to sell Scotch to the maharajas. His successors have cast their net wider.

WHEN the Yo! China promoters -- Ashish Kapur, Ajay Saini and Joydeep Singh -- launched dimsumbros not long ago, I remember asking them whether a single-specialty restaurant could do well in a market that swore by 'multi-cuisine'. Kapur, the most articulate of the three, reasoned that the phenomenal popularity of the dim sum served at Yo! China outlets gave them the confidence to launch dimsumbros at Ambience Mall, Gurgaon.
Ironically, the counter on the Yo! China website that used to track dim sum consumption at the outlets stopped working after reaching the 10,000,007 (ten million and seven) mark many months ago, but dimsumbros, despite its failed expansion to New Friends Colony, has struck a responsive chord with Delhi/NCR's diners with such winners as the Almond Prawns with Wasabi Mayo, Delectable Salmon Roll and Scallop Sui Mai with 'Caviar' (more likely, flying fish roe!).
Dimsumbros has democratised the dim sum lunches that have become an institution at Taipan, The Oberoi's rooftop Chinese restaurant, and at Royal China, Nehru Place, where regulars order dim sum platters without even looking at the menu. Set'Z at DLF Emporio, meanwhile, can claim credit for creating a loyal market for cheung fun, the light yet flavourful rice noodle rolls. And soon, yet another dim sum-only restaurant, Dim Cha, will lift its shutter for what its 20-something owner expects to be a surge of humanity at the N-Block Market, Greater Kailash-I.
Delhiites seem to love their dim sum, which is exactly why Dharmesh Karmokar, a Mumbai-based food consultant and serial restaurateur, has launched a dim sum menu with 100 offerings at Nom Nom, the sprawling Pan Asian restaurant promoted by B.K. Modi at The Ashok. We not only have more choices than before, but restaurateurs like Karmokar now travel the extra mile to make sure they don't duplicate the momos that the cottage industry of roadside sellers hawks across Delhi. They have the right steamers and use the appropriate flour.
The menu at Nom Nom, which introduces squid, octopus, emu meat and even eggs stuffed with fruit to good effect, shows where the dim sum business is headed. Dim sum, without doubt, is this season's khao suey.