Saturday, 28 June 2014

DINING OUT: Summer Menu Lifts Le Cirque New Delhi to a New Stratosphere

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WHAT: Summer Menu at Le Cirque
WHERE: The Leela Palace New Delhi, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri
WHEN: Dinner only
DIAL: (011) 39331390
(The restaurant doesn't levy service charge)

WHEN Le Cirque first opened on the rooftop of The Leela Palace New Delhi at Chanakyapuri, I went against prevailing wisdom and trashed its tired Franco-Italian menu, which, I discovered, was more or less the treatment being meted out to it by critics at the restaurant's birthplace, New York City. It was at this time that someone alerted me to the till-then undiscovered talent of Abhay Singh 'Mickey' Bhoite, the restaurant's Gujarati-born Italian executive chef. He could do much more than just replicate the mother restaurant's menu.
Mickey Bhoite, Le Cirque's
Chef de Cuisine, has proved to
be a fine orchestrator of the
unusual -- jasmine-smoked
scallops and pan-seared foie
gras with jamun confit, anyone?
Mickey grew up in Tuscany and worked at some of the world's best-known Italian restaurants before being handpicked by Le Cirque's Grand Old Man, Sirio Maccioni, to come over to Delhi. On arrival, Mickey at once attracted notice with his spiky hairstyle and sunny disposition. And stories started circulating about his lifelong love for venomous snakes (his collection of 60-plus of these slithering creatures back home in Italy is now in the custody of his mother), his passion for motorbikes and football (AC Juventus has his unwavering loyalty), and, as you'd expect from a chef of his standing, his mastery over contemporary gastronomic techniques such as sous vide, or  slow cooking in a water bath to ensure uniform cooking and protect the sanctity of the essential juices of meats. But we got to see very little of Mickey's repertoire.
Not any longer. Le Cirque's recently unveiled summer menu retains the popular classics such as the Porcini Consomme, Caesar Salad (with sunny side-up egg toast), Sirio's Pasta Primavera, Bistecca alla Fioentina (prepared with a chunky Angus T-bone steak), and Lobster Risotto, but it allows Mickey and his deputy, Federico Pucci, the freedom to give their creative instincts a free run. The formula seems to be working, for the restaurant, despite its steep prices, is forever full. The last time I was there, the celebrity diners included Captain Amarinder Singh, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, his party colleague, Louise Khurshid, who was celebrating her promotion as senior citizen, the Iraqi ambassador, who had come with friends, and Kapil and Romi Dev, who were with an eclectic group at yet another private dining room.
Mickey loves to marry tastes and textures into seamless gastronomic experiences with the confidence that comes only when a chef understands his ingredients well. I asked him, for instance, about why he feels the need to import aubergines from France, and his reply made sense to me, despite his lengthy carbon footprint. Indian vegetables can be very temperamental -- sometimes, they taste like the best in the world; at other times, they are just not right. This can be extremely frustrating for a chef whose reputation is built upon consistency.
What I admire about Mickey is his memorable little creative touches, like presenting Asparagus Soup with buttermilk foam and salmon roe, or Wild Forest Mushrooms with parsnip puree, fava beans and hazelnuts, or Double Cooked Mozzarella with figs, arugula, aged  balsamic vinegar and  strawberry gazpacho (how cool!). His killer app, though, is the Pan Seared Foie Gras with perigordine sauce (a must for a Beef Wellington), caramelised peach, summery jamun confit (this is a touch of genius!) and toasted brioche. And Mickey's scallops come delicately jasmine-smoked, an idea that carries stamp (as does his Masala Tea Tiramisu).
Mickey brings an element of surprise to each dish, but the standouts are Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi (with spicy carrot reduction, caramelised onion and spinach cracker), Lamb CĂ´telette in Grissini Crunch (with cocoa butter, which is another inspired choice, like using grissini for crumbs, potato and roasted garlic mash, plus a mint and onion sauce in the style of the Argentinean 'chimichurri'), and Olive Oil Poached Black Cod (drizzled with fresh tomato and parsley guazzetto, or slow-cooked, sauce and burnt eggplant 'pestato'). A world of influences congregate on the plate and Mickey orchestrates this gastronomic symphony with the elan of a Zubin Mehta.

This restaurant review first appeared in Mail Today on Friday, June 26, 2014.
Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers

Thursday, 19 June 2014

FORTUNE COOKIE: How Delhi Became India's Gourmet Capital

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

DELHI is experiencing an efflorescence of dining like it has never seen before. Today, it can lay claim with justification to the mantle of being the country's 'gourmet capital' -- a crown that Mumbai regarded as its birthright.
Rahul Akerkar (right), seen unwinding with his
star executive chef, Jaydeep Mukherjee, is yet
another established Mumbai restaurateur (after
AD Singh, Riyaz Amlani and Jay Singh) who
has recognised the potential of Delhi, which
he describes as a "well-heeled, well-travelled,
consuming market".
I am using 'gourmet' not in the stuffy sense of the word, but to signify an informed interest in good food, irrespective of its provenance, whether from a hole in the wall that has stood the test of time or from a white-tablecloth restaurant that is the rage of the season. Delhiites like to eat and spend good money on food (as Mumbai's favourite restaurateur Rahul Akerkar of Indigo once described the city me, "Delhi is a consuming market, a well-heeled market"). And can they be opinionated about food and hold forth on it (mostly intelligently) for hours!
Go to Facebook and you'll see in abundance this side of Delhi. And just as you start thinking that you've seen the last of the food groups on Facebook, another one pops up with its own fan following. There are people who deride these culinary churnings as exercises in narcissism, as outpourings of extremely boring people who live in some la-la land, but isn't that true of people who are passionate about politics, films and sports?
Delhi's long march from the days when it used to be derided as the Republic of Butter Chicken is being reflected in the new wave of restaurants thriving across the city and now, increasingly, Gurgaon. I remember AD Singh, the brain behind the national success of Olive Bar & Kitchen, saying to me in 2004 that "Delhi goes to a restaurant to eat; Mumbai, to see and be seen." He was very nervous, in fact, before opening Olive Bar & Kitchen in Mehrauli, despite the success of its philosophy of laidback fine-dining in Mumbai, because he was certain Delhiites would judge the new restaurant primarily on what they got to eat, not the looks or the vibes. The city's fabled love of good food, and the lengths it can go to be adventurous, is mirrored in the new restaurants mushrooming all over, powered by imaginative young restaurateurs such as Zorawar Kalra, whose Farzi Cafe is the most anticipated restaurant launch scheduled for July.
Delhi was the country's first city to have a Spanish and a Thai restaurant with expat chefs -- Esmeralda (1986) and Thai Pavilion (1992), respectively, at The Oberoi -- but these turned out to be flashes in the pan. Its love for the unfamiliar and the authentic, this time round, is here to stay and get more intense as more restaurants open to cater to this gastrolust.
Delhi today has in Indian Accent the country's finest 'Inventive Indian' restaurant. It has India's first and only conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, which was started by Varun Tuli, whose calling card is his commitment to his calling, some eight or so years ago after he had just returned from higher studies at an American university. Delhi has also become the second home to regional cuisines -- from stalwarts such as Oh Calcutta, Punjab GrillCity of Joy, Saravanah Bhawan and Delhi Karnataka Sangha to newbies like Carnatic Cafe (New Friends Colony) and Yeti: The Himalayan Kitchen (Greater Kailash-II, M-Block Market), to the north-eastern quartet of Jokai (Assam Bhawan), The Nagaland Kitchen and Rosang Cafe (Green Park Extension), and Dzukou (Hauz Khas Market), to the Cyber Hub Gurgaon's quartet of Made in Punjab, Soda Bottle Opener Wala, Dhaba by Claridges and Zambar, and Bernardo's, Delhi-NCR's lone flag-bearer of Goan food a little farther away.
This passion to go regional now expresses itself even in global cuisines showcased in the city. Before Neung Roi opened at the Radisson Blu Plaza, Mahipalpur, did anyone care about the geographical divisions of Thai cuisine? Or did anyone have the foggiest on Emilia-Romagna till Artusi opened at the city's new foodie destination -- M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-II -- and popularised the region's cuisine? Today, we have what no one would have wagered on not even five years ago -- a thriving French restaurant (Rara Avis), a second outlet of the Spanish eatery Imperfecto, two more chef-driven restaurants to give the grande dame Diva company (Nira Kehar's Chez Nini and Julia Carmet De Sa and Jatin Mallick's Tres), and a neighbourhood Japanese restaurant (Guppy by Ai). Welcome to the Gourmet Capital!

IT'S A great feeling to be able to sit below a Metro line and have a fine meal without being shaken by the rattle and rumble of trains, looking out to a garden shielding you from the bustle of one of the city's busiest commercial complexes -- Nehru Place. I was at Fio Cookhouse & Bar, smacking my lips after a soul-warming portion of broccoli raviolo soup, in Epicuria, the country's first community food mall inside a Metro station.
Fio Cookhouse & Bar, without
doubt, is the finest restaurant
at the successful Epicuria
food mall at Nehru Place 
The brainchild of entrepreneur Vivek Bahl, Epicuria has transformed the Nehru Place Metro station into a destination. And with four lead attractions besides Fio -- the hugely popular nightclub Flying Saucer, Starbucks, Karim's and India's first Benihana (despite mixed reviews!) -- it has brought home the idea of dining at a Metro station. Epicuria, thankfully, will soon have three or four clones across Delhi, starting with the Airport Metro station at Connaught Place.
Fio at Epicuria turned out to be a real discovery, for I had last visited the original restaurant at the Garden of Five Senses in Said-ul Ajab, and was piqued by its attempt to balance Indian and Italian menus. The combination seems to have worked for its owner, Vineet Wadhwa, a 1980 graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa (New Delhi), who spent his green years in the hospitality business under the tutelage of A.N. Haksar, ITC's first Indian chairman.
At Epicuria, Fio is a tad more Italian with a food library look. Its collection of culinary books neatly stacked in towering racks accentuate the sense of walking into a retreat where food for physical sustenance competes with food for the mind. After 11, though, the place transforms into a party zone for the hip and young where new genres of music rock the scene.
I haven't checked out Fio's desi menu, but sharing the chef's table, I was won over by the peri peri olive chicken noisette and the petit roesti (a nifty cocktail snack) loaded with butter beans, portobello mushroom, artichoke, caramelised onion and cheese phyllo, followed by the basil lime steamed fish with balsamic butter, the forest mushroom risotto with asparagus broth, and finally, the unforgettable Viennese chocolate mousse.

A NUMBER of tall buildings have natural beehives, but it takes a manager who thinks out of the box to turn one into a tourist attraction, which is what has happened to the beehive thriving on the ledge overlooking a glass pane on the 11th floor of Pullman Gurgaon Central Park.
To draw attention to the beehive, the hotel has put up a plastic sign on the window, which tells us, among other things, that a beehive can produce up to 27 kilos of honey in a good year. I doubt if anyone has ever attempted to extract honey out of the beehive tucked away in a corner of the hotel's exterior wall that even a spiderman would find hard to negotiate, but it has become a tourist magnet.
Not a guest passes by without shooting a picture of the beehive, or taking a selfie with the beehive appearing to rest like a crown on top of the head. Touches like these can make even anonymous corners of hotels become conversation points.

This column first appeared in Mail Today on June 19, 2014. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Anamika Singh's Iced Teas With A Twist Pair Well With Tanveer Kwatra's Symphony of Mangoes

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

ANAMIKA SINGH infuses passion into tea and Tanveer Kwatra has mastered the art of turning everyday food into extraordinary creations. When the two announced that they were coming together on what turned out to be a rain-swept afternoon at Sen5es, the all-day restaurant at Pullman Gurgaon Central Park, there was bound to be some serious gourmet action.
Salmon ceviche on toasted bread with chilli
roasted coriander and mango salad.

All images courtesy of Anamika Singh. 
So, I rushed from a food tasting at Fio Cookhouse and Bar at Epicuria, Nehru Place, where I was over-indulged by the naturally hospitable Vineet Wadhwa, sleeping through the one-hour drive (the Anakena Sauvignon Blanc had had a soporific effect!). The nap had a miraculous effect on my senses, as did Anamika's natural warmth and the presence of a number of friends, including the accomplished bloggers Parul Pratap Shirazi (The Shirazine) and Nachiketa Chandra (The Variable Nachiketa). Together, these multiple good influences prepared me for the treat ahead.
Warm and buttery scones packed with raisins
and served with a delectable mango marmalade
And what a treat it was. I have often wondered if there were ways of having iced tea apart from falling back on the instant-use concoctions flooding the market, but Anamika, who has turned Anandini Himalaya Tea at Shahpur Jat into a destination for connoisseurs, showed us the immense  possibilities of a drink with a huge potential in India. With Anamika working really hard to promote her Anandini Tea Club, and with some of the city's leading restaurants backing her initiative (she last did an event at Guppy by Ai), I'm sure it'll happen faster than we can imagine.
Tea Sommelier Anamika Singh (second from
right) and Pullman Gurgaon Central Park's
Executive Chef Tanveer Kwatra pose for a
photo-op with the Sen5es team and
Anupama Khanna Mukerji (in maroon sari)
She first served a green tea with mangoes, peaches and ginger (the third ingredient uplifted the flavour profile, releasing it from the burden of predictability). Then came a fuller-bodied autumn flush tea with fresh lychees and chilli, followed by the most popular aam panna with green tea and black salt -- it may have been a delightfully unusual combination, but the balance of flavours was so delicate that it instantly won our heart.
Kwatra, meanwhile, had laid out a delectable spread centred around mangoes. When I dug into his reinterpretation of the palak patta chaat with quinoa, pine nuts and mango salad, I knew the best was yet to come. The guests were drooling over the BBQ pork and raw mango taco, I loved the ceviche of salmon on toasted bread with chilli roasted coriander and mango vinaigrette.
My other favourites were the mango rice pudding (a preparation I won't forget in a hurry) and raisin-studded scones served with mango marmalade. I could have had a jar full of that mango marmalade! People around me were 'just loving' the smoked chicken and rocket sandwich, and I was eyeing the Mango Danish and Mango Swiss Rolls, but my stomach was working at a '110 per cent load factor'!
With the mango season in full bloom, having a 'Mangolicious Tea' was a brilliant idea. And if a brilliant idea is executed with perfection, it can only be a symphony of finer tastes.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Coffee, Tea & Nespresso: Bonhomia's Pods Make One Machine, Two Beverages A Reality

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

NESPRESSO users who keep complaining about how difficult it is to get replacement 'pods' (the single-serve capsules that have to be inserted into the machine for a perfect cup of coffee) can now take it easy.
Bonhomia opened its account with two coffee
blends in Delhi-NCR in March. It's now headed
to Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune,
and is all set to roll out its tea pods.  
Bonhomia, a brand of Nespresso-compatible coffee pods, is going places after its March launch in Delhi-NCR, where it is available in Godrej Nature's Basket and Modern Bazaar outlets as well as specialty shops such as Defence Store and The Taste at the Defence Colony Main Market. From next month, the pods, which are produced locally at Okhla, packed in aluminum-lined paper pouches to protect them from extreme heat and humidity, and sold in smartly designed boxes, will be available in stores in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. A box of 10 pods is priced at Rs 350, which makes Bonhomia more expensive than its competition Lavazza and Cafe Coffee Day.
The bigger news is that Bonhomia, by the next month, will also retail English Breakfast and green teas (Darjeeling and Earl Grey are next in the line), making it possible for you to have your morning cuppa ready in 12 seconds without worrying about the leaves being overcooked or the serving temperature not being right. The tea pods have whole leaves, not dust (as in tea bags), and therefore pack in real flavours. This new feature will gladden the hearts not only of early morning risers who hate having to make their own tea, but also of hotels, which now have started putting Nespresso coffee-makers in rooms.
With Nespresso, which controls 85 per cent of Europe's coffee machine market, introducing a low-cost model, priced at £89 in the UK, Bonhomia's promoters are confident that their market can only head in one direction -- north. Nespresso, according to Business Today, has made Nestle Europe's top coffee-seller and its annual revenues exceed $3 billion, powered mainly by 10 million daily refills.
Who, then, are the promoters of this new brand that promises to change the way we approach our early-morning brews? Bonhomia is the brainchild of Kunal Bhagat, an MBA from Insead who has worked with EME/Dar Capital, Bank of America and Barclays Capital in the UK; Tuhin Jain, a Hindu College-XLRI alumnus and Pepsico whiz kid; and Elena Petrova, a marketing specialist from Ireland of Moldovan origin, who's the brand's global marketing head.
Petrova is behind the tantalising names of the Bonhomia lines. Free Love is what she has named the Intensity 4 arabica-dominant coffee and the Intensity 7 line (a mix of arabica and robusta) is called Dark Deeds. The higher the intensity, the greater the body, and the more lingering is the bitter after-taste. Likewise, she has christened the English Breakfast tea (a blend of Assams), Black Pot, and the green tea, Green Peace.
The coffees left an everlasting impression on my palate. I took to Bonhomia instantly after seeing the perfect crema, which is so hard to find in most espressos (even, sadly, in five-star hotels), and the distinctive flavour profile of each coffee. The coffee beans are sourced from Karnataka's higher-elevation plantations, but as Jain points out, the contents of each pod are like a blended whisky -- a mix of coffees from different elevations and different locations delivering the intended taste profile.
Bhagat says Bonhomia brings the best of two worlds to the table. "Everyone associates India with tea, but we are also the world's fourth largest coffee producer -- and our robusta is considered the best around the globe," says the former investment banker and venture funding professional.
His hope is sustained by the 40 per cent growth being clocked year on year by the coffee market in north and west India, and the fact that "innvoation will drive change," even if it means that he has to drink at least 15 cups of espresso a day. The tea pods, according to him, are going to be the "game-changers" by making it possible for one machine to produce two beverages. Will the market wake up to Bonhomia's promise of delivering convenience and quality to Nespresso owners? That, as they say, only time will tell.

Friday, 13 June 2014

DINING OUT: The New Angeethi is Dum Pukht Reborn Minus Pricing Pains


WHAT: Angeethi, an Awadh-Hyderabad restaurant
WHERE: The Village Restaurant Complex, Next to Siri Fort Auditorium,
Khel Gaon Marg
WHEN: Open for dinner only (from 7 p.m. onwards)
DIAL: (011) 26493945; +91-9999955889

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

SANDWICHED between the stranded skeletal remains of Siri Fort, the second of the seven cities of Delhi reputedly built by Alauddin Khilji on a foundation of 8,000 heads of slain Mongol soldiers, and the Asiad Village, Raj Rewal's ode to matchbox housing, bustles a restaurant complex that is famous for Chopsticks, the Chinese restaurant that's never gone out of fashion.
Angeethi, adjoining Siri Fort Auditorium, has
seen a rebirth with a new coat of paint and a new
menu with authentic Hyderabadi and Awadhi
specialities, such as Kakori Kebabs (inset).
Image: Courtesy of K. Asif, Mail Today
Since 1982, the management of the vintage Connaught Place restaurant, Kwality, which is preparing to celebrate its diamond jubilee in the coming year, has been operating this complex with yearly licences from the DDA. Chopsticks has been the evergreen star of the complex, so people haven't really cared much for Tonic, the lounge bar that comes alive whenever there's something happening at the adjacent Siri Fort Auditorium, and Colours 'N' Spice, the pan-Indian restaurant favoured by residents of the neighbourhood colonies.
Angeethi, the fourth name that'll strike your eye when you enter the complex, started out as an ambitious North Indian barbecue restaurant drawing on Kwality's formidable reputation as a purveyor of fine Indian cuisine, but it seemed to have lost the plot down the years. Not anymore, and here's why Angeethi should be next on your must-visit list.
I have always maintained that Dumpukht at the ITC Maurya is Delhi-NCR's finest restaurant in the Indian fine-dining category (the best, without doubt, is Indian Accent and its brand of 'Inventive Indian' cuisine), but like all good things in life, the place is way too (unfairly, I insist) expensive. Lesser mortals with evolved taste buds, and I am happy to report that their number has grown substantially over the years, have been praying for a restaurant that serves the cuisine of the nawabs at commoner prices.
Fortunately for us, the Angeethi menu has been turned around to answer this fervent prayer. The chef who has made this possible is none other than Ghulam Sultan Mohideen, formerly of the ITC Maurya, who must be knowing every square inch of Dum Pukht. He came out unscathed in the first test, making the perfect melt-in-the-mouth Kakori Kebabs with the best Sheermal I have had outside Dum Pukht. The combination would have set me back by Rs 1,600 (minus taxes!) at Dum Pukht, but at Angeethi, you'd pay Rs 515! And I couldn't perceive any difference of taste or experience. This is clearly not food with Kwality's seductive rusticity, but dining with the finesse you'd associate with sepia-tinted Lucknow and Hyderabad.
The Anari Lamb Chops, transformed with pomegranate juice, left a lasting impression on my taste buds, and the Jheenga Dum Nisha, another Dum Pukht classic, measured up to the high standards of the original, but at nearly a fourth of the price (Rs 650 compared with Rs 2,350). Life's pleasures don't always have to be mindlessly expensive! After getting these little beauties to tickle the palate, you'll find yourself in the mood for more.
Start with the Hyderabadi Mutton Dalcha (if you love the characteristic raw mango flavour of this preparation), otherwise stay with the more predictable Kwality Dal, which has been around much before Dal Bukhara was born. Next, you could choose between the Koh-e-Awadh (my favourite recipe with mutton shanks) and the Chicken Korma (I just loved the silky smoothness of the shahi gravy, which complemented the softness of the corn-fed chicken).
And then, departing slightly from the grand old tradition of both Awadh and Hyderabad, ask for a Murgh Yakhni Biryani, instead of Gosht Dum Biryani. I consider chicken and biryani to be irreconcilable foes, but in the hands of Chef Sultan and his team, each piece of chicken bursts with aromatic masala and flavours. Teamed with Mirch Ka Salan, it is the treat with which you'd like to leave Angeethi. But wait, you can't miss the Shahi Tukda, which doesn't come to you table as a soggy toast, but as a bouquet of textures, tastes and aromas. To my horror, I saw it missing on the menu. I hope it was a misprint.

This review first appeared in Mail Today on June 13, 2014.
Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers

The Wine List to Beat All Wine Lists: Spice Market's Sumit & Chiquita Gulati Get It Right

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

SUMIT GULATI has hospitality in his DNA, which is why it is a pleasure to be invited by him. And if the dinner is in the company of Sumit's fellow Les Roches alumnus Samrat Banerjee, whose guest management skills were as much responsible for Indian Accent's success as Manish Mehrotra's wizardry with the ladle (and of course the brilliant marketing and communications of Mukta Kapoor), the pleasure could only get doubled.
Sumit and Chiquita Gulati, the
couple behind Gulati's Spice
Market behind Select Citywalk
in Saket. They met at Les Roches,
Switzerland's leading hotel
management school. 
This blog post, however, is not a self-indulgent piece on a memorable dinner with two friends, but a tribute to the passion with which Sumit, with professional help from Magandeep Singh and his talented deputy, Gurjeet Singh Barry, is promoting wine as an accompaniment to good food at Gulati's Spice Market, Saket. Sumit has proved one more time that an intelligently priced, and engineered, wine menu can become a conversation point among guests, giving a restaurant a renewed marketing boost (and additional revenues to boot!), when its food by itself ceases to be a novelty. We have known this before, but the hospitality industry doesn't see the simple logic of this proposition, blinded as it is by its love for the bottomline. And remember, Sumit, unlike our five-star hotels and many privileged restaurants, doesn't get to buy his wines duty-free.
Sumit is from the family that owns the famous Pandara Road restaurant that carries his family name. His grandfather, Faqir Chand Gulati, uprooted by Partition at the age of 24 from native Gujranwala, used to sell chhole-bhatura from a bicycle at India Gate. He must have been popular because when Jawaharlal Nehru mooted the idea of the Pandara Road Market in 1959, he was the first to be asked to move there and set up his dhaba, which eventually grew into the restaurant we love.
Gulati, the restaurant, earned its reputation from its unforgettable kadhai chicken, but in the 1970s, it turned vegetarian because Faqir Chand's brother (and business partner), Krishna, came under the influence of a religious teacher. Business plummeted, so Faqir Chand and Krishna worked out an arrangement that many of us, who have grown up with Gulati, must personally be grateful for. Krishna opened Krishna Sweets, whose multi-flavoured kulfis and piping hot gulab jamuns, sold today by his grandsons, are must-haves after any meal at the market's many restaurants.
The restaurant is now presided over by Faqir Chand's son, Vinod Gulati, who joined it in 1976 right after getting his B.Com. degree from Bhagat Singh College and managed its transformation from a dhaba to a modern eatery. There was a time when he was an expert at making kadhai chicken at time when he wasn't needed at the till, but now, he's better known as the president of the market association who got NDMC to transform it into a visual showpiece. His restaurant, after a recent expansion, is a 140-seater that feeds 700-800 people a day and its hugely popular lunch-time buffet is a hit among Delhi High Court lawyers. "It's like catering for a marriage daily," says Sumit.
As the scion of a family that has created a Delhi landmark, Sumit could have easily settled into the comforts of managing a business that is running on auto pilot. He teamed up with his wife Chiquita (his Les Roches sweetheart from Mumbai) and launched Gulati's Spice Market with a pan-Indian menu behind Select Citywalk at a building known as Southern Park in 2008.
The Spice Market has shown that you can make
money without overcharging if you have an
intelligently engineered and rightly priced menu.

Fratelli's Sette 2010 is a personal favourite and
it is available at Spice Market at the bargain
price of Rs 1,900 for a 750ml bottle.
It may not be attracting a blaze of publicity, but Spice Market, as I realised during the course of our dinner that started with an unforgettable jamun-spiked shikanjwi, has maintained the Gulati commitment to food you can never complain about, while being inventive at the same time. The restaurant justifiably is well-known for its dum-cooked murgh zafrani kabab, Rajputana sooley, patthar ke kabab, dahi ke kabab, tandoori kathal and a host of other specialities, including my personal favourites -- Hyderabadi kachche gosht ki biryani, laal maas and of course, kadhai chicken.
I was happy therefore to see the restaurant buzzing with guests on a Tuesday. Sumit says he easily manages two seatings -- first, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., which is when the expats, especially Japanese and Korean executives from the Mitsui and Hyundai offices upstairs, and American guests at the neighbouring Svelte, Hilton Garden Inn and Sheraton New Delhi hotels; and second, from 8:30 p.m. onwards, when resident Delhiites start streaming in. I wish now more people come in for the fantastically priced wine list.
Gulati's Spice Market is the first restaurant in Delhi-NCR to introduce 187ml bottles (for Rs 400 each), including the zesty rose, Torres Da Casta 2012 (Garnacha + Carinena; Rs 450), or the hearty red, Torres Coronas Tempranillo 2010, which a couple would find handy, especially if one is into wine and the significant other isn't. There are many 375ml bottles to choose from, including my favourites: Sula Chenin Blanc 2013 (Rs 450; white); Torres Vina Esmeralda (Moscatel + Gewurtztraminer; Rs 950); and Sula Satori 2013 (Merlot + Malbec; Rs 450).
If yours is a table of four (or even two with good absorption power), I would recommend that you order a full bottle (750ml) of Sula Riesling 2013 (Rs 1,000) or the refreshing newcomer to Delhi's wine scene from South Africa, Marianne Natana 2011 (Sauvignon Blanc + Chenin Blanc; Rs 1,700). Among the reds, you'll be spoilt for choice, but my picks are: Fratelli Cabernet Franc + Shiraz 2013 (Rs 950); Fratelli Sette 2010 (a real bargain at Rs 1,900); and Castello Banfi Chianti 2012 (another good bargain for Rs 1,700). The stars of list, though, are the Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Gewurtztraminer 2012 (Rs 3,300), which Sumit and Chiquita discovered on their first anniversary at the Orient Express, Taj Palace, and Joseph Drouhin La Foret Pinot Noir Burgundy 2010 (Rs 2,500). If you're in the mood to celebrate, these are the wines you must ask for, otherwise you can always savour the other wines lined up on this compact and competitively priced wine list.

Friday, 6 June 2014

DINING OUT: Rosang Serves the Seven Sisters on One Platter


WHERE: S-20, Ground Floor, Near Uphaar Cinema, Green Park Extension Market
WHEN: Open from 12 noon to 12 midnight
DIAL: 8447963810 (M); 011-65544411
AVG MEAL FOR TWO: Rs 800 plus VAT, Service Tax and 10% Service Charge. No alcohol.

By Sourish Bhattacharyya
MARY LALBOI, a Kendriya Vidyalaya teacher, and Muan Tonsing, a village postmaster, left their home and careers at Churachandpur, Manipur's largest, ethnically diverse and economically better off district, and came to Delhi in 2003 so that their three children could get a "well- rounded" education and improve their English-language skills. Without jobs or contacts, Mary and Muan teamed up to open a restaurant in Munirka to cater to the growing Manipuri community in the neighbourhood.
A former Kendriya Vidyalaya
teacher from Churachandpur,
Manipur, Mary Lalboi, is the
face of Rosang Cafe. Image:
Arupjyoti Gogoi
It didn't take long for Rosang ('God's Gift') Cafe to become the hangout of the north-eastern diaspora -- mostly young people who come to Delhi to pursue higher education or careers in the hospitality and retail sectors, which would come to a grinding halt without them. Real estate issues saw Mary and Muan move out of Munirka and shift to Hauz Khas Village, where they had to shut shop again because the building from where they operated fell way short of the standards set by the bye-laws.
Rosang Cafe's present address, where it moved this year on January 15, is an unpretentious 850 sq. ft. space, enough to seat 20 people, at the Green Park Extension Market on Aurobindo Marg, in the shadow of the burnt-out shell of Uphaar cinema, opposite the ever-popular Drums of Heaven, and not even 100m from Delhi's other must-visit north-eastern restaurant, Nagaland's Kitchen. The restaurant's menu is a savoury showcase of the cuisines of the Seven Sisters and its whitewashed walls are tastefully decorated with north-eastern artifacts. It has a mezzanine floor as well and it can seat 32 people, but when I went there some time back, this section wasn't yet operational (nor did the restaurant have a liquor licence).
I started my meal with the most refreshing organic passion fruit drink I have had in a long time. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that passion fruit grows in plenty in Churachandpur between April and June. Tender passion fruit leaves are also a part of the unique repertoire of herbs and spices used for cooking across the North-East, the others being bamboo shoots (ideally, they should be wet), black and brown sesame seeds, sun-dried basil seeds, aromatic roots such as onion root, yam and mustard leaves, pith of the banana trunk, and of course, the fiery bhoot jholakia (or raja mircha) chillies.
The Manipuri thali is a no-brainer for those
who don't want to spent too much time
ordering. Image: Arupjyoti Gogoi
Every week, Mary and Muan have these ingredients flown in from Manipur, along with the addictively aromatic wild red rice of the state. Mary's only regret is that she can't serve her home-made beer brewed from this species of rice, but I was happy to have the wild rice 'tea' with a squeeze of lemon, which dramatically deepened the colour of the drink, with the standard accompaniment of jaggery.
Rosang Cafe's pork spare ribs served with the raja mircha chutney are without doubt the best, but I had a point to prove to those who labour under the misapprehension that north-eastern food is all about pork, more pork, and some unmentionable animals. To show the hollowness of this belief, I had the Maron Bora (vegetable pakodas from Manipur that tasted divinely different because of the mix of spices and herbs); chicken liver sauteed with herbs in the Arunachali style; the yummy masoor dal; the no-oil fish curry, Ngatok, which makes you wonder why you need oil in cooking; and yet another no-oil preparation, Aksa Dol, which is essentially chicken prepared with dried yam paste. And yes, how can one forget the accompaniment named Jatilau (lauki) Bengena (baigan) Khaar (filtered banana stem ash)!
Mary explained the preponderance of no-oil preparations in north-eastern cuisines. "Our forefathers would spend two to three days at a stretch hunting in jungles," she said, "so they perfected the art of cooking meats in bamboo hollows using aromatic herbs that grow in plenty in the wild." Talking about the wild, you mustn't leave Rosang without digging the wild red rice kheer cooked with milk, ghee and jaggery. It's a dish you'd serve the gods.

NOTE: This review first appeared in the June 6, 2014, edition of Mail Today. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Indigo Deli Wows Delhi in its Opening Weekend; Its Wafer Thin Pizzas are the Show Stoppers

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

No-nonsense comfort food: Indigo Deli's
Eggs Benedict comes sitting on two
generously proportioned slices of ham
I WAS at Delhi's first Indigo Deli on the opening night with a young man who has spent a considerable length of time in America. It was a night when a freak dust storm had wreaked havoc on the city, turning trees and street lights into mangled skeletons. At Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, where Indigo Deli is located on the third floor, one of the three air-conditioning plants had broken down because of the storm and the roof above Kylin Premier's popular Sky Bar had blown away. Indigo Deli had arrived with a storm in its wake, and as we were to find out later, it has taken Delhi by storm.
My young dinner-mate had said he would judge Indigo Deli by the standards of New York. At the end of the meal, he declared with a little touch of drama: "Indigo Deli has brought New York to New Delhi." I agreed. Like the minestrone soup, which I polished off with the hungry passion of Oliver Twist, Indigo Deli owes its reputation to its ability to serve the simple joys of life without compromising on authenticity.
The pastrami in its Reuben sandwich (the original recipe has corned beef) is cured at the restaurant for 21 days and is teamed up with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, and then grilled in rye bread with Thousand Island dressing and gherkins. It's a New York specialty, though there's also a theory that it was invented by a German immigrant in Omaha, Nebraska.
The bagel and lox is prepared just
the way it is served in New York
I was reading a delightful article on this subject by Craig Claiborne of The New York Times, when I realised that the famous food critic of his generation named his column De Gustibus, which is also the name of the company created by Indigo Deli's first couple, the gregarious Rahul and Malini Akerkar. It reminds us of the famous Latin maxim, "De gustibus non est disputandum" (In matters of taste, there can be no disputes). All gourmets must make this the motto of their life so that they just enjoy food and not split hairs about it!
That's what Indigo Deli lets you do. There's a congeniality about the place that draws you in. It lets you engage in a meaningful conversation with friends as the warm yet unobtrusive waiters, whose smiles come naturally, serve you your order. It is comfort food that you get, but done with care and affection.
The Eggs Benedict sit on a pair of fat slices of ham and nicely toasted English muffins, bathed in a generous dollop of hollandaise. The juicy BBQ chicken in the Seriously Sloppy Joe, which comes in a baguette, complements the molten cheddar and the Deli's priceless mustard -- diverse tastes and textures make a great tag team in each of the Deli's top-sellers. The BBQ sauce works its magic on your taste buds one more time when you order the spare ribs and the meat just melts in your mouth -- perfect with the warm and welcoming corn bread it comes with. Talking about the condiments, each sandwich or burger comes with a little pot of honey mustard on the side that'll make you want to buy the entire stock. Yes, you can buy breads, and more, after you've had a meal at Indigo Deli.
But the show stoppers, without doubt, are the wafer thin pizzas. We ordered the Deli carbonara with crispy sage and molten parmesan and we just couldn't stop drooling over it. At another table, people were behaving in the same way with their pizza topped up with Parma ham, asparagus and scamorza. The menu has been engineered in a way that it gives you multiple reasons to keep coming back -- one time for breakfast, the next time for sandwiches, then for the pizzas and ice-cream, and then for the more serious stuff, like the 250gm chunk of char-grilled filet mignon with red wine sauce.
Akerkar will be flying in and out to inspire his Delhi team ("I'll be busy collecting frequent flyer miles," he says); his A-team from Mumbai is here to ensure that we are not denied the original Indigo Deli experience, so there are more waiters and the service is super-efficient; and Jaydeep Mukherjee, a Taj product who has been with Akerkar for 13 years, has come down to help the kitchen tide over its startup issues. Indeed, Indigo Deli is indulging Delhi. Let's savour our special position while we can, and give Akerkar the rousing welcome he deserves.