Saturday, 18 January 2020

Here’s Why You Should Check Out The Mexican Food Festival at Setz

Of the various international cuisines, Mexican is amongst my favourites. And I often lament the lack of good Mexican restaurants in Delhi. Even if good eateries do open, they don't seem to last very long.

Top: Appetiser Sampler
Bottom L-R: Potato Tacos Dorados; Chicken Tinga Tostadas.

As I had written a couple of years ago, after my interaction with the affable Mexican Ambassador to India H.E. Melba Pria at a food festival organised by the Mexican Embassy in India, there is a lot more to Mexican fare than tacos and burritos. In fact these come under the category of Tex-Mex or Mexican food that initially became popular in North America and spread to other parts of the world. In fact, the cuisine is so rich in terms of ingredients and diversity that it has earned the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The current Mexican food promotion at Setz features Chef Tania’s interpretation of this beautiful cuisine. Being the executive chef at Mexico City’s Fonda Fina, she is in India to showcase some of her signature dishes. Her tantalizing selection includes Potato Tacos Dorados, Molletes, Prawns Aguachile, Tamales, Mole De Olla Lamb, Chicken Tinga Tostadas and more. She has tried to use the Mexican staple, corn, in most of her dishes that combine the wholesome goodness of grandmother-style cooking along with modern techniques and some local ingredients. While she has brought some special chillies with her along with ingredients like avocado leaf that she didn’t think she’d find her, she has also adapted some recipes to use produce that is easily available in India. Instead of using the Mezcal leaf sheet to make mixiotes, for instance, she substituted it with a banana leaf.

Coming to the food: we start with a platter of bite-sized appetisers (this was a sampler size, larger portions are served when you order a la carte), that we are encouraged to eat with our hand. Potato Tacos Dorados are made with soft tortillas that rolled and deep-fried. This is street-style wholesome food, she explains. It is served with fresh cheese and avocado, simple and comforting in every bite. Then there’s mollettes. You may think of this is a hearty cheese toast with the addition of beans and mildly spicy pico de gallo. Mollettes are usually made with a soft bread known as bolillo, but here she used baguette to make it. Since this is the first time I tried, I can’t comment on the authenticity, but it tastes good. And chicken thinga tostada is something that we are familiar with. A thin, crisp corn tortilla topped with chicken, refried beans and sour cream.

Top: Prawns AguachileBottom L-R: Tamales; Mole do olla Lamb. 

Among the mains, we go for the popular Tamale and Mole options. The vegetarian tamale is served fresh out of the steamer. It is like a corndog stuffed with cottage cheese, steamed in banana leaf and served in a piquant caldillo sauce made of tomatoes, onion, garlic and chillies and topped with fresh cheese, sour cream and coriander. Mole de olla Lamb is a delicious lamb rack done to perfection, in a rich and flavourful adobo sauce and served with corn on the cob and grilled zucchini and onions. Every component of this dish is packed with flavour, including the onions! As you may know, Mole is to Mexico what curry is to India. While the most popular mole is associated with a chocolate-based sauce, mole simply is any curry made with chillies and spices. Almost every household thus has its own distinct mole. The chocolate-based mole is the specialty of only one region of Mexico – Oxaca. For this one, Chef Tania used the avocado leaf, and reduced the consistency of the sauce to make it more intense in flavour. The result is a very robust sauce with well-rounded flavours.

And as we often save the best for last, let me finally tell you about Prawns Aguachile. This light and refreshing dish is part of Mexican cuisine, but inspired from the Peruvian classic – ceviche. Typically, prawns are marinated in lime juice and served with refreshing yet piquant sauce made with habanero chillies, cucumber and coriander. Served with freshly made nachos, this one is a star dish that I would urge you to go and try.

Although various insects, including fried crickets tossed with vegetables are also part of traditional Mexican fare, Chef Tania has left them out of this particular menu. What you have on offer though is tasty comfort food, with refreshing flavours.

Venue: SET'Z (Third Floor,) DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.
Dates: 13th-19th January 2020.
Timing: 11 am - 11 pm.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

A Fine Modern Japanese Restaurant in the Heart of Delhi

Yokoso is Japanese for ‘welcome’. With this new restaurant The Lodhi, New Delhi welcomes guests for a modern Japanese dining experience. Helmed by Chef Shubham Thakur who comes armed with the experience of working in the finest Japanese kitchens in the city - Megu and Wasabi – Yokoso showcases meticulously crafted culinary gems integrating authentic Japanese ingredients and locally grown produce.

Chef Shubham’s knowledge of Japanese cuisine and eating culture is extremely impressive. Thus you will do well to try his Omakase, wherein he’ll ask you about your preference of protein and any allergens, after which you will be treated to a culinary extravaganza course-by-course.

Culinary Delight
Top L-R:
Shira Ae; Yellowtail Carpaccio
Middle L-R: Salmon Kale Cups; Tuna Avocado
Bottom L-R: Miso Eggplant; Lamb Chops

Although he brings modern twists to many dishes, Chef Shubham feels that some classics should not be tampered with. We thus start with the traditional Shira Ae, pressed tofu in a sesame sauce. In keeping with the season it is accompanied by some thin slices of fresh cucumber and red radish. This is followed Hamachi Usuzikiri - carpaccio thin slices of yellowtail topped with citric soy and jalapeno to lend a hot kick. Amongst the new creations are salmon kale cups, crispy tuna and pork ribs. While the first is a delicious and healthy rendition of sashimi grade salmon served on a bed of guacamole, encased in cups made of fresh kale, the second is a beautiful flower made of ponzu marinated lean tuna served over crispy shisho leaf. Both these dishes represent Chef Shubham’s understanding of the fine balance of textures and flavours that are intrinsic to Japanese cuisine. Even the Toro Tartare that can easily be drowned in excess mayonnaise or soy sauce is presented with utmost perfection. Here, the fatty tuna belly tartare is accompanied with fresh scallion, flying fish roe, rice puffs to lend some crunch, aromatic mayonnaise and finally drizzled with just the right amount of artisanal soy that lets the flavour of the fish shine above all the rest.

Needless to say, there is an excellent choice of sashimi and sushi, and immense care has been taken to source the best quality seafood in order to serve it raw. If you want to try something different try the Baked Shrimp Sushi. While white soy sheets replace green nori, and rice encases shrimp tempura, topped with chopped shrimp mixed with mayonnaise and flying fish roe and torched before serving to give it a wonderful smokey flavour. Amongst the large plates there’s the ubiquitous black cod with yuzu miso, sea bass with a delicious peppery mustard sauce with wasabi and spring onion oil and a hearty pork kakuni served with barley cooked in the residue of pork juices.

The menu is well thought out and offers a good mix of small and large plates, an impressive choice of noodles and a teppanyaki counter where guests get to interact with the chef and each dish is literally made to order. While there is a range of wines and classic cocktails, sake or Japanese whiskies round of this meal well. And for the finale, tofu cheesecake accompanied by a berry compote and topped with light as air vanilla candy floss is as fun as it is tasty. But if there’s only one dessert that you’d like, do not miss the homemade black sesame icecream.

Sweet Endings 
Tofu cheesecake with vanilla floss; Black sesame ice cream..

Barely a month old, Yokoso is already pulling in diners by word of mouth. Even though we visited on a mid-week evening, there was a buzz in the restaurant and we could hear people gushing about the beautiful creations on their plates.

Yokoso, The Lodhi, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003.
Ph: 011-43633333

Timings: Dinner 7pm – 11.30pm.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

New Restaurant | Delhi’s New It-Spot features Champagne Butlers, Decadent Dining and Sassy Entertainment

The snazzy interiors of The Kimono Club work well for the day and
transform into a trendy night spot in the after hours.

The flight of steps leading down from the main porch of the glitzy Chanakya leads you straight to Delhi’s favourite new luxury dining destination - The Kimono Club! Inside, The Kimono Club wears a plush red velvet kind of look, with high-energy music and modern Geishas sashaying their way through the restaurant, making it quite the it-spot for your nights out.

Designed by ace copywriter-turned restaurant designer, Freddy Birdy, the space combines the glamour of Paris of the 1920s with the buzz of 2019 of Asian cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Deep red luxurious banquettes, vintage Chinese armchairs, old world paintings and antique stained-glass mirrors and lamps with fringes complete the look with shiny disco balls and few swings suspended from the high ceiling. The opulent design has been created to transform the space quickly from a classic lunch venue to a vibrant, pulsating nightspot,” says Ashish Dev Kapur, director, The Kimono Club. The day lets in ample natural light, making it quite perfect for languorous lunches as well. Split between three distinct areas: the dining room, the bar and the outdoor trellis garden that transform to a pulsating nightclub as the evening progresses, there is a 40-feet whiskey bar at one end and a wine wall at the other.

Top: Tuna Tartare
Bottom L-R: Duck Carpaccio; Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun.

But no matter how fun the ambience, we believe that any restaurant is only as good as the food on its table. At the Kimono Club Chef Vikramjit Roy brings to you a huge variety of Japanese and Chinese fare sans any smoke or stories - there is simply beautiful and delicious food. Apportioned as small plates, cold plates, raw seafood and salad bar and mains, the lavish menu includes signature dishes such as, Wagarashi Prawns, Duck Carpaccio, Lobster and Truffle Dumpling, Ganmo Steak Teriyaki (a vegetarian delicacy), Tamari glazed Sea bass in addition to caviar, oysters, lobster and duck that is steamed, stir fried or baked to make the dishes a heavenly delight.

The cold plates.

We’d recommend you to definitely try the wide variety of dimsum. But do not skip the cold and hot small plates that offer a glimpse into what traditional Chinese households serve their guests. Of these, the boiled peanuts in soy and tofu with house soy and crispy shallots are both addictive and you’ll need to remind yourself to stop so that you can sample more of what’s on offer. Another must have is the duck carpaccio with yuzu, soy and fresh orange ice. The most ‘Grammable dish, and equally tasty, is the tuna tartare with miso cream, cheese, tobiko, barley miso and caviar.

Champagne buzzers at every table to order your choice of Bubbly.

While we could go on about the food, it is important to also mention the drinks. When Ashish Dev Kapur and Joydeep Singh open any restaurant the bar is well represented with expertly crafted cocktails, fine wines and rare whiskeys (after all, they are duo behind The Wine Company and Whisky Samba in Gurgaon, The Wine Rack in Mumbai and Antares in Goa). While you will find great cocktails here as well, even with interesting bar takeovers by global bartenders, champagne is the celebratory choice of tipple here. With champagne buzzers on every table you can beckon your Champagne Butler who appears with the Champagne Trolley to serve you a bottle, glass or specially crafted cocktail with the bubbly. And in keeping with the modern Japanese theme there are sake cocktails on offer as well.

Ever since its opening, The Kimono Club is the place in Delhi to see and be seen at.

The Kimono Club, The Chanakya, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.
Timings: 12.00 pm- 12.45 am
Phone: 99107 82198/ 99107 82152

This article first appeared in The Luxury Collection Magazine January 2020 issue.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

New Restaurant | Head to This Aerocity Restaurant For Fabulous Food and Great Cocktails

La Roca is designed like a cave.

Even with all the new restaurants opening a dime and dozen in the Capital, the food at most of them leaves much to be desired. With copy-paste recipes, the menus are hardly original and the worst part is that even with the copied recipes many times the food simply doesn’t taste good! La Roca, at the vibrant Worldmark 1 at Aerocity comes as a breath of fresh air. Its vibe lends itself perfectly to a rocking nightspot, yet, enough attention has been given to the food. In keeping with the current trend, there is plenty of choice of international fare, a good balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options and almost everything we tried tasted good on the palate and satiated the senses.

Clockwise from Top Left: Beetroot and Kale salad; Chicken
with Harissa glaze; Tres Leches; Paneer Shashlik.

The restaurant opened almost a year ago as a global tapas bar. While the food was good, it has now gone up several notches and instead of just tapas it includes an equally extensive choice of world cuisine. We start healthy with the beetroot and kale salad. It sits on a bed of creamy goat cheese and candied walnuts are chopped so fine that they add an almost surprising crunch to the bite. Skipping the usual sushi options, we opt for the enoki mushroom nigiri next. It turns out to be a delightful vegetarian nigiri. While the mushrooms themselves add a dramatic visual appeal, the crunch from a light tempura batter becomes the highlight of this dish. While we can be wary of raw seafood dishes like tartare at some restaurants, we give the tuna tartare a try here since it is highly recommended by our server. And it turns out to be a rockstar. Tuna marinated in a tangy mustard sauce is served on a creamy guacamole and finally topped with tobiko caviar. Tobiko caviar maybe the “poor man’s caviar” but if it’s the right quality it adds a wonderful crunch and taste of the sea.

The cocktails are made with fresh and natural ingredients.

While the food is great so far, we decide to the test the offerings at the bar as well. It boasts all-craft alcohol and largely fresh and natural mixers - instead of added sugar or synthetic syrups the cocktails are made with honey water and cold pressed juices. The bar menu is even more extensive than the food with an array of classic cocktails, sangria bar, signature shots, craft cocktails, signature cocktails and the entire gamut of spirits, aperitifs, wines and beer.

Continuing with our gastronomic journey with dishes from across the world, the parmesan and broccoli arancini is wonderfully crunchy, non-greasy and deliciously cheesy when you bite into it. The Indonesian sambal oelek chicken is grilled to perfection and served on freshly baked pita bread. Next, salmon skewers show that this Norwegian fish adapts wonderfully to Indian flavours and cooking techniques as well. Salmon cubes are smeared with kasundi and chilli paste and chargrilled, lending it a wonderful smokiness from the tandoor. And these are only the appetisers! With such a variety on offer, there literally is something for everyone even if you go in a large group. We barely have any space left, but for the sake of our readers we try just one main - chargrilled chicken served with a rich tomato gravy and roti. The menu says that it’s an Indo-British classic but in essence it is a deconstructed butter chicken that’ll leave you licking your fingers.

You can round off your meal with churros con chocolate or tres leches, a light and fluffy cake soaked in three kinds of milk.

La Roca, Lower Ground Floor, Worldmark 1, Aerocity, New Delhi.
Timings: 12 noon to 1am.

Ph: 011-61495190