Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Restaurant Review | Ek Bar: A Novel Concept

“Everyone knows what to expect of a British pub anywhere in the world. But there is still no concept of an Indian Bar,” says restaurateur AD Singh. Filling this gap is his latest venture Ek Bar, in partnership with Chef Sujan S.

Chef Sujan S with AD Singh

Opened in the space that was earlier occupied by Diva Kitsch, the interiors are definitely kitschier than earlier. One finds a lot of deep Indian colours and motifs on the walls as well as upholstery. The image of a large elephant, sporting mirrored aviators encapsulates perfectly the Quirky Indian theme of Ek Bar.

The colourful interiors

But what sets this bar apart from the rest? In keeping with the name Ek Bar, the traditional beginning of old hindi stories, every cocktail has a story behind it, that is narrated rather interestingly, piquing one’s interest in the drink. So while The Royal Indian Punch is made with whiskey, fermented kahwa tea, pink grapefruit and an assortment of spices, the story goes that punch was originally a royal Indian drink called “panch”. Then there’s a twist on the mojito. The Gujju inspird Mogito 6 (pronounced moh-gi-toh chhe) features the amrak, or star fruit and a 6-spice mix. Most cocktails have stories inspired from different regions – Kolkata inspired Queen Victoria, Mumbai inspired Platform@CST, Hyderabad inspired City of Nizams and so on. I liked most cocktails that I tasted since I don’t like straight, hard drinks. However, if you don’t like spices or too many blends in your drinks, you can always opt for traditional cocktails like the Old-fashioned – they do those quite well too.

Left: The Royal Indian Punch
Right Top: City of Nizam; Bottom: Murabba Mule.

As far as the food is concerned, Chef Sujan is a maverick as he has proved it as Chef de Cuisine at Olive at the Qutab. But this is a side to his food that you have not seen before. Modern Indian in the truest form, he’s happy to share that all ingredients for this fare is sourced locally. Since everything is made in-house he has had a lot of room for play. There are chicken tikka sausages, galauti dogs, chicken 65 burger, frozen dahi bhalla served with the jhalmuri served granola style in Ek Bar – Granola Bar. Instead of cheese or meat platters served in most bars, you’ll get thalis here. The choice of Vegetaraian, Non vegetarian and Fish and Seafood Thalis are good for sharing over a few drinks. If not, you can opt for the Amristari Kekda Po-Boy, a soft shell crab burger served with masala wedges and vegetable pickle. The unanimous hit on my table was the Chicken Liver and Liquid Bheja Pate with masala taftan or a UP-style bread and sirka pyaaz. Chef Sujan has even brought some of the Indian street food in a gourmet avatar to Ek Bar. I have already mentioned the jhalmuri, then there’s tikki chaat and papdi chaat, but in forms you’ve probably never eaten before.

Clockwise from Top Left: Amritsari Kekda Po-Boy, Ek Bar - Granola Bar
Fresh Local Burrata Cheese, Non Vegetarian Thali.

Last, but not the least – the desserts. The choice is limited, with three options. Orange Murabba Ice Cream, Carrot Halwa Cake and Banana Tarte Tatin. While I quite like the carrot cake, the homemade butter milk ice cream takes it to the next level. But the dessert that became an instant success, and one I will be going back for, is the Banana Tarte Tatin. If you like banana desserts, and are bored with the ubiquitous banofee pie, just go for this one! The jaggery caramel, Indian vanilla ice cream and the delicious upside down pastry is a match made in heaven. You do need a sweet tooth to enjoy this one though.

Banana Tarte Tatin

So, if you’re done with aping the West and are ready for a refreshing experience of Modern India, head to Ek Bar. This is where the essence of Incredible India has been captured in quirky cocktails and colourful food plates.

Ek Bar, D -17, First Floor, Defence Colony, New Delhi – 110024.
Ph: 011 41688811.
Timings: 6pm onwards; daytime opening on weekends to follow shortly.

Prices: Cocktails Rs 500; Non vegetarian and Sea Food Thalis Rs 1150.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Food Festival | Travertino: November and December Specials

Just as the The Oberoi, New Delhi completes 50 years of excellence in hospitality this month, there’s another great news for the iconic hotel. Today it has received the coveted National Tourism Award for Best 5 Star Deluxe Hotel in the country!

The hotel’s fine-dining Italian restaurant, Travertino, adds to the Golden Jubilee celebrations by offering a very attractively priced Celebrations Menu. And the new Chef de Cuisine, Vincenzo Di Tuoro, is all geared up to swoon guests with his beautifully plated creations.
Chef Vincenzo Di Tuoro
Not many of you may know that in keeping with the Oberoi Group’s emphasis on serving authentic cuisine, Travertino was made in consultation with The Hassler Hotel in Rome. Over the years, Hotel Hassler has assisted in recommending and placing the professional team at Travertino. In his career spanning over 20 years in renowned hotels around the world, Chef Vincenzo has also held the mantle of Chef de Cuisine at Il Palazzetto at the Hassler Hotel. What he brings to the table is attention to detail in creating each dish, while playing with colours, textures and flavours. And my meal is the perfect example to showcase all this.

Top: Grilled Kerala Jumbo Prawn.
Bottom: Parmesan Cheese Tortelli; Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass.

I know that raving about bread is hardly a highlight to start with. But when a ciabatta is so perfectly baked and served with a sundried tomato and roasted aubergine dip it just has to be mentioned. Then I am served the freshest burrata cheese crostini with cherry tomatoes. And the amuse bouche is so light and airy that is actually just disappears in the mouth!

The aesthetic ambience; beautiful bread; appetising amuse bouche.

Travertino clearly sticks to the fine-dining label; hence you will not find pizza on the menu. What you will find, however, are luscious soups, hand-rolled pastas, succulent grills and slow-cooked meats. Since I am invited for a food tasting, I request for small portions to be served. So don’t go by the serving sizes in my pictures, but do notice the plating of each dish. The Grilled Kerala Jumbo Prawns reveal a lovely charred flavour that is beautifully enhanced by the accompanying spiced pineapple, avocado salad and onion mustard dressing. Next up is the Parmesan Cheese Tortelli with parmesan consomm√© and fresh celery and sprinkled with tomato dust. This is Chef Vicenzo’s signature dish. “A dish should first impact the eyes - making the guest happy even before tasting it,” he says. You may not be able to tell from the image, but Chef has played with different textures even in this simple looking dish. The tortelli has a bite to it and gives way to a warm, liquid filling, and the celery sauce has a thick and creamy consistency. This dish is as tasty as it is appealing to the eye. And finally, a perfectly Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass is served with broccoli mash, pickled radish and warm red cabbage sauce. 

Travertino also offers an extensive Italian wine selection from the Enoteca wine cellar including classical wines such as Amarone, Chianti, Brunello, Super Tuscan and Barbera. But since I know that I will be getting my share of alcohol in the desserts, I happily skip the wine. The Tiramisu is light and hits the spot with the perfect balance between the mascarpone and the Kahlua soaked sponge fingers. While I usually come to a dead halt with a good tiramisu, I am very glad that I also try the Sgroppino Lemon Sorbet. It is a refreshing cocktail made with lemon sorbet, vodka and champagne and instantly gets added to my favourite list of desserts/beverages. 

Desserts: Sgroppino Lemon Sorbet; Tiramisu.

Of course, there's so much more up Chef Vincenzo's sleeve that one visit to Travertino is not enough. The festivities have just started. From 20th-30th November he will be offering rare Truffle specials that are guaranteed to make one swoon. And it may be wise for you to book your Christmas Eve well in advance, so that you can savour a delectable 5-course menu along with free flowing champagne.  

Travertino, The Oberoi, New Delhi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg
New Delhi - 110 003.
Ph: 9999104279.
Timings: Lunch 12.30pm to 2.45pm; Dinner 7.30pm to 11.30pm.