Tuesday, 1 August 2017

AnnaMaya: Locally Sourced Ingredients Served in a European Style Foodhall

If you like a restaurant with a story and the food to have some meaning besides being delicious, AnnaMaya is the place for you.

Andaz Hotels by Hyatt are all about showcasing the local culture of the cities that they are located in, alongwith creating vibrant social areas and serving locally inspired cuisine. Living up to this philosophy, AnnaMaya the European-style Foodhall is Andaz Delhi’s 24-hour multi-cuisine offering. The high-ceilinged space is flooded with natural light streaming in through panels of coloured glass and is split into varied seating areas, breaking up the expanse of this 200-odd seater restaurant.

The well lit interiors; rock salt grinder; microgreens.

When you visit for the first time you’ll most likely be taken on a tour that starts by explaining why it is called a foodhall - they retail a variety of merchandise that is procured locally for use in the hotel. You’ll thus find a range of natural millets, organic honey, flavoured salts and sugar as well as crockery, copper glasses, glass bottles and other qwirky bric a brac that are stocked up on various shelves all over the restaurant. The prices are only nominally higher than the MRP to cover the cost of the transportation. AnnaMaya also uses a large variety of organic vegetables that will be made available for sale shortly.

Bric-a-Brac: Andaz Ambassador Letter Holder; Coloured Glass Bottles

“Eat Mindful. Shop Artisanal. Raise Awareness” is the tagline on the menu which is divided into three sections – Foodhall, Microgreen Farm and Tijara Organic Farm.

Foodhall has specialties inspired by the flavours and diversity of India, made with native artisanal ingredients. Burrata with lime and honey, fire-roasted tomato with basil naan shows how local ingredients have been amalgamated seamlessly into an Indo-European dish. But don’t expect everything to be fusion fare; purists can tuck into a wide variety of Indian or European dishes such as kadhai paneer or Amritsari goat milk paneer tikka as well as linguini with asparagus snowpeas and poched egg or penne with burrata and a smoky tomato coulis. We try the luscious asparagus orzo that is made rich with a silken asparagus puree, enhanced with stewed Kashmiri morels.  

Top: Tijara Farm's organic carrots, Amritsari Goat Milk Paneer Tikka.
Bottom: Succulent Lamb Patty with Timur Pepper.

Microgreen Farm highlights the farm to table concept by using the microgreens that are grown in a temperature controlled environment at Andaz Delhi. The fresh cut aloe vera with microgreens is a delicious revelation of a unique way of using aloe vera. Then the pretty, crunchy greens not only beautify the butter baked garlic prawns, but also lend an inimitable freshness to this dish. One also finds them atop a juicy lamb and spinach patty that comes with a creamy mash and onion compote. The highlight of this plate though is the freshly crushed Himalayan timur pepper. This wonderful spice lends itself very well to gin-based cocktails as well and is available for you to buy!

Refreshing Drinks and Organic Salads. 

And the last section of the menu uses vegetables grown at the Tijara Organic Farm in Rajasthan which is known for its organic and biodynamic farming practices. I have to admit that everything that we try from this selection is fantastic. Do try the slow roasted carrots, their natural sweetness is enhanced with Himalayan honey and contrasted with black onion seeds. The kale, mandarin and goat cheese salad is tied together with a lychee honey dressing and topped with melon seeds and red currants. And lastly the roasted new potatoes have a rustic appeal and flavour. We are informed that the crunchy zakiya seeds used in this dish, that look like small mustard seeds, are brought in from Uttarakhand.

Chef Gordon with his Monster Shake. 

As is evident so far, the choice is extensive, food is delicious and largely organic. There’s an equally large choice of mocktails made with fresh juices, and flavoured lassis, leaf tea and herbal infusions besides a full-fledged alcoholic beverages. And finally we reach the dessert section. The attractive counter is placed right at the beginning of AnnaMaya and is laden with candy, gelato, pastry, meringue and more. The way to do justice to Chef Gordon’s creations though is to order one of his monster shakes. It is a shake topped with brownie, pastry, another pastry and gelato in a waffle cone, candy floss, lollipop and all of this is layered in between with chocolate sauce, crushed Oreo biscuits or brightly coloured Gems. This one’s definitely for folks with a sweet tooth and will delight kids and adults alike.

Details: AnnaMaya, Andaz Delhi, Aerocity, New Delhi.
Ph: +91-11 4903-1351

This article first appeared on travelandleisureindia.in on June 5, 2017. 

Nimtho: For Delicious Sikkimese Food

Let’s face it: how much do we really know about Northeast Indian cuisine other than momos and thukpa? Yes, the last couple of years have seen handful restaurants in the capital serving cuisines from Nagaland and across the Himalayan region. And there are occasional pop-ups featuring Assamese fare and so on. But did you know that Sikkim has been declared as the first Organic State of India? Or that the state has just one tea garden and yet boasts one of the finest qualities of white tea? Binita Chamling proudly shares these and other trivia about her home-state. She’s the co-founder of Nimtho, a cosy restaurant in New Delhi’s GK-1 serving home-style food of Sikkim. And if you thought that Sikkimese food was limited to momos and thukpa you owe yourself a trip to Nimtho.

“Nimtho” translates to “an invitation” in the Nepali language. The restaurant aims to share a glimpse of Sikkimese hospitality and warmth through their food. “Many people think that in Sikkim we speak Sikkimese, but actually there is no language called Sikkimese,” shares Binita, adding that almost 70% of the Sikkimese population actually migrated from Nepal many, many years ago. That is why Nepali is spoken widely in the state and even the cuisine is heavily influenced by that of Nepal. It also has some influences from the neighbouring state of West Bengal and even Bihar.

The Sikkimese Thali

So without much ado we decide to order a Sikkimese thali because we feel that a thali is undoubtedly the best way to sample an array of a relatively unfamiliar cuisine. A beautiful brass platter comes with matching cutlery and bowls. It is filled with assorted pickles, some salad, churpi soup, sautéed spinach and mixed vegetables made with carrots and potatoes, a delicious chicken curry, succulent pork, rice, papad and sesame crusted karela fritters. The meal is delicious and has the appeal of home-style cooking, some familiar flavours and even some that take your palate on an adventurous ride. Although the thali contains more than sufficient food for one person, we also decide to explore the menu a bit more since it features traditional and even some forgotten foods of Sikkim.  

From the range of soups we try the Sisnu ko Raas, a soup made with the stinging nettle’s flowers, stalks and shoots stewed in pounded rice. It is delicious and we enjoy it even more when we learn about the many health benefits of nettle. You could even try the Mutton ko Raas, a Nepali soup made with mutton and daal. An interesting vegetarian option is the Churpi ko Raas that was also served in the thali. Churpi is a traditional cheese made in the Himalayan region, either with yak or cow’s milk. Here it tastes much like cottage cheese. There is also a Mula Churpi salad made with juliennes of radish and churpi. The range of starters includes spicy salad mixes with crunchy noodles, and dishes made with soya bean and potatoes. Gundruk is a specialty made with fermented and dried mustard. For non-vegetarian options there are chilli chicken, chilli pork, pork ribs, fish and Syapta, a choice of stir fried meat with fresh ingredients. 

Top: Buckwheat Momos
Bottom: Sisnu ko Raas; Wacheepa.

And then there are, of course, the momos and thukpa. Apart from steamed and fried varieties of momos, there are jhol momos that come in a soupy broth, tigmo momos or steamed buns, saphalay or pies stuffed with minced meat and taipo or steamed buns with a choice of fillings. We try the buckwheat momos with pork, that are a modern take on this traditional food item. They are soft to the bite and filled with juicy, almost soupy, meat. The three accompanying sauces made with red chillies, coriander and churpi and schezwan pepper as delicious as the momos.  The next time you have a momo-craving, this is certainly where you should head. We will be going back too, also to try meals in a bowl like the thukpa, gyathuk and thenthuk. Then there’s a choice of Sikkimese curries and assorted noodle and rice dishes. The Wacheepa is a rice dish made with char-grilled chicken; its flavour is further enhanced with the powder of burnt chicken feathers.  

In short, Nimtho serves an extensive choice of home-style Sikkimese food. If you have an adventurous palate you’ll be delighted, and there’s also enough comfort food for people with conservative eating choices. Do try it out and let us know about your favourites. 

Nimtho, 304, Block R, 1st Floor, Greater Kailash I, Greater Kailash, New Delhi, Delhi 110048.
Timings: 12–11:30 pm.
Phone: 011 4909 3620
Prices: Starters Rs 179 onwards; Momos Rs 239 onwards; Thalis Rs 439 onwards. 

This article first appeared on indiatoday.intoday.in on August 1, 2017.