Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Ansal Plaza's Newest Restaurant Serves Some Top Class Sashimi

What comes to your mind when we talk of tempura? Let us guess! Most likely it’ll be prawn or seafood tempura or vegetables such as courgettes, broccoli, lotus stem, sweet potato and so on. But when we tasted Chef Vivek Rana’s innovative dish at Delhi’s new Oriental restaurant, Triple 8, never could we have guessed that it is stuffed with goat’s brain! When the crunchy bite gives way to a silken texture, the initial recollection is of foie gras. Chef Rana has deliberately used an Indian sweetbread instead of the popular European option not only because the latter is banned in India, but also because he endeavours to use local ingredients as far as possible. Even in the dimsum, instead of the popular edamame-truffle combo, he has preferred to use Himalayan morels with edamame. This turns out to be a refreshing change in flavour as well as an environmentally conscious move.

Left: Assorted Dimsum
Right: Lamb Shank with Mantou buns.

But Triple 8 is not only about sourcing locally. On the menu is possibly the finest sashimi that we have had at any standalone restaurant in Delhi. This is only possible because of Japanese Chef Hiroshi Isomura’s exceptional knife skills and forty years of experience that helped in tracking the finest ingredients from Japan. Although getting the right quality of seafood is imperative, storing it optimally in Delhi weather is equally important. All this was taken care of before the double-storeyed Triple 8 opened at Ansal Plaza. Our platter of sashimi with Scottish salmon, Bluefin tuna, yellowtail hamachi and scallops from Japan is excellent. The house-made soy sauce, with flavours of dashi, kombu and mirin, further enhances the taste of the fantastic fish. It is safe to say, that the sushi on offer will be equally good.

Our fabulous bowl of some fine sashimi.

In a nutshell, Chef Vivek Rana has put together a menu that showcases his years of exemplary experience with Indian Accent coupled with his flare for Oriental food and understanding the characteristics of every ingredient that he puts on the plate. He has maintained the authenticity of the dishes - from Bangkok style chicken skewers to Taiwanese mantao buns - while adding his own sensibilities to break away from monotony. You will thus find a shakshuka-style baked quail eggs, a real comfort-dish; Chilean pork ribs with Thai karpow flavours; a rich broccoli bake with miso and blue cheese that comes with wasabi mash; and asparagus, sweet corn and pine nut red curry dimsums, where the red curry is used in the dimsum wrap. The lambshank that comes with an extremely flavourful Malacca sauce will leave you licking your fingers, especially if you mop it up with the accompanying mantao bread.

The rich decor is as delish as the food.

The décor is as delish as the food. Especially at a time when muted colours and monochromatic themes have been done to death, the rich wine coloured walls with matching luxurious sofas is a welcome change. Split across two levels, the restaurant has multiple places to suit varying moods with a bar on one floor and an elegant dining area with a live sushi bar on another. There is also a private dining room in case you want to block it for a little party of your own. The music is on point, it’ll make you want to tap your feet, but is at a decibel that facilitates conversation with your companions. It also creates the right mood to sip on your favourite wine from a list curated by sommelier Magandeep Singh or any of the signature cocktails inspired by the region’s traditional spices and flavours such as miso, lemongrass, matcha and pandan. These flavours are also found in desserts. We recommend the matcha tart for its subtle flavour and custard buns with yuzu cream that’ll transport you to a night market in Taiwan. 

Triple 8, B -103A, First Floor, Ansal Plaza, Khel Gaon Marg, New Delhi.
12 noon to 1am.

Ph: 011 33105609

A version of this article first appeared on LivingFoodz.com on May 28, 2018. 

Megu is the only restaurant in India that serves Dobinmushi

MEGU Delhi is well known for its stellar quality of Japanese food, impeccable service and luxe ambience that includes a signature Crystal Buddha elevated over a pool of rose-petal water with a beautiful 800-pound Japanese Bonsho bell suspended from the ceiling. We’re told that pouring water over the Buddha statue is a calming ritual that is also symbolic of cleansing our own minds. In this serene setting we’re introduced to Chef Masahiro Kinoshita, the new Masterchef at the helm of MEGU’s modern Japanese kitchen.

Top: Edamame with Sea salt; Lamb Chops and Chilean Seabass; Scallop.
Bottom: Sushi and sashimi platter with Sake.

Chef Masahiro Kinoshita brings with him more than three decades of experience that started in Japan, traversed through Korea and Dubai, back to Tokyo and now India. For Delhi particularly, he has created dishes that are ideal for the summer as well as a range of vegetarian fare to cater to the ever-increasing popularity of Japanese food in the Capital.

For starters the Creamy Wasabi Tofu is a wonderful new addition that will appeal to non-vegetarians equally. Similar to the traditional shira ae, which is also on the menu, the silken texture of the creamed tofu is enhanced with heritage tomatoes, kinzanji miso, and MEGU dressing that has flavours of fermented barley and wasabi. Sweet Corn Miso Soup, is light and perfect for Delhi’s soaring temperature. Potato noodles add a bite to the flavouful broth while a subtle crunch as well as colour comes from beetroot tanuki. But we’d say that the Dobinmushi is the real star! Introduced for the first time in India, this delicious seafood broth is served in a ‘dobin’ tea-pot with chunks of seabream, chicken, shrimp, eringi and ginkgo. I agree with my companion who states that ‘the soup is addictive’, in that the flavour is so beautiful that one compulsively goes for the next bite. But stop one must because there are many wonderful dishes that need to be savoured equally. Chef Masahiro’s signatures - Crispy Rice with hand chopped tuna in wasabi mayonnaise, topped with tobiko and Crispy Unagi with shrimp tempura, eryngi mushroom, tobiko, crab meat and sambal sauce – have an inimitable crunch as well as a mélange of flavours even in their bite-sized portions.

Clockwise from Top Left: Crispy Rice with Hand-chopped Tuna;
 Creamy Wasabi Tofu; Dobinmushi; Sweetcorn Miso Soup.

While he has experimented with modern techniques, Chef Masahiro’s roots clearly lie in traditional Japanese cooking. Born in Kumamoto, Japan, he learnt the ropes from the basic, traditional Japanese cooking techniques to the more advanced where he mastered the fine art of cutting live fish for sashimi. Amalgamating his experience and the modern Japanese cuisine of MEGU led him to create some radical dishes as well. Baked Tomato and Avocado Tobanyaki is one such example. Topped with parmesan and cheddar cheese one would mistake it to be of Italain/Mexican origin. But with the addition of white miso and some special herbs that are flown in from Japan (along with all the fresh seafood that is procured from Japan's historic Tsukiji Fish Market), this comforting dish becomes inherently Japanese.

Top: Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant.
Bottom: Creme Brûlée with Tahiti Vanilla.

Amongst the mains we recommend the BBQ New Zealand Lamb Chops from the Binchotan grill that are served with a rich garlic soy sauce and a creamy avocado mash and the Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with barley miso and soy glaze. Do try these whenever you go, but please save some appetite for dessert. Creme brulee with Tahiti vanilla is brilliant and the salted caramel chocolate fondant with maple miso icecream is heaven on a platter!

The Crystal Buddha.

And before leaving, do remember to pour some water on the beautiful Buddha to carry a bit of the serenity with you.

MEGU, The Leela Palace New Delhi, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110023, India.
Timings: 12.30pm to 2.45; 7pm to 11:45pm.
Phone: +91-11 3933 1234.

A version of this article first appeared on BlackBook.net.in on May 24, 2018. 

Pluck's Kitchen Garden Ensures That The Freshest Ingredients Reach Your Plate

The lush kitchen garden at Pullman New Delhi.

Life has come a full circle for Chef Shyam Dhar Rai. Hailing from a farming family in Azamgarh, UP, Chef Shyam was the first amongst his kin to venture out of the state that he was born in. Now after working for half a decade in the US, he is back to his home country. This time, he is heading a restaurant where farming is key. For four years now Pluck has been known for its farm to fork cuisine, with the freshest ingredients literally "plucked" from the 5,000 square feet kitchen garden in the heart of Pullman New Delhi. Lettuce, spinach, red peppers, brinjals, lady’s finger and many herbs like mint, cilantro, thyme, ajwain, basil, oregano, lemongrass, chillies, parsley, are all grown in this verdant, chemical-free haven. Fruit trees line the kitchen garden to give shadow to the smaller plants. “In winter we grow a variety of edible flowers that we use on all our dishes as well as desserts,” states Chef Ajay.

Chef Ajay Anand and Chef Shyam Rai.

While the kitchens of Pullman and Novotel have the inimitable stamp of Chef Ajay Anand, who is the Director of Culinary for both the hotels, Chef Shyam has introduced a range of fantastic modern Indian and modern European at the all-day dining restaurant, Pluck. Regulars will be happy to know that there are 28 new dishes on the menu. 

But before we get to sample some of the new creations, we are given a tour of the kitchen garden followed with planting some mint, spinach and brinjal that we got to carry back with us. Since we know for sure that the satisfaction, as well as nutrition, gets enhanced multifold when you eat freshly grown produce, we collated the following tips that both the chefs shared with us on growing our own food.
-       Instead of regular soil, plant seeds in coco peat. Made with dry coconut husk, coco peat can hold a lot of water and stays moist for much longer. A small brick-like quantity can expand upto five times once it is soaked in water.
-       It is best to plant seeds in a mixture of coco peat and natural compost in the ratio of 4:1. Natural compost is like food for the plants. Although you don’t have to use it, but if you do you’ll notice that plants grow much healthier and even faster.
-       Sow the seeds about an inch and a half under the soil/peat to allow it to germinate easily.
-       In summer, it is advisable to water the plants every morning, after the sun has gone.
-       Every few days use a ‘khurpi’ with a flat blade to work the soil so that the top layer doesn’t become too dense, otherwise air, light and water will not permeate easily.
-       Seeds like spinach can be scattered sporadically in a pot, but those of chillies should be planted at an ample distance from each other because every seed has the possibility of sprouting one plant each.
-       It is said that once you plant mint, even with minimal care and watering, it will continue to grow for many years. Hence it is considered a good investment.

Clockwise from Top Left: Lobster Bisque; Amaranth Salad;
Dark Chocolate Mousse and Orange Sorbet; Lamb Shank with barley pulao.

After a fun session in the sun, we’re treated to a delectable four-course meal that comprised delicious lobster bisque, an amaranth salad, lamb shank with barley pulao and a sinful chocolate and orange dessert. While the lobster bisque is a luscious, flavourful broth and the amaranth salad showcases this indigenous plant three ways (boiled, fried and crisp), the mains remain the highlight. The lamb shank is dusted with podi masala, served on a comforting, kichdi-like barley pulao and topped with a dal makhni crisp. Although the presentation is ultra modern, the flavours are reminiscent of an Indian home-cooked meal. Similarly, the sepu vadi (a dish that you’re unlikely to find in any other five-star hotel) is served with drumstick salsa and couscous upma. “I got this recipe from a Kumaoni kitchen executive’s mother,” says Chef Shyam proudly. He, of course, has given it a progressive look, but this dish captures the essence of the food at Pluck: Be it modern Indian or Modern European (both the cuisines at this restaurant are at par), the food, very simply put, is delicious!

Pluck, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.
Time6:30am to 11:30pm.
Ph: 9643100661

An edited version of this article first appeared on LivingFoodz.com on May 30, 2018.