Wednesday, 24 April 2019

New Restaurant | Finally, a Restaurant that Caters Equally to Kids and Adults!

The fun menu and plating for little ones.

Delhi NCR has no dearth of restaurants. Every second day one hears of new places opening to serve a variety of cuisines to suit varied palates, fit different price points, restaurants that are perfect for date nights, casual get-togethers and uppity fine-dine options too. There are a few cafes that are well equipped for kids, especially toddlers, that offer a few games and even a kids’ menu. But so far, a complete package for a family has been missing. When going out with kids under nine years of age, either parents need to compromise on the choice of food and settle for casual café fare, or kids are required to make do with dishes that are more suited for grown ups or pick from a limited choice of burger-pizza-kathi-fries kind of menu. Finally, now there is a restaurant that makes dining out as a family equally fun for the kids as well as their parents. 

Plenty of care has been taken to make interiors and furniture
apt for young ones. 

Thoughtful Interiors
At little.BIG you’ll realize that families with children are the core theme of the restaurant, rather than being an afterthought. From foam under the tables so that tiny tots don’t bump their heads whilst playing peekaboo (as they often do!) to rounded corners to avoid accidents, much thought has gone into designing the furniture. Some tables even have swings hanging from the ceiling for infants upto nine months and of course there are high chairs for older kids. But these high chairs are not run-of-the-mill variety. They have been custom-designed to not only look cool, but also suit different age groups. So, you can add/remove a cushion to achieve the proper height, and then there’s a snug, foamed contraption that is ideal for kids around two years of age, in which they can be strapped up and yet feel all grown up seated in a big chair. {See picture to understand the various layers}.
Furthermore, centerpieces are little wooden toys to keep kids engaged and even cork coasters will keep young ones enthralled by placing them to make various designs. Finally, there is a largely, plastic-free playzone just across the restaurant. Specially trained staff will keep them busy when they get restless and the glass wall ensures that you can keep an eye on the kids while kicking back with your coffee or simply a book.

The plastic-free playzone.

Let’s Talk Food
A restaurant can have all sorts of engaging elements, but at the end of the day, it has to be about the food. And in keeping with the concept, again, equal thought has been given to creating an exciting menu for kids as well as grown ups. However, this is the first time that you can pick from 3 different portion sizes to split across 3 age categories of kids. 
For 6 months – 2 years: Do-It-Yourself bowls are great to create something that your toddler will be most comfortable having. Pick from the grain, fruit, vegetable and a home-style khichdi or porridge will be prepared according to your specification.
Perfect Portions: Most kids’ menus are merely slightly smaller portions of a few dishes that you’ll find in the main menu as well. Not at little.BIG! A special, extensive menu has been crafted for kids from appetisers to mains and desserts. If you’re wondering what’s special about that – plenty! Firstly, the sheer choice. From rainbow hummus to stingray idli, chicken souvlaki to lotus flour dumplings, your little gourmands will find the world on their plates. Secondly, the plating. Who doesn’t like food that’s appealing, but when barley amaranth arancini is plated as ‘knots and crosses’ even the fussiest of eaters will put their guard down and happily eat what’s in front of them. Thirdly, portion sizes. Now this is the first time that the kids’ menu is further split into three sizes – little, middle, big, suited for kids from 2-4 years, 4-6 years and 6-9 years, respectively. This clever sizing ensures minimum wastage as most kids are served as much as they can eat. And there's still more flexibility. “In case the middle portion is insufficient for your 4-6 year old, we serve an additional half portion, free of cost,” says Aftab Sidhu, co-founder, little.BIG.
For Big People: Although you might be tempted to dig into the kids menu for all the delicious choice on offer, we assure you that you have even better options to pick from. Gochujang pork belly, miso glazed snapper, zucchini noodles with pesto, prawn teriyaki or Peruvian roast chicken is a far cry from boring café fare. You will usually find this kind of choice in a fancy restaurant, but here you can have it all in an environment that’s very well suited for your younger ones too.

Clockwise from Top Left: Prawn teriyaki; spaghetti with bacon;
Peruvian roast chicken, gochujang pork belly.

While it is great to have this fabulous place in Gurgaon, we would urge them to open another one in Delhi too – it’ll rock!

little.BIG, 21, ground floor, Baani The Address, Sector 56, Gurgaon.
Ph: 0124 404719

Timings: 10am to 10pm.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

New Restaurant | San Francisco’s International Indian Restaurant Makes Its Foray Into Home Country

Chef Sujan Sarkar

After wowing San Francisco with its progressive Indian fare for the last two years, Rooh - Chef Sujan Sarkar’s brainchild, in collaboration with restaurateurs Anu and Vikram Bhambri - has finally come to New Delhi. Another outpost of Rooh is slated to open in Chicago by the end of this month. While the central theme and style of showcasing of Indian cuisine is the same as that in San Francisco, the menu varies according to the availability of ingredients.

Chef Priyam (second from right) with a few team members.

Housed in a refurbished haveli overlooking Delhi’s iconic Qutub Minar, the 56-seater restaurant has a fantastic chef's tasting menu that's as soul satisfying as it is delightful enough to make you giggle with joy. Yes, this is a fine-dine experience that has an element of fun. While some of the dishes take you on a nostalgic journey, there are many that celebrate the progressive Indian palate.

The first few courses.

One thing that sets this restaurant apart from the many ‘modern Indian’ ones is that you won’t find fusion food that is extremely passé. “We are a well travelled lot,” says Chef Priyam, Head Chef of Rooh New Delhi, adding that the soul of each dish lies in its regional inspiration from diverse Indian states, but international cooking techniques have lent a modern appeal and presentation, enriching tastes and textures. The eleven-course tasting menu that includes some of the chefs’ favourites is theatrical in the way it stimulates one’s brain despite its clean and minimalist plating. The cryptic description of dishes on the menu enhance the drama of anticipation, but you can’t help but laugh out loud when you decipher the origin of tastes. For instance, the potato, fermented parantha, Mehrauli goat curd and tomato pickle sounds and looks fancy, but bring it all together and it tastes of the quintessential north Indian breakfast. Although we will refrain from describing each course lest we spoil your journey of discovery, all that we’d like to reveal is that you’ll be served some flavourful pani puri, an unprecedented avatar of egg bhurji and rasam with the most unusual accompaniment. Meat lovers have a variety of chicken, pork, duck, fish and scallop and vegetarians have an equally eclectic choice spanning mushroom, sweet corn, cheese, pumpkin and cauliflower.

And the food keeps coming...

Being a restaurant and bar, equal thought has gone into creating cocktails off the beaten track. For starters, they’re based on the six Ayurvedic rasas – sweet, salty, pungent, bitter, sour and astringent. Further, there are nine alcoholic and six non-alcoholic drinks to choose from based on a variety of ingredients. From the sous vide turmeric gin used in Turmeric Collins to filter coffee based Kaapi Martini, the drinks too have an Indian touch. If you’d like to keep things simple for yourself, let an expert do the pairing for you. Sommelier Magandeep Singh who has carefully and thoughtfully curated the wine library for Rooh New Delhi says, “Our selection is very unique and unusual as we would like to surprise and tantalise the tastebuds of our diner. The wine selection at Rooh is now at par with the best wine restaurant libraries globally making this luxury restaurant the newest wine destination of the capital."

Left: An intimate PDR.
Right: Artisanal cocktails based on Ayurvedic principles of taste.

Pro Tip: A PDR that seats four people offers the perfect view of the Qutub Minar through its arched window. Book this space for an intimate experience.

Rooh, Ambawatta One complex, H-5/1, Kalkadas Marg, Mehrauli, Near Qutub Minar, New Delhi – 110030
Phone: +91 7303600299
Timings: Lunch Thursday to Sunday - 12pm to 3pm; Dinner Tuesday to Sunday - 7pm to 12.30am; Bar Tuesday to Sunday - 5pm to 12.30am.
Pricing: Non vegetarian Chef's Tasting Menu Rs 3,200; add wine pairings at Rs 2,300.

A version of this article first appeared in The Hindu MetroPlus on 18th April 2019.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Celebrity Chefs | The Camaraderie Between the Suhring Twins and their Secret to being Asia's #4 Restaurant

In the last couple of years India has been on the radar of some of the best chefs from across the world. From Massimo Bottura to Daniel Humm, Alain Passard to Marco Pierre White, some of the most celebrated international chefs have not only showcased their exquisite culinary skills to our people but have in turn been extremely inspired by India’s varied and rich gastronomic heritage.

Thomas and Mathias Suhring at Taj Mahal New Delhi.

A few months ago Bangkok-based Sühring Twins, Michelin-starred Chefs Thomas and Mathias Sühring, made their way to Delhi on their maiden culinary trip to the Indian capital. They were in town for a 3-day pop-up at the Taj Mahal, New Delhi where they served some of the signature dishes of their eponymous award-winning restaurant in Bangkok, Sühring. Sühring is currently ranked #4 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and #1 on Top Tables Bangkok for two consecutive years  - A remarkable feat for a restaurant within two years of its opening {Sühring opened in February 2016}.

We caught up with Thomas and Mathias Sühring over a quick tete e tete before tasting some of their fabulous dishes including the smoked lamb that was introduced at their restaurant just two weeks prior to this trip. Here are some excerpts from our chat:

Being identical twins have you ever played any prank on your diners?
Thomas and Mathias: Although we don’t consciously play pranks on our guests, when people don’t know that we are identical twins it is fun to see their reaction when one of us is already in the room and the other one walks in and says “hello”. Or, when one of us walks out and the other enters and greets the same people again they look puzzled. We also usually wear a similar shirt so it is tough for most people to figure who’s who. {Thomas is five minutes older.}

On a serious note, what are the advantages for you siblings to be working together; what are your individual strengths?
Mathias: Thomas is a great partner because he likes to get things done and yet, is not too pushy. I can trust him 100 percent, both as family and a business partner.
Thomas: Mathias is very patient and is always on time.

Why did you choose to move to Bangkok?
Mathias: Thomas initially got a job at lebua Bangkok.
Thomas: When I got this job I was excited to move to a different country, a different continent even after years of working in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. But my only condition was that Mathias should also be given a job along with me.
Thomas and Mathias: After working at lebua for seven years, Gaggan {Chef Gaggan Anand} motivated us to open our own restaurant. Businesswise it was the right decision since Bangkok has undergone a drastic change in the four-five years - with an influx of international chefs and new hotels coming up the culinary standards have gone up. Today we are glad that we have two homes. {Thomas has a Thai wife and an adorable baby girl.}

Top: Their signature smoked lamb that they cooked in Delhi.

What prompted you to open a German restaurant in Thailand?
Thomas and Mathias: In our career spanning 20 years, we had cooked everything from French and Italian to Thai but never cooked German food professionally. Also, we had worked outside of Germany for 15 years and wanted an emotional connect with our home country. Germany has a great food heritage but German food still remains largely traditional. We took an old recipe book from our grandparents and gave it our modern touch. This is also our way of keeping our cuisine alive and passing it on to the next generation.

What is your food philosophy?
Thomas and Mathias: We are proud to bring our own heritage and emotions to the plate. We love simplicity of dishes and use top quality ingredients. Although we incorporate modern techniques and presentation styles, we serve ‘old dishes’ that are reminiscent of our country.

Is there any distinct moment when you developed your unique style?
Thomas and Mathias: Although we learnt from some of the great international chefs, our parents and grandparents definitely influence our food philosophy. Our culinary journey began while we spent our annual school summer breaks at our grandparents’ farm. Our grandmother had a canteen, we used to help her in her vegetable garden, go foraging with our grandfather and learnt old school techniques like fermentation, smoking, pickling, drying and curing which are rooted in German tradition.

Do you have any advice for young chefs aspiring to be on World's Best or Asia's Best Restaurants?

Thomas and Mathias: We would like to tell them that success doesn’t come overnight. You have to be patient and believe in yourself because it is not easy. It can be very frustrating and you will require daily motivation to keep going. This profession requires long hours of work, so be ready to sacrifice a lot, be it family time or holidays. There are no weekends off!

This article was first published in a luxury lifestyle magazine in April 2019.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

New Restaurant | This Buzzy Joint Has Well Priced Cocktails, Comfort Food and Live Music Thrice a Week

Khan Market has no dearth of restaurants. From a wide variety of cuisines, price points, vibe and ambience, there’s literally something for everybody. There are many that require a substantial waiting for a table because of the lipsmacking food or get buzzing during ‘happy hours’ for their choice of tipple. Dessert places, coffee bars and even street side kiosks have regulars and die-hard fans. Now here’s the newest entrant that has a winning combo – the trio of food-cocktails-live music.

Azure Hospitality seems to have struck a formula that works across cuisines – Mama Goto’s delicious Asian fare, Dhabha’s rustic balti meat, dal and satisfying naans and paranthas and Sly Granny and Hotel Delmaar’s world cuisine have all struck a chord with restaurant goers. The latest to join their pack is Foxtrot. What you get here is some of the bestsellers from the aforementioned brands - think, paprika prawns and cheese balls, vegan earth bowl and juicy burgers, luscious risottos and mezze platters. The addition here however is the Indian fare. While the small plates include Mumbai-style pao bhaji, dabeli and ragra aloo chaat the large plates have soya haleem, palak paneer kofta biryani and veg galouti burger. You get the drift?

Indian Small Plates
Goa Shack Prawns
Right: 3 Non-veg Kulchas.

And now for my recommendations:
      Stuffed Kulchas. Try the bacon and blue cheese kulcha and thank me later. If you want to experiment further, go for the kulcha platter. The three cheese with truffle oil is a great vegetarian option. For a relatively healthier option there’s also the beetroot galouti kulcha. I tried the lamb galouti version too and give it a thumbs up.
      Goa Shack Prawns. The similarity to the butter garlic prawns that are served almost everywhere in sunny Goa ends at the butter and garlic. The bed of utterly sinful but totally delicious pav is crisped up with oodles of butter, and the dish is topped with a crunchy, homemade ghati masala. Must have!
      Ghee Roast Chicken Taco. You might have tried something similar at Sly Granny and it is the perfect comfort food to down with a cool glass of beer this season.
      Deconstructed Dal Moradabadi. Yes, I am recommending a dal chaawal kind of dish just because it is that good. Ghee rice is topped with sookhi dal, served with pyaaz, dhania, tamatar and warm dal is poured on top.
      Junglee Maas. If you can handle red chillies and enjoy meat you will like this one. The khamiri roti that comes along with it may not be the most authentic, but then the team is not claiming authenticity of dishes. They’re simply presenting their own twist to soul satisfying food, and that is what we enjoyed.

Indian Large Plates
Top: Junglee Maas with Khamiri roti
Bottom L-R: Kerala Fried Chicken with Lemon Rice,
Deconstructed Dal Moradabadi..

Do try the cocktails when you visit. With most priced at Rs 350 they don’t burn a hole in your pocket. Garden Fresh, a gin based drink is as refreshing as it looks. Dewdropper, another gin based cocktail is great if you like the tang of starfruit. Oh, there are popsicles too. I tried the blueberry vodka popsicle that tasted more like kaala khatta. Something that I will be having again as the temperature starts to soar. 

Garden Fresh
Bottom L-R: Gin Tonica, Blueberry Popsicle, Dewdropper.

Finally, my favourite part, since I love live music. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings feature live gigs. So what’re you waiting for? Book your table and let me know if you agree with my recommendations. I’ll also be happy to note any other drinks and dishes that you particularly like. Happy Foxtrotting!

Foxtrot, 18, 1st-2nd Floor, Khan Market, New Delhi.
Phone: 011-6149 5222.
Timings: 9am to 11.30pm.
Cost for Two: Rs 1,500.