Sunday, February 23, 2014

Indian Accent - Blowout Meal

Rest : Indian Accent
Meal : Lunch
Loc : The Manor Hotel, Friends Colony

Chef Mehrotra of Indian Accent is one of the few chefs worldwide changing the way Indian cuisine is createD, perceived and presented (the others being Gaggan Anand of Gaggan in Bangkok & Vinit Bhatia of Rasoi etc)

My free time in Delhi was spent trying to get to Indian Accent and after a few false starts i was able to make it a few hours before my flight back to Bombay. Two of my close mates (who don't know each other) were both at Indian Accent at the same time last week and i was beginning to feel pretty left out. 

IA, is hard to find, its located in a quiet corner of Friends Colony (not the NEW Friends Colony) where The Manor Hotel stands. The property is small but pleasant and the perfect place to be on a sunny winter day. 

Pleasantly lit, with light Indian touches and like most great restaurants IA is fairly small with limited seating (40 covers) 

we chose the Tasting Menu which was roughly 8 courses with an amuse bouche and palate cleanser

the first thing they brought out was the  little naan niblets with bleu cheese. total victory this one. you cannot go wrong by putting cheese in a naan. 

A quick shot of a thick and incredibly delicious mushroom soup served as an espresso with a mushroom biscotti. My first reaction on finishing this was wanting more 

the next thing that came in was a churan ka karela which didn't taste a lot like karela to me. served in quite a interesting contraption, it was a little hard to reach but other than that no problem. i probably wouldn't order this again though. 

the potato sphere chaat looked like anything but a chaat. tasted just about perfect though. the texture of the crunchy sphere was a marked difference to a regular puri. 

the baighan bharta cornetto with goat cheese butter was terrific. eaten just like an ice cream cone, the over whelming taste of the cheese went well with the inherently Indian, sweetish taste of the bharta. we then munched on the daal. 

kashmiri morel musallam, again, pretty terrific. a very dry little dish, with lots of mushroom flavour. 

the pomengranate and churan kulfi again was pretty terrific, served in a miniature pressure cooker, i loved it. 

the first of the mains was a sarson ka saag, a malai corn and makkai bread. Terrific. No other word for this. was just sublime. 

their take on the obligatory paneer was fabulou as well. melt in your mouth cubes of paneer in a traditional tomato gravy. luscious flavours. 

the satoo paratha, which i was told is a popular Bihari bread was served with a tomato salsa. very different, worked well though.

believe it or not, this is their take on the Khandvi with some pine nuts and delicious cherry tomato. 

terrific dal makhani and a sweetish anar and avocado raita although i didn't quite notice the avocado. 

got the pumpkin kulcha which was kinda weird but the mushroom naan was just out of this world, good enough to eat on its own. 

overwhelming trifecta of desserts, the daulat ki chaat, comes on a bed of fake 100 Rs notes, a light milk foam, slightly sweet, sprinkled with dry fruits and terrific to taste. The mishit doi cannoli was a tad sweet but enjoayble. The doda barfi treacle tart tasted like walnut fudge very good but i thought the daulat ki chat was tops. 

a charpoy of school memories was digestives to remind one of their school days. 

The man himself ! 

Overall, Chef Mehrotra has found his niche with the cuisine and the method. The dishes are inherently Indian and work well together. There are playful touches as well as sophisticated idea but underneath it all there is finesse, which is required to do what are mostly traditional dishes most diners are familiar with. Very little margin for error there.

Its truly a tasting menu and the portions are the right size.They have worked out their mains to be in keeping with the style and theme of the rest of their meal unlike Masala Library which while i enjoyed as well, switches to a completely traditional format post their first few courses, which is a total cop out and a major short coming.

My only criticisms would ideally be the lack of a rice preparation on the tasting courses and no real Southern touches (a Rasam or a Stew would have been super interesting) Other than that, it was a stupendous meal and something to experience when the menu changes again in Summer. 

Chef Mehrotra was a joy to talk to for the brief moments we could catch him, unfortunately, i am not allowed to discuss any of the things we talked about, but the man despite all his success is super down to earth which in my book is more important than the food he cooks up. 

While Gaggan is a great deal more experimental, Rasoi is more European. Indian Accent is the most Indian with dishes you would find in small towns and far corners. The presentation, the accompaniments, the layering (salsa, goat cheese) is where the twist of modernity lies.  The dishes are creatively imagined and expertly executed but the fact that Indian Accent successfully offers pre-plated non sharing dishes with a tasting menu makes it all the more remarkable.

Food: 9/10
Service : 9/10
Damage : 7000 for 2 without drinks (yeah, its not cheap)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Return To Masala Library for the Tasting Menu

Rest : Masala Library
Loc : BKC
Meal : Lunch 

My good friend Pat was in town from HKG and despite having dined at Delhi's famed Indian Accent (where i should be next week) he insisted on checking out Masala Library. My previous visit to Masala Library is here

I was told they did not have tables but i decided to chance it anyway which is just as well, the place was packed by 2-2.30 but i dont think all present had prior bookings.

Feeling adventurous we went in for the tasting menu and it began with the little cheesy, dough bread and the amuse bouche, the deconstructed papdi chat. 

The papad platter is what Pat was most keen on and it was gone pretty quick. 

The first course was the mushroom chai, which was served with dry mushrooms, freeze dry truffles. A piping hot mushroom broth is poured to complete the tea framing. As gimmicks go this one is not bad and not intrusive nor a waste of time. I do wish they threw in some fresh muhsrooms in there, it would enhance the flavour. Not a distinctly Indian flavour this but good for mushroom lovers. 

The salad course was interesting, i am not usually a fan of watermelon in my food, the odd time i have enjoyed it has been with feta. This one worked well, with its chaat type savoury topping on the sweetish, moist slice of water melon. All about contrasts, nice but not something i would order myself.

the pesto Kebab was our first starter and i enjoyed it very much. the hint of pesto was stronger this time and it tasted even better than the last time. Serving it with a little, sweet cherry tomato was inspired. 

The vada with the pav inside is interesting conceptually and its only fair to have this on the menu but . The game here being that the pav is inside the vada. Flavour wise it was okay i preferred the previous bite sized version which came with cheddar

the Dahi kebab was petty good. i have had a few versions of this but unlike the Dum Pukth or Punjab Grill versions, it does not coat your mouth with sweet yogurt. good stuff. 

the palate cleanser is delicious, dulce de leche esque 

the bread service was comprehensive, the gucchi naan and pretty much everything else they could muster up from the menu was plated. 

the papdi sabzi with i think bhindi, not a dish i wanted, it was certainly not bad and i was surprised by the flavours. i still wouldnt have ordered it because i am not a papad sabzi kinda guy. the other main was their paneer lababdar which too was a no complaints dish. 

the cold raita served with little rose beads was terrific. would go really, really well with a spicy biryani or you could eat it by itself like i did. 

the dal was on the money, thick, buttery, with that flavour your mouth looks for. no complaints. 

the ghevar cheesecake again, oddly enough, i liked it. i am not a big dessert person but i have a special love for these traditional milky tastes and 

which is why i especially loved the jalebi caviar in rabdi with i think some saffron foam. Rabdi to me is one of the greatest things in the world. My grandmom makes it once in a while and i really look forward to it. So when on offer i never say no and this one too was just brilliant. 

All in all, post my second visit,  i feel that the food is good and well executed. The menu is trading on its imagination so they do need to figure out some more ideas when it comes to the amuse bouche and palate cleansers as well as any of the little knick knack they sometimes dole out.

The plating concept is deeply flawed i believe. Since it was two of us for dinner, we were served plates and then each pair of items was brought out and served on the plate. by the time the salad was gone, the plates were quite soiled and unattractive to look at (The plate change happens when the mains come)

I think it would be way quicker, aesthetically more pleasing if each course is brought out on a little plate of its own which can be placed onto the table. Therefore no soiled plates and no need for someone to struggle to serve the dish without destroying the plating.

Another error they made was, despite us sharing the choices from the three main's we were given only one, the other came in of their own accord. 

Additionally, i think the portions are huge. The portions of the mains for the tasting menu are the same as the portions ordered a la carte.  With multiple courses, they can certainly reduce the mains to a smaller serving because one is genuinely full by the time they arrive and its impossible to do it any justice. The food is good and one can appreciate it better if the plating for the mains is re-imagined. For now, they are fairly traditional and certainly don't work in the 9 course concept.

Either that, or have smaller appetizers or just drop off one appetizer.

I do hope the fix these aspects because it will certainly better the offering.

Food : 8/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : 5200 for 2 without drinks

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