This is going to be a pictorial representation for the primary purpose of ‘art’. After all, art, is interpretive and can never be solely explained. Whilst the dishes do the talking, I shall parallel echo my sentiments of a night at Ziya at the Oberoi Mumbai. Persian for ‘splendour & light’ and the labor of love from thrice Michelin star Chef Vineet Bhatia this restaurant is tastefully clad in its statement for understated regality.
This being my second meal at the hands of a Michelin chef and being quite the avid follower of a few starred restaurants, I arrive early. After all, it only takes a few months to procure a reservation at these establishments when abroad and,I ,suffer from being German about time. The restaurant is being set for the big culinary ‘Jugalbandi’ night ahead. Prep and checks are being made between the Chef & Manpreet Kaur Dhody- the commandeer restaurant-in-charge for the evening. Everything has to be perfect. I’be been told it’s a one sitting affair (just the way chef wanted it).
Rested in plush opulence with Chef Vineet’s book in hand, the dominant color of the evening is clearly ‘Gold’. I felt under dressed however my Iphone6 was at ease in the surroundings,playing its part all decked up in its gold case. Attention to detail is at its minutest best. From the 24 karat gold plated cutlery, (a limited placed order from the crockery house in Italy – Industria Vetraria Valdarnese Italyin of only 200 sets) to the ceilings adorned with 24 karat leaf gold paper there is a pattern at play.
Attention to details has mr. NObody be a ‘somebody’ that evening.
I am engrossed in the book, till the time I am ushered to meet the man himself, Chef Vineet- a gentle and unassuming culinary extraordinaire. His kind eyes and gentle smile put me at ease instantaneously thus avoiding any faux pas, I was about to commit. A brief discussion has him explain his humble beginnings and awe inspiring story of how he started out peeling 200 potatoes in this very kitchen many moons ago, only to head the same restaurant today. Humility and simplicity at its best.
I was explained that tonight’s Jugalbandi was at the hands of Chef Adriano Baldassarre, Chef Rubén Santos and himself with a confluence of Indian, Japanese and Italian flavors over a 5 course menu.
I am escorted to my table and requested at my own pace to inform my attendant as and when ready to begin. I try to hold back my glee and over enthusiasm and gently whisper ‘please begin‘ in the most monotone baroque voice possible. Pulled that off rather well, might I add.
Each plating had a story to tell. It was well explained and to the point. The San Danielle ham and Parmesan maki with a roll of saffron khichdi and sweet shitake was something I would relate to an extra marital affair (not that I would know off first hand, hearsay at best). Two pieces of sinful delight each captivating my senses over the other. The Good wife vs the provocative mistress and before ones knows it, the affair consumes you onto the next course.
San Danielle ham & Parmesan maki
It is the season for porcini mushrooms in Italy all this month. And yes, I know a few Italians who are anal in their consumption of the freshest produce and dining with them have learnt to expect the same. It’s simple,wholesome living yet plentiful as to how structured they are in their eating habits.
The Miso porcini soup hit the spot. The pairing of the crunchy shrimp fritters over sun dried tomato chutney, struck a perfectly poised balance between the two. My use of the gold cutlery for the first time did have an awkward geek moment wherein I wrestled with the thought of taking a selfie, luckily the deer in headlight stare from my observant server had me compose myself at the awkward immediate last second. Missed my selfie-Darnnit!!!
The next course was a delicate Chilli & Burnt garlic Chilean Seabass. Accompanied with a dust of carbon mash (yes you heard right carbon!!), zucchini scapesce and black bean sauce this was a treat to the senses being paired with the 2002 Chateau Margaux. You do not want to know the price of a bottle- (hint; it runs into the six figure range INR).
What is amazing and refreshing is the art on display at the table in perfectly sized portions. Not too little not too much. Each dish presents itself with a story that arrests me. To others, on several occasions I might have looked like a gawking Buffon, as I marvel and reveal in these painstakingly handcrafted pieces- a part of me not wishing to consume it and bid it farewell but another craving to devour it the minute it arrives. Due respect must be adhered too merely as protocol. We shall let Mr Hyde slumber for now.
After a refreshing ginger sorbet to cleanse the palate with some fine Moet poured over it, I took a few minutes to digest and read the crafted menu more elaborately. And the last line arrested me. ‘Close your eyes and explore a myriad of sensory dimensions’. Indeed.
However I had to move along to the next course. The Curry leaf and crusted lamb loin with spaghetti puttanesca, sesame wasabi pak choy steamed white asparagus.
By the time, I was playing Sherlock trying to deduce associating the dishes to the personalities of the chefs inside. On a wild note, I’ve been chased down the streets of Rome for the misunderstanding of the word ‘putta‘ so I find it hilariously funny when spoken about spaghetti that way.
I have taken the liberty to articulate this last piece of culinary art as the Art Platter. Though the name is as simplistic as the concept behind it Chef Vineet calls it the Matcha- rasmalai cheesecake, Coconut panna cotta, Matcha chocolate truffle and black sesame Kulfi. I just stared and then some upon its presentation, and wondered how Chef managed to get a rasmalai in between a cheesecake!?!
Simple, yet awe inspiring and brilliantly executed. Perfect and moist right down the centre. The chocolate truffle was a loaded cannon with the explosion hitting all the sensory spots. And the cute puzzle moulds of Panna cotta and kulfi were a playful delight.
Indeed an enlightening affair. Thank you Chef’s and the entire team.
Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography Shot on IPhone 6