Category Archives: Food

K3 Alfresco at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity : A Perfect Winter Rendezvous

Some of my fondest memories of winter are centred around food. Sitting around a bonfire eating peanuts and gajjak in Jammu during Lohri; driving for masala tea and hot pakoras to a road side tea stall in Rajpur from our house in Dehradun; plucking fresh spinach and mustard from our kitchen garden in Kaka Nagar, New Delhi, cooking it over an open fire and eating it along with home-made “makki rotis”.

Countless nostalgic food moments like these, associated with places where I have lived. Somehow I feel less guilty about over-eating at this time of the year. The weight gain that invariably happens, gets camouflaged by layers of clothing, which is a blessing.

During winters, the urge for a barbecue usually takes me to a nearby “dhaba”, or to Old Delhi, where you can stand around numerous roadside makeshift charcoal grills, and devour delicious kebabs and skewered meats.

But there are times, when I really yearn for a nice juicy lamb chop, paired with a robust red wine or some top quality grilled fish. For this, however, I head to a fine dining restaurant, preferably having outdoor seating, as this kind of food is best enjoyed when it is fresh off the grill, and cooked right in front of you.

When I read that K3, the all-day dining at JW Marriott, Aerocity New Delhi, had added an outdoor extension called K3 Alfresco serving barbecues and grilled dishes, it seemed like the perfect solution for my yearnings and I decided to check it out.

Luckily Delhi has had an unusually mild winter this year. So the thought of sitting outdoors did not seen very daunting.

K3, with its elaborate menu and popular Sunday brunches has already established its reputation as one of the best fine dining destinations in Delhi -NCR. I was not disappointed with the new addition, K3 Alfresco, either.

K3 Alfresco at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity
K3 Alfresco at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

The menu at K3 Alfresco is limited since it is predominantly about grills. Prawns, Scallops, Goat Cheese Tart and something called Provolone Brulee are offered as the appetizers. For the mains the choice is wider and the several options include Lobster, Fish (Sea Bass, Black Cod, John Dory), New Zealand Lamb Chops, Pork Chops & Chicken Breast. Vegetarians can choose between Charred Polenta and Wild Mushroom & Asparagus Gougère.

There is a wide variety of sauces to go with the mains, Béarnaise, Caper Beurre Blanc, Red Wine Jus, Pepper, Mushroom etc. Plenty of interesting sides too.

I ordered Grilled Jumbo Prawns, Goat Cheese Tart (absolutely delicious and must try) among the appetisers and Sea Bass & New Zealand Lamb Chops from the mains. The wine I chose with the seafood was Dr Loosen 2013 Riesling and with the lamb chops it was Frescobaldi Pater Sangiovese, both by the glass. The deal here is that if you order one main dish ( Rs 1500-3500) from the grill; the soup, sides and a pre-plated dessert come free of cost.

Grilled Sea Bass; Grilled Prawns; New Zealand Lamb Chops, Goat Cheese Tart, Dr Loosen Riesling, Dessert Platter with Creme Brulee & Valrhona Chocolate Mousse.
Grilled Sea Bass; Grilled Prawns; New Zealand Lamb Chops, Goat Cheese Tart, Dr Loosen Riesling, Dessert Platter with Creme Brulee & Valrhona Chocolate Mousse. All food pics are mine except the Sea Bass

Now Sea Bass is a delicate fish which requires minimal cooking. Executive Chef Vivek Bhatt and Executive Sous Chef Ishika Konar had respected that. The fish presented to me was white, soft, flakey and just melted in the mouth.

The Prawns were a wee bit over but Chef Ishika nailed the lamb chops. I had asked them to be done medium and this is how I got them, succulent with the juices intact. The cooking techniques of the chefs was spot on. They understood the ingredients and respected them.

Chef Ishika Konar, Executive Sous Chef, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity. She specialises in Mediterranean, German, & Mexican Cuisine and her forte is western hot kitchen & garde manger.
Chef Ishika Konar, Executive Sous Chef, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity. She specialises in Mediterranean, German, & Mexican Cuisine and her forte is western hot kitchen & garde manger.

One reason why I like going to K3 is the well thought out wine list and some great offers by the glass. Plus there is Director Beverages, Ankur Chawla, one of India’s best sommeliers, whose advice can always be sought, when in doubt about which wine to pair with your meal.

K3 Alfresco is a dinner only, season bound offer (during winters till mid-Feb). I loved the romantic ambience. It seems like a perfect place to take your date on a cold winter evening.

In case you need additional heating, there are enough tower heaters which don’t let you feel the chill, even though you are seated in the open.

So if you are looking for a special evening to try out some delicious grills, you know where to head to.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

Tokyo Mon Amour : France meets Japan at a Bar Pop-up @Guppy by ai

When it comes to eating out with family and friends, I am a creature of habit and rarely venture far from home. I guess I am lucky to have some decent restaurants in my vicinity and don’t mind frequenting them again and again. So when two of my neighborhood favorites, the ever popular Le Bistro du Parc and the funky contemporary Japanese restaurant, Guppy by ai, decided to come together in a Franco Japanese Bar pop-up avatar titled “Tokyo Mon Amour” or “Tokyo My Love”, I couldn’t be more excited. And may I add curious. I always enjoy Chef Vikram Khatri’s food. But what was this French twist to Japanese cuisine or was it the other way around? So off I went to check it out.

This latest offering from A.D Singh’s Olive stable is just what the doctor ordered for unwinding after a day’s hard work. Or even to hang out with friends for a fun night out. Some innovative cocktails, tapas style shared small plates which are reasonably priced (Rs 350-650) in a chic elegant ambience created by Naïna de Bois-Juzan, the gorgeous, co-owner of Le Bistro du Parc, or the girl with a gamine smile as I call her.

The theatre, where this pop-up is being played out, is the indoor lounge and courtyard at Guppy by ai, Lodi Colony Market. A brilliant use of space, in my opinion, that does not affect the regular restaurant, which continues to run as usual with full Guppy menu.

Let’s talk about cocktails first. The reason why I hesitate to order cocktails at most restaurants is because I find them either too sweet or watered down. So I prefer sticking to wine. Tokyo Mon Amour menu features some interesting cocktails and out of the two that I tried at the insistence of the mixologist, I enjoyed Wasabi Mimosa made with fresh orange, wasabi infused vodka & sparkling wine. Found it very refreshing with the wasabi giving a slight pungent kick on the back palate. A word of advice: Always mention your preference to the bartender about how you would like your cocktail before ordering, rather than returning it for being too sweet, dry, sour whatever.

Wasabi Mimosa (Orange, Wasabi Infused Vodka & Sparkling Wine) ; Aomorotini (Gin, Green Apple, Rosemary, Lime)
Wasabi Mimosa (Orange, Wasabi Infused Vodka & Sparkling Wine) ; Aomorotini (Gin, Green Apple, Rosemary, Lime) Photo Courtesy Guppy by ai

The food at Tokyo Mon Amour features some staples of both the restaurants and I couldn’t resist ordering Le Bistro Du Parc’s signature Pan Fried Calamari & Guppy’s Black Rice Sushi Rolls. Can one ever go wrong with these two dishes ? Yes, they also have Guppy’s signature Pork Belly, though for once I gave it a miss.

Now comes the tricky part, the inspiration bit. Some Japanese dishes have been tweaked to include French elements and vice versa. Niçoise Salad inspired Tuna Tataki with a wasabi soya vinaigrette is a perfect example of a classic French salad with a touch of Japan. An interesting element in this is Tamagoyaki or layered Japanese omelette, which can pass off as tuna, till one tastes it. Sakura Wood Cold Smoked Salmon is another inspired dish, the French influence here is Crème Fraîche. Parma Ham wrapped Asparagus Roll and House Chicken Sausages wrapped in bacon, which the chef insisted I try out, were very creative. The latter had a delicious red wine soy glaze.

The two dishes I did not care much for were Panko-crusted Japanese “kare bread” and Cheese Korokke (Croquettes). The fact that both these were deep-fried may have something to do with my reluctance to do them justice. Basically there was nothing exceptional about them.

Cured Tomato & Ginko Nut Salad; Curry Pan Bread; Asparagus & Ham Maki, Cold-Smoked Salmon; Bacon Wrapped Chicken Sausages; Pan Fried Calamari
Cured Tomato & Ginko Nut Salad; Curry Pan Bread; Asparagus & Ham Maki, Cold-Smoked Salmon; Bacon Wrapped Chicken Sausages; Pan Fried Calamari

The star of the pop-up and that one dish which epitomises Tokyo Mon Amour for me is Ramen Croque Madam. For the uninitiated, Croque Madam is a classic French ham & cheese sandwich made with fried bread, topped with melted cheese and a lightly fried egg. It is a staple of Parisian café menus. Chef Vikram has cleverly substituted bread with a Ramen Bun (pan-fried patties of ramen noodle). I loved this dish and strongly recommend it.

Ramen Croque Madame ( Bechamel, Chicken Ham & Cheese in a Guppy Ramen Bun topped with Cracked Fried Egg
Ramen Croque Madame ( Bechamel, Chicken Ham & Cheese in a Guppy Ramen Bun topped with Cracked Fried Egg

Tokyo Mon Amour pop-up at Guppy is on only till the end of April and those of you, who still haven’t gone, should give it a try especially for Ramen Croque Madame which is a brilliant innovation by Chef Vikram Khatri. The décor and the ambience is another reason why you cannot miss it. Did I talk about the playlist yet? I could sit here forever and listen to those lovely numbers compiled by Naïna de Bois-Juzan.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Tokyo Mon Amour (on only till 30th April)

Courtyard & Lounge at Guppy by ai, 28  Main Market, Lodi Colony, New Delhi

Every Wednesday to Sunday (Dinner Only) 7pm onward

 

Dine Fest at La Bodega, Khan Market

DineFest sounds like an offer too tempting to resist. Rs 600/++ for a three-course fixed price meal comprising of an appetizer, main dish and a dessert at some of Delhi’s finest stand-alone restaurants (also covers Mumbai & Bangalore) where the price of one dish would probably equal the cost of what you will be paying for three. Trust Nachiket Shetye and Mangal Dalal of Cellar Door Hospitality to come up with this unique multi-city culinary event, initiated with the express purpose of making gourmet dining experiences accessible to a wider audience, giving food lovers a chance to try out restaurants where they might have hesitated to venture, either due to high prices or unfamiliarity with a particular cuisine.

The segment they have chosen for Dinefest is “casual dining”, an area which has seen an explosive growth and where so much experimentation is being carried out by some brave young restaurateurs. La Bodega in Khan Market falls under this category where two sisters Smriti & Neeti Goyal, on their return after more than a decade-long stint of living overseas, decided to open their own place serving “authentic” Mexican cuisine in the middle lane of bustling Khan Market. This is far cry from the spicy Tex-Mex variants that have made people wary of trying out any new restaurant which professes to serve Mexican. For a change, even the décor of La Bodega does not scream “Mexico” as it is understated, sophisticated and very pleasant.

I chose to eat at La Bodega during DineFest on the recommendation of some of my expat friends who simply love the food and ambience here. What better validation of authenticity could I get, as the first person I saw on entering the restaurant was none other than Mexican ambassador to India, who clearly seemed to be enjoying her meal. By choosing to participate in Dinefest, the young owners of La Bodega wish to showcase real Mexican food to discerning diners, even at the risk of incurring losses, since they feel that there is definitely a market for those willing to experiment with unfamiliar tastes and become acquainted with names like Mole, Tamal, and Antojitos (Mexican Street Food)

For the 10-day long DineFest (on till the 28th of February), La Bodega has kept aside 2-3 tables for lunch and dinner and bookings can be made online (www.dinefest.in). There is both a vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu featuring signature dishes representative of their philosophy. The appetizers, which come in bite sized portions, feature Tacos, Tostadas, Quesadillas and Soup while the Mains have Burrito, Enchiladas and Sandwiches. Among the dessert you can choose between Churros, Tres Leches Cake and Corn Cake. Their DineFest menu basically covers a spectrum of Mexican food ranging from street food to specialty dishes.

So here is your chance to try out “authentic” Mexican food at a fraction of “a la carte” rates, a bonanza for those who complain about La Bodega being overpriced.

By Lavina Kharkwal

Some of the dishes I tried out during DineFest at La Bodega, Khan Market
Some of the dishes I tried out during DineFest at La Bodega, Khan Market : Tinga de Pollo con Queso (Chicken Quesadilla) , Cochinita Pibil (Pulled Pork Tacos), Torta Ahogada (Pork Sandwich), Churros con Chocolate and Pastel de Tres Leches (cake made from three milks)

Cellar Door Hospitality plans to hold DineFest once a quarter, in February, May, August and November with 10-20 restaurants per participating city.

Here is a list of Delhi restaurants participating in the 10-day long DineFest (19th to  28th February 2016). To book log on to http://www.dinefest.in

  1. Benihana, Nehru Place.
  2. Café Diva, RK Puram
  3. Café Lota, Pragati Maidan
  4. Chi Asian Cookhouse, Janpath
  5. Depot 29, Safdarjung
  6. Dirty Apron, Safdarjung
  7. Fuji Japanese, Connaught Place
  8. Jamie’s Italian, Vasant Kunj
  9. Mahabelly, Saket
  10. PCO, Vasant Vihar
  11. Rustom’s, Aurobindo Marg
  12. Kylin Premier, Vasant Kunj
  13. The Hungery Monkey, Safdarjung
  14. Soda Bottle Opener Wala, Khan Market
  15. La Bodega, Khan Market

Berries & More at Akira Back, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

Give me berries over any other fruit as for me personally there is nothing more delicious than biting into a ripe juicy plump berry, be it strawberry, raspberry, blueberry or blackberry. Other than the taste I find them visually appealing as they come in vibrant colors. And they are “health treasures” as these little wonders come packed with cancer fighting antioxidants which neutralize those dangerous villains called free radicals that cause cell damage in our body. Berries contain tons of vitamins, anthocyanidins which can slow down ageing and something called flavonoids (also found in red wine) which have a slimming effect on our bodies as they inhibit fat absorption.

You must be wondering why I am extolling the health benefits of this luscious “super food”. Well that’s because a few days back I got a chance to try out some great berry based dishes at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity’s contemporary Japanese restaurant Akira Back, where currently, there is food festival called “Berries and More” going on. It was a revelation to see seasonal berries being presented in a non-dessert form as they were incorporated in savory dishes and combined with seafood. I thought it was a brilliant way of making dining out a healthy option.

Hawaii born Chef Corey E Asato who heads the team at Akira Back, suggested I begin my meal with Strawberry Salad featuring juicy strawberries, thinly sliced cucumbers, mixed greens and balsamic reduction served with an amazu pepper dressing. The salad, though simple, packed quite a punch. Fresh strawberries and balsamic reduction have a natural affinity for each other and the sweet tangy flavors in the salad were balanced nicely with the salty sharp amazu dressing.

The next dish I tried was Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu. Tataki, which is basically pan seared meat or fish, is a very popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants. So in case you have a fear of eating raw fish (sashimi) I suggest you try Tataki as it’s a great way to eat tuna. This dish had some interesting components like truffled amazu ponzu shaved onions, micro pea shoots & renkon chips (Japanese lotus roots same as our nadru or kamal kakri). Berries were used more than just a decorative garnish here as the berry wasbai tosazu was layered with acidity and umami flavors and helped in bringing the dish together.

Strawberry Salad & Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu
Strawberry Salad & Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu

Negami with Raspberry Ginger was next on the table. In simple English this was skewered grilled chicken basted with a delicious raspberry ginger glaze, macha salt, the chicken pieces interspersed with curled negi (Japanese onion). This is a great option for the non-fish/seafood eating Delhi folks. The vegetarian version comes with roasted vegetables with cranberry ponzu (a tangy soy-based citrus sauce)

The last berry based savory dish presented before me was Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille served on a bed of Inaniwa Udon with lemon grass coconut broth. Since this was the first time I tried these noodles, Chef Corey explained that Inaniwa are hand-stretched & thinner than regular udon and are counted as one of Japan’s 100 best local dishes from rural areas. The noodles had a distinctive feel in the mouth as they had a firm body. As for the salmon,  we all know it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and when combined with the goodness of berries, this was a super healthy delicious dish that I finished in no time.

Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille and Inaniwa Udon : Photo courtesy Akira Back
Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille and Inaniwa Udon : Photo Courtesy Akira Back

I ended my meal with Panna Cotta garnished with fresh raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and a berry tuile providing a crunchy textural contrast.

Talking to Chef Corey Asato who along with Chef Tomoyuki Kiga has been entrusted with executing the vision of Chef Akira Back, I could easily see his passion for cooking and desire to learn and better himself by experimenting with various techniques and ingredients. Here he takes a classic cuisine like Japanese and with subtle twists, turns it into something so palatable that it suits Indian taste buds perfectly. It is not without reason that Akira Back has firmly established itself as the top fine-dine option for Japanese Korean cuisine, not just in Delhi but in India.

Chef Corey E. Asato with his team at Akira Back
Chef Corey E. Asato with his team at Akira Back

The pleasure of eating here increases manifold when you have people like Beverage Manager Ankur Chawla, one of India’s most knowledgeable sommeliers, to guide you through the well thought out wine list and explain about the various types of Sake (Japanese rice wine) like Jun Mai, Honjozo, Ginjo & Daiginzo on offer.

Believe me eating out becomes an experience to cherish.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Sake Cocktail & Grey Goose Martini at Akira Back
Sake Cocktail & Grey Goose Martini at Akira Back

Berries & More 18th -27th February 2016

6 pm -11.45 pm

Akira Back at JW Marriott

New Delhi Aerocity

 

 

Moplah Food Festival with Abida Rasheed @The Park New Delhi

Food is an exploration of culture. It is about communication and Abida Rasheed’s food tells us a story. It speaks about the culinary traditions of the Moplah (Malabari Muslim) community that she belongs to, her culinary prowess and the hospitality of Kozhikode (Calicut), a town in Kerala where this home chef comes from.

“There is a lack of awareness about Moplah or Mappila Cuisine which is a blend of local Malabar & Arab fare with some Portuguese influence and it a matter of pride for me that I have been able to popularize this great Indian cuisine through various food festivals and television shows” says Begum Abida during the course of our meal at Fire, the Indian speciality restaurant at The Park New Delhi, where she is currently curating  a food festival titled The Malabar Spice Route along with Executive Chef Abhishek Basu, who has been successful in restoring some of the past glory of Fire. The ethos of Fire is to showcase unheralded cuisines from different regions of India and the Moplah Food Festival is a part of that ongoing endeavour.

For the festival Abida Rasheed has handpicked some signature dishes of Mappila cuisine. The recipes used are from her own kitchen and she has carried the spices and even some of the utensils  like uruli (brass pot) & cheena chatti (cast iron frying pan) all the way from Kerala. She uses rock salt in her dishes and does not use spoons for measuring the spices while cooking. “I cook by instinct. Little things like when to add the salt to the dish matters a lot. It makes a huge difference to the taste.  I do not use any tinned stuff and even the double filtered coconut oil and ghee has come from home”, says the well-travelled chef with a lot of pride. When she is not cooking, this ambassador of Mappila cuisine runs a flourishing textile business which has taken her to different parts of the world.

I tried tasting portions of some of the dishes on the menu and my recommendations are: Erachi pathiri (deep fried puires stuffed with onion and mutton).  Pathiri or unleavened flatbread made of rice flour is the mainstay of Mappila cuisine and influenced by Arab food tradition, the only difference being that wheat is substituted with rice. In fact there are more than 50 varieties of pathiris which vary from region to region.

Kaduka Nirachathu: Mussels (both shallow fried and steamed) stuffed with a mixture of rice flour and coconut are absolutely delicious especially the steamed ones. These are special mussels (Kallummakaya) which grow on rocks in contact with the sea and Abida Rasheed has brought with her a couple of kilos for the food fest. No fancy New Zealand mussels for her.

Chemeen Mulaku Curry: Prawns cooked in tomato gravy is fiery but the heat is tempered by serving it with soft and fluffy “puttu” which is made by powdering rice and coconut and steaming it in a cylindrical vessel.

Mutton Ishtu (mutton cooked in coconut milk, white pepper, onion & potato comes with pathiri and flaky Malabar parottas. Mildly spiced it is a delicious home style stew. The Moplah Muslims used to sell spice to others but were very restrained when it came to using them in their own food especially the famed Tellicheery black pepper. This reflects in the dishes which are on offer at the fest. The food is not rich in gravies and oil laden like the cuisine from Kashmir, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Delhi and the spices are decidedly mild.

The star of the menu however is Thalassery Mutton Dum Biryani made with special fragrant short grained kaima rice from Bengal. The meat is marinated in yogurt and cooked for hours and literally falls off the bones when you eat it.  The way it is served is also different as the meat is placed on the side rather than mixed into the rice. The special rice is light on the stomach and does not leave you feeling bloated.

Chemeen Mulaku Curry (Prawn Curry with Puttu) Mutton Ishtu with Pathiri, Thalassery Mutton Dum Biryani
Chemeen Mulaku Curry (Prawn Curry with Puttu) Mutton Ishtu with Pathiri, Thalassery Mutton Dum Biryani

The tasting platter of desserts comprises of Chakara Choru (whole wheat cooked in milk & coconut jaggery) Elaneer (tender coconut) Payasam and special Moplah halwa, a glutinous confection made from refined flour, sugar, palm sugar & coconut oil,  black in colour but with variations in orange and green.

Dessert Tasting Platter: Halwa , Elaneer payasam & Chakra Choru
Dessert Tasting Platter: Halwa , Elaneer payasam & Chakra Choru

Most of the dishes are very reasonably priced and the festival is open only for dinner. Lunch option is available for groups (minimum 20 people) at Rs 1200 onward. There are quite a few vegetarian options too though I did not try them out.

The Malabar Spice Route with Chef Begum Abida Rasheed is on at Fire, The Park New Delhi only till the 13th of December. So don’t miss your chance to try out timeless classics of Moplah or Mappila Cuisine whichever name you chose to call it by.

In case you need to know more about this cuisine and the dishes Begum Abida Rasheed and her lovely daughter Nasifa will be only too happy to interact with you. It will give you a feel as if you are eating at their home rather than at a hotel.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

With Begum Abida Rasheed & Chef Abhishek Basu of The Park
With Begum Abida Rasheed & Chef Abhishek Basu of The Park