Category Archives: Restaurant Review

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

Pairing Indian “Roti” Bread with French Wine : Naanery at Baluchi The Lalit

Wine and bread is the most basic and oldest pairing known to mankind dating back to times immemorial, even finding a mention in the bible. It is also the most “natural” and balanced pairing as the process of fermentation is used for making both dough and wine. Try using bread as more than just a side dish and drink that Champagne with Brioche, Sangiovese with Olive bread, Rosé with Focaccia, Pinot Noir with Rye bread, and Cabernet Sauvignon with French bread or a Riesling with any sweet bread. You can easily make a meal out it.

While bread has somewhat of a neutral profile, it gets a little tricky when it comes to pairing wine with Indian flatbread or roti. And who would think of pairing different kinds of speciality Indian breads like Paratha, Kulcha & Bakarkhani with, lo and behold, French Wine? Well there is a place right here in the heart of our capital where you can find this innovative concept being executed with aplomb.

Naanery at Baluchi, the signature Pan Indian restaurant at The Lalit, Barakhmaba Road, New Delhi, already well known for its unprecedented bread bar menu, has come out with an offer where French wines are paired with breads baked right in front of you in an iron tandoor. These breads are different from what is served at most Indian restaurants. They come in bite size portions and have been chosen by Executive Chef Ajay Kumar, from various regions of India. The concept of Naanery or Roti Bar is the first in India where the humble “roti” has been elevated to the status of a star.

The wines have been chosen by French sommelier Charles Donnadieu (MC Sommellerie 2005/06 Lycée Professionnel Etincelle) who comes from a small town called Bagard in south of France. He joined as Corporate Sommelier of the Lalit Group in May 2014, a position specially created for him by Keshav Suri, Executive Director of Lalit Group of Hotels for the purpose of developing a wine culture in his hotels. Charles is instrumental in planning this menu and handpicking the most suitable French wines to match the flavour profile of the different Indian breads.

First pairing offered is Pheni Paratha, a flaky bread originating from Meerut made with generous amounts of ghee (clarified butter), sesame seed & pistachios paired with an off dry fruity & floral white wine, Vaucluse Domaine La Pigeade “Petits Grains de Folie” 2014. The acidity of the crisp wine cuts through the butter in the bread and the lychee flavor lifts up the slight sweetness of the Pheni Paratha very well. The wine is made from 100% “Muscat blanc`a  Petits Grains” which ampelographic evidence shows is one of the oldest cepage (grape variety) still in existence.

Next comes Gilafi Kulcha from Lucknow, a double layered bread with cheese, vegetable & coriander leaves paired with a medium bodied red AOC Ventoux Domaine La Pigeade “Les Sables” 2014. The wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan & Syrah and its red berry and pepper notes match the slightly spicy kulcha perfectly.

Last pairing is of Bakarkhani, a semi-sweet specialty bread from Kashmir with AOC “Muscat de Beaumes de Venises” Domaine La Pigeade 2013, a unique and slightly potent “vin doux naturel”(sweet fortified wine) made with “mutage method” (addition of 96% proof grape spirit). This combination is a perfect marriage of grain and grape.

Domaine de La Pigeade are independent producers located at the foot of Mt. Ventoux in Southern Rhone Valley, who make 10 wines in four different appellations like Côtes du Rhone, Ventoux, Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise. It is a good opportunity to try out these offerings from South of France paired with breads from different parts of India. In case you wish to try out any other wines outside the menu, just ask the sommelier and he will take you to the well-stocked Wine Room located right across the Bread Bar.

So go ahead and try out this new culinary experience which The Lalit wishes to share with you.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Indian Breads paired with French Wines
Indian Breads paired with French Wines

Three glasses of French wine (50ml per glass) paired with three different types of Indian bread (2 pieces each) comes at a price of Rs 1000 pp + taxes.

Naanery at Baluchi

The Lalit New Delhi

Barakhamba Road

Connaught Place New Delhi 110001

Chor Bizzare celebrates 25 years with a Pop-Up at Drift Epicentre Gurgaon

There are certain places which are so inextricably tied to our personal experiences that just a glimpse triggers a rush of memories. Chor Bizzaare, the wacky path-breaking restaurant at Hotel Broadway, Asaf Ali Road near Delhi Gate in Old Delhi which opened in 1990, is one such place which holds a special spot in my heart as it was here, in the same year, that my husband proposed to me. By taking me to this particular restaurant he wanted to impress me and he succeeded. The bric-a-bracky interiors, a maverick setting with mismatched crockery and cutlery, an eclectic menu, a vintage car doubling as a salad bar, a four poster bed serving as a diner’s table, the pure kitsch so captivated my imagination that I went back several times just to explore and to re-live memories of that special moment.

It was also my first brush with Kashmiri cuisine. Not just mine; it was the first time that the people of Delhi were exposed to the concept of “Wazwan”, a lavish community repast comprising of 36 courses and  “Tarami” a large ornamented plate heaped with rice and first few courses, with each successive course following separately allowing one to savor the distinct flavors. With the Rohit Khattar’s  Old World Hospitality deciding to open Chor Bizzare at Mayfair, London in 1997, it also became the first Indian restaurant company to open a branch of a successful restaurant overseas.

It is a restaurant which had stood the test of time and is now in its 25th year. Although Chor Bizzare positions itself as pan-Indian or should I say as a pan-subcontinent restaurant, it is Kashmiri cuisine which remains its biggest draw. The name itself is a pun on “Chor Bazzar” which is “Thieves Market”, present in most Indian cities reminiscent of a flea market. If you have been to Porta Portese in Rome you will get the picture.

What makes Chor Bizzare special other than its eccentric interiors and the fact that is one of the very few places in Delhi where one can get to taste authentic Kashmiri delicacies like Goshtaba (pounded lamb dumplings in yogurt gravy), Hak (a local variety of greens), Rista (meat balls in red gravy) Nadru Yakhni (lotus stem in yogurt gravy) & many others, is that there is also a large repertoire of vegetarian dishes and chaats. The chilli and oil content is considerably toned down which allows the subtle & complex flavors to emerge and you can literally get the distinct taste of aniseed, dried ginger, dried mint and cardamom in your mouth. Rogan Josh is not floating in oil and Tabak Maaz (lamb shank) is grilled rather than fried making it tender and not chewy. A unique feature of Kashmiri cuisine is that the food is mostly cooked in mustard oil and there is no use of onions and garlic. A lot of dishes are yogurt based and even though some are fiery red in appearance, they are rather mild as kashimri chilli is not that potent. Chef Rajiv Kumar Malhotra, the corporate chef at QSR & Casual Dining at Chor Bizzare and Drift, Habitat World IHC and Old World Hospitality, knows enough about this cuisine and the subtle differences between the Kashmiri Pandit and Kashimiri Muslim styles of cooking to keep the flavors authentic.

What bigger testimony to its success than the fact that Chor Bizzare is celebrating its silver anniversary this year in times when the shelf life of most restaurants is a few years if not less. To celebrate this momentous milestone Chor Bizzare has created a Pop-Up at Drift Epicentre Gurgaon for a limited period (till 30th September) where the residents of the millennium city can get to taste most of the signature dishes, even though the ambience is different from the real McCoy. Décor wise the only concession to the original is in the placemats which have pictures of the iconic salad bar and other bric-a-brac and memorabilia.

One of the place-mats at Chor Bizzare Pop-up featuring the salad bar at the iconic restaurant at Hotel Broadway, Daryaganj Delhi
One of the place-mats at Chor Bizzare Pop-up featuring the salad bar at the iconic restaurant at Hotel Broadway, Daryaganj Delhi

The Pop-Up is certainly a great opportunity to become acquainted with the cuisine of one the most beautiful regions of India, Kashmir.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

Chor Bizzare Pop-Up ( Aug16- September 30)

Drift Epicentre at Apparel House

Sector 44, Near Huda City Centre Metro Station

Gurgaon Haryana

For Reservations : 0124 2715100 / 2715227 Mob : 9999326400

Magic of Awadhi Cuisine at Dilli 32 Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi

I was mentally prepared to spend a couple of hours on the road when I accepted the invitation to attend the Preview Lunch of Awadhi Food Festival at the Indian specialty cuisine restaurant Dilli 32 at Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi situated near Yamuna Sports Complex in Shahdara East Delhi. Like most people residing in South Delhi, it was a daunting thought to step out of the 10 km radius around which our lives revolve and venture that far. However the barrier proved more mental than real and I was surprised to find myself at the venue in less than 40 minutes on a day when, for some strange reason, there was not much traffic on the Delhi roads.

Having arrived a good 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time, I decided to utilize it fruitfully by having a look around the property, which I was told is the flagship hotel in India of Europe’s oldest luxury hotel chain, Kempinski Hotels. The group joined hand with Delhi based Ambience Group, a real estate development company (of Ambience Mall fame) after parting ways with the Leela group with which it had a marketing alliance and the Kempinski Ambience Hotel began operations in East Delhi in December 2012.

Why East Delhi? Because it is an upcoming area which did not feature any property in the luxury segment to cater to its burgeoning populace who appreciate high quality services & facilities and have the resources to indulge in it. The hotel houses the largest pillar-less banquet hall in India which can accommodate 6,000 guests. Impressive. More impressive was the outdoor Infinity Pool which overlooks a green patch. I couldn’t resist clicking a photograph and much as I would have liked to take a dip in the pool, I had to remind myself what I had come there for, which was to enjoy the Awadhi repast which was awaiting me.

Infinity Pool at Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi
Infinity Pool at Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi

When one hears the name Awadhi cuisine the first images which conjure up in the mind are of mouth-watering kabebs, qormas, nahari, kulcha, sheermal. Inspired by the Mughal style of cooking, this cuisine which hails from the city of Nawabs, Lucknow, is famous for its “dum” style of cooking which is the art of cooking over slow fire. Having lived in Lucknow for three years and being familiar with the nuances of this cooking style, I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the dishes at the Awadhi Food Festival had a mark of authenticity and were replete with flavour.

The credit for this goes to Chef de cuisine Ashwani Kumar Singh, an unheralded talent who possesses an in-depth knowledge as well as a passion for Awadhi cuisine which comes across in the detailing and execution of each dish. He has managed to bring the magic of Awadh to the guests as those who attend this festival will find out to their delight just as I did. Chef Ashwani is ably guided by Executive Chef Rohit Tokhi who belongs to Lucknow and has an insight into what exactly the cuisine entails along with Rajkumari Alka Rani Singh of Pratapgarh U.P who has shared some of her precious family recipes to help recreate traditional Awadhi dishes from the royal kitchens of Lucknow.

Executive Chef Rohit Tokhi & Chef de Cuisine Ashwani Kumar
Executive Chef Rohit Tokhi & Chef de Cuisine Ashwani Kumar

Coming to the food now, some of the starters which stood out for me were Shammi Kabab made with minced mutton, raw mangoes and spices which had just that faint trace of sweet attar or perfume which got my attention and kept me captivated, Kathal or Jack fruit tikka, Tawa champ and fennel flavored Jinga (prawn) saufina.

In the main course, the vegetarian dishes which I enjoyed were Rattan manjusha which was spinach dumplings stuffed with mushroom, dry fruits & honey (generous use of dry fruits was a hallmark of Awadhi cuisine since it symbolized prosperity & opulence), Shakahari Kheechra made with pearl barley, wheat and lentils and Gucchi (morels) biryani. Among the non-vegetarian dishes, the Band gosht, Bater hara salan (quail in coriander & poppy seeds based gravy) and Murg Musallam (whole chicken stuffed with khoya, nuts and eggs) were very well made. The only dish which did not work for me was the Murg ki khas nehari which lacked a little flavour. Or maybe we are so used to Mutton nehari that the chicken version seemed odd.

A word about the desserts which were quite extraordinary especially the Kacche aam ki kheer and mirchi ka halwa made with capsicum, the latter being an innovation of Chef Ashwani and a must have at Dilli 32 (this number incidentally denotes the postal pin code of Old Delhi). It is a dining destination worth trying out even if it means traveling a bit extra or out of the way.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

Some of the dishes at the Awadhi Food Festival. A few pics Courtesy Kempinski Hotel.
Some of the dishes at the Awadhi Food Festival. A few pics Courtesy Kempinski Hotel.

Awadhi Food Festival at Kempinski Ambience Hotel is on till the 30th of August. The restaurant is open only for dinner.

 

 

Guppy by ai : Summer Menu to beat the heat.

In this relentless heat, with the scorching sun beating down on us, all one craves is some refreshing and cooling food. What better cuisine to try out than Japanese, which has been scientifically proven to combat fatigue caused by the ravages of summer. And what better place to try it out than at the breezy, funky, colorful restaurant, Guppy by ai, located at Lodi Colony Market.

Seasonality of food or “shun” is the key stone of Japanese food culture with food being an indicator of seasons in Japan and seasonal produce playing an important role in most dishes. Come summer and it’s time for Hiyashi Chuka, Somen (cold noodles) Mizuna (Japanese mustard) Okra, Tofu, Unagi (eel) foods well known for their cooling properties in countering the heat. They have all been incorporated in the new summer menu at Guppy by ai, by Chef Vikram Khatri. A few days back I was invited to try it out.

I began my meal with Sakura Wood Smoked Pumpkin Soup (Rs 250). Sakura is a Japanese cherry blossom tree which, contrary to common misconception, does not bear any fruit and produces only soft pastel pink blossoms during spring. Chef Vikram uses hot and cold smoking techniques, using the wood of Sakura trees, to impart a slightly peaty flavor to this very lightly seasoned sweetish soup. A big change from the umami flavours of Japanese miso soup that we have all got accustomed to.

Sakura Wood Smoked Pumpkin Soup
Sakura Wood Smoked Pumpkin Soup

Seaweed & Mesclun Salad (Rs 450) comprising of Mizuna (Japanese mustard greens) Tosaka (Seaweed) and baby greens served with house made plum vinaigrette came next. Though the greens were a little wilted due to the heat, the seaweed provided a delightful crunch.  It is the presence of five colours red, white, green, black and yellow, which are always visible in the arrangement of a Japanese dish that fascinates me. I was told that they represent vitamin & mineral content e.g. red for Vitamin A, yellow for vitamin C etc.

Seaweed and Mesclun Salad
Seaweed and Mesclun Salad

The next dish was Tofu & Water Chestnut Motoyaki (Rs 400) Motoyaki is a style of cooking involving baked food, usually leftovers, topped with a mayonnaise. In Japan Oyster and Seafood Motoyaki are quite popular. Here Chef Vikram had used silken Tofu, a “yin” food known for its cooling property as it moistens and increases fluids in the body. The bright red color of the dish contrasting against the white porcelain showed the thought which had gone behind the presentation of each dish, how it was chosen for its feel, contrasting colors and textures.

Tofu and Water Chestnut Motoyoki
Tofu and Water Chestnut Motoyoki

Salmon Tartare (Rs 850) with fresh avocado was served on wafer thin cucumber slivers with tobiko (flying fish roe) and bonito mayo. Organic Blue chip sashimi grade Scottish Salmon was used for this dish. It looked so beautiful that I was confused whether to eat it or just admire it.

Salmon Tartare
Salmon Tartare

Assorted Vegetable Tempura (Rs 500) batter fried seasonal & exotic vegetables served with ginger dashi were next. I enjoyed trying to decipher the different vegetables used in this dish. There was okra, a popular summer vegetable in Japan, coconut, onion, burdock root & kelp. Umami rich dashi lies at the heart of Japanese cuisine as it forms the base of soups, sauces & dressings and adds a savory depth to the dish. It is a combination of Kombu (edible kelp) bonito (dried fish) and water. Shitake-kombu dashi is used for vegetarian cuisine. It is how Chef Vikram uses dashi which sets him apart from other chefs, like this ginger dashi with green tea salt which he served with the tempura.

Assorted Vegetable Tempura
Assorted Vegetable Tempura

Cold Smoked Kampachi Sashimi (Rs 1400), cured and smoked yellowtail served with yuzukosho (paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt) and soy ponzu followed the tempura. Since sashimi is eaten raw, the fish must be of as fresh as possible. Even though there was nothing wrong with this dish, I will avoid ordering it during peak summer in a place like Delhi where there cannot be complete guarantee of freshness.

Cold Smoked Kampachi Sashimi
Cold Smoked Kampachi Sashimi

The Nigiri (each piece priced at Rs 250) was first-rate. Each hand molded portion of cooked vinegared rice was topped with the best cuts of Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail and Aburi Salmon, a dab of wasabi placed between the rice and the topping. I was told that Nigiri-sushi is usually eaten with hands in one bite. Soaking the sushi in soy sauce is disrespectful as it implies that the original flavors are not good enough and in case you do need to soak it, then it should be placed upside down and eaten “rice-side up”.

Nigiri
Nigiri

The Futomaki Sushi Rolls (Rs 1200) with fresh salmon, tuna, tamago (a type of Japanese omelette) and crab were a little too unwieldy for my liking, though they are a very popular item on the menu.

Futomaki Sushi Roll
Futomaki Sushi Roll

Eel Yanagawa Fu (Rs900) braised Japanese eel with egg on a bed of burdock root and seasonal grilled vegetables, an interesting dish which felt more like comfort food as it had a home cooked feel, both in taste and presentation. Unagi or eel is the uncrowded emperor of Japanese summer food as it is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B which give a big boost to the body fatigued by the heat and help in stimulating the metabolism.

Eel Yanagawa Fu
Eel Yanagawa Fu

Parchment Baked Market Fish (Rs 900) came with a lot of fanfare and the whole process of cutting open the paper was similar to an elaborate Japanese tea ceremony. The fish is changed daily as it features the catch of the day, whatever is available in the market. This was one of my favorite dishes of the entire meal. Frugality and minimalism, which are the hallmark of Japanese cuisine, was so evident in this dish.

Parchment Baked Market Fish
Parchment Baked Market Fish

The dish which I enjoyed the most was Hiyashi Chukka (Rs 850) chilled ramen noodle topped with prawn, crab stick, fresh cucumber and wakame seaweed, served with sesame flavoured vinegar soy broth. A great meal in a bowl. Cold Soba, though good any time of the year, provides refreshment particularly during summer.

Hiyashi Chukka
Hiyashi Chukka

The meal ended with Macha Pudding made with green tea and served with house made toffee sauce. Macha is the only tea where you ingest the leaves in a powdered form. It is packed with more antioxidants than any other “superfood” and its health benefits are extolled in every health journal. Knowing this made me feel less guilty while polishing off this delicious dessert.

Macha Pudding
Macha Pudding

The summer menu features some great summer cocktails too like Plum Blossom with sochu, lime and plum schnapps, Gooseberry Fizz, Okinava with sake etc. The one that I tried was a concoction made with Beer.

Summer Cocktail
Summer Cocktail

So eat your way through some cooling Japanese food to beat the heat.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

 

All photographs used in this review are clicked by the author.