Gaggan Anand

JAI HO! INDIA

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Asia 50 best 1Ofcourse! Its true that a picture is worth a thousand words…but this accompanying photo I’ve shot is worth many more. Please take a look at it:  in it are superstarchefs whose restaurants have been crowned The Worlds best (Joan Roca) Asia’s best (David Thompson) and also our very own India’s best (Manjit Singh Gill, Hemant Oberoi, Manish Mehrotra), not to forget our   Indian in Bangkok (Gaggan Anand) and from Srilanka (Dharshan Munidasa). It sure is time to celebrate.     For many reasons…firstly, am thrilled that so many of our Indian restaurants are being awarded on this international stage. Happy, that Asia’s gastronomy is being given the due prominence it deserves and focusing the spotlight on is the whole team of “Asia’s 50 best” ( Charles Reed and William Drew, editor of  “The Restaurant Magazine” are in the photo too)

THE OSCAR OF FOOD AWARDS

Prestigious, glittering, coveted are some of the words that describe the awesome “Asia’s 50 best” award ceremony. Not only have the whos who of the restaurant world jetted in from all parts of the world, but are here with bated breaths. There is anticipation and excitement and the air is so thick with it that I could have cut it with a knife and plopped it into my champagne glass. William Drew the editor in chief of The Restaurant Magazine flags off the ceremony and whoa! The applause never stops.  Here’s a quick look at our winners.

 

Bukhara

Having stood the test of time, ITC Maurya  (Delhi’s)  North-West Frontier restaurant with its short menu (the same since it opened 35 years ago) continues to draw packed houses. I have eaten here several times (including shot as a judge on Times Now’s  TV show) and this cavernous and rustically decorated restaurant is arguably India’s most famous. Dal Bukhara and Sikandari raan have assumed iconic status.

KARAVALLI

I am so delighted that Bangalore’s Karavalli has made it to Asia’s 50 Best list. I just shot for the Times Now TV show as a judge here and was absolutely thrilled by the consistency, freshness and authenticity in Chef Naren Thimmiaih’s vast repertoire. Old classics are as fabulous as the new additions. Robustly spiced crabs, delicately  steamed fish, velvety curries…I ate them all in the charming alfresco courtyard.

 

Indian Accent

I reviewed Delhi’s playful and eclectic Indian Accent within a few days of it’s opening. And am happy that Chef Manish Mehrotra continues to dazzle with his cookery with a global hue

Chicken tikka quesadillas with Swiss gruyère; tandoori bacon prawns with wasabi cream; masala miso Scottish salmon.

I love the karela enlivened with churan.

 


Dum Pukht

Fine dining taken to it’s finest here. I have filmed my TV show in the ITC’s  traditional temple to  “dum” cooking done lovingly and slowly

in a sealed clay pot. Done  over a low fire intensifies  natural flavors, while the judicious use of aromatic herbs and spices adds another level of complexity to the dishes. The regal ambiance adds yet another dimension of pleasure.

Varq

Luxurious modern Indian food with a global twist a la  Grand corporate  chef Hemant Oberoi

where upscale fine dining gets finer.
The cuisine offers a modern take on local street food and traditional regional dishes using some very un-Indian ingredients such as scallops, black cod, morels, foie gras and halibut.  New techniques, innovative presentations and the use of organic produce and spices.

Wasabi

What! How come a Japanese restaurant located in Mumbai gets an international award?

A collaboration between Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and Taj Hotel legend Hemant Oberoi yields specially created Japanese vegetarian dishes which are masterpieces in taste and texture. Tomato Carpaccio topped with wasabi and yuzu sorbet and the black cod miso are my favorites here.

Nihon Bashi

Ive had the most amazing authentic Japanese cuisine in the heart of Colombo at Japanese-Srilankan Dharshan Munidasa’s restaurant.

Gaggan

Kolkatta born Gaggan reinvents Indian food with modernist techniques in Bangkok with plenty of molecular wizardry too.

KUDOS

Not only do “Asias 50 best” and “Worlds 50 best” awards encourage restaurants and promote tourism but also serve as guideposts for us foodies, directing us to the best places to eat in. And then ofcourse, when our very own Indian restaurants get honored, it is time to say “Jai ho”

 

 

Restaurant Review: MEKONG

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Global superstar chefs Vineet Bhatia and Gaggan Anand at Mekong
Global superstar chefs Vineet Bhatia and Gaggan Anand at Mekong

It’s a record. Two “first time evers” took place while reviewing Palladium hotel’s much awaited “Mekong” which opened some months ago. I ate the first-meal on the first-day they opened (something I never do). But did so, because two globally acknowledged superstar chefs  were in town. Id eaten in  Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatias London restaurant and tripped out on his reinterpreted traditional Indian classics. Not only been blown by Bangkok based Gaggan Anand’s masterly use of molecular gastronomy in his progressive Indian cuisine but recently also cheered him for   making it to the AsiasTop 50 restaurants in Singapore. It was at this lunch that Gaggan Anand  met his hero Vineet Bhatia for the first time.  Vineet jetsets between his   restaurants in ten cities, writes  books and does TV shows.

” Yaar, Vineet is a pioneer. He has inspired me” gushes Gaggan as the stud in his ear glints as he leans forward to hug the senior chef.  The wine authority and witty Sanjay Menon joins us but prefers to be incognito. The  afternoon sparkles with their joie de vivre. Unfortunately  this joy does not extend to the food as well.

Could it be  teething troubles? So I ate four more times (paid through my nose). Except for a minor tweaking, my review remains the same.

DÉCOR

Feast on the spectacularly dramatic 37th floor view (let in by the magnificent glass windows) of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse and the sea. Happily, the theatricality here doesn’t go over the top. In this sprawling restaurant, large lamps, wine walls and Oriental artifacts seem as authentic as they are flashy. The lighting is subtle yet bright.

FOOD

 

Like the name (Mekong, named after the river) the good-looking menu meanders through Vietnam, China and Thailand but it meanders too much and so confuses and makes decision

making difficult. At each meal, the starters score over the mains. Tangy, sweet salads (Pomelo, Raw Papaya), a variety of plump dim sum (great at one meal and not so at another) and deep-fried Vietnamese rolls. Traditional Thai soups, Tom Kha Gai and homestyle Tom Yum delight. Plenty of choice for veggies, robustly spiced Ma La-style Chicken, vegetables, prawns in XO Sauce are the plus points.

MINUS POINTS

Mekong’s kitchen has ample skill. It just doesn’t have nearly enough discipline. In many entrees, the meat or fish  is so modestly portioned, overcooked or just plain dull that no measure or mingling of seasonings  save it. Mekong’s Steamed Fish is overcooked, the calibration of some dips, sauces and soups not quite right. Noodles with Seafood and Lamb in Yellow Bean are ordinary. As are the desserts. Vietnamese Pho Bo is conspicuous by its absence (though there is a Vietnamese noodle soup)  Spring Rolls lack the refreshing crunch of vegetables. Music from the neighboring bar is loud and intrusive.

MY POINT

We go there expecting a lot. We go to celebrate the sweet heat of and perfumes and flavors of Thailand, Vietnam and China ’s cooking and come away with mixed feelings.

On my fourth (most recent meal,) there was marginal improvement in some of the dishes. Also  some of the dish-prices had been tweaked downwards, others  hiked upwards.  A new dimsum chef was in place and new desserts were expected. Attentive service, well stocked bar.

Sure! Mekong is

located sky-high (literally) with prices to match, now if only the food would keep pace.

■ Palladium Hotel, 462, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Ph: 61628422

12.30pm to 3pm, 7.30pm to 11.30pm

Food-3.50 | Service-3.50 | Décor-4.00 | Meal for 2-`6000

 

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EATOUT WITH ME

Im traveling all month, but waiting to be back in town and invite you to eat out with me all  you amazingly well informed foodies who have been tweeting fabulous recommendations for #cheapandcheerful eateries. Wish I could thank each and everyone of you, but I cant (space constraint), so here are a few regular responders,  the tummy tales @elsonsequeira @RassiBomb @joymanavath @ChandniT @kneadwithlove  @DebySharma @pratishthakhan @AjitBalgi @ScrollsNink @doughmydear@akzey@ChantChameli.  All of you, please do keep mailing your recommendations (rashmiudaysingh2014@gmail.com) and tweeting and instagramming them @rashmiudaysingh

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GREAT FOOD NEWS

Our very own Indian restaurant, Amaya in London has made it to the Daily Mail’s Worlds Top 100 restaurant list. Congratulations Camellia and Namita Panjabi. and Ranjit Mathrani. You make India proud.