I serve you a taste of Russia’s magnificent history and cuisine and with it a peek into our Prime Minister Modi’s most recent abode in the stunning St Petersburg. It’s awesome. It is Russia’s largest most beautiful Presidential suite and this is where our very own Prime Minister Modi stayed last month. It sprawls under a dramatic domed gold-leaf ceiling, has its own grand lobby and antique Carl Schroeder grand piano too. Two bedrooms, a private fitness centre, kitchen and this antique rosewood dining table under the magnificent handblown crystal chandeliers where we shot the photograph. In the past 142 years of it’s history, it has played host to global superstars, Hollywood movie moghuls, presidents and royalty. Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston, George Bernard Shaw and many more. The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky (my all time favourite) honeymooned here in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. This most iconic landmark has been witness to the history of the stunning St Petersburg. Its Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau building is now classified as a historical monument.
RUSSIAN VEGGIE WOWS
It is here in this icon that I get a taste of Russian history, art, culture and food. Here is the surprise…also vegetarian food. Which of course would please our very vegetarian Prime Minister to no end. The multi-talented Chef Ian Christopher Minnis ensures the finest gourmet dinners here. He also oversees the amazing plethora of restaurants here. From St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the new Asian restaurant Azia which also serves some Indian dishes and has an Indian chef Dev Kathait. I do a tasting of their Asian vegetarian (including delicious dal, kababs and tandoori) in Azia. And request them for a second taste of the most amazing creation of pumpkin dimsum and he is kind enough to share the recipe of the very traditional Russian Borscht soup (pure vegetarian). Chef de Cuisine Larisa Kordik conjures superb dishes (tandoor, steam and wok cooking techniques) and Ekaterina Vasiljeva not only helps translate but also coordinates everything seamlessly.
Beetroot 160 gms/ Cabbage 120 gms/ Onion 20 gms/ Carrot 30 gms/ Vegetable Oil 50 gms/ Vegetable Broth 800 gms/ Tomato Paste 15 gms/ White Wine vinegar 5 gr/ Sugar 25 gr/ Black Pepper 0.5 gr/ Bayleaf 0.5 gr/ Lemon 5 gr/ Garlic 10 gr
- Clean & cut carrots, onions ( julienne ) and sauté in vegetable oil.
- Add cabbage as well, ( the cabbage should be cut into julienne the same way as the carrots and onions. Gently sautewithout color to the vegetables.
- Add tomato paste to the mixture, and gently saute a little further until it is not bitter.
- Blanch the beet root in the skin until it is fully tender
- Peel the beet skin and shred through a food processor, or Slice in thin long strips, (Keep beet juice and add to soup just before serving.
- Add vinegar,vegetable broth, stir and stew. Add the bayleaf& shredded beet root. mix
- In 5-10 min till ready, add salt, sugar and spices.( lemon and garlic)
- Do Not boil hard as the color will disappear.
What better place to learn about and do a caviar tasting than in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure? And even better in Russia’s only caviar restaurant, Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with ice cold vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And I am fortunate to do so under the tutelage of Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier and most knowledgeable caviar master Alexander Dmitriev.
Their menu boasts 15 types of caviar, 12 Dom Perignon vintages, 35 types of vodka and 15 varieties of distillate.
What is caviar? Interestingly, like only sparkling wine made in France’s district of Champagne can be called champagne, only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish can be called caviar. Russia’s been eating caviar since before the 14th century. The real black caviar comes from the sturgeons ystick. And this large fish (the biggest is Beluga) lives in the Caspian sea, Siberia and Sakhalin .
Caviar differs in colour texture and size depending on fish AND how it is produced. I learnt all about the production methods of production and preservation(which determine the taste and price of caviar)
Am dazzled by the types of caviar black caviar…sturgeon/ albino caviar from an albino sturgeon. Sturgeon fish family…Beluga fish is the biggest (oldest prehistoric fish) and has the biggest grains. Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains) and Bester are the main varieties.
I taste the finest caviar, it is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts. It is intense creamy and not too salty. Is non pasteurised and made by the traditional method. I do a vodka and champagne pairing with it too and end up sipping and tasting Russia’s history in its grandest historic landmark…Belmond Grand hotel Europe.
Its true. A photograph is worth a thousand words. This one which I shot (on the glamorous rooftop lounge of Moscow’s most luxurious and iconic hotel) speaks volumes. We are overlooking the spectacularly beautiful Red square (flanked by the Kremlin and the cathedrals) which has been witness to centuries of Russian history and culture and art. It continues to throb with the vibrance of modern Moscow. The focus of the photograph is the knowledgable and brilliant French executive chef Yoann Barnard who not only knows Russian cuisine really well but also explains the centuries of connection between French and Russian cuisines. At my request, he is holding my favourite Russian Syrniki. It also seems to be the favourite of Russians because it is eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be eaten as a dessert too (its has a mild sweetness) and heres the surprise…it is vegetarian.It is made of paneer or cottage cheese (chef Bernard generously shares its recipe with us). So you see how in one photograph there is history, culture, the Franco-Russian culinary connection and the vegetarian aspect of Russian cuisine. And adding yet another dimension is the fact that I shot this photograph in Moscow’s uber hotspot rooftop lounge, perched on the Ritz Carlton hotel which is clad in the classical gilded luxurious glamor of the Nineteeth century Russia. And this is the destination where the super celebrities, the young and happening parties and rocks together. This landmark of Moscow straddles the deliciousness of modern and traditional Russia and does so with impeccable signature service and graciousness…therein lies the magic.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Did you know that during the reign of the Russian Tsars, the nobility spoke mainly French? French food was the norm and many French chefs worked in the Tsars kitchens (including the famous French chef Anton Careme) and influenced Russian cooking. This French-Russian style continues to be popular even today. Chef Yoann Barnard explains how even the two cuisines have the same base.He works his magic through the magnificent restaurants of the Ritz Carlton. Here, where the dishes not only impress with their taste, but also delights the eye. Be it in the neoclassical Cafe Russe, the Lobby Lounge Bar in the style of a library with bookshelves and a fireplace hall also offers the traditional Russian tea ceremonies. The ultramodern rooftop restaurant O2 lounge serves up amazingly vibrant fare.
All these restaurants are housed in the super glamorous Ritz Carlton with its Russian Empire style of the nineteenth century gilded, shimmering glamor. It is here that I first taste the delicious staples of not only the Russian French cuisine but also learn all about the Soviet cuisine.
A TASTE OF RUSSIA.
I learn all about how Peter the Great (ruled 1682–1725), invited a French chef in his court. It was during his reign that Russians began to serve meals in courses, rather than to serve all the food at once. Interestingly when French chefs returned home to France, they introduced popular Russian dishes too.
Also very interestingly Ivan III (ruled 1462–1505) and brought Italian craftsmen to Russia who not only built public buildings but also introduced pasta, frozen desserts and pastries to the Russian cuisine.
Then of course came the decline of Russian cuisine…during the USSR or Soviet period (Revolution in 1917 until 1981). In this period all restaurants were owned and operated by the government. There were food shortages and inefficient store management and food became very basic. In 1981 President Mikhail Gorbachev started changing all that. Thankfully. And modern Russia began emerging. And there’s plenty more, of course there’s caviar, blinis…but that’s another story.
Delightful, soft and kissed with a mild sweetness, this all-time Russian favourite, Syrniki can be eaten on its own or drizzled with honey, sweet dressings, or jam. The ever helpful, brilliant chef Yoann Bernard who has travelled and worked all over the world takes time off to demystify Russian cuisine as do chefs Pavel Belyalov and Artyom Skotarenko. .
Cottage cheese — 200 gr /Eggs — 1 pcs/ Sugar — 10 gr/Flour — 20 gr/Vegetable oil — 20 gr/Sugar powder — to taste
Mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, sugar and form rounds with a height of 2 cm and diameter of 6 cm by 40 cm each approximately. Sprinkle a little with flour and cook it on frying pan in the oil on both sides. Put it into the oven (180°) for 6 minutes. Optional to devote with seasonal berries. Enjoy!
No two ways about it. This is the worlds most awesome restaurant. Here’s a restaurant where the worlds greatest chefs fly in from all over the world, to volunteer and cook ONLY for the homeless and the vulnerable. And to do so they use waste materials. This is it. The ultimate and most heart-touching and transformative use of gastronomy. It takes within it’s sweep a fight against food waste in support of social inclusion, feeding the homeless and the vulnerable. It’s a non-profit organisation, its aptly named “Food for Soul” and is founded by one of the worlds greatest, most brilliant chefs Massimo Bottura whose mindblowing “Osteria francescana” was judged the worlds best restaurant last year. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists and their non-stop dedication to this selfless work is truly awesome. “Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” And sure enough they are using this in many amazing ways to change the world. I could write a book on those, but due to space constraint have to limit myself to Food for Soul today.
THE AWESOME COMMUNITY KITCHEN
It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in Lara and Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul”. They’ve set up this community kitchen and restaurant Refettorio Felix to provide lunch from Monday toFriday for the homeless and other vulnerable groups from surplus produce supplied by The Felix Project. The aim is to serve more than 2,000 meals using five tonnes of recovered food. The community kitchen is based on Food for Soul’s highly successful Refettorios established in Milan and Rio de Janeiro opened during the 2016 Olympic Games.
It was a great experience to be in the beautiful and elegant Refettorio felix. It was set up in St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court the historic community space underwent an ambitious six-week makeover by Charles Wainwright and Ilse Crawford. It is a beautiful space infused with art and design and it brings a new sense of dignity to the table, showing how aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.
More than 30 leading British and international chefs have already accepted the call to action from Massimo Bottura to cook in the Refettorio. Michelin starred chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Jamie Oliver, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Jason Atherton, Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes and many more turning surplus ingredients into a delicious menu. I was privileged to watch the brilliant and highly gifted Michel Roux jr and his daughter Emily (of the legendary Le Gavaroche) and Jonny Lake (of the iconic Fat Duck) in action. And on the day that I excitedly watch Georgio Locatelli (of the award winning Locanda Locatelli) the dynamic Charles Reed, chief of the trailblazing Worlds 50 best restaurant Academy was also there to support this noble venture.
YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT TOO
Following the month-long June festival, Refettorio Felix will continue to operate and provide a vital community service for years to come. With the support of Food for Soul and its partner, The Felix Project, meals will be prepared by two resident cooks with assistance from a guest chef. If you are a chef and visiting London you can volunteer to cook for a day. Should you be visiting London and want to volunteer to help to serve or help out you can do so too. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
MASSIMO’s Breadcrumb Pesto
Here’s the recipe which maestro Massimo Bottura cooked up on the very first day launch of “Food for Soul” Refettorio felix.
Serves 4- 400g Artisanal dried Pasta (spaghetti)/ 1 garlic clove/120g fresh basil leaves (if you don’t have enough basil, use parsley, mint, and gentle green herbs – not rosemary )/ 50g breadcrumbs /salt (1g)/100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano / 70g extra virgin olive oil (preferably chilled 3 hours)/ 30g cold water
Place the garlic, bread crumbs, basil and mint, and salt in a food processor and pulse. While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil and the water alternatively through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan.Cook the pasta according to the package directions (al dente).
Strain the Pasta without rinsing, add the pasta to the bowl with pesto, stir gently and serve warm. Enjoy!
It does not get more romantic than this, in China. I’m surrounded by the magnificent, shimmering and tranquil West Lake in Hangzhou, as I dine in the award winning Jin Sha. Nestled amidst an exquisite garden along the shores of a lake deemed heaven on earth by explorers of old, Four Seasons Hangzhou is rooted in centuries of dynastic lore. It is a 21st-century luxurious prism through which the past is reflected. It’s luxury amid nature that pampers and the masterful Chinese fare seduces. I sit by the beautiful glassed in dining area of Jin Sha set amid 17 acres of landscaped gardens and interconnected lily ponds and I’m luxuriating in MasterChef Wangyong’s flavour and textural masterpieces be it marinated blackfungus with lilybuds, a dramatic colourful salad of organic vegetables and fruits too. I love the roasted cauliflower with truffle and the simply made pickled radish delights with it’s tangy crunchiness. I also eat the worlds best Crispy chicken with salt here. The dapper Wayne Tan and Alleen Woo helpfully translate and also explain the intricacies of Hangzhou and Shanghainese cuisine.
No wonder Jinsha has been declared the only four-star restaurant in Hangzhou by Forbes Travel Guide and is in the most prestigious list of China’s 50 Best restaurants too.
MY CUP OF TEA
Grown right here is the worlds most fabulous green tea. And I get my first taste of it in Jinsha. I’m feeling like the empress of china sipping on the famous and incredibly addictive and prized Longjing tea which was granted the status of GongCha, or imperial tea, in the Qing dynasty by the Kangxi Emperor. It continued to be the favorite of emperors. And they came specially to Hangzhou where it is grown. Much like champagne even longjing tea to be called longjing has to be grown in Zhejiang province in China, in the West Lake area in Hangzhou or within the Xihu District.
Like most Chinese green teas it is roasted early in processing (after picking) to stop the natural oxidation process, which is a part of creating black and oolong teas. This is done by “firing” (heating in pans) or by steaming the leaves before they completely dry out. So Longjing tea leaves experience minimal oxidation. I love the mellow yellow-green color of the tea when the leaves are steeped in hot water. And the complex long finish.
The tea contains vitamin C, amino acids, and, like most finer Chinese green teas, has one of the highest concentrations of catechins among teas. It is excellent for health, digestion and even weight loss. What can be better than the imperial Longjing tea? It’s the fabulous hightea in which Chef Stanley infuses every pastry and bagel with longing tea. Macaron, green tea cheesecake green tea chocolate mousse and green tea scone too.
Its known as sipping your tea and eating it too.
Right after lunch and high tea, I pay homage to the most sacred, largest and most visited of Buddhist temples Lingyin, located a few minutes drive away. And this temple was founded by our very own Indian monk 1600.years ago. I’m dazzled (in the center of the Hall of the Heavenly King) by the statue of the fat, bare and bellied Buddha with a smiling face – the laughing Buddha.
And then I go into the temple’s restaurant for a taste of the inexpensive and pure vegetarian meal. In the functional, clean eatery, which serves slippery moist prosperity noodles, longevity noodles (10 RMB, roughly Rs 90 each) served in large bowls. After Jin Sha’s dazzling meal, heady high- tea, amid beautiful nature and Lord Buddha’s blessings… I came away feeling rejuvenated and
JINSHA’S PICKLED RADDISH
White radish 1kg//Soy sauce 35 gms/
Monosodium glutamate (optional) 3 gms/ Sugar 75 gms /Dried chilli 1gm /Dark soy sauce 6,5 gms/ Garlic 2 gms
Wash the white radish; peel and cut white radish into julienne. Marinate the white radish with salt for one night than wash off all the salty and spicy flavors. Dry it- Put soy sauce, monosodium glutamate, sugar, dried chili, dark soy sauce and garlic together and boil it until the sugar melts. Cool the sauce. Immerse the raddish in the sauce for 24 hours. Serve it to add crunch and tang to your meal.
#Homebakers & #HomeCaterers, I am thrilled with the response! Here’s where you can taste the creations of some talented Home Bakers and Caterers. Do share your experience in the comments below and I will try your favourites and recommendations soon. Should you want to be listed here, write to me on email@example.com along with your menu, contact details, pictures & social media handles.
1. Kavita’s Delicasies
Company Name: Kavita’s Delicasies
Contact No: +91 8010878000
Company Name: Chocasm
Contact: +91 9820744934
3. Sugar Trail
Company Name: Sugar Trail
Contact No. : 9167068950
4. My Yummy Spatula
Company Name: My Yummy Spatula
I’m so excited…here in China, in the finest global capital of spice, I’m sniffing out the spicy secrets of the king of spicy cuisines…Sichuan ( also called Schezwan). In India, not only do we love Chinese food but it’s the spicy Sichuan version that we all enjoy. This ancient cuisine is the cuisine of the South Western Sichuan province of China And here in Chengdu, the fast growing capital of Sichuan I am not only getting a taste of the authentic Sichuan but also learning it’s secrets. And Im doing so in the best of best places and from the greatest most knowledgable chefs.
SPICES…signature Sichuan dishes
Whoa! Big live woks sizzle and I actually take part in a cooking session by the brilliant chefs under the leadership of Master chef Frank Zhuang. All the ingredients are on display in Spices, this vibrant restaurant of the most luxurious landmark of Chengdu, The Ritz-Carlton. A truly seductive taste of Sichuan here is due to their global “scenography” (sense of place) reputation. Here too the local Sichuan flavors are vibrant and palpable and delicious. And the Kungfu tea show is mindblowing.
Here, in Spices, the fiery wok creations and local favorites like Kung Pao chicken, ma po tofu and twice-cooked pork complement delicate dim sum at the live Chinese stations. World cuisines are on offer here too but I am focussed on the Sichuan. Im happily surprised by the exquisite vegetarian masterpieces at the renowned fine dining Chinese restaurant, where the dynamic Vito Romeo (who honed his skills under the likes of Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon) and Chef Michael impressed with their knowledge and flavors of sophisticated interpretations of classic Cantonese and Sichuanese dishes. Each time, it’s the unmatched standards of excellence, be it in service or food that dazzle.
In Spices, Vito and Chef Steffen Gube not only guided me through the daily creations inspired by Chengdu’s rich “Tea Culture” but also of course the step by step cooking of the two main signature Sichuan dishes… Mapotofu and Kung Pao chicken.
Ooh and I’m addicted to the signature Kung Pao chicken (named after Ding baozen, governor of Sichuan in the Qing dynasty. His title was Gongbao, literally “palace guardian”)
Chef Frank’s KUNG PAO CHICKEN
Ingredient: Chicken breast, fried peanuts, vegetables, chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, sugar, vinegar, Shaoxing wine
Method: Marinate the diced chicken in Shaoxing Wine and salt for 10 minutes. Rinse it. / Boil the oil on low fire, drop peanuts into the wok then deep-fried until golden brown and take out for later use / Heat the oil over big fire, add in the chicken, flash-fry till chicken turns white and take out for later use/ Add the chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, soy, sugar, vinegar and vegetables into the wok and stir to mix them all / Put back the pre-cooked peanuts and chicken into the wok, mix everything up and dish up. Yum!
THE SOUL OF SICHUAN CUISINE
I’m excited to learn the basics of this bold spicy 4000 year old Sichuan cuisine in the Sichuan province itself. Guided by brilliant chefs Michael and Frank and also in the worlds first museum dedicated to a regional cuisine. If Sichuan pepper and chilli pepper are the heart of Sichuan cuisine, then doubanjiang Chilly Bean paste is the soul. Sichuan’s version is made with dried fava beans, also known as broad beans, mixed with fresh red er jin tiao chilli peppers and salt (and wheat flour) and fermented.Did you know that this chilly bean paste is as painstakingly made as champagne? ..almost.
They have different vintages for it…put it through “dewing” flipping” (like the champagne riddling) and “sunburning” I happily only take part in this “flipping” amid the stunning array of standing pots of fermenting chilli bean sauce (doubanjiang), which is churned twice daily for a year, with exposure to the sun and open air.
Here’s the soul of this addictive “chillybean paste”. Sichuan peppercorns were used over 2500 years ago. Garlic was brought in when the trade route was opened in the Han dynasty 2000 years ago, Chillies were introduced during the Ming dynasty 400 years ago. And so was born the Chilly bean paste.
P.S. Thank you Vito Romeo, Sue Fan and Chefs for this authentic taste of Sichuan…and it’s seven basic tastes…Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, heat (from chillies) numbness ( from Sichuan peppercorns) and spiciness.
Today I serve up a taste of the glamorous, vibrant “Paris of the East” I write from shiny Shanghai. Its the most modern, cosmopolitan city of China and it seems to be on steroids. Yet there is a core of history and the grace and elegance of it’s heyday in the thirties that still lives on. So I serve up a flavor of two of the most icònic landmarks… the històric grand Fairmont Peace on the Bund (it’s founder Victor Sassoon and family made a lot of their wealth in Mumbai and India) and the very modern Urban resort, The Puli.
I not only soak in the luxury of this exquisite classical masterpiece but also lunch at the oldest Shanghainese cuisine restaurant of Shanghai here. The clàssic grand art deco històric Peace on the Bund (it s the only hotel in the world which has it’s own museum was the toast of the Far East in the 30s. It is located on the Bund (overlooking the HuangPo river) which is a centennial epitome of Shanghai itself. This classical architectural masterpiece started off as Sassoon House in 1929 and rich history tangos with modern luxury here. And whoa! Chinese Masterchef Ma coaxes the most vibrant flavors and textures using the traditional caramelised sweetness with soy sauce and more. Sweet and sour, the typical Shanghai taste shines through and yet the original flavors of the raw ingredients are also preserved. Interestingly while he serves the most classical Shanghainese dishes he also adds contemporary interpretations and plates them artfully. The dynamic George Wee — who helms this landmark along with the ever helpful Jessica Zhang translate Chef Ma’s explanations. I revel in the most amazing bamboo shoots lacquered with soy, the crazily addictive, crunchy skinned Peace Duck , the creamy sago mango dessert to the crunchy marinated cucumbers (Masterchef ma generously shares the rècipe). All the while soaking in the històric rich red and gold details of the restaurant and the serene river view from the large Windows.
Cucumber: 500 g /Soya sauce: 80g
Sugar: 160g /Vinegar: 60g
Salt: 5g /Garlic (sliced): 10g
Ginger: 10g /Chili: 10g
Slice the cucumber and marinate with the above sauces for 24 hours and plate it.
What a super surprising contrast. Glimmering, shiny hoardings of the globe’s leading cosmopolitan brands festoon the gleaming buildings. And in the midst of this crazy cacophonic area in the throbbing heart of Shanghai is located a relaxed, zen like zone of Peace. Handcrafted textures, the finest of natural materials weave a charming relaxed ambiance in the most modern icon The Puli. Its been justifiably hailed as a “modern urban luxurious resort”, “a seductive sanctuary that guarantees a relaxing escape from the heart Racing city”. And in keeping with it’s sophisticated cosmpolitian essence, it’s French restaurant Phenix is not only hugely popular but has also been awarded a Michelin star. And further in keeping with it’s cosmopolitan essence, the Australian chef Michael Wilson creates light and delightful French masterpieces, which I enjoy with Kelly Kuo in the modren elegant restaurant overlooking the lush green park. Be it the Cod, the yoghurt compressed strawberry desert, violet ice cream.. Even the humble potato is elevated to luxurious creaminess. Its a very simple rècipe, but its the ratio of the butter to the potato that is important as is the addition of the hot milk. The nutmeg gives it that special festive touch.
1kg potatoes /Good quality butter
Nutmeg /Salt /Fresh truffles (optional)
Peel and cut potatoes into equal size pieces
Boil in salted water till tender
Strain and leave for 3 mins for residual water to evaporate
Mash potato by pushing through a fine sieve. For every 500g of potato add 200g butter.Mix the butter into the potato and add some hot milk to thin the mix
Season with salt and nutmeg
When availaible shave fresh truffles on top just before serving
I’m in “the worlds most stylish restaurant” . And what am I getting most dazzled by? I am not only amazed at how vegetables parade in their classical, sophisticated swagger yet burst with flavour and freshness, but also with the flavours of our very own Madras Onion and curry powder which is elevated to stratospheric heights (please see photo and recipe) . Can vegetarian dishes be so luxurious? Or wow with their masterly balance of textures and flavours? Be art on a plate and a seduction of the palate? For sure. And where else except in Vanita’s, which the internationally acknowledged Harpers magazine justifiably declared the worlds most stylish restaurant.
It preens stylishly in the worlds first ever fashion-branded hotel, Palazzo Versace which is raising the gold standard here. Palazzo Versace sprawls luxuriously in the Gold Coast. The transcendence of Italian design shines through the marbles and mosaics, vaulted ceilings hand-detailed in gold.
And luxury just became more unique and bespoke as the stunningly beautiful and everhelpful Jasmine Webb takes me on their unique “Glamour E Lusso“ in their custom made Rolls Royce phantom (Versace cushions et al ). We glide to the recently revamped and magnificent Pacific Fare. Not only does the expert stylist guide me through the amazing mall,champagne and chocolates et al but we also stop by for the Chinese Yumcha.
And on return, a stone and seasalt Japanese therapy gets me all rejuvenated for Chef Dayan Hartill-Law’s gourmet dinner in the Vanitas restaurant.
Having honed his skills under the worlds best chefs, like Heston Blumenthal and helmed many a leading restort, Chef Dayan has developed his own inimitable style. Finedining gets redefined. Dom Perignon sparkles our winepaired degustation dinner. Freshest of produce & vibrant flavors implode on our taste-buds. I opt for a mainly vegetarian menu. I love the Evolution of seasonal snacks from the ceviche (juicy watermelon, crunchy radish and fingerlime ). The humble potato is elevated to a gourmet status as it is paired with kombu, the fleshy portobello and the flavor packed porcini. Its the Madras onion that fascinates. Of course I do try the superb Lamb made intense with black garlic jus but its Chef Dayan’s vegetarian fare that suprises and seduces. The finale dessert of the finest French chocolate and peppermint leaves the sweetest taste. As does my conversation with the vivacious and brilliant Claire Huang who helms this iconic landmark. She epitomises style as well as substance, much as the superstylish “Palazzo Versace” does.
Palazzo Versace’s Madras Onion
Madras curry powder
2 tbsp coriander seeds 1 tbsp cumin seeds /1 tsp fenugreek
1 stick cassia bark /10 cardamom pods /1 tsp black peppercorns /5 dried red chillies /25 small curry leaves
2 tbsp ground turmeric
Toast all individually until fragrant, then grind till all smooth.
4 brown onions /4 heaped teaspoons curry powder
100ml olive oil /5g sea salt flakes
Peel onions down to the size of a small apple, leaving the top and bottom intact. Place all in sous vide bag and compress on highest setting then, cook at 68 degrees for 8 hours.
500ml white wine vinegar / 1 punnet raspberries
Bring to a simmer and allow to infuse for 2 hours.
1 bunch baby carrots / 500ml above pickle
Peel and clean carrots. Then slice on a mandolin at 3mm thick. Then pour over warm pickle and reserve for 1 hour. Once cooled remove the carrots from the pickle and roll into cylinders.
Chef had also included Onion foam and carrot and botrytis in the recipe but this maybe difficult to make at home since ingredients are not available here so am not including it. It does take away from the final dish but even just the onion with the carrot and raspberry pickle tastes and looks superb,
Place the cylinders of carrot (carrot pickle) around in a circle big enough to fit the onion on, Then cut the base of the onion off and place on the carrots. I tried this myself and home and soft and fleshy onion tastes sublime with tangy carrots.
Two. That’s the magical number. And it’s not about the two fleshy, Dungenes crabs that the brilliant young chef Srijith Gopinath is holding as we stand by the sun drenched SanFrancisco bay. Its about the two Michelin stars he has received. And here’s the amazing news…he is the only Indian chef in the world to do so. The night before, I tripped out on this soft spoken genius Keralite chef’s original Californian-Indian masterpiece in one of San Francisco’s most prominent century old, award-winning landmarks helmed by the dynamic and charming Ashrafi Matcheswala. Located in Campton Place, the throbbing heart of this beautiful city, everything is a hop step away. I dine at Café Zoetrope owned by my hero Francis Ford Coppola (Godfather fame) to the emperor of Peruvian cuisine Gaston Acurio’s La Mar. Luxuriate in the fleshy, shiny juicy cherries in season, dine at the hot new “Progress”, see the iconic play “Beach, blanket Babylon” . Finally, visit Café Buena Vista ( Irish coffee was invented here). We raise an Irish coffee toast to chef Srijith. Two toasts.