It’s heady. Its memorable and its incomparable. I refer to the amazing spectrum of tastes that I am feasting on. Here in Russia’s most magnificent 143 year old landmark, Im not only devouring Russian cuisine, history and culture but also a taste of India. From taking a Masterclass in the most supreme of all Epicurean luxuries, Caviar to tasting traditional and contemporary Russian dishes to vegetarian Asian delights and (here’s the happy surprise) superb Indian cuisine too.
It’s great to be part of gastronomic history: dining in Russia’s first restaurant which had electricity, feasting on 143 years of history in this stunningly beautiful Grand hotel Europe in St Petersburg with its high stained glass ceilings, balconies where the Tsars sat is a treat. Luxury and class drips from every detail. It is here that Tchaikovsly honeymooned, where Elton John played on the piano Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston and our Prime minister Modi dined. And this is where I attend an amazing caviar master class.
OF CAVIAR CROWNED
It doesn’t get any better than this: attending a caviar masterclass in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure. And that too in Russia’s only caviar restaurant, Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Would you believe that the best way of tasting caviar is to put a bit of it on the back of one’s hand and lick it off? The caviar master and sommelier articulate and knowledgable Nikita yurin explains it all… the very basic… only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish ( a prehistoric huge fish ) can be called caviar to the types, preservation, history, telling fake from real. etc.
It’s a joy to accompany the dapper, dynamic Sven Gevers, a knowledgable caviar buff, who helms this landmark. This discerning, highly qualified economist and globe trotting gourmet even breakfasts on eggs and caviar. Chipping in with her experiences and helping translate many a Russian term, is the ever helpful Irina Khlopova.
Before us are Mother of pearl spoons (essential to serve the caviar to avoid metal oxidation). The finest caviar to the least expensive salmon one, a line up of vodkas and champagne. Also accompaniments, take your pick (though toast is the most traditional) Russian coin shaped pancakes or blini, Boiled potatoes
Pancakes go well too.. One thing is for sure, points out Nikita, “caviar should not be eaten with onion or lemon” It should be
Stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator, as close to the freezer as possible.
We taste the finest Beluga (made from the Beluga fish of the sturgeon family) caviar, it has the largest grains, is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts.
Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains) and Bester are some of the main varieties of caviar. In this short space its impossible to include it all,
All I can say, is that it’s fascinating to learn about these precious black pearls, which Russia s been eating since before the 14th century. It’s methods of production and preservation, which determine the taste and price of caviar. When pasteurized the price and taste gets compromised.
CAVIAR WISHES AND CHAMPAGNE DREAMS
To crown it all is the Tchaikovsky night where I taste Russia’s food, history, art, culture, dance all in one bite of this traditional “egginanegg” dish you see in the photograph. It has egg crowned with caviar which pirouette with salty buttery nutty notes on my palate as the ballerinas twirl to Tchaikovskys compositions. Caviar wishes and champagne dreams do come true. May yours too.
Amid the finest of caviar, the best of Russian and modern Russian dishes, Japanese and Asian dishes our very own Indian dazzle too . Appreciated and enjoyed by Hema Malini to our Prime Minister Modi who stayed here but happily by the Russians too. Seeing the popularity of Indian cuisine the multi-talented Executive Chef Ian Christopher Minnis is in the midst of coordinating a “Mystery of India” festival here. He ensures the finest gourmet dinners in St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the Asian restaurant Azia. It is here that the young talented chef Indian chef Sachdev Kathait’s Indian menu is in great demand. Authentic delicious dal, kebabs and tandoori, Chef Kathait ‘s unique “pickle prawns” and “cheese chicken” combine the best of both worlds but retain their authentic Indian flavour.
Should you need their recipes please email firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a starry superstarry night in magical Macau. Here, at the prestigious Asian Oscars of gastronomy Indians and Indian cuisine is shining as our very own Gaggan Anand’s restaurant is crowned Asias best in fourth consecutive year. Asias 50 best restaurant awards are flagged off under the star spangled sky as culinary superstars mingle amid a feast for the senses by the poolside of the super luxurious Wynn Palace.
The Minister of Tourism, Celebrated chefs, restaurateurs and industry VIPs are in attendance. Asia’s 50 best restaurants in it’s sixth edition this year continues to grow in influence and magnetizes the best. Japan has the highest number of restaurants on the list (11), followed by Hong Kong and Thailand (9 each.)
ON YOUR REQUEST…SUPERSTAR’S RECIPES
Over the years, I’ve been receiving many a reader request for recipes from these superstars. Each one generously shares his. I serve them to you with a delicious scoop of news on each restaurant.
ASIAS BEST RESTAURANT..GAGGAN
“Lick it up” is genius Gaggan’s latest innovation which has already become an icon. The dish is designed to be ‘licked up’ directly from the plate. Constant creative evolution, soulfulness of Indian street food delivered through hyper-modern cooking techniques in a delicious way marks all his 25-courses.
10 g curry leaves 1 gm hing or asafetida 20 gm sesame seeds (black or white) 20 gm urad dal
20 g Channa dal 20 g rice 50 g red chilly of ur choice
Roast all ingredients and rough grind them.
Fish with Curry Infusion
100 g x 4 pcs fish any choice 50 g red onions, finely chopped
25 g ginger, sliced 25 g curry leaves 15 g green chili 15 g turmeric powder 50 g coconut oil, salt to taste .
- Portion filleted fish into 100 g each.
- Heat up the coconut oil, add curry leaves, red onions, ginger until fragrant.
- Roast for 2 minutes, add turmeric powder and chili
- Season with black salt and sugar.
- Blend mixture in blender and chill on an ice bath.
- Marinate the fillets with the curry infusion .
- Steam the fish with marinate
Take 50% cooked rice and 50% coconut milk blend. Place like a small coin in centre.Place fish in centre.
INDIAS BEST RESTAURANT
New Delhi, New York and now London… “Indian Accent” outposts continue to magnetise loyal fan followings. Leading the way, Manish Mehrotra has put modern Indian food on the gastronomic map. Contemporary food with an ‘Indian accent be it galautis stuffed with foie gras. Or pulled pork phulka tacos dazzle with their flavour and texture.
Tandoori Pineapple, summer shahtoot,Jaggery Glaze
I Pineapple / 2 tsp Demerara sugar/ 2 tsp butter/ I tbsp. jiggery/ 1 tsp fennel seeds/
2 Star anise/ 2tsp roasted sliced almonds
- Clean and slice pineapple. Into ½ inch slices.
- Brush with butter and dust with demerara sugar
- Put on the skewers and cook in tandoor or oven till edges are charred.
- MeanwhileHeat Jaggery, Fennel Seeds, &star anise in a pan with 4tbsp of water & cook to a thick syrup. Strain. Cool.
- Add fresh shahtoot (mulberry) to syrup. Toss gently.
- Arrange charred pineapple on a plate and drizzle sugar coated shahtoot on top
- Garnish with sliced almonds.
SRI LANKA’S BEST RESTAURANT
Chef Dharshan Munidasa has single handedly put Srilanka on the world gourmet map. And he is the only chef who has two restaurants featuring on the 50 best list. Set in a preserved 400-year-old Dutch hospital in Colombo “Ministry of Crab” is a Crab lovers paradise. His Japanese “NihonBashi” continues to be on the list.
Garlic Chili Crab
Ingredients – 500g meaty crab
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil/1/2 cup chopped onion/1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chilli flakes /1 tablespoon soy sauce /1 cup chicken stock
In a skillet throw in oil, onion, garlic and clean crab. Add chicken stock. Cook for 8 minutes. Add chilli flakes, cook for 2 minutes. Splash soy sauce and plate up.
Competing with the Japanese restaurants of Japan and still holding it’s own is a matter of pride for us. I refer to Wasabi by Morimoto. What
sets this fine dine Japanese restaurant apart from the others is the amazingly creative and fabulous vegetarian menu. Ofcourse, the gifted chef Sachin Poojary and executive chef Amit Chowdhary ensure that the exquisite non vegetarian dishes are as impeccable as ever. This Japanese salad dressing has My favorite past 14 years…
Soy onion salad dressing:
1- Onion – 8nos/ Soy – 400ml/ Mirin- 76ml/ Rice Vinegar- 200 ml/ Grape seed oil -200ml/ Sesame Oil- 100ml/ Mustard Paste – 16gm / Sugar 26gm/ Black Pepper – 1/4 TSP
Fine chop onion/ In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients except the grapeseed oil. / Mix ingredients well and slowly whisk in the grapeseed oil.store in fridge. Toss into salad when ready to serve.
DYNAMIC DREAM TEAM
Driving these awards and making them into high-octane international influential forces ( in gastronomy and tourism) is the London based dynamic dream team. Helming and driving the awards Charles Reed, Helene Pietrini, Tim Brooke Webb, William Drew Tiago Restani, Laura Price, Rikki Muddie Emer Schlosser Giulia Sgarbi, Rula Danias and Kate Cheverton. and I shoot their photo post awards..under the stars of course!
Indian Cafe & Bar
We are rejoicing! Many reasons…not only is it a joyful experience but there is distinct joy in the food too. There is a palpable youthful vibe not just in the ambiance, the staff, the diners but once again, in the food too. Bombay Canteen celebrates India and ofcourse Bombay. Much like my brilliant world renowned artist guest Jaideep Mehrotra whose works embody the melting pot of cultures in our metropolis, a melange of the eastern & western sensibilities. Like the Sachin Sculpture at Sasmira Junction, which pays tribute to a local lad using state of the art material to create it.Both, he and his lovely wife Seema feel that ‘Bombay Canteen’ has both these elements and manages to capture them well in their flavours and presentation.
Walk into this airy 4,000 sq. ft of brilliantly done up space and be charmed by the Bombay nostalgia in this unfinished “bungalow” with it’s stained glass, long rustic bar, printed tiles, manually lettered pricing boards.Thankfully it does not degenerate into a themed cutesy cafe,
space, Kudos to the Busride Design Studio.
NYC to MUMBAI
This Goan chef, worked in Mumbai and took NYC by storm way before glamorboy Vikas Khanna. I first met Chef Floyd Cardoz fifteen years ago, when I had been flown down to NYC by Asia Society for a panel discussion on Indian food with the icons, Madhur Jaffrey and Danny Meyer. I ate with Danny Meyer at “Tabla” , Floyds introduction of Indian food to America and loved it. A couple of years ago, i ate at Floyd’s “Northend grill” and came away disappointed. Both have since shut, Floyd still straddles both continents (Whitestreet in NYC and Bombay Canteen here). This one marks his return to and celebration of Indian cuisine. Along with Chef Thomas Zachiaras they use only local ingredients (many not served in restaurants) and evolve Indian cuisine by making it “cool”. Their passion shines through.
Flavors and textures do a rocking jugalbandi! Like the crisp Arbi tuk and mugra chaat. Goan pulled pork does the dandiya with theplas. Eggs Kejriwal get yummier with Kerala coconutty chutney. It begins with the “chintus” (tiny floating snacks much like David Chang’s Ma Peche) super
Unda Curry Devilled Desi Eggs, paper-thin lotus-root fryums. Chhotas (salads, tacos and more) Badas (
Spiced Grilled Chicken Kaleji ) and we also ask for the “Patiala” ( large sharing dishes) fish. Chef Zachiaras’ coconutty My uncles mutton curry delights. Whoa! the rum-spiked Gulabnut, is Floyd’s improvement on the cronut, but for me its the fleshy guava tan ta tan ( tart tatin) with it’s red chilly icecream that works the magic. A fully stocked bar,c raft beers by The Gateway Brewing Co are the other upsides.
My assistant calls to book the table in his name (I never book in mine) and is told they are booked up till 9.30pm.He persists and finally secures a booking for 7pmand for atleast the first two hours the cafe is more or less empty. The loud music jars and keep getting louder. Multi-Grain Khichdi, Steamed Kokum Idiyappam, banana deep fried pakodas
are ho hum. Infact, the vegetarian fare does not sparkle as much as the non veg one. Milk Braised Kashmiri Raan not available.Ice Cream Sandwich and masala chai popsicle sound better than they taste,
Balle balle! Indian cuisine gets its much needed complement of playfulness, modernism and global sophistication. Thankfully no molecular gastronomy here! No chicken tikka masala either! Sure they don’t ace everything, the portions could be larger, the vegetarian fare more finetuned. Accessibility is the guiding ethos, it is a go-to, drop-in (open for dinner only) canteen for enlightened food lovers on all budgets. I love the way this canteen marries locally sourced, serious food with an ultra-casual, spontaneous dining ethos, Eating here feels unencumbered, honest and joyful…that word again!
P.S. I just hope this brand new Canteen keeps it up.
Bombay Canteen, Kamala Mills, S.B. Road, Lower Parel, Open for dinner only 7:00 pm – 1:00 am
Ph 49666666 Meal for 2 Rs 2000
RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 4 DECOR 4