A nine-course meal where each succeeding course bests the previous...it's a memory that will stay
Posted on: January 20, 2017
LF Says: ★★★★.5
Two creative chefs are better than one. That might as well be the new saying for anyone visiting the Amaranta where Chef Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Collection fame in London and Chef Tejas Sovani, who heads the team at the restaurant in The Oberoi, Gurgaon came together.
The result was a meal that you will revisit through your memories long after the last delicious morsel is digested and the last drop of champagne has been drunk. For four days, from January 18-22, the two chefs have put together a smorgasbord of their best recipes in a single nine-course meal.
Deconstructing, or indeed devouring, a nine-course meal, is no simple albeit delightful task for any gourmand. To begin with, the setting, the fine dine restaurant at The Oberoi Gurgaon, Amaranta, has transformed over time from a seafood specialty restaurant to serving a more pan Indian cuisine. The dominant touches of blue, whether in the curtains or runners or the even the wall mounted magnificent swordfish, remain intact.
The biggest change is in the menu. Chef Sovani has brought in a far more authentic touch to the eatery, blending authentic regional recipes and unusual flavour pairings to curate a contemporary Indian dining experience. More amazingly, the restaurant’s six regional cuisine chefs – from Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal and Rajasthan – are all not trained in hospitality from structured courses but from small-town eateries, all in an effort to ensure authentic flavours.
Chef Sovani’s style blends the traditional and the contemporary at Amaranta. Changes under him have included a Kolkata Street Bento Box, a Farsan medley with Dabeli Bao, Khakra Crisps, Dhokla Pakodas and chilli yogurt dip, Lal Maas Kachodi with Aloo Subzi and a mélange from Hyderabad – a delectable interplay between haleem croquettes and magaz masala.
Part of the 9-course, titled ‘The Amaranta Fillharmonic’, in fact the opening act, was the Dhokla ya Pakoda, which invites the query – which is it? The answer is equally enigmatic – “whichever you taste first,” points out Chef Sovani. Well, for me it was pakoda (fritters).
Well actually, the paté-ckles – an Amaranta hallmark – that basically are Indian pickles converted to paste, came first in three delightful flavours, accompanied with a tray of papads, curry flavoured tingmo (Tibetan breads) and a long strip of lentil crisp. All this is gratis accompaniments, and I had extras.
There are two set meals each for lunch and dinner, vegetarian or with the fleshy delights. I opted for the vegetarian menu, though I did sample the non-vegetarian creations occasionally. The Watermelon chaat - pressed watermelon, amaranth seeds, date chutney, masala cashew nut came in the form of four red juicy squares about an inch each way, and topped by the all the rest of the ingredients. I would have called for an encore, but the Carpaccio of cured salmon with green pea chutney and Bengal puffed rice was just as delicious – soft and crispy at once for either option.
The next course was a highlight for me - Grilled aubergine, sesame peanut crumble, labneh, toasted buckwheat. I was momentarily transported to London via this dish straight from Cinnamon Club. The long aubergine was sliced into two lengthwise and grilled.It was soft, tangy, and combined perfectly with the labneh (Greek yogurt)! The Tandoori breast of duck, beetroot, pumpkin and peanut was nice too, but I preferred mine!
The next course may be minuscule – half a golf ball in size, and charred, but it was just as much a high point of the Sovani magic. Called Charcoal, this coal-crusted jackfruit (or chicken) was more burnt on the outside than anything I had eaten earlier. Tender and soft.
The next course was almost a comfort favourite – galouti kebabs – something no self-respecting Indian restaurant can survive without serving, The Surf n Turf (scallop and lamb galouti or pithod) and vegetable galouti for vegetarians, was beautifully presented and accompanied with flavoured yogurt with chutneys.
The meal was truly underway, and diners looked satiated already, even as a light buttermilk sorbet cleared the palate. The next course was a signature Amaranta - 63° poached egg, with Goan pork churris, caramelised onion and cashew sauce. The vegetarian option, Wilderness, was a confit of King mushroom, green and black gram, and curried coconut sauce. Yes, if you can persuade your server, go for the egg, it’s a contemporary delight.
The biggest portion was either Clove smoked saddle of lamb with Rajasthani corn sauce, masala cashew nut. Few things can top the succulent and beautifully flavoured New Zealand lamb. Or for the vegetarians, the quirkily named Jaipur Pink City express, where Chef Singh had put together five bowls - dabeli, misal pao, sangri, curry and papad, and tempered yogurt with crisp okra – a meal in itself!
The dessert was Garam masala sticky toffee pudding with carrot fudge and clove ice cream. Unfortunately, doing justice to it was beyond my capabilities as I almost sank into a stupor! Food coma is almost ensured. An innovation that blends the very best of prominent Indian flavours and Western textures!
The collaboration also marks 50 years of OCLD (Oberoi Centre of Learning & Development), and is the first of a series of Celebrity Culinary Collaborations. Chef Singh is among the most celebrated of the vast body of alumnus that populates the hospitality sector not just in India, but also globally.
The special Chef’s Table experience will be available for lunch and dinner between 18 – 22 January, 2017 at Amaranta. Yes, some of these dishes are going to be part of the Amaranta menu, but you are unlikely to get them in this shape. Or size. Or together! Not to be missed.
LF Says: ★★★★.5
Price: Rs 4,500 + taxes per person
Coordinates: Amaranta, The Oberoi Gurgaon, 443, UdyogVihar, Phase V, Sector 19, Gurugram, India