The Lodhi in New Delhi has launched two new restaurants, focused on two globally popular cuisines, to add to its already considerable F&B appeal
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: December 13, 2019
LF Says: Perbacco: ★★★★.5 | Yokoso: ★★★★
It isn’t often that a luxury hotel, and not a new one at that, launches a couple of new outlets – each pushing the boundary for its cuisine in the city. Perbacco, the recently launched Italian restaurant at The Lodhi, is helmed by Italian Chef Adriano Baldassarre, who is the Mentor Chef for the restaurant. Yokoso, on the other hand, offers Japanese fine dining to an increasing number of fans of the cuisine.
Italian cuisine is a popular choice, at every price point, in most Indian cities. So introducing an Italian restaurant was not a hard choice. “Italian food, much like Indian and Japanese food, has a high umami quotient and flavours that whet one’s appetite,” says Vikram Aditya Singh, Vice President and General Manager, The Lodhi. “Ingredients and produce are celebrated, creating a beautiful mélange that is nutritious as well as robust and hearty. I am confident diners will enjoy a cornucopia of flavours that will be presented like a well-orchestrated symphony at Perbacco.”
Perbacco was born out of Mr. Singh’s and Chef Baldassarre’s combined passion for Italian food. The 40-year-old Chef Baldassarre has worked with legendary chefs such as Giorgio Locatelli, Antonello Colonna and Heinz Beck. His restaurant Tordomatto in Rome, which was awarded a Michelin Star in 2007, is located in the heart of historic Rome. He launched his second restaurant in Rome recently, ‘Trattoria l'Avvolgibile’, offering traditional Italian cuisine.
The 72-cover Perbacco, offers contemporary Italian dining infused with traditional flavours. While an extensive à la carte menu is on offer, more unusually, there is also a 20-minute executive lunch available! Perbacco is open for lunch from noon to 3 pm and for dinner from 7 pm to 11:30 pm.
An extensive wine cellar features over 100 varietals from Italian regions such as Veneto, Valpolicella, Friuli, Piedmont, Tuscany, Puglia, Sicily, Umbria, Abruzzo, and more. Mr. Singh says, “We really want this to be an immersive food, wine, art and music experience (some of the music is from my own personal collection of Italian Rock and Ballads). I am looking forward to sharing our piece of Paraiso Italiana (Italian paradise) with everyone in the NCR.”
Chef Baldassarre stresses that the focus for any restaurant should be on its food and the experience, a philosophy translated into practice at Perbacco. “The sole focus for me is on great-tasting food, which is rooted in traditional cooking,” he says. A traditionalist at heart, Chef Baldassarre says, “When you come to me, you try my food. That is the concept here. We want traditional Italian food to be eaten here. When you try to change tradition to suit Indian tastes, that does not work in the long run, as you are not being true to the origin. You need to cook pure Italian food and focus on taste.”
The a la carte menu is extensive, especially for dinner. To get a quick sense of the place, you could opt for the tasting menus, which come in the vegetarian (₹2,045) and non-vegetarian (₹2,845) options. Each is a seven-course meal designed to perfection. Among the highlights from the antipasti section are Beetroot Tartare Carrot and Campari (₹995), and Quail, Seaweed Toasted Oil, Potato and Parsley (₹1395). There is a considerable choice of pastas. Do try the Fettucini with Lobster and Crunchy Flavoured Bread or the Meat Cannelloni (both ₹1545).
For those abstaining from meat, the Mushroom Risotto with Tarragon comes recommended (₹1545). For the Portata Principale (main course), however, there are just a couple of vegetarian options to one ‘eggitarian’ and eight non-vegetarian options! There are the classics - Grilled Salmon, Cereliac, Kalamata olives and Lemon Butter Sauce (₹2895) and Whole Roast Chicken with Grilled Bell Peppers and Rosemary Potatoes (₹2045) to dishes steeped in the diversity of the cuisine. Witness the Scottadito (literally, ‘burning fingers’, as the dish is too delicious for people to wait for it to reach the right eating temperature, so they eat it hot) of Lamb Chop, Mascarpone Mashed Potato, Pink Peppercorn jus – a triumph for the chef to recreate this traditional Verona dish so far away from home. It would be remiss of us not to mention the sublime tiramisu (₹745), which on its own would be enough reason to return to Perbacco.
Japanese, with a hint of local
Yokoso, or ‘Welcome’ in Japanese, has an entirely different feel. Adjacent to the all-day diner, Elan, Yokoso is cozy and coexists with the Elan bar. Its deep leather sofas may not quite strike you as the look of the usual Japanese izakaya (aka bistro), but that is what its youthful chef at the helm, Shubham Thakur, describes the eatery as. However, the spirit of the izakayas is there, as the chef describes the young team as passionate and well-versed with the ingredients.
Chef Thakur, originally from Himachal Pradesh and brought up in Delhi, has transformed into a chef of this notoriously difficult cuisine. As for the reason for starting Yokoso, Chef Thakur says the Japanese cuisine is very popular in the city. “The fan following of Japanese cuisine is growing day by day in India. Even school children know the names of Japanese dishes.” He says the cuisine is very healthy and the flavours are so perfect that everyone wants to try.
The menu is divided into sections - Small plates, Large Plates, Soup, Noodles, Teppanyaki, Dessert and Omakase (yes, where you leave it to the chef). There are standard favourites on offer - delicacies such as Tako Sashimi, Warm Eel Roll, Spicy Crab Roll, Tonkatsu and Kakiage Ramen, and Salmon Steak. The menu is a la carte, neatly presented on a board. Among the small plates, try the Shira Ae (₹1050) - pressed tofu, served with a homemade sesame dressing, or the Ikebana salad (₹1550) – yes, just as beautiful as the name implies.
A favourite is the Toro Tartar (₹2750) – the fatty part of tuna’s belly chopped and served with an array of aromatic and flavoursome condiments such as avocado puree, flying fish roe, rice crispies and fresh cut scallions, mixed at the table. The dish looks as stunning as it appears, and the mixing seems to be almost a pity, though of course the flavours need to combine. The vegetarian substitute is Corn Tartar, which is served with Fukuzinzuke (Japanese pickle), avocado purée, rice crisps and fresh cut scallion. Seabass, with mustard sauce (₹2250) has grilled seabass cooked with Japanese mustard flavoured soy and served with spring onion-wasabi oil – excellent. Those whose world-view of Japanese cuisine is limited to sushi and sashimi could get a crash course on the immense diversity of Japanese ingredients and dishes. The dishes are aesthetically presented, and inserting the fork (or chop sticks) to these lovely works of art is almost cruel.
There is sushi of course. If you are a Sushi fan, try the Sushi Moriwase, an assortment of delectable selection of hamachi, salmon, unagi and shrimp tempura roll. There is a vegetarian version too, which for sure must have taken some inventing! The menu does list a number of vegetarian sushi too. “We do not focus on the sushi, but they are there for anyone who wants them., We are beyond sushi and tempura,” says Chef Thakur. A range of sashimi are on the menu too – salmon, tuna, eel, sea bream, octopus and scallops. Incidentally, Chef Thakur points out that there is no mayonnaise in the sushi, a common fallacy for many restaurants, but a no-no in Japan.
Like Perbacco, which has distilled different cuisines of Italy into a single restaurant, Yokoso too offers dishes from different regional cuisines of Japan. Explaining some basic components of the cuisine, Chef Thakur cites the use of soy sauce, which he says can be magical. Yokoso’s ingredients, or about 80 per cent of them, still come from Japan. He says the supply chains have got much better.
He admits that it is challenging to do a Japanese restaurant in Delhi. Wasabi, where Chef Thakur last was, has recently shut shop, while Megu’s price points make it accessible only to the well-heeled. “A challenge is to cultivate knowledge among people on what exactly is Japanese cuisine. There have been veteran restaurants like Sakura, which made people in the city realize how special the cuisine was. People find it difficult to describe the umami flavour – and this keeps you in a state of confusion whether the food is good or not. Dashi is the essence of the cuisine, and it should have bonito flakes or the food will not have the umami flavour. It is a challenge to get those ingredients, to make something that is vegetarian, and to make people understand what the food is all about.”
At Yokoso, most of the fishes come from Tokyo, while scallops are from Hokkaido. As for the dishes, there is Okonomiyaki from Osaka, or a range of Chawanmushi, egg custard dishes, which are influenced from different regions of Japan. Osaka style street food has been incorporated with a different twist to how they are made.
Even if you are stuffed, there is a dessert section that has to be done justice to. There is matcha ice cream or the yuzu sorbet, but the one to try is the sesame ice cream (all ₹350). Perfect in texture and flavour, and a lovely way to end a sumptuous meal.
LF Says: Perbacco: ★★★★.5 | Yokoso: ★★★★
Coordinates: Lodhi Rd, CGO Complex, Pragati Vihar, New Delhi, Delhi 110003, India
*The article was last updated on December 23, 2019 to edit a quote