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A new high in Thai

Celebrity chef Ian Kittichai's swank new restaurant in Mumbai offers enough surprises, flavours and ambience to become one of the city's hot spots.

Anamika Butalia | Print Edition: Jan 9, 2011

Chef Ian Kittichai shot to fame with his eponymously named restaurant in New York City. Kittichai no longer has anything to do with Kittichai. But that shouldn't bother Mumbaikars, since they now have Koh by Kittichai at Intercontinental Marine Drive-- an extremely stylish restaurant with black surfaces and leather seating. Kittichai says he likes to surprise his guests and boy does he oblige!

When the menu card arrives, it's not your run-of-the-mill paper offering. It's an iPad instead, which lists the dishes available and tells you about the chef and his philosophy. The surprising touches continue through the meal. Yes, there is the usual coconut milk, lemon grass, peanuts and galangal but there are also pork ribs cooked in cocoa powder. The taste of every dish is distinctive. And then there's the presentation (which the chef considers his USP). The Thai curry, for instance, is placed on a sheet of fireproof paper placed in a bowl with a flame burning under it. The rice is cooked on a lava stone on your table.

We begin at the semi-circular bar with a seasonal Berry Good and a Gojiberry Bellini. Both are refreshing spins on classic cocktails, and go down smoothly. For starters, we have the simple but delicious yellowfin tuna ceviche (garnished with mint and lemon grass and drizzled with kaffir lime) and lemon grass-speared chicken, grilled with cilantro and coconut.

Among the entrees, the vegetarian rice pancakes, served with wok-tossed vegetables and sweet chilli dressing, are soggily disappointing. But the Chilean sea bass melts in the mouth and more than makes up for the disappointment. The lava stoneroasted garlic rice served with red curry sizzles; the vegetarian pad thai is dull in comparison. For dessert, I'd recommend the Valrhona flourless chocolate cake that's served with coffee ice-cream. I tried the bittersweet Lindt chocolate lava and was disappointed that the chocolate didn't ooze out like hot lava, as promised.

On your first visit, go with the recommendations of the manager as there are some delectable dishes on the menu that are not easily spotted.

(InterContinental Marine Drive, Mumbai. Tel: 022 39879999. Meal for two: Rs 3,800 (with liquor and taxes). Lunch: 12.30-2.45 pm; Dinner: 7.30 -11.45 pm)

Truffles at very non-trifling prices

Call it an edible body of fungi in the tuber genus or the Diamond of the Kitchen, connoisseurs just can't get enough of the truffle. In 2007, a record was set when a white truffle weighing 1.5 kg, unearthed near Pisa, was bought by Macau casino owner Stanley Ho for $330,000 at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong and Florence. This November, Ho won the auction again, beating his previous record. This time round, he paid $330,000 (Rs 1.5 crore on current rates) for a pair of white truffles including one weighing nearly a kilogram.

Glacier guzzle
In a world of vanity without apologies, rarity is an ever-endearing trait. Which could make a bottle of water taken from an iceberg in Greenland virtually priceless. In the case of Glace Rare Iceberg Water, however, you can have it for $15 (Rs 683) per 700-ml bottle. Apparently, a crew of eight people aboard a 44-metre vessel will go from Canada to Greenland every couple of weeks to harvest fresh ice for the water.

Form over function
Designer Rohit Bal's ostentatious Delhi restaurant Veda, which is particularly popular with upmarket foreign tourists, now has a Mumbai outpost. Located next door to the Man U Café and Punjab Grill at Palladium Mall, Veda lives up to its OTT reputation with a crimson and gold decor put together with plush leather and velvet seating. While peacock motifs and majestic chandeliers complete the look of 'brand' Bal, the menu-which promises a twist on tradition -doesn't live up to the hype. But that could be because the full menu is not yet up and running. As of now, the bitter-fried spinach appetiser is nice and crunchy and done to perfection, though the grilled paneer tikka with tamarind chutney amusebouche is a little low on spices-for the Indian palate. Tandoor dishes are the speciality here, with juicy tandoori prawns and succulent tandoori chicken. The marinated mushrooms and black dal go well with the interesting onion parmesan kulchas. The dessert is disappointing though, with only phirni and kheer available.
(At Palladium Mall, Lower Parel, Mumbai; Tel: 022 24900055. Meal for two: Rs 4,000, without alcohol. Lunch: 12.30-2.30 pm; Dinner: 7.30-1.45pm)

Michelin newbies
Eight Belgian restaurants have earned their first Michelin star rating, while two others earned their second star. The new one star restaurants include Alexandre and Kamo in Brussels and Het Begaar and Bij Lam & Yin in Antwerp. The newly-minted two-star venues are Nuance in Duffel and Aan Tafel bij Luc Bellings in Hasselt. The highest ranking in Luxembourg is for Mosconi, with two stars. Under the Michelin ranking system, one star signals a very good restaurant, two designates excellent and 'worth a detour' and three means the venue is among the very best and 'worth a special journey.' We dig!

Gaga over gold
Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana have teamed up with Bacardi's vermouth brand Martini to launch Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana. The new drink is a refined blend of bergamot from Calabria, lemons from Sicily, Spanish saffron, myrrh from Ethiopia, ginger from India and cubeb pepper from Indonesia, and comes in a lavish gold bottle that lights up its black case. Adding to the glamour bit is svelte beauty Monica Bellucci, who has been signed on as the face of this slick spirit that is priced at �30 (Rs 2,131). For la dolce vita, look no further.

Deep sea drinking
Wine experts popped open the corks of two bottles of champagne that were recently salvaged from a 200-year-old ship, sitting 50 metres below the surface in waters south of Aaland, a Finnish archipelago of 6,500 islands in the Baltic Sea. In all, 168 bottles were found, but many of these were smashed while some were contaminated. At the opening (pardon the pun) ceremony, the experts eased the fragile corks and poured the contents from the dark brown bottles-one from the house of Veuve-Clicquot and the other from the now extinct house of Juglar-into rows of waiting glasses. The aroma in the air was a thick, nose-wrinkling bouquet that could be smelled several metres away; stronger than that of all the modern champagnes. Aaland plans to auction one bottle of each make to start with. Experts says they're not sure but they think the bottles could fetch €100,000 (Rs 59 lakh) each. Let no one question that 'old is gold' ever again.

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