Gourmet Central

Print Edition: July 22, 2012

Grilling session
A swank India Grill Room attempts to amalgamate the feisty flavours of pan-Indian gastronomy with upscale dining.

The first impression of the India Grill Room, in Gurgaon, seems to bear a testament to the capital's insatiable appetite and unending camaraderie with kebabs. It is a massive 20,000 square feet of dining space dedicated to appoint the four grilling techniques of Indian cuisine: tawa, tandoor, hot stone and charcoal grill. The decor is a swish setting of terrace and indoor seating-loungers and cane chairs lie strewn outside and formal seating decks the indoors. India Grill Room serves a page-long table d'hote menu that lists soups, appetiser and mains, and promises to be a welcome deflection from the regular sheekhs and curries. It reintroduces an eclectic mix of grilled dishes from all across the country.

Our evening begins with Lucknow's revered galawati kebab, a crumbling mince meat infused with the chef's secret spices. The melt-in-your-mouth kebab packs a punch and leaves a tingling aftertaste of heat on the tongue. A word of caution here, those with a feeble palate might find the assault of the chilli too hot to handle. Next we are served the sikandari raan (tender leg of baby lamb) marinated overnight and cooked on a hot stone. The raan's aroma is the first thing that meets the senses, it is delicious and this time the heat is just right. The chicken cafreal, a Portuguese-style chicken preparation from Goa, sadly turns out like a regular tikka-masala with an odd coconut infusion.

The meen moilee (essentially a Konkan fish) has a good balance of flavour and even calls for an encore. The tabak maas (Kashmiri lamb ribs) is mildly-spiced and sublimely tender. When it comes to the curries, the grill's experience shines in comparison.

The chicken lababdar (more famously, butter chicken) has a runny gravy that lacks the thick consistency of a creamy curry. The Goan fish curry too, is disappointingly sharp. The sweetness of the fish itself is lost in the over-the-top flavours. The dishes that stand out in the mains are the kachhe gosht ki biryani that is redolent with robust aromas of the medium-rare lamb meat, and a rich, texture cooked ma ki daal that goes down well with some freshly made missi roti.

For desserts, pick the kesar-infused shrikhand over gulab jamuns, moong daal halwa and rose kheer. The latter are easily passable. Finish with the warm and mildly flavoured kahwa.

Sikandari Raan
.. Meen Moilee
Meal for twoRs 3,000 (taxes extra); for reservations call .. (0124)-4477806

-Anushree Basu-Bhalla

Panoramic views make up for the gaudy green and blue interiors
Panoramic views make up for the gaudy green and blue interiors
Not Just Sushi
Zuma, London, draws the swishest in the city with its contemporary Japanese menu and uber-cool vibe.

Being drunk on liquor is the norm, but to stagger out of a restaurant giddy on food was a novelty. The Japanese have always favoured clean flavours, small portions and honest cuisine and that food motif has travelled with them overseas into kitchens ruled by sharp food and incisive cuts.

Zuma in London has built itself up as a formidable contender in the contemporary Japanese genre and has a head chef, Soon Li Ong, who values the integrity of quality produce. His dishes are shorn of embellishments that might subtract from the original texture or flavour. The wooden door to his world lies on a quiet residential street (Raphael off Brompton Road close to the flashy Harrods) in Knightsbridge and is likely to catch you off guard.

Here, rocky granite is carved into a sushi station that literally sits on crushed ice. The entire look is cedar and stone-rough, earthy, with some smooth edges thrown in for relief. Zuma has the vibe that restaurants sure of their success sport, and its guests feed off it. The head chef has the ability to awe the eye as he makes each dish look achingly beautiful. When a group of tough looking executives ordered an assortment of sushi, chef Li gave them a dish that highlighted the drama of 'out there' presentation that the restaurant thrives on. From delicately strewn flowers glistening against jagged ice, to using the pliable seafood itself to creative magic, Zuma excels at this art.

The way to order here is to choose a number of small dishes to be shared by two. We were seated at the comfortable sushi bar and started with the crispy fried squid with green chilli and lime. With a hint of sea and the crispness of winter, it was a fine dish to kick off the meal. Next came an assortment of sushi and sashimi arranged elaborately on an ample stoneware dish. We also tried the tuna tartare with miso, myoga and lotus crisps which is inventive, especially the slim crisps. The Zuma popcorn tempura with yuzu salt is a surprise with a hint of salt and then some sweet as the corn pops through the batter. From the robata grill, the pork skewer with yuzu mustard miso is succulent with the meat cooked just right. The charm of the food lies in the excellent pairing of sauces and condiments with seafood and meat and in the lure of the familiar turned foreign.

For dessert, the chef generously sent us a mixed platter. The earthenware bowl of crushed ice had small-size confections in varying shot glasses. The tropical chawan mushi or egg custard with pineapple, papaya and mango cleanses the palate and prepares you for the denser chocolate-laden treats. The chocolate fondant with caramel, praline and vanilla ice cream (from the tasting menu) is divine and the specially prepared crème fraiche lollipops in colours of the Japanese flag makes you feel 12 again. All this comes with a hefty price tag, though I would recommend you order a la carte which is less expensive.

Zuma popcorn tempura with yuzu sauce
.. Tuna tartare with miso, myoga and lotus root crisps.
Meal for two at Rs 8,000 plus taxes; for reservations .. (+44) 2075841010

-Prachi Bhuchar

House of Flying Spatulas
Indyaki at Delhi's Radisson Blu offers Indian dishes, Japanese style. The result is mixed.

Innovative presentation of starters highlights great flavours
Innovative presentation of starters highlights great flavours
There's undeniable excitement when you sit down in the highchair facing the teppanyaki grill at Indyaki, in Paschim Vihar's Radisson Blu. The promise of a re-imagined Indian meal with Japanese presentation arouses curiosity rather than hunger, but the aroma soon takes care of that. Indyaki has two teppan counters, an open kitchen and a chef unafraid of taking risks. Masterchef Irfan responded to the call to create a brand new concept in Indian cuisine with flair, imagination, and a dash of showmanship that Indians love.

Roti pe boti is a great start. A few small cubes of lamb grilled in a sticky sauce has hints of cardamom and kewra served on a small, crisp and fluffy bread. For a vegetarian option the chef recommends grilled vegetables.

While the dish is an excellent blend of juicy, crispy selections, they need to reduce the quantity of bean sprouts in the dish. Starters aside, the best of the lot are the Karavalli prawns. This is where teppanyaki and Indian flavours come together perfectly: grilled prawns, cooked to precision and served hot, coated in a coconut and mustard mix, and bathed in an accompanying pineapple sauce. It is the perfect storm-a rare combination that results in an unexpected explosion of flavours.

Your food comes fresh off the grill onto your plate
Your food comes fresh off the grill onto your plate
After the high note, however, the concept begins to lose steam and disappointment sets in. The limitations of trying to create an Indian meal entirely on a Japanese grill become evident when the main course starts coming out of the open kitchen's tandoor. The daal bhaati, seekh kangri, and mutton with a pronounced aniseed flavour lack flavour and poise. The sparse spicing possibly caters to the foreign visitors at the hotel. The presentation is nothing to write home about, but the sudden shift to regaular dishes destroys the connection the eater has been fostering with the theatrical chef and his earlier dramatic dish presentations.

It's a good thing chef Irfan keeps one surprise up his sleeve that makes up for the stray. Dessert is a fantastic beetroot halwa. Although there are inventive and fun options like Bournvita kulfi, the halwa, a royal hue of purple chukander shaped like a diamond crowned with white flecks of khoya, is a fitting surprise to end a novel idea that would bring anyone back. Indyaki's brave cuisine fusion merits a visit.

Roti pe boti
.. Karavalli prawns with pineapple sauce
.. Beetroot halwa
Meal for two: Rs 2,400 (including taxes, without alcohol)
For reservations .. (011) 4639 9999

-Varoon P. Anand

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