I get really picky when it comes to Indian cuisine, while eating out. There are very few places, which do all the traditional recipes really well. The heavily cream laden curries, is something I don’t care about. I loath it the most, when the kitchen tries to hide the blunders of unbalanced flavors under a greasy thick and spicy curry. And mostly, while I am celebrating with friends and family, I try not to take chances with new setups and stick to my favorites only. So, while I got to know about Blogger’s Table gathering at Varq, a contemporary Indian cuisine restaurant at Taj Mahal Palace, New Delhi, I initially was a bit hesistant to go. But when I got to know, that the Blogger’s Table is giving farewell to it’s charmingly sweet Cookaroo, I could not resist. I had to attend this for her. She’s following her husband for his work assignment abroad.
Talking about Varq, the restaurant has featured in the top 50 restaurants in the Eleventh annual listing of The S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants Asia List. The menu at the restaurant is Grand Master Chef Hemant Oberoi’s masterpiece, wherein he has taken food to a different dimension with his new techniques, innovative presentations and usage of organic produce and spices.
Varq’s interiors are studded with the art work of celebrated Indian artist Anjolie Ela Menon, which was done 35 years ago. With limited cover, restaurant offers a private dinning area also to it’s patrons, where we were seated.
The menu at Varq is a rich accumulation of Indian recipes evolved to the next level. retaining the Indian traditional way of cooking while using exotic ingredients like sea bass, sand crab, black cod, morels and Iranian berries.
So, for the evening, chef had designed a special menu, which started off with an interesting amuse bouche. Indian Chaat Style. Interestingly, innovative! It took me to the street food heaven of Delhi!
In the first course, we were served Varqi Khumb, mushrooms stir fried in Indian spices, layered between thin filo pastry sheets, topped with a morel. I didn’t care about the morel. I found this a bit heavy to start a meal with. Flavors were okay, though over spiced. I liked it’s idea and the presentation more than the taste.
Second course, was something which I dream about even today. The Kebab platter, consisting of Haleem, Chicken Gandheri and Galaouti Kebab. Haleem was very well done, all the flavors of meat, grains and spices nicely blended into and perfectly spiced. Galaouti was excellent and so was Chicken Gandheri (chicken lollipop on a sugarcane stick). Chicken Gandheri was served with a sweet and sour mango chutney, which nicely paired the spicy chicken meat. I wiped through the bottom of shot glass, in which it was served!
Third course offered a Lobster Rassa or a Kale Chane Ka Cappuccino, and without giving any second thought, I asked for Lobster Rassa. Goan curry inspired seafood broth served along with prawn crackers. It had all the fresh flavors from sea. Really wonderful. I sipped Kale Chane Ka Cappuccino from Sid’s cup, and I didn’t like it in the first sip itself. Boring and having no flavors at all, though it was a nice makeover!
Then came the palate cleanser, a ginger and lime sorbet. Interesting flavors, but I did find it out of place. Ginger, too strong flavor to be a palate cleanser, rather the sharp flavor of Japanese ginger stayed in my mouth for quite sometime. Very overwhelming and sharp! But again, the presentation was nice and dramatic, served in a ceramic pot, with dry ice creating voodoo sort of thing at the bottom.
Next course offered Kali Mirch Mugh or Sea Bass on Spiced Potato Dauphinoise. I went for Kali Mirch Mugh. It was uninteresting in the very first bite. Nothing to be written home about, Ruchira, offered me some Sea Bass from her plate, which was pretty decent.
Next served was Martbaan Ka Meat served along with Jaituni Naan. Again a disappointment, not by the presentation, but by the flavors. Nothing exciting, in fact mutton was average sort of, with no distinct flavors of pickling spices, as mentioned in the menu.
Finally, an array of disappointing dishes came to an end (except for amuse bouche and Kebab Platter), with a fabulous dessert platter. It had a serving of Apple Kheer, a Jalebi standing on a Khoa (reduced milk) chunk, and Khas Malpua. All three were excellent. Right on spot! The dessert platter all made up for the lost experience.
While all this food was being served throughout the evening, the attentive staff took care of us all very well. I guess, that is the best thing about properties like Taj, their unmatched hospitality and the warm welcome stands them out. It was an interesting journey through the beautiful and innovative creations of Chef Hemant Oberoi, though some of the dished lacked on flavors. Thank you Taj for having us over. Others who were present on the table were Sid, Charis, Sangeeta, Sushmita, Rekha, Mukta, Parul, Ruchira, Deeba & Nachiketa.