Degustation or Tasting menus offer a beautiful showcase of a restaurant and of a chef’s skill. Take for instance, the two signature meal experiences at Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel, Chennai. The Maha Virundhu and Kadal Virundhu have been curated to offer the flavours of all the four southern states in one rich meal. This is a royal feast offering over 25 dishes keeping the prime focus on sampling of different flavours of a cuisine.
“Every course moves from lighter dishes to heavier ones and subtle flavours are built on in each course to avoid being overwhelmed by flavours and ingredients,” explains Chef Sujan Mukherjee, Executive Chef, Taj Coromandel. The experiences are extremely traditional and authentic in nature. Our quest for excellence requires our chefs to undertake ritual journeys across disparate locales from historical palaces to the bylanes of small towns and coastal hamlets of South India, unearthing traditional recipes and mastering cooking styles”. Highlights of Maha Virundhu menu include Murungaelai Vadai (Crispy fried drumstick leaves and lentil galette) and Mamsam Vepudu (Lamb, cooked in spiced, a popular Andhra dish), while for Kadal Virundhu it is the Kane Kempu Bezzule (Lady Fish Fry from Mangalore) and Peeta Mamsam Pachi Masala (Lobster meat tossed with cilantro and green chilli). Customization of menus is restricted as these have been prepared with keen attention to balancing flavours and offering a wholesome meal. A bit more open to customization are the tasting menus available at The Indian Accent, New Delhi, where the vegetarian and meat-based meals may be tweaked to be vegan, gluten-free or nut-free.
“When we plan and curate a menu we ensure that it gives an exciting build-up and provides an all-round experience of Indian Accent to our guests,” explains Chef Manish Mehrotra, Corporate Chef, Indian Accent Restaurants. “Our highlights are the unique amalgamation of the freshest local produce combining home-style nostalgic tastes with unusual ingredients from across the world. Each course is served in succession, in small, yet filling portions and is a unique marriage of global ingredients and techniques with the flavours and traditions of India. Take the baked Aubergine Salad with Golden Pine Nuts and Saffron yogurt. Aubergine is an ingredient that cuts across cultures and countries be it Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Thai, Greek or Japanese and we have it on our menu this way”.
Also on the menu is the Arbi Bitterballen with Shallots and Kasundi Chutney. As a child, Chef Manish confesses to not being fond of arbi as it was never cooked well. “My first encounter with a Belgian bitterballen was in a London pub. It was love at first bite and I soon became a frequent customer at the pub for the bitterballen. On one such visit, inspiration struck, and I decided to use boiled, mashed arbi to create this dish, particularly for vegetarians who will never be able to taste a real version”.
The tasting menu at The Indian Accent takes you through all the states of India and you are likely to see a Gujarati Sutarfeni Pistachio Ice Cream alongside Butter Poached Lobster, Kashmiri Haaq Broth, Dal Moradabadi, Kolhapuri Chicken Salad and the likes of an Avocado Koshimbir, all served with equal panache.
Also promising to serve up a journey through India on your plate is the tasting menu at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra in New Delhi. “The concept behind the menu at Masala Library is to showcase as much as we can about our cuisine philosophy by taking diners on a gastronomical journey through the Indian sub-continent”, explains Saurabh Udinia – Chef De Cuisine – Modern Indian. Factors seasonality, local produce, current trends, innovations and techniques are considered”. From the Maddur Vada with clear lemon rasam served in a pipette, to a deconstructed samosa to what is truly a highlight – The Mushroom Chai, Masala Library’s menu is constantly evolving.
And before you go about thinking that tasting menus are only about Indian food, let’s look at POH in Mumbai that has been making waves.
“The culinary aspect of POH is based on using the best possible ingredients not just in the country but globally as well, apart from having total control of the supply chain. To facilitate this ideology, we have completely different experiences that have been crafted,” elaborates Vikramjit Roy, Head- New Culinary Initiatives, POH.
The first is the ‘Omakase’, which literally translates into Chef’s Choice, where guests are seated at the Sushi bar and the ‘Itamae’ or the Sushi Chef offers the best of his selection course wise. Besides this, a full course meal comprising of Tsukemono (assorted pickles), Shiro miso soup (white miso soup), Sake oh toro yaki (grilled salmon belly), Nimono (braised seasonal vegetables), Hitsumabushi (Grilled braised Eel on vinegared rice), etc are also offered for a complete dining experience.
The second experience is the ‘Seasonal tasting menu’, which changes every month based on the supply chain of ingredients which are mostly local in nature. These experiences focus on the thought process or seasonality.
The third experience is the ‘Wagashi tasting menu’’, which revolves around the Dessert studio we have at POH. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy a series of desserts which offer a story of how a relative Asian dessert is given a contemporary and healthier turn.
Tasting menus take guests on a gastronomical journey and the wonderful part is that they almost never remain the same. Chefs constantly innovate and work consciously on seasonality, local produce and more, all the while ensuring that their menu still remains a showcase of the best.
Taj Coromandel, 37, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Tirumurthy Nagar, Nungambakkam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600034; tel: +91 44 6600 2827
Indian Accent, The Lodhi, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, Delhi 110003; tel: +91 98711 17968
Masala Library, Ground Floor, First International Financial Centre, G Block, Bandra East, Opposite Sofitel Hotel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050; tel: +91 84529 00900
POH, 21, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013; tel: +91 75068 13354
Tags : Bitterballen, Chef Sujan Mukherjee, Degustation, Indian Accent, Jiggs Kalra, Manish Mehrotra, Masala Library, New Culinary Initiatives, POH, Ruth DSouza Prabhu, Saurabh Udinia, Southern Spice, Special Menus, Taj Coromandel, Tasting Menus, The Maha Virundhu, Vikramjit Roy, Zorawar Kalra