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Standalone restaurants are raising the bar in Delhi


A boom generally implies a multiplication of opportunities, a celebration of numbers, but the most heartening feature of the recent proliferation of restaurants across Delhi-NCR has been the phenomenal rise in the quality of the offerings.

And, as you’d expect from a dining-out economy that has matured, this efflorescence of quality is taking place primarily in standalone restaurants.

In fact, the most talented chefs of these establishments are abandoning their hierarchical kitchens to give their creativity a platform and their careers a boost. The idea struck me when I went to preview the offerings of Whisky Samba, which promises to be the star of the new foodie hub.

From the creators of The Wine Company, the Cyber Hub’s trendiest restaurant, Whisky Samba, as its name suggests, has a formidable collection of whiskies of all kinds — 140 of them — but its food menu also is loaded with wow features introduced by the young chef Akshay Bhardwaj.

From using techniques such as open hearth cooking (asado) popular in Argentina to serving dishes you wouldn’t find anywhere else, such as the byaldi (a take on the traditional French preparation, ratatouille, developed by the nouvelle cuisine pioneer, Michel Guerard, popularised in America by Thomas Keller); edamame (immature soyabeans in a pod) mousse served with smoked paprika crisps; shrimp balchao accompanied by togarashi (Japanese chilli peppers) crisps; and a lamb burger served in edible charcoal-blackened brioche bun stacked up with a bulky lamb patty, Asian bacon jam, mushroom relish, grilled mustard greens, pickled jalapenos and fried egg.

At Zorawar Kalra’s Pa Pa Ya, which debuted late last month at Select Citywalk, Saket, Chef Sahil Singh, ex-Wasabi and Tian, has steered clear of the temptation to play around with foam and edible flowers.

Instead, his creativity expresses itself in the use of deliciously different fillings — hargao with green curry prawns, for instance — or of new textures — sushi burger, layered sushi pizza and even sushi doughnut; tacos, tostadas and everybody’s favourite chilli hoisin duck dog; chilli chicken shawarma; Burmese open-face dumplings; and ravioli with steamed scallop and crab spiked with tobanjan (chilli soy paste) and tobiko (flying fish roe).

A similar philosophy drives Jom Jom Malay (jom jom is the Malay expression for ‘let us, let us’), which has opened at the newly resuscitated Ansal Plaza on Khel Gaon Marg, where the trio of restaurant consultant Aftab Sidhu, chef Honey Mishra (ex-Taj) and young entrepreneur Anhad Sethi have made the bold move to introduce Delhi to a new cuisine — Malaysian, which may seem very close to our palate, but is significantly different.

What I love about Jom Jom Malay is the effort that has gone into ensuring authenticity. The fried rice in Nasi Goreng is cooked in chicken feet stock, which gives it a richness infused by the gelatinous extracts from the offal. Likewise, in the Nasi Ulam, an unexpected and unfamiliar ingredient — betel leaf strips — makes an appearance.

The adventurous spirit and authenticity are the twin jewels on Jom Jom’s crown. Standalone restaurants have upped the ante all over again.

Source: DailyO

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