“Game changer” is a phrase Zorawar Kalra, founder-MD, Massive Restaurants, loves using. It’s something he can get away with too. After all, he created Farzi Cafe in Gurgaon, which has quickly become the nation’s “most Instagram-able restaurant” with its quirky, scientific cooking of Indian food. Now Kalra is looking across the border, in a non-martial manner, of course. “After Indian food, Chinese and the greater Orient is the cuisine Indians are most comfortable with. We share a lot of the same flavour and ingredient profiles. And while everyone knows their hakka from their schezwan, people are looking for the next big thing. At Pa Pa Ya (opening later this month in Mumbai), we aim to give them that. It’s going to be Asian food 2.0,” he says. On the menu are “sushi burgers”, but that’s not the only surprise he promises.
Vikramjit Roy is the chef de cuisine at Tian, at the ITC Maurya in Delhi. The restaurant has enjoyed unprecedented adulation as it completes one year. Roy’s dishes are whimsical works of art, inspired by everything from the seasons to his travels around Asia. “I want the food to evolve constantly. Sure, we use scientific cooking, but it needs to be beyond just that. Our diners’ palates have become sophisticated, but I still want to be able to capture their attention,” says Roy, as he produces a bonsai tree, laden with Thai fish cakes. Money may not grow on trees, but in Roy’s mind, fish definitely can. If that doesn’t catch his diners’ fancy, Roy has other dishes up his sleeve — an Asian pizza, for instance, that has a base of truffle mushrooms and scallops, topped with other treasures of the sea.
Elsewhere, Manu Chandra’s interpretation of Asian food is steadily setting diners’ imagination on fire at Fatty Bao, an Asian gastro-pub with outposts in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. The chef-restarateur’s irreverence is well known through his Monkey Bar brand and his running of the various branches of the Olive restaurants across the country. “Earlier, a certain type of Asian, especially Chinese food, was enforced on us. We’re looking to change that. You will not get a gobi manchurian at Fatty Bao, but you will get a lobster salad bao,” says Chandra. Fatty Bao introduced the concept of open baos (traditionally a steamed bun with various fillings), taco-like in form with a mouth-watering array of flavours. The char siu bao comes stuffed with BBQ pork belly, green apple kimchi, hoisin sauce, sesame oil and scallions. Flip through the menu and you’ll find dishes such as the Fatty oysters (Cochin oysters broiled with soy butter, chorizo and ponzu sauce) and the French-Asian medley of a brie tempura served with plum sauce, pickled beetroot, toasted almonds and shichimi togarashi, a traditional Japanese blend of seven spices, somewhat similar to our desi garam masala.
Guppy by Ai, AD Singh’s Japanese restaurant in Delhi, does a mean ramen burger under chef Vikram Khatri. All burgers are made with a layer of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, takuwan pickle, sake-braised red onions, perella seeds and a variety of sauces. It comes in a ramen noodle bun made with blanched noodles, grilled till golden brown, with a choice of Tsukune minced chicken patty, tenderloin patty, BBLT (belly, bacon, lettuce and tomato) and five types of mushroom (shitake, shimeji, button, milky and enoki) for vegetarians. The burger is the first of its kind in India, inspired by Brooklyn-based Keizo Shimamoto’s popular ramen burger last year. So move over, manchurian. There are new candidates in town.
The story appeared in print with the headline Rising Asia