A sense of bamboozlement cloaks you the second you step through the massive vaulted doors of Pa Pa Ya. A mammoth domed ceiling, purportedly Delhi’s highest, looms above the space which is layered in shades of burnished gold, bronze and woodwork; there’s a lot of metal, a lot of glass. Zorawar Kalra’s high-energy dining space is just that, it buzzes — you expect things to happen here and they do — even though it’s in a mall.
The restaurant promises a wild re-imagining of pan-Asian food and we leave ourselves at the tender mercies of a tasting menu. Like Aphrodite emerging from the sea, our amuse bouche of a compressed watermelon cube flavoured with basil and in a foam, or Aphros if you will, of chilli and lemongrass, comes aboard a sea shell. A swallow later, reminiscent of summer’s tang in gloomy winter, we’re ready for our meal.
A Salmon uzukuri approaches first — delicate slivers of salmon dressed in burnt garlic and jalapeno that melt in your mouth with abandon. Right on its tail comes a Tuna Tataki “Pizza”, with a pristine mince of tuna spiced with unagi tare (good old Kikkoman) and jalapeno, which becomes a frequent companion on this particular culinary tour, served on a crackling tortilla base. We don’t need to ask for extra parmesan for this pizza work.
Reminding us that there are plenty of fish in the sea is the Chorizo takoyaki, a delicious pairing of octopus and chorizo dumpling (and of course, jalapeno), which also serves as a reminder that all life comes from the sea. Which brings us to Butayakitori — glazed pork belly skewers chargrilled with mirin (rice wine), soy and shichimi spices. It is served with a betel leaf and apple kimchi-type tartare.
Perhaps demanding representation, India’s favourite meat comes next, a la roasted Korean style hauled chicken steamed in a fermented dough and pan seared. Can you say oh Bao, er, wow? Also fighting for attention are the prawns tossed in a piquant sauce and served with a sharp citrus cream. And then it’s time for the piece de triomphe. The Sushi Matrix is a cubist re-imagining of the fish and rice construct, arranged in a tiered pyramid, the edges embellished with astringent daikon foliage and daubs of fiery wasabi. While the soy is presently served on the side, we imagine the next version of the dish will have it sprinkling down the tiered structure like a stream.
In contrast to the razzle-dazzle of the meal, dessert is a simple affair: a Vanilla Panacotta with a Lemon meringue and sponge, sprinkled over with caramelised nuts. We’d write more, dear reader, but we’re hungry again. We shall meet at Pa Pa Ya.
Meal for two: Rs 2,500 (with taxes)
Address: Select City Walk, Saket