As upmarket Indian food retains its sought-after tag, and dominates the Capital’s fine-dining imagination, Sujan Sarkar’s hugely popular New York restaurant, Baar Baar, gives new strength to the scene in Delhi with its second outpost in Khan Market. The two-storeyed, long-term pop-up bodes true to style with a panoply of modern Indian dishes, served as sharing plates.
Marrying modern cooking techniques with regional Indian flavours, Sarkar stirs up ingenious inventions in his kitchen, as witnessed in the Kadak Naan and Charred Corn Roti, served with corn mousse that is emboldened by a sea buckthorn chutney from a section titled Baar Baar Special Bread with Toppings on the menu. Another preparation from the section, the Green Pea Kulcha with goat cheese and truffle butter, alludes to Sarkar’s culinary grammar that forges links between ingredients not traditionally considered compatible.
The clean, vivid flavours presented reiterate the potential of focussing on produce — locally sourced, respectfully treated and creatively plated.
In a bid to “export what is ours” and put Indian food on the global map, he came back to India to join the Olive Group after career-shaping stints at London-based Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Galvin at Windows and Viajante, among others. His disillusionment with the industry sent him back to San Francisco, where he opened Rooh before setting up Baar Baar in New York City.
It becomes all the more evident as he speaks of his other ventures including New Delhi’s Ek Bar, that he aims to “give people a different idea of what Indian cuisine can be”. Driven by the need to discover ingredients and re-interpreting the usual suspects of the country’s culinary repertoire, he asserts, “Indian cuisine cannot just be limited to butter chicken or dosa. This is what is portrayed outside the country and, while many serve authentic versions of the dishes, our food is so much more.”
And so, inspired by the country’s regional offerings, he has contemporised some classics. The Tuna Papdi Chaat, for instance, is a medley of flavours and textures. In the bowl, the fish works with avocado, radish and green mango, dressed in tamarind and bejewelled with puffed black rice. It’s a dish that is destined to be a star.
Yet another dish that exemplifies this approach is the gloriously rich Chicken Liver and Liquid Bheja Pate paired with a palm-sized disc of taftan. While many tilt away from offal, this dish, which employs the classic English way of preparing liver, also takes advantage of the mushy, creamy texture of brain.
There’s plenty to choose from here, and each dish furthers the imagination — Tandoori Octopus with Cauliflower and Barley Risotto and Young Garlic Chutney, Pandi Curry with Rice Noodles and Poached Eggs, Cauliflower Kolivada with Rice Hollandaise, Peanut Chutney and Thecha, among others. His resolve to further regional delicacies has led him to collaborate with other chefs. Goan delicacies by Crescentia Fernandes, known to most in the city as an authority on Goan cuisine and who used to run Bernardo’s in Gurgaon, are on the cards, as are some by Sneha Saikia, who will bring flavours of the Northeast. I also got a taste of the pillowy wonder from Delhi’s iconic Daulat ki Chaat. “I can’t do all of it myself. We need to come together,” he says. With his menu, as with the Churros to be dipped in a dark chocolate mousse topped off with orange marmalade, he gifts his restaurant a prophecy — encapsulated in its name.