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Updated: April 27, 2013 17:19 IST

Compliments of the Chef

SHEILA KUMAR
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ILLUSTRATION: SATWIK GADE
The Hindu
ILLUSTRATION: SATWIK GADE

The Chef’s Table concept comes as a boon to those who want to dine well without breaking the bank.

The world of diners is divided into two. The first lot, the adventurous, head to a select restaurant, scan the menu with the intense concentration of a lawyer reading fine print, and ask for a mix of exotic and familiar foodstuffs. They eat voraciously, praise or condemn ferociously and, usually, leave with a smile on their faces.

The second set is the perfectionists – trenchant critics but not trenchermen. The dals must be tempered just so. The tenderloin must not be too tender. They raise their eyebrows at the rose wine, which seems a trifle underage. These are not out on a culinary adventure; they are there to eat the food they know well. And that food had better be perfect.

Now here is a way to make both sets of diners happy: Chef’s Table (CT) concept. Deconstructed, it means one chef per restaurant creates a six-course tasting menu, which is an artful mix of the smart and the sublime. Most restaurants allocate a fixed number of covers a night. The prices are wallet-friendly. The gourmand eats well; the gourmet eats well. And everyone goes home happy.

According to Nachiket Shetye, Director, Desi Restaurant Week Pvt. Ltd., the organisers of Chef’s Table Week and Restaurant Week India, “This is fine dining made fun. With the Chef’s Table, the customer gets to decide what to eat, ask the chef questions about the dishes, the ingredients, cooking techniques...” Adds Rishi Manucha of Blue Ginger at the Taj West End, Bangalore, “The personal touch involved is deeply satisfying.”

The Chef’s Table aims to become a regular feature of Indian fine dining and, for now, is held every three months in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Two CT fests have already rolled out in March and April, and the next will be in a few months.

For some of the chefs involved, it is all about the food. Sandeep Kalra of Konomi at the Trident Gurgaon puts it this way: “Good food is one that touches the soul!” Vikas Vichare of Botticino at the Trident, Bandra Kurla expands, “When we present a tailor-made meal to guests, and they wipe their plate clean? That’s the biggest compliment for any chef. That’s what is behind CT.” And Amit Wadhawan of the Oberoi, Bangalore, waxes almost lyrical when he says, “It is akin to enjoying a wine in the vineyard, with the winemaker explaining the notes or being involved in the creation of that wedding dress from fabric to finish.”

For some chefs, it’s about the diners. Listen to Irfan Pabaney of the Sassy Spoon, Mumbai: “It is mostly about the interaction with the guest. The culinary challenge comes next.”

Abhijit Saha of Caperberry, Bangalore, gets to indulge his “inherent urge to be creative and a strong desire to delight customers who want that extra punch out of their visit to my restaurants.” 

Some chefs look at the larger picture. Manu Chandra, Executive Chef, Olive Beach Bangalore and Likethatonly, Bangalore, says, “Customers want experiences that are exclusive, elevated from the regular. There is a very high level of trust involved between customer and chef in this case, and usually this relationship ends up in a great meal.” 

Chef Dhruv Oberoi of Olive Bar and Kitchen, Mehrauli, Delhi, seconds that sentiment: “A lot of fun, laughter and my guests have the comfort level of kitchens at home when our moms use to cook and feed us right there.”

Talking about the silent diner, the one who eats well but does not relish a pow-wow with the chef, Liang Xiao Qing, Executive Chinese chef, Pan Asian, ITC Maratha, Mumbai, avers: “I firmly believe that my food should do the talking. It gives me immense pleasure to see a diner come back to my restaurant even though he has not spoken to me.” Davide Travertine at the Oberoi, New Delhi sums it up beautifully: “The plate itself is a dialogue and sometimes conversation is not needed.”

So there we have it. A posse of passionate chefs. A sumptuous array of haute chow like king prawns in pepper teriyaki sauce, Beijing-styled roast duck, black pepper tenderloin, Mongolian-style choice of meat and vegetables, smoked tongue with sautéed sweetbreads, flaming foie gras with floral salad, cigar-smoked salmon, palm hearts, Portobello mushrooms, white asparagus and truffled artichokes. Bento boxes. Fun acts with liquid nitrogen. Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai specialties. Dietary preferences taken into account. All at affordable prices. What’s not to like?

The line-up

New Delhi: Indian Accent,   Kainoosh,  Konomi, Olive Bar & Kitchen, Travertino, Tres and Varq

Mumbai: Aurus, Botticino, Ellipsis, Dakshin Coastal, Hakkasan, Kangan, Pan Asian,  The Sassy Spoon and  Two One Two in Worli

Bangalore: Caperberry, Blue Ginger, Masala Klub, Karavalli, Likethatonly, Olive Beach, Rim Naam and Royal

Price: Rs.2,500 in Delhi and Mumbai and Rs 2,000 in Bangalore

Reservations exclusively through www.chefstableweek.com Will go live a week before the event.

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