Jackfruit kababs, potato soup, flavourful sausages and four desserts later, eating out did become satisfying.
All of us eat out, even if only occasionally; most of us travel; five-star hotels in the city fly in chefs and ingredients, showcase different world cuisines and we go there sometimes, if we decide that the occasion makes it worth the luxury tax; many ingredients are available right here and we cook at home, with a little help from our friends, books and the net. The point I'm making is that there is lots of exposure and there is some access. And yet another expensive restaurant dares to open, with the courage to avoid the sure-shot success of spicy food sure to appeal to our palate. So not Indian, not Chinese, not Thai, not Vietnamese — nor, as the term now goes — Pan-Asian. Contemporary European. Which means traditional European cooking techniques and fresh, seasonal high quality ingredients, including local, Indian ones.
Sour creamy liquid
I'm going to jump straight into the hot soup I had there, at Azimuth. The name has a meaning I couldn't quite understand — something nautical or to do with astronomy maybe: The horizontal angular distance from a reference direction, usually the northern point of the horizon, to the point where… something something… the horizontal angle of the observer's bearing in surveying… Whatever it means, I can only say that those who've started it and are running it have certainly got their bearings. Back to the soup, which was described as “two potato soup, drumstick, sour coconut slices, tempered yoghurt”. It was pale yellow, served in a soup plate (which reminds me to mention that the china and linen are lovely, old fashioned and elegant, while the décor and music are completely today), with a slightly salty, slightly sour creamy liquid, flavoured gently with coconut and a hint of curry patta, and something else. Must have been the drumstick. I asked how they made it. They were vague, but what I gathered is that sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are roasted and puréed, then thinned with vegetable stock, and cream and butter stirred in. At some point olive oil, a bit of garlic, curry leaves and drumsticks are added. The garnish is yoghurt cured coconut, crisped curry leaves and mustard yoghurt. I'm sure that these directions are too imprecise for the home cook, but this is the thing: When I eat out, I want to have food that is delicious, holds some surprises, and that I can't make at home.
Dining out requires one more thing: There should be enough enthusiastic eaters to get variety on the table, and who are involved in the food, not just the wine and the conversation. That night the six of us tried lots of things; I remember only some distinctly. The foie gras parfait was really perfect. I like pâté and often eat it despite the sometimes too-high flavour of liver. This had none of that and was possibly the best I've ever had. It was served like a miniature slice of gâteau, baked but served cold; mousse-like, creamy and smooth, served with a crisp slice of sourdough bread, with a smidgen of fig sauce on the side. The texture was part of the taste, altogether smooth in flavour and feel. One of us ordered jackfruit kababs. I'm not a lover of jackfruit — or anything — dressed as lamb but this was startlingly good. It came looking like a seekh kabab, we knew it was jackfruit and not qeema, and yet it was a surprise. First, because it was melt-in-the-mouth, not fibrous, as one would expect from jackfruit. And second, because the pickled pineapple on the side had desi spices. Nice touch.
I had a bit of someone else's homemade sausage. I didn't know that stand-alone restaurants had the expertise to do such fine charcuterie. The sausages were flavourful and not too fatty, though a little low on salt. They came with a crisp salad of bean-sprouts and Bengali kasundi, bright yellow, keen mustard. Another dish, very pretty, was pumpkin sheets, like pasta, but bright golden yellow. I don't know how they did it, but the pumpkin was firm and fresh — not cooked to a mealy sludge — flavoured with almonds and butter. Wrapped inside it was a nugget of parmesan gnocchi. I could turn vegetarian for this kind of cooking. A fish-eater who'd had crab salad as a starter followed by squid ink fettucine with seafood, pronounced both excellent.
We shared four desserts. The first, chocolate crêpes with caramelised bananas and bailey's cream, was dramatically arranged, everybody loves chocolate, so was a success. Mango cannelloni, yellow and white, was innocuous enough but suffered, I think, because of the quality of too-early mangoes. And there was pineapple tarte tatin with caramel sauce and ice cream. The sweet and sour pineapple was grilled, with some bits caramelised. It sat on a bed of pastry and while the pineapple was refreshing the pastry was a bit stodgy. Their toffee ice cream, though, was home made, and gave a nice malty contrast to the freshness of the pineapple. What I loved was the tres leche — three milk — cake, which was soft and satisfying in a comforting, baby food way.
At the end of the evening I came away feeling it had been well spent. The place has a buzz, with, through a glass darkly, the sight and sound of beautiful young people and music spilling over into the courtyard between Blue Frog and Azimuth. The service was efficient and hospitable, and the food memorable. They've got their bearings. I hope they stay the course.