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Mediterranean flavour, Delhi's joy

From Mikhail Gorbachev to Princess Diana, Zubin Mehta to Michael Jackson, Moshe, a young chef has fed all of them. He brings his flavour to New Delhi. SUMITRA SENAPATY visits Moshe's Oliva at Munirka and finds it wholesome... .

FIRST IMPRESSIONS count. Inside, Moshe's Oliva has clean lines and a very modern feel. Light coloured walls and dark brown furniture make a pleasing setting, and the staff turn out in pastels with a bit of olive green. The atmosphere includes a lot of high-powered air conditioning, the reassuring presence of celebrity chef, Moshe Shek, a unique steel contraption which doubles as both salt and pepper containers and tiny table bouquets of pretty flowers.

Located at Munirka's sleek Capital Court building, Moshe's Oliva has the tables kept bare, though there are enough cutleries to suggest serious dining in a pleasing casual atmosphere. The menu seems to be strongly influenced by the area known as the Mediterranean. Dishes based around grills, pastas, bruschetta, hummus, tarts and bagels abound, although there is no shortage of alternatives like Israeli hameen, North African Charmoula, Spanish pincho chicken, alongside more conventional Mediterranean preparations.

A selection of Italian bruschetta with feta, sun dried tomatoes, char grilled cottage cheese, jalapeno hummus and peppered pesto mushrooms with melted mozzarella are sufficient to go down well as a treat, with side orders of garlic bread and tossed salad. A freshly baked mustard chicken and potato tart served with onion relish and salsa rossa is also well received.

Smoothies, refreshers, special teas and coffees are pretty much evident on the menu. Choose from peach iced tea, chiang mai, a blend of melon, lychee, pineapple, coconut and vanilla ice cream, blackcurrant tea or café mocha, an Espresso with melted chocolate, whipped cream and steamed milk. But wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks are still awaited at Moshe's in accordance with the excise rules.

The main dishes are also executed with expertise; a smoked chilly marinated lamb, with melted mozzarella, lies sandwiched between slices of garlic bread. A yummy veggie option is grilled bagel with smoked cheese, grilled scallion and tapenade. These dishes lean towards good execution, aroma and taste rather than elegance and dressing up, but remain enjoyable. Moshe's Oliva is open for both lunch and dinner and guests looking for interesting foods in a cool, offbeat atmosphere can choose substantial entrées, including salad nicoise with flaked tuna, hard boiled egg, tomato, olive, beans and fresh lettuce in a creamy paprika vinaigrette. Another option is the exotic char grilled marinated chicken with avocado, cucumber, tomato, and bean sprout in a pesto vinaigrette or sun dried tomato dressing.

Mumbai's Moshe, the young chef responsible for Oliva has his share of laurels. While working in the kitchen of a Kibbutz, he realised he "felt completely at home in the kitchen" and that was the beginning of his culinary journey across Israel, India, U.K. and Switzerland. Not too long after he mastered the art of fine dining, sniffer dogs and security personnel were regular visitors to his Tel Aviv kitchen, where he started serving celebrities that included Mikhail Gorbachev, Princess Diana, Benjamin Netanyahu, Zubin Mehta, Michael Jackson and the Prince.

At Moshe's Oliva, the dessert list includes old favourites, such as the blueberry cheesecake, warm chocolate mud pie, Philadelphia cheesecake, and cinnamon apple crumble tart - all combining a tingly circus of textures and wake-up summer flavours. There are some intriguing sweets, as well, including Vanilla Crème Brulee, which consists of vanilla crème, covered with a thin crepe with a bit of aramelisation on top -- an experience of this sort is well worth some extra calories! Also on offer is the wacky B-52 mousse served laced with kahlua, Irish whisky and cointreau. The desserts,

gateaux and breads showcased in this restaurant are also for sale and prices range from Rs.90 to 140 per piece, while salads and entrees range from Rs.75 to 185.

What could be defined as that elusive special flavour called Moshe's? One can only make a stab at defining it. But it's satisfying, enhancing and wholesome.

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