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A well-stocked library!

THE MAGIC OF FOOD The deconstructed samosa

THE MAGIC OF FOOD The deconstructed samosa   | Photo Credit: 06dmc deconstruction samosa

Light, tasty and nutritious dishes make Masala Library a must visit place for food connoisseurs

I was, to quote an American president I don’t really want to quote, in shock and awe. I had been invited to a new and happening restaurant in town, and informed that I would have to go through a 19-course meal. Did she say 19? I hoped I’d heard it wrong. Who can have 19 courses and live to tell the tale?

As it transpired, one can very, very happily do that after a meal at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra. Jiggs Kalra, as many of us would know, is a veteran food writer and food lover who went on to open his own restaurants. This one has been set up by his son, and is an ode to his father. “The restaurant carries his name, so it’s different,” says Zorawar Kalra.

And different it is. I ate all 19 courses, and didn’t get that heavy feeling that one would expect after such a meal. Each dish was a delight – a small offering from regional cuisines, served in the most elegant of ways. And I kept waiting for each new dish to arrive.

But let me start at the beginning. The restaurant is on Janpath, next to Le Meridien (Phone no: 011-69400005). The restaurant opens at 7 in the evening, and has two settings – 7 p.m. and 9.00 pm. From next week, it will also open for lunch. The non-vegetarian tasting menu is for Rs.2,300 plus taxes, the vegetarian version is for Rs.2,100. If you want your dishes to be paired with wine, you have to shell out another Rs.2,200, plus taxes. Zorawar tells me that the restaurant is booked for the next two weeks, and I can understand why. It really is a beautiful place – with glittering lights and sparkling bottles on high shelves. And the food is superb.

We had the tasting menu – which started with an amuse bouche, an offering that sets the tone for the meal to follow. This was a small jelly-like mango mousse in pulpy coconut water in what looked like an eggshell. I can’t go through the entire gamut of dishes but what’s interesting is that it was a journey full of excitement. Most dishes were bite sized, so you got the taste of a delicious dish, but it served more to whet your appetite than sate it. And there was an element of surprise in the dishes, in the visual presentation and the taste, which, of course, added to the fun.

For instance, the maddur vada was tiny, and came with a small phial of rasam. The samosa had been deconstructed – there was a thin layer of the pastry, with small globules of the stuffing (peas and potatoes) on it, with a tiny dot of the sweet and sour chutneys that samosas are served with. The mushroom chai was delicious – a light and fragrant soup. The gilawati kabab looked as good as it tasted – the meat had been turned into little strings, and placed on a small place of sheermal. The farmer’s staple reminded me of my village days – a small piece of flattened bread, with a small dollop of white butter. What more could one ask for?

You know my fondness for pork, so, as you would expect, I loved the Naga pork, soft and juicy, and flavoured with fermented black beans. In the mains, I also had the sea bass, which had been cooked with radhuni, a fragrant spice that you often find in Bengali food. The fish, firm and flaky, had been topped with crispy, crumbled pui saag, another Bengal favourite. I enjoyed it thoroughly, as the sharp greens complemented the light taste of the fish. I tried out – and enjoyed – the chicken Mizo stew with black rice. It was light, but nicely aromatic.

Of the dessert platter, I liked the jalebi caviar with rabri – the jalebi had been deconstructed to look like caviar. And I enjoyed the kulfi, which had been flavoured with the ash of a burnt banana leaf.

Zorawar and Chef Saurabh Udinia have waved a magic wand. And I am under a spell.

The writer is a seasoned food critic

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 5:08:19 AM |

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