When liquor baron Rocky ‘Old Monk’ Mohan, seasoned (and lovely-tempered!) journalist Sourish Bhattacharya and Sikandalous Cuisine promoter Atul Sikand rustled up Delhi Gourmet Club, a food fraternity on Facebook, they whetted Delhi’s limitless appetite for great food in great company. That’s exactly what DGC’s inaugural dinner promised and delivered, translating the hullabaloo in the online orchard into a classily executed offline event.
It was a starry, starry night. The brightest star was the food for which a constellation of foodies converged on Indian Accent on 18 July 2012. Mudita Chauhan-Mubayi reports from the wonderful new gastronomadic orbit…
The usually understated Indian Accent exuded an unprecedented buzz. We walked past marigold-laden urlis to a warm welcome by the Habitat World staff and DGC founders. Over a peaty Talisker, I greeted image guru Dilip Cherian, ‘automobilist’ Ranojoy Mukherjee, journalist Reshmi Ray Dasgupta, drummer boy Vivek Vaid and entrepreneur Aparna Jain. I also spotted food consultant Janti Duggal and lensman Dheeraj Paul in the gathering of gourmets. Rocky gave a quick insight into DGC’s plans and we raised a toast before taking our places at the elegantly laid tables. I was in the smashing company of restaurateur Saurabh Khanijo, baker Kishi Arora and event facilitator Kavneet Sahni. Then came Chef Manish Mehrotra’s food, smashing through all our expectations. It was a stratospheric spread of global ingredients in Indian moods. I’d starved myself for a seven-course meal but we were plied with at least twelve.
The sensory onslaught started with Potato Sphere Chaat, White Pea Ragda—Delhi’s aloo lachcha met Mumbai’s ragda pattice with a hint of minty yoghurt. A crunch with a punch, it paired nicely with the tart and peachy San Simone Prosecco.
Next up were Tandoori Bacon Prawns, Wasabi Malai Cream—surf meets turf and says moshi-moshi! I expected the paired Vina Sol Parellada 2010 to have ample fruity tang to counter the fatty resilience of the meats but it disappointed me. The vegetarian counterpart was Panko Crusted Bharwan Mirch, Goat Cheese Mousse, Chilli Aam Papad Chutney—crunchy crust gave way to fleshy green chilli gave way to melting chevre cheese. Quite a textural treat. As was Foie Gras Stuffed Galawat, Strawberry Chilli Chutney—seared liver pate, spicy mutton kebabs and the fabulous contrast of sweet strawberries and sharp green chillies.
Intense debate over the art of dim sum at one table, emotional musical tributes to Rajesh Khanna at another… And the food just kept emerging. To cleanse the palate, Strawberry & Anardana Kulfi Sorbet; to take a southern detour, John Dory Moilee, Idiyappam Stacks in a tad-too-sweet coconut gravy which worked beautifully with zingy Pink Peppercorn Pilaf. If the carnivores sunk their canines into melt-on-the-tongue Meetha Achaar Canadian Spare Ribs with quintessentially desi toasted kalonji, the vegetarians had Silken Tofu Kofta, Wok Tossed Quinoa Pulao to which the only change I suggest is substituting imported quinoa with local jhangora (barnyard millet) for an earthy flavour.
The dish that had both vegetarians and non-vegetarians in raptures was the innovative Khandvi Ravioli, Pumpkin Mash, Khakhra Crisp—a delicious take on ravioli di zucca of Lombardy (Italy), usually with a pumpkin–parmesan mash within pasta pockets. The kaddu bharta in Manish’s version was beautifully tempered with nutty kalonji and pungent saunf. Among the breads, I gorged on Chilli Hoisin Duck Kulcha, such a clever take on Peking duck pancakes with the hoisin sauce imparting a spicy, smoky, soy-laced flavour.
The dessert platter was a study in eclecticism. At one end sat Warm Doda Burfi Treacle Tart—a retro-colonial rendezvous of Doda with Dover in shortcrust with a dollop of Kerala vanilla ice-cream. At the other end was something I take proprietary pride in—Mishti Doi Cannoli. After an Italian sojourn, I raved to Manish about the traditional Sicilian sweetmeat of cannolo (tubular fried pastry) filled with sweet ricotta. Taking the cue, he crafted this clever dish, replacing rich ricotta with fluffy yoghurt soufflé inside miniature cannoli, and paired it with chaulai ke laddoo. It ain’t called Indian Accent for nothing!
We thought we were done for the night but the chefs brought out a giant chocolate cake with sparklers to celebrate DGC’s advent. And DGC reciprocated promptly with a Certificate of Excellence to the restaurant for the truly gourmet meal. Much clapping and much clicking later, it was time to leave this magical night and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere but not before each of us received a personalized copy of the menu and a funky bottle of Old Monk Supreme Rum. It was a night to remember. And it was just the first of many. In September, DGC has planned a meal at On The Waterfront, Aman Hotel. I believe it is already sold out.