Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dining with the ghosts of Bach, Mendelssohn and Goethe
Leipzig in Germany's Saxony is both trendy and rich in history, especially the musical kind. Underneath one of the trendiest shopping areas is a huge basement restaurant, Auerbach's Keller, which has been in existence in some form for over 400 years and was once a watering hole frequented by musical geniuses Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner and where Goethe was inspired to create Faustus. All about it in the November issue of India Today Travel Plus. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Getting high on Japanese food and whisky
Two hours, four courses of delectable Japanese food, whisky cocktails and smooth whiskys at the elegantly simple Edo in ITC Gardenia.  What’s not to like about that? 

Chilean sea bass 

Whimsically titled Japan Debate on a Plate, diners are offered two sets of menus – a traditional set by resident masterchef Sensei Kikuta San and a contemporary take on Japanese food by Masterchef Vikramjit Roy from Pan Asian, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai.
Both menus have veg and non-veg options for each course. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to stick to one menu for the entire meal but can switch back and forth between the courses. And then there’s the pairing of Johnnie Walker whisky with each course. Priced at Rs 4000 plus taxes the feast is on till Sunday for dinner. 

Salmon with melon confit - science experiment?
Sashimi and nigiri sushi
The presentation is elegant, whimsical and even a bit overwhelming at times, like the salmon with confit melon with miso cheese, bubuarare and corn mash. Mouthful as that sounds, it came to the table in a long, narrow plate like a science experiement complete with ink-dropper. Or the edamame soup which burst on the tongue with its accompaniment of truffle foam. A slew of sashimi and nigiri sushi lay on a thick bed of ice crystals, with fresh and clean flavours. Simple and elegant, black cod with sweet miso was endearing with its flavours while the Chilean sea bass did the same with its complexity.

 The cocktails

Accompanying these were a seaweed based cocktail that was mild, but a melon-coloured one was deliciously deceptive as the wasabi it was laced with left a spicy high in aftermath. Among the others, the Platinum was so smooth, I could understand why its fans go in raptures. 

Both desserts, Johnnie Walker XR 21 poached pear and dora yaki with matcha ice cream, were good but a surprise platter of ice cream and 60 per cent single origin chocolate brought about a sinfully indulgent end to the meal.       

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

After a long, long hiatus, this blog is trying to take on a new life. I have tasted so many different things in so many different places and it seems tragic that only a minuscule part of it gets into print. So this effort is to not only to put what's printed out there but also to write about the many little and large experiences.

Pigging out in Spain 

Restaurant Duque in Segovia (left) and its famous dish

There was hushed silence in the room. Very few things can induce such perfect silence amongst a dozen,
normally boisterous diners, but before them was one of such few things. A bit to the side was a smaller table and this is what held the diners in thrall. On it sat a roasted suckling pig in a large platter. That alone should not have been much of a spectacle, since it is a common enough dish in Spain, but this was in Segovia, at the Restaurante Duque, a restaurant founded in 1895, which adhered to certain traditions that ruled the carving of the pig. And hence the silence. Armed with a prettily decorated ceramic dinner plate, the Chef stood for a moment and then expertly used the plate as a carving instrument, strategically thrusting it into the pig and cutting it into segments. But that was not all: once done, he flung the plate onto the floor where it shattered into tiny pieces. “And that is how it is done in Segovia,” he said with a flourish.

Blood sausage with fava beans


I stood mesmerised by the drama and theatrics that went with what would have otherwise been just roast pork.I thought I would be queasy, but the panache, elegance and flair with which it was done put me more in the mind of an artist than anything else. Moreover, having just seen Segovia’s biggest attractions – the imposing Roman Aquaduct and the Alcazar, which became the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle and subsequently the company’s logo, I was not sure which was more fascinating. Not such a great pork fan myself, I preferred the other famous dish of the region, roast lamb, served in large ceramic shallow bowl, the tender meat accompanied by a fragrant gravy.

    Drinking wine, porron-style       

Earlier, I had tasted some of the unique sausages of the region, jamon, accompanied by red wine drunk in a unique vessel called porron, a cross between a jug and a watering can, which is shared among all those around the table. It made for an interesting exercise, with lots of hits and many more misses. For safety, we were advised to tuck table napkins tucked into the collars, to avoid the spectacle to having to explain the deep red stains down the shirt front. At the end of it, I came away with another culinary experience that promised to stay for long.