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Restaurants: Gourmet Fare To Pine For

Restaurants and the food they serve are strictly a matter of choice. It’s all about your palate and what you look for when you are out for a meal. The restaurants that I have chosen for this list of my top five in India have all consistently wowed me with their food

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Restaurants and the food they serve are strictly a matter of choice. It’s all about your palate and what you look for when you are out for a meal. The restaurants that I have chosen for this list of my top five in India have all consistently wowed me with their food. Since I have spent a major part of my professional life in the NCR, it is not surprising that two of the top five restaurants are from here. I also have one restaurant each from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. I would rather divide the list geographically and begin with Delhi.

Around The Capital
The first restaurant to feature on my list is Indian Accent. Chef Manish Mehrotra’s baby has been consistently making it to the top Indian restaurants’ list. A revelation as far as his pre-plated nouvelle Indian menu is concerned, the restaurant itself is very neutral with all the stress, quite rightfully on the amazing menu. The food is balanced, unique and yet, not so different from what your grandmother used to make. The references are amazingly innovated and sophisticated. But, meanwhile, if you do want to have a meal at the Indian Accent at The Manor Hotel, New Delhi, the thing to go for without doubt, is the tasting menu. There are quite a few outstanding dishes to bite into, including the Scallop Masala, Malwani Dry Shrimp Pulao, Kokum Curry. I even like things like the Pulled Kathal Phulka Taco from their vegetarian menu, almost as much as the non-vegetarian option of pulled pork. Pay around Rs 6,200 per head for a non-vegetarian tasting menu with matching wines and you will not be sorry. Poor yes, sorry no. Perfect for the celebratory dinner. Do make a reservation, because they are invariably full.

In the NCR area is another favourite, Tian, Asian Cuisine Studio at the ITC Maurya, which is like a celebration of both taste buds as well as the eyes. Helmed by the inimitable Vikramjit Roy, who I think of as a little enfant terrible of kitchen craft, the food is meant to shock, soothe and push your taste buds. This is not an experience for the faint hearted — you know the kind of people who never ordered the sizzler at a restaurant. Roy takes his inspiration from all over Asia, from Korean Temple food to Japanese Kaisekis and the resultant meal is totally unsurpassed. The meal is an experience by the chef. Roy is present when a lot of the food is actually put in front of you to give you a very intimate experience. Dishes are as fantastic as they sound, from the Sous Vide Black Cod, glazed with garlic ponzu, young pea mash, lightly dehydrated pickled potato, Sichuan pepper corn chilli oil to the Baked prawns glazed with yellow beans, spiced tomato powder, gels of watermelon, celery and chinkiang vinegar. This is a meal experience not to be trifled with. You should be willing to pay Rs 5,000 ++ per head for a proper no holds barred experience, the only way to enjoy the restaurant.

Westward Ho
Next up on the list is a Mumbai restaurant which I enjoy, not only for its food, but also for the energy which you feel from the place. Bombay Canteen at Kamala Mills in Lower Parel Mumbai, is a very unique experience. The man behind the idea of the food is Chef Floyd Cardoz, a Mumbaikar living in New York and the man behind Tabla. The food is so uniquely local, yet has a global appeal. For me, there were elements, which seemed straight out of a local toddy shop, with authentic flavours, yet comfortable in an air conditioned urbane environment.

The way to begin a meal here is to start with a couple of drinks, and they have great options, like Royal Ginfield (gin, bitters, jaggery and imli) or the Ganga Jamuna Margarita (tequila, triple sec, pineapple, sweet lime, orange and lime juice). The menu has some great ‘Chota’ options from which I think the Crispy Whole Mandeli Fry and Grilled Chicken Kaleji hit the spot. It’s a large menu, so getting the right mix of dishes can seem a bit challenging. The banana leaf wrapped roast fish and the tandoori pork spare ribs are a good place to start. Costs can be around Rs 3,000 ++ per head, with a drink or two.

Going South
Going further down the peninsula, we hit one of my favourite food cities in India, Bangalore. Home to a restaurant, which I feel should be part of my top five. Toast & Tonic is such a refreshing change to the palate. A place where the simple pleasures of life find a place on the menu. The menu has a familiarity to it and yet, has enough twists and turns to keep you interested. It’s a restaurant, which is frequently packed and so, you have to wait your turn, sometimes even if you reserve ahead of time. Like the name suggests, I think the gin and flavoured tonic option is THE beverage to go for. Hendricks and the Basil and Orange tonic water did very well for me.

This is a place to really enjoy the small plates, so I think you should try out my absolute favourite Smoked Cochin Mackerel on Toast, the Char Grilled Calamari and their T&T Chicken Liver Paté with Amrut. I also need to mention the Soft Eggs & Andouille Sausage on Sourdough Toast. For the mains, if you aren’t having steak, have an Udon with House-cured Chorizo & Clams with ham. If you eat and drink as much as I do, it will cost you around Rs 3,200 ++ per head.

Finally, we arrive in Chennai and Dakshin, at Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, under the stewardship of the amazing Chef Praveen Anand. The first restaurant of the series — I enjoy the meal here so much because it is like looking into the wonderful mind of Anand, who is one of the most well researched chefs I have met ever. This is a place where you can have a meal that spans the entire expanse of the south of India (the menu is divided region wise), with each dish, forming the perfect part of a wonderful culinary experience.

It may be old fashioned, but the food you get will not differ from its source recipe, even if the recipe was more than a century old. There’s lots to choose from, but try the Sudal, a Pondicherry quail curry, or the Chinna Vengaya Patchai Malagai Mandi, a Chettiyar dish of shallots, chillies and butter beans. The banana dosa is possibly the most famous dish on the menu and should also feature on your plate. A meal will cost you Rs 2500 ++ per person if you have a drink and try and eat your way through the peninsula (as you should)!

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