Blue Moon: L’Angoor Has Global Cuisine


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

Ever tired gulf prawn crunchy apple? Blue summer crab cakes? Or simply samosa mozzarella? imagine large prawns filled with apple and coated with chicken with sweet chilly sauce! prawn, chicken and apple, all together—a delectable preparation.i have been to many fine dining restaurants which claim to be multi-cuisine, usually wrapping up their menu with half a dozen dishes, largely continental, ones which you find in every second restaurant. l’angoor is different. The fine dining restaurant in gurgoan serves ‘global cuisine’. I had never  imagines prawns wrapped up in sheets of chicken, filled with apple and served with spicy sauce. This is a combination of the executive chef, Hitesh Gupta makes for the guests. Talking about samosa mozzarella, it turned out to be another innovation of the chef. Mixing Indian snacks with Italian mozzarella to produce a taste all together different. Crispy small samosas are filled with mozzarella cheese and served with a coating of chilly sauce, sweet- n- spicy; turns out t o be a good starter. When talking of starters, one should not forget the large collection of wines that l’angoor has in its cellar.

About 130 varieties of wines from different parts of the world- france, Italy, US, argentina, spain, chile, Australia, new Zealand, south Africa- and a wide range of prices too, starting from Rs.1600 for a bootle to Rs.42000. Davide Zubani, head sommelier, talks at length about the wines they serve at l’angoor. ”it will take some time before wine becomes popular here. In india wine is considered to be expensive and presumed that it is meant for ultra-rich for special occasions. This is not the case; there are wines which are cheaper than water in west,” says Davide as he serves an excellent red wine from Italy. Davide has spent over 13 years in Italy, Maldives, turkey, UK and Ireland specializing in wine service and pairing. Davide has had his share of experience in india as head sommelier with the Leela Kempinski  in Mumbai.

Coming back to the starters, I discovered a combination of potato and cheese could be. the chef’s potatoes stuffed with cottage cheese is an excellent preparartion for the vegetarians. To the non-vegetarians I would recommend blue summer crab cakes; they don’t look like cakes at all, but a remarkably tasty starter, devour it with some remoulade sauce goes well with almost all sea foods. Chef Hitesh Gupta’s main dish is ‘Jerk Chicken with Snapper and Pepper sauce’, a very healthy preparation. jerk is a special style of cooking in which meat is marinated with hot-spicy mixture and then baked in oven. While the chicken comes on a bed of coriander flavoured basmati rice, the snapper, a fish coming from Gulf  of Mexico and Southeast coast of US, is served with ‘jerk sauce’. Even as I enjoyed an aromatic French red wine, chef Hitesh came up with his original dessert – a scoop of ice cream with rose wine flavor. L’angoor does not serve branded ice creams, but serves its own preparations.

 

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Food and Nightlife: L’Angoor


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

From the stable of ‘China Club’ comes another fine dining— L’Angoor, which I erroneously pronounced as langur (the ape) at first and later to its French intonation. The quirky logo brought to action with two langurs holding a bunch of grapes grabbed my attention while entering. Above, on the display is a larger-than-life wine cellar with an enticing selection of over 130 labels of wines from around the globe and a liquor rack which offers the finest single malts. The place manages to retain a contemporary feel with its no-fuss ambience and a modern, airy feel brought to life by plenty of natural oak wood (can be seen everywhere) and stylish detailing. Sinking into the rich American accent of this place, we decided to choose our chow for the evening.

The menu travels all around the world offering global delicacies divided into a dedicated set of choices for lunch and dinner. The dinner menu had exciting options and made the selection game a tasking affair. After all the hard work, we ordered a duet of chilled melon and mushroom cappuccino. The duet came decked up in a martini glass and had a balanced taste of musk melon and watermelon and the cappuccino could easily give coffee barons run for their money. From the delectable rack of appetizers, we chose chicken with mustard infused cabernet sauvignon wine, spicy mozzarella samosas and herb yogurt marinated stuffed potato barrels. The mustard spiked chicked left our tongue with a tangy tinge; the mozzarella samosas definitely qualified for another round but we wanted to save that for our next time (yes, we are coming again) and lastly, the potatoes which we tasted were in their trendiest and tastiest version.

For main course, we laid our hands on penne tossed in a creamy tomato sauce and Jamaican spiced jerk chicken. The penne came topped with Bocconcini that went smoothly down my throat coated in rich tomato gravy. The spicy chicken served with cilantro flavoured rice had a delicious jerk. For desserts, we had selection of ice-creams flavoured with rose, midori and the good old rum n’ raisin and they marked a sweet symphony with our taste buds. Every Thursday and Saturday, a live band ‘Cuenta Cuentos’ plays Latino Jazz at the restaurant followed by wine and cheese tasting with the in-house sommelier Davide Zubani. Come here for an all American Experience.

 

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Pioneer: Around the World In 80 Minutes


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

Traditional spicy potato and peas stuffing gets replaced by the filling of mozzarella cheese and a red chilly garlic sauce replaces the tamarind chutney to enhance the taste of spicy Mozrella samosas. This is just one of the examples from the splendid menu at l’Angoor in Gurgoan. The menu combines various cuisines from across the globe to give a distinct fusion taste to the guests.

While the lunch options at the restaurant are kept light food that you can grab while you are on the move, dinner is definitely an exclusive affair with ample Mediterranean, Italian and a few Indian varieties. In addition to this, one can savour sea food delicacies with a glass of their choice of wine, “The main idea behind this kind of menu is to make people aware of the varied flavours and cuisines around the world. With this kind of menu, the food aficionados can explore and know more about contemporary food. The menu has an amalgamation of Canadian, American, European and Asian cuisine. I have made some changes in some of the dishes to suit the Indian palate, ”informs Hitesh Gupta, executive chef at the restaurant.

Dishes like Blue Summer Crab Cakes and Herb Yogurt Marinated Potato Barrels that came stuffed with cottage cheese and scallops served on a bed of corn-mush and pomegranates are a must try for the starters. Chef recommends that one swallows a piece of scallop in one go as only then one can relish both the sweet and sour taste of pomegranates and corn-mush. If you prefer soups before a meal then Mushroom Cappuccino can be a good choice. The nitrogen froth placed on the soup lends it a cappuccino effect. Chef says, “Nowadays, molecular cuisine is preferred by the people. It’s a kind of  gastronomic cuisine where nitrogen is pumped in the food to add nutritional value. So this soup is perfect for weight watchers. Sri lankan soup and yellow and red soup prepared from watermelon and yellow melon can also be a good option.”

In the main course, one can try herb crusted atlantic salmon accompanied with mushroom risotto. Mushroom risotto is a sticky Italian rice with mushroom pieces in it and when eaten with Parsley crusted Italian herbs, it gives a different flavour. Baked Mediterranean Red Snapper, which comes on a bed of creamy leeks and asparagus, is another healthy dish that one can go for.” Health is something that everyone is concerned about these days. So intentionally, I have added a lot of herbs to this dish to make it easily digestive,” informs Gupta.

Prawns Newburgh and herb-crusted atlantic salmon accompanied with mushroom risotto can be an ideal choice for those who love to gorge on seafood. There is also the juicy Jamaican spiced jerk chicken with cilantro flavoured rice and the delectable rack of New Zealand lamb drizzled with rosemary scented au jus.

And whether you have a sweet tooth or not, you cannot resist indulging in Rose flavoured Ice Cream and Kaffir Lime Ice-Cream—a wine based delicacy. Served in an orange, this dessert is a kind that you will not find easily. A dash of wine in both the the desserts can leave the taste buds asking for more.

Meal for two: Rs.2.500

Rating: 9/10

Service: 9/10

 

 

 

 

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Mercedes India: Petal Palette


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

Fresh aromas and vibrant hues of the flowers have found a place in pans and saucers. The blooming vogue is temptation enough to indulge in a heavenly bite.

It’s a walk for our senses. The crimson of the roses in the jam add a dash vibrancy. Marigolds strewn on a bowl of custard sauce lend an orange spark. The whiff of jasmine spells a charm on the rice. Tea brewed with chrysanthemums wipes off the stress. Candied lavender look exotic on the three tier cake. No, we are not enjoying a walk in a botanical garden; but we are comfortably seated in one of our favourite eateries. The table is adorned with jellies prepared with rose geraniums, apples served with lemon verbena, soups garnished with lily petals, chicken delicacies pepped with marigolds and a lot more. The spread is intoxicating. The preparations are enticing, healthy and need we add, tempting. We are re-waking up to the blooming trend where fresh aromas and vibrant hues of the flowers are once again being used to create heavenly delicacies.

The culinary use of flowers dates back 1,000s of years with the first recorded mention being in 140 B.C. when many different cultures incorporated flowers into their traditional foods. Romans used to experiment with edible flowers like roses, mallows and violets. Oriental dishes were made using daylily buds. Italian and Hispanic cultures prepared stuffed squash blossoms and Asian Indians used rose petals in many recipes. The use of traditional flowers in cooking never stopped. In Bengal cuisine, Mochar Cutlet has always been used to prepare banana blossom. “Today , we are a part of the huge movement of going back to our roots and everything that is organic. In the culinary world also, we’re moving towards a cleaner palette and gentler tastes. And, there can’t be a better choice than to taste undiluted flavours; using rose essence is very different from using actual rose petals,” says Marut Sikka, master chief and restauranter. “Many restaurants have begun to grow flowers in-house too, to get the freshest results possible. Also, people have become more health conscious,” says Vijay Pandey, Executive Chef, Oakwood premier, Mumbai. “The trend is being readopted by chefs all over the world because the people have begun to crave for a connection with natural foods,” adds Hitesh Gupta, Executive Chef, L’Angoor, Gurgaon.

And the reasons for the vogue are many. The usage of edible flowers in dishes add a unique element to a particular dish, apart from the scent, flavour, medical benefits and the visual presentation. Flowers like the hibiscus have revitalising properties. Chamomile (either in tea or whole petals) reduce stress and boosts immunity. Begonias are thought to help eliminate toxins and cleanse the liver. Chrysanthemums help cure cold and fevers. Marigold has antiseptic properties. Saffron (stigma of a flower) makes the body hot during winter and enhances memory. Rose also has cooling properties and is good for eyes and skin. Over all, flowers have a very calming effect on the mind and body. “The prime reason for using the flowers in cooking is to enhance the visual appeal of the food. The edible flowers are very attractive, their hues and small size make the dishes tempting. And of course, different flowers have distinct tastes depending on their variety and origin,” says Tarun Kapoor, Executive Sous Chef, The Metropolitan Hotel, New Delhi. Carnations are used for steeping flavour in wine. Chervils are used for flavouring and garnishing salads. Borage bears lovely cornflower blue starshaped flowers, “Flowers lend an extremely gentle flavour to a dish. For me, flowers spell complete luxury because of their perishable quality,” says Marut. In a jasmine pulao you can taste the flavour of the flower, but it is very subtle. All the different teas like chrysanthemum, jasmine and rose are string flavoured when left to brew a bit. Lavender adds an unexpected exotic touch to tea, ice cream or salad. Sprinkling of edible flowers in a green salad makes a visual impact. “Blossoms and leaves have a cool and faint cucumber taste. They make for wonderful additions in punches, lemonades, gins and tonics,” says Vijay.

There can be numerous ways of using flowers. “Like using raw flowers for decoration, coating with clear jelly for display, making natural flavourings, preserving the flowers in brine and reusing them, dehydrating the flowers to increase their shelf life for later use, making flower flavoured oils and vinegars to be used in salads, flavouring the hot beverages like tea and freezing them in ice cubes to use in various drinks,” says Tarun. “We use hibiscus in preparing mocktails. Also, rose has a distinct flavour, I like to use it to make Gulab Phirni,” says Marut. At Oakwood, the chefs use rose in their chilled Rose Petal and Water Chestnut Kheer. “We prepare delicacies like Orange and Lavender salad, Chive flower omelette, Chicken with marigold and Rose Ice Cream,” shares Hitesh, adding, “Baby rose can be used for garnishing.” “Some of the more popular dishes using flowers are fried squash blossoms, frozen flower bowl with fruit salad, rhubarb rosemary jam, homemade rose water and rose oil and strawberry mousse with tulip cup,” says Tarun. “Squashes and desserts are most common because of the synergy between certain common flowers and sugar.” Adds Marut.

And can a person consuming a dish made using flowers know that it is real flowers he is in biting into? “It might be a little difficult to make out that you are eating food prepared with real flowers because these days one gets all the essences in the market, which have strong flavours,” says Hitesh. “Yet, the trend is definitely popular with the foodies. It is difficult to find out if flowers have been used in the dish or not as the flowers are very tender and become a part of the dish being used with,” says Tarun.

Now, while flowers add a wow factor to the dish, they pose a threat too. Some precautions have to be exercised while using flowers in cooking. Always buy or procure the flowers from a reliable source only. Use the flowers immediately after procuring or plucking from the plant. Store them in ice cold water to increase their shelf life. Flowers purchased at florists should never be eaten. Never used non edible flowers for garnishing. Do not eat flowers, if you have any allergies or asthma. Too much usage of flowers in cooking can be bad. “Don’t fry or overboil flowers,” recommends Hitesh. “Add the flowers at the last stage of cooking. Peferably, use it in the cold dishes such as salads, desserts, etc. Try to choose young and fresh flowers as the flavour will be simpler as compared to a complex aroma and flavour of old and dried flowers,” adds Vijay. One should be clear on the distinction between edible flowers and non edible flowers, “Be sure the flavour of the flower compliments the dish. Certain flowers give a pungent flavour as well. As a rule, taste them first,” says Marut.

 

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Mid Day: Of Wine and Women


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

31-01-2011

Try l’ angoor for the uncomplicated menu and the serene atmosphere

Woman and wine certainly get along. I am convinced. What made me draw this conclusion was something that was different from the usual ostentatious wine sessions — a nice, cosy lunch on a slightly sunny winter afternoon. The two of us (the women), hungry as usual, ventured out on a much-to-do mission.

We went to an exceptionally swank place for brunch and as we entered the soft, warm interiors, it seemed a perfect choice. L’ Angoor is a quiet, tranquil restaurant. Once you are seated and get the time to look around, you feel it boasts of sophistication. Though for the not-so-sophisticated, loud people like us, it made for a rather calming tour.

We liked the seating arrangement which was unusual with special attention given to the corners. While watching the sun’s rays gleam alternately from the fine glass walls, it occurred to me that the place was peaceful.

Served with a Watermelon feta salad, we tucked in happily. It was only after a few minutes of eating that we bothered to inquire about Feta. It is a traditional Greek cheese with grainy texture, mostly used in salads. Whatever it meant, it tasted good and we got busy.

Our next dish, Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon tossed in Cream Sauce, looked like a decent pasta. That was until we tasted it. The Fettuccine, which means little ribbons in Italian, is a kind of Italian pasta dressed in bland cream sauce. While it looked alluring, the taste was disappointing.

A royal mistress
An essentially wine place, the restaurant has an impressive, modern wine cellar with wines ranging from Rs 1,600 to Rs 40,000 a bottle. Our pasta-disappointed spirits lifted as we went about the treasure trove of fancy, intriguing bottles to pick out one. Each expensive bottle tucked nicely in the cellar looked like the clandestine mistress of a royal Czar.

We chose the South African Red mistress. Main course had Jamaican spiced Jerk Chicken laid nicely on fresh green cilantro (a digestive herb, basically leaves and stem of coriander plant) flavoured rice. This was the best part. The spiced jerk chicken tasted heavenly and the royal red liquid with it just fulfilled our mission. If you are an ice cream fan, the Kaffir Lime dessert in orange and rose flavours, done with  Portuguese wines, promise to fetch you maximum delight.

For one, it is not a place for routine, customary lunches, but all the light-lunch eaters are sure to fall in love with the uncomplicated menu and the peace it offers.

At: tower c, lobby level, global business park, mg road, gurgaon
Timings: noon to 3 pm (lunch) and 7 pm to 11 pm (dinner)
Ring: 012440616666
Meal for two: Rs 2,500

 

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Time Out: Grape expectations


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

15-12-2010

At the prevailing price of a glass of good wine, it’s not uncommon to feel like sour grapes in Delhi. But it’s not often that the bill actually makes you feel bitter.

We started off all eager to love L’Angoor. The hybrid name, the heraldic logo that extends the pun (two langurs framing a bunch of grapes), the lineage (sister to the well-loved China Club) – all good signs for the already admirable enterprise of opening a wine-focused establishment in the NCR.

Inside, cushions in purple, garnet and merlot punctuate a vista of oak floors and sandstone. The langur crest appears on the duck-egg blue and chocolate-brown table settings, but the décor isn’t cluttered with any further grape or ape nudges. On a spotlit upper balcony recline bottles from over 130 labels, both the once-in-a-lifetime splurge (Château Latour, Rs 42,000 a bottle) and the house party faithful (Jacob’s Creek, ` 1,600 a bottle).

The helpful winelist details grapes, year and country for each, and rejoice: there are 18 vinos by the glass. There was no sign of the much-touted sommelier Davide Zubani, but we didn’t miss him. Our waiter was more than competent, lobbing back suggestions to our intricate specs of “dry”, “sweet, fruity,” “non-fruity” and “absolutely unfruity”. And he was spot-on each time, starting from the big, full-bodied South African Rust en Vrede red (Rs 620 a glass) and a sweetish 2008 Italian Placido white (Rs 450 a glass).

The wide-ranging winelist was thus in good hands, but the wide-ranging food menu wavered from grilled scallops to lamb koftas. The lunch menu offers sandwiches and pastas, while the dinner menu has a strange predilection for meats stuffed with other meats, like edible matryoshka dolls: chicken stuffed with lamb, potatoes stuffed with lamb, squid stuffed with fish.

Blue summer crab cakes (Rs 450) were served in a school-canteen-style compartmentalised white plate: four upright oblongs of batter-fried crabmeat, ranged like a tiny Stonehenge around a dipping sauce. The delicate crab “cakes” held their own against the batter, but the accompanying sauce was mystifyingly disparate, beginning with a cannonblast of chilli and ending on a fruity note. Another thali-plate of three “bar snacks” comprised wasabi peas (odd with wine), cashews and a cumin-heavy chickpea dip that was nothing so much as a detonation of zeera on the tongue.

Rack of lamb (Rs 1,450), was a little tough, but softened by a rosemary-flecked dark jus, and partnered by a towering stack of just-cooked potatoes sandwiched with cheese. Grilled red snapper (Rs 580) in a lemon-butter sauce with roasted peppers and sundried tomatoes was passable. Both went excellently with the recommended wines: a sleek medium-bodied berry-tinged 2007 Bourgogne from burgundy specialists Maison Louis Jadot (Rs 700 a glass), and a pale-straw 2009 sauvignon blanc (` 600 a glass) with bright citrus and gooseberry aromas, from Australian vineyard The Broken Fishplate. Our dessert (Rs 350), misleadingly called “fresh fruit pasta”, was a mint-and-syrup-drenched salad of melon, mango and other fruit julienned into thin strips – refreshing, but not like any pasta shape we’d ever seen.

Like the fable about the fox leaping at a cluster of luscious fruit, a great meal seemed always tantalisingly within reach, but it never came to hand. Sometimes right there (the entrees, the wines), sometimes quite far (the wasabi peas), but never further than when presented with the bill. This included wild Haryana surcharges, but even so, for a meal that’s less than stellar, it left a bouquet that was far from sweet.Naintara Maya Oberoi

Tower C, Lobby level, Global Business Park, MG Road, Gurgaon (0124-2566000). Daily noon-3pm; 7-11pm. Meal for two with four glasses of wine Rs 7,000

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Hammer Food & Beverage Business Review: No Bar on Being Focussed


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

02-12-2010

Consumption of alcoholic beverages is not always about just consuming the liquor.  Often it is about enjoying the ambience, celebrating a moment by just taking time off after a day of hard work, and sometimes even a conscious seeking out of comfort zone to be left along.  Thankfully, there are sufficient lounge bars and hotel bars apart from waiting sections of successful restaurants to fill these needs, and then there is the niche of “Focus Bar Outlet.’

When there is a focus on any style of staple drink, it does not imply that the other options are no available; it just means that there is more to select from the focus drink, which happens to be the speciality of the bar.  One of the pioneers in this segment could easily be the Aura – The Vodka Bar at The Claridges, New Delhi.  The management of the bar has decided to focus on vodkas – and suddenly the vodka lovers in Delhi have ample reason to celebrate.  With different brands and styles of vodkas serves either in cocktail or as a platter of its own, the outlet seemed to be rocking.

A focus outlet allows the novice to experiment and gives the joy of options to a connoisseur at the same time.  It really is a win-win situation, so I have often wondered why we do not have more of them in any city of India, let alone in Delhi.  Well, all that seems to be slowly but surely changing as entrepreneurs are attempting to make a signature identity for themselves through their food & beverage outlet/s.  Recently, I visited two of such latest additions in the Indian food & beverage industry.  They are located in Gurgaon, which is a part of Delhi, NCR, and Janakpuri, West Delhi.  Here they are:

L’Angoor

Located at the lobby level of Global Business Park, MG Road, Gurgaon, it is almost the first building when driving from Delhi, thereby saving the visitor the hassle of negotiating the traffic snarls of Gurgaon, which are even a shade worse than that of Delhi.

The crest of the restaurant is the first noticeable feature.  In Hindi, angoor means grape, and thus it comes as no surprise that the focus here is on wines.  But then you see the crest and remember that langoor is the long tailed Indian monkey!  There are two of them facing each other, holding a round frame in which is showcased a bunch of grapes.  Right at the top is a stylised grape vine leaf, and a bunch of grapes in the plaque is what they are holding.  The crest is repeated on the plates, at all the stemware, and is engraved in the wooden plaques of the menu; delivering an unexpected impact.

The Ambience and Decor

Right from the moment you walk-in the emphasis on wines impressed you.  The tables are laid out with different glasses for white and red wines, and these have laser engravings of the restaurant crest.  Of course, this means that the glasses have to be handled with care by hand and can never be washed in the dishwasher, but that is a small price to pay for the visual impact that such luxury ensures.

One flight of stairs up, with no seating in the area visible, there is a row of cabinets housing bottles of wine in temperature controlled units.  Such a welcome change from most stand-alone places!  Here you can actually walk around and select your wine of choice without even consulting the menu.

Wooden panels of the walls are perfectly matched and provide a great visual foil.  The acoustics of the sitting area is well balanced and although the tables seem to be close, it is not easy to eavesdrop on conversation from the next table.  A section of the restaurant is cordoned off as a waiting area, with lounge style seating.  They have a live jazz band two evenings of the week and piped music otherwise, which is at a reasonable decibel count.  The music played during my visit had a soothing feel to it.

The List Could Make You Heady

There are two plaques for red and white wines – following the simple method of sharing information – that would appeal equally to the new wine enthusiast as much as to a well informed wine lover.  The divisions are easy for both the red wune list and the white wine list.  They mention the country of origin; next is the information on label, then the vintage, followed by the grape varietals in the wine, the house that makes it, and finally the price.  Currently just over half a dozen options are also available by the glass.

It might be difficult to continue with this singular type of wine presentation as irregular supply of wines by the importers or the changing vintage availability would make it difficult to carry on with this style.  But that remains to be seen.  At present, the concept of a wine focussed restaurant-cum-bar is rocking.

Wines and More

Besides wines, the classy outlet lists and stocks fine malts, whiskies, gin or vodka, liqueurs and even cognac but there is no separate menu for the cocktails or mocktails.  However, I requested for and got a perfect Bloody Mary, as I feel that the true mettle of a bartender is tested on the rendition of the most basic cocktail.  I asked for medium spiced and got exactly that.  A well made Bloody Mary is one of the most amazing lip smacking experiences that make you greedily finish.

Here a customer can demand his/her favourite cocktail and it will be well made, and correctly served.  But at the same time, L’Angoor is not in the business to promote cocktails or claim that it has an exclusive list of ‘specialty’ cocktails in its bar.

The Food Factor

A distinction needs to be made between the lunch and the dinner menu at L’Angoor, this distinction is celebrated rather than kept mundane.  It does not in anyway compromise the eating options possible, or for that matter the pairing exercise for the wines.  Besides a range of salads for lunch, you can also have sandwiches and delicious burgers, and for the more formal lunch enthusiasts, there is a selection of pastas and the tempting cheese platter.

For dinner, it gets delightfully difficult to opt for fish over red meat, succulent scallops or rack of New Zealand lamb; drizzled with rosemary scented au jus.  Well, for me it was the wine that helped me to zero in on the lamb.

The Seasoned Man

The importance of a qualified sommelier who can actually help out a customer, has been well recognised in the restaurants and bars, and Davide Zubani is a the official sommelier here.  He has over 13 years of experience in the international and Indian properties, including The Leela group, an international cruise ship, and other outlets.  He approaches the wine with a practical attitude and is easy to trust.  If you point out your tastes’ preference or discreetly point out your price range, he will come up with something to delight your heart while being easy on your pocket.

Davide personally decanted a gem of a wine from Argentina – Yocachuya a Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and swirled it expertly to air it well.  It was sheer poetry with silky smooth tannins and a firm structure that had a beguiling and charming long finish.  Although the Michel Rolland crafted wine declares 16.2 percent alcohol content it did go down well, has a perfectly balanced nose on the notes and was a true winner among the selections in its price range.  However, it is not yet available by the glass.  That might well change as customers begin to honour choices of the sommeliers.

With the growing popularity of wines, it is imperative that focus bars with a widelist of wines from the world are made available to the consumers.  L’Angoor is the right effort in that direction and at the outset there seems nothing lacking in its endeavour to be successful.  A wish list though would be the inclusion of the wine-based cocktails and more wines by the glass, so that the customers can truly experiment with their palate and pocket.

Malt & Co.

Hilton new Delhi/Janakpuri has the honour of being the first five-star property in this extreme west side of Delhi, though more are scheduled to open their doors to the public of the area.  Right at the foot of the Metro station, the hotel has managed to make a place for itself already, and plans to open its speciality F&B outlets.

At the lobby level itself, with the check-in island being at the centre of the lobby with half circle of seating options around it, the coffee shop is on the right and the bar, Malt & Co. is on the left.  It is a dedicated space for malt whisky lovers.

The Inviting Ambience

The first impression at Malt & Co. is that of gentle seduction.  The atmosphere is inviting.  Most of the spaces are low seating of the lounge kind, with deep plush sofas and minimal decor.

The area cordoned off for serious malt appreciation is decorated with a few malt bottles, and a lot of red glasses and carafes in different shapes and sizes.  There are a couple of coffee table books to glance through, but once the whole paraphernalia is in place, the bar comes across as a fitting shrine for malt whisky lovers.

The bar with classy decor is a 66 cover outlet.  The main bar counter is on the side opposite to the malt room and has high stools.  Once the whole list of malts is operational, there would be forty brands available.  There is no denying the fact that once all the desired labels of malts are in place; this outlet is going to be a place to reckon with on a national scale.  Imagine a selection of forty, no less, labels of malt whiskies to select from!

The bar has six options of international brands of water and the list also includes Voda Voda from Serbia, in addition to the French Perrier and San Pellegrino of Italy, and other known brands too.  These are in addition to the local Indian options.  The wine list is still being worked upon with additions to happen soon, yet it has made an interesting selection for the first round too.  There is something for every palate and mood.  The aromatic and light-bodied whites to the more complex full-bodied reds from around the world are included in the list.

Right now, there is only channel music but soon a DJ would be hired to keep the place hip and happening, while at the same time, keeping the more mature client and hotel guests happy with the malt selection.  With over a decade of experience under his professional belt, it is Awadhesh Kumar who is the Manager at Malt & Co.

Sumptuous Offerings

With a coffee shop offering a delightful selection and an Indian restaurant named Zune is already operational on the first floor, and two more restaurants scheduled to open before the end of the year, there would be sufficient choice to have a sumptuous dinner after a couple of drinks at Malt & Co.  However, for those who desire something more than peanuts with their drinks, a finger food menu is available at Malt & Co. also.

Here you can listen to live music as you choose from an extensive range of fine malts, armagnacs and cognacs, or sip an expertly mixed Cosmopolitan or Manhattan as you savour a selection of signature culinary treats prepared by the Master Chefs.

Fried onion rings with three sauces choice (includes guacamole, tomato salsa and tzatiki) or a Crisp Popia Roll with sweet chilli sauce are good options.  For the vegetarians, on the more exotic side would be the likes of ‘dried figs with veggies and spices’ in kebab or even spicy potatoes cooked in tandoor, served with mint sauce.

Though there were chicken dishes, and other tikkas, fish fingers, etc., I sampled the exotic prawns, served singly in a shot glass, to be picked with a toothpick.  And the satays are there too – in all their different avatars.  Signature platters allow one to choose any favourite three options from either the vegetarian or the non-vegetarian segments to get value for money.

Future Vision

The future of any outlet, whether five-star or stand-alone, and especially for a focussed outlet, depends on the convictions of the leader of the team.  Nishan Silva, the Director of Operations at the property, is a young and dynamic professional who has lots on his plate right now.  But he is coping well, leading the team without feeling any pressures.

Of course, with such a focus on malts, the bar will have to have a dedicated plan of promotion for these malts.  Silva informs that the logistics are still being worked out and before the promotions can be undertaken, there are various other factors that need to be in place.  “We have to get the product right and we have ti serve it right, and other factors too will fall in place,” asserted Silva with conviction.

The management of the property does intend taking professional help from sommeliers and also from Diageo – a global alcoholic beverages giant headquartered in London, whose products will be able to enjoy a chunk of space in the malt selection of Malt & Co. surely.  Then promotional activities will begin in all earnestness.  Here it deserves a mention that Diego is the largest producer of spirits in this planet, and a major producer of beer and wine in the globe.

Although the property is new and does not have the tax advantage, the prices are at par with other bars, which is definitely an excuse for trying to find the discerning malts that speak your language and satiate your taste buds and moods.

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The Telegraph: Funky dining


May 19, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

28-11-2010 

 

Restaurateurs are adding a dash of innovation to their menus to make eating out a fun affair, says HOIHNU HAUZEL.

Let’s rewrite the rules of fine dining? How about a deep pink risotto with dollops of Parmesan cheese on it? And don’t get turned off by the colour — the taste is just right. Or would you prefer a ‘trendy’ dal makhni? It will be topped with Parmesan ice cream (yes, you read that right) instead of the usual thick cream. And it’ll be served not with the mandatory pudina parantha but a handful of Italian crackers.

Marut Sikka’s contemporary Indian restaurant, Kainoosh, offers a menu that’s high on the funky factor Pic: Jagan Negi

You can play with your food in more ways than one. Even if you are half-way through your steak and decide that it could have had a smokier flavour, don’t worry. If you’re at the right restaurant, the chef can oblige you by putting a ‘smoke gun’ to your steak right there on your table.

The popular dishes at Hitesh Gupta’s L’angoor are blue summer crab cakes and herb yoghurt; Pix:Jagan Negi (below) Michelin-star chef, Norbert Niederkofler, has introduced guests to a pink risotto among other unusual dishes at The Oberoi, New Delhi Pix: Rupinder Sharma

If that’s not enough, peep into celebrated chef Hemant Oberoi’s kitty at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. You’ll find yourself staring at tangy dhokla pizzas and stuffed khandvi rolls.

As restaurant menus get funkier (some prefer to call it more progressive), the list of eye-popping, out-of-the-box dishes keeps swelling. And, in their never-ending quest to make dining an evolved experience, talented chefs are coming up with extraordinary dishes that are definitely out of the ordinary, visually appealing and delicious to boot.

And no, this experimental cuisine is not to be confused with fusion food. “That’s long dead,” declares Nikhil Chib, Mumbai’s hotshot chef who runs Busaba, a restaurant that serves Asian food with generous helpings of Thai, Korean and Burmese.

Adds Marut Sikka, food connoisseur and restaurateur: “You can’t survive if you don’t invent.” That’s where innovative culinary practices step in.

Sikka, who recently drummed up some exotic dishes for the state banquet held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in honour of US President Barack Obama, says: “It’s passion that drives people like me. Also, it’s the quest for something new that’s pushing chefs or else we would be eating the same dishes that were prepared 500 years ago.”

And so, exotica like the pink risotto have crept onto the Travertino menu at The Oberoi, Delhi. The dish, is the speciality of visiting Michelin star chef, Norbert Nied-erkofler, head chef of the famed Restaurant St. Hubertus at the Rosa Alpina, Hotel and Spa, Italy. Niederkofler insists that except for its colour, the dish is very much Italian and tastes just as good as it looks

The grilled ginger and chilli lobster with broccoli khichdi and spiced cocoa powder garnish is a hit at Ziya, The Oberoi, Mumbai

The colour, he says, comes from fresh puree of beetroot that’s been pre-marinated and cooked at low temperature.

For inspiration, Niederkofler actually works with a team of painters. “I try to interpret their art into my food. For me, it’s important that the food looks visually appealing. We also eat with our eyes,” he says.

But don’t think this is purely an Italian phenomenon. The chefs are at it across all global cuisines. Another Michelin star chef, Vineet Bhatia, who relocated from India to London in 1993 too has been busy inventing in the kitchen.

Bhatia has spread his wings in recent years. In 2007 he opened Rasoi by Vineet at the ultra-luxury resort One & Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius. Then, last year The Oberoi, Mumbai opened a fine dining Indian restaurant called Ziya with Bhatia at the helm in the kitchen. Here, guests are introduced to a “haute dining experience” and the six-course meal with dessert is the highlight of the restaurant.

The menu is aggressively different — from the starters onwards. There’s masala foie gras or spice dusted foie gras and even wild mushroom naan. Bhatia’s menu also serves foie gras with raisin and cashew served with spiced fennel salad. On a different flavour trail, there’s also Bloody-Mary jelly (a regular Bloody Mary with a pinch of gelatin is left to chill and set like jelly and served) and white tomato soup.

The pick of the main course is the grilled ginger and chilli lobster. What you get is a delicious helping of spiced lobster with curry leaf and a portion of broccoli khichdi that’s garnished with spiced cocoa powder. Another hot favourite is the oven-baked spiced pomfret. Your meal can be neatly rounded-off with a champagne sorbet or even a Chocomosa — that’s chocolatesamosa for you.

Nikhil Chib of Busaba loves playing around with herbs and his speciality is prawns cooked with fresh lemon grass Pix: Gajanan Dudhalkar

Says Rashima Bhatia, Vineet’s wife and managing director of their Rasoi restaurant in London: “The chocolate samosa has become his signature dessert that features on menus across all our restaurants. It’s so deeply associated with Vineet that we ‘have’ to put it on our menus as guests demand it.”

Some chefs like Sabyasachi Gorai popularly known as Saby, of the Olive Bar & Kitchen restaurant chain, even use fancy tools and accessories to create dishes.

Deep sea tiger prawns with soft shell crab gnocchi and bruleed foie gras (below) are hotsellers at Olive Bar & Kitchen Pix: Jagan Negi

Saby who heads the chain’s three restaurants — Olive Bar & Kitchen, Olive Beach and Ai, a Japanese speciality outlet — always has his thinking cap on, creating and innovating. “People’s palates have evolved. I’m wooing people who are well-travelled, well-read and aware,” he says as he pulls out his ‘smoke gun’ from a sealed box.

The smoke gun, as the name suggests, looks like a gun but is a tool that chefs use to give a dish a smoky flavour. After inserting burning pieces of flavoured wood (apple or strawberry) into the gun, a pipe, which is attached to the piston, releases flavoured smoke.

Saby also wields an aromatiser with which he can spray different food aromas on a dish. “This is essentially to enhance the aroma of the food,” he says.

But the king of his kitchen gadgetry is the digital water bath which he calls the “Ferrari of the kitchen”. This apparatus cooks food at low temperatures without changing the texture or colour. For instance, if you insert a cut of bloodshot beef into the cooking apparatus, it will emerge well done but retain its red colour. The same goes for vegetables that look a lush green even after cooking.

Saby, who insists that progressive food is a far cry from fusion cuisine, says: “With unconventional dishes we experiment without any deviation from classical recipes.” The chef has been known to pair dal makhni with Parmesan cheese.

New age dishes are also doing the trick at Kainoosh, in Delhi’s posh DLF Promenade, which opened early this year. This contemporary Indian restaurant by Marut Sikka has all the right ingredients for success. From the regal décor to the carefully crafted menu, which is Indian in origin but contemporary with a touch of funkiness.

Oyster served with coconut sauce and curry leaf, says Sikka, is one of his most outlandish dishes that’s proving to be a hot favourite. Or you could try the seared tandoori salmon that’s marinated in dill and mustard.

The hallmark of Sikka’s dishes is the intelligent use of Indian spices. A classic example is the popular soft shell crab done in mild asafoetida batter and curry leaf. If these are from the contemporary section, there’s the classical section with some Sikka twists.

For instance, a red snapper musallam is a melt-in-the-mouth fillet of red snapper that’s draped in a nutty masala with a hint of coconut and spiced with nutmeg and slowly roasted.

More recently, Hemant Oberoi of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace has launched what he calls the Midnight Supper Mart at Shamiana, the all-day dining restaurant. Fancy dosa wraps will come with scrambled eggs and sausages, while tortilla wraps with kebabs, dhokla pizza or even stuffed khandvi rolls take the menu into an entirely different league.

New players are following in the footsteps of India’s best known chefs to serve some unusual fare. Look at L’angoor a two-month-old restaurant in Gurgaon. The restaurant has roped in chef Hitesh Gupta — freshly back from New York — to work his magic.

Blue summer crab cakes, herb yogurt, marinated potato barrels stuffed with cottage cheese and scallops served on a bed of corn-mush and pomegranates are some dishes Gupta is becoming famous for amongst Delhi’s foodies.

For the last 15 years, Busaba’s Nikhil Chib has been successfully selling his version of the Burmese khow suey made from a recipe handed down by his grandmother who grew up in the country. He also visits the country often.

So what makes his khow suey different? Well, he uses seasonal vegetables, keeps the gravy thick and dishes it out with a bowl of rice or noodles. And his Thai curry pastes are prepared fresh as he’s completely against ready-to-use materials.

To keep up the pace, the chefs need inspiration, which a lot of them derive by travelling frequently. Saby for instance, makes it a point to travel twice or thrice every year for at least 15 days. If he is not attending a food summit in Singapore, he could be visiting prominent French champagne houses. “It’s crucial to travel and educate myself on the origins of dishes,” says Saby.

Since 1995, Chib’s made some 17 trips to Thailand. And Oberoi is a globetrotter who’s constantly on the move. “I am out at least six months a year,” he says.

Sikka turns every trip abroad into a gastronomic odyssey. During an Indian food festival in Kazakhstan he took trips to the local markets to understand the spices, food and local flavours. “I always try to eat street food and I’ve found some very interesting dishes that way,” he says.

It’s this quest for something new that takes him to all the quaint bylanes of a city. “Only then can I come back with something new,” says Sikka.

And more importantly, have something new to offer diners.

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Indian Express: No Monkey Business


May 17, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

24-11-2010

L’Angoor, the new North American diner on MG Road, Gurgaon, is only worth a casual night out

It was our curiosity over the name that prompted us to book a table for two at L’Angoor — the new fine-dining restaurant in Gurgaon, serving North American cuisine. Surrounded by the glass towers of Global Business Park, MG Road, the 40-cover restaurant is packed to the brim when we get there on a Saturday night, so much so that we are glad we made our booking in advance.

Inside, natural oak parquet floors, dim ambient lighting, old school music and the subtle ecru decor build up a mood of anticipation. The restaurant houses more than 130 brands of wines in their cellar on the first floor. Through the open kitchen we could see head chef Hitesh Gupta and his team of five bustling around frantically.

As we pore over the menu, waiters hover nearby, nervously efficient and eager to please. We are rather slow to order, since our attention is held by their custom-made cutlery, featuring two langurs holding grapes — a comical take on the Hindi pronunciation of the restaurant’s name. When we finally get down to business, we begin the meal with the L’angoor chicken with mustard, infused in cabernet sauvignon wine (Rs 380), whose portion size was a pleasant surprised. The chicken was cut to bite-sized pieces and the tenor of the wine complimented the pungency of mustard to perfection. For the main course, we ordered the grilled Mediterranean red snapper, served on a bed of pepper salsa (Rs 580) and the Jamaican spiced jerk chicken with cilantro flavoured rice (Rs 520). The fish was cooked well, and retained its original flavour, but was unfortunately paired with a very sad assortment of oily paprika slices. It left us a little confused — the flavours were halfway between a Punjabi spiced chicken and a gourmet North American main course. While the chicken was too spicy to be eaten alone, combining it with the rice resulted in a clash of flavours. Clearly not the best main course we could have settled for.

To salvage the mood we needed a miraculously savoury dessert. The chef’s dessert special, we were informed, was made in limited quantities and did not feature on the menu. Thankfully, there was still one chocolate zabaglione (Rs 500) left and we heartily welcomed the whipped mousse with chunky dark chocolate, topped with miniature blueberries (Rs 500). The contrasting textures of the creamy mousse and the hard dark chocolate made for a luscious mix, quite making up for the earlier disappointment.

Final verdict? L’Angoor is perfect for a casual night out with friends, but not if you are looking for a gourmet experience.

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Spiritz Magazine: Serve Elegance with Champagne


May 17, 2011 L'Angoor No Comments

22-11-2010

Davide Zubani is an Italian born in the northern town of Brescia nestling between Lake Garda and Lake Iseo.  Trained in Italy as a sommelier, he first came to India in 2006, went briefly to the Maldives and then India called again.  Davide is the sommelier at L’Angoor and lives in Gurgaon with his partner, ‘she is not an Italian or Indian, but a Turkish lady.  I like to complicate my life,’ says Davide.  Zubani reveals to Spiritz finer points of champagne styles and service.

All things being equal and if champagne was easy to stock, how many styles would you ideally want on your wine list?

Ideally, to have an interesting and appealing ‘Champagne selection’ in my list I would have some vintages from the great Maisons, some non-vintages from small Maisons (with a bio or bio-dynaic production) or from different villages.  These will play around ‘Commercial Chanmpagne’ that obviously will represent the backbone of my list (and the business).  If they can be found, I would add maybe a Demi Sec.  A couple of Rose (vintage and non vintage will complete the opera.

How would you suggest a glass of champagne (in case it was available by the glass) to a couple when they come to your restaurant?

Personally I would like to introduce a glass of champagne as a different way to start their dinner.  The intimate atmosphere that a glass of champagne can create (a balanced emotional feeling of joy, elegance, finesse, class, added to aromas and freshness of champagne itself) equals to no other drink.

If a customer is undecided about which style of champagne to order, how would you question his preferences and maybe help a couple select a style to go along with the whole meal.

In this case, which takes place quite frequently among champagne lovers, I try to explain in the simplest way the reasons of my suggestions (mainly related to the complexity, texture and aroma intensity of the food) so that they can enjoy the best experience possible.  My suggestions have been taken into consideration by the guests 99% of the times.  But if the guests are comfortable with their own choice….cheers!

If the guests are 4 or 6 on a table and want to try more than one style of champagne, how would you select the progression of style for them?

I will start with the lighter and easier to drink (in body) and go to the full bodied (can be Rose, why not) and complex ones (for the richest dish, usually a main course).  I also adopt some ‘trick’ to amplify the dinner’s experience playing with the temperature of the champagnes.  I start with an over chilled champagne for the beginning to enhance the acidity and the freshness and go to an under-chilled one for a main course to amplify the aroms and softness, which will help in better balancing of the palate, bite after bite of a more rich consistency and flavour of the main course.

Would you suggest different styles of champagne for different occasions – Valentine, engagement celebration, even proposal of marriage or indeed a romantic anniversary?

Frankly speaking, I can’t see any connection between different styles of champagne, but Napoleon Bonaparte said “in victory I deserve champagne, in defeat I need it!” I totally agree with him.  What is absolutely wrong, from my point of view, is to ‘segregate’ champagne as a drink for a special occasion.  Why not drink something special on any occasion?

What’s the right way for a sommelier to open a bottle of champagne?

A few rules to follow:

Service temperature: Theoretically, the right temperature to serve champagne is 6-7 degrees Celsius.  However, my experience teaches me that to obtain the full potential of champagne in terms of freshness (read acidity), bouquet and bodied, different styles of champagne require different temperatures.

The ‘right’ glass: From the regular flute for most champagne to a more ample glass for more structured and ‘big’ champagne (most vintages) is preferred.  The bottom should have a prominent dimple to allow the formation of bubbles which is one of the more important aspects of judging champagne.

Clean glasses: Always undervalued but due to the finesse and delicacy and/or complexity of the bouquet, just a small residual from the washing process can affect the entire taste of the nectar.

Don’t shake the bottle.

Maintain a certain distance from the table.  It’s very embarrassing, if accidentally, champagne is spilled out on the lady’s new dress, or the cork goes straight to the gentleman’s glass!

Pay attention to the foam that sometimes comes out of the glass while pouring.  Always happens when there is a mobile phone just close to the glass.

Elegance delivered during all the service phases.  The real whole with the bottle’s presentation to the final clearance of the glasses, in between….the heaven!

How would you suggest that we improve the acceptance of champagne as a wine of celebration yet a wine essentially?

Maybe it is just my own impression but I have noticed that there has not been much hype created on champagne across various media.  So let’s start to speak about it as it has happened and still happens with wines.  Let’s give the consumers the opportunity to taste champagnes, let them know the story behind the bubbles, the centuries of story, the people, the work and the sacrifice.  Just doing this we can thank champagne for the magnificent moments spent drinking it.  Champagne deserves it…

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