Sit Back and Feast on Oriental Flavours
By Pallavi Rebbapragada | Published: 12th January 2014 12:00 AM |
It isn’t escaping the Orient, nor is it aping the Occident; in a curious conundrum, it is only binding the two. In that sense, gourmet gastronomy is a fashioned paradox. The flavours are amassed from far and beyond, with ingredients pulled out of storybook anecdotes, procedures handed down from kitchens of yore, comprising everything that compounds to form what we call, in utter nonchalance: exotic. But, orientalist persuasions are about embracing the exotic in orchestrated measures. So, the dining space is decked out in breakable cutlery, folded napkins, courteous baritones, perfectly sanitised to please an old French prude. The JW Marriott Aerocity; the capital’s newest five star; is well versed in the ways of the world. Named eponymously after its Korean chef Akira Back, its most recent fine dine venture abridges Korean-Japanese classics into familiar gourmet.
Surrounded by moonlit ponds shooting sporadic founts, there rests a glass house, its art deco confines are mildly fragrant with lavender.No sliding blonde wood screens, no tatami reed mats lining floors and certainly no silken fans stuck around. Here, Japan is invoked in the form of sake bottles that are recessed into its walls; some old, some new, mostly priceless. The space does enjoy the rapt stillness of a teahouse, but that too is interrupted by a clatter of kettles carrying clear tea, which is brought in to prime the palate.
The welcome gesture extends to the hors d’oeuvre, served with chef’s compliments. This is an LED-lit box with the restaurant’s name calligraphed onto it. It displays two bite sized treats, one spinach, the other hirame (a seasonal flat fish), on either side of an orchid leaf.
Chef Akira Back’s YellowTail at Bellagio Vegas prides an exhaustive list of celebrity patrons: Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, Taylor Swift, David Guetta and Eva Longoria to name a humble few. By virtue of its proximity to the Hollywood brouhaha, the restaurant has inexplicable appeal, at least in the culinary world. About his first Indian outpost, he says, “I wanted to create a different approach, friendlier to the Indian palate. Some of the dishes we designed were bumped up with spices a few notches on the Scoville scale.”
If one is trying his sampling menu, the first course is the soup, in the most eccentric sense of the word. Over a cherry tomato, crushed corn kennels, guacamole, truffle powder and (only) one popcorn, sour cream is slowly dispensed. The powder doesn’t blend in with the cream, and lends a yummy rawness to this cold soup, the kind that’s often found in cake batter. The next course is pizza. Deliciously excused from the usual overkill of cheese, this tortilla based serving is dressed up in peppered tuna and red onions. The pizza, reveals its creator, is based on an accident. “We were making a tortilla wrap for breakfast but one of our cooks left the tortilla wrap on the griddle by mistake which transformed into a crispy looking flat bread and que sera sera”.
The following preparation comes vacuum sealed and once the server explains the lineage of its herbs and lifts it open, a thin column of smoke escapes. Inside rest peels of seared flounder and wild-mushrooms floating in fluorescent, almost neon coloured, serrano vinaigrette.
The carnivore proceeds to the Shikoku Octopus, which is soaked in Japanese amazu, the traditional rice vinegar based sauce that is both sweet and sour. The others can indulge in fried brussel sprouts, laced with sweet chili sauce and spruced up with togarashi, a Japanese chili pepper. At this juncture in the meal, one feels the burnt flavour of the Japanese wood grill that most of the food is passed through. This is followed up by a toffee-nosed plating of foie gras, served with potato puree and soybean pods. This too is smeared with a spicy condiment, this time the Korean gochujang.
Just before dessert, the watermelon and mint cooler washes down the palate, ridding it of the excesses of spice and seasoning. The philly mango roll passes fleetingly like a stranger, too mild to cause a rush. Launching a sucrose attack on the senses is the Tokyo Cheese Cake with tofu and basil. A successful divergence from the New York version draws the meal to a sweet; a tad too sweet; end.
Meal For Two: `5,000 plus tax
Address: JW Marriott Hotel Aerocity, Asset Area 4, Hospitality District,
New Delhi, 110037
Contact: 011-4521-2121; @akiraback