Where do restaurateurs like Rahul Akerkar and Vicky Ratnani ‘pause’ when fine-dining calls?
BY: Aparna Pednekar for Adapt Studios
They own some of the country’s most feted restaurants. It goes without saying, they know food. So where do these gourmands eat when not enjoying treats served up by their own chefs? LIVEINSTYLE.COM asks the men who have raised the bar of fine-dining in India to share their favourite epicurean experiences. From progressive Indian to haute Japanese cuisine, we give you cues from India’s most elevated taste buds.
As these industry experts doff a hat to their peers and idols, revealing their favourite restaurants across the globe, we suggest you read on — and make multiple reservations pronto!
HE IS: Founder, former Managing Director and Corporate Executive Chef at deGustibus Hospitality
Over a decade ago, Rahul Akerkar pioneered Mumbai’s fine dining scene with Indigo, and while he has just quit the group — amidst a flurry of speculation on his next move — he continues to be one of the country’s most respected and successful restaurateurs. Educated as a bio-chemical engineer, this South Bombay boy brought the joy of bagels and corned beef sandwiches to India much before anyone could say ‘deli’ and ‘vada pao’ in the same breath. Catapulting Indigo to the list of Asia’s best restaurants, he has earned himself a permanent spot on India’s fine dining foodscape.
HIS HOT PICKS: The Wasabi Beef and Peking Duck at Royal China. Akerkar also confesses to monthly dinners at Fenix with his younger daughter, who is a sushi aficionado. Here they bond over the Soft Shell Crab Spring Rolls with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Mesclun Salad; and the Ebi Furai, a plate of scrumptious crumb-fried prawns with Tonkatsu sauce.
HE IS: Managing Director at Olive Bar & Kitchen
Bon vivant AD Singh is a rarity amongst restaurateurs. An underachiever in the kitchen, Singh is the most prolific and awarded man in the Indian food and hospitality business. After launching a floating pub, a Latin bar and a chain of Mediterranean restaurants in the early Nineties, he has taken his flagship brand Olive across the country — from Mumbai and Delhi to Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. There are now new additions to the Olive family: a Japanese restaurant called Guppy by ai; a gastropub named Monkey Bar and a charming ode to Irani cafes, SodaBottleOpenerWala. And AD is still far from done!
HE LOVES EATING OUT AT: Gaggan in Bangkok and Tetsuya in Sydney.
HIS HOT PICKS: Freshly anointed as Asia’s top restaurant, Gaggan’s lavish 10-course ‘blind’ tasting receives a big thumbs up from AD. Chef Gaggan Anand’s signature wonders like Truffle Air, Khichdi Risotto with Mushrooms, Chocolate Pani Puri and Dhokla Snow are recommended. AD also advocates wheedling a much-prized reservation at Tetsuya’s — “His food is at the edge of where Japan meets the West,” says Singh — and indulging in the 13-course degustation menu. Expect to be delighted by Carpaccio of Beetroot with Lime and Goat’s Curd, Cauliflower Pasta with Egg and Périgord Truffle and the Lemon Scented Floating Island with Vanilla Bean Anglaise.
HE IS: CEO and Managing Director at Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality
With 40 restaurants in his kitty by the age of 40, and as President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), Amlani is arguably India’s most driven food entrepreneur. Determinedly ahead of the curve — from the Mocha chain of coffee shops to the avant-garde Smoke House Grill with its hip all-white interiors and Social that applies the du jour crowdsourcing model to food — Amlani has his finger on Gen X’s swinging tastes.
HE LOVES EATING OUT AT: Wasabi by Morimoto in Mumbai and Indian Accent in New Delhi.
HIS HOT PICKS: Wasabi’s Black Cod Miso is as much of an enduring city legend as is The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai that houses it. Flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, the fish is marinated for two days in salt and miso, broiled, baked and served with pickled red pepper and sweetened kuromame beans. Riyaaz also recommends Chef Manish Mehrotra’s progressive Indian cuisine at Indian Accent. Try their Chicken Coconut Fry with Idiyappam and Pumpkin Curry, Meetha Achar Chilean Spare Ribs with Sundried Mango and Kalonji and Custard Apple Cream with Cheeni Ki Roti and Marshmallows!
HE IS: Founder and Managing Director at Massive Restaurants
The business muscle behind contemporary Indian eateries like Masala Library and Farzi Café, and son of acclaimed gourmand Jiggs Kalra, Zorawar is bullish on bringing creativity and glamour to Indian food and taking it global. With his MBA from Boston, Kalra’s latest brainchild is Luxury Mithai — a premium sweets chain. Even as Masala Library’s Prawn Balchao Kulcha and Wild Berry and Lavender Kheer are transporting foodies to ecstatic stratospheres, the Kalra cavalcade rolls on to sweeter, richer pastures.
HE LOVES EATING OUT AT: Jaan in Singapore and Chiltern Firehouse in London.
HIS HOT PICKS: Jaan sits pretty on the list of Asia’s top restaurants, thanks to Chef Julien Royer’s gloriously refined take on vegetables. Kalra recommends the Gourmand Tasting Menu which features Trumbetta Zucchini, Barley Risotto with Iranian Saffron and the pièce de résistance — ‘Jaan’s Garden’ — a picturesque mélange of seasonal veggies with wild garlic and morels. Halfway across the world, at Chiltern Firehouse, Kalra recommends the Grilled Octopus with Aubergine and Mushrooms, Slow-Roasted Short Rib with Hazelnut Purée and Bone Marrow and an ethereal Chargrilled Iberico Pork.
HE IS: Culinary Director at Everstone Capital
The celebrity chef and author introduced molecular gastronomy to Mumbai’s fine dining scene with Aurus and went on to decorating his plates at Nido with micro-greens and edible flowers, before becoming a familiar face on television. Once known to ‘vacuum seal everything he can,’ Ratnani is as devoted to progressive Indian cuisine as he is to classical Chinese and a juicy steak!
HE LOVES EATING OUT AT: Momofuku Ko and Eleven Madison Park in New York City and at The Table in Mumbai.
HIS HOT PICKS: The Steamed Pork Buns at Momofuku. These fluffy white Chinese buns are stuffed with roasted pork belly, Hoisin, cured cucumbers, scallions and a hint of Sriracha — and they top Ratnani’s quintessential NYC foodie experience. The Lavender and Honey Duck at Eleven Madison Park is another dish that comes highly recommended. Back home, in Mumbai, Vicky is a fan of Chef Alex Sanchez’s Chicken Wings and Gougères (they are divine, airy Gruyere cheese puffs) at The Table in Colaba.
Image Credit: indianrestaurantspy.com, wordpress.com
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