Three months into 2017, here’s the definitive list of how eating out will change for us in the coming months.
You’ll be tasting more…
Move over quinoa, our local millets are finding ownership like never before. It started with a few A-list restaurants, and is now a trend across categories. If The Bombay Canteen’s Barley and Jowar Salad, dressed with a spicy hung curd, was a hit, the Millet Lasagne at the newly opened Flying Squirrel Micro-Roastery & Café in Bengaluru and the Pearl Millet and Oat Flapjacks at 212 All Good in Mumbai are finding takers as well. Ragi (finger millet) has found a major backer in the Karnataka government’s minister for agriculture, Krishna Byre Gowda; he even conducted a workshop to popularize the grain.
In 2014, Alain Ducasse shook up the restaurant world by removing meat from most of his menu at the Plaza Athénée in Paris. Closer home, chefs are also waking up to the bounty of vegetables in India. “I see immense focus on meatless dining and vegetarian food choices in the coming times; it’s a worldwide trend,” says chef Ranveer Brar, who recently opened TAG—GourmArt Kitchen in Mumbai which offers a gourmet vegetarian menu with artfully presented dishes such as a Watermelon Sashimi Salad served with yam guacamole, and a Daikon and Carrot Cake. At The Sassy Spoon, also in Mumbai, chef-owner Irfan Pabaney makes an interesting Fenugreek Risotto served with grilled vegetables. “Our focus is to cook the vegetables correctly; we grill our vegetables for many dishes so that they don’t lose their freshness and crunch,” he says.
3. Gut-friendly foods
There is a decided shift in the restaurant world from processed foods to “real” food—unprocessed, and preferably organic. As an offshoot of this, we have also started seeing a trend towards foods that are “good for the gut”—think kefir (a fermented milk drink made by inoculating milk with kefir grains), fermented foods and the like. “Fermentation isn’t a new concept, our grandmothers have been using these techniques to make delicious pickles and preserves for decades,” says Rishim Sachdeva, executive chef of the Olive Bar & Kitchen in Mumbai. “In very basic terms, fermentation breaks down sugars and converts them into lactic acid. This aids in digestion and helps clean the gut, not to mention intensifying the flavour of your food.”
After six years, Olive has a brand new menu this spring that includes several dishes with fermented ingredients, like the eye-catching Beetroot, Pear and Feta Salad, which has beet cooked in three ways—smoked and roasted, fermented beetroot purée, and a dressing of beetroot vinegar. All the dishes at 212 All Good feature unprocessed, natural ingredients, and their probiotic shakes are made with kefir.
Gin is making a major comeback everywhere with small-batch distilleries cropping up in the US and Europe. While we still have to settle for Bombay Sapphire or Beefeater (or some imported gins, if you’re lucky), mixologists are playing around with infused gins and creating their own bitters. At 212 All Good, the G&T menu features the spectacular wild mulberry gin flavoured with house-made spiced bitters. “We have our own soda machine for making in-house botanical sodas and we make our own tonics as well,” says Tanai Shirali, the restaurant’s beverage and cocktail developer. At Toast & Tonic in Bengaluru, expect your gin cocktails to be spiked with organic, preservative-free flavours of fruits and flowers—case in point, the Flower Power Tonic flavoured with jasmine, elderflower and grapefruit.
5. International chefs
Pop-up restaurants are not new, but we are increasingly seeing international chefs bringing their expertise to India and giving us a taste of world-class cuisines. Consider the MasqueXAmass collaboration in January, when chef Matt Orlando from Amass, Copenhagen, held a three-day pop-up at Masque in Mumbai, featuring signature dishes like Tomato on a bed of Nut “Ricotta” with pickled rose and strawberry. International pop-up One Star House Party, helmed by former Noma chef James Sharman, too made a stop in Mumbai: Their 20-month world tour entails setting up a restaurant in a new city—from Beijing to Berlin to Buenos Aires—every month. In February, The Oberoi, Mumbai, brought down chef Giulio Terrinoni of Per Me, which won a Michelin star within 11 months of operation in Rome, for a week-long pop-up. And while most of the action is concentrated in Mumbai, Bengaluru will host Atul Kochhar over three nights in April, showcasing his signature dishes from NRI (Not Really Indian) and Lima (both in Mumbai) and Benares, London.
6. Local produce
Two years ago, when The Bombay Canteen opened in Mumbai, restaurants and chefs rarely celebrated local produce. Fast-forward to today, and it’s a rare menu that doesn’t tom-tom its farm-to-table provenance. At Toast & Tonic, chef Manu Chandra too embraces all things local, with a menu featuring ingredients as varied as gondhoraj lemons, drumstick leaves, and Bandel cheese. At Masque, chef Prateek Sadhu varies the menu every few days and sources all his ingredients locally. At Bengaluru’s recently opened Forage Fit Food, co-founder and self-taught chef Himanshu Dimri too delivers a healthful menu that focuses on local produce; take the aromatic Soupy Lamb broth where the lamb, spinach, and the Kodo millets used in its preparation are all sourced from in and around Bengaluru.