2014 The meal that was

As the year draws to a close, we go back along the trail of crumbs left by the food trends of 2014

A Game of Buns
The burger segment surely ended up consuming the most calories this year in the fast food category. Not only did three major international burger barons (Burger King, Johnny Rockets and Fatburger) enter the Indian arena this year, but domestic restaurants saw a lot of activity in the sector, all vying to be top bun. If Monkey Bar dangled its atavistic ‘aged and air-dried’ Mobar burgers in front of its clientele, Guppy by Ai (in Delhi) and Mamagoto (in Mumbai and Delhi) gave their own Asian twist to the classic Americana sandwich (more on this later). Old McDonald better keep a watch on his farm because Burger King breezily plans to open 10 outlets within the first 12 months of its operation, and JR and Fatburger have promised to follow suit. Another burger behemoth, Wendy’s, will also be showing up on our shores, er, malls, next year.

Asian fusion
While Delhi’s love affair with Chinjabi is yet to run its course, the city has also been paying court to various (read actual) Asian cuisines: sushi is on a roll and Thai is on a high. Now, upping the ante are several of the city’s leading chefs and restaurants who are tweaking various Asian cuisines without adding con to the fusion. In Delhi, if Italian food doyen Ritu Dalmia is having fun with Asian flavours and influences at her Diva Kitsch restaurant, melding together south-east Asian influences with other cuisines, the recently-opened Tian at the ITC Maurya has made the Silk Route scientific, employing all manner of molecular cooking and blending cuisines without worrying about geography. Mamagoto restaurants in both Mumbai and Delhi continue their concept of “play with your food” by introducing a range of Asian sandwiches filled with everything from Vietnamese pulled pork to shitake mushrooms, while recently resurrected Guppy by Ai does a mean Ramen Burger. And, of course, Monkey Bar is irreverently delicious, whether in Delhi or in Bangalore, with dishes such as tiger steak and the Mobar Laksa. Meanwhile, Bangalore is also home to Fatty Bao, which takes the term ‘Asian fusion’ to new heights with dishes such as Tempura of Brie Cheese, Ramen simmered with different ingredients over 14-18 hours and the Fatty Bao PB&J (twice-cooked pork belly with mustard miso jam).

Khaana 2.0
Earlier this year, the NCR’s citizenry was ‘Farzified’ courtesy Zorawar Kalra’s Farzi Cafe, perhaps the world’s first instance of scientific cooking applied to Indian food in a cafe format, read affordable. Apart from dishes such as mishti doi spheres and the nitrous-oxidised phirni, Farzi serves up fare like the decadent Posh Maggi, soaked in truffle oil and topped off with foie gras, and imported pork ribs cooked in a Kashmiri Rista reduction. While chefs such as Indian Accent’s Manish Mehrotra and Monkey Bar’s Manu Chandra have been championing, and contemporising, the country’s regional and home-style food for years now (the former’s bacon, roasted nuts and burnt garlic-studded version and the latter’s butter chicken enmeshed version elevate the khichdi from a stay-at-home sally to wanton food porn), India and its many regions are going mainstream and modern like never before. If the recently-opened Terminus 1 in Delhi layers its melting brownie with Karachi halwa and drizzles it with phirni, Made in Punjab in Mumbai gives its food more than just a tadka, dishing out authentic Punjabi in a chic ultra-modern visual format. All in all, modern Indian has never been hotter. Or tastier.


Cheers, with gears
In order to match their food, restaurants paid greater attention to the art of mixology with every eatery worth its salt (and liquor licence) offering a cornucopia of cocktails. Molecular mixology is much in vogue (places such as Monkey Bar in Delhi and Bangalore and Social in Mumbai and Delhi staggering away with honours here) with liquor in all shapes, sizes and colours being jellified, spherified, flash-frozen and everything else bartenders can tinker around with. Asian, including Indian, flavours spread like an Internet meme, dousing cocktails in saffron, kafir lime, rosewater, galangal and many, many, many other ingredients.

Perhaps it is due to the May election results, but menus seem Modified, and we don’t mean there’s some dhokla involved. Vegetarian dishes have been starring across menus at traditional European bastions such as Olive Bar and Kitchen, among others, while newer kids on the block like Hungry Monkey have been paying their homage to dishes with the little green dot. Mumbai’s vegetarian all-star Shiv Sagar just opened its first outlet in Delhi, while Kathputli, a Rajasthani vegetarian specialty restaurant, also just opened its shutters in the capital to glowing reviews.

A parade of Parsi
India’s most eccentric and fun-loving minority might be encouraging its people to procreate to swell their dwindling numbers, but Parsis don’t have to worry about losing one thing: their culinary legacy. While Mumbai has been home to several Irani bakeries and hallowed eateries, such as Brittania, for decades now,
AD Singh’s SodaBottleOpenerWala galvanised Delhi by initiating it into the glorious mysteries of dhansak, patra ni machchi, salli boti and countless egg preparations, leading to a flocking of foodies at its Delhi outlets. Now, with Parsi items turning up at menus across the country, with Monkey Bar serving up a stellar mutton berry pulao at its Delhi and Bangalore outposts and Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu slated to open soon in Delhi, everyone looks to be tapping into their inner Bawa.

Shantanu David

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