‘What’s wrong in dressing up food’

By: | Updated: March 5, 2017 3:03 AM

Things should not go overboard and compromise on the basic tenets of a dish, which, for me, are satisfying a diner’s palate, evoking memories and having fun.

An amuse-bouche that uses an optical illusion to garner the guests’ attention. The picture is 3D-printed on edible rice paper with edible ink, and has a buckwheat crisp with kaffir lime powder and lemongrass vinaigrette.

As perhaps the person most accustomed to seeing diners freeze-framing their food, it is ironic that Vikramjit Roy is enraged at the act. He even created a dish, naming it #Nofilter, in angst at Instagram, asking diners to bang hard on their plates a cryogenically-fried rose, breaking it into smithereens. It’s another matter that the dish went viral on social media. But then, Roy knew it would. What troubles him is that dishes lose the perfect temperature at which the kitchen strives hard to serve them at, dampening the experience for diners. So now he promises regulars at Tian copies of high-resolution pictures, or WhatsApp forwards, asking them to just enjoy the meal and not bother taking pictures.

Considered to be among the most imaginative chefs in the country at present, Roy dishes out food that goes beyond looks. It’s an experience. In his latest tasting menu, he presents an amuse-bouche that has an intricate picture of a couple. You might be fooled in thinking it’s a piece of painted wood, but it’s actually a 3D-printed rice sheet, and completely edible. He has dabbled with fragrant smoke, liquid nitrogen, dry ice and the works to give diners an interactive experience. At times, he will just play mind tricks, like asking you to sip a hot soup with one hand on the cold serving bowl, and the next sip after removing the hand.

However, he vehemently denies making any conscious effort to create dishes that look amazing. On being asked for a flavour to presentation ratio, he immediately says 100:0. At the same time, he finds nothing wrong in food being dressed up. “Why not? We dress up before going out, we make our homes look pretty. We are in tune with fashion, the latest phones, the latest cars. So why not food? What’s wrong in food looking good? However, it should not go overboard and compromise on the basic tenets of a dish, which, for me, are satisfying a diner’s palate, evoking memories and having fun. As we say, mazaa aana chahiye. If that doesn’t happen, then nothing else that we do matters.”

He goes on to say that we are past the phase of trying to make food look just pretty. “It should make sense too. If there’s no story to a plate, no heart, it can only be a fad. Things for mere effect, like smoke, etc, can’t survive very long.”

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For him, the pressure is not to create dishes that look pretty, but in giving diners an elevated experience every time. For that, he does not believe in pushing a diner’s boundaries by giving then unheard of ingredients, but in pushing his kitchen to improve on technique. “We can present what looks like a tomato or burrata, but is not. The taste is similar, the look is same, but it’s different. What looks like a tomato can actually be tofu and pepper gel. I will give you a crispy prawn without frying it. That’s how we push elevation and heighten the experience. We don’t put 10 dots on a plate in different colours just to make it look pretty. If I need, I will show 20 dots, but I should need it.”

VIKRAMJIT ROY, TIAN, ITC MAURYA Flavour vs presentation 100:0

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