Cloud kitchens: Food from the clouds

By: |
November 1, 2020 4:00 AM

Be it menu planning or packaging, cloud kitchens seem to be doing a better job than regular restaurants doing home delivery

Sassy Salmon Poke BowlSassy Salmon Poke Bowl

Whenever I hear the word ‘cloud’, I remember what some Indian political luminary “enlightened” us with—words spoken in a room remain suspended in the air even after we leave and can be downloaded. That’s how he declared cloud storage worked somewhere up in the sky, dangerously easy to tap into. It makes me wonder what he feels about cloud kitchens. Moving on then to smarter conversations.

Recently, I ordered from two cloud kitchens, both established during the pandemic by teams, which pivoted sharply from existing businesses to jump into this with much planning and adaptation.

Prasanjit Singh, Abhijit Mukherjee and Anirudh Singhal (some very heavyweight names from the F&B industry) figured out a few things before getting started viz.

  • Cloud kitchens are entirely different from restaurants doing home delivery.
  • Certain dishes can just not be home delivered because the texture and taste would be sub-par upon arrival.
  • Any more than a 7-km radius and the food quality stands to be compromised. Hence, you need a new node every time you exceed that radius.
  • The efficiency of preparation involves not just culinary skill, but also packing and delivery technical prowess.

Armed with this knowledge, they opened Asian Farm Shack, serving Sichuan and Bangkok flavours. But since it’s a cloud kitchen, it doesn’t just do Asian fare. The same space also serves Indian fare (Masala Shack) and all-day snack items (Shack Bites). Another USP: all their food is ideally farm-to-table, shipped straight from the source.

The pandemic also led Aparajita and Ankur Gupta (with their collective F&B experience in the space) to rework their plans of launching a premium south-east Asian eatery into a cloud kitchen. Format altered, but they wished to retain the dine-out experience. So to ensure preservation during transport, some dishes arrive partially deconstructed, needing to be put together before service. A bit of DIY, but crucial to their no-compromise stand on flavours and textures. However, some categories like crispy items had to be dropped because they just don’t travel.

Being newbies, Aparajita and Ankur realise the onus of delivering at par with long-standing stalwarts and, hence, invest more in R&D even if it leads to a higher food cost. They don’t claim authenticity or allegiance to any particular cuisine, but rather an innovative take without losing sight of the original.

Sloppy Sticks is a catchy name, harkening to images of comfort food, messy but satiating. A premium experience around food, the kind that one often craves and simply wants to dive into without too much deliberation. The menu is extensive and the choices are temptingly too many—three browses later, I relented and asked them to choose for me.

The proof, as always, is in the (pun intended) Pudong pie. I ordered food separately from both kitchens and I’m glad I worked out both days because these were hearty indulgences. All that talk about preserving quality and flavours seemed to distill down to the food and the way it was presented. The portions were generous, the taste spicy, but still somewhat gentrified to suit a range of palates. Nevertheless, couldn’t have faulted either for not being flavoursome. Special mention for Asian Farm Shack’s wok-tossed Three Pepper Pork Belly, the seafood dishes and the Thai curries. From Sloppy Sticks, do try the Sushi, Truffled Mushroom Bao, Singaporean Chilli Prawns, and the Braised Noodles with Shitake and Truffle oil.

Be it menu planning or packaging, cloud kitchens seem to do a better job than regular restaurants doing home delivery. If I’m ordering in, I’d much rather stick to these.

The writer is a sommelier

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