Epicuriosity: Quirky gastronomy

By: | Published: May 3, 2015 12:01 AM

Gurgaon’s Farzi Café, which calls itself a bistro-Indian dining experience, has made a small, but distinctive dent in the city’s dining landscape.

Cyber Hub in the satellite city of Gurgaon is a diner’s delight. It’s always abuzz with people and one is spoilt for choice. With options ranging from the casual to the somewhat fine dining, this may have been a utopian idea on paper. Sure, people in the NCR like to eat out, but a veritable mall of food? However, it’s worked—even though I haven’t looked at any balance sheets. I am just going by the fact that on my many visits there—at different times of the day—it’s never been dull. What may have seemed as an excess of options is more like a serving for any mood. And that remains the biggest plus. So much so that snobby, location-sensitive Delhi-wallas, who shiver at the thought of the commute to Gurgaon, now hop on metros and cars, and make their way over. Nestled in this busy food thoroughfare is the much spoken about Farzi Café, an ambitious little outlet, which calls itself bistro-Indian dining. Conceptualised and run by Zorawar Kalra, this restaurant has made a small, but distinctive dent in the city’s dining landscape. That it is a bistro takes a little getting used to because so much has been said and written about Farzi Café that you might walk in expecting a fine-dining experience. But it doesn’t offer that, at least not in the way ‘fine dining’ is traditionally defined. Farzi Café is indeed a bistro experience, but Indian-style, and therein lies its charm. The menu is moderately-priced, the seating comfortable (old-style banquette), and the wait usually about 20 minutes, a must for any establishment that claims to be a respectable bistro. But Farzi Café is a little more than that. It’s actually much more, so much so that you even forgive the faux astroturf-like wall covering that tempts you to touch it just to check if it’s real grass! But when the food works, interior design details may be forgiven.

The bar seating is conveniently uncomfortable, making you spin around in your swivel bar stool often enough to get dizzy whilst checking if your table is ready. But it works for the solo diner who is looking for a quick bite. I went at lunchtime and there was a heady mix of corporate and casual diners, office groups, as well as ladies who lunch. This is not a place where you will find a particular ‘type’ of guest. With an open seating plan, privacy is an issue. However, Farzi does try and do one better than a bistro. While other restaurant chains scale down their operations when going the bistro way (think Olive), Farzi, on the other hand, takes it a couple of notches up, peppering your dining experience with distinctly gourmet touches. So an amuse-bouche ‘mishti doi’—served on a chilled platter with fumes snaking around it—is dramatic enough (reverse spherification) to make it seem far more mysterious than it really is. Boasting of some clever, but simple molecular gastronomy, it delights, but doesn’t overwhelm. If you’re looking for the culinary finesse of chef Mehrotra’s Indian Accent, Farzi will let you down. Where it falls short is in its presentation. But then, that is permissible. You’re paying less than half the price and Farzi’s culinary ‘innovation’ is more of a quirk than a promise. Also, the food in itself doesn’t disappoint. Every dish that we tried during our three-course meal was special. To mention one over the other would be remiss, but given the fact that there were two of us, it was a range and a good sampling of the diverse menu. At Farzi, one can order without recommendation and that’s saying a lot! However, the dessert—mini blocks of kulfi—which tasted great, was once again a bit of a mess of a presentation. The ‘patasha crumble’ (no better way to describe it), too, is simply sacrilegious (no pun intended). It doesn’t quite work, nor does it lend the dish any special balance. But yet again, where Farzi gets it right is with the taste of the kulfi, so you forgive the accompaniments. These narrow misses make up the Farzi experience. The food satisfies, the service is prompt and the bill light on the pocket. Let me then say it’s a great primer to a more adventurous dining experience. Finish with a paan wrapped in cotton candy—it’s incongruous, but devilishly delightful.

Advaita Kala is a writer, most recently of the film Kahaani. She is also a former hotelier having worked in restaurants in India and abroad.

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