A Londoner for the past 20 years, Alfred Prasad has little tolerance for the Indian summer and the scorching heat. And while he does not have a compulsion to suffer the summer here, he does have some solace for those who are resigned to the Delhi heat. As a result, diners in the national capital can thank his obvious tilt toward all things cool as they sample the summer menu at Omya, the Indian fine dining restaurant at The Oberoi.
Fresh fruit and cool yogurt could seem obvious ingredients. But Prasad has not steered a restaurant in London to a Michelin star for 13 consecutive years for nothing. Pomegranate panna becomes a chilled soup served with chia seeds and mini melon balls. While it is a delightful way to start a meal, the note of perfection is the balance of salt and spices, which makes the simple dish worth remembering. The humble summer vegetable parwal finds company in pineapple as they sit in a subtle coconut sauce. Light and very cool. But the dish that says summer the loudest is a yogurt sauce, which chef Prasad claims is just saffron-infused home curd simmered slowly till it achieves a creamy consistency. Small chickpeas and crunchy stuffed vegetables add the texture to make it complete.
Restraint is the most powerful of ingredients when it comes to cooking, especially in a restaurant, more so where patrons pay a tidy amount for a meal. And it can be really difficult to exercise while cooking Indian food, known for being spice-heavy. But it is exactly this and the onus on flavour that you marvel at while sampling dishes that the mentor chef at Omya presents.
What is also interesting is that despite being in London for the past two decades, chef Prasad knows the Indian diner well. Of course, he put in several years working in kitchens of leading hotels in the country before he moved to London, and has been mentor chef at Omya since The Oberoi reopened after renovations a year back. His homecoming has obviously been seamless, as we see local and seasonal produce, a stress on vegetarian food and refined but robust flavours that feature prominently in the food at Omya.