This restaurant in Gurugram does a deft job of sitting solidly in space that is cognisant yet curious

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January 27, 2019 1:22 AM

In that sense, it is less diamond and more dad-bod shaped, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

Both are bad for the longevity of an F&B place. (Representational Image)

The trouble with most restaurants is that they consider food to be their primary business. And then, at the other end of the scale are the scallywags who run crass bars with drinks so cheap it feels blasphemous to order water. In either case, the food and beverage divide is far from ideal, tilting steeply in one direction or the other. Both are bad for the longevity of an F&B place.

But recently, I went on a long ride to try out a restaurant that is at the other end of the world as I know it—in Gurugram. Frankly, the Gurugram F&B market to me has become this diamond-shaped industry, where there are a few great places at the bottom (Ahatha-style eateries) and at the top (Artusi and some Japanese/Korean outlets) with a rather bulky mid-section of very pedestrian places (think of the entire Cyber Hub melée and every microbrewery that side of the border!). In that sense, it is less diamond and more dad-bod shaped, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

Recently, a new star was born. It’s called Comorin (and not because getting there took me as long as to Cape Comorin!) and it comes from the people who gave us Indian Accent. In that sense, it is the son of a star really, which works a bit in its favour, but also loads it with undue pressure from the word ‘go’ to deliver above average and to surpass the highest of expectations at the very least.

But comparisons are unfair, especially with Indian Accent, for while there is a common strain that unites the two, the products are vastly different. Comorin, and this is not just me saying it, has more in common with (an upscaled) Bombay Canteen than it does with Indian Accent. That said, their menu does a deft job of sitting solidly in that space which is cognisant yet curious, familiar yet new, uniquely curated and yet comprehensive. It spans the length and breadth of our nation, having scoured it for authentic recipes and then giving them a new invigorated interpretation here. For example, the haleem was genuine enough to merit the ‘Hyderabadi’ GOP tag and yet was playfully served up with some crisp white bread alongside. The Bheja Fry was in no way gentrified and worked well with the Khasta-roti. And a favourite among these small plates was the Mutton and Egg Bhurji with (a Pindi-chole) hummus. These small plates read on like an exhaustive little list, well-priced for most parts, and then give way to the large plates, which, to be honest, we barely had room for by the time we reached there. Nevertheless, they were tried as also was some dessert and they all managed to memorably deliver. There was dazzle, but not gimmick and that to me is the hallmark of a long-term place. Kudos to the chef and his team.

But all this was the half of it, for the drinks kept pace with the food. Varun Sharma, the resident beverage in-charge, has spent a lot of time honing his knowledge and skills before applying them here. A large part of his menu is prepared in-house right down to small-batch flavour-infused spirits and liqueurs which then go into his unique cocktails. While I am not entirely convinced that a sub-60 second sous-vide gin will capture all the intended flavours, it did seem to be a hit with other guests. To me, I was just happy to be regaled with some very intricate cocktails—classics and nouveau—all made to my exacting standards which, I assure you, are nigh-impossibly tough to meet.
So there you have it, a new space in town, well, NCR, which balances their ‘F’ and ‘B’. In fact, the fun tussle between kitchen and bar is what makes them strive even harder to deliver a more refined experience to their guests. And then all this is elevated with a lovely easy-on-the-eyes decor, one that pays tremendous attention to detail even if it will possibly never get noticed by the average diner (like the restaurant is built on three different levels, but when dining, every table is at the same height!) Kudos to Rishiv Khattar, the new scion of Old World Hospitality, and his team comprising maitre’d’hôte Nitin and chef de cuisine Dhiraj.

Finally, the one thing which I didn’t like about Comorin, its location. Sadly, the place is in Gurugram which apart from being too far from my abode, is also where the beverage availability is tighter than my minibar and where people saunter in later than their pre-appointed reservation time and linger on callously longer, ignorantly ordering bottles of Black Label instead of trying out these creatively crafted concoctions (oh, by the way, don’t miss the Nitro Mai Tais on tap!) That said, Delhi would only be a few shades better. Maybe they should relocate to Mumbai. If flights are on time, it’s actually easier and quicker to fly there than to make this unholy pilgrimage across the border.

The writer is a sommelier

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