Friday, August 16, 2013

Varq, Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi ~ Blogger’s Table

It's such a pleasure to meet up with old friends. It was smiles, greetings and cheers all the way... not to mention all the Royal leg-pulling. Back in town and attending Chef at Large Delhi Bloggers Table at Varq, Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi.
Varq is  No. 30 on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants. It's Chef Hemant Oberoi's baby with Chef Manoj Goel behind the stove. Chef Oberoi reinvented Indian street foods to it's modern day contemporary expression. This expression is further enhanced by the ambiance and beautiful art work by Indian artist Anjolie Ela Menon.
Varq is any foil composed of a pure metal, typically silver, used for garnishing sweets in South Asian cuisine. It's about elegance, splendor, extravagance, affluence, all of which reflects in our experience at Varq, Taj Mahal, New Delhi. 

The elegant Chaat style amuse-bouche with flavours of  ginger, mango, chaat masala and lemon set the bar of expectations high.

Yes, this table has artillery in the form of cameras. We were served interesting coolers like Chai Martini's, Pineapple Basil and Orange Tamarind. The pairing that I was looking forward to was the Hibiscus tea.

The menu set by the Chefs had both vegetarian and non vegetarian options, and you would obviously know what I would choose..... gladly the non-vegetarian. The first course was Varqui Crab (Layers of crabmeat, tandoori shrimp on crisp filo sheets. The flavours came together well and the different textures were an added dimension. The vegetarians got Varqui  Khumb (Layers of spiced mushrooms, morel on crisp filo sheets) which people on the table found interesting.

Haleem Aur Kaabab (Hyderabadi delicacy served with lamb and chicken ganderi) The chicken kabab was wrapped on a Ganderi(sugarcane stick). It took me back to childhood when we sat with a pile of these in our backyard, chewing on them between games of Hide-n-Seek. The raw mango chutney in the shot glass was absolutely fantastic. The kebabs were soft like silk and tasted wonderful. The haleem was finger licking delicious. We had a small discussion with the chef about Hyderabad haleem and Awadhi haleem. I was a tad bit disspointed by the sheermal roti which was unappetizing. Instead of being soft and smooth, it was a bit chewy to me.
The vegetarians got Palak Patta Chaat (Layers of crispy spinach leaves with spinach chaat). Tasted some from Deepali's plate. It was crispy and nice. Everyone who had it was impressed.

The soup course had  Lobster Rassa (Cochin prawns, black pepper and fennel rusk, robust lobster broth). The plates arrived with the seafood(prawns, scallops, and crisp squid) and bread. The lobster broth was served on the table. Spices of the south, especially the black pepper made this dish a delight. The vegetarians were served Kale Channe Ki Cappuccino (cappuccino style flavored black chickpea broth) which all of us thought was innovative but somehow noone was raving about the taste.

The Gari Sorbet(ginger sorbet) palate cleanser offered a visual treat but wasn't a treat to my palate. The Sea Bass on Spiced Potato Dauphinoise (Pan seared chilean sea bass, layered potatoes, raw mango and coconut curry) had me going Mmmmmmmm with closed eyes.... The fish was done to perfection and the curry was fantastic. It will be this dish that I would go back for over and over again. The chicken option for this course was Kali Mirch Ka Murg (Corn fed chicken breast, relish, creamy black pepper curry) while the vegetarians enjoyed their Jaituni Malai Paneer (Stuffed paneer with green and black olive tapenade, roasted tomato sauce)

The table was excited about being served Martabaan Ka Meat(lamb cooked with pickled chilies). It's used for slow cooking. Slowcooking releases flavours like no other cooking method, it really works for me. However, this particular preparation wasn't able to make me feel the magic. It was served with sukhe aloo and palak-wadi. The side of Mozzarella and Tomato Kulcha was and interesting combination, done crisp just how i like my kulchas.
The Berry Pulao(Iranian) was very nice. The berries were authentic iranian berries and not indian substitutes which made the dish real. Was hoping to see a raita in this course. Would have been interesting to see a contemporary take on curd preperations. The vegetarians were served Martabaan Chole which got mixed reviews from the table.

The desserts.....
Innovation and hard work, both reflected in the Apple Kheer, Jalebi and Khaas Malpua. I'm not someone who enjoyes kheer but this one, it was lovely. All the elements came together very well, the chena at the base, the fruit, the level of sweet just right. Accompanied by the crisp and perfectly shaped jalebis and soft Malpua.
How can I stop at one.... Went wandering around to the famed dessert trolley at Varq. It had Gulab Jamun Creme Brulee and the Chocolate Dome.

As a special request off the regular menu, we were served with the Chocolate Dome. It's a Valrhona Chocolate dome, encasing a Chikki Kulfi, Flambé done on the table served with Bailey's Rabri. It was seriously great flavours and I'm going back for more. Am sure the look on my face would have been a very happy one as Nikunj also gave me a huge knowing grin. This one comes a full circle {all pun intended}

To be honest, I did find the menu a bit over priced {personal opinion}. However if you don't mind the price and want to have some contemporary Indian  food and be pampered, it's a place to visit. Sharing the signature tea was a thoughtful gesture.
Thank you Taj Mahal Hotel for hosting the table and Bhavna, Deepali and Nafisa for being such gracious hosts. Had lots of fun with you all, especially the Royal banter. Nikunj and the service team on our table were very attentive and prompt. Chef Hemant Oberoi's team led by Executive Chef Amit Chowdhury shared with us some of his kitchen secrets. It was a pleasure dining with you all.

This blogger table was also special as it's Ruchira's farewell {only in the physical form, online world is as wide open as it ever was} as she's moving to another country. We signed CAL plates for her, exchanged gifts and she even got us all hand written cards with a special note for all of us. That's how adorable and sweet she is. The rapid fire quiz was as innovative as her. 
The others at the table that night were  Sid of Chef at Large, Deeba of Passionate about Baking, Charis of Culinary Storm, Parul of The Shirazine, Sangeeta of  Healthfood Desi Videshi, Ruchira of The Great Cookaroo, Sushmita of My Unfinished Life, Rekha of My Tasty Curry, Mukta of Bake-a-Mania, Himanshu of The White Ramekins
Thank you so much for the warm welcome home.

1 comment:

Rekha Kakkar said...

So good to see you back in action :-) and more so because we get to see you on table more often... missed you lot while you were away !