What are the rich craving to eat right now? Michelin Starred and maverick chefs — exponents of the cuisines of France, Japan, India, and Italy — are catering to the emotions, conviviality, and nostalgia of food, as they decode the essence of their cooking philosophy.
Saucy Moves — Chef Arnaud Donckele
One of the youngest chefs in the world to win three Michelin stars — he won it at 35 for his restaurant Vague d’Or, which sits in the Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez, and recently for the Cheval Blanc Paris — chef Arnaud Donckele is a master saucier who offers a sincere, imaginative “cuisine of emotions” where moments spent at the table are the most beautiful art de vivre.
For him, his cooking at Plenitude, which opened in Paris last year, is a declaration of love for sauces and blends. “They are the connecting thread of the meal,” he says. “It lives both with the dish and on its own – it can never be an exact recipe. You have to taste it, with the tip of your tongue, fingertips; balance it, adjust it.”
His sauces find centre stage in his menu at Cheval Blanc. For example, in his Symphony menu (€405), a “composition in six acts”, there’s a Velvet “EDEN” consisting of Grilled sardine, escabeche stock, Lambrusco vinegar, bonito vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil infused with Mexican tarragon, egg yolk, Callas mustard, fennel, Allspice. You also have a Foamy Velvet “Chopin Carmin’’ with Scarlet shrimp consommé, Thaï basil and lemon infusion, Lambrusco and Chardonnay vinegar, scarlet shrimp oil, coral liaison, yuzu olive oil,tomato water, preserved lemon syrup, and Java pepper. “Sauces sublimate, awaken, and perfume the starters, fishes, meats, and desserts,” says chef Arnaud.
The diner also gets the option to compose their own menu if they choose Sail Away Together (€330) — from a prelude (there’s a vegetarian option, as well as meats like rabbit), to salt and fresh water fish like turbot and langoustine accompanied by their sauces, to pigeon and lamb. For dessert, there are Sweet Fragrances such as the “Back to Childhood” memory of Rhubarb, with a sauce of Water of rhubarb, Madagascar vanilla, and Beaumes-de-Venise.
Big in Japan — Chef David Myers
A typical opening night – noisy, filled with glass-toting guests, with a DJ playing trance tracks from a console tucked away on the side of the open kitchen, sets the perfect mood. It’s the launch of Adrift Kaya, the new restaurant at JW Marriott Aerocity New Delhi, headed by L.A.-based One Michelin-Star chef David Myers. With his cuisine informed by his travels across the globe and a personal style earning him the moniker of ‘Gypsy Chef’, chef David made Japan the focus of his cooking ever since he opened his eponymous café in Tokyo 10 years ago. And that’s where the now hugely trendy concept of Izakaya was born — where you are served snacks and dishes to accompany drinks – a concept that brought chef David to Delhi.
“Adrift Kaya brings my love for Japanese cuisine, with the Adrift edge (he’s got two Adrifts in Singapore and Tokyo),” says chef David. “I’m not replicating a truly authentic Izakaya — but I want to recreate that place you want to go with friends and family, enjoy multiple dishes. The dishes inspired by Japan are playful, edgy, and have a California heartbeat to it.”
Despite the looming Covid situation, people are out and about, “eating more than they have eaten in their life,” he says. “They are out with friends, partying. People are dying to get back to travel, so you have that style of multiple plates, experiencing different tastes and flavours.” And Adrift Kaya fits the bill. “People love Japanese — it’s light, and has that beautiful acid and umami flavour to it,” he says.
He is always looking for seasonal-driven ingredients, but is also getting a lot of seafood from Japan, including salmon, tuna, octopus, and some shrimp or crab you only get for one month in the summer, like shiro ebi. So the menu has items like Spicy Salmon Belly Tartare and Tempura Spiny Lobster with Taikon Dipping Broth, and Sake Lees Duck Breast with Pickled Cherries and Shiso. Some of the most expensive ingredients he uses are toro — the belly of the tuna, caviar from Iran, and truffles from France.
“Half of our menu in Delhi is vegetarian, so we find exceptional seasonal vegetables, and come up with unique ways to do them,” he says. So you have Truffled Mushroom and Tofu Gyoza, and a delicious Crispy Eggplant, with a Vinegar Tofu. “It’s got that vinegar note, and spice, with different textures, a fried eggplant with a soft tofu — the juxtaposition of flavour makes it a fun dish,” he adds.
Modern Indian — Chef Tarun Sibal
He’s just created a lovely pop-up at Rooh, one of the Capital’s finest restaurants, bringing the flavours of his own Goan restaurant Titlie, to Delhi. Chef Tarun Sibal was trained as a chef by Indian food legends such as chef Manish Mehrotra and Rohit Khattar, went on to get an MBA, handled three international food awards, was the country manager of an alcohol company, and finally opened his own café in 2015, and Titlie in 2019. He calls his concept a culinary bar that literally goes from being a lazy caterpillar during the day to an eclectic butterfly (or titlie) at night. “I do food that’s collaborative, a mish-mash of ingredients that jam on the plate,” says chef Tarun. “We serve multi-cuisine, so if you have a pasta at Titlie, you feel like you’re sitting in an Italian restaurant,” he adds, “But then you have my take on butter chicken (it’s got a lovely peanut flavour) — it’s very modern.”
He wants to showcase “brand-new dishes.” So there’s Dahi Khakra Choori Chaat — with all its textures, and mix of sweetness (from goli and toffee) to sour (from chooran). The Pumpkin Ghee Podi features blue cheese, nuts, and a tiny parotta, while the mushroom textures remind you of a paav bhaji, with black garlic butter, red fruit chutney, and milk bun. The Summer Fruit Sorbet made of jamun, brings back childhood memories. “I’m big on native produce — with jamun, sweet potato, watermelon — you can find everything in Delhi, and I also have avocado and passion fruit, my Goan influences.” His food philosophy is “Gourmet Casual” — with bold and vibrant flavours.
The Heart of Italian — Chef Adriano Baldassarre
It’s an Italian summer at Perbacco, the fine-dining restaurant at The Lodhi, New Delhi, and One Michelin Star Chef Adriano Baldassarre is creating magic with a special menu which celebrates la dolce vita (a life of self-indulgence), and all that is authentically Italian.
From a Riboletta Tuscana (a hearty, chunky soup from Tuscany), “we go back to nature and the flavour of the land, with vegetables, pecorino cheese, good oil and a glass of red wine,” says chef Adriano, who’s worked with establishments such as Locatelli in London, and German Three Michelin Star legend Chef Heinz Beck, before founding his restaurant Tordomatto in Rome, for which he won a Michelin Star in 2007.
Chef Adriano has studied Roman cuisine and wants to connect the dots between the present and the past. “I studied the connection between the Roman empire and spices during the days of the Spice Route. Two thousand years ago, black pepper and spices were moved around for money,” he says.
His concoctions are aromatic, delicate, and innovative. If you taste his Beetroot Tartare, he makes a special rhubarb sauce cooked with vinegar, bay leaf, black peppercorn, shallots, reduced sugar and tomatoes– “In the market, we know it as ketchup”, and adds black onions, carrot gel, beetroot gel, and beetroot sorbet.
His reconstituted olives, that look deceptively like the real thing, are perhaps the most interesting. It involves extracting the essential oil of olives, and adding a special mixture (toasted bread with garlic, chili flakes, fennel seed, and oregano), and fashioning a spherical olive with it.
His Eggplant Parmigiana, is also deceptively simple, but high on taste. Chef Adriano fries the eggplant, seasons it, and layers it with tomato, basil, mozzarella, parmesan four times before baking in the oven. He’s always on the lookout for new ingredients and techniques. With his Roman cuisine, he’s trying to make a bridge with India, just like the days of the Spice Route.