Friday, 22 November 2013

DINING OUT: Aerocity's First Hotel Woos Delhi with a Winner Buffet Spread

This review first appeared in Mail Today on November 22, 2013. To view the original, go to http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=22112013 and open Page 23. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers

DINING OUT
K3 @ JW MARRIOTT
WHERE: Asset Area 4, Hospitality District, Delhi Aerocity (on your way to IGIA's T3)
WHEN: Lunch and Dinner
DIAL: +91 11 4521 2121
MEAL PER PERSON (MINUS ALCOHOL): Rs 1,200+++ (lunch); Rs 1,750+++ (dinner)
RATING: ****

By Sourish Bhattacharyya
DELHI is in the throes of a spate of restaurant openings -- Yuautcha at Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj; Dhaba by Claridges at DLF Place, Saket; Soda Bottle Openerwala at Cyber Hub, Gurgaon; Paranda at Vivanta by Taj, Faridabad; Shanghai Club at WelcomHotel Dwarka -- but I chose to start my journey of new discoveries with K3, the all-day restaurant at the New Delhi Aerocity's JW Marriott, the first hotel to be off the block at what has been a ghost of a destination for the past one year.
K3's Daniele Trivero, one of the three anchor
chefs stationed at the sprawling open kitchens,
 rolls out pizzas that will give La Piazza a good 
run for its wads of money

What drew me to K3 was the chatter it had caused on Facebook for serving the city's lowest-priced buffet (Rs 1,250+++ per person for lunch; Rs 1,750+++ for dinner). People know it's an introductory offer -- how else does a newbie get us to talk about it in a competitive market? -- but what has blown them away is the sheer quality and range of the food dished up by the sprawling restaurant's three show kitchens.
Each kitchen is led by a chef who brings bundles of talent and newness to the food he serves. The Chinese kitchen is headed by the reassuring Thomas Wee, a Malaysian of Chinese origin from Malacca, whom many of us know from his days at the Empress of China, in the hotel that was once known as the Parkroyal. Daniele Trivero brings the best culinary gifts of his mixed parentage (his father is Piemontese; his mother is from Puglia) to the Italian kitchen. And Pavan Chennam, who in his last job at the ITC Grand Maratha spent five years documenting the recipes of the legendary Imtiaz Qureishi, brings his energy, repertoire and a young team to the Indian kitchen. You can only expect the best from this formidable trio.
I knew I was on to a good deal when I dug into the dim sum (the one with crab meat impressed me with its freshness and flavours). I followed it up with a platter of roast duck, pork with crispy skin and honey-glazed pork -- a meatvaganza that should warm any carnivore's heart with the subtle sensations it leaves behind on the palate. It's a pleasure to have meats served to you with just a hint of cooking and brushstrokes of accompanying sauces that don't smother the main ingredient. An example of this minimalist yet flavour-intense cooking style was the lightly steamed sea bass that came to life with the accompanying garlic-ginger-chilli sauce, which was splayed on the middle of the fillet like a victory belt.
I first had the tomato focaccia bread from the Italian kitchen and I kid you not, I could have had just that for dinner. But you can't have a complete K3 experience without Daniele's unbeatable pizzas. I had one with just a pelati tomato base (without oregano to dress it up, the umami of the tomatoes made me go chomp-chomp-chomp). The toppings were speck, radicchio and scamorza, the famous cheese from Puglia, the home province of the chef's mother. I have not had many pizzas that taste better. I had another slice from the pizza with the mildly hot Neapolitan salami as topping. It's just what our chilli-foraging palate would want more of.
It's a pity that the Indian kitchen doesn't serve kebabs (the hotel could have put the five years that Chennam spent under Imtiaz Qureishi's wings to better use), but its tadkewali bhindi (cooked in cold-pressed kasundi sourced from Kolkata), Purani Dilli ki Murghi, Mutton Nehari and dum biryani made with sella (parboiled) rice, which I thought was a nifty diversion from the standard basmati.
The restaurant actually has four kitchens, because its dessert counter has a distinctive presence, and the masala chai ice-cream convinced me that you can't let a sated tummy make you miss the offerings lined up to tempt you. You'll not regret spending this Sunday with your family at K3.