Friday, 20 December 2013

DINING OUT: Indian Accent Shows One More Time Why It's Unshakably No. 1

WHERE: Indian Accent, The Manor, 77, Friends Colony (West)
WHEN: 12 noon to 3 p.m.; 7 to 11 p.m.
DIAL: +91-11-43235151; +91-9871117968
AVG MEAL FOR TWO (MINUS ALCOHOL): Rs 6,000+++
STAR RATING: *****

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WHEN A chef comes visiting from Nairobi, where does one take him out for a meal? I suggested the Cyber Hub, which I regard as a foodie continent that must be replicated in all cities where people have to wrestle with dining-out options, but Karan Suri, whom I have known since the days when he set up Le Cirque and Megu at The Leela Palace in Chanakyapuri, said his wife's dream was to have Manish Mehrotra's warm doda burfi treacle tart at the Indian Accent.
Manish Mehrotra (seated, with a young
colleague behind him) has reasons to be
proud of the dish he's holding -- duck
khurchan and flamed foie gras in a
masala cornetto. It combines a wow
taste with inventiveness. Seated on the
table is the most unusual yet perfect
marriage of seared prawns, churan ka
karela
, quinoa puffs and 
bitter

 melon crisp. Image: Courtesy of
Ramesh Sharma, Mail Today.

The wife's will had to prevail (and who were we to strike down a meal at one of the country's finest restaurants?), so we went to Indian Accent for a lazy lunch over a bottle of Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz 2010, my favourite red wine, and an at-times disheartening conversation on the state of hospitality education.
The conversation, enlivened by Manish, whom Karan had known from their days on the sets of the India-Pakistan cookery show, Foodistan, was provoked by my observation that the syllabus at hotel management institutes around the country doesn't reflect the vast changes that have taken place in the business of food. New concerns, new ingredients, new techniques and new talent are powering restaurant menus, and age or experience is no longer a barrier to entry, as I realised when I tasted the outstanding spread of Manish's acolyte, 26-year-old Saurabh Udinia, at the Masala Library in the Bandra Kurla Centre (BKC), Mumbai.
It is this newness of thinking that oozes out of every helping of Manish's winter menu executed by his 'other half' -- his old team-mate Shantanu Mehrotra (they're not related). We were privileged to preview it, for Manish was keen to know what we felt about it before unveiling it to Indian Accent's patrons next week.
To give you an idea of the newness of the menu, I must start with the dish that came at the end -- slow-cooked lamb shank in corn malai with pink peppers. It was Manish's reinterpretation of the Kashmiri/Iranian aab gosht, or mutton cooked with milk, saffron and spices, but the replacement of milk with corn malai and the touch of pink peppers gave the preparation a consistency and layers of texture that are missing in the original.
The same inventive jugglery and interplay of textures was evident in the chicken tikka meatballs served on a bed of chopped tomato makhni. You can in fact make the chicken tikka meatballs at home by roughly chopping semi-cooked chicken tikka pieces, rolling them with chicken mince,  and then frying the balls before cooking in a makhni gravy. You'll find these a welcome departure from uni-textured chicken mince balls.
The same degree of thinking out of the box has gone into the Kashmiri morel mussallam (it's indeed a treat to bite into a plum morel!) served with crushed roast walnuts and parmesan papad; duck khurchan and flamed foie gras in a masala cornetto; fish baked with Amritsari masala butter and served on a bed of sarson ka sag and makki ki roti (I'll go back again just for this dish); and pork belly cooked in a gravy of walnuts and prunes. Even the amuse bouche -- mini blue cheese naan with corn shorba shot -- was a mini gastronomic experience.
Indian Accent's guardian angels have retained the old favourites, especially the meetha achar Chilean spare ribs served with sun-dried mango and toasted kalonji seeds; the incredible anar and churan kulfi sorbet; and the unmissable kulchas (especially the one filled with chilli hoisin duck). You can have all of these, or a bit of some, but whatever you do, don't leave without my favourite dessert -- besan laddoo tart, mithai cheesecake and winter fruits. It's a fitting finale to a meal that'll leave you in a state of levitation that's said to be induced by substances of another kind!