Sunday, 16 March 2014

Punjab Grill's Gurpreet Singh Gehdu Says Chak De and Reinvents the Indian Bar Menu

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

I BECAME an admirer of Gurpreet Singh Gehdu after I sampled his Winter Menu some months back at Punjab Grill, Select Citywalk, Saket, in the highly entertaining company of Rohit Aggarwal of Lite Bite Foods (LBF). That was before Aggarwal disappeared into Mumbai's cavernous new T2 terminal to set up one food outlet after another and then vamoozed off to Bhutan, via Darjeeling and Sikkim, with his motorbike buddies.
So, I got tempted when Sonali Priy Kapoor, LBF's marketing communications head, reminded me about the launch of the restaurant's Chakhna (Tasting) Menu this past Friday. I was initially in two minds about going for it because I wanted to sample the Gua Baos being served at the opening of i-kandy on the same night at Pullman Central Park Gurgaon, but Sonali's power of persuasion prevailed over my reluctance. I thank Sonali for it. I got one more opportunity to eat out of the hands of the incredibly talented Mr Gehdu and also spend a delightful evening in the company of Vivek Vaid (Tiger's Gyaan), Avininder Singh (Foodie Surdie), Maneesh Srivastava (former HR professional, photographer and blogger at Mystic Foodie Mantra) and Gurpreet Singh Tikku.
The incredibly talented Gurpreet Singh Gehdu at
work at the Punjab Grill kitchen. (Below) The
quartet of vodka-laced flavoured chuskis is a
part of the Saket restaurant's Chakhna menu.

My faith in Gehdu, who was with Old World Hospitality before he moved on to LBF, was reinforced by the ingenious way in which he raised the commonplace matthi into the realm of the sublime by serving a platter with a fondue, where he added Old Monk rum in place of the white wine and kirsch (cherry brandy), which are used traditionally in the Swiss favourite. The other accompaniment was a mildly hot imli (tamarind) chutney. The combination was brilliant because of the ease with which it transformed an everyday experience into a novelty.
The accompanying drinks had a similar magical effect on me. I couldn't decide, in fact, which one was better -- the Rasbhari Margarita (the au naturel cape gooseberry sorbet, I thought, was an idea that needed to be popularised at once), or the Gannewali Margarita (the sugarcane juice in this drink was tempered with mint, black salt, ginger and lemon juice).
Giving them heady competition were the vodka-laced chuski in different flavours, though I can't say I was as enthused by the Old Monk RimZim. The cocktail may have revived memories of RimZim, the popular 'masala cola' that Coke recently brought out of the cold storage after canning it following the acquisition of Ramesh Chauhan's Parle Agro portfolio in 1993, but it lacked character. I still prefer my Old Monk with either honey and warm water, or Coke and soda in equal measure.
My favourites of the evening were the Sunny Side Up Tuk Tuk in a Khameeri Roti (a kheema patty crowned by a fried egg, sunny side up, in a khameeri roti packet), melt-in-the-mouth Amritsari Machchhi served innovatively with crunchy old-fashioned potato chips, addictive Tandoori Kukkad Wings and imli chutney, and the unforgettable Tawa Chicken Keema with Fryums (the fry-and-eat tube-shaped snack items produced by the TTK Group). It was like a marriage procession of many textures and tastes brought together by the brilliance of an adventurous chef who pushes his creative boundaries without diluting the innate strengths of timeless recipes. Without doubt, Gehdu has raised the bar for Indian bar food and given birth to a new genre of Indian tapas.