Friday, 25 July 2014

DINING OUT: Biryani With Quinoa? Manish Mehrotra Gives Taste Twist to Health Food at Stylish Zehen

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WELLNESS DINING
WHAT: Zehen @ The Manor
WHERE: 77, Friends Colony (West), a little ahead of Friends Club
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
DIAL: +91-11-43235151 / 43235100
HOW MUCH: You have to be a Zehen member or a resident guest to be able to dine at the wellness centre. Members get 50 per cent discount on listed prices.

At Zehen, the state-of-the-art gym, with a
distinctive New York-style industrial look, is
complemented by a menu offering created
especially by Manish Mehrotra following
the nutritional principles of ayurveda
Zehen's Food for Thought vegetarian thali,
which changes daily, combines taste with
a concern for nutritional well-being
I FIRST wrote about Manish Mehrotra's khao suey when he was an unheralded chef at the India Habitat Centre's Oriental Octopus restaurant in 2002. He had magic in his hands, I wrote, which packed taste even into an everyday dish. Those were the days when the ladies who lunch (and the former prime minister wife, Gursharan Kaur) had fallen in love with khao suey. Every kitty party hostess had to pip her predecessor by serving a better khao suey and every nubile girl had to master the art of making khao suey before taking her pheras. Lo and behold, as khao suey kitty parties became the rage, the chef we now celebrate as the Master of Inventive Indian Cuisine, suddenly found himself in demand for his ability to dish up a humble Burmese meal-in- a-bowl like no one else.
Fortunately for us, Manish re-invented himself to marry the ingredients and influences he had been exposed to and create his own kitchen genre at Indian Accent, where wild mushroom naan drizzled with truffle oil competes for your attention with duck khurchan cornetto topped up with a sliver of foie gras, or Chilean spare ribs sexed up with sweet mango pickle, or poached lobster served on a bitter gourd (karela) accompaniment that presents the much-maligned vegetable in a completely new light. But I had never imagined that he could re-define thair sadam (curd rice) by adding pieces of masala chicken, giving texture and tonality to the mush.
Manish has invested a lot of time, and has spent some days at The Farm in the Philippines to understand that wellness hotspot's 'raw' menu, to develop a different kind of 'healthy' menu for Zehen, the wellness centre that has just opened on the precincts of The Manor, where Indian Accent has been having a dream run since 2008. A new food movement, in fact, has taken birth at Zehen. Unsurprisingly, the nutritionist balks when asked about the calorie count of the vegetarian thali, which changes daily.
"That's so yesterday," she says, repeating that the diet fads Delhi swears by have all gone out of the window in the countries where they originated. "It is more important to live life by ayurvedic principles and get balanced nutrition than to go on impossible diets to lose calories." The buzz phrase at Zehen is "sustainable lifestyle". If you eat unpolished rice, you'll feel full long after your meal, and you'll eat less. Jaggery will take care of your sweet cravings without exposing you to the ill-effects of refined sugar. Don't starve yourself. Instead, eat right. They call it 'Food for Thought' at Zehen.
"Once you eat for health, you don't need fad diets," says Manish, handing me a bowl full of makhana poppers, full of nutrition and low on calories. My lunch in the Zehen dining room, where there's only one communal table, started with a sweet potato salad and cucumber rings with a brown rice and cashew filling (light and refreshing), moving on to the curd rice, followed by tasting portions of lamb and quinoa biryani (cooked in lamb stock), pumpkin and brown rice risotto, chicken balls served in a delectable Kerala-style stew, patrani machchi, gluten-free uttapam 'pizza' and zucchini spaghetti.
I thought I was full, so I resolved not to have very little of the jaggery-only shrikhand and brown rice kheer. Yet, before I knew it, I was licking the sides of the bowls in which they came. Each preparation oozes what we like to describe as swaad -- the Japanese call it umami. It's the sense of taste and the feeling of fulfilment. And each dish -- such is the simplicity of the recipes (and Manish has a repertoire of 300!) -- can easily be replicated at home. Because, when you're at Zehen, you are encouraged to eat healthy when you're at home -- because wellness doesn't stop at the wellness centre.

This review first appeared in Mail Today on July 25, 2014. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers.