By Sourish Bhattacharyya
IT IS difficult to be Jiggs Kalra's son because of the gastronomical legacy you carry on your shoulders, but Massive Restaurants Managing Director Zorawar Kalra wears his heritage with elan. As he gets ready to open his newest concept restaurant, Farzi Cafe at the Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, reinventing the coffee shop culture with the tools and techniques of molecular gastronomy, Zorawar is carrying forward his father's tradition of innovating with imagination.
|With Farzi Cafe, Zorawar Kalra is all|
set to firmly establish himself as the
young and credible new face of
Modern Indian cuisine
Jiggs Kalra turned the salmon tikka and galauti kebab into national favourites; Zorawar Kalra is pushing the envelope with boti kebab tacos, dal-chawal arancini, karela calamari and anda bhurjee with chilli con queso (or molten cheese dip spiked with chillies) -- all invented dishes that may seem to a traditionalist to be straight out Mad Hatter's tea party, but which, without doubt, will bring the young back to the cuisine they had forsaken because it had become too predictable to tickle their taste buds.
And as he goes about giving Modern Indian cuisine a new direction with his talented team of Varun Duggal, the strategist, and Himanshu Saini, the star chef who (with Saurabh Udinia) has made Masala Library the go-to restaurant of Mumbai, Zorawar is working to a five-year business plan loaded with ambitious targets. He had set out with an infusion of funds from Gaurav Goenka's Mirah Hospitality, which has also made big-ticket investments in Riyaz Amlani's Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality and the Rajdhani restaurants, but with this money exhausted by his first round of projects (including Made in Punjab), Zorawar is going back to the market to raise $8 million (Rs 48 crore at the present exchange rate) to finance his expansion plans.
Zorawar's plan is to take Made in Punjab to Tier-II cities, with 15 of them up and running in the next three or four years, open at least eight Farzi Cafe outlets in the same period, starting with the next one in Dubai, and go international with Masala Library with a network franchisees extending all the way to Dubai. "I am looking at Massive Restaurants notching up a turnover of Rs 225-250 crore at the end of five years," Zorawar said in an interview with the Indian Restaurant Spy.
Money does matter, but it's food that gets Zorawar most excited. He seems to be firm believer of the old restaurateur's adage, "Good food gets good money." Farzi Cafe, he says, has been an idea he has carried with him for eight years ("the first cafe in the world to showcase molecular gastronomy"), but it took shape only over the last six months, after extensive food trials.
Zorawar's vision was given a shape and form by the highly talented Himanshu, Manish Mehrotra's former protege who first came into the limelight when he won Chicago/New York restaurateur Rohini Dey's much-publicised 'chef hunt' last summer with his sarson da saag quesadilla served with butter milk foam. It was in that moment in the spotlight that Himanshu made a couple of telling comments that foretold his future. “There is a thin line between fusion and confusion," he said. "Once that is sorted, half the battle is won." He then went on to pay a tribute to his original guru: "You can’t think straight with food. Every dish must be prepared like a story. That’s what I learnt from Manish Mehrotra.”
Farzi means 'fake', but it could also be an illusion, which is what Zorawar wants to serve on the plate -- a dish that doesn't taste the way you'd expect it to from it looks. The cafe's bar menu has a dozen molecular gastronomy-inspired cocktails and its tapas selection is crowded with surprises, from spare ribs spiked with the world's hottest bhut jolokia chillies and a double- deck galauti burger to tandoori lamb served with maple-soy sauce and whisky sour cream and a Philly cheese raan hot dog.
For the mains, some of the options are Thai green curry khichdi, roomali roti ravioli with eggplant mozzarella bharta and poha Pad Thai with wok-tossed red snapper. A couple of the desserts seem straight out of science fiction -- phirni oxide, for instance, or Bailey's lollipop prepared on Zorawar's favourite new toy, the anti-griddle, which can reduce the temperature of any liquid to minus-30 degrees Celsius in a flash -- but there's also the Parle-G cheesecake or the Cassata Indiana served with Magic Pops. It's as if Zorawar and Himanshu just let their imagination go on a free ride on the wild side.
Diners in Mumbai have savoured the creative repertoire of Zorawar's team, but at Cyber Hub, sadly, he's invariably measured by the day's lunch buffet at Made in Punjab, which not only is a steadily popular restaurant, but also has an a la carte menu studded with gems. Farzi Cafe, I hope, will allow him to be judged for what he and his young, talented and turbo-charged team are really worth.