Slow Food Movement catches up in India- Good, Clean, Fair food @ Olive, Qutub

I booked myself for a dinner showcasing the Slow Food Movement in India last week at Olive, Qutub. Having had many a memorable meals at Olive, Qutub, I go back again for the love of the place – The pebble strewn outdoor seating being my favourite. It makes me feel that I am in a different land, away from the blaring horns of a crazy city life and under a giant tree with sunshine making its way through the leaves, landing on my plate.

This time round, I took my seat in their GreenHouse to sample the best of local produce from India. It is only opportune to salute the sheer brilliance of Chef Sujan Sarkar and team who have taken modern gastronomy to another level in India. There are no gimmicks involved. Only. Real. Food. The 9-course Slow food dinner with a welcome drink was pegged at Rs 1900. The same menu is available with wine too.

Here are my top picks from the fairy-tale like dinner

Pumpkin and Goat Cheese,Fermented Gooseberry, Oreo
Crispy pumpkin strands, cape gooseberry fermented in lactic acid with a slight tang and a gorgeous faux oreo made with black olive shortbread to get the colour right, filled with creamy citrus scented goat cheese mousse to make a fab filling. Brilliant trailer, this! Sorry, not sharing a pic as the one I have is half eaten.

Best of ‘The Green Bean’ farm

This brilliantly plated salad was a riot of colours, textures and tastes. It consisted of confit parsnips, beetroot, black radish and baby carrots tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette, drizzled with nasturtium oil, complete with a nasturtium leaf and topped with a wheat grass crisp. If this doesn’t sound, HOT already, the Best of The Green Bean farm had a sprinkling of black garlic powder which was the very reason I signed up myself for this dinner. Having read up about the process of making black garlic that takes upto two months to show results, this plate simply couldn’t have been missed and was worth a million bucks. Best of ‘The Green Bean’ farm was unlike any salad that I’ve tasted and will remain etched in my mind.

Wood sorrel, Gondhoraj Lime sorbet
Gondhoraj lime is the Indian equivalent of Kaffir lime and is a favourite of the Bengali community. Its flavours were combined with wild wood sorrel to form an aromatic sorbet served in a gondhoraj lime shell. The natural notes hit the spot and the taste lingered in my mouth for a long, long time.

Kalari, Gucci and walnut Thecha, a slice of Kashmir
All regional Kashmiri flavours on a plate! This dish is a modern gastronomical tribute to the valley. You may have had the Kashmiri Tarimi a million times, but this dish belongs right up there. Sautéed Kashmiri Morels (the prized fungi from the valley) came in a white onion and mushroom gravy, topped with pan-seared Kalari Cheese from Kashmir and sprinkled with a walnut and coriander thecha crumb that gave the dish a crunch. The walnuts, again coming from the valley, are much sought after. Overall, the dish had an earthy flavour from the morels, woody rendering from the nuts and robustness of the Kalari cheese. The white onion gravy helped the flavours merge well. It was wilderness on a plate with unparalleled textures.

Ash gourd, Radish, 4S Buttermilk
Buttermilk (from 4S brand) was churned into an ice-cream and served along with a candied ash gourd strip which is actually our petha and a thin strip of caramelized radish. While buttermilk ice-cream was a first for me, who knew it’d taste so nice and go well with radish? The candied ash gourd rendered sweetness and blended with the rest of the flavours like no other. These were topped with a pretty red apple blossom flower (from Krishi Cress) that made the dish ooze oomph as if it has descended right from the ramp and walked to my plate. Whee!

Priya rice, burnt butter, chocolate, coconut

Honestly I would’ve ended my meal with the Ash gourd, Radish, 4S Buttermilk course, but when you are being fed so nicely, you are eager to know what’s next? There are paeans written about the Japanese trying to get their Soba noodle right, their Sushi perfect, we have the Pootharekulu from Andhra as the Indian candidate. The Pootharekulu is a rice paper sweet. But the dish at Olive had unsweetened rice paper made from Jaya rice, burnt butter solids(the stuff left over after your mom makes ghee), coconut foam and a slightly nutty sesame chocolate rock served with chocolate ganache and mandarin ice-cream.

If you sign up for this meal, you’d come back feeling you’ve cheated Olive of their money. That good! Aye!

About Slow Food movement

The Slow Food movement supports local produce and respects the environment. To know more click here

Made in Punjab

Any offering from the house of the legendary Jiggs Kalra cannot be ignored. So when Skeeter came to know about Made in Punjab she had plans to go there and sample the grub. After a much delayed visit Made in Punjab fare was finally sampled and how!
For starters they’ve done away with the tradition of serving 6-8 kebab pieces on a plate with a little garnish on the side or a bowl of chutney placed in the center. Spectacular presentation followed up by quality food is the USP of Made in Punjab. Spearheading the venture is Zorawar Kalra, son of Jiggs Kalra (who has donned the mentorship cap for the restaurant and the chain). Zorawar thinks big, aims to break and has broken the Mom and Pop shop concept that ruled the Indian dining scene for a long while and is making quick strides in the industry. He knows his game and is good at it.
The grub
Skeeter started sampling the chef’s Degustation menu with shots of World’s Heaviest Lassi (thank heavens they were just shot glasses). Bursting with flavour, the saffron infused lassi (Rs 220) had bites of heavenly peda in it. Skeety wouldn’t mind being on a repeat mode for this shot. Next came a refreshing bite of the Palak patta chat (Rs 145). A chat with some greens in it: Crispy fried spinach topped with chilled creamy yoghurt, tamarind chutney, pomegranate pearls and a hint of masala. The next arrival, Dahi puchka chat (Rs 145) is again a winner. A sensory delight. The two things that could accentuate this dish to another level would be a spicy chutney or masala and aata puchka as opposed to the suji (semolina) one they used. But understandably, the aata puchkas when filled with yoghurt would have a lesser life. They wilt away way too quickly. 
If Skeets had to point out the most pretty dish on the menu, the Beetroot Di Tikki (Rs 315) would take the honour. It came seated in a kishti (boat) with droplets of sauce denoting water on a black slab. Pretty neat! Skeety did not try the Bhatti da paneer (Rs 315) but anyone from the land of Punjab would have fond memories of food cooked in a bhatti or a tandoor. 

The Tandoori Guchchi (Rs 550) was done well. It came stuffed with cheese. Morels or Guchchi are very close to Skeeter’s heart. You can either make a dish or break a dish using these. There is NO grey area.This one was a big, fat, flavoursome morel and the paneer enhanced the texture of the dish. 
Then came a Kiwi chuski or kiwi iced lolly, a palate cleanser to prepare Skeets for the main course. Yummy and refreshing! 
For the main course there were crispy Mirch Paranthas and Dal Made in Punjab (Rs 315). Both, done to perfection, but what really stole the show was the Guchchi Pulao (Rs 595) and the Burhani Raita (Rs 150). Morels have to be treated well to be appreciated by diners. A great dish this, came in a jar, looked great, and tasted very well. Skeeter would’ve preferred the Morels in the Pulao without the cheese stuffing (a personal choice as Morels have such a robust and earthy flavour that they don’t really need help from other ingredients). The Burhani Raita was a stunner. Skeeter is a self-confessed garlic fan and makes Burhani raita at home quite often. There are two ways you can do it: raw or fried. Made in Punjab fried some garlic flakes and tossed them into creamy yoghurt. The Burhani raita married the flavours of the Guchchi Pulao pretty darn well.

Dessert was Crispy jalebis with rabri (Rs 225). Crispy jalebis planted in a glass filled with rabri were a delicious end to the meal. Just the right amount of sweetness (unlike the overtly sweet that we are used to) and crisp to perfection. P.S.: Skeeter was invited to review Made in Punjab. Thanks Zorawar, Sonali, Varun and MIP team for a memorable afternoon and great food.

Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli revisited


The gorgeous Dilli ki Sardi continues, albeit, a lot abated. What better way to make the most of it than eat out; at a restaurant with loose white pebbled floor, over lots of talking and good food! Skeety did just that at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli, where she sampled some of the offerings of the new chef, Sujan Sarkar. He has taken over what was Chef Saby’s stronghold and is wooing diners with his food artistry.
Sujan brings in a lot of zing to the food at Olive. If Skeeter has to sum up Chef Sujan Sarkar’s vegetarian food in a line it would be this: Basic vegetables cooked and served with varied elements carefully weaved together to make the dish a work of art.
A wild mushroom tortellini had Skeeter floored at the onset. It has a robust flavour (hail the morels)and the presentation was at par with the taste. Nothing could comfort soul and sight more. Oh and the brioche served with it made for an excellent pairing!

Next came the Deep fried Brie with marinated beetroot, mandarin, apricot pûrée and rocket leaves. The thing about cheese is that when you cook it, it needs to be served at the right temperature. You either hit the spot or miss it. The brie was perfect and the accompaniments made it better, especially the marinated beetroot. Skeets is a big beet fan anyway. 
Gnocchi served up right in the cast iron skillet on a wooden tray was a treat to the eyes. Just like your mom would bring it to the dining table at home! It tasted perfect and had Chef Sujan’s creative skills written all over it. The gnocchi came with broccoli and was tossed in a blue cheese sauce and sprinkled with garlic crumbs for a superb finish. Divine!

The wood oven roasted pumpkin stole the show at the table. It came with green beans, a dollop of creamy mascarpone labneh, a sprinkle of black quinoa seeds, popped amaranth, a dash pumpkin seeds, a slather of apricot purée, and pumpkin seed oil mimosa. The dish has eleven elements and is a killer if you are a pumpkin fan. If you are not it has the strength to turn you into one. Chef Sujan has pretty much an Indian mind {using many elements (read masalas) to make a star of a dish} but has tweaked it in an international style. While most Indian food is a resultant blend of many masalas, Sujan serves up the many ingredients in a dish in such a way that they taste superb. You can see them all and yet the clubbing of them make a single dish a star. So you know exactly what went into the making. Skeeter could go on… 

The garden vegetable primavera had handmade spinach fettuccine tossed with vegetables, pesto and pine nuts. The handmade fettuccine’s texture was a revelation as the flour had semolina mixed in it to give it a crunch. Also, it would retain its texture for a greater time period as compared to total APF. The pesto in which it was tossed tasted fresh and the dish was decadent. It was served with a truffle mash potato on the side. 
For dessert we had a Mille feuille of strawberry with strawberry sorbet, strawberry and mascarpone mousse. It was every girl’s dream dessert. Skeeter wanted to take it home, freeze it and frame it 😀 
The signature dark chocolate fondant was well plated but nothing to write home about. Also, do try their petit fours which come in a striking peacock blue box containing butter cookies, honeycomb, chocolate bombs with Callebaut goodness and a stack of macaroons. Go for it!
P.S. You are likely to experience a visible change in the staff. They know what they are serving and would come and politely introduce themselves to you. A good sign, I say.