The long and the short of it is that the Indian Accent experience is the gift that keeps on giving, from start to end. Happening until 3 June 2023 at Mandala Club
Editor’s note: For more Date Night stories, click here.
The pop-up restaurant is a format very much like the first date. It’s a dance of deft (depending on the players) moves and endearing impressions. The first blush endures in varying degrees throughout. Sips of water and drink are had. The teeming stimuli of the moment are both consciously and subconsciously processed. But, in this case, the dynamic favours the patron, who only has to discern if the best side shown by the visiting establishment is indeed its best side. Still, both sides have to show up, take their places and get it on.
The Indian Accent encounter was made possible by the head-turning, buzz-radiating culinary residency programme Mandala Masters, which had previously hosted some of the food world’s more au courant newsmakers in Gaggan Anand, Metres Above Sea Level and Narisawa at the modular space in its Mandala Club bastion, and single-family office Amaya Ventures.
Like its predecessors there, the New Delhi restaurant boasts a reputation that precedes it. Since it opened in 2009, its own and Chefs Manish Mehrotra and Shantanu Mehrotra’s names have come to be uttered in reverential tones by the savvy. For their globalised approach to celebrating the intricacies of Indian culture and the attendant flavours inherited by the food, they are known as the most progressive artists working within the lexicon of Indian cuisine. This year, their efforts saw the restaurant ascend three stops to rest admirably at the 19th ranking on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
At this point it does one well to consider that Asia is vast, teeming and revelatory terrain, and that they are harnessing the lore of the civilisation that laid the foundation stone on which several newer nations are built.
Now, unfurl your napkin and indulge.
For this pop-up iteration, Indian Accent’s payload unfolded in three options: four-,seven- or nine-course menus starting at S$188 for lunch and S$238 for dinner, with the option to savour the items from the beverage programme devised by Varun Sharma, Head of Bars at EHV International, the restaurant group to which Indian Accent belongs. In the food as in the drink menu, the going is the same: The bounty of India ripe for a dialogue with the world; ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’ mutually enriched in a warm embrace.
The long and the short of it is that the Indian Accent experience is the gift that keeps on giving, from start to end. It’s obvious, even at the most causal level of consideration, that every facet of it, from concept to realisation, service to serving, is charged with thought and care. Thought and care that is brought to life by the practice of art. No morsel (or tipple) strains to live out the demands of a forced ‘concept’. The chefs’ vision of India is humbling and breathtaking because it is.
In a menu of standouts, the best dishes serve as monuments to their vision and Indian Accent’s pride of purpose. It’s felt in plates big and small, like the curtain-opening Churan Ka Karela, Puffed Rice Cracker, wherein the savouriness of a spice mix is amplified by a spike lent by bitter gourd, as the earthy sweetness of the rice cracker rounds out the flavour profile of it all in crunchy splendour.
Also at the early stages, a true marvel: Puchka, Five Waters. In which the popular street food pani puri—which, as the chefs tell it, inspired the creation of the discipline of molecular gastronomy—is recast as a tantalising spectrum punctuated by minty, sour, moreish and fruity flavours. Though thoroughly spice-forward, each shot glass-sized delight is robustly complex and distinct and leaves a heady trail as they go down.
A word on the formidably named Hundred Layer Paneer, Tamatar Chaman, Kohlrabi. It’s not meant to add up numerically because its essence cannot be expressed by mere numbers. A vessel is made of paneer, layered as it is with soy so that its spicy secrets have more room to travel, more texture to percolate, to an extent that compellingly separates it from the garden-variety paneer takes commonly served up at a lot of Indian restaurants here.
Within Indian Accent’s rich kaleidoscopic world, meat is a canvas that the chefs are particularly masterful on. Even on the non-vegetarian side, pork is not a staple in Indian cuisine but with the Meetha Achaar Pork Spare Ribs, Green Mango Rice, they make a sumptuous case for why it should be. Lusciously tender, perfectly juicy pork with the fat dialled back arrives on the palette, on a chariot of tartness drawn by sweet-sour mango pickle; deja vu, jamais vu and presque vu all at once. It’s beyond obvious why it’s a long-running bestseller.
Even the familiar terrain of crab receives a spellbinding revision. Besides being visually exquisite, the Kanyakumari Crab, Sago Pongal, Caviar is a game-changing proposition to savour. Sweet, spicy and palpably fresh, the delicate cuts of crab flesh dissolve with a creaminess that the sago complements majestically. But just as things appear to feel familiar, the blast from the caviar takes the dish in a wholly new direction.
By the time the mains are finished, the chef’s methods have gelled. They are ambassadors for the anatomy of Indian cuisine, showcasing its nuances, and exhibiting just how undeniably it can luxuriate on the world stage.
Their sojourn here is an affirmation that Mandala Masters is led by masters, and a declaration that even a cuisine centuries old can benefit from the touch of intrepid masters.
Indian Accent’s Mandala Masters residency continues till 3 June 2023. Click here for more information.
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