Monday 29 July 2013

French Dining at La Riviera at Pullman

Cooking is not about convenience and its not about shortcuts- Thomas keller
When asked what he would like his guests to walk away with after dining at the French Laundry, culinary God Thomas Keller, who also happens to be the owner of this hotel in the Napa Valley responded, "a lasting memory" - and that's exactly what we at the bloggers table left with, after an exceptionally fine dining experience at La Riviera at Hotel Pullman in Gurgaon. Brilliant food, executed with the finest of detail, it was undeniably an amazing experience, that is bound to be remembered by each one of us for quite some time. 
La Riviera is the first specialty cuisine restaurant that serves French Italian coastal cuisine inspired by the region along the French Riviera. The warmth and the freshness of the cuisine is reflected  in the special menu that has been crafted by the Executive sous chef, Tanveer Kwatra, whose passion and creativity shines through the stunning platters that he presents. Looking at this disarmingly young looking chef, you are left to wonder at his culinary skills which literally puts you under a spell of gastronomic precision. Each and every dish served that evening was like the masterstroke of a skilled artist - beautiful and captivating, the chef focusing as much on the flavor as on the presentation. The chef walked us through every course - in fact we were told that there would be no menu presented for the day and that he would be churning out exclusive signature dishes as per his choice and we should just sit back and enjoy our meal quite adding to the surprise element.
During the course of the meal, we were also left in awe by the chef's perfection in executing modern techniques like the sous-vide (the slow cooking method of food in vaccum sealed bags) and the use of molecular gastronomy, his innovations leaving us almost spellbound. He also spoke to us about how on the menu the emphasis was on fresh seasonal produce and that even for flavorings and adding color to the food, they abstained from using artificial flavors but preferred to extract natural colors from fresh foods like the chlorophyll from the spinach for the green color, the black color from the squid ink and red from the tomatoes. You almost felt like applauding after hearing this.
Another highlight of La Riviera, is the impressive red Molteni show kitchen, which had most of us swooning over it, which is showcased right in the center of the restaurant behind a ceiling to floor glass, giving the opportunity to the guests to enjoy their meals while watching the chef cook for them. The decor in the restaurant is done in soft hues of red and silver complemented by the crisp white table setting with the premium dinnerware exuding warmth and elegance. We were absolutely ready to be wined and dined.
We were lucky to get a sneak peak into the kitchen and observe the chefs at work
We started our flavorful journey with a plate of freshly baked Ciabatta served with Olive oil butter. We were surprised when we were told by the chef that the olive oil butter was actually extra virgin olive oil emulsified with glice - a technique of molecular gastronomy. The spread was smooth and had a strong flavor of olives and knowing it was much healthier than butter all of us merrily gorged on it, lavishly spreading on the crispy ciabattas.
Our first course started with Smoked Tomato Bruschetta with Garlic Chips. With a strong smokey flavor and a hint of garlic these little bites were the perfect start to our meal. 
The 2nd course was Seared scallops and prawns with pistachio puree and noilly prat fumet - the beautiful presentation leaving us speechless. Perfectly seared scallops swimming in a deliciously creamy pistachio puree topped with an airy vermouth foam the dish was a class apart. While eating the dish it comes as a surprise to you that the cleaned up prawns shells are there only for decoration. Nevertheless, it was polished clean to the last bite by all of us. A big thumbs up for this spectacular dish.
For the vegetarians there was Pan fried Ricotta Gnocchi, with cauliflower puree and Saffron Vinaigrette. Though we did not taste this, it looked every bit as interesting.

For the 3rd  course, we had Salted grape and foiegras parfait with orange jelly and pickled chanterelles. Every intricate detail in the presentation of the dishes was precise and beautifully executed. Though personally I am not a big fan of foiegras, I felt the salted grapes went very well with the foiegras lending just a hint of sweetness to the whole dish. The plate was painted with a brush of black color which the chef later explained to us was squid ink, giving the plate a dramatic look. For the vegetarians there was Macerated asparagus and ruby grapefruit salad with smoked curd which looked bright and vibrant.
For the 4th course there was Porcini mushroom risotto, pannagrattato followed by Goats cheese tortellini with eggplant caviar. The rich creamy textured mushroom risotto with a hint of crunch from the breadcrumbs had me all wrapped up in its beautiful flavors. The Goats Cheese Tortellini with eggplant caviar was exquisite. The tortellini was soft and chewy with the goat cheese filling beautifully combining with the eggplant caviar. Every bite of the delightfully conceived dish was enjoyed to the last bite.
I highly appreciate the fact that inspite of such an extensive menu, the chef did not hurry us through the various courses but gave us ample time to enjoy and savour each course. To give us a little breather in between the courses we were served a palate cleanser - Orange Sorbet. Made from orange zest which was caramalized and then ground into a powder topped with crunchy granulated sugar sprinkled on top was refreshing with the sweet and tangy flavors just exploding in your mouth. 
The 6th course started with Twice cooked best end of lamb with textures of root vegetable. The lamb was wonderfully tender and just melted in your mouth. 
We also had Roasted beef rib eye and braised cheek pithvier with onion soubis which was cooked by the sous-vide method. The beef rib eye steak was a perfect medium rare and was served with a braised ox cheek encased in a crispy puff pastry. 
  The show stopper was the dessert Manjari chocolate cremeaux, Raspberry and Champagne jelly and ivory chocolate milk. All of us watched, completely awestruck as the drama unfolded before us. We were served huge glasses of raspberry jelly topped with a layer of dark chocolate and a thin chocolate cover. It was a wonderful sight to see the chef pour hot ivory chocolate milk in each individual glass, melting the top chocolate cover and making the dessert all smokey, giving it almost an ethereal effect. It was pure magic created in those few moments - a fitting grand finale to a great meal. I don't feel the need to mention how good it was - I will leave it to your imagination. 
Everything was perfect from the beginning to the end. It was four hours of pure happiness. We left completely and utterly satisfied and truly inspired by the innovative style and creativeness of  Chef Tanveer Kwatra. This is one experience which is going to linger in our 'edible' memories for a long long time.
                Thank you Chef Tanveer and Hotel Pullman for this awesome experience. 
Along with me on my journey to La Riviera were Himansu, Parul and Sushmita.

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