Wednesday 6 November 2013

Taste of "Goodness" with African Flavors at Uzuri

There is one more reason for the adventure seeking palates in the capital to celebrate about. Delhi gets a whole new dining experience with its first flavor of African cuisine with the recently opened African-European fusion restaurant Uzuri
Meaning 'Goodness' in Swahili, Uzuri shares space in the upmarket 'M-Block market' in GK II with some of the big names in the food industry, like Diva, Rara Avis and Chugwa to name a few. All set to storm Delhi's culinary scene with exciting new flavours and spices, Uzuri promises to give you the taste and smell from the land of Africa. 
What makes the venture more exciting is that leading the kitchen are two young and highly motivated chefs, Guy Clark, who was MasterChef South Africa Finalist, and his co-chef Rishim Sachdeva, who has to his credit work experience in none other than Heston Blumenthal's Michelin starred restaurant, 'Fat Duck'  in London. I am sure this must surely have rung a bell in the minds of our 'Masterchef Australia' crazed audience in the city, who if nothing else, will surely see this as reason enough to make a visit to the restaurant to see the talented duo stir up some magic for them.
Unfortunately for me, the day I visited the restaurant, Guy Clark had left for the day. Instead I had the opportunity of chatting up with the soft spoken, talented young Chef Rishim Sachdeva who seemed really excited, though somewhat nervous too, about his new role. After a stint working abroad, he said he was happy to be back home after working in London for 16 years and how he couldn't wait to use that experience and techniques here in Uzuri. He also talked about how the menu at the restaurant was basically European cuisine with intermingling of African spices like Buchu tea which were imported from Africa itself.
The restaurant has a very comfortable and cozy feel to it. The area is spread over two floors, with the dining area on the first floor while the second floor has an indoor lounge and a bar as well as a comfortable seating place on the deck. Unfortunately their liquor license has not come through as yet but don't lose heart, we were told it is expected soon. In the meantime you can make do with some of their wonderful mocktails.
On reaching we headed straight to the deck. With the soft breeze blowing and  the dimly lit candles, you can just imagine how beautiful it was - a perfect place to spend a quiet evening with friends and family. 
The African theme is seen throughout the restaurant- the African masks hanging on the walls, murals of the African landscape, a huge statue of the Zulu warrior on the deck, walls with the leopard prints, the zebra printed sofas combined with the foot tapping African music playing in the background perfectly add to the cultural ambiance of the restaurant. 
We began our evening with a huge basket of freshly baked breads placed before us with a Butter Trio of Pesto, Garlic and Ginger served along with it, making it a terrific appetizer to begin your meal with. The only problem was that the breads slathered with the different flavored butters, were delicious and you literally had to stop from filling yourself up. 
Also placed before us, in quick succession were an array of appetizers - Capay Malay Fish Cakes, Saffron Mayo and nutty capers, 48 hours cooked Mustard Lamb Shoulder with Wild Spinach and hazelnut Salsa Verde and A Trio of Beetroot with Goat Cheese Mousse, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and warm bread. While I found that the fish cakes were mildly spiced and could have done with a little more flavor, I loved the other two dishes. The lamb was cooked nicely and had a delicious crunch lent by the garlicky spinach salsa verde. The trio of beetroot, where the 'trio' came from the beetroot being cooked three ways -salted, pickled and braised. Apart from looking striking it was simple and had an incredibly fresh taste.
Next was a platter of Artisan Breads with Topping: Sourdough with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Ragout, Multigrain with Cottage Cheese and Chilli Brioche with Smokey Coleslaw and Chilli Garlic Infusion. Looking extremely tempting, I picked up the Chilli Brioche with smokey coleslaw expecting to get a nice crunch from the bread but instead, the bread was soft and a big dampener to otherwise great tasting fillings.
Also served was a Herb Quinoa Salad, bush-style smoked vegetables and truffles-scented pesto and Baby leaf spinach & Tomato risotto with brai tofu. I really liked the herb quinoa salad which had a slightly crunchy texture and a lovely flavor from the roasted bell peppers. 
To get us ready for the next course, we were served small shots of Lemon Vodka Palate cleanser with a nice tangy kick.
Moving on to our main course we began with Pressed Pork Belly, Apple Cider Mash, Warm Fennel with Star Anise Jus. The pork belly was tender with a perfect crispy skin on the top. The sweetness of the caramelized apple served on the side, combined well with the rich, juicy fattiness of the pork belly.
The African Spiced Leg of Lamb, Braised Radish, Mint Puree, 48 hours caramalised onions with confit garlic and caper jus was a dish that again was executed quite well. The lamb was soft, almost falling off the bone. Although the braised radishes served along with it gave the dish a nice texture, the lamb in itself was so delicious that the sides were totally ignored.
The next dish was a Coffee and Paprika Crusted tenderloin with Truffle Compound butter, potatoes and vegetables. The flavors were rich and hearty and deliciously satisfying. The Tenderloin was cooked a beautiful medium rare pink with the meat inside  tender and juicy and had a lovely pan seared crust which was to die for. There was just a slight hint of paprika and coffee which helped to enhance the flavors in the tenderloin. 
We were later told by the chef that the tenderloin was cooked 'Sous Vide' which was the reason for the beautiful consistent texture of the meat. FYI, 'Sous Vide' is a french term that means 'under vaccum' in a temperature controlled water bath.
The lovely flavors and textures in the dish really worked for me and I would happily go back for it again.
After the delicious tenderloin, the Grilled Veg Ratatouille, Caramalized Polenta and Lemon Spiced Roast Garlic made an appearance on our table. Compared to its perfectly cooked predecessor, sadly this dish was quite a let down for me. I found the vegetables in the dish overcooked, almost to a mush and lacking any real depth of flavor.
Next to be served was Sea Bass dusted in Buchu Tea, Malay Salmon farce, Aniseed Cous Cous and Herb Cauliflower Puree. The seabass was just as it should be, white and flaky on the inside while beautifully seared on the outside. Seasoned to perfection with lovely citrus notes, the light crunch of the cous cous and the velvety smooth creaminess of the cauliflower puree made the dish a winner.
Twice Baked Cheese Souffle, sundried cherry tomatoes & balsamic fondue was fabulous fluffy and looked and smelled delicious. Though I found the souffle to be perfect, I felt the sundried tomato sauce it was served with overpowering the delicateness of the souffle. Maybe a fresh green salad or a light creamy sauce would have gone well with it. 
For desserts, we had Vanilla panacotta with raspberry Coulis and fresh raspberries, Chocolate fondant and Semi frozen truffles with chocolate Soil, Pickled Grapes & Butter Caramel Ice Cream. 
All the desserts were good but the Semi Frozen Truffles with Chocolate Soil deserves a special mention. The dish was a dream with small melting balls of truffles served atop bittersweet dark chocolate soil. It was delicious and I simply could not have enough of it.
I believe Heston Blumenthal popularized the idea of edible soil in UK and his student here, Chef Rishim has taken his idea forward in this beautiful mind blowing creation. 
Our perfect meal could not have ended on a better note than this.
Needless to say we had a wonderful time at Uzuri. Excellent service combined with great food made this a perfect evening for us. We were satiated not just by the food but by the dining experience altogether.
It was refreshing to see the young chef's creative energy and the honest, innovative approach that went into preparing and executing each dish. The experience garnered from working with Heston Blumenthal showed reflected in the dishes served. 
I wish Uzuri and the young chefs all the 'goodness' and best wishes for their new venture.

This is one food experience I would recommend you to try out

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