Wednesday 11 December 2013

A Medley of Exciting Flavors with Chef Sujan Sarkar at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli

Food... can look beautiful, taste exquisite, smell wonderful, make people feel good, bring them together, inspire romantic feelings...” Rosamond Richardson
Everything about Olive Bar & Kitchen breathes romance - the soft yellow lighting, the soothing white interiors, candle lit tables, white flowers and sheer curtains giving the whole place an old world charm which promises to completely enchant you and sweep you off your feet. Complementing the ethereal setting is an expansive alfresco sitting in the pebbled courtyard under a huge banyan tree, making it a perfect setting for a long lazy brunch on a sunny winter afternoon.

What makes the experience more exquisite is the arrival of Chef Sujan Sarkar at Olive Bar & Kitchen, who is all set to dazzle your palates with an exciting new menu, where he looks forward to bringing alive his Mediterranean potpourri, wherein he plays with the classic infused with modern European flavors. 
His mantra is to keep the flavors simple and exciting, by using new combinations with fresh organic products and sourcing foods that is grown and harvested locally from nearby farms. 
Chef Sujan Sarkar, who is considered to be a molecular genius, brings with him a vast culinary experience to Olive. A 2011 National Chef of the Year finalist, Chef Sujan started his career with JW Mariott Mumbai and then moved on to Hilton Hotels, UK in 2004. He left hotels and started work under Peter tempelhoff (Relais & Chateaux Grand chef). From there, he joined the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows under Andre Garret and Chef Cris Galvin. 
By end of 2008, he took over as the head chef at Automat in Mayfair and the following year opened Almada Restaurant in Berkley street which used to be quite a favorite with the celebrities of London. He is also known to whip up his magic for the Royal family, Madonna, Sir Elton John, George Clooney, Jude Law, Leonardo DiCaprio, Guy Ritchie to name a few celebrities.
A few days back, an invite from Olive Bar & Kitchen to taste the new menu created by Chef Sujan Sarkar, gave me the wonderful opportunity to savor some of chef's delicious creations. Not only was the food incredible, but meeting the chef itself was a great experience. In spite of all his accolades, I found the Chef to be extremely unassuming and down to earth and he made us feel comfortable by personally walking us through the whole menu explaining in details about each and every dish. By the end of the meal, I was completely floored both by the warm hospitality of the chef and the amazing preparations that he put before us. 
We began our culinary adventure with Pumpkin Cappucino with Roasted Pumpkin seeds, Parmesan and drizzled with truffle oil. The soup was delicious - rich, creamy and seasoned perfectly, it left you with a wonderful warm feeling.
As we waited for the next dish to be served we were asked by the wait staff if we would like to try the restaurant's signature bread, Caramelized Onions and Garlic Brioche. According to him, this bread was supposed to be quite popular with the guests and after eating it I knew exactly the reason why. Straight out of the oven, it was served in a cute little pan alongside a sauce made from roasted tomatoes, olive oil, garlic freshly crushed in front of us in a mortar. 
Rich and buttery and freshly baked, it tasted amazing and no surprises was gone in a flash. In fact it was so addictive that I was inspired to bake Brioche at home. Mine did not taste as great as the one I had at Olive but was quite passable. For all those who want to try their hands too at making Brioche, you can check out my recipe here.
Next to be served was Wild Mushroom Tortellini, stuffed Morel, Mushroom Consomme and Winter black Truffle. The consomme was light and delicate with earthy flavors from the mushroom. I also loved the ravioli which was perfectly plump and moist  with a paper thin dough making you savor and enjoy the mushroom filling inside.
Next in line was Home cured salmon, crab, pickled cucumber and turnip, caviar and toasted brioche. The salmon had a beautiful buttery texture and was melt-in-the-mouth tender. The pickled cucumber turnip had a lovely sweet and tangy flavor and provided a perfect balance and texture to the dish. 
The dish came garnished with tender pea-shoots, which the chef explained he liked to use as being the winter season the pea shoots were in abundance and locally available with ease.
Next up was Wood oven roasted baby pumpkin, green beans, mascarpone lebneh, quinoa, popped amaranth, apricot and orange puree, pumpkin seed oil mimosa. The sweetness of the pumpkin combined beautifully with the mascorpone and the tangy apricot and orange puree. Though the Chef while serving the dish was apologetic that he was serving pumpkin again and in case we were not great pumpkin fans, we could just leave the dish. Little did he know how much we loved the dish. The only thing I wished for was a little more of the orange and apricot puree and that too because it was so good.
On tasting, I was surprised how tender the skin of the baby pumpkin was while the pumpkins we get locally here in the market have a remarkably thick skin. The chef explained that these pumpkins were imported all the way from Thailand and only small sized ones are used because of which the skin of the pumpkin was so tender. When they grow too big, their skin becomes hard and insides fibrous making them difficult to roast and eat . 
He also spoke about how the black quinoa used for garnish in the dish was imported from Spain as here only white and red quinoa are available. The quinoa helped impart a lovely nutty flavor and a crunchy texture to the softness of the pumpkins.
Fried Brie with marinated beetroot, mandarin, port reduction, pine nuts, mizuna was pure temptation. Mmmmm....just imagine warm melted brie oozing out of the deep fried crispy crust, how much better can life get!! This is something I could easily polish off by the dozens.
To cleanse the palate in between the courses was a Lemon and Green Apple Sorbet with Watermelon Caviar. It had a lovely burst of fresh flavors from the tart apples with a slight hint of tanginess from the lemons. 
For the main course we had Slow cooked pork belly, carrot puree, mustard glazed pear, sauteed green, crackling. The pork was succulent and tender with the crackling resting on the top in the shape of a beautiful spiral, looked nothing less than a piece of art. The sauteed green leaves, served alongside complemented the pork with its lovely pungent mustard taste. According to the chef these were again something that he found here in the local market.
Next to be served was Herb crusted rack of lamb, braised shank, potato pave, spinach and semi dried tomatoes. It is admirable to see how throughout his menu Chef Sujan Sarkar has experimented and ingeniously infused local flavors into his main dishes. 
Here too, the herb crusted rack of lamb was served with "Pahari" lamb to give you a feel of local flavors. Though both pieces of meat were tender and cooked to perfection, compared to the lamb from New Zealand, our local lamb was nowhere close in flavor and texture. 
Another amazing thing about the menu is that the sauces served with the dishes are made without any thickening agents and are pure reductions with aromatics to give you a real punch of flavor.
Pan Seared Gnocchi, broccoli, Blue cheese sauce was smooth and creamy with a lovely crust from the garlic crumbs on top of it. 
The next course was the Pave of Scottish Salmon, seafood stew with saffron and fennel. 
I believe this dish was supposed to be served before the lamb but as it had got mistakenly overcooked in the kitchen, the chef decided to discard it and cooked the fish all over again. That to me is the sign of a great chef and this care and interest taken are the little things that make a difference in the long run and makes you want to visit the place again and again.
As for the dish it was outstanding. The soup was nice and light and had a hint of lemon and saffron which was extremely fresh tasting. The highlight of the dish, apart from the array of fresh seafood,  was the Pave of Salmon ("Pave" is a French term often used in reference to a square or rectangular shaped serving of food) which had a lovely shiny crisped skin on the top. My husband, who is not much of a fish eater, found the dish really tasty which speaks volumes about the dish.
We ended the exquisite meal on a sweet note with a Mille feuille of strawberry, Strawberry sorbet and mascarpone cream. Served in a cute little jar, it had layers of mascarpone cream, almond crumbs, fresh strawberries and topped with crushed macaroons. It was sweet heaven. Even though I thought of taking just a bite of the dessert for taste, as by this time I was feeling really full, it was so delicious and light that it was gone within no time.
On the whole, the complete experience was perfect - the romantic ambiance, the delectable cuisine, the attentive staff and the gracious and warm hospitality of the chef. 
I loved the way Chef Sujan Sarkar has tweaked the menu to blend in the flavors that are simple and inventive yet bold and delicious.

Thanks Olive bar and Kitchen and Chef Sujan Sarkar for a memorable evening.

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