Sunday 17 August 2014

Illusionary Food Art at Farzi Cafe, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon

“Eating is a complete sensory experience. It’s the only thing we do that engages all of our senses. What I try to do is play with this idea to extend and deepen one’s interaction with food. I want to create meals that are a delicious spectacles, where every bite is a delight to the senses". - Heston Blumenthal

If you are as hooked on to Masterchef Australia as everyone at my home is, I am sure you would be familiar with the term 'Molecular Gastronomy'.
Basically, Molecular Gastronomy blends Physics and Chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food. It has now commonly being used to describe a style of cuisine in which chefs explore culinary possibilities by borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry.
My first brush with this modern style of cooking was when in one of the episodes in Masterchef Australia, Heston Blumenthal (he is an British celebrity chef most famous for his food experiments using Molecular gastronomy) prepared ice cream within a matter of seconds using liquid nitrogen. As he poured the liquid nitrogen into the mixer, I watched with complete awe and fascination as clouds of smoke tumbled out of the mixer giving you the feeling of being in a magical fantasy land. But I had never thought I would get to see the same magic performed right here in a restaurant, before my eyes. 
An invite for lunch at Farzi cafe had me experiencing the same magic, holding me totally spellbound and awestruck at their incredible culinary creations. I swear what I felt was nothing short of an mystical experience. 
Farzi Cafe, the hottest new dining spot in Cyber Hub, Gurgaon is creating quite a buzz within just a month of its opening. A modern Indian bistro, it is wowing its diners by serving the finest of modern Indian food using elements of molecular gastronomy for showcasing some of the iconic dishes and that too at a very affordable price. A brainchild of culinary maestro Jiggs Kalra and his son Zorawar Kalra, Farzi cafe is the third restaurant to be launched by Massive Restaurants after the resounding success of their premium fine dining restaurant, Masala Library and the casual dine-in chain Made in Punjab.
You will be perplexed as to why someone would name their restaurant Farzi (atleast I was) because to the best of my knowledge Farzi meant 'fake' or something that is not genuine. When I asked Sonali Priy Kapoor, Marcom head of Massive Restaurants and also our charming hostess for the day, she told me that the word Farzi here means creating illusions with food - a dish that plays with your senses and looks and tastes entirely different than what you would expect it to. 
Another thing that I was curious about knowing was that would the use of chemicals and synthetic flavors used in creating a dish with Molecular gastronomy be harmful to us. After all, in my mind the various processes like spherification, gelification, powderising, deep freezing using chemicals like maltodextrin and liquid Nitrogen just did not sound right to a layman like me to be consumed by our body in any possible way.
All my fears were dispelled by Chef Himanshu Saini, the young Chef de Cuisine at Massive Restaurants, as he explained that the "chemicals" used are all of biological origin and are extremely safe for consumption. The elements used in Molecular Gastronomy are all natural and mostly extracted from plants. Also we were told that very small quantities of additives were used which were approved by EU Standards. 
Truly, my dining experience at Farzi Cafe was one of the best I have had so far for the gastronomic value. It seems a lot of thought has gone into everything - the casual bistro ambiance, the imaginative menu playfully done up and the exquisite food which not only looks stunning but tastes amazing too. Frankly not a great Indian food fan, at Farzi cafe, I literally felt as if I was given a whole new definition to Indian cuisine. The flavors here are decidedly Indian but the approach is refreshingly modern. A whole new vocabulary of tastes, textures and techniques - an exciting new twist to the boring old Indian flavors.
On sitting we were offered Farzi OK, a delicious blend of fresh orange juice, kaffir lime juice with vanilla essence. Served chilled in a trendy mason jar it was a perfect start to our meal especially after I had spent the last half an hour outside in the heat, waiting to find a parking space. I understand not getting parking in Cyberhub on weekends but on a weekday at 1:00 p.m in the afternoon? It  just shows how popular Cyber Hub is becoming with the foodie clan.
We start our meal on a dramatic note with Misti doi spheres topped with strawberry coulis and served on a platter steaming with smoky liquid nitrogen.  Made with 'Reverse spherification', the Misti doi spheres were small jelly like balls of curd which when popped into the mouth exploded, leaving behind a refreshingly sweet, tangy flavor of curd. What a wonderful surprise!! My magical journey had begun and I just couldn't wait to discover what other mystical things lay in store ahead.
Next up was a Mini Raj Kachori with Crispy Okra salad topped with a chutney foam. Unusual though the combination might be, the crispy okra beautifully complemented the sweet and spicy Raj kachori. The chutney foam served on top, though deceptive in looks, tasted just the way it was supposed to, like a sweet tamarind chutney spooned on top of your chaat, making your mouth salivate and leaving your taste buds craving for more.
The Chilly Pork Ribs in Kashmiri Rista Reduction were cooked to perfection. The meat was juicy and tender. The marinade was delicious and combined well with the pork ribs. I literally had to stop myself from licking my fingers. 
Vada Pav #Farzified was another excellent reflection of the chefs creativity. Here the twist was that it was an inside out vada pav- that is the pav was stuffed inside a potato ball with all the classic flavors intact. Maybe this dish will be a trendsetter and take Mumbai by storm!!
Braised Lamb Chops Maple Soy Sauce Whiskey Cream Reduction was another example of deliciousness. Extremely tender and full of flavor, the meat was just falling off the bones. It took all my willpower to stop myself from taking a second helping as I did not want to fill up too much knowing fully well there were some more magical treats for us up the chefs sleeve.
Then came the Sarson Ki Galawat with Corn and Cheese Tostadas
Looking pretty as a picture, the  taste perfectly matched the presentation. Little kebabs of sarson accompanied with mini makai rotis and small balloons of buttermilk surely took our humble Sarson ka saag - makki ki roti to a new level. 
Chicken 65 lollipops, egg drops and tomato chutney was bursting with flavors of chilly and coconut with the fried curry leaves giving it a unique flavor. I loved the way this classic dish was made in the form of lollipops making it so much easier to eat.
There was drama brought to our table by the chef when he made the Farzi Apple foamintini right there in front of us on our table. The mocktail was made from fresh green apple extract mixed with elderflower syrup and mint foam on top. Having seen it only on Masterchef Australia before, It was quite impressive to see the chef shake the 'siphon canister' vigorously and take out a light frothy foam on top of the drink.
The Chilly Duck samosa with hoisin chutney was finger licking good. Though I wasn't really convinced about the use of duck meat inside the samosa. Somehow I felt that the duck meat encased in the thick outer covering of the samosa and then being deep fried did nothing to enhance the delicate flavors of the duck - for me it tasted no different than a chicken samosa. Of course, I understand the whole point is in being different and to present an unique experience to the adventurous palates of diners.
The vegetarian option was the Chilli Potato Samosa and according to my vegetarian friends was quite good.
Dal Chawal Arancini made me nostalgic with memories of my childhood. Arancini, which is essentially a Sicilian dish is given an Indian twist here as dal and rice are used to stuff the balls before being coated with bread crumbs and fried. On cutting the ball, you could actually spot the whole grains of rice and dal inside. Served with aachar and papad and chutney it reminded me of moms meals back home. 
Next we were presented with a book on the table with the charming picture of Audrey Hepburn on it. On opening the book, kept inside were sticks of Bailey's Lollipop which were chilled hajmola candies. Inside the restaurant, licking the lollipops made you feel like a small kid again.
The Pumpkin Khow Suey was accompanied with steamed jasmine rice and various toppings like crispy black rice, chives, nuts and lemon. Bursting with strong flavors of lemon grass and galangal, it was delicious. Being a hard core non-vegetarian I seriously didnt think that a vegetarian dish could ever impress me so much. This is a dish that I would like to go back for again and again.
Chicken Tikka Masala with Cornish Cruncher Naan made its grand appearance riding in a telephone booth, a replica of the telephone booths one can spot throughout London. Though popular throughout the world, we were told by the chef that Chicken Tikka Masala is now considered as the national dish of Britain. Coming back to the dish, the flavors were spot on with just the right amount of spices. The cornish naan too was delicious and could very easily be had on its own without any accompaniments.
The vegetarian version with paneer.

Even though I was full to the brim, the dessert looked so inviting that even if I wanted to, I just couldn't resist atleast taking a little taste. enough not to give it a miss.  Parle-G Cheesecake was cheesecake sandwiched between two Parle-G biscuits standing in a pool of rabri and topped with brightly colored gems. The taste was so familiar - I remember as children my mom used to make this delicious dessert layering parle-g biscuits with cream. A real blast from the past - especially the gems really brought out the child in me.
Like all grand finales, the end of our sumptuous meal was also full of drama and extremely exciting. A huge tray  of semi solid phirni was brought to our table on which the chef poured liquid nitrogen. We watch in amazement as clouds of smoke start pouring out from the tray. Then the frozen phirni was hammered and broken down with a spoon and warm rabdi  poured over it. Quite a thrilling show. 
Even if you are not much of a dessert person, order it purely for the presentation. 
I loved everything about the Farzi cafe right from the cool ambiance to the well conceptualized menu, the friendly staff and of course the delicious food which I have raved about so much. 
My experience at the Farzi cafe was fantastic, full of fun, fantabulous, Farzisome, Farzifying - this is one 'F' word I would not mind using a lot from now on!!
If you haven't visited the place as yet and want to experience some of the Farzi magic too, I highly recommend a visit.

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