Narise Kamber Reviews… Rasoi by Vineet New wave Indian cuisine in Bahrain
A nonconformist chef and the leader of progressive Indian cuisine, Vineet had a simple vision of taking Indian cuisine and pushing it to a place that enables it to compete with the most innovative kitchens around the world and the most cutting edge cuisine. He succeeded in realizing that vision.
Vineet is the only Indian chef to have awarded two Michelin stars simultaneously. When he received his first Michelin star in 2001 he was the first Indian chef patron to do so in 102 years.
There are three branches for Rasoi by Vineet around the world, London, Geneva and Bahrain.
The ambiance of the restaurant is sophisticated, rich and romantic. The colors are a beautiful combination of cream, terracotta, burnt gold and sand beige. O ne of the first things I noticed as I entered the restaurant is the giant bronze light fixtures that resembled inverted traditional Indian cooking pots. And I loved the large white flower motif gypsum square boards that decorated the top part of the walls. The focal point of the restaurant would probably be the 15 arched ornamental recesses that are lit up by a subtle singular candle. The restaurant’s grand well-equipped kitchen is fully exposed through large square windows overlooking the dining area. And a private dining room adjoining the kitchen allows the guests of that room to be served directly by the head chef. Our dining table was a semi isolated round table that was surrounded by thin golden chain strands.
We started our meal with a virgin rose mojito, the perfect refreshing accompaniment to the grand meal that was awaiting us. The rose mojito had the right ratios of the acidity of the lime and the sweetness of the rose syrup. A small basket of pappadum (a thin, crisp disc-shaped Indian food made from peeled black gram flour, fried or cooked with dry heat) with a trio of sauces that were mango chutney, coriander mint chutney and beetroot pachadi (a south Indian side dish).
The very attentive restaurant manager Godwin Prabhakaran -who took special care of us the whole night- recommended the tasting menu plus a few signature Indian items . This menu is made up of five courses. I was surprised to see a white flat plate that resembled an easel and topped by a solitary round savory multi-layered, multi-colored scrumptious almond tikki. Now I have to say that this is my first experience ever eating nouvelle Indian cuisine. It was a bit intimidating at first to see our beloved Indian cuisine which plays a very big part of our Bahraini cuisine -due to trade routes with India- to be reduced size wise, and to be plated in a minimalist way. Once I got over that surprise, I started enjoying my Indian culinary journey that night. And I immediately understood why Rasoi by Vineet was the institution it was. So back to our almond tikki, this lovely creation is a twist on the typical sev puri (an Indian snack that is sold usually by street vendors) this almond tikki is a layered disk made from chickpea masala base with green peas and crushed almonds topped with sweetened yogurt and a tiny dollop of tamarind sorbet.
Next we had the achari chicken tikka (grilled pieces of chicken breast or thigh, marinated in yoghurt and a pickle masala) it was tangy and succulent and it was served with a heady mushroom khichdi (a rice and lentil preparation that resembles a risotto). After that we had the grilled hamour fillet that was served on top of a mango almond couscous while swimming on a kaffir lime coconut sauce and garnished with a plantain crisp.
A lychee-ginger sorbet was served immediately after the hamour as a palate cleanser before we resume savoring more amazing dishes. What struck me about the sorbet was the unlikely taste combination and the tiny rose caviar dotting the plate.
Next we had the adkari champean (grilled lamb chops with cinnamon lamb jus and saffron upma) these lamb chops were succulent with a magical touch of ginger and the starchy saffron upma was an unlikey carb accompaniment (upma is a south Indian semolina dish that is normally served for breakfast)
To complete the tasting menu there is one more plate left and that is of course the dessert. This dessert cements the reputation of Vineet as the man of nouvelle Indian cuisine. It is called gulabi gulab (literally means the rosy rose). What the chef did was take a very typical traditional Indian dessert which is the gulab jamun (a milk-solids based dessert that is shaped into balls then deep fried and dipped into a syrup flavored with rosewater, cardamom and saffron) and make it the base of the rose cheesecake!! Near the cheesecake is a small 3d trapezoid of a rose kulfi and a ‘chocomosa’ (crisp sambosa filled with marbled dark and white chocolate)! Looking at and tasting that dessert plate felt like being a kid in a pink amusement park.
This was the end of the tasting menu but we were very lucky to sample more creations from the kitchen that is headed by the talented chef Sahil Khullar. We tasted the subz platter which is a perfect vegetarian starter that includes a tandoori paneer (paneer is fresh cheese common in Indian cuisine) , beetroot galauti (a Spicy beetroot patty made with grated beetroot and cashewnut powder ) and a samosa chaat (an Indian street food snack made of crushed samosas, chickpeas, yogurt, tamarind chutney, green chutney, tomato, onion and chaat masala). This trio is placed on a black skillet platter and decorated like a vibrant Indian painting.
Another non-meat essential on any Indian menu is the dal maharani. A maharani is the wife of a maharaja so basically this dish is the queen of all lentil dishes. It is a slow cooked overnight urad dal (black lentils) and rajma (red kidney bean gravy) preparation enriched with fresh cream.
When I visit an Indian restaurant, I go with the intention of one goal and that is to dip hot pieces of fresh naan (oven baked Indian flatbread) into a thick creamy curry. If I don’t have anything else but a good curry dish in any Indian restaurant, then I am pleased and fulfilled. Rasoi by Vineet of course offers an extensive selection of curries of which I chose the murg anardana. It is braised chicken with fresh pomegranates, a sweet and sour pomegranate molasses and caramelized onions with mint. The naan I used for the dipping was a black olive sundried tomato naan. At that point I was in naan curry heaven. And last but not least this is a dish that my dear husband has to order in every Indian restaurant and that is the lamb biryani. The biryani dish as everyone knows is a mixed rice dish with chicken, fish , prawns beef or lamb. It made its way from the Indian subcontinent into our local Arabian Gulf cuisine and has become one of our staple dishes. So we also have become experts in trying different kinds of biryani yet we still respect the origin it came from and consider that when a biryani is prepared with Indian hands then it will be one of the best. So we ordered a gosht dum biryani (a slow cooked lamb layered with saffron basmati rice, dates and caramelized onions). This delicious biryani was covered by a baked dough crust. That was served to us with a side table presentation by the lovely manager Godwin. At the very end I ordered a masala milk tea which is not a typical thing to do at the end of this rich meal, but I did it out of (Bahraini ) habit as almost 100% of Bahrainis have a similar cooked milk tea with cardamom at night. My sweet milk tea fix was served in a beautiful green vintage enamelware tea kettle pot and I couldn’t be happier.
Rasoi by Vineet
Kingdom of Bahrain
Lunch: Sunday – Thursday 12 noon- 3pm
Friday and Saturday 1-4 pm
Reservations : 17746461
Dress code: smart casual
Dining room occupancy: 45 seats
Chef’s table: 12 seats
Semi private table: 21 seats
Smoking room: 50 seats
Bar lounge: 20 seats
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