Hotel F+B


text : Sourish Bhattacharyya


Good food can be bad for your wallet

For a little country with a turbulent past, Vietnam has a surprisingly well endowed gastronomic tradition that marries a medley of influences (from Chinese to French) and an array of spices. The aroma of freshly baked baguettes from roadside stalls in Saigon is as much a feature of Vietnamese life as the noodle soups and congees that marry the different ethnicities the country's cuisine unites on the table.

The world discovered this many years before Blue Ginger opened at Taj West End, Bangalore, five years back. Intriguingly, despite Blue Ginger's overwhelming success, Vietnamese cuisine just hasn't caught on. Why, I wonder, did sushi find so many takers in a country that believes in deep- frying just about everything it can, or why hummus and baba ghanoush are the cocktail circuit favorites, and not the delicate summer rolls that define the Vietnamese table for the world.

At a media preview of Delhi's Blue Ginger, which without doubt is the city's best- designed new restaurant (it'll open at the Taj Palace this Sunday), these questions kept nagging me as Hemant Oberoi, the celebrity corporate chef of the Taj group, recounted how he and his team had dined out at 80 restaurants across Vietnam, scouring menus for sparks of inspiration, before finalizing the spread for the capital.

Answers eluded my rhetorical questions.

It made sense to move over to the more corporeal side of my business - eating. Philosophical flourishes are best kept for the morning after, especially after you have realized that the restaurant can be detrimental to your financial health. Why, one asked oneself, should people pay Rs 4,500 (plus 12.5 per cent VAT) for a roasted duck, or Rs 900 for a noodle soup, when Delhi is teeming with options? Our spread opened with fresh summer rolls with shrimps, chicken and chives (Rs 600), which tasted better after being dipped into the accompanying sauce, but then came the evening's big discoveries - tofu rock salt (Rs 600) and crispy taro prawns (Rs 800). I was hugely impressed with the way the poor person's taro had turned around a commonplace prawn preparation.

After an eminently forgettable chicken and asparagus soup (the cheapest item on the menu at Rs 350), the troika of stir- fried prawns in tamarind sauce (Rs 1,100), steamed sea bass with passion fruit puree (Rs 1,200), and stir- fried chicken supreme with lemon grass garlic chilli sauce (Rs 850) brought the conversation to a halt. Luscious was the only word I could recall during that moment of edible bliss.

The silence, and that long time when text messages went unanswered, stretched to near- infinity when the chicken red cari with okra (Rs 750) landed with a slice of baguette (when you are in a Vietnamese restaurant you just can't miss the French influence). It was followed by the most divine lemon grass- scented braised lamb shanks in caramel chilli oyster sauce (Rs 750).

God, that was a treat for the senses.

Vietnam has a robust tradition of vegetarianism but it wasn't much in evidence that night. Remember, it was a media preview, so the restaurant had pulled out all the stops for us, but even then, I don't see Blue Ginger failing to deliver good food. If you aren't the type who complains about paying good money for a new experience, this is one restaurant you must check out.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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