From Cardiff and New York to Mumbai and New Delhi, these culinary masters straddle both the Indian and the international food scenes with elan, says Riaan Jacob George
Chef Atul Kochhar Diaspora cuisine
As one of the first Indian chefs to have bagged the Michelin star, Atul Kochhar began his career with the Oberoi Group in 1993. Kochhar got his first star at London’s Tamarind restaurant in 2001, while his second came in 2007 at the Benares restaurant in Mayfair, which was his first independent venture. With Benares in London, Indian Essence in Kent, Sindhu in Buckinghamshire and Rang Mahal at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai under his belt, Kochhar was planning a concept with which to enter the Indian market with a bang.
His India debut came in the form of NRI, or Not Really Indian, a chic Mumbai eatery with the novel concept of reviving Indian diaspora fare. “Diaspora food is interesting, and there are so many stories from Indians settlers around the world. With every migration, there were recipes that went out with people, which were in turn adapted to their new homes and heritage,” says the chef.
Addresses: Kochhar has branches of Benares in Mayfair, London and Madrid, Spain, and the restaurant Indian Essence, in Petts Wood, London. He also has the Rang Mahal restaurant in JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai and the Sindhu Restaurant in Marlow, apart from two more restaurants in Mumbai – Not Really Indian and Lima.
Chef Manish Mehrotra Contemporary accents
A quick glance at the verbose menu at Indian Accent in New York is enough to send the most cynical diner on a culinary flight of fancy — paper roast dosa with black truffles and water chestnuts, pork belly vindaloo with Goan red rice and even galawat kebab with foie gras, a house signature. The New York outpost of chef Manish Mehrotra’s Delhi restaurant has received rave reviews for his “hautified” Indian cuisine, with all the trappings of high-end gastronomy — truffles, foie gras and the like. The smoked bacon and pastrami with mustard butter is a gastronomic nod of sorts to the Big Apple. While the general trend has been for Indian cuisine masters to establish an international presence before making a “comeback” to Indian shores, Mehrotra has been au contraire, moving from east to West.
Mehrotra says that he is inspired by the work of chef Rick Stein, because he prepares “out-ofthe- world recipes which, though not fancy, are delicious”. This is probably why Mehrotra’s style, though experimental and avant-garde, remains comforting, unpretentious and accessible.
Addresses: Indian Accent has branches in New York and New Delhi.
Chef Floyd Cardoz A slice of nostalgia
In New York City’s fast-paced food milieu, word on the block is that chef Floyd Cardoz’s latest venture, Paowalla, is the hottest new offering. The Soho eatery features two tandoor ovens and a “bread bar”, with visible focus on the chef’s native state of Goa. So much so that Cardoz’s bread selection, with the signature rosemary naan and bacon naan, is a throwback to the Goan bread he grew up eating. The Mumbai-born chef, who did stints at various restaurants in India and Europe before moving to New York, made headlines in 1997, when his restaurant Tabla announced a new brand of “modern Indian cuisine” and bagged a prestigious three-star review from The New York Times. While the restaurant closed down in 2010, he made a comeback of sorts to Indian cuisine with Bombay Canteen in Mumbai. The restaurant opened to rave reviews in the city, playing on the nostalgia of the city’s diners, offering interesting fare such as the colonial gymkhana classic egg Kejriwal, spiced chicken liver skewers, shrimp dhansak and vegetable ishtew pattice in a delightfully Mumbai-inspired setting.
Addresses: Cardoz runs the Bombay Canteen in Mumbai and Paowalla in New York.
Chef Stephen Gomes The king of molecular gastronomy
The British press has hailed chef Stephen Gomes as the “curry king” of Cardiff, where his restaurant Moksh was recently awarded the AA Rosette for his unique interpretation of Indian cuisine. What piques one’s interest, however, is the manner in which this Mumbai-born chef transforms his kitchen into a laboratory, with technique that can best be described as food science. “I’m a gastro-physicist at heart,” says Gomes. Going by the response, Mumbai’s diners love his breed of molecular gastronomy with its flurry of foams, smokes, airs and soils.
Scientific jargon enjoys pride of place on the menu, with Gomes reciting dishes such as “dehydrated, smoke-infused carbon dhoklas with liquid nitrogen, tamarind sorbet, gunpowder chutney and edible paper”. Or something as outlandish as “prawns in cognac, an ocean moilee velouté, edible sand, seashell meringue, edible flowers and an edible Nemo fish”. While a few of Moksh’s signatures have been replicated at Gomes’ Mumbai “comeback” restaurant, Chemistry 101, the chef has created some India-specific dishes to add context.
“Mumbai is my city, and I’d love to borrow from its cultures and flavours,” he says. His cocktails are no less Willy Wonka-esque, arriving at the table spewing foams and emitting smoke, even containing some colour-changing pH elements.
Addresses: Gomes runs the restaurant Moksh in Cardiff, the UK, and Chemistry 101 in Mumbai. He is also a consultant chef at Etc and a menu consultant at Deli Fuego, both in Cardiff.