Till last year, dining in Delhi entailed not just eating a meal but indulging in karaoke, playing beer pong, learning the nuances of pairing wine with Bhartiya Bhojan and hiring a personal chef, all at the same time. But 2011 has brought with it newer gastronomic possibilities. And the focus is back on the most delicious element on the city’s culinary map - food! So while your plate will still look as pretty as it used to, a ginormous amount of importance will go into understanding the food that’s put on it and where it came from. Expect a lot of neo-ness, as chefs go beyond foie gras and fusilli, tread an organic path, explore cuisines from Spain and neighbouring countries and give Delhi a whiff of a gorgeous, gastronomic revolution.
The next time you eat a mouthful of an enormous burger, think about its origin. Why? “This year is about knowing one’s food and how it came about. While eating right is the buzzword, there’s a huge shift towards responsible eating,” says Olive’s Chef Saby. “From knowing where herbs are sourced from to checking if a chicken meets the basic parameters of being kept in free range (given at least a 20-sqfeet area to move about), is not being overfed or put on hormones before it was slaughtered, one needs to understand the genesis of food, instead of blindly devouring it,” he affirms. Chef Bakshish Dean of LiteBite Foods seconds that, “With so much emphasis on staying healthy, more and more people will switch to an organic way of eating, pushing the demand and bringing down the steep prices.” Interestingly, organic diets won’t be restricted to vegetables but will “include meat and poultry products”, believes Chef Saby. Even gluten-free and vegan menus will show up in restaurants, as “they are unadulterated and pure”, predicts Indian Accent’s chef Manish Mehrotra.
EAT THE WORLD, EH!
Tantalising tapas may have tickled your taste buds now and then. But soon, it will move beyond small bites. From main-course and desserts to wines - Spanish food will rule the culinary roost. It will be the cuisine of the year because of the huge repertoire of its cuisine and its ability to lend itself to serving in a variety of ways. Explains Chef Dean, “Apart from Spain - the leader in cuisine innovation - Argentinean food will also be a hit, as it’s akin to the Indian palate. There’s a freshness of ingredients and it’s uncomplicated to prepare.” Even light Korean and Vietnamese cuisines will be most sought-after.
TUCK IN TRENDS
Since partygoers won’t stop making merry, the need for restaurants that offer late-night comfort food for people (not jaded coffee shops at five-star hotels!) will finally be met with the mushrooming of cool cafes. “Here Delhiites will be able to enjoy a late night-early-morning, reasonably-priced dinner,” says Chef Saby. Even the humble breakfast will receive a ‘bubbly’ makeover, as champagne breakfasts become popular in the Capital which already boasts of a very happening nightlife. As far as general lunches and dinners are concerned, those wouldn’t stay staid either. Chef Mehrotra informs, “When people abroad go out for drinks and snacks, they end up eating small portions of a lot of things at one go. Likewise, in Delhi, starters and salads will replace main-course meals because they are economical, foster familiarity over food and provide a great sense of bonding.” He adds, “The untapped segment of meals catering to kids will see a sea change, as gourmet meals for children are introduced. Also, new cuts of meats like Denver steak, pork flat iron and non-traditional fish like branzino, Arctic char and barramundi will feature on the table, as people move beyond usual food experimentation.” And all this food dare not be layered by marinades, overpowered by accompaniments or enveloped in coloured sauces, states Chef Devraj Halder of The Suryaa. “Cluttered food is out,” he says. “Ingredients need to be visible and fresh so that people know what they are eating.”
So as Delhiites relish global food and adapt to the city’s changing sip ‘n’ sup styles, the one thing that still needs to be worked on is regional food that’s available across Delhi. Says Chef Dean, “The food at regional restaurants lacks authenticity; they need to come up to a standard where people can savour cuisines that taste like the food back home.” And if you’re tired of eating South Indian food from coastal kitchens or devouring Goan food in Dilli, chefs point out that the next big thing on the regional route is nosh from the North-East. “A Naga restaurant has already come up in Green Park. So one can watch out for authentic fermented bamboo and bhut jolakia-infused food.”
THE NEXT LEVEL
As you enjoy the inventiveness of ambrosial food, you can simultaneously mark your epicurean calendars for trends that may walk in by the end of this year. Yes! Chefs are already prophesising the advent of Franco-Japanese meals - a rage in cafes in New York and Australia - which will become an important element on Delhi’s food map. Even the mere pleasure of visiting a spa will turn into a wholesome experience in the near future. Imagine the thrill of nibbling on pasta made out of zucchini threads, after your fruity therapy is over! Apart from this, bread, the unsung hero of the dough world, will emerge as a star with out-of-the-ordinary fillings like goat cheese and orange marmalade in a croque-monsieur. The year 2011 is about hog-your-heart-out fare, so grab your plate of paella, people. Delhi’s belly sure is growing!