Thursday, September 29, 2011

Food's Night Out

From L to R: Chefs Manu Chandra, Pooja Dhingra and Nikhil Chib.
A few years ago Anna Wintour introduced “Fashion’s Night Out” to the world as a night for fashionistas and trendsetters to celebrate and pay homage to their favorite designers and styles of the year. This year, thanks to the benevolent organizers of Restaurant Week, the epicureans and gastronomes of Mumbai were let loose and given the chance to enter the kitchens of three of Mumbai’s coveted chefs, Manu Chandra, Executive Chef of Olive, Nikhil Chib, Executive Chef of Busaba and Pooja Dhinjra, Founder and Chef of Le 15 Patisserie. The event took place at Olive Mahalaxmi, each chef was designated a specific place to setup a temporary kitchen and also given a specific course to focus their menu on. Patrons received a plate and a fork upon entry and explained one rule for the night – eat to your heart’s content. Industry heavy-weights including the head chef from the highly anticipated Shangri-la as well as the head of F&B marketing from the Oberoi Hotel Group moved around the place with fork in hand boastfully salivating for the numerous scrumptious creations.

Manu Chandra, Executive Chef Olive


“The idea was to keep fresh and tasty stuff flowing. Given that they all had to be made a la minute and assembled, I decided to take a less complex approach.” – Manu Chandra

Finger foods were most certainly the theme behind Manu Chandra’s menu. And the theme was successful. For the veggies he whipped up kidney bean kibbeh and cherry tomato tart tatins, both of which did brisk business. In fact, people were grabbing at the plates that at the last minute Manu decided to add yet another starter to the mix – Olive’s delicious pizza. A brilliant move on his part, when a pizza came out of the oven it was devoured instantaneously.

Manu decided to go with the tart tatins as an experiment to see how adventurous people were with the daily menu at Olive. The tart tatins were a mini rendition of slow selling a dish at the restaurant. At the tasting, however, people were grabbing at them like they had never seen food before in their lives (myself included :-). It just goes to show how many people are still hesitant about ordering many things off the beaten track.

For the meat-eaters he decided to go with one his personal favorites Fish Sliders, Beef and jalapeno coca, and chicken shish taouk. While some gasped at the appearance of beef at such an event, it was barely an impediment in it getting completely devoured.

Chicken Shish Taouk and Fish Sliders

Kidney bean kibbeh

Nikil Chib, Executive Chef Busaba


Live food stations not only make me excited about eating but also offer that sense of comfort about the freshness of the food you are eating. Nikhil Chib nailed it that night with his station -- providing the guests with a lovely dishes he has been perfecting for 10 years now. The menu consisted of: thai red chicken curry, thai green vegetarian curry, stir fry chicken with basil, and stir fry morning glory.

As you can see all of the ingredients he used were fresh and laid out for all of us foodies to scrutinize and then subsequently devour. The beauty and flavour of the thai curries comes from the fact that Nikhil makes his own curry paste from scratch. You will find no ready made curry packets or cans in his kitchen. In fact he has been going back to Thailand periodically to perfect his cooking. According to Nikhil, making your own pastes keeps flavours authentic and fresh.

Stir Fry Chicken with Basil

The stir fry morning glory - my personal favorite is actually a Vietnamese dish which Nikhil perfected. I tried unsuccessfully to get him to share his supplier with me, as I have a weakness for morning glory, but his lips were sealed. So if I ever get lost in this city I will most likely be found at busaba shoveling a bowl of morning glory down my mouth :-).

Pooja Dhingra, Le 15 Patisserie


Last but certainly not least we entered into the main area of Olive to find the Le 15 Patisserie counter. Yum!! Pooja out did her self with her selection of Macaroons and Cupcakes. The most amusing part of the night for me was watching everyone's eyes light up when they saw the tower of macaroons - it was like kids in candy land. Among those kids was my husband who i think has is fair share of 10 macaroons!

Posing Macaroons

Can't Resist Them!

Pretty in Pink

The Tower

All in all the night was a success. A special thanks to the founders of Restaurant week for putting such a tasteful night together.

Posted by: Ameesha Mansukhani. Ameesha is a free lance writer who recently moved from New York to Bombay. Her favorite sin? Gluttony of course. :-)


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