Welcome to the museum of Contemporary art. In the shadow of the Qutub, large bright rooms are framed by flowing white curtains, and all the exhibits are exceptional and edible. Here a pecan pie marries Diwali with a topping of Cardamom ice cream. Ingredients put on costumes never seen before and staid dishes are demolished and glamourised by the wand of artistry. You start with breathing some Reconstructed Minestrone. A collage of tomato, onions, truffle oil and pasta with a whiff of parmesan ice cream, all like mousse, not soup. Warm bread (bread with soul, not New India multigrain bread) and you hand grind pesto with roasted vegetables with a mortar and pestle taking your time to ponder over a starter. Goat Cheese Souffle(`425) ,the robustness of goat cheese with the silk of a soufflé and then a fusion drama of caramelized pecan nuts, chilli jam around the main piece. We also picked the Mystic Salmon with Poached Organic Egg (`545)-salmon fresh as if caught an hour back an a Norwegian fjord,smoked in-house with apple wood and cured. Between sips of dreamy berry toned Chilean red wine, we were served mango sorbet with watermelon caviar to usher us into the main course. The Meditteranean (`525)Vegetable Filo Pie disappointed, relatively, a bit plebian like veg patty at the metro station although the tossed vegetables and honey sauce tossed around the main affair added a nice touch. The Cajun and Roasted Pecan Nut Basa (`695) was served on bed of thinly sliced potatoes with a creamy caper sauce, perfectly offset by vegetables and fresh Thai lemon. To end, try the Maple glazed pecan pie `395 with warm toffee sauce, fig and honey ice cream or Tiramisu (`325) reinterpreted somewhat, airy coffee and chocolate , not confined by cake like limitations. Here at Olive, the produce shines, speaks for itself and if we could give a ****1/2, we would.
Meal for two: `4000OLIVE AT THE QUTUB One style Mile, Behind, Mehrauli Ph: 29574444
Describe the Delhi customer.
Oh. Very refined. The reason that I have made Delhi home is that. Bombay of course has its charm and glamour and its Bollywood. Here I was cooking for the Bacchan family and the Ambani family and everything in between. If I have to do a dinner for Neeta Ambani who is having five ambassadors of different countries there is no question of experimentation, you know. This is my 17th year of cooking and now I am trying to do little here and there. I feel that I have traveled enough, done enough; I understand basic flavours and recipes very well.
What cuisines are you most inspired by?
Internationally, food barriers have broken; there are not cuisine boundaries anymore. In London they will say new or contemporary, not Italian and Chinese. I personally am inspired by European, American as well as Eastern - Japanese and Chinese cuisines.
Food as art/philosophy
As I got into cooking, I realised I wanted to express myself and please people with art or music and that food was the best medium for me. As an artist you get inspired by landscapes and portraits and nature. I started taking my inspiration from fruits and vegetables and these are the basics. In art school, in the first few months they tell you to stick to drawing straight lines .If you are good at it; you can go to a circle in six months. I wanted to start copying Vincent Van Gogh on day one. No body wants to go through those steps anymore. Earlier we were fighting to get ingredients but now lots of the chefs get very confused with so much choice and it ends up being khichdi cuisine. I see a lot of people using Wasabi. If you don't know its background, its origin, what it is, and you loosely start using it, it just doesn't work. Today it is a very big world. You can do anything from anywhere I get lost at times. What do I cook with there is so much options. I am so worried, so scared -280 varieties of cheese in a grocery shop. , cuisine is lot about the culture, understanding the people the food, the ingredients, the philosophy. It's more than just cooking. Unless you understand that, food is not going to have soul.
I don't have one. I give equal importance to every dish I make. But here's the recipe for Goat cheese soufflé.
What are the best wines to accompany European food?
To start with I will recommend some Indian wines. If you are looking at Indian wines, sula has some decent white wines, and Grover does lovely red wines.
Recently I was so upset with myself because I had two bottles of wine from London and I didn't keep them in the fridge because , you know wine vibrates , it isn't good but I discovered they were spoilt. You should take care of wines, make them breathe well, buy them from shops with air conditioned cellars.
What are food trends to look out for?
24 hour restaurants, not coffee shops but places that actually serve good food all night, not necessarily gourmet. Breakfast places like Balthazar in New York. There aren't any here. Parisian Style Cafes which serve coffees, paninis, sandwiches all day. I see a huge demand for quick Japanese takeaways.
What are the food trends in the art of cooking itself?
Ingredients. In France people want to know where the chicken is coming from, what it was fed, how many metres of space it got to roam around, Was it caged? We are coming out of the phase of the economic crisis, the idea of being a third world country, our outlook will change we will start demanding this knowledge here.
You are known for sourcing local ingredients and adapting it to the cuisines you cook, tell us ingredients you have discovered?
Many Many. I am always traveling and discovering. I discovered this sticky black rice in the North East which I use for sushi and it is not even known to the Delhi palette but it works beautifully. I pick up snails and oysters from the Indian Ocean. I use wild mushrooms picked by tribal women in the North East. They can never imagine why I'd want to buy them because it grows abundantly there. I get passion fruit which I am very proud of from there too. Fruits from Garwhal. I have Thai suppliers too.
An ingredient you can't live without?
Nothing. People have come up to me and said they want food without salt and I have done it. The most basic ingredient. Nowadays you can't say you need this particular ingredient or you can't cook.
What is your comfort food?
Indian food always. Kerala food. A Malabar Paratha with fish curry maybe.
Favourite restaurants in Delhi
I keep eating a lot of street food; you know during the whole Id season, I was at Purani Delhi. I love Food Chowk. They bring street food but it's the experts from Parathey Waley gulley, then the Nizams etc doing it. It is food with History and not just the regular mall food courts which can be soulless. I like these snacks, a Pav Bhaji, a Dabeli , a nice Dosa.