MAANAS SHAH gets talk­ing about the molec­u­lar dishes at ORION KITCHEN & BAR

Ci­tadel colum­nist MAANAS SHAH gives our read­ers a fair re­view of the molec­u­lar dishes served at ORION KITCHEN & BAR.

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In the midst of all pre­ten­tious molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy restau­rants whose only claim to fame is dry ice and as­so­ci­ated theatre, comes a rather unas­sum­ing new place, which is guar­an­teed to blow your socks off. Just an in­fant on the Pune culi­nary land­scape, Orion Kitchen & Bar is already mak­ing waves for their su­perla­tive food and com­mend­able ser­vice.

COCK­TAILS

The Cin­e­matic (`280) cock­tail was one bril­liant drink. Made us­ing whisky as a base and gar­nished with cin­na­mon ash and a cin­na­mon stick, it was quite lit­er­ally one of the best whisky based cock­tails I have had in re­cent times. Very few bars get their whiskey mock­tails right. And this one for sure will catch the fancy of whiskey con­nois­seurs. The ad­di­tion of sugar syrup gave it an­other sweet di­men­sion, which is un­usual for a whisky based cock­tail. The Sharabi Lassi (` 500) too, was a po­tent com­bi­na­tion of Bai­ley’s, Jame­son, mango syrup, and Marim­bula saf­fron syrup with creamy lassi. Tasty enough to gen­er­ate a mous­tache, if you know what I mean! Again, there are many twists out there on saddi lassi, but this one does stand out and the flavour com­bi­na­tion works bril­liantly. The Ta­marind Mar­garita (`380), un­for­tu­nately, didn’t ap­peal to me quite as much. It is def­i­nitely an ac­quired taste with its tangy sour­ness. A lit­tle too much ta­marind sauce in the drink made it a lit­tle too sour for my palate. How­ever, it did make a pretty picture.

SOUPS

Both the soups we tried at Orion Kitchen & Bar were ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing. The Three Mush­room Liq­uid with Air Dried Mush­room (` 220), pop­u­larly known as ‘Cap­puc­cino Soup’, was a per­fect blend of creamy mush­rooms, served hot in a cof­fee cup with a slice of toast on top for crunch­i­ness. So good, I ended up or­der­ing one more por­tion of it. This is the per­fect com­pan­ion to books on a chilly win­ter evening. Soups tend to set the mood for the rest of the food cour­ses of the evening. And they just can’t go wrong! Warm

or cold soups lit­er­ar­ily are the gate­way to a scrump­tious meal. I had to stop my­self from binge­ing on the soup at Orion, which raised my ex­pec­ta­tions on the rest of the food inevitably. The In­dian Spiced Pump­kin Veloute (`200) too, was a de­light­ful soup, but my heart was already stolen by the mush­room soup. But to be fair and hon­est, it was near im­pos­si­ble to make out that it was a pump­kin based soup; it was a per­fectly healthy warm fuzzy soup for the soul.

APPETIZERS

The Golden Fried Prawns with Sweet Chili Air (`320) were on a dif­fer­ent plane al­to­gether. Per­fectly crisp on the out­side and per­fectly cooked and soft on the in­side, it was well com­ple­mented by the sweet chilli air. The pre­sen­ta­tion how­ever, could have been a lit­tle bet­ter, for as they say, you be­gin eat­ing with your eyes first. The Chicken Kand­hari Ke­bab (`260) was per­fectly cooked and I loved the chargrilled bits, while the Pa­neer Makhmali Rolls (`280) had a lovely beet­root mari­nade as well as foam. The beet­root mari­nade had a nice sub­tle tone, which helped el­e­vate the dish. Looks wise, the ad­di­tion of the flow­ers as vis­ual el­e­ments gave an ex­tremely colour­ful look to the plate. World over, beet­root has been the hero across cuisines, and it is in­deed a very tricky veg­etable to in­cor­po­rate while keep­ing its essence in­tact. I thought the beet­root com­pli­mented the pa­neer phe­nom­e­nally well and lent it­self well both as a mari­nade and as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment. The Murgh Zafrani Ke­bab with Saf­fron Foam (`280) had gen­er­ous strands of saf­fron as em­bel­lish­ments and had that amaz­ing po­tent fra­grance as well as flavour to the dish. The chicken too, was per­fectly cooked and ten­der.

MAINS

The Pump­kin Ravi­oli in Sage But­ter (` 300) had a some­what un­usual pre­sen­ta­tion, but that took noth­ing away from the sheer bril­liance that was this dish. Be­ing a 100 per cent veg­e­tar­ian

dish, even the pasta sheets are made fresh ev­ery morn­ing with­out the use of eggs, yet had that amaz­ing soft­ness and stretch­i­ness to the dough. Very few get this clas­sic right. De­spite be­ing a sim­ple dish, there are many things that can go wrong in the flavour. Once again, a pump­kin dish which quite lit­er­ally blows your mind away with sim­ple yet spot-on flavours. The Beet­root Risotto (`280) wasn’t the most ap­peal­ing vis­ually, and didn’t tickle my taste buds much, ei­ther. The rice used wasn’t as al-dente as is ex­pected from a risotto. The lack of bite to the rice was a slight dis­ap­point­ment. The Smoked Chicken Ravi­oli (`350) was gar­nished with olive ash; something that was a first for me as well. The ash pro­vided a nice sub­tle sour-y tinge to the dish. The non­veg­e­tar­ian sib­ling of the Pump­kin Ravi­oli, this too, was par ex­cel­lence. The Chicken Katsu Kare felt a lit­tle gluggy for me, how­ever, the chef clar­i­fied that is how a Katsu Kare is sup­posed to be, so no com­plaints there. Taste-wise too, it was pretty good. The chicken was ten­der and the rice was ap­pro­pri­ately sticky.

DESSERTS

Orion Kitchen & Bar have their own take on the Shahi Tukda (` 300). Pre­sented in a de­con­structed form with fried bread pieces and a pot full of the con­densed milk, the plate was picture per­fect! Pre­pared as ex­pected, how­ever, it was a lit­tle too sweet for my palate. Apart from the Shahi Tukda, Abhishek, co-owner of Orion Kitchen & Bar, was kind enough to serve us an off the menu, home-made recipe of Moong Dal Halwa Ka Paratha. Sim­i­lar to the Gu­jju-style stuffed Pu­ran Poli, the Halwa Ka Paratha was thank­fully low on sweet­ness and high on flavours. From us­ing the most au­then­tic and fresh­est of in­gre­di­ents, to at­ten­tive yet un­ob­tru­sive ser­vice, to su­perla­tive food, Orion Kitchen & Bar is guar­an­teed to give you an un­for­get­table din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Sharabi Lassi

Ta­marind Mar­garita

3 Mush­room Liq­uid with Air Dried Mush­room

Golden Fried Prawns

Pump­kin Ravi­oli in Sage But­ter

Chicken Kand­hari Ke­bab

Murgh Zafrani Ke­bab

Beet­root Risotto

In­dian Spiced Pump­kin Veloute

Shahi Tukda

Smoked Chicken Ravi­oli

Moong Dal Halwa ka Paratha

Chicken Katsu Kare

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