RAMIT MIT­TAL could have taken the easy path of a busi­ness scion and walked into an in­her­ited of­fice, but the el­dest son of Rakesh Mit­tal, Vice Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Bharti En­ter­prises opted to take the plunge into the un­charted wa­ters of the food busi­ness. Leav­ing a job at IBM in New York, Ramit Mit­tal, then 32, launched a com­pany named Gourmet In­vest­ments with the fi­nan­cial back­ing of the Bharti Fam­ily Of­fice, and brought the UK chain, Pizza Ex­press, into the coun­try in 2011.

Pizza Ex­press has had a roller coaster ride, but Mit­tal’s pas­sion for food re­mains undi­min­ished — hav­ing been born in Amritsar (and with his fam­ily strong Lud­hi­ana con­nec­tion), it was a given. What sets Ramit apart, though, is his prodi­gious ap­petite for new ideas. Some weeks back, he an­nounced his plan to bring Sri Lankan mae­stro Dhar­shan Mu­nidasa’s Min­istry of Crab to India, start­ing with Mum­bai and in­tro­duced the cel­e­brated chef at four all-sold-out meals con­sist­ing only of his sig­na­ture prawn and crab dishes.

Ev­ery­one I spoke to ap­pre­ci­ated the idea of Mit­tal putting his money be­hind a restau­rant con­cept cen­tred around two crus­taceans, but he is con­fi­dent he’ll be able to pull it off with the chef’s good­will and mud crabs sourced from India. “A coun­try with a coast­line stretch­ing across more than 7,000 kilo­me­tres must have amaz­ing seafood to of­fer,” Mit­tal points out, adding that we never get to taste the best In­dian seafood be­cause the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket just snaps it up. The seafood cul­ture is also be­ing en­riched by ini­tia­tives such as the in­vest­ment be­ing made by the seafood com­pany Cam­bay Tigers to de­velop la­goons in Navi Mum­bai for crabs to breed. The qual­ity of lo­cally sourced seafood, ac­cord­ing to Mit­tal, is only go­ing to get bet­ter, so it’ll be eas­ier now than ever be­fore to run seafood restau­rants in the coun­try.

Be­fore he launches Min­istry of Crab, he has got Pizza Ex­press, which has shown re­mark­able mal­leabil­ity for an es­tab­lished brand, to be­come a part of his ‘Project’ ex­per­i­ment to de­velop hy­per-lo­cal din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, re­flect­ing the ethos of a par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion. It took off in Mum­bai with The Bandra Project, which has the vibe of a com­mu­nity bar and kitchen.

In Delhi, high-street fash­ion is the in­spi­ra­tion for The Run­way Project, which of­fi­cially opened on Fe­bru­ary 8 on the sec­ond floor of the Se­lect Ci­ty­walk, Saket. The chic yet ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion­friendly restau­rant, with an in­tel­li­gent se­lec­tion of mu­sic, serves only small plates — my favourites were the egg­plant wraps (in­vol­tini) packed with warm ri­cotta cheese, pureed dates and olive pow­der, evoca­tively named Smile for the Cam­era; cured wa­ter­melon medal­lion with a top­ping of roasted broc­coli, goji berries, charred leeks and feta crum­ble (Size 0); pulled lamb and av­o­cado puree on sour­dough cros­tini (Cros­tini di Agnello); and king prawns served on olive rose­mary burro fuso (but­ter sauce), Hi­malayan rock salt and Tel­licherry red pep­per.

I was im­pressed by the food in­no­va­tion I saw on the plates crowd­ing my table. Celebrity chef Vicky Rat­nani has de­signed the menu and the just-turned-30 chef, Jerry Thomas, does a good job of trans­lat­ing the vi­sion. Varun Sud­hakar, till re­cently a Di­a­geo brand am­bas­sador, gives him cre­ative sup­port at the bar and Son­lanki Roy, the pas­try chef who was work­ing with Gag­gan Anand, has laid out gor­geous desserts with el­e­ments such as choco­late cigars and pearls. Next on Mit­tal’s agenda, and he just can’t sup­press his ex­cite­ment about it, is The Mar­ket Project, which is com­ing up at Kurla, Mum­bai. Its menu will have what Mit­tal calls Ital­ian in­gre­di­ents with a Mugh­lai Flair (any­one for vada pao in pizza pock­ets, dum ki biryani risotto and phirni

tiramisu?). Also com­ing up is a restau­rant serv­ing Hong Kong’s Typhoon Shel­ter cui­sine (these are de­mar­cated ar­eas where fish­ing boats are parked dur­ing the typhoon sea­son) with Kolkata’s for­got­ten Tan­gra Chi­nese spe­cial­i­ties.

The Run­way Project is Mit­tal’s lat­est ini­tia­tive

Ramit Mit­tal poses for a photo-op out­side The Run­way Project at the Se­lect Ci­ty­walk, Saket. (Be­low left) Size 0, a de­light­ful rein­ven­tion of the pop­u­lar wa­ter­melon and feta salad, and (be­low right) pulled lamb cou­pled with av­o­cado puree served on sour­dough cros­tini.

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