Podi mayo with duck ravioli & Oreos that make the wine list
The term “sculptural food art installations” is befitting of Chef Deepak Dandge’s new progressive menu, at Above Sea Level, the rooftop lounge at The Raintree Hotels, St Mary’s Road, with dishes that mak elegant displays of intricately assembled and delicately balanced elements.
The dish plainly named “Oreo”, for instance, is a conceptual wine-list appetiser as much as it is a modelled revelation, worthy of artistic appreciation. (The dish was named before Android’s latest Oreo update.) The cookie brand reference is purely visual, and the presentation pebble is inedible; what you have is in fact an olive biscuit with a mouth-warming herb cheese filling (of parsely and mascarpone).
Chef Dandge keeps things slick, as each dish competes to set an aesthetic standard. The progressive purview is ultimately in the chef's carefully coordinated choices of contrasting textures, elevating his experimental pieces into the rarefied territory of progressive cuisine – and very nearly into the realm of contemporary high art as well.
Indeed, the chef seems intent on turning degustation into a perfomative art form, with dishes such as the Smoked salmon salad and the Poached roasted chicken breast turned out as estimable masterworks deserving of a spotlight in a gallery.
The Indian elements are evocative and subtly infused, like in the signature “podi” (masala) mayonnaise, a condiment for the Chilli duck ravioli and Mock Olive (bruschetta). The mayo sits nicely on the spicy duck meat that’s cooked Andhra-style, and melds well with the burst of the molecular olive droplet.
The Sultana-e-samundar commands a more dramatic presence, with a platter of tiger prawns oozing
warm flavours of yellow chilli and lime placed over a fishbowl of smoking dry ice. The presentation pebble returns with the unassumingly named, Coal, an appetiser of char-grilled bhetki (barramundi) fish in a zesty spice mix of kal paas and black pepper, cumin and clarified butter, served with a head of chilli lime foam.
The scallops – fresh as garden mist – make for another eye-opening work of culinary craftsmanship, laid out in swathes of four purées of beetroot, corn, peas and cauliflower paste. A sprig of micro greens lends a fresh hit to the scallops, and also to the Palak aur akhrot ki tikki, of hearty patties of spinach, walnut and cream cheese, served with a tart chilli jaggery chutney.
There’s a fair proportion of veg eats on the menu, including the crackling Avocado crisp, of pani puri shells stuffed with a dry mix of avocado gel, truffle oil, chilli, Indian salsa and crispy sev. And you really could make an entire meal out of the appetisers alone. Chef Dandge’s personal recommendation, meanwhile, is for the Burger “ASL” way — sliders of Hyderabadi keema (mince) in puffy white steamed buns, dished up in a toy cart.
The artistic aspect comes gloriously on display in a twin selection of desserts named, Crown and Garden — the first, of raspberry mousse and chocolate, and the second, an elaborate pistachio opera cake. As with everything else, the dishes beg to be photographed and framed on a wall, set against the lounge’s sprawling view of the city’s skyline for a backdrop.
Meal for two approx. Rs 2,500. At Above Sea Level, The Raintree, St Mary’s Road.
For reservations call 42252525/ 24304050.