Avartana: South Indian molecular gastronomy at ITC Grand Chola
Avartana, the South Indian specialty dining experience at ITC Grand Chola, promises a magical gastronomic tour.
The first bite itself is tantalising. A tiny cloud of pepper pink fennel flavoured foam is dangled in front of you on a thin bamboo skewer. You add a dash of avocado fluff and pop it into your mouth. It melts. It floats. Tiny light bulbs explode on your tongue.
Entering the cool, light-filled interior with a motif of white mother-of-pearl inlays on the wall is like having dinner in a mermaid’s boudoir. The 60-seater fine dining restaurant is open only for dinner. Using an array of modern gastronomic techniques, the food is transformed into the most delicious bits of foam, sand, pearls, molecular elaneer payasam, or kheer, in pouches that burst in the mouth with a startling freshness, and wonderful nets of spun sugar in the midst of which you can sample a sorbet of orange and ginger. At the same time, let it be said, it’s not about the technology. It’s about re-discovering the original taste of some of our most favourite South Indian dishes and presenting them in a new and fresh way.
At the helm of this great adventure of discovery is Executive Chef Ajit Bangera. By his side, actually manning the ship is Chef Harish, who comes and explains each course as we sail down the menu. Each diner is presented with a six or seven-course meal with an option of choosing a particular combination. Together with this, the team has devised an array of different aperitifs. For instance, some of us have a fresh green mango medley spiked with pepper, black salt and fennel served in a pickle jar, or ‘barani’. Others try the infusion of tomato rasam that is decanted hot and foaming with fresh herbs and pepper, and served smoking in cocktail glasses.
Each item arrives artfully placed and plated to look like a work of art. Whether it’s the chargrilled scallop and baby lobster, with a pumpkin puree and a curling ribbon of potato crisp, or the pan-fried cod floating in a tender coriander broth, you can taste each item separately. Vegetarians will rejoice in a morel curry served with a curly paratha and thin sheet of beetroot made into a toffee with churned white butter.
As for the desserts! Awartana is the new word for enchantment. ITC Hotels unveils Avartana at the ITC Grand Chola on March 17. Open only for dinner. Average cost for two Rs 4,000 (taxes & drinks extra)