Reaching For The Michelin Star; How to Cook Like these 10 Michelin Starred Indian Restaurants

A decade ago, you and I had no idea what a Michelin starred restaurant was, and honestly I did not even care. We were happy with our good old Dal Makhani and Chicken Tikka Masala serving restaurants in the neighbourhood, and what Mrs. Sharma or Mrs. Verma said would decide the next weekends dinner plan. As a child I understood that eating at a restaurant in a luxury 5 star Hotel was, and has been a big deal, people would also get excited to eat in dimpled Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s restaurants in smaller towns across India. In Mumbai, Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra was among the first few Indian restaurants that were identified by the name of the Chef, until two years ago.

I think the first time my mother ever heard the word Michelin star must’ve been during the introduction of Chef Vikas Khanna in Masterchef India. He became a household name in India and after that other Chefs who have earned this honour slowly started becoming popular. Now Indian Chefs like Vikas Khanna or Vineet Bhatia have entered our living rooms & TV sets. We are now getting to know more about them and the concept of a Michelin Star restaurant.

So, What is a Michelin Star?

Michelin is in fact a tire company! The Michelin star was introduced over a hundred years ago as a guide to encourage road trips in France. At the time, one Michelin star meant that it was safe to eat in that place without having to take digestion pills, two Michelin stars meant it was a good place to eat at, if you were passing by and three Michelin stars meant that the place was so good, “it’s worth adding an 20 extra miles to your trip and take a diversion for it”.

Now, the Michelin Star inspectors and the criteria restaurants must fill is a big hush! Hush! Thing. Michelin Inspectors are the he-who-must-not-be-named people of the restaurant industry around the world, they have a set of rules and framework that they work within. There are few selected cities around the world that come under the Michelin radar, while Shanghai and HongKong are in the Michelin radar, restaurants in India are yet to make their place.

Indian Restaurants Around The World That Have Earned a Michelin Star.

Restaurants in India might not have made a mark in the Michelin world yet but Indian restaurants studded across the globe certainly have. Here are 10 restaurants from around the world that have earned a Michelin star for their Indian Food.

United Kingdom

Tamarind

In 2001, under Chef Aul Kochhar Tamarind earned its first Michelin star. Tamarind has maintained its Michelin star, now under Chef Alfred Prasad who features traditional Moghul Cuisine and tandoor cooking along with contemporary creations.

Some specialities the Tamarind selection carries.

Benaras

A fine Indian fine-dining restaurant since 2003, Benaras earned its Michelin star after four years in 2007. Chef Atul Kochhar’s Benaras restaurant features traditional preparations from his motherland with a modern twist. I’ve been to Benaras a few years ago for an interview I had conducted with Chef Atul Kochhar. I still have pictures and glimpses of that menu which featured venison and quail delicacies, otherwise unheard of on an Indian restaurant menu.

Here are few dishes they feature.

Rasoi

When it comes to Indian food, Chef Vineet Bhatia is Midas. Everything he touches turns to Michelin! Rasoi in Chelsea has held a Michelin star since 2009. The items that feature are Global Indian, such as a Stilton lamb tikki and goat cheese samosa.

Here are some Rasoi delicacies.


Quilon

After nine years of hard work, Chef Sriram Aylur earned the first Michelin star for Quilon in 2008 which features western coastal food from Kerala and Goa.

Check out some great dishes

Amaya

Is an Indian grill with Tapas-Style food by Chef Karunesh Khanna, it has held a Michelin star since 2006.

Have a look at what they serve!

Lobster at Amaya

Lobster at Amaya

Trishna

This sister of the Mumbai seafood restaurant Trishna, that has patrons from around the world, earned its Michelin star under Chef Karam Sethi who was earlier working in Rasoi. The famous King crab among other delicacies are worth a mention.

Zaika

Earned a Michelin star in 2001, when Vineet Bhatia was Head Chef here for producing dishes that changed the perception of Indian food globally.

New York

Junoon

Chef Vikas Khanna’s restaurant Junoon earned a Michelin star for the third time in a row. While this Masterchef India’s adorable and humble judge (P.S. for him I would work on that show again for free!) needs no further introduction, he has won accolades for his books and research on Indian cuisine. He also earned the oppurtunity to prepare an Indian feast for US President Barack Obama.

Have a Look at what earns a Restaurant a Michelin Star

Tulsi

An Indian menu created by Chef Hemant Mathur features street food as well as Tandoori cooking. See what they serve.

Geneva

Rasoi

You might have realised by now that every restayrat that is touched by Vineet Bhatia gets a Michelin star. Well, here is another feather in his hat. Rasoi in Geneva also earned its Michelin star soon after it opened it’s golden gate. Well, what should I say, some Chefs just know how to cook to impress!

How to Cook like a Michelin Starred Indian Restaurant? Changing the Perception

Know Where to Stop; Masala is not Master

There are Curry Houses across London and around the rest of the world that serve run-of-the-mill Indian food. Chef Atul Kochhar said in an interview I conducted few years ago, that people don’t understand the use of spices and flavours in Indian food. In a Chicken Tikka Masala they add tomato chutney and coconut milk, they don’t know where to stop. The flavour of the ingredient itself should not be masked by the loud masala which is heavily loaded with spices. The flavours should be clean and balanced.

Importance of Presentation

The pictures you have seen must have made it evident that the food presentation should adhere to global standards of food presentation.  Colours should be clean, the layout neat and the assembly creative.

Out of the Box Dishes & Ideas 

Creativity and imagination in adding that X-factor to the food is of utmost importance. Modern techniques are often used to re-create Indian classics. The different elements of flavours and texture come together on the plate and distinct flavour of the elements are well pronounced.

Food from Michelin Star Indian restaurants is inspiring. In an Exclusive ‘Q n A’ with Mr. Zorawar Kalra, Managing Director and Founder of Massive Restaurants, he talks about Indian Cuisine Version 2.0 and how he would like to earn a Michelin Star for his new brand Masala Library. Read on to know his aims and strategy as he journeys forward towards a Michelin Star. Will the food of Masala Library match up to Michelin Starred Indian restaurants around the world.

Zorawar Kalra

Zorawar Kalra

 

1)     Why did you decide to go with an unconventional way of presenting      Indian food?

  1.      Indian food has been represented the same way for decades now. When you      visit any Indian restaurant across the country or even most of the renowned addresses internationally, you expect to see the food served exactly the same way like it has been for years now.
  2. Our intent with Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra is to take Indian cuisine to the next level, which we have termed as Indian Cuisine – Version 2.0 and showcase it in a more international manner, while retaining the traditional flavours and method of preparation, yet adding a sense of surprise for the diner into the fray.

2)     How do you plan on taking this concept further.

  1. After launching Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra in Mumbai last week, we plan to have one in Delhi as well.

    Our aim is to get a Michelin star and hence would be looking at some international locations in the coming year.

3)     Do you think it will be well received by Indians who have developed a comfort zone with the way their food is presented?

  1. Like I said earlier, Indian food has been represented the same way for decades and it is time for us to take it to the next level. It is our cuisine, which has a rich heritage, and we are extremely proud of it. It is up to us to present it in the right manner to the rest of the world including our own patrons; no outsider is going to come to do that.

It’s just been a few days since the launch and we have received extraordinary feedback from all, the guests, media, food enthusiasts and connoisseurs, and we are absolutely confident that this is going to continue for a long time.

4)     What is the one dish your Chef is most confident about in your menu?

  1. We have spent over 8 months in working on the nuances of every single dish listed on the menu at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra. It will be very difficult to pick out one dish from the menu. We are extremely confident that all the dishes on offer are going to bring in a unique culinary experience for our guests.

5)     Could you please mail me a copy of your menu card and the list of dishes that were featured yesterday?

  1. The list of the dishes served at the Indian Food Bloggers Awards 2013 preview party last week is listed below. (Find at the Bottom of this Article).

6)     Also, I wanted to check with you if some of these dishes like the duck or lamb are also available in larger portions, and if they are then are they are always served like a canapé?

  1. The dishes served at the Indian Food Bloggers Awards 2013 preview party were all specifically done as bite size portions for the evening. In actuality, all the dishes are served in larger portions, including the Duck and Lamb, however in case of the Lamb, we serve Lamb shanks instead of Lamb boti which was served during the course of the evening. We also have Lamb boti served with the Galawat Kebab

Although there are other grading systems for restaurants around the world, such as Hatted restaurants in Australia, since Indian food has earned a name in the Michelin world, diners tend to identify more with the pride that comes from earning a Michelin. It is believed that Michelin inspectors are only a handful  and Indian cities have still not come in the radar. There has been a little progress with the Mumbai based seafood restaurant Trishna earning a Michelin star for its London based counterpart but there is still a long way to go for Indian Restaurants. I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed, hoping that one of our favourite restaurants manages to catch the attention of the star watchers real soon!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Masala Library Canapé menu

for

Indian Food Bloggers Awards 2013 Preview Party

Vegetarian

maska bun

pesto kabab, tandoori tomato, parmesan papad

yogurt spheres, papdi chaat

chole kulcha, chukki mirch, carrot pickle

sarson ka saag quesadilla, butter milk cream

kadhai paneer tarts, san marzano makhni

papad sampler

corn and fenugreek kulcha, sunflower seeds

guchchi naan, truffle oil

Non vegetarian

duck khurchan, chilli hoisin tarts

chettinad prawns, roasted coconut flakes

chicken tikka, hickory wood smoke, habanero raita

boti kabab tacos, blue cheese cream

soft shell crab 65, cherry tomato chutney

anda kulcha

prawn balchao kulcha, ‘xo’ butter

Desserts

jalebi caviar, saffron glaze, pistachio rabri

ghewar mithai cheesecake

masala library lollipops – mishti doi

paan pasand candy floss

 

 

Interesting Reads on Michelin Star Restaurants

What Does it Take to Earn a Michelin Star? – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/what-does-it-take-to-earn_b_2204599.html

How To Get a Michelin Star – http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Food/How-to-get-a-Michelin-star/Article1-494741.aspx

Missing Michelin in India – http://www.financialexpress.com/news/missing-michelin-in-india/746577

Rasoi, Vineet Bhatia, London – http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Gastronomy-magazine/London-_-Rasoi_Vineet_Bhatia_London-b2a05ca46fb8c8b84b0ffaa9e7a6b31b-155291

Indian Michelin Star Chefs – http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/articles/restaurant-guides/indian-michelin-star-chefs

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Want To Eat A Chocolate Plant? What To Expect When You’re Eating

We’re Talking About: Food trends that can be seen in our restaurant menus with the changes we have made in our eating habits in the past decade.  Our new lifestyle is bringing about a food revolution with modern techniques fulfilling our catering needs. Masala Library gives us a peek into the future of food in India.

Even as we blow out the steam from our mouth, we can’t stop biting into those of golden crispy pakoras with chatpata chutneys, juicy kebabs with the aromas of burning coal and the medley of spicy, sweet and sour flavours a crunchy sev-puri is. Yet, the waists of our Kareena Kapoors & Priyanka Chopras are shrinking every decade and our nutritionist insists on smaller portion size and frequent meals. But when we put on our fancy shirt, wear that favourite perfume and slip into those stilettoes (shiny leather shoes for men!) for a sit down meal we want to feel pampered with appealing choices on the menu.

Alternating between multi-tasking at work, social gatherings and no time to eat, less has become the new more. We’re a look-good and feel-good population; we need something that is in tune with our needs. As we try hard to keep up with a healthy eating schedule and find the perfect meals. Our lifestyle has brought in some interesting changes in our restaurant menus and food stores.

4 Upcoming Food Trends in India

Trend #1

Element of Surprise

Putting a new spin to add that X-factor to a classic dish. We have all tried the old classics in our favourite restaurants, be it the butter chicken and kadhai paneer, or the rabdi jalebi and chocolate brownie. Adding an element of surprise in a classic gives it an edge. For instance, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor added an element of surprise to Butter Chicken in Signature, his Dubai restaurant by making the tomato makhni gravy white instead of the Regular-Red. He kept the flavours of tomato makhni intact and added lemongrass for the extra zing in the good old butter chicken. This twist has made a simple dish so intriguing.

Lemongrass Butter Chicken at Signature, Dubai Courtesy TimeOut Dubai

Lemongrass Butter Chicken at Signature, Dubai Courtesy TimeOut Dubai

The good old chocolate brownie for instance has been presented in so many different ways; on a sizzler plate with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce. The way Masala Library has kept the goodness of drool-worthy classic intact, cause you can hardly make a moist chocolate brownie better, they have put a great spin on the presentation. The chocolate brownie is broken into soil in a pot and served with a watering can. This element of surprise is what will draw you to this dessert each time. Such a play on presentation without messing with classic flavours, makes you want more everytime!

Trend #2

Bite Size Food

Bite size food has always been a part of the Indian diet as ‘Nashta’. Michelin Star Chef Atul Kochhar, who owns ‘Benaras’, one of the finest Indian restaurants in London told me about the importance of ‘Nashta’ in the Indian diet. He shared memories of ‘nashta’ like chaat and munchies like chana or ‘bhutta’ (roasted corn) that he savoured as a child and that are a crucial part of Indian Cuisine even today, during an interview for ‘Chicken Tikka Masala Conquers Britain’ a few years ago.

Earlier on there was the concept of ‘nashta’, between meal snacks and ‘khaana’, the large portions of main meals. With the ‘Want to stay fit and look fabulous’ concept getting contagious in metros we are putting more in every bite. Nashta and Khaana are becoming one as we eat small portions frequently. Small portion adds variety, is handy in social gatherings, and ranges from affordable favourites to fancy haute cuisine. It is also a great way to try new flavours and avoid food wastage.

London based Food Critic & Television Personality; Glynn Christian has been studying global food trends for four decades now. When I interviewed him for ‘CTM Conquers Britain’, he spoke about the increase in the popularity of Tapas-Style food. He even predicted that ‘Indian Tapas’ are the future of Indian food.

 

Trend #3

Variety of Meats

Food stores like a Godrej Nature’s Basket and online bazaars like Gourmet Company have started storing a variety of meats that were scarcely available in the Indian market ten years ago. Meat meant lamb meat to my father’s generation and I have grown up eating chicken preparations. Lamb has dominated the meat scene in India for centuries and then it’s been chicken for a few decades now. Slowly, duck and turkey are making frequent appearances on our dinner plates with the introduction of world cuisine. Even meats like bacon and beef that were frowned upon earlier are making their way to our dining table.

While religious sentiments are strong, and cow slaughter is still banned in India, beef and bacon are now being appreciated and accepted by many urban diners. While the future of such meats in India is still a big question, poultry varieties may be more acceptable to the religious Indian.

 

Trend #4

Food Chemistry & Molecular Cooking

Playing with the concept of food is quite popular across the world metros, my favourite Chef, Heston Blumenthal is among the best in such modern cooking techniques. In India though we are still in the ‘Trial & Testing’ period when it comes to applying physics and chemistry to food. Chefs like Vicky Ratnani and in this case, Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library have introduced new-age food concepts in Mumbai.

Keeping the essence of Indian flavours and relatable textures intact, Molecular cooking, using special equipment and chemicals to prepare food is a revolution in Indian cooking. For instance, I savoured the crunch, the syrupy mouth-feel, the richness and the flavours of Rabdi & Jalebi in just one bite. Thanks to the technique used, this classic was every bit the same in bringing joy to the senses but lighter and better.

Masala Library makes you see how Bite Size Food and Molecular Gastronomy put together smartly can concentrate the joy in every bite. When the extravagance of an Indian feast fit for kings is brought together in a single bite then you’ve got the best of both worlds. It also allows you to sample a variety without making your stomach work a double shift.

Jiggs Kalra is a visionary, who knows the past, present and future of food in this country. We were in the future at the pre-launch party of Masala Library, as it went beyond from what we already know to what it could become. Modern techniques, the use of molecular gastronomy have been combined with Indian flavours to design this menu. All elements of Indian classics are put together in one bite. It is simply a wonderful explosion of different textures and flavours. These are some of the dishes that caught my attention among those that were featured in the prelaunch.

Crunchy Caviar of Jalebi with a Saffron Rabdi foam

While preserving the essence of the flavours in a jalebi and rabdi, they introduced a crunchy pop candy like texture in the Jalebi caviar. Each caviar was so tiny and yet so crunchy that it tingles your tongue, the rabdi that goes with it is so light and beautiful. Close your eyes and imagine that crunch of a million tiny pop like jalebis, the moist syrup in the jalebi along with flavour of rabdi in a light milky foam which is usually made with Lecithin from the kitchen laboratory. This is how fun and flavour both fit into one bite.

Jalebi Caviar & Rabdi Foam

Jalebi Caviar & Rabdi Foam

Sphere of Curd

A very dramatic dish, with vapours of dry ice flowing from under it, was actually a sphere of flavoured yogurt or raita. A film forms on the circumference of a liquid, forming a sphere when Calcic and Algin are used to make it. It is like a small ball of yogurt, which breaks once you put it in your mouth and the liquid raita inside flows into your mouth. This dish was more dramatic than it was flavourful.

Raiti Sphere on Dry Ice Vapours

Raiti Sphere on Dry Ice Vapours

Want to Eat A Chocolate Plant?

This dish is simple and deliciously so, yet exciting in a unique way. The style of presenting a chocolate brownie as a potted plant may come as a pleasant surprise, but the flavours in here are traditional and fantastic. A green watering can with chocolate sauce is served on the side to pour into the chocolate soil. While this concept is great, it seems as though it was borrowed from Heston Blumenthal’s Garden Salad with olive dirt (Image Below). The concept has been adapted well to suit Indian taste and sensibility, and eating straight out of a plant! That’s just good sense now, isn’t it?

Chocolate Soil

Chocolate Soil

Heston Blumenthal's Garden Salad, Courtesy Guardian, UK

Heston Blumenthal’s Garden Salad, Courtesy Guardian, UK

Guchchi Kulcha

The Kashmiri morel mushroom known as guchchi is priced at no less than twenty thousand rupees a kg as on date, which is a hundred times the price of button mushrooms. Is it a hundred times better? Incorrect, it is a thousand times the earthiness, the meatiness of a button mushroom and has such an intense and characteristic flavour that will make you drool. Guchchi with the world’s most expensive and by default most flavourful mushroom, truffle is used to make a stuffing for this kulcha along with the added creaminess of cheese in bite size kulchas. There were also other varieties such as the prawn balchao kulcha and the egg kulcha but Guchchi kulcha was the hero.

Guchchi Kulcha and Sarson ka Saag Quesidilla

Guchchi Kulcha and Sarson ka Saag Quesidilla

 

Prawn Chettinad

Coming back to the world of more regular bite size food, there was the prawn chettinad, juicy and succulent, mildly coated with spices. The spices were not overpowering the flavour of the fresh prawn, so all you could taste and feel was the freshness of the prawn.

Prawn Chettinad

Prawn Chettinad

Among other interesting items that featured on the menu, there was duck curry canapés, mishti doi lollypops served in a vase, sarson ka saag and make ki roti quesadillas, lamb curry canapé on a varqi roti base, to name a few. What did I tell you about revolutionizing every bite in Indian food! In Masala Library the innovative menu is the hero and the food tasted great too, so it will continue to lure you even when you stop being amazed by its look.

We’ve been reading and hearing about the French pre-appetiser, amuse bouche intended at teasing the appetite. Well, this selection of canapés, caviars and crisps did more than just tease the appetite, given that we were pretty full even after sampling the variety with some wine.

While the #BiteSizeFood trend is picking up, it may take a while for people to be able to relate to tiny-looking food on their dinner table. Finger food has always been more popular in parties but it will be sometime before we get rid of the big pot of biryani to sum it up with. It will also be interesting to note the shift in restaurant menu choices, home kitchens and breeding-for-meat in India. But I’m most excited to know what degree of molecular surprise factor we Indians can take in a plate.